The Maelstrom Chronicles
Episode 2.3: The Trials of Harmony
As the seven of them approached the edge of the forest, Rider could almost taste the fear from the others, well, all except Pinkie Pie.
“Let’s go,” Pinkie cheered as she started to enter the forest.
“Not so fast,” Twilight instructed. “Look. I appreciate the offer, but I really rather do this on my own.”
“No can do, sugar cube,” Applejack countered as Rider and the others began entering the forest. “We sure an’t letting any friend of ours go in that creepy place alone. We’re stickin’ to you like caramel on a candy apple.”
“Especially if there’s candy apples in there,” Pinkie added in. “What? Those things are good.” Twilight simply groaned and entered as well. As they proceeded through the trees, Rider continued to scan his surroundings. He did this partly to keep an eye out for danger and partly to take in his inspiring new sites. He was in awe of the forest. Noticing Rider looking around, Pinkie Pie asked him, “What are you looking at?”
“This forest,” Rider said a little in awe. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Very little is really known about it, and what is known is kind of vague. I never thought I’d get a chance to see it.
“I have a question,” Rarity chimed in. “Who are you and why are you here?”
“His name is Storm Rider,” Pinkie answered before he could say anything. “He and his brother moved to Ponyville just before Twilight did.” Rider put his wing in her mouth to stop her from talking.
“Thanks you for the introduction, Pinkie. I had met all of you in one form or another. Miss Pricy is the only one I didn’t get a name to.”
“Her name is Rarity,” Pinkie Pie said before Rarity could answer. “She runs and makes the dresses for the local boutique. Great now we’re all friends.” Twilight rolled her eyes.
“I wouldn’t get ahead of yourself,” Rider said returning to his scanning. “We know each other, but friendship doesn’t come that easily.” He then added under his breathe, “Well for me it doesn’t.” He then addressed the others, “To answer your other question, I never liked sitting on the sidelines while others were in danger and there was something I could do. With my reason to hold back gone, I’m finally free to do as I please. Beside Twilight is the closest thing I have to a friend, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if she got hurt and I did nothing. Not only that, opportunities like this don’t happen every day. Only a fool would pass this up. Now this is a real adventure.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t for the mares?” Rarity said fixing her mane.
“Gee, empty admiration and praise, you can keep that. Trust me. I’ve seen enough of that to last an alicorn lifetime.” There was a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“Well if you’re not in it for the mares, then, just say so. You certainly haven’t taken note of the mares around you”
“Well excuse me, princess,” Rider said in a mocking tone turning on Rarity. His emerald eyes appeared to have darkened as he loomed over her. “Sorry for having the discipline to stay focused on the task at hoof. There isn’t much known about the Everfree Forest. What is mentioned is a large number of creatures that not only eat ponies, but kill them in some of the most horrible ways. Is now really the time to be distracted at all?”
“So do you like mares?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” Rider then added under his breathe, “it’s just hard finding mares who honestly like me.” Raising his voice, he continued, “So how about we stay on track.” Rider snorted at Rarity and walked back to the front of the procession. They continued forward in silence. The girls’ fear was building as they proceeded. It was hard to tell if they were afraid of the forest or Rider. Twilight was the first to break the silence.
“So none of you have been in here before?” Twilight asked with fear still in her voice.
“Heaven’s no,” Rarity answered. “Just look at it. It’s dreadful.” The fear was definite in her voice. Rarity eyed Storm Rider and wondered if she was talking about the forest or him.
“And it an’t natural,” Applejack added in. “Folks say it don’t work the same as Equestia.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Twilight asked, her fear growing.
“No pony knows,” Dash said in a spooky voice. “You know why?” She asked as she stalked toward her friends.
“Rainbow, quit it,” Applejack scolded. Storm Rider rolled his eyes. Ignoring Applejack, she continued,
“Cause every pony who’s ever come in has never come out.” No sooner than she said that, the ground gave way beneath them. The three flyers took to the air as the others slid toward a sheer drop off. “Quick!”
The three flyers moved in to help. As Storm Rider went to help Twilight, he looked back up to see debris following them down. He flipped back around and pounced on a large rock from the side that was aimed at Rarity. Using his momentum, the boulder was deflected off course as he pounced on a second one aimed at Applejack. Rainbow Dash picked up Pinkie Pie as a small boulder flew at them. Rider flapped his wings hard to cause a gust of wind. The gust deflected the rock from hitting them. Fluttershy grabbed Rarity by the tail as another rock came down toward them. Rider flapped his wings again to cause another gust to knock the rock off course. Applejack managed to grab a small root by her teeth. Meanwhile Twilight slid to the drop off. She dangled on the edge with the threat of falling to her death.
“Hold on,” Applejack called letting go of the root. “I’m a comin’,” she assured gently sliding to Twilight to keep her from falling. The rocks continued to rain down. Rider landed behind AJ and began beating his wings. He wove small wind spells together. By using small spells, he easily performed them without revealing his horn. Using his wings, he could amplify the wind he created. He used the wind to create a shield to deflect the incoming rock slide.
“Applejack, what do I do?” Twilight pleaded.
“Storm, can ya get her?” Applejack asked him over her shoulder.
“There’s too much coming down. If I move to save one, the rocks will get the other,” Rider answered struggling under the strain to not only maintain his rhythm, but the spells as well. He was no novice to using magic or hiding magic. However, Storm Rider was finding it increasingly taxing to do both at the same time. Applejack paused before saying,
“Twilight, let go.”
“Are you crazy?” Twilight asked.
“No I an’t. I promise you’ll be safe.”
“That’s not true,” Twilight accused with fear growing in her voice.
“Now listen here. What I’m sayin’ to you is the honest truth. Let go and you’ll be safe.”
“If you’re going to do something, I suggest you do it,” Rider added between grunts. “I can’t keep this up for much longer.” Twilight let out a scream as she let go. “Twilight!” Her screams abruptly stopped. “Is she safe?”
“She’s alright,” AJ answered.
“Good,” Rider said before giving one more powerful blast and scooping up Applejack. Her hat flew off, and he managed to grab it with his teeth as they narrowly missed the river of falling rocks. Storm Rider sighed with relief as he lowered to join the others who were waiting for them and set Applejack down.
“Thanks a lot, Storm,” Applejack thanked as he placed her hat back on her head.
“No problem, and call me Rider,” he said wiping the sweat from my brow and rolling my wings. He then called out, “Everypony here? Anypony hurt?” All six mumbled they were okay. “Good. Let’s keep moving,” he announced continuing on.
“Wait,” Rarity called out. “You protected me. Why?” He stopped to answer over his shoulder.
“Three reason,” Rider simply said. “One, I could and it was fun. Two, it was the right thing to do. Three, I want to make friends, so I might as well start somewhere.” With a smirk, Twilight rolled her eyes. They continued their trek into the forest. Of course Rainbow Dash couldn’t help bragging about her saves to Twilight.
“And once Pinkie and Rarity were safe, whoosh, me and Fluttershy hooked the loop around and, wham, caught you right in the nic of time.”
“Yes, Rainbow, I was there, and I’m grateful. However, I also saw Storm Rider protecting all of us from the falling rocks.”
“Yeah those were some pretty awesome moves,” Dash admitted. “Why didn’t you do anything against Nightmare Moon?”
“I did,” Rider answered matter of fact.
“Excuse me, Darling,” Rarity interjected, “but all you did was burp in her face.”
“How the hay in burpin’ doin’ somethin’?” Applejack asked.
“Because she was using shadow magic,” he answered. The others looked at him confused. “Shadow magic is a form of dark magic,” Rider explained. “Casters using shadow magic are very difficult to deal with. Physical attacks are all but useless. Those three royal guards tried, and we all saw how well that worked out. The only way a physical attack would work if one pony has their undivided attention. A second pony can then hit them from behind, but the caster can’t see it coming. Twilight can vouch that I had pepper breath. When I burped, I, might as well, squirted pepper juice in her face. I also had her full attention.”
“Never pegged you for an egghead,” Dash commented.
“Just because you can’t use it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn about it. Knowledge is power. Besides, a strong body is useless without a strong mind to guide it”
“So ya set up for somepony ta hit her,” Applejack added continuing Rider’s train of thought. “If I had let Dash go, we could’ve got her.”
“That might have worked, but I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it. You didn’t’ know, nopony did. I was hoping one pony would catch on,” Rider said thinking about his brother. He wondered where he was during all of this. “It’s too late now, so we just have to press forward. Besides, the maneuver is extremely difficult. It takes two ponies working in perfect sync.”
“And because nopony knew what you were doing, you’re acts were in vain,” Rarity finished.
“True, but I had to try something,” he added. A menacing figure barded their pass. Noticing the looming figure, he asked, “Now what?” It looked like a lion yet had the ears and wings of a bat. It also had the tail of a scorpion.
“A manticore,” Twilight gasped. “We have to get pass him.” The manticore lunged forward and swiped with its right front paw. Rider pulled Rarity back to help her duck under the swipe. He spun forward bringing his hind hoof over his head and bringing it down on the manticore’s skull. He then rolled back onto his hooves.
“Ha,” Rarity cheered, “take that you ruffian.” The manticore roared at her messing up her mane. “My hair,” Rarity complained before running back. The manticore gave chase after her and ignored Storm Rider.
“Wait,” Fluttershy said in a quiet voice. Applejack jumped on its back and rode it like a bucking bronco.
“Yeeha,” Applejack cheered, “get along, little doggie.” The manticore jumped about trying to throw Applejack.
“Wait,” Fluttershy said again. The manticore finally dislodged Applejack.
“All yours, partner,” Applejack casually told Dash as she flew through the air.
“I’m on it,” Rainbow Dash saluted as she made her attack.
“Wait,” Fluttershy’s meager voice cried. Rainbow Dash circled the manticore at high speed. It was like a rainbow colored tornado surrounded it. The manticore swatted Dash away with its scorpion tail like she was a fly.
“Rainbow,” Twilight cried. Dash landed near Twilight, Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie. She got up and joined them as the five prepared to charge the manticore who stood its ground snorting at them.
‘We’re getting nowhere.’ Rider thought. ‘We’re lucky it hasn’t used its stinger yet. This doesn’t make any sense. Manticores are fierce, but they’re fairly docile unless provoked. They don’t normally fight this hard. That solid hit should have scared it off. I need to stop this before somepony gets seriously hurt. Manticores only fight this hard when they’re scared or…of course.’ As the others charged forward, Rider landed between them and the manticore and flapped his wings at his friends. He caused a small gust to halt them.
“Wait!” Fluttershy screamed. She was hesitant for a moment when she noticed Rider protecting the manticore. Rider was a little surprised to hear Fluttershy yell like that. With a smile, he folded a wing to let her pass before unfolding his wing to block the others.
“Rider, what are you doing?” Twilight asked.
“Let her handle this,” Rider answered. Ginger Heart said she was good with animals. Rider just hoped that included manticores. The others cringed for a second before I heard Fluttershy say,
“Shss, it’s okay.” Fluttershy nuzzled the manticore’s left front paw. The manticore opened his paw to reveal a large thorn. The others’ expression changed to one of confusion. “Oh you poor, poor little baby,” she coed.
“Little?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“Now this might hurt for just a second,” Fluttershy comforted. The manticore roared.
“Fluttershy!” The girls cried. Rider immediately regretted his choice until he heard the manticore start purring. He folded his wings and turned around to see the manticore happily licking Fluttershy. As he trotted pass, he noticed the large thorn.
“Knew it,” Rider said under his breath. He kicked it aside and continued through.
“Ah you’re just a little old baby kitty, aren’t you,” Fluttershy babied. “Yes you are. Yes you are.” The others passed by as Fluttershy pacified the big cat. Twilight waited for Fluttershy.
“How did you know about the thorn?” Twilight asked.
“I didn’t,” Fluttershy answered. “Sometimes we all just need to be shown a little kindness.” Twilight then caught up with Storm Rider.
“So how did you know about the thorn?”
“I didn’t,” Rider answered. “I had a theory, but there was no guarantee I was right. Remember. Knowledge is power. Plus, I knew Fluttershy was good with animals. I’m just thankful that included manticores. That I didn’t know.”
They continued forward on their trek. The mood had surprisingly lightened after their encounter with the manticore. As they marched on, Rarity let out a groan.
“My eyes need a rest from all this icky muck,” she complained. No sooner did she complain the moon hid itself under a thick canopy. “Well I didn’t mean that literally.”
“That ancient ruin could be right in front of our faces, and we wouldn’t even know it,” Twilight complained. The others began to argue. Rider was used to moving in almost total darkness. He developed the skill sneaking around the castle. His concentration was broken when Applejack announced,
“Oh wait. I think I stepped in somethin’.” All of a sudden, Fluttershy screamed. “It’s just mud,” Applejack said before she noticed the scary creature in front of her. At that moment, she too yelled. It became apparent to all; they were surrounded by menacing creatures. Rider crouched down and readied himself for their attack, but they didn’t attack. They weren’t even moving. The girls started screaming while backing toward Rider. He straightened up and rubbed his ears from the pain of the high pitch screams. Over the deafening screams, Pinkie’s giggles could be heard. Her laughter stopped the screams. Pinkie Pie even started making faces at one of the creatures.
“Pinkie,” Twilight yelled, “What are you doing? Run!”
“Oh, girls, don’t you see,” Pinkie started singing. “When I was a little filly and the sun was going down.”
“Tell me she’s not,” Twilight unbelievingly said.
“The darkness and the shadows, they would always make me frown.” Pinkie kept singing.
“She is,” Rarity answered.
“I’d hide under my pillow from what I thought I saw,” Pinkie sang as she bounced about. “But Granny Pie said that wasn’t the way to deal with fears at all.”
“Then what is?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“She said, Pinkie, you got to stand up tall. Learn to face our fears. You’ll see that they can’t hurt you. Just laugh to make them disappear, Ha, Ha, Ha.” Pinkie simple laugh turned the menacing creatures into a normal tree. This caused the others to gasp. “So, giggle at the ghosty. Guffaws at the grossly. Crack up at the creepy. Whoop it up with the weepy. Chortle at the kooky. Snortle at the spooky.” With each phrase, all of them started laughing. As their laughter grew, the scary faces started to disappear. “And tell that big dumb scary face to take hike and leave you alone and if he thinks he can scare you then he’s got another thing coming and the very idea of such a thing just makes you wanna…,” Pinkie laughed for a minute before continuing, “Laugh!” All the scary faces disappeared, and the forest even seemed brighter.
As they started forward, Storm Rider noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He fell silent and slowly back pedaled out of the group. The girls were so busy laughing; none of them seemed to notice he had slipped away. Yet again without his crown, nopony noticed him. It wasn’t a very encouraging thought. As the girls moved out of sight, the darkness seemed to be moving forward even if Storm Rider stood still. Something about this seemed off to Rider, but he couldn’t tell what. He flapped his wings to cause a gust. The darkness was actually pushed back. From the dark shadows sprouted multiple little red eyes. However, their eyes weren’t focused on him, but on something behind him.
“If you want those mares,” Rider said in a stern voice, “you’re going to have to go through me.” The good news was he got all of their attention. The bad news was he got all of their attention. With nopony around, it was pointless to keep hiding his horn. Tossing my head left and right, Rider’s horn poked through my spiky mane. He charged his horn, and two katana formed from emerald energy. Rider tilted his head left and right popping his neck as he unfolded his wings. “Alright, uglies, show me what you got,” he provoked.
The shadow creatures lunged at him. Rider took to the air swiping at the place where he was just standing. The blades of light sliced through two creatures which dissipated. A shadow creature attacked from both sides. Rider side rolled slicing both of them. He charged his horn and shot four small light spells from his horn at once. The four beams of green light struck the wall of shadows. Four more creatures dissipated. Rider soared up above the canopy. He spun back around slicing with each sword before sending out a small barrage of small light spells. A sea of shadow lurched at Storm Rider. He caused a gust of wind and dove into the flood of creatures. Rider went into a corkscrew drilling his way to the back of the horde. He skidded to a stop spinning back around to face the swarm before letting out a huge barrage of small light spells.
The creatures’ ranks had been thinned, but their eyes glowed brighter out of pure hatred for the annoying stallion keeping them from their true prey. Their collective hatred allowed them to merge together. They desired only one thing: to kill the meddlesome pony. Rider looked on as the creatures mashed together growing larger and reaching above the canopy. Its body was so dense it was almost an inky black and a solid mass.
“Well,” Rider said rolling his wings, “this just got interesting.” He dashed forward as the lumbering creature smashed the ground where he stood. Rider evaded the second fist as he rushed for the creature’s legs. He sliced at both legs as he past under the creature. He carved twin lines in the creature’s back as Rider shot straight up in to the air. The Creature spun around back fisting Storm Rider. His energy swords shattered as he was sent flying. He concentrated and teleported himself on the opposite side of the creature. Rider formed a large and very wide broad sword from his magic again. Using the momentum of being hit, he sliced the opposite arm clean off. The creature roared as it reared up to punch at rider. Rider reverted the sword back into energy and fired multiple light spells as one large blast. The blast obliterated the creature’s remaining arm. Rider rose up and dove straight down at the creature’s head. He formed a green broad sword and used it to spearhead his attack. The blade pierced the creature splitting it in two as my sword sunk into the ground. Rider was panting as the two halves and his sword dissolved away.
He surveyed the area until he spied one lingering shadow creature.
“Oh no, you don’t.” Rider yelled as he fired a light spell. The green beam struck the creature making it dissipate. His legs wobbled causing him to drop to his belly breathing heavily. “If I ever go back,” Rider said between gasp, “I’m having General Steel Hoof add magical combat to my training regiment.” Rider put his hoof over his eyes in pain as he rose. “Yeah, I’m definitely going to have a serious headache tomorrow in addition to extremely sore muscles. No time to feel sorry for myself,” he said as he stood on shaky legs, “I’ve got to catch up with the girls.”
Rider struggled forward on shaky leg. He was grateful when he came across a stream and immediately began gulping down water. Rider felt his strength return. He never understood why he recovered so fast. He was still going to be really sore the next day, but he could press on.
It was then that he noticed a sea serpent splashing in the water and enjoying his reflection. Oddly enough, Rider’s first thought was wondering if he was up river of it. It had purple scales and quaff light brown hair with a long moustache. As he studied the serpent, Rider noticed purple hairs done in a familiar twist. Fearing the worst, Rider rushed at the serpent. He skidded to a stop in mid-air as he noticed the hairs were not coming from in his mouth but on his lip.
“Oh,” the serpent exclaimed, “well aren’t you a fast one.”
“Yeah,” Rider said a little embarrassed. “I was just noticing your moustache.”
“Do you like it? This nice pony fixed it after some rapscallion cut half of it off.”
“This pony didn’t happen to be a mare with five others?”
“Oh, why yes. She was an absolutely gorgeous white mare, and her five friends were simple adorable. It was like a little rainbow.”
“Right, you didn’t happen to see which way they went, did you?”
“Oh but of course, they took that path right there,” the serpent said pointing to a path on the opposite side of the stream from where Rider had come.
“Thanks. Um, nice moustache,” Rider added before heading down the path.
“Oh why thank you. Such nice ponies,” the serpent called after. Rider flew down the path until he found five of them waiting by a cliff. He took note that Rarity’s tail had been cut very short. Rider hide his horn as he landed and trotted up to the others. He arrived in time for Rainbow Dash to emerge from the fog and pose for her friends. As the fog cleared, a rope bridge appeared leading across a chasm to the ruins of a castle. The others cheered for their pegasus friend.
“See, I’d never leave my friend hanging,” Rainbow Dash replied. She then noticed Rider. “Hey, Rider, where did you go?”
“What do you mean?” He asked keeping his cool.
“You were there and then you weren’t.”
“Wow,” he said taken back a little. “I didn’t think anypony would notice,” he then added under his breath, “nopony ever does.” He then said in a normal voice, “I just saw something I wanted to check out.”
“Are you sure you just didn’t get scared when you saw that sea serpent?”
“Actually my first thought was wondering if I was upriver of him,” Rider answered.
“Sure it was,” Dash said with a small laugh. As the group entered the ruins, they immediately found a stone pedestal with smaller pedestals branching off holding up five stone orbs with a single jewel impression in each.
“Wow,” Twilight said in awe.
“Come on, Twilight,” Applejack encouraged. “Isn’t this what you been waiting for?”
“The Elements of Harmony, we found them,” Twilight commented still in awe. The three flyers removed the five orbs from the pedestals and placed them next to Twilight on the ground.
“Careful, careful,” Twilight instructed.
“One, two, three, four,” Pinkie Pie counted. “There’s only five.”
“Where’s the sixth?” Dash asked.
“The book said, ‘when the five are present, a spark will cause the sixth element to be revealed,’” Twilight answered.
“What in the hay is that supposed to mean?” Applejack asked a little annoyed.
“I’m not sure, but I have an idea,” Twilight said with confidence. “Stand back. I don’t know what will happen.”
“Come on now, y’all,” Applejack instructed the rest of us. “She needs to concentrate.” They filed back out the door. As they waited, they heard Twilight cry out.
“Twilight,” the girls cried in unison. They looked back to see the elements caught in a purple tornado. Rider rushed forward to help.
“The elements,” Twilight said with concern as she jumped into the vortex. The swirl quickly shrank down. Rider dove for the vortex only to have it vanish before he could get to it. He was moving so fast he crashed into the pedestal. Panic grew within the girls. Rider got up with a groan. The girls were in a panic frantically searching the room for Twilight.
“Twilight, where are you?” Applejack asked with great concern.
“Look,” Rarity exclaimed pointing out the window. Another section of the castle had light pouring out of every crack.
“Come on,” Applejack instructed. Rider shook the stupor out of him and led the charge. As they raced to the other section of the castle, concern grew in Rider. Twilight was in danger. He couldn’t hold back anymore. He switched to flying and zoomed ahead of the others. He entered the chamber and landed between Twilight and Nightmare Moon. He was shocked when he saw the broken shards of the elements.
“Rider?” Twilight said a little surprised. The others called to Twilight to let her know they were coming. “You think you can destroy the Elements of Harmony just like that,” Twilight said as the others entered, “Well you’re wrong, because the spirits of the Elements of Harmony are right here.” Shards of what was left of the Elements of Harmony began to glow and lift off the ground. “Applejack, who reassured me when I was in doubt, represents the spirit of honesty.” A few of the shards began circling Applejack. “Fluttershy, who tamed the manticore with her compassion, represents the spirit of kindness.” Shards began circling Fluttershy despite her trying to avoid them. “Pinkie Pie, who banished fear by giggling in the face of danger, represents the spirit of laughter.” Pinkie Pie had shards circling her as well. “Rarity, who calmed a sorrowful serpent with a meaningful gift, represents the spirit of generosity.” Shards swirled around Rarity as well. “And Rainbow Dash, who could not abandon her friends for her own heart’s desire, represents the spirit of loyalty.” Finally Rainbow Dash had shards around her as well. “The spirits of these five ponies got us through every challenge you threw at us.”
“You still don’t have the sixth element,” Nightmare Moon countered with concern growing in her voice. “The spark didn’t work.”
“But it did,” Twilight corrected, “a different kind of spark. I felt it the very moment I realized how happy I was to hear you, to see you, how much I cared about you,” she told her friends, “all of you,” she added over her shoulder at Rider. “The spark ignited inside me when I realized you all are my friends.” A sixth orbed appeared and floated down to rest above Twilight’s head. “You see, Nightmare Moon, when these elements are ignited by the …spark that resides in the heart of us all, it creates the sixth element, the element of magic.” A bright light emitted from the girls.
“No,” Nightmare Moon cried. “I won’t be beaten again.” Nightmare Moon began charging her horn. Since his spells were smaller, it was easy to set them off before she could. Rider flapped his wings and blasted a gust of wind at her face. The wind broke her concentration. “How dare you, you insolate foal.” She charged her horn again. Rider answered with another wing blast. “You think you can defeat me?” A rainbow shot out from behind him and struck at Nightmare Moon’s hooves. “No,” Nightmare Moon cried as she was encased in a rainbow colored vortex. Rider covered his eyes as the room was bathed in a bright white light. As the light faded, Rider found the girls lying on the ground each with a gold necklace around their neck and a tiara on Twilight’s head.
“Well, that was different,” Rider simply said.
“My head,” Dash groaned.
“Everypony okay,” Applejack asked.
“Oh thank goodness,” Rarity exclaimed. Rider looked over to see Rarity’s tail had grown back.
“Why, Rarity, it’s so lovely,” Fluttershy complemented.
“I know. I’ll never part with it again,” Rarity said fawning over her tail.
“No, your necklace,” she corrected. “It looks just like your cutie mark.”
“So do yours,” Rarity pointed out.
“Look at mine. Look at mine,” Pinkie Pie exclaimed bouncing about.
“Ah, yeah,” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.
“So what was that about friendship not saving Equestria from something horrible?” Rider asked as he helped Twilight up who blushed a little.
“Jee, Twilight,” Applejack said. “I thought you were just spoutin’ a lot of whooy, but I recon we really do represent the elements of friendship.”
“In deed you do,” the voice of a mature woman spoke. The sun rose above the horizon. An orb of light drifted down from the sun into the chamber. From the ray of light, a white alicorn mare emerged with a flowing mane and tail in a ribbon of blue, green, purple, and pink. A gold crown rested on her head and a gold necklace sat around her neck. She was twice as big as any of the girls. Her purple eyes shone with gentleness and wisdom. The girls bowed their heads leaving their flanks in the air. Rider bowed his head deeply hoping he wouldn’t be noticed.
“Princess Celestia,” Twilight said in admiration walking up to the large mare.
“Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student,” the princess greeted. “I knew you could it.”
“But you told me it was all an old pony tale,” Twilight questioned.
“I told you, you need to make friends, nothing more,” Celestia corrected. “I saw the signs of Nightmare Moon’s return, and I knew it was you who had the magic inside to defeat her.” The others began to rise from their bows. “But you could not unleash it until you let true friendship into your heart, now if only another will as well, Princess Luna.” A blue alicorn mare laid where Nightmare Moon once stood with blue shards around her. Her mane was a lighter shade than her coat which supported a small blue crown. She jolted awake at the mention of the name. “It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this,” she said as she approached and knelt next to the smaller alicorn. “Time to put our differences behind us, we were meant to rule together, little sister.”
“Sister?” Twilight asked surprised.
“Will you accept my friendship?” Celestia asked rising to her hooves. The others leaned forward waiting for her reply. Pinkie leaned so far she fell over.
“I’m so sorry,” Luna finally answered with tears in her eyes. “I missed you so much, big sister.”
“I’ve missed you too,” Celestia replied with tears of joy. Pinkie Pie had a hanky and was crying streams of joy.
“Hey,” Pinkie exclaimed abruptly stopping her tear, “do you know what this calls for? A party!” As if Pinkie had planned for it upon their arrival back town, a big celebration was under way to welcome back both princesses. The princesses rode in on a gold open carriage drawn by four white pegasi in gold armor. Spike rushed to greet Twilight. The citizens bowed in respect to their rulers. A pair of pegasi foals hung a ring of flowers around Luna’s neck.
“Why so glum, my faithful student?” Celestia asked Twilight. “Are you not happy you quest is complete, and you can return to your studies in Canterlot?”
“That’s just it,” Twilight replied. “Just when I learn how wonderful it is to have friends, I have to leave them.”
“Spike, take a note please,” Celestia instructed. Spike produced a scroll and quill and began dictating. “I, Princess Celestia, hereby decree that the unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, shall take on a new mission for Equestria. She must continue to study the magic of friendship. She must report to me her findings from her new home in Ponyville.”
“Thank you, Princess Celestia,” Twilight gratefully thanked as her new friends gathered around her. “I’ll study harder than ever before.” The town cheered.
“Storm Rider,” Princess Celestia then addressed, “may I have a word with you?”
“As you wish, Princess,” Rider said as she led me away. Once away from prying ears, she continued,
“Tell me. What are the princes of the Strom Empire doing in a small town outside of Canterlot?”
“What do you mean, Princess?”
“Your glamor spell is good, but there is a better one my library. There’s even a better one in the Ponyville library. Do not miss understand, I am grateful for the aid you gave my student and her friends. However I must know why the two of you are here.” Rider sighed defeated realizing she not only knew about him but his brother as well.
“Well we kind of…ran away from home.” Celestia raised an eye brow.
“Your father does not know you are here.”
“Nopony back home does.”
“So what made you leave?”
“It was more my brother’s idea. I don’t fully understand his reasons, but he mentioned coming here to start over. I didn’t have any friends, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus, I’m not really enthusiastic about my destiny anymore,” He added looking at his cutie mark. “A skull and flames, even green flames, symbolize death and destruction.”
“Yes, being a child of World Strom is a great burden.”
“It is your father’s name. Just as you are known as Princes Hurricane, your father is King Monsoon, but those are not your real names.”
“Why is that?”
“The first king of the Storm Empire caused so much destruction that yielded new life; he was like a monsoon that had washed over the land. In addition, the first crown prince was so powerful; many regarded him as a walking hurricane. Thus they were dubbed King Monsoon and Prince Hurricane. The names were used by every king and crown prince ever since.”
“I never knew.”
“There are few who do. As for your destiny, the symbol in your cutie mark, do you know what it means?”
“Can’t say I do,” Rider said checking the symbol. It was a green ring with a bar on opposite ends of the skull that sat within the ring. The whole symbol was surrounded by a black flame lined in green. “I’ve checked many books, but I’ve never found a match.”
“Well in Equestria, it is an ancient symbol for hope or life. When it was green, it meant new hope or new life.” Rider stared at his cutie mark pondering the possible meaning. “As far as your brother, his fears are not completely unfounded. There are some that question if he really is a child of World Storm.”
“Mother would never. Father is a little rough, but she loves him.”
“Indeed she does, but she is still to blame,” Celestia clarified. “You see, she was not born an alicorn. She was a pegasus.”
“So that’s why Light’s a pegasus.”
“Precisely, now there is still the matter of you running away from home. I should tell your father where you are.” There was a pleading look in Rider’s eyes. “But I believe you would also benefit from studying the magic of friendship. We can say you were doing some foreign studies. You may take your lessons from my castle in Canterlot, as my guest of course.”
“I appreciate that, your highness, but too many would know me there. It wouldn’t be much different than being home.”
“Very well, then you will stay here in Ponyville at the library with Twilight. You will do this so Twilight can account for where you are and because you both will be studying the magic of friendship. There is one more thing. I fear Twilight’s trials have only just begun. I would ask that you watch out for her, but I must also advise against any inappropriate behavior with my student. The repercussions would have to be severe.” Rider swallowed hard.
“Understood,” Rider answered. “Do I have your permission to take my leave? I need to lay down. That adventure really took it out of me.”
“How are you tired but not any of the girls?”
“Faced some shadow creatures in the forest. I also found using magic and hiding magic at the same time rather taxing.” Celestia thought for a moment.
“Very well, but be on your best behavior.” Rider swallowed hard again.
“Yes, Princess Celestia,” Rider said as he limped away.
“Your destiny may not be with Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia said after Rider was out of ear shot. Looking at Twilight’s new friends, she then added, “but the one who is might be closer than you think.”