Of Flame and Shadow - FiMFetch.net (2024)

by Garuda IV

Chapter 7: Chapter 6- Concerns and Flight

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Dark was grumbling to himself as he made his way to the kitchen. Despite the goodnight's sleep that he got, his legs were aching more than ever. He tried setting his claw of fire and massage his sore muscles, but it could relieve only so much of the ache.

"This is gonna be annoying," he said to himself. "Good thing it'll only last a week or so."

"Having troubles?" a voice asked Dark, causing him to jump in surprise.

Sitting at the table was Sunshine, who was helping herself to some bananas while reading the morning news paper. She looked to Dark in amusem*nt of accidentally scarring him. Dark, however, didn't understand why she was up so early. The sun wasn't set to rise for another forty minutes or so.

"Good morning, Aunt Sunshine," he greeted her. "Also, not really. Just a little sore from yesterday is all."

"Alright, and a good morning to you as well, Dark," she returned.

"So what are you doing up so early?" he asked while grabbing a bowl and some cereal. "The sun's not suppose to be up for a while yet... unless my clock was wrong and it's later than I think it is."

"No, it's not wrong. I just woke up and couldn't get back to sleep," she answered. "Plus the train back to Canterlot leaves early in the morning, so there's that too I suppose."

"Okay. Well at least I'll get to say goodbye before you leave," he said before eating.

"Thank you, Dark." She paused for a moment. "Dark?"

"Hmm?" he answered, cheeks puffed out with a mouth-full of cereal.

"Before I forget, I wanted to ask you something." She continued after Dark nodded. "Is there anything that I should know about your village before I get a report about it?"

Dark swallowed his food. "Like what exactly?"

"Just anything that you think I should be aware of."

He tapped his chin in thought for a moment. "I suppose the biggest thing would probably be the chest in my forge with the Draconium in it."

Sunshine co*cked an eyebrow. "How much Draconium did you find?"

"Not much. It was by complete accident that my cousin found it while digging in the mine at the time. But he only found enough to make one weapon out of it. Since we didn't think it would be worth forging a single weapon to use against a horde of dragons, we decided to put it away for safe keeping in my chest."

"Is this chest actually yours, or do you call it that because it's in your forge?"

"The chest is actually mine. I keep most of my personal items in it, such as my life-savings, some of my spell books, and a fire ruby that I found one day while practicing my fire magic."

Sunshine took a sip of her coffee. "Is there anything else that I should know about?"

Dark nervously folded his ears back. "There may be one more thing," he slowly answered.

Putting her coffee and paper off to the side, Sunshine gave him her full attention. "Go ahead," she warmly encouraged.

He took a deep breath. "Have you ever wondered what happened to the dragons I defeated?" he asked.

"No, I haven't put any thought into that," she admitted.

"Probably for the best," he commented before continuing on. "I'll give you the short version then. Our mayor ordered the bodies to be dumped in the mines. That way if the dragons did take over the village, they would have to sort through their dead before getting to the gems and ore."

Sunshine furrowed her bows. "And why would he order that? Also, how many dead dragons are down there?"

Dark let out an annoyed sigh at remembering how stubborn the old geezer was. "It's because it was either that, or we go with his original plan. As for how many dragons?" Dark paused for a moment to think about it. "Honestly, I stopped keeping track after a hundred and sixty... ish."

"That's a rather large number of dragons," she commented. "But if that wasn't his original plan, then what was it?"

"He wanted us to build spires around the village and on the wall. After which, he would have us decapitate the dragons and plant their heads on them as a warning to any others that would come near the village."

Sunshine's eyes widened. "So then, that means that..."

"He wanted to impale their heads upon the spires of Stonewall," Dark finished for her.

"So what happened to change his mind?" she asked, a hint of anger creeping in her voice.

"I asked cousin Big Beard to convince my little brother, Light Wing, to talk the mayor out of it." Dark paused, gauging Sunshine's reaction before continuing. "He was easily able to convince him, but dumping them in the mines was the alternative."

"Why didn't you ask your brother yourself?" Sunshine asked. "I understand that you didn't get any respect from your fellow villagers, and that they probably wouldn't have listened to you. However, why did you have your cousin ask your brother for you?"

Dark's face saddened a little. "It's because Light hated me," he admitted. "Despite us being brothers, he was always jealous that I was born a unicorn and could cast magic, and that he wasn't. My parents, sister, and I have tried to talk to him about it several times each year, but his resentment just kept growing until he outright refused to talk or listen to me. That's why I asked Big Beard to talk to him about the dragons, because Light looked up to him and respected him."

Sunshine got up out of her chair, walked around the table to Dark, and put a understanding hoof on his shoulder. Dark looked back up to see her with a sad smile on her face.

"I understand how you feel, but I have to ask though... what happened to him?" she asked.

"Light, Big Beard, and a few of Light's friends tried to leave the village to go get help, but they never returned. That was almost a year ago now."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yeah, me too. But I still miss him, though."

Sunshine tilted her head. "You mean your brother?"

Dark nodded. "I'll be honest with you. He might have been a plot hole towards me, but he was still my brother. Regardless of how he acted, I still loved the guy. Even now I miss him just being around."

Though she was slightly taken aback by his choice of words, Sunshine still felt for him. Both in knowing what he was going through then, and now.

"I understand what you mean," she solemnly said.

Dark gulped before asking her, "You mean with what happened between you and... umm..."

"You're talking about Luna and I, correct?" she assumed, to which Dark nodded.

"I'm sorry for bring up something personal like that," he apologized.

Sunshine gave him a reassuring smile. "It's alright, Dark, I'm not upset with you. But I must know; did you do what you could to try and get through to him?"

"Yes... I did."

"Then that is all that I could ask for, so please try to not feel too bad about it."

Dark smiled back to Sunshine before they turned to some friendlier topics. Apparently time flew by because once Dark looked to the clock he saw that he was suppose to be at the farm in five minutes.

"Ah crud! I'm gonna be late!" he panicked.

Watching Dark run around the kitchen, trying to clean up after himself before leaving, Sunshine calmly rose up with a thought.

"If you want, I can teleport you to Sweet Apple Acres for you?" she offered.

Dark froze and looked questionably at her. "Really? Why?"

"Well, it is because of me that you're late now, right?"

He didn't give a verbal answer. Not wanting to admit that she was technically correct and accidentally upset or insult her, Dark decided to play it save and gave a small nod.

"Alright then. Thank you for doing this for me," he thanked.

"You're welcome," she said as she walked over to him. "Now, I need you to keep calm and hold your breath."

"Why? What's going to hap-" Dark's question was cut short by a blinding flash, leaving the kitchen empty as they teleported away.

After reappearing in a bright flash of light, Dark immediately collapsed to the ground with Sunshine looking at him apologetically. The nausea he was feeling was making everything spin, causing him to squeeze his eyes shut from seeing anything while laying sprawled out. Before they knew it, Applejack came around the barn from seeing the bright flash, running at full speed towards them.

"What happened ta ya?" she asked Dark who moaned in reply. "Did you try ta fight those timberwolves?"

"No, Applejack. I accidentally made him late getting here and offered to bring him." Sunshine looked down to Dark. "Although, perhaps I should have warned him a little bit sooner before I teleported us."

Applejack started poking at Dark's side. "So he's just dazed from the teleportin' then?"

Sunshine nodded before lighting her horn and placing it on Dark's forehead. A few seconds later she removed it and gave him some room. Feeling his headache gone, Dark stood up and looked to Sunshine, a little annoyed by the sudden warning. She didn't say anything, and instead tried to feign innocence by just smiling innocently back at him.

"Well at least I took care of your headache," she playfully countered, seeing his annoyed glare.

Dark chuckled. "I suppose so. Thank you, Aunt Sunshine, for the help." He then turned to Applejack to properly greeted her.

"Well as much of a pleasure as it's been, I should be getting back to the castle. I'm sure Twilight will want to spend some time with me before I have to leave." Sunshine bid the two goodbye before lighting her horn with another teleport spell, but paused as she almost forgot to tell them something. "Before I forget to tell you two, I'll be sending some guards to Ponyville to help keep an eye out for anymore timberwolves. Also, Dark, you may practice this weekend after Twilight's testing." Then in a blink of an eye, she was gone again.

"You know," Applejack began. "Ah never did ask what kind of work she did exactly. Twilight just told us that she works with Princess Celestia."

You have no idea how right you are, Dark thought. "Yeah, that's pretty much what I know too." Granted it technically wasn't a lie that they worked together, considering that they are one and the same pony. Any more thoughts were interrupted by the suns rays shining in Dark's face.

"Ah guess we should get started, huh?" Applejack suggested.

"Yeah," Dark agreed, stretching his legs before trotting over to the wagon.

Despite the aching from his sore muscles from earlier, they started feeling better as he began working. With the pain and stiffness fading, Dark started to pick up his pace. He was bucking a little faster then he did the previous day and feeling better about himself for it. It wasn't until a few hours later that the soreness was completely gone, now instead feeling like he just hit the gym. Before he knew it, it was close to breaking for lunch. Applejack approached him as he was about to start on his last tree before then.

"You're sure lookin' a lot better than when ya first started today," she commented.

"Yep," he answered happily. "Definitely feeling better too."

"Well that's good ta here." Applejack paused when she saw something familiar in the tree. "Uh, Dark, you might wanna hold off on buckin' that tree."

"Why? What is it?" he questioned.

"It's me trying to take a nap," a voice in the branches complained.

Looking up into the tree, Dark saw Rainbow laying on a tree branch with a pillow and blanket.

"Umm, what are you doing up in a tree, Rainbow?" Dark asked her.

Applejack trotted over to them. "Well for some reason, RD likes ta take her naps in my apple trees."

Rainbow huffed. "I was just trying to get in a nap before Dark's flying lesson this afternoon. Speaking of which, AJ, you better not wear him out too much before I get my turn with him."

As the two mares locked eyes with each other in a stare down, Dark was trying his best to hold his tongue.

Keep it to yourself, Dark, he mentally told himself. Even though this is the perfect setup for a dirty joke, it wouldn't be a good idea since Applejack's your boss.

Even though he managed to not say anything, he was however, snickering. Applejack and Rainbow both looked to Dark who was now borderline laughing to himself.

"What's so funny?" Rainbow asked Dark.

Controlling himself he answered, "It's just what you said."

"What I said?"

"Think about it for a moment and you'll know what I mean."

Both mares replayed what Rainbow said in their minds, and it wasn't long before they both understood the implication of what she said. Seeing their expressions turn from confusion to embarrassment, Dark started laughing louder. Soon enough, Rainbow started to join in the laughing as well. Even Applejack was thankfully finding it to be humorous. After a moment the laughing finally died down.

"Glad to see you two have a good sense of humor and aren't taking it too seriously," Dark commented.

"Just don't try making jokes like that around Rarity or else she'll flip," Rainbow playfully warned.

Applejack gave Dark a playful smack upside his head. "And especially around our sisters," she added.

"No worries there. I'll be sure to keep such comments away from them," Dark assured.

Any further talking was cut short by a rumble from Rainbow's stomach. She just shrugged it off as Dark and Applejack looked to her.

"Guess we better head on in and get somethin' ta eat," Applejack suggested as she turned towards the farm house. "You can come too if ya want, Rainbow."

"Sweet. Thanks, AJ," Rainbow thanked, hovering alongside the two as they made their way to the house.

The inside of Canterlot Castle was less busy than usual. Despite the time of day, ponies would normally still be out and about either patrolling the halls, or running off to a meeting of some sort. Sunshine stopped in the middle of the empty hallway, checking each direction for anypony who might walk in on her. Knowing that she was alone, Sunshine removed her illusion, turning back into Princess Celestia. Now in her natural form, she casually made her way to the throne room where Luna should be covering for her.

Stopping in front of the giant golden doors, Celestia opened them and walked on inside. Upon seeing her sister, Luna glided down from the throne and met Celestia halfway. After embracing each other in a sisterly hug, Luna was the first to speak.

"How was your investigation, Tia?" she asked.

"It was very productive, Luna," Celestia answered. "And thank you for covering for me so I could go."

Luna waved if off with a hoof. "Think nothing of it, sister. After all, you had to run the kingdom for an entire millennium. The least I could do for you is take over for a few days so you could do your own thing." Luna paused as a certain stallion came to mind. "Although, I don't know how you managed to deal with Blueblood by yourself. Remind me again why you decided to adopt him as your nephew? Cadence I understand, but why him?"

Celestia sighed. "It's because he's the direct descendant of Princess Platinum. That's why."

Luna groaned at being reminded. Though Platinum was a rather nice unicorn royal, she never understood how somepony like Blueblood could be related to her. Those thoughts were put on hold when she remembered the one for Celestia's absence.

"As nice as it is to talk about our dear nephew," Luna said sarcastically. "I'm curious as to this kirin you went to see."

Celestia let herself relax. "It appears that despite a few hiccups in his past that he had no control over, there isn't much to worry about."

"Well, I suppose that I'll be looking forward to meeting him as well then."

Celestia looked to her somewhat surprised. "You haven't looked into his dreams yet?"

Luna shook her head. "Haven't noticed anything that would draw me to check in on him." Her train of thought was interrupted from remembering something important that came for Celestia while she was out. "Speaking of things to check on, there is a matter that requires your immediate attention."

Celestia raised a eyebrow. "Yes? What is it?"

Luna nodded to the guards who gave them an understanding salute before they left the throne room. "One of our pegasus guards returned a few hours ago. He said he had a message for you from Captain Iron Guard, but I told him instead to go to the barracks and rest while waiting for your return."

"I didn't think that we would be hearing back from him so soon. But why didn't you ask for the report instead of waiting for me?"

"Don't get me wrong, sister. Although I am curious as to what they found, this was you operation to begin with. It would seem only fair that you would be the first to hear it before anypony else."

Celestia smiled at Luna. "Thank you for the thought, Luna, but you didn't have to do that. After all, I did fill you in on it when it was put in motion for a reason."

Luna thanked Celestia as they made their way to the throne to wait for the messenger. They had a good ten minutes idly talking to each other before the doors opened. Along with the two guards from earlier, a third pegasus guard made his way to the base of the dais before bowing.

"Arise," Celestia softly ordered, which he obeyed. "Now, what is this message that you have brought?"

"It's the initial report of what we saw when we landed, Your Highness," the guard answered, searching his saddlebag for the scroll. "After we landed, Captain Iron Guard asked for one of us to return the following morning."

He found the scroll and held it up with a hoof. It was taken from him by Celestia's magic, floating over to the two sisters and breaking the seal on it. Unfurling the scroll, Celestia and Luna both began to read it. Though they managed to keep their composure on the outside, on the inside they were quite shocked and horrified by what was written on it. They looked over the scroll a few more times to make sure they didn't misread anything before Celestia levitated it back to the guard.

"Tell me," she said, the calmness in her voice wavering. "Is it true of what is written in here?"

The guard read over the letter quickly before looking back to answer. "Yes, it is. But this is just explaining what we saw at first glance, Princess. Everypony else that remained behind is looking into the village and... cleaning that."

"Very well," Celestia answered before conjuring a piece of parchment, a quill, and some ink. After a minute of writing, she brought the new scroll down to the guard. "I want you to bring that to the castle's mail room and have it sent to the dragon's emissary immediately. After that you are relieved for the next three days to relax. I'm sure making a trip like that there and back took quite a toll on you."

"At once, Your Highness, and thank you," the guard humbly thanked and bowed before running off with his new order.

Celestia conjured two more parchments and started writing, but was interrupted by Luna.

"What was in the letter you gave him, Tia?" she asked.

"I set a date for King Inferno to get his scaly hide over here in one month's time to discuss with him the actions made against Stonewall Village," Celestia answered. "As of now, though, I'm writing to Twilight and Cadence to inform them of what's going on, and to request their presence at the meeting as well."

"That's cutting it pretty close to Nightmare Night, about a week before if I'm not mistaken."

"I wanted to hold it as soon as I could while giving everypony time to prepare. That, and if we held it after, then we would have a smaller window with the holidays and cold winter weather."

"I understand, Tia, but what about Twilight's friends and Shining Armor? Will you be calling on them too?"

"Yes, I'll be requesting that they also attend." She paused for a moment, tapping her chin in though. "Do you think I should ask Twilight to bring Dark as well?"

Luna spoke to her with caution her voice. "Are you sure it's a good idea putting those two in the same room together? I understand that this directly involves Dark, but still, Shining Armor probably wouldn't hesitate to attack him on site. Not mention that he's apparently living with Twilight."

Celestia nodded. "That, and the fact that Twilight seems to have developed a small crush on Dark too, and vice versa. Though I doubt that they'll work up the courage to tell each other for a while yet."

Luna's eyes went as wide as dinner plates from the news. "I'm not sure if I should be squealing with joy for Twilight, or be worried for Dark's safety. But what are your thoughts about them being together?"

A small smile made its way on Celestia's face. "If I didn't feel comfortable with it, then I wouldn't have allowed it, let alone encourage Twilight to pursue her feelings."

Because of the amount of work they did yesterday, Applejack decided to let Dark go early so he could get in his practice with Rainbow. Dark was reluctant to go, though, not because he didn't want to learn how to fly, but more so because he didn't want to cheat Applejack from him not working a full day like yesterday. However, she told him that Rainbow and her had talked about it during the party and worked out a sort of time-table for him. He would work normal hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while he would get off a few hours early on Tuesday and Thursday. Feeling reassured and less guilty for leaving early, Dark started to make his way to Ponyville Park where Rainbow would be waiting for him.

Arriving at the park, Dark looked around to try and find Rainbow, but she wasn't there. It wasn't until he caught a glimpse of a rainbow streak in the sky that he looked up. Above him, Dark could see Rainbow flying through the air doing loop-the-loops, barrel rolls, and other stunts that showed off her speed and acrobatics. He took a seat on the grass and watched in amazement of her flying skills. After a few more minutes, Rainbow took notice of the one-pony audience below her and made her descent before landing in front of him.

"Those were some pretty sweet moves up there, Rainbow," Dark complimented.

"Yeah, it was pretty awesome wasn't it?" she bragged. "Even though it was just practice and not my actual stuff."

"Regardless, it was still really fun to watch."

"Thanks for the compliment, but that's not why we're here is it?" she asked, to which Dark nodded in reply. "So... learning how to fly." She started pacing in front of him. "Let's start you off easy. I want you to give me twenty wing-ups."

Dark looked at her with a co*cked eyebrow. "What's a 'wing-up'?"

Rainbow facehoofed. "Right, forgot you're new to wings." She removed her hoof from her head and looked back to Dark. "It's basically a push-up, but with your wings instead of your forelegs... or in your case, your arms. Here' I'll show you."

She got down and started showing him how wing-ups worked. Seeming simple enough, Dark stretched and moved his wings a bit before mimicking Rainbow. It felt a little awkward at first, but she assured him that he was doing it correctly for someone with his wing-type. Finishing up his wing-ups, Dark looked up to Rainbow who gave him a disapproving shake.

"You look like you've hardly even broken a sweat. How about you give me another twenty," she recommended.

Resuming his position, Dark proceeded with his warm-ups. By the time he finished his second set, he felt his wing muscles start giving off a familiar light ache, though just barely. With a nod of approval from Rainbow, Dark got up.

"Good. Now, how much have you used your wings since you've awoken with them?" she asked.

"Not much. Mostly to hide my face in embarrassment really," he answered.

"Alright, try stretching out your wings and get a feel for them."

Dark nodded and began experimenting with his wings. Focusing, he began to unfurrow his wings, extending them to their full length, folding them, and getting a feel for their full range of motion. Rainbow spent five minutes watching Dark get accustomed to his new wings while looking to see anything that would impede him when he would flap them.

"Alright, I think I have a good feel for them," Dark announced.

"Good. Then your first lesson will be a simple wing exercise," Rainbow began explaining as she stood a few yards in front of Dark. "Now, I want you to flap your wings and follow my lead. This will help you get used to flapping them at the same time so you can stay airborne."

Dark opened his wings, and like Rainbow did, gave his wings a flap. Unfortunately for him, though, in his eagerness to learn to fly, he accidentally put too much effort into it and aimed them at a downward angle in front of him, launching himself backwards several feet and landing square on his back. Rainbow winced and quickly ran over to his side after seeing him hit the ground.

"Dark! Are you alright?!" she worryingly asked.

Dark couldn't respond due to the air being knocked from his lungs, and instead made a wheezing sound.

Rainbow sighed. "Okay, apparently we're gonna have to take it a little bit easier with the strength and size of your wings than I originally though."

Dark gave a slow nod as he tried catching his breath. Few seconds later he rolled over and stood back up, ignoring the pain in his back.

"Alright, I'm ready," he managed to speak out.

"You sure about that? That looked like it hurt a bit."

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Just got a bit winded is all."

"... well if you're sure, then I suppose we'll try it again. But this time, try to ease up on the force of your flapping."

Dark nodded and followed Rainbow's lead, gently mimicking her wing motions. By taking it easier this time, he didn't send himself flying back. After ten minutes of repeating the process, Dark started to naturally flap his wings in sync. Rainbow stopped her flapping and let Dark try it on his own for a while. He did well for the most part, fumbling with the timing a few times, but was quickly fixed. After she felt like he had enough, Rainbow held up a hoof to signal Dark to stop.

"That was better," she complimented him. "Now, how do you feel about learning to hover?"

Dark had an uneasy look, thinking back on his recent back flop. Rainbow noticed it and with a heavy sigh, signaled him to follow her. Trotting out of the park, they made their way over to a secluded pond near the tree line. She pointed for Dark to stand in front of it with his back towards the water.

"There. Now if you do have a repeat of last time, you'll fall into the water," she stated.

"Huh, good idea, Rainbow," Dark complimented.

"Alright then, let's get started." She took her position in front of Dark. "Now, you're gonna want to put a little more strength into your flapping than when you were practicing earlier, but not so much that you launch yourself again." She was about to demonstrate before quickly adding, "And don't worry if you don't get it the first few times. Learning to fly will take time, and even longer to maintain."

Dark shrugged. "Nothing against your teaching, Rainbow, but I wasn't expecting to fly for a few weeks."

"No offense take. Everypony learns to fly at different paces, but I'll be sure to be there to help you along the way."

He gave her a smile, feeling happy that she was willing to be patient with him. "Thanks, Rainbow."

They both got down in a takeoff stance before Rainbow gave him one last piece of advice. "Now, since this is your first time doing this, try flapping your wings slowly, then gradually increase the output overtime until you feel yourself lifting off the ground."

Dark nodded before following her instructions. He slowly beat his wings, up and down. Feeling comfortable with how it was going, he slightly upped the force of his motions while rhythmically beating his wings. Up and down, up and down, slowly increasing the strength behind each flap. After a minute of repeating the process, he felt the ground missing from beneath his claws and hooves. Looking down, Dark could see that he was hovering a few inches off the ground. He raised his claws above his head in a cheer, which threw him off-balance and caused him to face-plant with his rump and tail flailing in the air. Though his last meeting with the ground caused Rainbow to wince, this time she was laughing out loud at him. As Dark lifted his face and began rubbing his sore muzzle, he glanced over to Rainbow, seeing her rolling on the ground laughing.

"So... Dark," she tried saying in-between laughs. "What did you learn?"

Dark gave a grunt while sitting up. "Stay focused and try not to get to exited?"

"Meh, more or less. Once you get better at it, then you can start to multitask. For now, though, you might wanna hold off on anything that doesn't involve hovering in place."

And so for the rest of Dark's flight training, he tried to master how to simply hover in place. After several tumbles, and accidentally flinging himself into the pond a few times, Dark had started to get accustomed to hovering. Seeing as how he was getting better, Rainbow told Dark to now maintain it for as long as he could. Despite it being his first day of training, he managed to continue hovering for eighteen minutes straight. It was a little better than what Rainbow was expecting, but still not enough for her to allow him to move onto the next stage of her training just yet.

"Alright, that's enough for today," she told Dark, noticing the sun starting to set.

Dark immediately landed and fell to his stomach, his wings throbbing from the workout Rainbow put him through.

"My wings feel like jelly," he groaned.

"You'll get used to it." She trotted to Dark and offered a hoof to help him up. "And by then, I'll have you flying like a pro."

"If by 'pro' you mean like you, then I'm in for a heck of a long wait," Dark joked... sorta.

"Still, though, with how strong your wings are already, and with a bit of practice, you'll be flying in no time." She paused to look at the sun setting. "But that's gonna have to wait till next time, seeing as how it's starting to get late. For now, though, I want you to do two sets of fifty wing-ups each day that we're not practicing. One in the morning, and one in the afternoon. I would have you do them even on days that we're practicing, but between working on AJ's farm and my training, that might be pushing it a little."

"Alright then. I'll see you on Thursday then?"

"Yep! See ya later, Dark!" Rainbow called, waving goodbye before zooming off to her cloud house, leaving a rainbow-colored trail in her wake.

Seeing the trail she left behind just made Dark even more excited to learn how to fly. Although his wings were that of a dragons, he'd hoped that he could at least try to come close to match her average speed. With an extra spring in his step from what he considered to be a good day, Dark made his way back to the castle.

Before he entered the castle, Dark bopped his hooves and claws free of any mud he might have collected after his unintentional dip in the pond. Trotting through the halls, he began making his way to the lounge to rest before he bumped into Twilight.

"Hello, Dark," she greeted him.

"Hello, Twilight," he returned.

"So, how did your flying lessons go?"

"Overall, I think I did alright. Rainbow taught me how to hover... after tumbling around like a ragdoll that is."

"Well at least you're making progress." She paused, looking over Dark and noticing he was covered in grass stains, dirt, and mud. Particularly his back. "But what happened to you exactly? How did you accumulate that much dirt and mud on your back?"

"On my first attempt, I over-propelled myself and landed flat on my back. After that, Rainbow moved our training over to the pond by the park so if it happened again, then I would land in the water instead of the ground. Good thing too since I lost my balance a few times and fell backwards."

"Well you better go grab a shower then. Spike is already making us dinner." Dark nodded and started making his way to the bathroom before Twilight stopped him. "I almost forgot, Princess Celestia sent us a letter." Dark turned to face her. "She wants you, the girls, and I to attend a meeting with her at Canterlot Castle in one month. It involves your village, and the Dragon King will be there as well."

Dark's face turned from cheerful to serious at the mention of the king. The thought of meeting him face-to-face stirring a suppressed rage that had been built over time.

"You're talking about King Inferno, aren't you?" he asked.

Twilight was surprised Dark knew him by name. "Do you know him?"

Dark's eyes furrowed as he shook his head. "I know of him, and he knows of me, though we've never met in person before... until now anyway."

Twilight's face turned to concern. "Is everything alright?"

Dark let out a sigh before he answered her. "I'm going to be meeting the dragon responsible for putting my home through two hundred years of suffering for the first time. I guess I'm just a bit anxious about it is all. I mean, what am I suppose to say to him, or even do for that matter?!" Dark began pacing in frustration, his voice raising. "Hundreds, if not thousands, of ponies are dead because of him, and he's going to be here as a guest! A guest to whom I can't so much as lay a claw on, less I get you and the other princesses in trouble!"

His ranting was stopped upon feeling a hoof on his shoulder. He turned to see Twilight and his anger began to simmer. She gave him a sad smile, understanding that he's upset and there wasn't anything he could do to change it.

"It's alright," she told him. "Celestia and Luna won't let him get away with what he's done to you and your village. And neither will I." He allowed a smile to creep up from hearing Twilight speak. "He has gotten away with this for far too long, and nopony, or dragon, will prevent what he has coming to him. That, and I'm sure the other nations will be hearing about this as well."

"But what kind of a punishment can one give to a foreign ruler?" Dark questioned. "Payment in blood is pointless and would get us nowhere. And he would probably brush-off any fine that he'd be slapped with, treating it as though it were pocket change to him... and..."

His frustration and sorrow had caught up to him. Dark was having trouble finishing his sentence as it became harder for him to hold back the pain he kept bottled up. Between being physically exhausted from his long day of work, his training, and the emotions he tried to hide, Dark fell to his rump, involuntarily letting a few soft sniffles escape him. His vision became blurred soon after. It wasn't from the tears forming in his eyes, though, but from a soft, lavender coat. Looking up, he saw Twilight wrapping her forelegs and wings around him in a comforting embrace.

"Twilight?"

"Shhh," she softly quieted him, petting his mane like her mother used to do for her when she was sad. "Everything's going to be alright."

"But-" He tried talking but was promptly cut off by Twilight.

"You've been keeping all of this hurt to yourself, haven't you?" she asked, feeling him nod in reply. "Why?"

"I didn't want to trouble any of you with my problems anymore than I already have," he quietly answered, his voice slightly muffled.

"You shouldn't have to feel like keeping any of that from us," she told him, tightening her hug. "If something's bothering you, you tell us. If something's upsetting you and you need to talk, we'll listen." Twilight's eyes were starting to water now. "And if you're hurting and need somepony there for you, then all you need to do is ask, and I'll be there."

Letting her words sink in, the last of Dark's defenses crumbled as he let himself go. His sniffles turned to soft sobs and he let his tears flow as he wrapped his arms around Twilight. He didn't care about anything else at the moment. Any other sounds were being drowned out by him sobbing into Twilight's chest, and her comforting, soothing words. Whether it was a few seconds or a few minutes that passed, he didn't know. To him, nothing mattered besides what, or who, was in front of him right now. For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, Dark felt like he could truly be himself, that all his worries could disappear. They stayed like that for a good while before Dark's sobbing slowly died down. Pulling back a bit, he looked to see Twilight's face, and saw that her eyes were bloodshot with wet streaks that matted the fur beneath her eyes.

"Twilight?" Dark softly spoke. "What's wrong? Why are you crying?"

She gave a quick sniffle before whipping her eyes. "It just makes me sad, seeing one of my friends so hurt like this."

"I'm sorry, Twilight," he apologized, gently wrapping his wings around her in a comforting hug and pulling her into his chest like she did for him. "This is exactly why I didn't want to tell anypony about what I was feeling."

"I know. But still, you shouldn't feel like you need to keep it to yourself. So next time you need somepony to talk to, please don't hesitate to ask me."

"Are you sure about that?" Dark questioned. "You know my past isn't a very pleasant topic."

"I'm sure, and besides." Twilight tilted her head to look up into Dark's eyes. "My castle, my rules," she giggled.

Dark gave a throaty chuckle. "Yeah, I suppose so."

Though the mood was lifted somewhat, they didn't bother to move. Instead, they remained the way they were, simply enjoying the company of one another while in each other's embrace. They quietly stayed like that for a few more minutes before Twilight broke the silence.

"We should probably head to the kitchen. Spike should be almost done making dinner by now," she suggested.

"Alright," Dark answered before looking over his coat. "Although, I should probably get cleaned up first. I'm still covered in dirt and mud."

Twilight pulled back a little to look at her own coat, noticing that some of it got transferred onto her as well. "Guess I better grab one too."

"In that case, you should go fist," he offered. "Besides, your castle and all that."

Twilight giggled and gave him a playful bop on the nose for him jokingly trying to use her own words against her. "Darn right it is. Still though, are you sure? I mean, you are covered in more of it than I am."

Dark shrugged. "I can be patient."

"Alright then," Twilight answered as she broke their hug and made her way to the bathroom.

Dark let out a content sigh as Twilight rounded the corner. Closing his eyes, he started replaying her words in his head, smiling contently in knowing that there was somepony who would be there for him that he felt he could completely trust. His thoughts were interrupted when he felt a pair of eyes on him. Slowly, he turned his head to the side to see Spike with a raised eyebrow, a sly grin, and a camera in his claw.

"You can consider this as payback for the picture of me and the Crusaders," Spike taunted while waving the camera.

Dark didn't move, seeing as he was to embarrassed to do so. What's more is the fact that Spike had managed to sneak in a camera shot of him and Twilight without either of them knowing.

"And what about when Twilight finds out?" Dark asked.

"Oh, she'll find out alright," Spike answered smugly. "Besides, isn't it the little brothers job to annoy their older siblings?"

"I wouldn't really know. My brother didn't exactly get along with me."

"Oh... sorry about that," Spike apologized with a look of guilt.

"You didn't know, so it's alright," Dark quickly brushed off.

"Alright. Well, dinner's ready when you are."

"Okay. Thanks, Spike."

It was another long day in Stonewall Village. The guards there were able to get almost all of it cleared of dragon corpses and blood thanks to the pegasi bringing in some rainclouds. Even Iron Guard was down with his troops in helping them clean the place up. Despite his rank, he always preferred to lead by example rather than with words. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he turned to see one of his soldiers galloping towards him.

"Sir," he said with a salute. "We have just cleared out the entrance to the mines as per your orders, sir."

"Very good," Iron Guard complimented. "Has anypony went in yet?"

"No, sir. We thought it best to wait for you to be present before entering."

"Very well then, lead on."

The guard guided him over to the mine where a dozen more guards were waiting for them. Upon seeing their captain, they parted to either side of the entrance, got into line, and saluted.

"At ease," Iron Guard told them. "It's been a long day for everypony so formalities aren't a priority at the moment. Now, who's ready to explore a cave?"

A group of cheers sounded as they entered the mine with the unicorn horns providing them with light. The tunnel was big enough for them to walk through side-by-side, but would be a tight fit for a fully-grown dragon. Why something would stuff two of them in to seal it was beyond their understanding. After a minute of walking, they caught the scent of a strong, foul odor before coming to what was the main chamber of the mine. They looked off to the sides, noticing that they were now standing on a wooden ramp instead of solid ground. Iron Guard took a loose rock from the wall and dropped it off the side. It wasn't until a few seconds later that they heard it make contact, though it didn't sound like rock hitting rock.

"All unicorns," he called out. "Send out a magical flare, give us some light."

They obeyed, and soon, most of the darkness with lifted by several orbs of light. The main chamber was enormous. It was a few hundred yards wide in all directions, and roughly fifty below was what they thought was the bumpy cave floor. Casting a few flares of his own, Iron Guard lit up the floor. The sight from when they first arrived at the village was bad enough, but now, a few of the guards couldn't keep their stomachs down.

Below them, covering the entire chamber floor were more dead dragons. But these ones were older than the ones that they found outside. From what they could see, most still had scales and skin attached to them while others were nothing but bones, and some were skeletons with loose strips of rotting flesh hanging off of them. Iron Guard sighed to himself, looking at the new mess they were presented with. Turning to his troops, he began to address them.

"Alright everypony, we're heading back to camp. Try to get some rest, because it looks like our stay here has just been extended by a few days."

A collection of groans and gagging echoed through the cave in response, but he couldn't blame them. Even after the battles and aftermaths he's seen, Iron Guard didn't want to be here any longer than he had to. They had a body count of the dragons that they found outside and the graves by the pillar. Now, though, they had to sort through another batch, this time in a rank-smelling cave. And judging by what he saw, there were a lot more corpses in this cave alone than there were outside.

Next Chapter: Chapter 7- Watchful EyesEstimated time remaining: 50 Hours, 52 Minutes
Of Flame and Shadow - FiMFetch.net (2024)
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