My Little Pony
"Good night, dearie. You head straight home now, you hear. You never know when Tirac's hordes will come," an elderly maid said to the girl, Megan.
"Oh, Trell, I'll be just fine, but yes, I am heading straight home. See you tomorrow," the girl waved goodbye.
"Ai, see you, Meg."
The girl hummed as she walked through the stone streets of the Castle Town. A few pedestrians still did business at the hour, while others ran errands, or dabbled in seedier work that the law would catch during the day. Along the way, she stopped and bought some bread and cheese with her weekly pay. She loaded it into her basket, she went on her way, waving goodbye to the grocer.
Finally, her path led her away from the Castle Town and across the drawbridge. Many others, who did not actually live in town but simply worked there, left in cluttered crowds which Megan was among. The drawbridge closed behind, and would not be lowered again until tomorrow when the workers arrived to go to their jobs. She took to a trail leading off the main road, towards her family's little ranch. They were a family of five. Her parents, herself, her younger brother, Daniel, and the youngest of the three children: Mary.
Her father, brother, and mother tended the farm by day while she worked as maid and assistant to Lord Frederick, the younger of David's two sons. She took the job out of necessity, as work as a lord's maid guarantee a weekly payment for the family to help put some weight in their purses.
Megan stopped in her tracks and gazed out onto the peaceful landscape. It pained her to think about it, but soon it could very well be burned black with the fires of war if Tirac's forces managed to defeat Lord David at the front lines.
Her thoughts turned to Frederick. Unlike his father and brother, he was not a great warrior and not an overly proud individual. He was more of a thinking man, scholar, tactician, and a decent warrior. Yet he did not see his own strengths, thinking himself useless next to David and Bernard.
After a bit, Megan shook away her thoughts and realized she had let herself get lost in them, and quickened pace towards home. Before long, the little path led her over a hill, and at last the humble ranch was visible. A lantern hung at the door, lighting the way home.
Once she reached the entrance, she took down the light and entered the abode after dousing it. She stood for a second just inside the door, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. Before her was the kitchen area and opposite, the beds. One bed for her parents and three little cots for her and her siblings were along the back wall.
She set the lantern down and readied herself for bed.
'Lord David. Please stop Tirac at the front,' she silently prayed before pulling the sheets up and laying her head on her pillow.
'Good night, everyone.'
With that, she closed her eyes and went to sleep.
"Milord, should you not get some sleep? Tomorrow will be very busy for both you and Lord Bernard," the Chief Librarian said.
"Not yet, Andrew," Frederick answered. "There has to be something in these records. There must be something about Tirac and his armies that we have missed."
Andrew sighed and resigned himself to helping the young lord search through old records of Tirac's other conquests though the decades.
"Is it not enough to know that he has been undefeated ever since his reign began?"
"No, Andrew. No one can win every war they start like Tirac has done for seventy years now. He must have some secret to his success. These texts may have the answer."
"The secret of his success is that eldritch power he possesses, milord. Whenever his armies are not enough to handle things, he, himself, will appear to lead the charge in the dead of night and wield a weapon made of pure Darkness that smites all his foes. No one knows the true nature of this power, nor its name. Hence why none can counter it."
"I know that! There must be some kind of sense, some kind of pattern we can discover. Some weakness we can exploit. No one of this earth is invincible. Everyone has a weakness. Everyone can be defeated."
"In all due respect, milord, minds far greater than yours' have tried their luck in outwitting him before as well, yet he remains and they have been buried."
The book Frederick was reading snapped shut as the now irate noble leapt from his chair.
"And what would you have us do, Andrew? Just give up? Let him have our lands to do with as he pleases?"
"I meant no disrespect, milord. T'is just…" The librarian started to speak, but found himself having difficulty.
"I know, Andrew. You are not of Dongardian birth."
"…Yes, milord. As you know, I came from the kingdom of Glensdale from the far East. Alas, it has long been reduced to rubble and a barren wasteland by the Dark Lord Tirac after he was through with it. I have seen my homeland and other lands all fall to him in my lifetime, milord. Nothing short of a miracle is going to stop Tirac."
"Well, I am not giving up. There has to be a way. There has to be!"
Frederick returned to studying the methods of their enemy, but this time, also pulled out books about magical items, weapons, relics, and books about miracles from the shelf and set them to one side to begin reading through as well.
"If a miracle is what it will take to defeat Tirac, then a miracle I will find."
"Gloom Mountain at last," Firefly thought as she set down at the base of the formation.
She had been flying for a day now. The easy part was over. Tomorrow, she would have to cross it to get the kingdom on the other side.
"Piece of cake, Firefly. You can dance through the air and do it with glee," she told herself. "I'll find someone."
"Well, I think we should go after Firefly. There's no sense in just waiting around here," Paradise insisted.
"And get caught by those things," Ribbons asked, incredulously.
"We'll have to go back out, eventually, and they're not acting like they're going to leave anytime soon," Galaxy put in.
"So we fight," Gusty asked.
"In all likelihood, we'll have to," came a reply from Wind Whistler.
"Sir," a lieutenant asked Scorpan. "Why do we not just rip that castle asunder and grab what we want from their numbers?"
"No need. They will come out on their own once they realize that we're not leaving. We grab the last two and we'll be on our way."
"No buts, lieutenant! The rest of them will still have to live here once we've obtained our four and been on our way. It isn't worth leaving those left a demolished home for just four ponies."
The following morning, Firefly was awakened by a cock crowing in the distance. Her eyes fluttered open. She blinked dumbly for a moment, not remembering where she was immediately, but looking around at her grassy surroundings, rather than her bed back at the castle, brought it back very quickly.
She glanced up at the mountain before her.
"Now or never, Firefly."
The young Pegasus flexed and stretched before taking off into the mountains. Not many ponies dared to get this close, as the western mountains also had another name not known to many outside of the ponies: Gloom Mountain, or the Mountain of the Witches. It was named such for the family of witches that dwelled there, and kept all others out. Presently, three lived in the ancestral home:
Hydia, Draggle, and Reeka. While not as fearsome as previous generations, their hearts were still dark and filled with hate for other living things and their magic potent.
Firefly knew this, as she had dared to fly above the mountain a few times, off on some adventure. She had sighted Dongard in the distance many times before, but never got close enough to become acquainted with the humans that dwelt there.
After giving her wings a few readying flaps, she dashed forward and began her ascent into the sky. Finding a suitable gust of wind to help her to rise towards the heavens, Firefly thrust herself forward and was soon high enough to begin soaring over the mountains. Over them, any pony knew not to land lest get caught by the witches. No one ever knew what happened after someone was ensnared by their traps, but they were never seen again at least on the East side. Firefly's current mission did not allow for curiosity or bash action.
Hours passed as she navigated the peaks and spires without landing. Her wings were killing her, but she knew if she could not land until she reached the other side. Thankfully, from previous experience, she had learned to pace herself getting over the massive formation.
A twist, a turn, and a loop, then another turn, the mountain seemed a labyrinth to any Pegasus that dared to pass over it. Perhaps it was intentionally so, as a curse cast by a witch long past. Firefly knew not.
She smiled a bit as she remembered the first time she had been here. Gusty had dared her to cross over while Medley had begged her not to. Not being one to pass up a challenge, Firefly took to the mountains, and back again in about a day's time by flight. Her wings were numb by the time she had made the return journey, but no one ever questioned Firefly's courage again.
As a result, she also received the ultimate nagging from Medley. Firefly often brushed off her friend's words of caution, but she did appreciate the thought.
"Hoo, boy, this is exhausting. Well, Firefly, old girl, you did this before. You can do again. Just a few more mountaintops and you'll be in the clear and in that place where those humans live."
"Mother, oh, mother, look! A pony," Draggle, the tall, red-headed witch, called.
"Don't call me that, and what's this about a pony?"
"Up there! She's trying to cross our mountain."
"Is she? Well, we'll just have to see about that."
"I'm near their home. I hope they didn't spot me, but I don't have time to be stealthy. I've got to get over to that other land to get help," Firefly thought, determined.
With that, she spurred herself on and made her tired wings propel her through the air even faster. It was then, that she heard a chanting on the air, as fell voices completed an incantation of some sort.
"Oh boy, now I'm in for it!"
She a heard a cracking and crunching sound to her left that started loud and became louder. The mare glanced in the direction the terrible noise came from and was aghast to see the stone of the mountain, itself, coming to life. A patch of rock came right out of the side of a wall lurched forward and began to shake. Bits flew off and the thing took shape. A stone griffon revealed itself under the mass of rock and it roared in her direction. Not an organic sound, mind you. The wretched sounds of rock lurching over rock erupted from the maw of the beast as it also took flight. By all rights, the stone thing shouldn't have been able to fly, but the witches had put some kind of devilry on it.
Firefly didn't know what to do, but she had to figure it out fast, as it caught up with her quickly. Firefly couldn't speed up anymore and expect to stay in the air long, as her wings were just too tired and even beginning to grow a little numb from usage.
Firefly flew into a narrow canyon to try to lose her pursuer, but the fell beast turned on its side and followed after her. So the little pony tried entering a cave. The stone creature folded its wings and landed, instead chasing after on foot as the two passed through caverns and chambers to the other side of the hole. Once on the other side, Firefly was gasping for breath with the construct bearing ever closer.
Finally, she spotted a bit of hope in the form of another canyon. An idea sparked and she flew for down towards it. Again, the stone griffon turned to allow itself to follow after into the narrow opening. Firefly steered directly towards the bottom using gravity to increase her speed. However, the griffon was faster and was finally close enough to strike. The jaws of its beak parted to take a bite out of the little pony, but then Firefly pulled out at the last second. The construct got to chomp down on air. It was only then the thing saw its mistake. It was too close to the bottom and could not pull out or turn. The stone creation hit the floor of the canyon and shattered.
Firefly, meanwhile, was not faring well. Her energy spent, she landed roughly and lied down. She breathed very hard now and her wings were just too tired to flap anymore. She'd have to hide somewhere before trying again.
'Be careful, Firefly. It's dangerous," Medley's often said words of advice echoed in the Pegasus's mind as she dragged her tired form into a small cave where she wouldn't be spotted from above.
"That what I get for rushing," she muttered before lying down again. "I'll just have to try again later."
"Are they still out there," Gusty asked bored.
"Yep," Shady replied.
"Great. Hey, Paradise, how's reading the castle blueprints going?"
"Ah," the white Pegasus stuttered as she looked through the piled of tomes and scrolls laid out before her. "Uh, uuuuuh, well… I'm not seeing any alternate exits out of here yet, but I'll keep looking. The only other way out is through the back door which leads into the woods, but the only way to go from there is to our kin in the South. I'm guessing we don't want to lead them there."
Gusty sighed and lied back on her bed. She began counting the stones making up the ceiling in the room she, Shady, and Paradise shared. It had been a day and a half since the dragonriders had attacked them and made off with Parasol and Fizzy. She hoped they were alright. She also hoped Firefly was successful in finding help. Though the Pegasus had left without a word in the midst of the confusion, Gusty knew her well enough to know what was going on in the Pegasus's mind.
"Hey, somebody's coming," Shady suddenly cried.
Gusty jumped out of her bed and look out the window. Sure enough, one of the dragonriders had come forward. He sat on the saddle of his dragon, which stood just before their drawn up drawbridge. The thing on the back of the great beast looked odd to her. He was some kind of winged goat man.
"Greetings, Pastel Ponies of Dream Valley," the man called. "I call for a parley. No one will attempt to capture more of you, I promise. I just want to talk."
They trio watched as Magic Star emerged from inside onto the castle's front all.
"And what guarantee do we have of that, Mr…uh…?"
"Scorpan. Call me Scorpan. You have my word as an officer of his…" Scorpan paused before spitting out the next word. "…Majesty's empyreal army."
Magic Star blinked at the man's sour tone at having to call his master as such.
"Your master? Tell me, who is this master you speak of?"
"Tirac the Conqueror, my little pony," he said.
Gasps and murmurs broke out between any and all ponies listening.
"Tirac," Shady questioned.
"He's a powerful warlord in lands far to the North, Shady. Anyone who doesn't bow to him gets wiped out," Paradise said.
"Hey, man, its surrender or die. That's his policy. It makes everyone too afraid to try to fight back.
He now controls all the lands to the North and East," Gusty added.
"That's right, Gusty. Unfortunately, a few kingdoms were outright decimated before the other kings, emperors, and lords got the message and have been folding like cards before him ever since," Paradise said.
"Is he really that bad," Shady asked.
"Worse, Shady. It'd be bad enough if he was just a conqueror, but he commands some force of darkness that does his bidding when armies alone can't cut it," Paradise replied.
"Yeah, he's basically just one big cheater, man," Gusty stated.
"No one who comes under attack of his dark magic lives to tell the tale, it's just too powerful," Paradise explained.
"Then who spread the story around," Shady asked.
"People who saw the destruction that weren't on his hit list or people he passed up on killing just to let them tell the tale, that's how. They said it was like a living cloud of black that trumped even other magic user's magicks," Paradise continued.
At this point, Shady began hyperventilating.
"Hey, whoa, calm down," Gusty exclaimed.
"Calm down? He's basically evil incarnate and he's come to our Dream Valley. How I can calm down," Shady whispered frightfully.
Gusty opened her mouth to reply, but for once, found she had nothing to say.
Scorpan waited patiently as the drawbridge lowered and out stepped Magic Star and Northstar. He gave a small bow in respect. Magic Star and Northstar returned the notion, but did not take their distrusting eyes off of him for a second.
It always twisted his gut to be looked at in such a way, but Scorpan knew that he should expect this kind of response from people his forces attacked. His eyes lifted up towards Dream Castle briefly and he saw dozens of pairs of eyes staring frightfully down at him. That was the other look that churned his gut, being met with fear.
Now, Scorpan was not a cruel being. Quite the contrary, but being the slave of Tirac meant harming the innocent whether he wanted to or not. Why would such a being serve a vile entity like Scorpan did? Well, Scorpan was not always like this. Many years he was quite different and lived a good life amongst his people.
Then Tirac came. He still remembered that dark time from many decades ago. His father led their people against Tirac, but it was all for naught. They drove his armies back, and when victory seemed near, the dark lord himself appeared on the battlefield.
The army of Scorpan's homeland knew not what to make of the dark blue and red centaur that suddenly appeared, nor did they have time to contemplate him. He reached for the pouch around his neck and opened it. Out spilled what could only be described as evil given gaseous form. The black mist flowed out and in seconds Scorpan's brothers-in-arms fell. Soon, it was just Scorpan, his father, Tirac, and what remained of the latter's army.
Scorpan's father leapt forward, sword at the ready to slay the vile conqueror, but was met with more of the black mist that had slaughtered the rest of their army. It engulfed him and then nothing as left.
Tirac ordered his troops forward to the kingdom's capitol. Scorpan intervened and begged for the safety of his people, offering the warlord everything. And so it was done, Scorpan's people in exchange for his eternal servitude of the dark emperor.
"Mr. Scorpan," a voice said bringing him back to the present.
"Huh? Yes, of course," the goat man answered. "Before we begin the deliberations, perhaps you might give me your names, if it pleases you."
"Of course. My name is Magic Star, and this is Northstar."
"Pleased to meet you."
"Now, you said you wished to negotiate with us?"
"Indeed, ma'am, I do. My…master, Tirac the Conqeror, requires four Pastel Ponies for something. We have already acquired two. If you would part with two more of your numbers, my men will leave the rest of you in peace."
"Just what is your master's purpose? What would happen to the four ponies taken to your master?"
"They would very much be alive, I can guarantee that. It is your magical properties Tira…master, wishes to exploit, in one of his campaigns."
Magic Star stared him in the eye dead on for a long moment.
"You're not telling us everything."
"I'm saying all I am allowed to say, but the ponies taken would be very much alive and well cared for, I promise."
"And why can't you say anymore? After all, we're the targets, are we not? Why not let us in on what we would be in for?"
"I just can't."
"You can't say why, can you? The words physically can't get past your lips, can they?"
"Very well, I've heard all I need to hear. What if I said no?"
"My men could tear this castle to pieces in an instant coming in after you. You can either give up two of your own willingly, or hope I'm bluffing. Either way, my men grow restless of this wait, and Tirac will also not wait forever. Your choice."
As cold as his words were, Scorpan's tone did not quite measure up. However, threat of Tirac's patience reaching an end seemed to have an effect on the unicorn before him.
The wait was long as Magic Star weighted what was told to her. Northstar stood by her side with bated breath.
"I have your answer," Magic Star said at last.
"Rrrrrth! Ooh! Ow! Alright, you can do this," Firefly told herself.
She flexed her wings a few times as she worked out the sore kinks.
"Remember who you're doing this for."
With that, she began galloping and leapt into the air. She flew upwards at a steady pace, preparing to have to pick up speed in case more trouble awaited her up ahead.
"Are you sure the little pony came this way, mama," Reeka asked, stuffing her face with some freshly dug earthworms. "We haven't seen sight or sound of the dumb thing for hours now."
"Oh, she'd down there, alright," Hydia said. "This was the last spot where I could see through our pet's eyes before it hit bottom, and don't call me mama. Oh, what's that?"
The three witches stared over the side of the cliff as something small moved down in the darkness. It wasn't until it was too late to stop her that they realized it was the pony their construct had pursued earlier. Firefly zipped upwards into the air right past them, causing Hydia to stumble.
"Aaaaaaugh," the old witch cried and she started to fall over the edge, grabbing Draggle who started to fall with her.
The younger witch grabbed a hold of a nearby tree and the two dangled over the canyon's edge helplessly.
"Reeka! Help us!"
"I'm coming, mother dearest!"
"Don't call me that! And curse you, you wretched, horrid little pony! Curse you!"
"Serves them right," Firefly thought as she disappeared into the horizon and soon had her bearings again.
A while later, Firefly passed over another peak and knew she had just one cliff face to overcome and she would be on the other side. She dipped down to increase her momentum and then made a u-turn upwards. In an instant, she was up and over the cliff face, and the land of humans she had gazed upon before was in view. She passed over the last portion of the formation and steered downwards, towards the big city in the distance.
"Just hang on, guys. Help is on the way."
To be continued…
A/N: And there you have it. How was it, guys? I know there wasn't a whole lot of Firefly in these first few chapters, but don't worry. There's going to be plenty on Firefly in this next, upcoming, chappy, in which she meets the young lord Bernard to try to convince him to send help to Dream Valley. We're also going to see a lot more of the main cast of ponies next time, too.