The Silent Shore
Written by The Descendant
Chapter 2: "The Unfortunates"
The balloon had sat quietly, only the occasional burst of the burner keeping it aloft.
It's seeming solitude was broken when the mist parted in a ball around the appearing forms of Twilight and Spike. As the unicorn's magic erupted forth the mist that covered the meadow at first retreated, then clung around them once more.
" dead?" concluded Spike in a trembling tone, finishing the sentence that had begun on the outcropping an instant before.
"Oh Spike," said Twilight, lowering her head to his, "I'm so sorry you saw that I'm so sorry. We we're going to help them help any we can "
Spike laid his head to hers, let out one dry huff of emotion, and nodded.
"Come on," she said, raising her head, "We have to get the balloon and "
She opened her eyes to see the mist rolling across the meadow. As it did it wrapped oddly around catches, slipped across the road
and outlined a shadow, a shadow that looked upon her and then dove silently into the woods on long strides of its sinuous limbs.
Twilight's gasp brought Spike up and to attention.
"Twi Twi, what's wrong?" he began, moving in front of her, looking up to her.
Twilight did not reply at first, but as the mist hung quietly around them she panned her head across the woodline. She saw nothing, heard nothing, across the misty meadow.
"I thought I saw something, thought it might be a peryton, one who had crawled crawled up here, but but it didn't look like like a peryton," she said, slowing.
Spike spun around, looked across the meadow as well. He looked back up to her in confusion and concern and then shrugged his shoulders.
Together they began to walk the ancient road back towards the balloon. As they did Twilight reprimanded herself and then reminded herself of the same consolation she had given Dash a few minutes earlier.
"Just tricks of the fog," she told herself as Spike's clawed hand rested against her foreleg, "Spatial distortion "
She laughed a small laugh, stopped looking so deep into the fog. She contemplated all the things that she though she saw in it changed them from the unknown to shades of her friends, one mist becoming the branches of her home in the library, another waft became lines of treats at Sugarcube Corner.
She began to lift her hooves, more certainty yes, just tricks of the fog.
She concentrated on one particularly hard bit, one that seemed to be haunched by the side of the road among the grasses. She felt Spike begin to take half steps, seeing it too, the little dragon wrapping his arm around her leg.
She bent down, began to offer him the advice, let him know to just turn the mist into something other something happy "giggle at the ghostie" as Pinkie would say
and at that instant the shadow hovering in the grass, the hole in the mist, unwrapped itself as a figure with long, sinuous legs. It looked through them, opened its mouth lunged across the road into the meadow beyond, disappearing into the fog.
The two stood there silently as the haze rolled over them once more, Twilight's eyes wide.
"Twilight!" came Spike's voice, high with fear.
"Spike, you hold onto me. You close your eyes and don't open them do you understand? You hold onto me and don't open your eyes until I say to "
Spike dove beneath her like a foal would do, placed his hands behind her knees, tickling her in the slightest, drawing her back from her own fear.
"Are your eyes closed?"
Twilight ignited her magic, sent a single shimmering beam across the meadow, down the road, into the deep woods beyond.
Her beam was consumed by the fog, almost absorbed by it, yet it clung to its purpose. She leveled it across the meadow, let it search out any other source of magic present. Any magic would be revealed, deep magic, dark magic, even magica vasto or an upwelling of Equestria's own inherent magic would be visible in the purple shaft that drove through the grey.
It circled her, rotated around her in the fog that she desperately wished that Dash had lifted and found nothing. There was no magic to find. There was nothing.
Twilight sighed, let the beam slow, knew now it must have been a trick of the fog. She knew that they had seen something similar, she and Spike, had reacted to each other's fear.
She slowed her beam, began to collect it with a satisfied smirk when something caught in the corner of her eyes. A image hung there for an instant, darted through her perception and was gone
The fragment of a face, an unponylike face. A face looking upon her with a cold, distant countenance
but looking upon her.
We are here we see you. We see you.
Twilight sucked in a whisp of air, stuttering through it. Sucking at it in shivers, not wishing to make any noise.
"Spike, keep you eyes closed. We're walking, okay? Keep your eyes closed Spike, keep them closed. Keep a hold on me."
Together they went down the road, Spike creeping beneath her on three legs, one in contact with her calf at all times. Twilight concentrated on the feel of the road beneath them, sensing its center, feeling the stone and dirt around her hooves as she fought to lift and move them.
Noises reached her, and she fought them, fought to keep them out of her mind. She fought to ignore the sounds that she felt winding through the haze, wrestled them with the sounds of Spike's uncertain feet across the rocks and his shallow breathing.
Yet, along the woodline she heard them heard the rustle of leaves, a snap of a branch. Whispers.
Up the road she went, the feeling that she was under the watch of something beyond the mist crawling over her, driving cold spasms across her back only the feel of Spike's warm touch below keeping her from pelting off into the mist, keeping the screams of fear from her lips.
Being strong for him.
"Keep walking keep your eyes closed."
The long tortuous walk, the sliding shuffle across the dirt of the path, the agonizing fight to go forward ended. She felt the brush against her nose, heard the hiss, felt the rough scratch
She screamed, Spike doing the same grabbing at the leg he'd been guided by, rolling with her as they opened their eyes in horror.
The burner of the balloon was still sounding out as they looked upon it, the balloon illuminated from within as the flames filled it with warm air once more.
Spike and Twilight looked at one another, smiles growing across their faces. They laughed as they nuzzled each other, Twilight gathering him up in her forehooves. What a story to tell the girls
"That was pretty scary, huh Twi?" said Spike as she lifted him into the basket, the fog drifting away as the balloon bobbled at their return, "We scared ourselves pretty good!"
"Yes," she said, lowering him in, feeling his weight shift to the balloon. "We've got some imaginations! Wait until we tell Princess Celestia about "
As she said the words, as Spike dropped out of her grasp, the color went out of him. At once Twilight recoiled, drawing a sharp breath. She spun, sensing something...and from the woods beyond came a thrumming sound. She gulped, looked to where it had come from once and then quickly prepared to lift herself into the balloon.
"Yes?" she answered, stopping mid-leap.
"Twilight, why are you leaving?"
She stuttered to a stop, looked down on him, saw confusion over his face.
"Spike," she said, softly, "Spike I'm right here "
"Who are you!?" he demanded of nothing, not looking at her, instead facing deep out into the woods.
"Spike? Spike what's going on are, Spike?" she said, fumbling to enter the basket, trying to reach for him.
"Leave her alone! Leave her alone! Twilight!" he called before she could place her hooves around him. To her horror she saw his eyes illuminate, saw the features of an enraged dragon cross over him.
In one movement, almost animal and feral in likeness, he had leapt over side of the basket. The green of his eyes shone forth into the haze before he was gobbled up by it, as he ran out into it.
"Where are you taking her!? Leave her alone! Twilight! Twilight!" he raged in wild, wounded tones. His high shrieks tore at Twilight as she tripped over the edge of the basket, came crashing down to the grass of the meadow in a call of pain, raised herself up to pursue him.
"Spike! Spike I'm right here!" she called, worry racing through her, tears forming in her eyes. She looked back and forth through the fog, sought to catch even the smallest glimpse of him yet she could not.
"Stop touching her!" his voice rang out, and to her left a shock of green cascaded through the mist. His fire was raging out at something that was not there, the flames locked in earnest battle with nothing.
"Stop hurting her!"
"Spike! Spike!" she called again, turning in a tuft of grass, her voice breaking, "Spike I'm here! I'm here I'm okay, Spike! Spike!"
"I said stop hurting her!" came his voice once more, loud, high terribly high and locked with grief and a driving, consuming rage. His fire once more spilt out over the meadow, seemingly coming from where she had just sped. She tripped over her own hooves as she turned back through the haze locked on it.
And then it was gone.
"Spike!" she called out again and again, dancing in place, spinning about in the grey. Fear grew in her as the silence pervaded all, as she darted from spot to spot, calling for him, receiving no reply.
Finally she heard him again, but it brought her no comfort.
"Twilight Twilight," came his small voice in sobs, as a child separated from its mother, "Twilight "
Twilight spun, darted towards the sound, the sound that was so very far away
She skidded to a stop as his distant voice, spoken as through tears, wound it's way from within the distant woods, barely audible as the whips of fog devoured them.
"Please don't hurt her anymore I'll go, I won't fight anymore just please don't hurt her anymore please don't hurt her anymore "
"Spike! Spike!" she called as her heart moved into her throat, as she pelted into the woods, as the long thin form of young trees reached out for her.
She went on for long moments, stopping to lift her ears, let them toss about her head. Every little sound became a beacon, the fall of leaves, the toss of a broken branch. Twilight strained, begged, implored but his voice did not reach her.
Instead, a new sound met her.
The screams of a mare filled the woods, radiated down into her, making Twilight go still with shock as it bounced off of trees swirled among the mist that rose up like smoke from the bases of trees and tufts of grass.
Twilight began to move towards it, towards the screams that slowly subsided. She fought to keep lifting her hooves once more, fought to ignore that part of her instinct that told her to flee off into the mist, to go anywhere but to where the horrible sound was coming from.
As she went she swallowed hard and winced, gulping for air as she moved towards the origin of the sound. As she went new sickening sounds drove into her, the sounds of a grown stallion begging for his family, the sound of a filly calling for her mother, the long wet tearful sobs of a young colt so similar to Spike's a moment before.
These noises ripped at Twilight's soul, became louder as she forced herself to turn into a thicket of crooked trees, as her body trembled around her.
The screams stopped.
She opened her eyes to find herself in a circle of stone.
Something powerful thrummed around her, and a force drove through her. As she looked upon the stones they seemed to stare back at her, and in their midst was a long smooth table of rock.
Twilight risked her magic, let it sense if there was something at play. As the beam met the table it rose up in a tower of malice dark magic.
She shuddered at it, saw it reveal itself along the stones of the circle. Yet it did not move against her, and soon she saw why.
It was broken, entrapped defeated. It was as though the magic itself was dying, had died a thousand, a million deaths was still dying. As her beam subsided she looked once more to the rocks, the logical and analytical part of her brain struggling for some understanding as the other parts dwelt in fear and in concern for Spike.
The rocks were scarred, split, blasted as though they had been punished. Broken.
There was a sound nearby, and movement in the mist.
Something was there something beyond the table, something that made little movements and no sound.
Twilight turned again, ignited her horn. She dragged her trembling body far around the altar, far from the dark magic, and moved slowly, wordlessly upon the figure.
When she saw it she took a sharp draw of breath and lifted her hoof to her mouth.
Spike stood there, his body making small movements, moving in fits and starts. She looked upon him in horrified wonder as his mouth moved and his arms went wide in concert with his soundless words.
As his wide eyes rocked back and forth across the scene, his pupils small and dim, she saw him rock, reel with expression. His face went from dark and grim up into astounded wonder, and then back down into hopelessness. Finally, finally he sank to his knees as he made the motions of a knife that lifted across his
"Spike!" she called rushing up to him, terrified. At once though she stopped, and as she did he lifted his eyes once more, his body following along as he lifted his hands high, seemed to be invoking wrath. To Twilight he looked like a prophet calling down judgement, like a priest of a dead religion
When she could stand no more she placed her head to his, her muzzle across his face, and spoke his name.
"Spike, Spike "
As she did so he went stark still, stiffened, and collapsed to the ground.
She ran her muzzle across him until he began to move, her worry for him superceding the continued fear.
"Twilight," he said, dimly, reaching up for her, "They want to go home they just want to go home "
As he spoke it was as though a curse had been called down upon them. The mist gathered heavily again, and the thrumming sound once more coursed through the woods. She lifted Spike, gathered him to herself.
In the mist, something moved many things, all just beyond her vision, twisting through the mist. The whispers came once more the snapping of twigs, motion nearby, now just outside the ring of stone.
"Who Spike?" she asked covering his body. To her surprise his voice was not scared, not fearful as he too looked out into the mist, as the whispers came.
"It's okay," he said, retreating beneath her, once more putting his clawed hand on her leg, "He'll go with us others brought me in, but he'll come out with us "
"Spike? Spike what " she began, looking down between her own forelegs to where he stood ready. As he closed his eyes she stared at him.
"Close your eyes, Twi," he said again, "It's okay, he'll come out with us with them "
Twilight lifted her head, jumped as a figure seemed to retreat from just beyond the table at the edge of her vision. She thought of Spike's words, wondered who he was speaking of and closed her eyes.
There was a presence a powerful one. She lifted her hoof, took a step. Tiny bells rang out before her, making her jump, and as she did she felt the presence look back to her, and then forward again.
She followed it, her eyes clenched shut as they exited the circle.
As they did he she felt more presences, felt that she was being followed. Yet, they too were not unhappy eyes not the coursing, cold ones that had driven her along the road in fear, these were something else.
From behind came the sound of hooffalls, those of a stallion, a mare, and two foals.
There had been nothing in the circle, nothing there but her and Spike and now that nothing both lead them and followed them. Now the whispers of the nothings from besides them became despondent, wails wails that struck at Twilight, drove cold nails through her heart.
In the distant wails of the figures she heard pain, fear, a fear that only added to her own.
In it she heard darkness being driven down around them, the presence of something awful, beautiful, and terrible all at once. She heard in the wails that echoed through the trees a terrible pain, the cracking of rocks, as though light itself had become a scythe that cut at them.
Before her came the sound of the tiny bells, up above her and before her, and the sense of something powerful from behind came the hoof falls of ponies that she, knew, knew, knew were not there.
The chair turned to the wall. The letter left unfinished. Where was the cart, who has borne it off? The meal uneaten a doll alone in an empty playhouse.
With her eyes clenched shut Twilight concentrated not on the sounds that fell upon her from the woods, but instead on Spike below, his one clawed hand pressing warmth into her calf as she felt the heat draining from her own body. She shut down all of the parts of her mind that told her that none of this could be happening, that the sounds of hooves around her were not real, that the bells were an illusion.
She shut off the part of her brain that scolded her, that told her that the screams in the woods was just the wind that she knew was not blowing. She silenced the part that believed that the presences that she felt around her was the imagination she had long since satiated.
She fought to keep her eyes closed, felt only Spike's hand heard the bells and hooves.
As she felt the scratch across her nose she did not jump, did not scream as last time.
"Twilight, Twi are we back at the balloon?" asked Spike, jostling a bit.
"Keep your eyes closed," she told him.
There was a moment of stillness and silence across the meadow. There came a jangling of the bells, and she felt the balloon move as though some creature had tapped a hoof upon it.
"Keep your eyes closed," she said, lifting him both with her hooves and magic into the basket. She leaned over the basket, kept her hoof on him, not letting the connection between them break again.
Behind her she sensed movement, and cold swept over her as a feeling of some big stallion lowering himself into the gondola moved past her. She felt him looking at her, smiling, and she nodded her head as the tears began.
"Twilight?" asked Spike, "Did it just get colder?"
She felt the stallion put his forelegs over the side of the basket, she felt him retrieve something. She felt the small forelegs of a colt go across her in a brief hug, and then enter the balloon.
"It is getting colder," said Spike.
Another presence spread over her, and as it did she felt a small muzzle touch to hers, the kiss of a filly-foal.
"Twi, Twi it's getting so cold in here," spoke Spike, shivering.
She lowered her other foreleg over him, wrapped him up tight to her as another presence caught in her nose. The smell of a mare's perfume lingered there. She felt a head lay alongside hers, and she tilted hers slightly to answer it. Soon it too had moved to within the basket.
"Twillight," said Spike, "Twilight, I'm so cold, it's really cold in here "
At once she sightlessly leapt into the basket, gathered Spike up into her body, shivering in time with him at how cold it was within the cradle beneath the balloon. As she did she fumbled around for the releases, sweeping her magic out around the balloon until the stakes came up and the balloon gave a solid warble of certainty and lifted into the air.
As it did, the screams in the woods became louder. Twilight clamped her hooves across Spike's ears as the sounds rose. First the wails contained rage, then fear fear. In a long moment the voices were swept away, and the woods and meadow below fell silent.
She felt the sensation of dissipating black magic waft from the woods felt it slide down into the earth to be remade, hopefully as something more blessed.
Below came the sound of tiny bells, and the sound of hoof falls crossing the road towards the beach.
Twilight's eyes were still clamped shut when the balloon began to warm, as the cold left their bodies.
At once there was a feeling of blessed warm light, and soon it was as water. Yet, it was not water...
Around them came the happy sounds of a family running off together into the warm waters beyond, and soon the basket was still.
Twilight blinked her eyes, opened them slowly.
The tops of the trees were still shrouded in the mist, but below them in the meadow it had cleared. A fox popped out into the midst of the tufts of grass, and a few birds sang in the lowest branches.
Spike opened his eyes as the balloon came up, looked out to the band of blue still hiding in the departing mist.
"Spike?" she asked, turning him to face her, "Are you okay?"
He nodded up at her drowsily, as though he had been awakened early from a restless sleep, regarded her with uncertain eyes.
"Spike," she said, looking down at him. "Spike, I'm okay nothing happened to me."
He continued staring up to her.
"Spike?" she asked, "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"
He shook his head in a few small movements, continued to look to her.
"How much do you remember about what just happened? What did you see?" she asked, looking him over.
He rocked, tossed his head. With a wobble he ran his clawed hand across her foreleg.
With one last look up to her his eyes watered, and he fell down into her chest and barrel. She lifted him up, pressing his face into hers, and together they cried softly as the balloon crossed out over the hidden trees to the silent shore beyond.
Nothing had answered Dash when her small word of concern had flit out over the waves. As she had stared into the mist no reply had come to her call, and now she felt herself foolish for having entertained such fears.
She was Rainbow Dash nothing can bring her down. Nothing drops Rainbow Dash down into fear and uncertainty. She smirked at herself, lifted her wings, and went out into the mist.
She swooped along the beach, her eyes straining through the haze. She swept back on herself, parting the fog with her wings as she began to curse. At first they came softly, the curses little invectives of self-remonstration. Before long though, as she saw no one, as her calls went unanswered and she fought to peer through the fog the curses became louder and more earnest.
She streaked alongside the shoreline, so close to the foaming surf that her reflection across the darkened waters seemed a part of her. As she went it was not her own reflection that registered in her mind, but instead the lack of something the lack of anything.
There was no wreckage in the water, no flaming debris to cast small light across the waves.
No wounded perytons called out to her, no broken bodies washed across the silent shore.
Nothing, there was nothing.
She landed on the beach, cursing as she skidded across the smooth stones of the shore.
She jumped, kicked, whinnied. Frustration overwhelmed her as she stood there, calling out, "Hey! Hey! Is there anyone that needs help?"
She swore, spat as silence reached her and no voices came back speaking of their pain as the victims of the explosion, she worried, slowly succumbed to their wounds.
"Frickin' fog!" she yelled up to the sky, her face turning with malice. At once she resolved to end it, to lift away the carpet of grey that had consumed her thoughts and driven down her body since she had arrived here. She at once called herself "stupid" for ever wanting to come here to spend even the smallest amount of time here by the shore. Why, why had she said that? She had a race to get ready for. What, she wondered, had made her to want to
With that she stopped, shook, turned out over the sea
as a voice called to her by name.
The sound caught in the rocks, trembled ashore on the waves.
She breathed heavily, stared out into the waves that slipped beneath the grey haze. She grit her teeth even as her body shook, narrowed her eyes even as her knees became weak.
As the fog seemed to spin, dive in on itself
she roared out into it, screaming. She focused on it as she beat at the mist with her wings. She powered through it, bellowing through her own fear and frustration. Her cry went out over the waters as she raced over the surface, out into the waters beyond the shore.
Nothing met her, no stare greeted her nothing.
"That's right!" she called, raising herself up, the gift of the pegasi alive within her, "That's what you get! You fog! Yeah!"
As the fog whipped around her she rose up through it, climbed higher and higher.
"Nothing gets Rainbow Dash down!" she called, "Nothing pulls me out of the fight!"
At once she erupted through the fog, high up over it. She spun through the sky, felt the coolness fall in around her as she reached the pinnacle of her ascent.
"Nothing gets Rainbow Dash down."
She looked up to the sun, was surprised to see it already high above. Was it already noon?
She pondered this as she flapped her beautiful wings, hovering in the air high above the sea below. She panned around, began pulling in the magic of Equestria, began fueling her pegasus magic and her body for the act to come. She concentrated her power for the massive burst of energy she was about to expend to clear the fog, push it back beyond the nearby border reveal the shipwreck and the injured who undoubtedly still needed, desperately needed, her help.
As she did she felt a tug felt something pulling at her. She opened her eyes, looked to the trees of the Whitetail and Everfree beyond. Nothing, only the cords of fog that fell across the woods met her gaze. She turned to the sea beyond. Nothing, only the long white-capped waves that rolled in from far beyond and the peninsula off to her left.
She had been about ignore it, to return to refueling her magic and body. As she prepared to do so she blinked, took a deep breath and happened to glance to the fog below her.
At once the breath left her, pulled out of her in her scream of horror.
Faces looked up at her through the fog dozens of them, faces straining up to her, beseeching her.
Their mouths moved, seeming to call her name over and over, begging her, pleading with her the soundless words streaking through her body. As it did Dash's resolve left her. It streaked out of her, the terror and revulsion stealing out her breath, her power, and her consciousness
Down, down, she went, her thoughts fading as dozens of tearful and distraught faces mouthed her name over and over
Nothing pulled her down through the fog. Nothing dropped her into the cold waters. Nothing drew her down into the rolling waves that covered the sands of the bed below and rolled out as foam along the silent shore.