History Repeats

by SaddlesoapOpera

Chapter 1: Prologue

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By Saddlesoap Opera


“Yes! Everything’s gonna be just fine!”

The newly crowned Princess Twilight Sparkle soared above the alabaster spires of Canterlot, her broad wings catching the wind as if she’d been born in the skies. Raucous cheers and stomped applause echoed up from below as she took an aerial victory lap around the lofty capital.

All was well.

The festivities lasted well into the night, with Twilight and her friends and family the centre of everypony’s delighted attention. Music and song filled the air, and many a glass was tipped in joyful toasting. With the departure of Princess Luna to attend to the raising of the moon, the guests of honour retired for the night in luxurious chambers in the Royal Palace.

Several hours later, on the highest balcony of the Palace, Princess Luna opened her eyes.

She was standing with her legs firmly planted and her head turned toward the huge full moon she’d raised earlier. Her horn was blazing. Her ageless heart pounded, and her immortal lungs fought for breath. Sweat shone on her dusky hide.

Like her Royal Sister, Luna had no need to sleep or eat or drink - doing so merely as an affectation. In years past she had survived for ten centuries bound on the moon, with frustration and boredom far greater threats than starvation and thirst. But every night for the past week, when she had focused her magic and sought to explore the night-time imaginings of her sleeping subjects, she’d found herself asleep and gripped by a dream of her own instead.

Luna spread her wings and took to the air, cutting through the sky like a blue-black arrow.

Seconds later she was standing at the edge of Princess Celestia’s silken bed. The elder Alicorn soon stirred and awoke.

“M-My Sister,” Luna said, her voice slurred with the disorientation of one not quite fully awake, “we must s-speak. Now.”

Celestia was not wearing her enchanted Regalia, and without the relics she was closer to Luna’s size and a touch less awesome in demeanour - but no less lovely. She raised her head, her lustrous pink mane shifting on her pale neck.

“Luna. The dream, again?” Celestia smiled warmly. “Everything is fine, my Sister. I promise.”

Luna flapped her wings huffily. “Vision, Sister. It is a vision. A warning. We must find her. We must bring her here! As long as she stands on Equestrian soil, we shall prevail!”

Celestia frowned, but her eyes carried no anger. “Sister... the legends about those creatures were ancient before Equestria was even founded. It’s been countless generations since one was even rumoured to have come to our world. What makes you think-”

Please, Celly!” Luna surged forward until her face was inches from Celestia’s. Her wings spread. “There is no time to lose! We have to send somepony to find her!”

“Luna!” Celestia drew back in alarm, but then settled down and gave her sibling a silent, appraising look. “Sister... today was a wonderful day for us. For Equestria. There wasn’t the slightest hint of any trouble. What aren’t you telling me?”

“I...” Luna looked away. She bit her lip. “There are secrets in the dark that the light never touches, Celestia. I... I see things you don’t.” Luna folded her wings and hung her head. “I need you to trust me on this. Please.”

Celestia watched the gentle flowing of her sister’s translucent, star-speckled mane for a long moment before moving closer and ducking to nuzzle her neck.

“I do trust you, Luna. I do. If you’re so sure it’s important... we can talk about deciding on somepony to go and find this creature and bring her back.”

“Thank you, Sister.” Luna nuzzled Celestia back, but her eyes were troubled and distant.

• • • • •

The volcano was wreathed in acrid ashen smoke, filtering the early morning light and casting all colours in muted shades of grey. The only brightness came from the orange glow of the magma in the crater’s core.

On the volcano’s rim, a dark figure stood staring down at the molten rock.

The elderly Ram’s emaciated frame was ill-suited even to the task of supporting the black hooded cloak that covered it. Only his curling, blue-black horns were visible, stuck through holes in the sides of his hood. He didn’t turn around when a teal Pegasus alighted a few paces behind him. The mare carried a full pair of saddlebags on her haunches.

“You took longer than I expected you to, Lightning Dust,” the Ram wheezed. His voice was dry as tinder. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t come back.”

The Pegasus snorted disdainfully and flipped her short orange mane out of her eyes with a flick of her head. The action revealed a fresh claw-mark on the side of her face. “I work better when the folks who hire me keep me in the loop. Maybe I would have got back quicker if you’d mentioned the DRAGONS?”

The Ram let out a dessicated chuckle. “You said you were the fastest Pony there is. I assumed you’d outpace them without any trouble.” His voice dropped in tone. “It’s the nectar you needed to focus on. Did you fetch it?”

“Yeah. I got your plant goo.” Dust rummaged in her bags and retrieved a small clay jug. “It wasn’t as tough as you said it would be. I guess those young Dragons like dipping gems in this stuff to polish them - they’d pretty much cut it to pieces by the time I showed up!”

The Ram tensed; an irritated growl made the edge of his hood ripple.

“Those SIMPLETONS!” His voice took on a fierce, throaty edge. “That was the first full-grown specimen in two hundred years! They could have-” The Ram caught himself, and then took a moment to calm down. “No. No matter. With this, I can begin.”

The folds of the Ram’s coiled horns glowed with a starkly colourless inner light, and a similar aura surrounded the clay jug. It floated over to hang in midair next to the Ram as he trotted up to a small black-iron cauldron sitting on the edge of the crater.

With a further glow, a dollop of black mud lifted out of the cauldron.

“Muck from a battlefield’s blood-soaked soil,” the Ram intoned, and then tossed the filth into the magma below.

“Uh, hay,” said Dust, “aren’t you forgetting something?”

The Ram ignored her, magicking up and un-stoppering the clay jug. “Nectar of full-grown Lashing Flume.” The thick golden syrup spilled into the crater.

Dust took a step toward the Ram. “You SAID you’d pay me!”

Again, the Ram’s only reply was to continue feeding the volcano. “Fungus fed on black rock-oil.”

Dust scowled. “Can you hear me?”

“A Tainted Sea’s unwholesome spume.”

“Stop ignoring me, you old goat!” The Pegasus stomped over to within a pace of the hooded Ram and snagged his robe in her teeth. She jerked backward, uncovering her erstwhile employer.

She gasped.

The thing before her was bare to its blackened bones. Its fleshless jaws were lined with hooked fangs, and its empty sockets glowed with baleful red pinpoints in place of eyes. A tarnished silver bell on a black cord hung around its neck-bones.

“A scrap of pickled Hydra skin...”

The skeletal horror turned to face her at last.

“... and blood from a traitor to her kin!”

A silver-bladed sickle floated up out of the cauldron.

Dust backed away; her ears drooped. “Wh-What are you talking about? Me? You mean me? N-No way! I’m no traitor!” She turned and spread her wings.

With a flare from the undead Ram’s horns Dust found herself hanging in the air, as still as a stone. Her saddlebags slipped off her haunches and dropped to the barren ground.

“Oh, but you are,” the Ram replied with a mirthless laugh. “By helping me you’ve damned your entire WORLD!”

The Ram’s magic swung the helpless Pegasus around, dangling her over the molten pit. The hovering sickle lashed out and made a thin slash across her right Cutie Mark.

Dust cried out, galloping in midair and struggling against the monster’s magical grip. Blood ran down her leg, and a few drops fell down into the darkening magma.

“Ah, but you were right. I did promise you a reward, didn’t I? Very well, then. Have your life - if you can keep it!”

The aura surrounding the Pegasus vanished.

Dust struggled to right herself and catch an updraft as she tumbled down toward the bubbling surface. The heat singed her hide, but she gathered some precious lift.

All around her the magma began to bubble and seethe, a purple-black corruption spreading through the orange ooze like venom in a wound. The magma’s level began to rise, and columns of the darkened sludge surged upward like the tentacles of some vast undersea beast.

Dust squinted against the eye-stinging smoke and trusted her wind-sense alone to help her dodge the rising obstacles. She streaked out of the crater a tail-length ahead of a rising flood of boiling slime, a jagged lightning-contrail marking her path. Behind her, the Ram’s hollow, cackling laughter echoed, followed by his mocking cry:

“Yes-s-s! Flee! Run! IT WILL DO YOU NO GOOD!”

To Be Continued

Next Chapter: A Thousand Eyes Estimated time remaining: 3 Hours, 48 Minutes
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