Echoing Silence

She was only trying to help.
In a flash of light following her biggest mistake, Twilight Sparkle is banished to the Dusklands, a vast amount of wasteland outside the borders of the kingdom of Equestria. Here, the only thing the sisters control is the time of day and Twilight is left to defend herself in the barren lands that her most trusted ally exiled her to. After finding a city in such lands, Twilight worked hard to make a place for herself within it's walls, but when her past comes to find her, she finds it difficult to look at it the same way she did all those years ago. With the threat of war on the horizon for Twilight's new home and an old enemy returning to destroy the harmony of Equestria, Twilight will have to choose where her loyalties lie.
But just how far is she willing to go in order to save the ones she loves the most?

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2. One

      Despite the sweltering heat from the merciless sun, the valley of rock and dirt was alive with activity. Stalls and tents littered the dirt pathways filled with creatures only seen in this part of Equis. Vendors bartered for goods they needed, giving up items they could easily acquire near their homes. This valley was the epicenter of trade within the barren wasteland and it would flourish every thirty moons. Trading was an essential component in the Dusklands for the survival of many and though it seemed peaceful enough, there was always someone watching.

Above the valley, high enough to see across the enormous gap, was a ledge that had been carved out of the crag overlooking the vale and on top of it laid a cloaked figure, hood shrouding her face in shadow. The cloth opened near the neck, revealing a black vest beneath it as well as a lavender coat on their forelegs. The mysterious being turned her head, surveying the large expanse. Ever since settling on the crag at dawn, they have watched over the transactions from above ensuring that there were no complications, but as the sun rose high into the sky, signaling the middle of the day, the ache of hunger began pulling at her. The scent of food wafted up to her from below and deciding that a meal was in order, they stood and began to make her way down the slope and into the valley.

Finding the district where food was being sold had been simple enough, but the wait in line had taken quite a while. With a tray of food finally within the grasp of her teeth, the cloaked being made their way toward a group wearing vests identical to their own beneath the cloak. Placing the tray down, they shook the hood off to reveal herself. She was a unicorn mare with a dark sapphire mane streaked with rose and violet and cut short in a layered bob that framed her face. Her bangs were swept to the left to cover her eye and, her coat was a pale lavender. As the mare took a seat, she was met with the laughter of the group. Her right ear twitched at the sound as she picked up her eggplant kabob with a hoof and nibbled on it, finally tuning into the group. Idle chatter continued amongst the group as the mare studied them.

To her right was a rather large boar that stood a foot taller than her with mahogany fur and beady red eyes. Ivory tusks jutted from the sides of his mouth, dangerously curving upwards and his thin tail swished back and forth as he scoffed. His beady eyes narrowed as he glared at the elk to the mare’s left.

When standing, the elk would tower over the other members of the group. He stood at five and a half feet with his antlers adding another foot to his height. His fur was the color of sand, light and soft, and his eyes matched the clear sky, shimmering with tears as he continued to chortle at the boar’s reaction.

Directly across from the mare were two young drakes, a pair of twins that were as mischievous as they were diligent. They watched the elk and boar’s interaction with an impish glint in their eyes. They matched one another in height; both of them stood at an even five feet, yet their scales were different. A snort came from the dragon on the left, his laughter giving away his gender, and he turned to whisper in his twin’s ear who gave a giggle as she covered her snout. His scales glistened in the sunlight, the deep viridian practically shining like the gemstone he shared his name with. His slit eyes were a light teal, matching his sister’s, and upon his back were wings and spikes that ran down the length of his spine.

His sister’s scales were a deep azure and as the light from the burning star above hit her scales, it was as if the rock turned to water. The reflection off of her scales with each movement resembled that of a babbling brook, casting an illusion of waves shimmering on the rocky surface. She also had wings and spikes that lined her spine, but hers matched the deep green of her brother’s just as his spikes reflected the dark blue of hers. The mare quirked a brow, eyes scanning the twins before clearing her throat. Silence befell the group as they turned towards the mare, giving her their full attention.

“Report.”

“Cloth and gem trades have been made,” the elk replied, “We just need to do the food trades.”

The young drake began, “Silk trade was—”

“Uneventful.” His sister finished with a shrug.

“And I’ve gathered plenty of metals for the brothers.” The boar grunted.

With a nod, the mare returned to nibbling at her kabob. She looked up, her amethyst eyes meeting the bright, clear sky. The heat was intense, but bearable, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Her memory was impeccable at times. She knew that in another land, the sky was bleak and grey with snow blanketing the soil beneath their hooves as the ponies enjoyed their winter. In that place, the land was green in the summer and snowy in the winter, but it caused the Dusklands to have weather that was opposite of the season. The winters in the Dusklands were lived in almost unbearable heat with cool crisp nights and the summer brought forth freezing temperatures with even colder nights. The mare was pulled from her thoughts when the boar’s boisterous laugh echoed around her.

“Hey!” cried the dragoness, “That isn’t nice, Forge!”

Returning her attention to the group, the mare saw that the boar held a ruby in the grip of his thin tail while the dragoness gave him a pout.

“Neither is taking Cedar’s bag.” The boar replied, giving her brother a pointed look.

“Emerald,” the mare said, her voice almost foreign to her, “give Cedar his bag back.”

The dragon gave her an impish smile, flashing his fangs as he gave the elk his satchel. The moment the elk had the sack in his possession, the boar returned the ruby to Emerald’s sister.

“Next time you wanna prank us, make sure it ain’t something obvious.”

The boar laughed. Although many called him Forge, his first name was Steel. He was a weapons expert, forging knives from metal and fire; a trait that many of his kind possessed. Emerald and Sapphire Flare were the newest addition to the squad, but not to the mare. Originally, the twins had been insufferable nuisances that followed her around like a lost puppy and she could hardly stand it. They reminded her too much of the young dragon she had raised like a son before she had been sent away and the memory of him that was conjured by the mere sight of the twins hurt her immensely.

It had been a rough start with them but despite her efforts, the mare had warmed up to them. It was not until their tenth birthday that they had requested to join the Den and assist with everything they do. At first, the Den’s leader, Nereus, had sent them on simple errands across the city to occupy them. It was not until they reached the ripe age of fourteen that they began to venture outside the Den and tag along with the groups heading for the trade posts. Eventually, they worked their way up and were placed in her squad a few months ago. Now, her team was almost inseparable.

Almost.

It was glaringly obvious to her that there was someone missing. In the years she spent working for the Den, she had yet to go to the biggest trade of the year without a specific member tagging along. She was no stranger to being left behind when it came to a mission however-; the fact that he had yet to return was bothering her.

“Has anyone heard from Astral, recently?”

Her voice was hardly noticeable, like a gentle breeze blowing on a bright spring day. Her companions gave her their attention, some with quirked brows, as they considered her question.

“He hasn’t sent word to you?” Sapphire asked, frowning.

The mare shook her head in response.

“Wow. It’s been a few weeks since he left. Even Nereus hasn’t heard from him.” The elk replied, voice as smooth as silk, “You would think that we would have heard something.”

The mare went to reply but the words died on her lips as a scream echoed over the clamor if the crowd and her companions went rigid. Getting to her hooves and throwing her hood back on, she jerked her chin up, signaling the twins. The duo hopped off of the rock they had been sitting on and got a running start before leaping into the air and unfurling their wings, taking flight to lead their associates to the commotion. The mare galloped beneath the twins, following their lead as another scream reached her ears. The crowd broke and she leapt through the opening, landing on her hooves crouched like a manticore ready to strike. An elder drake hovered over his prey, a young boar tending to the stall who was screaming, and the mare snorted. She pawed at the ground and lunged at the drake, knocking him back and away from the young boar. The drake yelled, a curse hissing through his fangs as he scrambled to his feet and growled.

“Enough.” She said, standing between the young boar and the drake.

The drake growled, “Give me…it!

“Greed!” she called up to the twins, “Grab him!”

The drake gave a menacing roar before leaping at the mare. Lurching forward, she met him halfway and they collided. The mare hit the ground and rolled to her hooves, barely catching the sight of the twins grabbing the drake and yanking him up into the sky. The twins struggled as they flew him away, each almost losing their grip on him as the mare turned her attention to the young boar upon the ground.

“Are you all right?” she asked, helping him up.

A nod was her response as the shoat stared at the upturned stall he had been using. Quietly, he began to tidy it up, righting the wooden stand as the mare scanned his wares for anything that could have potentially provoked the drake.

“What was he after?” she asked.

He froze for a second before turning and pulling out something from one of his bags. A golden ring hung from his small ivory tusk and the mare scoffed. Greed was a terrible thing with dragons. It was one of the reasons that they grew into the ferocious, fire breathing monstrosities that would terrorize foreign lands. Once greed hooked a dragon, it was hard for them to return to their original state and they would have to remove themselves from the society they were once a part of. Her two other companions assisted her in righting the stall and dispersing the crowd until the twins arrived, both subdued.

It was clear as day what was on their minds. Being dragons, the twins were walking a fine line between living normal lives with their friends or succumbing to the very same greed that started the skirmish. The sun was beginning to lower, heading for the horizon, which signaled the end of the day for the vendors. Stalls began closing up and heading out, carts being pulled by the trade participants and once they recounted their belongings and made sure everything was in order, the group began their trek home.

Outside of the valley were hills and plains of wasteland that seemed endless. The mare lead the pack onward as she navigated her way home, the gang falling in step behind her. The sun blazed on even as it lowered further towards the horizon and she glanced over her shoulder at her team. The twins hovered along, picking fun at each other as well as Steel Forge and Cedar, who were engaged in conversation about the upcoming festival. Each one of them wore a black vest that matched her own and although they were seemingly oblivious to the area around them, she saw their attention stray to the rock and dirt surrounding them, keeping their eyes peeled for any indication of others in the area. Ambushes have become frequent in the past year and they had to be observant.

They arrived in the city, vendors greeting them as they passed through with their newly acquired goods. The mare let her companions distribute the wares, opting out of visiting each and every being in the Den, and ventured towards the building in the center of the city. She entered and turned right, heading for a doorway. She stepped through and ventured down the slope until she came across a rather large underground area. The air was crisp and cool, caressing her soft coat. The laughter of children could be heard and she smiled as she turned towards the living quarters belonging to those in the building she had come from. She meandered through the halls until a familiar door came into view. She entered, letting the door close behind her as she removed her cloak with her magenta magic.

Her room was small but comfortable. The walls were rock and stone, entrapping the cool air while keeping the unbearable heat out. Her bed stood upon a metal frame, holding a mattress made from silk and sand with a matching pillow. A blanket was folded neatly atop of the mattress and was a deep crimson. A smile graced her features as she thought of the blanket, eyes trailing to the end of the bed where a doll laid. It mimicked the shape of a pony with a tousled mane and tail of string. The cloth used to make it was mismatched, various colors patched together until it formed the desired shape. Her mind brought forth a memory of a doll she had long ago named “Smarty Pants”. It was an old doll passed down to her with button eyes, a stitched mouth, and blue pants with white polka dots. She pushed the memory away as it spiraled away from the doll towards a more painful thing.

Draping her cloak across a chair, the mare glanced at the full length mirror by the door. At one time, her reflection had startled her. Her soft features had hardened with every glimpse she took until it was a stranger that was staring back at her. Her short, layered bob was a far cry from the long flowing mane she had upon entering the Dusklands and her baby face was thinned with the soft edges gone, replaced with a rougher edge. A small scar adorned her cheek right beneath her left eye, but it was hardly noticeable anymore to one who did not know of its existence. She reached a hoof up and touched the small scar, chest aching as she remembered when it had been made.

 

“Sparkle! Down!”

She turned, ducking as a claw swiped at her, slicing bits of her mane off before she bucked the gryphon away. A scream came from her left and she gasped as her squad leader who had warned her seconds ago hit the ground. She shrieked; a dark menacing shrill that escaped her control as she galloped towards his offender, horn lit. With a leap, she pushed her magic sending a bright magenta beam of magic towards the assailant, hitting him head on with all of the force she could muster. He flew back into the mountain side with a sickening sound and it wasn’t until the smoke from her attack cleared that she could see the mangled body of her leader’s attacker on the floor in a heap of broken bones, blood and feathers. Her eyes widened as her stomach churned.

“O-Oh…m-my—”

“SPARKLE!”

A body flew into her from behind, sending her face first into the rocky floor below as a weight laid on her. She felt liquid coat her fur and as she turned her head, cold eyes stared at her. A scream ripped from her mouth as she squirmed beneath his dead weight, blood coating her lavender fur as she pushed against him in an attempt to get away from his now lifeless form. Tears blurred her vision. Never had she dealt with death before and this was frightening. She managed to crawl out from under him, her coat indigo from the blood, as the killer gave a dark laugh and stalked forward.

“An eye for an eye, beakin’ bitch.”

A gryphon. Her mind began to make the connections quickly through his vocabulary. They had been ambushed by a group of gryphons and they had been separated in the fight from her other companions. His voice was filled with an emotion she was new to in the Dusklands: hate. She cringed and stepped back, horn lighting for a second about to defend herself before the mass of blood and feathers flashed before her eyes. For a moment, she felt sick. Her stomach churned once more with disgust at the reminder, but she never got to empty the contents of her stomach. Instead, a swift slap of his wing sent her sprawling to the ground. He laughed.

An eye for an eye…

His voice taunted her. The dark laughter echoed around her as she struggled to get to her hooves. Her heart was hammering at the possibility of death, but her mind seemed to conjure a way to survive and clung to it desperately. She could live. She could get out of this alive and avenge her leader. Her heart thrummed at the realization.

She could live.

Something within her sparked and she grasped the idea with the full weight of the situation bearing down upon her. The gryphon came at her with his claws out and swiped. In that moment, it was as if time stood still as the mare stood her ground and rationalized her actions. Her horn lit and she was gone.

She appeared behind him and charged, shooting a spell in his direction as the gryphon turned towards her, his yellow eyes widening. Her magic barely missed as he dove out of the beams path and he lunged at her, letting out a feral shriek. She jumped back and away from his claws, cringing as her cheek stung. Blood oozed from the wound, but the mare ignored it. Another push of her magic sent the bird flying backwards and into the ground. The force of her magic created a small crater beneath him. Dust and dirt drifted down as smoke billowed from the mini crater and she hesitated at the edge. She did not want to see the damage she had done, but she steeled herself and took a few shaky steps forward.

The smoke was beginning to clear. Her eyes found the gryphon at the center, lying at the bottom, and she watched as he coughed up blood, staining his beak and claws. She knew that he was in pain and the sensible part of her mind screamed at her to either help him or run away. She went to take that step back and flee when he whimpered and pushed himself up. There was another thought lingering beneath her rational ones, whispering at her.

An eye for an eye…

Suddenly, she was angry. Her mind drifted to her birth lands and how she had been easily disposed of, only to be taken in by the Den and given a position by Fang. Silver Fang was a drake with scales that glistened in the moonlight and he was ruthless as he was kind. When she had been brought into the fold, he immediately questioned her on her weaknesses and strengths, placing her in his squad. He had stepped into the role of ‘big bro’ and shown her the ropes. They were on what he had called ‘a quick and easy run’ to deliver some of their wares to a neighboring city when they had been ambushed.

The anger doubled as she recalled the frightening sight of his cold dead eyes after he had courageously saved her from certain death. Her own eyes watered with the deadly combination of anger and sorrow until her chest ached. The gryphon found her watching him and glared at her. She stepped forward and stalked forth into the crater, getting close enough to the injured gryphon to hear his breath hiss out through his beak. She knew that this feeling should not have felt so good, but the more he glared at her, the more she embraced it.

The gryphon sensed the change in the mare as his hatred shifted to fear. She was letting her anger override reason as he attempted to scramble back and away from her. She summoned her magic once more and stared the gryphon down with her horn lit dangerously. He opened his beak, whether to beg for his life or insult her, she could not tell as he simply spluttered incoherent garbage at her. With her magic, the mare reached out and yanked the dagger from the ground to her. Blood coated the blade as she held it between them before letting it fly.

Unable to dodge the blade quick enough, he cried out as it dug into his side and squawked as she jerked it out. A phrase bubbled in her throat and pressed the dagger to his feathered neck as she glared at him with a dark emotion smoldering in her eyes.

“A life for a life…”

“Diadem?”

The lavender mare jumped. Turning from her reflection, she exhaled sharply as she recognized the creature at her door, staring at her with concern.

“F-father.” She breathed, “You scared me half to death! You shouldn’t sneak up on me like that.”

Stepping into the room, careful to avoid hitting his horn, was a creature with the body of an elk with scales instead of fur. They glimmered like the ocean’s wave and his elongated tail mimicked that of a dragon’s. His mane was turquoise and his cloven hooves clicked against the rock floor as he ventured to her side.

“I knocked three times.” He replied, golden yellow eyes scanning her. “Are you all right?”

“Yes I…I was thinking about Fang is all.”

“Ahh and here I thought you were thinking of Astral.”

Her cheeks flared.

“Seems I wasn’t far off…”

“How did you..?”

The creature gave her a smile, “I may be old, but it’s not something unrecognizable to even an old coot like myself, dear. Besides, you know that we Ki’rin can practically feel emotions.”  

She frowned, glancing over to her bed once more.

“You miss him.”

She only nodded. Her throat closed with a lump of emotion that she seemed to be feeling frequently as of late.

“He’s never been gone this long without word…” she muttered.

The Ki’rin smiled at her sadly, reaching out and hugging her to him with his foreleg. He nuzzled the top of her head and she buried her face against him, attempting to hide the tears she wanted to release from the dam.

“He will return home to us soon enough, Dia. Have faith in Astral’s abilities.”

The mare pushed back from him, looking up at the Ki’rin with a frown, “I do not doubt his capabilities, father. I worry about him being ambushed. He’s on his own out there…It’s…It’s not safe.”

He chortled at his daughter as she fretted over the absent male, “You care deeply about him, my child.”

She nodded. Astral Mace was her lifeline. Being the only other pony she’s come across in the Dusklands, their connection had been obvious. The friendship she did not want to have blossomed and they were practically inseparable. The only exception had been their missions and although she was used to being left behind while he went on solos, she could not help but to worry about him. He was one of the most important things in her world.

“Do not worry about him.” Her adoptive father said, resting his tail upon her back, leading her towards the door, “The Viridian Harvest is nearing. You have crops to tend to above ground.”

The reminder made the mare gasp, “I almost forgot the harvest! I’m sorry father, but I have to go!”

She turned and galloped out of the room, panting as she ran through the corridors. She arrived to the main area, finding the high ceiling of rock above and a makeshift playground for the children to play. Laughter resonated in the large area as parents engaged in idle chatter, some with excitement as talk of the harvest was brought up. Face flushed in chagrin, she turned and made her way towards the entrance she had come from originally and galloped up to the building above. She shook herself as she made it to the surface world and cringed as sunlight burned at her eyes. She rubbed at her eyes as she trotted out of the building to where the market was alive with vendors and traders.

The city was almost self-sufficient, needing only a few items from the trading event every thirty days in order to thrive continuously. She made her way through the crowd until she found the gardens. No weeds yet, she noticed, and the plants seemed to be growing despite the heat. She was proud of her green hoof and worked on tending to them as the sun finally disappeared from the horizon, welcoming sleep while its sister breached the sky. Thankful for the cool night, the mare worked on her crops while using her horn as a light source in order to see. The world around her was quiet as she finished up and wiped sweat from her forehead before beginning to make her way back to her room below ground.

 

*~*~*

 

 

She sat alone on the balcony of her highest tower, watching her sister’s moon rise up into the starry night sky and she felt the feeling creep up into her chest like a phantom, gripping at her heart. She was alone, something she was able to handle, but the feeling that was encasing her heart was something she could not stand.

Loneliness.

When she had been forced to banish her sister from Equis over a thousand years ago, Celestia never felt loneliness because she knew that by raising her sister’s moon that Luna was still nearby. To her, Luna was still with her. This time, there was no physical manifestation to cling to and believe that she was still near. The closest thing she had nearly killed her this afternoon, disappearing moments after rejecting her. She was sporting fresh bandages from the recent change her doctor made, assisting her in healing as quickly as possible. Her injuries were mostly near the neck and torso, her left wing singed a bit near the end of her feathers. She had no one to correspond with to express her feelings and those she would have love to talk to were gone to the borders, searching for the friend that they had lost to her judgment.

“Tia?”

The sun princess was brought back from her thoughts as a regal voice called out from the darkness behind her. Hoofsteps echoed in the quiet as the snow white coated princess turned, eyes finding her sister standing in the doorway to the balcony. The younger alicorn wore a stern expression as she approached her elder sister, eyeing and assessing her condition.

“Luna,” Celestia replied with a forced smile, “is everything all right?”

“Shouldn’t thou be in thy bed?”

Celestia had known that her sister would remind her that she should be in bed and returned her attention to the stars.

“Your night is as beautiful as ever, sister.”

Luna scoffed, “Do not think that thou can pacify our concerns with mere compliments.”

“I know, Luna.”

“Then why are thee from thy bed? Thou needest thy rest.”

A ghost of a smile graced her lips as Luna spoke. Despite returning from banishment nearly five years ago, the moon princess’ dialect still reverted back to the old ways whenever she did not concentrate on it, to the days before her descent into the darkness. She knew that her sister was concerned about her health, but Celestia could not bring herself to stay in bed. Tomorrow marked exactly five years since she had wrongfully sentenced her student and she could only feel anxious as she waited for a report of some kind to reach her.

“I am unable to sleep.” She answered. “I hope to hear news soon.”

Luna frowned, “Which news? The news from the front lines near the frozen north or news from the girls searching for Twilight Sparkle?”

Celestia cringed as her sister spoke her student’s name. It did not go unnoticed by the moon princess.

“Thy concerns are not alone. We, too, still wonder about young Twilight and how she is fairing. We wish to see our friend once more.”

Friend. Luna’s first friend upon returning to her place as a princess of Equestria had been Twilight. She had taught Luna some of the basics of making friends and modern diction. Luna frequently asked about Twilight, visiting the friendly unicorn whenever she had the chance in order to learn more about friendship and society. It pained her to know that her actions may have hurt her younger sister, but she did not have the chance to dwell on it as Luna continued.

“However, ‘tis not wise to disregard thy doctor’s orders.”

Celestia sighed, “Just a little while longer, sister. Your night brings me peace.”

“I suppose,” Luna said with a small smile, “a little bit longer cannot do thee much harm.”

 

*~*~*

 

As dawn drew near, the Den became active as families woke and made their way topside to bask in the sun’s morning light before the crisp night air gave way to the sweltering heat of winter. Children played in the dirt streets while parents browsed for items they needed for the next few days.

The lavender mare awoke to the dim light of the lantern she had left on that night and with a yawn and a curse at herself for forgetting to turn it off, she rolled out of bed. She rubbed a hoof against her eyes, waking herself as she ventured to her mirror and found her mane an absolute mess. She pawed at her hair, subconsciously reminding herself that she needed a new brush from the market place today, and began folding the crimson blanket with her magic. She glanced at her door and found nothing near the floor, meaning that there was not a mission for her that day and she had the day to herself. She donned her cloak and trotted out of the room, making her way to the surface.

She emerged from the building and took a glance around. The buildings on the surface were made from rock slabs that had been carved out of the few mountains that were in the Dusklands, rocks welded together and stabilized with metal beams inside. Friendly faces greeted the mare as she walked through the market until a familiar laughter found her. Turning, she found her father standing before a stall, laughing along with the vendor. The male Ki’rin could have been identical to her father if not for the color of his scales, which were a deep crimson color versus her father’s sea blue, and his horn which resembled an elk’s antler more. The vendor took notice of her and waved her over.

“Dia! How have you been?”

She dipped her chin a bit, bowing her head in greeting, “I have been good, Pyrros. How are you today?”

“The sun is scorching my back but otherwise pretty good.” He replied.

“Ah,” her father interrupted, struck by realization, “I almost forgot. Do you have that thing I commissioned you for, Pyr?”

A sly, fanged grin found its way to his lips, “Actually, yes. Why my dear Nereus! You don’t think that I’d forget something so important do you?”

He did not let the elder Ki’rin answer before he ducked back into the cove where his stall was attached, trifling through items until he finally emerged with three boxes. Nereus arched a brow in curiosity.

“Pyr, I only asked one thing of you.”

“Ahh, but of course I had some other things I wanted to complete for that same occasion and they are all ready, with help from the brothers of course.”

The mare eyed the three boxes curiously as her father seemed to open his mouth to argue, but found himself unable to.

“Well, then what do I owe?”

“Not a single sickle.”

“Pyr, come now. Surely these cost quite a bit of—”

“Not a sickle.” The crimson scaled Ki’rin replied, “I won’t hear of it and neither will the others. Think of it as a combined gift.”

“Father?” the mare interrupted, “What are they?”

Nereus glanced at his daughter and gave a small smile, “I am not sure. I know of the thing I commissioned, nothing more.”

“Open it!” Pyrros said, holding the biggest box out to the mare, “You’re going to love it!”

The mare did not hesitate. Using her magic, she pried the box open and gently pulled out the contents. They hovered in the air in front of her, gripped in her magic as she examined them. It was a longbow made from metal with Ki’rin scales creating swirling designs on the smooth cold metal, swirling around a star. Along with it came a quiver made from durable cloth with the same emblem, a star in the middle of mist swirls embroidered on it. The mare could barely form a thought, spluttering in surprise.

“The others and I wanted to let you know how much you meant to us.” Pyrros said with a fanged grin, “The arrows were crafted by each one of us. The fletchings are from our own hair and the arrowhead from our scales.”

The mare nodded. She knew that the colors of the fletching of the arrows had seemed familiar and they were. The colors came from some she knew very well and others whom she just barely knew. The only one missing was her father’s, but it seemed like he knew nothing of it.

“Its…beautiful.” she admired, “Thank you.”

“No,” Pyrros replied, “Thank you for everything you’ve done since you arrived.”

Her cheeks burned, “I haven’t done much…”

“Nonsense!”

Her ears flattened as she hooved the dirt reserved. Being praised and thanked was not something she was used to even after all of the years she had been with the Den. Pyrros laughed as she blushed and motioned a clawed hand at the other box.

“That one, too.”

She gently placed the bow and arrows back into their box before opening the smaller one. A gasp escaped her lips as she raised the instrument and examined it. The dagger was small enough to fit beneath her cloak unseen, yet sharp enough to slice into one’s coat like a hot knife through butter. Engraved on the blade was her cutie mark, a large six pointed star surrounded by smaller stars, and the handle was made from leather; a rarity among the Dusklands. Her name was engraved on the opposite side of the blade in elegant script and she bit her lip as tears welled in her eyes.

“It was something the brothers came up with.” Pyrros informed, smiling at her, “They were determined to make you something original.”

“I love it!” she breathed, sheathing the blade and tucking it beneath her cloak with a smile, “Such wonderful gifts, Pyr. Thank you very much.”

“Well, since gifts are already being exchanged,” Nereus chuckled, “I guess this is as good a time as any…”

The Ki’rin opened the smallest box, smiling. Reaching in, he withdrew a circlet made of pure silver. The slender V-shaped front widens to the sides to transition into stunning sweeping curves. Multiple crystals and silver-lined seed beads weaved through the designs, adding a magical, diamond-like sparkle in the bright sunlight. In the center was a crescent moon facing upwards with a sapphire above it. Her jaw dropped as she stared at it and gulped down the lump in her throat as she tore her eyes away from the headpiece and looked up at her father completely speechless. The Ki’rin gave her a proud, relieved smile at her reaction. She could not wrap her mind around the expensive gift he held out to her, but she reached out a hoof and gently grasped it. Her eyes examined the fine metalwork over and over again as her eyes watered. She leaned towards Nereus and hugged him before she pulled back and thanked Pyrros a few more times before the duo ventured on their way.

 

Author's Note:

Mistakes were fixed from earlier comments.

~Nyx ♥

 
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