The Guardian of the Night

The Royal Guard has intensified their training regimen after countless attacks on Canterlot. They’re tougher, better, faster, stronger – and, after months of hard training, they only accept the best of the best. The Night Guard, the elite soldiers trained to protect Princess Luna during the evening, are similar to the Royal Guard, only ten times tougher.
Undeterred by the challenges that await him, Pipsqueak (now a full grown stallion) signs up to join the most elite soldiers in all of Equestria... The Night Guard.
He isn’t doing it for the fame or glory. Pip is motivated by one goal and one goal only: to fulfill a promise he made as a foal. He will become the guardian of the night.
This story is technically a sequel to The Dream Stalker, but it is not necessary to read that story first in order to understand this one.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/201940/the-guardian-of-the-night

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15. A Fragment of the First Day

Pip and the others backed away just in time to avoid being bitten by a crocodile, one made entirely of stone. Pip knew what this was; a cragadile. The monster was slightly larger than a chariot and twice as wide. Its stone hide matched the stones scattered about the ravine. Everything about it was made of stone. Even its teeth were made of stone!

“Marble, what’s going on?” Pip asked, keeping his attention on the monster.

“Look out!” Rumble suddenly shouted.

Pip, startled, jumped when he heard stones falling behind him. He whipped around and saw there was a lot more than one cragadile. By his count, there were four now lumbering toward the group.

“Specter! Mist!” Pip called out to them and pointed. The two bat ponies quickly readied their bows and arrows and began firing.

Plink! Plink!

The arrows didn’t injure the monsters, but they did draw the cragadile’s attention skyward. Pip motioned for the grounded ponies to run by. Scootaloo and Marble didn’t need to be told twice. Snips and Snails, on the other hoof…

Snails attempted to run by, but hesitated just long enough for one of the cragadiles to take notice. The rock-beast snapped with its massive jaw and caught Snails by the body. If it weren’t for the armor, Pip was sure Snails would have been crushed.

“H-help!” Snails cried, his breath shallow.

“Sebastian,” Marble muttered, readying the war hammer, “it’s time for some action.” She rushed forward and swung the war hammer with all the force she could muster. At the end of its arch the hammer collided with the back part of the cragadile, the one holding Snails. The blow shattered the monster’s back leg and tail; its body acting much like the rock it looked to be made of.

The cragadile screamed, releasing Snails from its hold. The other cragadiles turned to swarm Marble, but Pip would have none of that. He lunged for the nearest one and jumped onto its face and maw. Using his claws, he tried to cut the beast, but it wasn’t working. The claws broke and scratched the stone, but they weren’t heavy enough to shatter or destroy it.

The cragadile threw Pip from its face, sending him crashing to the floor of the ravine. Rumble immediately landed and began flapping his wings. The wind picked up and suddenly there was a mini-sandstorm in the ravine. Pip had to close his eyes.

As Pip got up he shouted, “Rumble! Stop! It won’t affect them!”

Sure enough, the cragadiles were too heavy to be affected by the wind, and the dirt didn’t seem to agitate their eyes in the least bit. When the wind died down, Pip opened his eyes once more. Rumble hefted his spear and flew forward, attempting to do what Pip had; prevent them from all focusing on Marble. He jammed the spear into the side of a cragadile, but when he attempted to pull it out, the weapon was stuck. The cragadile didn’t even seem to notice. It was more preoccupied with how close Rumble was. The creature snapped at him, but Rumble managed to take to the sky.

Marble jumped away, placing her back against the ravine wall. The cragadile with the shattered leg hobbled off, but the other three were still driven by hunger. Another cragadile went for Marble, but she swung her war hammer just in time to collide with its mouth. The monster’s stone teeth shattered into pebbles, but while Marble was recovering from the swing, another cragadile went for her.

Equinox swooped in at the last moment and expertly punctured her halberd through the top of the rock jaw, the head of the weapon now in the creature’s mouth. It roared in frustration, but Equinox held on.

“Run!” she shouted to Marble.

Plink! Plink!

Specter and Mist were attempting to shoot the monsters in their eyes, but their aim was too poor. The arrows harmlessly bounced off the stone hide of the cragadiles.

Marble ran from the wall and the last cragadile lunged to grab her. Scootaloo raced up and attempted to slash it in its yellow eyes, but the monster easily knocked her aside with its rock tail. The monster was overtaking Marble, but, surprisingly to Pip, Gloom swooped in and attacked with his heavy axe.

Crack!

He smashed the monster with enough force to leave a fissure in the hide, but not enough to fully incapacitate it. The creature reared up and snapped at him, grabbing him by the leg and pulling him down to the ground.

Gloom turned to the monster and took a deep breath.

“Wait!” Pip shouted, but it was too late.

Gloom let out an ear-shattering shriek that only became worse as it echoed off the walls of the ravine. Everypony had to cover their ears, but it wasn’t his hearing that Pip was worried about. He glanced up at the walls and saw they were trembling with instability.

“There’s going to be a rockslide!” Pip yelled out, but he couldn’t even hear himself, his ears were still ringing from the pain of the shriek.

Rocks began raining down into the ravine as the walls began to crumble. Since nopony could hear, Pip had to get Scootaloo’s attention through waves. He pointed to Snails and then ran forward to help Gloom.

The cragadile, now enraged by the crack in its hide, turned its attention to Pip as he helped Gloom. Pip tossed Gloom mostly onto his back and began to run, but with the armor, the claws and the weight of another pony, his running was far from fast. The cragadile was easily keeping pace.

Rocks were showering down, filled the ravine as he ran. Pip had to quickly sidestep a falling boulder, but that didn’t stop him from pushing forward. Scootaloo raced by with Snails on her back, and even Snips was managing to pull ahead of him. Mist, Equinox, Rumble and Specter had taken to the sky, but they kept with the group overhead.

To Pip's horror, the path up ahead was now blocked by a large rock. Pip had to skid to a stop, nearly running to Scootaloo, and he knew he only had seconds before the Cragadile would be on top of him.

Without needing to be prompted, Snips and Snails combined their magic and-

BOOM!

Well, Pip imagined the sound of the boom, as his ears were still ringing.

A cloud of dirt and dust now filled the ravine and Pip ran straight into it. The cragadile chased him, but it wasn’t long until Pip managed to shake the beast while under cover of the boulder debris. Coughing from the dirt now in his mouth and lungs, Pip continued forward in an effect to get fresh air. Thunder Clash’s advice about needing to breathe rang in his ears. He didn’t want to stay here long.

Running forward, Pip eventually made it to a clear area of the ravine. Relief washed over him. He hadn’t realized how tense he had been until he relaxed. All his muscles felt sore, like he had just done a full-body workout.

Marble, Scootaloo, Snips and Snails were all waiting for him. Pip trotted up and gently slid Gloom off his back. The flying ponies also flew down to regroup. Luckily for Pip, the ringing in his ears was dying down. It was still difficult to hear anything soft, but talking was no longer a problem.

“Snails? Are you all right?” he asked.

The tall unicorn nodded and stood up. His armor had greatly protected him. It was slightly bent inward, however, and it was obviously causing Snails pain.

“You should take that off,” Pip suggested.

“What?” Rumble snorted. “What if there are more cragadiles here? He doesn’t want to be walking around without his armor! It saved his life!”

“He also can’t go around wearing something that’s actively harming him! What if it restricts his breathing, or cuts into his hide? We should just take a few moments to try and fix it.”

“It’s not like we have a forge here,” Rumble frowned. “Who’s going to fix it for him?”

“Ahem,” Marble said, straightening and flattening her gray mane. “Sebastian thinks he can do it.”

Rumble rolled his eyes. “We’re supposed to do this assignment as quickly as possible. We can’t stop to fix armor!”

“We have until the end of tomorrow night,” Pip stated. “That’s plenty of time.” He turned and saw there was a smooth area in the ravine up head. “We’ll rest there.”

Although Rumble looked disgruntled, he eventually gave in and flew over to the smooth area in the ravine. It was a small plateau, made of one rock half buried in the ground. All the recruits took a moment to rest there. The cool feeling of the rock did wonders for Pip’s muscles.

“Are you okay?” Marble asked Gloom.

The bat pony slowly nodded. He glanced at his back leg and left wing. They were both bloody and bruised. A small portion of his wing had been ripped.

“You need to have that looked at,” Equinox said, frowning at the sight. “If you don’t stitch it back together, it’ll heal apart and then you’ll have trouble flying.”

“Hm. Seems I forgot my emergency stitches,” Gloom sarcastically replied. “I’ll be fine until tomorrow. Don’t trouble yourself with it.”

“Suit yourself.”

Snails removed his armor and took a deep breath. His chest and back were badly bruised. Using his magic, Snails levitated the armor over to Marble. She looked it over with a critical eye.

“Sebastian thinks he can fix this.”

Equinox leaned in close to Pip and Scootaloo in order to whisper. “Who is Sebastian? I don’t hear anything when she says he’s talking.”

“That’s good. It means you’re sane,” Scootaloo quipped.

Pip awkwardly laughed. “Uh, it’s just the name she gave her war hammer.”

Equinox looked back at her halberd. It was scuffed and slightly dinged from the conflict with the cragadile. Most weapons weren’t designed to fight monsters made of stone… “I’ve never named any of my weapons.”

Tink. Tink. Tink.

Very carefully, and slowly, Marble began gently hammering the dents in the armor back into position. Scootaloo’s eye twitched. “Seriously!? You have a huge hammer! Just knock that armor up a few times and be done with it!”

Rumble nodded. “Yeah! Come on! We don’t have all night! You’re going to make this take twice as long as it needs to take!”

Tink. Tink. Tink.

Marble ignored them. She continued with her task, determined to find perfection. The other recruits sighed. Specter rolled onto his side and suddenly his stomach began to growl.

“I should’ve brought something on the train with me,” he groaned aloud.

Pip rubbed at his stomach. He was also very hungry. Not much I can do about it now.

“Hey,” Mist said, becoming the center of attention. “I smell fruit!”

“Don’t jest,” Specter snapped.

“I’m not! Don’t you smell it?”

Everypony sniffed the air. Pip hadn’t realized until now, but there was something sweet about the air around them. He never relied much on his nose to find food. All his life food had just been provided for him.

Mist flew upward and out of the ravine. “Be careful!” Equinox called after her. Mist began humming, her voice echoing down to the ponies below. After a few minutes, the recruits heard her squeak in delight.

“I found them! I found night strawberries!”

Pip exchanged a confused glance with the other Ponyville recruits. Night strawberries? What’re those? Mist flew back into the ravine with a small pile of fruit in her forelegs. She quickly passed them out to each recruit. Pip looked his over carefully. They were the same shape and size of normal strawberries, but instead of being red, they were black, and instead of the seeds being dark, they were white. The night strawberries looked like succulent pieces of the night sky.

Pip ate one. They tasted like… pungent grapes. Pip enjoyed them, and quickly gobbled up all the night strawberries Mist had given him. All the recruits did. Without needing to be asked, Mist flew up and gathered more. She brought them back and passed them out.

“Wow,” Snips said, smacking his lips as he ate another. “I didn’t think fruit this delicious could grow around here! I haven’t seen any water!”

“Night strawberries don’t need water. All they need is starlight and fertile grounds,” Mist informed them.

“I haven’t had these in years,” Specter announced in between eating.

Gloom nodded. “Yeah. The last time I had these… I was just a foal.”

Pip turned to Snips and Snails once he was done eating. “Hey, I just wanted to tell you guys thanks. That was quick thinking back there in the ravine. If you had been any slower, we might have been eaten by the cragadile.”

Snips and Snails flushed. “It was nothing!” Snips said, dismissively waving his hoof.

“Yeah, nothing!” Snails added.

“I dunno,” Rumble cut in on the conversation. “I think it was pretty cool. Exploding things like that… That’s an awesome talent!”

“Used to get us in trouble all the time in Ponyville,” Snips shrugged. “Apparently you aren’t supposed to use it on buildings.”

“Or mailboxes,” Snails added.

“Or lampposts.”

“Or small animals.”

Mist suddenly frowned, and her eyes welled with water. “A-animals?”

“Don’t worry,” Snips said, trying to calm her. “It doesn’t work on animals! We only tried. Once! Only once!”

Gloom and Specter began laughing. Scootaloo smiled and said, “I bet Rainbow Dash would love to hear that we encountered four cragadiles! She’ll be so impressed!”

Tink. Tink. Tink.

“I doubt Pinkie will be as impressed,” Marble added, occasionally taking a break from her hammering to eat a night strawberry. “But I’m sure she’ll love to hear about the night strawberries. She’s always interested in finding new things to make sweets out of.”

“You know what else was cool?” Rumble flew up into the air, fueled by his excitement. “When Equinox slammed her halberd right through that cragadile’s mouth! It was so awesome! I wish I hadn’t got mine stuck… I should have tried what you did.”

Equinox shrugged. “I’m sure any soldier would have done the same.”

“But not with as much flare!”

Gloom turned to Specter and snickered. “What’s your excuse, huh? Aren’t you one of the captain’s favorites too? Why weren’t you cuttin’ up cragadiles with your bow?”

“Ah, shut your face,” Specter said, leaning back and relaxing. “I’ve never used a bow in my life.”

Gloom snorted and began laughing.

For some reason unknown to Pip, Specter started laughing as well. The bat pony grabbed one of his night strawberries and threw it at Gloom. Soon they were in a mini war of fruit. Not wanting to be left out, Scootaloo, Rumble, and Snips all began throwing fruit as well. It was a shame, because the night strawberries were so good, but it was also funny to see a pony unexpectedly hit in the face with one.

Pip glanced up at the sky. Soon it would be dawn, and they still hadn’t reached their destination. “Marble? Are you almost done?”

Marble nodded.

Tink. Tink.

“Done,” she replied. She held up the armor for everypony to inspect. It looked fixed. Pip might not have even known it was damaged. Snails happily fitted himself back into it.

Pip looked around. “What’re you bat ponies gonna do when the sun rises?”

“We’ll find a place to hide?” Gloom shrugged, wiping the strawberry juice from his coat. “I used to live in the Badlands. Sometimes we would have to find shelter out in the wilds. Don’t worry; I know what I’m doing. Plus, Mist is good at finding weird spots. Her special talent is hiding, remember?”

“All right. The rest of us will continue forward. We’ll meet you back here once the assignment is complete.”

Gloom nodded. Equinox suddenly perked up. “I’m going with you. I can see in the day.”

“Sure,” Pip said.

Mist, with both her cheeks stuffed full of night strawberries, turned to her sister with a tiny frown. Equinox placed a hoof on her shoulder. “I’ll be all right. Just stay with Specter and Gloom. We’ll be back here by nightfall, I’m sure.”

Mist forcefully gulped down the night strawberries. “But… are you sure you’re going to be okay?”

“I’m sure. The others will be with me.”

“All right…” Mist turned her attention to Pip. She quickly gathered up some of the night strawberries and flew over to him. “You’re going to be careful too, okay? Here. Take this strawberry.”

Pip motioned to the small pouch on his armor. It was meant to hold a canteen, but right now it was empty. Mist placed a single strawberry in it. Then she placed another. Then she dumped in all the strawberries, until the pouch was overflowing.

“Okay, I think I have enough,” Pip laughed.

“No,” Mist hastily said, forcefully placing a strawberry into Pip’s mouth. “You can never have too many strawberries. I don’t want you to get hungry while you’re gone.”

Pip chewed and swallowed the strawberry. When he opened his mouth to thank her, she threw her forelegs around his neck and squeezed. Her hug left him slightly breathless.

“Thank you,” he choked out.

“I’m counting on you not to let anything happen to my sister,” she whispered.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Pip nervously laughed. “She might have to rescue all of us, not the other way around.”

“Some things can’t be beaten with combat skills alone.”

Pip didn’t really know what she was trying to say, so he just nodded. He would try and make sure nothing happened to the others, no matter who they were.

“Um,” Pip muttered. Mist had yet to let go.

“Get a room!” Rumble suddenly jeered.

Embarrassed, Pip separated himself from Mist and nodded to her. “Yes. Well. I will do that. Thank you. Good bye.” He awkwardly walked away, very aware of all the snickers and staring.

Once Specter, Gloom and Mist turned down the ravine to find a place to sleep, Pip motioned for the rest of the recruits to continue forward. Nodding, the other recruits fell in line. Hopefully it isn’t far.

The dawning of the sun made Pip’s eyes hurt. He had gotten used to the night, and had to squint through the brightness for a while afterward. The ravine was mostly shady, however, which he was grateful for. Exhaustion started to set in as they continued. It felt like the ravine when on forever.

Equinox played the role of scout now that Specter was out of the picture. It was hard to spot cragadiles, but, fortunately for them, they never ran across any more. As the sun got higher in the sky, Pip began to worry. They were about to reach the point of no return…

“Look!” Marble suddenly gasped.

Pip looked up. Tucked at the very back of the ravine, sandwiched between two hills, was a building made of white limestone. It was hard to see from any angle but directly within the ravine, and Pip suddenly understood why they had to take the path they did.

When they got closer, Pip realized the building was ancient. There were cracks and mold and vines… and there were statues outside. Statutes of alicorns rearing back on their hind legs. Most of the statues were smashed or missing, but the ones that remained were weathered and beaten.

Pip was in awe. The masterwork craft that went into the details of the statues were apparent, even in their current state of disrepair. He turned his attention to the front door and saw it was massive. The other recruits turned to him.

“Well?” Rumble asked. “Aren’t you going to go in?”

Pip glanced at the others. They nodded. “All right,” Pip said. If Luna said it was safe… I’m sure it’s safe.

Slowly, hesitantly, Pip made his way up to the door. Standing at the base, he realized the door was way too big for pony-kind alone. A dragon could walk through here, he thought. Gathering his strength, Pip leaned on the door and pushed it open.

The door scraped along the stone floor as it slid inward. Pip only had strength to get a space large enough for him to squirm through. Once inside, he looked around with a curious gaze. There were statues in here too. Statues of alicorns, dragons, griffons, changelings, and even a draconequus. The ceiling was covered in murals made of carvings. The pictures seemingly told a story, but so much of the roof was damaged or corroded that Pip could no longer tell what was happening. Something about alicorns… dragons… the sun and the moon…

Pip could hear his hoofsteps against the white limestone floor. Other than that, it was silent. He turned in circles, and realized there were several doors here, but no marble-sized stones that he could see. I guess we’ll need to investigate the place.

He peeked his head outside. “Guys, I think it’s safe!”

Rumble, Scootaloo, Marble, Equinox, Snips and Snails all galloped up to the building. They each made their way inside, just as in awe as Pip was. Why had this building been abandoned? Pip laughed to himself. He supposed it was out in the middle of nowhere… surrounded by terrible territory. But why was it built in the first place?

“The rock here is ancient,” Marble commented aloud.

“I’ll say,” Scootaloo said, kicking one of the walls with her bladed hoof guards.

Rumble flew up close to the ceiling and examined the mural. “Wait, weren’t we supposed to get something from here?” he asked absent-mindedly.

“Yeah, we need to find a white marble,” Pip told him. “I think we should investigate some of these rooms. Come on. We should stick together, just in case something is lurking here.”

They nodded and began traveling close together. Pip turned to the door that led further into the building. It, like the front door, and all the other doors, was just as huge. They slowly opened it and walked in.

Pip practically gasped at the sight. The room was awash of color and light. The roof was nothing but a circular window, allowing the rays of the sun to shine in. That wasn’t where the light was coming from, however. The brilliant shine that Pip saw was emanating from feathers on the floor. They were glowing with their own inner spark.

The recruits inched forward. The room itself was large and circular, enough room to fit a small audience. The feathers were in a pile in the center of the room, but when Pip got closer, he saw they were moving in time with breath. Pip motioned for the others to stop, but it was too late.

The feathers unfurled themselves and a gigantic serpent rose up from underneath. The feathers were the serpent’s wings; multicolored like the rainbow and sparkling with light. The serpent itself was coiled around on the floor, nearly a hundred feet long. It yawned a roar, exposing the contents of its fang-lined mouth.

All of the recruits were stunned in place. Pip hadn’t ever expected something like this. What were they going to do? It could eat them whole! In that moment of panic, Pip took in a few extra details. The serpent was old. Its dull green scales were most likely once a beautiful jade. Now they were flaking. Its thin wings were most likely once full and lustrous beyond compare. Now they were molting. Its eyes…

The creature turned its attention to the group.

Its eyes were milk white. Blind.

“I don’t think it’s seen us yet,” Pip whispered. “Everypony slowly-”

“I needn’t mine eyes to see thee, Son of Terra,” the serpent’s voice echoed across the room, reverberating off the walls, giving his words a slight rumble as he spoke. The serpent bowed its head to get closer to the ponies and Pip could barely believe what he was seeing.

“Get back,” Equinox told the group, hefting her halberd. “It’s a dragon!”

Marble shook her head and whispered, “No, put your weapon away… It’s not a dragon.”

Equinox back up toward the door. “How do you know?”

“I knew a dragon in Ponyville,” Pip muttered under his breath. “This isn’t a dragon.”

“It’s a Quetzalcoatl,” Marble breathed in disbelief. “I thought they were no more…”

The serpent took in a deep breath. Its head was larger than all of the recruits put together. “Doth my senses deceive me?” the Quetzalcoatl asked. “It hath been millennia since the Kind of Equinis visited these hallowed grounds. Not since the Keeper of the Sun came, searching for a Fragment of the First Night for to gain a connection with the moon that she might control it… Wherefore hast thou come unto this place?”

Marble bowed before the creature. Snips and Snails followed suit. Pip was still in mild shock. Why hadn’t Princess Luna told them they would meet something like… this!?

“Um…” Pip lamely began.

“Who are you!?” Scootaloo unceremoniously interjected.

The Quetzalcoatl laughed, but in doing so it lost its breath and began to cough. Pip could tell it was on its last leg, metaphorically speaking.

“If thou camest hither, knowing not my name, then it mattereth not. Thou hast come for another purpose. I would that I know this reason, Daughter of Nubis.”

“We came here as a test,” Pip tried to explain. “We’re looking for something… Um, something to bring back to Princess Luna… Maybe you know her?” Pip knew Luna was old, but did it compare to this Quetzalcoatl? He had no idea.

“A test?” the Quetzalcoatl asked. “Perhaps a test of loyalty and intentions? Only those free of ill will and avarice can walk amongst these walls.”

“We need a marble,” Snails said, his speech drawn out with his nervousness.

“A marble? Thou wouldst not find such here: I keep no trinkets, Son of Amicitia.”

Pip shook his head. “Are you sure? Luna said we would need to bring back a white marble… Surely there has to be one here!”

The Quetzalcoatl pondered Pip’s statement for a long moment. “A white marble?” it asked. “Perhaps thy princess meant for thee to bring unto her one of the sole treasures that still rests within this place, Son of Terra. A Fragment of the First Day.”

“I… don’t understand,” Pip shook his head. “What do you mean by a fragment of the first day?”

Moving very slowly, the Quetzalcoatl uncoiled itself and moved aside. There, on the floor, were small marble-shaped stones. There were two kinds; ones that were glowing white and others that were sucking in all the light around them, like tiny voids. Pip stared at the stones. They were wondrous.

Rumble inched closer to get a better look. “What are those?” he asked aloud.

“These art fragments, Son of Nubis. Fragments of the First Day and Fragments of the First Night. They fell to the earth when the very first rays of light pierced the darkness and gave wake to time.”

Scootaloo could barely contain herself. “But, er- you’re just sitting on them!? Why would you do that!? Why are you keeping them here!? You should go give these to Princess Celestia or Princess Luna, or some other pony who could put them to good use!”

Scootaloo,” Marble hissed under her breath. “Mind your manners!”

Again, the Quetzalcoatl laughed. The laughing winded him, however, and soon the serpent had to stop to catch his breath. “Many hath come to claim a fragment: they are not for the Kind of Equinis only, but are for all. For one kind to have all the fragments would be an impermissible excess. I ensure that only the proper amount leave in their due time.”

“Will you allow us to take one?” Equinox asked, her eyes never leaving the pool of fragments.

“I will allow thee to take one, Daughter of Malum.”

“What do they do?” Pip asked, his eyes drawn to the fragments of the first night. They were absorbing all light. They were beautiful.

“They give unto thee a connection with the day or the night. The magic which resideth in them is not o’erwhelming, but specialized. For thy princess, one of the Caeles, ‘twould be a mere drop in an ocean of power.”

Marble turned to Pip with a worried look upon her face. “Pip… You don’t want one of the Fragments of First Night, do you?”

“I don’t even know what they would do,” Pip earnestly admitted. He thought over her question and eventually turned away. He didn’t need magic to have a connection to the night. He already had one.

Pip turned to the Quetzalcoatl. “Please, sir. Can we have a Fragment of the First Day?”

“So be it, Son of Terra.”

The Quetzalcoatl gently picked up one of the white stones and handed it to them. Equinox flew forward and placed the stone within the velvet bag that Phantom Shade had given her. The Quetzalcoatl then coiled itself over the fragments once again. It seemed tired…

“Thy test is complete. Mayest thou, and thine companions, carry this safely unto thy princess, for thou shalt not have another.”

Now dismissed, Pip and the other recruits quickly retreated out of the building and back into the ravine. The doors closed behind them with the aid of powerful magic. Pip glanced back over his shoulder, confused.

This was their test? Why hadn’t Luna sent her actual guards to this place? Pip already knew the answer. They couldn’t venture into the light. But why didn’t she go? This seemed like too important a task to be left in the hooves of recruits…

Everypony was silent.

Then Rumble and Scootaloo both began laughing and dancing around. “That was awesome!” Scootaloo shouted. “I can’t wait to tell Rainbow Dash!”

“Yeah! My brother is going to be so jealous!” Rumble said. “That was like a mini adventure, you guys! An old-school adventure! Like in all the stories and stuff!”

Marble smiled. “Yeah, it kinda was.” She turned to Pip. “Maybe your princess is trying to give you what you want after all.”

Pip hadn’t thought about it like that… Had Luna given them this task because she knew they would like it? Pip laughed to himself. He couldn’t wait to get back to tell the others.

It really was like a mini adventure.

 
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