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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21. King Basilisks

“Are you threatening us?” the Sun Guard asked.

Equinox suddenly flew between them and lightly smacked Pip around. “Nevermind him,” she told the guards. “He’s had one too many drinks tonight. He gets very rowdy and impulsive. He has no idea what he's talking about.”

“But-” Pip tried to speak.

Mist pushed him back. “So impulsive!” she chimed in.

The two bat ponies pulled Pip a few feet back. Specter joined them, but was confused. “I thought we were going in there to see Luna?” he asked in a hushed tone. The Sun Guard watched them with suspicious glances, but otherwise returned to their duty.

“We cannot bust in,” Equinox hissed under her breath. “Do you want to fight all the guards just to see her? Think!”

“If they would just listen!” Pip said in exasperation. “This is important and-”

“So we’ll sneak in, or something else,” Equinox interrupted. “Not make us seem like the problem!”

Mist smiled. “Oh! Maybe Equinox and I can talk to them! We’ll get them to let you in because we have feminine wiles.” She snickered her ke ke ke. The two female bat ponies flew back to the guards. Specter shook his head.

“Mares, am I right?” he said to Pip. “I was totally down with powering through like a boss.”

Pip sighed. “I just don’t want to wait any longer. This is too important to sit around and wait for bureaucracy to get its stuff in order.”

“Oh my! Are those bat ponies?”

Specter and Pip turned back to see what was going on. Much to Pip’s surprise, he spotted Jet Set and Upper Crust among the ponies inside the castle gardens. They trotted up to the gate and smiled.

“Oh, look,” Jet Set said, pointing to Pip. “It’s that Night Guard trainee we met in the Canterlot library. These must be other trainees.”

Upper Crust nodded. “Yes, quite! Guards, please let them through. I wish to introduce them to Fancy Pants!”

The guards both turned to Pip. He sheepishly smiled to them and waved. As one of the guards pushed open the gate, he glared. “We’ll be watching you. If you make even a slight commotion, you’re outta here.”

Specter, Mist, Equinox and Pip stepped through the gates of the Canterlot Castle and admired the party. It was a completely different scene in the Canterlot Castle gardens than it was in the screaming crowds and confetti. Everything in the gardens was subdued and proper.

“Fancy Pants!” Jet Set called out. “Fancy Pants! You must meet my new friends! They are Night Guard trainees!”

A white unicorn at the center of the party happily trotted over to see what all the fuss was about. Pip turned to Equinox and then glanced back at the guards. They were still watching. “I need to get inside the castle,” he told her.

A gaggle of social elite ponies gathered around Pip and the other recruits. There was pointing and gasps and excited murmuring all around. Pip nervously waved to them. He had never been the center of attention like this before.

Another white unicorn trotted up, this one slightly primmer than the rest of them. He had a blonde mane and puffed chest, looking down on everypony with a condescending smile. “Oh, yes,” the unicorn said, eyeing the bat ponies. “They are just like Captain Phantom Shade. I know him well. I take it you all are from Hollow Shades?”

Before anypony else could speak, Equinox moved forward. “Yes, we’re all from Hollow Shades. This is our first time in Canterlot, actually. We’ve never seen such an amazing and impressive structure such as this castle. I’m sure only the most important ponies live here.”

The white unicorn smiled wider. “Why, of course, dear. You are correct. I am Prince Blueblood, distant cousin to Celestia herself. I reside in the castle.”

Equinox swished her light blue mane and smiled. “I’m sure it’s lovely inside. Much better than walking around in the mud outside.”

All of the socialites glanced at the ground, nervously checking their hooves for unnecessary amounts of dirt and mud. Prince Blueblood nodded and swished his blonde mane from one side to the other. With a smile he motioned for the party to move indoors. “Come now, we’ll have a tour before the rising of the sun!”

The other ponies nodded, whispering to themselves in excitement. Everypony followed the prince into the castle. Mist flew up to the front of the crowd and began flying along with a hum. “How very amazing!” she said, pointing to a random statue. “We don’t see many of those in Hollow Shades!” Her sing-song voice carried over the crowd and made the socialites chuckle.

“How quaint Hollow Shades must be!”

“Very rustic, no doubt!”

“I would pay for a decent picture!”

Pip turned to Equinox with a lifted eyebrow. “You guys haven’t seen a statue before?” he asked under his breath.

Equinox rolled her eyes. “You’re quick when you’re in a tight spot but you aren’t very quick on the uptake, are you?” Pip stared at her in confusion. Equinox sighed. “Of course we have statues in Hollow Shades. This is called a distraction. As in, now we’re inside and now everypony thinks Mist is a charming bat pony who must be shown the finer things in life.”

Pip turned back to Mist. Sure enough, the elite of Canterlot were delighting in pointing out the artwork and architecture style of the building, telling her where and when things were made. Mist played along. She nodded, smiled and gasped as though she were completely enthralled.

Equinox turned to one of the many gawking ponies. “Where is the nearest restroom?”

They pointed to a hallway and Equinox nodded, taking Pip with her. Specter tagged along, silently disappearing from the crowd like he had never been there in the first place. When they were in the empty hallway, Equinox turned back to Pip.

“Now where?” she asked.

“Um,” Pip looked around. He had no idea.

Specter pointed out the window. There were large towers at the far back of the castle. Pip nodded and the three of them galloped onward. For the most part, the castle was empty, but well-lit. Most of the guards were outside, walking through the gardens and watching the many guests who were in attendance.

“Hey! What’re you doing here?” a guard called out from a hallway they galloped passed. Pip ignored him. He wasn’t going to stop and he didn’t care to explain. What if something terrible was happening right this moment?

The guard galloped after them, but Specter and Equinox also maintained their course, not bothering to stop or turn back. “Stop!” the guard called out. “Somepony stop them! They’re heading for Celestia’s tower!”

Pip skid and turned down the next available hallway, making his way for the other tower. He wanted to thank the guard for the heads up, but he decided against it. He was too busy maintaining his breathing to give a sarcastic quip. Specter tossed down a decorative suit of armor as they ran, nearly tripping the pursuing earth pony guard. He snickered as he flew, obviously enjoying the crazy ride.

The door of the tower was right ahead and, standing there waiting, were two Sun Guard unicorns. They used their magic to draw blades as Pip and the others galloped close. Pip slowed to a halt in front of the doors. Now, whatever he did, Luna was sure to hear.

“Stand back!” he told them. “I’m here to see Luna!”

Equinox and Specter landed next to him, but their focus was more on the guards that were now galloping down the halls to join them in front of Luna’s door.

“Stand down, intruder!” one of the unicorns commanded. “What is the meaning of this?”

“I have proof something is wrong with Luna! Look, right here!” Pip pulled the book out of his satchel and placed it on the ground in front of him. There were more guards now, all holding their spears at the ready. Pip flipped to the page with the loose note from Starswirl the Bearded. “She’s in trouble!”

The guards exchanged worried glances. Pip felt some joy at the fact they were listening. He was finally going to get to see Luna!

“What is the meaning of this?”

Pip turned the familiar voice. It was Phantom Shade. He flew over the guards and landed squarely in front of Pip, giving him an incredulous look. “What are you doing here?” he hissed.

“I-”

Just as he was about to answer, the door to Luna’s tower swung open. The princess of the night, in all her regal majesty, stepped out into the hallway. Her dark blue coat and starry-night mane matched the sky outside perfectly. Turning her attention to Pip, her cyan eyes widened with recognition.

“Pip,” she spoke, hesitation in her voice. “What’re you doing here?”

“Forgive me, Princess,” Phantom Shade immediately spoke. “I should have stopped this pony long before he got to you.”

“What is going on?” Luna asked, not to Phantom Shade, but to Pip. “Why have you come here?”

He stepped forward, barely able to contain his elation. “Luna! I saw all the signs and I know you need help! I came here as quickly as I could, as soon as I knew for sure! Is it the Nightmare Forces? Is it something else? What can I do?”

Phantom Shade pushed him back and stood between them. “How dare you barge in here uninvited,” he snapped. “Explain yourself!”

Still addressing Luna, Pip began, “The mission with the Star Spiders and the mission to retrieve the Fragment of the First Day… I know you gave them to us on purpose, Luna! But why? Why give us those nightmares? What are you trying to tell us?”

“Those nightmares were caused by Princess Celestia, fool,” Phantom Shade immediately replied, pushing Pip further away. “Princess Celestia is now plagued by the same darkness that once took Princess Luna! She asked for you to retrieve the Star Spiders so that she could convince Princess Celestia that the Nightmare Forces were close by! She asked you to bring her a Fragment of the First Day because Princess Celestia suggested she have one! It isn’t Princess Luna who is in trouble, it’s Princess Celestia!”

“But-” Pip turned to the book on the ground and pointed to the page. “It-it can’t be! Look! I have proof! Only Princess Luna can alter dreams! It was definitely Princess Luna who sent us those nightmares! It had to be!”

Phantom Shade quickly snatched the paper. “It was you who snuck into Canterlot Castle,” he said with a glare. “You stole this book from Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

“I did!” Pip blurted out. “And I don’t care if you have to lock me up for it! Just read the paper!” Pip pushed it toward Phantom Shade, frustrated that the bat pony captain was more concerned with lambasting him than he was over Luna’s safety.

Phantom Shade read the paper. Then he read it again. A look of conflicted confusion came over him. He slowly turned to Luna and held out the paper. Without a word, he gave it to her. Using her magic, Luna levitated the paper up so she could read it.

Everypony in the hallway was silent. Luna read slowly.

“Is this what you’ve based your worry on, Pip?” she asked him, placing the paper back in the book and closing it.

“Y-yes, of course!” he said. “I knew already, because of all things you told me about when we shared dreams together… but I needed proof to show everypony else!”

“Your concern is misplaced,” she said, her brow furrowing. “You have forgotten that my sister holds a Fragment of the First Night. Sometimes her subconscious thoughts slip into the dreams of ponies while she is waking. Why do you think that only ponies sleeping during the day had these nightmares?”

Phantom Shade noticeably relaxed. He turned to Pip and shook his head. “You broke into the castle twice, and for what? To try and rally the soldiers against Princess Luna!?”

“No!” Pip immediately responded. “It’s not like that! The Nightmare Forces are ancient dark magic! They feed on… er… nightmares… and they get stronger all the time! I just wanted to protect Luna!”

“You aren’t protecting her by causing a panic!” Phantom Shade hissed. “You aren’t protecting anypony that way!” He turned back to Luna bowed his head. “Forgive me, Princess. This is ultimately my fault. I should have kept a better eye on the trainees and I shouldn’t have ever encouraged them to go above and beyond at this point in their career.”

“No need to apologize,” Luna said, levitating the book and giving it to Phantom Shade. “The book can be returned to Twilight Sparkle’s library and nopony was hurt, after all. Everything is as it should be.”

“I will have him placed in the dungeon until a trail can be held,” Phantom Shade said, motioning to Pip.

Pip hung his head and felt his legs become weak. He had been so sure. Now everything was so unclear and fuzzy…

“No need,” Princess Luna said, walking passed them and slowly heading toward Celestia’s tower. “There are no facts in dispute, and I know Pip had nothing but the purest intentions.”

“But this cannot go unpunished! This kind of behavior is unbecoming of a solider!”

Luna nodded. “You’re right, Captain. I think Pip would be best served to go back to Ponyville and think about what he’s done. You said you were to blame, Phantom Shade, but I fear this is somewhat my fault as well. I should have never given a young foal the impression that he needed to saddle my problems as his own.”

Phantom Shade nodded. “These other two aren’t really apart of this,” he stated, motioned to Equinox and Specter. “I’m sure the earth pony bamboozled them into this whole ordeal.”

Pip didn’t offer a response. He didn’t have any words for the situation. There was nothing to say, really. He just stared at the floor and allowed them to continue on with their disappointment and anger. Luna… She regrets ever sharing her dreams and worries with me… That’s why she never returned… that’s why she avoids me.

“You are the captain of the guard, Phantom Shade. I trust your judgment on the matter. You may handle it as you wish. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go visit my sister and make sure she is okay.” Luna continued without a second glance back.

Phantom Shade pushed Pip and pointed him toward the door. “You heard the princess. Leave. Take your things from the barracks.”

Pip nodded and did as he was told. He slowly walked from the castle, his head low to the ground and his legs heavy.

---

“And you two,” Phantom Shade hissed, turning to Equinox and Specter. “You two are my most promising recruits! How could you!? What was even going on in your heads!?”

Equinox glared. “He had proof and he was utterly convinced! If something really was happening with the princess, wouldn’t you want to know?”

“He could have told me. This didn’t need to happen.”

“Of course, Captain,” Specter replied. “Sorry, sir.”

Phantom Shade practically hit them with his hoof in frustration, but he restrained himself. “Get out of my sight! I will dock your pay and see to it that Ghast gives you extra training! No more of this foolishness! None!”

Equinox and Specter slowly retreated back, bowing their heads. When Phantom Shade turned away, so did they, taking to the sky and flying out of the castle. Equinox immediately began scanning the ground for Pip, but she didn’t see him. He couldn’t have gone too far…

“I thought we were going to stumble upon something crazy,” Specter suddenly told her. “I guess he was the only thing crazy around here, huh?”

“Shut your face,” Equinox growled. “I don’t want to hear it right now.” Specter instantly became silent. They flew around the castle, but Equinox couldn’t spot Pip. There were hundreds of ponies…

Mist spotted them from the ground and flew up to meet them, a trouble-free smile on her face. “Where’s Squeaks? Did he finally get to speak with Luna?”

“He got thrown out of the Night Guard training and now Princess Luna regrets ever visiting him in the first place, apparently,” Specter said with a causal shrug. “Worse things have happened.”

Mist held her mouth open in a silent gasp. “What?” she eventually said. “R-really? And where is he?”

“Eh, we’re looking for him. I’m sure he’s sulking around here somewhere.”

“You guys just let him go off on his own?” Mist asked as turned her head wildly from side to side, scanning the ground. “By himself?”

“He just needs some time to cool off. He’ll be fine,” Specter said, dismissively waving a hoof.

Mist suddenly pushed him, much to Equinox’s surprise. “How could you? You shouldn’t have left him! Not alone!”

Specter began laughing. He brushed himself off and shrugged. “What? I’m not his mother. What did you want me to do?” He lifted an eyebrow. “What is this? Are you… crying?”

“This was important to him!” Mist said, wiping at her eyes. “He talked about it all the time! I know you’re too cold to care about anypony else, but you could have at least tried to be there for him! He would have tried to be there for you!”

“Well, if he hadn’t cared so much he wouldn’t be in this position! This is what happens! Maybe he should have-”

“Stop it!” Equinox snapped. “Mist is right. We shouldn’t have left him like that. Let’s just try and find him.”

“We don’t have time to look for him,” Specter stated. “It’s almost time for the sun to rise and we need to get back to barracks. Where is Gloom, anyway? He should go with us.”

The three bat ponies scanned the sky. Equinox spotted Gloom on one of the far mountain sides, well above the city. They flew to him and hovered in the air, but the powerful wind made it difficult. Gloom said nothing, his attention focused on something else entirely.

“Gloom,” Equinox stated. “You should go back with the others. It’s almost daybreak. I’m going to stay and look for Pip.”

“Do you hear that?” Gloom asked them, his voice low and his ears twitching. “That sound… on the wind…”

They all waited and listened. One by one they shook their head. Equinox heard nothing. “What is it?”

“I dunno… It keeps getting louder. You can’t hear it in the party because of the music, but I can hear it just fine here.”

Equinox sighed. “That’s great. Whatever. Just get back to the barracks. It’s almost daybreak.”

The bat ponies nodded and flew off toward the barracks. Equinox turned her attention back to the massive party. She would need to get the other day-pony recruits to help her search if she were going to find him…

---

Pip wandered aimlessly through the trees of the forest. It took a long time to walk back to the barracks without taking a sky chariot. He had taken a longer route, one all the way around the other side of the mountain. All he wanted was time to think, and the walking gave him all the time he needed.

The sun had come up a while ago, just like it always did, day in and day out; no problems, no disaster, no nightmares. The Summer Sun Celebration continued like it did every year. Everypony happy. Everypony celebrating the summer day until nightfall…

Pip sighed and glanced up to the sky. Where were the moon and the stars when he needed them now? Where was the guiding light he had trusted since he was a foal? He hated doubt. He hated not knowing what to do. When he had a goal, everything was simple and all a matter of willpower. When he had no goal… everything was confusing and blurry. What was he supposed to do now? He thought he had been doing everything right up until a few hours ago.

Pegasi flew en masse away from the celebration and Pip wondered what sort of amazing stunt was being performed. He looked away with a sigh.

Everything had been simpler with Luna in his dreams. Those adventures were fun and his purpose so clear…

The Wonderbolts flew by overhead, soaring at incredible speeds toward Canterlot. They were fast. Much faster than any earth pony. Pip had never really been too attached to whether or not he had been an earth pony until recently. Everypony kept calling him that, kept reminding him he was less of pony because of it. No super useful magic, no flight… just… an earth pony.

Sure, he had a special talent… but what good was it, really? What good was it if he couldn’t even join the Night Guard? What good was any of it…? Why hadn’t the ancient magic that dictated cutie marks given him something useful?

Pip looked back up at Canterlot. There were a lot of lights and magic being used now… He was sure he was missing out on something breathtaking. Oh well. The barracks were close and soon he could take a train back to Ponyville.

His hooves hurt by the time he made it to the barrack’s door. It was late afternoon and he imagined the bat ponies were sleeping. With a heavy heart, he walked into the building. Maybe Marble would be sleeping. Then he wouldn’t have to tell her what had happened.

The door creaked open and he slowly trotted inside. She was sound asleep. Pip wandered over to his bunk and began quietly packing his things. He didn’t have much, but he paused when he felt under his mattress. Pip pulled out the letters he had found in the book of alicorns. He had forgotten that he had quickly shoved those away when Marble had been talking to him.

Pip ripped up his letter he had written Luna. He didn’t want to read it again. Not now. Not ever. He threw the pieces to the floor and sighed. If he could, he would burn them. Rocked by depression, Pip leaned onto the bunk and took deep breaths. Trying to take his mind off everything that was happening, Pip glanced at the other letters.

They were inane ramblings. Just letters from one princess to another. He snorted back a laugh. If he had been given these letters a year ago, he would have been more than happy to read them. Now… now he could barely muster the energy to care. Besides, what did it-

Pip paused.

He stared at the letter he had flippantly flipped to and slowly took it all in. It read:

Dear Princess Mi Amore Cadenza,

I will definitely try that new cake recipe! I have already given it to my chef in order to prepare. Thank you so much.

As for your concerns – I have enclosed a gift to better help you locate the creatures that dwell in the frozen north. You say they only appear after sundown, which leads me to believe that this Fragment of the First Night will better help you sift through the darkness. There is no need to return it – the object brings back unpleasant memories of a time when my sister wasn’t with me. I hope it helps.

Take care,

Celestia

BAM!

The door slammed open and Pip jumped up, tense and ready to go. It was Scootaloo, hysteria in her eyes. “Pip!” she yelled between deep breaths as she ran into the barracks. “Pip, here you are! We need to get out here! Hurry! We need to go!”

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“The King Basilisks, Pip! They’re here! Like... all of them! Hurry! Hurry we have to go!” Scootaloo rushed over to Marble and shook her awake. “We have to tell the bat ponies! We have to drag them out of here! The King Basilisks are everywhere! All around the mountain! Quickly!”

Pip felt his chest tighten. The King Basilisks!? Here? In Canterlot!? Something dubious was going on! Luna lying to him, and now this? “Scootaloo, we have to get our armor on and go help!”

Marble slowly sat up in bed and rubbed at her mane. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“We can’t fight them!” Scootaloo shouted. “Don’t you remember what Thunder Clash said about them!? They’re crazy! And way scarier in real life than what we read about in the books! If Rumble and I hadn’t been out searching for you, I’m pretty sure we would have been in the heart of the party when they attacked! So many ponies turned to stone!”

“We have to try! It’s what being a part of-” Pip stopped himself. He wasn’t a part of the guard anymore. “It’s what being a good Equestrian citizen would do!”

“But, they’re King Basilisks! We haven’t even finished our training!”

Marble looked from Pip to Scootaloo and then to Sebastian. “Whelp, I guess you were right, Sebastian. I guess we do have to do some fighting today.” She jumped off her bunk and began strapping into her armor. Scootaloo stood gaping at her. Pip took this moment to run over to the bat pony barracks. He slammed open the door and ran in, trying not to let too much light seep in.

“Guys!” he yelled. “Wake up!”

Specter and Mist sat up, but Gloom was already awake. “I heard everything,” Gloom informed him. “I’ll let the others know.”

“Good,” Pip breathed, turning around. Wait, where is Equinox? He ran out into his barracks and saw Scootaloo and Rumble were both getting their armor secured into place. “How many King Basilisks are there?”

Rumble shook his head. “I saw at least ten! It’s crazy, Pip! I have no idea why they’re here but… but the ponies at the Summer Sun Celebration were caught off-guard! It was insane!”

“What about Celestia and Luna? Where are they right now?” Pip asked, pulling his own armor over his body and equipping his claws.

“I don’t know,” Rumble admitted. “I was too busy looking for you when the monsters suddenly began walking up! Just looking them in the eye causes you to turn to stone!”

“They’re both missing?” Pip asked, finally getting everything into place. What was going on?

Marble was set and galloped toward the door. “We don’t have time to waste! The Night Guard won’t be able to fight the King Basilisks until nightfall, if night even comes, apparently... We have to do something until they arrive!”

Pip nodded, taking off after her. Scootaloo and Rumble followed closely behind. All four of them began making their way to the main road to Canterlot, but it such a long run up… Pip’s hooves were already hurting and they didn’t have time to spare!

Marble motioned with her head when they hit the main road. There were statues of ponies, rabbits and birds. Some of the statues were smashed, the stone pieces littering the walkway.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Rumble asked, his eyes glued to the smashed bits of stone. “We could still turn back!”

“What do you think Thunder Clash would say if he heard you talking like that?” Marble asked between breaths.

“He would give me some encouraging speech,” Rumble said. “And then he would follow it up by insulting my mother or something…”

Pip wished Thunder Clash were here. He would know what to do!

On the road ahead was an abandoned sky chariot. Scootaloo suddenly burst forward, passing them all and grabbing the front of the chariot. Normally it took two pegasi to fly, but Scootaloo grabbed it by herself. “Get on! You’re all too slow!”

Pip, Marble and Rumble jumped onto the chariot and off Scootaloo went. She was running at high speeds, much faster than some pegasi could fly. Pip had to hold on to the sides in order to avoid tumbling out the back. They raced up the road toward Canterlot, and soon the glorious city was in their sight.

Well, the shattered gateway came into sight. And so did one of the King Basilisks. It was gigantic, the size of a small building. Its scales were dark gray, its eyes, though not looking at them, were bright gold and glowed, even in the light of the day. It had six legs with claws the size of farming scythes and looked like it were part dragon, part iguana. It lumbered about, smashing at the buildings and digging at them in an attempt to ferret out ponies. The statues that littered the area around it were numerous…

Scootaloo screeched to a halt and practically froze. What were they going to do about it? It was massive!

Slowly, but very deliberately, the monster began turning toward the group. Pip, knowing that the eyes would spell certain doom, immediately turned to Rumble. “The wind!” he said, panicked. “Do your thing!”

Rumble nodded. He jumped off the chariot and began flapping his wings, causing his powerful windstorm to pick up all around them. Pip kicked up the dirt, much like Specter had during the sparring, and Pip lowered his helmet to try and protect his eyes. There was nothing for the King Basilisk to use as protection, however, and it closed its eyes to shield itself from the stinging dirt.

Barely able to see, Pip rushed forward and attempted to attack it. He slammed into the creature’s leg but was bounced back by the sheer fortitude of the scales. They were like stone, or metal… Pip backed away just as the creature attempted to bite him. The King Basilisk had a mouth full of fangs and jagged teeth. Its tongue lashed about like a whip and its nostrils flared with excitement. It could smell him… Most importantly, it could smell blood.

Pip cut himself on the leg and began galloping away. Rumble maintained the wind, to keep the creature’s eyes shut, and Scootaloo ran toward the building the King Basilisk had been breaking. “Run!” she screamed between deep breaths. “Run!”

The ponies inside the building began fleeing as quickly as possible, keeping their eyes closed as they stampeded through the sandstorm. Marble, however, ran up to the King Basilisk and slammed her war hammer hard onto the small joints of its claws. The creature yelped and turned, lashing its massive tail out to hit her. It slammed against her armor, but the size difference and force sent her flying regardless.

Pip turned back and ran along the edge of the mountain; to his left was a sheer drop into the valley below, and to his right was the King Basilisk. Rumble’s powerful wind almost knocked him off at one point, but the additional weight of the armor finally came in handy.

“Pip!” he heard Equinox cry. “Pip!”

He turned around and glanced upward. Equinox was flying above him and suddenly pointed to the sky. Pip could hardly believe what he was seeing. It was Luna and… and some horrible, twisted, nightmare version of Princess Celestia. Her mane was white hot and her eyes were pools of light. They were fighting in the air like only powerful alicorns could. They clashed, and with each blow there was a wave of magic and a pulse of power. But… but how could that be? Pip was confused. Everything he had learned recently…

No. It didn't matter. All he knew was evil was lurking here and he needed weed it out.

“Arg!” Pip groaned as the weight of the King Basilisk slammed into him. He had forgotten he was still bleeding, drawing the beast’s attention. Bracing himself against the ground, Pip tried to stop himself from sliding off the edge of the mountain, but he knew that was impossible. The King Basilisk thrashed and turned its head, trying desperately to grab Pip in its jaws, only adding to the stress of slowly inching toward the drop off the mountain.

Pip bashed his armor against the creature, but it was no use. The monster continued forward, blind and oblivious to the fact that it would fall to its death as well. “Scootaloo!” Pip called out, leaning away from the monster’s maw. “Scootaloo, ram it!”

She turned and kicked her wings into overtime, though it was clear she didn’t have much energy left in her. At top speeds she rammed the King Basilisk, throwing what little weight she had into its forward momentum. Pip let up at the same time and allowed it to charge forward, straight off the edge.

Pip went with it, unable to get out of the way in time. The creature grabbed with its sharp claws, attempting to find solid ground, but all it connected with was Pip’s back leg, right along the scar from the Star Spider attack. The pain was sharp, but the sensation of falling was all Pip could focus on.

Equinox swooped in just in time, grabbing him by his armor and flapping her wings in order to slow his descent. Rumble quickly flew down as well, taking Pip back to the ledge. The ground of the forest below trembled with the suddenly impact of the King Basilisk, its insides rupturing against the earth like the contents of a water balloon. It was a very long drop.

Regaining his composure, Pip looked at the city. There were more King Basilisks, and up in the sky he could see the Wonderbolts trying to fly ponies out, avoiding the gaze of the King Basilisks at all costs. Then there was the fighting above him… Princess Celestia and Luna…

“What’re we going to do, Pip?” Scootaloo asked, gasping for air after so much running.

Pip needed time to think. Fighting through more King Basilisks was suicide, but they needed to help the citizens of Canterlot...

 
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