Author Topic: Thaw  (Read 24 times)

Offline Peridot Frost

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Thaw
« on: June 12, 2014, 12:02:04 am »
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

- J. R. R. Tolkien

Since the mysterious return of the Crystal Empire, Peridot Frost had longed for one thing - to regain the memories of her life, which were inaccessible to her, as if frozen. The vague impressions she was left with haunted Peridot, driving her to wander across Equestria searching for her memories, her parents, something to give her life meaning. The moment she reconnected with her past, however, she had hardly been thinking of her memories at all.

-----------------

Peridot stepped up to an open spot at the water-shooting race booth in the carnival on the streets of Canterlot. While she had been brooding earlier in the day, she was literally sparkling with happiness now, and ready to take on a new challenge. She placed a hoof on the mechanism in front of her and examined the target straight ahead. There was a tube connected to the bullseye of the target, and the first pony to fill it with water would win the competition. Peridot was still trying to figure out how to shoot the water when a clattering bell rang, signaling the start of the round. She scrambled somewhat frantically before finding the button to hold down and triggering the stream of water. She took a steadying breath, and in one smooth motion, brought the water in line with the center of the target. The aiming felt surprisingly natural... familiar even. The simple movement resonated in Peridot's mind, sending her back to events that took place thousand years ago, but that seemed hardly more than a few years ago to her.

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Years and years earlier...

Peridot stood in an open courtyard, blanketed with a few inches of snow. Due to the arctic winds sweeping through the city, few of the Crystal Empire's residents were outside. Despite the fact that Peridot was wearing nothing but a woolen scarf, the mare's concentration remained unbroken by the cold. She stood perfectly still, facing a target across the field, a look of quiet determination on her face. To an onlooker, the stillness may have seemed almost relaxed, but the mare was using all of her strength to remain in place. Her front leg strained against the tension of the bow she held out, while her teeth restrained the enchanted arrow that was fighting to spring forward.

Peridot took a slow, deep breath to steady herself, careful to move her body as little as possible, then aimed for the bullseye of the target. Drawing on hundreds of hours of practice, she automatically adjusted for the effect that distance, wind, and even temperature would have on the arrow's flight. When she was sure of her aim, she released the arrow. It arced through the frigid air and slammed into the exact center of the target. Immediately, a layer of ice began to spread over the wooden surface, in a six-pointed shape similar to her cutie mark's. Peridot selected another arrow from the quiver next to her and fired it after the first. It struck just left of center, farther from the original arrow than she would have liked, and added to the ice creeping across the target.

Peridot fired arrow after arrow into the target, each time holding the bow steady and drawn for as long as she could before releasing the tension. By the time she had depleted her quiver, the target was completely encased in multiple layers of clear, solid ice. She lowered the bow, hoof searching for another arrow to nock, and sighed when she realized her practice had come to an end. There would be other days, she was certain, to work on improving herself, but probably none so tantalizingly quiet and peaceful as this one. Slowly, she gathered her things and set off for home.

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Three days later...

Peridot stood at her post on the castle balcony, pacing every so often to keep her legs from cramping. Her guard's armor was uncomfortable, and in Peridot's view, unnecessary. It was bulky and more decorative than protective, and, worst of all, it restricted her movements as an ice archer. But she had to wear it "to maintain the guard's public image," as her officer had told her, even though it was unlikely anypony would see her in the middle of the night.

Princess Luna's moon shone from high in the sky, causing the Crystal Empire's streets to glitter. Everything was illuminated, allowing Peridot to clearly see... nothing. Nopony was out at this hour. Peridot's training prevented her from feeling sleepy in the middle of the night, but it did not prevent her from feeling bored. She appreciated the serenity of the night, but staring down the same moonlight street for hours quickly became dull.

A flash of movement brought Peridot to full alertness instantly. She hadn't been able to make out a shape, but something had definitely dashed across the street in front of the palace. Peridot held perfectly still, watching intently. She saw the thing move again - it seemed to her like a formless darkness, an animated shadow. It had made no sound. Whatever it was, it appeared to be sneaking around the castle, and it was Peridot's job to put a stop to that.

"Who goes there?" she shouted down from the balcony, breaking the night's silence. She brought her bow up and aimed an ice arrow. This particular enchanted arrow was mostly harmless, and would freeze the unwelcome visitor in place until she could summon more guards to arrest it.

When the thing heard her voice, it seemed to pause for a second, then made a dash for the castle. Peridot fired straight towards it, but the arrow she released only hit the snow on the ground. She frowned in confusion, knowing her aim had been perfect. The intruder should have been struck. Slowly, a horrifying thought came to her: You can't harm a shadow. Peridot rushed inside to wake the rest of the guard as the monster reached the palace doors.

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Later, but how much later she wasn't sure. Every moment had felt like an eternity since that night...

"Just run!" Peridot urged her parents, ignoring their panicked questions. Briefly, she wondered if she might be considered a traitor, but the choice between staying in a loosing battle and trying to save her parents had been an easy one. The Crystal Empire was falling, and she doubted that one ice archer would make a difference in its fate. But that same ice archer could make a difference in the lives of her parents.

The streets that they sprinted through were half destroyed, massive black crystals jutting up through the snowy ground. Peridot could see dark magic crackling through the air, fueling the growth of the threatening rock. "We have to get out of the city!" she shouted over the noises of terrified ponies.

As Peridot and her parents neared the edge of the city, the ice archer noticed new crystals punching though the ground behind them, chasing them and trying to cut them off. Up ahead, she could see a wall of twisted crystal beginning to form around the city. "Keep running!" she told her parents, and turned to face the advancing crystals. She pulled out an ice arrow and fired it as hard as she could into the nearest black crystal. The crystal cracked, but did not shatter. A wave of ice spread rapidly over it, stopping its growth. Peridot smiled grimly at her success, but the growth of the rest of the crystals continued, and new ones formed every second. She dashed closer toward the city's edge, turning around to fire at the nearest crystals every few steps to keep them away from her parents.

Peridot's mother and father made it to the edge of the city and squeezed through an opening in the wall, but by the time Peridot reached it, the gap had narrowed to a slit that she could barely see through. "Peridot!" her mother cried anxiously.

"I'll be fine," Peridot yelled to the other side of the wall, not knowing if she was lying. "I'll find another gap and meet you on the other side. Just keep moving away from the city!"

The black crystals were now erupting practically under her feet, forcing her to back up against the wall. She fired arrow after arrow, again and again until finally, when her hoof reached for her quiver, it was empty. The twisted spikes grew up around her, enveloping her in darkness, and Peridot remembered nothing for a very long time...

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Present day...

The Crystal Fair. Her fifth birthday party. Earning her cutie mark. Peridot's memories flooded back, filling the desperate emptiness she had felt, and through it all, she held on to one thought: I saved them. I may not have been able to save the Empire, but I saved them.

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