Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, November 1, 2014

MLP:FIM: The Dark Stallion - Episode 01

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presents

The Dark Stallion

Episode 01: Xander, Lone Unicorn On A Quest

*****


The smell of burning wood roused the young colt from his slumber. As smoke tickled his nostrils, his head leapt from off of his pillow and turned to face the door across his room. He could see its outline glowing red with smoke rising from underneath it.

In a split second, he leapt from underneath his comforter, raced across the cold hardwood floor, and lunged toward the doorknob, which scalded his palm upon touch. Opening the door to his hallway felt like opening the door to an oven with a burning roast inside, as he was met with a torrent of black smoke and smoldering heat that quickly filled his room.

The colt coughed to prevent himself from asphyxiating. With his eyes watering, his eyesight soon adjusted to the darkness. He could now peer through the smoke and down the hallway. At the very end was another door from whence the smoke and flames emanated.

This door led to his father’s study.

“Father!” he yelled at the top of his shrill, young voice. “Father, what’s going on?!”

He raced through the smoke-engulfed hallway and toward the door. With a single leap, he kicked it open.

The study was engulfed in flames that ate away at the old books stored within it. This intensified the old book smell, and combined it with the scent of smoke to create an almost incense-like aroma.

In the center of the room stood a light brown stallion with a wild, dark red mane and a deep scar across his right eye. The stallion grimaced, cackling as he stood over another stallion, this one dark blue with a silver-blue mane and goatee, and lying within a pool of blood.

The colt gasped as he recognized the fallen stallion. “Father! No!”

*****

10 Years Later

*****

Spike, with his snout upon the tabletop, watched as a cockroach scurried across. His eyes then focused on Twilight standing opposite him.

“Ready, Twilight?” he asked.

Twilight nodded. “Here goes.”

She closed her eyes as her horn glowed with a purple aura. Before either the pony or dragon could blink, a glass jar materialized on the table, trapping the cockroach within it.

Spike leapt for joy, fist pumped in the air. “Alright!”

He ran to a nearby checklist propped upon an easel.

“That’s your 50th spell and counting, Twilight!” he said as he marked a red check. “You’ve sure learned a lot since you moved to Ponyville a year ago.”

Twilight blushed. “That’s what happens when you commit yourself to your studies.”

Spike sauntered over to the table and stared at the cockroach trying frantically to escape its glass prison, despite the fact that it was sealed shut with a lid.

“I have to say, though, it would have been much cooler if you made it explode.” He threw his elbows on the table and placed his chin upon his claws. “20 percent cooler if it had exploded in a sonic rainboom.”

Twilight giggled. “It may have been cooler, but it wouldn’t have been as humane.”

Using her magic, she picked up the jar, causing the bug within to scurry faster in panic.

“It may be an ugly Blattodea, but it’s still a living creature, and it has every right to live.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “You’ve been hanging around Fluttershy lately, haven’t you?”

Twilight walked over to a nearby window to open the jar and throw out the roach. “That obvious?”

“I still say you should learn how to make something explode.” Spike leapt from the table and walked toward Twilight. “It would look great on your list of spells. Then again, I don’t know any other pony who knows more spells than you do.”

On that note, the library door flew open.

Through it entered a colt, a light-blue unicorn with a silver mane. He wore a brown jacket, a satchel over his shoulder, and a golden pocket watch dangling around his neck. Though his jacket concealed it, his cutie mark was a green triangle inside a square inside a circle—an alchemy circle. He was slightly taller than Twilight and seemed slightly older than her, but if only by a year or two. His eyes flickered with a serious look—not a mean one, but by no means gleeful either.

Without speaking a word, he walked over to one of the bookshelves. He scanned its contents before choosing a book using the magic from his horn.

“Oh, good morning,” Twilight greeted him.

The unicorn glanced at Twilight, then back at his book. “Morning.”

“Back again, I see?” Twilight commented.

The unicorn did not respond. He walked to a nearby table where he sat down and started reading his book, but not before unloading the contents of his satchel: a notepad, a pencil, and a few other books of his.

“This has to be the third time this week he’s come here,” Spike whispered into Twilight's ear.

Twilight nodded. “Yes. And he always stays until closing. Must be important research he’s working on.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen him around before. Is he new to Ponyville?”

“I think he moved into town just this week."

“What’s his name?”

“You know, I’m not sure either. I never really talked to him.”

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Spike asked, smacking Twilight on the rump, prodding her forward. “Go ahead and talk to him.”

Twilight hesitated. “But—”

Spike motioned for her to move forward.

Twilight shrugged. She walked over to the colt, who was now in deep concentration, reading his book and taking notes.

“Looks like you’re doing some pretty important research there,” Twilight said, trying desperately to break the ice.

The colt did not look up to acknowledge her, but continued what he was doing. “It is.”

“I don’t think we've been properly introduced. I’m Twilight Sparkle.”

The unicorn continued his work, taking a much longer time before replying, “Xander.”

Silence hung between the two: Xander engrossed in his research, and Twilight hesitating to say something. She had not felt this awkward since she had first met Fluttershy—but to Xander’s credit, he was still more talkative that her.

“So, Xander, just what is it exactly you’re researching there?” She asked. “You’ve been here every day for—”

“Listen, Miss,” The colt interrupted, not in a mean way, but rather in a blunt one. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m busy right now and I prefer not to be disturbed.”

Twilight gasped and blushed bright red. “Oh! Well, um. I guess I’ll leave you to your work then.”

She quietly slipped away and returned to Spike, who shot a dirty look at Xander.

“Well, at least we know he’s the rude type.” He said, hands upon hips.

Twilight shook her head. “He’s not rude, just pre-occupied. I used to be the same way, remember? We just need to give him time. He’ll open up eventually.”

*****

At the Ponyville Dam, the water passed from the reservoir above and through its turbines before emptying out into the river below, just as it did every day since the dam was first built.

But then something began to stir within the waters below the dam. The water spiraled into a small whirlpool before erupting into a large water devil.

From it emerged a humanoid creature endowed in a dark-blue robe like that of a wizard. It was green and frog-like with yellow slit eyes and a yellow beak for a mouth. Though its wizard hat concealed it, its head was concave like a bowl and was filled to the brim with water. And though its robe concealed it, his back had a shell like that of a turtle. In its slimy, webbed-hand grasp it held a wooden staff with a blue sapphire sitting atop it.

This creature was a kappa, and from his appearance, he was a wizard.

The kappa gazed upon the dam mischievously and raised his staff. From the sapphire a blue light was emitted into the clouds above, which soon turned dark. As he swiveled his staff in his hands, the clouds began to circle with it, growing darker and darker. From them roared thunder and crashed lightning as from them poured rain.

The creature cackled in amusement.

*****

The day passed as Twilight and Spike attended to the library. The clock struck 5 o’clock as they began stacking books back onto the shelves.

Xander closed his book and opened his pocket watch. It was indeed five o’clock: closing time for the library. He gazed out the window to see the rain and wind pounding against it, the sky outside darkened with storm clouds. He set aside his book and swept all his belongings into his satchel, which he then threw over his shoulder before stepping up from his chair and heading to the door.

He passed Twilight atop a ladder re-shelving a handful of books under her arm.

“Good Night, Xander,” she said.

Xander reached for the door before replying, “Night.”

Opening the library door, Xander let a gust of wind rush in, causing a paper from his satchel to fly onto the library floor. Twilight took notice of the paper upon putting away the last book, merely seconds after Xander had left. She walked over to pick it up and inspect it. The paper was clearly a page torn from an old book, as its tattered edges and dirty yellowish-brown color indicated. Upon it was a drawing of a crystal amulet hanging from a chain. The words written were of an unknown language, or at least unknown to Twilight.

She ran to the door and peered outside. She saw Xander fight against wind and rain, having already passed the tree outside. She rushed out after him, waving at him with the page in her hoof.

“Xander!” she called.

She had managed to catch his attention as he stopped and turned. Before Twilight could reach him, a lightning bolt intercepted them. Twilight gave a loud yelp as she recoiled backwards onto the ground. Picking herself out of the mud, she saw the nearby tree falling towards her.

Before Twilight could react, Xander rushed in front of her and stopped the tree with his magic. Straining under its pressure, he began pushing the tree back in place and used his magic to graft the fallen portion back on. He turned to Twilight and offered his hoof to pick her up.

“Xander,” she panted, both the fall and the shock having left her breathless. “You saved my life.”

“Don’t mention it,” Xander replied nonchalantly. He looked at the page Twilight was carrying. “I believe that’s mine.”

Twilight looked back and forth between Xander and the page, her mind still not straight after what had just happened.

“Oh yeah, this.” She handed the page to him. “You dropped it back in the library. Not from any book I know of.”

Xander accepted the page and stuffed it into his satchel. “It’s from an old book of mine, one that’s very important to me. Thanks.”

Before either of them could say another word, a pony donned in a yellow rain coat came barreling towards them. It was Applejack.

“Twilight!” she called out to them. “Every pony needs to come down to the river—quick! It’s an emergency!”

****

Every pony in Ponyville had gathered by the riverbank clad in yellow raincoats. They formed a single line as they passed sandbags to one another, stacking them into a wall along the river, its waters beginning to overcome its natural boundaries. Despite the wind and rain working against them, the ponies continued to fill and pass sandbags.

It was this scene that Twilight, Spike, Applejack, and Xander came rushing into to assist. They were all now clad in yellow raincoats—except Xander, who remained in his normal clothes.

“So what’s going on?” Twilight asked.

“It’s a flash flood!” Applejack replied. “We need to get these here sandbags up to keep the river from overflowing.”

“Oh my!” were the only words that passed Twilight's lips.

“You’re telling me,” Applejack continued. “But that ain’t the worst. There’s a lot of talk afoot about how this storm may cause the dam to overflow. It just can’t handle all this here rain and wind. Taint built for weather like this.”

Twilight then looked down to scratch her chin. “But then why would the Pegasus ponies create this weather?”

Those very words summoned Rainbow Dash to her side. “We didn’t! Not one pegasus planned on having any rain today—not even a shower. What's going on here is beyond our control.”

Xander gazed upriver toward the Everfree Forest where the dam stood. He noticed a circle of black clouds circling above it.

“Those clouds,” he uttered before racing up along the river towards the circling clouds.

“Xander?!” Twilight exclaimed before pursing him, and eventually running alongside him. “Where are you going?”

“Your friend said this storm wasn’t created by the Pegasi,” he said. “This isn’t a natural storm. Someone or something must be creating it.”

****

The wind and rain came crashing down the hardest near the dam, which leaked profusely as cracks ran alongside it and the water from above overflowed.

The kappa wizard remained floating in the air and laughed as he surveyed his handiwork. “Good, good. Just a little more wind and rain and the dam will completely collapse. Soon Ponyville will become Sea-Ponyville!”

“Not if I stop you first.” A voice yelled from behind him.

The wizard turned to see Xander and Twilight glaring at him from across the ravine.

“Who are you and what do you think you’re doing?” Xander demanded.

The wizard cracked a wicked grin as he faced them. “Oh me?” He placed his hand on his chest and gave a bow. “Why I’m the ever-so maniacal wizard, Squish. I was swimming up this river on my way home when I came across this dam. It was in my way, so I decided to destroy it.”

Xander sneered. “What type of hogwash is that?”

Squish placed one hand on his hip in dismay. “Oh, you don’t care for that explanation? How about this: I wanted to buy some real estate in Ponyville. The location is great, but the climate is too dry. So I decided to moisten things up a little.”

He shook his head. “Look, does it really matter why I’m doing this? I’m clearly evil.”

He pointed to the dam with his scepter. “And in any minute that dam will go bye-bye, along with all the ponies and the town downriver with it.”

Xander’s horn surged with a dark blue aura as he stood his ground, preparing for an attack. “Not if I stop you first.”

With a yell, he launched a fireball towards Squish, who countered with a shield of purple light, bouncing the fireball back.

Xander and Twilight leapt out of the way of the fireball as it hit the ravine, causing rock and debris to fall beneath their feet.

Xander took another shot at Squish with a lightning bolt attack, this time striking the wizard and sending him hurling back into the other side of the ravine and plummeting into the river below.

A few seconds underwater, and Squish reappeared from out of the river, his cloak soaking wet, but his face burning red hot.

“So you want to play hardball, eh?” he yelled, waving his fist and thrusting his staff forward. “I’ll show you hard—“

Before he could finish, he noticed as the dam began to give way, cracking and leaking more profusely.

“Grr, never mind.” He said, fluffing his cloak. “My deed is done. I’ll deal with you two next time.”

With that, Squish spun around like a tornado and disappeared in a puff of purple smoke.

The dam completely fissured in half and gave way as a surge of water sprang forth, destroying the front of the dam completely.

“The dam!” Twilight gasped.

Xander immediately dove into the ravine. Before he could splash into the water below, his entire body surged with a dark blue aura, causing him to levitate just above the surface. Using his magic, he held back all the water spilling forth from the collapsed dam. His face scrunched and his forehead creased and ran with sweat as he struggled under the sheer intensity.

His horn and body shone brighter as he pushed the water further and further back until it was back into the dam from whence it sprang forth. As his body shone even brighter, he opened his bloodshot eyes and scanned the river around him, finding broken bits of the dam. He closed his eyes once more, and with his magic, began picking up most of the broken pieces and setting them back in place, almost like a puzzle.

Twilight watched from above. She could barely believe that Xander could simultaneously rebuild the dam while holding back all that water. But she knew he couldn’t continue alone. She noticed him beginning to tire and wear out as his aura started to fade. If he stopped now, the dam, being incomplete, would only collapse again, causing the water to barrel back down the river, and taking Xander along with it.

She had to take action. Her horn glowing purple, she picked up the remainder of the broken dam pieces with her magic and set them back in place. In less than a minute, both she and Xander finished putting the dam back into place, and it stood good as new, almost as if it had never been tampered with.

Xander’s aura completely faded. Before he could fall unconscious into the river, a purple aura surrounded him, catching him and pulling him back up. Twilight placed him on her back.

The rain and wind soon ceased. It did not die down. It simply ceased. And the dark clouds above faded, leaving only the sun and blue sky. With Squish gone, so left his spell, and everything returned to normal.

****

Wrapped within the warmth and comfort of her purple bathrobe, Twilight stood before her fireplace and watched as the kettle hanging over the fire glowed red. Once a steady pillar of steam started billowing from its spout, she took the kettle off the fire and from it poured hot chocolate into three mugs. She offered one mug to Spike, who lay sprawled on the rug in front of the fireplace like a cat, and offered another to Xander, who sat in an armchair wrapped in a spare bathrobe.

Xander accepted his mug. “Thanks.”

“What you did back there was extremely brave, if not extremely foolish.” Twilight took a sip from her mug.

Xander smirked, having already taken a sip of his. “Trust me, I’ve been in far worse situations, and I managed to make it out alive.”

Twilight sauntered to an arm chair adjacent to Xander. “Well, you’d barely make it back to your house alive if I allow you to head back tonight. The rain may have stopped, but it’s still cold and damp out, and after all that time getting soaked in the wind, rain, and river, the last thing you need is a chance to catch pneumonia. Be thankful I brought you here to dry and warm up.”

Xander only continued smirking. “And I assume you want another thank you for that as well?”

Twilight gently shook her head. “No. But since we have some time together, I’d like to know what you’ve been researching her at my library for the past three days.”

Xander shrugged. “If you insist.”

His horn glowed as he took the torn page out of his satchel hanging from his armchair and passed it to Twilight.

“It’s the Amulet of Purity,” Xander said, “an ancient artifact of extraordinary power, older than the Elements of Harmony themselves. Not much is known about what it does exactly. Only a few ancient tomes and scrolls mention it, and they tell very little. I’ve been searching through every library in Equestria for information about it, and, well, let’s just say that search led me to this library here.”

Spike had stood up from his spot on the rug to sit next to Twilight and study the page for himself.

He turned to Xander. “Wow. This must really mean a lot to you.”

“In a way, it does.” Xander replied. “My father dedicated his whole life to finding it—that is, until his life ended.”

Twilight shot her gaze at Xander. “He died?”

“Killed, actually,” Xander replied.

Twilight covered her mouth and quietly gasped.

Xander hung his head. “I remember that night all too well. Some thug broke into our house, burned it down, and killed my father. That page is the only thing that remained. Ever since then, I’ve spent my life trying to finish what my father started by finding that amulet. I don’t even care about keeping it or anything. I don’t even care what it does. What matters most is finding it and fulfilling my father’s legacy.”

Spike raised his eyebrow. “And how close are you to accomplishing that.”

“At this point, the details are still fuzzy.” Xander rested his chin upon his hoof. “But I have a feeling I’m getting closer.”

Twilight returned the page back to Xander. “Well, feel free to stay as long as you need to. And I’ll be happy to offer my assistance.”

She gleefully placed her hoof on her bosom. “Research is my specialty.”

Xander smirked. “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t need any pony’s help. I’m perfectly capable on my own.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Really now? If it wasn’t for me, you’d be in a watery grave by now. I knew you were getting tired back there and couldn’t hold back that water any longer, let alone rebuild that dam. I had to step in and help.”

Xander merely closed his eyes and shirked Twilight off. “Well, it’s not like I asked for it. I told you I’ve been in worse situations.”

Twilight glared at him for a second, but decided to stop there. The last thing she needed was a heated argument.

She stood out of her chair and calmly made her way to the stairs, Spike following behind her.

“It’s getting late,” she said. “I’m heading to bed. Feel free to sleep on the couch. Sorry if offered my help if you didn’t ask for it.”

Xander said nothing.

Twilight and Spike made their way upstairs and into the bedroom.

“Xander’s a cool guy,” Spike commented. “But he’s awfully stubborn. Not too friendly either.”

Twilight shook her head gently. “Yes, but I was just like that, once.”

****

Moonlight shone through the stain glass windows of a throne room, illuminating the dais situated within it. Upon that dais sat a throne, and upon that throne sat a tall, slender mare, her figure shrouded in the throne’s shadow. The only other feature of hers that was visible were her red glowing eyes.

A plume of purple smoke exploded in the room’s center. The smoke dissipated to reveal Squish, who knelt as he approached the mare upon her throne.

“My mistress, I have finally located the whereabouts of the colt,” he said with his head bowed in reverence. “I managed to draw him out with my magic, of course.”

The mare nodded.

“Excellent,” she replied in a voice as cool as ice. “The artifact he is searching for is precisely what we need, so it is imperative that we monitor him at all costs. Time is drawing near, and soon the Dark Stallion will return in all his glory to reclaim what is rightfully ours.”

****

Dash: Hey it’s me, Rainbow Dash! Wow, that pegasus came out of nowhere. Good thing I was around to save him, otherwise he would have been a pancake. Say, I never got your name.

Sky Wind: My name is Sky Wind, and I’m afraid that’s all I can remember.

Dash: You mean you can’t remember a thing? Well don’t sweat it! I’ll make sure you get your memories back in ten seconds flat.

Next time on My Little Pony: “My Name Is Sky Wind. I Remember Nothing Else!”

Hey, did anyone ever tell you you’re kind of cute?

*****

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and characters © Hasbro and Lauren Faust
Xander © Me
Skywind © ex626AKAKeon
Ninja Star © ninjaninjanoob23

Voice Credits

Twilight Sparkle .......................Tara Strong
Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy................Andrea Libman
Applejack, Rainbow Dash.........Ashleigh Ball
Rarity, Princess Luna................Tabitha St. Germain
Princess Celestia......................Nicole Oliver
Cathy Weseluck.......................Spike
Xander.....................................Vic Mignogna
Sky Wind..................................Jason Griffith
Ninja Star.................................Dave Wittenberg
Squish......................................Samuel Vincent
Swoosh....................................Derek Stephen Prince
Slash........................................Roger Labon Jackson
Shadow Mare...........................Susanne Blakeslee
Black Stallion............................Ron Perlman