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[The Glade] Heart of a Warrior [Closed]


Dio
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Argent Rook pumped his legs harder, going from hard trot to full-on gallop. The ancient trees of the forest blew past him, a twisted kaleidoscope of leaves, branches, fireflies, and moonbeams. Deeper and deeper into the forest he ran, not seeming to slow down one bit, until finally he arrived. The branching trail opened up into a large clearing, easily the size of Ponyville town square, filled only with knee-high meadow grass.

Rook stepped into the pool of moonlight, breathing deep lung-fulls of night air. The grey unicorn shivered against the chill. He was free of his usual appointments; no cloak, no saddlebags, no knife, and most strikingly of all, no shemagh. In the glint of moonlight, he hardly looked equine at all, the smooth coat that grew in place of a mane giving him an almost reptilian profile.

The unicorn stopped as he arrived at the center of the clearing. With a deep breath, he closed his eyes and concentrated. His horn began to glow a faint blue, growing in intensity as he reached out with his mind to grasp the invisible threads of aether that pervaded Equestria. A glowing line of bluish-purple swept Rook's body from horn to tail, vanishing just as quickly as it had appeared. Rook gritted his teeth against what he knew was coming.

His skin began to itch as bony, jet-black nodules began to grow over top of his coat. Barely the size of pinheads at first, the small bumps grew quickly, expanding into interlocking scales not unlike those of a black dragon. The pearlescent scales shimmered in the glow of the moon as they continued to grow. His horn took on the sheen of polished steel and his hooves could have passed for cast iron. His eyes glazed over with a smoky grey film that fluoresced blue under the sudden charge of aether. Finally, his white tail shriveled up, replaced by a stout dragonscale bob.

The transformation was complete. Inside his adamantine shell, Rook exhaled slowly, the blast of breath coming as a muffled sigh through the arcane firewall between his mind and body. He rotated his shoulder joints and cracked his neck, testing his mobility by stomping around in the gently waving grass. Everything seemed to be in order.

The armored unicorn closed his eyes for a moment before beginning. Almost faster than the eye could follow, he lunged forward with his horn, a lethal blow to an imaginary enemy. Rook flicked his horn as if slashing a foe across the chest, then did an abrupt about-face, digging his metallic hooves into the soft earth to gain traction. Two steps later, he was away, charging quickly in the opposite direction. His heart pounded in his chest in sync with the rhythm of his hooves against ancient earth.

'Magic doesn't make you indestructible,' she said, her voice suddenly softening.

'Stop worrying about me. I'll be fine,' Rook replied. He added, with less bombast, 'I'll always come back for you.'

'Promise?'

'I promise.'

'I kept my promise,' Rook grunted as he spun around and delivered a swift buck with his hind legs to another imaginary foe. The unicorn stopped as his hind hooves hit the ground with a resounding crash, making the meadow grass ripple outwards as if he'd just stomped the surface of the water in a pond. In the still of the deep forest, the sound seemed to echo forever, both in his ears and his heart.

The unicorn's next breaths came through labored and ragged. It never got any easier. Certainly he was strong of body and even stronger of mind. He had fought Griffons, manticores, bears, wolves; matched wits with crime kingpins, drill sergeants, even a Griffon patriarch. He knew he was strong. Why, then, did he feel so weak?

'I'm sorry,' he whispered.

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