The arena was silent as the grave as Celestia and Nightmare Moon stared each other down. The pair had met on the battlefield before, but things were not the same. Without the Elements of Harmony, Celestia would have to rely on her own power. At the same time her sister, her real sister, looked on from a distance, while the black mare before her was a corrupt shadow from another, parallel Equestria. Thus, Celestia would receive no aid, but also wouldn't have to hold back.
Nightmare Moon was the first to charge, and Celestia quickly followed suit. The pair galloped at one another, magic charged in their horns. They prepared to clash, but at the last moment Nightmare Moon transformed into her blue cloud, and dissipated through Celestia. She then reformed behind the sun princess, and unleashed a surge of lighting.
The crackling strands of electricity ripped apart the arena floor as they screamed towards Celestia. As the lightning approached its target, Celestia just managed to turn in time to see the spell coming. She could not physically dodge, but instead called on her magic and vanished in a teleportation spell. Nightmare Moon watched as her lighting slammed into the spectator benches, gritting her teeth in aggravation. She tossed her head around, failing to find Celestia anywhere nearby. Then, she had a thought, and turned her gaze upward.
Celestia had teleported herself high above the arena floor, and then entered into a fast free-fall. Nightmare Moon was only just able to jump clear as Celestia crashed down like a meteor, her hooves slamming against the ground with such force it cracked under the strain.
"You're faster than I remember, but not smarter," Nightmare Moon said with a laugh. "You tried to attack me the same way last time we fought. Poor, predictable Cel-"
Nightmare Moon’s voice stopped as a blinding light blasted out of the ground beneath her, striking her square in the stomach, and sending her tumbling through the air. She landed with a thud several feet over. The blow knocked the wind from Nightmare Moon's lungs, but she scrambled back to her hooves all the same.
She turned her gaze to where she had been standing, looking at the large hole that had been blown in the coliseum floor. From there, Celestia climbed into view while the one that had dropped from the sky faded away.
“Perhaps you have managed to learn a few new tricks, you old horse, but that won't be enough. I know you Celestia, and you are not a fighter. You lack the aggression and brutality. You could have done me in with that attack, but you’re too timid…” Nightmare boasted.
Celestia softened her eyes. “You’re right Nightmare Moon. I’m not a fighter. It is not in my nature to hurt anypony, even one who seeks to vanquish me.” Celestia's gaze hardened and her horn flared with magic. "But if I have no choice in the matter, then I will fight with everything I have!"
The search of the royal library had been fruitless. Twilight and her friends had spent hours combing the shelves. They had found a plethora of information about Equestrian history and significant ponies, but nothing on the mysterious alicorn Grimveil.
“Ugh. We’ve been searching forever!” Rainbow Dash complained. “If I have to read another book I think my head’ll explode.”
"I know," Twilight agreed, rubbing her temples. "I'm at my limit too, and we're running out of relevant books. I still can't believe we haven't found anything."
“What are we gonna do?” Fluttershy asked. “There’s no other Library in Equestria with a collection of books like these. If we can't find out about that scary pony here, where else could we look?”
Twilight stepped away from her book, pacing the floor to try and vent her pent up frustration. Fluttershy was right. Canterlot Castle had the largest library in Equestria and contained the oldest books. If they were to discover the mystery behind Grimveil, assuming there was a mystery at all, where else could that information possibly be? Her head began to spin. There were numerous libraries across Equestria, but she doubted any of them would have what they were looking for.
“Hey, why don’t we look in the old Library?” Pinkie Pie stated, her face buried in a book.
“What do you mean ‘Old Library’?” Twilight asked as she moved over beside Pinkie Pie, the others following. She took the book Pinkie was looking in, looked to the page Pinkie had been on, and began to read. The passage mentioned the old castle of the Royal Pony Sisters.
“Although the castle itself was a magnificent example of great architecture, one of the crown jewels of the castle itself had to be the Royal Library. It contained thousands upon thousands of books, dating back to the ancient times long before the Founding of Equestria. However, when Celestia decreed that Canterlot would be the new capital, she ordered that the old library be preserved with all of its contents and not moved to the new capital. To this day the library is presumed to still remain, although nobody knows what condition the library is in after a thousand years.”
After finishing the passage, Twilight closed the book to look at the cover. It was titled ‘Great Structures of Equestria’, a book they decided to skip over since they didn’t believe it would contain anything useful.
“Pinkie, how did you know to look in this book?” Twilight asked.
“Well we were looking through all the other books and I got bored so I decided to look through some other books and I noticed all the pretty pictures in this one. Then I came across the old castle on this page, and realized it was that old castle where the elements were, and I suddenly remembered we were there! So I started reading and then I came across this passage and now we’re going to the old library!” Pinkie ranted out in her usual hyperactive tone, hopping about the library.
While it took Twilight a moment to process everything Pinkie Pie had said, she completely agreed with her friend’s logic. She looked to the others, and waved a hoof. "Come on girls, she's right! We got to get to the Everfree Forest!"
In stiff formation, the Royal Guard flew out across the skies of Equestria. Pegasi en mass flew alongside airships loaded down with unicorn and earth pony guards. Together, the force represented the largest deployment of the royal guard in centuries, and every soldier had but one mission: to besiege Grimveil's coliseum.
The royal guard, however, would not take the coliseum so easily. As they approached, Grimveil's own army mobilized. Lead by Captain Shank Spear, the alicorn soldiers positioned themselves in front of the oncoming royal guard.
“Did Lord Grimveil not instruct that everypony stay away from the coliseum?" Captain Shank Spear asked, projecting his voice out with a great, booming tone. "This will be your one and only warning. You have five minutes to comply."
Shank Spear turned away from the on-coming army, and glanced at his lieutenant, Silver Chevron. "If they do not comply, you know what to do."
“Sir, yes sir.” The Lieutenant replied sharply.
The five minutes were over quickly, and the Equestrian army refused to retreat. They were determined to rescue the princesses and were prepared to die in the process. With the blare of a horn, the Royal Guard launched their attack.
The Pegasi Squadrons were the first to reach the alicorn Guard, but they never even touched them. The barrier that had been cast by Grimveil deflected every pegasus pony that rammed it, and sent them spinning backwards through the air. Seeing their fellows unable to breach the barrier, the war balloons turned hard and came to a stop just outside the magical shield. Then, the earth ponies and unicorns began their volley. Arrows and magic spells began falling against the coliseum's barrier with a heavy barrage. Still, the barrier remained unscathed and unbroken.
As if their ultimate defense was not enough, the alicorn guards joined in the coliseums defense. They charged their horns, and then released shots of energy. The shots themselves were not targeted at the attacking ponies, but instead the war balloons. The shots pierced the delicate fabric of the balloons, and set them ablaze. The pegasi had to relent from their attack on the barrier, swooping to rescue their comrades from the falling death-traps their war balloons had become.
The war balloons crashed into the ground and erupted into multiple fireballs. The Unicorn soldiers were hastily using their magic to quell the flames in an attempt to rescue the soldiers who were unable to be saved beforehand.
In all, it took only a few brief minutes for the all-out attack on the coliseum to be squashed by the small force of defending alicorns. Never had any of Equestria’s soldiers seen or been a part of such a humiliating defeat.
They, however, could not linger on the defeat. The commanders of the army called for a full retreat, and the army quickly turned tail to flee back to Canterlot. In the retreating army's wake, Lieutenant Silver Chevron boomed out a final warning.
“Consider this only a warning. If you attempt this again, we will kill all who approach… consider yourselves lucky that we decided to let you all live…”
Strangely enough, no soldier had in fact died in the wreckages. They were all pulled to safety, and although harboring numerous injuries, they were all alive. Grimveil’s alicorn army had strategically placed the shots to allow the balloons to stay afloat long enough for every soldier to be rescued.
Inside the coliseum, the battle between Celestia and Nightmare Moon had evolved into a brutal brawl. Celestia was battered and bruised, but she had put up a good fight. Nightmare Moon was in a similar, worn down state, injured from the blows Celestia had landed and exhausted from her efforts.
The arena itself suffered the most from the battle. As the two alicorns bucked, checked, and fought each other with their magic, the arena took on more and more scars of battle.
“I didn’t think you had this much potential, dear sister.” Nightmare Moon mocked.
Celestia breathed heavily. She indeed had never put out so much energy before. Furthermore, she still couldn’t even believe she was fighting so willingly. Violence was not in her nature at all, yet here she was locked in horrible combat.
"Potential or not, it's time I ended this," Nightmare Moon continued to mock, noticing Celestia’s worn state. “I shall succeed here where my... counterpart failed. I shall wipe you, your student, and her friends from this world, and claim it as my own. I shall rule both this Equestria and my own with an iron hoof, and all shall know the night eternal!” Nightmare Moon finished her speech with an evil laugh, only slightly hindered by her exhaustion. Celestia however, felt a spark inside her.
"No, you shall not take this Equestria. You were defeated here, in this world, not once but twice, and today I shall defeat you again. You shall not threaten me, my kingdom, my student, or my sister again!" Celestia shouted, accompanied by a large surge of magic in her horn.
Before Nightmare Moon could react, shackles made of energy had formed around her ankles and hooves. She tried to break free, but her efforts were fruitless. She tried to morph into her cloud form, but was unable to do so, as it was blocked by the magic of the shackles. She then looked up to see several dozen swords made of light floating around her. She looked back at Celestia, who had a dark expression on her face. Celestia’s horn then flashed brightly as the swords lunged out, striking and enveloping Nightmare Moon in a bright flash of light.
Grimveil looked on in amazement. He had gotten so caught up into the fight that his mind had blanked at the sight of such a gorgeous combat maneuver. As the flash dissipated though, he was surprised to find Nightmare Moon was still alive. The swords were not meant to kill, but only to subdue. Nightmare Moon laid defeated on the arena floor, barely conscious. Grimveil stood from his seat and pounded the ground with his hooves in applause.
“A marvelous first battle!” he shouted in excitement. “I can only hope the rest are able to match up like such. You did well Celestia, and even managed to maintain my no-killing rule. You are a far more fearsome warrior than I would have believed."
Celestia, whose gaze had softened to reflect her regret of actually succumbing to combat, quickly turned to Grimveil, unleashing the harshest of looks. Without saying a word, she turned her back on him, and limped off the arena floor. She had never felt such resentment.
Grimveil responded to Celestia's cold shoulder with a sinister smile and a light chuckle. He then turned to look at the defeated Nightmare Moon.
"Send her and Celestia to the infirmary," he told a nearby guard. "I want them ready to battle again as soon as possible."
Sundown had finally arrived, and Twilight and her friends were already well into the Everfree Forest. They soon found themselves outside the old castle of the Royal Pony Sisters.
“Alright girls, somewhere in these ruins is the old library. Let’s fan out and start looking.” Twilight ordered.
The six ponies dispersed throughout the castle remains and began searching every nook and cranny for what could be, or could be an entry to, the old library. Twilight herself looked back at the enormous coliseum floating miles away.
“Don’t worry Princess. We’re coming…” she said quietly to herself before joining the others.