War’s favorite thing was fire. No question about it.
Fire was so pure. Easy to start, but almost impossible to control. Like anypony, it had the potential for destruction, but also the potential for life. It could heal, but it could also destroy. It gave her hope, and hope was something that War, of all ponies, needed right now.
War rarely saw hope anymore. She saw no hope in the fire she was looking at, the flame that now consumed the building she saw before her. The fire reached higher than the roof of the decrepit city hall of...what town was it?
War looked around and saw a newspaper floating in the breeze. The wind had the generosity of placing it at her feet.
The Appeloosan Times. That’s right, Appeloosa. Spark was always bad at remembering things like that...
War cursed herself. She always used that name for herself.
My name is War, she told herself. I’m not Spark. Not anymore.
This had always been the hardest part for Spark.
Damn. War. Not Spark.
She wouldn't admit how hard it was to her companions, though. They might doubt her. Should they? War had no answer for that.
She looked behind her, and saw Death, sword in tow, approaching. Her face hadn’t changed, even with all the killing. The skull-face still remained as stoic as ever. Her freshly bloodsoaked hoove-claws and sword were the only indication that she had been in battle, or that anything had changed.
She approached and stopped, and began to briefing War about her progress. Her deep voice echoed through the empty street
“All of the ponies hiding in the orchards have been dealt with. Famine and Pestilence have decimated the surrounding areas, though nopony had any relevant information pertaining to our target.”
So they all died for nothing.
Had War seen this all before she took the mantle, she would likely have been horrified. She would have ran, tried to find help, or something useless like that.
But at this point, she was numb to it all. The ponies, to her, were just faces. War had no time to listen to their screams and cries for mercy. She had a mission, and she was going to see it through. All these ponies have died for a great and noble cause, and their sacrifice will not be forgotten.
That’s what they told her, but War wasn’t so sure she believed it anymore. She wasn’t sure what she believed anymore.
But then again, what were her choices?
“Very well, then. We will proceed to the next town.” War’s tone was dry, indifferent, like Death’s. “How far is that town from Canterlot?”
“Not far.” Death replied quickly and without prejudice. No added commentary, no excitement about their fast-approaching goal, no feeling. It chilled War to the bone.
Death slowly turned, and went to find the other heralds for their long journey.
Soon, War was, once again, alone. She felt alone. It was only her, and the flame of hopelessness.
She had to stop. This was her life now. She was supposed to be dedicated to her mission. Equestria will be reborn.
“I will see this through...” she uttered. But to her dismay, she didn’t sound as confident as she had hoped.
War stood with Death, Famine, and Pestilence. Famine stepped forward, her beady eyes darting back and forth. War almost had to back away. Famine was as stringy as ever. In a way, she looked more dead than Death. Her belly was almost hollow, and her gray hide clung to her bones. Where War’s mane was a bright red, Famine’s was a pale yellow, and seemed to be falling out.
Famine spoke with a raspy, sickly voice.
“This raid was a waste of our time! We learned nothing about the pony we seek!”
She looked directly at Pestilence, the one who had proposed the raid.
Pestilence’s appearance was even more unsettling. While Famine looked like she was near death, Pestilence looked like she had already been dead for years. Her yellow flesh was rotting and falling off. While War wore pieces of armor on her head and hooves, the only thing Pestilence wore were bandages meant to keep her from falling apart. The thing that War was most disturbed by, though, was her eyes. Pestilence’s eyes were empty and lifeless.
When War looked into them, it was almost as if they were reflecting back at her. They were showing her the extent of her sins. Killing didn’t faze War, as she was always in the heat of the moment and had been killing since their quest began, but the almost grating reflection in Pestilence’s eyes tormented her as long as she had known Pestilence. War turned away.
Pestilence began to defend herself. Her voice was monotonous. It had just as much life as her eyes.
“We do not know her location. We had to look everywhere. At least we know she is not here.”
Famine scoffed. She was acting angry, as if she had hated the raid. War knew the truth, though. She knew that there was no need for a raid in the first place. Nopony showed it when Pestilence had proposed it, but all of them, even Death knew that their target wasn’t going to be there. Death would’ve sensed the target if it was there. War knew why they decided to raid Appleoosa anyways. The same reason they had killed so many others. It was fun, and it gave Equestria a glimpse at the ponies who would change it forever. That only made the knot in War’s stomach tighter.
War knew, though, that Famine didn’t regret the raid. None of them regretted it.
Everyone looked at Death, who had just spoken. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The wind began to pick up, and seemed to swirl around Death, pushing up her dark, wispy hair. Everyone knew what this meant. While they had no real leader, everypony knew that their master, the driving force behind the quest, only communicated through Death.
Death soon opened her eyes.
“We are close...”
Famine smiled, Pestilence bowed, and War stifled a shiver.
Death began to walk towards the exit of town. Death spoke once more.
“We now know who and where our target is.”
The heralds began to walk with her. For a moment, there was only silence. It was Famine who broke it once they started on their way.
“Who is our target? Where is she?”
Death took a moment before she responded.
“Her name is Twilight Sparkle, and she resides in Ponyville.”
War could only hope that, whatever Twilight Sparkle was doing, she was prepared for the storm that was coming.
The trouble started months ago. That was when Twilight remembered the first paper. The headline stared back like a ghost.
SMALL TOWN DESTROYED IN LARGE SCALE MASSACRE!
The newspaper sat on her table as she looked back at it. Rainbow Dash, who had brought the paper, only looked at Twilight as she read. It wasn’t a large town. Barely noticeable on a map. What was noticeable, though, was the carnage. The story said that everypony in the town was killed. Not a soul was left. Nopony knows who would have, who could have, done it. Twilight kept trying to say something, but she couldn’t. A lump in her throat formed, and she could hardly swallow. Twilight tried to think, but all she saw was the image of the dead.
Rainbow Dash finally broke the silence.
“Twilight...are you okay..?” Rainbow Dash sounded unsure of herself.
It took a few moments for the question to register with Twilight, but she eventually nodded. The newspaper stared back at her, the ruins of the town in the photo seemingly mocking her.
That night, Twilight didn’t sleep. She lay in bed, but she stayed awake, thinking. She trembled a little. The town had been small, but it wasn’t too far from Ponyville.
What if whoever did this came here? Twilight couldn’t sleep with questions like those in her head.
Twilight tried closing her eyes, but sleep didn’t come. She opened her eyes in frustration. She needed answers, fast. She got out of bed and walked out of her room. Her hoofsteps echoed through the hall. She came up to Spike, sound asleep. For a moment, she just looked at him. He too had been rocked by the news, but he was still able to get a little shut-eye. Twilight envied him, in a way.
She put her hoof on him, and began prodding him slightly.
“Spike, wake up. I need you to send Princess Celestia a letter.”
Spike groaned. He never liked being woken up, even at a time like this. Twilight eventually got him to awaken.
He looked up, and rubbed his eyes.
“A letter..? At this hour? Twilight, she’ll probably be asleep at this hour.”
Twilight wouldn’t relent.
“I don’t care. Even if she isn’t awake, I just need to know that she’ll get it as soon as possible. Please, Spike. I need answers.”
“You mean about the...”
Spike trailed off. Twilight simply nodded.
Twilight began pacing, leaving Spike to go and gather the parchment and quill.
“Dear Princess Celestia...” she began.
Twilight began listing through what she wanted to know. She wanted to know who had done this, why they had, and if Celestia knew if Ponyville was safe.
Not five minutes later, just as Twilight was going back to bed, a reply came. Twilight wasted no time reading it.
Celestia still didn’t know who had done it, much less why.
“‘The castle is on high alert,’” Twilight read aloud. “‘We’ve prepared ourselves for the worst, but we know they aren’t anywhere near Canterlot. Soldiers have been sent to the town to see if they could find anything that could lead us to the killers. Shining Armor is frantic, trying to find a way to keep them away from Ponyville.’”
Even now, Shining Armor is trying to protect me. Twilight thought. Of course, there were other reasons for protecting Ponyville, but Twilight knew the two ponies he would want to protect most: Cadance, who was in Canterlot, and Twilight, in Ponyville.
Twilight went on.
“‘All we really know is that this isn’t the work of just one pony. It couldn’t be, and there are no signs that it may be something that isn’t a pony, from what we were told by the ponies already at the scene of the massacre. In truth, that really is all we know. I’ll try to tell you when more information comes, but I don’t know if you’ll like it when we do.’”
Twilight walked briskly through Ponyville, her bag full of new supplies for her continued studies. The town was different, though. No one smiled. Several held the week’s newest paper. The headline still chilled Twilight.
THIRD TOWN DESTROYED IN KILLING SPREE
It had been two weeks since she had first written Princess Celestia. The second attack had shaken the town. Unlike the first attack, some of the Ponyville pones knew the ones who lived in the second town. The town wasn’t any larger than the first, but what was important was that it was closer to Ponyville. The third was got ever closer. Everypony was fidgety. The slightest disturbance would shake the locals to their very core. As Twilight walked through town, she saw that in their eyes.
It was when Twilight returned home that she received an update from Princess Celesta.
Celestia said that the killers movements were sporadic at best. They didn’t really seem to be discriminate on where they attacked, but any town they go through, they destroy.
“I’ve agreed to send soldiers to Ponyville and a few other surrounding towns,” the letter read. “It was all I could do to keep Shining Armor from running to Ponyville himself. He is needed here, but he wants so bad to protect you that he’s becoming rash. I hope the deployed soldiers will calm him, if even just slightly.”
Twilight prayed as she read it that, somehow, this would be stopped.
The soldiers arrived on the same day as the next story did. Twilight looked out her window on that day. Everypony’s shoulders sagged. Their eyes were shifty, and they hardly looked anypony in the eye. On every street corner was a soldier, ready to jump into action at any moment. The breezed carried a newspaper. Twilight didn’t need to get a clear view to know what it said. It’s headline stuck out in her mind.
APPLEOOSA DESTROYED! IS PONYVILLE NEXT?
The first pony Twilight visited when she saw the headline was Applejack. Everyone in Ponyville knew that the Apple's had family and an orchard in Appleoosa. Twilight hadn’t been the only pony to try to visit her, but they were all turned away. Big Macintosh turned everyone away. Twilight pleaded with him, but he refused to let her in. As Twilight looked out her window, she began to think.
Why would anypony do this? Who would be so cruel?
Celestia’s next letter was short. Asking her if she wanted to come to Canterlot for her safety. She decided against it. She wanted to be there with her friends. The only other thing the letter said was that Twilight should prepare for the worst. More soldiers were scheduled to be sent to protect several towns, but they wouldn’t arrive for a few days.
Twilight prayed they would arrive in time.
War’s heart sank when Death had told them that they were going to Ponyville.
Of all places, why Ponyville? she thought to herself.
She hadn’t been to Ponyville in years. Too many memories. Not all of them good. But it was the good memories that seemed to haunt her the most. All those memories.
War shook it off. Of all things, don’t think about that.
The heralds had been traveling since leaving Appleoosa. They first had to travel through the desert. As they traveled, War took in the scenery and moment of peace that always seemed fleeting. The desert offered little scenery to some, but not to War. She always noticed things others overlooked. She had always been amazed by the way the land seemed to stretch on forever. Other than that, there was little else to see. Some cactus, an animal scurrying around, the occasional skull of a poor animal that failed to survive...
That was one thing she often forgot. Ever since taking up the mantle of War, she hadn’t the need to eat, sleep, drink, or rest. The only pain she ever felt was either from the blade of a sword or the doubt that stabbed at her heart. War thought about just how desperate the poor creature may have been for such an ability when the alternative was death. War wondered if it had suffered.
Why was she thinking this?
She wasn’t cruel, like the others. Why does she want to know how the creature suffered? Or maybe she was that cruel, only she was cursed with the conscious to realize how evil she really was. War rode on, frightened by herself, now more than ever.
Twilight was more than surprised when Applejack appeared at Sugarcube Corner. Twilight was with everyone else, trying to enjoy a fresh batch of cupcakes. With everything that had been happening, there was very little time to relax, yet no pony seemed to take advantage of it when the moment came. Rainbow Dash seemed tenser than ever before, Rarity was busy thinking how to persuade Applejack to come out of hiding, while Pinkie Pie tried desperately to get a smile out of somepony. Her target at the moment was Fluttershy, who she was trying to cheer up with a cupcake to no avail. That was when Applejack entered. Everypony was stunned, and even Pinkie stopped talking to see what Applejack would do.
As if she didn’t notice them, Applejack went to the corner of the shop closest to the door and sat at the nearest table. Normally, this would be Pinkie’s cue to run up to her and offer her the latest baked good, but Applejack had no smile, and it didn’t look as if one would easily come. Her face seemed frozen into a scowl.
No one spoke, even though there were other ponies in the shop trying to enjoy their food. Everypony’s gaze was squarely fixed on Applejack. Sensing this, Applejack only spoke a few words, but the words resounded louder than she may have meant them to.
“Alright, everypony, I know what y’all thinkin’. I might as well say this now. I ain't answering any questions about what happened. What happened is Apple family business, and that’s final.”
For a moment, there was silence. Then, slowly, the other ponies resumed their conversations, though many switched their topics to Applejack.
Applejack let out a defeated sigh.
Twilight and her friends were still looking at Applejack, afraid to miss the next thing she may say.
The longer they looked, the longer Applejack’s frown grew.
After a few moments, she had had enough.
She whipped towards them and yelled, “Quit starin’ at me!”
The shop instantly returned to silence as ponies turned to see Applejack’s burst of anger. Applejack looked around to see the faces of those staring at her. She looked back at her friends. She sighed, and stood up. Motioning to her friends, she said, “Come on, I might as well answer a few questions if that will put your minds at ease...”
She walked out, and Twilight and the others soon followed.
Twilight emerged out to a solemn-looking Applejack as she waited for the others to emerge from the shop. The group waited until ponies in the area and patrolling soldiers had walked away.
Applejack looked up, and waited.
“Well? Ask away.”
No one responded.
For a moment, there was silence. Nopony seemed to want to test Applejack.
Finally, it was Twilight who spoke.
“All I want to know is...Applejack...are you okay...?” Her voice seemed to trail off.
Applejack looked up, as if she was surprised by the question, or perhaps, the type of question. Applejack soon responded,
“Yeah, I’m all right... Big Macintosh told me that I needed to get out of the house and see somepony. That’s when I came here...”
Twilight was put to ease, if only slightly. Applejack waited, expecting more questions. Nopony spoke.
Applejack sighed, and started again.
“Listen everypony, I’m sorry I yelled in there...I just...” she trailed off.
Twilight didn’t need her to go on.
Rainbow Dash stepped forward, and asked, “How is everypony else at Sweet Apple Acres? Applebloom? Granny Smith..?”
Applejack was quick to respond.
“Applebloom is okay. She didn’t know most of the ponies livin’ there too well. Granny Smith is...” she hesitated. “She won’t talk to anypony. Not even me or Big Macintosh. She’s known most of those ponies for years...”
Silence returned, but Twilight was quick to break it.
“Well, I’m glad you’re finally out and about, Applejack.” Twilight smiled, and tried making eye contact with Applejack.
Applejack looked up, and tried to form at least the inklings of a smile.
Rarity beamed and began to change the subject.
“Well then, I’m sure that Applejack will want to catch up on the latest in Ponyville. I hate to leave on such short notice, but even now, I have a heap of orders to fill out and-”
Screams. Loud piercing screams.
All six of them turned towards the source, towards the town hall. Twilight was the first to run down towards town hall. She looked back, and soon the others were hot on her tail, along with at least five soldiers who also heard the screams. The screams only got louder as they approached closer to the source.
As they turned a corner, they were met by a large crowd of ponies, some running away, and some just standing, looking at something Twilight couldn’t spot. She had to force her way through. Many ponies seemed transfixed at what they saw, some in horror, and some in awe.
Twilight looked back, and saw her friends were having similar trouble with the crowd. She went back to help them, just as Fluttershy collided with a large group of ponies.
Twilight helped her up, and asked, “Are you okay?”
Fluttershy nodded slowly. The others had been able to pull themselves through the crowd.
Twilight looked and saw that the soldiers we’re also having trouble trying to get through the crowd. The din of the chaotic mass deafened Twilight to the soldiers’ screams for order. Soon, however, everypony that was planning on running had done so, but a large crowd still had stood. Oddly, none of them were on the other side of the street. Twilight began to push her way through again. Once she had gotten to the front, she realized why so many ponies had ran.
There were four ponies walking towards the crowd. As they got closer, the crowd almost simultaneously, slowly backed away, but only a few steps.
The four newcomers were finally close enough for Twilight to make them out. She immediately wished she hadn’t.
They were gruesome and fierce-looking, shaking Twilight to her core.
Except for one.
Their faces showed no emotion, and only reflected back faces of contempt and indifference.
Except for one.
The first one was easily the most gruesome. Twilight could tell she was a mare, but just barely. Her yellowish flesh was tearing, and only bandages kept parts of them in place. Her eyes were lifeless and white. Her hair was stringy and mangled. Her cutie mark was of an insect, squashed and dead.
The second one, another mare, was not as fearsome, but was chilling still. Her gray hide clung to her bones, and her hair was falling in clumps. Her eyes were jumpy, not concentrating on any one pony for more than a few seconds. They gave a look of distrust. Her cutie mark was that of a scale.
The third, another mare, has wispy black hair, almost like Luna’s or Nightmare Moon’s. Her hooves had sharp claws attached to them made out of, what looked like, bone. Her face looked like it was just a skull, and her wings were that of a bat instead of a pegasus. Her eyes were stoic, and focused on nothing but the crowd as a whole, not any one pony. Her cutie mark was simple; it was of a skull.
The last one was...different.
Another mare, and just as fearsome, but there was something different. Her mane was fire-red, and she wore bronze armor on her hooves and head. Running across her face, through her eye, and down the length of her neck was a bright red line.
What was different was her eyes. They weren’t stoic, dead, or jumpy. They seemed alive, and they seemed sad. It was subtle, but Twilight could tell it was there.
Twilight looked around and saw hat soldiers had gotten to the front of the crowd, their swords and spears at the ready.
Then, the one decorated with skulls spoke with a booming voice that chilled Twilight to the bone.
“Greetings, Ponyville. You have something we want. Should you choose to hand it over without resistance, we may choose to...pass through this town with what we came here for. If not...”
She didn’t finish. She didn’t have to, for one thing that everyone noticed was that, on each of their flanks, hung a sword.
War was never one for theatrics.
Why can’t Death just hurry along? she thought. We know she’s here already...
War looked up at the crowd gathered to get a glimpse of the new arrivals. Nopony seemed especially interesting. War wished that Death had told them what their target looked like so they could spot her easily. The faster they found her, the faster they could leave, and War wanted to leave very badly.
Simply looking around, War found places for her memories to return to haunt her. Not to mention they were near city hall, the place everyone gathered during Winter Wrap Up. Spark never forgot her first time.
Damn, it’s getting worse. The longer they were here, it seemed, the more often she was using that name.
“We only want the pony we seek. Give her to us, and I swear that no harm will come to you or your town. It would be disappointing if-”
“Just who the heck are you, and what-I mean-WHO do you want?”
Death was taken off guard by the interruption. War looked at the crowd, and saw a pegasus fly over the crowd. She knew that it was this pegasus that had just spoken over Death. She had a rainbow colored mane and tail, while her hide was a light blue, and her cutie mark was that of a thundercloud.
Death took careful notice of her. She then turned to the other heralds. She motioned first to Pestilence.
“This is Pestilence, the herald of sickness and suffering.”
Moving on to the next herald.
“This is Famine, herald of distrust and greed.”
“I am Death, the herald of pain and destruction.”
“This is War, the herald of bloodshed and violence.”
Bloodshed. All the heralds had killed before, but it was War that was the herald of bloodshed. Funny. It was like a cruel joke.
There was murmuring in the crowd. Death certainly wasn’t winning the heralds any fans with her grisly descriptions.
The rainbow colored pony’s eyes narrowed. She spoke again, sounding more angry than before.
“Forget it! We’re not giving anypony to you!”
Famine’s eyes also narrowed.
She gave the pegasus fair warning. “Arrogant fool! Do you not see that we offer an alternative. Surrender Twilight Sparkle or die!”
Immediately, the guards raised their swords. The murmurs in the crowd began again, but louder. Clearly, these ponies knew Twilight Sparkle. War also knew that they weren’t liable to give her over, if her memories of the town were correct. This was a tightly knit community. Tearing it apart wouldn’t be easy.
War looked at Death. She hadn’t reacted to Famine’s outburst.
Death turned back to the crowd.
“Now that you know who we are after, I offer you all one last chance. Give up Twilight Sparkle, or suffer the consequences.”
War almost chuckled. She knew that, either way, Ponyville would be destroyed. She knew that Death was only toying with them, like she always did. Death never showed it, but War thought that Death enjoyed toying with them, making them suffer and cower in fear before killing them.
The crowd remained silent. The crowd only grew closer together with those words, War noticed. Death narrowed her eyes.
Death continued her lie. “Surely you do not want your town to suffer the same fate as Appleoosa? You fools are so blind! So quick to-”
“Wait just a heapin’ second!”
Interrupted again. War began to worry for the crowd. These outbursts helping the crowd’s chances for a quick death.
Another pony stepped through the crowd. This one had an orange hide with a yellow mane. She wore a wide cowpony hat. Apples decorated her flank. War saw anger the likes she had rarely ever seen before.
“Are you sayin’ that YOU were the ones who destroyed Appleoosa?”
Silent tears began to flow from the pony’s eyes.
War looked at Death and saw that she had noticed it too.
The pony continued.
She trailed off, not finding the strength to continue.
Death didn’t even blink. In fact, for the first time since War had knew her, Death smiled, but only lightly. It was a cold smile. A lifeless smile. Her mocking was just as cold.
“You ponies amuse me. You live under the impression that together, you can save yourselves.”
Death looked directly at the crying pony.
“When we rebuild Equestria from its ashes, I think I’ll kill you last.”
The pony gasped, and took a step back. War knew that, by now, Death had abandoned her ploy. Her game was no fun when nopony would play.
Death’s smile disappeared. She turned back to the crowd.
“So threats make no impact on you?” Death unsheathed her sword.
The crowd began to take steps back and panic. Several ran, but most held their ground. The soldiers braced themselves for an attack.
“Let us see how far you will go to prove a point...”
Death scanned the crowd. War began to worry. She was about to say something, when Death sped off, faster than War had ever seen her. She surprised the audience too. War only saw a black blur, and followed it back to where she had started. Death now stood in her original spot, except her back was turned, and her sword was soaked in blood.
It was only then that the screaming started.
War looked back, and saw everypony running away. Most didn’t look back. Those who did had tears streaming down.
When the dust cleared, only a few ponies remained, all clamored around the same pony. They we’re all speaking, making it hard do discern exactly what they we’re saying.
The soldiers had already began to charge when Death attacked. Pestilence acted quickly. She moved quickly, extremely agile despite her rotting body. She blocked every strike the soldiers made. The first went for her legs with a sword. She parried it away with her sword, and pushed it towards his neck. He died the moment the weapon sliced his neck. Pestilence continued on with the rest, blocking all attacks, and gravitating to all the places the soldiers lacked armor: neck, ribs, face, and her final strike at the overturned soldier’s heart.
War looked at Death. Her cold smile had returned. She didn’t look away, but she uttered to War, “We’ve found her. Purple, standing over the wounded one. I didn’t have time to find her in the attack, but now, she’s out in the open.”
War could tell that Death was enjoying this. They hadn’t even found their target, and Death was already having fun.
War looked back, quickly looked over Pestilence’s battle, and only made a passing glance to their target. Her concern was with the wounded one. Had Death killed her?
Among the scrambling to try to cover the wound, War was able to get glances at the wounded pony.
It was a pegasus with a yellow hide and pink mane. Her cutie mark, barely visible over the blood, was of three butterflies.
Among the chaos, War was able to catch her name.
Twilight was scrambling to the ground as soon as Fluttershy fell. Fluttershy was screaming in pain. Twilight rolled her over to see the wound. It was deep, and blood poured freely out of it. Twilight tried talking to Fluttershy, but she wasn’t the only one. Pinkie Pie, whose hair was starting to fall flat in clumps, and Applejack, who’s hooves were trying to stop the flow of blood, were at her side trying to talk to her too. Rarity was in denial, babbling and quickly placing the blame on several ponies, mainly herself for allowing everyone to come here in the first place. Rainbow Dash, meanwhile was screaming at Death and the other heralds.
Twilight caught a hold of her with magic just as she was about to charge straight at Death. She screamed for Applejack to restrain her, and Applejack reluctantly obliged.
Twilight looked behind her. All the soldiers were lying dead, killed by Pestilence. She then looked at the heralds. They were unfazed by the turn of events. Pestilence indifferently returned to her companion’s sides, blood from the dead soldiers streaking her sword and face. Their evil looks held.
Except for one.
War looked shaken, taken off guard, subtly enough to keep it hidden from her allies, but not enough for Twilight. But her concern wasn’t for War. Any feelings of confusion were immediately overwhelmed with feelings of anger.
Squeezing her eyelids shut, she turned back to Fluttershy. Pinkie had taken Applejack’s place of holding blood down. Twilight quickly removed her hooves to asses the damage. Twilight did nothing but look at it for a moment.. She knew spells to heal, but not of this magnitude. Twilight didn’t know what to do to save her friend.
Twilight buried her face into Fluttershy’s side, crying, ignoring the blood quickly pooling around her face.
By this time, Fluttershy had stopped screaming.
Pinkie Pie, with nearly all her hair down, sobbed and quietly asked Fluttershy, “Fluttershy...” Pinkie could barely fit words in between her sobs.
“How are..how are you feeling..?”
For a moment, everypony hushed to hear her response.
Fluttershy also was crying. She could barely get her words out.
Twilight began sobbing into Fluttershy, counting her breaths as they steadily slowed.
The silence was more resounding than any sound Twilight would ever hear.
War had never felt colder. She had seen ponies die on a daily basis, and sometimes in more painful ways than this pegasus just did, but this...
It had rocked her to the core. It wasn’t the pony, and it wasn’t the fact that Death had not shown any sign of enjoyment or remorse when she had killed.
It was the place.
Spark knew this place. She remembered things about it. She remembered ponies going about their business and having fun. She had remembered fillies playing and getting into trouble. She had been one of those fillies. Now, the only memory this place evoked was bloodshed. Now, she could only see suffering in a place of happiness.
Why had it taken her this long to realize it?
Because before, they were just faces. Spark quickly answered the question for herself.
Damn. Why was remembering a name so hard?
The silence was echoing. The even the pink pony, who had been bawling, had stopped.
After a few moments, Twilight stood and turned, facing the heralds. Her face was speckled with blood and lacked the anger that had once filled it to the brim. Her eyes were now lifeless. Her shoulders sagged. She walked as if she carried a boulder on her shoulders, every step taking more effort than it should’ve. War was familiar with this kind of look. It was a look of defeat. War knew it was what Death had been waiting for.
Twilight spoke, her voice raspy and speckled with sorrow and desperation.
“I give up...take me...please, just don’t...”
Her voice was barely audible.
“Don’t hurt anyone else...please...”
Twilight looked back. The rainbow colored pegasus stood, her face still brimming with anger.
“Rainbow Dash, we have no other-” Twilight began.
“NO! I won’t let anypony else die!” she replied.
The pegasus named Rainbow Dash flew in front of Twilight, trying to block her from the heralds.
She’s going to get herself killed...War didn’t want anyone else to die. At least, not while she was watching.
Rainbow Dash stood her ground.
Then, the pegasus paused.. Rainbow Dash, stood for a moment, then came a look of deep thought on her face. She was clearly up to something. War looked at Death, and saw that she knew the pegasus was up to something, as well. Rainbow Dash then suddenly flew away into the air. She quickly flew straight up, until she was far out of sight from everypony. Death took quick note of this.
“Smart decision.” she uttered, though War knew that Death didn’t just think it was a coincidence. Rainbow Dash was planning something. Death motioned to Famine to keep her eye out.
Death turned back to the remaining ponies. The body of the dead one, Fluttershy, was draped on the back of the orange pony. All of the ponies had tears in their eyes.
Death turned her gaze towards Twilight Sparkle.
War still didn’t know what to do or what to think.
Death began anyways.
“How noble of you to sacrifice yourself to save your friends.” Her gaze went back to the other ponies.
“Your death will not be in vain. In fact, your death will change all of Equestria forever.”
War wished she knew what Twilight was thinking. What was going on in her head?
Death took a step forward.
Death halted, looking around for the sound. Pestilence was equally curious.
“What is that pegasus doing?” she asked in her monotone.
The heralds looked up, and saw a wave of color. The only way to describe it was a shock wave made entirely out of rainbows. Suddenly, a bright rainbow came flying out of the sky. Just before hitting the ground, this rainbow curved and flew towards Twilight and her friends. Famine was urging Death to run forward and try to kill Twilight before they escaped in the blur of color.. Death ran into the rainbow trail that was left behind.
The other heralds waited for what felt like hours. The colors finally began to clear, revealing only Death standing where a bloodbath had occurred. The other ponies were gone.
Twilight felt numb. It barely registered to her that she was riding of Rainbow Dash’s Sonic Rainboom. She looked at Dash, who was fighting back tears. The others were mostly hanging on. Pinkie wasn’t hanging so much as she was being pushed forwards by Rainbow Dash. Rarity was holding on to Dash’s right hoof, and holding on to Twilight at the same time. Seeing the strain on Rarity’s face, Twilight began grabbing on to Dash, giving Rarity at least some comfort. Meanwhile, Applejack was holding on to Dash’s other hoof, and held Fluttershy’s body at the same time.
Twilight made the mistake of looking at her body. Her face was calm. It was almost as if she was asleep. Twilight had to look away to avoid breaking down.
Only one thought went through her mind.
This is my fault...
Twilight couldn’t deny it. The heralds had came for her, not Fluttershy or anypony else. If she had given herself up...
No, she thought. She had seen the look on their faces. She knew that, no matter what, they would have destroyed Ponyville anyways, if not now, then later. That didn’t make things easier, though.
Through the blur, Twilight noticed that they had left Ponyville. Twilights thoughts then flashed back to the friend they had forgot.
Twilight had to scream to get Dash’s attention.
“Rainbow Dash, we have to go back!”
“Are you crazy? No!” Rainbow Dash answered quickly.
Twilight wouldn’t relent. “We forgot Spike! He doesn’t know that the heralds are there!”
Twilight knew Dash hated the idea, but not even Dash could argue it. Rainbow Dash quickly swerved, nearly dropped Pinkie, and made her way back. Soon, she began to slow, and eventually, they came to a stop in front of the library.
Twilight and the others got back on their feet, but Applejack refused to put Fluttershy down. Twilight had no reason to convince her otherwise, but just being near it stabbed at her heart. Not only had she failed to protect one of the Elements of Harmony, but she had failed to protect one of her friends.
What right did she have to be their leader now?
She tried to push the thought away for now. The ponies streamed into the library, nearly running into a very shocked Spike. Twilight didn’t wait to greet Spike. She ran past him, straight upstairs. She moved passed her bed and looked out the window. In the distance, she saw several buildings already engulfed in flames, and masses of ponies running in fear, some not even knowing where to go, except for away from the blaze. A building collapsed every now and then. Twilight could hear Spike reeling after hearing everything. She could vaguely make out someone, maybe Rarity, trying to get him to send Celestia a letter. Twilight could only watch as the fire and the chaos slowly inched closer to her library.
War wandered through the charred remains of a building. This had been one of the first places to come down. In the distance, the sounds of screaming and fire pervaded the background. The fire had made the air heavy with soot and ash. Death had told the heralds to disperse, making it more likely to find their target. She had also told them to destroy anything and anypony who gets in their way.
None of this is what War wanted.
Even charred beyond belief, she still recognized some of these places.
War didn’t know what to think anymore. Her head told her that it was too late, her heart told her that what she had to do something, and every time she opened her mouth, both tried to talk at the same time and it all came out as gibberish.
War stopped, and sat there, dejected. What should she do? What could she do?
War heard a moaning in the background. She sat up, and looked around. The moaning was coming from deeper in the charred building. War steadily made her way through the ruins. War took great care to squeeze through the ash and charred remains of what had once been a home. she found the source of the noise. War stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of it. It was a pony, burned, bloodied, and scarred. She was pinned under a large beam of wood. She had a gray hide and a blue mane, with bright blue eyes.
What struck War about her, though, was that, she knew this pony.
The name escaped her, but the face had not changed. Spark remembered her. She wasn’t particularly special. They hadn’t been the best of friends or the worst of enemies. They always saw each other, though. War remembered being scared with her on Nightmare Night, working with her on Winter Wrap Up, staring in awe at the pegasus’ bringing water up to Cloudsdale...
“What are you waiting for...?”
Spark was stunned by how raspy her voice was.
She looked at Spark with the strongest look of contempt she could muster.
“You’ve got what you wanted. Ponyville is in ruins...Twilight Sparkle is likely dead by now...you got what you came here for...why are you looking at me like that..?”
Spark was in disbelief. This was not what she had wanted. Once again, her mind and heart waged war on what to say.
“This...it’s not...I don’t...I...”
“Don’t give me that crap. If you four hadn’t come here, many ponies would still be alive...”
Spark finally found her voice.
“I didn’t want this to happen...”
“Then why did you come here..?”
Spark had no answer.
Why did she come here?
Why was she still here?
Her mind turned to the look on Death’s face as she killed that pegasus. No contempt. No joy. No emotion, not even a twitch.
Was this what she was after?
She had already achieved it anyways.
For a moment, she held the pony’s gaze. They spent what felt like an eternity staring into each other’s eyes. Spark found only anger. But then, she saw something else: confusion. Then, disbelief clouded her eyes.
“It can’t be...”
Understanding flooded her eyes, as well as tears.
“...Spark..? Is that you..?”
Spark’s heart sank. She remembered too.
Spark bowed her head in shame, but finally spoke.
“I had no choice...no hope. I couldn’t come back after...”
Spark paused. It hurt to think about.
“...after what I did...”
The pony’s tears streamed as Spark talked.
“How did you remember me? We never really talked when I was here. Not really.”
“When the...incident happened” the pony said, deliberately stepping around the incident, “everyone knew who you were. You were the talk of the town, I guess. Even more so when you disappeared.”
Spark looked away, fighting back tears.
“I couldn’t handle the stares. The way they looked at me...their eyes blamed me...even if their words didn’t...”
Spark couldn’t go on. She looked back, and only then noticed that the beam the pony was pinned under was stained bright red with blood.
As Spark noticed it, the pony noticed it too. She was only barely able to tilt her head to see the blood. She let her head flop back to Spark, and spoke.
“I can’t take this anymore. I only have one favor to ask, Spark...end it...please...”
Spark gasped, and stepped back, shocked at what she was implying. It wasn’t the deed that was horrifying. It was how easy it seemed for Spark to do.
“I...I can’t...please...don’t make me do this..”
Tears began welling up behind her eyes. Spark was doing her best to hold them back.
The pony’s eyes were pleading to her.
“Please...just end it for me...I won’t blame you...I promise...”
It was like a child’s promise, and it stung.
“Please, if you have any remnant of the pony I once knew in you...do me this kindness...don’t let me suffer...”
Spark couldn’t bear to kill her, but she couldn’t bear to ignore her either. It took her full force to do it, but Spark reluctantly reached for her sword. It took more force than she had ever felt in her life, but her teeth eventually clenched the sword. She unsheathed it, and looked at the pony. Spark failed to keep the tears at bay, and they streamed freely.
Spark aimed the blade at her side. She knew it would be an instant kill there, yet she stalled. Spark strained to inch it forward. The pony’s eyes were pleading for her to end her suffering. In the distance, another building collapsed.
As Spark inched closer, she uttered a quick, simple sentence. It meant the world to Spark.
Then, it was over.
All Spark heard was the silent sound of a sword hitting flesh and ending a life.
Spark fell to her stomach, and pounded her hooves against her head. It was all she could do to keep her from openly sobbing. Tears streamed like a river.
What have I done..? she thought.
She lay there for what left like hours. It may have been, for all she knew. It may have been few moments, or even a few days, for all she knew.
Spark’s mind seemed to be in standby. Not dead, but not really functioning. It took a few moments to register that she had stood up. She was shaky, but found her footing. She looked at the pony. Tears blurred her vision, but she could still see her. She was peaceful looking, like she was asleep. Spark looked away.
“I’m so sorry...I never wanted anypony to suffer...I wanted to give people a second chance, not take their only chance away! Please, somepony tell me what to do!!!”
Spark screamed at the top of her lungs.
The only answer was the sound of another building collapsing.
Spark looked back, and noticed something she hadn’t seen before. It was a small flame, burning on the remnant of a piece of wood. It was small, no more than an ember. Spark knew that she was looking at herself. Here was a fire with no purpose. It had no reason to burn. It had already destroyed and there was no change for it to give life. It burned with no drive, except for the quickly charring wood it sat on. It burned for the sake of burning.
Is this what Spark wanted to be?
No. Not anymore...
Spark knew now, as she stood over the body of her dead neighbor, that she had had enough. She refused to burn for no purpose. Spark quickly wiped away the tears.
A few things were clear to her now.
She had to leave. She had to abandon the heralds. There was no question in her mind.
The other thing she knew is that doing so would be her signing her own death certificate.
Was she really going to risk her life like this?
Her answer came quick. For the first time in years, it felt like her head and heart were in harmony.
Getting away alive would be the hard part, though.
Shrugging off the thought for the moment, Spark turned her back to the flame. She didn’t only turn her back on the flame, though. She turned her back on the idea. She turned her back on the idea of burning without purpose. Silently, Spark vowed that she would burn for a purpose.
As she walked away from the flame and the pony, she silently uttered something.
“Never again. I will never live solely to destroy, nor to simply exist. Never again.”
Suddenly, she knew what to do next. Of all ponies, she knew the one who needed her help the most right now.
Spark then ran off with one goal in mind.
She had to find Twilight Sparkle.
It felt as if Twilight needed to make an effort to even take a simple step. She walked down the steps lightly, almost as if her touch would destroy the stairs themselves. When she reached the end of the stairs, she was met with a scene that stung her still hurting heart. Fluttershy’s body still hung limply at Applejack’s side, while Pinkie Pie slowly caressed Fluttershy’s mane in her hooves. Rainbow Dash looked out through the window, likely watching the same terror that Twilight had just seen steadily approaching the library. Rarity had finished the letter, and Twilight had arrived just in time to see Spike send it.
The look on Spike’s face was a mix of terror and confusion. It was almost as if he wanted to care, but couldn’t understand enough to bother. His eyes brimmed with sadness at the sight of Fluttershy’s body, but they couldn’t quite believe what they saw. Twilight almost wished to be in his state of obliviousness.
It was Rainbow Dash, seemingly the new defacto leader in this crisis, who broke the silence.
“We have to go. Now. We can’t just sit here and wait for them to come to us.”
Nopony argued. Everypony began to clear the library. Twilight set off too, but stopped at the welcome mat. She looked back at her library, at her home. Her books remained pristine. They remained untouched. It was almost as if they were frozen in time. They stood there, a testament of a time where Twilight would search for the vast knowledge hidden in their pages. It dawned in Twilight that, should this rampage continue, and it showed no signs of slowing, this would be the last time she saw her home. If she returned, what would she find? A smoldering ruin? She saw no other outcome but that. She didn’t want to leave.
It was the voice of her loyal friend that broke her from her trance.
“Come on, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash yelled, desperation filling her words to the brim. “They’re going to catch us if we don’t move!”
It was all the motivation Twilight needed, but it was none of the reassurance. Nevertheless, she turned her back on her home, and stepped out, her horn glowing to close the door behind her.
She turned and faced Rainbow Dash, tears trying to form in both of their eyes. Twilight held them back, though. She had cried enough for one day.
Applejack spoke before Rainbow Dash could begin to breakdown, much to Twilight’s pleasure. At least one of them should still be in control.
“Alright, Rainbow, are we riding out of here in your Sonic Rainboom?”
A look crossed Rainbow Dash’s face that looked like a mix of sorrow and fear.
She responded quietly, “Sorry guys, but those Sonic Rainbooms aren’t easy to pull off. I don’t think I could do another one if I tried...”
She trailed off. Applejack had a look of pity, but shook it off, and turned to Twilight.
“Sugarcube, do you think you can teleport us out of here with your magic? Maybe to Canterlot?”
The thought had crossed her mind, but she was hesitant. Long distance travel was difficult in general. Across a large town like Ponyville would be tough. To Canterlot would be surely impossible. At least, not all the way, and not without making her weak to the point of passing out. Not to mention that she had just barely begun to learn long range teleportation with another pony, let alone five of them.
Twilight almost whispered her response. “Sorry girls...my magic isn’t that strong yet...especially since I need to teleport all of you...”
“Well then, we’ll just need to go on hoof, won’t we?”
Everypony looked up at Pinkie, who had spoken for the first time since the heralds had killed Fluttershy.
Twilight looked at her. She was looking in the distance, watching the building burn. It took Twilight a moment to realize that Pinkie was looking at what once was Sugarcube Corner. Twilight took a few steps forward to see Pinkie’s face. Anypony walking by would have thought it was anger, but it wasn’t. Twilight’s stomach churned when she realized that, it wasn’t anger or sorrow, or anything. It was indifference. She scowled, but not out of anger. Twilight had only seen Pinkie scowl twice in her life, once when she thought that everypony didn’t like her anymore, and the other when Discord attacked. Both memories brought nothing but pain, but not like the pain she felt now.
But Twilight couldn’t deny that she was right. For better or worse, they would have to go on hoof, and fast.
And so, without much to say, the five remaining Elements of Harmony started running, praying that they would get out in time.
War was running as fast as she could, and though she did not tire, she still wasn’t having any luck finding Twilight and her friends. She had started by following the direction that the rainbow trail had pointed.it wasn’t long, though, before she reached where town ended and the forest began.
She could hardly believe it. She had reached a dead end. There were no leads to suggest where they might have gone.
“No, no, no! Please, I need to find her!”
War yelled at no one, cursing them, whoever they were.
What were her options? The first was obvious. Run headfirst into the forest and try to find them before Death found War. The other was to keep searching Ponyville.
War stood there, thinking long and hard about what to do. She also knew that every moment she stood there thinking about it, the farther away they got.
But could Twilight just leave like that?
Surely, she wouldn’t leave just like that. War knew that Twilight was devoted to her friends, simply by the fact that she had offered up her life for them. Twilight might have more friends in town. Clearly many other ponies knew Twilight, that was clear when Famine shouted that they were going to kill her. Perhaps she had gone back to help those still in town.
It wasn’t much of a lead, and there were definite faults in that theory, but it was a lot more sound than running into the forest, unaware of what she was looking for. Hesitantly, War turned, gave one last look at the forest, and ran back into town. War was careful to stay clear of buildings on fire. The other heralds were likely around there, spreading their madness. As War ran through town, she began to notice something. The town was oddly quiet. She would have thought that it would have been filled with panicking ponies trying to get away. In reality, it was almost peaceful, had it not been for the fires in the distance.War’s peace was disturbed by a crack in the distance. She looked down the street, and saw a home, the only home on the street with the door open. She ran up to it, just to look. She couldn’t be too distracted, but if something had happened...
War approached the home and looked inside. Inside, she heard cries of pain, followed by yells.
“Help! Please, somepony, help! I’m stuck, help!”
It was all War needed. War ran in as fast as she could. Into the living room, she sped towards the hall, where the cries emanated from. She stopped at the hall, and called out.
“Where are you? I don’t know where you are?”
After a moment, the pony came with a reply.
“The very last room! Please! My dresser fell on top of me! I can’t get up!”
War ran down the hall and entered the last room. The pony, a yellow furred earth pony with a blue mane, looked at her savior with pleading eyes. Once she saw her savior, however, her eyes changed. They changed from relief to fear and desperation. Her pleas changed to pleas of mercy.
“No, no, please. I beg of you, don’t kill me! Please! I didn’t do anything!”
It took War a moment to realize, or remember, why the pony was so scared. She had forgotten that, even though she had made her choice, others didn’t see it that way yet.
“I’m not going to hurt you...” War uttered. She stepped forward, and yet, the pony still struggled, trying to lift the dresser she was pinned under to get away.
She begged for her life once more.
“Please, I’ll do anything! Just don’t kill me!”
“I’m not going to kill you!” War was getting irritated.
“Then why are you here?”
War didn’t answer. All she did was bend down, put her shoulder under the dresser, and push. With War’s strength, the dresser lifted easily. War then put her attention to the pony’s leg. The pony let her touch it, if only out of shock. The leg seemed okay. There were no signs of damage other than some slight bruising.
War stood up, and looked at the pony.
“You’re going to be okay. The leg isn’t broken or anything. Just get out of here before the other heralds come!”
For a moment, the pony just sat there.
Then, she spoke.
“Why are you helping me?”
War paused for a moment.
She then uttered effortlessly, “I’ve seen enough death for one lifetime.”
And with that, War turned, and began running to go find the others once more. She had already spent enough time as it was. As War leaped out of the door back into Ponyville, she prayed she wasn’t too late.
They had been running for, who knows how long. Twilight had given up keeping track, but thankfully, from what she could tell, they were almost out. The scenery had changed from the shops of central Ponyville to homes, most empty. Twilight knew that they were close. Just the thought that they would get out alive lifted her spirit, even if only slightly.
Her hopes were raised even more when she realized that they only needed to round the next corner, and they would be heading out of Ponyville. Twilight felt optimistic.
Things could only get better from here, right?
In her hopefulness, she ran ahead of the others. She was the first one to round the corner. Subsequently, she was the only one to run into the pony running in the other direction.
Twilight slammed into the pony hard. It blurred her vision. For a few moments, and her ears rang from the impact. She could only just barely hear Rainbow Dash’s cries for her to run. After rubbing her eyes, and seeing who she’d run into, she could understand why.
Twilight had run into War.
War was also stumbling from the crash. She wasn’t as dazed as Twilight, due to her armor protecting her head, but the surprise of the impact stunned her enough. Twilight didn’t step away, however. She looked at War and saw the same look she saw when War first entered. One of confusion. A look of fear.
She spoke eagerly.
“You have no idea how glad I am that I’ve found you all...”
Rainbow Dash didn’t wait for Twilight’s response.
“I bet you have!” she yelled.
She then flew up to War and kicked her away as hard as she could. War only stumbled back a few steps, but Rainbow was starting to try to get them away before War composed herself.
“Come on! Run!”
Twilight and War yelled the plea at the same time, much to the surprise of everyone, including Twilight.
Rainbow Dash was the most stunned of them all.
“What do you mean wait? Do you have a deathwish? Run!!” Rainbow yelled at the top of her lungs, then sped off, only to stop when she saw that nopony was following. She also stopped because War, to everyone’s surprise but Twilight’s, wasn’t attacking. Dash was visibly frustrated, and made it clear to everyone.
“AM I MISSING SOMETHING HERE?” she yelled at the top of her lungs.
For a moment, there was silence as Dash waited for a response.
War was quick to break the silence.
“I’m not here to kill you, I’m here to protect you...”
War’s voice trailed off.
Rainbow Dash only looked at War, stunned into silence.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Then again, it’s not as if War had a real plan per say. She had sounded so confident in her head, but when she said it, she didn’t sound so confident. The thing War hated most was not being able to read Twilight’s face. The other’s faces were easily readable. Rainbow Dash was clearly furious. The other ponies were simply confused. But Twilight, there were so many feeling in her face that War couldn’t quite see them all. One was confusion, another was fear, but the rest were a blank. They flowed on her face, like a pond murky with dirt. Did War see...pity...in those eyes?
Her train of thought was wrecked by Rainbow Dash once more.
”Protect us? Well, you’ve done one heck of a job so far! Let’s see here, Ponyville is in panic, murderers, you included, are running amok, and one of our friends is DEAD!!! DO YOU HEAR ME? DEAD!!!” Rainbow Dash’s voice spewed acid, and it burned like it too. With every utterance of the word “dead”, War flinched a little.
War had to find the strength to go on.
“That...that doesn’t matter now...All I care about is getting you all out of here...”
“Well we were doing a great job of getting us out before you showed up! Get out of here! And don’t even think about coming back!”
War couldn’t take much more of this.
It’s funny, almost. War could take killing, and she could take some wounds here and there, but she is reduced to nothing under the acid-filled words of a rainbow colored pegasus. Maybe War shouldn’t be here.
They don’t want me. Hell, why would they..? It’s not like I’ve brought them any good...
“Well, well, well...What do we have here..?”
War snapped out of her stupor when she heard that all too familiar, deep voice.
The voice came from behind her. Already, War could see the other ponies cowering in fear, except for Rainbow Dash. Though she blames War, War knew that her true quarrel wasn’t with her, it was with Death. Death had been the one to kill the Rainbow Dash’s friend, not War.
Slowly, War turned to face Death. Normally, War would have snickered at the symbolism, but, in a way, she really was facing death.
The herald, Death, looked at her with the same cold eyes as always. Those eyes were still cold, but they were tinged with a hint of anger, or more disappointment than anger.
Death spoke again, this time, savoring every word, as if each were a part of an entire meal she had just been handed.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the herald of deception and treachery, War.”
Those words chilled War.
“I recommend you step aside, War. If you do, perhaps I may let you live. If not...”
Death didn’t need to finish her sentence. War braced herself for an attack. She unsheathed her sword. Through her teeth, she uttered a quick plea to the ponies.
“Run. Get out of here now. I’ll keep Death busy.”
War charged right at Death. Not a good idea, War realized i little too late. Death swerved under, avoiding the blade by a hair, and got under War, and threw her a hard as she could. Unlike Rainbow Dash, Death had more strength behind her. War flew off of her feet, and landed on the ground dazed. When she looked up, she saw Death going straight for the ponies. War had to get up now, or they were as good as dead.
Luckily, Twilight had put up a force field of magic. Death unsheathed her sword, and began striking at it.
War ran back to face Death. She knew that even Twilight couldn’t hold Death back for long. Death stopped, and turned to face War. She ran, sword shining in the setting sun. Their swords clashed with a sound that nearly deafened War’s ears. Their eyes met in the struggle. Through gritted teeth, War tried to say something.
“Twilight! Transport out of here! Now!”
Twilight’s response came rushed.
“I can’t! I’m not that powerful yet!”
War’s heart sunk. Their only way out wasn’t powerful enough to save them.
Death broke away, and tried to flank War, trying to stab at her ribs. War was able to block every strike. Behind her, she faintly heard Twilight and her friends talking. Her mind was preoccupied with fighting Death, however, and she only caught a few words.
Then, a thought came to her. War had magic in her. She had to. She obviously couldn’t use it like a unicorn could, but there was a reason she had no need to eat, sleep or rest. If it were possible for Twilight to use her magic, then she could possibly teleport everyone out of Ponyville, maybe even to Canterlot. But she had to get Death off of her to do that, and Death showed no signs of slowing down.
Death stopped, and paused to look at War with murder in her eyes.
Suddenly, a beam of purple light hit Death and caught her by surprise. For the first time, War saw Death stumble. It took a moment for War to realize that this was her chance. She sheathed her sword and ran back to Twilight and the others. Most of them backed away a bit, but Twilight held her ground.
Hurriedly, War spoke.
“Twilight, teleport us somewhere! Anywhere, it doesn’t matter!”
For a moment, Twilight was confused.
War looked back. Death was already sprinting towards them, fire burning in her eyes. War already knew enough about fires to know what kind of fire this was.
She turned back.
“Explanation after! Do it! NOW!”
She looked at Death, who was in mid-leap. Just as she was about to land, a purple light engulfed War, blinding her. War had to shield her eyes. For a moment, she sat where she was, trying to get rid of the stars circling her.
Twilight’s voice brought her back to reality.
“Well then? What is it?”
War looked around, and saw that they were around completely different houses. They must be deeper in Ponyville.
War wasted no time.
“Is there any way we can share magic so you can get us out of Ponyville?”
Twilight thought about it.
“Wait, YOU have magic?”
“Not magic I can use like a unicorn, but magic that allows me to not need sleep, not need to eat, not need to rest. Is there anyway you can use that to get us out of here?”
“Well...I was just talking about that with the others,” she gestured to the other ponies that had traveled the short distance with her. “But Rarity doesn’t have enough magic for me to use. You might have enough, though...”
She trailed off.
War pressed on.
“Well then, go on, before Death finds us again!”
War lowered her head, as if she was presenting it to her.
Twilight took a moment before she did anything.
“Alright then, girls, get closer, this won’t be easy, and it’s easier if you all huddle close.”
The other ponies gathered around the pair, most against their better judgement. The orange one had the dead pegasus draped on her back. She got close enough that the body touched War. She almost shuddered, but was able to keep it under control.
War felt Twilight’s horn touch her head, just under her armor. Almost immediately, War felt like she was being drained of blood, slowly becoming weaker. Suddenly, War was parched, and almost began gasping for water. Her stomach grumbled for food, much to everyone’s surprise. War felt groggy. While it wasn’t pleasant, it at least told War that whatever Twilight was doing was working.
War heard hoovesteps in the distance, she looked up, and saw, in the distance, Death.
“Hurry, Twilight!” the white unicorn screamed.
“I’m trying!” the response came.
Death was close enough to see the whites of her eyes by the time something happened.
A bright purple light engulfed War once again, but this time, she knew to close her eyes, or else she would be blinded again.
Behind her eyelids, War saw the moment the light cleared. She opened her eyes and looked around. They were in the middle of nowhere, as far as she could tell. It was a clearing on the edge of a forest. Ponyville was nowhere in sight. War had no real idea where they were.
By this point, War had begun to regain the magic that kept her alive, but it was steady. She had lost the need for water, and the need for food was mostly gone, but the sleepiness that came had yet to subside.
She turned to see the other ponies. Everypony else was stumbling a bit, but, for the most part, were all right.
Except for Twilight.
Twilight hadn’t been lying when she said she wasn’t strong enough. War could plainly see that now. She hardly had the energy to stand up. War began to walk towards her, but she was stopped by Rainbow Dash.
“Hold it right there! Do you think we’re just going to let you near her like that?”
War was taken aback. She could understand them being untrusting of her, but this?
War could hardly get the words out.
“Wait-what? I just saved your lives! You think I would save you all just to kill you?”
Rainbow Dash didn’t respond.
War didn’t wait for one.
“Whether or not it’s me or someone else, please help her up! Can’t you see how weak she is?”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes narrowed, but nonetheless, she turned and tried to help Twilight up. Twilight’s eyes screwed in an attempt to regain her focus and stay conscious. Twilight could tell she was struggling.
She had to say something.
“Twilight, stop struggling. Just rest. Go to sleep.”
“Shut up!” Rainbow Dash yelled.
Twilight was visibly struggling to even speak.
The words came out messily, but at least they came out.
War only nodded.
Twilight looked at her, unsure of what to do. Finally, Twilight closed her eyes. Her steady breaths told everypony else that she was asleep.
For the first time in a long time, War smiled. She looked down, and smiled, her eyes closed, just accepting this moment as real.
We made it. We’re alive. She’s alive, Spark thought.
No. Not Spark. She didn’t deserve that name anymore.
Either way, they had done it. Now, they just needed to get to Canterlot, and then...
And then what?
The heralds would know exactly where they would go. They wouldn’t have much time before they would be heading for Canterlot, but at least they had a generous head start.
It was then that the white unicorn broke her train of thought.
“Why are you here?“ she spoke with an elegant demeanor, one that might have been stronger had it not been for everything she’d been through all day. “You come here with ponies to destroy this town and kill our friend, and yet, you betray them and save us. Why?”
For a moment, War didn’t speak. She couldn’t just give the one sentence answer she gave the other pony.
She finally found the words, but she couldn’t look at the pony while she said them. She turned and spoke, her head hanging low.
“I...I’ve done things...terrible, terrible things...I’ve done them because I thought we were going to change everything...for the better, that is. But I just...I just couldn’t take it anymore. Whatever future we were after...it’s not worth...all this...”
The pony couldn’t continue.
Rainbow Dash spoke again, but now she had Twilight draped on her back.
“Well, whatever you want, you better leave! You’re not coming with us!”
“Now wait just a apple buckin’ second there, sugarcube.”
The orange pony that carried the dead Fluttershy had spoken.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I think she should come with us.”
Rainbow Dash couldn’t believe it.
“What? Are you all forgetting who we’re dealing with?”
“From what I can tell, RD, not even you know who we’re dealin’ with here. You call her a killer. Now I may have missed somethin’ here, but I have yet to see her lay a hoof on anyone besides that Death feller...”
If only she knew who War had met. Or more appropriately, who she had been reunited with.
“She even helped us, and nearly got herself killed too. i don’t think it’s as simple as her just being a killer.”
War was surprised. She hadn’t expected anypony to become so trusting, or at least not so distrusting, so quickly.
Rainbow Dash wouldn’t give in, though. She kept the look of disgust on her face. The pony could clearly see that.
“Listen, Rainbow Dash, even if you don’t trust her, she’s the only pony who knows these other...heralds...that’s what you called them?”
She had turned to War. She only nodded.
Rainbow Dash still wasn’t convinced.
The pony groaned, and added, “At the very least, she needs to go to Canterlot to answer for everything that she’s done everywhere else...”
War’s heart sunk. She had been expecting something like that, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Rainbow Dash easily accepted it, though.
“Now there’s something I can get behind.” She looked at War. “Come on, and don’t fall behind. And if you do anything to try to hurt Twilight, I swear, I’ll-”
She stopped. She obviously couldn’t figure out what she would do to her.
War decided to try to gain some trust. She reached to her side, and grabbed the strap for her sword. The strap came loose easily. She held it in her mouth, looking at somepony to take it.
She looked at Rainbow Dash, but it was the white unicorn who took it and draped it across her back.
Rainbow Dash spoke again.
“I know which direction Canterlot is. We passed by here on the way to the Grand Galloping Gala.”
With that, she started walking. So did everypony else. Reluctantly, War began walking down a road to an unsure future.
She prayed that things wouldn’t end badly.
Then again, things usually didn’t end well for her.
War walked with her head down, deep in thought. She thought of a lot of things. Se wondered if the pony she saved had escaped, she wondered if Canterlot was ready for what was coming, she wondered if there would be a soft bed for her to sleep in.But mainly, she thought about what the princesses of Canterlot would do to her.Would they simply condemn her to death immediately? Would they keep her as a prisoner of war? Would they simply banish her?
She almost chuckled. That was likely the best case scenario she could hope for. A simple banishment. Perhaps it would be to somewhere where she could be remain secluded from the rest of Equestria, living out her days living off the land, not giving her the slightest chance of hurting anypony ever again. The thought made her smile, if only a tiny bit.
Ware looked to her side. The pink pony had called her. To Wars knowledge, it was the first time she had spoken to her.
War at first didn’t know how to respond. So she simply asked, “Yes?”
The pony was hesitant to ask.
“...What...what do you...I mean, what do they want? And why do they want to...kill...Twilight?”
The pony seemed to linger on the word kill. She also seemed to stress the word they, as if she needed a reminder that War wasn’t one of them.
War looked forward. Rainbow Dash hadn’t turned, but her ears had pricked. It was obvious that she was also curious as to the answer to that.
War sighed, and answered the question.
“Well, you see, there is this...creature...Death had told me that he had power unimaginable. The only thing was that he isn’t strong enough to return yet, so it was our job to eliminate anything that would stop him. And Twilight...not only is she one of the Elements of Harmony, but she also has almost untapped potential.”
War realized just how she sounded saying all this, but she pushed it to the back of her mind.
“Death said that we were going to help him change Equestria...for the better. She said that he would free Equestria from everything holding it back...I never imagined that he meant...all this...”
Rainbow Dash scoffed. War raised her head.
“Oh, I bet...” Rainbow Dash uttered.
The pink pony ignored Rainbow Dash’s interruption.
“Then...why didn’t you leave earlier when you saw what they wanted you to do?”
War almost chuckled.
“I wish it could’ve been that easy...If you leave, they wouldn’t just let you leave...If I betrayed them, they would have killed me...”
The pony just looked at her.
“Basically, I was just too much of a coward to try...maybe it’s because I didn’t belong anywhere else..?”
The pony seemed to be put off by War’s self pity.
“It’s okay...I don’t blame you...:
That really surprised War. She could barely get out her sentence.
“What-wait, what did you say?” War was dumbfounded. “How can you not blame me? I-I...This is as much my fault as anyponys! How can you forgive me so easily!”
War hadn’t been aware of how loud she was being. The other ponies had turned around to look at War.
The pink pony wasn’t hesitant this time.
“You never wanted any of this to happen...They tricked you, and you couldn’t do anything to get out of it without getting yourself...killed...”
She still stumbled on that word, but she still shook it off.
“I never really introduced myself. My name is Pinkie Pie. This is Rarity and this is Applejack.” Pinkie gestured at the white unicorn and the orange earth pony respectively.
War didn’t know what to say.
“Oh...well...th-thank you....Pinkie Pie...”
The pony smiled, but only lightly. War may have been seeing things, but she swore that she saw the pony’s hair...inflate? No, that’s ridiculous. Either way, if it did(which War doubted), it only did subtly.
War had never seen Canterlot before. The gates were enormous. They felt daunting. Against it, War felt small. She felt tiny. Insignificant. To think, her goal was once to conquer it.
From up in the turrets, guards took a look at the visitors. The ponies must have called ahead at some point, because, in no time, the guards were opening the gates. Everypony stood back as the massive gates swung open to let them in. Once they stopped, the ponies and War began to step into the walled city.
As she stepped in, she noted the irony. She had intended to come through these gates as a conqueror. Now, she stepped into the city as a prisoner. Or as its savior.
War shook that thought. There was no way she was going to help in this fight. The only extent that she had helped was in saving Twilight from Death. She was no savior.
At the other end of the gate, two guards waited. They eyed War as the ponies stopped.
They turned to Rainbow Dash.
“The princess has requested you come to the castle at once with Ms. Sparkle and...her...”
The guards paused as they motioned to her. They didn’t seem angry to see her or glad. Like every other pony lately, War saw confusion in their eyes.
War could guess what they were thinking:
“Is she good or evil?”
“She saved Twilight, but she’s also killed dozens...”
“How do we know we can trust her..?”
Rainbow Dash snapped them back to their posts.
“Alright then. Take us there.”
The guards took one last glance at War, eyes narrowing, before answering with a quick nod. They turned, and began walking, the rest of the ponies following close behind.
War walked through the city with her head hanging low. She averted the eyes on anypony who would look at her. They looked at her, but they didn’t run in fear. Of course, they must had heard of the attacks, but they had no idea of what the attackers looked like. It almost made it worse. War would get to see them not condemn her just before they did. It would make her pain, and their gaze, even harder to bear.
The castle gates were not nearly as large as the city gates, but they seemed even more daunting. They were golden, and made of bars, as opposed to the solid concrete walls of the city gates. They bore decorations of the sun and the moon. Behind these gates, lay the one who would decide War’s fate, and she feared...
No, she knew that it wouldn’t be a pleasant one.
The gates slowly opened, the squeak of the metal seemingly mocking War. The pathway was bricked very purposefully. War hesitated to enter. The path to the castle was bordered with beautiful plants of all colors and sizes, giving the path and the castle a prestige War didn’t deserve. Every step she took, she felt like she was defiling the castle and all it stood for.
What right did she have to be here?
The front doors opened into the hall, a large hall floored with a red carpet in the middle, with large windows on each end, letting in light for anypony to be washed under. The door on the other end was wide open, and it was close enough for War to see Princess Celestia in conversation with somepony else. The stallion’s dress clearly showed that he was the captain of the guard. War could also faintly make out Princess Luna and Princess Mi-Amore Cadenza chatting in the back of the room.
As they walked closer, the Princesses and the captain turned to see their visitors. Once they were close enough to see them clearly, the captain ran forward.
As he ran, he yelled, “Twilight!”
He stopped and looked at Twilight, a grim look of worry clouding his face. After looking at Twilight for a moment, she turned at the pony he knew was the prisoner, War. A fire of anger blazed in his eyes.
“I swear, if you hurt my sister in any way, I’m going to-!”
Celestia had silenced the captain, and apparent brother of Twilight. He looked back at War for a moment, fury still burning in his eyes. Nevertheless, he turned and went back to Celestia’s side. Celestia turned to War for a second, her eyes not betraying a single thought in her mind. She then turned to the entire group.
She spoke, her voice laced with regality, yet hard enough to show her caution.
“I had recieved your letter, but it did not mention that you were bringing a...guest...with you.”
She looked at War when she said guest.
“I am also curious as to why Twilight is unconscious. If anypony would be willing to explain to me exactly what happened in Ponyville-”
“War saved us.”
Everypony turned when Pinkie spoke out. Out of all of them, War was willing to bet that she was the most surprised.
Despite the stares, Pinkie continued.
“The other pony...what was her name..? Um...oh yeah...Death. Death found us before we got out of Ponyville, and she was going to...she was going to...”
Pinkie trailed off, as if it hurt to remember. At some point, she found the strength to go on.
“But War found us, and she fought off Death long enough for us to teleport out of Ponyville. Then she shared her magic with Twilight. She was able to teleport us out of Ponyville, but she got all tired after that. She fell asleep after that, and then...we came here...”
Pinkie looked down as soon as she had finished, as if something had been lifted from her shoulders.
War couldn’t believe it. Pinkie, one of Fluttershy’s friends, had just defended her. She had just defended the pony responsible for her friend’s death. War couldn’t believe it.
At this point, Luna and Mi-Amore Cadenza had joined them, and had both been listening to Pinkie.
Celestia looked at War.
“What do you want? You participate in one of the most gruesome attacks on Equestria, killing dozens, and yet, you save the very pony you were after. Why?”
War looked down. She opened her mouth, but stumbled for words. What could she say? How could she justify herself? Then again, there really was no way to justify anything she had done. Why start now?
With a sigh, War started.
“They never told me the truth about what I was going to be doing. They told me that they wanted to change Equestria. They told me they wanted to make things...better. Death had told me that she’d seen true suffering first hand. She told me that if she was in charge, that she could end all the suffering. She told me that this...transformation...was only for those who caused the suffering. She said she wanted to make those who create suffering to suffer themselves. But...all this...I never wanted...this...to happen...”
At this point, War’s voice was cracking. She was holding back tears.
“After I found out what I had to do...I wanted to leave, but...I saw the evil in their eyes...any hint of the pony in them was gone...I knew that, if I left...they would...they would kill me...I didn’t know what to do...everyday seemed like torture...it was like they had my leg twisted behind my back, and everyday, they twisted it a little more until...”
War was only subconsciously aware that a tear had fallen down her cheek. War looked up at the princesses. Mi-Amore Cadenza had the easiest face to read. She was shocked. War could bet that she wasn’t expecting such a display from a killer. Especially from one who had killed so many. Luna’s was a little harder, but War could still make out...caution. She might have held pity for her, but she still was wary.
Celestia was an entirely different story. War couldn’t see anything in her face. She gave no chance for War to see what she was thinking. She had only ever seen that with Twilight. The look Celestia gave her made War’s skin crawl. She looked away, not daring to look her in the eye, almost as if she was looking into Pestilence’s eyes.
It caught her by surprise when Celestia spoke.
“Guards, give Twilight and her friends somewhere to sleep. They must be exhausted. Me, Luna, and Cadance will discuss what to do.”
She didn’t say it, but War knew that that’s where her fate would be decided.
War took one more look back at the ponies she had saved. Pinkie had kindness in her eyes, and a light smile. She couldn’t hide her sorrow, though. It was as though it were streaks of paint across her face, and she was desperately trying to wipe it off, to no avail. Applejack had a face that looked like confusion. Unlike Celestia, though, it’s more likely that Applejack simply didn’t know how to feel. War wouldn’t have been surprised. She didn’t know how to feel either.
Rarity shared that look. It was almost more sad that these two felt so...out of place.
Rainbow Dash’s look was easy. It was full of poison. it didn’t take much to tell what she was thinking.
Twilight was sound asleep. She looked peaceful. It almost made War envious.
War made the mistake of taking one last look at Fluttershy. She was limp. Her
yellow hide had grown pale since their journey began. War looked away. She couldn't take looking at it.
War’s sword, still on Rarity’s back, was taken by Celetia, held in her golden magic.
“And I assume that this is your sword, War?”
War only nodded.
Without a word, she handed it to Shining Armor, whom she beckoned to follow her.
A pair of guards came and began talking to Rainbow Dash. War was too distracted to listen to them. Soon, she heard the sound of hoovesteps, and she knew that her companions were gone. She looked up, and saw Celestia walking with Luna, Mi-Amore Cadenza, and Shining Armor to the throne room to talk. As they stepped through, the door began to close behind them, until, with the resounding thud of the door, they were gone.
War felt like she was going to explode.
It had been two hours since they had entered. When were they going to come out?
It’s not like it’s a hard decision. Just banish me or sentence me to death already! she thought.
She could hardly bear the suspense of delaying her fate.
War was sitting at one side of the hall, and two guards flanked her. Each was tense. They seemed like they were trying to hard to act in control. They would twitch every time was shifted, sneezed, or scratched the back of her head. it was if they expected her to make some grandiose escape.
As if... she thought.
Not only would she not be able to get ANYWHERE without her sword, but where would she go? Back to Death? The simple thought made her chuckle, which, in turn, nearly made the guards jump. If she faced Death now, well, she would surely face death.
War sighed. She would’ve groaned, but she was sure the guards would’ve had a heart attack if she did.
War couldn’t help but wondering what they were discussing in there.
Shining Armor and Luna were almost certainly against her, maybe Luna a little less than Shining Armor. Cadance would likely speak for her. Celestia was the wild card. Not only that, but she was, in the end, the deciding vote. How would she decide?
Every time War’s thoughts went to that face, War came no closer to what Celestia was thinking. She only felt even guiltier.
The tension in the air cracked like glass when the large doors finally opened with a loud creak.
The guards jumped, but quickly composed themselves as the princesses and the captain of the guard exited.
Celestia wasted no time.
“War. Come here.”
Reluctantly, War stood, and began to make her way to them, averting Celestia’s gaze as she did. She sat in front of them, doing her best to look at them and, at the same time, not make any eye contact.
Celestia began, her tone leveled, and impossible to decode.
“My sister, Cadance, and Shining Armor have been discussing what to do with you, and we’ve finally reached an agreement.”
War nearly gulped, but suppressed it.
“It is true that you are responsible for the deaths of countless ponies, as well as the destruction of four towns across Equestria.”
Here it comes.
“That alone would be enough to consider banishment or even death. Then, your group attacks my student, and kills one of the Elements of Harmony.”
Whatever happens, I deserve it, after all.
“What?” War couldn’t help but say it out loud.
“However, you did decide to try to stop your companions. Not only did you leave them, but you saved the pony they were after, as well as the other Elements of Harmony.”
War couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“You may have been too late to save Fluttershy, but you saved the others. Also, according to your tale, you didn’t have much choice.”
“But...but...” War was ready to argue. Why should she be given a second chance?
“Also, you give us an interesting opportunity,” Celestia continued, sensing War’s surprise. “Your are the only pony who knows these...heralds...well enough to know what they are planning. Therefore, we have decided to spare you in exchange for you helping us.”
War was dumbstruck. Not only was she allowed to live, she was going to help them. How did this happen?
Celesia went on, her tone suddenly tenser.
“However, do not think that your crimes are pardoned. You will live in Canterlot, but you will have rules and you will be expected to follow them to the letter. Firstly, you are not to leave the city or be allowed to see Twilight Sparkle and her friends without an armed escort. Secondly, your sword will remain with me.”
Celestia opened her wing to reveal War’s sword strapped to Celestia’s side.
“You will have a room in the castle, but you will be restricted on where you can and can’t go, and you will have a strict curfew. Finally, when everything is said and done, and when this threat is neutralized, you will answer for your crimes. Do you understand?”
War was too surprised to speak, so she only nodded.
“Well then, it’s settled then. Guards?”
The guards appeared behind War.
“Please find a room for War in the castle.”
The guards nodded, turned to War, and said, “Follow me.”
War numbly followed them. The was too shocked to see where she was going. The fact that she saw the guards was enough to know she was going the right way.
What had just happened? She had been pardoned. For now, at least. But why? Why would they pardon her?
War’s mind was buzzing, but it didn’t stop the guards from interrupting her.
It brought War back to reality. She looked at the guards. They seemed unsure of what to do.
War nodded at them, and entered. The room was obviously extravagant. It was reserved for guests of the princess, after all. If made War wonder why they didn’t just give her a dungeon cell. The room was wide and circular. On the other side of the room was a large bed with pillows a plentiful. The windows were large and ornate, with deep purple drapes. One even led to a balcony. To her left was a desk that had a mirror, as well as drawers and a ox no doubt filled with the finest make-up, though War doubted she would ever touch them. There was even a large bookcase filled to the brim with volumes of books. At least it would give her something to do while she remained awake through the night, though at the moment, she still felt drowsy, as not all of her magic had returned.
The door closed behind her, to War’s surprise. She looked back. No doubt the door was locked, though she was too tired to test her theory.
As she began to trot to the bed, War realized that she had forgotten what it felt like to be tired. The drowsiness was almost welcomed. It was a reminder that she hadn’t always been a monster.
War quickly realized, though, that any sleep she would get wouldn’t be a peaceful one.
Nevertheless, she jumped onto the bed, too tired to even pull the covers. She drifted off quickly, to her surprise. Her last thought was of what Death and the others were up to at the moment.
The chains weighed War down. They were so tight that, at some point, her ankles started bleeding. She looked around, but all she saw was darkness.
War was met with a her long echo.
“Somepony, please, help me!”
War went back to trying to pick away at the chains. As strong as she was, though, the chains wouldn’t give way, and it only made her bleeding worse.
A laugh echoed around War.
She froze, and, in the darkness, she saw a familiar shape. She didn’t need light to know who it was.
Death stopped short of her, and stared at her, like she was savoring the moment. War tried to squirm away, but the chains weighed her down. She looked back, but now, Death was nearly twice as tall as before. Her claws looked sharper than ever. Death raised her claw, barely visible in the darkness.
Spark closed her eyes, waiting for the impact.
She cracked her eye open enough to make out a shape coming towards her. A the last moment, Spark screamed.
And at that moment, Spark hit the floor of her room.
She flailed for a few moments before realizing that she had a blanket over her face. She removed it, and looked around. The room was just as she had left it. There was no sign of anything from what she was realizing was a dream. She looked at her ankles. There was no sign of any bleeding.
It was only a dream...
Then, she silently snapped at herself.
War. Not Spark. Why is that so hard to remember?
War let her eyes drift towards the blanket.
This didn’t make sense. War wasn’t her most conscious last night, but she didn’t remember covering herself with a blanket.
So then, who put the blanket on me?
War shook her head, and stood up. It wasn’t as if it really mattered, but she couldn’t quite shake off the question.
War hadn’t exactly made many friends, so who would do that?
Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.
Unsure of what to do, she simply said,”Who’s there?”
A guards responded sharply.
“Princess Celestia would like to know whether you will be having breakfast here or with her in the dining hall.”
War looked down, deep in thought.
What to do? Should she accept?
A moment passed. War walked to the window, and looked out. The city was slowly awakening. There were few ponies out and about, looking as small as ants.
In a sense, this was her audience. By now, most of them would know she was here. They’d know nothing about her, except for what they had heard. No doubt, what they had heard was mixed. She had killed, but she had saved lives as well. In a way, this was a clean slate. A new chance. Isn’t that what she had wanted? To start over?
Either way, none of that would happen if she shut herself in her room.
She turned to the door.
“Are you still there?” she asked.
“Yes. Have you reached a decision?”
“Yes. I will dine with the princesses.”
A moment of silence passed.
“Very well. We will leave when you’re ready.”
War stepped forward, but stopped short as she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her armor hadn’t lost its sheen, even with everything that had happened. She was dressed for battle, not a breakfast.
War quickly began stripping the armor plates off her body, head, and hooves. She also removed the band keeping her hair in a ponytail. For the first time in a long time, her hair fell down to her sides.
She grabbed the brush and began brushing her hair, trying to make it presentable. Her hair still was a mess, and she considered putting the band back on, but the knock on the door urged her to move on.
The voice that accompanied it surprised her, though.
“Are you...are you alright in there?”
It was Twilight.
War stood there for a moment, not knowing whether or not she should answer.
She sighed, and knew that she had to respond.
“...Can I speak to you..?”
War hesitated. Twilight didn’t.
“It’s okay. As long as these guards stay here, it’s not like you’re violating the rules, right?”
That was true, but it didn’t make War feel any better.
“...okay...” she uttered.
She walked up to the door just as the guards opened it.
She found herself face-to-face with the pony she had been trying to kill.
Twilight wore a light smile on her face.
She spoke softly.
War was hesitant to respond.
“They told us you we’re coming, but I wanted to catch you before you came out in front of everypony. If I had done this in front of everyone, Rainbow Dash wouldn’t have let me get two words in.”
Wars heart sank.
“Rainbow Dash’s in the dining hall too?”
“Yes. We all are. That’s why I wanted to catch you before.”
Twilight paused for a moment.
“I never properly thanked you for saving us. Thank you. I’m sorry all this happened.”
War couldn’t believe it.
“Why are you thanking me? Your home was destroyed, your life shattered, and one of your friends was killed...why are you thanking me..?”
Twilight’s eyes drooped a bit at the mention of her dead friend, but she came back up quickly.
“You had the chance to leave. You could’ve ran and left us, but you didn’t. You came back and saved us. I just wanted to know that...if nopony else...I trust you...”
She trailed off. War didn’t know what to say, but she managed to get a few words out.
“Thank you, Twilight...you don’t know what that means to me...”
Twilight smiled, and nodded once.
“Well then, I guess I’ll be seeing you in a few minutes, then?”
War waited a moment, but nodded. Then she realized something.
“Oh, but Twilight. I don’t need to, remember..?”
Twilight looked puzzled.
“The magic you borrowed allows me to go without eating, resting, and sleeping. The only reason I slept tonight is because I was still recovering...”
She trailed off, as if she had lost the point.
Twilight didn’t seem fazed by it.
“Does that mean you will refuse the invitation?”
The guard had interrupted them.
War thought for a moment.
This was her chance. She couldn’t let it slide. After all, just because she didn’t need to eat didn’t mean that she couldn’t. Either way, Celestia would no doubt want to talk to her.
War turned to the guard.
“I’ll accept the invitation.”
The guard nodded, and spoke briefly.
“Then allow me to escort you two to the dining hall.”
War nodded, and looked at Twilight, who only smiled lightly.
The guard led them down the hall, the other guard close behind. They walked in silence, allowing War to take in the intricate designs all over the walls. They were decorated, some with paintings, some with carvings that looked older than War, perhaps even older than Celestia. Many of them seemed to focus on the sun, surprising since this was the home of both princesses.
War’s observation was cut short when they stopped at two large double doors. They were intricately made, each taking the theme of sun and moon. They opened to a grand hall. It was long, and at its center was a long table filled with food. Celestia, her sister, Shining Armor, his wife, and the other Elements of Harmony were seated around it. Everypony look up when they entered. Most of the room was quiet. The only ones were visibly unhappy were Shining Armor and Rainbow Dash.
War kept close behind, almost cowering behind her. They walked to the two empty chairs to the right of the table. Twilight immediately began to take food for her breakfast, but War sat still, not daring to look at any of the ponies. No pony was moving, or even dared to breathe.
Twilight stopped eating as she realized that no one else was.
The tension was heavy enough to be cut with a knife.
Celestia was the first to speak.
War looked up, trying to avoid her eyes.
“Now that you have settled, I was meaning to talk to you about your...former companions.”
War only nodded.
“Firstly, I would like to know, of all the ponies in Equestria, why did they try to kill Twilight?”
War remembered something. She had asked that very question long ago. Death usually scoffed questions off, but that was one question she didn’t mind answering. War answered with Death’s answer. She had memorized it word for word, as if it was a creed to live by.
“I was told that we were going after Twilight because, she is the biggest threat out of all of the Elements of Harmony. Killing one would break the Elements, but, of all of them, Twilight was the one who was most likely to stop us...them...”
She silently cursed herself for using us.
“Twilight is their leader, and I was also told that she has almost unlimited magical potential...”
Celestia only nodded, her eyes not daring to give away anything. War went silent, finishing her thought.
“What exactly are they planning?”
War was expecting this question, so she jumped into it.
“They want to take control of Equestria by bringing back...something...I don’t exactly know what...but I know it’s what gave all of us our powers, but we were never told exactly WHAT it is...”
“Do you know the identities of the other heralds?”
“No. Only their titles. Famine, Pestilence, and Death.”
Celestia perked up at that, her solid demeanor disappearing for one second, replaced with a look of surprise. She quickly composed herself, but that moment chilled War.
Celestia went on, nonetheless.
“Do you know if these heralds have any weaknesses?”
War thought about it, but came up empty.
“No. They’d tear your soldiers apart. The only thing I could think of that could take them on is...”
“Myself?” Celestia added.
War thought about it, but then realized something.
“But wouldn’t that be what they want?”
Celestia’s eyebrow raised.
“These ponies are far more powerful than any other pony. If you fought them, you could take on one, but all three? It would be suicide.”
Celestia looked away, lost in thought.
“That would be what they wanted, right? Equestria leaderless.”
Celestia looked back, and asked, “So, then, what do you propose we do?”
This, War hadn’t expected.
Only one idea formed in War’s mind, but would she allow it?
“Well...firstly, not face them head on...face them one-on-one, but...”
“Well?” Celestia urged.
“...I was going to suggest...letting me fight them..?”
Everypony was silent, letting the question sink in.
Suddenly, Rainbow Dash seemed to decide that she had been quiet for far too long.
Celestia looked at her, visibly furious for the first time that War had known her.
“Celestia, if you give her a sword, you’re just begging to get betrayed!”
“RAINBOW DASH! REMEMBER WHO YOU’RE SPEAKING TO!”
The room shook with Celestia’s use of the Royal Canterlot Voice. Her whole life, War had never heard of Celestia ever using the old method of speaking to her subjects.
Rainbow cowered, but her scowl persisted.
Celestia began to think, and turned to War.
“Your request is a very...interesting one, to say the least. Especially considering the rules I have set for you. I will, however, consider it.”
War only nodded.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some matters I must attend to.”
Celestia stood, and began to walk out. War looked, and saw that Celestia hadn’t even touched her food.
Princess Luna also excused herself, no doubt to see why Celestia had left.
Once Luna was gone, Rainbow Dash turned to War, fury in her eyes.
“If you think you’re getting anywhere near that sword, you’re dead wrong. I’m shocked you can even SIT next to Twilight right now!”
“Alright, Rainbow Dash, that’s enough!” Twilight interrupted.
Rainbow Dash looked at her, shocked. Twilight was adamant.
“How can you defend her, Twilight? It’s because of her that Fluttershy’s dead!”
“No, it isn’t.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because she wasn’t the one who killed her. Death did.”
Rainbow Dash shook her head.
“I’ve always trusted you to be smart enough to know what side you’re on! Now, you choose to side with HER?”
“And I thought you were supposed to be the Element of Loyalty! I thought you’d trust me that I know what I’m doing!”
“I AM being loyal! I’m being loyal to my friends! SHE is the one who wants you dead!”
“I DO NOT want her dead!”
War couldn’t remain silent any longer. She had stood up, all nervousness disappearing in her anger.
Rainbow Dash was caught off guard, but turned to War.
“SHUT UP! WHAT RIGHT DO YOU HAVE TO SPEAK?” she yelled.
“I have just as much right as you do!”
“YOU HAVE KILLED AS MANY AS THEY HAVE!”
“You think I had a CHOICE?”
“YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE!”
The two of them stopped, as Cadance raised her voice. She didn’t use the Royal Cantarlot Voice, but it was surprising, nonetheless.
She was scowling, especially at Rainbow Dash.
“We are not going to get through this by arguing!”
Rainbow Dash sat down, but War didn’t.
“I’ll be excusing myself now.”
Twilight stood up.
“Wait, don’t let Rainbow Dash do this to you.”
War turned to her.
Twilight’s mouth hung open, as if to argue. War only shook her head.
She turned and walked out of the room. War could feel Rainbow Dash’s eyes focused on her.
Once War had left the room, she wondered what to do next. Should she go out into Canterlot? What is there to do? What could she do?
Famine was growing impatient. She looked up at Death, who had not moved in hours. She had been seated, eyes closed, and breathing slowly.
Why are we waiting? she thought.
She turned to Pestilence. She had been wandering, surveying their work. Most of the buildings were burned to the ground. They were nothing but ashes. Pestilence didn’t give any building any real mind,
Famine was becoming impatient, however.
She turned to Death once more.
“Why are we waiting? War must’ve reached Canterlot by now.”
For a moment, Death sat still. Her eyes then slowly opened. She turned to Famine, and spoke.
“We didn’t follow them precisely because they arrived in Canterlot. We are powerful, but against the combined forces of the troops AND the princesses, we’d stand no chance at winning.”
Famine seemed dissatisfied with the answer.
“So then what are we waiting for?”
Death paused for a moment before answering.
“The master knew that we could not invade Canterlot alone. So he gave me this.”
Death closed her eyes. The air around her began to tremble. A cold wind swept through, chilling Famine to the bone, even through the magic protecting her.
Slowly, as if from the depths of the earth itself, a black form seeped out of the dirt and ashes in front of Death. The shape morphed and changed before Famine’s eyes, almost changing with the wind.
Finally, the form began to take shape, forming slowly into legs, then a body, then the head and tail.
The shape resembled a pony, but remained pitch black.
The head finished, and the form slowly opened its eyes, which were pure white, devoid of all life. It didn’t seem to breath, and stood completely still.
Famine stood back, not knowing what to do.
Slowly, she spoke, as if just her breath could blow the form away.
“It is a shade. A creature born of the soul of a dead pony. Before, they were simply souls wasted. Now, they will be our soldiers.”
The shade still didn’t move, and its blank eyes making it unclear whether or not it stared at Famine or not.
“I will teach them never to cross me again.”
A chill ran down Famine’s spine. She knew the master had power, but this?
But the thing that chilled her the most was the fact that she said that they would never cross “ME”, not we...
War lay in her bed, looking at the floor, lost in thought. The only noise pervading in her room was from the record player she found in a cupboard when she came up after breakfast. Hooftoven’s Moonlight Sonata played. It had been a while since she had listened to any music, let alone anything so...calming.
It almost made her forget what had happened.
War sighed. She didn’t know what to do. She hadn’t left her room since breakfast. As far as she could tell it was near noon.
War had lost track of the time. She was sure that, if she could, she’d be asleep by now.
The lull of silence and music was oddly soothing.
Which made it all the more sudden when War heard the click of the door’s lock.
The door opened, and in stepped Princess Celestia, guards trailing her slightly.
She spoke in a level voice, and looked War directly in the eyes.
“War, I’d like to speak with you for a moment.”
War got out of bed and stood up, letting her hair fall.
She came up to Celestia, only reacher to her shoulders, making War feel small.
“I have considered your request, and, after thinking it over, I have decided to allow you to fight with us, should it come to that.”
War remained silent.
Celestia paused, but resumed.
“I hope you realize how much I am trusting you with this, War. This was not an easy decision to make. I suggest you don’t betray my trust.”
War only nodded.
“You have a chance here to prove to me whether you truly have changed.”
War remained silent.
For a moment, so was Celestia. But she still had something to say.
"In a few days, we are having a funeral for Fluttershy. If you would like to join us, you can."
With that, she turned and nodded to her guards, who followed her out.
War, looked down, breathing for the first time in what felt like hours.
Should she go? Did she have the right to?
She couldn't think now, especially with the voice that suddenly interrupted her thoughts.
“I was only going to speak with her...no, I don’t need a guard.”
War’s ears pricked at the sound of Shining Armor’s voice.
He entered the room, and held his gaze to War.
“I’d like to have a chat with you, if you don’t mind.”
War didn’t get the chance to object.
“I am the captain of the royal guard. Do you know what that means?”
Shining Armor took a step forward, almost face-to-face with War.
“That means it is my duty to protect the people of Canterlot. But it is also my duty to protect those closest to me.”
With each word, he inched closer and closer.
“So, you listen here, because I will only say this once!”
The closer he got, the more rage clouded his eyes.
“If you hurt my sister, if I catch you trying to hurt her, if you even make me THINK that you’re trying to hurt her, I will end you, and I don’t care what Celestia says. I will END YOU!”
War had sunk down to her knees, and Shining Armor was so close, they were almost touching.
“Do you understand?”
Shining Armor stood up tall, turned, and left, not looking back.
War couldn’t move.
She may have gained the trust of Celestia, but War knew that this fight had only begun.
War looked at herself in the mirror. Her red hair fell to the side. She was wondering whether or not to tie it back again.
It had been three days since she had arrived. Not much had happened since that first morning. War’s days had been spent wandering the castle and admiring its beauty. Every so often, Celestia or Luna would find her wandering, and tell her some story about the castle from decades ago, long before War was born. It was interesting. It gave War something to think about while she wandered. It amazed her that the castle was so much older than her. Simply walking through it’s halls, she could feel the history seeping through the walls, making her feel small.
Other than that, War spent her night alone, listening to music, paging through books that she had found, or just lying in bed, watching the moon fly by, wishing she could sleep.
The only other thing to break the monotony was combat training.
She wasn’t allowed to use a sword, but simply showing her physical strength was all Shining Armor wanted to see. He trusted she could hold her own with a sword. They trained out in a clearing in between the gardens and the castle, under guard supervision.
Everytime Shining Armor would try to knock War off her balance, she would maneuver herself under him, topple him, and pin him down.
By the end, Shining Armor was giving her a look of either awe or worry. War couldn’t tell which. Maybe both.
Besides that, War’s days had been uneventful. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she again, pondered whether she should tie her hair back. After all, she needed to look her best today.
Today was the funeral.
She had wondered whether or not she should even attend. After all, she was just as responsible for Fluttershy’s death as anypony.
But there was something nagging at War. Something told her that she had to be there. She had to see this through.
After all, even if it was hard for her, it’s not like she didn’t deserve the guilt. If she felt bad, she deserved it.
War finally decided to tie it back. She felt anxious. She almost wanted to push the table in front of the door, and refuse to come out, but that wouldn’t solve anything.
War sighed, and turned to the door. The guards were waiting, ready to escort her to the funeral.
She only nodded, and they turned, and began leading her to the service.
She was told that it would take place in the Canterlot Gardens. Fluttershy had apparently loved the gardens. War hadn’t gone in during her stay, but the aroma that came from it was divine.
War and the guards stepped outside, stepping on the path to the gardens.
War smelled them before she saw them.
Flowers, mostly. But War had never seen flowers that could spread so sweet an aroma so far. She could see why Fluttershy had liked it. It seemed like a place one could lose herself. When the gardens came into sight, they looked like an explosion of color. Flowers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and aromas filled the gardens to the brim. Some had been placed there, likely for the occasion, but many were simply growing on their own.
The actual entrance was a hedge archway, but the flowers seemed to spill over. When War did pass through the arch, she was met with even more flowers, plants, and the noises of distant animals. Twilight, her friends, and Princess Celestia were idle, some chatting, others staring off into space.
A hush took hold of the garden when War stepped in.
Everypony simply stared at her, as if expecting her to say something.
War opened her mouth as if to say something, but couldn’t find the words.
The silence was heavy. It was almost choking.
Much to War’s expectations, the first to break the silence was Rainbow Dash.
She stepped forward, her gaze coldly set on War.
“What in the world is SHE doing here?”
She addressed Celestia, but her gaze never left War.
Celestia spoke in a leveled manner, not betraying any remorse or joy at War’s appearance.
“I invited her. I did not know if she would come but...”
She trailed off, not needing to finish.
War looked past them. Just behind them was a casket. It was simply. It wasn’t anything fancy, seeing as the funeral must have been last minute. The light brown wood gave a warm feel to the casket.
Rainbow Dash brought her back to the problem at hand.
War focused on Rainbow Dash. She didn’t budge an inch.
Not this time...
“Are you deaf? I said...”
“I heard what you said,” War responded.
Rainbow Dash seemed taken aback, as if she hadn’t expected the retort.
She opened her mouth again to speak, but Celestia intervened.
“That’s enough, Rainbow Dash,” she said.
Dash looked at her in disbelief.
“She has just as much right to be here as you do, Rainbow Dash.”
Dash just looked at her, mouth agape, at a loss for words.
She turned back to War. War hadn’t moved.
She wanted to see this through. She couldn’t leave without doing something. Exactly what that was, she wasn’t sure.
War began walking to the casket. As she trotted past Rainbow Dash, she could almost feel her eyes boring a hole through her.
War stopped at the casket, and looked into it. Fluttershy lay there, unmoving, her yellow coat, once pale, restored to what War assumed was her usual light color. She seemed at peace. As if she was simply sleeping, and a gently nudge would stir her awake.
Spark felt her eyes water. She looked away. She couldn’t cry. Not now.
Spark cursed herself.
And she cursed herself again.
Of course, now of all times is when I’d forget my name...
War(how hard is it to remember a simple name?) turned when she heard others approaching.
It was a small band of ponies, instruments in tow. One of them, a grey earth pony with a large case strapped to her trotted to Celestia, whispering something to her.
Celestia only nodded. The mare turned, and said a few words to the group, and they began setting up.
Each pony opened up their case and took out their instrument.
The grey mare opened her case and took out what looked like a large violin, a cello.
The band was very last minute in it’s feel. The entire funeral seemed very last minute.
War shook the thought off, and turned. Everypony was either chatting, or looking at Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash was one of those at her side, so she wouldn’t have to deal with her. For now, that is.
Twilight was speaking to Pinkie, who’s normally poofy hair had deflated, not entirely, but noticeably.
So then I wasn’t seeing things...
Twilight looked at War, and smiled. It wasn’t a happy smile. War couldn’t pin down what kind of smile it was, but it definitely wasn’t happy. She and Pinkie trotted over to War.
Twilight spoke first.
“You okay? I’m sorry for Rainbow Dash. She’s just...”
She didn’t finish. War had something to ask.
“What?” Twilight seemed confused.
“Why, of all of you, does it seem like she’s the one who hates me the most?”
Twilight waited a moment before responding.
“It’s just that...Rainbow Dash, out of all of us, was the one who knew Fluttershy for the longest. She’s known her since they were fillies.”
Of course. As if I didn’t feel bad enough...
“Her...death...I think it just...I just...I can’t imagine the pain she must be going through...”
War only nodded. She looked at Pinkie, who was smiling, but it wasn’t the same smile that Twilight wore. It wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t sad either.
War just had to ask.
“Pinkie, why are you still smiling....how are you still smiling?”
Pinkie just tilted her head, as if she was confused. Her answer came quick.
“Well...don’t get me wrong. I am sad. I miss Fluttershy so much...but...I’m smiling because, funerals aren’t places to be sad. They’re places to be happy. They’re places where we celebrate that pony’s life. I was thinking of all the fun we would have together. It made me smile.”
War stood, mouth agape. She had no response because, in many ways, she was right.
So then why do I still feel like crap?
She shook the thought away.
Twilight asked again, “Are you okay, War..?”
War only nodded, not looking at her.
Twilight smiled her false smile, and walked away, taking Pinkie with her.
What am I even doing here? I saw the body, what else am I waiting for?
War waited, as if somepony would give her an answer.
No such luck.
Everypony stood in front of the open casket, placed right next to the freshly dug hole.
Every cell in War’s body told her to run, but she stood fast, standing next to Twilight, who already had tears in her eyes.
Everypony had tears, except for Rainbow Dash, Celestia, and Luna, who had joined them shortly after the band.
The clearing they were in was just a fragrant as the rest of the gardens, and color was in no short supply. Though, notably, light pink and yellow seemed to be the dominant colors now, for reasons obvious to everypony.
Celestia spoke, and for the first time, they betrayed emotion behind them. For the first time, War heard sorrow behind the ancient mare’s voice.
“Does anypony have any last words?”
The silence was ringing. Inside, War begged somepony to speak.
She can’t go without SOMEPONY saying something!
Luckily, somepony spoke.
“Ah have something to say.”
Applejack stepped forward, looking at Celestia. Celestia only nodded.
Applejack removed her hat, holding it to her chest.
“Fluttershy...ah...ah don’t know how to say this, but...” she spoke to the still open casket. “You were the kindest pony ah could ever meet. You stood by us all, even if it scared you.” Tears began to fall from the orange pony’s eyes.
“You helped us when we needed it most. You comforted us, talked to us, defended us...you stood up to a damned dragon for us!”
The tears wouldn’t stop.
“Ah...ah just wanna thank ya kindly...for everything...not just for the stuff like the dragon...but for everything...we’ll miss ya, sugarcube...”
She took a step back, letting her tears run freely.
Twilight stepped forward next, not even making an effort to hold back tears.
War impulsively placed her hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. She didn’t expect to do it, and any other day, it would’ve earned her odd looks, but today wasn’t any other day.
Twilight simply looked back, and gave a grateful smile.
Turning back, Twilight found her words.
“I never imagined any of this would happen...and especially not to you...you...the kindest, sweetest, most gentle pony I knew. A pony that would literally never even hurt a fly...”
Twilight wiped away the tears that had begun falling.
“You were always there for us...any of us...no matter what the problem...I’m sorry I just can’t...”
Twilight turned away, and buried her face into Rarity’s side, sobbing.
War looked away. Something about seeing Twilight like that felt...wrong.
Pinkie stepped forward next as Rarity comforted Twilight.
She looked at the casket, her hair staying at the same volume it had been. Pinkie, herself, however, seemed to be on the brink of breaking down. Maybe it was the happy memories, like she said.
Whatever it was, Pinkie began to speak.
“Fluttershy...I don’t know what else to say...you were one of the best friends I ever had. You always gave me a reason to smile. You gave us all that reason to smile....something I always wanted to do...”
Pinkie sniffed, a tear finally falling out of her eye.
“I’m going to miss you...I just wish you...I just...”
Pinkie stood, not knowing what to say.
“I just...I just want to thank you. None of us...nopony will ever forget you...never ever, ever, ever, ever...”
Pinkie stepped back, looking to Rarity, who had finished consoling Twilight. She stepped forward, and breathed a heavy sigh.
“I just...I wonder why this had to happen...to us...to you...to everypony...”
War looked down. She couldn’t look at anypony.
“What did we do to deserve this..? I just wish it didn’t have to be you, Fluttershy...we had so much fun together...those spa treatments, those conversations we had...the ones we all had...together...I just wonder if things will ever be the same...”
War was on the verge of tears. She looked up, and saw Rarity, tears freely flowing.
So many tears.
None of her own.
A knot formed in her stomach at the thought.
It took War a moment to register that Rarity had stopped, and that everyone was looking now at Rainbow Dash.
But Dash didn’t step forward.
She stared at the ground refusing to make eye contact.
“Rainbow Dash...do you have anything to say?” Celestia asked cautiously.
Dash slightly looked up, as if only realizing where she was.
Without a word, she turned and spread her wings. Quick as she could, she took off, flying high into the air, leaving behind her friends, Celestia, and the funeral.
“RAINBOW! Where are you going?” Twilight began to run off after her, but Celestia touched her shoulder.
Twilight looked at her mentor.
“Twilight...let her be...I can’t imagine the pain she must be in...”
The thought made the knot ever tighter.
Twilight looked back at the funeral, and sighed. She slowly trotted back to her place.
Celestia cleared her throat.
“Well then...if there’s nothing left, then we’ll begin with the burial.”
As Celestia stepped forward, her horn glowed a golden color. The top of the casket closed slowly, giving Fluttershy’s friends one last fleeting look at her. The casket closed, revealing Fluttershy’s cutie mark emblazoned on the casket.
Three pink butterflies, taken by the crow.
Celestia looked at the band, set up a short distance away from the hole. She nodded, and the band began to play. The tune from their instruments seemed to echo the funeral.
Celestia turned to the casked and, her horn glowing once more, lifted it and floated it over the grave. Slowly lowering it to the music, a silent tear fell down the mighty alicorn’s face.
Out of all the tears Spark had seen today, none fell so heavily as that tear.
War sat on her bed in her room, thinking about what she had seen today.
The sun had already set, and the moon provided the only light in her luxurious room.
Several things were going through her head.
Sorrow, fear, anger, grief...
But most of all, hate. Hate for a certain pony with a black hide and a face resembling a skull.
War hated Death. She hated her with a passion. She wanted to see her pay. Pay for taking the life of such a sweet and innocent pony.
She wanted to gut the crow for killing the butterfly.
Was this what kept her going?
War didn’t want to hate, but she couldn’t NOT hate.
And why shouldn’t she?
Shouldn’t she be allowed to hate that vile excuse for a pony?
War waited, as if she’d find an answer.
She found none.
A voice interrupted her thoughts.
“She’s not allowed out after dark,” the guard said sternly.
“I don’t want to take her out, I just want to speak with her,” another voice spoke.
It was Rainbow Dash’s voice.
There was a pause.
“Alright then. But don’t linger,” the guard said.
War heard the click of the locks being undone. The door opened and creaked with age. The sky-blue pegasus stepped in, and didn’t even flinch when the door closed loudly behind her.
For a moment, Rainbow Dash and War simply stared each other down, making eye contact for the first time in a while.
War was almost afraid to break the silence.
As always, it was Rainbow Dash who broke it.
“Okay, listen up, because I’m only going to say this once: I want answers!”
War almost flinched.
“If you want answers,” she began, “You came to the wrong place. I wish I had some myself.”
Rainbow Dash seemed confused, but spoke again.
“I just want to know something right now! All I want to know is...”
She paused before asking.
War stayed silent.
“Why do you care?”
War stayed silent still.
“You could have ran. The moment you saw that...that...that MURDERER kill my friend, you could’ve ran! Why not, huh?”
War opened her mouth to answer, but she couldn’t find her voice.
Rainbow Dash didn’t take it well.
“ANSWER ME, DAMMIT!”
War had had enough.
“What do you want me to say? That I felt some righteous need to help you all? That I was tired of all the killing? Because as much as I’d LIKE to say that, I can’t!”
That truly silenced Rainbow Dash.
But War wasn’t done. She got off of her bed, and looked out of the window.
“The truth is, I was scared. Scared of what they’d do to me if they found me...and scared of what I’d do if I stayed...”
War looked at the moon. Sometimes, she’d wondered what it’d be like to take Princess Luna’s place up there, alone, with only the stars to accompany her.
“I was scared and tired...I was tired of all the suffering...”
Rainbow Dash had seemingly recovered from such an unexpected response.
“Not a single pony you’ve killed has ever been connected to you! To you, they’re faces! You’ve never had to suffer like we’ve suffered! Like I”VE suffered!”
War half chuckled, much to Rainbow Dash’s surprise. She turned to face her.
“Suffering? You think you know suffering?”
“I HAD TO WATCH MY CLOSEST FRIEND DIE! Have you ever had to watch the pony closest to you DIE?”
“I WATCHED ALL OF THEM DIE!”
Rainbow Dash flinched, but War kept going.
“You think you know suffering because you saw someone close to you die? What would you have done if ALL the ponies close to you died, huh?”
With every word, War drew closer and closer.
“Every time I had something GOOD in my life...every time I thought I had a chance to be...happy...I had to watch it burn...”
War sat, and all the tears she’d held back came up. They were silent tears, but tears nonetheless.
“I watched them all burn...”
Rainbow Dash looked at the pony in front of her. War didn’t mean to break down in front of her, but it’s not like she could’ve stopped it.
Rainbow’s next words came to War’s surprise.
“What’s your story, anyways?”
War looked away.
On any other day, she would’ve wondered why she had opened her big mouth.
Where to begin?
She sighed, and began to speak.
“I was born in Ponyville. My parents, grandparents, my baby sister and me lived in the same house. We were a close family.”
She didn’t make eye contact with Rainbow Dash. That would’ve made things all the harder.
“I had a pretty simple childhood. Nothing real special. I was pretty quiet, though. Never got out much, and didn’t have many friends, but I could live with that, right? I didn’t need them, right?”
War paused, as if she was trying to answer those questions.
They weren’t any easier to answer than when she was a filly.
“But then it all changed. It all changed with a...”
She almost laughed at the irony.
“It all changed with a spark.”
War wiped the tears away.
“There was a fire. A large one. It took everyone I knew. My parents, my grandparents, my sister...all gone. And there was nothing I could do about it. I was in school when it happened...I can still see it...the burned wreck...the smoldering ashes of the living room I played in...the kitchen table I sat in...I think it’s ingrained itself into my memory...”
Fire. Why was fire always in her life?
“I was sent to live with one of the only relatives I had left...my aunt and uncle living in Manehattan. They tried to make life...easier for me, but...I always felt this sense of...loneliness I couldn’t shake off...they claimed to feel my pain, but they didn’t. Their entire lives didn’t change...yes, they lost some family members, but...they were far off in Manehattan...I was there...I had to watch the workers dig through the ashes...”
War stood, and walked back to the window to look out at the moon, just to give her something to look at. She couldn’t stare at the floor any longer.
“Everyday, I went to school, I came home, I went to the store...I tried living life again, but...the loneliness never left me. Everyone around me seemed to have nothing better to do than to feel sorry for me. I heard it from my new guardians, from teachers, from neighbors, from other fillies...how could I move on when everywhere I went, people had to bring it up?”
The moon shined down on War. It almost sheltered her.
“It never felt like...like a home. Home is supposed to make you feel safe...secure...I never felt safe. I felt like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.”
“So, I ran. I ran away. I wanted to find a home. Someplace I could feel like I belonged...I spent many nights alone in the Manehattan streets, and I learned just how unforgiving ponies can be...how they can just cast a blind eye over somepony. But that’s also where I learned about fire...where I learned the other side of it. For the longest time, I’d hated fire. It’d taken away what I held dearest, but then...on those streets...I saw something different.”
She turned to Rainbow Dash.
“Ever notice how the homeless have those barrels that are on fire? It always seems obvious, but that’s the thing...it was so obvious, that I forgot about it...fire...it destroys, but it also heals...it gives life...warmth.”
The anger in Rainbow Dash’s face had subsided, replaced with something else. War couldn’t tell with what.
“It IS life, in a way. We heat our homes with it, we cook our meals with it, we make jewelry and mold tools with it...we do so many amazing things with it...it’s like ponies...they can do so many great things, but...far too often they’re misused. That was the only solace I found in my life on the streets...
I returned to my supposed home some time later on. They welcomed me back, in tears, but I think they were just afraid to lose another family member. They didn’t care that it was me.
I spent the next few years in my own quiet suffering, dealing with the loneliness I found in Manehattan. I don’t think it was a surprise when I left the city as soon as I came of age.
Without a cutie mark, though. I found it odd that, here I was, a fully grown mare without a cutie mark. Anyways, I raised as much money as I could so I could go traveling. I wanted to go to places I’d never seen...just hoping to find somewhere...somewhere that I could call...home.”
War looked away.
“I didn’t find one.”
War wished Rainbow Dash would say something. Something to let her know what she was thinking.
War knew the next part of the story, and it pained her to recall it.
“That’s about when Death found me.”
War had expected some reaction. As far as she could tell, Rainbow Dash didn’t react any differently. Then again, she wasn’t looking at her.
“She found me...and she was able to tell that I’d been troubled...I told her my story...and...she offered me this chance...or, what I thought was a chance...a chance to change things...she told me I could make a difference. She said she wanted to bring justice for those who were suffering. She told me I’d be a herald for change in Equestria...”
“...I was such and idiot...I really thought that she was telling the truth...I really thought I could...ugh...I WAS SO STUPID!”
War slammed her hooves on the ground as hard as she could. She couldn’t even look at the moon anymore. She felt ashamed.
Which made her all the more surprised.
“You’re not an idiot.”
War’s head raised. She turned to face Rainbow Dash. For the first time since they’d known each other, Rainbow Dash had just complimented her.
Well, not complemented. Not really. But it was still a surprise.
War shakily asked, “What did you say..?”
Rainbow Dash looked hesitant, but she repeated herself.
“You’re not an idiot...you’re...”
She trailed off.
Rainbow Dash looked down, but quickly composed herself.
“Listen, I’m not saying I particularly like you or anything. You still killed innocent ponies, and...I’m not likely to forgive that so easily...but I don’t hate you.”
War couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“And I hate that. I know I should hate you but...I don’t. I just can’t. And I hate that.”
She turned away. She was no longer yelling. She was probably as calm as she had ever been as long as War had known her.
“My home...it’s destroyed...and you’re partially to blame, but...”
She turned back to face War, and War could see that she was holding back tears. Her eyes had a fierceness to them. Almost like a flame.
“You better be telling the truth when you say that you’ll fight to defend us...because if you’re life was really the hell you say it was, then I don’t think I need to remind you of the chance you have here...”
She paused as if to give War time to respond. War stood silent.
She nodded, and turned for the door. She raised a hoof to knock on the door to be let out, but paused.
She looked back, and asked, “What was your name?”
“What?” War was confused for a moment.
“I’m guessing your parents didn’t name you War. What was your name?”
War paused, hesitant to reveal it, but when she tried, it came out as if by instinct.
“My name was Spark.”
The flame in Rainbow Dash’s eyes didn’t subside as she silently nodded.
She knocked on the door, and almost as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone.
War was looking at the moon, listening to the sounds of the night.
She was intently listening to one sound.
It was coming from the gardens.
To the rest of the ponies in the castle, it might have just sounded like the wind.
But War knew what it was. It was the sounds of a sobbing pony, grieving over the loss of her dear friend.
They lasted for hours.
Then the world went silent.
Not even the crickets chirped.
It was as if the animals themselves were grieving for the dead pegasus.