*For anyone that put up with my bullcrap over the past 2 months.
They say that when you stare long into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you. A bitter sentiment, but one that holds more meaning than most. Who that holds meaning to, however, is difficult to pinpoint. It was a saying a gnome Death Knight knew well enough, until the abyss was conquered, however.
His task had been complete, and he no longer found purpose in the steps that he took. His brethren had simply moved on to protecting the realm from other dangers, such as the Cataclysm that had rocked the land to its very core. He couldn't find the will, his vengeance had been so bottled up and placed in one direction that after the fall of the Lich King, he just had no reason to move on.
So he wandered. He wandered around Northrend and in places where others would simply die from cold's burning kiss. His small stature was sometimes almost completely covered by the snow that showered upon him, but he somehow continued on even when the conditions would spell death to any other gnome.
His breathe was colder than the dark plate he wore, and his eyes glowed an eery light that showed that he was once the tool of Arthas. It was reminder that no matter what he did, he would always be connected to that ugly blotch in Azeroth's history.
He had memories, but they did not seem like his anymore. A moderate tinkerer and warrior in his days back in Tinkertown, he was known for making random little gizmos that sometimes even left fellow gnomes in awe. He particular liked mechanically enhancing his weapons accordingly, in case he was ever caught in a fight.
His skill with gizmos and gadgets and adequate fighting abilities caused him to be recruited by Muradin's Explorer's League. Soon after, they began an expedition to Northrend to search for the runeblade Frostmourne.
There, they somehow met with Arthas and the soldiers he held command over. Arthas was in search of Mal'Ganis, a bitter hatred obviously evident in every action he took. If only they had all known where that hatred would take them all.
From deceit to blind rage, they defeated Mal'Ganis, but at the cost of Muradin's life (unbeknownst to any at the time that he had survived) and Arthas' humanity. He suddenly left them to fend for themselves, some even tried to follow after him.
The gnome was one that chased after the Paladin that had fallen from the Light, anything at this point seemed better than sitting alone and waiting to freeze to death along with all the others. Anything.
Unfortunately, the winds and the snow they carried were too much for the gnome as he attempted to cross the frozen wastes. His tears froze to his face as he lost sight of everything around him, the sound of his shivering breaths the last thing he heard before being buried under the snow.
When blackness gave way to a chilling light, the gnome breathed again. His memories gone and his conscious full of influence by the Lich King himself. He found himself in the dread fortress of Acherus, looming above the small Scarlet Crusade town of Havenshire.
The gnome adopted a new name: Finem, and played a critical role in the downfall of Havenshire. As the final march began upon the Light's Hope Chapel, the Death Knights fought tooth and nail against the Argent Dawn, but to no avail.
In the end, it was revealed that the Lich King was fully aware that his Death Knights would be no match for the guardians at the chapel and sent them regardless in an attempt to root out the great Tirion Fordring.
It had worked, to a point. He was able to bring Tirion Fordring before him, but that was where his success had ended. With the help of Darion Mograine's once corrupted blade: The Ashbringer, Tirion was able to fight back the Lich King and forced him to retreat, leaving the Death Knights involved at the mercy of the Argent Dawn.
Surprisingly, Tirion called for a coalition to be formed around The Silver Hand and The Argent Dawn. Darion, the feeling of betrayal and hatred strong within him called for the formation of the Knights of The Ebon Blade and their vendetta to defeat the Lich King once and for all.
After that, it was all up in the air as a full on invasion from the newly formed Argent Crusade, The Alliance and The Horde all made its way up to the roof of the world.
After a series of heroic efforts from all the parties, the Lich King had finally been slain and a new one took his place in hope of never having his dark influence upon the world of Azeroth ever again.
This was when it was the end for Finem. There was no driving force behind his steps anymore, just a cold and numb feeling. But even then, out in the wastes, he eventually grew tired of the harsh weather and climbed the walk up towards Wintergarde keep.
The town it loomed over was already beginning to be reconstructed and laughs could be heard over the chilling air for once in this broken land. He watched some of the humans and dwarfs admire their handiwork as the town began to take shape once more. The memories of the attacks from the geists were long gone it seemed.
Finem continued on, some of the people giving him a strange look as he climbed the hill leading up to the inn. He didn't care what anyone thought of him, he didn't care about them at all in the end. If anything, he loathed most, especially fellow Death Knights. Some were so cocky and ignorant in their power, it irritated him. They were suppose to beyond such thoughts, yet here they were, clinging to childish behavior.
He finally stood before the inn, the warmth would be comforting, even to him. He wasn't looking for food or anything, just a place to relax for once. Even he needed to experience a break from all the elements of the world, and just to relax in a nice calm inn.
He hopped up each step, passing a night elf who was stepping out and didn't see him. He grumbled at the lack of notice he got in this life and the last. Even with his lack of emotion, he found the way people of his stature were treated by most taller races insulting. Humans, draenei, and elves thought themselves so much better than the shorter races.
Inside there was a few tables full where townsfolk resided. It seemed that taking shelter here once caused them to linger and favor this inn rather than the one in the town below. Whatever, it didn't matter. He just needed his own chair at his own table and he would be happy.
He walked past the crackling fireplace on his way to an open table near the back of the inn, lingering for a bit near the fire, its warmth always causing a strange tingling across his skin that he found fascinating.
After he found the table, he pulled the chair out and looked down at the wooden floor below him. He sighed, pulled the sword from his back, hopped into his chair and absentmindedly threw the sword down where it landed with a 'thunk!” in the wooden floor.
That patrons at the other tables gave him a queer look before returning to their own conversations, finding it best not to have their eyes linger upon the Death Knight. Even better, at least the people here knew better than to bother one of his kind.
Eventually though, a barmaid came by and nearly tripped over the sword that had been planted into the wood. She looked down at the blade and then to the gnome who was sitting at the table, drumming his three fingers across the surface.
She was a human, a younger looking one from inspection. She didn't seem too happy with what the Death Knight had done and scowled at the gnome. He simply paid her no mind, finding it easier just to ignore her then look into what was really bothering her (as if he didn't already know.)
“Excuse me,” she asked after a moment. “Is there a problem here?”
He sighed, confrontation unavoidable now. “No, there's no problem at all. Did you need something, human?”
Her face scrunched up in offense, she was obviously only getting more and more displeased with him by the moment. How pathetic, what was she expecting to do with him? He could crush her or worse in less than a second.
She turned and stomped off then, probably going to talk with the proprietor of the inn. Let them come then, there was nothing they could do to him. The living were always so snotty and rude when it came down to his presence. All he dealt with was prejudice.
Sure enough, she was back with a burly looking gentlemen. A mustache adorned his face and his apron was covered in dried blood. Oh boy, looks like things might just escalate quickly. He had no intention of injuring the two, but if it came to conflict, then it might be necessary.
“My daughter here says there might be a problem here.” He spoke gruffly. “I don't like problems.”
“Oh, I can assure you there's no problem here. If you would be so kind as to leave me be?” Finem spat back. Nobody was going to move him, no matter what. He answered to no one.
“It appears that the problem might be with you. If I could make a suggestion? Perhaps you should leave? And take your sword out of my damned floor.”
“I don't think I'll be doing that. I suggest you leave my presence and think about the agony you have been spared.”
The man frowned, his brow furrowing. He wasn't going to take this from some little gnome! “Now you listen here! I could break you in a-”
He suddenly felt a strange force wrap around his neck and he was brought down to eye level with the gnome and his helmet. “You've mistaken one thing human: I don't play petty games of words. If you really wish to die, I could snap your neck with my dark energies alone. So, I'll give you one more chance to walk away.” A single breath of cold air come out from the gnome's covered mouth. “But just in case you wish to linger longer, I'll give you the right incentive to get the idea.”
The burly man was flying across the room before he could retort. He hit the wall rather hard, but nothing enough to cause injury. Some of the patrons quickly shuffled out after that, fear gripping them. The wounds left in their conscious by the Lich King were still very well there it seemed.
The girl screamed and ran over to her father who was groaning against the wall. She looked back at the gnome who was still sitting on the chair, returning to his original posture and drumming his fingers.
“You-you monster! You may not be of that accursed Lich King anymore, but evil still lives in you!”
Finem was beginning to grow weary of all these words being spoken in his direction. He came here to relax in a shelter without any distractions, not to be scolded. He got up, pulling his sword out of the floor, and made his way to the exit. Maybe in the next Alliance town, there wouldn't be inconsiderate and idiotic folks. Who was he kidding? There was no hope of a day of relaxation at this point.
He stepped out and immediately saw the people that had left the inn scurrying back down to the town below. He decided to take the opposite way out and go through the front gates of Wintergarde, heading down a slope near the Bronze Dragonshrine.
Sure enough, as soon as he made his way out into the thick of the icy wasteland, the snowy and chilled winds returned to bombard him. He couldn't die in such things anymore like he had previous, but he still found a particular hatred for the elements.
As the Wyrmrest Temple could be seen over in the distance, Finem drudged on, passing by desecrated bones of dead dragons and other creatures that had been caught out in the ice and had not found the resilience to resist cold's grasp.
Was this going to go on forever? It may have already, he wasn't sure exactly how long he had been doing this since the defeat of Arthas. Whatever the case, he didn't care at all. He didn't care about anything, not even himself.
His feet carried into the snow, almost leading up to his waste at one point. This wasn't getting anything any better than it had been. In the next town he was just going to just experience the same bigotry as the previous town, and the one before that.
Then he did something completely unexpected, even to himself. He simply stopped, and looked around for once. After looking around, he sat in the snow hanging his head low. Perhaps out here, all would be pleasant and conflict free? One could never know. He laid back in the snow, something inside him breaking.
Betrayal. Betrayal can take many forms, such as a harmless lie to protect oneself and blame a fellow comrade, or a knife slitting the throat of a friend out of greed and deceit. Betrayal is a thing everyone, even the betrayers, fear at some point when they are amongst people they can trust.
It tears into your heart both literally and emotionally as you see your loved one discard you so easily and have no remorse, but what hurts the most is realizing you made the wrong choice. You placed your trust in the wrong one, the wrong friend.
In the depths of an underground series of ruins, two unicorns were struggling for dominance. One was fighting for greed and power, the other for his life and the preservation of what he vowed to protect.
Spells collided, splintering off and crashing into walls. Lights flashed on off from their horns as they battled it out, neither giving an inch of ground. One had a smirk upon his face, the other fighting against tears. For he had just experienced the worst betrayal of them all, more than just a personal one, but a betrayal to all that believed in them both.
“Why are you doing this?! How could you do this?!” He called out, the tears trailing down his face as he fired another ward spell from his horn to counter the fiery barrage that his once friend was laying down upon him.
“I told you, Starswirl! I am simply taking what we both deserved! But you still feel obligated to serve those that would forget you and throw you away without a single thought in their mind!”
“How can you be so ignorant, Polaris?! We had a duty! It was far beyond any promises that were made to us on that day!” Starswirl gritted his teeth, his long white hair blowing out in strands behind him after his hat had flown back into the unknown. His long beard was blowing against his chest as another iced wind spell attempted to shred him.
He couldn't attack back, he could only defend. He couldn't find the heart to hurt Polaris, his fellow guardian of the starstones. It had finally happened, he had lost his patience. He should have understood on the day they had been tasked with guarding the starstones for all eternity. They broke all ties to their past lives in exchange for immortality, eventually being forgotten about and thought deceased.
Polaris had always been a good friend of Starswirl's even before they had been tasked together. Hundreds of years ago, they had both been quite the up and coming sorcerers, at first a rivalry between them, but an everlasting friendship had taken it's place.
That's what made this hurt the worst, such anger had been bottled up inside of Polaris and Starswirl had been too ignorant to not see this coming. Why he thought they would truly be rewarded what they were promised all those years ago was beyond Starswirl. He had thought it was pretty obvious they wouldn't be remembered this far out since then.
Starswirl was suddenly knocked off his hooves and landed against a crumbling wall. Polaris trotted up slowly, cackling. His eyes were dark with anger and hatred. He gave Starswirl a single look and scoffed, leaving him to lie there, battered and bruised.
“What do you hope to gain from this?” Starswirl called out to him.
“Perhaps a champion? With these stones, I can reach my hooves into any realm, overpower anything. You're a fool not to take this opportunity. I thought we were together on this.”
“What?” Starswirl coughed. “You thought I would actually help you with this? Are you mad?!”
“Perhaps a little..” Polaris laughed. “It doesn't matter, though. A madpony can easily do what others won't.. like this.”
He trotted over towards five stands, each one housing a stone with a single rune marked upon it's surface. The stand were laid out in a circular pattern and Polaris moved in between them, a sadistic grin covering his face.
Starswirl knew what he was doing, and struggled to get up. He found that he was incapable of dragging himself up off the stone floor, however. He could do nothing to stop what Polaris was planning. But he had to keep talking.. delaying him, anything.
“Where would you find a champion? Why would you want one from another world?”
“Because, I've seen what a certain otherworldly denizen has done in this world. Why risk failure when I could simply go for the tried and true method that a certain princess has done?”
Realization crept over Starswirl. “You mean to find another from the Beacon's world?! What do you expect to do if you find one?!”
“Quite simple, actually. I will get the recognition we... I deserved. I will take what we were promised as my own.” His grin turned to a frown as he looked Starswirl over upon the ground. “I will give you one more chance, Starswirl, for we were close friends before all this began. Join me, we can get the recognition we were promised. We can live like deities!”
“You're insane!” Starswirl spat back. “You've let this greed and impertinence corrupt you! Don't shatter and tear the fabrics of our world with the stones!”
“Oh, but Starswirl..” Polaris said with bane. “This world has already been damaged beyond repair.”
With that, Polaris' horn began to glow a red light and the stones on the stands surrounding him mimicked the color. A humming began to wash over the chamber, getting more and more audible as the magic from the stones built up.
Eventually the chamber was rumbling violently, and Starswirl could feel himself bouncing on and off the ground lightly as he watched Polaris tear apart the fabrics of the world to reach into another.
“There was a reason we guarded those stones...” Starswirl choked out. There was, these stones rivaled the magics of gods themselves. Able to tear apart anything and everything with ease and not draining the caster of energy at all. Such stones should never be used, or the very world could be in danger. But it was happening. It was too late.
The light from Polaris' horn soon chained together with the light emanating from the stones upon the stands and streaming forth, burning through the very air itself. Eventually, the air began to tear itself apart and in its place was a red portal, static electricity crossing over its surface.
Polaris looked back at Starswirl who's face was that of horror and awe. He gave one last devious grin and began to step through the portal while the chamber around them seemed to be falling apart.
He had failed. The starstones' powers were being abused by the very one that had sworn to prevent it.
Everything was so much more simple when you stopped and let the world go by. Finem wasn't sure how long he had laid in the snow, and he wasn't sure he was ever going to get back up. Why should he anyways? Nothing was waiting for him and he wasn't waiting for anything. Here, he could contemplate in the one place that had delivered him death once, but now offered a sense of solace.
His cold and unneeded breath left his mouth under the helmet and blew away, mixing with the chilling winds that brought more snow on top of him. Forgotten, both by the world and the people on it, what a thought to ponder. Did he even want to be remembered? Maybe when he was alive, but as this thing he had become? He didn't care actually, he wanted to forget the world more than he wanted to be forgotten by it.
“Well, I must say, my luck is rather on the upside lately.”
Finem sat up, snow falling off the sides of his dark plate mail and back. Someone else was out here in the frozen wastes with him. He pushed himself up and brought forth his blade, prepared for conflict, for that was the way any encounter ended for him these days.
“Tenacious too; I think I may have my champion.”
“Show yourself if you are going to speak of me in such ways.” The gnome called out, his glowing eyes darting from side to side.
“In a second, you short little biped, you. The diversity in this world is quite more avid then in Equestria it seems. Not just populated with the Beacon's race...”
“I do not take kindly to others referring to my height.” Finem's patience was certainly being tested with this individual. It seemed as if they were asking to be turned into a fleshy pulp.
Suddenly, strands of red energy wrapped around the gnome's wrists and legs pulling him off the ground. He struggled and broke from them easily, now truly angry.
“Oh, you seem to far more powerful than I first thought. Nothing simple like those tendrils will subdue you it seems. Very well, I suppose you've earned the right to see me as I am.
Finally. Now he could punish whoever thought they could incapacitate him. He made sure his runeblade was ready and shifted the handle to a single hand. If all went well, this could end in a few seconds.
A blizzard suddenly began to dim his vision, causing everything even remotely near to disappear into the whiteout. Whatever, this wasn't going to cause him to waver; he was made to feel nothing so... hindering as fear.
Suddenly the blizzard died almost as soon as it had come. Standing before the Death Knight was something that almost made him react. Almost.
Before him was a miniature horse, like the one's humans used as mounts. Except this one seemed to be more accessible to his kind than any other and it almost made him want to spit some hurtful remark out towards the beast for being so pathetic to look at.
The miniature horse had a dark fur, much like the deathcharger he had ridden at one point long ago. But what really set this as a strange sight was the fact that the horse was clad in red robes and had a sadistic smile upon his face.
Yet another race that the world had seemed to have forgotten, Finem thought bitterly. At least it wasn't as laughable as what else they would find in the world eventually. No one could expect where the meaningless conflict between the Alliance and Horde would take them next.
“Never seen anything like me, have you?” The horse said, moving ever so closer, his hooves digging deep into the snow. “Let me assure you, you haven't seen anything yet.”
That was it, that was all he needed as initiative to engage this talking miniature horse. He reached his hand out, a dark essence extending from it and quickly wrapping around the beast's neck. The horse let out a surprised yelp, meaning that Finem had done just as he wanted.
This was almost going to be too easy. He pull the creature back to him, slamming it against the snow and ground before him. The blizzard was beginning to pick up once again and it would soon just be them surrounded by a blinding veil.
The horse pulled his snout out of the snow, cackling madly like a mad gnome engineer. What was this beast getting a kick out of after being abused so? Finem slammed a booted foot into the miniature horses side, causing him to cry out in pain for just a second, but returning back to his laughing soon after.
“Are you suicidal or something of the like, beast?” Finem asked the seemingly defeated equestrian.
“Quite the opposite, actually.” The beast coughed out, blood beginning to form on his lips.
Finem pulled the miniature horse by the collar of his robe and brought him up to his eye height, which happened to be only a slight raise in altitude. “Then you are an imbecile for pestering me so with your snark comments and that pathetic attempt at subduing me.”
The horse spat blood onto his horned helmet suddenly, but found that the rude gesture had caused no reaction in the gnome at all. Finem shook the horse once in his grip and then threw him back several feet.
“Yes. Yes, you'll do just fine.” The beast began to stand up, bringing a hoof up and wiping the blood from his mouth. “The perfect find...”
“You speak as if you still think yourself better.” The Death Knight was growing more and more tired with the tussle and was beginning to think of ways to end this. He took a step towards the horse and reached forth a single hand.
The beast gasped again as chains of ice wrapped around his hooves. He struggled to move but nearly fell over himself with the convulsions.
“You don't know what I am capable of!” The beast cried out, suddenly frustrated.
“A lot less than I am, it seems.” Finem was right in front of him now, looking slightly up at the struggling horse. He noticed something off though, this horse had a horn. What the..
Suddenly the horn glowed red the gnome found agony coursing through his entire body. What kind of trickery is this? His pain threshold was beyond the simple attacks of magic. So why was he having such a negative reaction to all of this?
He collapsed to the ground, his muscles spasms and cramps causing him to lose control momentarily. The snow around him suddenly began to melt, revealing an iced ground but not going any farther.
The Death Knight tried to overpower the magic around him by attempting to form a anti-magic shell around him but found that his body was lacking any strength to do what he wanted. This was not going to be sitting well with him after he recovered, but for now he couldn't move at all.
The horse looked down at his glowing eyes still obscured under the horned helmet. A smirk on his face and his eyes looking him over. The horn beneath the mane began to glow once again and Finem was in the air, the sound of something magical ringing through his ears and in the peripheral of his vision, what appeared to be a red portal began to form.
“I'm sure you may find this as a spot of bad luck...” The horse laughed, “but the way I see it, you'll simply be finding purpose in your life once again.”
Starswirl picked himself from the rubble, sliding out between two solid stone plates. The stands that had held the stones were gone or knocked over, the stones no longer present within them. He had no possible hope of defeating Polaris on his own with the power of the starstones at his command and he was beginning to lose all hope that he could prevent what was likely to come.
His mind dug back into the conversation they had had prior to Polaris' departure through the portal. He had said he was going to acquire a champion to assist in his scheme, since Starswirl refused to side with him.
“The Beacon...” His mind mulled over the possibility that he could enlist Equestria's only human under his cause. From what he had seen and heard, the Beacon was of honorable sorts, but was always on the move these days with a unicorn companion.
It was going to take some tracking down. He would need to find a suitable guise to fall under when asking locals of the areas the Beacon had been previously. The human was quite the novelty these days and he was sure that the Beacon's actions would be well talked about by most.
He was also aware of the 'icebringer' incident that had occurred months ago, unlike many. Without any sense of reluctance, the human had risked himself for a world he didn't belong too. Of course that statement may have been fallacious now. Although he wasn't part of a naturally occurring race in this world, he could very well be considered a citizen of it with his level of acceptance.
It was going to take some work after being so secluded as he had been, but he couldn't find any better solution than to find the Beacon and gain his assistance in this matter. Perhaps he would be familiar with whomever Polaris decides to use? It was his best bet when he was so unfamiliar with whatever other world that the Beacon was from.
His horn lit up, and he hummed to himself as he flashed away to begin his search for the human that had done so much for Equestria.
The lights from the windows in Hoofington were still on even though it was very well into the night. The light pollution was regardless, at a minimum and the stars above could still be seen twinkling and shining as they were blotched and dotted all over the night sky.
A lost or ended soul, in between each light.. A bearded human thought about the concept and how he had been involved in it at one point in time. He laid back on the grass, a pleasant array of musical notes filling the air. It amalgamated with the night air and created a pleasant environment for one's thoughts to really aggrandize.
Titus. That was his name. Both there... back in Azeroth and here, in Equestria. He sometimes felt like his name didn't hold any meaning anymore. He was called a plethora of names, usually regarding his race or his title that had been bestowed upon him from his nature of arrival in this world.
There was really only one that called him Titus here. She was sitting by his side, playing her lyre. She plucked each string carefully with the end of her hoof, making sure not to miss a note to the melody she was playing. It was enthralling to say the least, and Titus would've been humming the little tune along with her if he hadn't already been lost in his musing.
She eventually ceased playing and laid back next to him, continuing the notes softly with her mouth instead of the instrument she had been playing. Anything to keep that simple melody going at a time like this. To her, it was everything.
“So.. what did you think?” She asked, shifting to her side to look at him, who was still staring intently at the sky.
“It was... enrapturing.” He gave a light laugh, “I still don't know how you found the interest to play that again after you said you had been bored with it for such a long time.”
“I..” She blushed a little, glad he wasn't looking. “I guess all I needed was a little inspiration.”
“Heh.” he finally broke his gaze turning to her with a half smile.
“It's true tho-”
“I know. I know..” He cut her off. He never really wanted too much when they were both like this. It was too.. out of element for him. He understood what he was to her and vice versa. It was just so hard to be intimate; it wasn't like he was familiar with this sort of thing. He always guessed that he would simply be alone due to his reclusion and dedication to the Silver Hand.
The Silver Hand was now just a memory of a different time and place: his life before the fall. That was a year ago now, and he had accepted his place here. It was a quite a pleasant place to live in the end, even taking his two past adventures into consideration.
Lyra suddenly moved closer and rested her head on his chest, her gaze going from him to the stars he had been looking at previously. She had never been happier, all that time searching, scrapping for anything regarding humans after that dream... It all paid off in the end. Not only had she found a human from a completely different world, but something to love.
Still, just thinking about it made her stomach knot up. But that did nothing to keep her thoughts from going back to that realization over and over again. The feeling was just too intoxicating to not revisit again and again and again. What else could she say? She was in love and it was impossible to ignore.
She knew he felt the same, he just wasn't ready to admit it yet. He was quite stubborn but with a bit of her assertive charm, she was sure he would crack eventually and come spilling out with all sorts of repressed feelings, then it would be perfect. But for now, she was content to watch him struggle with his conflicted thoughts; it was cute to watch him fall over himself now again since he had realized he had feelings for her. It was just a waiting game, and she had all the time in the world.
They would both be returning to Ponyville after this night, they always found time to visit Hoofington and its lake, where so much had happened. Where their little secret took place, and Titus risked himself for ponies everywhere. For her. There was also one thing that had happened, and thinking about it still made her jittery. But it was always the first time that held such sentimental value.
She had been so carried away with internal infatuation caused by her reminiscing that she had not noticed that her human had dozed off. He was always doing that, the lazy thing. Oh well, it was late after all.. She huffed a sigh and rested her eyes, feeling fingers brush her mane gingerly, reminding her just how perfect her life was now.
“It's going to be good to remembered for once. What say you, my little companion?”
“Not one for idle chatter, eh? That is fine; that is not why I brought you here.”
“Whatever it is you want from me, I won't be having any part with it, you beast.”
“For the last time, I am a unicorn, and much more keen being than yourself. Your kind must not be known for their intellect.”
“You are crossing over a whole new threshold, beast.”
“So be it. If that's what invokes your potential, then I'll just have to cope, won't I?”
Finem was still suspended and everything around him had been a messy blur since he had passed through that strange portal. He had no idea where this animal was taking him, but it was obviously for some dark intent. The second this 'unicorn' let his guard down, his blood would sate the taste of his rune blade, he was going to make sure of that.
“Ah yes, here's a nice place to keep an individual such as yourself.”
The gnome was suddenly thrown through the air and collided against a stone wall in what was a small stone cell. What was this? A prison? He had done nothing wrong, and if the unicorn thought that this would contain him, then the beast was about to pay dearly.
He quickly pushed himself up and reached for where he thought his blade would be. He was only grabbing at air, and looked around impulsively for his lost weapon. Unfortunately it was nowhere to be found and the robed unicorn was simply laughing by the doorway.
“Like I said: much more keen.” The unicorn took a step forward into the cell with him, the clang of blade on stone could be heard outside of the small room. “I have plans for you, and perhaps you'd see-oof!”
Finem suddenly tackled the unicorn, bringing him to the ground. “You thought my power was simply behind the weapon I wielded? You choke on your own words now.”
“I will not be insulted by such a puny being! Get off of me this instant before I end you and look for another champion!” The unicorn thrashed about, trying to throw the gnome off, but was unable to do so with the plate mail weighing his aggressor down.
As long as whatever magic this unicorn was using didn't become a factor once again, Finem could end this right here and right now. A dark tendril extended from his grip, wrapping around the unicorn's neck, crushing down on his larynx.
In predictable fashion, the unicorn's horn began to glow, but Finem wrapped his hand around it, intent on breaking it right off. Unfortunately, upon contact he could feel a unpleasant feeling forming in his palm. He quickly pulled it off and saw that the grip of the glove had simply disintegrated. Good to know before something more serious happened.
Before he was suddenly thrown off of the unicorn, he managed to get a hit in across captor's face. This time he was prepared for a collision against the stone wall and brought his feet out behind him, taking the gruff of the impact against the wall and straining himself to push free of the magical force.
“This is ridiculous! You are completely unreasonable beyond the point of toleration!” The unicorn was hopping mad at this point, probably distressed that his scheme or whatever wasn't going to see fruition.
“You can't manipulate me, or anyone at this point. I'll be making sure of that.” The Death Knight took another hop at the unicorn before finding himself blinded by a red flash.
His vision was soon restored and he found himself alone in the cell. He knew that thing was a coward! The door was shut, but the gnome scoffed at the mediocre attempt at containing him. This wasn't even competent at containing a mortal.
Throwing subtlety to the wind, the gnome simply rushed the door, throwing his shoulder into it and sending it flying right of its hinges. It smashed and splintered against the wall opposite of the cell and the gnome quickly ran out into the hallway.
He breathed a figurative sigh as he looked at the ground and found his runeblade, picking it up and seeing if anything had been damaged. Finding it to be in sufficient order, he placed it back behind his back and looked around.
Now that everything was not a blur, his surroundings indicated he was in some ancient and abandoned stone tunnels or something of the like. Why that unicorn would want to bring him to such a downtrodden place was beyond him at the moment. The only thing he was sure of was that the beast would pay with its life.
The halls were well lit enough and the gnome began to search through the many passages and halls that these ruins contained. The more he switched footing to go down another path or around a corner, the more he felt like this place was huge; almost like Naxxramas in scope. But still, there was almost nothing here to discern any sort of direction from, and he soon felt like he was falling further and further into a sense that he was running adrift.
Where could that beast have gone? The coward using the complexity of the tunnels and passages around him to his advantage to ensure his safety was as dishonorable as throwing sand in one's eyes or running them through unwittingly.
This was going to take some time. But justice was worth it; of that, the gnome was definitely sure. He could search for as long as he needed, there was no rush to an undead such as himself.
“Just wait. None cross me and get away with it.”
The fog was strong this morning on the road back to Ponyville. Titus wasn't even looking forward but rather at his feet to make sure he didn't miss a step or trip over something that may have been thrown onto the well-traveled road.
The fog was a goodbye token from the lake they had visited for the past few days, now lamenting over their departure. It added a sense of seclusion from the rest of the outside world that the unicorn trotting at his side was really enjoying.
“You need to look where you're going.” Titus said, watching her humming and trotting along.
“You're just looking down, yourself!” She countered, still humming. “Besides, you'd stop me before anything happened, right?”
“Knew you would. Is my lyre still okay?”
Titus looked to see if everything was in order in his grip and he counted one lyre in one hand and a blanket tucked under his arm. He still felt like so much was missing due to his lack of armor or weapon, but it would just take some more time to get used to it all. He had never lived in a time where he didn't need to be prepared constantly.
“Everything is right here, I'm pretty sure.” He double checked just to make sure that everything was in a safe state and not damaged at all.
“Great!” She began to hum again, nearly leaving Titus behind as he had been busy checking everything. He was soon catching up to her when she said the words that would bring a house down upon him. “Love you!”
He nearly dropped the items in his hands as he faltered under those words. She had him in submission just from two simple words. Whatever happened to the days when he was beyond such emotion? He shouldn't rendered so weak just by a set of sentimental words! He was better than that!
Lyra was giggling the whole time up ahead. Oh how the tables had shifted. She remembered when she was the one getting all flustered by this when it wasn't such an issue and she had been sorting through her own feelings.
“Too much?” She laughed.
“No.. It's just...” Titus was catching back up to her, making sure that he hadn't lost anything in his possession.
“Hmm? There's something you want to admit?” This was too good.
“N-no.. Not at all..”
“Fine. I can wait.” She turned and kept humming merrily as she picked up the pace, forcing Titus to keep up with her or lose her in the fog. Oh boy was she a hand full after all this time. He wouldn't have it any other way, though.
The walk went without much chatter after that, and they simply kept down the familiar road they had traveled before. It was all very routine at this point, but something about it sent a feeling of discovery and exposure each time they took the trip both to and back from Hoofington.
Soon Titus was whistling an old little tune back from the days when he was a simple going Paladin. Lyra soon picked up the notes he was whistling and was humming them similarly, feeling like she was on top of the world.
With the fog and their merry little tune going, they almost walked right past the break in the road back to Ponyville, having to backtrack several steps thanks to Lyra's recognition of the misdirection they had both taken.
“Weird how the fog is all the way out here, huh?” Lyra asked, starting to notice the buildings cutting out the fog and allowing for them both to remember familiar buildings as they stepped onto the cobblestone street that indicated that they were back home.
“Yeah, but I've seen stranger.” Titus returned, looking around to see if any of the ponies were outside in the fog. Unfortunately, it didn't seem that he could find anyone with his attenuated sight. Oh well, they were probably just enjoying the day indoors for once was all.
“Okay.. let's see... I think it's this way..” She kept down the road with Titus in pursuit, still baffled by the fog from a lake that was so far away. It was probably nothing, it was just weird to think that the one type of weather the pegasi couldn't control was running rampant all through the region as of late.
“This is taking longer than usual.” Titus blurted out, growing impatient and tired of holding all of their items.
“This fog is just so annoying!” Lyra yelled out, trying to see if they were getting closer to their home. “Grrr..”
“What about if we use the center of town as a reference point again?” The Paladin suggested. It had helped them several times before, and in much more mire dire situations than the one that was before them currently.
“That would be a great idea if we knew where that was, too..” Lyra groaned. She just wanted to get home so bad and stay locked up for the rest of the day, probably not letting her human out of her reach either. But she needed to find her home first.
“What if I told you we past it, fountain and all?”
“No way. I would have known if we passed that for sure!” He had to be lying! Some silly joke from him probably.
“Why don't we just backtrack a bit, then?” Titus suggested, smirking.
“Fine, liar.” She pushed back by the grinning Paladin who was taking quite a bit of pleasure out of this.
It only took one minute for her to notice the fountain. Titus was taking his time catching up to her this time, obviously amused that she had been proven wrong. She didn't really want to admit defeat however, and simply did not say anything but instead remembered which way her home was from the landmark.
Titus was looking into the waters of the fountain, trying not to lose his grip on everything when Lyra was rushing off in the direction she remembered was home. “Hey! Hey wait! You're forgetting me!”
She turned back, grinning deviously. “No, I'm not.”
His face was covered in bewilderment and then realization as the mare continued off into the fog. She was messing with him! She always took this too far! He needed to catch her before he got lost out here and would be force to either keep searching for their home or to wait until the fog dispersed.
He was grumbling and cursing the whole time as he shuffled down the street after the little unicorn, hoping he was heading in the right direction. He swore he could hear her giggling and taunting him as he kept pushing forward.
Then he was in front of their home. It was still the small little home that he had come to know so well. He almost couldn't remember the last home he had lived in before this due to the constant traveling he had done back in Azeroth.
The door opened a crack and Titus raised an eyebrow at the possibility of what might have been awaiting him within, lurking in the shadows.
He stepped up to the door and slowly pushed it open, the interior just the same as he remembered it. No sign of Lyra, though. He stepped in, ready for anything to happen. He closed the door and walked over to her bed, placing the items down near the foot of the bed and looked out the window to see fog; big surprise.
Titus turned and saw that there just so happened to be a unicorn flying right at him. Oh that was just great. He took a step back but found himself falling back onto the bed, cursing the whole time, but being drown out by Lyra's giggling.
Titus felt smothered under the mare's onslaught of affection. No matter how many times this happened he was never used to it, but he never did feel like stopping it either. Maybe that was the point of it? To never get used to it? To send shivers throughout your whole body when it happened? It had to be, for the feeling was always a strange mix of novelty and thrill.
A knock was suddenly heard from the door and Lyra was forced to cease her little act. She audibly sighed and hopped off the bed, heading to the door. Titus sat up, a bit shaken from the sudden attack, but feeling rather bubbly from the whole thing.
There was another knock and Lyra flew open the door with her magic with quite an unsubtle amount of anger. Before even looking at who was at the door, she asked the typical question that kindled any conversation. “Yes, did you need something?” She was almost gritting her teeth at this point. How dare they interrupt a tender moment in her very household?
Her mouth dropped when she noticed just who was at her door. Two stallion pegasi clad in royal armor stood before her with stern looks across their faces, obviously something serious was up. She reiterated her question now, realizing just who she was talking to. “Uh-uhm, how may I help you two today?”
“We are here on behalf of princess Celestia.” One of the guards stated, emotion absent from his voice. “The Beacon and Lyra Heartstrings are hereby summoned by princess Celestia to Canterlot castle. It is urgent, and we are here to escort you both.”
“How did you navigate through the fog so easily?” Lyra asked in disbelief.
“We did not, it has taken us quite a bit to locate your dwelling. We need to depart as soon as possible; we have a chariot awaiting you.”
“Isn't that a bit dangerous to do in fog?”
“Ma'am, fog tends to stay near the earth and does not blanket the sky. Canterlot is not burdened by the fog that has engulfed the entire region as of late.”
“I knew that.. Yeah..” She looked around nervously, hoping nopony actually caught the faltering in her voice.
The guards expression did not change in the least. “Miss, we aren't interested in what you know and what you don't. Is the Beacon with you?”
“I'm here.” Titus called out, getting up from the bed to see what all the commotion was about.
“We trust you heard all of that?” The guard asked.
Titus nodded. “Is this as urgent as what you're making it out to be?” He really didn't want to go back up to Canterlot. He had had enough of that city back when the Icebringers had arrived. Nothing but pompous and upstart royalty up there accompanying the princesses. If he could help it, he would do what he could to negate any need to head back up there.
“I'm afraid so. She made it very clear that you were to arrive in Canterlot as soon as possible.”
“Very well..” He sighed. “Would you let me adorn my armor and hammer?”
“Just be quick about it, sir.”
Titus went out of sight to find his plate armor and hammer, hoping that Lyra did not attempt to mess around with either this time. He remembered the time she had tried to put on his breastplate. As serious as it was at the time, he couldn't help but smile when thinking about her trying to act more and more like a human. She still tried eating with her hooves on occasion.
Meanwhile, Lyra was standing awkwardly in front of the two guards who still had that same stern look cemented upon their faces. It was like two statues staring into their home; it was uncomfortable to say the least.
He better hurry up, she was going to soon run out of sight after him to clobber him from leaving her all alone with these two frigid guards. “Come on.. Come on..” She muttered, tapping her hoof against the ground.
After about five minutes, Titus was back and in his plate armor. He was still adjusting the hammer he used onto his back. He was a careful one, she learned to know. If there was any hint that there might be danger, he was in his armor. It was pleasant to think that he would always have her back and would protect her with everything he had. He had made sure to have her commit that to memory one time up at the lake by Hoofington.
“We better depart now.” The guard said, stepping back onto the road, followed by his companion. The fog was so bad at this point, that they had trouble seeing the two guards even from such a short distance from their home.
Lyra looked at Titus who gave her a reassuring nod gestured towards the door. “You first.” She smiled faintly at that and stepped out into the foggy street, Titus following behind her, ducking his head and closing the door.
The guards did not say anything, but began to move down the street towards what they were sure was near the outer border of Ponyville. Nothing safe could come out of trying to land close to town in this kind of fog.
The two kept behind the guards, able to whisper to each other without alerting those in front of them that they were conversing.
“What do you think this is all about?” Lyra asked.
“Honestly, I don't know. You haven't been gloating again, have you?” Titus gave her a sly smile.
“Of course not!” She hissed. “I'm better than that... now.”
“Yes, yes of course.”
“You're being sarcastic, aren't you?”
“No, why would I be?” He gave her an innocent smile and shrug in response to her accusation.
“I'm going to smack you.”
Titus put a hand up to his head at the mention of getting struck by one of her hooves yet again. She insisted it was a playful gesture, but he always felt like it was more hostile than whimsical. She didn't hold back sometimes, that was the scary part.
“Are we getting close?” Lyra suddenly asked aloud, trying to get the stallions in front of them to notice her question.
“We should be, Ma'am.” One of the guards returned, not even looking back at the two.
As soon as they stepped onto grass, indicating that they had left Ponyville's boundaries, a chariot came into view. The guards quickly walked into the front of it, attaching themselves to the cart by reins. How strange that they sometimes treated themselves like mounts at times, Titus thought.
“This already going to be worse than last time up there.” Lyra complained while eying the chariot with a hesitant look.
“What? What's the problem?” Titus asked her. He was answered with a glare and snort from the unicorn. “I swear, I don't know what's the deal.”
“They're pegasi... They're going to pull that chariot not along the road, but up into the air.”
Titus looked over to them, surprise in his eyes. “Seriously? Do you think they can support our weight?”
Lyra almost laughed at the absurd question. “Of course, silly. They're trained for this stuff, they could pull a lot more than you with all your armor on.”
“I don't know..” He gave the chariot a skeptical look as they walked up to it.
“As soon as you're ready.” One of the guards said, shifting slightly alongside his counterpart.
“We just hop in?” Titus asked. He wasn't answered and huffed in frustration as he brought a leg up an over into the interior of the chariot and sitting down in one of the two seats. “I feel a bit oversized for this..”
“Oh, you big baby.” Lyra hopped in after him took the seat next to him, reaching up suddenly at his head playfully. “Didn't I say I was going to smack you?”
“Nope. No you didn't.” He returned flatly.
“Secure back there?” The guards asked.
“As secure as we'll ever be..” Lyra said with dismay. She was going to hate this, she just knew it. But she had her human, and he would keep her safe up in the sky.
The pegasi suddenly started to gallop forward, not taking to the sky just yet. Lyra wasn't enjoying the delay at all. It was only amplifying the feeling of vehemence building up inside her. She already found herself leaning up against the Paladin by her side. She was helpless without him at this point, she knew it.
Then they took to the air, at least she thought they had. None could be sure in this fog. She felt the weight under he ease and that only caused her to grab her human by the arm. Yep, as helpless as a newborn foal.
They broke free of the fog, and were able to see the clear sky now, but that wasn't what caught Titus' eye. As far as the eye could see below the mountains, the foggy mist laid upon the land with asperity. The sight was beautiful nonetheless, the mists twirling and easing up tenderly along the top of the blanket. The navigation trouble was almost worth the sight from above at this point.
He had been so carried away with the backdrop that he didn't notice that Lyra had curled up beside him and refused to open her eyes. He smiled gently and stroked her mane while keeping his eyes on the fog's dance below. It was a good day regardless of the end result that was coming. That was something he knew quite clearly at this point.
How dare that little mongrel try to kill him! He was going to pay! If only he knew how to utilize these accursed starstones better. Polaris placed them each back onto their respective stands with his magic and sighed. At least that short little being wouldn't find him here, these tunnels were a maze designed to prevent those searching for the starstones to really happen upon them just by chance.
He was regretting every action he had taken since he had usurped control of the very thing he had been tasked with guarding. He shouldn't have crossed into that other world; he shouldn't have brought that insufferable being back with him. He wasn't even sure how he did it. He just thought it, and the stones took him there. So why were they refusing to be more compliant to him? This was infuriating!
He looked over the chamber and saw the rubble that he remembered Starswirl falling under. Of course that coward would flee; he didn't need him; He didn't need anypony. He just needed time to sort this out. Time to learn exactly how to use the starstones in other acts than ripping apart the world. Maybe that was the only thing they were good for? No, no.. there had to be more. That couldn't be the only thing these things could do!
He began pacing around the stands, desperate to find someway to create a plausible thesis regarding the stones and their unwillingness to subject to his command. He was going to go mad if he kept this up.. but maybe he already was.
He had given up a lot to take this risk. To not be forgotten behind a plethora of other names that were just the subject of matter in a dusty old book. He wanted to be in everypony's mind, in their words, in their very way of life. He wanted to be influential and it seemed that a negative influence would be the only way to get him there.
Then came the voices. Never before had they echoed through his conscious, whispering to him like they knew what to do; like they were the solution.
Don't be afraid of the power. Use it to its fullest extent. Only then will you be able to fulfill what you had promised to set out and do.
“What?” He spoke out aloud, spinning around and looking for any source as to where the voices may have come from.
Concentrate your mind on each stone. Let it become a part of you. That is the way to truly use these stones. Gods tremble at their power, mortals worship them. The answer is clear: use them and have them become an extension of yourself.
He was mad. He was hearing things that shouldn't have been there! Were they speaking lies, or were they trying to aid him? Was it a mechanism within his mind to help solve problems? If he did do something like that, let the stones become a part of him (so to say), would their be negative repercussions? He knew a merging spell that did just that, but he had always known that there was always something bad to come out of it when used such a spell.
Hesitation will be the death of you. Your pursuer will find you. It is time to do what you were always meant to do.
“But.. I don't want to..”
Then die. The choice is yours.
Polaris' horn began to glow as he brought the stones once more off their stands. Being much more tender with their treatment this time, unlike during the bout with Starswirl. He looked at each one separately, the runes glowing along with his red magic.
He took a deep breath in anticipation. Was this the only way to make these stones work the way they were meant too? Was this even a possible way to utilize them? He was taking the word of voices within his head like the pathetic unstable washout he was.
That was it. No more thinking, it was time to act. He was going to lose it all if he stopped now. He remembered the merging spell he had taught himself so many years back. He closed his eyes as the stones began to circle around him.
As the incantation grew further and further into maturity, the stones moved closer and closer towards Polaris. They orbited his body, closing in with each second, the red magic began to form around him and the stones amongst one common perimeter, no longer by their own separate jurisdiction.
He could feel the power becoming a part of him. Like they were simply an augmentation rather than a tool to him. This was the way he would go about his plans, he just knew it.
The stones spun faster and faster until they began to touch his body, cutting through his robes and burying themselves into his fur and halfway into his skin. It didn't hurt, in fact, it felt slightly invigorating. It was to be expected when the stones were full of raw energy.
One buried itself right below him horn, in between eyes. He wasn't sure, but it felt like a warm liquid began to run down snout and too the floor. He couldn't look now, though, he was concentrating too hard on a spell that was primarily for alchemy and not for merging things within living tissue.
Then came the overwhelming surge of energy that made him lose balance and fell over. The voices were no longer whispering as well, they were speaking downright to him. Whatever he had done, he had strengthened whatever was speaking to him.
"Well done. Perhaps now you will be able to achieve what you've set out to do."
He looked at the ground in front of him, and found that, in fact, blood had been dripping from his forehead. The blood was still fresh, but something about it was festering and causing it to bubble softly on the stone ground. What could that mean? If it was something serious, he wasn't sure he could truly grasp the notion due to the fact that he had not tested his abilities yet.
He stood up off the ground and looked around the chamber. Nothing had changed since he had begun the spell. The rubble still stood there from where he had fought Starswirl, and the stands that had held the stones were still centered around him.
He walked out to the path leading out of the chamber and gave one last look back. He brought a hoof up to his forehead where the stone had implanted itself and felt surface of the rune. It was warm to the touch and he knew it was just dying to be used.
He gave one last nod to the chamber that had housed the stones and began to form another spell. His horn glowed the usual red, but sparks could be seen accompanying the aura this time. This was going to be earthshaking, he just knew it.
Without even thinking it through, he short forth the beam from his horn, the kickback from the velocity at which it fired sent him flying back down the tunnel he had been planning on traveling through.
The chamber he had directed the spell towards was soon gone behind a plethora of dust and crashing stone that had come flooding down the tunnel after him from where the enclosure had once stood.
Polaris hacked and coughed as the dust sprayed over him, his eyes struggling to see the damage he had caused with his newly amplified abilities. But he didn't get a chance too, for the entire tunnel soon shook as a shock wave riveted in succession with the destroyed chamber.
“I did this...” He whispered to himself, fighting against the dust and his lack of sight. “I did this.. I really did this...” The tunnel continued to shake even more violently than before, if he did not stop this, it may just collapse upon him.
He thought of a stasis spell and quickly began to channel it through his horn, unsure about where exactly he was going to be aiming. He simply brought the amplitude to as far as he could go and set it loose. The red shot forth from his horn, sinking through the tunnel's sides and cracks.
Eventually the rumbling and shaking began to stop, causing Polaris to sigh in relief. He didn't even know his own strength. If he didn't keep it in check, he would only end up killing himself. He had no desire to end his conquest before it had even begun.
He stood up, the dust around him sitting in the air as it too had been affected by the stasis spell. He had never seen the particles in the air be affected by his spells before, the power that swirled within him was truly a marvel to behold. With this, he could easily take whatever he so pleased, and with an unbelievable ease.
There was one loose end he had to take care of first, and that was the rather short being he had brought over from the world with him. He had already roasted himself over his insensibility regarding the trip he had made, and he was determined to fix what he had wronged.
“We'll see who's chasing who now, you little nuisance.”
At this point, it seemed like a practice in futility. After wandering through these tunnels for what seemed like days, Finem was beginning to lose interest in exacting the punishment his would be captor so surely deserved.
One thing he found out during this boundless pursuit was that his Death Gate was useless in this dungeon. He had tried to see if he could return back to Acherus, but find himself unable to form the gate properly, it did not materialize and simply fell apart before him.
The unicorn must have been using some sort of ward upon this place to keep any from escaping. Just another reason to end his life once he came across him. Wherever the hell that beast was, he was going to pay ten fold for each second that this delayed him.
Then again, what was he being delayed from exactly? Where was he going before this? He didn't know. Here he had a clear goal, but out there he had nothing. Just the cold winds of Northrend were the only gift he received out there.
The tunnels suddenly began to shake with reckless abandon, nearly throwing the gnome off his feet. He brought his hand to the wall he had been walking by for support and saw debris crumbling from the top of the tunnel. What had happened? Some sort of seismic activity or something had just begun, and he was caught in the middle of it.
This was basically a deathtrap for anyone underground at this point, but there was no way up for him, so he kept down the path he had been trekking down, keeping his eyes near the top of the tunnel.
The vibrations suddenly stopped and the Death Knight's knees wobbled and buckled from the sudden stillness that was created. Something wasn't right here. The stillness that had just taken form had an unnatural feeling to it.
“Looking for me?”
From what seemed like nowhere, a magical and electrically charged tendril short forth, nearly engulfing him right there. He managed to dodge it with a roll and pull his runeblade out, looking around cautiously.
“Don't bother, I'm not hiding.”
The gnome staggered back as somehow the unicorn he had been searching for suddenly appeared right before him, his face cool and pragmatic. “I may have underestimated you before, but trust me, I won't do the same again.”
The air around the unicorn seemed to ignite from sheer energy and Finem noticed that the unicorn was a bit different from what he remembered. Blood was caked across his face and his robes were torn as if something had went right through them. Underneath his horn was a runed stone that surged with power.
It figured that the unicorn would need something to enhance his abilities. Mutilating himself though was a tactic he wasn't use to seeing anymore, but he had seen it enough back in the days of being under the influence of Arthas not to be moved by the sight before him. Instead, he simply took the opportunity to make a charge at the unicorn.
The air around him seemed to be on the verge of exploding as he swung his blade towards the unicorn. It only collided with an unseen force and sent a jolt up his arms and to his skull. He staggered back as he struggled to recover from jarring himself.
What was this? The unicorn had not been this hermetic in their previous encounter. Perhaps the stone was doing more than he had initially thought. At least it was more of a challenge this time. He attacked again, but this time it wasn't a charge or any physical attack. A dark tendril stretched forth from his open palm, intent on going straight through whatever barrier the unicorn had summoned.
The air seemed to vibrate in a visible wave as the tendril did its job and broke through the barrier like a person diving smoothly into a pool of water. It grabbed the unicorn not by the throat or by the horn, but by the front hoof and forced him to fall over.
The beast yelped and hit the ground hard and the shield he had been maintaining was gone. He screamed in agony as he was dragged across the ground rather forcibly towards the gnome. The unicorn was able to fight through the pain and aim his horn above the Death Knight, firing a magical projectile upon the top of the tunnel.
This caused the tunnel to cave in and as the rocks fell down, one broke the connection Finem had with his would be victim. They were soon separated completely by the fallout from the cave in and Finem sat down in silent contemplation.
He had lost his chance again. The beast was crafty, he would give it that, but that power.. it wasn't something that the unicorn had possessed before this skirmish. He wasn't going to keep getting chances like that, not if the unicorn kept up this sudden jump in magical energy.
A hissing sound could suddenly be heard from behind the rocks that had blocked off the tunnel. Instinct took over and Finem ran down the tunnel away from the rubble. He was right to run, for the rubble suddenly disintegrated within a violent red light that shot down the tunnel at an uncanny speed.
The gnome rounded a corner just in time to dodge the beam that continued down its current direction. It did not let up for several moments and the gnome was beginning debate upon just continuing his way down another path.
It suddenly stopped and Finem looked down the tunnel he had come from. The entire perimeter of the passageway had been broadened dramatically after the blast. Whatever that unicorn had done, it was enough to devastate even a steadfast tauren.
The unicorn was still there, looking down the tunnel for him. Luckily, it didn't seem like he had seen him. The tables had changed slightly, it was a game of hide and seek for both sides now. Whoever got the jump on each other would most likely come out victorious.
Finem was smart to recognize that he would now have to wait further to get his opportunity to strike. So he walked down the passageway he had cut the corner to. He wasn't one for games, but now he was forced to play one. He gave a distasteful sigh as he went further into the intricate system of tunnels, hoping that eventually a juncture would allow him to finally achieve his goal.
“Ah, it's a pleasure to see you both again. I've heard you two have been quite the pair for awhile now. It's truly nice to see such affection blossom through an accidental encounter.” Celestia smiled down upon them both as she sat upon her throne.
It had been nothing but smooth sailing from then on out when both Titus and Lyra got to Canterlot. The guards had been as cold and unmoving as usual, but that did little to dampen their moods as they followed the guards through courtyard of Canterlot castle.
Titus remembered seeing it all covered in nothing but ice. But where ice once was now was the rejuvenated flora that dotted the patches along the path to the throne room. It was nice to see that the beauty had been preserved as a result of their past perils.
Similar to the last time they had arrived in the castle, it had been governed by a very loose form of formality and protocol. Lyra was sure to remind them both to bow graciously to the princess that controlled the sun in the sky.
“I know, isn't it so great?” Lyra said happily, getting ready to drone on and on about how much she loved him and whatnot.
Titus huffed a sigh and looked about the throne room. Still the same tapestries as before, still the same guards posted in the same position as last time. If he didn't know any better, he could have sworn that he was basically reliving every moment the night previous to the attack over again.
Celestia's voice soon thundered over the throne room, and while it was loud and commanding, it still maintained a gentle tinge as to not have one think she was trying to be impolite or the like. “As much as I would love to hear just how much you care for the Beacon, I'm afraid that there is more pressing matters at hand.”
“Yes. Of course..” Lyra slumped a bit, disappointed that she couldn't keep talking about how happy she was.
“What is it that you need exactly?” Titus asked.
“Oh, it's not what I need from you. I have a very important friend that would like to meet you.” Celestia frowned a bit when speaking about this.
“Well let's see him then..” Lyra grumbled, still a bit hurt.
“You're going to have to go into the anteroom for that. I'm sorry, but this is a very discreet manner we're dealing with here. When you're done, perhaps we can discuss more on matters related to something more to you're liking.”
Lyra lit up to that, which made Titus sigh. If that really happened, they might just be spending the night at the castle again. He just wanted to go back home, return to the relative peace he had found here.
“Well, lets get back there then, huh?” Lyra turned to him, her eyes practically sparkling with enthusiasm.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” He replied, being brought back into an interacting state.
“The room is on the wall directly behind this throne. You can't miss it.” The princess informed them, her mind beginning to drift off to other matters.
Lyra led the way as usual, her demeanor in the sky now. Titus put a hand behind his head and followed just as he always had.
They approached the only door on the wall behind Celestia's throne, which was obviously used as a place for the monarch to prepare herself before going forth to deal with her subjects on a daily basis. It was obviously a tough but rewarding life for one that enjoyed pleasing others. Strange that she would allow another to wait within it for them both, though.
“I hope it's quick, so we can get back to talking with Celestia...” Lyra uttered.
“Yeah..” Titus returned dully. It was either in there he was going to be wasting time or out here with Lyra chatting up royalty.
They pushed open the door and found the room almost completely under the veil of darkness. Not even the light from outside wanted to enter into the anteroom, for there was a foreboding feeling within here. One that even caused Titus to pause for a second before continuing in.
The only thing that was providing light within the room was a small candle sitting upon a wooden table. The silhouette of a pony could be seen sitting at the table, but his face was concealed in the shadows.
“If one of you would...” the pony began, “please shut the door. I want to keep this between us.”
Titus reached backed and closed the door, a bit more interested in what was unfolding before him now.
“Ah much better..” The stallion pulled his head up and looked them both in the eyes as he stroked his white beard. “You know, this was a lot easier than asking the locals and spending the time being all sneaky around the place. I should chat with royalty more often, they're great at not telling others.”
“You're the one that wanted to talk to us?” Lyra asked, trying to begin the conversation.
“Well more particularly the Beacon, but both of you is fine. I was half expecting his unicorn companion to show up anyways.”
“Humph..” Lyra grumbled. She didn't like it when Titus was the focus among others. Of course, it was just an issue of possessiveness.
The stallion lifted his hat, revealing a horn indicating he was a unicorn as well. He placed his pointy hat on the wooden table near the candle and walked up to Titus. “Just as impressive as I've heard. It will be quite an honor to be working with one that has done so much in such a marginal amount of time.”
“Working with you?” Titus began, “we haven't agreed to anything yet.”
“Oh yes, I apologize. I'm getting ahead of myself, even though such dire events are in the near future.” The unicorn apologize hastily and began to explain. “Although this name might not mean anything to you, Beacon, I am Starswirl The Bearded. I have come on behalf of-”
“Whoa, hold on a second. You're Starswirl? This has to be some kind of joke. You should be dead back in the unicorn kingdoms before Equestria was founded.” Lyra stated. She obviously was not buying into his identity. That was fine, he didn't need recognition, just assistance.
“Ma'am, I can assure you that I am indeed Starswirl, but that isn't even the point. I need the Beacon's assistance regarding-”
“Why should he help some liar? Hmm?” This unicorn really was trying to test his patience with the constant interruptions.
“I'll explain soon enough. If you would let me speak unhindered, of course.”
Lyra didn't respond but just kept a keen vigilant eye upon him. Good enough, he supposed. “Now, as I was saying, I need your assistance regarding a rather dire matter. You see, I am-er.. was a guardian of the starstones. I was granted immortality and tasked with the protection of these stones at all times, for their power is beyond even that of gods here in Equestria.” Starswirl paused and sighed, preparing to say what was to come. “I was not alone in this task. I had a companion that safeguarded the stones by my side. I'm afraid he has lost sense in greed and the fear that all fear in some magnitude: being forgotten.”
“I assume he betrayed you then?” Titus inquired. He could almost guess what was coming at this point.
“He betrayed more than just me. He betrayed everything we stood for.. and he betrayed himself. He was meaning to become recognized by any way possible. I believe he wishes to take the path of violence with the starstones in his possession to achieve this goal. That puts all of Equestria in danger.”
“Figures that we would end up in something like this again...” Lyra grumbled.
Titus smiled sympathetically down to her and scratched behind her ear lightly, causing her to hum lightly and nearly forget about everything that was going on.
Of course, that moment could not last and Titus ceased after a moment and continued talking to the mysterious stallion. “Why is it me that is needed for yet another campaign against the corrupt?”
“We're a very sensitive race, Beacon. We don't like it when such things happen in this domain. We want to just live and love, but when such things aren't possible, we tend to shrink under the pressure.”
“How has your race survived for so long then?” Titus asked, completely confused to hear this.
“We're not weak, Beacon. But when evil does come, it tends to be in a more... abridged form than what I'm sure you're usually accustomed too. They're more mischievous than malignant, they would rather cause panic and confusion rather than harm. Celestia has the element bearers for that task, but you've shown that when the stakes are much higher and ponies can actually die, you aren't afraid to take to the fight and not falter.”
“I see, but why has these evils only now decided to show up after my arrival in this world?”
“It's not for us to ponder about. Perhaps when justice comes, evil follows in suit? But we're certainly not philosophers. Well.. maybe me.. if I really wanted to be.. hmm..” Starswirl began to trail off into deeper thoughts.
“Whoa, don't lose us.” Lyra tapped her hoof onto the ground, trying to get Starswirl out of his musing.
Starswirl shook his head and returned back to the present, looking a bit perplexed. He realized what he had been doing and coughed awkwardly. “Sorry about that, you two. When you've been around as long as I have, you tend to contemplate everything a bit too much.”
“We've noticed..” Lyra grumbled.
“You make strange company, Beacon. Of course, this is just what I've observed.” Starswirl gave Lyra a strange look and stepped back to the wooden table.
“She's just a bit upset about what's going on. I'm sure you understand.” Titus explained, hoping to ease the tension just a bit between the two unicorns.
“Of course.” He turned to Lyra now. “You don't have to be a part of this, you know. I simply need the Beacon and all will be fine.”
Lyra looked offended by even the consideration of such a thought. “Uhh, no. That's not going to happen. He's mine, you know.”
“I'm sure you aren't speaking with a serious tongue since you say you garner ownership over the Beacon. But if you need to be with him, I suppose it couldn't hurt.” Starswirl wasn't going to argue at this point. He had a feeling that this mare would simply drive him to insanity if he wanted to counter against the thought of such a thing.
Lyra looked quite smug from hearing no complaint to that end. Nopony could tell her what she could do or couldn't do. But a fear was beginning to bubble up within her. What exactly would they have to do to stop this stallion who claimed to be Starswirl's companion? She didn't want to ever feel the same way she did against the Icebringers, that same horrible helpless feeling..
She felt a hand patting her gently on the head reminding her that she wouldn't be alone. Not anymore. They could do this, they always did. She closed her eyes and remembered all the encounters, all the scares... She was going to be fine as long as she had her human. She opened her eyes and looked up at Titus who was still in conversation with the supposed Starswirl.
“So where will this be taking us, exactly?” Titus asked.
“Are you familiar with the badlands by any chance, Beacon?”
Titus thought really hard about the books he had read at Twilight's library. He had sworn he had seen those words somewhere. But that may have just been memories back from Azeroth, that also had an area with the same name. Still, he couldn't but think he had seen it somewhere in the library in Ponyville.
“I am, of course.” Lyra cut in. “What about the badlands? They're miles from here.”
“Why, everything is about the badlands. That's where starstones are located, and I have reason to believe that they, along with my former compatriot, still remain there. You see, there's another thing about this that concerns you, Beacon.”
“What is that, exactly?” Titus wasn't sure exactly what this 'immortal' pony was getting at.
“I believe that he may have brought another from your original home world.”
“What?” He nearly fell over after hearing that. There was no way, he had been brought here by a god herself! But Starswirl had said that the stones' powers were even greater than that of gods...
“What makes you so sure? Huh?” Lyra pressed. She didn't like the sound of another from Titus' world. What if it was one of those 'horde' persons he had told her about? Or worse... Another human! But this one, female!
She was beginning to lose her composure thinking of all the possibilities. What if it was a human female?! Titus would certainly leave her for another human! Would he forget about her? Would she be alone again? Oh no. Oh no...
“Quite the curious one, aren't you? I would think that the Beacon would have been the one to ask such a question, but I have no problem answering for either of you.”
“Go on, then.” Titus gestured for the unicorn to explain exactly why he knew what his past companion's intentions were.
Starswirl nodded and continued. “He means to do just as Luna had. But without the individual going through the process of death.”
Titus flinched at the mention of the fall he had taken to end up in this world. He died once, and wasn't looking forward to ever doing it again. But it was the thing that brought him here, and he had found purpose once again.
“Did he mention by any chance anyone specific he was looking for?” He finally asked.
“He just said he needed a champion. Nothing else.”
Titus brought a gloved hand up to his chin in thought. He wasn't sure to be excited or to exercise caution towards this new development. He had put it all behind him now, but to think that there would be another who would share his plight...
“I must also add that each moment that passes here only allows more time for my former compatriot, Polaris, too accumulate more power with the stones. I can't even comprehend just how much one can accomplish with such artifacts, and I have been guarding them for centuries.”
“Do we really have to leave so soon? We just got here... I was going to talk to the princess some more and.. stuff..” Lyra kicked at the ground in disappointment.
“We don't have to leave at all. We can just sit here and wait to die I suppose.” Starswirl quipped back with a condescending tone.
“So we must leave immediately? How long is this trip?” Titus asked, his mind still half pondering just what this all could mean to him.
“Why, it's not a trip at all, actually. You both don't have to take a step.” Starswirl chuckled a bit and magicked his hat that had laid on the table back onto his head. “It could all just happen... in the blink of an eye.”
“Now you're talking all weird, I'm not sure I like this.” She gave Titus a sort of afflicted look. “He's a pony claiming to be a dead wizard for Celestia's sake!” At this point, she just wanted to keep them both out of this, anything to keep her human from anything that could redirect his focus somewhere other than her.
“I thought we were past this...” Starswirl sighed. “Beacon, please trust me with this. I have no reason to lie.”
Titus was really thinking this through. Perhaps a year ago he may have already been on his way with the pony who asked for his help just out of the goodness of his heart. But he had become selfish after all this time, and didn't want to disappoint the little unicorn that he had come to care for so.
He was torn between what he knew was the right thing to do and not causing Lyra distress. He was conflicted and it was horrible. Never had something like this ever been called into judgment for him.
“Can't we just go...? You've done enough... Besides, if this person came here, you'd protect them then.. right?” Lyra was trying to win him over as she noticed that he was bending under the pressure.
“But that would be risking too much.” Titus was beginning to grow more confident in which way he was swaying in the decision.
Lyra was beginning to realize she was losing. “But I don't want to lose you..” She'd thought she would just use the heavy hitter right then and there.
Titus sighed, closing his eyes for just a second. He knew the choice he had to make, he just hoped it would all be worth it in the end. He opened his eyes once again and glowed with determination and definiteness. “We have to go and stop this before it escalates.” He turned to look down at Lyra with a sad and pleading look. “You understand, don't you?”
“I... I...” She sighed.. “Yes...”
“Excellent. I knew you were somepony I could count on, Beacon.” Starswirl suddenly began to laugh softly. “The mare may just be right about owning you, though.”
“Yeah.. yeah..” Lyra held fore-hooves out to Titus, indicating just where she wanted to be.
Titus quickly picked her up and allowed her to get on his back and wrap her hooves around his neck. He knew that he had saddened her, and was trying to find someway to tell himself that it was still the right thing to do.
He felt her nuzzle his neck, though, telling him that nothing had been damaged between the two in anyway. That made him smile lightly and no longer worry about the decision he had made.
“We're ready to depart whenever you're ready.”
Starswirl stroked his beard and eyed the two intriguingly. “Well well, she does. I shouldn't have doubted your words, Miss.”
“Just... lets go...” Lyra said wearily.
“As you wish.”
Starswirl's horn began to glow from under his oversized hat, and the room began to lose it's shape around them slowly. Titus was instantly reminded of the phenomenon he experienced when stepping through the dark portal. Something different happened here, though. He suddenly felt like he was moving at a speed impossible to comprehend. Everything around them was a blur now and the only constants were themselves.
“I don't like this!” Lyra cried out after a moment.
“You'll be fine! I perfected this spell centuries ago!” Starswirl laughed with confidence as they continued to experience the blurring backdrop around them.
Titus couldn't say anything, for he was already feeling a tad bit squeamish. It was worse than a hearthstone could ever be. But he was soon relieved of it all as the blur eventually went to black. Everything went to black.
Reality came back as Titus found himself under water. He clenched his eyes shut and began to swim for what he thought was up. He broke through the surface of the water with a gasp and hacked and coughed.
He heard a much more delicate voice join along in chorus with his coughing. He ran an arm around his back and sighed in relief to feel the little green unicorn was still holding onto him.
“You shouldn't have agreed to this!” She nearly sobbed. “I just wanted everything to be normal from now on!”
That cut up Titus inside. He knew he had let her down. She had just asked for solace and contempt, but now was being thrown into a torrent of stress and danger. He felt guilty doing this to her since he knew that she would be at his side no matter simply because of love and the fact that should would worry herself to death without him.
“Over here, you two. Up here at the mouth of the tunnel.” Titus finally opened his eyes to see that they were underground. Either Starswirl had messed up with the spell, or they were under the badlands itself. Titus didn't hesitate to swim over to the mouth of the tunnel Starswirl was speaking of.
After he had pulled himself out of the water, he just wanted to fall over and take a breather from all that, but he found himself unable too as Lyra got off his back staggered slightly, shivering and then sitting down, traumatized.
“I just.. wanted.. to talk to Celestia.. I just wanted to be happy without anymore of this..” Her teeth were chattering from the drop in temperature that the water had caused.
Titus got up onto his feet and immediately walked over to the miserable unicorn. He patted her head softly and tried to cheer her up with comforting words. “We'll get through this, and then we can do whatever you want.”
She kept her head down, drops of water dropping to the wet floor from her mane. She obviously wasn't buying into the suggestion he was laying out for her.
He sat down next to her and gently stroked her mane, causing her to tense up from the compassionate touch that the Paladin placed upon her. She knew shouldn't keep mopey act for much longer. She could never be upset with her human.
She pulled her head up gently and looked at him with a pitiful look. “Do you mean it?”
Titus just laughed lightly. “Of course, why wouldn't I?”
She suddenly grabbed him and pulled him into her for a hug. It had never been awkward for her. Never. For him, especially in front of another, it was still a work in progress, but he didn't shy away from the contact.
“Things can't be normal with you around, huh?” She asked softly in his arms.
“I doubt it. Trouble seems to follow me wherever I go. I would understand if you didn't want to be a part of all this.” He already knew what words were going to come next, but he still wanted to hear what she had to say.
“Are you kidding? You're all I have, and all I need.” She laughed a bit, along with Titus who had expected just as much.
“As warming as this is to see..” Starswirl leaning against a tunnel wall looking off into the pool of water behind them. “I believe we have some other worries to tend to, and then you two lovebirds can worry about whatever you want. I'll even send you to the beach, if you'd like.” The sorcerer snickered.
“Oh, ha ha.” Lyra said bitterly, finally breaking the contact from Titus. She had to admit though that the beach was certainly not a bad thing to look forward to in the near future after they had dealt with all of this.
“Very well, sorcerer.” Titus sat up, causing Lyra to hold out her hooves hopelessly after him as he walked towards Starswirl. “I assume this was the place you meant to bring us too?”
“Quite so, Beacon. From here on out, things will be getting quite dangerous. We have two dangerous individuals within these tunnels. If we take care of this before they can spread corruption, then I believe we should be able to complete this task in less than say.. a few days.”
“What?!” Lyra shot up and looked at the sorcerer in disbelief. “You've got to be kidding?! How big are these tunnels?!”
“Large enough to drive those in search of the starstones insane, of course. What a silly question to ask here.”
“Humph.” Was all she returned, walking over to Titus.
“Well..” Starswirl got off the wall and spun his hat lightly upon his head with a smirk. “Shall we be going?”
“Yes.” Titus huffed and began to follow the bearded unicorn down the tunnel.
“Wait!” Lyra cried out, not moving an inch. Titus turned around and Starswirl sighed in irritation. Lyra gave the Paladin the most pathetic look she could muster, her fore-hooves outstretched and reaching towards Titus.
Titus rolled his eyes and came over, picking the green unicorn up. She smiled with deviance as she repositioned herself on his back and stuck her tongue out in the direction of the bearded pony who wasn't looking at them at the moment.
“Let us go, then.” Starswirl said with an edge of impatience.
The tunnels were endless and Titus had sworn that they had seen the same place over and over again. Starswirl was extremely cautious, pausing constantly before they went around a corner or stepped into a much more open area.
“Do you know where we're going?” Lyra asked the sorcerer who seemed to almost be in a different place within his mind.
“Oh? Oh yes. I was just heading towards the chamber where the stones would lay upon their stands. It shouldn't be much farther now, actually right around..” Starswirl nearly choked on his own breath from the sight before as he came around the corner.
All they found was rubble and dust, but the dust simply floated in place, unchanged by the air around them or the air they breathed.
“What has he been doing?!” Starswirl suddenly shouted. Titus gave him a worried look as the sorcerer seemed to be trying to understand what just had taken place here.
“Why would he destroy the chamber where the starstones were?” Titus asked, trying to go through the possibilities himself.
“It's not that, Beacon. It's the fact that this whole tunnel is held in stasis, I've never imagined something this large to be under such a technical spell as a stasis incantation. He definitely has the starstones with him, that much I am sure.” Starswirl squinted his eyes as he continued to look at the dust that had clouded at an unseen interval. “It needs to be released, too much magic held in place like this will certainly cause some complications for any that linger above the surface and the land itself, as dead as it already is.” His horn began to glow, as he prepared to disable the spell that the tunnel was under.
“Wait shouldn't we...” Titus started, but the spell had already been released. The tunnel began to rumble, or rather resumed its previous rumbling, causing them to nearly fall over in result.
“I suggest you clear of this tunnel.” Starswirl said, his eyes still on the top of the tunnel.
“What about you?” The Paladin asked in concern.
“Eh, I'll be fine. Just make sure you on your little mare are okay.” He seemed to be much more confident in how he would turn out than anyone else there, so Titus nodded and cleared back around the corner they came.
The dirt and rock came roaring down behind them right where they had once stood, forcing Titus to stagger onto his knees for a second. Lyra was coughing from the sudden intake of dirt and other cloudy materials.
Titus was soon coughing as well and in the air along with the two's hacking, a very peculiar sound could be heard. Titus hadn't heard anything like it for a very long time. Like a blade being dragged across the ground, the sound was almost cringe worthy.
He forced himself to look around but found that they were blinded by the particle residue. The air around him seemed to be a bit colder than what he had remembered and forced himself to desperately try to discern some shape out of the choking air.
“A human...” a cold voice called out. Before Titus could answer back, the shine and glow of a blade was right in between his eyes. The air suddenly cleared and Titus found himself speechless to the being before him.
It was a gnome Death Knight. That's what Starswirl's friend had brought? Why would anyone of the Alliance work for the forces of evil? Not even a Death Knight with his own free will would do such a thing.
The Death Knight turned its gaze to the unicorn on his back. “It seems you have one of those mangy beasts on your back, human. I could get rid of it if you needed me to.”
“What the... I'm not a beast!” Lyra roared out. Like hell if she would let anything get rid of her! Titus would protect her!
“I'd prefer you didn't.” Titus stood back up looking down at the gnome. “So you are the one that was brought into this world?”
“What are you talking about? We are simply underneath some region of Azeroth. Perhaps we could find ley lines down here as well.”
“Uhh.. No. You're not in Azeroth.” Lyra corrected the Death Knight.
“Curb your tongue, beast. I am speaking with the human right now.” The gnome clearly did not like Lyra one bit, which bothered Titus a bit.
“You can't say that! He's my human!” She growled back.
“A slave? Is this true, human?” The gnome tilted his head up towards the Paladin. It was difficult to read the gnome and if he was really taking this all seriously from beneath the guise of his helmet.
“Of course, not.” He was having a mental overload with all the things going on around him. He rubbed his temples for a second before continuing. “She's just... possessive. Look, how did you get here? Why are you working for evil? Why are you so hostile?”
“Humans.. so curious, but not always for the answer.” The gnome finally brought back his blade, understanding that nothing was out to get him at the moment. “I was forced here, and by evil I'm sure you mean the beast that thought he could capture me. I work for no evil, and have no ties to anything. As for my hostility, I have simply been attempting to get revenge upon the one that had brought me here.” He gestured towards Lyra. “His kind is that of hers. If she is not in league with that one, then why is she here? Why are you here, human?”
“To do what's right.” Titus returned flatly.
“Yes. A Paladin by the looks of you. Figures you would run in headstrong regarding an issue that didn't involve you directly.”
Lyra was fuming after that. It was one thing to insult her, but when her human was taking an onslaught of harsh words, it was a different story.
Fortunately, Titus knew her well enough to put a hand on the side of her face before she blew up at the gnome. “I fight for what I believe is right. I only ask not to be questioned when I make my judgment.” He felt like a real hypocrite saying that. He had questioned himself making this very decision, something that was causing the slightest of turmoil within him even now.
“Very well, but I'll keep my opinion, if that's not too much.”
“What are you doing???” Lyra hissed into his ear. “You're too nice for your own good!”
“He's an ally.” Titus whispered back. “He's been through a lot more than you'd think, you have to understand that when you're talking to him.”
During their little conversation, they had failed to notice that the gnome was beginning to walk away and was about to leave their line of sight when Titus finally noticed him.
“Hey, wait! Where are you going?” He asked.
“I've wasted enough time here.” The Death Knight called back. “I am still looking for that beast that would have used me for his own will.”
“We're looking for the same person too! I think...” Lyra called out after the gnome.
“As much as I would appreciate the help of an inferior Paladin, I think I'll pass.” The gnome continued on, out of sight.
Titus frowned. Was this all the interaction he was going to get with a fellow being of Azeroth here? Bitter words and one-track minded goals? If only it had been anyone other than a Death Knight...
Titus and Lyra were suddenly pushed out of the way, and were surprised to see that Starswirl was running after the gnome now. Where had he come from? “Get back here, creature of evil!”
“Uh oh.” Lyra said. Titus was already following the sorcerer, trying to convince him to stop whatever hostile attack he was planning. Starswirl would not listen, however, and once the Death Knight had come back into sight, the sorcerer fired off a sparking bolt of magic.
The Death Knight, turned around just in time to notice this and dodged out of the way, hitting the side of the tunnel to avoid the bolt. He brought his blade up and pointed it at the bearded pointing, practically marking him for death.
“Stop!” Titus called out, trying to do anything to keep the conflict from continuing.
“He reeks of evil, human! He may be of your world but he is clearly not affiliated with you in any way!” Starswirl's mind was set on protecting his world, and Titus knew that there was no way to prevent this without direct intervention.
“I am not evil, I can assure you..” The gnome said, not deterred a bit by the ancient sorcerer before him. “But I do not tolerate attempts at my life.”
“Have at it, then!” Starswirl returned, his face dead serious.
That was it. He had to stop this. Titus gently pulled Lyra off his back and placed her upon the ground. “Please stay back.”
“But you're going to get-”
She nodded and fell back a few more steps until he was satisfied, and then turned towards the battle that was about to take place. Before he could close in on them, though, Starswirl had already ignited the battle and fired multiple projectiles at once.
The gnome had no issue with them and took must of the attack by putting his blade before him to block, the rest simply scraping by his armor and heading down the tunnel further illuminating it as it traveled down.
The Death Knight jumped forth at incredible speed already closing in on his target and ready to end it. Starswirl stood his ground and channeled a shield at his front angle. The gnome was forced to bounce off of it and fall back slightly.
“Assist me, Beacon!” Starswirl called out, hoping that Titus would engage the gnome in melee combat.
“Is that what you are? His tool?” The Death Knight called back. “Is this what's right? I had no quarrel with you.”
“No! Stop it, both of you!” He knew his words meant little, but he wasn't about to pick a side here.
They continued to fight as Titus wracked through his mind on how to cease the engagement. One was fighting to defend his world and the other was fighting to defend himself. Both seemed to be stubborn and wouldn't be willing to give up unless separated probably.
The dark hand that was a trademark of any Death Knight suddenly came forth and attempted to grab Starswirl through his shield. Before the tendril could grasp the sorcerer, though, Starswirl began another spell and spectral blades swirled around him, cutting the dark energies to shreds.
The shield had faded away now and this was the Death Knight's chance to attack. He came out the unicorn, his mind dead set on ending a life this very moment.
That was it, though. He couldn't stand here and watch them kill each other. As the gnome pulled his runeblade back for an attack, Titus began to move. The second the Death Knight was about to bring his weapon down upon the unicorn who stared at him with bitter protest, the Paladin ran in front of Starswirl and caught the blade in his gloved hands, the force of the attack was enough to cause him to stagger slightly, but still hold his ground.
“I see...” The gnome seemed to have taken the intervention as another entering the battle. “I can only say you've made the wrong choice, human.”
“I'm not picking a side, dammit! Listen to me!” But that was holding no water with the Death Knight's observations. He pulled his blade up once more, preparing to swing again. “Stop!”
Titus caught the blade again, this time he could feel his palms beneath the gloves begin to wet with what he could only guess was his blood. It was nothing he couldn't fix later from a prayer to the light, but he still started to feel a rush of urgency. He threw the blade back this time, hoping that he could get in a word before the next attack came.
“We're looking for the same person! I don't mean any harm! Just stop!”
It was obvious that there would be no reaction out of him now. The blood lust was now too strong and the blade came down at a different angle this time, making Titus unable to catch it. There was only one thing he could do to save himself from being cleaved beyond healing.
He shot a strand of light, hitting the gnome squarely across the helmet, causing him to stagger slightly. There was no going back now, he pulled his hammer out before him, getting ready to engage in combat with a race that was once ally to him.
What had happened? They should have been working together, not bringing up arms against one another. The banner of the Alliance should have united them, but that clearly was null in this world.
The gnome jumped at him, eager to keep the fight close, which Titus had no problem with. The blade hit the extended handle of the hammer and Titus threw the gnome back with increased force as he began to channel a seal through his body. If he could still avoid blows though, he would gladly take that over combat.
Titus' leg was grabbed by the unmistakable tendril that the gnome had control over and felt his footing begin to give way. He was too battle savvy to let something so predictable put him out and he summoned the light through his body down to his leg causing the hand to convulse and shrink in reaction.
Their weapons began to exchange blows, one of light and faith, the other of dark ambition. It was two completely different things contrasting with one another, and it showed. Light collided with darkness both physically and metaphorically. Aura's from both infringed upon each other as the weapons connected continuously.
Lyra had been watching the whole thing in horror, wanting it all to just stop. Everything was happening too fast! Today wasn't suppose to be like this! It was just suppose to be another cheerful day with her human. Now he was risking his life because some pony that should have been dead asked for his help...
Starswirl had stepped back to watch the two fight, unable to do anything or risk hurting the Beacon in the process. He had faith that the Beacon would do what was right, but even though the Beacon was assisting him, he seemed conflicted about the whole thing, like he knew he shouldn't have been fighting another from his own world. The desire for interaction from another of his own world must have made him ignorant to the fact that this thing was indeed reeking of death itself.
Lyra ran up to the sorcerer frantically. “You have to do something! You have to make them stop! Please!”
“I can't! I'd hurt them both! I know you don't want that!” Starswirl was starting to feel the pressure coming down on him. He shouldn't have let the mare come, she was only bound to get in the way and now she was screaming at him to do something desperately.
“Fine!” Lyra yelled out, pushing past him towards where the two were fighting. The sound of fighting itself was enough to shake the tunnel. She watched them continue, trying to predict where the next exchange of blows would happen. Luckily Titus had not noticed her, or he might have missed a step from the surprise of seeing her.
She went to action and attempted to disarm the gnome. The Death Knight felt the blade he held being pulled slowly from his grip and began to retreat. He looked at it and noticed the magical aura engulfing it. He looked around to see what was causing this and his eyes caught the green unicorn who looked to be concentrating as her horn glowed.
He shot forth his death grip, grabbing the unicorn by her mane. She yelped in pain as she was pulled over to the gnome, hitting the ground before him hard.
“Ow...” Was all she managed out as she struggled to get up.
“I have no time for this. You will die right-” The gnome was lifted of the ground as a fist clenched around his neck and he was slammed into the side of the tunnel. He was staring into the eyes of the Paladin, anger and rage coursing through every visible feature of his body.
“You will not touch her again! Is that clear?!”
“It seems I've hit a nerve. Why don't-” He was slammed into the side of the tunnel once more, this time causing particles to disperse around them.
“Is. That. Clear?”
The gnome stared at him from under the helmet, defiant and unwilling to comply to the Paladin's heated request. “I don't agree to anything, human. You should know that by my very nature.”
The aura around Titus ignited violently, the only thing that was holding him in check was his discipline and training. He was furious with both the Death Knight and Lyra for cutting into the combat. Once this was over, he was going to have to a very in depth talk about her risking herself when she was already so vulnerable.
“If you're going to do something that isn't just going to rattle my head around, I'd prefer that, human.” He was mocking him. Even now, when he was at his mercy, his tongue was trying to cut at him with burlesque comments.
Titus pulled him off the wall and threw the Death Knight down the tunnel with a roar. He was so tired of it all. This had not been worth it; all this had shown him was that he had no connection to Azeroth at all anymore.
They had been separated far enough now that Titus turned his attention to Lyra. Kneeling down beside the unicorn that was barely sitting up, he turned his gaze to Starswirl. “Please, just.. just keep him distracted.”
“That I can do, Beacon.” Starswirl ran by them to engage the gnome as Titus returned his attention to Lyra.
Her look was one of worry and distraught. He could only assume that she was expecting a scolding after her reckless behavior, but it never came. As she noticed that the Paladin's face continued to relax in relief, she began to ease her own stress from her body.
“I'm so dumb... I shouldn't... have down that..” Was all she said. It was clear she was in a lot of pain from the rough impact. So fragile, Titus thought, so fragile yet so stubborn. It was a surprise that she had not been hurt worse because of this fact.
“You shouldn't have.. but.. lets not worry about that now.” Titus smiled and placed his hands on her. He took a breath and began a silent prayer for the unicorn. He felt the light run through his fingertips and into the little unicorn's body.
She hummed slightly at both the warmth and just the touch of the Paladin. Just like that one night... if she could have a night like that again...
While Titus was healing her, his gaze was turned to the fighting going on between Starswirl and the gnome. So far it seemed that they were at a stalemate and the Paladin wouldn't have to worry about stepping in again until he was really done.
Lyra stood up fully now as a strength and will filled her body once more. Titus brought his hands off of her and made sure everything was okay. After being satisfied that nothing was still damaged, he sighed heavily. “You can't do that. Never do that again, promise me that.”
Lyra looked down at the ground, not wanting to be bound by such words. It stayed like this for a moment, with the sound of Starswirl and the Death Knight fighting off in the distance. She suddenly jumped forth and kissed him, wrapping her hooves around his neck.
This caught Titus off guard, causing him nearly to fall over. She pulled back after a second and looked dreamily into his eyes. The Paladin was struggling to cope with what had just happened and seemed to be quite bothered now.
She stepped back, giggling. “You can't make me promise anything.”
“I-I.. but..” He couldn't find the words and was struggling to get up after that moment of intimacy.
“Just go, don't worry about me. I'll worry about you.” She gave him a rapturous smile, only making Titus lose his composure further.
“J-just stay, okay?” She only continued to smile.
He had no more time to get her word on it, as Starswirl began to call out to him for assistance. “Beacon! The sooner you get over here and assist me, the sooner we can end this!”
Titus gave Lyra one last allusive look before rushing to the sorcerer's assistance. The unicorn watched his every step with an internal sigh.
She knew he would die for her and that was what scared her sometimes. But at this moment, she thought her kiss would be the bulwark he needed to get through this. But it was not nearly enough for what she would need to cope with the worry.
“You can hear it, don't you? The sounds of conflict...”
“Oh yes, yes I do!” Polaris cackled maniacally. These new voices had proved to be quite the friends, playing at his emotions in all the right ways. They only wanted to please him, and he was grateful for that. Why, he could even see his friends sometimes, not only hear them now!
Even in this short time, he had grown fond of them and their words. They spoke plainly and he could appreciate that, even though he did happen to exaggerate himself sometimes. They were just helping, he had to understand that! They were just helping!
He began to head in the direction he heard the clatter of weapons, having a hard time keeping his balance between all the laughing and the constant shifting he made, sometimes making contact with the side of the tunnel.
“That is it... continue forth.. only good can come from this..”
“Of course, my friends! Of course!!!”
If only they could fight at the same time. If that was the case, then this battle would have been over with in a fraction of the time it was taking now. In fear of hurting one another, Titus and Starswirl had to back off for one another when engaging the gnome.
The only problem was that it was a near stalemate this way as the the Death Knight didn't falter in the least bit or needed to take a break. Lyra was watching the whole thing with a distraught look, hoping that they would find someway to win.
The fighting suddenly stopped as the sound of laughing echoed and bounced off the tunnel walls. “Oh! Oh! I think we're getting close!”
Those that had been in conflict were standing still now, looking down the tunnel the way the sound had come from. They heard ragged breaths mixed with muttering of words, the occasional shout and laugh broke the steady stream of sounds.
The source of it all finally came into view and Starswirl's mouth dropped from the sight. “Oh.. oh my.. no..”
The starstones were ingrained into his flesh, but what really disturbed him was what was extending out from those stones now.
Shadow like beings, reminiscent of the ones from the encounter beyond the Everfree forest, extending from the starstones on him, save for the one directly under his horn. His robe had been torn to shreds and he looked as if he was the walking dead at this point.
“By the Light..” Titus muttered, watching the being stumble and fall over. He got up only laughing harder at what had just happened to him.
“He's gone...” Starswirl said sadly. “He's just a vessel now..”
“Calm yourself, Polaris. We must speak with these individuals for a short time.” The shadows twisted and turned with each word being said. They were like extra appendages, but with their own idiosyncratic mindset.
“Yes.. Yes! Very well! Ha! Go ahead then!” Polaris said with inane.
“What is this?!” Starswirl called out to the shadows the twisted and turned around Polaris.
“This... this is power. This is what the starstones were made to do. This is what you tried to prevent, but it was all in vain! We are tools for destruction, and that is what we will do... Polaris here...”
“That's me!” The harebrained unicorn snorted. “That's definitely me!”
“Yes... Polaris here seeks recognition is all... we aim to make his dream a reality... but to do so.. well.. we'll have to take care of a few potential pitfalls.”
“They mean you!” Polaris called out in glee. He looked at the Death Knight, and a glare formed across his face, returning him back to a more habitual like behavior. “I'll be taking care of you first. I should never have even though that I would need another to succeed. These friends are all I ever needed!”
“Very much so... very much so..”
The Death Knight didn't seem to be impressed with what he was seeing. “If that's so, then you can most certainly try, beast.”
“I've had enough of being called that! You'll pay for all this trouble you caused me!”
“Oh dear... it seems you're first... prepare yourself if you can, for this will not be like the last encounter.”
The gnome didn't say a thing, instead he moved forward at an uncanny speed, attempting to slash at Polaris' throat. One of the shadowy tendrils dissuaded that approach however, and threw him and his weapon back.
“Such a thoughtless approach will get you nowhere...”
“You heard them!” Polaris laughed. “Nowhere!”
“We'll see.” The gnome said again, jumping forth. Again, he was thrown back, this time with a bit more force.
With this new development, Lyra was tempted to leave the spot she had been waiting at. This thing looked bad, and Titus was still there near it. Each second that passed made her want to cry out, but she feared that by doing so, she would be risking herself and forcing Titus to take action in her defense.
The attacks kept coming from the gnome, and Polaris just kept defending himself handily against them. Eventually Polaris went on the offensive and shot forth the shadows. They lunged out in all directions, hitting the side of the passageway and bouncing off the surfaces.
This forced both Titus and Starswirl into the combat as well as they were forced to defend themselves as they came crashing by.
The Paladin sidestepped the shadow and tried to bring a boot down upon it, but it retreated back to Polaris before any damage could be done. Starswirl simply protected himself with wards against the outreaching shadows and sighed in sadness and disgust.
“Human.” The gnome called out. “It appears we have a common enemy.”
“So it does...” Titus' eyes were on the wreck that was their adversary. “I assume that means our battle is over then?”
“Very well.” Titus clenched his hammer tighter. “Good enough for me.”
“Ha! Do you see this?! They think that banding together can help them! Hilarious!” Polaris was gasping for breath now between manic fits of laughter.
“Quite amusing yes... we shall see how far it takes them then.”
“Yes! Yes we shall!” Polaris' horn began to spark with electricity and glow red, indicating a spell in the works.
The sheer power being concentrated into one area was causing quite the draft through the tunnel and Titus could feel some of the hairs upon his head blow steadily in the new found breeze.
“One spell! All it will take! Goodbye all of you!” Polaris laughed.
Starswirl knew what was coming. As the magical current shot from Polaris' horn, Starswirl began his own spell while hopping in front of both the Beacon and the Death Knight. A reflective barrier formed in front of him, taking the gruff of the impact, but Polaris' spell was ceaseless it seemed and Starswirl was struggling to just keep the spell present against it all.
Titus realized what would happen if Starswirl lost his strength. “Hold on!” He called out. He had the craziest of ideas, but he was sure it could work even factoring in the strength it would sap from him.
“I'm trying Beacon! If you're going to do something, hurry!” Tears from the effort being strained through Starswirl's body were beginning to show.
Titus nodded and shot a glance back to the onlooking Lyra. He gave her a smile and nodded, mouthing the words that would be the only thing holding her back from running after him. “Don't worry about me. I'll worry about you.”
Titus sighed and turned around, beginning a prayer. A shield formed around him, making him impervious to any form of damage for awhile. “Divine Shield..” He hadn't used this since the icebringers, he hoped it would be enough. It reduced the strength of his blows, but hopefully the unicorn wasn't made of the tough stuff.
He ran right through the barrier Starswirl had up and began to run right down and through the brunt of the magic that Polaris was shooting forth. The mad unicorn had no idea what was about to come.
Polaris cackled and laughed, but soon found his vocal cords being cut off as a fist wrapped itself around his neck. He choked and gasped, the spell breaking off causing Starswirl from behind to finally cease his aegis and fall to the ground, exhausted.
The unicorn's eyes focused in on the Beacon whose face only showed bitter resolve and desire for it to end. The shadows around him attempted to attack at the human, but bounced off the shield around him.
Everything went white and a resounding 'crack' was heard as Titus smashed the side of the unicorn's head, sending him flying into the wall. The shield faded from Titus now and he soon found that what he had done had not been enough.
Polaris struggled up, growling and laughing at the same time. It was hard to see, for he clearly had suffered some damage from the blow across the face. The side of his face was caked with blood, but he didn't seem to notice the damage even though he could only keep one eye open now.
“A good try there, Beacon! Quite the resourceful one, eh? A pity all that was for naught!” The shadows began to slowly stretch outward from Polaris. Titus swung at them, but they twisted right around his blows and wrapped themselves around him. A shot of agony rippled through his body, causing him to cry out in pain and drop his hammer.
Lyra had to cover her eyes through the whole thing and only peeked when she heard Titus cry out in pain. She yelped in pain in fear at the sight of him thrashing about in pain as Polaris' shadows enveloped him. “Not again...” Memories of shadows surrounding them within the ruined castle beyond the Everfree forest filled her mind. She had felt so helpless then, and she felt hopeless now.
“This can't be happening.. this can't be happening..” Those cries of pain, they were tiny wounds into her heart. She wasn't sure how much she could take, and why wouldn't it stop?! Tears swelled upon around her eyes and began to run down the side of her face.
Titus was trying to fight through the pain, but couldn't get a focus on anything around him. He heard voices, he was pretty sure they belonged to Starswirl, which meant that they were more than likely empty words of assurance that he was doing everything that he could to stem his agony. The others were of Polaris and the shadows he commanded... or commanded him? He wasn't sure.
Then, when he thought it would never end, his reprieve came. The gnome had cut through all the shadowy tentacles that had held him. Sense outside of pain came back to him in a landslide. He could now discern meaning from the cackling of Polaris, the cold words of the Death Knight, and Starswirl's promises to not fail in their righteous mission.
“Oh ho! Look who finally decided to pull some weight for the team over here!” Polaris laughed.
“You've gotten away too many times. Steel yourself.” The gnome stood near Titus who was still struggling back to full cognitive function.
“Very well, but I doubt I will need the warning.” The unicorn retorted in a drab tone.
What he wasn't expecting though, was for the ground below him to begin to bubble and become violently active. Pain shot up through his legs as the corruption below him bubbled continuously.
“Leave... leave now.. move!” The shadows surrounding him called. He followed their instructions, but tripped onto the ground, and he screamed in agony as the corruption continued to eat at him.
“You're a fool... a fool!!”
“Help! Help!” Polaris cried out. The shadows picked them up and threw them all away from the corruption, where he smashed into the side of the tunnel once again. He didn't get up this time and the shadows that had once extended from his form retreated back into their respective starstone, and the gnome scoffed.
Titus struggled back to his feet and picked up his hammer. He shuffled over to the side of the tunnel and fell down, sitting against it. He began to word a prayer to the Light, hoping its warmth would heal him, but as soon as he uttered the first word, a familiar green mass hopped right onto him, causing the Paladin to grimace in pain.
“Don't do that! Don't do that ever again!” Lyra buried her face into his chest, causing him to both gasp from the pain and the touch altogether.
“Heh, heh.. you know... no promises..”
“Oh knock it off!” She laughed behind the tears into his chest.
“Could you...” Titus began, finding it hard to speak behind face full of mane he was getting from the mare that still was softly crying into his chest.
“Would you let me have a bit of space..?” He finally managed to say. No response.
“A little help here?” Titus called out expectantly.
Starswirl walked over to them slowly, his eyes still on the unmoving Polaris and the gnome that just stood there. He finally gave them a glance and understood what the Paladin was asking.
“Ma'am? I believe he needs a second.”
“No!” She called out. “He's not leaving me again!”
“Oh, please. It's just for a second.” She didn't budge and Starswirl gave Titus a shrug.
“You and you're fatuous emotions, so pathetic.” The Death Knight walked up to the group. “Beast, he needs space to restore the internal damage he has sustained. Surely you know of this if you are so intimate with him?”
“Oh... yeah..” Lyra said crudely, reluctantly stepping off of the human. “I'm sorry..”
“It's fine.. just a sec..” Titus closed his eyes begin to make the silent prayer.
“Such a pathetic host in the end... and now... just an empty shell... how fitting.. it was what he was destined to be it seems.”
Everyone looked to where Polaris had been, but instead of the power hungry unicorn, they only found a dark silhouette that was left of him. He had been completely swallowed up by the shadows, and that was left was his shape.
“It's always nice when there's less work involved in an already corrupted individual.. hmm..”
“So it seems you were consumed by the very powers you wished to control. Pitiful.” The Death Knight brought up his weapon once more. “I grow tired of this constant fighting, I will purge all that commands your body.”
“Words. They're just words.” The dark figure began to float motionlessly, as if it was still standing on the ground.
The Death Knight turned to Titus and surprisingly, nodded through his helmet. With a step towards the idle form, the gnome summoned all his strength to him, a pale light gently glowing in his hands.
In an instant, the Death Knight found himself on the ground however, a shadow had left the core body and had disarmed him and brought him to the ground. He rolled out of the way before the thing could strike however and quickly got to his feet, scraping up his runeblade.
Pale blue eyes were intent on their target and he shot forth, slashing at the tendrils that would have caused him to fall once again. He was a mere foot away when the figure dropped back slowly out of range and erupted violently in a flurry of darkness.
The shadows were everywhere and this time when they bounced of the side of the tunnels, vibrations rippled through the passageway. Before anyone could do anything else, the tunnel caved in. Titus looked up just in time to put his weak arms up in a futile attempt to keep from the rubble falling on top of him and the unicorn next to him.
If only he had had time to heal himself.
Air. Air dammit. You're going to die if you don't get some air. Get your frail and weak body out of there.
Titus crawled out from under the dirt and rock, pain erupting from just about everywhere on his body. He could hear the shadows laugh, and the Death Knight taunting and insulting the creatures as they continued to fight.
He rolled onto his back and looked back at the destruction that had been caused. There was no sign of Starswirl... of Lyra. A numb feeling filled his stomach at the realization of what may have happened after that... that cave in.
He tried to sit up and make his way back to the rubble, to try to dig desperately for any sign that Lyra was okay. Any sign at all. Unfortunately, his body wouldn't allow it and he groaned in pain. He rolled back onto his stomach and looked ahead.
The Death Knight and the shell that was once Polaris were still engaged in brutal combat. Both seemed heavily invested in their fight and the shadowy shell was turned away from him. This.. this could be his chance. If that bastard... tears began to well up in his eyes. If that bastard had really.. killed anyone beneath that rubble, it was time to make him pay.
He checked his hands, trying to summon the Light, but it didn't come. He sighed in frustration, wondering what exactly he could do to assist in this being's undoing. It didn't matter though, he still had to try.
Each foot that he covered felt like a mile to him as he slid down the bumpy tunnel, trying desperately to reach the two in combat. He didn't care about anything other than ending this anymore. He caused all of this, he ruined everything and may have gotten all that he cared for taken away in an instant.
He gritted his teeth and fought back the tears, attempting to repress thoughts of Lyra and all that he had put her through. He was a horrible friend and even a more horrible 'coltfriend' in her own words. He knew what it meant, and he almost wanted to laugh from even remembering the term she had used at this very moment.
He was right there now, and still the shadowy shell did not notice him. He tried to think frantically of what he could do, but settled on attempting to trip the entity to assist the Death Knight in his battle.
As soon as he grabbed the leg, however, he pulled his hand back and cried out in pain, causing the shell of Polaris to turn towards him and laugh. “A resilient one I see. Well let me ease you into the afterlife... maybe..”
Time slowed down and Titus could see the shadows extend out over him in a threatening manner, ready to tear him apart. “Light guide me...” He waited for the end as they shot towards him in an instant, holding his breath the whole time.
“Your fight is with me, not the human.” The Death Knight hopped onto the consumed body and brought the blade around its neck, attempting to behead it.
The thing thrashed about, trying to throw the gnome off of its back. The gnome wasn't about to budge, that was until he was ran through by a shadow that decided now to sprout from the back of figure.
With the damage done, the gnome grew weaker and lost his grip. He was thrown to the side of cave, a huge hole right in his chest. “Coward..”
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen..” The creature turned back to Titus who was trying to get on his knees and find some way to fight back. “I commend your durability, but time seems to have run out for you and everyone else.”
“Do it then.” Titus spat out. “Do it, you sick bastard.”
“Who are we to deny such a request?”
Time slowed down once again as Titus stared up at the being with bitter and resentful eyes. He had failed. He hailed failed everyone. Starswirl, everyone in this world, and.. and Lyra.. He would die disappointing her, forcing her into her own death as well.. He deserved this.
“Human....!” Titus broke his gaze from his imminent death and looked to see the gnome throwing his runeblade towards him. He could do this. He caught the sword on the handle, the unholiness of the weapon caused him to feel a bit uncomfortable wielding it, but it was his only chance.
He stabbed with the sword right into the head of the figure, where one of the starstones had been ingrained. He let go of his grip as the entity staggered back and cried out with remorse and hatred.
“What... what have you done?!?!?! NOO!!” It fell to the floor, sword still in its head, convulsing violently and screaming in violent fits. The shadows shot out from the figure and swung about in a similar matter to the body that they stemmed from.
Titus couldn't believe it was working. He wanted to pinch himself, but couldn't find the strength. He just fell over onto his back, exhausted and resentful to all he had done. It couldn't be taken back, none of it. Now he could only just whither away here... alone.
So he laid there, the last screams could be heard from the entity dying within the body that was once Polaris'. As time went on, Titus' eyes began to feel weary and he thought that maybe a short nap after this wouldn't be so bad.. maybe not so bad at all.
The world went dark.
“Careful! You don't know what's on the other side!” Starswirl called out to the green mare that was trying desperately to move the rubble out of the way. “You're going to hurt yourself if you keep that up!”
“I won't leave him! I won't!” Lyra screamed.
“Dammit! Why won't you listen?!” Starswirl shouted.
“He's all I have!!” She screamed back even louder. “Why don't you understand?!”
Starswirl frowned and felt quite horrible for the way he had reacted to her desperate act. The Beacon obviously meant the world to her and he was only cutting her hopes down.
“I... I... very well.. stand aside please.” Starswirl took an aggressive stance towards the pile of debris as Lyra quickly scurried out of the way. He pulled the rubble back towards him, spreading it out and flattening it enough to create an open for them to go over into the area they had been separated from.
Lyra ran right over through the opening, causing Starswirl to quickly follow after her. “Please be more cautious!!”
Starswirl's eyes were soon set upon quite the gruesome scene. Three figures laid within the tunnel, unmoving. One against the side and two upon the floor.
He focused on the small figure against the side of the tunnel, a hole in his chest that had torn right through the plate. A wound afflicted by the darkness that had controlled Polaris. This curious creature in the end sacrificed himself to help them reach their goal. To be honored in death... it seemed like something the strange creature would have wanted.
He then turned to see what was left of Polaris. He was recognizable again, except for the runeblade that protruded from his head, directly below his horn where a starstone had been embedded. In fact, all the starstones were gone from his body. Black marks were all that was left of where they had been implanted within his flesh. It seemed that the starstones were no more. Well, that made his job a lot easier, and a lot less meaningful.
Then, there was the Beacon. He laid on his back and looked quite peaceful. The unicorn trying desperately to wake him up was the exact opposite, however.
“No.. no.. wake up.. please.. for me.. you're fine.. you're fine.. stop it.. stop teasing me!”
That struck a chord within the old sorcerer. He did not deserve this fate when he had simply went with Starswirl by request. For what he had done, he deserved so much more than just a cold and bitter death under the badlands. No, and he wasn't about to.
Starswirl approach the figure who's head was now being held up in the mare's hooves. She was trying everything she could to get him to awake from his eternal slumber. Any words that she could muster to convince herself and the world around her that he wasn't gone.
“You can't be sleeping now.. you're so lazy... please just wake up.. please.. I need you..” She was crying violently and trying hard to even sound intelligible between the sobs. “I need you.. don't leave me.. don't leave me...”
“Ma'am... please step aside... I wish to do something...” Starswirl's own voice was failing from the sure emotion felt around them all.
She looked at him with a skeptical and hurt look. “What... what are you going to do?”
“Something I know I was going to do someday. Please just give me some space to attempt this on the Beacon.”
Lyra put the human's head softly back onto the ground and reluctantly stepped back, holding her breath the whole time Starswirl examined it assiduously.
“Okay, you can do this Starswirl. It's time this happened anyways.” He sighed nervously and tried to recall the spell he was about to perform.
His horn began to glow softly, focusing on the Paladin who laid upon the ground. Soon he began to form an aura similar to the one surrounding the sorcerer's horn. Lyra watched with an enthralled look. What was he trying? She would just have to wait and watch.
Starswirl felt the years leave his body one by one. He had created this spell not too far back, pondering just how he would be able to give back to the world when he felt he had grown weary of living at all. It was being applied quite a bit more earlier than he had originally thought, but he couldn't think of a better reason than to do it right now. He was saving more than one life here, after all.
As each moment passed, Starswirl began to feel frailer and frailer. He was catching back up to where he had been before being bestowed his immortality, which was at a very ripe old age in its own for a unicorn of his time.
The spell ceased and Starswirl knew that he no longer had the gift of athanasia. It was well enough, but he first needed to see if the spell had even worked, or he had simply given up his life for nothing.
Nothing so far. The human's bearded face was still motionless and peaceful, no sign of life just yet. Starswirl was beginning to fear that he had crafted a spell that did not work properly and he was going to pay the price for it.
Suddenly, Titus' eyes shot open and gasps of air filled his lungs. Everything came back into focus for him, and the recollection of the most recent events filled his thoughts. He sat up, fighting against the pain that had waned enough to allow him to at least move his body around.
“You're okay! You're okay!” Titus turned and found himself embracing the green unicorn that had hopped right into his arms. “I knew.. I knew you weren't gone.”
“I didn't know I left.” Titus laughed awkwardly. What had happened after he had stabbed Polaris within the head? “Is everything over then?”
“Why yes it is, Beacon.” An old raspy voice said.
The Paladin looked to see an extremely old and more feeble version of Starswirl the Bearded. What had happened to him?! “Are you okay, sorcerer?”
“Never been better, actually.” The stallion had a fit of coughing and laughter from his clever remark. “Ah, yes.. well, lets say I made a sacrifice for you in exchange for what you were willing to give up to see this through.”
“What do you mean?” The Paladin asked, confused.
“You kicked the bucket, Beacon. Corruption from the shadows within the starstones wasted your body from the inside out. Luckily, I was able to restore your body too a point that it could heal itself in time. You'll be sore for awhile is what I'm saying really.”
“But, did that cause you to lose your-”
“Indeed so. I've never felt more confident in making such a choice, though.” Starswirl looked past them to the two bodies behind them. “I was tasked with safeguarding the starstones so many years ago... but now that they're gone.. well... there's little reason for me to linger on this world for much longer.”
Titus stood up with Lyra in his arms turning to see what Starswirl's gaze had focused upon. When he saw the corpses, he shook his head in sadness. Such life wasted. The gnome, he had thrown the blade to him in the last seconds of their lives, his willingness to see the dark creature's demise was beyond commendable, but to also assist a figure he had been fighting with only a short while ago? Why, that was heroic.
No one's sacrifice would be forgotten to him. The last being he would see from Azeroth ever again. His last look at home, gone. At this point, though, he wasn't sure he belonged there. He had found so much here, so much to hold onto. He looked at the unicorn in his arms who was gently laying her head against his chest. He was where needed to be in this world, with this.. this stubborn, obsessive and compulsive unicorn. She needed him, and he think it was likewise from his perspective at this point.
“Hey..” She spoke up. “I love you..”
He coughed awkwardly and lowered his voice a bit. “I... I love you too.”
“Knew it.” She smiled victoriously and closed her eyes, forgetting everything but her and her human.
Titus was stuck in reality for the time being and turned to to Starswirl. “ Shall we bury the dead?”
“Oh well if that was the case, they're practically buried already. I'll soon be joining them anyways.” A sad but accepting look crossed the sorcerer's face. He wasn't too fond of dying after all these years, but he knew that it was time.
“Is there not nothing we can do?” The Paladin asked, concerned.
“No, I don't believe so. I've lived a long time, Beacon.” Starswirl sat down and brought a hoof up to his bearded chin. “I don't think the world needs an ancient sorcerer guarding an artifact that apparently doesn't exist anymore.”
“Still, you surely don't want to die on such circumstances do you?”
“Ha, these are pretty good circumstances if you ask me. No burden of guilt in shirking my duty or anything of the like. If I was going to die, it would be about now with everything now contained once more.” The old unicorn coughed violently. “Now, lets see about getting you two home, shall we?”
Titus really didn't want him in the state he was to be performing such a spell, but he had no idea how to get out of here and just how far away from home they were, so he just nodded and hoped that casting such a spell wouldn't kill the poor stallion right then and there.
Starswirl stood up again and smiled warmly. “Thank you... thank you both for everything you've done. I hope nopony else calls upon you to perform such a task again.”
“Me too...” Lyra groaned in Titus' arms.
Titus nodded and waved as Starswirl began the spell. His frail body wasn't used to handling such huge amounts of magic and he was beginning to shake from the energy overwhelming him. He fought against it, however, and sent them off the way they came.
After that, the stallion fell over onto his side and laughed lightly, looking at his companions that he would soon be joining. “Comrades in misunderstanding and death it seems. Quite the company to ease over with...”
The door to the anteroom in the back of the throne room opened once more and out peeked two heads. Light still shown through the painted glass windows and the adjustment to the light caused Titus and Lyra to both be blinded for a brief moment.
When the moment passed, they both stepped out into the open and moved back to the front where Celestia had just finished talking to an ambassador, who politely bowed out and continued on out of sight.
“Oh, you're back sooner than I thought you would be, and a bit disgruntled by the looks of you both, too.” Celestia looked a tad bit surprised but quickly gave them a warm smile. “You must have taken care of whatever Starswirl needed you to do. He did say it was quite urgent.” She looked around. “He did say he was going to be with you two if all went well... hmm..”
“I don't believe he'll be coming back.” Titus stated. “He.. wanted to stay behind.”
“I see...” Celestia gave them a thoughtful look. “Well, it does seem like everything is in order here regardless. The fog that plagued the lands below has finally dispersed, not too long before your return, I believe.”
“That's a relief.” Lyra said, happy to hear that they wouldn't have to attempt yet again at finding their house within a town they knew so well.
“I was thinking..” Celestia began. “Since you two have been such a help over the days, that perhaps you'd like to stay in Canterlot for a few days? It wouldn't be like the last time you came, no formal dinners to attend with aristocrats or anything like that. Just you two enjoy the city together; I know you'd both enjoy it much more here this time.”
Lyra squealed and looked up to Titus who wasn't really taking the question into consideration until he found a pair of yellow eyes staring up at him expectantly. He sighed inwardly, just wanting to go back and forget about all of this, but he couldn't find the heart to even consider telling Lyra of his thoughts on the matter.
“We'd love to.” He finally said, giving into the eyes upon him.
Lyra cheered and Celestia nodded, pleased with the decision. “You both deserve it, that is for sure. Why don't you both go around town and enjoy the sites while we prepare your quarters?
“That would be nice.” Titus said. Turning towards the way to the courtyard.
“Will we have time to talk?” Lyra asked before following after her human.
“Of course. When you get back, we can talk all you want.” The princess called back happily.
Lyra smiled and hopped along by Titus who pushed the doors open and entered the courtyard. It was late in the day, but the sun was still incredibly bright. The Paladin stopped to take in the whole sight of the town below them. It was nice to be away from all the fighting. He wasn't sure he'd ever be used to anymore.
He suddenly reached behind his back and found that he had left his hammer back with Starswirl. That meant that it was pretty much gone forever. He had gone through two different weapons since he had arrived in this world, he wasn't sure he would ever see another one tailored to him ever again due to the scarcity of arms in this world at all.
Oh well. If all went well from here on out, then he wasn't going to need it ever again. But he knew well enough that nothing could stay peaceful, at least not where he ever went.
He suddenly felt a soft pressure pull his arm down and looked down to Lyra who had been trying to get his attention for some time now. She looked a bit dreamy and he was already getting concerned as to where this might have been leading.
“I knew I'd get you to say it eventually.” She said auspiciously.
“Say what?” He asked, trying to play dumb.
“That you love me, dumby.” She giggled. “What? You thought you could just live that one down? Nope! Nope! I'm going to tell everyone!”
Titus felt his face begin to heat up. “Please don't.”
“Why should I listen to you? I would only be telling the truth!”
Titus facepalmed. “By the Light, why do you try to tease me so much?”
“Because it bothers you!” She laughed and ran down through the courtyard and into the city below, shouting: “Titus loves me! A human loves me!”
The Paladin began to run after her, his face red with embarrassment. He couldn't say anything out loud though, for his voice was choked from the dryness that had just formed from what had just happened, coupled with the pain that he was fighting through to keep this pace.
This was going to be a long vacation. A very long and embarrassing one.
Starswirl's ragged breaths could be heard echoing down the tunnels. He was now sitting against the side of the passageway, contemplating all that he had done for this world.
He looked down at his hooves, sighing. “I've done so much.. so much.. I pray there is something else for me beyond death.”
He certainly didn't regret the choice he had made in restoring the Beacon's life, but he had found that he was becoming more afraid of death with each passing minute. He was shaking awfully and he swore he was seeing spots now.
“If you're going to take me.. I'd really enjoy it being quick and uneventful.”
“Relax...” A soft voice said into his ears.
He jolted up and looked around rapidly. “Who else is here?”
“Just somepony to ease your pain...” A pony in white robes suddenly came into view, its aura alone illuminating the tunnel completely. “I have come to help you along your way..”
“What are you?” Starswirl asked suspiciously.
“I am not obligated to tell.” The pony was right over him now, looking down at him from beneath her hood. “I am simply doing as I was told to do.”
“But by who? Why? Why me?” The sorcerer was beginning to grow suspicious as to why anything like this was happening now of all times.
“Shh...” She put a hoof on the sorcerer's chest who proceeded to throw it off of him.
“I require answers! Why not tell a dying old stallion? What is going on here?!”
“No! I have been around too long to know that this doesn't just happen out of pity for my soul or anything of the like. Tell me, what is this all about?”
The robed mare sighed. “They said you would comply...”
“Not without some answers.”
“I can't tell you, okay?”
“I guess you can move along then, huh?” Starswirl stuck his tongue out in protest.
“I don't have time for this.” The mare put a hoof on Starswirl's head. Before the sorcerer could backlash once more, he was out cold.
The mare pulled the hood from her head, revealing a horn, and frowned as her turquoise eyes studied the sleeping figure. “There is still much for you to do in this world, sorcerer. So much...”
A portal suddenly formed behind her and she levitated the ancient sorcerer off the ground. “We won't let you die that easily..” They both went through the portal, closing quickly behind them.
The passageway went silent. The way it always should have been.
*Hey there, guys. I've been working hard at trying to make this as presentable as possible. It's a bit out of my comfort zone as a writer and I had a lot of fun writing it. Think of this as a little short recession from the action, which also means that there might be more to tell in this story, eh? I know a few of you have been asking and waiting for something like this, so here you go, and enjoy!
Whispers. Nothing but whispers surrounded her. She was hopeless and scared, scared that whatever was in the shadows enveloping her, would soon come out with only one thing on its mind: death.
Why had he left her here? Alone, defenseless and terrified. What friend did that? He left like a coward, he died without a single thought of regret in his mind, she thought, and now she was going to die here, alone.
It was getting cold, the stone she sat upon seemed to sap the warmth from her body, taking it greedily and leaving her shivering. “You bastard... You left me here... You died, but I never wanted you to go...”
She could hear something just out of sight. It sounded ungodly, like something even worse than the scourge. She couldn't fight it if it decided to attack.. he could have protected her though... he always did... but then he yelled at her... and left.
Now there was nothing for her, so she just sat there until a deep guttural sound could be heard. She slid back, her legs useless ever since the fall that had changed everything. What she would've done to see him again.
The voice was upon her now, surrounding her, as if there was more than one. She never saw anything but the sound, the accursed sound! She brought her hands up to her pale blue ears and screamed in horror as the guttural sounds synchronized and rocked her very soul.
“Stop! Stop it, please.................. STOP!!!!!”
Titus shot up from his place on the bed, sweating terribly. The light from the moon came through dimly upon the sheets he laid under. He breathed frantically until he finally realizing that the dream he had been experiencing was just that. Why had he seen that? He was past that, past his time in Azeroth, past her...
Apparently that had not been so if he had just paid witness to that. What could it mean though? Had he really left her there, in the darkness to die? Was she really crippled? He didn't even know if she was even alive!
He rolled over and fell out of bed on the cool tiled ground. This vacation in Canterlot had gone on long enough in his opinion. The ponies were all friendly enough to him, considering he was a human, but no matter what, he always felt a bit out of place.
He stayed on his knees for a short while, trying to regain his composure and truly make sense of what had just taken place in his fragile mind. The last time he had a dream like that, he had ended up fighting for his life in a dead land beyond the Everfree Forest, and it all had turned out to be on false pretenses.
So he wasn't going to just act out on some dream he had. He knew she was gone anyways, there was nothing he could do to get to her. Then again... they managed to get a gnome across the planes, perhaps there was some sort of chance? No, no he was being crazy. Anyone that was capable of doing that was long gone, for Starswirl had passed in the tunnels along with his corrupted companion and the gnome in question.
He shifted off of his knees and leaned against the bed as he sat on the ground. It was going to nag at him now, thinking that there was some way he could see Eleii again. He had left so suddenly, though, she certainly didn't deserve his absence, and she had always been a bit reliant on him and his abilities...
“Are you okay..?” A gentle voice said, he felt a pair of hooves wrapping around his neck affectionately. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“Y-yeah. I'll be okay, though.” The paladin returned, starting to really come back from his apprehension. Lyra always made him feel a kind of calm, no matter the circumstances or even if she tended to be a bit excitable herself.
“Great, now you've got me all worried.” The spearmint green unicorn hopped off the bed and yawned, closing her yellow eyes for a second before reopening them and magically pushing the curtains covering the window above the bed out of the way, allowing more light to be seen.
She looked around and smiled while she slowly circled her human. They were in Canterlot castle, but this room was a bit different than the one they had stayed in on their first visit.
Instead of the tower, they were residing in a luxurious room that was in the servant quarters of the castle. This was more like a small apartment than simply a guest room, for it was made in thought of a permanent residence, and that's how they had been using it for the last three weeks.
After the harrowing experience back in the tunnels under the badlands, Titus and Lyra had been staying in Canterlot, enjoying the novel lifestyle that it provided. Ponies in the capital were much more sophisticated than their intermediate counterparts down below in the neighboring towns.
For that reason, Titus’ enthusiasm about the whole thing had been eroding away ever so slowly. He never liked the aristocrats, even more so the ones in Stormwind. The greedy bastards. Their actions had caused a lot of lingering issues that nipped at the heels of the city and resulted in backlash repeatedly from the neighboring land of Westfall.
He stood up slowly and wallowed about the room, trying to collect his thoughts. He had just realized how long it had been since he had thought of.. her.
His head hung low and his brow furrowed. Strands of brown hair constantly covered and interfered with his vision and he blew them away from his bearded face, occasionally cussing as the continued occurrence interrupted his train of thought.
Lyra watched him pace about. He hadn't acted like this for such a long time. Could he be concerned about his one friend again? Luna had told him that it didn't matter anymore, that he would never know what became of her.
It seemed like she would never know exactly what went on in his head. Was it because he was human? Perhaps, but he had always been a bit of an enigma. Titus could describe it as much as he'd like, but she'd never be able to see the large bastions, the other races, or the wars that scarred the land so. It was a part of him, and he wouldn't be able to share it with anyone, not even her.
“Titus?” She asked after a second, finding it very hard to see him this way in the middle of the night.
“Yes?” He asked after a moment, finally stopping and taking a minute to concern himself with something else.
“Shouldn't we head back to sleep?” She prayed that it would be enough to get him out of this state. It hurt her so bad inside to see him anything other than happy.
A sort of fear crossed his features, soon evaporating and replaced with weariness. “I suppose I could try.” He gave an awkward glance to the bed they had been sleeping on. “I'm not sure I want to have that happen again.”
“Well you can't spend the rest of your life not sleeping, silly.” Lyra told him, quickly hopping back onto the bed that was for once, big enough to support both of them.
“I can certainly try.” He returned, sitting at the side of the bed and bringing his gaze to the ground. He wasn't sure if he meant what he had just said, however.
“You're joking.” She called out skeptically behind him.
Lyra frowned. It really was bothering him it seemed. Each moment that past soon after felt agonizing. She wished he would just lay down and try to sleep, but he simply sat there and kept his eyes on the ground.
She eventually slid over to his side and looked at him with her large yellow eyes. “I know you're not alright. You can't lie to me.”
Titus's eyes turned to her and he smiled sadly. “I know. It's just trouble adjusting-”
His arm was lifted by it's own accord and wrapped around the unicorn by his side. The magic she possessed was still quite strange to the paladin sometimes.
“You know... I'll always be here for you right?” She asked him expectantly.
Titus sighed and shook himself from his introspection. “I know that. Of course I do.” He hugged her softly and soon found himself nearly choking, his airway constricted from the sheer competence of Lyra's display of affection.
He gave a indicating tap on her hoof and she released her death hold. “Sorry..” She smiled embarrassingly.
“I'll be honest, I'm use to it at this point. It's every waking moment with you at this point.” Titus gave a mocking sigh.
Lyra huffed and puffed. “Say what you want. I know you like it.”
“Was I ever complaining?” He returned laying back down lightly on the bed.
“Well.... I guess not.” She ruffled her snout slightly. “Wanna tell me about that dream?”
He furrowed his brows. “I guess I can, I mean it can't hurt.”
“That's the spirit.” She fell back by his side, her hooves waving enthusiastically in the air.
“I've told you about my friend Eleii before, right?”
“The whole reason we were put through that whole ordeal in the forest, yes,” Lyra said unenthusiastically.
“Sorry about all that... I just needed to know.” Titus looked around dreamily.
“Well, what about her?” She didn't like it when Titus mentioned any sort of females from his time in Azeroth. She didn't like to think about what might have happened before he had met her. If she kept thinking about it, she swore she would tear her mane out, but it would be worth it if it meant Titus feeling a bit more composed.
“Well... I guess I'm still wondering if she's okay after all this time...”
“There's nothing you can do, Titus. It's really just best to forget about it.” She floundered herself on top of him suddenly.
“I wish I could. I really do.” He mind seemed to be drifting elsewhere as he didn't bother looking at the unicorn laid across him now.
“Anything I can do to help?” Lyra asked him.
“Just keep being you, of course.” Titus put a hand on her back and rubbed her gently.
“Hmmph, alright.” She was grouchy about all of this, he'd find a way to make it up to her in the morning. He just hoped he would be able to sleep until then. He certainly did not feel tired anymore and he was in the mood to pace about, yet he doubted Lyra would be leaving her spot anytime soon.
He reluctantly remained unmoving eventually dozing off. The dream did not return but instead his slumber was clouded with greyness and outlines of figures seem to manifest and disappear faster than he could keep up with.
He swore he had seen silhouettes of orcs, dwarfs, elves and other humans, but there was another amongst them, one that looked like a pony almost... strange. Perhaps he had been here long enough to mess with his very way of perception. Sometimes, he was afraid he'd forget faces of one's he knew, or how each race looked specifically. It was almost inevitable however, he would be the only human face he would remember eventually.
Still that silhouette of a pony seemed so out of place amongst it all... how strange..
He woke up with a thud onto the floor, seeming to have been dragged out of bed by a certain unicorn as he saw himself still surrounded by a faint green aura.
“Was that necessary?” He asked, rubbing his head.
“After waiting for as long as I did? Yes!” Lyra looked both mad at Titus and pleased with how she had handled the situation. “It's noon!”
Titus went from groggy to surprised. “Oh? I never sleep that long...”
“Well you just did, silly.” She began to make the bed with her magic, stepping past the baffled paladin.
“What exactly are we going to be doing today?” He asked after a moment, watching Lyra work her magic silently.
“Well,” she pondered, “I think we're just going to have to make it up on the spot.”
“If that's what you want.” He had accepted that he was along for the ride with Lyra at the helm for this trip before they had stepped one foot into Canterlot soon after his... well his near death experience. He didn't like to think about it all in the end, he didn't like to think about anything that had happened that day.
After setting himself to look at least somewhat presentable, he allowed Lyra to lead him out of the door and into the labyrinth that was the interior of Canterlot castle.
Lyra and her excellent sense of direction lead them through with ease and they pressed out into the outside air, both looking quite relaxed.
“Hey,” Titus suddenly blurted out, remembering his actions from last night. “I'm sorry about all of that, I guess I can just get a little home si-”
“Shush! I don't want to hear it! Let's just forget about it all, okay?”
Titus gaped his mouth in shock to Lyra's response. “A-are you sure?”
“Look,” she relaxed back into a smile and gave him a pitiful look, “I love you, and home is where your heart is.” She trotted up to him quickly and gently used her magic to bring his hand under her chin.
“And where's that?” The paladin asked as innocently as possible.
“I believe it's right here.” She bashed her eyelashes quickly.
Titus nearly visibly flinched, but caught himself before he could do anything of the like. Good, he was getting better with how he handled himself.
Lyra seemed satisfied with what had just occurred and took a step back, releasing Titus's hands, but then giving him one last skeptical look. “You are... happy with me, aren't you?”
“You know I am.” Titus answered tiredly. It was always mushy intimate talk with her now since he had returned her feelings. It was thrilling at times, but tiring at others.
“I'd just like to hear you say it is all...” She seemed to be growing more and more dainty by the second.
“I am happy with you, I swear.” Titus groaned out.
Lyra leaped up into the air and then quickly descended into Canterlot, beyond bounds of the castle, expecting her human to follow her without question.
And so he did, for what he swore was the hundredth time. In fact, it seemed like he was always chasing after the unicorn at one point or another. It had seemed to become a trademark thing between the two.
He didn't head out nearly as far as he had thought as Lyra bumped into a rather large stallion as soon as she stepped onto the streets, causing her to fall back and apologize to the unhappy pony.
He shrugged her off and his gaze switched from her to the human that was closing in on the two fast. He seemed to panic slightly and avert his gaze to some other place, hoping not to have been noticed.
“Are you okay?” He asked picking her up and placing her back onto her hooves.
“Yeah, I shouldn't be so clumsy.” She took a few steps to make sure everything was in order.
“How about not running away from me all the time?” He breathed out.
Lyra gave him a sly look before shrugging his comment off and continuing on slowly with the paladin by her side, much to his relief.
They scanned the sides of the streets as they passed through, looking for anything interesting to pass their time with. Titus was hoping that eventually even Lyra would be burned out enough from all of this and call their trip in Canterlot complete. It just didn't seem to be happening.
To her, this was bliss. To just be wandering the streets with the human she loved was all she needed and she didn't want it to end anytime soon, even if leaving didn't mean it had to. In fact, there was only one little thing that made her question on whether or not they would be staying here much longer.
It was, of course, about Titus. More specifically his current state of being. After a dream like that, it was only bound to cause trouble, just like it did that one night...
But that was of no matter for now, as long as it didn't happen again. She began to get carried away in the moment and nearly ran into the nearest shop she could see, wondering how Titus would react to such an instantaneous act.
She thought better of it though. Perhaps they could just take it slow for once? Not trying to force everything into such a small margin of time. It was worth a shot, she knew she could be impatient, and running Titus ragged with all this jumping about all over the place wasn't going to do him any good. Maybe that was why he was having such dreams?
“So... anywhere look nice...?” She asked politely.
Titus grunted. “Back in Ponyville, actually.”
She frowned in disappointment. “Aww, come on. Don't you want to do something romantic?”
“Hasn't this whole trip been for that sake alone?” He seemed grim, but she could see a soft smile of playful nature on his lips.
“Well... yes, but there's never too much of a good thing.”
“That's highly debatable.” He puffed out.
She was going to end up with a deflated Titus on her hooves if she didn't think of something to relieve the tension quick. She looked around frantically and lit up when she saw a food stand on the side of a street surrounded by tables where some ponies were seated.
She suddenly realized just how hungry she was as well. Two birds with one stone it would seem. Now all she had to do was address it.
“Hey, why don't we just stop and have a bite? You know, just take it easy and stuff?” She forced a fake smile and attempted to look as angelic as possible.
Titus gave her an incredulous look. What could she be up to now? This definitely was not how she usually acted, especially these last few weeks. But he was a hungry soul, come to think of it...
“This is probably going to end up being something crazy, isn't it?”
Lyra looked appalled at such a suggestion. “Of course not!”
“Uh huh, sure. I'll humor you.” He shrugged. What could you do when you were hungry like this?
“Great!” Lyra was about to hop on ahead, but caught herself, looking at Titus with an embarrassing smile and laughing awkwardly. “Almost did it again...”
In what seemed like an instant, they were seated at a nice table and had what seemed like a quite nice meal before them (by Lyra's viewpoint, Titus would never find solace in the food here.)
“So.. uhh...” She wondered what they could talk about, it was usually all just action action action with them. “How are you?”
He returned her question with a look of comicality. “Fine? What's with such a question? You know how I'm doing.”
“I know...” She poked at her daisy’s stem nervously. She sure hoped she wasn't reverting back her old self around Titus. “I just don't want you to..”
“Go on?” He couldn't count how many times they've had a conversation like this.
“Your dreams. I don't like you having those, especially about your friend.”
Titus pursed his lip and he went quiet for a long moment. Lyra thought that she had just offended him, and in turn felt like she had just went through and stabbed herself in the heart, she was about to blurt out a hurried apology when he finally spoke up.
“It was just a dream, Lyra, nothing more.” He seemed to be genuine, and he was even smiling softly.
“I shouldn't have brought it up... I was just worried was all-”
“I'm not going to get mad at you for caring about me. Why would I go and do something like that?”
Oh, this was too good to be true. Lyra began to speak again. “You don't know how happy I am to-”
“It will remain as long as you hold it in check, Beacon.”
Titus turned his gaze to his side and nearly fell out his chair. How princess Luna had been able to sneak up on him, he would never now. He could just imagine the princess of the night touching down from the sky right next to him. That had to be the only explanation.
“Err...” Lyra began. “What are you doing here, princess?”
“To help the Beacon find peace of mind.”
“I'm quite alright, I swear.” Titus said with a hand on his head. “Nothing's a bother to me, I'm quite content.”
“You're dreams would speak otherwise.” Luna gave a knowing smile.
“...How do you know such a thing? A man's thoughts and dreams should be his own.”
“I am the princess of the night, I remind you. My realm is darkness and slumber, and since you've came to this world, your dreams are part of my domain as well.”
He frowned. He felt like his personal space had just been violated, but what was worse was the idea that Luna had been doing this since he had been in Equestria. He looked around to find that they weren't sharing anyone's company anymore.
Apparently Luna's presence was enough to send most of them packing, for he remembered there being some crisis involving her or the like quite a while ago. Every day, however, she seemed to be growing more and more comfortable in her own skin, her very manner of speaking changing ever so slowly, as her sense of overwhelming command gently grew docile.
“Looking at his dreams, huh?” Lyra asked, interested. “If you really can, then let's hear what you know about him.”
“Well...” Luna started. “He's quite a different experience altogether. He doesn't dream just about trivial fantasies or other things he longs for. What I've seen is a mix of recollection and regret. He is a very troubled soul, to put it simply.”
“Not lightly, though.” Titus muttered, a bit shaken from the confirmation of it all.
“I apologize, Beacon. I don't mean to come off as inconsiderate to your state of being. I simply was answering a question asked by your life companion.” Luna gave him an atoning look, trying to sell her case.
“Very well...” He sighed. “I don't see how you can help me with such trifles, though.”
“What if I told you, that it is very well possible to communicate to your friend through your dreams themselves.”
“I..” He was flabbergasted, his mouth hung slightly open. He eventually pushed himself out the chair giving Luna a look of disbelief. “Surely you're joking. You said...”
“I know what I've said to you in the past. There's no possible way I can take you back, especially since your soul no longer belongs to such a world, and not to mention the no longer present starstones are meaningless as well.”
“Then how could you do such a thing?” Titus stared into her eyes with a flame that seemed to have burst alive.
“Your dreams, Beacon. They can be more than just a sequence in your subconscious; it can be a gateway, a chain to connect you to others that dream all across those distant souls and stars that you see every night.”
Lyra was sitting there, hearing all of this, and not wanting to hear it anymore. Why had Luna showed up and ruined everything! She was a princess and all, but she had no right to just go busting into their conversation like that! She was already taking care of him, but now another shows up, promising some sort of closure for her human! The nerve!
She couldn't do anything, however. Nopony could go and speak up when the princess was holding such a conversation with another, and the way she felt right now, it was probably best she kept quiet and hoped that Titus would feel too insecure to accept whatever assistance the princess offered.
“I'm not sure I'd be willing to do it. What if it's not what I think it's going to be?” He wiped sweat that was beginning to form above his brows.
Luna studied him for a moment and finally spoke up. “I see. Would you mind if I spoke to your unicorn companion alone?”
Titus's eyes flashed for an instant, until finally relaxing again. “I.. I don't see why not.”
Lyra was growing confused. Why would she want to talk to her? She added nothing to the subject at hand. If anything, she just wanted Luna to get out of here and leave them in peace.
The princess crossed the table and asked Lyra to follow her a few paces off, curtly. Titus watched them go, an anxious look upon his bearded face.
After Luna had led them away far enough from the table, she stopped and spoke to Lyra softly, but with a dominating tone. “Do you want what is best for the Beacon?”
What a queer question, of course she did, but there was something about the princess that made her feel reluctant to answer. After a long moment, she mustered the voice to answer. “Always.”
“Good. Then you will convince him to go through with this. Can I trust you will?”
“Uhh...” What had she just gotten into? The princess wanted her to convince her beloved Titus to do something that she herself did not want him to go through with? What a peculiar dilemma she found herself in. She couldn't just refuse the princess, but she really didn't want her human to be put through this either...
“This is no time to mull over your thoughts. Either you will assist me, which would be wise, or you will refuse, which is inadvisable. Make your decision now.”
“Okay, okay!” She clenched her teeth and forced out the words she didn't want to say. “I'll help you convince him.”
“I am glad to see you are a clever unicorn. Now, let's hurry back, shall we?” Luna pressed by her back to the table.
“Yeah... real princess like...” Lyra muttered under her breath, stomping back to the table after the irksome princess.
Titus looked even more confused when they returned, truly curious as to why they needed to leave and have a private conversation without him. They must have been planning something, but he wasn't entirely sure...
“We apologize for leaving you momentarily, Beacon. We were just discussing issues that were none of your concern.” Luna smiled, which seemed inappropriate for the words she had just conveyed.
“No, really..” He his arm on the table and rested his head upon it gently, truly unamused. “I really think it does concern me.”
“We were just talking about...” Lyra stammered out. “Clothes..”
Titus almost wanted to laugh. He forced his look of amusement away and began to speak again. “Since when did clothing concern you two? Only me and the pompous of this land seem concerned about such trifles.”
“You don't sound very fond of clothing. Why not just stop wearing them, then?” Luna asked.
Lyra nearly fell over from even imagining such a thing. She knocked into the table slightly, sending it sliding a few inches and causing them both to eye her curiously.
Titus eventually turned back to the princess, his look unamused. “Because, I like to retain my decency, and I'm actually quite fond of clothing, believe it or not.”
“Very well. I believe your life companion has something to say to you, however.” Luna turned her gaze amusingly towards the flustered unicorn.
“I do not!!” Lyra quickly shouted, her ears drooping down from continued discomfiture.
“Yes, you do.” The princess countered with a commanding voice.
“Royalty... can't even get the job done by themselves...” The mint unicorn muttered between gritted teeth.
“What was that?”
“Nothing! Nothing at all...”
Drumming his fingers across the table, Titus waited for the two ponies to cease their bickering with one another and come back to reality. These were one of those times he had to ask himself 'how did I end up here in this situation?' Whatever the case, he was here now and had to deal with his fiery little unicorn arguing with royalty. Only for him, he supposed.
“Did we not have an agreement?” Luna began to raise her voice and towered over the unicorn who still refused to bend to her will.
“You can't tell me what to do! I won't!” Lyra was hopping mad, forgetting the world around her as their argument grew more and more heated.
“So you lied to me?! You lied to the princess of the night?!” Luna's voice was thundering now, and Titus could feel himself shaking slightly in his seat. This was getting out of hand.
Lyra, however, had no notion of ending the exchange anytime soon and tried to shout back. Although it was like a mouse trying to squeak over the roar of a tiger.
“Maybe I did! You're not very princess like, are you?!” Lyra screamed at the top of her lungs.
“YOU WOULD LIE TO US!? YOU, A SINGLE UNICORN DARES TO DEFY YOUR PRINCESS?!” She was beginning to lapse into her old self.
Titus stood up and nearly fell over, ponies along the streets were beginning to run away in fear at the outburst that was taking place, shouting something about the 'Canterlot voice.'
He struggled towards the two. Lyra was slowly slipping further and further away as she barked in defiance towards Luna, seemingly unaware of the gap that was growing between the two. Those barks began to become less and less audible as Luna's voice only grew more and more voluminous.
Without thinking, Titus plucked Lyra from her slightly mobile spot and shouted for Luna to cease her destructive blare. Unfortunately, even the princess herself was beyond hearing anything over her own voice, forcing the paladin to plod on forward towards her, Lyra slightly shellshocked from the dramatic increase in force from Luna's voice.
If she couldn't listen, then there was only one other form of action he could take. Reaching outwards with his one free hand, he gripped onto her snout and under her jaw, trying to close it softly and prevent her from continuing.
Large yelps soon died down to muffled sounds, as Luna quickly wiggled away from Titus's grip and blinked her eyes about in confusion. She looked around to see tables and chairs thrown in every which way, all casualties of her outburst.
“I... I cannot express the transgression I am feeling right now.” Her lip quivered slightly as she continued to sulk over her misbehavior.
Lyra broke from Titus and dropped to the ground, making a triumphant 'humph' sound. She quickly darted up to the princess, prepared to rub it in her face that she cracked first. As she began to say the words, the paladin scooped her up again and pulled her away.
“What are you doing?!” She thrashed about in his arms. “I knew she couldn't make you go through with it! I knew she wouldn't punish me!”
“Make me go through with what? The dream?” Titus was having a harder time than he had thought with the spearmint unicorn.
“Y-yeah!!” She roared out. She realized what she had just said and quickly covered her mouth with her fore-hooves, ceasing her protesting instantly.
Titus exhaled and quickly put the now distressful Lyra on the ground, walking to Luna. She was now trying to rearrange everything the way it had been before this whole mess began.
“Was this all really about me?”
Luna broke from her trance like state to acknowledge Titus with a guilty nod. “It will help, Beacon. I wouldn't put it forth so earnestly otherwise.”
“It's just so sudden. Why didn't you tell me that night? That damned night that I knew I was stuck here.” He was looking for anything to grasp onto, his mind a mottled mess.
“I wasn't aware you would be plagued by such dreams, and I didn't feel that it was necessary to put you through more emotional strain. It was simply better for your mental health at the time.”
Titus sat down in a chair near a table and looked up at her with contempt. “You're talking like I could have gone crazy.”
“Never anything so... ostentatious. I do believe the strain would have flawed your overall perception of the world at hand, however.” She was trying to sound as polite as possible. She couldn't risk offending him right now.
“I'm trained not to break. I'm... I was a damned Knight of the Silver Hand.” He rubbed his temples lightly. “Emotions aren't suppose to get the better of me.”
“But they have, haven't they? You wouldn't be here in this magnificent city with the... perfidious unicorn otherwise.” That may have been taking it a bit far, but Luna felt like it needed to be said.
“You're right.” He sat back in his chair, his gaze looking up into the sky. “I let emotion govern me. A path that can lead to destruction.” His thoughts were taken back to the treacherous Arthas, the paladin that had lost the Light.
“It is also not good to feel hollow, however either. A truly just pony is just as terrifying as a dishonest one, if not more.”
Why did he continue to sit here and get lectured by some princess? Why didn't he just walk away? Was it because it was all true? Or was he just so tired of it all? He would never know, but he continued to listen. Listen and understand.
Lyra was watching the scene with distaste. She swore the princess had called her something, but she wasn't sure what the word meant, and didn't want to risk coming off as light-witted. Titus just sat there, though, watching and listening to the words she had to say.
If he could just hurry up, then they could get on with their day, forgetting this whole thing ever happened. She was confident now that he wouldn't accept the offer; it wasn't worth all the trouble. He was happy, but just homesick like usual, that was all.
She soon noticed that they were both looking at her. She gave Titus a shrug and lipped the words 'what?', wondering exactly why they were doing such a thing.
“We've come to an agreement of sorts.” Luna said after a moment. “He said he would only go through with it, if you agreed to let him.”
“I-what?” She stammered out. She suddenly felt a pressure push down on her. What was he thinking?! Why would he put this on her? He knew she didn't want him to go through with it! She could just say it right now, 'let's just go,' and they'd be off! But for whatever reason, she found herself ridden with ambivalence.
“Take your time.” Titus said nervously. He was serious about this whole thing. He really wanted her honest opinion. She suddenly felt overwhelmed with flattery, but now was the time to honestly make the choice for him. Why was it so damn hard, though?
She really didn't want to take this opportunity from him... she just didn't want to see him sad was all. He was always so distant sometimes when they were alone, and it was slowly killing her inside. She just wanted to keep him happy. It was the least she could do for the reason she was happy everyday.
This could either make him a groveling soul, a pitiful thing, or finally a truly a content individual. She wasn't sure what he wanted, but Luna thought it would make him happier...
“Okay.” She forced out, her eyes clenched shut. It was going to be harder than she had thought.
“Okay what?” Titus asked curiously, his hands to his mouth. A nervous habit he had developed some time ago. He couldn't remember if it was before or after he arrived in this world; it didn't matter anyway.
“You should go through with it.”
“Really?” He was genuinely surprised from the answer they had gotten. He thought she would've ended this whole thing right here. He wasn't sure what he wanted at this point.
“What a pleasant revelation.” Luna declared delightfully. She suddenly pulled Titus from his seat with her magic, laughing, but quickly stopped. “I suppose there isn't much to do until my night comes over the land.” There was an awkward silence following that, before Luna spoke once more. “I... will meet you both in Canterlot castle after you complete your day of leisure. Enjoy yourselves.”
Luna took to the air after that, leaving the two in a rather lengthy and bitter silence. Both parties were surprised at what the other had done, and for once, they were speechless of one another.
Lyra slowly approached him, her eyes reflecting the look of confusion on Titus's own face. They both didn't say anything for a long while. Until Lyra suddenly jumped into his arms, crying gently.
“I'm doing this for you... You know that, right?” That was all she could tell both him and herself. It helped her feel like she had made the right decision.
“I know.” He held her close, reassuring her that everything was fine. “I appreciate it all.”
“I shouldn't have agreed. I shouldn't put you through this.”
“If Luna thinks it's best for me, then it shouldn't be anything bad. I'm not going anywhere, I promise.”
She sniffled and smiled, leaning up and pecking him on the lips. “I just don't want to see you sad anymore. That's all I want.”
“Well, it's hard to be sad around you. I'm more angry than sad most of the time.” He joked lightly, bringing a hand up to wipe the tears from her eyes. “Let's calm down a bit and enjoy the rest of today, right?”
He didn't put her down, but carried her off down the street, leaving everything that wasn't themselves behind. With every word of comfort Titus had given her, she still couldn't shake the feeling that she had made the wrong choice in the end. Maybe she could take it back? Maybe, but she wasn't sure her human would be very keen to the indecisive act. She had made her choice, now she had to live with it.
She just hoped she could live with herself after all of this.
The halls were dead silent when they both arrived at the castle. Lyra had made sure he was going to be exhausted before Titus got back. He was always a bit more 'easy going' when he was a bit downtrodden.
They had decided to go to the small park in Canterlot and enjoy the day in a much more active way. Titus found himself chasing after the unicorn that had teased him by magicking grass into his face while he was trying to rest on the smooth ground.
All in all, it was a good day for him, but it was the constant looming thought that he would soon be speaking to Eleii that filled his stomach with nervousness and reluctance. He did his best to push it aside and make sure Lyra was enjoying herself to the fullest.
He ended this chase the way it had begun, on the ground; except this time there was a minty unicorn by his side, enjoying each other's comfort. Some ponies walked by staring, others ignored them. He didn't care though, he was right where he wanted to be.
Now that they were back in the castle well past dusk, the place seemed a bit deserted. Celestia had finished her court and the stewards and guards had left the main chambers to take to one's bed, not leaving a single post manned in the throne room.
There was no need for them, Lyra always knew the way. Titus played along as usual and followed her back to their room, praying one day the Light might bestow upon him some sort of navigational device.
Luna was waiting in front of their room, waiting politely for them to approach. “It is good to see you enjoyed your day to the fullest. You look weary, Beacon.”
“Can't lie about that.” He grunted lightly, stepping by her and opening the door to the room.
“Abrasive, are we?” The princess teased, following in after him, leaving a rather perturbed Lyra to be the last one in.
“No, just a bit disgruntled is all. I'll be fine.” He rubbed his hands lightly and shook his head, trying to remain perceptive.
“Very well, Beacon. We can begin the trance whenever you'd like.”
“Ah, on my own terms? Great.” He huffed out a bit of air, blowing some of the strands of hair in his face away.
“It's okay to feel a bit confrontational. Take as much time as you need; as long as my domain remains over the skies.”
“Yeah.. yeah.” Lyra pushed by the princess rather impolitely and beckoned to be in the arms of her human.
Titus obliged and he let her stay as long as she liked. Luna watched them both silently, patiently waiting for them to be through with their embrace.
“You'll be okay, and then we can stay up all night, just talking.” Lyra softly assured him, finally breaking away and falling to the floor of the small chamber.
“If that's what you'd like.” He brought her ear in between his fingers and played with it softly for a second before finally taking one last breath and nodding to Luna. “Let's get this damnable thing over with.”
“As you wish.” Luna beckoned towards the bed. “It will be as if slumber.”
“What if I can't talk to her? What if she isn't there?” Titus's mouth suddenly went dry and his hands turned cold almost in an instant.
“Then we shall try at another time, Beacon. I promise you it isn't that complicated.” The princess circled around the bed, trying to make sure that he was comfortable enough. “It will simply be a trance, and I will project you outwards in the direction I remembered you coming from when I brought you here.”
He couldn't help but imagine a huge lighthouse, shining heavily through a smoky blackness. Like the one just in the distance in Stormwind Harbor. It was the only thing he could imagine that made any sort of sense to him.
“Alright. Alright.” He wiggled his fingers and twitched slightly. “By the Light, I'm ready.”
Luna didn't respond, but simply began a spell, her horn glowing softly. It eventually grew in luminosity at a rapid rate, forcing both Lyra and Titus to shield their eyes.
It only became even brighter until shielding one's eyes was rendered useless. Titus found his entire sight consumed by whiteness, all sound fading away. He dared not open his eyes now, or else risk going blind.
In one final burst, everything that Titus had sensed suddenly went to black and the air around him became dry and cold; everything sounded so distant now, as if he had suddenly been tossed into a soundless room with a single open window, the sounds of far away places just barely touching his ears.
He dared not open his eyes for a short while, he feared the second he would, he'd never use them again.
“Is it... over? What's going on? Lyra? Luna?” He finally opened his eyes and nearly gasped.
He was in some dark void, nothing but the blackest of black surrounded him. He himself was the only source of light in this strange realm. Everything was without material and every time he took a step, it was upon nothing.
Maybe Luna had miscalculated? Perhaps he was stuck in the empty space between each and every star, a sea of souls. But there was none that he could see, and there was no indication that he was in any sort of dreamlike state. If this was it, then he hoped Luna would release him sooner than later.
“Bastard...” A heavily accented voice sounded off in the distance.
“What? Who's there?! Hello!” Titus called out with all his might, but there was no answer. Instead, he could hear the sounds of a choked sob.
He followed the noise, all the while cautious of what he might find. He could hardly remember why he was even here; he just wanted to go back now.
“Left me. Died like a coward.”
Now that was peculiar. Those words seemed to hint at something, something he knew he had a connection with. Now he was getting more eager and eventually started running in the direction of the crying.
“Not worth a damn minute of my time. Should never have met him...”
“Hello! Please!” He suddenly tripped and hit the invisible ground, his jaw making impact grunted.
He expected his mouth to well up with blood, but it never came. Of course, he was just a... 'Beacon' shining off. He pulled his now stinging head upwards and found a figure rolled over and crying on the ground just ahead of him.
“Why... why... why...” She softly cried, holding her legs close to her chest. Titus noticed hooves on the bottom of those clasped legs. Then it hit him.
The crying suddenly stopped and were instead replaced with frantic breathing. She looked around in front of her frantically, wondering where the sound came from. “Who... Who... Who...???”
“Titus.” He struggled out, slowly pushing himself back onto his feet. “It's me... Titus...” He walked up to the prone figure and extended his hand down to her, to help her up.
She took it gingerly and he pulled her back up softly. Her face was exactly how he remembered it. Soft, delicate, the face all of her holy race possessed. He wasn't sure how to react, but a thought came to his mind as he looked her over in her drab clothing, his light reflecting off of her.
“Remember that talk we were going to have...?” He hoped this would spark something in her. Something he could begin with.
She studied him intently, her face a mask. She took a deep breath and Titus thought she was finally ready to speak. “I am so sorr-” She suddenly struck him across the face, sending him reeling to the floor.
Titus held his cheek, looking up at her with a hurt expression. “What... what is this?”
“Why did you leave me!? Why did you leave me all alone! First the ones in the tombs... then me! You left me to live out my life in pain! WHY?! WHY DID YOU DIE?!”
“I don't understand... I didn't mean to-”
“I know what you meant to do... You... you... son of a bitch! How could you?!”
Titus stood up and tried to plead his innocence. Why was she accusing him of all of this? She wasn't like this! She didn't let anger dictate her, unlike him... “Just listen to me... please.”
“The last time I listened to you... the last time I listened to you...” She hesitated, as if trying to recollect some sort of memory. “You yelled at me! You said such foul words!”
“I know dammit! I'm sorry! I'm a bastard! I don't even know why the Light continues to shine down upon me, why it bothers keeping me in its grace! Better men have been shunned by the Light over simple matters of honor!”
“I don't care about you and your damned honor or the Light! None of it matters! What you did to me was unforgivable!”
“How can you say this? You know I'd never... I'd never do anything like that.” He felt tears begin to form in his eyes. Why couldn't she see past this shroud of anger and hurt?
“Save it. I spit on you and the Light. Leave me be. Leave me be to rot in this hell, a better fate than looking upon you again.”
Titus stepped away, his hands clenched in emotional pain. It had all gone wrong. She hated him, and he hated himself for doing this. He was a defender once, a proud and noble being in the lands of Azeroth. Antisocial, sure, but honorable; he had fallen so far.
“As... as you wish.” Taking a step backward, Titus fought back the feeling of raw pain within his heart. He had been rejected without a chance at appeasement. He didn't feel like he deserved it, anyways.
He wandered into the darkness for what seemed like hours. He forgot about everything else, why he was even there, why he cared, and why it hurt so damn much. Her words were like daggers, each one taking a shot at his heart. Nothing was left back for him there, it was as clear as daylight.
“I am done!” He suddenly called out. “Release me! I wish to be rid of this place!”
As if on cue, the darkness receded and the sounds all came rushing back. He was out of the nightmare and back into bitter reality.
He was in the bed again, this time with a feeling of true dejection to go along with it.
He found both Luna and Lyra looking at him expectantly, waiting for his answer as to if things worked. His face turned sour and he quickly pushed himself out of the bed without a word.
“Is everything... okay?” Lyra called out as he stormed out of the room, closing the door behind him. What had happened?!
“It is done.” Luna said sadly. “He experienced what he needed to.”
“What do you mean? How do you know this is good?”
“Because, little one, I fabricated it. He saw what I needed him to see.”
“You mean... he never really...?” Lyra was in complete and utter shock.
“Yes. There was no way I could bring his soul that far out without losing it. I simply manipulated his dreams.”
“Why would you do such a thing to him? He's hurt! Look at what you've done!”
“The last tie needed to be severed, don't you see? He was still holding onto faint memories of a dear one to him; it was slowly tearing at him.”
“But he was happy with me...” She looked over at the door he had went through moments ago. She should have gone after him, but after learning this... she needed to know more from the princess.
“That was no feigned happiness. He truly cherishes your company above all else. I've seen both of your dreams more often than you think.”
“...and what does he dream about me?” She was anxious to hear. She would do anything to hear.
“I see privacy is not a thing you give much heed to. But I can tell you, if you really wish. It is not anything dreadful, I assure you.”
“Yes, please. I want to hear this.”
“His dreams were always hard to read. His mind was a clouded one for a long time, not truly in sync with the world he lived in yet. When I did enter his dreams, they were often of simple things, things that only held a single meaning.”
Lyra was beginning to grow impatient. “Okay? Aren't you going to tell me when he dreamed of me, though?”
“I was getting to that.” Luna responded irritably. “Do you have no respect for anypony?”
“Not when my human is the subject of the matter, no.”
Luna groaned in frustration. “Running.”
“What?” What kind of answer was that? This princess was some cruel being if this was all she was going to tell her. “What do you mean 'running?'”
“Running after you. Chasing you. Laughter. Happiness.” Luna said all this with a monotone voice, as if possessed somehow.
“Chasing after me? Why?”
“You tell me. It obviously holds some significance to him.”
He was always chasing after her. She was always running ahead, excited and happy to be alive. If what she said was true, then Titus enjoyed her company and her little habits more than she could have thought. She felt sick to her stomach in a good way all over again.
“Go to him. He needs you now more than ever.” Luna gestured towards the way out and smiled sadly. “Remember, I've done what needs to be done. There should be nothing that will cause such doubts within him anymore. Now go.”
Lyra nodded and ran for the door, throwing it open before she even got there. She looked around frantically, looking for her human. “Dammit... dammit!” She began galloping down the halls, looking around corner after corner for him. Damn Luna, why couldn't she let them be? He was already happy. This hadn't accomplished anything but put him in a state of melancholy. For the first time since she had gotten here, she wanted to be rid of Canterlot.
“Titus!” She called out, feeling as if each second apart chipped away at her heart. “Where are you?! Please!” She might have woke the whole castle, but she didn't care. She just wanted to see him again.
Each moment that past furthered her agony. Where could he have gone to in such a short time? She had only been talking to Luna for a moment! She just had to keep looking, she wasn't going to give up. No, she would never.
Eventually she passed by a series of windows overlooking the royal gardens, where festivities would take place on the castle grounds. Down there, that's where she saw him. He was standing in the middle of an outcropping of hedges, his gaze stuck to the ground.
She wanted to say something to let him know that she was there, but there was no way from up here. Her best bet was hurrying down there to him and hoping he didn't decide to slip off again.
Running down to the gardens was quicker than she had thought it would have been and she slipped out into the night air shortly after, crying out his name as she rushed towards him, relieved to find him still there.
He didn't respond for a second until his eyes lit up and he gazed upwards toward her, nearly being thrown aback as she jumped into his arms.
“What you saw...” She began, but then a thought occurred in her mind. She couldn't tell him now, that would reignite hope within him and would trouble him forever, likely causing this whole situation to start all over again. “I'm so sorry.”
Titus pulled her up to him and laid her head on his shoulders, gently rubbing her back. “I'll be fine. I was just... I was just too foolish to see how other's I've abandoned would feel.”
She wanted to tell time so bad, to stop it, even for a second. But she knew that it was best to keep quiet. Damn! Why did Luna have to approach it this way?!
“You'd never leave me...” She whispered.
“I wouldn't.” Titus returned, his tone complacent, but choked down with his sorrow. “I'd never.”
That's exactly what she wanted to hear at a time like this. He wasn't beyond her, not even know. She knew that love would be the thing that would restore him. Things weren't always so complicated.
Titus looked around in the cold air, his hurt expression relieving slightly. “Why is it that everytime I think there might be something for me back there, it gets thrown right back in my face?”
“Well...” She said, trying to find the right words to comfort him. “That's behind you now, right? I mean, you're here with me, and that's all that matters now.”
Titus laughed daintily. “That's all that matters to you, huh?”
“That's all that ever will.” She sighed out, suddenly tired. “You know, I've been thinking...”
“Been thinking what?”
“I'm getting a bit tired of Canterlot, maybe we could-”
“Oh, thank the Light.” Titus exhaled in relief. “I've been waiting for you to say that.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know.” She said flatly. “You've got to stop being so antisocial.”
“Yeah okay. As soon as you stop being so clingy.” He countered.
“Humph!” She scrunched up her snout in an offended manner. “That's not going to be happening anytime soon.”
“Then don't expect any change from me either.”
“Fine.” She looked back towards the castle. “Let's head to bed, then.”
“Then leave in the morning?” The paladin asked ardently.
“Yes. We will leave.” Lyra brought a hoof up to her face in irritation.
“Then we shall.” He said with the faintest smile on his lips, carrying her back to the castle. It was good to have someone to love and be loved by.
Luna had been watching the two interact from the overlook Lyra had been at only moments ago. It was nice to see that there would be no more distractions from outside entities or memories of past.
She had relieved him from such things, but she hoped it would be enough to make sure his focus was clear. There was always going to be something just beyond the horizon, and she needed him ready for whatever was to come.
She was confident that he would be happy and less prone to these brooding lapses after a few short days. The unicorn was his one inclination now, and she was more than happy to be, her love for him unbelievably puissant.
She smiled softly and fancied herself a ‘benefactor’ for a short minute. Of course, this was all to ensure her people would remain safe whenever times of danger would come, but she couldn’t help but feel good that she had helped this relationship bloom a bit further.
She hummed softly to herself as she finally returned back to her own quarters, feeling quite jubilant inside.
Holidays. Those were the things that could drive a man insane, and it didn't help when the unicorn you were with was in the thick of it all. She loved these sorts of things, which was the complete opposite of himself. Funny how opposites attract.
It was Nightmare Night this evening, and it was only just beginning. Dusk still shown through the windows of the small cider bar Titus had found in Ponyville only recently. It had become his favorite place to stew when he wasn't with Lyra.
She was somewhere around here. He had managed to convince her that he would have a much better time in here while she went around Ponyville trying to scare all the other ponies and failing horribly.
He remembered the talk they had. It was hard to take it seriously when she was clasped in a black cloak with plastic fangs in her mouth. She had taken the time to explain that she was a vampony, and that all should have an air of caution around her. Titus stifled a laugh when she said that and he immediately regretted that as she tugged his ear magically, dragging him out into the late day outside.
It was there that he pleaded with her to go to his usual spot. He explained that he would be much more happier there and would be very grateful to her if she let him. She agreed, but she gave him a devilish grin. She was going to cash in on his gratefulness to her as soon as this was all over he knew. He was scared to find out what she would make him do.
That wasn't important now, though. He took a swig from his mug of cider, the bartender on the other side of the counter cleaning the surface of it even though it was already spotless. No doubt he was surprised to see even him here. No one else bothered to come in today.
“Not even with your mare, eh?” The skinny bartender pony asked him after a few long moments.
“She understands... all too well,” Titus took another sip with a fearful look across his face. He wished it was alcoholic, but there wasn't much he could do about it here. It still tasted pretty damn well, and the apples came in from Sweet Apple Acres just outside of Ponyville.
The bartender asked, “ever think you're gonna get used to this place?” It was an earnest question, and it didn't bother Titus to answer.
“I do. When you have a 'mare' you're going to have to.” He looked out the window to see the twilight hours nearly at an end, giving way to the majority of the night. It was going to be awhile before she was done. She would just go around with that ridiculous costume yelling 'bleh!' to everyone she encountered. He wondered how long she would get a kick out of that. Knowing her and her stubborn nature, she could do that just to bother him.
“Aye, I know what it's like to be tied down. Still love the poor thing, though. She drives me crazy sometimes.” The barkeep had begun to clean out a mug with his towel covered hoof. Titus was still surprised some of these ponies could do these things. You'd think the handicap would be far more severe without hands.
“Yeah, that's pretty much it.” He had to admit that through all the stuff they had both put up with, he found that he had grown overly fond of the little unicorn. She had already decided she loved him so long ago, and here he was, still trying to figure out how he had fallen for her as well. He envied her and her quick-to-accept nature.
The bartender took Titus's mug and filled it with a bit more of the cider from a keg under the counter. “Just know you aren't alone. You're welcome to stay here for as long as you'd like, but I'd probably recommend you go see your mare soon. Don't want to strain the relationship, ya know.”
“Aye. I won't be able to get out of whatever it is she has planned for me though...” The human grimaced slightly, imagining once more what she might want.
“What was that?” The barkeep blinked curiously.
For another dozen minutes, Titus sipped at his drink and talked to the barkeep about their relationships and how each could do better with themselves. With each word passed between the two, Titus felt more and more like he was neglecting the poor unicorn. She had seemed complacent enough in letting him go off to the bar on his own, in exchange for some unknown service as of yet. But he knew he should be with her spending time and laughs.
He remembered his first coming to Equestria and how he and her had enjoyed themselves in the booth at Sugarcube Corner. That put a smile on his face. He didn't connect with others that often, but those were definitely one of those times. Maybe it wasn't so shocking he felt this way towards her likewise.
He suddenly broke free of his thoughts and looked up at the bartender who was still chatting about his wife and how their kids were already so far ahead in life. “I'm proud of the buggers, just wished they'd visit more of-”
The doors to the bar opened and they both turned their heads to see who was entering into the establishment. Titus nearly choked on the cider in his mouth when he saw Lyra darting into the place and closing the door behind her.
She was still clad in her black cape and her plastic fangs showed through her mouth even though it was closed. Her mane was scruffy and unkempt, 'a staple to any good vampony' she had told him. All in all, she looked cute. Cute enough to make even a complicated man such as himself ooze with excitement.
She levitated a small sack by her side, filled slightly with what Titus guessed was treats. He was surprised to see her to say the least, however, and he couldn't help but find himself saying, “you're earlier than I thought you'd be.”
“I know,” she said with smile, trotting over to him and the barkeep and hopping up into her own stool seat. “I just thought I'd spend some time with you, is that okay?”
“O-oh, of course it is!” He quickly recovered. Was he really this is easy to fluster now? He was getting tired of asking himself this.
She giggled and her ears flicked as her complexion grew puzzled. “Where did your friend go?”
Titus looked around and saw that the barkeep had busied himself somewhere else. The sly stallion knew just when to leave a man be. He'd be sure to thank him later before they left if he showed up again.
She placed the bag of treats out onto the counter before them, some candies spilling out to give the look that the bag was deflating. “I made sure to be quick, so I could come see you!”
“Really now?” He scratched his whiskered cheek. She must have had this planned since he convinced her to let him stay here. He was actually glad. “Well, uh, lets see what kind of junk you got here, huh?” He began to sift through what she had gotten.
He found some chocolate treats that he remembered some children around Stormwind enjoying after they had been handed out by the innkeeper in the trade district, and there was also a few sugary treats that seemed like lollipops. He wasn't too much of a candy person though, and after looking at all she had managed to obtain, he pushed them all away back into the bag.
Lyra seemed hurt by the action. “You don't like any of that? I got all that for both of us...” Her pretty yellow eyes grew to exaggerate the pain she was feeling. Why was he such a sucker.
He reached a hand back into the bag and pulled out a wrapped chocolate treat. He smiled at her and struggled to get it open. His hands were made for holding a weapon, not for opening such delicate packaging.
Luckily, Lyra had seen him suffer enough and took the treat from his hand magically and opened it up right before his eyes. He nearly gasped after seeing how simple it was with her. “Oh, thanks...” He snatched it from the air and looked it over as if it was some enchanted ring.
“Well?” Lyra went on eagerly. “Try it!”
He didn't give it so much as a look as he threw it into his mouth and began chewing on it, prepared for the most revolting taste ever to bombard his senses. He was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case and he nodded his head in approval. “Hmm, not bad.”
“Glad you liked it!” Lyra took her own and began to enjoy the treats. Titus knew he had had enough, and simply watched her intently as she hummed and enjoyed herself and her candies. She eventually took notice of him and his watching. “What's with the staring? Like what you see?” She put a hoof through her mane to emphasize the question regarding to her physical looks.
“Sure,” he said quickly. He would have been lying if he said he didn't.
Despite how he had said it, Lyra began to blush fiercely and began to pop more and more treats into her mouth in some attempt to douse the rush she had just received. Titus was still in his own thoughts and hardly took any steps to prevent her from overindulging herself.
A half hour later, Titus was walking out of the bar with the moaning unicorn. She berated him heavily for his lack of care in the matter. “I was thinking, I'm sorry,” Titus pleaded.
“Oh, whatever...” she groaned and burped. “I'm gonna be sick...”
“We'll get back home, then you can rest,” he began to step away from the bar and nearly bumped into a bunch of costumed fillies who were prancing about, saying something about 'cutie marks' and 'crusaders.' If only they knew what stress being an actual crusader would bring them.
“Aww man...” she sighed out as Titus walked down the street as careful as he could.
“I didn't take out my fangs. I'm an idiot.”
Titus laughed bluntly after that. Her little plastic fangs were probably stuck there pretty good now after all the treats she ate. It was good to laugh at things like this. It was good to be him right now, even after all the strain and sorrow. He was happy with himself.
Since Lyra had returned from her time out well ahead of time, many ponies were still going door to door, looking for all sorts of treats and spooks. Some ponies hid behind corners, popping out for a quick scare on the younger goers who more susceptible to the thrills of the holiday.
One poor stallion even attempted to scare Titus as he passed by an alleyway. He wore a manticore mask and attempted to make the most convincing snarl in the history of his people, but failed to startle either Titus or Lyra. Titus stepped right by the stallion with an irritated sigh, and the unsuccessful night-goer drooped his head in defeat but quickly recovered when a few colts came into view, his past failure out of mind.
Titus looked across town square where many of the ponies were surrounding the fountain, chatting and giggling all over the festivities. Several of the townsfolk were bobbing for apples near a barrel or playing other games such as horseshoes and Titus even saw some sort of 'costume contest' taking place near a small stage.
“Are we home yet...?” Lyra whined out, her eyes closed now.
“Almost,” he could see their house sitting there down the road, untouched from those seeking gratification. Funny what a lack of candle light could assume. He would make sure that it stayed dark in their home so he wouldn't have to deal with any visitors since Lyra would more than likely be indisposed of. He was sure he had a book somewhere in the house he could read.
“Yes.” Titus stood outside of their home now, preparing to push the door open. Before he could though, a panicked scream broke out from the direction of town square. Soon after, ponies came down their street, shouting and yelling all in a confused rush.
Titus quickly stepped inside their house but left the door open to see what exactly was causing the ruckus. All he could see was smoke beginning to rise over the buildings and colorful flashes of light bouncing off the thatched rooftops of the town.
Titus went to the bed in the small home and placed Lyra on it, who began asking all sorts of questions about what was going on and why were normal days so rare to find in this world she lived in. He left her there and went back to the doorway.
Unfortunately, since Titus had left the door open, several ponies took the liberty of rushing in, nearly throwing the human off balance as they quickly flooded in and rushed to the back of the small home, cowering.
“Whoa, whoa! What the heck is going on?!” Lyra shouted from the bed. She was growing more and more confused by the second.
Titus asked the cowering ponies. “What are you all doing in here?”
One panicked mare began to speak in haggard breathes. “Unicorns in Robes!! White and Black! They’re firing spells at each other! They... they hit my brother! I can’t... I can’t...” She began to break down right in front of them all, the ponies at her side comforting her with hooves on her back.
“Just out of the blue?” The human asked, wanting to know just what what they had all gotten into.
“Yes, near the fountain. They just came out of one of the tents, firing at one another,” another pony answered, this one being more collected.
Titus knew he was going to have to at least see what was going on. The problem was, that it had been a considerable time since he had been in a skirmish. On top of that, he was unarmed, his hammer given to him by the minotaur Totem had been left in the tunnels that had been home to the guardians of the starstones. “You’ll all wait here, right?”
All the ponies nodded but Lyra nearly threw a fit on the bed. “You’re just going to leave them here? Leave ME here?!”
“You’re sick,” Titus quickly answered. “Be careful until I get back, okay?”
“Fine,” she looked upset but as Titus turned away and walked out into the streets of Ponyville, he could see her extending a hoof in his direction in some sentimental fashion.
He wouldn’t be long, he told himself. He just needed to see what was going on and how he could help in anyway, whether that be through evacuation or some sort of force. He couldn’t keep being the fighter for much longer, but the need seemed to always be coming back.
Ponies trampled through the streets in a panic, hopping into alleyways as the lights that bounced off of the buildings chased after them. The ones that had rushed into his home had not been faking their stress for one bit.
He just about to come to the part of town that housed the marvelous fountain when a spell came flying off in his direction. It whizzed by and crashed into some poor soul’s flower shop, sending it ablaze.
If Titus had taken another step any sooner, he would’ve been smoldered no doubt. He tried not to think of it as he returned his focus to the plight of Ponyville.
Sure enough, unicorns in black and white robes were firing at each other, each party containing at least five took cover upon each side of the fountain, standing up for a second to fire another spell at one another.
Titus was looking from the side of the white robed unicorns, they seemed to be screaming at one another to keep aware of the other faction’s actions. They were all covered by their hoods, which seemed highly impractical, but for some reason, that didn’t bother them in the least.
The human quickly rushed towards an overturned cart that had once housed caramel apples and preceded to peek at the white robed unicorns once more.
It seemed to be pretty even between the two groups, but the stress of one misstep would more than likely lead to something fatal for either group. So they played conservative for a while, until one white robed unicorn suddenly hopped onto the rim of the fountain and attempted to cross it, failing miserably and falling off to the side, a bolt of magic leaving a charred bit in the pony’s side.
Titus wasn’t sure which side he should assist if any. They could both be on their own agendas for all he knew, especially since the denizens of Ponyville weren’t an object of concern between them from what he had seen.
He continued to watch them until a stray bolt came flying right over his head, causing him to duck behind the cart once more. When he poked his head out, a bearded white robed pony was just staring at him, his eyes now visible.
“B-Beacon?!” The robed stallion called out after him. That voice... he knew it, from not too long ago.
“Starswirl?!” Titus answered back, ducking down once more as a bolt smashed into the cart.
“Get over here, Beacon! Before you turn into dust!”
Titus hopped out from his cover not a second later and crawled over to Starswirl and his companions. Once he had made it to them, he pressed his back into the side of the large fountain and took a deep breath.
“Fancy meeting you here!” The white bearded unicorn laughed, pulling back his hood to reveal all of his features. That was definitely Starswirl.
“H-how are you alive?” Titus questioned, his mind a confused mess.
“I think that can wait. For now, I must ask you to be patient until we come out victorious in this little battle,” Starswirl took the time to fire another bolt, nearly taking off the head of a careless dark robed enemy.
The human just nodded and mused about what he had just gotten himself into. He hoped Lyra hadn’t chased after him. He should have stayed and told her everything was going to be okay, that he would protect her if anyone entered their home. Instead he was caught out here in the very middle of the action. What was with him and finding trouble?
Another white robe was sent down as a spell had grazed her head, charring her mane and scalp. It wasn’t fatal but it was too painful of an injury to get back up and fight again. Starswirl seemed to be growing more and more antsy after another of his allies had been defeated.
"I believe this has gone on long enough,” he quickly hopped upon the lip of the fountain,much like the last unicorn to do so, but fell into the waters before a spell could hit him. Titus brought his head just over the rim to pay witness to what was about to happen.
He reemerged after a second, his horn glowing with a powerful energy. One of the black robed unicorns screamed for an ice spell, but before anyone else could react, Starswirl’s spell had already been cast.
Spectral glass, at least that’s what it looked like to Titus, bursted from the ancient sorcerer’s horn, pelleting all of the black robed ponies that were preparing their own spells. The force threw many back, while it staggered others, but those still fell after a second.
Starswirl had meant to kill and that’s just what he had done. All of the opposing black robes were lying in pools of their own blood. All except for one, who was left whimpering with a hoof over his head.
“Restrain him. I would speak with him,” Starswirl ordered his remaining allies as he climbed out of the fountain’s waters, soaking, his robe clung heavily against his figure.
Titus stood up and ran around the fountain, meeting with the old sorcerer and studying the sheer brutality of his spell. Some unfortunate souls still had their eyes opened in horror as they had been smitten by the powerful spell that Starswirl had sent their way. “It seems impractical that you would wait so long, when you could have done that right from the beginning.”
“Better to keep things interesting. Don’t you think?” Starswirl walked by the judging human to the now captive black robed coward that held his head down in defiance. Starswirl looked him over a bit and put a hoof under his chin, lifting his head so that their eyes would meet. “I suggest you start telling me where your starstones are at, and why you would even come to a town like Ponyville.”
Starstones? Titus could have sworn they had been wiped from existence when they had defeated the possessed Polaris. That only made Starswirl’s presence make even more sense, however. He was-or at least had been a guardian of the relic. But how did this all come to be? Unicorn’s fighting each other, and the once thought dead to be very much alive.
The black robed pony remained silent, but eyed his captors with a pair of truly scared orbs. It wouldn’t take long for him to speak.
Starswirl shrugged him off, however. “You will speak to my companions about this then. I have a bit of catching up to take care of,” he began walking off from the white robes and the single black one, gesturing for Titus to follow.
“When was the last time we saw one another Beacon?” Starswirl pulled out a pipe from out of his robe and magically lit it, giving it a few puffs.
“That would be the tunnels,” Titus scratched his chin and tried not to point out how it was even possible to forget something like that.
Starswirl bit his lip behind his white beard and looked as if he was indeed having a hard time recollecting just that. “It seems like trying to remember things before my indoctrination gets harder every day...”
“Ever since I was recruited by this rowdy bunch, I mean. Just look at em, look at me!” He pointed to himself, trying to emphasize the self imposed ridiculousness of his outfit. Unfortunately, that only made Titus raise an eyebrow, unsure what was the problem.
Starswirl waved him off. “Whatever, that doesn’t matter. What matters is the starstones right now. Oh yes, they’re very much still here.”
“I’ve pieced that much together,” Titus commented thoughtfully.
“Congratulations then, Beacon. That saves me some time trying to explain why, unless you’d prefer…?”
“Go on, please,” better not to be left out in the dark.
“Well apparently all this hogwash is a result of what we did down there, at least that’s what I was told,” Starswirl gritted his teeth. It was obvious he didn’t do well with most others. “Apparently these stones left the physical plane for just a bit before popping back in various locations within Equestria.”
“Okay, I can see that happening,” Titus was thinking about how resilient evil was both here in Equestria and back in Azeroth. Something he could have done without.
“It’s been causing nothing but conflict between us, Beacon. It is paramount that we get these starstones and hide them away, safe from everypony else.”
“A noble cause,” Titus didn’t notice initially, but they were walking back to his home, where he knew Lyra would be waiting along with all those cowering ponies. He imagined her yelling the whole time. Privacy was something sacred.
Starswirl nodded. “Indeed, and-ah, would this be your home?” He pointed to the only opened door, where several citizens of ponyville were poking their heads out, watching them both with careful eyes.
Titus rubbed his jaw and sighed. “You would be right,” they walked up to the house now, where the ponies quickly darted back inside. He could already hear Lyra yelling at few of them to stop being so clumsy in here abode.
“It appears you have a bit of a neighbor problem,” Starswirl seemed honestly confused as to why there was so many ponies inside their home. “Is this a normal thing for you two?”
“This is the result of all your fighting, actually,” Titus hoped Starswirl would understand just how much he had disturbed them both. Of course, he had another question at this point. “Why are you telling me all this, exactly?”
“Heh, no beating around the bush with you, is there?” Starswirl began to stroke his beard. “You’re likely assuming that I’m going to ask for you help, which I am.”
Titus groaned. It figured, with all of this junk constantly going on. Why couldn’t he be a weakling for once? Then maybe he’d be able to get a break from all this. He just wanted to kick everyone out of his home and be with Lyra at this point. He knew that wasn’t going to happen, though.
“Now hear me out, Beacon!” Starswirl pleaded with an apologetic smile. “You don’t even have to leave town, in fact, you won’t step a hoof out of Ponyville!”
That wasn’t what the human was expecting at all. “...and why won’t I?’
“Simple! The ones clad in dark were obviously here for a reason, which leads me to suspect that there might be at least a trace of a starstone here in this little backwater town of yours… no offense, of course. It’s just I remember glorious castles and monstrous keeps back from my days upon the surface of Equestria. It’s all so… secluded for the most part.”
Titus didn’t know why Starswirl thought he had spewed an insult. Backwater was just the way he liked it personally. “So, you want me to do a little search around town?”
“If you could. I have other things to attend to, of course. Something that’s been nagging at me for awhile now, and has started again after you’ve brought up those tunnels…” The sorcerer’s featured grew grim and thoughtful.
“What is it?”
Starswirl raised a hoof for him to cease the thought. “It’s best you don’t worry about it, Beacon. I’ve already asked something of you, I won’t make you deal with a problem of my own.” The old unicorn’s eyes were now once again in their original softer state. “But first, I would like to inform everypony that they may now return to their normal lives, and say hello to your dear special somepony.”
He hopped right by Titus, who couldn’t do anything about it. He was fast for a centuries old stallion.
The ponies that had been watching them slipped back further inside and out of sight. It seemed that they couldn’t seem to grasp the notion that they were in no danger here, yet the trauma from before was clearly still fresh in their minds.
Starswirl stormed in, his voice booming. “Now, there is no need to be afraid! We were simply here to defend you all! Those clad in dark are your real enemies! We will assist anypony caught in our crossfire!” He was staring at all the ponies now backed into a single corner. The ancient unicorn’s eyebrows drooped in irritation. “You won’t cease this cowardice until I leave will you?”
“I doubt it,” Titus said, slipping inside and standing in the doorway. He looked over to Lyra who was sitting up in her bed, fuming.
Her anger turned to surprise as she realized who was now in her home, scaring all the ponies. “What in Equestria are you doing here? I thought you were dead…. for reals now! If you aren’t.. oh that means…” She looked at Titus, some awful realization likely coming over her. “He didn’t ask you to go do something for him again, did he?”
“Uhh…” Titus began, “not exactly-”
“Why yes, I have, little mare,” Starswirl left the corner of cowering ponies to move to the bed Lyra sat on. “But I’m sure you won’t mind once you hear exactly what I-”
“Oh no,” she put a hoof up, signalling for him to stop. “I’m not going to hear any of it. I’m already confused enough, I don’t want to deal with this anymore. Everypony, get out already!!”
Nopony moved, and Lyra growled, throwing herself back on the bed. Titus stepped beside Starswirl. “We don’t even have to leave town, Lyra.”
“All that implies is that Ponyville is going to end up in flames,” she didn’t bother looking at them, still laying back on her bed.
Starswirl coughed before interjecting. “Quite the contrary, young one. While you perform the task, the white robe society’s best members will be monitoring the city with the vigilance of a hawk…. I think.”
“You think?” Titus questioned. “Are you not so sure of your own comrades?”
“No, no, not like that. It’s just, I’m not particularly a pony of importance, yet, and I can’t predict exactly what the rest of them will deem appropriate,” Starswirl seemed a bit bothered by this. Likely he didn’t feel comfortable being one of many, especially after years of seclusion.
Lyra hadn’t said anything in regards to this. She was likely still sick, and was trying to cope with everything falling down on her in this helpless state. Titus sat down on the side of her bed and tried to get her to speak.
“We’re just looking for something here in town, that’s all…”
She huffed and puffed, but didn’t say a word. It was likely only going to continue to spiral downwards as long as the rest of the others remained. He made a quick decision. “Starswirl.”
“Yes, Beacon?” The sorcerer returned.
“We’ll do it, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he nodded towards the group in the corner as well. “We would really like to be alone right now.”
Starswirl seemed to understand. “I will be back sometime tomorrow, after I have completed my task. He trotted back over to the group that feared him like he was a monster. “If you see any white robed ponies running around… please don’t give them a hard time, alright? We are not here to hurt you, as much as you like to think otherwise.”
He left them after that, quickly slipping out the doorway, and back to the streets of the “backwater town.”
Those in the corner looked at Titus expectantly. “If you could, I would appreciate it.”
One by one, they reluctantly stepped away from their place of retreat. One mare spoke up, “My… my brother though…” but another pushed her on, telling her how Starswirl promised they would help anyone who had been hurt. It was nice to see that they had at least listened to him instead of simply tuning him out in their strained minds.
Still, Titus frowned. He felt awful hearing this, and he had not seen a thing about whomever the mare’s brother was. There was simply too much going on. He should have tried asking about something, anything…
The last one left, and Titus closed the door behind them. He wanted to just fall over and stop for a moment, but there was already someone in the house who was doing that for him.
He went back to the bed, and at least this time, Lyra began to speak. “I should expect this at this point.”
“Maybe,” Titus said innocently, reaching over and pinching her twitching ear.
“And you know what?” She sat up, breaking contact from his hand.
“I did it to myself, falling for you, so let’s just get this over with.” A sudden flame of anger fueled motivation had just erupted through her.
Titus was shocked. “Uh-yes! You’d be right, but that can wait for tomorrow. Starswirl said he’d be back by then as well, maybe before we even start doing his little task. It’s not as if I want to deal with it myself.”
“Alright,” she said. “But one thing.”
“We are getting away from here as soon as this is done.”
“Like back to Hoofington?” Was that all she meant?
She shook her head. “No, I mean permanently, someplace far away from here.”
“Because,” she drew a deep breath. “Maybe if we’re away from here, ponies wouldn’t bother us as much. All the problems around here seem to fall onto your shoulders anyways…”
“But even when we’re away, trouble still seems to find us,” Titus wasn’t catching onto her logic here. “I don’t think-” but a hoof soon covered his mouth.
“I know that, but we’ve got to try, okay?” Her voice wasn’t stern anymore, filled with anger and determination. It was breaking ever so slightly, and Titus knew what he had to say.
“Then we’ll do it, okay?” He pulled her into a hug, wanting to cementify the promise.
They stayed like that for a long while, until Titus knew they had to get to sleep, but time really didn’t matter at this point.
Keeping her happy was his goal beyond all else.
But, in spite of all of that, Titus couldn’t help but wonder exactly where Starswirl went, and what he was doing.