14w, 6dPony Warfare
39w, 18hAlicorn Twilight
44w, 5dTwilight, Alicorns, and Awsome
16w, 1dPonies of War
24w, 4dTwilight Sparkle
- Show All Groups
12w, 3dEpic Pony War
20w, 21hTwilight's Library
44w, 5dprecist pozdeji
30w, 6d501st Party Brigade
1w, 22hLong Fics
31w, 8hStories I've read
11w, 4dMind Control/Hypnosis
28w, 3dThe best of authors
26w, 2dThe Dreamers
26w, 17hThe Writer's Coalition
15w, 2dCompleted Story Compendium
11w, 4dLoyal Subjects
8w, 5ddk rlater
8w, 1dFallen Heroes
7w, 23hEvil Twilight
4w, 12hDark Twilight
All of them stopped immediately. Twilight Sparkle was dying.
Fluttershy and Applejack exchanged looks of equal horror. Pinkie Pie’s mane deflated. Rainbow Dash, who had been speaking with Spitfire, stopped mid-sentence and headed straight for the ground. Rarity’s blade disassembled momentarily.
The fighting was going well. Twilight’s strategy had worked out. The loyalists were going to win, with or without the five. They could afford to leave now that their side had the major edge. They made this justification long after abandoning the battlefield to make for the palace.
They forgave Dash for not being as fast as she usually was. At least, four of them did. Her wings were torn and missing feathers in places. Still, Dash laboured through air, ignoring the pain and managing to outrun them by a fair margin.
Applejack barrelled along the ground at an alarming rate, climbing the stairs two at a time. It had taken her a while to accelerate, but she wasn’t about to slow down now that she had reached her top speed.
Pinkie Pie’s hooves barely touched the ground. She kept pace with even Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy followed her.
Rarity was last, but was still running faster than she ever had in her life. Than she ever had running for her life.
All the while, their connection told them that Twilight didn’t want them to come for her. That it was too dangerous. That she could not be saved, but that this was not the end. That ponykind needed them more than she did.
And they stopped with growing disbelief just as the steps leading up to palace began to level out. They looked at each other, with faces full of child-like incomprehension, and the sudden knowledge that they were not going to save Twilight Sparkle.
They already had.
Twilight shuddered, tasting her own blood, as Esteem walked away from her. She spat it out, then coughed as she struggled to draw breath into her broken lungs. Words. She needed to form words. She managed a hacking sound as more of her vital fluid poured out of her mouth.
“What was that?” Esteem asked bemusedly. Titan’s avatar quietly observed.
Twilight spat out another mouthful of blood, then said in a voice that was quite clear, “Theory proven.”
She flopped onto her belly, gritting her teeth from the pain, then struggled onto all four hooves, rising out of the pool of her own blood. The point-shard of Esteem’s blade clattered to the floor beneath her. He really should have kept a hold on it.
She kicked the shard with a foreleg and it made a trail of blood across the floor, then came to rest at the general’s feet. He looked down at it in disbelief as she stood up straight.
“You’ll be needing that,” she told him as the last of the pain from her wounds faded. She reached out with her mind and told the sky-fabric that composed her suit and cloak to mend.
She took in the palace atrium. Massive pillars ran along either wall, reaching up to a ceiling that was several stories high. Standing in ranks along one side of the room were puppets. Along the other side were ponies. In front of her, Esteem looked speechless, and Titan, standing next to him, looked bored.
“More puppets?” she asked the baffled unicorn. He didn’t answer her.
Titan did. “My son requested a last line of defense. His fear is unfounded and shameful.”
Intimidation. Pride. “Shameful, yes.”
“You have eaten my daughter,” he stated emotionlessly.
Twilight had done no such thing. The Elements of Harmony were full of surprises. The Element of Magic in particular had some interesting bonds connecting it to the others.
She had not fully understood them, and she hadn’t had the time to look into them. All she had had was a theory. Dying while her five friends rushed to her aid had opened the Elements to her just as becoming Twilight Sparkle had, and her theory was proven correct. It seemed that the trick to discovering the secrets of the Elements was not study, but friendship.
Equinox snapped into shape behind her as she regarded her opponents. She never did get to use any of those war spells.
Intimidation. Pride. “All of you,” she said, “at once.”
Esteem was the first to answer her. He sped through the air between them in the space of a heartbeat and took a swing at her with his blade. Twilight was practically useless when it came to blade-to-blade combat. Rarity was not.
She tapped Rarity and met the general’s blade in midair with her own, and his weapon squealed and shook under Equinox’s full magical might. The cumulative knowledge of years spent training under Esteem and over a month under Luna filled her mind, and she met his look of disbelief with a smile. Then she struck him in the chest with a hoof and sent him sliding across the floor. He slowed to a halt eight meters away.
Pegasus magic. Earthpony magic. Unicorn magic. The knowledge to wield all three. Was this what it felt like to be a god?
“Abomination,” Titan said levelly as he cast his blade. “Destroy her.”
To their credit, they tried.
Once again, Twilight split her mind into parts and delegated. She would need all of her concentration to manage her new arsenal.
Their advantages: numbers.
Titan got to her first, and their blades met in the air between them. His wavered under the raw power she was able to channel into hers.
Our advantages: Unicorn power.
Titan swung a foreleg at her, and her own leg intercepted his punch in midair. She gritted her teeth and slowly pushed his trembling limb back. She wanted him to know that he had nothing, next to her.
Mastery of pegasus martial arts.
She reached out with her other hoof and twisted Titan’s foreleg between her limbs until she heard it snap. The elder god was thrown off balance, and Twilight spun into the air and kicked him with both her hind legs. He stumbled back as their blades parted.
Whatever it is Pinkie Pie does.
Titan’s horn flashed before he caught his footing, and a spear of glossy black darkness sailed through the air towards her. Twilight batted it out of the air with Equinox, then ran at him swinging. Titan blocked three of her strokes and two of her punches before she spun around once more and kicked him with her hind legs. It was almost trivial.
She imbued the kick with Applejack's magic, and Titan did not simply stumble backwards. He was thrown through the air and collided with one of the atrium's pillars with a sickening crunch.
“What are you waiting for?!” Esteem shouted. “Kill her!”
Instant translocation, as always.
Twilight was behind the general in a flash, and he spun to meet her. Rarity had said that he was worth two of her at her best. Twilight split Equinox into two equal parts. Then, she attacked. This time the general had no cheats. This time he had no advantages.
Skill with blade.
Esteem's eyes widened in shock as Twilight attacked him with competence. They exchanged blows with unnatural speed for several seconds before the enemies in the room began to converge on her. Despite her two minds wielding two weapons each roughly equivalent in power to his, Twilight didn't break his guard. She would have to use her other faculties as well.
She created an explosion of force in the air between them just as the first soldiers reached them. She could have layered the spell atop itself, causing two waves to hit her enemies at almost the exact same time. It would have destroyed their internals and killed them, but there were trueponies in the room. Twilight was not willing to kill them, especially when she was in no danger. She would have to deliberately weaken her spells.
Esteem threw up a half-formed shield as the blast went off, and was once again sent sliding across the floor. Twilight did not shield at all, and was thrown up into the air and back. She landed against a pillar on all four hooves, then bent gravity. The world turned onto its side as she ran down the column to engage her enemies.
She hit the ground and cleaved a puppet in two while simultaneously bashing a skull in with a foreleg. Then she teleported herself halfway across the room to face Titan once again. He had recovered from her previous assault.
One of her blades met Singularity, and the other went for his face. He ducked under it and she rammed a leg into his head with the strength of an earthpony. Titan snapped upward from the force of the blow, his forelegs leaving the ground.
Twilight teleported behind him and sliced his hind legs off at the hoof, then kicked him in the rump. He wheeled forward and his back struck the ground, then slid along the floor. She sprang over three meters into the air, then landed over the king as he came to a halt.
She drove both of her blades downward, and Titan managed to hold them on a point of dazzling white light for almost a whole second before they went through his eyes.
Was this what the gods felt like? Was this the kind of power that they walked around with every day since the moment they were born? Twilight wondered these things as she turned on the puppets and ponies around her.
She could not die. There was not a mortal pony alive who could stand against her—Esteem was laughably weak in comparison now. It wouldn't matter how many armies they set against her—she could kill forever, with power like this.
It disgusted her. Nopony should ever be able to simply take and destroy as they pleased. Not Titan, not Esteem, not her.
She moved through Esteem's fodder, and it felt like she was pushing her way through a crowd. Their magical shields broke like wet paper. Their bodies snapped like twigs.
It wasn't long before the trueponies broke form and ran for their lives. She hadn't killed any of them—though there were injuries aplenty amongst their numbers. They ran from her, and for good reason. They couldn't possibly hope to harm her. She was a god.
Titan appeared for a second time after they had left.
“I finally get it,” Twilight said to him as she backhoofed half a puppet's face away.
“Oh?” His face was still an expressionless mask.
“Why none of you have taken any direct action.” Her blades batted some unicorn offenses away and returned fire, slaying her assailants. “Why all you've done is sit in your forest and observe. What could possibly stand in the way of power like this? There's no contest here.”
She teleported across the room and went to work on another group of puppets. “This would just be a chore to you. So you manipulate and scheme because it's the only test of skill left. No wonder Celestia is the way she is. All you can hope to achieve is power over us, because you can destroy anything you want with the wave of a hoof.”
A unicorn puppet sent a magic missile at her from across the room, and Twilight lifted a hoof without taking her eyes off of the king. The red projectile was thrown back along its trajectory by her wave of kinetic energy. The puppet erected a barrier in time, but it didn't matter—the construct was forced into one of the pillars regardless.
Titan answered her by tilting his head slightly. “I could ask you what it is like to be mortal. To be at the mercy of our game. To know without a doubt that you will die before you are ever old enough to attain true understanding. But I do not care.”
Twilight tore an entire pillar from the wall with magic, then broke it in two. “Esteem!” she shouted, letting her voice carry through the palace. “Where have you run to now? Nothing can save you from me, Esteem!”
She brought the two massive hunks of stone down on the king with enough force to level a building. He shielded as the ground around him was obliterated.
The ground shook as she beat her pillars against the king once again. With a tremendous crack, they shattered into useless rubble that cascaded to the floor around the unharmed king. Twilight threw her blade at the alicorn.
Titan split Singularity into twenty-six parts and sent them to intercept Equinox. While they were in the air, Twilight teleported both herself and her blademotes behind the king.
As Singularity met only empty air, Twilight sheared off Titan's head with a scissor-like motion, destroying the king’s puppet. A quick check showed her that no more enemies remained, so she began sweeping the palace with her magical senses. Esteem would not escape her.
She found him on the third floor, heading for the tower in which Celestia had once slept. With a thought, Twilight appeared in front of him. He stopped dead, his hooves skidding to a halt on the stone floors.
“I see,” he said simply, raising his blade.
Twilight's voice trembled as she spoke. “The dragon.”
She took a step towards him, and his eyes shifted to the side. “There was a baby dragon.”
His eyes grew cold, “Indeed,” he said.
“You said you wouldn't hurt him.”
“I said no such thing.”
“It was implied!” she cried desperately. “Nihilus left you with a dragon. What did you do with him?”
“Do you intend to kill me, miss Sparkle?”
Twilight knew that her friends were on the way. She could feel them. They had won the battle and were about to move into phase three of the plan.
Amongst them there was no consensus as to whether Esteem should live or die. But all of them agreed on one thing—Twilight should not have to kill him.
Twilight disagreed. If Esteem had to die, then she would be the one to do it. She would not have others kill her enemies for her. She was not Celestia.
“Yes,” she said quietly. She didn't want to be a liar.
Twilight's heart fell as Esteem's smile widened. “In that case,” he said, grinning. “Dragon meat—”
He never got to finish his sentence. With an incoherent scream, Twilight leveled the entire corridor, and most of the one beneath them. Esteem shielded most of the explosion, but fell through to the first floor.
He landed in a crumpled heap. Twilight landed next to him in a feat of pegasine agility. She looked at his battered form, and her legs trembled.
Do it fast.
“This is personal,” she said, tears running down her face. “I am not following orders.”
She passed Equinox through his neck, not to kill him, but to destroy the hold he had on his body. Then she picked him up like he was a rag-doll and smashed him into the wall. With a sharp, resounding crack, she snapped off his horn and discarded it.
“I know how I will die,” Esteem said weakly, lifting his chin.
Twilight sobbed. “Everything you hoped to accomplish will not come to pass. Everything you have accomplished thus far will be undone.”
She grabbed the rubble around her and crushed it into dust. Her friends were practically screaming at her through their link. She ignored them as she drew from the dust a specific ratio of minerals and then heated them to molten temperatures.
“You will die, and Rarity will not despair.”
Esteem opened his mouth to speak, and Twilight clamped it shut with a thought, noting that she forced him to bite off some of his tongue as she did so. Her orb of superheated glass drifted up over his body as it cooled and took the shape of a sliver.
Esteem watched it, and his breath quickened. It was a very, very large sliver.
“You will forever be remembered as the pony who betrayed his kind. And when you die, I will make sure that you are remembered as having been hideous.”
As the sliver finally stopped over his eye, Esteem broke and looked away, jamming his lids closed.
Twilight pried them open and forced him to look ahead. Then she wordlessly pushed her sliver through his eye and let his corpse sag to the floor.
When they reached her, she was standing alone, surrounded by fourteen shards of platinum-iridium that were scattered amongst a pile of ashes.
They called her name, and surrounded her, asking if she was alright. Twilight was covered in her own blood and dust from the walls she had destroyed, but was otherwise fine. Of course she was fine. She could use their earthpony magic now.
She slowly cast a spell to clean herself off and straighten her cloak of starlight, feeling strangely numb.
“Spike is dead,” she said, her voice devoid of any trace of emotion. “Esteem ate him.”
Her friends stopped talking immediately. Fluttershy looked down, and a tear silently fell to moisten the ashes below her. Applejack's mouth twisted in rage, and Rainbow Dash yelled as she kicked one of the shards on the ground out into the night. Pinkie Pie looked like she didn't know how to react. Rarity started wiping her eyes with her hood.
“If any of you have any objections to my actions.” Her voice came out raw and unsteady. “We will discuss them when I take off this uniform. Until then, I hope we're all still in this together.” She looked to each of them.
They all nodded. Rainbow Dash was first, Fluttershy was last.
“Good. It's time for phase three. Empyrean is in Celestia's court. He should be easy. Let's hope Luna is in position.”
They didn't say anything on the way to the court. Twilight led the way, and the others followed her wordlessly through the opulent palace. She had to check her pace several times so as to let the others keep up.
When they did reach the tall double-doors leading to The Court of the Sun, Twilight threw them open without preamble. She was done with theatrics.
Celestia's court ran with the same design principle as the rest of the palace, meaning it was enormous. The walls were more glass than stone, so as to maximize the amount of sunlight that spilled into chamber. A thick red carpet ran through the center of the chamber to a massive cushion. There, Empyrean sat.
The prince swallowed as they entered, beads of sweat running off his brow. “If you hurt me,” he said, his voice shaking, “Titan will kill you.”
Twilight strode calmly to the center of the room. “Do you remember the night you were born, Empyrean? The power that Nihilus gave you? I'm here to take it back.”
“No!” he shrieked. “He won't want me anymore! Please!”
“Titan is going to die tonight, Empyrean. Nothing you can do will change that.”
“I'll fight you,” he said, raising his chin. “I'll kill you all!”
“I didn't want to have to do this,” Twilight said softly as her friends fanned out behind her.
Empyrean's eyes glowed, and the temperature in the room rose drastically. “You're all just ponies!” he cried, standing. “I am a god!”
His horn flashed, and a beam of liquid yellow flames shot through the air towards Twilight and her friends. Twilight could sense that it had within it enough power to destroy not only them, but everything behind them for almost a kilometer. The carpet was reduced to ash beneath it as it closed the distance between them.
Twilight opened her eyes as the beam reached her and caught it on Equinox. Using the magic of the Elements was a strange sensation, unlike any other form of magic she had experienced. Five other ponies channeled their will into hers, and together they gave her access to a well of immeasurable power. It wasn't power she could bend or control—it had its own purpose. Right now it was protecting them.
That changed when Twilight threw her blade forward and a massive, incandescent rainbow shot forth to consume the prince's fire. In less than a second it reached Empyrean.
The solar flames gave way to the prismatic beam, and the prince screamed with all the power and desperation of a dying star.
Luna found Celestia at the center of their old courtyard.
“Celestia!” She landed next to her sister, and for the first time saw what had became of her.
“Catastrophe, Celestia, what have they done to you?”
When Celestia saw her, her eyes widened with fear. “Titan just left,” she said. “Terra is here. You need to run, Luna.”
Luna's eyes hardened as she regarded her sister's broken form. “Not this time.” She levitated Celestia into her forelegs as she took flight. “Not without you.”
Celestia hung limply, her face obviously strained with pain. “It's good to see you, Luna. Is—”
“Twilight Sparkle is alive. Titan flies to his death.” As she swooped down over the Everfree, she gave her sister a wink.
That was when Terra struck. Her blows had become no weaker since Canterlot, and Luna found herself in locked in her mother's grasp as Celestia went spinning from her forelegs and into the forest below. Hopefully Twilight's timing was as impeccable as she said it would be.
Terra grinned as she carried Luna through the air and back to the broken-down palace, where she pushed her through a stone wall and into the floor. Her mother pinned her to the ground, gave one of her beautiful smiles, then beat Luna's head into the stones beneath her. The stones beneath her were pulverized into dust, and her vision turned black momentarily.
“Over a month,” she said in her magnificent voice. “It took you over a month to come to her rescue! Do you have any idea how little entertainment I get from your sister? She doesn't play any of the games I like.”
Luna narrowed her eyes and spat blood at her mother. Luna knew exactly what games she was referring to. Terra had been the one to teach her to make war—and her lessons had been harsh.
With a powerful motion, Luna swung back up onto her hooves. She cast Nadir and lunged at her mother. It was a futile gesture—Terra was much, much stronger than her, and probably more skilled as well. She was beaten to the ground again by a ripple of telekinesis before she had even spread her wings.
“I didn't want her,” Terra hissed. “You were the one who betrayed me. You're the one I owe. Tell me, do you want to marry your new brother?”
Luna looked up at her mother, defiant. “Never.”
Terra gave another one of her gorgeous smiles. “Then I suppose I'll get to have my way with you after all, won't I? I have so many little activities planned. Try not to break too soon.”
Luna struggled to her hooves. If she couldn't hurt her mother physically, she would have to try it psychologically. “What did he do to thee, Terra?”
Terra's expression darkened immediately. “I told you, Luna,” she spat. A chunk of stone as big as she was tore itself from the wall beside them, and Luna braced herself for the impact. The stone shattered over her body, and the force of the impact depressed her into the floor. “Never. Ask. Us. Questions.”
Her earthpony magic came more slowly this time, and Luna lay immobile for a long while before her mother. When she finally gathered enough strength to lift her head, dust sifted off of it in waves. When she spoke, her voice sounded strained.
“Thou.” She breathed in a mouthful of dust, and spent some time coughing it up. “Thou art a monster. A terrible monster. What could Titan have possibly done—”
Terra crossed the short distance between them and Luna tasted blood as her mother brought a hoof across her face. Still, she continued. Pain was not much of a hindrance to one of Terra's daughters.
“Not one thing,” she said weakly. “Instead it was centuries of being his wife, wasn't it?”
Terra laughed. “You know so little,” she said in a voice that was almost a whisper. “I am what he needs me to be, and so I survive. Anypony can become what they need to be given enough time.”
Luna turned away from her insane mother. “And you need to like torturing your daughters?”
Terra leaned down and nuzzled Luna on the neck. “No,” she said. “I don't.”
Luna jerked her head away. “Spare me the suffering,” she said forcefully. “Help me in my fight against Titan. Thou didst go against him before.”
“And I lost,” Terra said darkly. “Thanks to the daughters we gave the world. Celestia has been singing the same song for the past month. I'm going to have to decline.”
Luna turned her head to look through the gaping hole in the stone wall that marked their point of entry. Outside, the sky was beginning to lighten.
There were six hours left before dawn.
“I was not asking thee to spare me,” she muttered. Terra cocked her head. “I was giving thee a chance to spare thineself. Goodbye, mother.”
The power came to her wrapped with a thought that was not her own, much like a ribbon tied around a parcel.
She had been dying. Dying in the dirt, surrounded by the uncaring trees of the Everfree Forest. The fall had broken everything that there was left to break. She hoped that Luna didn't feel guilty for having dropped her. Terra was to blame.
It wasn't fair. Celestia had always known that she would die—it was essentially the first rule of being immortal. In the grand unraveling of time, anything could come to pass. If time was infinite, anything would come to pass, including any number of possible deaths. If time wasn't infinite—well then the end of time would surely kill her.
But this was not the way she had imagined it. Her fight with Titan was much closer to what she would have liked—going out in a blaze of glory against a superior foe even as she engineered that foe's defeat. Instead she was bleeding out in the dirt. Not like a god; like a pony.
Twilight was alive, so Titan could still lose. She was surprised to realize that knowing she wasn't needed brought comfort to her. Hopefully Twilight would forgive her, after she was gone. The fact that the mare had gone through the Sliver of Darkness because of her was not lost on Celestia. And there were still plenty of other reasons Twilight had to hate her. Celestia wondered just how many of them she had found.
That was when the power had come upon her. It was like being submerged in a vat of pure sunlight. Involuntarily, Celestia's broken body buckled and shook in the dirt. Suddenly she realized why Luna had winked. Clever girl. She was back in the immortal game.
Twilight's voice sounded in her mind, perfectly clear. “Princess Celestia.”
Those two words were enough to tell Celestia what she dreaded. Or perhaps it was just the lack of one word—“dear.” She doubled over again and heard a series of snaps as her bones began to reshape themselves.
“I have retaken Canterlot and slain the traitor, General Esteem.”
The sentence was fit to burst with new information. Twilight retook Canterlot—not by herself, obviously, which meant that Masterstroke had gone forward with the rebellion as planned. Esteem had become Titan's general, which meant that he was indeed the traitor—likely even the unicorn who had broken Titan's bonds.
And Twilight had killed him.
Her back split open, and newborn wings of blood and sinew tore their way out of her form. Blood ran down her forehead in rivulets as an alabaster horn pushed its way through her skull. If there was pain, Celestia didn't feel it. She was busy drowning in her power.
Twilight had killed Esteem, Rarity's biological father. What had she made her student into?
She was getting larger, she had been from the start. Her mane was growing back in, and the injuries of over a month were healing in seconds. Celestia felt herself grinning wildly as feathers blossomed over her newborn wings. Had she always been this strong? A month of being mundane certainly put things into perspective.
“You are to kill Queen Terra so that the war ends today.”
Kill Terra. The order—for that was most definitely what it was—confirmed her fears about Twilight. I killed Rarity's father. You're going to kill your mother. Celestia would carry it out. She felt like stretching her new muscles anyway.
Ends today. The wording was not lost on the Princess. She found Twilight's suggestion agreeable, and told the sun to take the position of high noon.
“Master General Twilight Sparkle.”
The fact that Twilight most likely despised her was almost enough to dampen Celestia's mood. Almost.
She threw herself into the air, spinning as she felt wind through her feathers for the first time in over a month. She tapped into her unicorn power, and was almost overwhelmed by the flood of energy that offered itself to her will. Another beat of her wings sent her downward, and she smashed through the roof of the palace like it was made of fog.
She had no royal regalia, so she had to improvise. She summoned a massive white earthpony warplate to encase her body. A small thought, and upon her brow burned a crown of liquid flames. She drew Zenith, then leveled it at her mother, who had been staring at her in disbelief from twenty meters away. Celestia spoke with the unsuppressed voice of a god, and it resonated throughout the entire palace.
“Centuries of boiling water for tea when I knew that I could boil the seas. Of lifting quills when I could lift mountains. Of breaking wax seals when I could break anything I please. My power is too much for this world. But it isn't too much for you, is it, Terra? Now I get to find out what I'm really capable of. No lives to save, no plans to make, nothing to hold me back. I am divinity unleashed.”
Terra took a step back, away from the beaten form of Luna. Her mouth hung open in amazement. “C-C-Celestia,” she said dumbly.
Celestia smiled wickedly. “Call me Sunshine.”
Twilight stared impassively at Empyrean, who was now a mundane pony. He was perfectly fine, though from what she could gather stripping away his power had been somewhat painful. She would have rather it not be, of course—Empyrean was just a victim of his upbringing. He had never been a real enemy, like Titan or Terra.
“H-he's-” Fluttershy sounded appalled. “He's just a colt. A child.”
The Court of the Sun was a bit more magnificent now that it was daylight out. A dull light, weakened by the looming storm cloud, dappled in through semi-transparent windows that stretched up to the ceiling. Everything else was made of marble. It would be picturesque, were it not for the ashes scattered about the room from when Empyrean burnt away the carpet.
Empyrean was crying. “Look what you did to me!” His head was buried in his forelegs, and he was facing away from them. “I'm nothing now!”
Twilight ignored him. “It had to happen, Fluttershy. Not only to give Celestia the strength to kill Terra, but to get Titan to come here.”
Fluttershy flew to the former prince's side. “But what will happen to him?”
Twilight had no idea. “Celestia will see to it that he gets a new home. He'll be safe.”
Titan was hopefully on his way—just as Twilight had planned. Empyrean was stronger than Terra, so sending Terra to defeat the force that had defeated his son would be a senseless act. He would be throwing his wife away. Twilight knew that Titan was a sensible pony. He would be on his way.
“There, there.” Fluttershy was trying unsuccessfully to calm the wailing prince. “You don't have to do what your father tells you to anymore.”
Empyrean sniveled. “Y-y-you mean I won’t have to raise the sun?”
Fluttershy flashed him a reassuring smile. “Not at all. You can do the things a pony your age is supposed to do, like play.”
He wiped his nose. “And Esteem won’t yell at me?”
“No. Esteem won’t yell at you.”
“What about my f-father?”
“He won’t either. Celestia is going to take care of you from now on.”
“You can’t kill him,” Empyrean said glumly. “He’s invincible.”
Fluttershy frowned, then opened her mouth to speak again. Before she could, Twilight interrupted her.
“He’s here,” she said quietly. She could feel him approaching even without her magical senses. “He’s here!” she shouted to her friends. “Spread out, now! Fluttershy get over here. Empyrean, run!”
The prince didn’t listen, and Twilight cursed inwardly as Fluttershy flapped her way over to where they stood and took her place behind Twilight. It was time to kill the King of the World.
Titan’s arrival seemed to break the sky. There was a thunderous crack, and the ground shook beneath them. Outside, the massive storm cloud that her pegasi had summoned over the keep was blown back by an equally massive, expanding white ring. Twilight felt the elder god descending upon them. It was like being in a collapsing mine—thousands of tons of stone bearing down on her to plunge her into airless darkness. Her only instincts were screaming at her to run. She heard her friends shifting uncomfortably, and knew that they felt it too.
Blanket mind magic. Fear and hopelessness. The fact that he could both conceive of and cast such as spell was as terrifying as the spell itself. Shouldn’t her magical armor be preventing it from effecting them?
Titan knew exactly where they were, as Twilight suspected. The white ring that had torn through the storm cloud had seemed to be centered directly above them. Seconds after they heard the explosion, Titan broke through the ceiling.
He hit the ground with the force of a meteor, and above him the roof split and caved. Shattered stone rained down around them, but strangely none struck the king himself, although he manipulated none with telekinesis. Twilight was glad for the enchantments that they all had on their armor. She reached out and shielded Empyrean to protect him from the blast.
In the center of the room, Titan was perfectly still, though his oppressive mind magic still had a hold on them all. When he rose, the motions were flawlessly mechanical, like an automaton winding down. He folded his wings behind his back and then looked at Twilight.
Instantly the fear inside of her doubled. It was almost animalistic in the way it screamed at her over her greater senses. She wanted to turn and run, flee from this terrifying immortal predator. She was an insect that he wanted to crush. She needed to hide under a rock.
No wonder Titan considered ponykind to be semi-intelligent animals next to alicorns; his presence alone could reduce them to such. Twilight began to craft a spell in her mind that she hoped would counteract his crippling mind magic. That was when Titan spoke.
If his presence was fear, his voice was insanity. He hadn’t spoken the word very loudly, and yet it felt as though she were running her face against a concrete wall. She had to fight the urge to cover her ears.
What was more, her spellcrafting just... stopped. One moment she was working the magic with her mind, and the next she held onto nothing. He had taken it from her, and his horn hadn’t even glowed. No wonder he had been able to sneak up on her and stab her earlier without her knowing. Apparently for a three thousand year old alicorn, the rules just didn’t apply.
“Father!” Empyrean cried.
Titan turned and regarded his son for a moment, and his mouth became a thin line, trembling with rage. “Pathetic,” he said simply.
Then, with a violent twist and a loud snap, he broke Empyrean’s neck with his magic. His son’s lifeless form slumped to the floor. Beside her, Twilight heard Fluttershy try to stifle a whimper. Titan spoke again, and around her, Twilight’s friends cringed.
“I have had enough.”
A wave of force travelled outward from the king and struck Twilight and her friends head on. It didn’t let up, and they were thrown against the back wall as the ashes and rubble were pushed away as well. The windows shattered, and their shards of glass fell out into the warm summer afternoon air.
The force persisted, dwarfing gravity itself. From her perspective, Twilight looked up at King Titan.
He could probably have killed them then and there—they weren’t nearly coherent enough to use the Elements, not after the effects of his voice and his presence. And there was no way that with the kind of power he had he wouldn’t be able to. Instead he spoke as they lay pinned to the wall.
“I have had enough of this rebellion. Enough of your attempts to outplay me at the immortal game. Enough of ponykind denying its place in the natural order.” His voice sounded harsh. “My leniency is at an end.”
Twilight needed to break his spells, but trying to use her magic was like trying to hold water in her hooves. It shied away from her as she told it to take shape in her mind. How was he doing it?
“Do you think that it is right,” he spat, “to oppose me? Do you think that I am wrong to ensure ponykind follows the natural order? Do you think that these matters are yours to decide? As though you could possibly see this world in a way that I do not? As though it would matter.”
The force acting on her body increased, and Twilight began to feel an echo of the same pain that Titan had forced upon her before. There was no way she could focus enough to cast, even without the way he was making her magic reject her. She looked up at the king from under the crushing weight of his spells.
Cracks ran along the stone floor beneath him as his rage came to a boil. “I. Am. Titan!” He said the words in a voice that was like thunder. “Master of all that is and shall be. You cannot rightly oppose me because I define morality itself. By my very nature I am right. By my very nature I cannot err.”
Twilight was not going to let her friends die as insects being tortured under a microscope. She would not let everything have been for nothing. Desperately, her mind ran through her list of options.
She split her mind and piled all of the pain, fear, and oppression onto her second consciousness with a hastened “Sorry.” Then, she focused on her magic. She had to free her friends.
Again, it drifted from her grasp like smoke. Frustrated, Twilight piled more and more emotions onto her other mind, until she felt herself drifting through the cold, liquid-like state of pure logic.
This time she was able to grasp a tiny bit of magic. She thrust it into Titan’s spells like a tiny sliver, slowly using her superior concentration to add more and more power. As she worked, she felt the pain in her second mind ease up, and found herself able to hold more and more magic. She was succeeding.
When she had undone the spells that Titan had on herself, she set both of her minds to crafting the magic she would need to set her friends free as well. Titan carried on.
“To set yourselves against me is to say that you are capable of hindering me in any way. You are not. There is nothing you can do that I cannot undo. I could stand in this room and do nothing as you die of old age.”
Twilight’s first spell unbound every one of her friends from Titan’s spells and shielded them from his crushing forces. Before they could fall away from the wall, her second spell teleported every one of them and herself to stand in front of him.
Titan had only a moment to look somewhat surprised before Twilight breathed venomously, “Get him.”
Her friends did not need to be told twice. One by one, Twilight felt them gather their bearings and tap their Elements, channeling the mysterious power to her. Rainbow Dash was first. The bond connecting her to the Element of Loyalty churned and boiled like a summer storm, and Equinox formed into a six-pointed star before her.
After Dash was Rarity. The power held by the Element of Generosity was unlike the primal might that described Loyalty. At first it seemed weaker; the cool sense of focus that came with it was certainly nowhere near as strong as the thunderstorm of might that came with Rainbow’s contribution. In actuality it was simply different, magic woven into a million delicate forms. The power that Rarity gave to Twilight was beautifully complex.
Laughter came next. It washed over Twilight and she immediately felt a renewed sense of confidence as a warm, glowing strength filled her. It too was totally unlike the others—it felt more like sunlight on her smiling face than a work of art. Suddenly, Twilight felt reassured. Titan wasn’t so scary. Not to them.
Honesty was a straightforward link through which Twilight was granted even more power. Unlike the seething energy that came with loyalty, honesty’s might seemed to hardly move at all. It was like a mountain, solid and ancient and entirely immutable. Twilight opened her eyes, which she vaguely remembered closing at some point, and felt them burn with the growing magic inside.
She would have been able to identify Fluttershy’s contribution even if the pegasus hadn’t been the last pony to connect. The magic granted by the Element of Kindness was the magic of life, pure and simple. Twilight couldn’t describe what made her recognize the power other than the fact that she was alive. Aside from material composition, it was what set her apart from a stone or a chair.
Finally, Twilight called upon magic itself, and the energy came to her like an old friend. Apart, the power provided by the Elements was unique. Together, it was universal; Twilight knew she held in her mind a sample of the energy that ran through everything that existed, ever. Titan’s supposed dominion.
They were lifted into the air. Six friends, who had been through war and faced it together. Six friends, who had come out beaten and scarred but still friends. All of them worked together to give power to Twilight, who told it what she needed it to do. It wasn’t anything like unicorn magic—she didn’t need any mental capacity or focus to direct it. Instead it simply obeyed her wishes.
And it did so eagerly. The room itself shook as the Elements allotted more power than they ever had into the rainbow beam of pure energy that thundered toward the king. Titan stared on, his face not comprehending the situation until the second before the beam struck him, at which point he uttered a single word:
All the color went out of the world.
The rainbow beam of energy froze as it became a slur of grey and black. The light coming in through the windows changed from a golden yellow to a harsh white. before her, the six-pointed gem that represented the Element of Magic became a murky glass imitation. Centimeters away from Titan, the beam shattered into thousand of tiny fragments that rang as they struck the floor. Twilight fell out of the air.
She didn’t have any time to second-guess her next move; she had done plenty of second guessing before hand. She reached into her mind, probing through the now inert Elements of Harmony. There was one connection that was different from the others. It was a twisted, knotted cord of magic that pulled power away from the Element of Magic, rather than giving power to it. With the haste of a pony too afraid of what hesitation might bring, Twilight snapped it. All aspects of her plan had a plan B. Even this one.
The broken fragments of their previous attack had all dissipated, and silence filled the achromatic Court of the Sun. Titan stood across from her entirely unharmed. He spoke in a very quiet, very low whisper that was devoid of his godhood:
“You dare,” he muttered, and Twilight could hear him only because there were no other sounds in the room. “You dare!” he boomed, once again assuming the resonating voice that came with being an alicorn.
He crossed the distance between the two of them faster than even Twilight could see, then batted her across the room with a foreleg. Twilight felt several of her bones break despite her armor as she was thrown across the room to collide with the back wall. She sagged down to land next to Empyrean’s corpse.
Across the room, Titan emitted a thunderous wave of force that scattered her friends before appearing in front of her once again. His horn flashed, and Twilight was immediately trapped inside a tangled mess of conjured white cord. She tried to undo them with magic, only to find the task virtually impossible. This was not Titan’s avatar; this was Titan himself, and counteracting his magic was nigh impossible.
“You dare use the magic of harmony against me?”
There was a sickening crunch that sounded all-together too close to Twilight, and a pain shot through her forehead. Titan’s mane reached out and grabbed her face, thrusting it upward until she was looking directly into his eyes. She felt a trickle of blood run down her face.
“You have taught me something today, pony. This is no small feat.”
Her horn, she realized with a pang of dread, he had ripped her horn off. Like a colt pulling wings of a fly.
“Before now, I thought you ponies a faded shadow of the will and soul of the alicorn. But I was mistaken.”
His head snapped around, and past him Twilight saw Rainbow Dash shooting through the air toward the king. Titan’s horn flashed, and there was a sickening crunch as Dash was pummeled into the floor by an unseen force. Titan turned back to Twilight coolly.
“You feel and desire just as we do, don’t you, Twilight Sparkle? There is just as much equinity in each of you as there is in me. How monstrous. Equinity is a terrible thing to live with. How do you bear it? Each of you, powerless and dying throughout all of you lives. Each of you wanting and loving and hating, but so young you cannot possess true knowledge.”
His voice was overpowering, and Twilight could not help but hear every word he spoke despite the pain it caused. “How are you not crushed under your own insignificance?” Titan mused. “How do you live, when you know you will die? How can you look upon the world with anything but fear when you know you are unable to change it?”
Singularity slipped into existence beside Titan, a simple length of unwavering darkness. The air around it seemed to distort, and Twilight felt a tug coming from the weapon. “Even you,” Titan whispered, his eyes wide. “The greatest of your kind and the wielder of the magic of harmony, are nothing before me.” The blade came toward her.
Twilight teleported. She landed softly on the floor at the other side of the room, and immediately her mind reeled. She hadn’t teleported herself; she didn’t even have a horn anymore. Which meant that—
An ice cream sundae popped into existence before her. It was a decadent dessert: ripples of butterscotch throughout the mounds of vanilla cream, hot fudge drizzled over cherries and blueberries, banana slices and pecans garnishing the edges of the bowl. Stuck to the side of the sundae was a small note, each letter written perfectly in a different typeface: You’ve earned it.
Twilight rolled onto her back to see Titan standing over her, and felt a strange click followed by a familiar weight on her forehead. The elder god looming before her looked from Twilight, to the ice cream, to her newly healed horn, then spoke in a godless voice that was hardly a whisper.
“If ever there was any hope of redemption for your race, it is gone now. You will die by the thousands. This is unforgivable.”
Laughter rang throughout the chamber, echoing off of the walls despite the fact that every window had been shattered. Twilight looked up at Titan, her eyes burning with defiance, as she slowly used her newly restored magic to raise the spoon to her mouth and take a bite of her ice cream. It was delicious.
Titan turned to look to the center of the room, where the new arrival sat at a tiny table set for two, drinking tea. “Your daughter is on her way,” he said as he set his teacup down. The entire table burst into flames. “Until then,” Discord said lightly as his freakish face was bathed in the flickering firelight. “We have so much catching up to do, don’t we, Order?”
Terra didn’t fight Celestia. She had taken one look at her ascendant daughter and fled, leaping into the sky to jet off in the direction of Canterlot.
Celestia had cursed her judgement and followed. She had been certain Terra would engage her. Hadn’t her mother said she believed herself to be stronger than Celestia when it came to combat? Apparently even Terra knew she had only been boasting.
They each broke the sound barrier with a pair of thunderous cracks, and Celestia cursed her flight capabilities. As Princess, she didn’t often go flying, and the month of inactivity was weighing on her. Terra was gaining a considerable lead despite Celestia’s slight age advantage. It made sense; Luna had always been a better flier than Celestia, and Luna had been raised by Terra.
The friction in the atmosphere around Celestia ignited the air, and she began to trace a blazing trail across the sky as the edge of the Everfree passed beneath her. Her nostrils were filled with the scent of ozone.
She looked ahead of her to see that Terra had gotten closer. Apparently Celestia’s knowledge of flight was coming back to her. Still, several hundred meters separated her from the green and gold speck that was her mother. Beyond her loomed the titanic mountain that sheltered the city of Canterlot.
They had covered a great deal of ground. Celestia hadn’t ever flown this fast. She wondered briefly if Titan ever pushed his abilities to see what he was capable of. As undisputed rulers of the world, what need would either of them have had to practice their art? Even as a child, Terra had taught them how to use their innate magic. Titan had dealt exclusively with matters of the state and manipulation.
Celestia realized that she wasn’t going to catch Terra before she reached Canterlot, despite her age advantage. It irked her somewhat that Terra was better at focusing her pegasus magic than her, but she knew she still had the advantage when it came to raw power. She also doubted that Terra was anywhere near as potent a spellcaster as she.
Terra dipped in toward the palace, as Celestia expected she would, just as the distance between them began to close. Celestia wondered what had compelled Terra to come to this particular spot.
It could be a trap. Perhaps Titan survived Twilight’s plan and her subjects were dead. It was certainly possible he had some way of communicating with his wife, and he had called her to that particular spot.
If so Celestia was already dead. She might be able to evade Titan from a distance, but if he was in the city she would not be able to escape him. She might be able to burn the air around her with the speed of her flight, but Titan hardly needed to flap his wings at all.
Perhaps—and Celestia hoped that this was the case—Titan had been slain, and Terra was simply running to the last place she had known him to be. She smiled grimly at the thought of Terra landing and finding nopony to protect her.
Her mind ran through a dozen scenarios, all with outcomes that fell somewhere between the two. For all of them, her best or only course of action was to follow her mother. She angled herself to descend after Terra as the other goddess made for the Court of the Sun.
Her court had seen better days. The windows and most of the ceiling were gone, and the ground surrounding it was strewn with rubble. Terra went in fast, and hit the bare stone floor with a resounding impact before skidding to a halt. Celestia followed her, banking in so that she landed on the other side of the room. Then she took in the situation.
The entirety of her court was bare. Not a single fragment of glass or stone marred its austere appearance, and the carpet was inexplicably gone. This she took in with a glance. What was more pressing was the room’s occupants.
Across the chamber, Terra had slid to a halt next to Titan, who appeared very much alive and unharmed. Celestia was positioned in front of Twilight and her five friends, who were also still alive somehow. Poised on the floor right next to her, wearing a trickster’s grin, was—
“Discord,” Terra spat with more venom than Celestia had ever heard in her voice.
In a moment, Discord had slithered through the air between himself and Terra and coiled his body around her. “Terra,” he said cordially as he placed a furry paw beneath her chin. “Still...” he placed his claw beneath his own chin as he seemed to search for the words to finish his sentence. “Daddy’s little girl?”
Daddy? Terra was Titan’s daughter? Celestia’s father eyed her coolly. “Celestia.”
She gave him a very slight nod. “Titan.”
With a sickeningly fluid motion, Discord coiled across the room to stand beside Celestia. “I saved your Twilight Sparkle,” he said. “Aren’t you proud of me? Titan was going to kill her.”
Celestia looked back at Twilight, who was wearing some of the sky. Twilight looked away.
It hurt. Not just because Twilight hated her—she had a good reason to, after all. Rather, it hurt because Celestia had failed her. The entire conflict was the result of one moment of foolish mercy on her part.
“I should have killed you,” she whispered.
“You should have killed me,” Titan agreed. “But you were not a worthy successor. Your equinity betrayed you.”
Discord chuckled, then appeared behind Titan in a flash. “But there are so much better things to do with your enemies,” he said airily. Then the draconequus reached down and picked the broken corpse of an infant off the floor, wrapping his claw around the tiny head with ease. “Wouldn’t you agree, Order? Or shall I call you Titan, now?”
Titan was silent as Discord blew the dead child’s mane out of his face. His smile curved back into a sneer. “Let me guess,” he said, “Empyrean? Isn’t that cute.” He appeared next to Celestia.
Enough was enough. Twilight had released Discord, and the rest of her plan was obvious. It was time to observe the final protocol of the immortal game.
“Titan,” Celestia said evenly. “I declare myself and my sister sovereign rulers over all of Equestria.”
Titan’s impassive expression didn’t change as the air before him rippled and churned, then turned to an inky black. The writhing darkness coalesced into a glossy black breastplate, which affixed itself to his chest. “You intend to fight me for control?”
“If I have to,” she answered.
Another fragment of the king’s armor was wrought from nothing and attached to his back with an echoing clang. “Terra.”
Terra had not stopped staring daggers at Discord. “Yes, father.”
Titan was now covering his legs in the conjured warplate. “You will kill Celestia,” he said simply.
Terra looked at Celestia and her mouth twisted into a grin. “Yes, father.”
Celestia returned the look. “Discord.”
She had to suppress the urge to shudder as the draconequus wrapped himself around her and whispered in her ear, “Yes, Celestia?”
“Titan and Terra are our mutual enemies.”
“Hmm, I suppose they are, aren’t they?”
“I propose a temporary alliance until they have been dealt with.”
Discord let out another throaty chuckle. “I thought you’d never ask. I accept.” He slithered back to his place beside her. “Temporarily, of course.”
Again Celestia had to resist the urge to shudder. A world under Discord was arguably just as bad as a world under Titan, and the draconequus no doubt intended to double-cross her once Titan was dead. Still they had dealt with him before. Better the devil they knew.
Discord rubbed his paw and claw together as he spoke to Titan. “I am going to make you feel, old friend. I’m going to make you feel everything.”
Titan drew Singularity, and Celestia immediately felt it tugging on her. “I am going to unmake you,” he intoned emotionlessly. “As Canterlot is an asset to all of us, I would like to put forth the Dark Heart of the Everfree Forest as a suitable location. To start with.”
To start with. Just how much power were Titan and Discord capable of throwing around? “The mountain?” Celestia asked.
“It is now a plateau.” Was her father’s answer. Apparently that much.
“Well then,” Discord said lightly. “I suppose we ought get started, if everypony and everydraconequus is ready.” Then he slithered to the end of the room and wrapped himself around Twilight. He gave her a look that made Celestia feel sick. “I’ll be seeing you again,” he said softly.
Discord snapped, and they were gone.