Chapter 19: Live and let die
It was the most intricate batch of cupcakes she had ever made. Out of respect for her talents, most of the flavour that accompanied the usual little sponges came solely from the magnificent spectrum of coloured frosting that sat atop a mild vanilla essence which delivered the exact flavour they promised to hungry eyes. No, these were the first cupcakes she baked to have ingredients infused with the mixture. The fruit in question, kumquat, a personal favourite of the baker. Sugarcube corner was unusually quiet for the time of day, and despite the lack of business, the bright pink mare kept churning out cupcakes from her new line of experimental deserts like there was no tomorrow. Partly because she was exited from her newly discovered creation, but mostly because she enjoyed eating them on a regular basis, often for breakfast as a matter of fact.
As she began icing the third kumquat-cake with a neon orange frosting, the door to the bakery swung open with a mighty crash, almost sending the bell suspended above it flying. And making the young pony squirt a huge line of bright orange across the bakery’s floor.
“Wassup, Pinkie Pie!?” called an exceptionally loud Rainbow Dash from the faded wooden doorway. Pinkie pie instinctively grabbed a mop and started for the icing that lay over the floor with little acknowledgement for her long distinguished mare-friend in the form of an “Oh… uh, hi, Rainbow Dash…”
Upon noticing the iced floor, Rainbow Dash quickly calculated that it was the outcome of her eccentric entrance. She lowered her wings and slowly walked over to pinkie, who had already nearly cleaned up all of the colourful cumquat-flavoured frosting.
“Sorry about that, Pink.” Dash said a little awkwardly.
“Oh, it’s alright, Rainbow Dash. Accidents happen!” Pinkie Pie said light-heartedly, finishing up the rest of the cleaning then trotting off to try and find a ‘wet floor’ sign. Again, rainbow Dash slowly made her way over to her friend, who had her head buried deep in the utilities cupboard under the stairs.
“Pinkie, good news!” Rainbow started. “Canto-“ She was cut short by a firm slap round the face from a bright yellow sign that caught her off-guard and knocked her to the wet stone floor, accompanied by a triumphant “Got it!” from Pinkie Pie.
“Ughhhhh…” Groaned Rainbow Dash as she raised a hoof to her sore cheek.
“OH MY GOSH! I’m so sorry Rainbow dash! I- I didn’t know you were standing behind me!” Said a truly apologetic Pinkie Pie, dropping the sign and rushing over to help her injured friend to her hooves, then preceding to plant a gentle kiss on her lips to make it a great deal better, something she usually did when Dash had hurt herself in some strange manner, crashing into a tree or, on more than one occasion, another pony.
“It’s okay, Pinkie. I know you didn’t mean it.” Rainbow said with a smile. She bent down and picked up the wet floor sandwich board in her teeth and handed it to Pinkie. She took it from Rainbow’s mouth with a casual “Thanks.” She then turned and placed the sign carefully over the patch of slippery tiles before returning to her rainbow-maned companion who instantly snapped her hoof away from her cheek to save her ‘tough-filly’ persona.
Trying to put the incident behind them, Pinkie Pie broke the silence by asking Rainbow Dash “So, what were you saying before I assaulted you?” with a humorous tone in her voice which, between the two lovers, erased that negative event from the past.
Rainbow started once more… “I just came over from Twilight’s to tell you that Cantor says we all need to go to Canterlot right away.” She giggled at her sentence. “Heh, ‘Cantor’ and ‘Canterlot’ they sound so similar!” A pointless nugget of information.
Nevertheless, it made Pinkie laugh, which was Rainbow’s intention.
“Why? Why do we need to go to Canterlot?” The pink mare asked, quizzical to the strange request. Out of nowhere, all seven of them needed to travel to Canterlot for some unsung reason.
“I don’t know… he didn’t say, just that it was really important.”
“Okey dokey lokey!” Pinkie yapped, beaming once again. “Do you think it’ll be a party!?” She asked, excited as ever.
“Mmm, I doubt it. I mean, knowing Cantor, it could be pretty much anything!” Rainbow replied, beginning to wonder herself. “He’s…” The pegasus started, looking puzzled at the floor. “He’s been… pretty vacant recently… I hope everything’s alright…”
“Oh, I’m sure everything’s fine.” Pinkie Pie answered, idly icing the orange cupcakes with the luminous orange frosting. “If it could be anything, it could still be a party!”
Rainbow chortled in agreement. “Life’s a party, right, Pinkie?” She strode over to the pink mare and kissed her over the counter. “Love ya’ Pink.” She said.
“I love you too, Dashie…” They shared another short kiss before they were interrupted by a crackle of lilac sparks bouncing round the bakery floor. Pinkie and Dash gasped at the noise, but instantly relaxed once they saw all of their friends, including a certain white alicorn.
“And now… We’re all together…” Said Cantor, closing his eyes peacefully.
“What- why… why are we here?” Applejack asked, staring at the bakery around her.
“Yeah,” Twilight began, “Out of nowhere, you say we need to visit Canterlot and then round us all up in less than a minute. What’s going on, Cantor?”
The alicorn opened his eyes, his serene expression causing Twilight more concern rather than less.
“Let’s pay my good friend princess Celestia a visit. I’m sure she would be happy to see us all together…” His gentle voice definitely unsettled the ponies, whatever was going on, it was definitely affecting Cantor to the point of mental instability. “Shall we take the train?” He asked, looking down at Twilight through half – lidded eyes.
“I- What’s going on, Cantor?” The purple unicorn asked, her eyes filled with worry.
Cantor paused for a second or two before he shook his head, and when he next spoke, it was in a voice everypony was used to. “I’ll tell you when we get to the castle. Right now, I just want to spend time with my best friends.” He smiled, soon followed by the six mares, though Twilight’s expression appeared very forced.
They all departed the bakery, but before Twilight left, she tapped Applejack on the flank. The orange pony turned around slowly, meeting Twilight’s fearful expression with a concerned frown.
“What’s wrong, Twi?” She asked, tilting her head so the unusually hot sun was obscured by her hat.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Applejack…” The unicorn answered after a brief pause. “A really, really bad feeling…”
The train ride was fraught with more anguish; Cantor became nostalgic, reciting in perfect detail the seven friend’s fondest memories they had shared together. Everypony except Twilight Sparkle had found laughter and enjoyment in their stories.
The young purple unicorn found herself delving deeper and deeper into the mindset of a looming tragedy. She said nothing about the matter, though, deciding to allow the stallion to explain himself in time, as he had done many times in the past.
As they ambled slowly through Canterlot, they observed the usual townsfolk enjoying the heat wave Equestria was experiencing. Not typical for this time of year, but no one complained. They talked amongst themselves about more memories, stories that would last a lifetime. They mused at the scenery, the blossom covered trees, the tiny little buds of future leaves, ready to burst into life once more and repeat the lifecycle of one of the simplest, yet significant organisms in the entire world.
Rather too quickly for comfort, the group had reached the long marble stretch to the castle, the hedges to either side of the path looking spongy and, despite the fact that they were mere plants, appeared happy; content with their basic lives. They made their way through the castle’s gate, through the large open courtyard, under the high archway, and ascended two flights of white stairs.
Now in the shade of the castle, all but one pony felt far more comfortable as the doors to Celestia’s great throne room swung silently open, revealing both of the princesses gently conversing with each other about something presumably menial.
Everypony was taken back by the state of the two alicorn’s hair. Neither of their manes flowed like watery light, instead, they both wore mortal hair atop their head, not trying to hide their forms which had now lost all control, yet had not lost hope.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight cried, rushing towards the strange looking mare, yet stopping in her tracks when the princess raised her gold – clad hoof.
“Please, Twilight Sparkle, call me by my birth name: ‘Tia’…” The princess decreed, her smile even more serene and content than ever.
“What happened to your mane!?” The purple unicorn persisted, franticly trying to piece together the snippets of information, only failing to come to a conclusion about what was going on.
Cantor stepped in front of Twilight and looked at Tia. She gave a gentle nod, and right there and then, he knew what needed to be done.
“My friends…” He started, motioning for Twilight to return to the five mares he stood in front of. Once she had nestled in between Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, Cantor took a deep breath and began his final explanation…
“Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, and Rarity… Today, this world ends.” All six mares gasped, but before they could fire their questions, Cantor raised a hoof, returning the room to silence. “Today, this world ends…” He repeated, returning his hoof to the tiled floor. “…If it weren’t for me.” He added, sending sighs of understanding through the elements of harmony. “Any moment now, Kerous should be arriving, and he will try to destroy the world. He will kill everypony. Stallion, mare and foal alike. And the only one who can stop him is me. Now, you know I don’t like to big myself up, but in this sense, I will... Twilight. You’ve seen how strong my magic is: it made your machines run off the charts!” The stallion gave a little laugh. “And that was months ago! By now I’m easily ten times as strong!” He laughed loudly again, smiling as he spoke. “You have nothing to fear, girls! You’re all going to live!”
“Then why did you bring us here?...” Twilight asked weakly, taking a fraction of a step towards Cantor.
The stallion’s excitement died, as finally, after all this time, he could tell his closest friends the one secret which had been darkening his subconscious for as long as he had been in Equestria. “I… I’m going…” He spoke softly, still unable to say the words on his tongue forcefully enough, even after practicing it multiple times in his head on the journey there.
He crossed the small distance between them and peered down at Twilight with dark eyes. “I’m going to die, Twilight.” He said finally, already feeling the weight taken from his shoulders and replaced with a knot in his throat.
“What?” She asked quietly, the other elements of harmony simply stood and listened to what was being said. “What do you mean?” The unicorn asked again, her eyes filling with tears as she already knew.
“In order to save the world, Twilight… I need to… die…” The stallion tried to speak with a more powerful voice, yet try as he might, he couldn’t raise it more than a loud whisper.
“No. No that’s not true!” Twilight gasped. “You’re lying!”
“I wish I was, Twi.” Said Cantor, brushing her fringe out of her face. “But I’m not.” His eyes watered even more as he said this, bringing him close to tears. “You see, my cutie mark represents sacrifice, that’s the whole reason I’m here: to sacrifice myself so that the rest of the world can live.”
“But… you said- you said you would love me for- forever!” The purple mare whined, her quivering tone caused Cantor to burst into tears.
“Come here, Twilight.” He said, throwing his arms around the mare, both ponies crying into the other’s shoulder.
The two just stood there, crying into each other for several minutes as the fact that Cantor was actually dying sunk in.
Twilight was at a loss of thoughts: she didn’t know whether to feel scared, upset, angry, safe, peaceful… She just couldn’t find the right thing to feel, the jumble of emotions stirred up pains in her stomach that made her feel sick.
“I don’t want you to go!” Twilight screamed into Cantor’s shoulder, her agony felt through his entire being. “I can’t- why do- can’t- you said… Oh, I don’t know what to say!” She screamed again, her breath coming in and out in long heaving groans, sobs of depression echoing through her short breaths.
“Twilight… stop…” Said Cantor, pulling away from Twilight, her tears staining his fur. The unicorn looked at him with lost eyes, for once, he couldn’t see those two lavender orbs of love, but instead, saw the two panicked eyes of a heartbroken mare. Her face was a mess, her eyes bloodshot, her nose runny and her cheeks drenched with tears. There was nothing more Cantor wanted right now than to comfort her, tell her everything will be alright. But that would also be a lie, and there were already too many lies in their relationship.
Twilight continued to take heaving breaths, the pain in her stomach turned her legs to jelly and she promptly fell to the floor crying. She buried her face in her arms and continued to wail. Everypony turned from the purple mare to the stallion, not knowing whether to try to comfort their friend or to let him do it himself. But Cantor was already on top of this. With several calming breaths, he wiped his eyes and laid down before the broken mare.
He paused over her for a second, listening to her sobs quieten, he could tell from this that she knew he was close, and this notion helped him find his voice.
“Twilight?” He asked gently. The unicorn only sniffed. Cantor felt rested as this would be the last time he needed to do this. He felt the memories of previous experiences where he had spoken these two phrases, but never had he said them one after the other.
“Twilight, look at me.” He ordered, and as usual, the lavender mare complied, raising her head from the floor, gazing into the lustrous orange eyes, full of hope, life and love. Cantor took Twilight’s chin in his hoof and drew his head close, making sure Twilight caught a good look at the passion in his eyes. “I love you, Twilight Sparkle.”
Then he pushed forward, showing the tender unicorn just how much this was true. He gently kissed her, and despite the situation, Twilight Sparkle kissed back, sharing their last day together in an absolute perfect feeling of peace. Then the kiss broke with Cantor reaching round behind him and plucking a sizeable feather from his right wing. He returned to the half-lidded Twilight Sparkle and slipped the pure white quill behind her ear, amongst her hair. He pecked her on the forehead and whispered once again: “I love you.”
Twilight sighed, her voice still weak and shaky, but she knew with every fibre of her being that this was the right thing to do, even if most of the time, the right thing wasn't always the best.
“I’m really going to miss you, Cantor.” Twilight sighed, rubbing her head along Cantor’s strong neck.
“I’ll miss you too, Twilight. But I’ll never forget the times we've had.”
“Neither will I.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. And I always will.”
The couple cradled each other again in painful acceptance, knowing that everything will play out as time intended. The five other Elements of Harmony surrounded Cantor, soon followed by the princesses; none of the ponies in the room had dry eyes as they all bid the final farewell. Despite the sorrow, Cantor felt at peace; he knew that these ponies cared about him as much as he cared about them, and he also found himself in the frame of mind to want to have his friends remember him as he was in life: kind, brave and cock – sure.
“This is it?” A raspy male voice came across the air, carrying with it a sense of death and demise. “This is The Rife? ‘A god in pony form’, the only thing powerful enough to stop me? And look at this: he’s crying on the floor like a little filly…”
Cantor raised his head and stared behind him at the great blue beast stood at the foot of Celestia’s thrown.
There he was. The pinnacle of the end of the world. He stood three times as tall as Cantor, his dark navy – nearly black ‘hair’ curled around his head and neck like thick spines of darkness. What was most unsettling about him, though were those eyes, those piercing, yellow eyes glowing with the spite of thousands of years of hate and depression.
“Oh, you better believe it.” Said Cantor, unafraid of the monster stood at the other end of the room. The alicorn stood up with his friends and stepped in front of them, spreading his wings wide in order to protect them.
“You think I’m intimidated by you!?” Kerous chortled evilly, pointing a dagger – like talon in Cantor’s direction.
“It would make sense.” Answered the stallion, raising a cocky eyebrow at the devil. “I’d be scared of me.”
“Well aren’t you the little firecracker?” Kerous mused, returning his claw to the tiled floor and giving a short laugh.
“Why do you do this?” cantor asked, trying to reason. “Why can’t you just let us live in harmony?”
“Harmony!?” Shrieked Kerous before bursting out laughing. “You think you live in harmony!?”
“I know we do. Why? What’s your take?” Replied the alicorn, unable to see where this monster was coming from, or indeed where he was trying to go.
“You tell me.” Said Kerous. “Look at how much violence there is in this pathetic world. You think the magic of friendship can outshine such darkness?”
“No. No it cant.” Answered a very empowered Cantor. “But it’s a damn good start.”
“It’s good to meet you, Celestia…” The beast hissed with a broad grin, turning toward the tall white mare. The princess merely sneered at him.
“Leave her out of this.” Said Cantor, ruffling his feathers to outstretch his wings even more. “This is between you and me.”
“And the lovely Twilight Sparkle, element of magic…” Kerous began, a cruel simper on his lips. “I must say I can see why Cantor fell for you…”
“Shut up.” Growled Cantor as he felt Twilight press up against him in fear. “You don’t have the right to say her name.”
“I am the end of all days, the bringer of death, the one who will rain hell upon you all and cast shadows upon the sun! I am Kerous! And you are nothing in comparison to me. You will fear me and plead for me to end your suffering at the breast of my infinite power!” Kerous bellowed, unnafecting the stallion who saw it as all hot air.
“Ha, ha, ha…” Cantor giggled. “You said breast!”
“I WILL HAVE CONTROL!!!” Kerous yelled deeply, causing the walls and floor to tremble. “Why do you not cower and run!?” Growled the monster, slamming his fist into the throne, causing sparks to fly out from behind him. “How can you speak so surely in a world which is about to end? Why are you not begging for mercy at the hand of the most powerful creature ever to have lived!? How can you stand there and know your own death is imminent, with, or without your victory!?”
“You know…” Cantor began with an astute voice. “Just because you can kiss your own ass doesn’t mean you should…”
“How can you be so careless about your demise?” Kerous interrogated with a forbidding voice and a heavy scowl. “Do you not care that your efforts are fruitless? Do you not know that in attempting to defeat me, you are causing yourself worse pain!?”
“Sorry, Kerous…” Said Cantor with a mighty grin, his horn blazing a deep violet. "I don’t give a fuck.”
Without warning, he released a blinding torrent of light from his horn, the beam hitting Kerous square in the chest and blasting him backwards through eighteen stone walls, each over a foot thick with enough force left over to send the demon careering straight through a mountain outside.
Cantor’s magic stained the room, the powerful blast leaving little points of light aimlessly buzzing around in the air. It felt amazing to Cantor to not have to try and hold back his power anymore. No sooner had Cantor clocked the gaping hole in the castle walls, seeing the sky outside blazing blood red with bright auroras then Kerous reappeared in front of him, his eyes wild with excitement and rage.
“And here I was thinking this was going to be boring!” The dark creature stated with an evil smirk. He picked Cantor up in both hands, and before the alicorn could react, he slammed him through the floor.
Cantor fell the long distance into the cold cavernous floor below, opening his wings too late and colliding with solid stone. He heard his back crunch and cried out in pain before he noticed two yellow eyes plummeting towards him. In a split second, Kerous was on top of the stallion, pinning his neck to the floor with enough force to crush his windpipe. Cantor’s back legs flailed uselessly while his forelegs scrambled at the clamp around his throat. His vision began to flash as the blood pressurised in his brain. He felt like his eyes were going to explode! Kerous looked Cantor right in the panicked eye and said, in the most evil way as possible:
“You know what I’m gonna do?” He asked, capturing Cantor’s attention. The young alicorn stared up at the demonic eyes and pushed as hard as he could to try to free himself from the iron grip which was very quickly causing him to suffocate. “I’m going to fuck every hole on Twilight’s body.”
This being said, Cantor stopped struggling and glared up at Kerous, his eyes hotter than the furnaces of hell, filled with the deepest hatred for this brute. “And when I’ve run out…” Kerous continued, drawing himself closer to Cantor so the alicorn could feel his putrid breath on his skin. “I’m just going to keep making holes to fuck.”
Cantor’s growl reverberated into a low pitched roar, the walls of the cavern shaking as he blew Kerous off of him with a blast of intense magic: enough energy to raise the sun and moon for years exerted in half a second. The shot tore through the castle, sending Kerous high into the upper atmosphere. Both the sun and the moon were visible in the sky amongst all the auroras, like two spectators observing the fight for their planet. Cantor teleported instantaneously, faster than the speed of light to catch up with his target and slam his hoof into his face, sending him rocketing to the ground below.
He gave chase, accelerating faster and faster downward until Kerous met him in the face with a fist, their closing speed was six thousand miles per hour, and if Kerous’ aim was any more accurate, his fist would have gone straight through Cantor’s head. The dark blue monster clipped Cantor’s jaw, instantly tearing it from his skull, sending it flying into the air.
Cantor watched his bottom jaw fall back to Earth, his tongue flopped from his mouth and the front of his coat became drenched with his own blood. The next thing he felt was Kerous’ claws digging deep into his rump, striking bone, grabbing as much flesh as possible before tearing the entirety of both of his flanks away.
Cantor screamed in searing pain as his skin tore away. He plummeted through the air, wailing in agony as the wind pelted at his sides. It felt as if his entire backside was on fire. The blood gushed out, leaving a long stream of red in the air as he fell.
Suddenly, Cantor’s mane and tail bloomed golden like the sun, and just as soon as he had started, Cantor had completely healed himself and began pumping his wings as hard as he possibly could. He saw Kerous hurtling towards him and outstretched his hooves.
Both creatures collided in the air, sending a shockwave across the sky. Somehow, Cantor had ended up on top of Kerous during the impact, and now he was plummeting downwards into the world, his arms clamped around the demon’s neck, twisting with all his might and hoping for a snap.
The ground approached far too quickly, and Cantor found himself just enough time to let go of Kerous and kick him as hard as he possibly could into the landscape, putting all his strength into the kick. Kerous dug into the mountain, sending planetary debris up into Cantor’s face. The alicorn allowed himself a breath before he felt the iron claw around his neck once more. The next thing he saw was the terrified faces of his friends come into view, as did the castle’s destroyed walls.
“You, Cantor!” Kerous bellowed into Cantor’s face in his grim voice, strangling Cantor in the air. “You and I are great beings! Together, we can conquer and rule over the entire universe!”
“THERE’S A DIFFERENCE!” Cantor screamed back. “There’s a difference between conquering and ruling! I wish to do neither, rather protect it from bastards like YOU!”
Kerous recoiled at the outburst before his features transformed into a grimace.
“Then you die!” He growled back, throwing Cantor into the corner of the throne room.
The stallion hit his head on the wall, stunning him for just a second, but that’s all it took for Kerous to charge a powerful attack. Cantor’s vision came back just long enough to see the bolts of lightning hurtling towards him. Time seemed to slow down as his unresponsive body waited for death to strike him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Twilight Sparkle entered his field of vision. She leapt through the air, her eyes screwed shut. Cantor could do nothing but watch in horror as Kerous’ attack struck twilight in the back, allowing cantor the fraction of a second necessary to dodge the other bolts.
Twilight soared across the room and into one of the curved stone pillars. Her body curled around it and a sickening crunch echoed through the room. Twilight’s body unwound from the pillar and slid to the base, where the little unicorn lay completely still.
Everypony there, even Kerous turned towards the smouldering mare at the bottom of the pillar. A large pool of red was quickly growing under Twilight’s body. Cantor found that his breath was stolen. He just managed to gulp down a lungful of air as he crawled across the room to his beloved mare.
Luna, Tia, the Elements of Harmony and Kerous simply observed Cantor crawl towards the pony on his knees. He reached Twilight quickly, her blood soaking into his fur as he rolled her over into his lap.
Cantor gazed down at her peaceful face, her eyes closed, and her lips curled into a mellow smile. A trail of blood trickled from both corners of her lips and one side of her body was a dark purple / red. Her chest remained still as Cantor cradled her head in his arms.
“Twilight…” Cantor began to sob. “Twilight, please no…” His bright orange eyes filled with horrified tears as he could no longer feel Twilight’s warmth, her life. Her face was unfaltering as Cantor pleaded in his head for this ordeal to not be happening.
Everything. Her whole life, gone in an instant. She would have had to live her life without her stallion, but she still had her irreplaceable friends who cared deeply about her and to comfort her. She was Cantor’s world; she had changed him into the stallion he was now. She had shown him what true love could feel like and she gave him everything she had. She would never see the sunrise, never feel the wind through her mane. Never again would she spread her love across the world. And it tore Cantor apart to know that.
“Shame…” Came Kerous’ raspy voice from somewhere behind the couple. He continued with a dull tone. “Such a pathetic waste of good power…”
Something inside Cantor snapped that day. Whatever it was, he felt a darkness flood his senses like nothing he had ever felt before. His power… It grew to something more than a god. The darkness consumed his heart, blackened his soul. He became lower than a devil. Cantor dissolved into a tragic monster, no better than the one who had taken Twilight away.
He became nothing but a conduit of unrivalled evil in it's purest form.
With a shrill, banshee – like scream, Cantor tore Kerous off his feet with a swipe of his magic, ripping him through the mountain like nothing. The devastated creature’s teeth became fangs of wolves, interlocking daggers sharpened to needle points. His eyes glazed over completely black and his mane and tail erupted into flames. Cantor obliterated the roof of the castle, crushing the ceiling to dust. He flashed out of existence and reappeared in the sky, hanging there without using his wings. The pure, blood boiling rage in his head sending the blazing hair screaming from his body in huge plumes of fire.
He pressed Kerous into the soil, his face snapping due to the unbelievable pressure. Cantor’s horn flared up, not purple, nor was it white. Instead, Cantor’s aura was as dark as death itself, like a shadow upon ink. The moon turned black and a sound like ice bowing over a huge lake could be heard. Cantor outstretched his arms and crossed his legs like he was upon a crucifix as his impossible power poured from him with enough force to make the ground tremble. Eventually, the celestial being gave in to the strain. And snapped. Luna screamed in horror as she observed her life’s symbol split right before her eyes.
The moon tore in half, the chilling cracks ringing throughout the world as Cantor eviscerated the goliath stone ball into thousands of enormous boulders. Without hesitation, Cantor emitted another feral wail as he set stone on fire and sent chunks of the moon hurtling downwards to Equestria. The first enormous slither hit home, plunging Kerous deep into the planet as more and more molten pieces of moon rained down like unholy fire.
The chunks of moon ripped into the mountainside, crumbling to glowing dust as they pushed Kerous further into hell where he belonged. The strenuous bombardment lasted for minutes until Cantor had exhausted his resources and the moon had sunk into the world. However, he still had masses of outraged power to spare after the onslaught.
He scoured the huge crater with magic, the initial doom which had consumed him had gone, but he still sought vengeance on Kerous with every fibre of his being. And then he found him. The small dwindling life buried in the core of the planet. Cantor’s eyes had returned to ‘normal’, despite now being the size of pinpricks, his heart still pumping ferociously and fixated upon ripping that atrocity apart. His mane and tail extinguished themselves with a flash, once again becoming the rusty orange tangle.
Cantor pulled Kerous from the dirt and grimaced at his bloodied body. His jaw was hanging crooked, he appeared to be crying blood, his nose had been shattered and was crumpled like a tin can. His eyes appeared dimmer, and Cantor could see, even though Kerous was once the most powerful being ever to have lived, he had reduced him to nearly nothing: Kerous’ dim yellow eyes were faltering, struggling to stay open. His left arm was missing, seemingly crushed into oblivion by the moon, but Cantor had not an ounce of sympathy for the vile monster.
He threw Kerous downwards, headfirst into the ground at literally ‘breakneck’ speeds before rapidly descending down onto him. The crater Kerous’ limp body had made was only a few metres in diameter and rather shallow in terms of the crater next to him where the moon had collided with the planet.
Landing with a huff next to him, kicking up dirt, Cantor stormed towards Kerous and punched him across the shattered cheek, causing the dark blue atrocity to sink back into the dirt.
“On your feet.” Cantor ordered. “Get up, you vile fuck!” He bellowed. Kerous growled and dragged himself upwards, receiving another paralyzing blow from Cantor’s bloody hoof.
Once again, Kerous collapsed into the ground, groaning in anguish as Cantor beat the life out of him. Cantor rolled the beast over and straddled his chest. He placed both front hooves on Kerous’ large face, squeezed hard and screamed with all of the frustration and rage in his heart.
“I’m going to FUCKING! KILL YOU!!!” He proceded to pound his hooves into Kerous’ head, bludgeoning his features to unrecognisable.
The beating halted abruptly and Cantor was screaming into Kerous’ ears once again. “BEG ME TO STOP! BEG ME TO STOP KILLING YOU!” He seethed in a voice that wasn’t at all his. He allowed Kerous a moment to suck in enough gargling breaths to respond. The response which came, however caused Cantor to freeze.
“Cantor…” Came a soft voice from somewhere amongst all the mangled flesh of Kerous’ face that didn’t at all sound like the evil harbinger of the apocalypse. Instead, the voice of a young stallion came out, frightened and pleading. “Cantor… please help me…”
Cantor’s right foreleg which was curled into a coiled spring ready to lash out again relaxed a little and his pupils dilated. All of a sudden, he found himself surrounded by darkness, standing before a shivering teenage stallion on the floor, not much older than himself.
“Who… Who are you?” Cantor asked softly, his teeth a normal degree of ‘bluntness’.
The stallion peeked upwards, his bright eyes looked exhausted and his bottom lip was quivering.
“I’m… My name?” He asked, looking up into Cantor’s warm eyes.
“Yes.” Cantor replied, his rage and hatred forgotten in this place.
“My name is… Eden.” The blue coated earth pony answered, brushing his navy blue hair out of his face. “Who are you?”
“Cantor.” The alicorn replied, bewildered as to what was going on. “Where are we?” he asked, staring around into the darkness.
“Inside Kerous’ mind.” Eden replied weakly, his head returning to the floor.
“What!? How!?” Cried Cantor, becoming vigilant to every corner of the endless darkness.
“Don’t worry.” Eden continued, recapturing Cantor’s attention. “That… thing can’t get us in here…”
“What are you talking about? How did I get here?” Asked Cantor as he stood over Eden, concentrating on his rushing thoughts.
“Look…” Eden began with a hefty sigh. “I’m Kerous. Well… A better way of putting it would be that Kerous is me…”
“I… I don’t understand…” Cantor replied, settling himself down opposite the blue pony.
“I’m the one who stopped Requiem, the first perfect elemental…” Eden spoke with an air of shame. “And then… I turned into this…” He returned his head to his arms, but he didn’t cry. If he could have done, he would: but his tears ran out eons ago.
“But… Why am I here?” Cantor asked, making the earth pony look back up at him.
“Because I need to tell you that you can’t kill me with violence. You have to be content.” Answered Eden.
Cantor frowned. Before him lay a pony, not a monster, not Kerous. “I’m not killing you.” He said softly. “I’m killing Kerous. And what do you mean, ‘I have to be content’?”
“I mean you need to use your element. Sacrifice yourself: don’t turn out like me…”
“Yes. I killed Requiem with… I killed him very violently, and because of that, my hatred grew until it turned me into that monster outside…”
“I still don’t fully understand.” Said Cantor. “If we’re inside Kerous’ mind, and you say you are Kerous then… What’s going on?” Asked the alicorn, utterly bewildered.
“Are you aware that people are not born evil?” Eden asked, staring Cantor straight in the eyes. “And are you also aware that people are not all destined to be heroes?”
“You know, Eden…” Cantor began, smiling a little. “You’re not helping me understand this a whole lot better…”
Eden laughed a little before justifying. “What I’m saying is that no matter what you feel you need to do, think about not only what will be a consequence in the future, but also if that consequence was decided in the past.” He paused, allowing his words to sink in before continuing. “Time runs along a fixed path. It can be changed, and it does change. Even as we speak, the fabric of this universe is splitting into billions and billions of alternate realities.”
Cantor remained confused, but felt a little more sure than he was a moment ago. “You make a decision to kill someone now. What happens?” Eden asked, pointing a dry hoof at Cantor.
“I… The timeline splits-“
“No, no, no…” Eden interrupted, shaking his head. “I mean what are the physical repercussions of your murder?”
“Well, I go to prison.” Cantor answered dryly.
“The pony’s family are heartbroken.”
“And nopony would like me ever again.”
“And I’d die alone, not knowing how it felt to be loved...”
Eden smiled. “Or, you could not kill them…” He lowered his hoof and grinned at Cantor. “What would happen then?”
“They would get to go home to their family…”
“And… so… so would I…” Cantor’s eyes widened as he said this. “I could… go home to my family…”
“Very good, Cantor…” Eden commented, shifting uncomfortably where he lay. “Now tell me… What is the right choice?”
“The latter.” Answered the alicorn.
Eden smiled once more. “A word of friendly advice, Cantor… Regret is the harshest torture anypony can face. You spend the rest of your days saying ‘What if?’ And trust me, Cantor, when ‘the rest of your days’ is all eternity, it gets pretty unbearable…” Cantor stared blankly, absorbing the words like water to a dry sponge and seeing how hurt this poor pony felt. “You have the choice, Cantor. Make the right choice. Because there are those rare moments in this journey to the grave we call life where the right choice is the best one...”
Cantor rose to his hooves and bowed graciously, head low to the ground. “Thank you, Eden.” He sighed peacefully. “Can… Can I have a hug?”
Eden simply laughed. “A great strapping stallion like you going around hugging everypony?” He laughed again. “They’re going to think you’re on the other side of the street!” Once again, Eden burst out laughing, and Cantor joined in for a while.
Amazing how with all that was going on, two ponies who had barely known each other for a minute still found humour between themselves.
Eden’s bout of laughter ended in a sorrowful sigh. “For the record, Cantor… I haven’t moved for thousands of years… If my bones aren’t gone, they’ve ceased up for sure…”
“Everypony enjoys a nice hug…” Said Cantor with a smile, laying down next to Eden’s rigid form. He laid on the floor, his rear legs underneath him and his front ones outstretched before him.
Cantor settled to Eden’s right, wrapping his wing around the pony. Once the feathery appendages connected with his body, however, cantor shrieked in shock.
“What’s wrong?” cried Eden, trying his best to look behind him at what had happened.
“Nothing…” Cantor uttered, gingerly relaying his wing across the blue pony. “You’re just so cold…” His wing reconnected with Eden and it felt as if he was laying it across a block of ice.
After a few seconds, Cantor had become a little accustomed to the feel of Eden’s ice under his wing. Minutes passed before anypony spoke. Discreetly, Cantor felt Eden’s body with his wing, the earth pony was right. It was as if his entire back had calcified; it was as solid as a rock and had no means of moving ever again.
No matter… soon, neither of the two ponies would ever have to move again anyway.
“Thank you, Cantor…” Eden cooed, resting his head on his only two moving limbs.
“What for?” Asked the alicorn, looking down upon the back of the pony’s head, his inky blue hair falling from his head in long bangs.
“For giving me a little reminder of hope before the end.”
Cantor smiled, slowly rising up from where he laid, folding his chilly wing back in. “Don’t mention it…” He replied, returning to stand in front of the grounded pony. “See you on the other side, my friend…”
“Yeah…” Eden agreed, his peaceful smile fading with the pony into total darkness.
Once the innocent blue pony had disappeared, Cantor regained consciousness of his surroundings, he heard Kerous’ frantic and painful snarls beneath him and his eyes shot open, coming face to face with the growling animal.
He stared into the evil yellow eyes, knowing that somewhere in there was Eden’s lost soul. With a smile, Cantor clambered off of Kerous and drifted winglessly up unto the air with the tormented soul by his side.
Once they had cleared a substantial amount of sky, Cantor did something he didn’t have to do for a long while…
Focusing his magic, Cantor searched his mind, gathering the power of acceptance. He felt a warm glow inside his heart as a brilliant white orb of light appeared above him.
Slowly drifting upwards, his body and soul fixated on the glorious light, Cantor rose next to Kerous. He remembered back to months ago, when he had killed the two bank robbers to stop them from killing over twenty ponies. He saw what he was doing now in the same sense as ever slowly, the light descended upon him.
Cantor pulled Kerous into an embrace, gripped him tightly and whispered into his ear. “Rest in peace, Eden.” And even in the ruckus the great light was causing, the wind whipping their hair around their bodies, Cantor could have sworn he heard Kerous utter a “Thank you”…
The light was just inches away now. Cantor closed his eyes and awaited the contact. His mind was at peace… He no longer feared death, rather was accepting her cold embrace. His last thoughts were of Twilight Sparkle. He knew that when this was all over, all of the madness would be undone and she could return to her life with her friends. Ever closer the ball of light grew, and Cantor could hear indistinct whispers from within, beckoning him towards them. With a serene smile, he tipped his head forward, making contact between the light and the tip of his horn.
Power cascaded through him like an unstoppable freight train. His eyes shot open but he could see nothing. Cantor felt no pain, but the purge of his inner power caused his heart to explode in his chest. The alicorn’s eyes shrunk and suddenly, he felt nothing, not the surge of magic coursing through his body, not the wind tugging at his mane. Just… nothing… Silence… But then, he began to see images of his equine life flash before his eyes as if he was watching them all unfold again.
“Are you… Twilight Sparkle?”
“Yes, that’s Cantor, pronounced as if you were saying ‘canter’. Why, do you like it?”
“Does that mean we’re still friends?”
“Of course it does. How could we not be?”
“It’s nopony’s fault. Things like this just… happen…”
“Good night, Twilight… Sweet dreams…”
“Twilight… Twilight, look at me…”
“I will never leave you… I promise…”
“Well, I was just wondering if… If it’s okay with you… that… would you sleep… next to me?...”
“Good night, Cantor…”
“I love you, Twilight Sparkle…
… I always will…”
An epic explosion sent a shockwave screaming around the globe. The princesses and the Elements of Harmony noticed the huge white wave racing towards them. It washed over their bodies, blinded them and knocked them to their flanks. The white tsunami of light filled up the surrounding valleys with it’s purifying glow and rapidly spread across the whole of Equestria.
The heavenly white descended upon the world and destroyed all evidence of Kerous’ influence. One by one, All of the ponies in the destroyed castle fell unconscious. The last to go was princess Celestia, her final sight was an angelic apparition standing over Twilight Sparkle’s body. Whoever it was, they were smiling.
And then, like flicking a switch, everything went from white to black, and she passed out.
“Oh…” Came a shallow groan from a groggy Princess Celestia. Drearily, she sat upright, pulling herself to her flank where she sat for a while and caught her breath. Her sister soon followed, but instead rose to her hooves, panting and gazing around.
“Is… Is everypony okay?” Applejack asked softly, aiding Rarity upwards.
“I… I think so…” Rainbow Dash answered, staring at the two princesses. “Hey, princess.” She addressed both at the same time. “Your mane, it’s… back.”
Celestia and Luna gazed at each other, then observed their own luscious sparkling locks flowing all around them with overjoyed smiles.
There was dead silence everywhere, nothing but the sound of thundering hearts and heavy breathing filled the room. Strong sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows, dappling the white and black tiled floor with shards of colour. As usual this time of year, both the balcony doors and the main entrance doors were wide open, beckoning the gentle spring breeze in, carrying with it the scent of blossom and wildflowers. The distant sound of birds chirping happily in the castle gardens could be heard, yet was not acknowledged.
Cantor gingerly touched down onto the tiled surface as princess Celestia rose from the floor to a proud standing pose. The stallion gazed around the room, and to his enormous relief, Twilight Sparkle was on her hooves. Wobbly, but standing, and very much alive.
Unable to speak over joy, Cantor began to move as quickly towards the mare as possible, though this was diminished to a snail’s pace due to the waves of pure happiness coursing through his body.
“Wha… What happened?” Asked the purple unicorn, looking up at her princess, delighted to see her how she was used to.
“I think Cantor just saved the world…” Replied Celestia, her happy smile fading as the realisation hit her. “Oh…”
“Hell yeah, I saved the world!” Cantor cried, finding his legs and trotting to Celestia’s side. “Go on… give me your praise.” He joked, unable to control his ecstatic smile.
“Where… Where is Cantor?” Twilight asked, scanning the pristine room.
Cantor’s beaming grin faltered and sunk a little. “Twilight… I’m… right here…” He answered, staring at the mare.
Everypony fell silent, their despair and heartbreak slowly coming back to them. Celestia began to speak, but was rudely interrupted. “Twilight… Sweetheart, I-“
“Cantor!?” The purple mare called out, searching the room with desperate eyes.
“I’m right here, Twilight!” Exclaimed Cantor, Stepping in front of the unicorn. She stared straight through him, looking to the ceiling, the balcony entrance and every corner of the unscathed room.
“Cantor!?” She called again, breathing heavily, remembrance coming back hard.
“Twilight!” Cantor yelled, becoming scared. “I’m here!” He reached out to touch the mare, but his hoof passed straight through her. Cantor examined his foreleg, his eyes shrinking in horror at the sight that greeted him. Looking upon his transparent mint green limb, he could see the tiled surface through it. “I’m…” He began, his eyes filling with tears. “…Dead…”
He didn’t feel scared, nor was he horrendously upset, rather the shock of the reality of what was going on drove him to tears.
He reached out to touch Twilight Sparkle, and grievously, he was met with the same result. His hoof passed through her head like it was nothing, like a warm gust lost in a sea of fog.
Twilight was now openly crying, running around, calling Cantor’s name, refusing to believe. She had been so acceptant towards this outcome when Cantor was still alive… Because he was still alive… And now he was gone, she didn’t know what to do. All the answers she wanted, everything anypony needed to say to her to bring her back from her sorrow died with Cantor.
“TWILIGHT!!!” Cantor was screaming by now, bucking the air and rearing up with his wings beating furiously against nothing. Tears of frustration stung his eyes as he desperately tried to get somepony to hear him.
“Cantor!? Cant-“ Twilight continued to call her stallion’s name, until Celestia silenced her with a gentle hoof on her flank. Twilight swivelled round, her eyes fit to burst with tears.
“I’m so sorry, Twilight Sparkle…” Celestia uttered with a hoof on the unicorn’s shoulder, not coping with holding back her own tears too well. She too felt at a great loss for somepony she regarded as family. “But… As much as we all hate to admit it… Cantor’s gone…”
“No! No, he’s not!” Twilight protested, shoving Celestia’s hoof from her shoulder and staring with desperate panic into the princess’ dark eyes which had now begun to flow with tears. “He’s not dead, he can’t be! He… He promised he’d never leave me! He promised we’d always be together!” The purple mare sunk to the floor and buried her face in her arms, begging for Cantor to come back.
Celestia lowered herself down beside Twilight and an invisible Cantor and rested her hoof on Twilight’s back.
“Twilight… Once again, I’m so, so sorry for your loss, but please understand that Cantor saved us all, and you should be grateful.” The only white alicorn alive in the room spoke with care and unparalleled sympathy, not trying to hide her sorrow from the other mares. They too, even the hard as nails Rainbow Dash were sobbing in the sunlight for their shattering loss.
“Twilight… Twilight, please, I’m okay…” Cantor pleaded into the deaf ear, hoping with all of his heart and soul that Twilight would hear. “Please don’t cry…” He continued, unable to control his tears. “You know I... hate it when I see you cry…”
Though Twilight didn’t listen. Instead, she just lay there by Celestia’s side, heaving into her arms from the pain of shattered dreams. She kept trying to tell herself that he was in a better place, but in saying that, she realised how far away from her he was. She would never hear his voice again, never feel his touch. Never again, would he tell her he loved her.
“Please, Twilight… Look at me.” Cantor begged, nearly unable to form words around the tremendous lump in his throat.
“Look at me, Twilight.” He ordered, but to no avail. Once more… Just one more time, he tried to touch her face, and once more, his hoof passed straight through her.
“No…….” Cantor sobbed, his face resting on the floor.
Before he could continue any longer though, he uttered one last sentence.
“I love you…” Cantor sniffed, his already dead heart breaking again. “I love you… Twilight Sparkle…” But the mare was deaf to this… She didn’t even hear a whisper and Cantor’s bitter tears dissolved into pure sorrow as he lay next to Twilight on the cold floor, sobbing his heart out with no one to comfort, and no one to comfort him.
The funeral was held the very next day, and despite the sunny weather, it was the most heartbreaking thing Cantor had ever seen. The air was perfectly still and the sun shone warmly, but not so much so that it was uncomfortable. Cantor stood upon the small hill overlooking Ponyville. He decided that of all the places, he would rather be buried here, so that his spirit could watch over the town for all eternity and he could always see Twilight Sparkle’s library. The whole town of Ponyville had turned up to bid farewell to ‘the greatest hero they would see in their lifetime’ as Celestia had decreed. Yes, even the two celestial princesses; the rulers of the world had turned out to say goodbye.
Of course Cantor attended the funeral. How could he not? The open casket lay empty above a deep pit in the ground with an enormous wreath of ruby red roses draped over the top and Cantor was standing over it, looking in.
The box itself was beautiful. Hoof – crafted by experts in Ponyville from great oak trees and waxed a most glorious tone of gold. It had a cream silk lining with a little lilac pillow resting where the stallion’s head should be. It was unsettling, yet it felt so right to see his name carved in humble stone above the hole, the birth date read ‘unknown’ and the date of death read ‘April 20th, 3489’. Despite all that was going on around him, Cantor couldn’t help but smile at his date of birth. He would be forever laid to rest with an air of mystery about him, the thought of such a thing made the stallion feel… peaceful.
He stared into the coffin for so long that he didn’t notice that everypony around him had retreated to cushions placed on the floor around the casket until an old stallion began to speak.
Cantor was alerted to the solemn-dressed gentlecolt when he cleared his throat. He continued to stand over his own coffin as the pale blue stallion dressed in black formal attire (much like every other pony there) gave an introductory speech to the ceremony.
“We are gathered here today to mourn the death of truly one of the most noble stallions to have lived…” Several sniffles could be heard from behind Cantor and he turned to see who it was. Sadly, it was Rarity, dabbing under her eyes in true Rarity fashion with a pure white handkerchief.
The grim stallion continued in his low, sad, husky voice, looking from the headstone to the two solemn looking princesses.
“It’s always such a terrible tragedy when somepony so young leaves us. He was just seventeen years of age at the time of his passing.” The white – maned stallion sighed and shook his head. “For such a young pony to leave us is never easy to accept and even though I have never had a chance to get to know him better, I can see by the ponies around me that Cantor was truly an exceptional young stallion.”
Cantor sunk to his transparent haunches and gazed drearily at the old wrinkly stallion stood behind his coffin, using it like some kind of podium. The milky blue eyed pony could have easily been five times Cantor’s age and had experienced all that life had to offer twice over.
The ghostly alicorn sighed, no longer feeling heartbroken and traumatised, rather, he felt completely lost – as if there were still things that needed to be said.
“Now I understand that some of Cantor’s closest friends would like to say a few words?” Asked the aged stallion, eyeing the front row of mares and fillies, the only stallion with them was a great red brute, his muscles bulging from his black suit.
All of the mares and Big Macintosh looked up and nopony moved until Applejack hoisted herself and her brother onto their hooves with their young sister, Applebloom and slowly made their way to Cantor’s coffin-side.
As he approached, Cantor could see Big Macintosh holding back tears as best he could, but even though he had the power of ten ponies rolled into one, he couldn’t hide the fact that he too was devastated by the loss.
"Oh, Mac..." Cantor sighed sympathetically as the devastated stallion shuffled past with dark and mournful eyes.
The sibling trio approached the casket. Inside, there lay the feather Cantor had given to Twilight upon the pillow, completely motionless.
Applejack wore a solemn face as she placed her Stetson over her chest, giving a light bow before returning the hat to her blonde hair. The farm pony was wearing a short black skirt and blouse, yet she still had her wonderful Stetson atop her head and her hair was still bound with those bright red ribbons of hers.
Macintosh simply stared at the feather, trying his hardest not to cry, but a little sniff from his orange coated sister caused the tears to flow unendingly. He hadn’t uttered a word in the fear that the sound of his own voice would push him over the edge, yet now that he had let himself go, he whispered sadly into the box
“I’m gonna miss ya, buddy.” He sniffed powerfully, his huge nostrils flaring as he sucked in calming air. “Thanks for all the work ya did ‘round Applebuck season…”
Applejack placed her foreleg over Big Mac’s shoulders and led him back to their seats once Applebloom had taken a good long look at the pristene white quill resting on the pillow.
Her question of “Where is he?” Set Applejack off crying as well. Applebloom was far too young to fully understand death. She knew that Cantor was gone, but what she didn’t know is that he would never come back.
Next up was Fluttershy, and even though the stood with Rarity, the only word to make it out of her mouth was a barely audible “Um-“ before she too burst into torrents of silent tears, propping herself up on the top of the coffin and crying into her arms. The sight, like all of the times Cantor had seen Fluttershy cry, broke his heart, yet his attention was drawn to the grim looking unicorn before he could shed a tear.
Rarity stepped close to the edge of Cantor’s coffin with something draped across her back. Her sister, Sweetie Belle removed the article of clothing – which Cantor instantly recognised as the suit he wore for the gala the past two years.
The stallion had gone into great detail about how much he loved the garment, how perfect the stitching was and how grateful he was towards Rarity for making it. And he hadn’t exaggerated his points; he absolutely loved that suit. It made him look handsome, it was a perfect fit, and above all, Rarity’s work ethic, her blood, sweat and now tears were poured into that extravagant piece of designer clothing.
“I um… I know how much you said you loved this suit…” The well – pronounced unicorn started, her voice quiet from crying, yet Cantor heard every word crystal clear. “So I just thought that you would… like to… keep it…” As she said this, two sparkling tears rolled down her cheeks, which she quickly wiped away with the back of her hoof.
Rarity very gently, and with as much grace and precision as she showed in her life, laid the garment inside the coffin, to sleep with Cantor for all eternity.
Rarity gave a little ladylike chuckle, and with a petite smile added “Well we don’t want you looking scruffy in heaven now, do we?” The comment made Cantor himself laugh, as well as begin crying, yet these tears were not entirely because of loss this time.
The still smiling and, despite this, crying Rarity walked a heartbroken Fluttershy and her deeply upset sister back to their cushions on the lush green grass, planting her covered flank on the soft fabric and beginning to remember all of the good things Cantor had done in his short time in Equestria.
The next three to step up to the rich gold coloured box was Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and her adopted daughter, the young Scootaloo, who was already sobbing into her mother’s coat as she ambled by her side. The pink mare’s mane had lost a tremendous amount of it’s ‘oomph’ and the thought of Pinkie Pie being depressed – Pinkie Pie being depressed – shook up all of Cantor’s negative emotions into a deadly cocktail if grief and all he managed to utter was “ I'm so sorry, Pinkie…”
The apology, once again, went unheard, as did all of his comments, questions and statements.
The three young mares reached the opening to the casket, and all at once, peered in at the crisp feather lying above a delicately folded piece of black clothing. Pinkie and Rainbow had no kind of funeral wear, and instead, they wore simple black bowties around each of their necks. To Cantor, he didn’t mind. In fact, to see these two particular ponies wearing what made them feel comfortable made him happy that they hadn’t stressed themselves out buying dismal dresses or shrouds.
Of course, both mares would have worn more formal attire if they owned it or could afford it. Even between themselves, they had just enough money to treat each other to a nice dinner or a movie once a week. And Cantor’s death had been so unexpected, they had no time to save enough money they needed. It made them both feel remorseful, yet the white stallion this whole ceremony was in aid of didn’t mind one bit.
“Hey, uh… Hey, Cantor…” Rainbow Dash began, putting on her best smile. “I um… We just wanted to say thank you, me and Scootaloo, that is… Thank you…” The sprightly pegasus gave a modest bow, and the little orange filly copied her, lowering her little head along with her mother, her eyes closed, yet still streaming with tears of remorse. “If… If it weren’t for you, well… You and I both know that Scootaloo might not be here, let alone be here with me…” Rainbow smiled down towards Scootaloo, and the filly met her stare with a weak smile before she raised her eyebrows towards her blue role model and only family, as if asking a question.
Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and nodded, and with a quick flick of their heads, they each plucked their largest feather from their wings. The two pegasi then placed their bright coloured feathers on either side of Cantor’s. The cyan one came to just over half the length of the sharp white one, and the tiny little orange quill wasn’t even worth comparing.
“Goodbye, Cantor… I… I hope…” She began to cry as she finished her sentence. “I hope that you’re remembering all those tricks I taught you up there!” She craned her neck to the sky and forced a smile to the clouds. “I know that you’ll be showing off to the other pegasi up in heaven!”
Cantor chuckled as the tears refused to stop. He always used to show off when anypony challenged him to a race, especially when he discovered that he could accomplish the sonic flame-boom. But the one pony he could never beat was Rainbow Dash. She still had the title of fastest flyer in Equestria. (Well, to that particular circle of friends anyway…) As far as they knew, her place in the Wonderbolts was dangling above her, and another rainboom or two could land her in a tight blue lycra suit and a pair of goggles. Her dream. Cantor felt unlucky to not be there with her when that happened, yet he felt settled by the notion that he was certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was going to be great.
Pinkie Pie stepped up next, and without a word, withdrew a huge, delectable looking cupcake from her flaccid mane accommodating Cantor’s colouration. The frosting was thinly applied, the pink mare bearing in mind Cantor’s distaste for heavy, creamy icing. Atop the swirly frosting, were a perfect scattering of bright orange sugar strands, reflecting the vibrancy of the stallion’s intense eyes.
She silently mouthed the words “Goodbye” before turning with her mare friend and returning to their soft spots on the ground. Scootaloo clambered into Rainbow’s arms and continued to sob quietly into her mother’s fur. Out of all three crusaders, Scootaloo fully understood the concept of death: the last of it she knew was when her parents died, and even though she was too young to remember how she felt at the time, the thought of loosing a close friend tore her apart.
Once again, the hilltop fell into an adverse silence once again. The absence of air made everypony’s sobs, even the tiniest of whimpers easily heard. Princess Celestia had proclaimed that her faithful student, Cantor’s closest companion and lover should give the final verse, and now all three alicorns present, living or not had their eyes focused on the purple unicorn as she slowly rose, her black dress falling over her hooves as she trudged the short distance from where she sat to where her stallion’s cadaverless coffin lie suspended above the deep hole in the soil.
Her perfect eyes had lost their shine. They no longer appeared to sparkle. The purple mare slowly reached the bereaving coffin and her eyes fell to it’s contents. Rather, the one item inside which belonged to Cantor. Twilight Sparkle did not cry. Instead, her face depicted so little emotion it was as if she had died on the inside. Who knows? Maybe she had.
She returned her dim eyes to the crowd of ponies also watching, she clocked all of their depressed eyes and solemn frowns and slowly drew in a breath, bringing the words she had been mentally reciting all day and all night, finally saying the things which needed to be said.
“Cantor was… Well, what wasn’t he? He was kind, loyal, honest, generous, he uh… He enjoyed a good laugh…” A tiny smile flashed across her face before it faded away again. “And I just wanted to let you know that Cantor loved me with all of his heart, he made a point of telling me every single day… And I loved him… more than anypony can ever imagine…” She allowed her eyes to fall to the white quill resting upon the soft lilac cushion and a single tear fell from each eye, rapidly rolled down her cheeks and fell into the coffin. “Every day… he told me he loved me, and every day, I knew it was true…” A smile crept onto her face as another pair of tears welled up and fell from her eyes, and to the delight of the male alicorn, her sweet little smile stayed there.
“Thank you, Cantor… If it wasn’t for you… I… we’d all be gone…” Her smile disappeared as she continued. “I… How can I feel that good again? I can’t just get another stallion: I can’t just find another you.” Her flow of tears increased until they were a constant stream of despair. “I don’t want you to go, Cantor… I… I need you… I…” She sighed and took several deep breaths to calm herself down and to prevent herself from totally loosing it in front of the entire town. “I’m sorry…” She uttered to the silky feather. “I made this for you -hic- last night…” The purple mare sniffled as she drew out the small woollen object from her mane.
It was a couple of tiny replica dolls of Cantor and Twilight, made out of white and purple wool. Their eyes were each a small cross of their colour, Cantor's a powerful orange, and Twilight’s a deep violet. The two plushies were adorable, their manes spot on, Cantor’s, a scraggly rust coloured tangle and Twilight’s was her straight cut navy blue. She had even got the delightful little pink and purple streaks as well. The mare had stayed up all night long making the two dolls by candle light and Cantor had been by her side the entire time. He was given hope as Twilight often looked behind her chair in Cantor’s general direction, yet she simply stared straight through the stallion into the endless darkness of her sleeping library.
Slowly, she lowered the two ponies into the casket, manipulating them so that the purple one was wrapped in the white one’s huge wool wings and strong, soft arms. Cantor smiled as he watched Twilight plant a gentle kiss on the woollen alicorn’s side. His unblinking orange eyes stared straight up at her as she drew herself away. She blinked again, and two more teardrops landed atop Cantor’s feather. Despite this movement of love, albeit in the worst form, Cantor felt nothing.
Twilight slowly raised her head back up, still staring at her wool stallion as she gave one final farewell. “Good night, Cantor.” She chocked on her own sorrowful quivering breath as she spoke. “Sweet dreams…”
She turned away, her face the pure depiction of heartbreak as she ambled slowly back to her friends, seeking comfort she knew she would never find, not in harmony, nor in the bright sunshine or perfect sky which marked the end of an era of fear and threat and began a new one of pain and loneliness.
As it was tradition to fallen pegasi in battle, the mass of ponies rose to their hooves and placed their right hooves over their hearts.
Everypony there, even the fillies and colts joined in with paying their last respects to their savoir as his coffin was slowly lowered into the ground. In beautiful unison, some two hundred ponies began to sing the slow, sorrowful tune of the pegasus:
“I have not wings to follow you, and I know not where you go.”
“I cannot fly to heaven far, to ever let you know.”
“That your wings were made for angels, irreplaceable in their worth.”
“And now goddesses have taken an angel, back from Earth…”
“Twilight, please eat something…” Pleaded the little purple dragon who stood at Twilight’s bedside, brandishing a plate of perfectly roasted vegetables, even the mare’s favourite, parsnips, was regarded as disgusting as she plainly explained for the fifth time that she had “Lost her appetite.”
Twilight Sparkle lay alone on her side on top of the starry blanket covering her soft bed, completely void of any motivation to do anything more than blink and breathe. No thoughts ran through her head. The only things she could see were shattered dreams and her own broken heart. Her tears had dried up hours ago, but she still felt lower than low. Her breath was long and subconsciously exaggerated and she felt monumentally tired, yet the pain in her heart kept her wide awake, agonised, exhausted and starving.
“Twilight… eat… sleep… you’re so tired…” Once again, Cantor’s pleas went unheard as once again, he forgot that he was dead. At that moment, he had had enough. He sighed angrily and turned to the grey mare standing in a shadowed corner of Twilight’s bedroom. “What do you want?...”
Surprised to hear that the stallion was finally acknowledging her presence caught her off guard, and she found herself speechless for a moment before finding her old voice and stepping out into the light. The ancient mare was an alicorn, her mane a short, straight white cape hanging from her aged head and neck. Her wings bore no feathers, just spines where feathers should have been and a soft, fuzzy down stretching the length of her folded appendages, and even then, those seemed to lack in consistency. The mare’s deep brown eyes radiated a kindness like no other, yet somehow at the same time, bore a sinister truth nopony wanted to hear.
In scanning her body once, Cantor’s fiery eyes became fixated upon the snapped horn atop her head. The dull grey mare closed her eyes and established a long sigh, the kind of sigh one is only able to make after an eternity of suffering and sorrow.
“Cantor…” She began in a voice which looked older than she did. “I’m so sorry…” She continued, shaking her head ever so slightly as she spoke just a little louder than a whisper.
“Sorry for what?” The stallion asked, causing the mare’s eyes to open tiredly. “We both knew this day was coming and from the start, there’s nothing we can do about it…” He spoke with affirmation, acceptance, yet all he wanted was to stay by Twilight’s side.
Once again, the grey mare sighed, exhausted with her sordid job. “You are a very special pony, Cantor… do you know that?”
Cantor turned back to Twilight. Spike had given up on trying to feed her and had finally given in, obeying her request to leave her alone. She now stared into nothingness, broken under the strain of her own misery. The white alicorn stroked his hoof just above Twilight’s mane, unable to face the feeling of nothing to remind him that he was dead.
“I’m not special…” He muttered, taking his hoof away and turning back to the decrepit mare. “This is what I have done.” He affirmed, casting a stray hoof in the general direction of the heartbroken unicorn.
“Cantor… If you had told her you were going to sacrifice yourself to save the world, I ask you three things: one, would that lessen the pain Twilight feels now, or would it in fact make it worse?” She wasn’t trying to be harsh, but the way she carried her voice made it seem as though she was.
“Two,” She continued, dragging her tired old legs towards Cantor. “Do you really think she would have believed you?”
“Well… I…” Cantor began, unable to break free of the alicorn’s icy stare. “…No…” He eventually admitted. “I… She wouldn’t have believed me…”
“Three,” The mare said in her soft, chalky voice. “And perhaps the most important: do you think she would have fallen in love with you?”
Cantor stared long and hard at the wooden floorboards for a good minute before casting his reply. “No… And that would have been for the best…”
“Nonsense!” The mare cried with a tiny chortle. “Any amount of love is better than no love, and seeing Twilight now, I can tell that the love you shared was strong and true…”
“I know, but… now I’ve left her with a broken future. I mean… just look at her:” Said Cantor, turning to observe the mare’s glassy, lifeless eyes stare into nothing, her little mind, brilliant though it was, failing to comprehend just what had happened.
The grey mare followed Cantor’s gaze and noted that, even in her long time, there were very few occasions where she saw a pony look so void of life, yet was still classified as living. Twilight’s blank expression stirred feeling she hadn’t felt for a long time, and once again, she turned to Cantor, just as he began to speak.
“Why did I promise? Why did I lie? I just wanted to make her happy, and now… now I’ll never get to see her grow up… never grow up with her…”
The old mare frowned. A different kind of frown. Not a frown of disgust, disappointment or anger, rather, a frown of determination, of willpower.
“Yes you will.” She spoke strongly, staring at Cantor in a way nopony had ever before. The glance chilled his bones and blocked all other thoughts. Coupled with that sentence, Cantor didn’t know what to feel.
“…Huh?” He managed to choke out, feeling as though he had heard wrong or had misinterpreted what the mare had meant.
The ancient, bony alicorn smiled warmly to herself in the stallion’s confusion. “Cantor…” She started, ushering Cantor to lay on the floor with her. The stallion obeyed, slowly sinking with the mare, hearing her tired old bones creak under her frail skin. She stared deep into his eyes, and finding no other possible place to look, Cantor stared straight back, now knowing what it felt like to be on the receiving end of one of his captivating looks.
“Twice.” She said, burning her dull, yet truthful eyes into Cantor’s. “Twice before, I have let my job slide, and now I can say I’ve let it slide a third…”
“What… Are you talking about?” Cantor enquired warily, unsure whether what he was hearing was true, or at least what he thought he was hearing…
The old mare chuckled a little, a soft, ladylike laugh; something you may find in upper – class society. “My name, Cantor… My name is Death… And my job is to bring death to ponies who’s time has sadly run out.” She spoke with a lopsided smile, and Cantor wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. Regardless, the mare continued.
“But sometimes, ponies have far more to live for than to die for…” She finished, hoping that Cantor would understand. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
“What do you mean?” The stallion asked, still not entirely believing the ancient alicorn.
“Twilight, Cantor!” She practically yelled, causing Cantor to flinch a little. Death didn’t intend to cause alarm to Cantor, yet she forgot to apologise, knowing that she was about to fix the lives of so many ponies. Fate works in mysterious ways, and sometimes, fate throws you a bone. Just sometimes…
“You, and Twilight!” The mare continued. She cleared her antique throat and calmed down a little, taking several breaths before going on. “I’m saying I’m going to give you a second chance…” Upon saying this, Cantor’s eyes lit up with life and brimmed with liquid bliss.
“Really!? You mean I can… live?” The stallion asked in pure happiness, his broken heart instantly fixing then and there, knowing that this alicorn wouldn’t joke around at all… let alone with a matter she knew was so tender to him. Images of himself and Twilight together again, reunited flashed vividly into his mind. He saw all the promises, all the future memories forging together before his eyes. And it was beautiful…
The time-honoured mare nodded her head peacefully with an air of satisfaction. “Yes, Cantor… You are one of the ponies who has far too much to live for. A lot of the time, death is right; what ponies need at the end of a long and prosperous life; all they want then, is to fall asleep and never wake up… Others, well… aren’t so peaceful or justified…” She clarified, staring deep into Cantor’s soul. “But I can think of only three occasions where death has actually been wrong… You, Cantor, you and Twilight’s legacy far exceeds death and I can tell that you two are going to be together for all eternity…”
Cantor couldn’t find the words to say, he merely broke down into tears of overwhelming joy on the floor, uttering endless thanks to the grey mare for giving him everything he had ever wanted… and more…
“But…” She added, recapturing Cantor’s attention and lashing his body with fear.
“But?” Cantor gasped, horrified about what could ensue.
The mare paused briefly, collecting a very thoughtful face before asking: “How do you feel towards immortality?”
“…What?” Cantor asked, bewildered.
“Do you see living forever as a positive thing, or a negative thing?”
“Well, I… It’s horrible. I’d hate to live forever!” Cantor exclaimed, drawing an overjoyed smile from Death.
“That’s perfect Cantor…” She mused, rising to her hooves, slowly and painfully.
Cantor quickly followed her stance, asking “Why?” several times.
“With your response, Cantor… You have nothing to fear…” She answered, her dull voice laced with happiness and light.
“You’re one of the rare ones, Cantor…” She continued, her broken horn glowing a very dim yellow. “Live your life, Cantor… Live your life as a normal pony with all of your love for Twilight….” Her horn continued to glow as she spoke.
“…Thank you…” Sighed Cantor, bowing his head low to the ground with peacefully closed eyes. “Thank you so much…”
Once more, the alicorn’s smile grew substantially as she replied in her sweet, soothing, kind voice: “No, Cantor… Thank you…”
It was eleven o’ clock over Ponyville and all of the townsponies had fallen into a sorrowful sleep, all hurting after the loss of their dear friend. In his life, Cantor had helped each of them in some way. Whether that be involving himself with their buisness, running errands for them, or sacrificing his life to give them the rest of theirs.
Everypony had fallen to sleep, trying to get over their sadness. Everypony except one – the young librarian, Twilight Sparkle, who was in far too much emotional anguish to even think about sleep. The darkness over the town was cast in the shadow of the void from the pit in Twilight's heart. Everything was dead silent, deafening in fact; Twilight was so wrapped in sorrow, that she didn’t hear the lock turn in her door, nor did she hear the hoofsteps creep through her dead house and up her silent stairs into her bedroom.
Slowly, and even more silently than the heavy mist that loomed in her bedroom, the newcomer entered Twilight's place of rest. The heartbreak was tangible as the entity neared the motionless purple mare. She was totally unaware of the new presence…
All until it spoke.
“I heard there was a young unicorn at this address in need of some cheering up…” Came the voice from behind her. The one voice she had to tell herself she would never hear again – she just heard.
With a gasp, the first sign of emotion she had given for hours, Twilight Sparkle spun around, locking eyes with that perfect stallion, with those huge feathery wings, that muscular neck, and those impossible orange eyes staring at her from the other side of her bed. Instantly, her eyes began to pour with a mixture of relief and pure happiness. She scrambled from her bed, scurried towards Cantor and the first thing she did was give him the hardest slap she could muster.
Before he could even think about what to say, or how to react, Twilight pointed a hoof forcefully at his face.
“That’s for keeping secrets!” She scalded.
“That’s for making me cry!”
“That’s for leaving!”
And without giving Cantor a chance to breathe, she flung her arms so tightly around his neck he couldn’t breathe if he tried.
The next thing he felt were Twilight astounding lips pressed against his, her movements faltering over her enormous sobs of ecstatic releif.
After five solid minutes of passionate kissing, Twilight finally pulled away, and with all the dizziness of her reunion passed, she drew Cantor close and quietly whispered into his ear all her heart told her she needed to say.
“And that’s for coming back…”