Light of Hope
The sun peeked up over the horizon, the dawn finally arriving. The sun's normal vibrancy was blocked by a sky filled with dark and ominous gray clouds. A steady rain had started overnight and had continued on through the morning. Grimveil had already awakened his contestants and they were all gathered to bear witness to the next battle.
Celestia, Luna, and Nyx waited anxiously on the edge of the arena. At this point, every contestant had battled except for Nyx and Luna. The three feared the announcement of their impending struggle. Grimveil eventually climbed into his balcony, accompanied by Shank Spear and Silver Chevron.
"Good morning everyone," Grimveil said with an evil sneer. "I trust you all slept well. If not, then let the excitement of battle invigorate you. The first bout of this glorious day shall be Luna versus Pestilence!"
Grimveil's voice seemed to echo endlessly through the coliseum as Luna froze in place. Although she was grateful to not be fighting Nyx, she was shell shocked by the fact she now had to battle an Apocalypse Pony. Despite her fear, she worked up her courage and forced herself to move into the arena, where she stared at Pestilence head on, challenging her.
The arena was dead silent. Luna stood in a defensive stance as Pestilence stared back at her. The Apocalypse Pony’s pale gray mane drooped sadly over her head, and the sores that covered her body seemed to almost pulse with pain and agony. Although she seemed ready to fall over dead, Pestilence’s gaze was very determined, and her eyes harnessed the same ferocity as that of War and Death.
After just a few seconds of silence, the bell rang loudly. Pestilence slowly walked forward, gradually turning into a sickly green mist.
"So, you are similar to Famine... " Luna said to herself, preparing her strategy.
It was late morning when Twilight finally awoke, the two days of no sleep finally rested away. She made her way down to the first floor of the library to find Spike fast asleep in a chair. She decided not to wake him as she made her way into the kitchen. She made herself an enormous breakfast, being that she had barely eaten in the past two days, and enjoyed a quiet morning. With a full belly, Twilight's mind was able to slip back into gear, and return to the matter at hoof. They knew who Grimveil was, but they needed to find a way to inform Celestia. Needing to work on something while she though, Twilight busied herself cleaning the kitchen while she contemplated the situation. She pondered the few options she and her friends had, and her thoughts were only broken as Spike stumbled into the kitchen, still half asleep.
"Oh, hey Twilight. Did you sleep ok?" he asked groggily.
"Yes I did," she answered. "We found out the identity of Grimveil. He's actually an ancient tyrant of Equestria named Malicious Shadow, and we believe the key to his defeat lies with the Elements of Harmony. We need to let the Princess know, but unfortunately the old library is closed off to us now thanks to a protection spell. I don't know what to do!" Twilight hung her head as Spike patted her on the back.
“It’ll be alright, Twilight.” He comforted. “You’re the most talented Pony in all of Equestria. You’ll come up with a solution eventually, just don’t give up. Think of Star Swirl the Bearded. He was the most talented unicorn to ever live and created hundreds of world-renown spells, all because he didn’t give up.”
The mention of Star Swirl jogged something in Twilights memory. It only took her a few seconds of recollecting to remember what it was. A couple weeks ago, she had been reading one of his biographies and took note of certain passages. Without even saying a word to Spike, she darted into the library and quickly pulled out the biography, skimming the pages until she found one of the passages.
In his final years of life, Star Swirl had attempted to complete several spells that he had begun years before. Dedicating all his magic to the completion of these spells, he created some of the greatest magics known to this day. After his death, a list was discovered amongst his possessions that named all the spells he was unable to complete. Over the years, unicorns have managed to complete many of these spells. However, several still remained; their formulas being too complex to configure. One spell in particular has had so many failed attempts at completion that it was deemed impossible. Star Swirl called it the Spectre Spell, a spell designed to convert a pony's body into an ectoplasmic energy, allowing him/her to become invisible and phase through both material and immaterial objects as if they were a ghost.
“This spell would be exactly what we need!” Twilight exclaimed.
"I bet you could complete that spell and use it to ghost right through that barrier!" Spike explained with enthusiasm. Twilight looked at the page with both amazement and doubt.
"I don't know Spike. It's a good idea, but it says this spell was deemed impossible to complete. What makes you think I can complete it? The Unicorns who worked on this spell know a lot more about magic than I do." Twilight replied.
"Yea, but Celestia even said she never met a Unicorn with your potential before. I'm pretty sure if theres anypony who can do, it's you!" Spike reassured.
"Well I'll have to bring every book I have on Spell-making, but perhaps you're right Spike. Go get everyone else and tell them to meet me in the town square!" Twilight ordered as she began to gather her books. Spike immediately left to go find the others.
Half an hour later, the six mares had reassembled in the center of Ponyville.
"Alright girls," Twilight began, "I’ve discovered a way that appears to be our best chance at getting through that barrier. We need to head to the Equestrian Magic Museum and search through all of Star Swirls research notes on the Spectre Spell. If I can complete it, we might be able to use it to ghost through that barrier." They all looked at her with confused expressions.
"Who’s this Star Swirl feller?" Applejack finally asked.
"No time to explain. We need to get to Manehattan as fast as possible!" Twilight snapped back. The six of them immediately departed for Canterlot to obtain a chariot to transport them all the way to Manehattan.
"I'll be honest with ya Twilight, I'm not really lookin forward to goin back to Manehattan. You remember me tellin ya that story? Way too hoity-toity for me." said Applejack.
"I know AJ, but that's where Star Swirls research notes are, and I'll need you guys to assist me in completing that spell. Just be glad we don't have to visit your relatives."
The six of them arrived in Canterlot soon after and acquired a royal chariot and two solider ponies to pull it. Just minutes later, they were speeding towards the metropolitan city.
Pestilence drew ever closer to Luna with her slow approach, gradually fading into a nauseating mist. As she neared the center of the arena and completed her transformation, she lunged herself forward at Luna. Luna took flight at Pestilences charge, putting all her strength and speed in avoiding the green cloud. Unlike Famine, Pestilence attacked aggressively. She chased Luna at full speed, their battle quickly becoming a game of cat and mouse.
“Will she be ok?" Nyx asked.
"Due to her younger age, Luna is lacking in power," Celestia answered. "But she is very intelligent. I'm sure she'll be alright." Despite the assuring words she spoke to Nyx, Celestia looked back to the arena with concern in her eyes. She then sucked in a breath, and whispered quietly. "Be careful, Luna."
Luna banked hard, continuing to try and out race Pestilence as she soared along the outer wall of the arena. She waited until Pestilence lunged out again before spreading her wings and flipping over. In that moment, she unleashed a barrage of lighting, sending the bolts firing in every direction in hopes of catching Pestilence's gaseous body in the crossfire.
For the most part, Pestilence was able to dodge the lighting, but a single bolt nicked the edge of her cloud-like form. For a moment, her body seized up under the current, but she recovered quickly and flew away from Luna before the moon princess could attack again.
Discovering her opponent's weakness, Luna tried to repeat her strategy. Unfortunately it was no longer effective. Pestilence took strength away from her pursuit speed and applied it to her evasion, making it for more difficult for Luna to strike her. Luckily for Luna, Pestilence was unable to get close, as it would drop the swiftness of her evasions and make her susceptible to an attack. In a sense, they were both at a standstill.
The battle continued like this for several minutes. Luna would shoot some lightning, and Pestilence would dodge. The battle fell into a rhythm, and it became apparent Grimveil was growing bored. No pony was sure what he would do if he wasn't entertained by the battles, but both Celestia and Nyx couldn't help but glance at one another nervously.
Luna began to see that she and Pestilence were at a stalemate, and she needed to come up with something new before she wore herself out. She tried to move as Pestilence did, but Pestilence countered by moving in sporadic patterns the moon princess couldn't hope to duplicate.
Things then turned even worse for Luna as Pestilence began using a strategy of her own. She swiftly whisked across the field, ducking into Luna's blind spot. The moon princess tried to turn to keep her eye on Pestilence, but could see nothing but a trail. The trail encircled, and soon Luna realized she was surrounded on all sides by Pestilences mist body.
Celestia cringed. She knew Luna could only unleash lightning generally in a straight line. All Pestilence had to do was dissipate where she shot and the battle would be over. Pestilence didn't wait for Luna to respond. In a sudden motion she clenched her halo form around Luna, preparing to unleash her deadly disease magics.
CRASH! A loud clash of lightning could be heard throughout the arena. In a clever move, Luna had summoned a bolt of lightning from the air above her and struck herself. Unable to be damaged by her own lightning magic, her body surged with the energy, and as soon as Pestilence touched her, she was stunned and sent flying, even being forced to enter her regular form again. But Luna's strategy was not without its price as she found herself in a daze. Pestilence struggled to reassume her mist form and lingered a few feet away from Luna.
"She's very quick," Luna said to herself. "And she's lacking in power just as I am. If I can't outdo her speed somehow, I won't be able to win this..." In this short lull between the two dazed competitors, Luna's attention drew upwards into the skies above the coliseum. As she looked up, she noticed a few high-flying clouds that moved into the barrier, which caused them to dissipate.
"I have an Idea..."Luna said to herself with a smirk.
The break came to an abrupt stop has Pestilence had fully reassumed her mist form and was lunging at Luna yet again. The battle had resumed its previous rhythm, where Pestilence attacked and Luna dodged in response.
“My Lord, you look disgusted.” Shank Spear said to Grimveil.
“This battle has become too repetitive. Luna's stunning counter earlier was impressive, but everything else has been so dull. If they don’t change it soon then I will force them to make it more exciting.” Grimveil replied, resent heavy in his voice.
Grimveil got his wish, however, as Luna faltered. Her speed slowed, and the moon princess was forced to land. Her breathing was heavy, the battle taking its toll.
Pestilence also took notice of Luna's weakness, and lunged towards her like a striking serpent. The cloud focused into a single stream, as if she was going to pierce Luna's chest like a spear.
It was exactly what Luna wanted.
The moment Pestilence was close Luna turned her head and pointed her horn at her opponent. She then cast out a magical barrier. It was at first a flat wall, which stopped Pestilence’s approach. The magic then extended. Four more walls surged forth, followed by a fifth.
Pestilence became trapped within the resulting cube, which then morphed into a smooth, perfect sphere of magic. Like a bug trapped in a jar, Pestilence pounded her smoke like form against the barrier, but it held strong.
Luna then smiled, casting her lightening into the barrier. The interior of the sphere became filled with sparking energy, which lanced and pierced Pestilence’s smoky form. The Apocalypse Pony was forced to revert to her physical body, and even then Luna kept up her assault, spending all her magic until Pestilence finally collapsed within the bubble, defeated.
Grimveil stopped his hooves in applause.
“Excellent display my dear Luna. You undoubtedly derived your strategy from the barrier I use around this coliseum, am I wrong? A marvelous use of resources, Princess!" Grimveil said in approval.
Luna ignored Grimveil's praise, and returned to her place in the arena's seats with Celestia and Nyx. Celestia embraced Luna warmly, unable to hide how happy she was to see Luna had won and done so without harm.
The day, however, was not over. As Grimveil finished applauding he lifted his voice again, calling for the next match. "Let the battles continue! The next match shall be Nyx versus Nightmare Moon!"
Both Celestia and Luna turned to their unexpected ally, whose eyes had narrowed to pinpoints. She looked across the arena seating. Nightmare Moon had been released from the infirmary the day before, and was looking as fit as ever. She also wore a dark sneer, and her eyes flashed with vengeful rage. She was going to make Nyx pay for the defeat Celestia had handed her in the tournament’s first bout.
Luna pulled herself free of Celestia's embrace, and leaned forward in her seat as the two mares took to the arena floor. They were both mirrors to the mare she used to be. One, the dark queen of another Equestria, who had bested the Elements of Harmony, and the other, a copy of her dark self that had fought for her own redemption.
Two shadows of the moon princess, and Luna wasn't sure which one would be the stronger.
The chariot finally arrived at Manehatten and the six ponies were dropped off in the center of town. They headed straight for the museum, Twilight and Applejack having to force the other four along to prevent them from getting lost in the scenery of such a different place. It wasn’t long before they got to the museum and were speaking with the Head Curator.
“Welcome to the Equestrian Museum of Magic.” The Curator greeted them. "How may I be of assistance?"
“We’re here on official business from Canterlot. I’m Twilight Sparkle, personal student of Princess Celestia.” Twilight said, pulling out some paperwork that proved her authority. “We need to see the research notes of Star Swirl the Bearded that are kept in the museum vaults.” After examining the paperwork, the Curator led them into the basement floors of the museum and to a giant vault. The curator used some spell to unlock the vault door and reveal piles of old papers.
Twilight and the others rummaged through them, and eventually came across a stack of papers pertaining to the Spectre Spell. The curator then led Twilight and the others to a laboratory for magic spells also located somewhere in the basement levels.
“Alright everypony, let’s get to work,” Twilight said. She picked up the first page and began to read.