Chapter I: Heart of the Storm
"I'M SORRY!" the cream-colored mare shrieked as she fell, feeling her body pass through chilling clouds and watch the sun slowly dominate the sky. "I WON'T FAIL YOU THIS TIME, I PROMISE!" she kept screaming. Her tears and blood mingled as it dripped off her, shooting up into the air as she fell. The ice crystals had slowly begun to melt, and her mane and tail were soaking wet. Her amber eyes dripped with pain and she couldn't stop herself from crying. She could feel the time pass and slow down as she fell. The embodiment of time was being drawn out of her. Don't leave me behind, it said to her, I will help you and leave you with my embodiment as I had done so long ago. I am eternal. The mare nodded to herself, and with a small cringe of agony, a bolt of white-hot light radiated off of her. Her continued fall made her feel the time twist and bend around her, seemingly to no end. The stars had soon arisen around her, and the moon wavered willingly above her, giving the two-pronged spear the bleeding limelight of the sky.
As the hours passed, she had no energy conserved to try to keep time slow enough so she could heal her wounds. She summoned hope from within herself and beckoned it. It arose, speaking in soft tones, Stay strong-willed, my young student. Not many fillies have the same hope you did for the sake of Equestria. One day I know you will return. I know. At that, another piercing shot of color radiated off her, and time resumed, but a new will to survive burned lively within her. Letting herself free-fall towards the earth, she opened her eyes and tried to pry the two-pronged spear from her body. Using her magic, she began to pull and tug. Time went faster and faster the more time she had dedicated to healing herself, and by the time she had pulled out the spear, she was crashing through branches, feeling apples hit her shoulders and pelt her wings.
The cream mare hit the ground with a loud shriek and moan of pain, and sharp shk sound as the spear landed right by her. Blood-shot eyed and tired, the mare lay on her side and groaned. She flexed her wings tiredly and looked up at the sky. There were no menacing clouds and the sky seemed perplexed at a falling mare- particularly since she was a Pegasus- who could not simply walk and trot on the clouds to safety instead. She glared up at the dome of the sky and turned her attention to the trees she had just crashed through. They smelled fresh, looked healthy, and the grass was soft, minus her blood still dribbling furiously out of her wounds. She rested her head back and rested her limbs.
I made it... she thought deliriously, I shattered the Tether.
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-The Higher Heavens-
The hooded colt looked around the elongated hall the cream mare had just escaped from. The glass floor had a demeaning, large hole in it and he stared down it repeatedly, day after day since her escape. It's just not possible, he kept saying to himself. Those embodiments should have long since died since her return... his thinking was interrupted as he heard the hoof-steps of his leading officers. Quickly and fluently, he put his hood back over his face and let them walk in.
"Darius, you called of us?" one of the stallions asked. If there was ever a contradiction to tradition, The Higher Heavens would be it. There could be Pegasi who had the strength of an Earth pony or an Earth pony that could fly. However, in the cream mare's case- and a rare one at that- one that could use a highly accessible and large arsenal of magic as a Pegasus.
The hooded colt named Darius seated himself on a piece of furniture and stared at the commanding officer who had addressed him.
"Yes, Ember Frost, I did." The lead Colt named Ember Frost slowly walked up to the base of the stairs where Darius was standing, avoiding the shattered hole where the cream mare had passed through.
"What was it about?" Ember questioned, looking directly at Darius. Darius cleared his throat promptly and turned back around to look out the tall window at the end of the room.
"I want to know if the Courts have made any more progress on trying to dampen our lines," Ember carefully made a movement with his head to have the other officers walk up and stand by him.
"They've retaken the Librarian's Square and parts of our Grand hall," another one said, his voice slightly gruff. He had scars layering his body, his wings were scarred, but he was alive.
"The courts have brought out the Legions of Alicorns as well," the third Colt mentioned. Ember stood straight and prepared to be beaten or tragically thrown out of the Council's military. Darius settled deeper into his chair, and using his magic, pulled up a map of the war effort. Small pins were everywhere on the map of the Higher Heavens. He put pins where Ember had mentioned the Courts were making progress.
"They have brought out the Alicorns, have they?" he inquired for clarification. He turned his face to look straight at the third colt.
"Yes, yes they have," he answered strongly. Darius grunted in frustration. He turned his attention to the map, and saw that the Courts were letting forces lose battles so that the strongest of their forces were inside the Grand Hall, Council-side. He shook his head and setting the map aside, strode down the down, pushed past the three of his officers and pushed open the back doors of the room. They creaked and groaned as he did, and made a booming sound as they magically locked themselves into place. Darius stared into the cobblestone world the founders had built. The sky was pink and airy, and Celestia's light still filtered through the part of the Tether that hadn't been destroyed.
"Get me the Librarian, Council-side, if she's still alive," Darius called behind him. Ember was the officer who responded,
-The Council's Library-
The Library of the council was not only grand, it was filled with the darker knowledge of the Higher Heavens. The Council had been given permission to keep this knowledge safe by the Courts of Angels. Though separated, the Courts and the Council had both always been part of the same Higher Heavens and both equally protected it by any means possible, despite their drastic differences. But the Library of the Council did not equally reflect what knowledge it held. It was lathered in gold trim and leather furniture, its many crackling fireplaces did it justice to make it seem just like home. But when wartime had appeared, the fanciness went away, and the old sections of the Library burst into life. Candles were lit and the high-arched ceiling boomed with darkness. The doors were opened and many Unicorns came to study- and only study under the best of the best and learn the most difficult of the deadly spells they were meant to carry within themselves.
"Alright!" the lead Unicorn yelled, his voice booming throughout the Library, "Again!" "We don't want our soldiers falling like FLIES out there! We want to END the Courts, not make them any more strong than they are!" "Go!" Every Unicorn's horn was glowing with a fierce magic. Not the usual purple, but a seething, black darkness. White sparks would occasionally accompany them, but as the spells grew more deadly, the risk of falling into a permanent state of that spell was all more than possible.
"You," the Lead Unicorn hand-picked a student from the floor. "Come here and show the rest of these dimwits how to do this spell. If you need, kill one of them." The Unicorn nodded. She was a smaller mare with an auburn mane and light blue eyes. She conducted the spell and the others watched, quite perplexed at the ease and fluidity of their peer. As the lead Unicorn stepped down from her pedestal, the three Stallions from the Hall appeared.
"You're summoned by your Higher Power, Sir Podoll," the lead Unicorn seemed shocked.
"I thought he no longer needed Unicorns to defend the Grand Hall?" The lead Stallion took out his dagger and thrust it under Podoll's chin, growling,
"Don't question your superiors," and as he retreated the dagger, Podoll obediently followed the commanders back through the many shelves of his Library, and soon would be facing the Hooded Colt himself.
The cream mare blinked slowly, taking in her surroundings. Sunlight brilliantly shone through the trees, and was significantly brighter than when she had fallen. I must have passed out... she thought. She glanced at her wounds, and the blood had slowed down, but they were still gaping and menacing. Sighing, she stretched her wings and gently moved her legs about. I still have no idea where I am. In the distance, the cream mare heard apples falling off of trees and heard their gentle thuds as they landed into a basket and on top of each other. Her eyes widened and she smiled gently. I think I know who this is. I've seen her work so hard while I had my contract. Time passed, and the sound of falling apples had stopped. The cream mare craned her neck to try and find the direction of the source of the sound, but instead heard not too distant hooves trotting against the healthy earth. Resting her head, she saw an orange leg stop nearly a foot from her face.
"Well howdy, stranger!" the orange earth pony stated, her Texan accent flooding the cream mare's ears as she sat back and let her saddlebag drop to the ground. "Ah thought Ah heard some crashing and stuff earlier, but thought it was my younger sister and her little club mucking around, and..." she trailed off and cocked her head slightly as she saw the wounds the cream mare had received. Clearing her throat, the orange earth pony noted, "say, uh, you don't look too good..." the cream mare retorted in a tired voice,
"I'm not, thank you." the orange pony frowned slightly, said a quick,
"Well..." she wiped a small bead of sweat off of her forehead, and continued, "Ah ain't just gonna leave you here." The cream mare gave up trying to say anything more and laid her head back on the ground.
"Fine," she mumbled. Applejack smiled and sat next to the wounded mare and checked her wounds.
"What in tarnation were y'all doin' 'fore you just fell outta the sky?" The cream mare glanced back up at the dome and glared- again before replying,
"I had a contract with the Council, you see... and there were odds that I had to beat, I had to save this wonderful place from falling into madness..." Applejack's smile wavered and she narrowed her eyes slightly in confusion.
"How 'bout Ah first get y'all patched up and on yer feet 'fore you waste yer energy speakin'," Applejack responded, back in her friendly mood. She checked her saddlebag for some basic medical supplies and pulled out some bandages. "Here, do ya think ya can stand up quick for me?" she said as she held the end of the bandages with her teeth. "I'll just try to wrap you up all nice and pretty..." she began to gently wrap the cream mare with the bandage, with the cream mare automatically lifting her tired wings so the bandage wouldn't bind them to her body. It only took a couple of minutes, but Applejack smiled when she was done with her work. The cream mare smiled tiredly and replied,
"Thanks," Applejack grinned back and responded happily,
"Not a problem, stranger!" before walking away, she picked up her saddlebag and began walking towards the farm. "Say, what's yer name, anyway?" The cream mare limped to catch up, and when they were finally in step she replied,
"My name's Avalon," Applejack took in the name and nodded quietly.
"That's quite a pretty name, Avalon," Avalon smiled again and inquired,
"So what's your name?" she quickly added in after, "I take it this is your farm, I heard you bucking apples earlier," Applejack grinned and her eyes shone.
"Mah name's Applejack! And this here's mah family's Farm," she stopped on top of the hill they were on and turned around. There acres upon acres of trees, all dotted with fresh apples. Avalon's jaw dropped as she admired the scenery.
"It's beautiful," she whispered. Applejack made an agreeing sound and led Avalon into the farm.
"Now it appears yer pretty similar to everypony else in Ponyville here, so Ah think Ah will letcha' rest easy now and Ah'll go tell the others 'bout you, okay?" Avalon settled on a blanket and nodded tiredly.
"Sounds good, Applejack," Applejack took an easy breath in, and silently slipped out the door behind her as she left to go find the others. What the hell?... the cream mare thought as the barn door closed behind Applejack, maybe Equestria hadn't fallen in to madness after all... she paused for a second and thought back to when she had fallen to earth in the first place. A slight pang struck her in the chest and she winced. I'm their bastard mare. Time... oh no.... a tear slid down her cheeks. Time turned itself back as I was falling. It's giving me time. After blinking a couple more times she re-checked her logic, Or perhaps this is just the eye of the Storm?
The clouds were rampant and storming, rains shook the Higher Heavens as the war raged onward. The Council- those that had decided to Tether the Heavens from Equestria- had started closing in on the Court's forces in the Grand Hall. The Library was what the Court really needed to retake and study so that the Council could collapse, but the Grand Hall would mean that the Heavens would begin to swing in their favor. Only the Courts understood the power of the Essences of Life and what they could possibly do, but they wished to send those essences to a being that had a better chance of stopping the war- from a completely different perspective. The Higher Heavens had never gone to war, but with what they knew, magic could span distances that they never knew was possible. They dug trenches deep into the architecture of their ancestors, and thus they would march across the various mazes they had created. The womb of the Heavens was a world filled with blood, trenches, the stench of death, and worst, the Dead Man's land that was the place a Trench was not placed. The Pinnacle of Heaven was the only area that wouldn't be used as a far refuge because both sides knew that that was the only thing holding Heaven Together. But even then as the war rages onward, neither side could imagine what dangers they would create if the Pinnacle was touched.
Deep in the Trenches of the Grand Hall, the Council's Colts were huddled in dark, heavy blankets. They shivered as the water from the skies dripped deliriously upon them.
"Dodge, I didn't sign up for this," one of the younger colts groaned, "I thought Heaven was supposed to be a place for us to guard, not-" he was hit in the face by the butt of a dagger and he retreated further into the corner of the Trench as another Colt hissed into his ear,
"Your mouth better stay shut or I'll SEW IT SHUT!" the first colt nodded and cowered in his blanket. The other colt named Dodge didn't stir. "Dodge is dead, August." the colt named August narrowed his eyes and tackled the second colt to the floor of the trench and repeatedly hit him with the weighted horse shoes they were wearing.
"DON'T BUCKING LIE TO MY FACE!" August roared, his face contorted in outrage. The adrenaline pumped through his veins, and he was quickly thrown off by the first Colt, who in return pulled out a small clockwork dagger. It had a flintlock attached to its side.
"You listen to me," he started, his eyes narrowed down to slits, backing August into the darkest part of the trench, "I don't give a buck what you think about this whole damned war.. but as long as you're fighting," he slid the dagger across the chest of August, and blood slowly dripped from the new wound, "you're going to help the Council defeat the bastards who wanted to keep Equestria Tethered to Heaven," "Do you hear me?" August nodded quickly, and he collapsed to the ground as the Colt put the dagger back in its place by his flank.
"Commander," a new Colt ran down to meet the leader, "there's news that the Court of Angels' soldiers have made an impact on our lines, just a few miles to the West," the Commander gave the Colt an emotionless stare and replied,
"Send a team of two hundred to meet the Court's soldiers. I want them ended." the colt nodded.
-The Court of Angels-
Both Thrones of the Council and the Courts were untouched- there was simply too much magic put in place for it to be broken, as in the deeper parts of both Thrones, many Unicorns sacrificed their lives for the good of either Court and Council to keep the magic strong enough to resist just about everything. The Alicorn of the Court of Angels anxiously awaited the day for the war to stop, but it had already been going on too long. The fighting did stop not but a few days ago, she thought to herself as she began to relax, I wonder... no, it's impossible. The Tether cannot be broken, but what if?... what did they do to her?... she shook her head. No, think Logically, Dawn. There was no way. It's an old mare's tale, even you know that. The doors to her throne suddenly flew open, and her gaze shot up to the Librarian. The doors closed behind the Pegasus, and he slowly walked up to the Throne.
"You requested of me, Dawn?" Dawn nodded and led her equine friend to the outside balcony. She motioned for him to look down towards the clouds and where the small dots of fires were.
"Look at this war we've started," she breathed quietly, closing her eyes. The Librarian frowned slightly and looked perplexed as he gazed back at his leader.
"What do you mean, Dawn?" "We didn't start anything!" Dawn opened her eyes and led the Librarian back inside. After all the doors had closed, she mentioned softly to him,
"This war cannot last forever, the way we've been fighting is pointless.. it's not going to go anywhere," The Librarian pulled up a map of the progress and showed it to Dawn.
"Dawn, there has been progress, it's just..." Dawn finished his phrase quietly,
"... we've lost so many already." "All over being Tethered away from Equestria or not," The Librarian sighed and started walking back out, Dawn announced loudly, "But we are noble! We will shatter the Council and save the Heavens and restore the peace that we once had!" Angels, save us, Dawn thought proudly, Defend us.
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