Tartarus Forged

by SvenFoxx

12. The Choices We Make


Time had indeed resumed normally for Fluttershy, but at the same time she was hyper-aware of everyone around her. She could see Twilight dropping her sword and reaching into her bag with a look of alarm. Rarity and Sunset were only just turning towards her, their horns lighting up. Applejack and Pinkie Pie, who the Manticore had run between to get to Fluttershy, were both diving towards the beast with looks of determination.

And Rainbow Dash, the one who had shrieked her name, had a familiar look in her eyes, a look that had haunted Fluttershy’s nightmares for years. It was a look that spoke volumes of her character. Her eyes were narrowing in righteous rage, the pupils narrowed, and a snarl was stretching across her face as she tensed, her wings flaring out.

It declared her intention to protect her friends… even if it meant sacrificing herself in the process.

‘No…’ she thought, feeling her heart fall into her stomach. ‘Not again… Not again…’ Fluttershy could see the Pegasus magic, a hazy muted blue, as it flooded the rainbow maned Pegasus’ wings.

Very few ponies knew that Rainbow Dash didn’t use her magic when flying. It was a self-imposed limitation, at first done as a means to train herself. After all, Pegasus magic aided in flight… but what if you were already a really fast Pegasus without the magic? What would happen if you flew with it? Well, one thing Rainbow hadn't taken into account was inflation. Without anywhere for her already rather potent magic to go, it just kept building in her, stretching her reserves bigger and bigger, getting stronger and stronger.

And then she used it.

That was what started the Cloudsdale incident, and Rainbow Dash decided that using her magic like that was a last resort, if that. It was dangerous. It was lethal. Her body could barely handle the strain of that much power running through it.

And she was about to use it.

‘No…’ Fluttershy didn’t want this. ‘No…’ She didn’t want her best friend to take that risk, not for her. ‘No.’

Twilight was now pulling a much longer device than her gun from her pack. Like the gun she tried to shoot Nightmare Moon with, it had a barrel, though this one was longer and thicker. She was speedily… bending it in half? Oh, it was meant to open that way. She stuck something in it and closed it with a snap.

Whatever this thing was, it was likely just as lethal as the gun. If Twilight was fast enough and accurate enough, she would likely kill the Manticore before it could kill Fluttershy, and hopefully before Rainbow Dash could act.

While that should have reassured Fluttershy… it didn’t.

Why did it seem that violence was suddenly the answer to everything? Fluttershy hated violence. Violence led to hate. Hate led to anger, and anger led to violence. This was a cycle she knew all too well, and refused to be a part of.

But if she didn’t do something, someone was going to get badly hurt. Her, Rainbow Dash, and/or the Manticore.

“Well, if it’s power you need, I have it.”

If she had power she could stop them, stop the Manticore herself. Then there would be no need to kill it, and no need for Rainbow Dash to risk herself.

“It’s all or nothing though. If you use my power against the Manticore, you’ll kill it.”

But… she didn’t want to kill the Manticore. Chances were they had just encroached in its territory. It was acting odd, yes, but the world was currently in a permanent Night with living shadows attacking anyone and anything. Odd stopped applying days ago.

“Make your choice, little Sapling. Power, or no power?”

She didn’t like these choices.

“Kill, or be killed?”

She didn't want either one.

“Death… or Life?”

And with a suddenness that would have given a cheetah whiplash, Fluttershy understood.

“Life,” she whispered, her eyes glinting with resolve and her heart beating with the surety of her decision.

“Good! Very good! I look forward to meeting you, little Sapling. Until then…”


Everything came to a dead, screeching halt, including the Manticore. Everyone was slightly confused, not sure why they had stopped. They all looked at Fluttershy, who was the one that spoke, and gasped.

Her eyes were shining with green light.

She stared up at the Manticore, not with determination, not with anger, and not even with pity. She smiled and raised a hoof, petting its red mane. Some of the green energy flowed gently, like smoke on a breeze, down her leg and into its head. To the shock of everyone, it started to relax, and then purr, of all things.

“Come on, what’s wrong? What scared you so badly into lashing out at everything?” she asked in an almost cooing voice, her eyes still shining.

The Manticore gave what sounded like a half whimper, half growl.

Fluttershy nodded, glancing at the stump that used to have a paw attached to it. “I know she did, but she was protecting us.” She looked around at the unicorns of the group. “Do any of you know anything that could reattach his leg?”

Sunset, Rarity, and Twilight blinked. “Ah…” Twilight hesitated, before raising a hand. “I can’t reattach it, but I can close the wound.”

The Manticore growled at her, hiding its injured leg away from her. Fluttershy tapped its nose, getting its attention. “She won’t hurt you anymore, I promise.” She looked at Twilight. “Right?”

Twilight barely restrained herself from shuddering. Those eyes shone with kindness, love, and the desire to help everyone around her… but there was also a glint in them.

There was steel in this Pegasus.

“Sure. I won’t hurt him.” She said. She was very proud of herself for not stuttering.

Fluttershy looked at the Manticore with a smile. “See? Let her heal you.”

The Manticore still growled, but presented its paw. Twilight slowly walked up, trying to be as non-threatening as she could. Whether she was trying to not aggravate the Manticore, or Fluttershy, she wasn’t entirely sure. Her hand lit up with purple magic and she started to direct it into the limb.

“Now, why were you acting out? What happened?” Fluttershy asked the Manticore, drawing its attention off of Twilight so she could work.

It growled and gave a weird half-snort and half-whimper.

Fluttershy gasped. “What? Oh no!”

“What? What happened?” Applejack asked.

Fluttershy turned to them, looking badly rattled. “It’s the Shadows. They’re attacking everything in the forest,” she whispered. “His family was caught in it, and he lost his mate. He was hiding with his daughter, and we were approaching the hiding spot.”

Applejack’s eyes widened, and she felt her heart clench. Her eyes narrowed and she snarled. “She’s tearing families apart?!” she growled in rage. “I’m beginning to think Twi’s got the right idea here!”

A hoof on her back made her flinch, but she calmed when she realized it was Pinkie Pie, giving her a sad smile. After a moment, she responded with one of her own.

“We need to hurry.” Sunset said into the sudden silence. “Our absolute goal is to find the Elements before Nightmare Moon and get back to Canterlot with them. The Princess will know what to do then.” Her eyes roamed the faces of everyone gathered, and she sighed. “I know you want revenge,” she said, more to Twilight than anyone. “I understand. Believe me, I do… but this is more important. Nightmare Moon is causing death and destruction on a level not seen in hundreds of years. The Elements of Harmony are the only thing that we know can stop her. Recovering them intact is our primary goal.”

Twilight frowned, but kept her focus on the leg, carefully pulling the Manticore’s hide over the stump and quickening his healing factor.

Everyone agreed with her, some a bit hesitantly, and when Twilight was done and the Manticore was on its way, they resumed their trek deeper into the woods. Some a bit more determined to have a go at the Nightmare.