Ebony and Ivory: To the Future

by SGZone

Chapter 4

Ivory stared through the sights of the rifle and took a careful aim at the red ringed target 50 meters away. Taking a deep breath he poured his veridian magic into the barrel and squeezed the trigger, exhaling as he fired. An emerald bolt raced across the field and hit the innermost white ring. He couldn’t help but grin. The two brothers had of course practiced with a variety of spell guns before, but this time it felt different. Their practices at the castle were a lot more controlled after Ebony accidentally overloaded his first one and causing it to erupt into flames.The incident almost gave their mother a heart attack. Now, there was no controlled environment. It was just him with fellow cadets, though he, officially, wasn’t one yet. Still he was allowed to train to serve their Hive. Licking his lips he took aim once more.

Ebony, on the other hand, was having a nightmare of a time with the exercise. He had become hesitant and fearful of firing them after several other mishaps besides destroying his first one. He aimed down the sights once again and trickled his magic into the chamber. Ebony fired once again but the little bit of magic he used caused the crimson bolt to disappear halfway to the mark. His target remained untouched.

“Cadet Ebony! What do you think you’re doing?” Alexandrae shouted in his ear, causing him to jump. Ebony opened his mouth to respond but stammered for the words. “I see your excuses are as weak as your magic.” She growled. “You think you can bring these half-hearted attempts into this academy? You are the only cadet here to not touch their target. Hell you can’t even muster up the magic to miss. Now, I know you have stronger magic than that. Use it! Quit being a coward and hit the damn target!” She barked. Ebony looked to his sides at the other cadets. Some were giggling as his aunt chewed him up like a bone. Many more smugly smiled down at him, a feeling of changeling superiority and vindication washing over them. Hot shame bottled up in his throat as his cheeks burned red.

“You wanna see more? Fine!” He muttered to himself and took aim once again. This time he funneled his magic into the barrel, and the rifle hummed to life. As he pumped more into it, the humm turned into a high pitched buzz. A crimson light illuminated the opening of the cylinder. As more magic charged Alexandrae’s drill sergeant act faded and was quickly replaced with fear.

“Ebony, be careful-” she blurted out, but it was too late. The spell was loosed and the gun recoiled into his shoulder, hard, but Ebony managed to keep it under control. The furious bolt raced down the range and struck the target. The stone exploded with magical energy and a crater was created inside one of the inner rings. Completely destroying a part of the target. Debris covered the surrounding area.

Alexandrae looked in shock at the damage. Her arms half outstretched to Ebony in an attempt to stop him. She looked back at the other cadets who were shocked in their own ways. They looked from the target, to her, and back again. Ebony on the other hand looked at his results with pride. Finally, after so long of trying to control his magic he had fired a bolt without damaging himself or others. He flashed a cocky arrogant smile up at her. Alexandrae looked down at him in annoyance. As much as she wanted to beat on him for not only giving her a heart attack but also flashing her that stupid smirk. But she couldn’t, though she was annoyed, she was also proud of his development. She curled her fingers in and stood up straight; trying to regain her composure.

“Well it seems you are at least competent to get a shot off after all, now maybe you can shoot properly. Seeing as you only hit the… uh…” Alexandrae looked back at the demolished target. Trying to determine where the magical lance struck exactly, but as more stone fell away from was left, the examination proved to be difficult. “Well I don’t know exactly where you hit the target but it wasn’t a bullseye so keep training and stop slacking off!” She barked and spun around. “The rest of you... Did you come here to watch or become the Hive’s best? Get back to work!” She roared. The cadets scrambled and returned to their exercises.

Ivory glared at Ebony’s target his face burning with envy. It didn’t matter if he ever hit the bullseye. The purpose of this exercise was to increase soldiers’ accuracy so they could use as few shots as possible. Changelings have the least amount of available magic compared to other races so each shot needed to count. By the end of training each changeling would need to fire at least 20 bullseyes in a row to graduate, but Ebony wouldn’t need to.

It didn’t matter where he hit the target for his magic was like a cannonball. No, it was even more fearsome. Like a force of nature demolishing everything in its path. Ivory blushed as he had to admire the twisted beauty in the carnage. It was so powerful that the destroyed stone looked smooth like it had been sliced by a scalpel. He morosely turned back to his own target, which looked like a piece of badly burnt toast.

Meanwhile, Ebony continued demolishing the stone target. Yet, despite his efforts, he could not get in the bulls-eye of the target. Indeed, he was great at hitting everything but the center of the target. As the area around the small circle disintegrated, the red dot stood proud among the rubble, mocking the prince. Ebony looked over at Ivory’s impressive results. With enough practice, he could become an expert marksman. It was picture a perfect example. Scorch marks surrounded the outer area and slowly closed in around the red dot. He bit his lower lip and fired again. Hitting another piece of previously broken stone. He growled as the hot shame from before boiled in his throat. He prepared to absolutely demolish the insulting red dot.

After an hour of practice, Alexandrae blew her whistle, and the cadets put down their rifles and stood at attention. While Alexandrae assessed their results with the other instructors. The regular cadets targets looked like they had been swarmed by mosquitos. They were freckled with small black holes. Some of them never strayed past the inner circle. The judges looked over Ivory’s first. However, they found judging his target to be difficult. By the end of the training, he had created a crater where the target should be. With the bullseye thoroughly dug out and every outer ring less damaged leaving the fifth ring with only collateral scorch marks. In the end they decided to mark him as above average. Taking marks off for hitting the 6th 7th and 8th rings as much as he did, but they were still impressed with how hollowed out the center was. Alexandrae didn’t say anything special, but as they walked away, she brushed her finger across his ponytail.

Finally they reached Ebony. The instructors scratched their heads on how to grade what was left of his target. He had managed to hit the bullseye midway through and continued to demolish what was left. Leaving a broken shadow of a circle. There was a semblance of a pattern but much of it was lost in the destruction. In the end, they chose to mark him as above average as well but Alexandrae requested to mark him below Ivory. Taking points off for damaging the outer rims including the fifth ring. Alexandrae also admonished him for not properly focusing his magic but did not mark him for it at the behest of Xirix. Impressed by how much power he could use and not exhaust himself. Before they moved on to the rest Alexandrae ran her finger down the back of Ebony’s head.

Ebony and Ivory let themselves relax and relish in their success as best they could. While it wasn’t much Alexandrae’s small gesture was enough praise. However, it wouldn’t last as Ebony couldn’t help but dwell on his aunt’s insistencethat he be marked below Ivory. His accomplishment paled in comparison to Ebony’s sheer force.

“Well done my prince.” Vora whispered to Ivory as soon as Alexandrae was far enough away.

“Oh, thanks, Vora.” He smiled back, yet his face reflected disappointment.

“So, you you’re not the least bit tired even after all that?” she asked.

“A little bit tired from that, but I’ll be fine in a bit.” He replied. She whistled in amazement.

“Wow, so you planning on enrolling for real?” she asked.

“Definitely, It’ll be another two years until I’m eligible, though,” he replied.

“Hmm, that’s a shame, but I hope we can work together in some capacity.” She smiled. “So, if you were already planning on enrolling, why are you here exactly. To see if you could handle it?”

“No, we’re here because of our cutie-” but before he could explain he could feel a dagger sinking into his back. He turned around to see Ebony glaring at him. While a part of Ivory was irked at Ebony trying to boss him around, his brother was right.

“Nevermind it’s nothing.” He waved Vora off. Satisfied Ebony turned back and waited. Ebony meant nothing by it, and on any other day it would have gone unnoticed, but this was no ordinary day. The tense atmosphere that had been building between the two, made Ebony’s turn even more dismissive. Like how a superior would turn away from a grunt. The anger and feelings of inferiority that had been pent up over weeks had finally boiled over.

Vora watched Ivory with concern as the young prince bristled like an alley cat and looked ready to pounce on Ebony. He, in turn, looked back at Ivory and caught a glimpse of his brother’s wrathful gaze

Ebony was shocked at Ivory at first. Unable to comprehend why his brother was so angry. Rather than ask why he was upset he mashed pieces together in a way they didn’t fit.

‘Is he getting angry at me for telling him to stop running his mouth?’ He growled bitterly to himself. Not one to back down he glared right back at him. The two brothers bared their teeth at each other and made high pitched chirping sort of growl. Their platoon looked warily at the two who looked like they were about to throw down in front of them, regality be damned.

“U-um Ebony, Ivory are you guys okay?” Xorik asked unsure on what to do. They were fine mere moments ago. He looked back at Vora to see if she had any ideas but she only shrugged her shoulders

Meanwhile Alexandrae was finishing the assessments. She quickly pulled Kirix away from Roaring Wind and Avalanche. “Kirix hold off on calling for the sparring exercise I need to make sure they are ready for it,” she stated

“Think they can’t handle it, General?” She asked with a wry smile.

“I’d advise you not to insult or underestimate my nephews Colonel or you will fight me as an example exercise.” She warned.

“Meant nothing by it, a simple jest that’s all.” She nervously chuckled. Not wanting to face the legendary warrior in any capacity.

“Smart choice,” Alex purred. “Besides I’m not quite worried about them more so who they might be facing. They already sparred earlier today and did quite a number on each other. I think something is bothering them but they won’t tell me.”

“Hmm, probably the usual sibling conflict. I remember one time you and Priamus were practically at war with each other. Didn’t she place a charm on your boots to make them fill with mud?” she asked.

“Yes it just so happened the exact force needed was falling from the rope ladder! She can be a devil when provoked.” She grimaced. Recalling how she sat through an entire class and firing exercises with her mouth on fire. “Nonetheless I’ll need a moment to check on them.”

Alexandrae patted herself on the back for her gut instinct as she walked up behind the platoon. Ebony and Ivory were hissing like cats and neither was going to back down. She gently pulled Xorik back from them.

“What happened?” She asked telepathically through the hive mind.

“We don’t know general, one moment everything was fine Ivory was chatting with Vora and the next they’re like this.” He replied.

‘Hmm Ivory was most likely talking too much so Ebony probably warned him. That’s the trigger but what was the primer?’ She ran her finger across her chin in thought.

“Anything else cadet?” she asked.

“Nothing that comes to mind it was all pretty sudden.” He replied.

Alexandrae hummed to herself on how best to proceed. A part of her wanted to drag the two away by their ears but that wouldn’t be very good for them or the family’s reputation. She looked around at the two other platoons, thankfully they didn’t seem to notice their princes murder in each other’sgazes. She needed an excuse and a good one.

“Ebony and Ivory, I completely forgot to give you a tour of the grounds didn’t I?” she called.

The two princes almost jumped out of their skin and spun around to meet their aunt. They were too startled to respond.

“That’s what I thought. Come, the day is growing short and I want to give you a tour before we leave. Besides their next exercise is sparring which you’vealready had enough of today.” She clicked her boots and marched away. With Ebony and Ivory reluctantly in tow.

“I could still go for a fight,” Ebony muttered.

“Are you sure? Do you want to lose again?” Ivory sneered. Ebony would have clocked his brother in the jaw if not for Alexandrae.

“What was that boys?” She asked innocently.

“Nothing, sir.” They shouted and silently walked back to the compound.

They walked in complete silence through the halls of the academy. Ebony and Ivory pondered what kind of tour this was. They hadn’t stopped at any of the rooms it was more like their Aunt had a destination in mind. After going through the entire compound Alexandrae stopped and turned to them.

“I have something to show you boys, but before we continue I have one question: what is wrong with you two?” she asked. “Something has been eating at the both of you for days now. You two haven’t been spending as much time with each other and when you do it seems forced. Chrysalis might have taught you how to lie and act but you can’t fool me.” She stared them down like a hawk. Not even a twitch would go unnoticed. The two looked at each other and waited for the other to speak up. After all it was the other brother that had the problem they were simply the victim of their pompous attitude.

When no one spoke up Alexandrae sighed and opened the door. The stairs led to a part of the academy that looked out of place and older than the rest of it. Rough black stone covered the walls and ceilings while steps were faded in red brick. There was no light source, so Alexandrae created one with her magic. It had an ominous ancient presence around them as they took the first step down.

The stairwell only got darker the further they traveled. Ebony and Ivory lit their hands and forearms with magic. Yet the darkness barely faded and masked the glares the princes were giving each other.

‘This is all Ivory’s fault,’ Ebony thought bitterly. ‘He’s the one that needs to speak up. He’s the one being insufferable. He’s always been rubbing in my face all of Alexandrae’s praises. He’s her little soldier that will rise quickly through ranks she says. It’s only because he knows I’m still stalled on what to do. So much for that agreement should have known he would let his ego get in the way.’ He ranted to himself.

‘Quit being selfish and just tell her already.’ Ivory grumbled. ‘Ever since we were kids you’ve always done this. Lording over me with your natural abilities. You never care about anyone but you. We were supposed to help each other with the hive I should have known you would have been too selfish for that.’ He spat.

Finally they came to their destination. It was an old door made from two white slabs of stone. It looked ancient.

“Alright before we enter here I will ask you again. What has been bothering you two? Talk to me, talk to each other about it. I know these past few months have been stressful. You two are in a position none of us have been before. Which is why it’s important for you two to be there for each other the most,” she cooed.

‘I know that, dammit. Everyone has been breathing down my neck for months. I don’t need this. He’s the one that’s been getting in my way.’ Ebony growled but wouldn’t let it out.

‘I know that, by the gods, I’ve been trying. It’s all because he keeps trying to get one up me. I know what I’m doing.’ Ivory grumbled.

Alexandrae waited a little while longer for one of them to talk. Alexandrae sighed and turned back to the door. The magic around her horn flared and she fired at the door. The crimson magic flooded the slabs, tunneling between the intricate runes until the two stones were glowing. The door heaved itself open, revealing a dark room. Alexandrae then fired a blast that flew around the edges of the sanctum lighting a dozen torches breathing light into the darkness. The room itself was bare with the exception of a chair at opposite end of the door and a dirt circle in the middle.

“Do you know what this place is, boys?” She asked. They shook their head no. Whatever this place was it felt ominous. Perhaps it would have been better if they spoke up. Yet, they didn’t
“A long time ago, disputes between royalty were settled here. Everything from minor squabbles that were talked out to one-on-one battles for supremacy. Dynasties were broken and new ones were forged in the blood of the old. It was a dark time, and yet, not long ago,” she explained and walked over to the stone throne. She slowly sat down and gestured them to step into the circle. They hesitated. The raging fire in them was quickly snuffed out. They looked back up to her, clearly afraid.

“Oh, come now, do you really think I’ve brought you down here to fight to the death? I’ve brought you here to settle whatever bad blood you have. You may fight it out and see if that gets you anywhere, talk, or just cry it out. But whatever it is, I need you two to settle this now before it festers any further,” she said.

“Aunty, is this really necessary?” Ivory asked “I mean, we get it. Everyone has been telling us how important family is, but is all this really necessary?”

“It is for the reasons I’ll explain later, but for now,  get in the circle!” she ordered. The two reluctantly entered the arena. The dirt was ice cold and so packed they had to kick it around to make it soft. This coupled with the musty stench showed that this room had not been used in decades. They stood awkwardly across from each other, unsure of how to proceed. They were so ready to go at it out in the courtyard, but now, such action felt wrong. Yet, they still got in their stances and the three waited. The tension in the room grew thicker by the second. Eventually it was so heavy they could see their breath.

Finally, Ebony dropped his nerve and spoke up, “This is all your fault, you stubborn jackass!” he shouted at Ivory who was at first stunned, yet Ebony’s words were the exact coal he needed to reignite his fire.

“My fault? What are you on about?” he sputtered back.

“You’re the one with some kind of a problem. Constantly flaunting your accomplishments. With every lesson you’re ahead of me, you have to rub it in my face,” he growled. “You’ve always thought you were better than me.” Ebony took a step forward.

“You dare accuse me of flaunting, you selfish brat!” Ivory shouted stepping toward Ebony. Whatever hesitation they felt was now firmly out the window. “Mr. ooh look at me I am soon-to-be King Ebony. Watch as I lift a house with my magic and call down lightning from the heavens.” He spat back. “Your magic makes my best effort look like a joke!” He roared stepping forward.

“Well excuse me for taking pride in something I do well. Meanwhile you bring the smarmiest attitude ever into every little thing you do. Any time you were slightly ahead you made sure to brag about it to every person that will listen. Remember Princess Cadance? You practically talked her ears off. Remember, ‘I’m a pretty fast learner’?” Ebony fired back with a mocking impression. A vicious broadside to Ivory’s pride. He stepped forward pressing the assault.

With that the war was on, and Ivory threw a vicious uppercut. Ebony’s teeth smashed into each other. Biting his gums and cheek and he was sent reeling back. Pressing the advantage, Ivory delivered a punch to Ebony’s stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Ebony fell to his knees.

“Well of course I did! She was one of the few people that could see me underneath your fat shadow!” He snarled emphasizing ‘fat.’ Ivory stepped forward again..“You have no idea what it’s like to be around you. I bust my ass off just to get on your level while you do everything effortlessly. Then you have the audacity to mewl like a bitch over every little thing!” Ivory shouted.

Ebony shot up and sprung forward. Ivory attempted to push him back by his shoulders but Ebony was just too strong. He grabbed Ivory by his knees and pulled his feet from under him. The two fell down together, as they landed Ebony landed a powerful blow across Ivory’s face. His brain was rattling as Ebony scored another strong punch. Despite his spinning vision Ivory managed to slip his leg out from under Ebony, and kicked him in the ribs. Throwing him off and stumbling to the other side of the table. Ivory scrambled to his feet to face his brother. He could faintly see his eyes were wet. Rather than stop Ivory chose to pour on his tongue lashing.

“Oh, poor Ebony, never to be king. Boohoo! You’re always acting like a tragic hero from a crappy story born with some terrible curse. When really you’re just self absorbed! Do you have any idea how worthless I feel standing next to you!” He shouted.

Ebony hissed at Ivory and fired up his magic into his arms. The dim room was lit up by his crimson magic, quelling the candles around them and throwing their shadows to new heights. The muscles in his arms bulged and tightened in an unnatural way. Ivory gulped as it dawned on him that he may have taken this too far. Ebony strode toward Ivory but he was too stunned and scared to move. When he was finally upon Ivory he slammed his fist into Ivory’s face.

Ivory offered a feeble attempt to block but his arms were thrown to the side, along with the rest of his body. The blow was like a tremor in his skull, shaking his brain and blurring his vision. It split open the side of his cheek as he stumbled around and tried to regain his composure, but Ebony wouldn’t give him the chance. Pressing on like a tank Ebony punched him in the kidney. Ivory gasped for breath and stumbled forward, hacking and choking. He managed to turn around as Ebony moved in again. Ivory managed to power up his own magic, lighting the room with viridian. He tried to stop a punch to his ribs but it was blown away like candle in a storm. Ebony’s attack landed true and Ivory was sent stumbling back, choking on air again.  

“What I have is more of a curse than a blessing, you hypocrite! I’m the one self absorbed? Ha!” He shouted at Ivory. “How long did my “amazing” magic practically poison me as a child? How long did it take me to use properly without it hurting me?” Ebony roared, “For the queen’s sake it looks like cracks in my skin when I use it!” He raised his arm up. However, the time for talking had passed. Ebony’s tirade gave Ivory enough time to get his bearings back and he charged forward.

Ivory threw a fake right that Ebony fell for easily. As he went to block Ivory hit him in the ribs with his left. Before he could step back Ivory threw his right arm behind Ebony’s neck and stepped on his foot. With Ebony pinned he repeatedly jabbed his side like a jackhammer. Ebony buckled under the assault, but he managed grab Ivory’s fist and throw him back. As Ivory stepped back Ebony grabbed him and lifted him in the air before slamming him into the dirt. Ivory heaved as the wind was knocked out of him again and his vision went blurry, but not before he could see Ebony fall down with him.

Ebony punched him again in the face opening the cut even more. Ivory wrapped his legs around Ebony’s waist and flipped the pair over with Ivory now on top. He threw a quick jab into Ebony’s nose and it burst with blood. Before he could follow through, Ebony grabbed his arm and easily over-powered him. Twisting his arm and pushing him off like a toddler. To add injury to insult Ebony then punched Ivory in the nose and split the bridge of it open. Ivory fell back, clutching his bloody nose. Ebony wanted to keep going but his body was aching from Ivory’s blows and his own magic cramping up his muscles. So maybe words could finish this.

“You think I don’t work for what I have everyday? I do! yet no matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to get any better. Everyone says how great my magic is, blah, blah so strong blah, blah. I know how strong my magic is, how gifted I am, how great my potential is. Yet I am still terrified of my own gifts.” He shot back. “Everyone tells me with my natural talent I should be great, but no matter how hard I work to improve, I still always feel like a failure.” He sighed.

Perhaps their adrenaline had finally burst and faded, or maybe it was all the blows to the head, but finally, they heard each other’s words.

“Wait, you feel worthless next to me? Am I making you feel worthless?” Ebony asked. His magic fading.

“Sometimes, I mean, yeah! I just... whenever I watch you do all that amazing stuff I feel like what I do can’t even compare.” Ivory stuttered. “Look at us now despite all my training you overpower me like I was a child.” Just like that, the rage died and was replaced with other pent up emotions that Ivory blinked away.

“Ivory, I had no idea, you were always so confident. I would never try to make you feel worthless, I’m sorry. I was just trying to make myself feel better. I wasn’t even thinking what it to you.You’re right I am selfish,” Ebony muttered and hung his head.

“No you’re not I’m the one who should apologize. I’m the selfish ass. I completely forgot about all that magic did to you as a kid. Gods, how many times were you bedridden or nearly killed?” He pondered as the memories of a sick little Ebony came back. He blinked back more tears as he realized how terrible his words were.“ You’re even scared of it yet I made you mad enough to use it. Hold on a second. You feel like a failure?” he asked. Ebony could only nod yes. He had his teeth clenched and his mouth was quivering. Blood from his cut gums dripped from his mouth.

“Ebony I worked as hard as I did to be more like you. When I talked with Cadance, I decided I was going to be smart and work hard to be as great as you were and still are.” He put his hand on Ebony’s shoulder. “I never stopped to think what kind of a burden your powers were,” Ivory muttered. Ebony sniffed and let out a weak chuckle.

“To be honest I always admired you too from the start. You were always so confident like you had everything figured out. You were always two steps ahead. I wanted to be just like that. But you were right I was showing off and flaunting. I wanted to show what I had achieved through my own effort not my birth. I was being self absorbed.” He choked out as a couple tears slid down his dirty face.

“We both were.” Ivory replied as he let a tear fall. With no more words necessary. Ebony embraced his brother. They were still sore and in pain from their fight. Their tears burned as it mixed with the dirt around their eyes. Their bodies still covered in dried mud and chafed against them as they held each other. Overall it was not a pleasant experience but it still  felt good to let it all out. It was like a weight had been lifted as they released all their pent up emotions onto each other.

“Looks like we did a pretty crap job of that pact we made, huh? Along with each other” Ivory whispered.

“Yeah but it’s like Papilia always says a promise is just words. It’s the follow through that trips people up,” Ebony replied.

“We need to work on that,” Ivory muttered.

“One thing at a time. I have enough on my plate right now, like getting patched up. I think I might have a concussion.” Ebony chuckled.

“I definitely have concussion and probably a bruised rib.” Ivory groaned.

“Sorry,” Ebony chuckled, “well it’s only cause you’re so hard to hit. Gotta take my chances with one punch.”

Suddenly they felt a third party, as Alexandrae pulled them both in. She stroked Ebony’s hair and rubbed Ivory’s back.

“Good job, you two.” She whispered, and the trio stood in the dark room until the last tears were shed.