The Quiet Place

by Aynine

Chapter 50: Deicide

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 50: Deicide

        Twilight tilted her head to the side, swaying her gaze to the stained glass windows again. “I remember when all of this mattered. It wasn’t that long ago for me… for you, Princess Luna.” A beam fired from her horn and struck the one depicting the cleansing of Nightmare Moon. She glowered as it melted away. “Everything has been taken away. I’ve been fighting just to try to get it all back.”

        Luna’s hammer was lowered. “Wait, Twilight. Nightmare Moon still lives.”

        She’s lying. The whisper licked at her mind with something sinister.

There was a glimmer in the oracle’s eyes, but it vanished as quickly as it came. “You’re a liar. Just like your sister.”

“Nay. I would not lie to you. I encountered her briefly in Ponyville only a day ago. She was in pursuit of you. Stop this madness and we will find her together.” The moon princess took a softer demeanor. “Surely you wish to find her more than continuing with this… crusade.” A hoof swayed towards her.

More whispers invaded the oracle’s thoughts. Coarse. Persuasive. Tantalizing. In her mind’s eye, the doppelganger was embracing her, its head just behind hers to whisper into her ear. The embrace made her feel comfortable within the space it had long twisted with its presence. She did not need to see its grinning face anymore. Every part of its being she could feel within her. They’re trying to distract you. They’re afraid of you. This is what you need. Now… show them who you really are. A beam split the princesses as it struck the floor where they stood. In spite of the magical explosion it created the floor had only blackened.

Twilight shook her head. “I’ll have to pass. You could never hide your feelings about her. That you would even mention her at all shows you’re desperate.” The moon princess opened her mouth to speak, but her sister interjected.

“Luna, I’ve been suppressed.” Celestia held out her hooves. “Get these things off of me.” She laid out her forelegs on the ground. Without hesitation, the hammer was brought down. There was a tinny crack as it struck, and it was pulled away immediately. Celestia’s bindings had been crushed, but no harm had come to her. “Thank you.”

“Can you fight? Together we can end this quickly. The battle outside must still be won.”

The sun princess shook her head, but kept Twilight in her view. “I need to recover my magic. It won’t take long. Can you stop her alone?”

Luna stepped in front of her and took a combat stance. “Do not flee, sister. I am putting my trust in you.” She took a deep breath. “I shall hold the line or subdue her, whichever comes first.” Celestia shattered the nearest stained glass window with a burst of magic and prepared to leap out. A hail of arcane bolts prevented her from exiting, but Luna conjured a shield for her. “Go!” she bellowed. Celestia disappeared into the day and Luna moved to the center of the room.

Twilight’s gaze grew heavy as she regarded the remaining princess. “She should’ve stayed to watch you fail.”

“She will be back. My sister would not abandon me in this most trying hour. Even now I do not abandon you.”

The oracle extended a hoof to her and exerted her magic, a furious glow engulfing her horn, but nothing came of efforts. She growled and bared her teeth. “I can’t even touch you. I don’t understand. I should have enough magic to use my telekinesis on you.”

Luna chuckled. “Oh, Twilight. How little you truly know…” There was a gust of air as she dashed forward. Her body seemed to float and dance across the floor.

Twilight raised a hoof towards her. “Do you really think a direct atta—“

Before she could finish the sentence the head of the hammer was driven into her stomach. Organs compressed towards her spine as she was lifted from the floor, tendrils of saliva and blood escaping her lips. The attack did not cease and the forces carried her against the piece of metal as it swept into the air, finally coming down and smashing her against the floor. The pain disrupted her magic and she could not focus through it to generate any external defenses. Guttural sounds could be heard as she fought for a breath. The moon princess loomed over the small crater she now laid in.

“Your arrogance has gotten the better of you, Twilight.” She crouched down and placed a hoof on her chest while she continued to writhe and squeak for air. “Give up willingly and I will not be forced to take any further actions. I do not wish to harm you.”

A hoarse, choked noise escaped Twilight’s mouth, and a foreleg pressed to her stomach. “…”

She barreled over and covered herself in a shell of magic. Before Luna could react, she was blasted backwards. Flipping through the air, she landed gracefully and scowled. “I suppose you will waste my time after all. Very well. You will become the example you so crave.”

Twilight rose up and wrapped herself in a barrier. “You… got lucky,” she spat before coughing and taking a pained breath. “It won’t happen… again.” With command of her magic restored, a flurry of beams was unleashed at Luna.

The princess struck the floor thrice in succession before swinging a gust at Twilight again. Charging through the hail of bolts, she reached the oracle and struck the side of her head with the bottom shaft of her hammer. Keeping momentum, she spun and delivered a strike to the other side of her body and knocked her away.

How!? Twilight’s mind reeled as she rolled across the floor. Picking herself up, she rubbed her wounded side and clenched her teeth. She dispelled my barrier from a distance. What is she— She teleported to the other side of the throne room and took a deep breath. How could I miss it? Her eyes fixated on the hammer. It’s a pure iris. She chuckled. “I just now realized how clever you are, princess.”

“Oh?” Luna smirked.

“That weapon is your iris. It’s just like a staff.” An aura of dark energy formed over Twilight again and she readied her magic. “I didn’t take something like that into consideration because I’ve never seen you use one before.”

The princess advanced to Twilight, and a white mist gathered upon the hammer head. Black Diamond manifested over the oracle’s body as Luna brought the weapon down upon her. There was a thud as it was stopped by her hoof. Energy spilled over her body and onto the floor, but did little more than fade an instant later. Lunging, she punched the princess as hard as she could into her stomach and watched her stagger several steps back.

Luna groaned and coughed. She paused and stared at the floor before snorting. “It looks like you’ve gotten the hang of that technique I showed you. I’m impressed how far you’ve come in such a short time.” Glancing up, she grinned. “It would have been a wonder if you had mastered it.”

She charged again and Twilight maintained the ability. Dodging the hammer swing, she attempted to strike the princess in the chest. A crack emanated from the impact, but Luna did not budge. The princess looked down to her with a smirk.

“Tut. Tut.” With a rising kick, Twilight was knocked into the wall. Dizziness set in as she stood up and looked upon the princess. Luna’s entire body was covered in a thick, blue sheen of magic, just like her ability.

“You… already had this power all along?”

The princess moved closer as it receded away. With her magic, she lifted Twilight before her. “You forget our divide in time, Twilight Sparkle. Though I know you shared yourself with Nightmare Moon, even she did not know everything about me. I will disable your magic… for now. This fight is over.”

She reached out to place her hoof to Twilight’s head, but a wave of energy pulsed from her body, knocking the princess back and freeing herself. “This is over when I say it is!” she snarled. The pain in her chest dulled beneath her rage, but the dizziness from the last attack still lingered. She felt unbalanced in her motions and magic, but it wasn’t enough to deter her. “You think I’m weak! Just a pawn in your little game!” She rubbed a tendril of blood from her mouth. “I’ll show you how far I’ve come. How far I’m willing to go!”

Luna’s gaze darkened and she moved to strike, but energy erupted from Twilight’s horn. She slammed her hammer into the blast, splitting open a path. Running through, she prepared an overhead strike, but it was stopped again by Twilight’s augment. Pushing through, Luna utilized her own and struck Twilight in the face. She earned an angry glare before she was punched back in the shoulder. The oracle struck with her other hoof, landing a hit to Luna’s face. She staggered backwards again and Twilight moved forward, but another kick to her abdomen stopped her.

I can’t stop! I am stronger than her! Fueled by her rage, she roared and continued on. The augment ate away at her magic, but she raised both hooves and slammed them into the princess. She released her weapon and Twilight kicked her away. Luna took a deep breath and rose up, but Twilight reached for the hammer. Grunting, she tried to lift it from the floor. What the? How much does this weigh? Even her telekinesis failed to aid her.

Luna stepped to her and snatched the hammer from the floor. With a fluid motion set of motions, she twirled and brought the head down onto the floor beside Twilight. A shockwave tore through the ground and into her body, breaking her augment. Before she could react, the weapon connected with her side again. There was a yelp before she hit the floor and slid to the wall.

“This is not for you to wield.”

Twilight glimpsed the floor where the hammer struck and it was completely untouched. Was I… wrong about her weapon? Luna reached her and readied for a finishing strike. An ether laser burst from Twilight’s horn and consumed the princess, burning away her shell and pushing her to the other side of the room. The weapon once more slipped from her grasp and she toppled to the floor.

Wobbling, Twilight rose up and placed a hoof on the wall for support. “Your magic is more specialized than mine, but I’m betting I can beat you in raw potential.”

The princess recovered and grabbed her weapon. “You are still within the shadow of the first archmage, Twilight.” Her body flickered in and out of reality as she surged forward. “Your naïveté is beyond your comprehension.”

Energy lashed out from a readied barrier as Luna viciously sank blow after blow into it, the throne room trembling to the waves of force emanating outward. Safe within, Twilight could feel the monstrous strength behind each hit, and she watched with fear as her barrier cracked. The princess raised the hammer high with both hooves and poised a crushing blow, but Twilight teleported to the throne. She panted while the hammer crashed into the floor, another shockwave rippling into her. Even from… this distance?

The effects twisted her stomach, and she groaned as she reached out. Wind spiraled around her left hoof as fire gathered around her right. With a mutter, she weaved the two together.

A fiery tornado formed within the throne room, and Twilight directed it to her foe. The heat seared the floor as it danced around, but the chaotic spell reached its target and expanded to engulf the princess, consuming the lower terrace of the throne room. Luna drove the hammer into the floor, smashing it into the stone, and formed a barrier as it raged around her. The heat haze blurred her into a mess of blue and orange, but she held fast. After a moment, she rose up, maintaining her defenses and pulling her weapon free, and trudged forward.

Twilight took a shaky step back as Luna reached the steps. “How can you even move through that?” Their eyes met and she glimpsed the anger within as the heat haze was escaped. Luna shed her barrier and struck Twilight with a bolt of electricity. She felt little more than tingling, but that sensation instilled her with dread and her tornado dispersed. She loosed a cry before being pulled onto the hammer head. She’s magnetized me!] Her efforts to free herself failed, and she sought to shield herself as the weapon was flipped over.

“I created the archmagi, Twilight, and just as easily so, too, can I destroy them!”

Once more, Twilight was smashed into the floor, but she kept the air in her lungs and her concentration. Flopping over, she whirled around back to standing and slashed out a wave of magic with her hoof. A bloody mark was carved into the princess and it dripped to the floor. Twilight took her foe’s injury as a small victory, and pushed her away with a burst of wind. Abruptly, it was followed with a massive beam of energy, blasting the princess out of the throne room. Twilight panted while she watched for her to return.

She’s… so powerful. It’s almost like she’s not even trying. The huffs of her breathing were punctuated by snickering from her doppelganger.

And she’s alone. Do you really believe you’ll lose to just one princess?

She quickly stepped to a window and rested in the sun, closing her eyes and allowing her tension to dissipate. I haven’t had much time to rest since I’ve come back. I’ll need all the energy I can get. The tapping of hooves on the floor caused her to flinch, but when she opened her eyes it was not Luna in the room.

“I see you’ve fended off my sister for the moment,” Celestia said as her focus was towards the door. “I’m saddened to see you haven’t reconsidered your choices.”

Twilight glared at her. “I could say the same to you.”

Celestia moved to the middle of the room and formed a golden barrier around herself. Light almost seemed to draw into her body, but in the blink of an eye, her mane turned into a white-orange flame that quietly rolled within itself. “I can’t think of a time when we sparred outside of your training.” She offered a bittersweet smile. “Shall we see if your power and your heart align?”

Twilight sneered. “Gladly.”

Before she could ready herself, a beam of yellow energy pierced her aura and she fell backwards against the wall. “Wh-Wha—“

More fired into the air, reaching to the ceiling before raining down in a cascade toward her. Twilight stood up and shrieked as she was left with an excruciating burn, but her flesh was unmarked. Where Celestia had struck her it continued to feel like she was burning through her body, and the pain strangled her mind. With a cry, a new barrier formed around her and reflected the second wave of beams. They hit the walls, while some exploded into the ceiling.

Slabs of stone fell, crashing into the floor with a haze of dust and debris obscuring her vision. Celestia blew it away with a shout and moved to stand in a ray of sunlight. Energy gathered within her and the glow of her fur in the light amplified. Twilight watched as the floor around her body sizzled and blackened before expanding outward beneath an intense whiteness. Quickly, she sensed what she could of the princess’s magic. Incredible amounts welled within her, and it appeared as though she might burst from it.

“Can you see it, Twilight? The majesty… of the sun!”

As the room flashed white, the oracle dove behind one of the slabs of concrete. The light overwhelmed her eyes, and the heat erased any moisture from the air. When she could see again every inch of the room had been blackened, and her eyes dried as she examining the damage. No decorations could be seen, and the remaining stained glass windows melted to the bottom of their frames. The ornate chandeliers that once captivated the ceiling were missing. This is worlds apart from my ability to control the weather or fire. With spells like this… She swallowed as the heat haze set in and her dizziness grew stronger, with the temperature continuing to feel as if it was rising. I could actually die. The space behind the slab she occupied was the only part of the floor not to be destroyed by Celestia’s attack. The slab exploded away and the sun princess’s smiling face came into view.

“Are you having fun, Twilight?” she asked nonchalantly. Suddenly, she frowned and her tone flattened. “Because I’m not.” She fired another beam, and Twilight rose up and met it with her own. The spells detonated on impact, and the oracle teleported back to the entrance. The sun princess slowly approached her. “I had hoped to avoid all of this, but you’ve changed into something I hardly recognize.”

The oracle harrumphed. “That’s funny coming from you.”

Celestia sighed. “In spite of everything he has done I need Aurelius alive for a while longer. I haven’t forgotten what he has done. He will face his due justice when all is said and done.”

Laughter filled the air briefly before Twilight groaned. Her adrenaline was waning and the painful blows from Luna returned. She gnashed her teeth as the burning from sun princess’s first attack grew stronger. “I guess we’re at an impasse because I need him dead right now,” she ground out.

“I need you back on my side, Twilight, but not as you are now.” She offered a sad expression. “What has happened to you?”

The oracle swallowed. “Do you think you intimidate me, Princess Celestia? I’ve been forced to make a deal with someone stronger than me because I’m afraid of them. They’ve done things to me that I could only dream of doing with magic.”

You’re getting distracted again, warned the doppelganger. Do I need to put you back on track?

Celestia grew concerned. “Like what, Twilight? Tell me everything. Perhaps we can figure things out together. Like before. It doesn’t have to end the way you… thought it would.”

She shook her head. “I can never trust you again.” She placed her hooves on the ground and a large alchemy circle formed. Two… two… two… twin! Water swelled around the walls of the room, drowning out the sunlight while a spark formed above the center. “Your power is heat. Fire. Your sister was a lot more dynamic.” The sun princess advanced towards her, but a wall of water impeded her.

With a flick of her wrist, it evaporated. “You will be hard pressed to use fundamentals of magic against me here, Twilight, but I commend the thought.”

She continued again and Twilight conjured a barrier. More water filled the room and converged upon the princess, but it evaporated and started to fill the room with steam. The alchemy circle turned blue as she summoned more water. It was reduced to steam as it neared the princess. Only now did Twilight notice that the water wasn’t reaching her at all. The floor beneath Celestia was corroding from the heat she radiated. Twilight brought down the spark from above and collapsed the entirety of the water upon the princess. Electricity exploded across everything around, but her vision became obscured by the hot, saturated air. The pain in her chest was becoming too much and she manifested ice at the impact point, soothing the invisible wound. A cyclone appeared in the throne room and cleared the air, allowing sunlight back in clearly. Twilight roared and charged the princess, manifesting her augment. Balancing on one hoof, she punched to her.

“Just give up, Twilight,” she offered with a remorseful look.

The punch never connected, and the oracle howled as she lurched backwards. The sun princess’s aura of heat had burned away her shell, and through her natural magical resistance, searing her flesh in a bloody and charred mess. She panted as ice manifested around it and stopped the burn from spreading. “H-How… how strong are you?” Slowly, she pried her eyes from the devastating wound from her former mentor. The princess distorted briefly in the sunlight, a heat haze forming around her.

“Please, Twilight.” She extended a hoof towards a window viewing the chaos in the city. “It does not have to be this way.”

The gears in her mind grinded to a halt as the ice on her hoof melted. Agony wafted through her and she rapidly froze her hoof again. She teleported to the throne and trembled as she looked upon the sun princess. Luna entered the room again, but she appeared scarcely harmed.

“Forgive me for not being here, sister. I felt the need to dispatch some unruly guests.” She approached slowly, but maintained distance from her burning sibling. “I see you have resorted to drastic measures.”

Celestia chewed her lower lip. “The battle in the city will not go as well as you may have planned. We must finish this."

They’re stronger than you! snarled the doppelganger. Are you really this weak? Did you come all this way just to die now?

“N-No… No! I can’t… lose to you. Not here. Just surrender to me!” Twilight opened her wings and lifted herself into the air as massive energy gathered in a purple and black sphere at her horn. “You need to give up! There’s no other way!”

Before she could unleash the spell, Luna leaped into the air, spinning around and delivering a blow to her chest. Twilight’s eyes lost focus as she felt energy tear through her core, an excess discharging out of her back and into the wall behind her. The moon princess flipped backwards and landed on the ground with a bow as Twilight’s body hit the throne landing with a thud.

        Cries of pain were interrupted with coughs and Twilight’s body shuddered and trembled as she roll over to face her foes. “N-No! I’ve pushed t-through too much to get this f-far. I can fix this. I will fix this!”

        Luna lowered her hammer. “Surrender, Twilight. It is over. You have been defeated, and your crusade ends here.” Celestia reverted to her normal form and took a deep breath before gazing at the oracle with concern.

       Suddenly, the cries and coughs stopped. Twilight began to laugh. “I’d almost forgotten,” she said before laughing some more. Energy slowly gathered to her in a mist sweeping from the floor.

       “What’s so funny?” asked Luna.

“I’ve been so afraid of my own potential for so long, that I’d almost forgotten something you taught me. The only other time I’ve used it…” She glanced up, a distant look in her eyes, before focusing on the princesses. “Was in Draconis.”

Celestia shook her head and started to move closer. “No, Twilight. You don’t mean—“

The oracle stood up with a grin. “That’s right. I’m playing my trump card, princesses, and I hope you’re ready. If I fall here, it just might be all over for us anyway. I have nothing left to lose.” An alchemy circle formed around her as violet light engulfed her body.

Luna charged her with her hammer carrying a massive amount of magic. “No, Twilight! It’s too dangero—“

As the hammer was being brought down the pillar solidified, and a violet light exploded outward. The moon princess was blasted from the throne room once more while Celestia shielded herself. Darkness flooded into the room as the erupted energy slowly receded back. The magic suffocated the room, but it vanished a moment later. Luna galloped back up to her sister, gashes lining her torso, and looked on in horror.

The figure that was now before them appeared nothing like the shadow of their former student as it hovered above the floor. Twilight was enshrouded in a black cloak covering her entire body with a cowl that hung low and obscured her face in shadow, its lip hanging just above her right, violet eye. The left half of her face melded into a cosmos. She hovered quietly in the air for a moment as her eye scanned the room, finally falling upon the princesses.

“I… see now.” Her voice started distant and quiet, gradually returning to its normal tone.. “I had forgotten how this… felt.” She drifted down to the bottom of the steps. “This time… This power is mine and mine alone to control.” In the blink of an eye she was between the princesses. “The world you know will be torn apart.” They turned to glimpse her, but each was encapsulated in a violet glow. Celestia was brutally thrown against the wall while Luna was smashed into the ceiling before being allowed to fall. As they hit the floor, Twilight was back at the throne. Energy gathered in a roar just above her and a blue orb formed. It emitted a gentle mist and a tumultuous aura. Celestia returned to her burning form as Luna’s body concealed itself in an augmenting shell. Twilight’s head rotated all the way back for a moment. Aurelius is going to the Crystal Empire? What could he possibly want there? She refocused forward as the princesses charged her.

Luna’s hammer was repelled with a shield. Telekinesis gripped her body and she was slammed through a side wall and out of sight. Celestia drew close, and her aura burned through Twilight’s barrier, but she kept her at a distance. Abruptly, the floor beneath her exploded in flames and she teleported away. However, the flames appeared with her at the new location.

In another teleport, she was beside Celestia. The heat sheared through her magic as she shielded herself from the effects, but her cloak gusted open as she grabbed the sun princess by the neck. Wide eyes drank in the sight of what Twilight’s body now was. The entire left half of had been consumed by the cosmos while the right was covered in glyphs. She could feel the grip on her neck tightening. Her body bloated and exploded in white light, blasting the oracle back.

She appeared near the entrance, panting. “It seems I will need to take you seriously from here on out.”

Twilight’s eyelids lowered. “You were posturing earlier. I can see that now. How much magic did you use?” Her orb gathered energy and swelled to become larger than herself.

There was a stomp as Luna appeared behind her, her hammer shining with magic, before delivering a colossal smash to the oracle. The room quaked as energy ripped through Twilight and spilled into the open air. Twilight’s body appeared as she dropped to the floor, and the cosmos within her cloak spilled onto the floor like a diseased mist, slowly seeping out from the source. Luna stepped back as she stared in horror at it.

Wh-what’s going on? I’m… My mind… My body… I feel like I’m falling apart! I can’t control my magic! She could not move, and sickness took hold of her. The dizziness and pain of her injures hit her again. “Whaa,” she slurred as the essence leaked from her mouth. “Whaab dib you doo tuh meeee?” Panic set in and she slumped over, watching as the essence escaped her.

The princesses watched in horror as magic started to spill into the space around, gathering into a violent storm. Streaks of energy arced outward and lashed at the walls, and the princesses. Luna was hit by several and backed away, conjuring a powerful shield.

“She’s lost control!” Luna shouted over the growing fury. “She must be put down or she will level the castle!”

Twilight crawled to the edge of the steps, reaching out to a shielded Celestia. Am… I going to die? Without Astra… I can’t control my magic like this!

Stone crumbled from the scorched walls and was swept up in the torrent of magic, breaking down and vanishing into it. Luna began to move in, but something stopped her. Twilight’s eyes widened as Celestia started to channel something into her. After a few moments, the magic died down, receding into the oracle’s body. Seizing the opportunity, Twilight formed a bubble and pulled the rest of the essence back into herself. She crouched to the ground, obscured in her cloak.

Pathetic. You needed the help of your enemy just to stay alive, berated the doppelganger.

Twilight ignored it and catalogued the events. Celestia’s overwhelming power and Luna’s magic disruption are too much. These direct hits are too much.

“What… just happened?” asked Luna as she continued to back away.

Twilight panted, and then took a deep breath. “Another form of entropy.” She spun around, her forehooves poking out of the cloak, and waves of energy sliced towards each princess. Luna batted hers away while Celestia countered with an opposing wave.

Torrents of water came crashing down as the iris floated overhead, rapidly filling the room until the space within was occupied. Underwater, Celestia roared and burned everything away in her vicinity, but the surrounding liquid continued to rise in temperature faster than it turned to steam. As she worked to attack Twilight, Luna struggled to move.

“S-Sister, you must… cease your… radiance…” she called out, muffled.

The sun princess increased the heat and attempted to burn it all away, but more water continued to pour in and replace the evaporated liquid. The heat abruptly stopped and she generated electricity. The water flashed as it surged all throughout, coursing through Twilight, and it soon receded into the floor. Twilight groaned and slouched forward as Celestia dashed to her sister’s side. The shock stunned her and she could do little more than listen.

“Luna, are you alright? I’m sorry.” She lifted her up as she coughed water onto her.

“I’ll… be fine,” she replied breathlessly. After a moment, she rose up and tightened her grip. “She is clever, isn’t she?”

Celestia frowned as she looked to Twilight, having now teleported to the entrance. “She always was.”

“It seems I’ll need to deal with you two differently,” she grumbled.

Lightning coiled around her body as her hooves emerged from the cosmos within her cloak. Chaotic energies lashed out before being concentrated into a sphere. Magic flowed out from her cloak and into the sphere, morphing it into a dark ball. “Let’s see how you handle this!”

She surged it at the princesses and it detonated with a tremendous boom, blasting away the ceiling. Twilight shielded herself from the blast as she waited for the results; however, when the haze of residual energy cleared the princesses remained standing. Together, they were channeling a barrier around themselves.

They combined their magic? I can’t waste my time spellweaving this entire fight. This is getting annoying.

Luna gathered energy into her hammer and bolted forward, her body flickering in and out of existence, but Twilight could see her phasing. She appeared inverted, her body seeming to bleed into the second reality. Each time she flickered more energy gathered into her. What is this technique?

Twilight prepared to counterattack, but she was struck by a large beam of energy from Celestia. She grunted and stepped back, Luna followed after with a devastating blow. Twilight did not move at the impact of the hammer to her skull, but the forces it carried echoed through her frame and into the floor. A large crack webbed out from beneath her, but she remained standing. More blows followed, but she shielded herself, her magic rapidly draining to the combination of attacks.

Celestia moved closer, but was no longer generating heat and Twilight took that as her magic wearing down. Abruptly, the sun princess produced an axe in measure to Luna’s and sliced through her barrier, dispelling it. Her sister’s hammer fell just after, forging a mighty shockwave. Twilight was blasted backwards into the corridor, hitting the floor and tumbling as cracks followed in her wake. As the princesses neared she teleported back to the throne, panting and struggling to maintain focus.

My natural defenses are draining my magic. I took too many hits from them before my ascension. Damn it! They’re overwhelming me.

Luna was first to return for the attack, flying overhead to strike. Twilight spun away as the hammer hit the floor, but she leaped from the ground as the shockwave hit. Spinning, a solidified wing reached out from her cloak and caught a second strike. She raised a hoof to shield herself, but Celestia did not attack from a distance.

The sun princess surged towards her and swung upwards, a slice of energy ripping just past her face. As Twilight rolled in the air, she took the princesses into telekinesis, exchanging their places briefly, before finally driving Celestia into the ground and Luna out of the area. She roared as she dived and struck the sun princess in her back with all of her strength. Bones could be heard popping and a yelp from her lips, but she rolled and swung out. The axe struck true and ripped through the cloak and its cosmos within. Twilight fell down the steps as a trail of blood chased her. Examining the wound revealed it wasn’t fatal, but she could not afford a long fight.

Celestia glanced up, but her burning form had faded. She crawled to the steps without her axe and her hooves landed in the blood. Her eyes darted to Twilight as she clutched the wound, her back hunched over. “You can’t keep this up.”

Kill her! She is weakened! the doppelganger commanded.

Twilight staggered forward, each step causing her to ooze more blood from the wound. Her vision tunneled and the doppelganger continued to sink whispers and dark thoughts into her mind. As she drew near, she failed to realize she was holding something. What… is this? Moonlight was in her other hoof, its green glow drawing her into it. When did I…? I still had this? For a moment, she could see something within the sword, and she gazed into it, peering deep within the magic it held. But there was no more time to look.

Luna charged in from a window, her hammer head appearing like a storm had gathered around it. With a single, shattering smash, it was driven into the oracle one last time. Energy exploded all around them, splitting the floor and quaking the entire castle. Twilight could feel her magic being crushed out of her body, her mind twisting and flattening all at once. When the haze of energy dispersed, Celestia was laying in the same spot, looking awed. Twilight remained standing, but her ascension was gone. She remained slouched forward, with Moonlight in her grasp, but she had been stunned. Blood continued to leak from her gash and she could not move to stop it. Her black fur had absorbed dust and she appeared greying in the sunlight.

“It seems,” Luna choked out quietly, “that I cannot bring myself to... kill my most beloved friend.” Twilight strained to twist her head just enough to view the victor, but it was not what she was expecting. “I concede to you, Twilight. For just as you would not kill Nightmare Moon to save me… I could not kill you to save us… to save you from yourself.”

The hammer lay on the ground beside her, the head coat with blood, but Twilight couldn’t be sure if it was hers. Luna’s right foreleg had been broken in two places, with much of a bone having ripped through the skin and protruded out. Her left hind leg featured a single fracture at her foot, appearing as if the bone tore out of its own flesh, and a hole where it had been. Smaller gashes littered her body while bruising discolored through the fur. She collapsed forward onto the floor and revealed the space between her wings had been burned away, leaving only a bloody wound. The wall she had entered from was gone.

Twilight’s mind attempted to process what had happened, but the magic the moon princess forced into her continued to disrupt her mind. Despite lacking in external wounds, it felt as if every joint in her body had been violently fused together with still-molten metal. Her muscles begged for mercy, and her nerves suffered ripples of torment throughout. She could not move, only study the scene. The destruction was just a meaningless picture she could not yet comprehend.

Her senses slowly returned and she took in the sight of Luna’s mangled body and the razed throne room. What… have I done? Her eyes returned to Celestia. She could see tears in her eyes as she reached for her axe, but she stopped part way and looked to Twilight.

The oracle began to move again, fidgeting and attempting to take a step. It took all of her mental fortitude not to break down and cry in agony, but she continued. Something was compelling her to keep going, to try and ignore the damage within. Each step threatened to bring her to the floor, but she managed to reach Celestia. Raising Moonlight as she loomed beside her head, she paused.

“Was all of this necessary?” the sun princess asked softly. “You’ve won. What is it that you are fighting for?”

Tears welled in Twilight’s eyes. “This… was for your own good,” she said just above a whisper.

The doppelganger attempted to drown out her thoughts. Kill her! KILL HER! SHE DESERVES TO DIE FOR WHAT SHE DID TO YOU!

“D-Don’t, Twilight,” called Luna. “P-Please… do not take my sister’s life. H-However you feel... Even if it is v-vengeance... Take that out upon m-me instead. I beg of you.”

As the sword came down, there was a barrage of memories in her mind. Her childhood flashed by, shuffling through every moment she had spent with the sun princess. Every lesson she had been taught, every praise, every question answered. One last memory shone in her mind above the rest, and tears trickled down her cheeks. I made you promise me! What will happen to me… without you?

“Do what you must, Twilight.” Celestia sighed. “I’m sure you have your reasons, and I trust that. I want you to know that we don’t regret choosing you, only that I… wish I could do more for you.”

Twilight hesitated. “I… know.”

A clang reverberated as the sword stopped before its mark. Celestia’s eyes went wide, her gaze going past Twilight. A large blade had reached around Twilight and caught the sword.

There was a deep breath before a familiar voice came. “I've finally caught up to you again.”

Twilight’s chest tightened and her heart began to race. “Night…mare… Moon?”