The Divine Contract

by BrightIdea

Intermission: Apples and Lightning

“Yer a big varmint, ain’t you?” Applejack said, before she dodged out of the way of the shade’s response, its massive paw slamming down toward her like an apple falling from a tree-except with more spikes. She slid across the rain slick ground, high above thunder boomed across Sweet Apple Acres and Applejack glimpsed lightning in the distance. “At least all this rain will be good for the crop.”

Shades came in all kinds of shapes and sizes, some could pass for animals-be it ones with empty, pupil-less eyes and fur made from the blackness of the abyss- while others ranged toward the abominable and monstrous. Applejack was facing the latter, bad enough that it was wearing the shape of a manticore-the unholy spawn of a lion and a giant scorpion with wings- but like all shades it was stretched and contorted beyond the nightmare of any normal pony. Its paws had spiked shaped growths that tore up the ground in uneven grooves as they smashed through the ground where Applejack had been standing. One of its wings was seven times larger than the other but still it managed to spring itself back into the air ready for another attempt to pounce on Applejack. Finally, its scorpion tail was split into three, their barbed tips flailing about with what appeared to be minds of their own.

“Watch the apples, you varmint!” Applejack shouted as the shade’s tails slashed into one of the apple trees surrounding them both, its demonic acid withered the tree’s branches in seconds.

The manticore-shade made to growl but instead of a lion’s roar only a choked, strangled wheeze came out, that had to be one of the worst things about shades that Applejack hated the most. It hit home to Applejack that the shadow-demons were soulless or whatever souls they had were the barest remnants that had been cut and torn out by the abyss.

“Git!” Applejack shouted, her one good arm waved a blacksmith’s hammer at the beast. A past attack by a shade had left her with one good arm and one good eye but she refused to let that affect her work on her family’s farm, that included defending it against bandits or shades. Though she wasn’t fool enough to believe she could take on a shade this big. Applejack and her sister Apple Bloom had discovered the shade just as the sun was starting to dip below the horizon, it had been cutting a swath through Sweet Apple Acres. She had sent Apple Bloom running to town to fetch help from the Ponyville militia and the Temple of the Gods. “Just need to keep you busy with Bucky.”

The shade charged again from the sky, again Applejack dodged out of the way but instead of dodging away she leapt to the side. Once on her hooves she swung her hammer with her good arm and brought it down on the shade’s shoulder. The shade’s flesh split at her hammer strike, but instead of blood a noxious smoke emitted from the wound-to Applejack it smelled like brimstone and sulfur. High above the storm thundered again, almost as if it had approved of Applejack’s strike, and the lightning flashed even closer than it had before. Wind blasted its way through the apple orchard, making trees bend and fortunately it seemed to toss the shade from its balance. Instead of taking to the air the shade stumbled under the gale force winds, forcing it into a nearby apple tree-its tails flailed into the tree’s trunk withering the wood until it snapped. The upper section of the tree collapsed on top of the shade burying it under branches and splinters of wood.

“Well, ah’ll be.” Applejack blinked at the turn of events. It was almost as if the storm was helping her against the shade. Perhaps there was a Divine looking out for Sweet Apple Acres?

Under the branches the shade tore at the tree branches, trying to worm its way out from underneath the fallen tree.

“Nuh uh! Ah don’t think so!” Applejack raced forward her hammer raised. The shade’s head wormed its way out of the tree branches, it turned toward Applejack, its blank eyes didn’t even reflect Applejack nor even the sudden flash of lightning that lit the sky above them both.

Applejack’s ears perked as a voice echoed above her, riding the sound of another boom of thunder.

“COOOOMING THROUGH!” Applejack stopped and looked up, just managing to glimpse a rainbow-colored streak that was riding the tip of a light bolt. An incoming lightning bolt.

“Tarnation!” Applejack yelled, leaping away from the fallen shade and tree she used her one arm to push herself just into cover behind a nearby apple tree. Behind her the world erupted in heat and debris, Applejack covered her eyes as wood and dirt sprayed out in all directions. Waiting for the last debris to pass Applejack slowly, carefully pushed herself up from behind the tree and gasped.

Where the shade and the apple tree had been there was nothing-but a smoking crater. Sizzling sound filled the air as rain continued to pour from the sky but surprisingly to Applejack in a few moments the rain stopped. She glanced up over the sky and saw the storm was already dissipating, and the sun was just finally passing below the horizon. At the very edge of her vision she thought she saw the glimmer of a rainbow but in a moment, it was gone as the sky disappeared and the moon peaked through the night sky.

Applejack ignored the moon, and in the distance, she heard shouting voices. It looks like the Ponyville milita had finally arrived at Sweet Apple Acres. She ignored this too as she looked around the crater. The nearest apple trees to the crater were singed, their fruit either burnt to a crisp or burning on their branches. Applejack fell to her knees and dropped her hammer to the ground. She shouted.