Obscenely Rich's manor had turned from noble estate to fortress in little more than an hour. Survivors from the Galloping Glades were quickly instructed on the use of crossbows, unicorn or not. Those that could cast spells were given special positions in each of the four towers that connected the manor's walls, with Bone Marrow being near the main gate. Bright Idea was leading the group of soldiers in charge of ensuring the drawbridge remained closed while Rich lead the rest of his guards on the ramparts, ready to push aside any ladders or shoot down flying ponies.
Pure Intent had informed the ponies on the wall that the Bright Moon were exceptional in night-time raids and sieges, as it was their main role to be a military force capable of defending Equestria alongside the traitorous Princess Luna before she became the Nightmare. They would often employ mercenaries from other kingdoms as well to supplement their own weaknesses.
Seeing as a Necromancer had never bothered to march past Canterlot into the frozen north, Captain Pure Intent had no knowledge of how effective Bone Marrow's magic would be against them, and warned to be on the lookout. The Bat Ponies tended to drop in specialists over the walls, and if their leader knew that Bone Marrow was influencing the battle he could be sure that there would be assassins coming for him.
Scenic chose to stay close to Bone Marrow for the fight with a crossbow of her own that she rested on the walls. Her mother was along the ramparts and a few flaps of her wings away from her daughter as well.
Bone's glowing eyes were like a searchlight as he felt more and more ponies nearing. It was like a wave of energy just waiting to be released, if he could get his hooves on it.
The young necromancer pulled away from the ramparts shaking his head. "I don't think this is going to go well..."
"What do you mean?" Scenic ducked behind cover to reply, "We've got you here, right?"
Bone looked toward his friend with half a smile. "I meant for me. The more ponies I feel coming near; the more of the Bright Moon that get close, the deeper this void inside of me grows."
Scenic was slightly confused. "A void? What do you mean? You were fine when you were in Galloping Glades."
He sighed, "I don't really know. When the Knights were reading off of their list, they mentioned an unfillable void inside of necromancers. The more ponies I feel nearby, the more I feel this sort of... hunger."
The pegasus was careful to crawl towards her friend in case of surprise crossbow bolts to give a reassuring pat on her friend's shoulder. "Come on, Bone. You're a good pony, no weird void is gonna change that."
Bone's left ear twitched and he peered carefully over the tower's rampart. "I don't know about that, because the Bright Moon just showed up."
The faint steady clanking of uniform marching was now growing in the distance. Glowing shields of various colors lead from the front with spears and crossbows behind them pointed skyward. Ponies in dark purple and silver trimmed armor with decorative bat wings on the sides of their helmets.
"Everypony get ready!" Rich shouted into the previously calm night air, "The Bright Moon have arrived!"
Just at the edge of the treeline the army halted. One group made a united step to split down the middle and a somewhat familiar face walked forward.
"Anvil?" Bone blurted out, being careful as he could to not be spotted with his glowing eyes in the dark and moonless night.
"I call for Parley!" Anvil shouted. He was still well out of crossbow range, and possibly spell range too. Any steps closer and he would risk being attacked.
There was a pause from the manor's walls before Rich replied, "Your call is accepted; state your intent!"
"We, the forces of the Bright Moon, declare this manor as a staging ground for an assault upon Canterlot and the return of Princess Luna to her rightful place on the throne!"
A loud snort came from Rich. "I'll not be party to treason, Bright Moon!"
Bone sighed, "Couldn't they just warn them that I'm here? Maybe they wouldn't want to fight if they knew there was a necromancer."
"I regret to inform you then," Anvil shouted in reply, "That your manor will be taken by force! Should you choose to surrender and support the return of Princess Luna, your lives will be spared!"
Bone's eyes dimmed at that, though his own spirits rose. "We won't have to fight?"
"We're prepared to defend this manor to the last, fiend!" Rich retorted with a bit of fire in his voice, "We'll never betray Princess Celestia!"
The young necromancer gave a defeated sigh. "So much for peace, I guess."
"So be it, Noble!" Anvil replied with disdain. "Begin the assault!"
Bone's head shot to attention, peering quickly over the walls. A loud horn sounded as the front ranks closed and Anvil disappeared from sight. Even more unicorn's shield spells went up, now facing in a kind of shell over the front and tops of the Bright Moon's ranks as they steadily advanced on the manor's walls.
From the nearby trees came the leatherwings. Bat ponies with darkened knives in their mouths and screeching loud enough to frighten the survivors. The guards along the wall were quick to respond with bolts launching with a quick snapping towards the flyers, some catching the bolts in their face and chest before plummeting to the ground in a crunching thud of bone and organs.
"Defend yourselves!" Rich shouted loudly, rousing the startled survivors into action. "Keep the skies clear, Bone Marrow!"
Bone took a deep breath and did his best to spot the stealthy ponies gliding through the darkness. His eyes glowed and found small glinting pupils reflected back at him.
Screeching of the soon to be disintegrated was cut short as their bodies turned to ash. Weapons rusted, armor buckled and contorted, flesh turned to ash and bone splintered into powder before vanishing into the night's breeze.
"Spell caster!" A voice from above called out. Bone looked to see a bat pony pointing directly at him and he ducked for cover.
A bat pony had landed directly in the center of the tower, turning quickly in search of the glowing eyes that had just eaten their friend. The pony had only a second to realize what kind of mistake they had made before they too crumbled into painful dust and ash.
"Bone, are you alright?" Scenic shouted, sounds of more horns and trumpets making hearing difficult as the battle continued. "Your eyes are getting brighter!"
The young necromancer looked up to the sky once more, unknowingly eager to find another bat pony to consume. In the back of his mind he knew something was off, but the adrenaline rush of devouring others was beginning to cloud his mind.
He turned just in time for a darkened blade to slice across his chest leaving a deep gash and sending him to the ground from the force. Another bat pony had made their way onto the battlements without him noticing and was dutifully moving forward to finish the colt with another slash.
The pony never got the chance.
The bat stumbled, clutching their chest. Their face contorted in agony as they tried to breathe, coughing blood and choking. In a few short seconds they fell to the ground, their hooves grasping towards their fallen sword in a last desperate attempt at avenging their own death.
"I've had enough of these ponies already," Bone huffed, willing his own wounds to mend themselves.
Bone focused on the pony's bones, willing them to come to life once again. A second pulse brought the glowing blue orbs to the quickly standing skeleton as their flesh melted off into ash.
Bone clacked his hooves in front of the skeleton's face. "Hey, defend me, alright?"
The skeleton quickly nodded, taking up its old sword in its mouth and standing ready.
Let's see how many times ponies try to kill me in one night, Bone mused.
The battle had moved on to a new phase. Makeshift ladders were being raised onto the manor's walls as unicorns did their best to force them away with magic. The shielded mages from the Bright Moon protected the majority of their number from falling rocks thrown by the survivors as well as bolts shot by crossbows.
A second wave was already advancing, however, and they seemed far more capable. Mages lead the front, their horns already alight with the menacing promise of destructive magic boiling just under the surface. Plate armored ponies with enchanted shields followed close behind, their defenses floating alongside their masters as they wielded swords with serrated edges in their mouths.
New flyers came by, slower and more cumbersome when spotted. Bone had attempted to kill or consume these new flying ponies, yet half of them seemed to not care in the slightest about his efforts. He soon found out why when three dropped down onto his tower and confronted him.
His now brightly glowing eyes made it clear that these were not bat ponies. They were ponies made from what appeared to be crystal, their forms shimmering and reflecting the light of Bone's eyes.
Bone's skeleton immediately moved to defend its master, attempting to drive a blade through the collarbone of a crystal pony before it glanced off uselessly into the stone floor.
"A necromancer, huh?" One of the flying crystal ponies grinned, "Haven't seen one of them in a long time."
The skeleton attempted a new strategy, using its hoof to smash the face of one of the ponies with resounding success. Chips of their muzzle and eye flew off, clattering onto the ground as they screamed with pain.
"Deal with the skeleton first, idiots!" The supposed leader of the three shouted, turning their focus away from Bone and towards the necromancer's servant.
Bone focused his magic on them, willing them to die... yet nothing happened. He attempted to consume them, and again, nothing.
Scenic was more pro-active in her attempts at killing the ponies, however. She used the stock of her crossbow to bludgeon one of them on the head until it shattered into pieces on the ground, their body twitching as reflective dust clouded the area.
"Smash them!" The young pegasus advised while moving on to assist Bone's skeleton.
"Well," Bone huffed, "That's something to look out for, I guess!"
The second group had finally arrived at the walls. Bone had time to look over the edge of his tower just in time to witness a massive ball of fire being conjured by several of the mages at once. It shone like the morning sun and felt like an open oven. The mages that had originally shielded their own forces now moved to contain the heat coming from this construct of growing magic, preventing their own unicorns from being reduced to cinders before the spell could be completed.
"Mother of Celestia!"
Bone focused his magic on the mages, willing them to die. A few clutched their chests in response, though Bone assumed the others were far enough to be out of the range of his abilities. The fireball continued to grow, a bit more unstable now that some of the mages were dead. Bone grinned, commanding the recently deceased mages to rise and attack.
Shouts immediately began to ring out from the Bright Moon. Skeletons rose and pounced on the helplessly focused mages, their faces being shredded by skeletal teeth and impaled by horns. Their throats were torn out and their skulls trampled, distracting even more of the Bright Moon away from the main fight just to combat the threat rising in their midst.
"Bone Marrow," Rich shouted over the cacophony of battle, "More dead!"
The necromancer moved to look over the edge of his tower down at the ramparts. Ponies had begun to climb onto the walls and guards were being quickly slaughtered by the advancing army. Sensing outward with his magic, Bone focused on the few un-moving skeletons he could sense in order to not accidentally kill one of his allies and forced their bodies to rise.
Dead guards and Bright Moon alike soon rose, taking up old weapons as their flesh melted away to bone. Their armor remained intact, along with their weapons, and they joined forces with the surviving ponies and Rich's guards. Glowing blue orbs greeted every pony to climb the walls, soon followed by a sword being thrust into their face and their body falling into the moat below.
Once clean water flowed with a murky cloud of bloody red as body after body plummeted to its doom. Bone could sense the waiting corpses like a beacon, his eyes glowing brighter with every casualty.
Rise, and Serve!
He was worried that nothing had happened for a moment, but soon the water began to bubble and boil. Glowing blue lights could be seen through the dense blood in the moat, and they soon marched from the sloped trap into the Bright Moon that awaited their turn to climb onto the walls.
Shouts of warning cried out from the forces below the wall. "Necromancer! Necromancer!"
The surviving mages abandoned their attempt at a wall destroying fireball and instead used their shields to redirect what flame they had conjured into a jet of molten fire directed at the advancing skeletons. Dripping hot magma jutted from the magical contraption, incinerating the skeletons in an inferno that forced Bone to pull away from the ramparts to avoid the intense heat.
Bone pulled his hood down from his head in order to see better, figuring that he didn't have to hide himself in the middle of combat now. "That's new!"
"Focus on that tower!"
The young necromancer poked his head over the ramparts in time to see a wall of crossbows being aimed in his direction, their armor reflecting the flickering fire that had refocused on the outer defenses of the manor.
"We've got to move!" Bone grabbed hold of Scenic and scurried quickly to the Tower's hatch that lead to a staircase down.
Bone had just lifted the hatch when the order reached his ears. Already there was a wave of bolts descending upon him and he pushed Scenic down the stairs in desperation. The bolts begun to strike the stone near him and he was barely halfway through before one found a home inside of his leg.
He screamed with pain as he stumbled the rest of the way down the steps, the bolt snapping off and leaving part of it embedded into his leg. His descent down the staircase ended by striking the chest-plate of one of his own skeletons with his face before the rest of his body rolled to a stop.
Scenic seemed to be fairing better than her friend and was already moving to his injured leg. "Oh Celestia!"
"Pull it out!" Bone shouted, lifting his injured leg and offering it to his friend. He was busy focusing on the battle at the moment and fairly worried about what would happen if another of those crystal ponies surprised him now. "Hurry!"
The filly looked with confusion at the wound for a moment before spotting a piece of splintered wood jutting from it. Hesitating for a moment from thinking about blood in her mouth, she soon bit down on what she could and yanked as hard as she was able.
Bone yelped in pain and hissed through his teeth, using one of his hooves to hold his leg down. "Try again!"
Scenic did as asked, getting a new grip on the bolt and tugged roughly once again. The bolt shredded its way clear of the wound; torn arteries and veins gushing blood onto the stone floor in a quickly expanding puddle.
The necromancer focused his magic on his wound, forcing it to heal as fast as it was able to. His leg tensed before a soothing cold ran through the muscles and he could feel his body mending itself slowly.
Bone managed angry heavy breaths as he watched his magic work. "I hate pain!"
The siege was not going well for the defenders. The Bright Moon's mages had refocused their magical efforts onto the walls and had begun freezing the stone. Flyers were now grabbing hold of surviving ponies and carrying them away from the manor into the darkness and Rich's guards were being slaughtered by their attackers.
Bone and Scenic remained in their tower with a few survivors and Scenic's mother firing bolts out of small slits in the stonework.
"I have to raise more skeletons," Bone grimaced, standing shakily on his newly healed leg. "It's the only way we're going to win this now!"
"You'd better do it fast," One of the surviving ponies replied while reloading their crossbow, "Or the rest of us are going to be the kind of dead we won't wake up from."
"Hey Bone," Scenic suggested, "Why don't you try going bigger with your talent?"
The young necromancer was caught off-guard. "Are you sure? I don't know whats going to happen if I do something like that..."
Scenic pulled her friend close. "Bone, you have all of us to help you through whatever happens, alright? If you don't use your special talent as much as you can, then more ponies are going to die. I know you're scared of that void inside that you talked about, but it might be our only chance!"
Bone looked past Scenic to the battle outside. The walls were coated in ice and the Bright Moon was pummeling it into shards. They would break into the manor soon enough if he didn't help.
His glowing eyes searched the face of his friend, fearing what would happen if he gave in. Would he become a monster just like every other necromancer had? Is that what made them become evil?
The bright blue pegasus pulled her necromancer friend close enough for them to be muzzle to muzzle. "Bone, I swear that I'll stay with you no matter what."
She then planted a quick kiss on Bone's snoot, causing the pure white colt to turn a shade of pink.
Scenic blushed as well before tapping a hoof on her friend's muzzle. "Could you please save all of us now with your spooky skeleton magic?"
Bone poked his head out from the wooden hatch at the top of the tower. Bolts littered the floor like hay in a barn, but no more had fallen. Scenic's small kiss was still fresh on his mind, fighting the void within his heart in an altogether uneasy battle.
"Oh, Celestia... please don't tell me that I'm going to fall in love in the middle of a battle."
He shoved the hatch open, climbing from the stairs onto the top of the tower. Flying ponies swarmed through the sky and had nearly killed all of the second wall's ponies. Bone worried about Bright Idea and Rich, but he refocused when a singing blade scratched his neck from a passing pony's attempt at beheading him.
Bone focused his abilities, sensing pony after pony and skeleton after skeleton within them. "Alright, let's see why ponies are so afraid of necromancers..."
Looking through the battlefield's magical fires and the spraying blood of combat, Bone identified each of the ponies that were on his side the best of his ability as well as those within the tower. The more he focused, the more he felt every movement of bone, every heartbeat, every breath taken.
He thought of killing every single pony there. Would he be able to do it? Did he have enough control over his special talent to actually go through with something like that? Self doubt crept its way into his thoughts, challenging the idea that a colt could perform a feat of magic so grand.
The void inside of him was the first to answer, growing in its demand, its hunger. He could. He could very well kill every pony he saw.
A second voice had a different idea, however. What if he had more control over a pony than just living or dying? He could make them blind, right? He had accidentally done so when his own eyes were being cut out. Perhaps he could... make them fall asleep?
The void demanded their death, to raise them as a skeletal army and deal with them once and for all. To command a legion of undead and to confront Celestia, to force her to leave him in peace with a show of his own ability and the threat of stopping every beating heart in Equestria until he was left alone.
Bone pulled away from the ramparts to avoid a bolt being launched through his head. Would forcing the Bright Moon to sleep actually work? Would it be better to just kill them all and be certain?
He shook his head and shrugged. "I guess if they don't sleep, they die, right?"
The young necromancer focused his magic on the flesh and blood that animated around him in deadly combat. The ponies that he had never met before and that would kill him without a second thought. They wouldn't spare him if they had the chance, he was sure about that. He wanted Scenic to be safe, as well as his other friends. Did those other ponies really have to die for that to happen?
Bone looked over the ramparts once again as more ponies poured over the walls. Drawing a breath he voiced, "I hope this works..."
He gazed down hopefully at the ponies below. Eyes flicking from soldier to soldier, hoping they would fall over. Nothing was happening.
"Oh please don't make me kill all of them!" Bone shouted in protest, redoubling his efforts.
Please Sleep! Stop fighting! Run!
Each command did nothing to the Bright Moon. There had to be a way to make them stop fighting!
Drop your weapons! Retreat!
As he attempted more and more commands it quickly became apparent that his special talent was not going to comply. Everything he was trying was not working. Sleeping, running, terrifying them, even attempting to make them insane. None of it worked.
The mages had switched their spells now, focusing their magic on moving the ground itself into a large ball of dirt and stone. The wall was frozen solid, and this last spell would be more than enough to send it crashing down around everypony. Bone looked at the other side of his tower and noticed Rich and Bright Idea fighting flank to flank with dead bodies all around them.
There's no time...
Bone focused on the ponies he had identified once more, noting that a few of them had perished already. From the corner of his eye, he noticed even more of the Bright Moon marching to assist their allies in the siege.
Lowering his head with a shaking breath, he came to a final conclusion.
Like a wave, the fighting stopped. Plate armor shuffled and ponies gurgled in response to his command. Swords clattered to the ground and ponies dropped from the sky, some crashing into their allies with sickening cracks. Blood flowed from sputtering mouths as hundreds drowned, their lungs shredded and heart crushed into a pulp.
The manor was silent for a time. Survivors and guards that had been about to die pushed themselves from the ground with cries of relief and thanks, some even breaking down into uncontrolled sobs as they crawled away from dead friends they had once shared a lifetime with.
Bone knew that more were coming, and barely anypony had survived up to this point. Sensing the few that were alive, he counted seventeen of their original seventy. He smiled, noticing that Scenic was one of the survivors. Then, to his horror, he realized something was wrong.
She was holding somepony. Her breaths were quick.
He yanked open the hatch to the tower and galloped down the steps as quickly as he could. Reaching the bottom, he witnessed Scenic and her mother... with a bolt in her head.
Her mouth was open, a trickle of blood running down her face from the bolt having pierced through her muzzle and embedding itself in her brain. The necromancer could feel the intrusion in the bone.
"B-Bone!" Scenic cried, holding her mother close, "Save her!"
Looking from the bolt to the mother's lifeless eyes, he wasn't too sure he would be able to help. "I can try..."
Wrapping his teeth around the bolt, he yanked quickly. Bits of brain followed the steel head of the bolt along with blood and bits of cracked bone as it fell to t he ground.
Bone gulped, focusing his efforts onto her.
He went cold, his eyes widening.
Heal! Mend! Live!
It wasn't working, not on her.
"Come on!" Bone shouted in frustration, "Work!"
Come back! Live again!
"Bone, what's going on?" Scenic wondered, her eyes filled with tears that flowed onto her face. "Can't you fix her?"
"I'm trying!" Bone shouted in desperation, willing command after command with nothing working. "I..."
Scenic held the corpse of her mother tightly in her hooves. She couldn't speak now. The young filly was filled with grief as her friend tried again and again to heal her mother.
"Shes..." Bone somberly stated, "She's dead, Scenic."
His friend sobbed loudly, embracing her mother's body.
The necromancer could only stare in stunned silence as his mind attempted to make sense of what had happened.
This is my fault. If I had just killed all those ponies faster, she would still be alive!
His own growing void agreed with him, growing in size along with his anger. I could have prevented this! None of us had to die!
"Scenic," Bone coldly stated, "This ends now. Nopony else we care about is going to die because of me; not tonight."
The young necromancer marched from the room and went straight back up the steps to the top of the tower, the sounds of Scenic's crying dominating his thoughts. He sensed the dead that littered the ground, clumped together in their final desperate attempts at life.
The void grew within him alongside the same fire that burned when Galloping Glades was being attacked. Ever since he discovered his special talent, ponies had died around him. One after the other they fell. Anywhere he stayed was soon attacked, like he was a magnet to misery.
Pulling his hood over his head, he looked out to the new group of Bright Moon that advanced. Heavily armored with even more mages than before. Flying bat ponies taking up the skies above as dawn slowly threatened to give light to the battlefield from behind them.
An angry hissing escaped the necromancer's lips at the sight of them. They had wanted him to bring this level of destruction on towns so they could play the hero. They wanted a monster to fight so they could be heroes, just the same as the Knights of the Sun.
"You'll get your monster," Bone threatened under his breath, "But you won't live to tell about it."
His magic reached out, sensing the dead bodies that grew cold. Fur and skin melted to muscle, and melted to bone. Skeletons rose in a mass of death brought to life, holding their weapons once more. A second wave of magic struck, and the blue glow of their master took hold of their eyes.
Looking to the advancing force, Bone knew exactly the type of command to use now.
Shouting with a voice amplified by his anger and his own magic he shouted, "Kill them all!"
There was no battle cry, no shouting of enthusiasm as the skeletons took flight or climbed the walls. The air grew cold with the march of the dead, rattling bones accompanied by unnatural hissing as the skeletons slammed their hooves into the stone wall and marched directly through it, sending it crashing down on top of themselves before rising once more from the rubble.
The advancing army halted immediately as mages moved to the front of their formations with shield spells. Skeletons unleashed volley after volley of bolts, each never pausing for breath or to let their muscles recover. They were undead; they knew neither sleep, fatigue or mercy. Their master had ordered them to kill, and they would do exactly that.
Surviving ponies in the manor moved away from the dead as they marched forward through the moat. Flying skeletons from dead bat ponies and pegasus swooped down onto the mages and rammed their bodies with frightening force directly on top of them before regaining their balance and flying up into the sky to repeat the same maneuver.
Bone watched behind a mask of cold hatred at the Bright Moon's attempted defense. Spells would cut through lines of his skeletons, only for the dead of their own ranks to be converted into even more for them to face. Mages were targeted above all else, and the moment a shield spell faltered it would attract the attentions of a dozen skeletons to swarm them.
Bolts continued their hail on the Bright Moon as they wavered, faced with their own impending death made into an army. More often than not, the falling projectiles would zip through rib cages of the skeletons. Some impacted bone, of course, though the skeletons fought on until disintegrated by magic or blown apart by a heavy strike.
More ponies died, and more were brought back as the reinforcements of the Bright Moon were pushed back. Bone could feel the cold void within him growing with every death and injury, every raised skeleton that he commanded. His breath was an icy mist, his emotions dulled, and he just barely heard the hatch of the tower opening.
Turning his head with slow detachment from the situation, he spotted his friend Scenic poking her head out.
"Bone?" She called, "Are you okay?"
He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Your mother just died because of me, and you're worried if I'm alright?"
The filly rose from the hatch and closed it behind her, moving past the scattered bolts on the ground to her necromancer friend. She couldn't think of a reply to that, but chose instead to stand next to Bone.
"Scenic," Bone asked, "I'm scared..."
The two shared a look into the other's eyes; a soft magenta confronted by a dark blue glow.
"I am too, Bone." Scenic admitted, "I don't know what to do."
The necromancer broke eye contact, looking out to the battlefield to check on his skeletons. The mages had been killed along with most of the front line. Flying skeletons battled with living bat ponies overhead and it had almost become instinctual to replace his losses with the newly dead of his enemies.
"Do you think they'll send more?" Scenic questioned, wanting to turn the conversation in a less terrifying direction.
Bone shrugged. "I don't even know how many they've sent already. They must really want us dead to send this much."
Scenic glanced at Bone Marrow before moving close to his side, resting her head against his.
The young necromancer shared the gesture, watching the sunrise as his skeletons carved a path through the Bright Moon until their morale broke, forcing them into a full rout as ponies galloped or flew for their lives.
"Should we see who survived?" Bone asked after a pause.
Scenic sighed. "I'm not ready to walk past my mother again."
He nodded with understanding, and the two sat in silence together as the remaining skeletal army marched back to the manor after their successful counter-attack with newly raised undead rushing to catch up.