Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars

by Radiant Dawn

Chapter 16: The Fires of War

Chapter 16: The Fires of War

It's amazing how fast time flies when you're having "fun", because yet again, months seemed to get away from me.

The seasons changed, and I was glad that I had Spring beside me. In her seasonal domain, she seemed more powerful and more uplifting, which meant Rainbow Dash was as well. The Icewing Raiders gained both morale and spirit from the two of them, and we were near unstoppable in the campaign.

As the Great Alliance's armies cleared each area, a "safe zone" was set up with the purifying spell of unicorns. This in turn began to drastically reduce the number of places left for Death or his armies to congregate, which meant that somepony somewhere was closing in on him without knowing it. Lately, the hordes had taken to digging in their few strongholds that remained, and that was where my brother's "railgun" came in handy. The magical siege weapon turned out to be infinitely useful in breaking down the defenses of even the most heavily armored targets, and the only accidents were among those who weren't properly trained in their use or ignored safety measures. For the first time since the war began, things started to look up.

Fate it seems, has a way of dashing any and all hopes in a war, however.

The casualties came few and far in between, more often soldiers were injured instead of killed...but last month tested my resolve. I received word from Celestia herself that my brother had been gravely wounded when his unit was ambushed when they made their move into The Scorched Lands. He survived – barely – but was out of action until his wounds healed. That seemed like enough, right?


Spike's unit was the next to be targeted, and he and Pinkie were very close to losing their lives. The young dragon had been wounded, leaving the other three of his team to fight off a seemingly unending horde of shamblers (fleshy undead). Pinkie slaughtered them with ease, but was stopped dead in her tracks at the sight she saw that day. Among the remains of the horrors that had besieged them, she saw her entire family...sisters included. Yes...the avatar of death had been so low as to make her strike down her own family. I knew for a fact that it wasn't just coincidence, as the damage it did to her body and psyche were the perfect attack that only a genius could have thought up. After her wounds were treated, Pinkie was recalled to Equestria, with Applejack taking her place. The once-bubbly and giggly pink pony had been reduced to a shell of her former self, and she was now on near-constant suicide watch at the palace, with both princesses and Twilight watching over her.

Okay okay, that's enough, right? Nope...wrong yet again.

It seemed that Death had changed his tactics with startling efficiency, and began attacking Equestria where she was weakest...her heart. Soldiers were no longer mindlessly killed, instead they were maimed. Death had apparently figured Equestria's spirit would break when that of her denizens did...and he was correct. Deaths became a rare occurrence, but injuries were startlingly high. Nowadays, pegasi would return home with terminally damaged or removed wings...unicorns, with broken horns. Ponies were left alive, only to have their lives as a whole and their livelihoods ruined for the rest of their lives; for unicorns, that was a long time.

As the number of active-duty soldiers started to wear thin in Equestria, it became my job to carry her as the campaign continued. My face and that of my compatriots became the banner of freedom and victory for Equestria, and while it was a large burden, I was glad that Equestria had not broken. My recently good mood was increased further by the fact that Veruuthas had advised me that the dragons would be assisting us in the campaign across Terra if we sent unicorns to consecrate the ground of his home and that of his people. I of course agreed without hesitation, happy that we had such a powerful force backing us now.

It was now not uncommon for a dragon or two to be incorporated into the mobile units of the military, and looking around the varied faces of my unit brought a smile to my face. Pony, gryphon, dragon, deer, zebra, and wolf...I hoped with all of my being that perhaps even after the war was over, our newfound alliances might hold beyond it. It's a fool's dream, but it's my dream.

Does that make me a fool? Yes...yes it does.

Two dragons had been incorporated into my unit, both highly recommended by Veruuthas himself. The first was his daughter, who went by the new age name of Zita. She was a small brilliant white dragon – about the same size as my brother – with scales that seemed to sparkle like diamonds. Like me, she was much more comfortable during the cooler months of autumn and winter, though she was capable of fighting in any. The other dragonkin was a dracoknight – a flightless type of dragon with four legs and two arms. He was called Savourras, which meant "judgment" in his tongue. He was a dark violet color with irises of silver, and he nearly topped me in height. At my word, both were welcomed with open arms, legs, and wings into my ranks. Both of them proved their worth numerous times already as both attackers and protectors during our missions, and I was pleased to have them on my team.

Today was going to be a good day however, as I was relinquishing control of the unit to Dash and Ditzy for a little bit, going home to see my family and friends...as well as to check up on the wounded.

"Dashie for the last time, I'll be fine. I've flown much farther than that before. You know this." I grumbled as the mare verbally prodded me with questions.

"But Frost, you'll be all alone." the rainbow-maned alicorn whined.

I rolled my eyes with a grin. "I appreciate the concern, Dash, but I'll be fine. I've worked up my magic reserves enough to where I can teleport all the way there safely. I'll be okay, I promise."

The gray pegasus mare looked a little down, but managed a smile. "Well that's good. When are you going to be back?"

"I'll be back in about two or three days, Ditzy. You two can handle things here until then. Of that I'm sure." I responded, getting the last of my things together in a saddlebag. I quickly did one last check of my tent before nodding. "Looks like that's everything." I then looked to my two lovely mares and gave each a sweet kiss. "I love the both of you. Keep alert and stay safe until I return."

Dash hugged me tight and smiled as Ditzy joined her. "We love you Frost. Tell Pinkie that we love her and miss her."

I nodded solemnly, but offered a small smile. "I will." I then stepped back and focused my magic for a few minutes before disappearing in a flash.

I reappeared at the "gate" leading inside the barrier that protected Canterlot. The guards that were watching it immediately opened a path through the magical barrier for me once they saw who it was, so I trotted through as the magical shield closed behind me.

As I walked through the streets of Canterlot, I noticed that they were rather unchanged during this wartime. Prissy ponies still walked with their snooty friends to Celestia-knows-where, while I was treated like...well, like royalty. In all honesty it was still odd having ponies I didn't even know bowing to me, but by now I had learned to simply politely nod back with a smile and be on my way.

As the palace came into view, I felt a small bit of nostalgia of what I once considered home. Nowadays my home was the battlefield, and my bed was little more than metal and a few layers of cloth. Still, the happiness that flowed through me wasn't from the sight of the palace, it was from the thought of who dwelt within. My beloved princesses and Twilight Sparkle, as well as Lyra, Vinyl Scratch, and Pinkie...they all were waiting for me for one reason or another. The thing that they all shared in common however, was that all of them held love for me and all wished to be with me after so long, and I was more than happy to oblige.

I trotted up to the main gate of the palace to be greeted by none other than Shining Armor himself. The unicorn stallion was smiling wide, and he opened the gate himself to escort me. "Welcome home, Frost."

I nudged him with a smile and followed him through the corridors of the palace. "Thanks, Shining. So, how has everything been lately?"

The captain nodded a few times. "Good, good. I mean besides Pinkie Pie of course." At this, his head lowered a bit in sadness. "It's a shame, really. She used to be such a lovable mare."

"She still is." I responded. "And if I have anything to say about it, she'll be the Pinkie we all know and love again one day. I'll make sure of that."

He sighed as we approached the throne room. "I hope so. I never knew the mare as well as Twily did, but it's sad seeing her in such a state." As he pressed his hoof to the throne room door, he smiled. "Somehow, I know that seeing you will do wonders for her though. She needs you, Frost."

I nodded as the door opened to reveal all those waiting for me – all my marefriends not in the field, as well as my mother, my sister, and even my brother, who looked like a mummy with all the bandages that were on him.

I pointed to the dragon and smirked. "That's a nice outfit, bro. Does it come in a 'mens'?"

He growled at me and rolled his eyes. "Shut up and give me a hug, cock-juggler."

I grinned as I embraced the Obsidian, patting him on the back. "It's good to see you're coming along good, man. I was worried about you when I heard."

The dragon released me and smirked, tapping his injured chest. "Please. You think a few measly scratches are enough to take me down? Come on, you know me better than that."

I chuckled and nodded. "That's what I like to hear." I then looked to my mother and sister, opening my wings for the two of them in a hug, which they happily received. "Hi mom...hi Jen. I'm so happy to see the two of you."

The gold-maned mare nuzzled against the underside of my wing with a smile. "I'm so glad you're okay, son."

I hugged my mother and sister one more time before turning to the four mares with a grin. I opened my wings again as wide as I could and motioned my head. "Come here, girls."

At this, I was nearly knocked over as the four ponies all squeezed into my embrace, and it was the happiest I'd been in a while. The warmth from their presence melted the hard ice that had built up around my soul, and for the first time in a long time, everything felt like it was going to be okay.

After saying my hellos to all those present though, there was still one more I had to see above all else...

Pinkie Pie.

Luna led me to a guest room within the palace where Twilight and Pinkie were, and she explained to me the entire way what had happened since the pink pony's return. Apparently she didn't speak much, except to herself, and all she did was draw pictures all day. She barely ate or slept, and more often than not she wouldn't respond to anyone who was with her. While she hadn't actually tried to hurt herself at all yet, all her friends were very worried for her, and so had made sure that she was watched at all times...even at night.

As we neared the door, Luna stopped me with a stern look. "Frost, I warn you that what you will see will likely shock you. Please...don't frighten her." I nodded and the princess of the night opened the door.

She had been right to warn me, and I had to fight to keep from bursting into tears.

Seated on the bed was my special violet unicorn watching over Pinkie Pie, who was currently sleeping. The earth pony mare was very skinny, her straight mane was frizzy and frazzled, and she had large bags under her eyes from weeks without adequate sleep. Pinkie had always been a little more "curvy" than the rest of the girls, so to see her so bone-thin...it was heartbreaking.

I walked into the room with Luna by my side as quietly as I could, and met with the eyes of Twilight. On her cheeks were tear trails, no doubt for her friend in the bed she sat upon. I quickly made my way over to the bed silently and embraced the sorrowful mare in my forelegs, letting a few of my own tears fall.

"Twi...I'm so sorry this happened." I whispered with a kiss to her forehead.

Twilight held me tightly as well for a moment before kissing my cheek softly. "It's not your fault, Frost. Nopony could have expected this would happen. Nothing is sacred with this enemy, it seems."

I nodded and gestured to the door. "Go with Luna please, Twi. I want to be alone with Pinks."
Without argument the unicorn nodded and silently trotted out of the room next to the princess, quietly shutting the door behind her.

I looked down at the sleeping mare for a moment before gently laying myself next to her, face to face. The sight up close just broke my spirit further. Pinkie Pie's expression was the very face of what the war had wrought upon Terra. It was an expression of misery, brokenness, and pain. I extended my wing to cover her, and she unconsciously moved closer to me. With no words to speak, I simply closed my eyes and started to hum softly. As I did so, a song came to mind and I started to softly sing to her as she slept.

"Hush my love now don't you cry
Everything will be alright
Close your eyes and drift in dream
Rest in peaceful sleep

If there's one thing I hope I showed you
If there's one thing I hope I showed you
Hope I showed you

Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Just give love to all

Oh my love, in my arms tight
Every day you give me life
As I drift off to your world
Rest in peaceful sleep

I know there's one thing that you showed me
I know there's one thing that you showed me
That you showed me

Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Let's give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all..."

As I finished I slowly and gently wrapped my foreleg around the sleeping pony, holding her against my body. At this, she sported a very small smile across her face as she nuzzled deeper into my chest.

"Mmm...Frostie." she moaned in her sleep. She frowned and shuffled around a bit before her eyes fluttered open and she looked up at me. "Frost?"

I nodded. "I'm here, Pinkie."

Her blue eyes brimmed with tears and her face wrenched up with sobs as she cried against my chest. I held her against me and let her do so for as long as she needed, hoping that perhaps in time, this could start the healing process for her.

She cried for nearly two hours straight, and I was honestly worried that she would dehydrate herself by the end of it, but eventually she looked up at me, determined to surprise me yet again.

"Frostie...we have to stop him." she stated with determination.

"Who, Death?" I asked. She nodded back and I shook my head. "We aren't stopping anyone, Pinkie. Look at what this war has done to you already. I'm not going to allow y-"

"Stop it, Frost." she cut me off sternly. This shut me up right away, and I listened intently to her. "The worst thing that could have ever been done to me has already been done." Her face dropped as she spoke in a near whisper. "I saw my sisters after years only to have to cut them down." She then looked up at me with fire in her eyes, but the fire of the real Pinkie Pie, not Pinkamena. "He's evil, Frost...and we all need to stop him. The only thing left he could take from me would be the Cakes, or any of my friends...and I'm not just going to stand by and let that happen." She then let a very Rainbow Dash-like smirk cross her face. "Besides, I need to make sure that my parties have a world to take place in, and that all my friends can be there."

The pony that I now saw before me was bittersweet to behold. Pinkie Pie was a casualty of war, her innocence ripped away from her by a cunning enemy that knew not of remorse, and nothing was sacred. And yet, Pinkie had now become like I was. She had become powerful and steadfast at the cost of this innocence. While she would never be the same, perhaps that didn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Our party mare had "grown up"...her eyes had been opened to the true evils of the world that she once turned a blind eye to. A part of me was happy that she was going to be okay...but at the same time another part of me wished that this change within her hadn't had to happen. It was for casualties like Pinkie that this war had to end soon. I couldn't allow this to happen to anypony else...Celestia-forbid a foal or young pony like the CMC group. It was because of greedy and downright evil people like Death that I had wanted to leave Earth in the first place...and it seemed that evil had followed me here.

"Frostie?" whispered Pinkie from beside me. I looked at her in the eyes and she smiled nervously. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Can we make something to eat?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Sounds great, Pinks. I'll make the main course, and you grab the dessert. I could really use a cupcake right about now."

She rolled out the bed slowly and nodded. "That sounds good, Frostie." She then walked over slowly and hugged me tight. "I missed you, Frost. I'm so glad you came to see me."

"I always make sure to be there when my friends need me." I responded with a smile as I walked outside the room with the mare beside me.

Perspective change – Luna

Frost...ever the enigma.

When nopony else was able to bring our pink friend back, one visit from the prince revived her. It made sense when I thought about it...her response to seeing Frost. It had been months since they had seen each other, so I understood how he had such a large impact on Pinkie Pie. Also taking into account the pink pony's personality, it was also understandable. She was always very close to her friends, and not seeing them put undue stress on her heart and mind – this was proven by how she reacted when she believed her friends no longer wanted her in Ponyville.

All things considered though, I had missed her skills at creating lovely baked goods.

Save for missing Princess Dash and a few others, it was as old times for all present, and we drank in the familiar feeling with fervor. In the time we now found ourselves in, every bit of happiness was to be treasured...and even my sister – ever the strong leader – allowed herself to relax again and giggle like she did when we were young. It was a heavenly sound to hear from the pony I held closest to my heart, and I reveled in the resounding laughter that surrounded us.

I had made sure I was awake all day today to take place in the wonderful frivolity of our informal gathering. Pinkie, though still thinner than usual, was acting like her old self again, making jokes and giggling near constantly. Beloved Twilight was smiling wide at the sight of her friends being so happy, and when we locked eyes I passed a meaningful gaze her way and nodded softly. In a few days we would be soldiers again. We would be rulers, generals, and warriors...but right now, in this ever-so-short moment, we were simply ponies basking in the warm glow of the love and friendship that surrounded us.

Would the world ever the the same? Could we ever come back to this when it was all over?

I hoped with all of my being that the answer was yes to these questions, but a part of me knew that was not the case. This war and the loss of so many lives was going to leave a scar in the memory of all the races of Terra...one that would never fully heal. While this meant that the emotional anguish of this generation would be at an all-time high, it also meant that Terra's next generation would know just how bad things could get...and would thus treasure the peace all the more. I held this in my heart in hopes that it would keep the mortal races from fighting amongst themselves. True, it was unlikely such a dream would come true.

But even a princess is allowed to hope.

Perspective change – Vinyl Scratch

The party animal was back.

It was true, she wasn't quite 100%, but it was a huge improvement to how she'd been the past few weeks. Before she had left with Spike to the western front, the pink pony and I had become thick as thieves. I mean come on, I was a DJ and she was a partier...it was a match made in heaven.

As I sat next to her in the banquet hall of the palace, I had to fight to keep from laughing too hard. I don't know what it was, but there was just something about her laugh that was contagious. No matter what mood I was in or what was going in, that laugh would have me holding my sides as I laughed loudly along with her. At least for the moment, it felt like everything was going to be okay.
I looked around the room to see smiles on everypony's face. The princesses and everypony else were all happy and laughing as we all swapped stories and had a good old time. For a minute, I almost forgot that there even was a war going on. In my daydream, everything was good. We were just friends having a nice lunch together and enjoying the day.

In the back of my mind though, I knew this wasn't the case.

The truth was that there was an evil out there that wanted to destroy us and everything we loved and cherished. That's why we all needed this. We needed to be reminded what our hardworking mares and stallions were fighting for...and what was at stake. Those poor ponies who lost their lives and the ones that would follow...there weren't going to be any happy days for them or the families they left behind. That was why Frost and the others had to fight...to make sure that tragedy stayed with the few, instead of becoming the norm.

Perspective change – Twilight Sparkle

Having Frost home was beyond amazing and while I knew it wouldn't last, that didn't matter to me. What mattered was the here and now, and now was a great place to be. For three days, he was ours again...and I was going to milk those days for all they were worth. This started with a large banquet between all of us. Fluttershy regretfully couldn't attend because of trouble with a manticore in the Everfree (no idea how she deals with those), and Rarity was busy with a large order from some businesspony in Manehattan, but both assured me they'd see us all tomorrow at the library.

Besides, Luna and I had a little "surprise" planned for Frost tonight since the rest of our friends would be busy...which just left the three of us in the library tonight.

Lunch proceeded amazingly, and I was so happy that things were so uplifting. Even though the princesses and I put on brave faces for the military and the citizens of Equestria, the truth was that we were stressed to the breaking point. Beyond the sheer number of casualties from the war, we also had to deal with the morale of the ponies dropping considerably. It probably wouldn't have been as bad normally, but most ponies alive today couldn't even remember the last time Equestria was at war, so to not only be alive during wartime but also to see its effects...it must have been heartbreaking for the ponies of Equestria. I know it was painful for me just to see Pinkie in the state she returned in...I didn't even want to think about how I would have reacted if I received word that one of my friends had died in battle.

Regardless, I chose instead to focus on the good things for now. Pinkie was doing much better, Frost was back, and we were all laughing like old times...when things were so much simpler.

Normally the mere thought would be causing a little mini-depression for me, but I chose to ignore it. Stress and depression could come later, right now was a time for happiness and love. I had gone too long without it, and I was going to make sure I enjoyed it the best I could.

Celestia had officially released me from her tutelage almost two months ago, stating that as far as magic was concerned, she had nothing left to teach me. I don't know why, but for some reason this caused a little freakout on my part. I had asked her repeatedly why she wasn't happy with me, or what I had done wrong. Celestia of course, being as infinitely wise as she was, told me that I had done more than she could have imagined in record time...and now it was time to grow on my own. She told me that she literally had nothing left to teach me, that I knew everything she knew and more. I didn't believe her at first until she actually asked me to teach her a few of the spells I knew...spells she told me she had never heard of or never took the time to learn, namely most of Frost's battle spells he taught me. I will admit, it was a very empowering to be teaching my mentor, and I was smiling near-constantly. After a particular lesson I had with her covering mastery of matter manipulation and restructuring, I was pleased to hear her refer to me not as her student, but as her friend. With that proclamation, I now no longer had a problem simply referring to her by her name, even in front of other ponies or guards. I was secure in my place within her heart, and I knew how important we were to each other.

While I was happy Frost had been able to give us gifts for the birthdays he'd missed while he was away, I was extremely happy he would be here for Fluttershy's. After all, she'd never had a real party on her birthday, and something told me that without her wolf around, she could use the company. I still don't know whether it was simply her growing up over the years or whether it was Moonfang's doing, but she seemed to come out of her shell quite a bit more. Fluttershy still wasn't the fastest pegasus in the sky, but her fears had dwindled to a mere few things in the world instead of...well, everything.

Rainbow Dash would be proud.

Perspective change – Spike

"Come on AJ, you can't tell me you're not as strong as Pinkie Pie." I remarked with a chuckle.

The farm mare snarled and continued pulling the unconscious unicorn back to our "camp". "Y'all coulda' told me this was gonna happen, Spike."

I shrugged. "Had to find a way to make sure you were alert."

The past week for me had been a good one, as we had found the base of operations for one of the last of Death's "generals", along the ley line leading to The Lost World. The problem with this was that any spells used in this area reacted with the unicorns in such a way that they usually lost consciousness after casting their spells, so that left AJ and I to carry our two companions back to my burrow.

When we had finally arrived back at camp and placed our two still unconscious friends inside, I followed the farm mare in before sealing the entrance, leaving only a small vent to give us fresh air. AJ went about removing her armor and then sat down, opening her pack in the corner of the space and pulling out some dinner for us.

She handed me my portion and sat down. "Well Spike, y'all were raht. Guess Ah owe ya a few pies when we get back home."

I shrugged. "It's no biggie. We'll get that guy taken care of tomorrow, and then hopefully we'll be able to go back home. The last stronghold that we know about is in The Scorched Lands, and The Fireguard has that covered so I'll contact the princesses and Twi when we're finished."

"Ah hope so, Spike." she responded before looking down at her food. "Ah miss him."

I scooted over to my friend and rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. "I miss Rarity too, AJ...but we'll see them again soon. We're almost done here and then we can go home."

The orange mare nodded and took a few more bites of her MRE. "Good. Ah can' wait ta get home an' sleep in a real bed again."

I chuckled and shook my head. "You know AJ, I thought you'd be okay with 'roughing it'. Turns out you're just a big old softie."

"Hey, jus' because Ah work in tha fields all day don' mean Ah don' like ta have a hot bath and a soft bed ta sleep in." she retorted as she finished off the rest of her meal.

I chuckled again and finished my meal again as well, taking a swig from the canteen and then passing it to her. "Work hard, play hard, sleep hard...sounds like a good motto."

"Durn tootin'." the orange cowmare answered with a grin. "Well Ah'm bushed. Le's get some sleep, Spike."

I nodded. "You go ahead and sleep, AJ. I'll keep an eye on these two slackers here and take first watch."

She nodded and lay down against me. "Alraht Spike. Wake me if an'thing happens."

I leaned back against the wall of the cave and started running my claws through her mane. "Night AJ. Sleep well." She grunted in response and almost immediately fell asleep. As my friend rested, I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed a bit, glad that she finally allowed herself to sleep. I mean Celestia-love the mare, but she has a habit of working herself too hard, and I didn't want to be on the short-end of the stick when Dark asks me why his marefriend looks like she hadn't slept in weeks.

The only thing I didn't like about being on watch was the loneliness. Not because I was actually alone, but rather that I missed Twi, Rarity, and Dark. The difference tonight was that I was actually a little excited. If things went off without a hitch tomorrow, AJ, me, and the other two would be heading home for the first time in months. I then looked down at my body, noticing the many scars I had along my chest and arms now.

Rarity was going to have a fit.

Still, I would deal with it. To see the mare I loved and my family, it would be worth every second. To hear her voice, to feel her coat...the thought alone was raising my spirits.

"I'll be home soon, Rarity."

Perspective change – Frostbreaker

When Twi told me she had a surprise planned, I had no idea just how devious she and Luna could be.

I was nearly jumped when I arrived at the library by the two mares, and only by the grace of the gods had I not been injured. Still, as I lay in bed with the two smiling mares at my sides, I decided it had been worth it. I had missed this quite a lot, and I was going to make sure I enjoyed it to the fullest.

At least until a knock sounded at the door.

The two mares looked at me and I rolled my eyes with a sigh. "Wait here girls, I'll take care of this." I hopped out of the bed and shook my mane and tail out, allowing them to take their normal "flowing cloud" appearance, then I trotted down the stairs.

I arrived at the front door and opened it, surprised to see a blue unicorn mare with green eyes. I immediately let her inside and stared at her. "Well...I wasn't expecting to see you this soon."

Green fire started at the pony's hooves and crawled up before engulfing the entire figure. It only took a second or so for the form of the changeling queen to be standing before me. She smirked and shrugged. "I'll take that as a compliment coming from you, handsome."

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "What do you have to report, Queen Chrysalis?"

The tall changeling grinned for a moment before responding with a simple, "We've found him."

My eyes widened and I gasped. "Already? Wow...I knew you were good, but this I was not expecting. Where is he?"

She trotted over to the map that was hanging on the wall and pointed to an area above the Ibex Empire. "There are mountains here that are unexplored, but we've noticed quite a bit of movement happening around there. I've sent some of my better teams to infiltrate their ranks. I'm not sure what it is, but apparently they can't sense changeling magic. I assume we were one of the last races the enemy thought would be against them." She then pointed to a group of mountains between Canida and the Ibex Empire. "We've had confirmed sightings of him in this area. It seems that because of the close proximity to Ib'xian he assumed it would be the last place anypony would look."

I nodded. "He was right. I would never have thought to look there."

"So, what would you like to do?" the changeling asked.

I sighed and closed my eyes. "As much as I'd like to, we can't just attack him head-on. I've dealt with this guy before when we had him in this situation, and he'd be expecting that." I drew my hoof in a circle around the area. "We need to gather all allies and close in on him from all sides so that he can't escape. The execution needs to be perfect. Enough lives have been lost already, so I'd like to end this safely and efficiently." I then looked at the changeling queen with a grin. "If we can pull this off, you and your people will have earned your place in Equestria...of that I can promise you." I then nodded curtly. "Keep an eye on things and gather all the information you safely can. I want troop placements, fortifications...anything you can safely get your hooves on. I'll report your information to the princesses tomorrow and I'll contact you once I get back into the field in a few days." I then got close to her and eyed her with concern. "Please Chrysalis, your job is to only observe. Do not engage under any circumstances and don't take any unnecessary risks."

She eyed me coyly and grinned. "Please prince, my people know how to be invisible. Contrary to what ponies may think, I am not the heartless ruler of Tartarus everypony makes me out to be." She then winked at me. "Besides, I wouldn't want to worry such a handsome stallion."

"Just be safe...please." I pleaded with her.

She nodded and smiled. "I will...I promise. I'll meet you again at your camp in the Forbidden Forest in one week's time." I nodded and focused my magic for a moment, allowing my strongest feelings for my family and friends to surface. My body glowed pink for a moment and the changeling queen sighed as the pink flowed into her horn. "Wow...that's a lot of love. I'll be able to feed the entire hive with this."

"That's the idea, queen. Regardless of the past, your people are a part of this world as well...and you need to live just like the rest of us." I answered with a warm smile. "Well, it was good to see you again. You take care of yourself and your hive until we meet again."

She smiled and bowed her head slightly before moving towards the door. "Thank you, Prince Frostbreaker." As the door opened she changed her form back to that of a unicorn, then she stepped through. She stopped midway, however and looked back at me. "For what it's worth, I am honestly very sorry for what I've done to Equestria."

I shrugged. "Desperation makes us do crazy things, highness. You help us pull this off and I can promise you'll get your chance to formally apologize and I'll make sure all of Terra knows that it was because of you and your hive that we were able to finish this."

She nodded and closed the door, so I turned off the lights and headed upstairs.

When I arrived, it was to find Luna and Twi talking about marriage of all things. Whose I didn't know, but both of them blushed when I entered the room.

Luna then scooted over on the bed to make room for me and I lay down next to her. "So, who was that?"

"Queen Chrysalis." I responded as I closed my eyes.

Twilight sighed and lay down as well. "I know she's an ally, but I still don't like her."

I smirked before turning on my side to look at the two mares. "Well you might change your mind after I tell you what she told me." The two looked at me in interest, so I smiled. "Well, she told me she found him."

Luna gasped and placed her hoof on my shoulder. "Him? You mean, him him?"

I chuckled and nodded. "I don't know how many other 'hims' there are that we would be talking about. Yes, she claims she found Death...and considering the source, I'm more than inclined to believe her." I smiled as I closed my eyes and lay against Luna. "We're closing in on him, girls...and now we know exactly where to strike. Soon, this will all be over and we can rebuild and heal Terra."

The moon princess nodded slowly with a soft smile. "Finally." She then planted a hoof on either side of me and giggled when I looked up at her in confusion. "Oh come now Frost, the night is still young...and Twilight and I have plenty more energy to expend."

Gods watch over me...