Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars

by Radiant Dawn

Chapter 25: The Seventh Circle

Chapter 25: The Seventh Circle

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

It’s time’s like this that I almost wish we were dealing with people from Earth. Sure, the “bad” people there were dickheads, but never in my life had I thought something this bad could happen in a world this pure. It’s like the laws of nature themselves are just backwards somehow.

In fact, a lot of things had changed since Drew was taken away.

Nearly a month had passed since that day, and I was the one who stepped up to take his place as the commander. Everyone trusted me as much as him and had faith in me...so when it came right down to it, there wasn’t anyone else that could fill his shoes but me. Honestly though, it felt wrong. I knew I had to do it, because someone had to keep things organized and moving forward, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Much as I hated to admit it, I had become perfectly comfortable with my brother handling all these things, because I knew he could. He was always the calm and level-headed one between the two of us, while I was the one who could fight like no other ‒ practically speaking, he was the commander and I was the warrior, even on Earth.

Now though, I had been forced to take his place.

It was one of the rare and more recent moments in my life where I had adapted to be responsible and clear-minded. After all, the commander of the Icewing Raiders doesn’t lose his head in battle. No one trusted any other to do it but me, so where once my brother had trained the troops and kept up morale, it was now my job, in addition to forging and repairing the armor and arms of our military. It became one hell of a job for me, and honestly, I don’t think I’d ever worked that hard.

In addition to all this, I became the official go-between dragon for Drakkhenmyst Isle and Equestria, making sure political relations were strong and positive, which in honesty, wasn’t that hard. The dragonkin as a whole were simply misunderstood. Ponies had only ever seen dragons of a malicious or mischievous nature before me, so it was a great surprise to all of them to find that most of what I now referred to as “my people” were in fact very intelligent, polite, and kind. True that their pride sometimes made working with them difficult, but then again ponies could be difficult too, often allowing their prey instincts to rule them.

Gryphons as well came to feel a sort of kinship with me, and since Gilda had become such a trusted friend and advisor of mine, they were more than happy to know that a fellow predator was in charge instead of a “prissy pony”. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the way they saw ponies, even after the failed invasion from Highmount. Then again, the majority of ponies thought that Gryphons were brutish, unintelligent, and overall mean...so I guess racial stereotypes went both ways. I simply brushed it off, having become more than accustomed to such things from living on Earth.

Today was a little under a month after that day, and I was doing as I had been doing the past week or so, training all the new recruits.

I had always wondered just what would cause these ponies to say “enough is enough”...well it seemed that the loss of their prince was it. This time, they were not broken...they were angry. Our forces increased tenfold in a matter of days, and so nearly anyone and everyone that was of sergeant rank or above became a drill sergeant, training and honing the skills of all the fresh meat that had come in. Unfortunately, some we had to turn away, either because they were too young, too old, or simply were not coordinated enough to participate without being a liability. These were luckily less than 4% of what came in, meaning that along with the people of Zebrica, Cervidas, The Gryphon Kingdoms, and Drakkhenmyst Isle, we were massing an army the likes of which this world had never seen...nearly six million strong. Our humble facilities at Canterlot could no longer hold the massive (and still growing) army, so we all had moved to a field base within the Tramplevanian Alps, only about twenty miles to the west of our target. With Spike’s help and those of other gem dragons, and even a few friendly diamond dogs, we were able to quickly build an entire complex within the mountains themselves, effectively cloaking us both visually, thermally, and magically. It allowed us to be close and in direct contact with Queen Chrysalis’ spy forces, and it also gave us a great natural bunker, in case we were attacked.

Anyhow, a few trusted nobles and Shining Armor had stayed in Canterlot to keep things running smoothly, but everyone else had made their way to our forward base on the summit of a mountain the neutral Ib’xian people called the “Mountain of Eternal Bloom”. It was a fitting name in fact, because there were beautiful magical cherry blossoms that were in bloom year round, even in the dead of winter. It was considered a holy place by the non-violent Ib’xian people, but after the princesses had spoken to them about what was at stake, they willingly allowed us to use it as a base, along with their blessing to purge Terra of the darkness that had laid claim to it.

As I soared around the base and looked over the restless troops, I couldn’t help but smile warmly. Finally...we were ready to end this, and no amount of tricks from Death was going to help him this time.

After making one last pass, I landed atop the summit to see my personal team of shock troops ‒ a specialized group that was designed to disrupt the enemy with powerful and agile attacks, or utterly destroy them with sheer magical power. My group consisted of six elite gryphon warriors, Zita (Veruuthas’ daughter), Gilda, Enigma Flare, Philomena (Celestia’s pet phoenix), Applejack, and Big Macintosh (who’d been nicknamed “Rolling Thunder” by the troops). Joining them were all four princesses, along with Twilight.

I removed my helmet with respect and sat down at the head of the war table, looking over the reports for a moment before focusing my gaze on those joined. “Alright you all, this is it...this is the moment we’ve been fighting for. We have the numbers, the skill, and the will to win this...so now all we need to do is get out there and do it.” I looked to the cyan alicorn first with a smile. “Captain Rainbow Dash, you’re going to lead the initial charge along with Captains Ditzy Doo, Moonfang, and Venn. We’re calling in a draconic airstrike first to thin their numbers and disorient them, but it’s going to take a lot out of them, so don’t expect those dragons to be much help for at least a little bit...they’ll have to rest. After I give the signal, they’ll blanket the area with fire along with Philomena here.” I patted the tall mythical bird on her chest as she sat on her master’s shoulder, and she cawed happily. “After that, I want you and your troops to flank to the west, while Ditzy will flank the east. Venn and Moonfang will lead the charge up the middle, with the rest of the troops approaching from the north of the mountain...they’re already in place.” I then looked to the two ruling princesses. “Princesses Luna and Celestia...you two and your units will establish full air superiority. You have the most elite pegasus units the world has ever seen, with the Wonderbolts themselves being in them. Your jobs will be the easiest to do, but also the most vital. We can expect to see deathdragons again as well as a hay of a lot of bone gryphons, which means that if your units don’t have the sky under control, the units on the ground will be completely vulnerable.”

Celestia nodded with a determined expression. “We’ll take care of it, commander.”

I nodded with a smile. “Good. Alright, should things get too hairy, activate your avatars and unleash hell...I mean the full force of the powers you command...we cannot afford to lose this battle, or we might be fighting this war for another five years.” I slammed my fist down on the table with a growl. “It ends here. This is the day when Death is going to see just how big of a mistake he made in attacking this world as he did.”

“What if we come across Frost?” Twilight asked nervously.

I sighed and bowed my head a bit. “You leave that to me and Spike...we’re the only ones with magic-proof armor on. Trust me, it’s not a matter of if we’ll have to face him, but when. Keep the scouts on standby, and if you spot him, send his location to me and then clear the area around him. Anything or anyone in the vicinity will likely be killed. What most of you don’t know is that even now, he’s yet to unleash his full power of the magic of ice and winter, mostly because he’s afraid of what it could do. Well...I have a feeling that with whatever’s happened to him now, that won’t be the case. Like I said, if you see him, notify me and Spike. Do not, I repeat, do not engage. Are we clear?”

“Yes sir!” affirmed all present, and I allowed myself another smile.

I nodded and stood. “Alright, you all know what you need to do. Stay in formation and watch each other’s backs. You’re all dismissed...go and prepare your troops and get them in formation. Good luck, and I’ll see you on the field.” I watched as the phoenix hopped off of Celestia and onto my shoulder, and I ran a claw through the feathers on her chest. “Are you ready for this, girl?” The phoenix trilled happily and nodded. “Good. You’ve got the best vision out of all of us, so the dragons will be following you.” I then clenched my jaw and growled, “Burn everything.” The phoenix’ bright orange eyes narrowed as she nodded and flew away to the north, going to meet the airstrike team of some two or three hundred dragons waiting among the mountains.

“What would you have us do, commander?” I heard Gilda ask from behind me.

I turned to my troops and grinned evilly. “We’re going to provide support to whoever needs it as we break through, and then we’re going to seek out and take down the field officers. Keep each other safe and do it quickly and efficiently.” I then looked to Big Mac. “You’re going to see a lot of action today, Mac. Those big hooves of yours are going to come in handy for crushing those bones. Don’t hold back...put everything you’ve got into it.” I then turned to Enigma Flare. “Enigma, you’re going to be riding on top of Gilda on our approach. We’re going to need your power to breach the mountain, but until then you need to support us with barriers so that we can make it there.”

For once, the unicorn colt’s face was serious, and he nodded. “I gotcha. Nothing’s going to get through if I have anything to say about it.”

“One more for backup couldn’t hurt.” said a voice from behind me.

I turned to see a certain lavender unicorn dressed in her dragonscale robe, looking rather determined. I raised my eyebrow and replied, “Um, Twi? Not sure that would be a great idea. I mean, you’ve yet to fight in this conflict, and I think you’d just be a liability.”

Twilight frowned and shook her head. “No offense to Enigma Flare, but you know darn well that no one can cast arcane magic stronger than I can, not even the princesses. If you want good barriers and a teleport to fall back on, you need me. Take me with you, and I guarantee all your troops will make it there alive and well.” She then looked away. “Besides...Frost needs me.” She tapped the short robe she was wearing and said, “It’s enchanted with the same wards yours are, by Trixie herself...along with a few other things.”

I considered her words carefully for a moment before sighing. “I can’t really argue with you there, and it wouldn’t be fair to tell you no. My condition is that you don’t leave my side though, clear?” She nodded, and I did as well before turning to the rest of my troops. “Alright...let’s do this. After I signal Philomena, she’ll lead the airstrike raid with the dragons. After that, we’ll do mop up with all the other units. Hopefully the initial strike will take out enough of them that we can finish establishing a perimeter quickly.” I then dropped to all fours, allowing Twilight to sit upon my back and buckle herself in. When she was secure, I nodded and took flight into the air.

I flew some few hundred feet into the air before taking a deep breath and releasing a bright white flame into the sky, which took the shape of a ball and fell slowly through the air. The next thing I noticed was Philomena screeching loudly before she came out from behind a mountain...followed by hundreds of dragons.

So it begins.

As the rest of the gathered military arrived at the A/O, we looked up to see the phoenix leading the charge ahead of the countless dragons. She then swept low to the ground over the many wandering sentries, and left fire in her wake as she swept fast at a pace that would make Rainbow Dash jealous. Followed behind her in a massive line were my kin by form, and with draconic screams of rage and war, they began to breathe massive gouts of orange-red flames upon the masses of dead, sweeping all across the battlefield, leaving it a smoldering ruin when they were gone. Just to be sure, they made another pass, and when they had retreated from the area, there was nothing left but bones, charred earth, and embers.

I then watched as a bright cyan flare flew up into the air after mine, exploding in a shimmering drizzle of sparks, signaling the beginning of the charge. I watched as a wave of soldiers of all kinds descended the hills around us from multiple angles, one large column up the middle, with two smaller groups heading to either side. From a good distance away, I saw the glowing golden figure of Celestia, and I caught eyes with her for a moment. I just nodded, and watched as she took to the air with her many troops, ready to end this once and for all. Luna took flight right behind her along with her own pegasus, dragon, and gryphon troops, which just left my group.

I turned to my troops and grinned. “Alright you all, this is what we’ve been training for! Stay close and in formation, and you will survive.” I then watched as a huge swell of dead gryphons began to claw their way through the soil in front of Moonfang and Venn’s charge, and I pointed to it. “There’s our first objective. MOVE!”

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

“Raindrop, give me fire on that hill! Nightwing, cover her!” I shouted to my troops, and the young unicorn mare began firing concentrated magical mortars at the hill we were approaching, taking out the monsters on top of it, giving us a clear line to the base of the mountain. I then looked to my right at Rock Crusher and nodded. “Alright bud, now’s the time!”

The older earth pony was known for his unusually dense hooves, along with his stupid amount of strength that, just as his name suggested, allowed him to punch straight through rock as if it were nothing. He stood up on his hind legs as we approached the cliffside and began making his way through it, opening up a pathway through the hills that would keep my unit safe from any enemy attacks.

“Looks like you could use some help!” shouted a deep gravelly voice.

I looked ahead of me to see Spike heading into the tunnel after Rock Crusher, and I just nodded. “Good timing, Spike. We need a tunnel straight through this hill to give us cover. If anything is approaching through the ground, let us know.” The gem dragon nodded with a grin and began using his sharp tunneling claws to dig into the hill, making a tunnel at a speed that was unreal.

As the tunnel was made, my company made their way inside, but somewhere during our movement, Spike stopped and held up his hand. He then pointed to his ears and then to the walls of the tunnel, so I signaled my troops to prepare for an ambush. They all went silent, listening to the subtle sound of digging within the walls, and a moment later, the dirt around us began to crumble. Unicorns readied their spells and the earth ponies braced for the attack, and a moment later, razor sharp bony claws erupted from the walls around us.

Contrary to the rest of the times we’d fought these things, Spike’s senses had let us know they were coming ahead of time, so we were all ready. The soldiers responded very quickly, blasting or crushing the bony horrors before any real damage could be done, and the ambush was destroyed before any real damage could be done. There were a few cuts and scrapes and I’d had my wing dislocated during the struggle, but Blue Cross, our unicorn field medic, quickly patched us all up, and while I was sore now, my wing was still usable.

Spike continued digging with Rock Crusher, and I turned to my company. “Alright troops, we’re about to break through. Intel says that on the other side of this hill are siege machines that could be a lot of trouble if they get up and running. Disable or destroy them...you know what to do.” I looked to Spike and he gave a thumbs-up, so I nodded and turned back to the soldiers behind me. “Alright, we’re about to breach!”

Perspective change ‒ Luna

The battle had been raging for nearly an hour now, and while Tia’s unit and my own were easily keeping control of the skies, I was still wary for any surprises. Frost had always warned me that when you least expected something to go wrong was when something usually did go wrong.

So I expected it constantly.

“Princess! Deathdragons inbound!” shouted one of my personal guards.

I sighed...I should have expected that.

I whipped my head around to look at the guard and shouted, “Advise my sister and then lead the attack. Stay above it if you can, so as to avoid its attacks. Go!” He nodded and sped off towards the glowing form of Tia in the distance, so I turned to the rest of my soldiers and amplified my voice. “Troops, we have deathdragons on the way! Prepare for contact!”

After I announced this, I watched as my company dispatched the remaining bone gryphons before forming ranks behind me, with Tia’s group to my far left. There were nearly five-hundred of us in the air, a mixture of ponies, gryphons, and dragons.

We were unprepared for what we saw next.

Breaking through the cloud front in the distance was a massive wall of deathdragons, in all their decaying horrid glory. Where we had expected there to be no more than possibly fifty (due to scout reports), there were in fact hundreds. I realized at that moment that we were in fact not prepared for this, and not even the power of Night would be able to overcome that many

“Need a hand?” shouted a deep growl of a voice from underneath me, and a moment later I beheld Darkflight arriving with Twilight Sparkle upon his back, with Gilda next to him, carrying Enigma Flare. The next moment, the rest of his small group arrived, and  all showed little to no signs of injury whatsoever.

I looked to the two unicorns being carried and asked, “And how exactly do you propose to be of assistance?”

The two young unicorns looked to each other for a moment before grinning and nodding. As I watched, Enigma Flare began to glow a dull red color as a spell began to charge, and Twilight’s horn began to glow with a powerful spell as well. The sheer magical runoff from the two of them was enough to cause my hooves to tingle, but before I could ask what was happening, Enigma Flare suddenly burst into flame. The fire consuming him changed from red, to orange, and then to bright yellow. The light given off became too bright to look at, and I was forced to shield my eyes in order to keep from being blinded.

After a few moments of waiting, the light died down enough to see not Enigma Flare, but the fire elemental stallion from that first day he battled for the right to guard me. There was no Enigma Flare, there was only the pure element of fire in the shape of a tall, powerful unicorn on the back of Gilda. Oddly enough, the flames did not give off heat, nor did they burn the gryphon he was perched upon, but the show was far from over.

Twilight fired a large globular spell that moved slowly forward, and next, the fire elemental shot forth a glowing yellow runed sphere of energy towards Twilight’s spell. The moment they merged, a massive shockwave of molten energy shot in a wide arc towards the deathdragons, faster than I thought possible. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately, for us), many of the deathdragons could not avoid the shot, and were blasted into charred remnants of what they once were before falling to the ground.

I eyed the Obsidian with a look of shock before he saluted and flew away, his group following.

I turned my attention back to the remaining four or five dozen deathdragons that remained and cleared my throat. “Alright troops, the playing field has been leveled. Tear them apart!”

Perspective change ‒ Celestia

“Tear them apart!” I just barely heard my sister order before her entire company flew towards the approaching line.

I unsheathed the axes that Darkflight had made for me out of magesteel and black flames, then turned to my own troops and spoke just loud enough for them to hear me. “Destroy them all.”

As I flew towards the monsters that approached, I readied myself for the first strike by raising both axes high above my head with magic. As the first one attacked me, I dodged and swung both axes down on top of its head, which was followed by a powerful wave of golden energy that split the slimy, decaying skull in half. I followed this up by making crisscrossing cuts as I flew over its back, and as I passed the tail, I looked behind me in time to see the monster fall out of the air in multiple pieces...defeated.

I didn’t even flinch at the sight, and in disgust I spit at where the corpse was headed. I then turned my gaze to the others and allowed myself a manic grin, imagining that these were Death.

Perspective change ‒ Ditzy Doo

Rainbow Dash and I sat below at the establish perimeter, watching the mayhem caused by the princesses. The battle on the ground had gone wonderfully, with only a few casualties, and an acceptable amount of wounded.

“Remind me never to make Celestia mad...ever.” Rainbow Dash commented as we both watched the sun princess hack up yet another deathdragon.

I chuckled lightly and nodded as a medic splinted my wing and finished wrapping gauze around a large cut on my left shoulder. “Yeah...a pissed-off princess is not something I’d ever want to experience. I’m glad she’s on our side.”

“Ow! Watch it, doc!” shouted the cyan alicorn in pain. The field medic tending to her apologized before he finished suturing her wound closed, then dabbed it with alcohol and wrapped a bandage around it. As he finished, Dash looked at her tattered wings in frustration. “It’s going to take hours to get all this blood out of my feathers, and even longer to grow my primaries back.”

I chuckled darkly and nudged her. “Should have watched out for that bone gryphon instead of trying to kick down that siege catapult. It was already on fire, so it wasn’t going to be any good anyway.”

Dash rolled her eyes and nudged me back. “And you should have paid more attention to your surroundings. I mean, a tree? Seriously? You wrecked the fleshies like they were nothing...but a bucking tree takes you out. Nice.”

“Aww, don’t be so hard on her, Dashie.” commented a muck-stained Pinkie Pie. She removed the greatsword from her back before sitting down beside me with a smile. “Ditzy doesn’t know how to sneak around trees, after all. They pop up out of nowhere!”

All three of us shared a good-natured laugh before halting and just smiling for a few moments. It’s true, we were dirty, sweaty, tired, and banged-up, but we were all alive...and that’s all I could hope for.

Darkflight, Twilight, and the rest of the group then landed a few paces away as they all went about getting treated for injuries, getting food and water, and then resting after such an intense first battle. The tall dragon embraced and kissed a certain orange mare before heading over to us with a smile.

“Heya girls, how’s it going?” he asked curiously.

I shrugged and pointed to my wing. “Sore and bruised, but otherwise okay.”

The Obsidian nodded and sat down beside his second in command, Gilda. “Well good. That’s much better than dead, and that’s the best I could ask for.” He then jerked his head towards a sleeping unicorn colt and added, “After Enigma Flare gets some rest, we’re going to breach the mountain. It’s going to be a few hours though, so I would recommend getting a few winks of sleep if you can.” Pointed to another unicorn behind me, and I turned to see it casting some sort of spell on the ground. “I’ve got teams consecrating the ground in a two mile radius of the mountain, so there’s no way we’re going to be ambushed or anything, and I’ve got my people scouting the skies, in case Death tries to beat a hasty retreat.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “What if he just escapes by digging underneath the mountain and out with those bone gryphons?”

Darkflight shook his head as his claws began to slowly trace through a sleeping Gilda’s feathers. “This mountain is bedded by ferrite, which is a crystallized form of iron. It means that he can’t dig out, but we also can’t dig in. What this also means is that if I’m correct, it’s going to force us into a bottleneck when we try to enter the mountain after breaching, so instead we’re going to try and lure them out. Going in blindly is just going to get a lot of us killed, and that’s not something I want to have happen since I can avoid it.” Darkflight stopped speaking when the two princess sisters landed, and as they approached, he smiled. “Hey princesses. Get cleaned up, get some food, and then get some rest. When Enigma Flare wakes up, we’ll breach the mountain and get this over with.” As the princesses nodded and limped away, he looked back to me. “Well girls, things went very well. We only had forty casualties, and other than some minor injuries, the rest of us are going to be okay.” He then stood, waking up the sleeping gryphon in his lap. “Alright, I’m going to get some shuteye. I’ll wake the rest of you up when it’s time.” He then walked away, with Gilda following close behind.

Dash and I lay awake in the tent we shared, both just starting to come down off of the adrenaline high from the battle, but enough to sleep yet. No doubt both of us were thinking the same thing...about what it was going to be like after we woke up. For the longest time, the end of this war was some abstract thing that we all worked for, but it always seemed out of reach. Finally though, it was within grasp...and with the gods as my witness, we were going to bring peace back to Equestria.

“So what do you think’s gonna happen?” Rainbow Dash asked nervously.

I turned my head to look at the alicorn beside me with a sigh. “When that place is breached, all Tartarus is going to break loose. I’ve been thinking about it, and I have no doubt that Frost is waiting for us to do just that.”

Dash growled at this and replied, “What the hay is his problem? Why would he be helping Death?”

I shook my head with a small smile. “Dash, you and I both know he would never betray us. It’s safe to assume that whatever is going on with him, it’s taken his free will.  He’s not doing this because he wants to, he’s doing it because for some reason, he’s got no choice.”

“Like a mind-control spell or something?” she asked curiously.

I shrugged. “Well Death was trying to take control of Frost before he even had his own body, remember? It wouldn’t be too far out there for him to be able to do that.”

Dash laid her head across her forehooves as she lay down on her stomach. “I hope you’re right, Ditzy.”

I shifted a bit and laid a hoof on one of Dash’s, causing her to look at me. “You married him, Dash...have a little more faith in him.”

For a moment the cyan alicorn just stared at me before she smiled. “You’re right...thanks, Ditzy.”

As sleep began to weigh down my eyelids, I smiled warmly once more. “No problem, Dash.”