Inner Glory

by Erindor

Chapter 59: Defiance

Chapter 59: Defiance

Quicksilver stepped forward accusingly. “Did you kill my old mind to make way for yours?”

“Not quite,” the spectral alicorn said. “I impressed myself upon it, and the two of us became one. I am everything you once were, with a bit of myself added in.”

“You lie.”

“Remember, the entities summoned through the ritual are physically unable to lie.”

“Very well then! Do you mean to harm me?”

“I do not.”

“Do you mean to take control of me?”

“I do not.”

“Do you have the ability to?”

“I do not.”

Quicksilver eyed his subconscious carefully. “Are you even conscious?”

“I exist in complete subjugation to you now. I am an artifact of Seren’s presence.”

“Where is Seren now?”

“Killed, by Luna’s intervention. And alive, through me, through you.”

“Explain yourself.”

“As a fraction of her subconscious, the result of her whisperings, you will now have different impulses, while keeping your old memories and bits of your old habits.”

“You’re saying that I am still myself, just inclined a little differently than I was before?”

“That is another way to put it, yes.”

“Do I still love Luna?” Quicksilver held his breath in anticipation for the answer. For a moment there was no answer, as if it were thinking.

“Though your rose-colored glasses have shattered, you do. You have seen her faults while recognizing your own, and are thus willing to give her a second chance. This may be to your detriment.”

“I’ll make my own judgments, thank you.”

The so-called Seren remained silent.

I will die at lot sooner than I had hoped, it seems, Lustrous quipped, looking over her supposed future form. Though I guess it’s true that our influence is life enough, and if my influence more-or-less has control over somebody so important, I can’t really complain.

Twilight was surprised. You’re fine with dying?

Of course not! I’ll do all I can to prevent it, but you know how causality loops are. I’ll make myself a key player in events to come even if I do pass on, don’t you fret. Or, well, maybe you should.

Quicksilver looked up one more time. “You said you came back here to prevent your death. Why now, specifically? Was your destination chosen arbitrarily, or was there some reason you came at such a pivotal time in my life?”

“I came to this time intentionally. Your future was dependent on critical decisions you only could have made with my help.”

“So your advice wasn't as innocent as you purported it to be?”

“It wasn't, no. From now on, however, we are part of the same body, and as such, I will do everything in my power to protect us.”

“I'm rather distressed to learn that my thoughts aren't entirely my own.”

“You didn't realize there was a difference before you asked, so why should it concern you?”

“I dunno, it just feels wrong, to know there's a different person living in my head.”

“Only my influence lives in your head. Admittedly, my influence was more direct and stronger than most, but I am nothing more than an echo of the intelligence that once coexisted with you. If you'd like, I could materialize as Luna, or Celestia, or one of your friends. Each of them have had a similar, though lesser influence on your mind. Our minds are a collection of conversations, relationships, regrets, hopes, and people. At the core is something entirely our own, but so often it is drowned out by the louder and more aggressive thoughts that were forcibly attached by more proactive beings. Remember, however, that the spark of being that you call yourself has complete control over the seemingly indomitable influences that come over the outside. If you wanted to, with a bit of effort, you could completely eradicate me from your system. It would take time, and it would involve a complete restructuring of your mind, but it is possible to tear down everything but the core personality. It comes with a price, however. Every decision will cause you to second-guess yourself. The outside influences are absolutes, telling you that you must act one way or the other. The core personality is composed of tendencies with very few absolutes, which makes the decisions with no dividing line between black and white rather harrowing.”

“I could become myself entirely? No influence from you, or anyone else?” Quicksilver's eyes were bright, and he leaned forward with an honest yearning.

“You could. You would still be influenced by the effects of actions; that is inescapable. But it is possible to rip out the seeds of influence formed of words and conjecture that we plant in others unknowingly.”

“I might like that.”

“You would, I think. And as your subconscious, I think I have a pretty healthy understanding of your inner workings.”

“How do I begin?”

“Think about what you want more than anything else. Then realize why you haven't grabbed it just yet. What is holding you back? Are you truly willing to be restrained, or have you just been taught to be?”

Quicksilver closed his eyes. As he did so, Seren began changing forms, the spectral image revealing vast expanses, flitting persons, paragraphs of dogma, colors, and eventually, an orb of light.

“I want... power. The ability to enact my own will, instead of being a servant or slave.”

“And what is holding you back?” The orb asked. As Quicksilver thought, it momentarily became Luna, then Celestia, Quicksilver's smiling parents, then...

“Myself.” Quicksilver opened his eyes, looking into a perfect clone of his own image, as he had expected when he cast the spell.

“Correct,” the subconscious replied. “You are holding yourself back. None of the others are forcibly holding you back, though they might if they begin to fear you. They place up rules and restrictions, but what is stopping you from overcoming them?”

“Myself!” Quicksilver yelled.

“Power is within your grasp.” The reflected Quicksilver gestured towards the book on the shelf nearby. “Why haven't you taken it?”

The true Quicksilver stepped over to the book. “A Study of Alicorns...” he whispered. He looked back to his subconscious. “I haven't taken it because... I'm afraid.”

“What is your fear born from?”

Quicksilver stood for a moment, his eyes tracking unseen images before him. “An uncertainty of the future. I'm afraid of failure.”

With his answer, the subconscious smiled, morphing into the self-proclaimed Seren once again. “You know, I'm from the future. I could tell you a thing or two about it.”

Quicksilver began to grin. “Oh, you could, could you?”

“I could. But where's the fun in that? Somebody as insightful as yourself should be able to make logical predictions. If you attack somebody or their position, they'll fight back. As long as they think you're on their side, they'll allow you to stick around. Most interaction boils down to that.”

“So you're saying I'm successful?”

“The only guarantee is that you will fail if you don't try.” Seren, looking surprised, began to change. When the morphing was complete, the subconscious had become Quicksilver again, but there was one key difference. The pegasus now had a horn. The apparition looked up. “So, you want to become an alicorn, do you?”

“I do.” Quicksilver smiled at the thought, finally giving voice to a desire that had remained hidden for so long.

“What's keeping you?”

Quicksilver frowned. “Well, myself, I suppose. But it's because I care for Luna, and I respect Celestia. I don't want to get on their bad side.”

“To take a stand for yourself will often result in making enemies out of a few friends. You have to decide if the gain is worth the anguish.”

Quicksilver chewed on the thought, before finally nodding. “I've spoken with you long enough, for now. I think I need some rest.” Before the ghostly image could speak again, he dismissed it with a flare of his eyes. The runes in the summoning circle lost their illumination, and Quicksilver's room was cast into near darkness. Outside, the solitary moon shone on a cloudless. Quicksilver stepped to the window, looking over the vast expanse of sky. It felt empty, incomplete, Quicksilver decided. After a few moments more, Quicksilver shut the shades and went to bed. “Perhaps the moon could use some company...” He whispered. In short time, sleep overtook him, and the world faded away into nothingness.

{- - -}

“No! NO!” Luna screamed, throwing the covers off of her as she jumped out of her bed. She was shaking and sweating, her heart still pounding. Her eyes darted around her room. Everything was still in place. Just a dream, then. She rubbed her shoulder in an attempt to comfort herself. She shuddered as she remembered the more vivid details of her nightmare.

She had been attacking Celestia viciously, for some reason. She hadn't felt any remorse either; she had been attacking to kill. With each blow, Celestia magic was failing, being less able to heal herself each time. Blood was everywhere, and the sounds of breaking bone echoed in her mind. The worst part was that Luna had found herself enjoying it. She had heard laughter, and now that she was awake, she realized it had been her own.

Luna ran to the trashcan in the corner of the room, dry-heaving into it. She felt weak. Such a horrible dream. She stumbled over to her window, throwing open the heavy drapes. The sun was setting, meaning that it was almost time for her shift as attending ruler of Equestria. She sighed, then made her way over to the sink, splashing her face with cold water. As she dripped, she looked into her mirror, her washcloth framing her face and covering her mouth.

“What have I become?” she whispered. “I've never had such thoughts before. Is this the Devil's work? Or worse, is it mine?” She tossed the washcloth aside, getting a better look at herself. Her dark coat shone in the pale light, her mane glowed softly. Her body was healthy, but she had been feeling her mind slip. She had attributed it to the necessary stress of war. But after a few days of taking it easy, it seemed that wasn't the case.

She composed herself, forcing her fear inside. It didn't matter what she thought of Celestia. She had to put her best face forward for the good of the kingdom. Before she could change her mind, she rushed out of her room and down the hallways to the throne room.

The guards nodded as she passed. Seeing them made her think of Quicksilver. With a jolt, she realized how much she had been stifling him lately. She'd hardly given him the time since they had decided to take revenge on the other kingdoms. She'd have to apologize to him, after she presided for the day.

Luna threw open the doors to throne room with a bang. She strode in confidently, only to stop in her tracks. The Devil was standing before Celestia, who stared back at Luna in fear and shock. “Luna? You're early.”

“I wanted to give a show of faith, Celestia. Is it wrong to be ten minutes early to my duties?”

“Of course not, it's just...”

“You're having a secret meeting that I'm not supposed to hear. There's nothing wrong with that, oh no.”

Perhaps I should leave.

“Hold on, I want to hear your side of this.” Luna stood face to face with her sister. “Why is he here?”

I came to give her a proposition.

“Oh, and what would that be?”

The same that I gave you. To remove her inhibitions.

Celestia jerked towards the Metaspectre. “Wait, you offered it to her as well?”

I did.

“Did she take you up on it?”

“I did, sister. What of it?”

“That explains it! You've been acting differently for quite some time now, Luna.”

“And now you know the truth. It's only how I wish I had been able to act. I love you, sister, but I have to stand up for myself.”

“But you made a deal with the Devil, Luna? And then you kept it from me?”

“You didn't need to know.”

“Of course I did! You're my closest ally, and if you're being influenced by outside sources, that's my business. Especially if the influence is a creature like the Devil!”

“You're making a big deal over nothing.”

“I'm not making a big enough deal over it, Luna! You're saying you tried to outsmart the literal trickster of legend. What did you trade for this boost to your self-esteem?”


“It can't be nothing.” Celestia turned to the Metaspectre again. “Was it?”

It wasn't quite nothing, per say. I told her that it helped me just as much as her to make her confident. Before we were interrupted, I was going to offer the same to you, with the same non-cost.

“See? Nothing to worry about!”

Celestia shook her head. “I disagree. Our inhibitions are what allow us to excel. We might think that taking everything for ourselves makes us happier, but it only hurts others. We can't always have everything we want.”

“We can, if only we don't hold ourselves back.”

“What of the people you hurt, Luna?”

“If they took care of themselves, it wouldn't hurt them very much. Survival of the fittest is a law of nature, and it should be a law of society.”

“I disagree. We need people to take care of. Kindness and sacrifice make for a better society.”

“They make for a weaker society.”

Celestia rolled her eyes. Luna's demeanor darkened. “Don't ignore the issue, Celestia.”

“I don't want us to explode over nothing.”

“Keeping silent will only make the matter worse. This day has been coming for quite a while. If you keep running, we'll soon be so far apart we won't recognize each other. I'm already forgetting what I ever saw in you.”

“That was low and unnecessary!” Celestia snapped. “What is there to talk about? At the end of the day, we still have to worry about the kingdom. Our personal feelings on the matter are irrelevant.”

“That's where you're wrong. It's hardly fair that we suffer so our kingdom can grow fat.”

“No, it isn't fair. That's kind of the point of being in a position of power, Luna. You do it to help others, not yourself.”

We have another visitor, The Devil commented.

Quicksilver was standing in the doorway, looking over the scene with interest and caution. “What's going on here?”

“Luna's being childish.”

Luna laughed. “I came in here, prepared to put everything aside so I could rule with a straight head, but I guess it was kind of pointless. You only think of me as a child, don't you?”

“Of course I do. You don't leave much to the imagination.” Celestia turned to the Metaspectre. “You may leave, Devil. I believe I can say what I need to without your help. Please, don't come near any of my subjects again. I don't want to make you my enemy.”

Nor I you. I shall take my leave.

The two alicorns watched the Devil walk down the red carpet, before disappearing with a crack once he reached the door.



Quicksilver looked between the two sisters, but he didn't speak.

Luna craned her neck. “Let's put everything on the floor. It's better to get it all out.”

“Very well.” Celestia's voice was measured and precise, the very nature of her emotionless tone revealing how much emotion she was holding back. “You're blind, foolish, rash, emotional, silly, trite, a drain on myself and the kingdom's resources, indirect, frustrating, unreasonable, and largely, aggravating.”

Luna swallowed, taking it in. “Alright. I think that you're blind, uptight, too cautious, unloving, bigoted, cruel, stifling, egotistical, false, set in your old ways, and pessimistic.”

Celestia nodded tritely. “And what are we going to do, now that we've laid this out?”

“I don't think we can overcome it. Not today, at least.”

“No. You're right, something has to change.”

“Indeed. Which is why I've decided that I can't live here anymore.”

Celestia was taken aback. “Excuse me?”

“I'm going to begin my own nation. I'll take the followers I have and occupy the lands we defended from the griffon and dragon populations. Equestria wouldn't have them if it weren't for me anyways.”

Celestia fumbled over her words for a moment before she managed to start a coherent sentence. “Luna, we can't split the kingdom! It'll weaken Equestria too much! Any of the other nations could step in and destroy us.”

“I don't see any other way, unless, no, wait...” Luna looked directly into Celestia's eyes. “I challenge you for the authority of the throne, as sole ruler of Equestria.”

Celestia looked like she had been slapped. “You can't be serious.”

“Look at me and tell me I'm joking. I dare you.”

Celestia's eyes narrowed in disdain. “Fine. Let's not delay, if you're going to be rushing blindly like you always do.”

“Very well.” Luna walked to the opposite end of the throne room, while Celestia stayed where she stood.

Quicksilver looked between the two despondent sisters. “Please, let's be reasonable!”

“Do you see any other way?” Surprisingly, it was Celestia who had asked.

“Well, no, but I can't stand to see the two of you fighting like this.”

“Then be glad this will be the last time.” Luna gave him a pointed glance. “Stand down.” She turned to the other guards. “Step out. Do not allow anyone into the room.” The guards hesitated, but Celestia nodded and they stepped out. Quicksilver didn't move. Luna pretended to not notice.

“On the count of three,” Celestia proposed. “One, two... three.”

From opposite ends of the room, horns flared simultaneously. With a loud crack, the two sisters teleported to the middle of the room, forgoing artillery and diving directly into close combat. Celestia dropped to the ground, smashing her forelegs against the ground. The stones underneath Luna launched into the air, ripping up the carpet above them. Luna pushed them aside, firing a blast of heat towards Celestia as she rose. Celestia rolled out of the way, rolling to a stand. With a flourish of her horn, she generated a bow of radiant light, firing off arrows in rapid fire. Luna, having finished her ascent, began falling, shielding herself in darkness. The arrows flew through, ripping holes in the magical fabric, which repaired after a second or two. Celestia threw the bow, discharging it as it came to rest on the ground near Luna. It exploded with celestial light, ripping away Luna's shield and throwing the alicorn a few feet.

Luna got up, generating magic armor for herself. It fit her form gracefully, her already present royal adornments morphing to match the set. Luna deliberately stomped with each hoof, four swords of energy rising out of the ground. She rushed Celestia, who threw up a shield of light just in time. Luna continued her four-way barrage as Celestia was backed closer and closer to the throne.

Celestia looked around wildly for a way out. With a grunt of effort, she pushed the shield forward, letting it loose as she rolled out of the way. With the momentary advantage, she dove forward, attacking Luna viciously with her horn itself.

Luna turned to catch the attack, but she still got hit by a couple of jabs. She winced in pain, realizing rather quickly that despite Celestia tendency to avoid combat, she was quite the opponent. As good as she was, however, Celestia had left herself open. Luna feinted with two swords before switching the attack to the other side, managing to catch Celestia with a direct hit.

Celestia yelled out in pain, drawing back to survey the damage. Luna's blade had gone deep, but it wasn't anyplace vital. Celestia sealed the wound, then turned to face Luna again. Her eyes went wide with shock as she was tackled into the ground, two blades already jabbing into her sides.

“Luna! The rules of honorable combat say that your opponent is allowed time to heal!”

“You forget, sister, that I'm playing to win!” Luna dug another blade into Celestia's side.

“So, that's how it's going to be, is it?” Celestia pushed Luna off with a physical kick, retrieving Luna's still-embedded blades. She hastily tried to heal again while Luna recovered.

Luna charged forward again, only to jump back as an unseen ethereal hammer fell to the ground, shattering the stairs. Celestia turned around, her healing having been a lure. She telekinetically hefted the summoned hammer. “The time for words is over. Let's finish this.”