Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars

by Radiant Dawn

Chapter 29: Back in the Action

Chapter 29: Back in the Action

It was nice to be back with my loved ones, even if it was on the field of battle. After breaking free from a gods-damned curse Death had put on me (with no small amount of help from Night), it seemed that my empathy was heightened for some reason. I felt the anxiousness and joy from my soldiers as I passed them, and felt the longing and love from Night, Twilight, and Celestia. However, I also felt the worry coming from Ditzy.

The truth was I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. Honestly, I’m surprised that Celestia and Night hadn’t been the ones to notice, but as soon as I passed by Ditzy and saw the concern in her golden eyes, I knew she knew. In her eyes was also an unspoken question that said, “We’re going to talk about this later.” I wasn’t looking forward to it.

I tried to put on a brave and determined aura for everyone, but in actuality I would have been perfectly happy wrapping myself in a warm blanket and sleeping for the next few days...or years. Maybe it was the curse itself that had been cast upon me, or maybe the stress and heartache from the war was finally catching up with me. Whatever the reason, I knew for the first time I actually had doubts about everything. I doubted whether we could pull this off alive. I doubted whether a rule under Death would be such a bad thing. Lastly, I doubted whether I was worthy to be called a prince of Equestria when I’d let so many of her people die.

Celestia and Luna both had told me numerous times that war would have come to Equestria even without me, but I doubted that as well. Perhaps if I had never been chosen to come here, Death would have not wished to conquer it. Anyway I looked at it, my migration to Terra seemed to have been the catalyst for a lot of things. I had found love again, with not one, but nine amazing people, but it had come at the cost of war upon everything that lived. Was it truly worth it then? Beyond simply trying to think as royalty, I was never one to think selfishly about things. So what would my loneliness be in the wake of everyone having lived instead?

I put the thought away for later; I had more important things to think about at the moment.

A mere hour after I woke, I found myself in the commons tent with the other commanders, Varuuthas, King Razorbeak, and my brother. We were going over the plans they had come up with on how to take the mountain and finish this once and for all. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with how well my brother had led the charge without me, but it was clear to me that he was more than happy to be able to drop back and stop giving orders to everyone. Luckily for me, every branch of the coalition had been more or less kept in line in my absence, and I could tell that morale had improved with my return.

“So that’s what we’ve got so far.” my brother finished for them all.

I looked over the plans and took in mind what they had told me, mentally going over my own knowledge on the matter from what I remembered during my enslavement. I nodded a few times as I looked over the breach point. “It’s a good plan. Where is the rest of the force going to enter though?”

My brother pointed to the map again. “Here, here, and here. We’re planning to make a trap for him, so that he can’t slip through our fingers again.”

“What about teleportation?” I asked, hoping they’d thought of something. “Teleportation is kinda made to ignore walls and such.”

“Well,” Dash began, seeming a little unsure, “we came up with one idea, but it’s risky.”

I raised my eyebrow. “How risky?”

Spike stepped forward and said, “A composite flame that disables all conventional magic.”

I nodded, taking this new information in. “All ‘conventional’ magic...what does that mean?”

“It means that anything that isn’t avatar magic or celestial magic would be disabled, and would likely cause intense magical feedback upon the user.” Twilight explained. “That means no levitation, teleportation, or telepathy, for example. Your ice spells would still work, however.”

I brought a hoof up and scratched my chin. “Hmm...that limits us to a very small number of offensive and defensive spells then, so we’ll have to get creative.” I scrunched my face up in thought as I said, “Without levitation, I’m limited to close-quarters combat, but my ice can be used as cover for our troops. What else do we have to work with?”

“Dragon’s flame isn’t a conventional spell, so we would still have that.” Varuuthas answered.

I nodded. “Well, counting me, we also have five avatars available. What about that?”

Night stepped forward to stand next to Celestia. “My spells are mainly used for misdirection and subtlety, and those that are specifically offensive are far too dangerous to use in close quarters to friendlies.”

Celestia nodded. “Lux’s spells are much the same.”

I looked to Rainbow Dash. “Spring?”

She shook her head. “She has to be outside.”

Finally I looked to Cadance, who had flown in at Celestia’s behest. “What of Life?”

She shrugged. “Life cannot battle with Death directly, as her magic would merely be cancelled out by his own. She can, however, work as a healer for our allies, bolstering their health and healing their wounds.” Cadence then looked directly at me. “She does, however, have a way to end this once he has been subdued.”

I raised an eyebrow again. “Do I want to know what it is?”

Cadence shrugged. “Probably not. Just know that it will work, but Death has to be completely subdued first. Unconscious would be best.”

I nodded. “If that’s what it takes, we’ll make it happen. Now,” I swung my gaze over to Celestia and Night, “how soon until the assault starts?”

“One hour.” Celestia answered with grim determination.

I looked around the room and nodded to everyone. “Alright, then get your troops ready. Spike, Venn, and Moonfang will breach first, and then the rest of us will go in after them.” I then pointed to the map in front of us. “Now, there is something I need to mention though. The mountain interior is much larger than you anticipated.” I brought my hoof to the mountain itself and explained, “Death has been having his bone gryphons hollow the entire thing out...I’m honestly not sure how it’s still standing, but it’s a lot roomier inside than you might think. There’s two very large hollowed-out portions of the interior that I was unable to get a good look at, but whatever is going on there is big...really big.”

My brother just stared at me. “So how do you want to handle it?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know what’s inside, so I’m not sure. We’ll just have to wing it, I guess. All I can recommend is that we stay on our toes, because there’s no telling what’s going on in there.” I then squinted my eyes at the maps and different diagrams that we had on the mountain structure. “Also, we can’t expect this to be a battle of attrition. Death knows that if he tries to hunker down, we’ll get in a lot faster than he would like, so he’s going to be trying to escape to rally his forces. That means that when we breach, we need scouts watching all angles for an escape attempt, as well as auxiliary units ready to take him down if he tries.”

Celestia nodded sternly. “My aerial guard will take care of that.”

I clopped my hooves together and smiled to the group. “Alright, then we’re set. Everyone take your positions, and wait on Spike’s signal to breach.”

With that said, the group began to break apart, so we all retreated to our respective camps across the large battlefield, and I trotted away to meet with some very special ponies.

As I trotted towards my personal tent with Night, Celestia, and Rainbow Dash, I masked my exhaustion and worry on the matter by leaning against Celestia in a very affectionate way, with Night extending her large ebony wing to cover the both of us. It allowed my mind to ease and not think about just what this exhaustion meant. I shouldn’t have been this tired, even after being broken out of a curse such as the one Death had placed upon me. Still, because of the closeness I was experiencing, I allowed myself to not think about it.

The many ponies, zebras, and gryphons we passed waved with happy smiles as we passed them, and I gave each a nod of respect as I made my way to my tent. It was nice to see their spirits raised at the mere sight of me, though I didn’t believe I deserved it. Nonetheless, it allowed me to relax a bit, content that they had the will to go on and finish this.

When the four of us finally arrived back at my tent, it was to find Ditzy waiting for me with a very stern expression on her face. The room seemed to chill more than I could have allowed for, simply by her glare alone, and I wasn’t the only one that noticed.

“Commander Ditzy, what’s wrong?” Celestia asked in confusion.

The mentioned gray pegasus sighed in annoyance and thrust her hoof at me. “I can’t be the only pony to notice something’s wrong. Look at him! He can barely stand!”

I winced at her accusation, as it was pretty much spot-on. Rainbow Dash rounded me and looked into my eyes before shaking her head with a frown. “You’re right, Ditzy.”

Night removed her wing from me and nudged me with a glare. “Talk, Winter.”

I let out a sigh as I dropped my rump to the ground, allowing my legs to rest as I looked over them. “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I didn’t want to worry any of you.”

“Well that plan failed, because we’re worried now.” Rainbow Dash spat angrily.

I nodded. “I know, and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t think of anything else at the time.”

As I hung my head, I felt as Ditzy prodded me with her hoof, asking, “So talk. What’s wrong?”

I shrugged as I kept my gaze on the ground. “I’m just so tired. I feel like if I lay down, I might not be able to get back up...ever.”

I heard a frustrated huff from where Celestia was, followed by, “Well it’s clear what we must do. You are staying here.”

I shook my head and raised it, looking over the four mares in the tent. “I can’t, and you know that. After just seeing me returned to you all, how do you think the soldiers would react to knowing I’m too weak to lead the charge?”

“Frost,” Dash began in a pleading tone, “you can’t fight like this. You’ll get yourself killed, and there’s no way to bring you back this time.”

I shook my head again, feeling a little dizzy just from the simple action. “I have to, Dash. I can rest after all this is over with, but right now everyone out there needs to see me.” I offered the four ponies a gentle smile as I added, “I promise I’ll stay off the front lines, but I have to be there. The coalition can’t fight without its leader.”

“But how-” Ditzy began, only to be interrupted as I cast a spell.

The spell flowed over me, revitalizing my body and making it feel as if I just had some really strong coffee. I stood and shook out my mane and tail before looking to the others present. “See? I’m fine.”

Night stepped forward and looked me over before snorting and shaking her head. “The spell will not last forever, Winter. And when it expires…”

I shrugged. “I’ll have to think of something else, but I can recast it after a few minutes. For now, we have a war to end and allies to rally.” I then stood rigid and narrowed my eyes. “Now, all of you report to your respective A/O’s and suit up. That’s an order!”

For a moment they all looked like they wanted to protest, but a stern glare from me got them moving. As much as it pained me to do, I had to force them to prepare. Right now, it wasn’t just about me and them. This time was reserved for all of Terra, and I couldn’t afford to let them play favorites, or a lot of people could die. Their worry and/or wrath for making them worry could come later. For now, we had a war to win.

Armor and weapons as far as the eye can see.

Zebras, ponies, gryphons, dragons, deer, and even a minotaur or two were all gathered for the final rush. The sky was brimming with thousands of flying soldiers of different races, and the ground itself shook as the ground forces marched forward. In the distance, I could hear war cries from a group on the other side of the mountain, and it just served to further bolster morale. This was the largest single army the world had ever seen, and it was united in a cause to protect life. It was awe-inspiring, to say the least.

As I stood upon a rocky outcropping, overlooking the field, I allowed myself a grin at the righteous vengeance we were about to rain down on Death. He had gone too far already, and taking Twilight prisoner to get to me was just the last straw. No longer did I think I would be able to restrain myself when it came time to subdue him.

Hopefully I wouldn’t kill him...that would be too easy.

My eye caught sight of a small group approaching the mountain through the main force, and they began climbing the rocky surface itself once they arrived.

“That’ll be Spike, Moonfang, and Venn’s group.” I mused aloud to myself.

I watched as the small group of soldiers arrived at the top of the mountain itself, and then saw chunks of rock and dirt rolling down the mountain as Spike began to dig.

I quickly checked over the different wards and spells I had placed upon myself, pleased that they were still in place and running strong. Unfortunately, I found that I only had maybe another twenty minutes before the revitalization spell would expire, which would leave me as little more than a dead-weight heap on the ground. I grit my teeth and steeled myself. ‘Well, I guess we’ll just have to end this quickly then.’

I waited patiently for a few minutes, fidgeting on my hooves, before seeing a bright spark of yellow shoot up into the sky and explode.

I cast a spell to project my voice to everyone present before shouting, “Advance!”

The ocean of steel that was the coalition surged forward at once, falling upon the mountain like a swarm of destruction. I closed my eyes and charged a teleportation spell for a few moments before picturing my brother and casting, causing the world to shift around me as I vanished in a flash.

I reappeared right beside my brother on the interior of the mountain, just in time to watch him use his sword to slice a decaying minotaur in half, from head to hoof. He then rounded on me and stopped his blade at my throat before grinning and turning away to rush into the fray again.

I took my place behind the soldiers present, and immediately began using my ice to protect them by creating walls to stop or deflect blows. The soldiers that saw this turned to give me a smile and a nod before turning back to the task at hand. I focused my efforts on unicorns, as without their magic, they seemed to be having the largest handicap to work with. The glowing gold and silver fire that was licking at my armor and exposed fur was proof of the dragonsfire that Spike had breathed throughout the whole mountain, so I did what I could to protect our soldiers.

Then, I saw one fall.

Probably not the first ‒ but the first that I had seen ‒ of many. I pushed the dark thoughts that urged me to mourn him out of mind, promising to do so when we had the time and space to do so. For now, we had slaying to do.

The next thing I saw was Venn rushing forward and grabbing the shambling dead that had downed the soldier. He then grabbed both its front legs and pulled apart, causing it to tear right down the middle. Venn grasped one of the fallen halves and proceeded to use the decaying body as a bludgeon for the bone gryphon behind him, promptly dropping it to the ground where he proceeded to dismantle it bone by bone until it fell apart.

I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye, and reacted just fast enough to put an icy barrier between myself and an attacking alpha bone gryphon, which was much larger than its common kin. Before I could stand however, it rolled me onto my back and pinned me, raising its head high and preparing to tear into me. I prepared to blast it with frost in an attempt to escape, but my retaliation was not needed. Spike appeared from the left, crashing into my attacker and throwing it off of me. He then took a deep breath and exhaled a gout of red fire upon it, leaving it to be little more than a smoldering pile of bones. Spike looked back at me and offered a curt salute before dashing off once again, eager to continue the fight.

I chuckled and rolled to my hooves, standing and continuing my support of our forces.

The outer tunnels had been cleared by our combined might in a matter of an hour, but this also meant that my spell failed halfway through. I had been little more than dead weight until I recuperated enough to recast the spell, which meant that my brother was forced to help me trudge to rally our forces for the next charge.

What awaited me was the sight of eager soldiers, clearly weary, but also ready for more. It appeared that their confidence had grown as they fought, and they began to believe that it was indeed possible to finish this today. The image allowed me to find my own second wind, enough so that when we rounded the corner to where they could all see me, I pushed off of my brother and walked in slowly on my own hooves. The eyes of my mares were upon me with worry as I entered, but they kept their distance to allow me to raise the spirits of the soldiers.

I turned to Ditzy, who was waiting nearby, and asked, “What’s the situation?”

She looked me over with a worried gaze, but saw fit to let it slide as she replied, “We’re here. This is the first of the two chambers you told us about. From what we can tell, it’s empty, but that alone has made us wary. It doesn’t make sense to have an area this big be unoccupied or trap-free.”

I looked to the stone hallway that led to the large chamber and sighed. “Well, we’ll just have to be very careful then. Our enemy knows we’re here, so it’s only a matter of time before he springs a trap. The problem is, we won’t know where it’s coming from, so we’ll just have to be ready to adapt as the situation as it unfolds.” I then turned and looked around the corridor. “Where are the rest of the troops?”

“Just like you predicted,” Celestia spoke up, “Death attempted to escape as soon as we breached. The majority of our forces are outside, keeping the area locked-down and making sure nothing and no-one gets through until we give the ‘all-clear’ signal. That means that we’re on our own, and it is unlikely any reinforcements are going to be able to help us.”

I nodded. “That’s fine, I expected this.” I took a few deep breaths before looking over the soldiers gathered and ordering, “Take a reprieve. Rest a bit, mend any armor or weapons you need to, and be prepared to move again in ten minutes.” When I finished speaking, the ponies, zebras, and gryphons gathered began to do as I said, leaving me to unceremoniously slump against the wall in an attempt to keep from falling over.

I could see from Celestia and Night’s expression that both were just barely restraining themselves from galloping over to me, but thankfully they kept themselves composed and simply trotted over before sitting next to me, subtly allowing me to lean against them as we took a break. Night busied herself with gently preening my frazzled wings as Celestia simply nuzzled me lovingly as we waited.

We were interrupted as an orange dracoknight rounded the corner, bowing his head reverently before approaching my brother.

“What’s the situation?” the Obsidian asked worriedly.

Thankfully, the slightly smaller dragon smiled as he replied, “The situation is good, sir. Losses are at a minimum, and the line is holding steady and strong. Unfortunately, we cannot spare any of our numbers at the moment.”

My brother nodded, allowing a subtle grin to cross his face as he shifted on his feet. “And what of the soldiers? How are they doing?”

The dracoknight happily replied, “Fine, sir. Morale is high and they are ready for more.”

He nodded and gestured to the tunnel. “Good. Tell them all is well in here, and we’re preparing to enter the first chamber.”

The dracoknight saluted before quickly galloping away down the tunnel.

I allowed myself to relax and closed my eyes to rest.

A frighteningly short amount of time later, I was being gently shaken awake. I opened my eyes and blearily scanned the room, seeing that all the soldiers were standing and prepared to go, leaving just me to do the same.

I stood with Celestia’s help and reactivated the revitalization spell, feeling its effects take hold. I then donned my armor and looked over the group with a smile. “Alright troops, keep your heads on a swivel. We have no idea what’s in there, so be prepared for anything.” I then sighed and narrowed my eyes. “Move out.”

As Celestia had ordered me, I stayed towards the rear of the column, but still kept wary of any ambushes that we were almost positive to be walking into. I scanned the entire dark, dank chamber, including the ceiling and every nook and cranny. From what I could tell, it actually was empty, but that just wouldn’t make sense.

I looked to the group of a few hundred soldiers and announced, “Something’s wrong. Fan out in groups of three and comb the entire chamber. I want to find out why this is here.”

My orders were immediately executed, and I made my way over to my brother as we continued inspecting the area.

“So what do you think?” I asked anxiously.

He shook his head with a huff, removing his helmet. “It doesn’t make sense. These walls are bare, and from what I can tell there’s no ambush waiting for us.” He wiped his free hand along the wall, causing a bit of loose rock to come off. “I mean, it was clearly just finished, but there aren’t even any supports up or anything.”

I squinted my eyes in scrutiny as I thought of exactly what would be the point of this area being empty, when suddenly it came to me.

“It’s a trap…” I nearly whispered.

“What?” I heard my brother ask in confusion.

I looked to him with growing panic and then turned my attention to our soldiers. “Everyone get out now! Head for the far doorway!”

My announcement caught the attention of everyone present, but unfortunately they all simply looked up at me in confusion. That was, of course, until we heard a rumbling of the earth as bits of rock began to drop off of the ceiling.

I noticed Celestia’s eyes widen before she amplified her voice and shouted, “RUN!

With the sun princess issuing such a panicked order, all of the soldiers began fleeing to the far doorway, just before boulders the size of cars began falling off of the ceiling. I watched in horror as some of our soldiers were flattened by a large slab of stone, and I realized that I detected the trap too late.

I had resigned myself to my careless mistake...but apparently, Night had other plans.

“Shadows, I call upon you!” she shouted, and the darkness itself began to writhe as if alive. Before I could say anything about it, darkness itself overtook me, and I shut my eyes in fear.

When I could see again, I realized I had been holding my breath, and gasped to fill my lungs with the lifegiving air. As I composed myself, I looked around to see that we were safe in another stone corridor, and that most of the soldiers were fine. We had only lost maybe four or five before we were saved.

I raised my eyebrow and scanned the room until I found Night tending to the head wound of one of our ponies, and I trotted over to her with a grin.

“Nice trick you pulled there, Night.” I commented happily.

Without turning around, she smiled and nodded. “The darkness has never failed to come to my aid. It was a stretch for the shadows to save all of us, but I made it happen.”

“What uh…” I began, confused beyond belief, “what happened exactly?”

She giggled softly before turning to face me. “The shadows saved us. We could not use magic, so I asked the shadows themselves to save us. They allowed us to step through the darkness itself, just before the entire chamber collapsed.”

I turned my head and looked behind me, noticing the opening at the end of the corridor was blocked by rubble. I then sighed and shook my head. “Well, nowhere to go but forward now, I guess.”

“Indeed.” Celestia replied from behind me. “No doubt that trap was meant to kill or maim us, so we should press our advantage while we have it. Death would likely not expect so many of us to survive, if any of us.”

I swung my head around towards Celestia’s voice, but frowned. “No, I don’t think so. He always has a backup plan, which is why there’s two chambers instead of one. The only advantage we have is that we know he likes to shake things up quite a bit, which means we can expect him to keep from using the same trick twice.” I turned to face the group gathered as they began to pick themselves up, and said, “I don’t know whether it’s going to be harder or easier from here on out, but what I do know is that we can’t stop now. We need to keep moving and stay alert. Let’s go, people.”

Some of the group groaned a bit, but still complied with my order as we began walking through the winding stone corridors.

An inordinate amount of time later, we found ourselves at the precipice of another large chamber, and we were far more careful this time. Heads and ears alike darted around nervously as we looked and listened for anything out of place, but oddly we found nothing noticeable as we searched the large chamber. This one was different somehow though. It felt warmer and even a bit stifling, though not because of the fact we were underground. I couldn’t quite put my hoof on it, but something was wrong.

Suddenly, a deep growl caused us all to stop in our tracks and look around.

I looked back at my brother and pleaded, “Please tell me that was you.” He shook his head before looking up, and his features told me everything I needed to know. I quickly turned and bolted to Celestia as I shouted, “Hostile on the ceiling! Prepare for battle!”

All heads in the room shot up to the ceiling, just in time to react and dodge the strike of what looked like a long, bony, club-like tail. Another growl issued forth, and all of us gathered at the far wall as something began to climb down the other side of the room from the ceiling. It was only when I saw the familiar body structure that I felt more worried than ever.

“Fuck...deathdragon.” I muttered under my breath.

My brother nodded and gulped. “Yeah, and a big one. The biggest I’ve ever seen.”

I huffed as I steeled myself for the impending battle. “Guess this is Death’s ace-in-the-hole.” I looked behind the dragon and growled a bit. “And it’s guarding our way out. Fuck me sideways…”

“Y’know, I’ve never actually see you fight in a real battle before.” my brother commented from beside me. When I looked over, it was to see him grinning in a bit of a crazy manner. “Time to see what you’ve got.”

I returned the grin as I locked my gaze on the monstrosity in front of us, its half-rotted body stinking something horrible. It glared directly back at me with soulless glowing yellow eyes, and then it lunged.

We scattered, all of us avoiding its charge as it smashed into the wall where we had been. The missed charge dazed it for a few seconds before it rounded on us and whipped its tail around, trying to bludgeon us to death. Its swings were wild, but I had no doubt in my mind that anyone caught by one of the blows would be killed by the force, so we opted to dodge until we thought of a plan.

Well, from what I could tell, these dead things didn’t get tired, so we couldn’t just wait for it to tire. Also, they didn’t feel pain, so we couldn’t use that either. With those out, I only had one usable plan of action:

“Use hit-and-run tactics! Try and aim for tendons and ligaments!” I shouted to the group.

As soon as I issued the order, the first attack happened. Celestia dashed in with her mouth holding one of her axes, and she swiped at the back of one of its front legs. Her aim was true, and there was a loud snapping sound as the dragon’s equivalent of an achilles tendon was cut, and it stumbled a bit as a result. Seeing this, the other soldiers began to rush in and do the same, dodging and weaving until their window of opportunity presented itself.

The deathdragon seemed to possess enough mental capacity to realize what was going on, as it began luring us in before swiping at us. The first time it did this, two unlucky ponies were caught by its claws, one of them losing their head in the process. I grimaced at the sight, but pushed on anyway.

“Everyone back off!” my brother shouted loudly. I looked up to see him darting from the ceiling as he took a deep breath, and we all retreated as he breathed a blazing blue flame all over the dragon.

The rotting flesh caught fire, but it was clear that no pain was felt by the monster. My brother’s attack did, however, blind our target while its face burned. This gave us a window of opportunity to attack its limbs, though we had to be careful to avoid the inferno that had overtaken the beast.

I helped as I could, using ice here and there to block a blind swipe from the deathdragon, or using patches of ice to keep its stance uneven and unstable, giving it no time to right itself.

It looked like we had the upper hand, until I noticed the deathdragon taking a deep breath.

“TO ME!” I shouted to the soldiers present, and luckily this time, they obliged without question.

Just before the monster exhaled its deadly breath onto us, I erected a massive wedge in front of us, that would hopefully divert the flow of fire away and spare us any casualties. With each second longer, I poured more of myself into the structure, thickening it so that it would hopefully withstand the blast that was to come.

All too short of a time later, the room heated up exponentially as fire was shot directly at us. I continued feeding the wedge more of my power as we all cowered behind it to keep from getting roasted. My eyes widened as I watched the edges of the wedge rapidly pinching in, reducing the amount of safe space we had. Within less than a second, the fire began to burn the fur on the outlying ponies, but thankfully for me, an undead dragon’s lung capacity was still finite. With a sputter and a hacking cough, the flames dissipated, and I slumped to the ground as the ponies, zebras, and alicorns rushed out to deal a “killing” blow to the monster, and seconds later, I heard and felt as the deathdragon fell to the ground.

My vision was blurry as I recuperated, but I saw as the soldiers fell upon the downed beast and used their weapons to break and cut wherever they thought it would do the most damage.

After only a few seconds of this, the bones moved no more, and the room erupted in a thunderous cry of victory. I smiled weakly as I pushed myself to a standing position and slowly trudged over to where my brother was standing next to the now-lifeless bones.

I grinned and patted him on the back. “Great job, man. We did it.”

He turned to gaze at me, and returned the smile. “We did indeed.” He then motioned with his head towards the now-unobstructed doorway and said, “Come on, we need to keep moving.”

I nodded and announced, “All troops, move out! Get in that tunnel before something bad happens!”

They all complied without argument, leaving me to stand alone with my brother, Night, Celestia, Spike, Moonfang, and Venn as we all looked over the fallen corpse.

“What do you think is next?” my brother asked gravely.

I shrugged, tossing my head a bit in an attempt to wake myself up a little more. “I think this might be it. We just barely got through this bout with our lives. I don’t think Death was even planning for us to make it past this point, which means we have the upper hand.” I then growled and added, “But I don’t think he’s just going to come in here to check what’s going on. He’s going to keep hiding if he can’t escape, so we’re going to have to go and get him.”

My brother pounded his fist into his palm and nodded tensely. “Good. That fucker has a lot of pain coming his way.”

I caught his eyes and offered a tired smile before motioning to the corridor our troops had disappeared into. “Come on, we need to take a few minutes to rest before this is over. I don’t want anyone screwing up because they’re too tired to stand.”

The dragon beside me nodded before the seven of us slowly made our way out of the chamber, more than ready to put an end to this gods-damned war.