Celestia woke with a start; somepony was screaming, in an all-too-familiar way… One she’d heard merely two days ago.
It was coming from the tower. There was only one pony capable of screaming so loudly, even inadvertently.
“LUNA!!” She cried, scrambling to her legs and galloping out of her chambers, practically breaking her doors down with her magic as she went. She sprinted past the guards that were charging towards the tower, looking to protect their Princess from whatever was causing her to scream in such a manner. She reached the base of the tower and, with a single powerful flap of her wings, threw herself up between the spiraling staircase, to the top floor. She reached the landing and barged through the door to the tower balcony. “Luna?!” She called.
Luna was sitting on her haunches, hugging herself tight in her forelegs as she screamed and sobbed, tears flowing freely from her eyes. As Celestia hurried to Luna’s side, she saw that her eyes were glazed over…
Just like Applejack’s… Celestia realized as she grabbed Luna by the shoulders. “Luna!! Luna, you must wake up!! It isn’t real!! LUNA!!”
Luna’s eyes suddenly flashed white before returning to normal; her scream continued for another few seconds before slowly dying down. Luna glanced at her surroundings, confused, before looking up at her sister. She hyperventilated and sobbed, trying desperately to calm herself, to no avail. “T-T-Tia…” She said.
Celestia hugged Luna tight. “It’s alright… It’ll all be alright…” She glanced at the door at the sound of approaching hoofsteps; three of the guards she’d passed on the way had arrived at the balcony. Their faces showed a mixture of concern, confusion and disbelief; the Princess of the Night, the Watcher of Dreams… had a nightmare?
When they saw that they weren’t needed, however, they turned and headed back towards the stairs inside. Luna was shaking violently, her breathing only gradually slowing. Celestia hugged her even closer. “Hold on, dear sister…” She whispered as she lit up her horn.
With a flash, she teleported them from the balcony, into the corridor at the base of the tower. Celestia helped Luna stand; she hadn’t seen Luna this upset since she’d… returned. Luna leaned against Celestia, who helped her start walking down the hall, past the confused but otherwise unneeded guards. “Let’s get you to your chambers, Luna…” she whispered as she walked her sister down the hall.
“Halt!!” Came a demand from the hall around the corner.
“‘Scuse me, ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me!!” Came another voice—one filled Celestia with a fury she hadn’t felt in ages. “LUNA!!”
- - - - -
I dodged past, jumped over and slipped under the dozens of guards, all headed the same way I was; towards the source of Luna's screaming.
"STOP RIGHT THERE!!" One of them screamed, once I was around the corner from Luna's tower.
"No thanks!!" I called back just as I rounded the corner.
What I saw was heartbreaking; Celestia, much like the older sister she was, was letting Luna lean against her. Luna was looking borderline sick with anguish, practically choking on sobs as tears poured freely from her eyes.
Oh, Christ, what’d I do? I thought, horrified. I moved towards them. “Luna…”
I suddenly noticed Celestia’s scowl just before she reacted; her eyes lit up, her wings flared and her horn became enveloped in an aura that made it look like it was aflame. “Stay BACK, you monster!!” She yelled.
I immediately moved back. “Please, wait, I…”
“You’ve terrorized my subjects, AND my sister!!” Celestia bellowed. “I should have NEVER…”
Celestia looked down at Luna, surprised; Luna was pressing a hoof to her sister’s chest, in a plea for restraint. “He didn’t… He didn’t do this…” Was all she could say before descending into quiet sobs again, pressing her face against her sister’s side.
Celestia stared at Luna, confused, before looking up at me. “Stand aside,” she said harshly. I did as she said, putting ample distance between us as she walked Luna down the way I’d came.
As they rounded the corner I noticed a piercing glare from the surrounding guards; they probably wanted to toss me into the dungeon, for whatever good that would do. I leaned back against the wall, putting my face in my claws; after a while the guards began to file down the hall, back to their posts, getting their fill of hateful glares before they left.
All I could hear were whispers—angry, accusing whispers of being a ‘monster’, ‘beast’, that I should be caged, banished, destroyed… I couldn’t deny any of them. When the hall had pretty much emptied, I slithered back towards my room, hanging my head.
On the way I crossed paths with Twilight, who was busily probing guards over what had happened. “Your Highness, please, just go back to your quarters, Princess Celestia will…” A guard was saying.
“What happened with Luna?!” Twilight cried; she noticed my approach and scowled. Her horn lit up and, with a flash, she suddenly vanished from where she stood and reappeared in front of me, horn still lit. “YOU!! WHAT DID YOU DO?!”
“It was an accident…” I said. “I don’t know how it happened, but…”
“What did you do to Luna?!” Twilight yelled; she loosed a few blasts that flew straight through me and burned the curtains hanging on the window behind me.
I barely noticed. “I don’t know…” I said, my voice quiet. “I really don’t know… One moment I was… I think I was dreaming, then I saw her in my dream and… suddenly I saw… I don’t know what it was…”
Twilight’s expression softened somewhat, though the fury didn’t go away. “Stay… away from her…” she hissed before turning and storming off. The guards shot their mandatory glares at me before following her. I slowly followed them down the hall towards the Guest Quarters; somehow I was feeling even worse than I had been when they told me I couldn’t return home…
Twilight didn’t take the turn towards the Guest Quarters; she was going somewhere else, it seemed… Towards Luna’s room? I glanced between her route and the route to the Guest Quarters.
I ended up following her, taking longer to make the decision than I’d care to admit.
- - - - -
Celestia helped Luna into her chambers, hugging her close with a wing. Luna hadn’t stopped crying the entire way there; Celestia didn’t know what she saw, but had a fairly good suspicion. Before she could put Luna in bed, though, her sister fell to the floor in the middle of the room, her legs giving out from under her. Tia frowned sympathetically and laid down with her sister, nuzzling her affectionately. “Take your time…”
“I didn’t know…” Luna said, her breathing finally under control. “I didn’t know it would happen…”
“Know what would happen?” Celestia asked softly.
It took a deal of time, but Luna managed to explain what had happened; how she’d peered into Dread’s dream, to help him see that he didn’t need to be alone. How his dream had suddenly turned on her and forced her into her own Nightmare… Her return to the monster she once was, her vicious assault against both Celestia and the Elements of Harmony, and the kingdom’s descent into darkness. She emphasized that, in the midst of her terror, she believed she could hear Dread urging her to awaken, some moments before she suddenly woke up.
Celestia listened intently, yet found herself more confused than ever regarding Dread… It was clear he was the cause, but was it intentional? Luna believed he wanted to stop it, but Tia had her doubts… If she knew for sure it was an accident, she’d believe it, but…
She shook her head; this wasn’t a time to think about Dread. Her sister needed her—here, now.
“I’m so sorry…” Luna whimpered. “Sister, I’m so sorry…”
“You’ve nothing to apologize for…” Celestia whispered.
“I was so sure it was happening again…” Luna said. “I was so scared, I couldn’t… I couldn’t stop…”
“It will never happen again…” Celestia said. “I promise you, I will do everything to keep you from walking that path… Like I should have done, centuries ago.”
The door clicked open silently; Celestia looked over to see Twilight tentatively poking in, concerned. When she took in the embracing sisters, however, Twilight nodded and quietly withdrew, closing the door with a soft ‘click’.
Celestia turned back to Luna; her crying had been reduced to sniffling. “I’ll be here as long as you need me…” Celestia said softly.
Luna moved closer into her sister’s embrace, laying her head over Celestia’s foreleg. “I know…”
“Sleep…” Celestia said. “I will handle the dawn--”
“No!” Luna said, looking up. “No… You did it for a thousand years… You’ve done it more than enough.”
- - - - -
I hid behind a marble pillar in the corridor as Twilight passed, returning to the Guest Quarters from Luna’s room. When I was sure she was gone and that no guards were gonna be a problem, I quietly withdrew from my hiding spot and tentatively approached the double doors. I fidgeted with my claws, not having planned this far ahead; if Celestia was in there, she definitely wouldn’t welcome my presence.
But I still had to clean up my mess. I couldn’t just shrug this off. I’d wait as long as I’d need to. I sat at the wall across from the door, staring intently at it.
As long as I’d need to.
- - - - -
I must have nodded off; the sound of the door opening made me wake up with a jolt. The morning sun was shining through the windows, cheerfully oblivious to what had happened last night.
Celestia was leaving Luna’s room, glancing back lovingly. As she closed the door and faced me, though, her expression shifted to one of shock, then anger.
I stood up. “Please…” I said; I leaned to the side meaningfully. “Is she…?”
A field of yellow magic, about five feet across, suddenly materialized in front of me and shoved me into the wall, flattening my form like clay. Celestia leaned in close, livid. “Listen well,” she hissed. “You have done nothing to prove you are not a monster. You have forced one of my friends, and my sister, to face their deepest, darkest fears, yet still you claim to not mean any harm. I don’t know if you are just a victim of circumstance, but should these ‘incidents’ keep repeating, I will not hesitate to protect my subjects, my family, my home, from you.” She leaned even closer. “Stay. Away. From Luna. If I see you near her again, I will show you what happens when you ‘strike out’.”
She released me, causing me to drop to the floor; she took a moment to give me a piercing glare before turning and walking away. I watched her until she rounded a corner, then looked at the door.
I remained still for about a half hour, Celestia’s words ringing in my head louder than any use of the word ‘monster’ and the like.
I could try and shirk the blame, say that I couldn’t have predicted things to unfold the way they had, but that didn’t matter; I’d done nothing but create fear in almost every pony in this castle—hell, maybe even the damn city. My stupid choices hadn’t just screwed me over, they ended up nearly traumatizing two people that, from what I’d seen, could not have been less deserving.
I clutched my head and stared at the floor. I was a monster to them, no matter what I did…
I glanced at the door again; I didn’t know what Luna was doing in there. Was she asleep, or was she just trying to be alone with her thoughts? Her vision of her becoming this ‘Nightmare Moon’ was clearly a very dark place for her… Did she know that was her greatest fear?
I stood up. Luna had been kinder to me than any other pony here. She’d been willing to give me a chance, been a real friend, one who didn’t harbor suspicion towards me… Yet here she was, suffering one of the worst pains imaginable, and I wasn’t even trying to be at her side.
No. She needed me, just like she needed Celestia. This wasn’t me trying to earn trust—this was me being there for my friend.
I knocked on the door. For a moment, there was no response; then, the handle gently turned and the door creaked open. I carefully opened the door and entered, tactfully closing it behind me. Luna’s room was clearly hers in theme; the carpets and walls were a dark shade of blue, and the ceiling was domed, painted to depict numerous stars and constellations that magically moved and flickered, unbidden. The walls had a few bookshelves surrounding the two windows, which had their purple curtains drawn. Her bed was large, circular, and had four posts around it that hung a thick purple curtain. The only light in the room came from an ornate chandelier hanging from the very center of the ceiling, its candles flickering brightly.
Luna was laying in the center of the room, staring at me. She looked awful; her astral mane hung lifelessly around her body, reflecting her mood, the fur around her face was matted with tears, and her eyes were almost completely bloodshot. Excepting the mane, it was the exact same way Applejack had looked the other day. Frowning miserably, I slithered over to Luna. “Hey…”
Luna nodded. “Hello…”
I ‘sat down’ beside her. “...Luna, I…” My words trailed off before they could even figure out where they were headed. “...God, I just… I don’t know what to say…”
Luna shook her head. “You didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“I don’t know what happened!” I said. “All I know is, I saw you in my dream, then… then that.”
Luna nodded. “I was there… In your dream. I can… I can enter dreams, help ponies overcome their troubles that manifest into nightmares… I saw your dream, how it was… almost taunting you. I thought it may deepen your anguish, so I believed that I could…” She stopped, but it was clear what she meant to say.
She wanted me to know I still had friends here. I still had people who cared, and could care about me. I didn’t need to feel alone. Another reason she was such a good friend...
I nodded slowly. “I get it… and thank you… truly.”
Luna smiled, which seemed to improve her mood given how her mane seemed to regain some movement. After a moment, though, she frowned and glanced at the floor. “...You wish to know about my Nightmare?”
I nodded; it hurt to do so, to ask her to tell me, but it was clearly something that continued to haunt her. Her horn began to glow; from a bookcase, a small, aged book floated out and levitated over to us. It levitated in front of me, opening to a specific page. I gently took it from Luna’s grasp and began to read; it looked something like a children’s book.
The first pages depicted an illustration of the land, and two alicorns I immediately identified as Celestia and Luna.
Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria,
There were two regal sisters who ruled together, and created harmony for all the land.
To do this, the Eldest used her powers to raise the Sun at dawn.
The younger brought out the Moon to begin the night.
The next page depicted the pair flying in a circle that, combined with their respective celestial bodies, formed a shape very much like a Yin-Yang symbol of Chinese philosophy.
Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kingdom and their subjects, all the different types of ponies.
The next page showed ponies of various species, colors and ages playing under the sun, but sleeping during the night; I got an idea of where this was going.
But as time went on, the younger sister became resentful. The ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought forth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night.
The next page showed Luna standing on a cloud, bitterly glaring at the ponies below.
One fateful day, the younger Sister refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn. The elder sister tried to reason with her…
I turned the page and felt my mass tense; I would have guessed at what I’d see, but it was no less disheartening. I was looking at Luna in the form she’d transformed into—Nightmare Moon; the armor, the pure black coat, the twisted, almost oppressive night in her mane, those cruel, monstrous eyes…
...but the bitterness in the young one’s heart had transformed her into a wicked mare of darkness, Nightmare Moon. She vowed that she would shroud the land in eternal night.
I glanced up at Luna; her eyes were shut in resignation, tears once again dripping down her face. I returned to the story, wanting to finish it quicker now that I knew the important bits. There was an image of an array of familiar-looking gems, one of Celestia aiming them at Nightmare Moon and blasting her with some powerful form of magic, and one of Celestia acting as Princess for both day and night over the land.
Reluctantly, the elder sister harnessed the most powerful magic known to ponydom: the Elements of Harmony! Using the magic of the Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister and banished her permanently to the Moon. The elder sister took on responsibility for both sun and moon, and harmony has been maintained in Equestria for generations since.
I closed the book and gently laid it on the floor. So now I knew; a thousand years ago, a bitterness and envy in Luna’s heart had driven her to become… well, a monster. And she was punished for it. It was obvious that she truly regretted her actions, and not just because she hated seeing herself going down that road again.
Luna took a deep breath. “...Three years ago,” she said softly. “I returned. I sent Celestia to the Sun, and planned on finishing what I’d started centuries ago. It was only when Twilight and her friends discovered their destinies as the Bearers of Harmony that they were able to unleash the Elements upon me again… They purged the darkness that had claimed me… For the first time in generations I could see clearly again, could feel things other than hate, bitterness…” She looked up from the floor. “But that doesn’t change the fact that I failed, Dread… Failed my kingdom, failed my people, failed my sister! I let my arrogance, my pride, drive me to commit terrible deeds…”
She was welling up again. I immediately moved closer and laid a claw on her hoof. “It’s okay, you don’t have to…” I began.
“I’m still a monster…” Luna wept quietly. “Nothing changes what I did… The failures I will need to bear forever… And I’m scared… Scared that I might, one day, fall back into that dark place… And not even the Elements could save me...” She looked up at me. “Tia believes you to be a monster, but… but you help people, Dread… You would never do the wrongs I did… You would never fail as I did…”
I shook my head. “You think I haven’t known failures in my time?” I said, partly laughing. Luna looked up at me, frowning. “Luna, two people died because of me. Because I couldn’t help them, no matter how hard I tried.”
Luna blinked slowly. “What happened?”
It was only fair; she’d told me of her perceived failures, I could tell her of mine. “...About six months into my line of work as an MHA, there was a Malefactor running amok—a telepath who was facing off against the police force. He was on a bridge over a river, the bridge was barricaded on both ends; he was demanding ransom money for the Basics still on the bridge. I showed up, ready to take him down… He tried to take a hold of me in his telekinesis, but found that, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep a grip on me that I couldn’t slip out of. So, he… went for the hostages.”
“He lifted a car with a single guy trapped inside and held it over the edge; it was pretty clear what he planned to do. He threw the car down into the river and legged it. I tried to save the hostage, but the thing is… this form doesn’t maneuver well in water—cause of it’s substance, you know? So I… dangled myself over the edge, hung myself low enough that I could reach the car—it was floating with the driver-side up, so I could just open the door then pull the guy out… But when I opened it, he was unconscious… I reached into the water to pull him out, but… His seatbelt was stuck, and my arm would just lose its stability when submerged. I tried to get a good grip on him, but his car began to sink, and I couldn’t get him out in time… No one could. All I could do was go after the Malefactor… I caught up to him and I… put him in the Nightmare. I know I said I try not to use it but… He’d just murdered a man in cold blood. I was… I was so angry… I didn’t remove the Nightmare until a good two hours after he was apprehended.”
Luna was listening intently, not making a single sound.
“The next one…” I continued. “...was a year later. Remember when I mentioned Purists? The xenophobes who hate metahumans? Well, there was this one, an extremist, even by their methods, who had reason to believe some of the folks in his apartment building were metahumans. He planted a few incendiary bombs around the place and detonated them… What wasn’t blown up was completely bathed in flames. People were injured in the explosions, but no one died… People started getting out, the place was empty when I’d arrived… Or I thought.”
“There was a woman who was screaming that her daughter was still in there. I immediately went in there, ev…” I stopped; I couldn’t mention fire. God knew what Celestia would do with that information if she saw fit. “...even though I didn’t know where the girl was. I found her on the top floor, in the corner, the floor had caved in around her and everything was on fire… Must’ve been, what, six years old? She was scared of the flames around her, but when I approached she practically started screaming bloody murder… She was scared of me, Luna… She was scared, even though I was there to help… I told her, all she needed to do was jump towards me, over the gap… I couldn’t reach her, there was so much fire all over the place—I mean, I wouldn’t be able to just reach over and grab her without getting her burned… I tried, tried to get her to jump, but she wouldn’t… She was scared of the jump… Scared of me…”
“The floor gave out underneath her and she fell into the inferno below.”
Luna gasped softly. “Oh no…”
I shook my head. “I got out… The mother screamed at me, saying I as good as killed her daughter… And she was right. The bomber was nabbed on his way out of town, but… It wouldn’t bring back what was lost…” I sat there, staring blankly at the floor; the Department had told me that it wasn’t my fault, that I tried, that there wasn’t anything I could do, but they just felt like lies to me. “...The man’s name was Danny Frost, and the girl was Abigail Cross.” I shifted my transmitter towards the tip of my claw and held it out. “I have a picture of each of them in here…”
Luna gazed at the transmitter. “...Why?”
“So I won’t forget how I failed them…” I said. “So I’ll always remember that my presence does not, by any means, guarantee peoples’ safety. People can, and will, still die under our watch… We take every step necessary to ensure they never do, but… There are times when we can’t save everyone… But that doesn’t make it any easier when we do fail one of those we should be protecting. To see the look of shock and despair in their eyes before they die, to see their families scream and mourn their loss, to constantly be looking back and thinking of ways I could have saved them…”
“Dread…” Luna said sympathetically.
I straightened up. “But I also use those failures.”
Luna blinked. “What?”
“I keep them in mind, so that I know what I face when I’m protecting people,” I said. “I use it to drive me, to make me do whatever it takes to make sure I don’t put another picture next to Danny’s and Abigail’s. Luna, we might not ever forget our failures… But that doesn’t mean they have to weigh us down. If anything, they can push us to improve, to strengthen ourselves, to make sure we never fail in such a way again.”
Luna furrowed her brow in thought. She looked down at the book next to me and picked it up gently. She flipped to the illustration of Nightmare Moon. She stared at it silently for an achingly long time.
Then, finally, she took a breath. “I can never forgive myself for what I did… The pain I put my sister through…”
She closed the book. “But I can’t let it haunt me. I was so focused on what I did that I neglected considering what I should do.” She levitated the book back to the shelf and replaced it. “Our memories should guide us, not torment us.”
I smiled and nodded. “Both bad memories…” My thoughts drifted to my family again. “And good…” I looked at Luna. “All that matters is what you do now, not what you should have done.”
Luna smiled. She sat up, leaned forward and pulled me into a warm hug. “Thank you, Dread…”
I hugged her back. “...Joel.”
“My real name’s… Joel.”
- - - - -
Celestia stood outside the door to Luna’s chamber, listening intently. When she’d learned that Dread hadn’t returned to his room, she’d initially been furious to hear him in Luna’s room… But something made her stop from barging in. She listened intently through the door, hearing Dread’s words of… comfort? Words that, evidently, reached her sister… Made her feel better.
Part of her believed it to be a ploy, an attempt to gain her trust, but… His words rang true.
‘Don’t think of your mistakes as failures, but as lessons...’ Celestia thought with a small smile. That was something Twilight would put in one of her letters.
Celestia turned and headed back down the hall. She was still unsure about Dread, but… she was becoming more open to the idea of him being a friend.
- - - - -
Bulwark pressed his scarf against his neck with his magic, bracing against another piercing wind that buffeted him. He pressed on through the storm, considering the warmth that would welcome him upon his return to the Empire a secondary reward for his troubles.
But the peace that awaited him was what he would relish most.
He reached the cliff face, towering over him like a god waiting to judge him. He knew it was here—it had haunted his dreams ever he started hearing that accursed voice…
Bulwark growled, furious at being taunted again… He was not going to let it haunt him, haunt anyone ever again. He scanned the cliff and quickly found a low incline—not a path built for climbing, but not unscalable. He could make it.
Bulwark began his ascent, the adrenaline and exhaustion working wonders for helping him ignore the biting cold. As he climbed, he began to wish that he’d requested aid… If not from Prince Shining Armor and Princess Cadence, then from the others… His ‘cohorts’, who had also aided in Sombra’s uprising… They would surely understand.
No, he thought. No, I… I must do this alone. He would only turn us against each other.
It was a long, laborious climb, but Bulwark eventually reached the top of the cliff face; it wasn’t terribly high, but no less exhausting. He stomped through the thick snow lining the cliff, keeping his eyes peeled. I just need to find it… He thought, grimacing against another freezing wind as he carefully crept along the cliff.
Part of him found this to be hopeless; he wouldn’t be able to find it, it would have been buried in the snow ages ago, maybe not even on this cliff…
He glanced to the side, near the very edge. A small circle in the snow was glowing a blood red, beckoning…
Bulwark scowled. He stormed towards it and, with a single toss of his head, cast a spell that swept the snow away.
There it was… It looked no worse the wear, despite how it had been so violently parted from its master. Bulwark glared at it. “You lost. You know that, right?”
The voice chuckled. “I ‘lost’ a thousand years ago… but THAT didn’t take, did it?”
“This is different…” Bulwark said. “This time, there will be no banishment, no merely being turned into a shadow that can only haunt us further… No, I will end you—here and now. I will personally send you into whatever abyss would welcome a vile, hateful tyrant such as yourself…”
“And doing this will grant you peace?” Sombra asked. “Do you think they will forgive you? Forget what you did?”
“It will be easier without you whispering in my ear!” Bulwark yelled. “Or any of those who you manipulated into following you!!” He grasped the horn in his magic and lifted it into the air. “What I do now, it’s not just for myself… It’s for the sake of the Empire… the sake of Equestria! You will NOT TORMENT ANYPONY ELSE, EVER AGAIN!!”
Sombra was laughing again. “Tell me something, Bulwark… Why did you come here?”
Bulwark frowned in confusion. “You know what I came here to do…”
“But what DROVE you to come here? To seek me out, to ‘finish me off’?”
“Knowing what you will do if you’re allowed to run free…” Bulwark growled; where was he going with this?
“What you’re saying is, that what drove you here…” Sombra said.
A thick tightness suddenly seized Bulwark’s heart; he released his grip on the horn, yet it remained floating, unbidden, in thin air. He stumbled back, clutching at his chest in confusion. “What is…?” He began before yelling in pain, falling to his knees.
Bulwark glanced up at the horn. No… He pulled himself forward, fighting through the pain in his chest as he approached the horn. Before he could get close, however, Sombra’s horn flew straight towards him and slammed into his chest. Despite being so small, the impact of the horn sent Bulwark flying, landing painfully on his back. Bulwark glanced at the horn, which stood on his chest, almost triumphantly.
A thin crack suddenly began to snake from the tip of the horn, down to the base. Bulwark’s breathing became shallow. “No… NO!!”
The horn crumbled to dust; within seconds, the dust seeped into Bulwark’s coat. He began writing in pain, feeling it practically eating its way through his skin and to his heart.
After a few seconds, however, the pain ceased. Bulwark sat up, staring at his chest; he laid a hoof over his heart, utterly confused. “What… Where did…”
He looked up. “...Is he gone?”
Bulwark glanced about in fear; the voice was clearer than ever, now! He glanced down at his chest and began to scream in horror. “What have you done to me?!”
“Secured your loyalty…” Sombra said; he began to laugh cruelly. “Even in a blatant act of defiance and ‘free will’, you STILL act as my pawn, old friend!!”
“Shut up…” Bulwark said, clutching his head. “Get out, GET OUT!!”
“Not quite yet…” Sombra said. “You will act as my vessel, Bulwark. First, head to the train station at the Empire.”
“I won’t…” Bulwark hissed. “I WON’T DO IT!!”
The world around him faded into a complete darkness. Bulwark glanced about in fright. “What is…?” He began.
An enormous pair of horrific red and green eyes appeared before him, making him jump back. The eyes glared at him, almost peering into the very depths of his soul.
“You WILL…” Sombra said. “Or you will suffer an ETERNITY facing the demons you so cowardly turn away from. You think you know terror? Your fears are childish, at best, compared to the darkness that awaits you, should you prove… troublesome…”
The darkness faded; Bulwark found himself on the cliff again.
Bulwark remained still, feeling a desperate urge to vomit.
He’d done it again. He’d played right into that monster’s hooves again. And now, there was no way out.
What have I done?