Ruins of Ponyville
The one remaining building
“You ready for this, Twi?”
“C’mon, we talked about this already; we have to let the others know what Tartarus said.”
“I don’t know Rainbow, I still feel like we can’t trust him.”
“What? You think I do? C'mon, what’s the real reason?”
Twilight laughed at that, if there was one pony in Equestria who had cause to doubt the God of Death it would be Rainbow. “I know you don’t. I just... I just don’t know if I'm ready to face everyone, after what happened and all…”
“They don’t blame you, Twi.”
“I wish I had your confidence.”
“Well, not everyone can be as awesome as me.”
Twilight reached over and kissed her wife on the cheek. “Damn right, nopony is as awesome as my wife.”
“Well, I can think of one, they're super awesome.”
Twilight looked taken aback by that. “Really? Who is it? I'll go marry them then.”
“Sorry, you're too late, they are taken by somepony already.”
“Oh, someone beat me to them, tell me, who married this super awesome pony?”
That earned Rainbow another kiss. After a few minutes, Rainbow pulled back, earning a disappointing moan from her wife. “Sorry, but we really do need to get going. Besides, I don’t know about you, but I am way too sore to follow that to its conclusion.”
“Are you saying I wore out the great Rainbow Dash?”
“Twilight, you would have given several ponies a run for their bits these last few days.”
“What can I say; you left me alone for two months.”
“We went over this already, I did no such thing. It’s not my fault I time traveled.”
“It wasn’t time travel.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, but stop getting off subject. It’s time to go see our friends.”
“How long were we in here anyway?”
“What, you think I was keeping track of time?”
“What were you keeping track of?”
“Number of times we each…”
“Yeah, and?” Twilight would be lying if she said she was not a little curious.
“Ninety-seven to ninety-three, I won!”
“Rainbow, I think this would be more like golf. Lower score wins.”
“Yeah that’s stupid, higher score always wins.”
“If you say so.” Twilight smirked at her wife.
“C’mon, we don’t have time to kill.”
Rainbow began walking forward; forcing Twilight to keep pace if she wanted to stay under her wing. The two of them traveled out the front door of their house, greeted by the light of the sun for the first time in quite a while, they could not help but shut their eyes to it. However, their eyes were not necessary to hear the warm greetings from their friends and family.
Princess Luna noticed their temporary blindness and moved a few clouds in the way of the sun with her magic. “You should be able to see now.”
Twilight and Rainbow opened their eyes. While not having the sun in their face did help, it still took a few seconds for their vision to come back. “Wow, everyone is here.” Looking around Twilight saw Cadance, Luna, Rarity, Spike, Night, Dawn, Ataxia, and Aurora all gathered around the house. For Twilight, seeing all her friends and family gathered around like this, only seemed to highlight those who were missing, Dayspring Gleam, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Celestia. She would never see her only son’s face again; she would never be able to talk to her mentor and oldest friend again. She would never attend another of Pinkie Pie’s parties. She would never have evening tea with Fluttershy again. It was too much to take in all at once. In so many ways, it was worse than ever.
Over the years, Rainbow learned to read Twilight like a book. As such, she easily saw the signs of a breakdown on the way. Rainbow was worried about this. While they talked for over a day about everything that had happened, she knew it would take time for Twilight to process it. For her to truly come to terms and move on, that might even take years. Even Rainbow still felt the grief of it all, she probably always will.
Rainbow squeezed her wife tightly in her wing and forced her to sit down. She lightly stroked Twilight’s back with a hoof. Rainbow’s hoof paid special attention to the sensitive area between Twilight’s wings. “It’s ok Twilight, no one will judge you.”
“How can they not?!” Twilight was in tears now.
“Because, we can no more hold you responsible for your actions as Twilight Night then ours as Nightmare Moon.” Luna commented to the stricken mare.
“But you didn’t do anything this bad.”
“Only because you stopped us before we could, had you not been there, had your friends not been there, we would have caused eternal night. It would have killed all of Equestria. If anything, it is us that should apologize to you.”
“Yes Princess Twilight. Your hooves carry so much in this world. We have all relied on you to solve all of our problems. When something happened to you, when you needed help with your problems, we were not strong enough to help. We failed to prevent you from succumbing to your demons.”
“But.... but... Celestia, Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Dayspring.”
“No buts, mom.”
Rainbow looked over at Aurora, The mare looked a hundred times better, however, that did not squash the guilt Rainbow felt for not being there, for not helping her during the attack, or after.
‘No, this is not about me, this is about helping Twilight. There will be time for me later.’ Rainbow pushed all those errant thoughts aside.
“Aurora is right, Twilight. We know for a fact that Celestia would never blame you for what happened.”
“How can you know that?”
“If we do not blame you, how could she?”
Aurora came over and hugged her two parents. Softly she whispered in Twilight ear. “Please, forgive Dayspring for what happened. I don’t want your memory of him to be stained by his actions to save me.”
“I… I… I do.” A weight seemed to lift from Twilight as she realized that it was the truth. She never knew that she actually blamed him a little for that. With that admission, with her daughter’s kind words for her lost brother. She was able to forgive him for his actions, and in doing so, she forgave herself. It would still hurt, that gap would never go away. However, the weight of it, it became easier to carry.
“I'm sorry girls; I missed so much, you all had to go through everything that happened without me.”
“No, we're sorry Twilight.” Cadance spoke for the group. “We were not there for you, I wasn’t there for you. Radiant told me to tell you about the theft of the heart. Had I listened to him…”
“It would have changed nothing.” Shimmering Night replied. “They would have still attacked; Ponyville would have still been destroyed. The only difference is that the wedding would have been delayed and the Royal Guards would not have been there. Worse, Twilight might have left to see where they took it and Rainbow would have gone with her. That would have caused the deaths of many, many more ponies. Not just the few it did.”
Cadance considered that, she doubted her choice in not interrupting the wedding for a while now, however, with that knowledge she was finally able to crush those small thoughts for the last time. ‘I knew you should always bet on love.’
Twilight looked around to the best friends and family she could ever hope for, after taking a few minutes to let the tears fade she asked an obvious question. “How did you all know to be here today?”
“That was Ataxia’s doing, darling.”
The mare just blushed at the back of the group, trying to hide her face in the crowd. Eventually she realized that was not working as everypony was waiting for her to explain just how she knew today would be the day. “I… I just had a feeling that we should all be here today. I can’t explain it, but that’s what happened.”
“It wasn’t a pinkie sense kind of thing was it?” Twilight gulped at the possibility of that continuing on to a new generation.
“No, it was just a gut feeling, like somepony was trying to tell me that but couldn’t communicate it directly.”
Twilight had a few ideas of just who ‘that’ could be, but she kept them to herself. Twilight already got enough strange looks for revealing that she was Gaia’s Avatar, nopony needed to know that Ataxia was the Avatar of Chaos. The mare has enough problems fitting in as is.
“How long were we in there anyway?” Rainbow asked.
“Two weeks to the day.” Spike responded, holding up a calendar with each day crossed off.
Rainbow and Twilight both looked at each other, the same thought crossed through their head. ‘Two weeks? That’s a new record.’ Although, while Twilight was simply embarrassed by that knowledge, Rainbow vowed to break it one day. ‘We can do better.’
“I suppose you're all wondering why we came out today.”
Eight sets of eyes turned from their casual conversation and looked the two. Twilight calmly addressed her friends and family. She was no longer worried about being judged for her actions. They forgave her for her sins; it was the least she could do to try to forgive herself. Even if it was a much harder prospect.
“We had a visitor yesterday.”
That caused every eye to turn into dinner plates, they all knew Twilight’s spells were the best, if somepony broke in. without her permission, without them even seeing whom. That was the very definition of Trouble.
“Who could break into your house?” Night asked, she had tried a few times over the past two weeks to gain access. Twilight strengthened the shield to allow nopony entrance. Any spell strong enough to do so would have destroyed the house and half of Equestria along with it.
“Tartarus.” Rainbow replied to her daughter.
“Tartarus, like the God Tartarus? Or the place?”
“One in the same Spike, I told you that.” Twilight answered.
“Wait, didn’t you say in your report the Gods were forbidden from directly interfering with the lives of mortals.” Luna asked with a puzzled expression on her face.
“Yes, however, Tartarus broke that rule to warn us that the Titan Cronus escaped. The one Rainbow killed was Hyperion. Apparently Cronus is going to use some of Gaia’s power he stole from me to bring himself back to this world with the intent to enslave or kill the entire plant.”
The entire crowd went silent at that until Ataxia broke it. “But, you can stop him right? Like you did with the other one.”
Twilight grabbed ahold of Rainbow’s hoof. “No, the consequences of another mega rainboom are too extreme. There would be no point in stopping him if it destroys the world in the process. In addition, Tartarus told us that by using Gaia’s power and the elements to return, Cronus will be much stronger than Hyperion was. There is no guarantee that it would even work if we tried.”
“Even if you two worked together?” Rarity asked pleadingly.
Twilight shook her head. “I don’t believe Tartarus was lying, we don’t have the power for that sort of fight.”
“However, he did tell us of a way.” Rainbow added.
Looks of hopelessness quickly changed at this ray of possibility presented by Rainbow. “He told us of a weapon that could destroy even a Titan. One designed by Gaia. Ironically, it was designed and named for Cronus himself. Cronus's Sickle.”
“Seems easy enough. All we have to do is get this sickle and stab Cronus with it?” Cadance asked.
“Not exactly.” Twilight replied.
“Of course there is a catch.” Ataxia added, earning herself a punch to her shoulder by Rarity.
“Enough of that.”
“It’s ok Rarity, she's right, there is a catch. When the Gods sealed the Titans away, they also sealed away the sickle. In order to make sure that no one could ever use it for their own purposes they cast a spell on it making it undetectable. Then Chaos found out and rearranged the landscape to prevent anyone from finding it. Needless to say, it’s probably buried several miles under a snow drift or ice somewhere in the north.”
“Between all of us we should be able to find it.”
“No Spike, for starters we have no idea just how long such a search would take, plus Tartarus was adamant that Rainbow would be the one to find it. Let us not forget, Cronus is coming, he will not sit idle while we hunt for his weapon. We need to be ready for him when he gets here.”
“Twilight, there is no time for any of that. We're hardly in a position to wage another war. Especially not one against a Titan.”
“I know that Luna, Which is why we need help for this. Tartarus said we have a week before Cronus arrives, maybe longer if he can buy us some time. As such, we are splitting into three teams. Rainbow and I will head north to find the sickle. Luna, Cadance, Rarity, and Dawn; you four are staying in Equestria, work with Radiant and Firestar on this. Evacuate as many ponies to the outlining cities as you can. Keep everyone safe and prepare what defenses we have left. Spike, Aurora, Ataxia, and Night, you four will head to the Griffin Empire. Talk to Siros; see if you can get him to convince his son to help us. We can’t do this alone.”
Aurora looked horrified at that, while she considered the former Emperor Siros to be a dear friend, if half the reports she heard were true, his son was a completely different story. Young Icarus was brash, impulsive, power-hungry, and rude. Worse, he hated Equestria with a passion. In many aspects, he was the exact opposite of his father in every single way. She still did not understand why Siros relinquished the throne to him. Any further thought she might have given the subject was interrupted by Dawn. “If Night is going I'm going to.”
“No, you're needed here, Dawn.”
“Twilight, I'm going with my wife and that’s final.”
“No, you’re not.”
He turned and looked at Shimmering Night, who was staring daggers at him. “What? Why not?”
“Bright Dawn, I love you. However, you cannot go with me on this one. I told you before we married that this would make you a prince. That means something you know. You have duties here that have to be fulfilled. While Rainbow is needed to go looking for this weapon, that makes you the fastest flyer in Equestria. We need someone fast to get to all the towns and spread the warning, someone with authority to evacuate the ponies that live there. We have no idea how long we have or where the Titan will show up.”
“Then why are they going?” He gestured with his hoof at the other three.
“Ataxia and Night can hold her own against just about anypony. The griffins respect a show of strength; as such, a fully-grown dragon will more than accomplish that. Siros has always had a soft spot for Aurora. I trust the four of them to get the job done. Or get home safely if things go wrong. You, Luna, and Cadance will be needed here. With the country in the shape it is, Equestria needs stable leadership right now. Otherwise we risk a massive panic on our hoofs.”
“What about…” A mouth covering his own cut off Bright Dawn’s comment, Shimmering Night grabbed her husband and brought him into a long drawn-out kiss.
When it was over she looked him in the eye. “You’re scared, I know. So am I, don’t worry though, I can take care of myself.”
“It’s not you that I'm worried about.”
Shimmering Night felt a creeping sensation up her spine as Bright Dawn was looking at Twilight when he said that.
Princess Luna looked cautiously at Twilight. While Luna understood the necessity of such action, she did not fully trust the griffins. Four decades ago, Emperor Siros kidnaped Luna during a diplomatic mission and put her in jail. It was hard for Luna to get over such actions, even with the time of peace they shared since.
“Don’t look so worried.” Twilight spoke, “Siros is more than reasonable.”
“It’s not him we are worried about.” Luna’s concern was easy enough to read on her face. “Are you sure this is the best move?”
“Honestly, no. I don’t trust Tartarus at all, not after our last encounter.” Twilight shivered at that memory and held onto Rainbow’s hoof all the tighter for it. “However, a good plan executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed when it is too late.”
Luna laughed at that. “I had no idea you had read the works of General George S. Pottok.”
“Are you kidding? I read all his books twice when I became a princess.”
“You two keep this up and I'm going to start wearing an ‘I’m with the Egghead’ T-shirt.”
Twilight reached over and kissed her wife on the lips. “I think it would look cute on you, Dash.”
“Yeah, well we can discuss our wardrobe when we get back, the clocks running after all.”
“Oh, yeah, right…” Twilight turned back and got the attention of everypony assembled.
“Ok, we all have our assignments, if there are any more questions, let me know.”
Nopony spoke up so she continued. “Ok, with nothing else to add let’s get going.”
“Wait! Should you go armored?” Rarity asked, unsure if it was the best idea.
“No, that would just slow us down in the snow. However, you should armor the group going to the Empire, just in case.”
With that, Rainbow scooped up Twilight and took off towards the north. Treating everypony present to one more sonic rainboom before they were out of eyesight.
Rarity turned to the four assembled ponies heading to the Griffin Empire; they actually looked excited by the prospect. She smiled at them. “Ok, you three first.”
One at a time, she armored Shimmering Night, Aurora Flash, and Ataxia in their own set of Dragon Steel Armor. As usual, Aurora’s was by the far the most luxurious of the three. As Rarity was Aurora’s only tailor, she personally made sure that mare looked elegant in everything she wore.
“Alright dear, you're next.”
Spike walked up to his wife and kissed her passionately on the lips. When they broke apart, he said his goodbyes. “Promise me you will stay safe while I'm gone.”
“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
He smiled at that and stepped away from any of the other ponies. Rarity spoke one last time before transforming the pony back into the dragon he truly was, a fully-grown dragon at that. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Spike transformed back to his full, intimidating form. If any griffin would try anything, they would think twice before messing with such a creature. Spike's dragon form was far more dangerous than anything they had. This would only be amplified by a fresh new set of Dragon Steel Armor Rarity gifted him with. While he had another set, the dent left in it by Dayspring Gleam made it all but unusable for the dragon to wear. No pony in Equestria knew how to work Dragon Steel, much less repair it.
Spike lowered one of his massive wings, allowing the other three to climb on his back. While Night and Aurora could fly, they were nowhere near as fast as a dragon in Dragon Steel. With a flap of his wings, he took off into the sky, carrying a precious cargo on a mission to try to save Equestria from a Titan.
Princess Cadance took one look at Rarity. “Don’t even think about putting me in armor.”
Rarity laughed at that, while she could design quite the piece for Cadance, she highly doubted that the Princess of Love would appreciate the statement such a getup would make. “Don’t worry dear. I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Princess Cadance, will you take Miss Rarity to the Crystal Empire and fill your son in on everything that has happened. Prince Dawn, please inform the towns in south Equestria of the dangers. We will take the north. When everything is done, gather what troops you can and meet back here.” Luna commanded.
“Here? How do you know the Titan will appear here?”
“We have learned in the past forty six years if something is going to happen in Equestria, it will happen here.”
Rarity wanted to take that as a joke, but there was not much humor in the truth.
Equestria’s southern border
Ataxia really enjoyed this flight. It was a rare day she was actually able to appreciate such activities. As such, she grew a little carried away with herself and started bouncing around her dad’s back like a filly that just got her cutie mark.
“Careful Ataxia, you might just fall off if you keep that up.”
“Make your jokes all you want Night, not all of us were born with wings you know.”
“I guess you’re right. We can’t all be as awesome as me.” Shimmering Night put on a grin more suited to Rainbow Dash.
Aurora grabbed her sister by the head and gave her the biggest noogie in her life. “What did I tell you about getting a big head?”
“Ow, quit it!”
“Take it back.”
“Fine, fine, I take it back.”
“What do you take back?”
“I'm not all that awesome.”
Aurora let her sister go. Night’s mane was a mess after that. “I'm just mostly that awesome.” She replied, sticking her tongue out at her sister.
Before Aurora could reply to that comment, Spike arched his back and dropped them several feet, Causing all three of them to fall flat on their stomachs. “If you three do not play nice I'm going to take all of you home.”
“You can’t, we’re royalty after all, you have to do what we say.” Night replied to Spike’s empty threat.
“I got some bad news for you princess. That only applies while we're in Equestria.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“We're not in Equestria anymore.”
All three of them stopped and faced forward. The landscape had indeed changed; a barren rocky environment replaced the normal lush fields. Huge mountain pillars as far as the eye could see. The entire area could only be described as drab and dark. “How anypony… any griffin could live here boggles the mind.” Ataxia spoke to nopony in particular.
“This is your first time out of Equestria isn’t it?” Aurora asked.
“Yeah, I haven’t left Equestria before. I sure haven’t seen a place like this before.”
Spike continued flying around several of the cliffs. Wherever they were going, Ataxia was glad he knew the way. She seriously doubted she would find her way back on her own, even if she somehow grew wings, it would still be a challenge.
“Mom took me here a few times when I was younger. For some reason Emperor Siros requested it.”
“I don’t know to be honest. I used to sleep through most of the trip.”
“Where are we going anyway?”
“I only remember the city was on the tallest pillar overlooking the whole kingdom.”
“You mean that one.” Spike interrupted.
She looked up to a sight not seen since she was a filly. Aurora gasped at what her memories recalled as a magnificent city. One that was right now, reduced to a shadow of its former self.
The Griffin Capital, Warclaw, once the proud center of the Griffin Empire, a city that stood before the two alicorn sisters rose to power. It lay in ruins before them. Its once proud walls lay in rubble. Several sentry towers melted to the ground. The battle that raged here must have been intense to cause such damage, such destruction, and such loss of life.
“What could have caused this?” Ataxia whispered the words into the air, yet they still found the ears of the other three members of the group.
“I think we are about to find out.” Aurora pointed a hoof up to the tallest remaining tower. A squad of five griffins took flight with spears in their claws. Their formation was crude, yet resembled a standard V attack pattern; it was obvious several of the griffins in the formation were injured. They flew high into the sky and darted straight down, straight for the dragon heading to the capital.
Spike ceased his forward momentum as the griffins hurled their spears directly for them. Quick thinking from Shimmering Night caused her to raise a force shield before the spears impacted, causing them all to break upon her magic instead of them. The griffins hesitated, the last thing they seemed to expect was a magic shield surrounding a dragon.
“No pony or griffin attacks my dad!”
“Ataxia no!” Night shouted her warning but it was too late. The impulsive unicorn returned fire.
The griffins immediately went into evasive maneuvers. They dived out of the line of fire from Ataxia’s horn. At least four of them did. Somehow, despite the extreme range, the military training, and the forewarning from Shimmering Night. Ataxia’s shot landed on the fifth. The griffin fell out of the sky, knocked unconscious by Ataxia’s shot. None of his squad members were in the position to help him and Spike was too big to follow him into the canyon.
Aurora took off like a bullet. Pushing herself as fast and hard as she could. As the daughter of Rainbow Dash, Aurora was a superb flyer. She was easily one of the best in Equestria. Rainbow would not have it any other way. Yet, it had been years since she flew this hard. Aurora flew under and over every obstacle in her way. Her natural grace allowing for split-second maneuvers. Her target was in range.
She wrapped her hooves around the stricken griffin a split second before he would have hit the ground. However, her forward momentum was too fast. Turning to avoid injuring the griffin further, she skidded on her back, wrapping her charge in a wing. The pair rolled over several times before coming to a stop. Fatigue began creeping into Aurora’s consciousness as the Griffin in her hoofs began stirring, the jolt waking him up.
Her last sight before succumbing to unconscious was of the grey and black griffin getting to his claws and of a golden medallion worn around his neck. One that she remembered from her last visit, the last time she saw it was around the neck of Emperor Siros, for that medallion was special; it was only worn by the ruling family of the Griffin Kingdom.
Emperor Icarus awoke in the grip of his savior. He silently cursed himself for being hit like that. Shaking the impact from his head, he stood up and looked down at the one who saved him. To his surprise, it was a pony, and a mare at that. The most beautiful pegasus he had ever laid eyes on.