One of these Days

by Wrabbit

Chapter 11: Keeping the Faith


Chapter 11: Keeping the Faith

~21 Aevum Illuminationis~

There were times when Nyx really hated omnitemporalism. She could if she so chose, relive every bad event over and over again effectively forever, thereby forming a special portion of Tartarus of her own design. That part wasn't so bad, since she could do the same to all the good times, and in fact, even tried to do that much of the time when she was alone in the library, which was more and more often as... No, don't focused/focus/will focus on that. This was/is/will be already bad enough. However, the truly horrid part of this state of being would have to be the visions forced upon her.

It was explained to her (by herself, no less) that these visions were things she needed to know; to prepare for. Damned if she could figure out how she was supposed to prepare for them, and in what way since all these visions were always accurate. Always. Well, except that one, but exceptions that proved/prove/will prove the rule, right?

Like all the visions (except that one), this one was horrific, like every time before it had been shown to her. But not content to be of the ordinarily horrific type, this one was especially bad, because not only was her best friend/lov- No! Didn't/don't/will not dwell on what could not/cannot/will not be! It didn't/hasn't/won't happen! I've seen/see/will see it! Not only was Twilight's very soul being torn asunder, forever rent to power an artifact, but it was only through Nyx's help that this was even possible. It was/is/will be through my assistance that the grand spell was/is/will be finally worked out, ready for the smartest, most beauteous, most noble being to suffered/suffer/will suffer the worst torment one could/can/will imagine.

Intelligence. That was/is/will be what's at the root cause here! We were/are/will be too smart for her own good. Too smart by half... Not for the first time, she contemplated asking that her gift be revoked, and to have her mind enfeebled. It would be so simple. She knew where to find him, indeed, she was one of two beings that even knew where to look, and she knew he would do it. He wasn't callous, or capricious, despite what many thought of him and his cruel, but inevitable touch. This was supposed to be a gift, after all. She could be rid of not only this two-edged sword, but also any memories it had granted her! Why, with a simple step to the left-


Blinking to wet her wide, staring eyes, the inky blackness left them, returning them to their normal brown hue. Finally able to focus again, the purplish blob before slowly resolved into a vision more soothing to her troubled mind than the best balm. “Twilight!” she sobbed, and collapsed into the alicorn's forelegs which instinctively went around her in a comforting embrace. Unable to make out her hysteric sobbing, Twilight just held the sphinx and let her cry into her shoulder.

(\ /)
( . .)
~2015 Aevum Illuminationis~

Paladin paced around in a circle, trying to keep the anxiety she was feeling from taking over, though with little success. The rest of the group- sans one- lounged nearby, awaiting their next move. The lone exception had requested some space, even from her oldest friend, and was now laying in the grass of the lightly wooded area, a stone orb between her forelegs. She was using a special monocle to peer at it closely, taking careful note of the lattices of arcane energies bound within the stone. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she concentrated, but a frustrated voice behind her startled the monocle from it's position.

“How much longer will this take?” Paladin asked angrily.

Silver Script turned just her head to look the impatient unicorn with her one good eye. “It will take as long at it takes, but it will take longer the more you interrupt me. I have never studied such a hideously complex array of magics before.” Laying a hoof on the sphere, she rolled it around until the sole, four-sided decoration was facing her. “I can tell you one thing that's been postulated by the experts who studied them is true, however. In some weird, strange way, this artifact is alive.”

“What do you mean 'it's alive'?” Awesomeshine anxiously asked. “Is there a pony trapped inside it?”

Looking down at the stone again, a trace of uncertainty crept into her voice. “Not... exactly. A soul trapped inside an object would still be discernible as separate from the prison. Here, it's almost like the prison and the soul are the same. At least, it would be if it were an actual soul. The closest approximation I have would be that it's a simulacrum of a soul, or a part of a soul. I haven't studied it enough to be able to tell yet.”

Paladin approached a step and asked, “But can you use it to track down the others?”

“I was just about to discover that when you interrupted me,” Silver Script replied levelly.

Holding up her forelegs in a gesture of surrender, Paladin said, “Alright, alright. Point taken. I'll go take a walk while we wait.” As she walked away, she mumbled, “Maybe I'll top off the canteens at the creek for the third time, or something.”

The sound of a pony trotting to catch up to her caused the guard to look back and see Silver Bell approaching. She smiled genuine appreciation at the sight of the lovely, delicate mare that had opted to accompany her on this dangerous journey. Allowing her a place next to herself, she was surprised when she kissed her, causing them both to moan in each other's mouths. When they finally parted, they rested their foreheads against each other.

“You looked like you needed that,” Silver Bell said.

“I did,” Paladin admitted. “It's been far too long since we last kissed.”

Silver Bell blushed as she smiled. “Silly filly. We kissed just this morning after breakfast, remember?”

“And the time in-between was pure agony.” They laid down in the dirt right there, side-by-side, Silver Bell nuzzling her head under Paladin's. With a contented sigh, the sandy unicorn said, “If one good thing has come of all this is that it brought us together.”

Silver Bell rested her head on Paladin's forelegs and breathed in her strong musk. A smile formed on her face, and a stirring in her loins as she felt the hard muscles beneath her dirty, yet smooth coat flex as she moved. “Oh, I think it would have happened regardless of the events of the past few days. They just... sped things along a little.”

Paladin inhaled, relishing the purely feminine scent of the mare resting on her. How does she remain smelling so clean and nice even after days of nonstop travel? And her coat is as silky as if she had never left the palace! “Whatever the case, I'm just glad we finally said something to each other. Your playful flirting was nice and all, but if I had to go on for much longer like that, I likely would have gone crazy with suppressed lust. You're just too stunning to resist.”

Nestling in closer, Silver Bell replied, “My flirting? What about your flirting? Or are you telling me that you make such suggestive comments to all the mares while looking so commanding and radiant? I wasn't the only mare on the staff trying to catch your eye, you know.”

“Oh, really?” the guard asked with suspicious interest.

“I'll give you such a bite if you even think of trading me in,” Silver Bell replied, emphasizing her point with a not-so-gentle nibble on a sandy-colored throat.

Paladin yelped and almost jumped up, but was restrained by the pony resting on her forelegs. “Oh, wanna play rough, do you?” Laughing, she tackled the chambermaid, rolling around on the ground with her many times until they came to rest with the stronger unicorn laying on top. Their laughter died down simultaneously, and as if magnetically drawn together, their lips met with a passion that neither had ever felt before. Silver-colored forelegs wrapped around a tawny barrel, and one tawny foreleg stroked a bronze mane, while the other rested on a silver cheek. Their tongues eagerly met, neither seeking dominance over the other, but instead seeking to know as much of the other as possible.

They finally broke apart to come up gasping for air, their mouths poised just inches away, so close that each could still taste the other's breath. “That... was intense,” Paladin gulped.

Very,” Silver Bell agreed. She, herself gulped and looked away, a strong blush coming to her already flushed cheeks. “We... we should probably stop before we do something we're not quite ready for.”

Obviously disappointed, Paladin nodded as she stood, holding out a hoof to the chambermaid. “Yes. Now that we know how we feel about each other, there's no need to rush things, right?”

Silver Bell accepted the offer, allowing the stronger mare to help her up, but refused to let go the hoof once she was upright again. “Look, it's not that I don't want you; quite the opposite! I feel so strongly for you. I've never wanted somepony so much before I met you. You've ignited a passion in my heart that burns so strong that it keeps me warm on the coldest, lonely night... and that's why I want to take it slowly. It... it scares me how I feel.”

She placed the hoof over her heart and smiled wistfully at Paladin. “My heart aches for you when you're not around. I count the seconds we're separated. Your very presence makes me feel safe and comforted. It... it's frightening how big a part of my life you've become, and that was before we confessed our feelings. I just... I just need some time to adjust to all these feelings and changes. This isn't a 'No', just... 'Not yet'.”

Reassured, Paladin's crooked smile became genuine. She gave her a chaste kiss on the lips and nuzzled her. “Take your time. I'll be here waiting for you when you're ready, Love.”

Silver Bell threw her forelegs around her in a tight hug. “Thank you, Sweetheart.”

(\ /)
( . .)

Silver Script pawed at the ground, her brow furrowing just a touch in frustration. A bead of sweat dripped into her eye, breaking her concentration. Letting the monocle drop to the ground, she rubbed her eye with the back of a hoof. “It's no good. I'm going to have to use them,” she mumbled.

“Use what?” Awesomeshine asked.

Turning around in surprise, the scholar took notice of her friend for the first time since starting her study again. “Some magical items I made. They'll help me to disentangle this lattice.”

Awesomeshine laid a comforting hoof on her shoulder. “I understand you wanting to do this on your own without extraordinary aid, but time is of the essence.”

“I don't understand. Aren't you already using magical items to help you see the magic?” Kitten asked.

Silver Script shook her head. “The monocle is a basic sensor. Any unicorn might use it to do what I do to the same effect.” She reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a set of shoes and a peytral that could not have possibly fit in there along with all the other items they had seen her pull out so far. Both the shoes and peytral were crafted of a purple metal polished mirror bright. While exquisitely crafted, the shoes were plain and undecorated, and the peytral's sole decoration was a diamond cut into a six-pointed star. “These are special. They enhance my special talent many times over, allowing me to accomplish things that would ordinarily be beyond my abilities.”

“Wha'? Can ye make me a set?” Ricochet asked, nearly jumping up with excitement.

A flash of amusement passed over Silver Script's eyes before she pierced the fellow earth pony's elation. “Not unless we share the same special talent and are blood related. While I cannot attest to the latter, I sincerely doubt you enjoy studying magic as much as I do.” She stepped into the shoes, tapping the tip of each on the ground to securely seat them. She was about to don the peytral, only to find that Awesomeshine already had it in her hooves and was waiting to fasten it around her neck. A slight pink tinge came to her cheeks as she leaned her head down so that her friend could fasten the neck piece around her.

Clasping it over her neck, the healer flipped the earth pony's braid over the catch and stepped back to admire the new look. “You look just like a princess, now!” she squealed.

With an uncomfortable cough, Silver Script said, “Yes, well. I pattered them after theirs, so of course there would be some similarities. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll resume my study. You may want to stand back a bit. No telling how all this magic will interact, but I can tell you that the effects may be... extreme.”

Facing the stone once more while the others retreated a few paces, Silver Script closed her eye and concentrated. Immediately, a line of white light appeared on all the new accoutrements she had donned, spreading out to form interconnected runes. When every square inch of them were covered with the glowing symbols, the runes' glow grew brighter, lifting the earth pony from the ground in a swirling wind. Silver Script suddenly opened her eye, and a similar white light shone out of the now featureless orb. The stone levitated in front of her, and arcs of electrical-like energies passed between them.

Paladin and Silver Bell burst into the encampment, surprising the other four ponies, all of whom were cowering back, looking unsure what to do, except for Awesomeshine who looked on proudly. “The Element!” Paladin shouted over the wind, and raced over with the intention of knocking Silver Script away.

Awesomeshine intervened however, and tackled her instead. Paladin flailed in her grasp, trying to gain a hoof under herself to throw off the mare. “I've got to stop her before she damages it!”

“Trust her! She knows what she's doing!” the healer shouted back.

As if on cue, the wind died down, and the earth pony was lowered to the ground, and the white lights slowly dying, returning her attire to their normal appearance. Her eye closed, then opened to reveal her normal pupil and blue iris. Awesomeshine jumped up and hugged the mare in a tight embrace. “Oh, Sil! I've never seen you so excited! You must have found something spectacular!”

The others looked at her incredulously, unable to see any difference in the mare's demeanor. “I know. My mouth will be sore for a week from all this smiling.” she replied in a deadpan. “I was able to make initial contact with the Element. It refused to tell me anything about itself or its purpose, but it agreed to help us find the others.”

“That's fantastic!” Paladin cheered. She ran up with a hoof out to take the other mare's hoof in her own, but the intimidating lack of emotion on her face gave her pause, and she instead used the extended hoof to brush her own mane back into place. She gave an uncomfortable cough and asked, “So, how do we do this? Do we ask it and give it a shake, or let it roll along the ground, or what?”

“As long as I have the orb in my possession, I will be able to feel the direction of the next nearest Element,” she replied. Pointing to the north which was across a wide open plains, she added. “We will find the closest in that direction. I suggest we move quickly and only stop after dark. The feeling is quite faint.”

“Well, you heard her, everypony. Let's move out!” Paladin said happily.

(\ /)
( . .)

Long, long ago, the immortals first took notice of the frail, short-lived creatures living below the firmament. Some, mostly the younger immortals, took a keen interest in the comings and goings of the creatures. These creatures, these mortals, were weak and transient, yet some of them managed to leave their mark upon the world, and this fascinated some of the immortals. How beings of such feeble substance could leave anything of lasting value astounded them.

Each of the immortals chose a kind of being that piqued their interests above all others, and bestowed upon them a small bit of their own essence, tying their fates to those fragile creatures. When the Three Sisters decided to combine their gift into one, they unintentionally gave the ponies a gift whose value was greater than any gift given to any of the others. Such a gift could not be contained by a single people, and so they were split into the nine pony tribes, each drawing a distinct trait from one of the Pony Sisters.

One other thing that all mortals drew from their patron immortals was a certain amount of magic. Some immortals were more generous with this gift than others, but each intelligent being was granted some of this power. When this gift was first extended, many thought that they needed to give their patron immortal constant praise, and built large buildings whose sole purpose was to worship these incredibly powerful beings. While the power they wielded was so far beyond any mortal's grasp that it would be fair to call them gods and goddesses, few of the immortals wanted and actively discouraged such lavish praise. Eventually, those immortals grew tired of repeating themselves, and just let the mortals do as they pleased, so long as their other wishes were obeyed.

The Sister's children- their “Little Ponies” were one such people. Though the alicorns actively discouraged worship, even going so far as to avoid even stepping hoof in, or acknowledging any church's existence, worship did continue. Attendance and observance eventually tapered off, much to their relief, but something else these churches did caught the attention of the alicorns, which made them see their value. More often than not, when a foal was born to parents who could not care for it, or a foal's parents died, leaving it all alone, they found themselves on a church's front stoop. All churches welcomed such bundles of joy, mostly because as the alicorns all often declared, all ponies were precious to them, but also because only by raising orphans could many churches continue.

And so this simple act of enlightened self-interest saved many a church, as they sometimes found sacks of bits with a note asking for it to be spent on the children. Not knowing where it came from,they would follow the note's wishes to the letter. However, not all churches were so lucky. Some fell on hard times for one reason or another. Maybe a town became less religious over time, eventually phasing out their need for the priests' spiritual guidance. Maybe the head priest was inept at managing finances, and they went bankrupt. Maybe orphans failed to show up to carry on the traditions, and when the last priest died, the building was just boarded up. Maybe the town that surrounded the church slowly shrank in population until the last pony left was the priests.

The building that stood before Paladin seemed to have fallen into this last category. The church was the only building in a semblance of repair, the rest of the surrounding town left to the not-so-tender mercies of the wild that seemed intent on reclaiming the land taken from it. She looked to the left and saw Silver Script pointing one of her sky blue hooves at the ancient building. With a shrug, she walked forward, leading the six mares to the open door and peeked in.

After the brightness of the early morning, the inside of the church appeared dark and somber, despite the “Sisterwalk” skylight that bisected the building. Walking in, she peered around, looking for any sign of life other than the few lit candles at the west altar. A cloud passed overhead, temporarily bathing the church in slightly deeper darkness. She cleared her throat in preparation for calling out when she was surprised by an old and frail voice coming from one of the pews. “If you're here for services, you'll need an appointment. It takes time to ready a church, you know.”

Paladin let out a filly-ish squeak of surprise, and almost jumped a whole hoof off the ground. Turning to the voice, she could just make out a hunched over figure now that her eyes were adjusting. “Um, actually, we're not here for services, Your Eminence,” Knightengale said reverently.

With a grunt, the old aganippe mare hopped off the pew and stumped over to them, making a curious wooden THOCK sound as she walked stiffly. The mystery was solved as she walked around the pew to reveal that one of her legs was replaced with a peg leg, which explained her stiff gait as well. “A shame,” she replied. “So few these days wish to offer their praise up to the Sisters. Well, what brings you foals here, then?”

“This does,” Silver Script said, holding out the Element of Harmony with a hoof.

The old mare's eyes widened upon seeing the stone and she fell to the ground, prostrate. “She said that it may not happen in my time, but I always held out hope that I would play a part in this, no matter how small. Sisters be praised!”

Looking for encouragement from the rest of the ponies, Paladin saw no emotion from Silver Script whom had put the Element away in her saddlebag, abject horror from Knightengale, and uncomfortable disquiet from the rest. Licking her lips she nervously said, “Er, not to be blunt, but the princesses really need us to collect these. Equestria is relying on it, you see.”

The old aganippe quickly rose, though not without some ominous popping and creaks from her joints. “Of course, Mistress. Please wait just a moment while I fetch it for you.” Before Paladin could say anything, she toddled off to the east altar, leaving all the mares wondering at her sudden burst of alacrity.

She reached the altar which was thrown into shadow again as another shadow passed, and stretched out one bat-like wing, sticking her thumb into a small hole on the side. After a few deft motions, a click was heard, and a small compartment opened up to reveal a stone orb with a triangle-shaped depression cut into it. Reverently cradling the orb in her one good foreleg, she stumped her way back over to the group, but didn't get halfway before the Sisterwalk skylight crashed, sending deadly shards flying down.

Paladin tried to erect a bubble of force around the old mare, but a huge shape landing on the priestess prevented it. In the dim light of the church, they were able to make out the shape of Brimfrost as one claw cruelly snatched the orb from the old mare. “Aaahhh... at lassst. Asss promisssed, I ssshall be firssst to deliver on my pledge, yesss...”

“No!” Paladin shouted, as she pulled her wands out of her gauntlets.

“There isss nothing any of you can do about it!” Brimfrost hissed back. “Once I find and deliver all of thessse ssstonesss to my missstresss, ssshe will not only grant me great power, but alssso the life of the pony I have been sssearching for! Away, foolsss!” she shouted as she breathed out a cone of cold. The ponies took cover behind the pews, but the dragon could care less as she flew straight up through the broken Sisterwalk with the orb in one claw.

Ponies sprang into action as soon as the breath weapon ceased. Ricochet leaped over the pews and skidded across the ice on her knees as she drew out her bow, with an arrow nocked and ready to fly out the Sisterwalk, but could find no target. Paladin did likewise, but could also find nothing at which to aim. The rest rushed to the old priestess' side to find that she was still alive, but not moving.

A quick spell cast by Awesomeshine made her bite her lip. The old mare reached up with her good hoof and pat her on the cheek. “Do not cry for me, little one. I have fulfilled my duty in a way that I never dreamed possible. It was... an... honor...” With her final breath, her hoof fell, taking several of Awesomeshine's tears with it.

(\ /)
( . .)

Prowling through her mountain fortress, the dragoness quickly, but quietly made her way to her favorite chamber, licking her lips in anticipation of the meal she was about to enjoy. Her inky black scales glittered in the dim light of the lava that coursed throughout the complex, but not even that same lava could counter the chill of any being who happened to catch her throaty chuckle.

The chamber she finally stopped before had no guards- no physical ones, at least. She paused for a moment to inspect the sigils she had created to guard this chamber in lieu of any being. Why would she trust mere mortals to guard her most precious possessions? Nodding with satisfaction, she walked through the door instead of trying to open it as if it were no more substantial than water.

She walked up to the only thing in the room, a pedestal upon which two gems, an opal and a fire ruby floated in a column of light, slowly rotating. Gracefully sitting down next to the gems, the dragoness smiled. “Good morrow. And how dost this day find thee? How dost thee like the torment I hath concocted? I am told that complete immobility is quite exquisite.”

Nightmare cocked her head as if listening for a response, even though it was completely unnecessary. She could hear the screams of two alicorns quite clearly in her mind. Making a totally unconvincing expression of sadness, she said, “Now, now. What would thy mother say if she heard you speak thus? Not that she doth be here to hearken,” she quickly added. The gems momentarily glowed and ceased spinning, before resuming their normal luminosity and rotation. The dragoness' eyes rolled up into her head, and her mouth hung slack, a line of drool dripping from between her huge fangs.

It took a moment before she was able to regain her composure, and she wiped away the drool. “Surely, thou art concerned about thy precious little ponies. Since thou wert so kind as to feed me such delicious hatred, mayhap I could tell thee. Thou might even see fit to furnish me with a dessert of despair if I do.”

Laying down next to the column, the great serpent made herself comfortable. “Already, mine armies hath ceased more than half of thy lands from thee. Just this morn, Spellgrade fell. Granted, I had to take a claw in that personally, but at least thou wilt never again have to listen to that Duchess' annoying pleas. 'Please, spare my city! We did nothing to you!' All so very tiresome. I granted her a quick end that I might escape her begging. Quite unseemly for royalty, I must say.”

“Ah, but that is not e'en the best news of the day,” Nightmare added, relishing the grief she felt from the gems. “Late last night, one of my most trusted servants returned anon with a special book, and an e'en more special stone.” She could feel the consternation and total surprise at this news, followed quickly by fear and impotent rage. Once again, her eyes rolled up in her head as she fed on their hate and fear. “Oh, yes. This is just the beginning.” She pulled out a stone orb from seemingly nowhere, turning the small rock in her claws. “I doth wonder. Which part of her this is? Her joy? Her bland heroism? Her urge to make silly speeches?”

She held the orb up and examined it with a critical eye, taking note of the triangle design carved into it. “Mayhap t'were her insipid love for those frail beings o'er which you ruled? It matters not. Once they are all in my grasp, I shall use them to tear apart the nation thou worked so hard to build, and she died to protect. If thou wilt excuse me, I hath a servant to reward for finding this treasure.” She laughed uproariously at the helpless fury directed towards her as she left the room, so she missed the coveted despair from the two gems after she had gone.