Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars

by Radiant Dawn

Chapter 32: The End isn't the End

Chapter 32: The End isn’t the End

“You had to know this was coming.” I stated loudly, trotting over toward Death as he stumbled away from the mass of bones. “You could have ended this before it even started, but for some reason I’ll never fathom, you seem to think you know better than everyone else.”

He growled as he stood, flaring his wings angrily. “I’m a visionary. I only wish to offer a world of no more needless death, no pain, and no illness. Why do you all fight such a wonderful thing so much?!”

I sighed and shook my head. “These are free people here, Death. They have fought and died for that freedom, and they will not give it up to anyone. They follow me and the others because we fight for their freedom and right to live, not against it. I will never understand how you thought this would ever be a good idea, as you have caused more needless pain than even Discord.” I stopped a few dozen paces away and asked, “What makes you think these ponies want to live forever? Such short, precious years are what make life so wonderful for them to live, and watching them grow and love makes an eternity worth living. A life of eternity is meant to be the exception, not the rule. Honestly, I had thought the avatar of death would be the last one to want a world where no one dies.” Just before he spoke, I interrupted him sharply. “Don’t bother; I don’t care what your explanation is. All you need to know is that I will stop you from spreading your influence over this world, and I think it’s clear by now just how far I will go to do so. Your massive armies are defeated, your ace-in-the-hole beast is crushed, and you have nowhere left to run.” I then threw my head from side to side to crack my neck, then grinned maliciously. “It’s just you and me now, ‘dad’.” He lifted his gaze from the ground and…

He was smiling...why was he smiling?

“Well then, I suppose I will need to stop playing around then.” he smugly replied, just before closing his eyes and summoning a set of bladed glowing burgundy armor upon his body. It seemed to drip a red energy that made it look as if he was bleeding, and the multiple blades all over the armor made his entire body a weapon.

Somewhere in my eternal memory, I immediately recognize the armor. “Element of the Berserker.”

He nodded with a sadistic smile. “Indeed.”

I choked on my breath of air, but composed myself enough to sputter, “B-but it was supposed to be-”

“Destroyed?” he interrupted with a grin. “Yes, it was. However, it seems mortals vastly underestimate what desperation can do when it comes to reforging the shards of magic that made it. All I needed to do was offer it a few thousand souls and voilà, the Element was renewed.”

I had never directly done battle with either of the other two Elements of War, but I was smart enough to know that only another Element could match their power. So, with a sigh I reached inside myself and pulled my own Element to the surface, feeling the familiar rush of power that came with it. I knew that as the Guardian, my Element was made not to destroy an enemy with overwhelming power, but rather to outlast them with bolstered stamina and endurance. However this was a problem, as I knew that unlike me, Death’s magic was still connected directly to the planet. This meant that while my magic would eventually run out, his would not. As the defender in this battle, I was going to need to find a way to quickly end the fight.

With a growl that made it sound as if he was in pain, Death lunged at high speed.

Perspective change ‒ Luna

“...una, wake UP!”

The exclamation was followed by a firm slap to my rump, startling me awake from both the surprise alone and from stinging pain in my flank. I shot to my hooves to see a familiar Obsidian standing next to me.

I shot a glare his way. “There are gentler and less-invasive ways of waking a mare, Darkflight.” He said nothing in response, only nodding toward my right.

What I saw when I turned toward the sounds of heated battle set my blood on ice.

For the first time in nearly three-thousand years, two of the Elements of War were in the same place at the same time, and battling furiously against each other.

“This...isn’t possible…” I breathed unbelievingly. “The Element of the Guardian was the only remaining of the three!”

“Keyword being ‘was’.” Darkflight grunted. “I don’t know how or where, but Death found and restored one of the others.”

I glanced around the battlefield to see Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Celestia channeling a shared barrier spell to keep the battle contained. Suffice to say it would be foolish to ask any of them to lower the barrier to allow another inside to aid Frost, as that would give Death the opening he needed to escape, and with the power of an Element of War on his side, he would cut wide swathes through the innocent ponies on the battlefield behind us.

No matter the reason, that was not something I could allow.

“He can’t keep this up for long.” Darkflight said gravely, causing me to snap my gaze back to him as he pointed to the ferocious battle in front of us. “Drew was already tired when he started this fight, and it’s only going to get worse. We need to start preparing for when he loses.”

All exhaustion chased away by the words, I shook my head with a growl. “No, he is not going to-”

“WAKE UP!” the black drake roared sorrowfully, gesturing to the two battling alicorns. “He can’t win this fight, and he knows it; a guardian isn’t meant to attack, he’s meant to defend. He might be the only one that can stand toe-to-toe with Death right now, but it won’t be long before he’s cut down.” For only the second time since I’ve known him, I saw tears glistening in Darkflight’s eyes. “Yet again, he’s sacrificing for us all. We can’t let it be in vain.”

I stared at the Obsidian, awestruck. “You...y-you would just give up on him?”

Darkflight turned his face away again, staring at the enclosed battle before us. “If you can think of something that will save my brother without letting Death escape, I’m all ears.”

For a few moments, silence between us reigned, the only sound being wind and the clashing of metal not thirty feet away.

“You have matured.” I observed, the statement leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. “However, I am not ready to surrender...not yet.” As the drake’s eyes turned to me, I flashed him a confident smile. “Give me some time to consult with an old friend.”

Without another word, I kicked off from the ground and rocketed into the sky.

For the first time in my life, I landed heavily in the presence of hundreds of dragons, without intent to destroy them. While it was clear to me by their expressions that they did not hold a grudge for my destructive past with them, wariness was still clear in their eyes.

“Princess Luna, you honor us.” sneered a familiar voice.

Well...most of them did not hold a grudge.

“Trezera.” I growled, turning toward the hulking red dragon.

He towered over me, using his size in an attempt to intimidate. “Perhaps this is not the right place for you to be, princess.”

After taking a few moments to stare at him unflinchingly, I breathed deep and let my annoyance leave my heart and mind. “I will make amends to you personally another time Trezera, but for now, I must speak with your elder, Veruuthas.”

Trezera growled and took a step forward, but was stopped by a massive claw to his shoulder as the ancient blue stepped out of the crowd. Veruuthas, a creature with a longer history than my own, lumbered over to me, dropping to all fours and craning his neck down to look me eye to eye.

After a short inspection, he smiled toothily and greeted, “Hello old friend. What can this aged drake do for you today?”

His ever-jovial attitude toward me had never changed, and for that I was thankful. However, for the moment, I had more important things on mind than reminiscing.

“How can a Guardian defeat a Berserker?” I asked cryptically, though still direct for one such as the ancient Blue.

Knowing immediately what I was asking, Veruuthas lay down on his stomach in front of me and crossed his arms in front of him to support his upper body. “I see you’ve noticed the disparity of power between the Elements of War.”

I nodded with a grimace. “Yes, and it doesn’t make sense to me. From what father told me as a filly, the three were created for different purposes, but with an equal amount of power.”

“Base power.” he rumbled.

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Excuse me?”

Veruuthas quirked a grin. “Ah, so you do not know. It seems that yet again, I am privileged to teach something to the younger generations. You see, much like the Elements of Harmony, the Elements of War choose their own bearers. In a theoretical situation where one were able to wield all three, an observer would find that the amount of power at the bearer’s command would change depending on which Element was equipped. Contrary to what you seem to believe though, no one Element is more powerful than the other on its own.”

“On its own.” I repeated, sensing where the explanation was going.

He nodded. “Indeed. Instead, the amount of power available to the wielder is comparable to whatever they most represent. For the Berserker, it is unbridled wrath and a narrow, focused perception on things. For the Assassin, it is deception, cunning, and an affinity for subtlety.”

“And the Guardian?” I urged, slightly annoyed that he chose to pause at that moment.

He smiled broadly as he asked, “What is a Guardian with nothing to protect?” Without waiting for me to reply, he continued. “The answer is: nothing. The essence of the Guardian that lives within that Element is fueled by an innate desire to protect, and so if there is nothing to protect, there is no fuel for the Element to use.” He smirked. “What then, would happen, if a Guardian has everything to protect? What would happen, however foolishly, if the bearer would take the fate of the world upon his shoulders?” As if sensing my next question, Veruuthas nodded sagely. “Remind him of what is at stake; remind our protector just what he is fighting for. It seems that as the war has raged on, he has lost touch with it.”

As he pushed himself to his feet, I raised an eyebrow at him. “What are you doing?”

The ancient Blue chuckled deeply. “You don’t honestly believe I would refuse the chance to see the full power of the Guardian brought to bear for the first time, do you?” He stood on his hind legs and gaze out across the battlefield toward the shimmering dome that held the battle within. “It will be a privilege to see such an incredible sight before I pass on from this world.”

The latter statement brought the reality of his age to mind, and I nearly choked on a surprised sob that bubbled its way to the surface.

Veruuthas smiled fondly at me and shook his head. “Nothing but an alicorn can last forever, moon princess. I knew when I joined this war that it would be my final conflict, and I have no regrets.” He sighed heavily as he gazed at the dragonkin gathered around us. “I have lived long and seen more than most have any right to. I have sired two whelps that I could not be more proud of, and I have given all that I am to ensure that my legacy -- not of a dragon, but as a living being on this planet -- is assured.” He shrugged helplessly. “It is time for me to go, and time for the younger generations to take over.”

Dragons did not age the same way that other creatures on Terra did, so I knew that even though he looked healthy, if he felt his time was coming, it likely was. Age had no effect on a dragon’s ability to fight and they were often the only ones who knew when their time of death was near. Unlike the rest of the mortals on the planet, they did not weaken over time and silently pass away. Instead, I knew that Veruuthas would erupt into a column of flame, leaving ashes where there was once a dragon...a friend.

Tears sprang to my eyes, but I knew that no matter how powerful I was, I could not stop the flow of time. Besides, neither would I want to; to be able to look back on one’s life and have no regrets was something I could not even say for myself, so I would not want to take that from a friend.

Instead of disrespecting myself or Veruuthas by erupting into sobs, I instead smiled sadly at him and nodded. “I understand. Let us spend this last great moment by each other’s side then.”

He gestured with one battleworn claw toward the barrier in the distance. “After you, Lady Moon.”

Perspective change -- Frostbreaker

It seemed that something about Death’s Element sapped away his rationale, replacing it with bloodlust and a desire to destroy. I imagined that must be the case, since other than grunts, growls, and roars, he hadn’t communicated to me at all, and his eyes were crazed. This wouldn’t have been a problem normally, since a stupid enemy is an easy enemy, but the Element he wielded appeared to have vastly increased all of his abilities, and while he seemed unable to use his magic for more than primordial blasts of magic, it was clear I was outclassed in terms of raw strength and power.

I’d never so thoroughly been overwhelmed by a single opponent before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

As I rolled out of the way of another molten stream of deadly magic, I grunted as Death fell upon me once again, pressing the bladed ridges of his forehooves toward my face in an effort to carve my cheeks away. If there was one thing this version of Death was, it was predictable, but his sheer overwhelming strength and speed made up for his simple attack combinations. It was all I could do to just hold on and hope that something, somewhere would give me a break.

No such luck, it seems.

“RRRAAAAAGH!” the crazed avatar of death roared once again, pressing down on me with his full weight as his hoofguards began to cut into my frost-caked helmet.

Glancing around at the many faces of friends and family from the outside, I grit my teeth and kicked both of my hind legs out in a mighty buck, throwing Death into the shimmering wall of magic that held us within. Crackles of energy and ripples surged across the surface of the barrier, but the shield held. I flapped my wings to right myself on my hooves to prepare for another attack from Death, but it was at that moment that time seemed to almost slow down as a voice spoke to me -- a voice both soothing and powerful.

“Remember them, my love. Remember why you fight; remember who you fight for. Remember what you are protecting, and what you fight to prevent.”

Time seemed to stop as a ghostly apparition appeared before me, and the smoky face of Luna smiled lovingly at me.

“Remember why you took up arms in the first place, and remember all those who love you and have faith in you.” she whispered with heavy affection. A brief pause stretched on before, “Remember what you promised me.”

Like a bolt of lightning, the memory hit me…

It was only shortly after arriving home that I found myself in bed, sweaty and unkempt, with a very satisfied Luna laying half on top of me. It seemed that she missed me nearly as much as I her, and she was quite happy showing said affection to me. While the others were sleeping or resting around us, my eyes were locked on hers as we shared a rare private moment just between the two of us.

“I still do not understand why you fight, Frost.” she said, the half-question coming seemingly out of nowhere. “You were not a soldier or warrior on Earth, and neither were you particularly drawn to conflict.”

I shrugged helplessly. “I fight because I must, Luna. I fight because if I run away, the courage that just barely holds the alliance together will crumble. They need to see me out there fighting for them, or they’ll run.” I then sighed, turning to look her directly in the eyes. “But more than that, I fight because I have something worth protecting. Beyond just the safety of those I love, I have a life where I don’t just feel like ‘the weird guy’. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt like I fit in somewhere just being me, and it’s a feeling beyond what I’ve imagined.” I shrugged again, this time with a grin. “Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I think that with all the selflessness I usually put out, I’m allowed to be a little selfish here and there.”

Luna shook her head with a smile. “Wanting to be with those you care for is not a bad thing, Frost. If it is, then I am quite possibly the worst one could imagine.” She then placed one hoof on my chest and kissed my cheek. “When things are grim and there seems to be no hope, remember that; remember why you fight.”

I nodded. “I will.”

“Promise me.” she urged. “Promise me that you will not forget. Promise me that you will…” her voice broke, and with it, my heart nearly snapped in two, “promise me that you will come back to us -- to me.”

Taking her hoof in my own and offering a reassuring squeeze, I nodded slowly. “I promise, love.”

The memory and realization of my true cause -- why I took up arms in the first place -- came back to me, and with it, my resolve was strengthened. I would not give up, even when oblivion threatened to swallow me up. It wasn’t just me that I was fighting for, it was for all those I loved, and all those who believed in me...who needed me.

My Element seemed to react to what I felt, and I felt an explosion of power build up from within.

Perspective change -- Spike

As I watched, Frost froze for a second that seemed to last an eternity, but then, a huge column of golden energy seemed to explode from where he stood, shooting into the sky as the entire battlefield was lit up with light. Turning my eyes toward the sky, I saw the cloudcover part around the pillar of golden power, and noticed the sun beginning to peek over the horizon to the east.

“The dawn comes,” Luna’s voice said from beside me, “and with it, hope for a better day.”

“That hope is well-placed, I think.” rumbled a familiar voice from behind me.

I turned and nearly jumped out of my scales at who was there. “E-elder!”

The Blue simply waved a claw with a grin. “No formalities, youngling; I’m just here to watch the show.”

I nodded hesitantly before looking back to the towering pillar of power in front of us. “What’s happening to Frost?”

“What you all have seen up until now when he dons his Element is a dormant state for it.” the ancient explained. “Its true power slept, kept unawakened since there was no dire need of it. Power like that cannot simply be called upon whenever one wishes.”

I nodded. “I can understand that. I guess it’s the importance of the moment that allows him to call on it or something?”

Luna bobbed her head a few times before answering, “In a sense. It is more of an emotional issue than magical, as Frost’s Element reacts to his desire to protect. As the situation for us becomes worse, Frost’s desire to protect us becomes stronger. It was not until he donned his Element and I reminded him of something important that he was able to utilize those emotions, though. He needed to truly believe that everything rested on his shoulders, but with a desire to live as well.”

I smirked despite the situation. “Made him promise to stay alive, did you? Good thinkin’, Luna.”

She smiled back and nodded. “One of us has to have some forethought.” Her eyes turned once more to the column of light, and she frowned. “So long has Frost’s life been meaningless to him if he could protect the lives of those he held dear. While I am confident he would still lay down his life for a loved one or friend, he now has a life he values, and one he does not wish to let go of. He has come to understand that he would be sorely missed, and for the good of those across the planet, he must survive.”

The pitch of the roaring energy began to increase, and the column of power began to recede to the ground again. Faster and faster the energy seemed to be sucked into the area where a blood-crazed Death seethed in rage as he repeatedly tried and failed to break through the golden energy to his prey. As soon as the column fell to the ground, a great gold-armored boot smashed into the face of the insane black alicorn, throwing him heavily against the shield.

Perspective change -- Darkflight

What stepped away from the residual circle of energy was at least as tall as me, and built like a tank. It was bipedal, heavily armored in glowing, golden armor, and wore a crested close helm. A huge kite shield was held in its left hand, while a studded mace was held in the right. A long spiraled horn glittered into being on the forehead of the helmet, and two large golden wings unfurled from the back, seemingly from nowhere. A mist condensed around the figure as ice grew to cover the armor, just before it thrust the shield down in the ground.

Everyone get back.” commanded a multilayered voice, the low tones of which were loud enough to cause the ground to rumble. I extended my arms, motioning everyone to fall back a bit to allow for whatever was about to happen, but the whole time I could only think one thing:

Final boss fight (yeah, I’m a dork).

For too long I have held back, hoping against hope that you would come to see reason and abandon this foolish crusade of yours.” the figure -- who could only be my brother -- growled deeply. “That time has passed, I think. You have shown no mercy to innocents, and have thrown this world into turmoil and chaos.” He gestured with a hand to all those that surrounded the shield -- at least a thousand people of all races -- and shook his head. “Look to the faces of all those that gather to witness your downfall; these are the faces of those that are willing to fight to the last breath to protect this world and this life that they hold dear. They would rather die than lose their freedom.” Death, while seemingly a ravenous creature at this point, had the good sense to look around at what was happening before focusing back on Drew as he picked up his shield. The air around them began to condense further, and frost began creeping along the ground from where they stood as my brother boomed, “STAND IN AWE OF THE REMORSELESS WINTER YOU HAVE UNLEASHED! KNOW THAT I AM YOUR END!

With that, a howling maelstrom of icy wind surrounded the two of them, obscuring all sight of the battle. Moments after visual confirmation was lost, the sound of an intense battle could be heard -- the clashing of metal against metal along with grunts and guttural roars was unmistakable, I think. While a part of me was happy to know the battle was on more even ground now, a much smaller but no less important part of me wished I could see what was going on. The sound of intense battle continued, so I could only wait until my brother’s desire for theatrics wore out.

My wish was answered a few moments later as loud and repeated thuds against the shield, followed by a corresponding warping of the barrier, preceded the giant shield bursting like a balloon. Shocked gasps erupted from everyone watching just before the equine form of Death was thrown out of the howling blizzard, skidding a few times along the dusty earth before coming to a stop not ten yards from me. Before I could react though, Drew materialized with only a soft displacing of air, one armored boot upon Death’s head and the mace held high above. The weapon began to glow with swirling gold energy before he swung it down at his foe, aiming not for the head itself, but rather-


The sound caused all the ponies -- and even a few of the dragons -- present to wince in sympathetic pain. I craned my neck to get a better angle in order to see what had happened, only to feel strangely nauseous at what I saw: the black, spiraled horn of Death had been snapped in two, with blood slowly leaking out of it.

All of us had been informed on the biology of ponies, so I knew the strength of the horn of a unicorn, and knew it was nearly impossible to break one. This was a secure feeling for unicorns and alicorns, since the fracturing of a horn alone could leave them unable to cast spells properly for weeks until it healed, and a full separation could take months to completely recover from. A horn break was not a career-ending injury thankfully, but it was very painful and often left the pony affected feeling rather lost and useless until it healed, since unicorns and alicorns tended to use magic quite a bit in their day-to-day lives.

Drew simply looked at the downed alicorn, the helmet he wore keeping any emotions he felt a secret. “Try teleporting now, coward.

To my surprise -- and likely all those present -- Death began laughing. It was at that point that I couldn’t help but think to myself, ‘Could he be anymore cliche?’

A few sputtered coughs and some drops of blood followed before Death slowly ground out, “Kill...me. I’ll...come...back. Cannot...escape...death.” He seemed to have trouble forming the words, though it was unclear whether it was because of his Element, or battle fatigue.

Drew just gazed silently down at the alicorn for a few moments before answering, “I know that we can’t simply lock you away, because you could still use your power over death against us, and that isn’t something I can allow.” He tossed the shield and mace away before reaching down and grasping Death by the throat, causing the injured alicorn to weakly flap his wings. Bringing him to eye level, Drew spoke slowly and quietly, though his tone was no less powerful as he did so. “But I think I finally understand what Life has in mind.

Perspective change -- Rainbow Dash

I was completely exhausted. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure how I was still awake; it was probably because I didn’t want to rest until I was sure this whole thing was over, so I followed Frost and the others to the main camp, where Death was brought before the avatar of life.

To see Death in such a vulnerable and weak state was...not as satisfying as I thought it would be. Honestly, I was a little disappointed that someone who had caused so much trouble and so much death around the world was, when isolated, not that great of a threat. I guess what made Death so dangerous overall was the forces he commanded rather than his raw power itself, and Terra’s recovery was going to take a long time -- if it ever fully recovered, that is. Still, even with all that being the case, I will admit it was a huge relief to see that the enemy we all had thrown ourselves at was now defeated.

The only question now was what was going to be done with him, since Frost had kept pretty tight-lipped about it.

I had seen Frost in his human form before, but seeing him all decked out in awesome armor was...wow. I don’t count myself as visually stimulated as, say, somepony like Rarity, but seeing the stallion you love looking all awesome and stuff...it does something to a mare, ya know? That’s not to say I wasn’t focused on the situation at hoof, but I was going to be sure to show Frost just how how proud of him I was for everything he had gone through for all of us. Maybe it was the fact that the light at the end of the tunnel was much brighter now, but let’s just say my mind was slowly floating away from fighting and surviving, and more toward a celebration of relief the likes of which Equestria probably has never seen before.

My attention was drawn out of my thoughts by Life alighting next to Frost a few feet away, looking down pitifully at Death. She looked honestly saddened by what had been wrought upon her brother, and I kinda wished I knew what was going through her head at that moment.

“Death,” she began softly, her voice sorrowful, “brother...I am sorry it has come to this.” With a wordless glance at Frost and Night -- who I’m sure was about to drop from exhaustion -- the three took places around Death, who was restrained by ropes.

For a few moments confusion filled his face, but his eyes then widened in horror as he understood what was happening. “W-wait, what are you doing? You can’t do this!”

Life shook her head sadly, her flowing mane wafting in the gentle breeze. “You have truly left us with no other choice, brother. You were asked to stop, but to no avail. Instead, you killed thousands without any sign of stopping.” She sighed as her horn and those of the two other avatars began glowing with power. “Goodbye, brother.”

The magic trickled forth from the horns of all three toward the struggling black alicorn, surrounding him in a multi-hued orb of power. For a few moments nothing further happened, but then Life began to glow brightly as motes of magic seemed to drift off of her form. My own eyes widened as I realized what she was doing, and before Spring could mentally shout at me to stop her, a flash of magical light blinded me.

I had to close my eyes with a wince from the bright light, but I could feel the amount of raw magical power in the air as the ritual ended. After a few moments of fluttering my eyes to bring back my sight, the first thing I saw was three gathered around a now-empty space, with Cadence quietly sobbing with her head held low. Above her, a glowing orb of energy ascended into the sky, humming with power before it simply disappeared.

“S-she’s gone…” Cadence cried quietly. “I n-never knew just what it would b-be like. She was there m-my whole l-l-life and I didn’t even know it.”

Frost slowly walked over to Cadence and pulled her against his armored chest, slowly stroking her mane as he did so. “She was there from the moment you were born. This isn’t the end, though.” Cadence stopped her weeping temporarily as she looked up at the helmeted face of Frost, sniffing once for good measure. He simply shook his head, and I couldn’t help but imagine him smiling as he explained, “It will be a long time, but she will be back. I know that right now it feels like there is a piece of you missing, but until she returns you have friends and family to remind you of who you are should you ever lose sight.

Cadence shook her head, tears still falling like rivers from her eyes. “She won’t be the same though. They’re fused now, so she won’t even be the same pony anymore.” She hiccuped once, burying her face in the crook of Frost’s neck as she whimpered, “Why does it hurt so much?”

You’ve sacrificed a piece of who you are for the good of the ponies you look after.” Frost explained plainly, but not unkindly. “It’s going to hurt for a long time, but I promise you that when she returns to you, you will recognize her.” He then turned his gaze to me. “I’m about to crash really hard, so I’m leaving things in you and my brother’s hands. Take care of them, love.

I only had a second to mouth a “what” before the armor on Frost faded away, revealing his human form for just a moment before a flash of magic revealed the steely-blue alicorn we all recognized. He then collapsed without warning, completely out cold. Cadence caught him in her hooves to keep his head from hitting the ground, but the sudden loss of Frost’s presence left me shocked for a few moments before I mentally shook myself and looked to Darkflight, who was standing beside me.

“Alright,” I began, quickly glancing over the sprawling battlefield that stretched for miles, “we need to establish a perimeter for cleanup and security. I want rotating shifts and changing assignments every two weeks -- I want them to all get to go home, even if we still have things to do.” I then looked to Dark again. “I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you want to break it up, but we need to get Twilight and all the royals back to Canterlot. We’re going to have a lot of work to do, so I need your support on this; are you with me?”

Dark nodded with a grin. “I got your back, Dash. Leave it to me. Ditzy,” he called to the gray pegasus off to the side, “with me. Let’s establish some order here so we can all get some well-deserved rest.”

I watched the two jet away before looking back to Frost, who was now laying in a much more comfortable position next to Luna and Celestia, who were both laying beside them. As much as I wanted to do the same, I knew that the day was far from over, and Equestria was going to need a lot of work before things could get anywhere near normal again. Besides all that, Celestia and Luna worked harder than any of us did both before and during this whole thing, so they deserved to rest more than anypony else. A good cloud and a good nap sounded good to me, but knowing Celestia and Luna as well as I did (wow, never thought I’d get to say that), I had a feeling they had slept very little if at all during the past few days.

With a sigh I shook my head; the next few days were going to be pretty intense to say the least, but I was more than up to the challenge. Frost and the others needed me to show I could hold things together if they were unavailable to do so, and I was going to prove them right for trusting me.

I took one last look at the three alicorns on the ground behind me before flapping my wings and taking to the skies, intent on giving them and all the others present a new, positive direction.