Never Broken

by Torgaddon


"Hurry...Hurry... apply pressure there".

"Celestia... oh Celestia... I don't know where... there's too many wounds".

"Fluttershy... please... we need you".



"Get it together girl... we didn't return from tah convoy just tah watch him die. Yah've seen blood before, yah've done this before. Now get yer back in gear. "

"O... Ok... H... Hand me a rubber chord... we need to stop the blood flow from the main arteries first. Pinkie... Rarity, you two apply pressure to the wounds on his chest".

The muffled sounds came as if from the depths of a long tunnel, hollowed out and lost on the way. Yet they did not fail to carry the myriad of emotions held by their owners. Sorrow, fear, horror, sympathy, sadness... towering above all others... the conglomerate feeling of love that flowed awash from the six owners as a light rain in blistering summer sun.

Driven by those familiar and beloved voices, Spike's eye opened slowly, the spiderweb of exhaustion clearing from his sight. Draped on either side of him like guardian angels he could see the forms of his six beloved ponies slowly coming into focus. By his right side were Twilight, clearly trying her best to murmur a healing spell even as tears dropped off her mouth and nose, Fluttershy, shivering like one about to die of frostbite, a look of utter terror in her eyes, even as she tried her best to tighten the rubber strip around his monstrous bicep, Rarity and Pinkie Pie straddling his stomach as they put their entire combined body weight in pressure on a large piece of cloth, trying to staunch the blood form the gruesome gashes on his massive chest . Rainbow Dash and Applejack stood to his left side, trying their best to stop the blood from a myriad of deep cuts and wounds, their worried eyes brimming with a chaotic intermingling of hope, fear and sorrow.

Ancestors bless their kind hearts. All he had wanted was for these six that had been as mothers to him was to never have to shed tears again. Yet here they were, by his side, after everything he had done to distance himself from them. They would never willingly give up on him. He was not worthy of their tears and worry.

Spike looked at them for a while longer, taking succor from their kindness, it alone giving him more healing and relief than a thousand years of slumber.

He knew that once the Mandala would be completed, they will have truly forgotten him. Even though he was prepared for that moment, even though he wanted it to happen, for their own good, he could not help but hold a strand of hope that the moment would be delayed as long as possible, or that at least he would die before it transpired.

"Curse it all" Spike thought to himself. Curse his foolishness, curse his selfishness. Curse the fact that he could almost feel himself wanting to return to Celestia and beg her not to perform the Mandala of Forsaken Memories.

"No, NO" Spike roared in his own mind. He was getting soft. It MUST be done. These girls, these six... angels that have shown nothing other than the purest of kindness … angels who have even forgiven his betrayal, his insanity... they MUST forget him. They are too kind, too pure, his death would hit them too hard and he could not allow that.

"Look, LOOK" yelled Twilight's wet eyes caught Spike's one good eye gazing at her.

Knowing that the time for rest had long passed it's due, Spike began to rise in a sitting position even as the tiny protesting hands of the girls slapped uselessly against his muscled torso, trying futily to stop him.

"Stop, Stop, Stop" the girls called out.

"Please Spike, you have to let us help you... you can't go on like this" Fluttershy cried out, tears falling down her face, her yellow furred hands stained by the crimson of his blood.

"Spike, please" were the only two words Pinkie said, her mane lank and her eyes pools of tears.

Twilight could barely say anything, her entire form racked by hiccups and sobs even she continued to try to heal his wounds, even her alicorn magic all but useless against Spike's magic resistant flesh.

"Why... why... why do you go so far? Why would you keep fighting so hard for us? Why... when we could not save you. Why? WHY?" she yelled the last word, the stress and pain of seeing her once little Spike go through so much, bursting like a fractured dam under the onslaught of a raging river.

Spike looked at her. For what felt like a lifetime he looked at those six angels, his eye passing from girl to girl, their emotions exposed like open books for him to read. No hidden agendas, no lies, no obscured motives. Pure and genuine concern and love was all that he could see on their faces.

"They will forget me. Once the Mandala has been completed, they will forget everything about me" Spike told himself once more, as if to cement the knowledge in the depths of his brain. "I can allow myself this. One final good memory with them, before I am no more in their minds".

With one motion he slowly whipped his monstrous right arm lifting the six girls and squeezing them to the slabs of steel muscles that made his massive chest.

"Because you took me in and treated me as family when I had none. Because you have always been kind to me. Because I love you. Always and forever. That is why I will never stop fighting for you".

Spike simply stood there, holding the six bewildered girls to his chest as they lay still and dumbfounded to his chest. It did not matter to them that his blood was staining their fur and clothes. All that mattered to the six girls was this moment. For the first time since his return, it felt like the family that had been before. Before it all, before the accident, before the exile, before the pain.

The six ponies shook like leaves, trying to stifle sobs that could not be stopped, their minds overcome at the voiced confirmation of what they had believed since Spike had returned. It was almost too much for them to bear, as acceptance and understanding flowed upon them like a torrent. Over two thousand years and Spike had lost not even one iota of the love he held for them. Beneath it all, beneath the scars, beneath the muscles, beneath the stern, uncompromising gaze, lay still the soul of that gentle, ever-loyal dragon that had left a year ago.

Spike said nothing, merely let the girls sob away their frustration and relief. He closed his eye and calmed his mind once more. It was good. It was good to finally be able to tell them what he felt. This one moment would be his torch to light his way and warm his soul, once the girls would forget him.

He was, at the very least, glad that his beloved Legion of the Damned, his adoptive family would still be there to further ease the burden. He was glad, he would be able to see Shagga again. Soon, once he would allow the girls to do what they can for his wounds, all seven of them would descend this accursed plateau and go back to the mountain pathway, where he knew, his Legion awaited him, victorious as they ever were.

The scene unfolding upon the peak of the plateau was as if the fever dream of dying man had been wrenched away from it's owner's mind and fallen upon reality. Screams of pain and howls of despair rang through the mountain winds, like the wails of so many lost souls.

Shagga raised her tower shield as a rune-encrusted mace the size of an ogre's skull smashed into it with the force of a bull's charge. What followed was a flurry of spasmodic blows that slowly but surely chipped away at her defense. Her warrior instincts, honed in over two thousand years worth of battle took over completely. In the pause between one blow and the next, Shagga edged her tower shield almost diagonally, making the mace's head skid harmlessly upon the shield's surface. The force of the blow broke the assailant's stance, it's momentum forcing him off-balance.

Shagga found herself facing and opponent with so many openings she could barely check the thrust of her spear in order to avoid the assailant's throat. She hit it in the right shoulder, hoping to render him disabled from the fight. She should have known better. The assailant reversed it's stance quickly, ripping through the steel haft of the spear with one of the maces, even as the tip of the spear pierced his shoulder. His right arm barely able to move, he raised his left handed shortsword and charged the female Draka. But Shagga's strategy had partially succeeded and the assailant was one arm short. Shagga put her shoulder to her shield and rammed her entire weight into the assailant's chest, knocking the wind from him and launching him onto the awaiting ground.

Immediately Shagga drew her bardische ax and returned to the circle of Draka that made the last defense. A single moment of calm was enough for Shagga to steal a quick glance to the pathway on the plateau. There was no sight of the pony convoy. Shagga smiled grimly to herself. At the very least, they had done Spike's bidding. The assault had been a success and they had delayed the daemons enough for the convoy to leave the plateau far behind. By this point the convoy must have already reached the base of the mountain.

Whatever iota of contentedness had taken hold of her quickly faded as the whistle of blade brought Shagga back to the nightmare reality she was trapped in. The edge of her shield intercepted the blade even as she grabbed it with the hook of her bardische ax. With a quick twist she ripped the weapon from this new assailant's hands and bashed the shield into his face. Fangs, scales and blood flew as the assailant staggered back. His despair filled eyes rose and met with Shagga's. Shagga wanted to help but she had no idea how to do it. The assailing Draka's mouth opened and barely coherent words escaped his bloodied mouth.

"Kill me... battle sister... please... KILL... ME"

He screamed the last few words as his twitching body charged Shagga once again. She took the impact on her shield and knocked the assailant back with a kick to the knee cap. She could not. She could not kill the one that had once been a valued battle-brother.

Similar pleas came from all around her, coaxing her to retreat further into the circle of the remaining fifteen uncorrupted Draka. All around the defending circle, twitching Draka smashed away at defending shields, their faces covered in tears, their voiced howling for death, pleading with their uncorrupted brethren to either kill them or run, as far and as fast as possible. Those snake-like witches had stolen everything from them. Had taken their bodies, their dooms and their honor.

It had gone so bad so quickly. The battle against the daemons had been one sided. Even after her Darraor had been taken from her sight by that undead abomination, they had still taken the remaining daemons with relative ease, almost four thousand remaining daemons. Their berserk fervor had meant little against the unbreakable discipline of Draka warfare. Yet it had all been a ruse. Every daemon had been nothing more than a diversionary sacrifice to keep the Draka away from the eleven singing snake-women.

The first Draka to fall under their trance had ran towards them, howling like one possessed, snarling in protest at his own unobeying body, only to fall prostrate before the singing snake-women. Shagga had seen the Draka's muscles twitching, trying to force his body to obey. It had all been for naught. A single snake-woman had coiled on his back and had ended his struggles.

Shagga remembered it vividly, every single detail, no matter how tiny, knowing that the sheer wrongness of what had happened would follow her to her grave. She remembered as that one accursed snake woman had snapped her head to the skies and opened her mouth. She remembered the sounds of popping bones and opening flesh as the snake woman's mouth had opened until it looked as if her entire head had become one enormous, disfiguring maw. She could remember seeing the creature's ridiculously long, spiked tongue shoot out of her throat like some spidery leg, only to shoot into the nape of the neck of the prostate Draka, and to dig downwards into his spine.

Shagga remembered it. The screams of pain, as the spiked appendage had ripped straight into the Draka's bone marrow, tearing and ripping away clumps of nerves and replacing them with ones from the snake-woman's own body, like strands of cobweb.

Worst of all, she could remember the look upon the Draka's face as his twitching body had risen back, only to grab hold of his weapon and charge at his own battle-siblings. She could see the complete horror in his eyes as the corrupted Draka had realized what had happened. The snake-woman had stolen his body, leaving only his mind intact, forcing him to see his own dishonor. The snake-woman had stolen everything from him.

For a Draka to have his body taken and his honorable death stolen, only to be replaced with this abominable servitude. It was a fate so disgusting it made Shagga want to puke.

Oh, how to Legion had roared as one, disgust and rage clear on their faces and ringing in their voices. Oh how they had charged, ripping away at the remaining daemons, determined to reach the snake-women and skin them alive for the travesty they had committed. For a moment it had seemed as though the sheer momentum of their stampede would have crushed the remaining daemonic force to gristle, but sheer numbers had stalled the Legion enough for another Draka to fall to the sway of the song, only to run crying out in protest and fall prostate before the snake-women. The scene would repeat itself, a snake-woman straddling his back, only to rip away at his nervous system and take hold of his body. The abomination would then resume the song even as the newly corrupted Draka would turn and attack his own battle brothers and sisters.

So would follow another Draka, than another, until Shagga and barely over a score of uncorrupted Draka had found themselves facing not an army of daemons, for there were none alive left, but instead, an army of their own battle brothers and sisters.

One hundred and twelve corrupted Draka now surrounded the circle of sixteen Draka left uncorrupted, blocking their way to the snake-women. Their swords and spears licked out to carve scores upon the Draka shields, only to be just barely repelled by measured strikes. For all the Draka discipline and ruthless nature, the remaining uncorrupted Draka had found themselves unable to fight properly against their once beloved family. Every stroke that should have loped a head off would be redirected towards a shoulder. Every spear thrust that should have impaled a skull would find itself stuck in a bicep or a pectoral. And with every strike came the pleas of the still conscious corrupted Draka, begging for their brethren to either kill them or retreat.

Neither was an option. Retreat was impossible, with the circle of Draka surrounded completely by their former brothers and sisters. As for giving those corrupted the release of death, Shagga and the rest could not even fathom it. A Draka of the Legion had to die upon the weapon of a daemon. It was the only way for their shame to be erased and for them to enter the halls of the Ancestors. To die at the hands of their own kind... it was too much. To kill another Draka was to invite madness. Shagga knew she did not have the heart to kill her own brothers and sisters. It would have broken her.

Shagga violently shook her head, trying desperately to drown out the song of the damned snake-women. This would not last. Already she could feel her self-control eroding under the weight of the accursed song, calling out to her with honeyed voices that spoke only of death and decay, slowly but surely tearing away at her will and discipline, slowing her counters and fogging her mind. Looking around her, Shagga could see the same strain written upon her fifteen companion's faces.

To her right, the lanky form of Sekeolath grabbed hold of one of his former battle-brothers in a monstrous bear hug and, snapping his head forward, headbutted him in the maw. The corrupted Draka fell backwards spitting out blood and teeth only to be rendered unconscious by the flat of Sekeolath's blade.

Shagga shook her head again. She knew Sekeolath well enough to realize that the lanky Draka could have killed his assailant ten times by now. If even the grim and ruthless Sekeolath could not bring himself to fight with lethal intent against his former companions than they were truly doomed.

Suddenly Sekeolath fell to his knees yelling, veins bulging out against his temples. Shagga's eyes widened as she realized what was happening and her right arm shot out grabbing Sekeolath by the shoulder even as he rose into a charge.

"NO BROTHER FIGHT AGAINST IT" she yelled as Sekeolath's body struggled to break free and run towards the snake-woman. The song had gotten to him too.

A few of her companions turned and try to grab Sekeolath and pin him down but the grim and lanky Draka was one of the best warriors in the Legion. His elbow snapped catching Shagga in the temple and a few deft twist had another two Draka on the grown. Like an arrow from a greatbow Sekeolath shot towards the snake-women, the defending wall of corrupted Draka opening like a gate to grant him access even as both his corrupted and uncorrupted brethren screamed for him to stop.

Sekeolath Vengryn ran towards the snake women, his body twitching and denying his will with every step.

"Curse it, Curse it, CURSE IT ALL" he bellowed as he tried desperately to fight against the control. Behind him he could hear the pleas of his brothers and sisters to stop. This was not how it was supposed to happen, this was not how his doom should have finally come, there was nothing honorable about such a fate.

He roared, as he reached the snake-women and fell to his hands and knees before them. Even as he fell, every muscle on his body twitched, Sekeolath fighting with rabid abandon, trying to force his body back to his own control. His left arm began to shudder and tremble until it looked like it would snap, only for a sudden shifting of his weight to divert his attention.

One of the snake-women had coiled on his back and was preparing to rip into his spine, preparing to take any chance he ever had of attaining a honorable doom.

"Damn it, Damn it, DAMN IT ALL TO THE ABYSS", he roared as the spiked tongue shot into the nape of his neck, down into the length of his spine, ripping at his bone marrow and nervous system. The pain was too monstrous to even be countenanced, it was as if his entire body was being flayed, strip by bloody strip.

He was going to fail his brothers in the Legion and worst of all, he was going to fail Spike. NO, NO, NO HE COULD NOT, he could not fail Spike, not the only Draka who had truly understood him, not the only Draka who had been the closest thing to a kindred spirit he had ever had.

As if galvanized by the thought, his mind worked through the pain only to retrieve a memory, a single piece of advice that Spike had given him in one of their most recent of duels.

"Remember old friend, do not fear pain, it is your closest ally and greatest of friends. Pain is what tells you that you are still alive. If you still have enough strength to feel pain, you have enough strength to fight back. For a warrior, pain is as important as the finest crafted sword".

Yes, YES, Spike had been correct, if he felt this pain right now, Sekeolath knew he could still fight back. Now focus, FOCUS, before that snake thing atop his back manages to wrench control of his body, find a way to end her life.

With realization comes clarity of mind and with clarity comes knowledge. Knowledge that beneath all that pain, Sekeolath could feel one more thing. Like the smallest ember in a rainstorm, it nagged at the back of his subconscious mind, calling out for his attention.

The insane pain caused by the snake woman ravaging his spinal chord had almost drowned out the effects of the song. His body had gained a part of it's self-control back.

"Yes, now's the time, see my death, Ancestors" cried Sekeolath rising from the ground with twitching movements, powering through the pain with nothing more than sheer force of will, even as the accursed snake woman tried to rip at his last remaining nerve endings. She was to learn of a Draka's determination.

Sekeolath's arm twitched and swelled with muscle as the grim Draka leveled the sword tip with his own throat.

"May you rot in the grasp of the Abyssal Gods, bastard child of darkness and life!" he bellowed as he plunged the sword deep into his own throat, the tip piercing through only to come out the other side and impale the snake woman through the skull.

Gurgling, blood filled laughter came from Sekeolath's ravaged throat, as he began falling once again slowly, the now dead snake woman lifeless on his back.

"Gyahahaha... *cough*…*cough*... by the ancestors... *cough*... it was a good war... *cough*... wasn't it Spike? … *cough*... let's... end it … with a roar...*cough*".

Even as he spoke, with his last bits of strength he ripped his chest armor, revealing the Draken Runes etched on his chest and belly. Sekeolath had never been particularly fond of Draken Runes, they were too impersonal, much more suited for the spell-screaming dragons than for him. But they had their uses.

His arms rose to the sky as the Runes blazed with incandescent energy.

"Open the gates wide Ancestors, Sekeolath is coming, GAHAHAHAHAHA".

Wilhelmina's eyes widened with shock as she saw the mad Draka kill her snake priestess. Shock turned to horror as her witch sight noticed the winds of magic converging upon the runes etched on his chest and belly. The insane creature was going to blow himself up.

She could have yelled a warning to her remaining nine snake priestesses, but that would have required a conscience. Instead she cried out a shielding cocoon of magic and launched herself back.

The Draka glowed with aethyric power for a second more, only to explode in a burst of flame and rabid pure energy, engulfing Wilhelmina and the remaining snake priestesses in raw power.

Wilhelmina cried out as the unrestrained energy battered at her magical shell, bits of it seeping through to slice at her skin and singe the tips of her long white hair. The nine priestesses were not so lucky. Rabid unrestrained energy took hold of them and tore at their bodies, leaving nothing more than carbonized bits of flesh behind it's rampage.

As the explosion ended and the dust settled, the magical cocoon dispelled and Wilhelmina rose from the ground, with only a few cuts and bruises, her hair slightly singed but nonetheless uninjured. Yet she was enraged beyond anything she had been before. Her unnaturally beautiful features contorted in a mask of animal hatred.

How DARE these insects mire her beauty with cuts and bruises. Did they not understand? It was a privilege to be taken as a slave by Wilhelmina.

An ululating howl snapped her awake from her reverie. Galvanized into action by Sekeolath's actions, the fifteen uncorrupted Draka had surged forward like tidal wave impacting and breaking through the wall of their corrupted brethren, charging towards her like rabid beasts, desire to rip her to bloody chunks etched on their faces. Howls of encouragement came from the throats of the controlled Draka even as their bodies moved to run after them.

Wilhelmina snarled and moved to order her coven of priestesses begin the song anew only to realize that her coven had been reduced to broken flesh. Her ire growing, magic flowed within Wilhelmina like a torrent empowering her voice. She was the White Widow of the Dead Sea, she needed no aid.

Her voice came like a monstrous amalgamation between an angel's song and a banshee's screech. It tore through the hearts of the remaining Draka, stopping them dead in their tracks, wrenching away all strength from their limbs and burning into their minds. She may not be able to control so many Draka with her song, but her voice could break their momentum and their strength easily.

"To the depths with it all" she whispered to herself. There were no more snake priestesses left, and she was not about to demean herself by permanently relieving them of their own bodies. "Restrain them" she commanded to the reluctantly obeying corrupted Draka as she drew her slim scimitar "I'm going to end them myse...".

The sudden and impossibly accurate spear throw had almost pierced her between the eyes, the weak magical shell she kept around her as a layer of protection against surprise attacks having been the only element that had prevented her impromptu death. The layer had diverted enough of the attack for Wilhelmina to be able to duck under it.

"What the he..." she tried to speak only to find a thirteen foot rapier thin female Draka with red hair towering above her. Impossibly, the female Draka had actually taken the brunt of her song and was still standing. She had been the one to throw the spear and by the time Wilhelmina had lifted her head, the female Draka had covered the distance between them.

Shagga's bardische ax came crashing down like a thunderbolt, only Wilhelmina's preternatural reflexes allowing her to escape the murderous edge with only a few strands of her long white hair taken sliced off. The ax did not stop it's momentum, instead curving in a vicious arc chopping into Wilhelmina's waiting scimitar. It came with the force of an angered ox, taking the serpentine daemonette off the ground and throwing her a few feet away.

Wilhelmina knew she had never been one for melee battle, nonetheless she was surprised at the sheer strength of this lithe female Draka. The few seconds it took for the daemonette to regain her bearings and Shagga was once again upon her, the vicious ax licking out to scrape against Wilhelmina's scimitar, pushing her back with every blow. A deft twist and the scimitar had been captured in the ax's hook and, with a brutal tug, clattered to the ground.

In a sudden burst of despair, Wilhelmina opened her mouth and launched another wailing scream only to remain open mouthed as the Runes beneath Shagga's armor blazed and reduced the magical enfeebling sound to nothing more substantial than a strong gale. So this was how this Draka had managed to fight against her scream, she was an excellent runecrafter and had made contingency runes against magical assaults.

Wilhelmina smirked cunningly.

"You are capable, little girl" she laughed darkly "but I know enough about Draken Runes to be aware of their finite magical energies. At one point their energies will be expended and then you shall feel the full force of my song you little bi..."

Her speech trailed off as the ax came flying at her, ripping deep into her cheek.

"NOOOOO" Wilhelmina howled, horrified at her sudden disfigurement, terrified down to her very core that once again her beauty had been sullied. "I'LL SLAUGHTER YOU FOR THIS YOU WORTHLESS SLU...".

Once again her speech was cut short, this time by Shagga enormous tower shield as it smashed into her side and launched her into the ground, creating a small crater where she lay. Shagga hand clamped onto the daemonette's throat with the force of a vice as her shield rose above her, preparing to cave in her skull. Shagga's face was as if carved in stone, a mask of merciless determination.

Fear took hold of Wilhelmina as she saw her death leering above her. Any attempt to scream was foiled by the vice-like grip on her throat and her hands slapped futily against Shagga's iron hard grip. Wilhelmina's hand suddenly shot up, resting against Shagga's face. Immediately the shield froze in it's descent towards her skull as the daemonette forced her essence into Shagga's mind.

The female Draka began to struggle and tremble as the unholy essence of the daemonette began tearing through her mind, scrambling memories and thoughts in search for a weakness to exploit. It found said weakness in Shagga's subconscious, that part of her mind that was tasked with keeping control over the energy flowing into her Draken Runes. Like a ravenous beast, it tore at it, the runes beneath Shagga's armor extinguishing like dying embers.

"N...Noo, get out... I'll tear you a...apart for this.... I w...will not fail... my Darraor" screamed Shagga as she forced the daemonic essence outside of her mind. She found herself in the same position they had been, Wilhelmina laying beneath her, clutching at her throat. Only this time, a sinister smile split the daemonette's face.

Wilhelmina's long serpentine tail crashed like a boulder into Shagga's temple, the impact making Shagga loosen her grip for only a second. It was enough for Wilhelmina to release another wailing cry, taking Shagga off her feet and stealing the strength from her limbs as it launched her into the air. With no Draken Runes to absorb the energies, Shagga had taken the full magical blast point blank and had come crashing down in a tangle of broken armor and paralyzed muscles.

"Your Darraor? YOUR DARRAOR?" screamed Wilhelmina hysterically as she slithered back from the ground "First you have the insolence to sully my famed beauty and put a scar on my pristine face" she continued, slithering slowly towards Shagga, her voice rising even more until it bordered on the fever pitch of insanity "Then you have the audacity to lay claim to the one I have rightfully decided would become MY PLAYTHING. WHATEVER IS LEFT OF THE DARRAOR SHALL BE MINE".

The tip of her tail coiled around Shagga's neck and began lifting her from the ground. With slow, deliberate movements, she took the bardische ax from Shagga's weakened grasp, and brought her face inches from the female Draka.

"I will make you watch, girl. I will make you watch as I corrupt the last of your brethren one by one. I will demean myself to doing that if only to see you suffer. Then I shall take my time, flaying you alive".

Returning her stare to the corrupted Legionnaires, she yelled "Hold her, force her to look", as she began slithering to the first of the fourteen uncorrupted Draka, her spiked tongue lolling out of her mouth, aiming for the nape of his neck and his spine.

Every step felt like a thousand years of pain, bandages chafing against fresh wounds and broken bones grinding together, yet for all that Spike did not utter even one grunt of pain or one word of complaint. He had long ago become the type of man that could be trapped on a mountain peak in the middle of a snow storm and say nothing about the cold. He just dealt with it, drowning any hint of weakness under pure determination and stubborn refusal to stop.

The six ponies held on to his massive shoulders and back as his clawed hands shot through the stone and he escalated the almost three mile tall expanse of sheer granite wall to the plateau where the ambush had begun. Taking the mountain road would have wasted too much time and time was in short supply. Spike had wasted enough time cauterizing and bandaging the most grievous of his wounds and had decided to take the shorter route.

"Oh buck" yelled Rainbow Dash as she squeezed herself closer to Spike's thick neck, trying not to be swept away by the strong mountain winds. The winds had started suddenly, as was common so high atop the mountains, and now they roared like braying hell hounds, drowning out all sounds and scents, preventing the two pegasus and alicorn to take flight. The three fliers had found themselves forced to rely on the already wounded Spike to carry them, otherwise the wind would have smashed them against the granite wall. Spike had done this without uttering one word of complaint. He may be wounded but six mares were barely a noticeable burden for him to carry.

"Are yah sure it was the best plan tah take this way?" yelled Applejack.

"We would have wasted half a day if we would have taken the pathway" said Spike, his deep rumbling voice clearly audible even over the roar of the wind. "We are almost there, hold out for a bit longer".

"It's not us we're worried about darling" yelled Rarity, her arms wrapped around Spike's head.

Spike growled inwardly. He appreciated their concern, knew it was coming from a good place and a kind heart, but as a Draka, their pity was starting to chafe at his warrior's pride. "I am fine".

The finality in his voice told the girls to not press the issue anymore. Spike had become more and more anxious the longer he was from his precious Legion. The six ponies had finally managed to get Spike to speak his true feelings toward them, but two thousand years in Ginungagap had still changed Spike. Even when speaking his true feelings, he was laconic, to the point and did not waste more words than necessary.

Changing the subject quickly, Spike added "Once we are up there, I want you to stay close to me. We shall gather the Legion and hurry after the convoy. I want no more heroisms for you, nothing that would put you in unnecessary risks".

"Ok Spike, but you do realize we're the Elements of Harmony right?" started Twilight a bit coyly. "You don't need to worry about us, we can keep ourselves safe".

Spike said nothing more, merely concentrated on the soon to end climb. A few feet above, the edge of the plateau lay waiting, almost inviting. He would soon be reunited with his Legion and Shagga. His family in war.

The scene that awaited Spike was as if his worst nightmare had been forcefully ripped from his skull and set into grim reality. It was not possible. What he was seeing was not possible. It must have been an illusion plated before his eyes by some sadistic god.

Before his eyes, Shagga lay on her knees, covered head to toe in blood. Above her a serpentine woman, holding the bloodied shape of Shagga's own bardische ax and all around them the forms of his beloved Legion, his family... his brothers and sisters in war.

Why? Why? Why were they just standing there? Why were they not helping Shagga? Why were their eyes filled with tears? Why were their mouths calling for him to run away? Begging for him to forgive their failure?


Wilhelmina looked at the slowly approaching mountain of muscle and purple scales that was Spike, Darraor of the Legion. Incredible. He had survived the battle with the Mountain Eater. No. Not just survived. He had won. Wilhelmina licked her lips. Yes, he would be a worthy acquisition for her. Once she would take his body from him, he would become her bodyguard, maybe even her consort, if she felt so inclined. Yes, one of such monstrous strength would indeed be a worthy acquisition.

"You must be the much renowned Spike. Mmmm... Yesss... truly you live up to your na...".

"My Legion... Shagga... ".

Wilhelmina's brow furrowed at the interruption. She would have to lash the disobedience out of him. Nor did she really enjoy his continued concern for the broken thing that had been Shagga.

"No need for you to ever concern yourself with your former companions, dearest. Soon I shall be all that will consume your every waking moment. Your Legion already belongs to me. Permanently".

"Then you will die. You will die and my brothers and sisters shall be free again" said Spike suddenly. The sheer threat in his voice made Wilhelmina jump back. It was like she had heard the growl of a lurking beast, ready to pounce.

Wilhelmina stared for a few seconds, trying to control her breathing. Shaking her head, as if to physically throw away her growing fear, she calmed herself. There was no reason to be afraid. She had over a hundred and twenty six Draka at her beck and call and she could still hold her own in battle. No matter how strong this one was, she doubted he would be able to stand against her voice.

"I am afraid to say it shall not be so" she chided again, determined to coax the warrior in a rage, hoping to force him to attack head on, to make mistakes, to leave himself vulnerable. "You see, dearest, their entire nervous system has been replaced. They can still think and hear and speak, but their bodies are at my command. Even if you were to somehow manage to defeat or kill me, their bodies will just stop functioning. And would that not be just such a sad ending for the, oh so revered Legion of the Damned? As for this one..." Wilhelmina laughed, grabbing a handful of Shagga's hair and lifting her head to reveal a face covered in blood. "I've sliced her every muscle to ribbons, broken every bone in her body and torn every nerve ending to shreds. It's quite amazing she's still alive. I believe I'll just leave her here, to die of starvation. Won't that be just such a grand doom for her?" she laughed again "More than this harlot deserves anyway".

The information hit Spike like a stake through the heart. This.. this... thing... had taken it all. She had... taken his Legion... had stolen from them their chance to have worthy dooms... to achieve redemption... had taken even Shagga from him.

"No... no... no... no..." Spike repeated again and again in a whispered tone, unaware of the six horrified ponies staring at him. Unable to see anything other than his Legion and their crying and pleading faces. Unable to smell anything other than Shagga's blood.

His body shook and his head twitched uncontrollably. He could feel it. The Madness, coming like a tide once again. But this time it came stronger than it had ever done before.

"No... no... no... no..." it could not be. Not his family. Not them. Not like this.

"No... no... no... no... …. …. …. NO.... it WILL NOT end this way" he said suddenly, as he forced the Madness screaming back to a corner of his mind. He would not allow it to consume him. Not now. He had a job to do. He had to offer his family redemption. He had to give them a proper doom. It was the least he could do for them. It was his duty as Darraor. It was his duty as their elder brother.

Spike bent down to rip a notched hell-steel sword from an eviscerated daemon's cold hands. He knew it would break his mind and shatter his heart to do it but HE would give them death. HE WOULD GIVE THEM REDEMPTION.

Wilhelmina shuddered as she saw Spike retrieve the dead daemon's weapon. What was he doing? As if sensing imminent danger she launched her essence forward into Spike's mind, hoping to catch a glimpse at his thoughts. Hoping to understand his actions. What greeted her as she pierced through his mind was unlike anything she had ever felt before.

She was daemon. She was one with the abyss. Yet even she could not help but shriek in utter horror as she delved into his mind. The sheer, unadulterated fear it caused in her, paralyzed her physical body and froze her voice in her throat. It was as if she had fallen into the coldest pit in existence. The glacial hatred stilled her thoughts and clawed at her mind even as the maelstrom of burning rage surrounding it, unable to pierce the cold, roared it's desire to turn her dreams and soul to ash and dust.

Wilhelmina fell to the ground, finding only enough strength to scream "A... Attack... Ki... Kill him... now...".

The corrupted Draka surged forward, their bodies twitching and spasming, even as their voices cried out.

"D... Darraor... please run...".

"Elder b... brother... please... we have f... failed you...".

"P...Please... Darraor... leave this... accursed... place".

Even Shagga, broken and battered as she was, screamed in fear, as she lay there, desire to see her precious Darraor safe overcoming even the torments of her body. Air expanded ruptured lungs and blood flowed from her mouth as she yelled. "Do not... die for... us... Darraor... we a... are not worth it."


Spike's bellow came over the roar of the wind, drowning out even the sound of charging warriors.

"Who am I?" came Spike's question, catching the corrupted Draka by surprise, stilling their tears and ending their screams.

"WHO AM I?" came his question once more, this time carrying with it the full force of Spike's dominating presence.

The answer came as a collective howl from the charging Draka.

"Spike, Darraor of the Legion of the Damned, Veshanesh of the Draka, Elder brother to us all".


Spike's hand bowled up into a fist, preparing himself for what he had to do next. Sorrow and rage burned into his muscles, making him squeeze his fist until his claws pierced his flesh and blood flowed from the palm of his hand. He leveled the hell-steel sword with his charging warriors and bellowed once more.

"You have already died at daemonic hands. Your redemption is assured. Thus do I, Darraor of the Legion, decree. Thus shall I send your bodies to follow, at the end of daemon steel and join your spirits upon the Road of Skulls. MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, DO NOT CRY, REJOICE, FOR YOUR SHAME IS AT AN END".

Like a wave hitting a stone wall, so did the sounds turn in on themselves. Wails of sadness and screams of despair turned to howls of glory and tears of happiness. Horror turned to pride and fear turned to stalwart courage. Despair turned to hope. Spike had eased their mind and stilled their sorrow. His words had been like the call of the ancestors. He was to bestow upon them the greatest gift. He was to end their shame and set them upon the Road of Skulls, to eternal rest and glory.

Slicing through the roar of the wind, the long, ululating howl of one hundred and twenty six Draka signaled their joy as they charged no longer into the maw of despair, but into the waiting arms of glorious doom.

Spike moved with the silence and surety of death, every thrust ending the life of dearest battle-brother and sister, every slice, severing ties that he had formed over hundreds, even thousands of years. He kept it clean and quick. The hell-steel sword thrust forward, piercing hearts or sliced downward, severing necks. He gave them deaths worthy of warriors of their caliber.

Every Draka that died at the end of that dread blade, died with a smile on their lips or laughter booming in their throats. They died with tears of joy in their eyes as they saw the Road of Skulls expanding before them and the Halls of the Ancestors opening to greet them. They died knowing the truth in Spike's words. Their Darraor had taken it upon himself, to bear the immense burden of freeing their bodies from control, so that they may join their spirits unto the Final March. They died redeemed, their shame forgotten, chanting Spike's name, howling his honor and sacrifice for all the world to hear.

Yet, with every Draka he set free, Spike's heart died and his mind descended further into darkness. He knew them all by name and deed. They had been his family, his friends, his anchor to sanity. Every Draka heart he pierced reverberated into his own, every life he ended shattered his soul to fragments.

But Spike did not cry. He did not scream. He did not wince. He looked at them as he ended their lives, cementing their faces into his mind for all eternity. He would not dishonor them by showing weakness. He would give them all, the peace they had so rightfully earned.

It all ended as the last of the Draka fell, the hell-steel sword sliding out from his chest. Spike's face was a funeral mask, unmoving and horrific in it's stillness. A few more steps and he kneeled before Shagga's broken body.

With slow, gentle movements he lifted Shagga into a sitting position and brought her forehead touching his own. Thus they lay for a few moments as Spike leveled the sword with her heart, his hand shaking violently as he readied himself to end her suffering. To give her a warrior's death and set her upon the Road of Skulls, to her Ancestors.

"Fare well... and see you soon... Shagga".

"Thank you... for everything... Darraor... thank you... for setting us... free... for... giving us... redemption" she answered with a quiet, shaking voice even as her hand rose slowly and shakily to touch Spike's scarred cheek "I...I... l-love... y-you... my... D-Darraor... m-my... Spike".

Spike touched his mangled, lipless mouth to her bloodied lips, the closest thing to a kiss he could manage.

"As I do you" he answered and the blade pierced her heart. Shagga died, a beautiful smile on her lips as she fell asleep and joined the Final March.

Spike rose and looked upon the trembling form of Wilhelmina. She had been too afraid of what she had seen in his mind to even think of trying to escape. As his eyes rested upon her, his mouth opened in a blood-curdling scream of such rage that it froze the blood in the veins of both Wilhelmina and the six ponies that watched in horror from afar. Froth exploded from his mouth as his eyes blazed with bestial hatred and he launched himself in a rabid charge to Wilhelmina.

Wilhelmina screamed, launching wave after wave of wailing force to Spike to no avail. Any strength it took was replenished by his boiling blood and rabid fury. Any pain it caused was nothing compared to the pain that already tore at his heart. He pounced upon her with the force of a comet, crushing bones and flesh.

"N... N-No...p-please" she begged, blood bursting from her mouth as her lungs were pierced and torn to shreds by her own breaking ribs.

Spike's hands came slowly, almost gently to either side of her face and lifted her as he himself rose from the ground. His clawed thumbs rested in front of her eyes.

"You... die.... sslooow..." he whispered, his voice more an animal growl than coherent speech, like the proclamation of the Reaper.

His claws began digging into her eyes and brain and Spike made sure it was slow. Slow and painful. He took in every moment as her screams of pain turned to wails of despair and then to the whimpers of the dying. With one final squeeze he crushed her skull into grime and gristle.

Without a second look as the lifeless, headless carcass fell to the ground Spike turned back and began walking to Shagga's and his Legion's bodies.

Twilight, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash watched in horror, their eyes wide with fear, sorrow and tears, and their hands clasped to their ears trying desperately to not hear Spike's screams.

But no matter what they did they could not unsee Spike walking between the corpses of his Legion, stumbling and falling only to rise back and begin walking again, erratically and spasmodically, his hands clawing and digging at his scalp, matting his green mane of hair with his own blood.

No matter how hard they pushed against their ears they could not drown out the sound, at once both horrific and pitiful, of Spike's screams and cries, like a wolf crying over his dead pack. And beyond even those sounds, no matter how hard they tried not hear it, the word Spike would not stop repeating again and again and again.

"No... No... No... No... No... No... No... No...".