The Quiet Place
[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]
Chapter 41: Unbreakable
Twilight slowed her flight as she neared the city with anti-air defenses, she noticed flags hung brightly in the air, but they still bore the crest of the princess sisters. That’s strange. Princess Celestia is missing and Luna is a fugitive. Why would they still fly the old flag? Morale?
At first the cannons seemed unmanned, but when they came into full view she could see two ponies shouting to one another as they dashed up beside each cannon. A voice boomed out to her as the cannons took aim.
“Halt! This is a no-fly zone as per the order of His Majesty, King Aurelius. You have ten seconds to land or you will be fired upon!” one of the cannoneers shouted through a loudspeaker.
A no-fly zone? That’s unheard of, she thought.
Don’t fear them and their insignificant weapons. They can’t hold you back. Twilight nodded to the beckoning of the voice, its words compelling her forward.
“I repeat, this is a no-fly zone. You will be shot down. Land immediately!”
“Come on. Show me what your little toys can do!” Twilight yelled back, a smirk creeping along her lips.
She could hear the cannoneer shouting “Fire!” as a dull boom resounded ahead, a spark of light and plume of smoke escaping the barrel of the weapon. An explosion occurred just beside her where the cannon shell exploded, sending her trailing off course. It took her several seconds to regain her balance from the aerial.
What the heck is in these weapons? she thought while flapping her wings harder to remove particles from them. It feels like it’s disrupting my senses.
The cannon fired again and she barreled over as the shell impacted beside her again while shrapnel rained against a readied shield. Once more, she lost control of herself from the forces and had to regain her balance. No. It’s… affecting my magic? I better not take a direct hit.
More cannons pivoted on the rampart and fired on her, resulting in a flurry of flak explosions around her, their blasts ringing in a low symphony. Twilight shielded herself, but the shrapnel struck her barrier and rapidly drained away its strength. Null-magic? she wondered.
Don’t get hit, Twilight. Take them out. Destroy them all, the voice cooed. There is no mercy for any who dare attack you.
Twilight pulled her head back as she flew forward, magic rapidly gathering in her horn. “Ether Laser!” A purple-black beam erupted forth, striking a rampart with two cannons and erasing it where the beam touched. Brick and lumber fell away as the structural integrity was compromised, the cries of the fleeing ponies signaling the end of the defenses as the wall burned and crumbled in. She took a deep breath before hurling an arcane bolt at the next cannon. To her surprise a barrier manifested around the cannons to absorb it before they returned fire again. Additional cannons were manned and armed with their thick barrels lighting as they fired volley after volley.
“Alright. Now this is just pissing me off.” Twilight barreled over to evade and increased her speed, but a hail of cannon fire stopped her from advancing any further. Try and stop this! In a flash, she appeared beside one of the cannons. Her grin reappeared as the cannoneers turned to face her, their mixture of shock and fear running through their bodies.
The wood creaked as Twilight enshrouded herself in condensed magic, a whining heave before she drove a hoof downward into the rampart floor. Cannoneers scrambled to flee from the wall as it was destroyed and the anti-air weapons swallowed by the rubble. Twilight slowly turned to destroy the other cannons, her dark gaze petrifying their operators momentarily. As magic gathered in her horn they spun around and fled, some leaping from the wall entirely.
Good, the voice said. They will know to fear you. Your very name will become the harbinger of destruction.
Twilight glided down from the carnage on the walls and to the streets below, her ears bending to hear where her next enemy would be. Four unicorns had appeared side-by-side to meet her. Silver charms dangled gently from their horns as they mouthed incantations.
“What are you supposed to be?” she asked as she gathered magic in her horn. Their horns took on a red aura and a pulse emanated from them and ran through Twilight. Her voice seized in her throat and she gasped in surprise as the gathered magic slowly dispersed into wisps. Anti-magic!?
Fire surrounded Twilight as bolts of energy were hurled her way. They struck her one after the other as she attempted to raise a barrier, but the unicorns continued to disrupt her ability to control magic. She bared her teeth to the burn and drains of each blow, her mind racing to formulate a way to regain control.
They cannot contain you, her doppelganger cooed, sparking an idea.
Twilight grinned as she analyzed the disruption. She could not gather and utilize controlled bursts of energy for spells, but could they handle large ones? With a roar, she unfurled her wings and stood up, drawing in energy in a larger quantity. For a moment, she could not feel it returning to her, but the unicorns began to struggle and glance at each other before a storm of energy raced around her. As the alicorn archmage watched the unicorns cower in fear of her overcharged magic, she could feel herself grinning once more.
“Nice try.” As she prepared to mete out justice, a familiar voice halted her will.
“Well, well, well. She followed me home. I wonder if I can keep her.” Twilight turned to find Berry Punch approaching and signaling for the unicorns to flee. The armored earth pony appeared to have fully recovered, though she appeared slightly patchy where her burns were. “You’re really becoming a thorn in my side, Twilight Sparkle,” she grumbled. “After your little guardian angel saved you the last time, I won’t be making the same mistake of underestimating you again.”
“Guardian angel? What are you talking about?”
Berry raised a brow. “Don’t play dumb with me, missy. I know you’re not working alone.” Before Twilight could ask, Berry rushed at her with a hoof raised. “I’ll just take both of you on!”
Reflexively, Twilight formed a shield, absorbing the punch, but it shattered. “I’ve been waiting for a rematch.” She readied her magic, but was caught off guard when Berry’s hooves surged forward and locked her in an iron grip. She was swung and thrown over the wall in a single, swift motion. She loosed a squeal before teleporting to the ground. The knight followed her out into the grass and trees, stretching and popping her joints. “The king will skin my hide if any more damage comes to this place.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Aurelius,” said Twilight as a dark purple layer of magic engulfed her hooves. “He’ll be too busy scraping your body from the ground when I’m done with you.”
Berry snorted. “After the beating you got last time, do you really think you can take me on?” She stood up and held a hoof to her chest. “Dragon Lord Berry Punch, and I’m going to bring you to King Aurelius, whether you’re conscious or not.” Her scarlet eyes flickered light within themselves as she charged forward.
“A direct attack won’t work on me, not even from you,” sneered Twilight.
The knight raised a foreleg and aimed for Twilight’s head, her hoof impacting with titanic force and creating a shockwave into the earth. The alicorn’s wings shot out as she leaned back from the attack, but she did not move from where she stood.
“W-what the heck?” Berry pulled back her hoof to reveal a thick purple coating over Twilight’s face, receding to show her sinister grin.
“Is that all you’ve got? I think I’ll call this little technique Black Diamond.”
Twilight returned with a devastating haymaker, striking the knight in the jaw. A gut wrenching crack split the air before she staggered back. The alicorn took a step and lunged to follow up, but the drain of the magic took her breath away and she feinted before pulling back. Damn, is that all I’ve got? I have to find another way to make this work.
Berry remained stunned for a moment before she recovered enough to fight. Blood dripped from her muzzle while a bruise had already begun to show through her fur. She swung wide and struck a shield. “I guess you can’t keep that little trick up for long.” She swung with her other hoof, hitting another shield. “Your magic won’t protect you forever.”
Twilight teleported backwards and crouched down, her body aching as she caught her breath. She’s right. I can’t keep this up like this. It’s still not enough. I have to find a way!
The knight began a slow advance as she grinned. “Oh, what’s wrong? For an alicorn archmage I expected a lot more. This is only going to turn out like last time.” Her scarlet eyes flickered again.
Twilight blinked. Last time… Last time… This won’t be like last time, her mind repeated. She raised her head, a placid expression dulling her features while a faint memory resurfaced. “It will not be the same as the last time,” she said, echoing Nightmare Moon. She conjured the violet magic around her body, but instead of compressing it to her form she dispersed it and remolded it into a dark shroud. You saved me then, and you saved me now, Nightmare Moon.
“What the heck is that?” Berry said as she stopped.
The shroud surged and raged over Twilight’s body before calming into a steady flow and thinning enough to display the dark alicorn’s features. “What? You mean this?” she said, her voice distorting and echoing. “It’s just a… memory.”
“Your magic isn’t strong enough to take me on. Remember our last fight?” Berry leaped ahead, throwing a punch forward.
“Who said anything about using magic on you?” Twilight cackled as she propelled forward and met the hoof with her own.
The ground trembled as their punches collided; part of Twilight’s shroud dispersed from her body before reforming and layering over itself. Berry’s eyes were wide as she stared at the violet alicorn.
“What, are you scared?” she mocked. “You look just like Luna when I had this around me… just before I crushed her!” Bones bowed beneath the force of her next attack as her hoof crashed into Berry’s chest. The knight staggered backwards, her cheeks flapping as the air in her lungs was violently forced out. “Do you think I can be stopped?” she continued as she threw another punch, further causing her foe to step back. “Do you think I’m afraid of you just because I underestimated you once?”
Destroy her for her insolence! the doppelganger cheered. She must know her place!
Twilight snorted. “I am unstoppable. I am absolute!”
Berry recovered and blocked the next strike, returning several jabs. Twilight blocked them and maneuvered closer, but the knight ducked low and lunged forward, wrapping her forelegs around her stomach. A squeal escaped the violet alicorn’s lips before she was flipped overhead and face first into the ground, her neck popping as the impact reverberated through her spine. Her shroud dispersed some more, but she twisted herself free and wiped the dirt from her face.
The knight pivoted and attempted to sweep her foreleg for another attack, but it was with an equal force, stalemating them into a stare down. “I know exactly how strong you are now,” Twilight said.
“I’m just getting warmed up!” retorted the knight.
Suddenly, Berry overpowered her and pulled her in. Twilight was met with a knee to her gut and a punch to the face. Pieces of her shroud were blown away with the attacks, but the pain she felt was negligible. A quick teleport several meters back allowed the shroud to reform, and she forced herself to breathe back in the lost air. Berry surged forward and launched a flurry of blows. The alicorn struggled to defend herself against the superior pugilist.
The purple coating returned and Twilight thrust herself through the attacks and delivered a devastating uppercut to the knight’s jaw. She could feel teeth crunching together through her hoof as she sent her toppling to her back. As soon as the augment appeared it vanished, and she slumped and heaved to the weakness setting in. She crouched down and held herself up with a foreleg, her breathing accelerating. The shroud waned for a moment before returning to full strength, but it did little to bolster her confidence.
She’s so strong, was all she could think. How can I win against this?
She is nothing. She will be begging for mercy as you show her who is truly strong. The voice snickered in her mind. Get up. Fight.
Twilight slowly rose up, sucking air in through her nose as she watched Berry climb back to her hooves. She began to calculate how much stamina and magic she had to keep going versus how the knight appeared to handle the beating she had been taking. The odds didn’t favor her so far.
Berry threw a punch her way in spite of the distance. However, a shockwave ran through Twilight’s body. She froze for a moment, her muscles seizing to the force, but she regained control as Berry closed the distance and swung. Dodging, the blow grazed her left shoulder and she could feel the muscles erupting in pain before quickly becoming numb to her will.
Twilight’s horn sparked as Berry swung again, and a spear of darkness slid down from the sky. The knight grunted as it struck her and the punch lost force. Twilight coated her body in purple once more and gnashed her teeth through the drain, driving an augmented hoof into the side of the knight’s face. There was another crack of bone as she was knocked back, and Twilight roared as she pushed on, taking a step and sweeping into her eye with another punch. Berry yelped as she covered her face, staggering backwards until she fell.
The alicorn lost her purple coating but the shroud of magic remained. She stomped to the knight and sat on her chest firing punch after punch to her head. Berry’s hooves protected her, but they could only do so much. As she ravaged the knight’s face Twilight saw herself beating Celestia’s much the same. She paused to catch her breath, but the knight torqued her body and attempted to pin the alicorn down using her hind legs. Twilight managed roll herself out of it and scramble back to her hooves.
“I can’t… believe… you’re still… going…,” she muttered between pants.
Two pegasi flew out of the city carrying an object between them. They released it and it crashed into the ground. Twilight recognized it as the earth knight’s gargantuan sword. “Lord, your weapon!” one called down. “Reinforcements are mobilizing to apprehend her.”
Berry quickly collected her weapon and turned to face Twilight with a smirk. “Tell them to back off. They can’t handle an opponent like this. I’ll bring her in, myself.” She watched the pegasi nod and return to the city before refocusing on her foe. “It’s over now. Give up and I won’t break any bones before I bring you to King Aurelius.” She hoisted the blade onto her shoulder and winced, rubbing blood from her mouth. Her right eye had begun to swell shut, a dark bruise forming around it. A similar, larger bruise had appeared on her chest.
“This isn’t over, yet!” The alicorn started to advance, but Berry swung the sword towards her. Twilight froze as the shockwaves it emitted ran through her body, magnified by the weapon. Pain in every joint petrified her and nausea twisted her stomach. “What… the…” A migraine formed that felt like a jackhammer was being pressed against her skull, and she crumbled to the ground. What… is this… power?
Weak, the voice chided. You are stronger than this.
Shut up. I know what I’m doing. Twilight blinked as the pain subsided, but the nausea continued. She sucked in air through her mouth and shakily stood back up. Waves. Vibrations. Something else mixed in, I’m not quite sure what it is. I can handle this.
Another cleaving of the air sent the vibrations towards Twilight. She pointed a hoof towards the attack and formed a barrier, but she raised the other in a slant behind the spell. The barrier twisted and changed shape with a design forming across it and shifting from violet to red.
The attack passed through the barrier and struck Twilight again, but the effects were greatly lessened. Her body ached, but she recovered in a few moments. Success. She took a breath and smirked. “That’s a nice power you’ve got, but I’ve already figured it out.”
“I guess I’m the one doing the underestimating this time.” Berry charged forward and swung horizontally at the alicorn.
Twilight ducked as the blade whooshed past her, the wake tugging her in its direction. As she stood back up, the vibrations moved through her body again. Even after she’s missed? Freezing up in pain again, the knight let go of her weapon and delivered a jab to the alicorn’s gut. Twilight cried out as she fell to the ground in agony.
“I’ve got to admit. You really gave me a run for my bits.” Berry lifted her up and threw her over her shoulder, tossing her blade over the other as she marched towards the city. “Did you really think you could win?”
Nausea that was once ignorable was magnified into a debilitating ailment; Twilight’s eyes swam in her head as she attempted to recover her faculties, struggling not to vomit. Before Berry could go far, she managed to squirm enough that the knight was forced to set her down. She teleported a short distance back and caught her breath.
It has a blast radius. I won’t be so careless the next time. If I get hit now, she gulped, I’m done for.
Twilight crouched down as pain reminded her of the previous injuries. Her left shoulder held a soreness that limited her physical capability to pained spell weaving; her stomach wrenched with nausea; and her joints felt like they were grinding against each other whenever she moved.
Berry moved in close and chopped towards the alicorn. Twilight erected the red barrier as she dodged nullifying most of the distance vibrations, but the knight punched through and struck her. New vibrations surged into her body and she grunted through clenched teeth.
What is she made of? she thought, jabbing a reprisal. I can’t protect myself against any contact.
The knight blocked and attempted to grapple her again; Twilight lurched backwards and yelped as the soreness in her shoulder was replaced with a fiery pain. Berry succeeded in taking hold of her again and pressed her to the ground, the shroud dispersing entirely.
“I told you it would end up like last time, but I’m going to make this so much worse on you,” the knight whispered into her ear.
Twilight’s eyes widened as she could feel her right foreleg being slowly bent back. Her heart thumped and she clamped her eyes shut as she could feel the joints in her shoulder stress, her tendons screaming in agony. The joint cracked and popped as it reached its limit, an agonized howl tearing from her throat as dread sank into her heart.
Something changed within Twilight, and she lost consciousness for a moment. Hundreds of memories streamed by her mind’s eye in a blur, but she recognized every one of them. Memories from her past, her archmage training, of Celestia, of Trixie. Of Nightmare Moon. Suddenly, all of her feelings fell into place and the doppelganger cackled in her mind.
Magic exploded from her body sending the knight tumbling away. Twilight could feel no pain and no drain to her magic. The shroud she empowered herself with returned in force. It took on a familiar image as it encased her, the energy surging and raging to a tight form. After a moment, it solidified into a black sheen over her body. She scanned the area and found the knight staring at her in surprise. For a moment, she recognized fear in those scarlet eyes as she took her first step towards her.
She found her mind to be scattered by a maelstrom of vicious impulses. Images of the knight’s broken body and anguished cries filled her mind. There was a sickening glee as she saw each choice before her very eyes, and in the pit of her stomach it repulsed her. But she couldn’t shake the feelings they invoked. Her body had already intended to act on some of those impulses.
“I’m not afraid o-of you!” the knight stammered. She took her sword and cleaved at the violet alicorn, white mist clinging to the blade as it split the air.
Twilight roared as a hoof engulfed in a fiery dark magic collided with the blade. The earth quaked as the blade was halted, the ground splitting near the nexus of attacks. Berry’s eyes widened and she pulled the blade back.
“That’s impossible! Nothing can stop my sword!” She swung again, driving the sword harder with her strength. Once more the blade was stopped with a hoof. “This isn’t possible!” The knight continued to swing, and the coating on Twilight’s hooves extended up her forelegs. She moved and blocked in silence, a malevolent anger lining her dark gaze as she concentrated. As she guarded herself against every strike, she positioned herself closer and closer inside the knight’s defense. Finally, the greatsword was stopped mid-swing; she unleashed an energy charged punch to the knight’s chest, sending her stumbling backwards.
Berry clutched the impact point and groaned, but after several breaths she took the weapon into both of her hooves and charged. She leaped into the air and brought the sword down with a cry. “Vanishing World!”
The greatsword crashed down onto the dark alicorn, the earth convulsing under the monstrous force of the attack and spraying dust and rock. Shockwaves sheared the land, splitting and spreading out from the impact. Berry flinched as the dust settled and Twilight remained standing. Her black body remained untouched while she crossed her forelegs in front of her, a cracked barrier extending around her. The sword rested against the purple coating and had chipped. Berry’s eyes followed the cracks in the ground with her eyes. Dread sank into her face as she realized that they flowed outward from Twilight and not behind her. The alicorn had absorbed her strongest attack.
“Wh-what a-are you!?”
Twilight swatted the weapon away as the knight backed away, her legs shaking more and more with each step. A grin split the alicorn’s face as she followed after, her teeth appearing sharp and elongated from the distortion. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about what I am. If I were you,” she cooed, her voice steady—Berry swung at her a final time before Twilight struck the topside of the blade and drove it into the ground, cracking it—“I would be more worried about what you are about to be.”
A fiery hoof surged forward and Berry struck back with all of her might in a last, desperate attempt to overpower the alicorn. There was a crack as their hooves collided again, but the knight recoiled and groaned, clutching it with her other hoof. Twilight took a step and pressed another punch into the knight’s stomach. She watched with glee as the knight’s mouth burst open, her silent anguish as she had no breath to shriek with. Berry crumbled to the ground clutching her stomach.
Twilight slowly circled her prey, the grin never leaving her face as she triumphantly watched her foe tremble. She used a hind leg and rolled her onto her stomach before crouching down and taking hold of one of her forelegs. “What was it you said earlier? Oh, right.” She leaned down low and whispered into the knight’s ear. “‘I’m going to make this so much worse on you.’” With a harrowing crack, she snapped the knight’s foreleg back, eliciting an anguishing screech.
She watched the knight writhe and whimper before attempting to flee. She followed, taking slow steps alongside her prey as she crawled with one foreleg. After a while of listening to the whimpers, she stepped in front of her. After a long while, Berry looked up, her swollen face streaked with tears and snot. “P-please… n-no more!”
Twilight crouched down and leaned close to whisper. “You still have another one.”
Berry despaired and pleaded, but the voice in Twilight’s mind had already compelled her.
Break her, it echoed.
Another crack filled the air for an instant as Twilight broke the knight’s other foreleg. She screamed and rocked in place, her eyes clamped shut, while the alicorn watched in silence.
Kill her, the voice urged, but Twilight did not move. I said ‘kill her’! it repeated.
No, Twilight said back as she fought back her violent urges.
“Where’s… Vibe?” Berry continued to moan and whimper, but Twilight pressed a hind hoof to the knight’s chest. “Where. Is. Vibe?”
The knight shivered as she looked into the eyes of the victor. “H-H-He w-went t-to towards P-Ponyv-ville. Th-There’s a t-town near it. L-Large c-cath-thedral dedic-cated to P-Princess C-C-C…”
Twilight smiled and stood up. “Thank you.” She kept her eyes on the defeated knight and watched her squirm.
“P-please. D-Don’t k-kill m-me. I s-s-surrend-derr,” she begged through sniffles and sobs, one eye too swollen to glimpse her.
After a while, the dark alicorn turned and walked away in silence, her shroud fading away. Something rattled throughout her body, but she forced herself to be steady against her nerves. The tax of her new abilities had begun to take their toll on her body and she threatened to wobble with each step.
Why didn’t you kill her!? the doppelganger fumed. She is one of Aurelius’s lieutenants now. She is your enemy.
She is broken, Twilight replied simply. She’s no longer a threat to me.
So long as she remains alive she is a threat. She will come again.
Twilight took a deep breath through her nostrils and closed her eyes. Then let her come. I will break her again and again until she knows only fear. When the doppelganger fell silent, the alicorn’s thoughts did not form words, but coalesced into two ideas. Control. Lost?