Tartarus Forged

by SvenFoxx

4. Prologue, Part Four: Contingency Cult

One year after Twilight vanished…

“Your Highness, Princess Cadence here to see you.”

Celestia looked up from the tea she was enjoying, and smiled at the guard. “Please, let her in.”

The guard bowed and left the Princess’ bedroom. Her door opened a moment later to admit a pink Alicorn into the room.

Celestia motioned towards the chair opposite her, where an empty tea cup and a steaming pot of tea sat on the table in wait. “Please, have a seat,” she said. She waited until her niece was seated before taking another sip of her tea. “Ah… Zebrican tea, made in Teaport by a family that perfected the craft over… what was it?... Ah! Four hundred and eighty-two years. Truly, some of the best tea I’ve ever had. Remarkable for calming nerves just before a stressful meeting.”

Cadence poured herself some tea from the pot. She sipped the tea after a moment of letting it cool, and smiled. “I remember this. You used to give me some when I was still stressing over being a Princess. I used to accuse you of slipping calming potions in it.”

Celestia nodded. “Yes, and you would get so adorably frustrated when every analysis spell you used on the tea I gave you came up negative.”

Cadence blushed at the reminder of how hot-tempered she was when she was still relatively young. She snorted at that thought. According to Celestia, she was still an adolescent by Alicorn standards.

Celestia sighed. “I also used to give some to Twilight when she would get stressed over a test. She also accused me of slipping her a calming draught, and got just as frustrated when all of her tests against the tea I brewed and the leaves themselves didn’t show the potion.”

Cadence felt a pang in her heart at the reminder of the missing Unicorn. Even now, Shining Armor and his parents were running themselves ragged hunting down even the smallest clue regarding the child she used to foal-sit.

“Is Twilight why you called me here?” Cadence asked after a moment of silence.

Celestia didn’t respond at first, staring into her tea-cup. Cadence knew better than to assume her aunt had not heard her, so she waited. Finally, after a moment, Celestia looked up and spoke. “You recall Starlight Glimmer?”

Cadence nodded, remembering the Unicorn that was so like Twilight, that it was scary. Shining was the one that had headed the investigation into the rumors that led to them finding her. And, if gossip could be believed, many of the guards under his command had been forced to restrain the Captain when they found Starlight and her village of equality. He had been desperate to find Twilight, and that latest dead-end had nearly shattered him, considering how confident his sources were that Starlight was Twilight. He had lashed out at the most convenient outlet for his stress, and Starlight had gained a healthy respect, alongside a healthy fear, of the Captain of the Royal Guard.

“She and Sunburst have made a breakthrough regarding Twilight when I let them examine the ruins of the tower.”

Cadence went from half-listening as she recalled Shining’s condition when he came back, to completely and utterly focused on her aunt with a zeal that somewhat surprised Celestia. “They found her?” she asked with such naked desperation, that it made Celestia’s heart ache.

Celestia sighed. “No… but we now know why we can’t find her. From what they tell me, Twilight was swallowed by a magic-fueled rip in time and space.”

She shook her head, purposefully avoiding looking at her niece. “Further investigation led to the conclusion that Twilight isn’t just not in Equestria; she’s not even in this dimension. Furthermore, the time magic was warped according to them. Whatever happened, it’s knocked our dimension’s chronological flow out of sync with the rest of reality.”

Cadence frowned. “That’s bad, right?”

Celestia also frowned. “Not for the safety of our world, no. Our dimension will realign itself in time. The problem is that Twilight is outside of our dimension, meaning she’s operating on a different time-frame than us. Even if she came back tomorrow, there’s just no way to tell how long Twilight was gone on her end, whether it’s a day, a year, or even a decade.”

Left unsaid, but was understood by both, was the fact that at that exact moment, Twilight could possibly even be dead of old age and her body reduced to dust.

“Is it even possible to get her back?” Cadence asked, hating herself for asking the question in the first place. It felt like admitting defeat. “As far as I know, there’s no such thing as magic that can safely cross dimensions.”

Celestia looked away. “There is… but the only magic I know for sure that can safely ensure passage across the dimensional barriers is chaos magic.”

“You’re considering releasing Discord.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

Celestia shook her head. “I'm sorely tempted... but no. There’s no guarantee that he’ll help without being coerced with threats of being re-encased in stone. The magic used to seal Discord is long-lost, though.” Celestia sighed.

“… Why did you call me here?” Cadence asked again suddenly. “While it’s nice to have an update and to know progress is being made, you could have just told Shiny and he would have eventually told me. Why did you call me specifically?”

Celestia sipped her tea, gathering her thoughts. “I have a mission for you and Shining Armor. It will take you to the desert kingdom of Techstoria. I have been hearing rumors for the last ten years of a cult worshipping the Dark Gods of the old religions growing in the desert cities to the South. I dismissed it at first, not caring who worshiped what, but then I got a report yesterday about an artifact being stolen from the Vault.”

“What was the artifact?” Cadence asked, instantly concerned.

The Vault was the most secure structure in all of Equestria, used to house the most dangerous artifacts (magical or otherwise) artifacts and keep them from the hooves, or hands as the case can sometimes be, of those who would misuse them. The Vault was enchanted in so many ways, and layered with so many protection spells that not even Celestia believed she could break in without consequences to her health.

That anypony managed to get in, let alone back out with an artifact, was both surprising and alarming.

Celestia grimaced. “A sword... It’s called God’s Tear.”

Using her magic, she conjured an illusion of a half-teardrop shaped weapon, with a handle built into the bulb.

“It doesn’t have an edge,” Cadence noted, seeing the lack of sharpness needed to make it an effective sword.

“It doesn’t need it,” Celestia answered the unspoken question. “This sword contains the power to cut what normal swords can’t cut.”

Cadence blinked. “What do you mean?”

Celestia poured herself a refill of tea. “Magical seals are the most notable thing it can cut, as that is what it was mainly used for before being locked in the Vault.”

Cadence paused, her eyes widening. “When you say magical seals, you don’t mean…?” She trailed off.

“If used on the statue of Discord, it would free him instantly. If used on a Unicorn with a seal on their power, it would be lifted. And that is only one method of which the sword can be used; it works on anything that is widely considered unbreakable. You can see why I am uneasy with it being in the hooves of the cultists.”

“Why do you suspect the cultists?” Cadence asked.

“A robe was left behind during their escape. It bears the mark of their cult.” Celestia answered, making an illusion of a stylized eye sitting on a flame background. “I want you and Shining Armor to go to the desert cities and try and put a stop to whatever they’re planning.”

Celestia paused. “Oh yes, and a word of warning: The cultists also made off with a few other magical artifacts. One of them will grant the holder the ability to hide themselves and a large group from all magical senses.”

Cadence grimaced. “So much for the easy solution,” she grumbled, getting up to leave and inform her fiancé of their new mission.

Once the pink Alicorn was gone, Celestia sighed and stared into her teacup. “I hate manipulating the ponies I care for... but if all else fails, she's our last hope."


Ten years after arrival...

Twilight ran for all she was worth, firing blasts of magic from her hands over her shoulder whenever she had a moment and wasn’t frantically dodging the fireballs her enemy was trying to kill her with. It was unfocused magic due to her state of half panic and half desperation, but at least it provided a somewhat decent distraction.

“What is it with you and fireballs!?” She screamed at her tormentor, sliding behind a boulder to get a moment to herself.

Tirek laughed to himself, both hands engulfed in red fire as he approached. “There’s nothing quite like the smell of your enemy’s burning flesh to accentuate your victory over them.”

“I’m not your enemy!” Twilight shot back, focusing her magic between her hands.

“No, but I won’t have a weak dog. That means live-fire training.” He leapt over the rock and threw two exploding fireballs down at Twilight… only to find said mare not there.

He then took a rather powerful kick to the side of his head, making him stumble. “Ding-Dong!” Twilight grinned, thanking every god she could think of that she had finally figured out how to reinforce her new body with magic. It made for some interesting effects.

Enhanced speed for getting behind an unsuspecting enemy, and enhanced strength for drop-kicking said enemy in the head for instance.

She had to be careful though. If she reinforced her body too far, it would cause said parts of her body to become over-saturated with magic. Like overinflating a balloon, the magic would start looking for a way out. She had blown off her arm at the shoulder doing that. Thankfully, Tirek was willing to heal the injury, but it had still made her much more cautious.

She also knew that his kindness was slaved to his whims. When a demon had successfully gouged out her left eye two years ago, he told her to live with it. She wore an eye-patch over that empty eye socket now.

Five years ago, Tirek had rewarded her for stopping the group attempting to usurp him. Said reward consisted of rearranging her biology until she was what he called a "Half-Pony, half-Human". She had, of course, asked him what a human was, but the only answer he gave was that they were considered the Race of Grey by the vast majority of the multiverse. The plus side to this new body? She could channel magic through her hands almost as easily as she could have channeled it through her horn when it wasn't broken. The downside? She had to learn how to walk and take care of her body all over again, leading to her trying to throttle the Centaur Lord multiple times when he laughed at her.

Twilight teleported away when Tirek tried to retaliate by backhanding her. She exited the teleport a few meters away, staggering as she nearly didn’t have enough magic to perform the action, and then felt her legs give out. She gave a tired laugh at her condition. They had been “sparring” for almost eight hours now, so she wasn’t surprised her body was throwing in the towel.

“Seven hours and forty-eight minutes,” Tirek said, looking at the stopwatch hanging from his neck. “Not bad. Our last session was seven hours and twelve minutes. You’re getting a lot better at using that body I gave you five years ago. Rest. I have a mission for you to undertake tomorrow.” He turned and began walking away.

Twilight groaned and began the long process of crawling towards her room, which thankfully now had a real bed instead of just some blankets on the stone floor.