• Published 10th Feb 2012
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Of Stars Descending - Taldaer



Human, deceiver, martial artist all these words have been used to describe me. Hi name's Stormcloud

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Ch 17. Paragon's gamble

Chapter 17 Paragon’s gamble

For the vision burning before me
is one of former glory
An icon cast in the light of freer times,
now writhes in a bed of lies
Hope doesn’t live here
Love doesn’t live here anymore

No more words. It’s time to face the consequences of my actions, and for once I’m not certain of what the outcome will be.

*~*

The world rushed past beneath me as I soared towards the Everfree forest. The ground was partially blanketed by thick swaths of mist, which gave the landscape an eerie look. Turning my gaze back up to my even more eerie destination, I gave a small sigh. Is this really the only option I have? I questioned myself. Wow, doubt this late on. I thought I was beyond that now. Another part of my brain countered.

"Do I have a choice?" I asked out loud over the wind howling past me. But the night held no answers for me.

With another sigh I lamented the fact that the night sky, although beautiful, was a terrible conversationalist. Steeling my resolve I pushed further thoughts into the recesses of my mind, they wouldn’t serve much purpose other than to distract me right now. Instead I focused on the beat of my wings, trying to speed up my flight even more.

I don’t know how long it took me, but eventually I crossed over the border of the Everfree. Much like I had expected the dark forest added to the already eerie vista that had been my view for the last few hours. Unfortunately it would next to impossible for me to find the area where I had arrived from the air, but I could easily find the mountain I had stayed at during my first weeks in Equestria. Hopefully I could find my way from there, after all everything I had planned hinged on springing this trap. So I angled towards the mountain, its grey surface almost reflecting the moonlight, while maintaining my speed.

Eventually I reached the base of the mountain, and seeing how I had already determined that flight wouldn’t help me I quickly entered a dive only to flare my wings a few feet before I hit the ground. The landing was probably my smoothest one yet, so after a quick stretch of my overworked wings, and after making sure that satchel I had gotten from Swiftmend was intact I set out towards the general direction I thought to be my original point of entry to Equestria.

It didn’t take me long to realize that something felt off about the forest now. When I had been here before it had felt like any other forest I had visited back on earth. While there had been little wildlife in this area the current forest was deathly silent. The lack of sounds was disturbing and there was this presence lingering in the air, a presence that held nothing but malice. It took me a moment to notice that I had stopped dead in my tracks, and I almost had to force myself to start moving again. Perhaps this would be the time were my luck finally ran out for good.

The soft sound of hooves against the forest floor to my left caused me to freeze again. For a pregnant second I stood there waiting for an attack, but instead I heard a voice call out mockingly.

"Oh so you did arrive after all paragon. Were you new friends worth so little compared to going home?"

From darkness between the trees the form of Dreamcatcher materialized. It took an effort of will not to shoot back with a scathing comment about betraying the ponies for personal greed. Instead I forced out the shortest answer possible.

"Just take me to Grief."

"As you command, oh so scary paragon." Dreamcatcher answered in the same mocking tone as before.

"After you." I answered, biting back another comment.

"Oh no, after you. I insist." she all but growled, lighting her horn to show that there would be no further arguments.

Refusing to give her a reason to throw me around with magic again, I walked past her in the direction she had come from. I could hear her start to follow behind just a moment later. It definitely took some mental fortitude to not throw a glance behind me, but somehow I managed to stare straight ahead.

Needless to say our trip through the forest was one of silence, except for the sound of hooves stepping on the occasional dead branch or the rustle of passing by a small bush. We walked for an undetermined period of time, but I did manage to regain some sense of inner calm. I will not say that I was fine, because I was far from it. However my mind had finally started to accept everything I had pushed it through just recently. That I again found myself balancing on a metaphorical razor was strangely sobering.

"We’re here." Dreamcatcher suddenly called out behind me, and before I could take another step I was rooted to the ground by her magic.

Before I could even begin to struggle against my bonds a dark chuckle emanated from the shadows in front of me. The mirthless sound was quickly followed by a pair of familiar although haunting white eyes that materialized in the darkness. Not a second later the shadowy panther form that was Grief had emerged from the trees.

"So the foal actually decided to show?" she said with a sneer.

"So are you going to send me home?" I asked, although I felt that the trap was about to be sprung.

"There will be no deal made here paragon. I should just kill you for what you’ve put me through but there’s another way to use you. You will be the perfect new vessel, a body that the elements and princesses will not be suspicious of. This you have unwittingly provided, foalish paragon."

Ah so that was the plan after all. It was something that I had anticipated before coming here, and I was not about to point out any of the glaring flaws I could see with her plan. And since it would work in accordance with my own plan I opted to remain silent.

"Hahahaha! You’re not as smart as you think yourself to be paragon." Grief cackled, mistaking my silence for me feeling despair.

"Soon Equestria will be mine and from there the surrounding nation will follow. I will rule until this world is but splinter of its former glory. I will…" Grief launched into a winding monologue that I zoned out.

Never thought that I’d have to suffer through a villain monologue again. I idly thought, as Grief meticulously described her plan for world domination. As this went on I carefully studied the area, but except for trees I saw nothing out of the ordinary. The only thing this told me was that they Grief was certain she could possess me without me managing to escape. So my window to succeed will be small at best. I thought grimly, just Grief seemed to round up her little speech.

"Now leave us Dreamcatcher." Grief commanded.

Dreamcatcher seemed to hesitate for a second before speaking up.

"Are you sure that’s wise mistress?"

"Are you questioning my power?" Grief questioned with a dangerously sweet voice.

"No! Of course not mistress!" Dreamcatcher all but shouted, her eyes bulging in terror.

"I’ll await your next orders at the den." she quickly amended before teleporting away in a flash, and with her went the spell binding me to the ground.

Before I could react though Grief turned her attention back to me.

"Now paragon your body will be mine!" she snarled.

Before my eyes I could see a twisting mass of smoky shadows start to grow out from the panther like body. The shadows slowly formed into tendrils that almost lazily wiggled their way towards me. However the moment the first tendril touched me I felt the full brunt of the mental assault I had feared, and the whole shadowy mass suddenly engulfed me.

*Flicker*

"Hello Swift, I need to ask you for a favor." I asked tiredly.

"Give me one good reason. It’s in the middle of the night." He answered grumpily.

"Because I know that you’ll do the right thing even though you might not like me." I snapped back. I was out of options and didn’t feel like playing this game with Swift right now.

He looked at me for a few seconds before stepping to the side, letting me enter his room.

*Flicker*

I was back in the Everfree and on the ground in front of me lay a severely malnourished dead panther cub. A few remaining wisps of shadow were slowly leaving the body.

*Flicker*

"You weren’t my first choice Swift but I’m out of options. You have a right to know before you decide what to do, but will you at least hear me out before kicking me out?" I began, hoping that I would find an ally however unlikely it seemed.

"Go ahead, but make it quick. Oh and I’ll be asking questions, and I will retain the right to back out at any point." he answered after a moment’s thought.

"Fair enough." I conceded.

"To give you the short version. The remaining star spawn has vaguely declared a date for its final attack and has forbidden me to talk to anypony in a position of power. If I do my life will pretty much be forfeit, but they did offer me a chance to return back to my world should I go and find them before the set date." I quickly summarized what had happened not an hour before.

"You do realize that this screams trap, right?" Swiftmend asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes but I have a plan, or part of one at least." I quickly said. I had his interest for now at least.

"Go ahead then, tell me this plan of yours." Swiftmend sighed.

"Okay remember the part I told you about me and Celestia-"

*Flicker*

The dead cub was now devoid of any shadows. I raised my right hoof off of the ground and started to reach for the satchel.

*Flicker*

"So you want me to basically steal for this to work then?" Swiftmend questioned loudly.

"I know it sounds bad but what other option do we have?" I responded equally loud.

"I don’t know, we could perhaps ask for it?" Swiftmend deadpanned.

"No we cannot! That would most likely be seen as a violation of the terms and this opportunity would be lost." I argued.

"Fair enough, but you’ll have to create a window for me to get in and out." he begrudgingly agreed.

"I think I can arrange something, you know where her lab is, right?" I said.

"Yeah, I still don’t think that this is a good idea but you’ve convinced me that this is the best option available for all parties involved. One last thing though, what are you going to do about Celestia?" Swiftmend finally agreed to my plan.

"What do you mean?" I asked trying to feign ignorance in an attempt to deflect his last question.

"Don’t try to play this off! It is no secret that you two are dating, or close to dating at least." he remarked.

"I know this will sound low, even for someone as deceptive as I but she can’t know. I will leave a letter with an apology and my reasoning but that will be the best I can offer." I said unhappily, as I could feel my ears drooping.

Swift seemed to sense the mood rather well, since he chose to not press the subject further.

*Flicker*

My hoof reached the satchel and managed to undo the clasp with relative ease. Grief had to be digging through my memories, I had no other explanation for the weird reality shifts I was experiencing. At least I had subconsciously managed to keep the full extent of my plan away from her, for now.

*Flicker*

"Hello Swift did you manage to get everything?" I asked, keeping my voice neutral.

"Yeah, it’s all in the satchel on the bed." he said motioning with a hoof, his voice holding an almost sad quality to it.

"Then all that’s left to do now is wait." I said, stepping inside while Swiftmend closed the door behind me.

"Are you sure that you want to go through with this?" Swift asked as soon as the door had been shut.

"No I’m not sure, I thought we established that yesterday?" I said with a weary sigh.

"I know I may sound like a broken record at this point, but don’t you think that a decision like this requires some semblance of doubt even at such a late state?" Swiftmend asked.

"Of course I’m doubting myself and my decision! I’ve dealt with almost nothing but doubt ever since my first day here. It has been a parade of one questionable choice after another, and this one is not much different from things I’ve already done." I exclaimed.

"You misunderstand me Cloud, I support your choice you know this. But I need to know if your resolve will hold. This is after all not only perilous but it might even be borderline criminal. If you get this wrong you might become just as infamous as Nightmare Moon." Swift continued to argue.

"My resolve will hold no matter which outcome comes to pass. Now tell me how the activation sequence will work." I said after a moment of silent contemplation.

The last dying rays of sunlight could be seen through Swiftmend’s only window as he studied me. Then he finally nodded and started to speak.

"Alright all you need to do is to grab the crystal and-"

*Flicker*

My hoof dug around in the satchel, grasping for the crystal it contained. I was running out of time, this would perhaps be my last chance and I needed to end it. Aha! I thought triumphantly as my hoof managed to grab the crystal and bring it out from the satchel. A red glow emanating from it, courtesy of Swift’s magic, lit up the area.

*Flicker*

"So all I have to do is break it and the spell will activate?" I asked, studying the glowing crystal in my hoof.

"That’s correct, according to the spell matrix designed by Miss. Sparkle the spell was originally designed to draw power from the ambient magic field. It was then a rather simple process to reengineer it partly to create a trigger condition. Lastly all I had to was just to imbue the matrix onto this crystal."

There was just one thing left to do. I thought as I turned to Swiftmend.

"Thank you Swift. I know what I’m about to do is unfair, not only to you but to everypony I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I want you to know that I’m truly grateful for the help you’ve provided." I said, offering the stallion a hoof.

Swiftmend observed me without saying a word, but even in the now dark hotel room I could see the contemplative look on his face. Finally he reached out and shook my hoof.

"No, thank you… My friend."

*Flicker*

"NO!" Grief screeched in my head as the full plan was finally revealed to her.

In the split second that her terror boiled over from the discovery I slammed the hoof holding the crystal into the ground, and the world vanished in a flash.

*<>*

The sun rose with the help of her magic, just like it had done for almost as long as she could remember. For any other pony it would be hard to tell the time at such an early hour, at least without a clock. But she had since a long time ago attuned her internal clock to this planet’s day and night cycle. So she could more or less subconsciously tell that it currently was around ten past six in the morning. At another time she would probably have sighed at the prospect of another day at court, now however she found that such days of comparative calm would be most welcome.

There were too many uncertainties with the star spawn for her to be able to fully relax. But hopefully they would find a solution to that in the near future, one that was beneficial to all involved parties. She had faith in Twilight’s abilities to find a solution after all. If she had to be completely truthful she felt a bit guilty for having to rely so much on Twilight and her friends, but the elements were essential.

Well I’ll have to make it up to them once things calm down. She thought to herself. It was important to keep a positive outlook despite the situation. So without further ado she started the process of making herself look presentable. With her golden magic she grabbed a brush to work on her bed mane while trotting over to the food cart that somepony in her staff had left for her earlier during the twilight hour.

She ate quickly, an early start would improve her chances of completing today’s work on time for her date with Cloud. At the thought of the strange male she levitated the “phone” he had lent her yesterday over. She had spent a couple of hours listening to the music contained in this thing after he had left her. It was truly a strange but wonderful piece of technology.

A knock on the door interrupted her pondering whether she had time to listen to a song or two before work.

"Come in." she said, turning her head to face the door.

One of her maids, Spearmint if she recalled correctly, entered carrying what seemed to be a letter on a small tray suspended in the air by her own magic.

"Princess this letter was delivered by a stallion early this morning he said it was important that it reached you. It has been checked for harmful spells and curses and it’s clean." Spearmint announced while bowing her head in respect.

"Thank you dear, you can leave the letter on my nightstand. I’ll read it as soon as I’m done with breakfast." Celestia calmly answered.

The unicorn maid quickly levitated the tray over to Celestia’s nightstand before bowing once more and leaving the room.

Celestia took a few more minutes to finish breakfast before turning her attention to the mysterious letter. Curious she reached out with her magic and levitated it over to her. It looked like a normal letter although it lacked any information other than her name on the front, in other words just a white envelope addressed with her name.

Shrugging her wings slightly she opened the envelope and started to read the letter:

Hello Tia,

I wish that there was an easy way to tell you this. I wish that I could have told you face to face without having to resort to this tactic. I wish I never had to tell you this in the first place. But wishes are just that, wishes. Some may come true while most are just the longing for something we cannot have. Life has a tendency to build up to these things but in the end it may just turn out to be a cruel joke.

I’m rambling aren’t I? Well I’ll be blunt since sugarcoating things have never really been a skill of mine. When you read this letter two things may have happened. The first is that I have been captured by Grief or even worse possessed by her. Should this be the case you’re not allowed to hesitate to use the elements or whatever powers you have at your disposal to destroy her. The other outcome and the one I gambled for is that I have managed to force Grief to return with me to Earth, effectively sealing the rift and all her access to magic with it.

I realize that neither of these things are fair to you and for that you have my apology. I did most likely truly love you Tia, but this seemed to be the safest course of action to take. Not for me but for all who inhabit this land, no soul is worth more than an entire planet full of life. I know better than most that you’re no stranger to such sacrifices, and again I’m sorry that you will have to be the one to suffer through this once more.

You will have to steel your heart Tia. But whatever you do, do not lock it away in a cage and throw away the key. You will find love again, just like I’m sure you would’ve after I had passed on. You deserve happiness Tia, but I’m afraid I can’t be one to share it with you.

~ Cloud


A feeling of dread had formed in her stomach before she was even halfway through the letter, having completed the entire thing she felt emotionless. Like something had just come in to wipe her clean of feelings. Charging up her magic she sent out a pulse in an attempt to see if the piece of her soul in Cloud would respond. For a second she waited hopeful that there was still time, that this was indeed a cruel joke that the letter had mentioned. But as the seconds stretched and nothing happened she felt her vision grow blurry with tears, and finally she allowed herself wallow in the sorrow that had been rapidly building.

It would be almost an hour before Luna finally came around looking for her sister, only to find her still crying on the floor.

*<>*

The world blinked back into existence, and found myself landing clumsily on my feet in the very groove where I had first been struck by lightning. I wobbled a bit before crashing down on my hands and knees, my breath forming small clouds in the cold air. After a moment of heavy breathing I managed to struggle back up onto my two legs.

I won. My mind sluggishly produced. But it had been a bittersweet victory at best, as I could already feel tears forming in my eyes. I turned my eyes towards the purple sky, dawn was approaching apparently, and in that moment I finally let myself cry for all that I had lost in this wager.

Eventually my tears dried up, and I numbly felt around in my pocket for my apartment keys. This time I had been returned with the clothing that I had worn before returning with Tia to Equestria. Finding the keys to still be secure in my pocket I faced the now rising sun and started to walk. Frost sparkled in the trees and on the ground announcing the fall had ended and winter had come to replace it.

I would persevere and keep on living my life, just like I always had. Humans are tenacious creatures after all.

Author's Note:

Aaand there you have it. The final full chapter of Of stars descending, An epilogue will follow tomorrow with an extended author's note containing a lot of clarifications and such. Basically what I'm saying is don't murder me for breaking Tia's heart. Please?