• Published 13th Oct 2011
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The Quiet Place - Aynine



Twilight fights against sinister manipulations, struggling to overcome a deep-seated darkness within. As she battles to preserve everything she cares about, she will sacrifice anything necessary to succeed. But the price of victory may be herself.

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Chapter 30: Closing the Third Eye

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 30: Closing the Third Eye

Aurelius whirled around, his thick tail crashing through buildings and creating a torrent as it swept for the knights on the ground. Berry brandished her greatsword, light and air condensing around the blade like a thick mist, and she whirled around to meet the attack with force.

"No, wait!" Colgate cried, aiming a hoof at the earth knight. Her horn flashed and Berry's sword froze mid-swing. Before she could do anything else, or her comrade to protest, a set of white and green waves came down from the sky detonating on the ground and blasting the tail back.

"Almost," huffed Derpy as she set down beside them. "I just finished clearing most of the aerial forces. I thought you guys could use some help." She scanned the area and caught a glimpse of Dash's body; the cyan pegasus seemed peaceful amid the chaos, but she forced herself not to look for fear of breaking down.

"Look," Colgate said, pointing to the southern end. More bone dragons appeared in the distant skies, and each knight gazed at them, a grim hope reflecting in each of them.

"I give you this final chance to surrender your loyalty to me," Aurelius said as he faced them again.

"We'll never serve you," the paladin growled.

There was a boom of light between the dragon and the knights, dust blasting their vision; the knights shielded their eyes until the haze settled. Twilight and Telos stood side by side, peering around as the moment of silence hung.

Aurelius was the one to break, shouting the sage's name as his calm composure melted away. "I will take your wretched life before the night's end."

"I leave his undead army to you and your comrades, Twilight Sparkle," the sage said, ignoring the dragon. "Keep your battle as far to the edge of the city as you can. All non-combatants should be evacuated by now, and I pray that there are no longer any near this place." He turned and faced Aurelius and threw a hoof out to his side. A pocket of distortion fluctuated briefly and then a white staff appeared, snapping into his hoof as soon as it became clear.

Twilight's eyes widened as she stared at it. "There's more than one Holy Wand?"

"Yours was merely an exquisite copy." He relinquished his grasp and allowed the staff to float with him, its spire shining white against his sandy fur. "Take the knights with you. You will need them. Magic flows through you now, and you may feel energized, but make no mistake. Your power hinges solely on hers."

Twilight nodded and motioned the knights together, tossing Dash on top of her back and looking up to Aurelius, the dragon meeting her eyes. "When you kill him, make sure he stays dead." In a flash, they were gone leaving only a plume of dust in their wake.

Telos's staff shook violently, bubbling outward until it exploding into the form of a large disc. It orbited the sage at high speed, slicing through buildings around him before angling up and shooting towards the dragon's throat. Aurelius smacked away with a scaly claw before transforming back into an alicorn.

"It's a shame that I cannot sustain that form on such a small battlefield, but it matters not. The blood of a dragon still runs through my veins," he stated coolly. His horn glowed and his mane slowly ignited into a blaze.

"Your deviled traits won't save you against my magic, Aurelius. I would gladly give my life to secure your sister's legacy," said the sage.

"My sister," the prince growled. "Astra sealed her own fate with the choices she made. She was no longer a sister of mine." He stomped a hoof and a pulse of energy flowed out from him. "She deserved to die!"

The sage scoffed and his staff reverted to its resting state. "Deserved..." he said bitterly, turning his head away briefly. He snapped his head back and his eyes open. "Deserved!?" His voice echoed off of the buildings. The staff slammed down, creating a tremor in the area and resting debris was disturbed once again. "You never deserved your status. You never deserved her for a sister. And now..." The air grew still as the spire was engulfed by light, the runes on the sage's body illuminating brightly. "You do not deserve to draw breath."

"You grovel at her false memory, friend. The serpent of old is strung taut around your neck, hanging you for your loyalty. My only failure of the past was that I showed compassion for too long." His horn flashed and he stood up, raising his hooves to the sky. "But that is no longer and there will be no such mistake again. I shall rule alone this time. No blood, no bonds. No one to poison my decrees of what must be done." Meteors lit the sky as small, burning dots, growing larger as they plummeted to the ground.

No natural clouds, Telos noted quietly. Could you have ever foreseen this night, Astra? His staff exploded into a large disc again and levitated overhead, absorbing any meteors that would dare to strike him. The excess rained down around him, blasting into burning rock and forming craters with flames billowing fiercely inside. The staff returned to its resting state and Telos clasped his hooves, throwing them apart quickly. In the blink of an eye, there were two of him.

"A perfect image!" the prince spat, his nemesis maintaining a deadly calm. "Magic beyond even myself. My sister..." he seethed. "How dare she bless an earth pony with such potential."

"She believed in you until the very end, right up until you beheaded her like a savage. You repaid her love with jealousy and spite. Her final request was that I forgive you and never allow you to rule." The sage took a deep breath as his staff slowly rose into the air. "I will never forgive you for what you have done. I will keep you from your rule... by slaying you like the mangy dog you are!" With a motion, the staff slammed down again, its spire sparkling blue as it hummed.

A pillar of light engulfed Aurelius for a moment, stretching into the night sky, and he raised a hoof to look at it in wonder. After a few seconds, it solidified into a beam, blasting him into the ground. He grunted and rose up in time to see a black flame flowing from the mirror image and a freezing torrent from the original Telos. He retaliated with a tremendous arcane burst, blasting most of the spells away and allowing them to rain around him.

"Black flames," the prince said with distaste. "I'm honored you don't hold back."

"I will have you rue those words, Aurelius!"

"I am the Prince of the Sun! Your magic is nothing but foals' games to me!" Two balls of fire appeared beside the prince and he swung his forehooves to Telos, combining them and sending it surging forward. Debris in its path were reduced to ashes instantly and the ground was left blackened and charred in its wake.

Gales ripped from the image redirecting the inferno to the sky while Telos conjured a bolt of lightning. Aurelius increased the intensity of the flames and fought to drive it back down, simultaneously shielding himself from the lightning. The bolt struck his shield, but the magic had been dampened enough to prevent it from stunning him. Shrugging off the attack, he roared and drove the flames onto the original, the sage yelping as he was consumed.

The image paid its progenitor no heed and removed the staff from the blaze, swirling his hooves in the air in syntax with it. Icy comets cascaded to the earth, their tails reaching far behind them. Canterlot trembled with each impact, their explosions sending blasts of ice and rubble. Aurelius held his ground, his horn glowing furiously as he tried to deflect them away with force. His attempts faltered and he roared again, slamming both his hooves down as the glow around his horn turned into a flame.

"Ifrit!" he bellowed, a massive flame forming just above him, its power absorbing all remaining comets that sought his flesh.

"Shiva!" the image boomed, suddenly leaping backwards to gain more distance.

As his staff glowed blue the ground snapped and popped as ice stole the earth beneath him, a snowy wind gathering all around him. It flowed upwards, growing thicker and thicker until it coalesced into a mass of shifting cold. The prince's flame darkened as it remained in place, blackening the ground beneath and around him. In a cry, they sent both spells into the other.

Night was torn away as the spells collided, a maelstrom of heat and frost raging outward as they discharged. It took several moments for the calamity and haze to clear, but both ponies still stood, glaring at one another while ice and fire littered the vicinity, a grey haze capturing the sky as far as they could see. They both appeared with minor wounds, but the strain of the magic and their defenses reflected upon their demeanors.

"Clever that you switched places with your image," remarked the prince.

Telos stood up, holding his forelegs out, his staff floating just above the ground before him. A rumble escaped his chest as he called upon more power. Chaotic energy was pulled from the air, drawing to and condensing around his hooves, and they formed bubbles of light around them.

"I will not be buried in that accursed spell again!" the prince snarled. He breathed out a small flame, holding it in his hooves. He quickly poured magic into it, shaping it into another sphere as it expanded. Releasing it, he allowed it to rise above him while its color darkened from a fiery orange into a bloody red, then finally black.

"I have no need to entomb you this time," Telos said as he studied the flame.

"Then what hope do you have?" Aurelius snickered. Trails of black fire leaked from the sphere, touching down to the ground and sizzling as they ran freely, burning through anything they touched. "Thousands of years we have waited for this moment. Will you die screaming,"—he swayed a hoof to the roaring flame sphere—"or will you die with only a whimper?"

"Your pride blinds you to the powers I possess."

Aurelius raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And what powers might those be?"

Bringing his hooves together, the sage's runes shined again and a white orb expanded above him. Particles drew to it in three streams that snaked up to it from the ground, their flow audible as the mass hummed. "I bear with me the powers of the moon itself!"

The prince snorted, a grin running along his lips. "I shall incinerate you with your moon. Behold!" He held a hoof up to the mass of black flames, motioning it to the sage. "Ashen Star!" The mass stretched into a thick pillar, surging forward at the prince's behest.

"Divinity Crush!" The white mass split into three tendrils, each racing towards the prince.

Before the spells collided, an image echoed Telos from behind him. "Gravity Bless!"

Aurelius gave a startled grunt as he was driven to the ground, an invisible force holding him down. He roared, fighting with all of his might to stand against it, trying to break it with a combination of his magic and physical strength, but to no avail. The two spells crashed into one another, a schism of black and white light erupting as each spell tried to overpower the other.

The earth violently quaked as the spells exploded, their catastrophic discharge destroying anything left of the city around them in its nova, pushing waves of rubble into high arena walls. A cascade of shockwaves threatened to shear the mountain, but it held with only wide cracks running along the devastated ground. As the dust, dirt, and ash cleared, Telos peered around, his puffs for air the only sound now.

The sage was reduced to using his staff as a crutch, his blood painting over the platinum sheen and matting his fur. The runes and glyphs across his body had gone silent, patches of his flesh missing entirely, and he gasped for air before his legs buckled and sent him sliding unceremoniously to the ground. He tilted his head back and laughed, a pained, breathy laugh. As he finished, a familiar voice came from the edge of the devastation and turned his blood to ice.

"You were always a clever bastard," the prince called out in a hoarse voice. He emerged from the haze with parts of his scales missing. Blood ran freely down his sides and both of his wings had been torn and frayed, hanging limply to the ground. Aurelius coiled down like a wounded animal, taking in a deep breath. "But not clever enough!" He launched himself forward, a ravaged claw climbing high for a finishing strike.

"Celestial Stars!"

The claw never reached the sage. A stream of white lanced it, and Aurelius roared, pulling it back. More streams of light slammed into and around his body, but he refused to submit, clawing his way forward. He reached Telos and swiped him, but his talons merely cut through an image. Roaring, what remained of his scales shimmered as he turned and found the true Telos. With a last heave, be blew a flame at him. The hailstorm of light ended, but Aurelius was reduced to his alicorn form. Equally bloody and drained, he crawled towards the sage, a small smear of blood following him.

"Your smoke and mirrors have run out," he rasped angrily. His mane and tail had lost their flame leaving only auburn hair to hang, saturated with blood and ash. "You have nothing left!"

Telos appeared haggard, the drain of the battle leaving dark circles ringing his eyes. Calling his staff, he clamped an eye shut as he hobbled with his weapon supporting him as a walking stick. This was it. Aurelius had no magic left and was mortally wounded. All he had to do was carry out the execution.

Staggering forward, he nearly fell as the aches of his body and head spiked, but he forced himself to keep going. He reached Aurelius, and gazed down to him. "Do you have any final words before I end your life?" Telos asked coldly. Untold hatred burned in his eyes as he looked down upon the prince quietly, and he raised his staff up in preparation for the dark deed.

Aurelius tilted his head up, a large grin already spread across his face as he drew the sage into his vision. "Yes. One." His horn flashed. "Checkmate."

Telos's eyes had only begun to widen when a black rod tore through his body, the force so great it broke through every bone in its path and sent him tumbling over. He screamed as he hit the ground, his staff clattering out of sight. No! Not now! Not when... I'm so... close...! Tears welled in his eyes as he realized the rod had hit vital organs, and he gasped for air as his hope ran dry.

Aurelius chuckled, coughing periodically, and rose up. He stepped towards the fallen sage, a wobbly, swaying gait that grew more rigid with each step he took. He cast Telos a proud expression and threw his had back to laugh. "Your accursed astral projection... I had to be sure you were the real one." The prince moved in a preying circle around Telos, examining his battered body up and down, his eyes falling his blood as it pooled and ran from him. "How does it feel, hm?" he said joyfully. "Knowing you were so close to getting the revenge you have waited eternities for, only to die by my hoof?"

"You'll... never... seize... control..." The sage held a glare, but his body was beginning to submit to death.

"Are those truly your words, or merely those of the great puppet as its strings are finally cut? You died long before I killed that witch." When Telos only stared back with confusion Aurelius grimaced and knelt down, placing a hoof on the sage's head. "I have a message for her." He leaned close and put his mouth up to one of Telos's ears. "I've already won," he finished and pulled away, a grin stretching from ear to ear as he closed the sage's eyes.

***

Twilight teleported to the southern edge of Canterlot where hordes of bone dragons had already flooded into the area, with more coming from the cliff's edge. Trixie and the active celestial knights spread apart and prepared for the counterassault. Twilight teleported Dash away, the unconscious pegasus unable to aid them.

"Telos and the princesses are counting on us. We can't fail," she declared, teleporting to the front of the others.

Derpy crossed her swords, her white aura appearing, though far fainter than before. Moonlight glowed green to Glance Reviver's white and she took a deep breath before flipping the dark sword upside down in her off hoof. "I'll do my best, but I'm still exhausted from the duels. I don't know how much strength I have left."

"Whoever takes down the least of these things is buying the first round," Colgate said. "I wonder if you two can keep up with Gram." She drew her sword, an average length broadsword, its wide and flat blade already glowing blue.

Berry chuckled as she drew her greatsword from the clips on her back, her eyes navigating to the bruise on the unicorn knight's side. "I won't be the one buying."

Trixie stepped up beside them and swished her mane back, magic gathering in her horn. "I won't even need a weapon to beat you three," she chimed in, smirking.

"Civilians have already been evacuated," Twilight said, turning her head. "If we destroy this area of Canterlot while we fight, then so be it." She faced forward and readied her magic, but sudden spikes of pain in her head and chest stopped her. A hoof was thrown over her heart while she sank down, groaning, her eyes shut tight. "What's... happening... to me," she ground out.

"Twilight!" Trixie called, dashing to her side. "Are you alright?"

The alicorn huffed and rose back up casually, and when she opened her eyes they were no longer hers. "She will be fine," Nightmare replied, her sharp eyes casting evenly to the magician. She took in a deep breath through her nose before her horn ignited. Magic flowed over her and her mane distorted before blurring into a starry mist.

"N-Nightmare Moon?" stammered Trixie. She slowly moved back as she took in the abrupt appearance of the Id.

"You were sustained by power not your own. This is my magic and I shall do with it what I please. You will rest and wait," Nightmare said.

"Are you—"

"Silence!" the Id boomed, drawing the attention of all in the vicinity. The dragons swarmed together and began their assault; the party of soldiers split apart met them with weapons and magic readied. More and more dragons flowed up from down the mountainside and visibility between the fighters was dropping rapidly.

Berry was the first to strike, swinging Lævateinn into the nearest dragon. The air shifted harshly as she made a rising slash into a leg, the force rippling upwards and shearing it in half. Several more took its place, surrounding her as the bones of the first settled on the street. Twisting, the edge of the massive sword was dragged, grinding a mar into the stone before being snapped around her. A nova of force blasted them against nearby buildings, breaking their bodies and leaving fragments of their skeletons impaled into the walls upon impact.

"Hey, watch it! We're fighting too, you know!" chastised Colgate as she stabbed her sword into the ground to prevent herself from sliding away.

"C'mon, Colgate. I'm third in command. You've got nothing to worry about," countered the earth knight.

The unicorn knight galloped forward as a wave moved in and she stopped and pushed a hoof towards them, her horn flashing, and all of them slowed down in the midst of their attacks. She maneuvered through them, twirling and jumping as she slashed in key spots. As she reached the other side, her horn flashed again and they fell to pieces, the clunking of the cascading bones a cacophony in her wake.

"Just use Gram or you'll tire yourself out too fast," Derpy called from above, quickly barreling around and zooming between the airborne dragons.

"Why don't you worry about yourself," Colgate rebuked. As another wave advanced, much greater than the previous, she held her sword up. Icy mist formed around the blue blade, swirling up to the tip. She pointed the end of the blade towards the wave and muttered, "Absolute Zero", her breath misting.

Frost exploded out from her location, flash freezing the air and ground. It quickly swelled into a large zone that consumed all dragons within. Those that were in the air fell to the ground, shattering like glass statues while those on the ground were frozen in place. She smiled before accelerating forward. "White Tide!"

As she charged, the mist around her sword trailed behind it and the first dragon she struck crackled and started to crumble, but the mist flowed through and broke it down, gathering the pieces as it turned into a roiling force with the unicorn's strikes. She alternated between left and right, the mass of frozen bones and mist bounding over her back and forth with the motions of her attacks, crushing each foe and growing more powerful with each of the remains it devoured. She reached the edge of the zone of frost and to the next wave swinging Gram towards them. The torrential mist had become enormous, crashed through the frontline and reducing it to pieces before flowing into the final wave and freezing it, breaking pieces of them. She turned and raced back through the zone of ice and bone to regroup with the others.

The dragons above failed to take down the paladin, individuals being cut down without trouble. Metal and light rent them to pieces, forcing those directly below to be wary of the skies. Derpy huffed and puffed, trying her best to balance her knightly powers and her physical stamina, but the tolls of the previous battles weighed heavily on her movements. She ripped through several more dragons with waves of light, but the others stopped attacking afterwards. The aerial forces condensed and circled around her in layers, effectively trapping her in place.

The paladin hovered, the calm flap of her wings contrasting heavily to the fevered beats of the dragons. Abruptly, all of the dragons swarmed around her, passing and attempting to strike. She allowed them to come and flowed with their movements, rather than try to meet them. As they moved past, she dodged and struck them, allowing herself to be pulled by the air in their wake and remain fluid. The effort saved her energy as she was able to cut down the forces one by one. When the thick of them had been cleared they retreated for a moment.

Her forelegs hung tiredly at her sides, and she felt dizzy as she breathed quickly. Losing focus, she allowed herself to descend to the ground where she stood shakily. A pang of fatigue hit her and she crouched down, stabbing both swords into the ground for support. "I can't keep going like this," she managed aloud between pants.

Colgate sliced through several more dragons on her return trip before signs of a looming exhaustion became apparent on her features as well. "They might not be strong, but they've got the numbers and we don't. Even if the entire royal army was fighting with us, this wouldn't be an easy battle."

Despite their worries, Berry continued smashing and blasting her way through the dragons that advanced to their frontline. Every quake was a spray of bone and splinters, with signs of fatigue showing the least on her. As the wave dulled, she turned to chime in, but a huge explosion from the central section of Canterlot stole the moment.

Trixie formed a barrier over everyone as a haze swept the sky overhead, pieces of burning debris cascading over their battlefield, and gave them a moment to gather their strength. Nightmare looked over the knights and the magician before glancing towards the distant battle.

"I must go assist Telos. As soon as Aurelius has been defeated, I will return and clean up here."

"We're going to need your help here!" protested Trixie. The others added in their agreement, but Nightmare shook her head.

She responded by aiming a hoof towards the edge where the dragons were pouring in. "I cannot stay, but I can at least help ease the burden." A long, rising growl escaped her throat as she summoned tremendous magic. The ground shook and her horn shined furiously with a dark light, her mane shifting violently in itself.

Black energy lashed out from the point of origin, striking the two closest dragons. The area continued to quake until a dark vortex erupted from reality, immediately crushing those it appeared on top of. "Black Hole!" Nightmare bellowed, and the vortex expanded, its gravitational pull drawing in debris, bones, ice, and dragons. As pieces and dragons floated close, they were crushed in the distortion, then consumed by the vortex into nothingness.

Trixie and the knights gaped at the spell, awed as it consumed dragon after dragon. "What is this power..." she muttered as she watched them crushed into the spell.

The Id released a snort of contentment—and drain—before turning back around. "Do not wander too closely or too far and it will help you. It won't last very long, but it should be all I need to make it back in time." Rather than teleport, she beat her wings and flew towards the central city, Trixie lowering her barrier to allow her.

Dragons that surfaced over the ledge suddenly lost control of themselves and were slowly dragged in. Thick bones were folded and snapped, then crushed into dust before being compressed further and vanishing within the vortex. Every violent snap triggered a shudder in Trixie and she couldn't help but feel partially frightened by it. Is this what Twilight had to overcome in their duel?

"Focus, archmage!" barked Colgate, bringing the magician back to reality.

Trixie concentrated on the dragons that had escaped the vortex's proximity. With hooves raised and horn glowing, arcane lightning surged from her and arced between the first three, searing through them in bright flash. She switched her spell on the next wave summoning a meteor to crash into them before they could advance to the knights. The tax of her great magic was felt with each spell and her breaths quickly became labored as she fought on. She huffed and watched the knights fighting multiple foes simultaneously just before her, their cries resounding with the clack of their swords to bones.

"There's just no end to them," shouted Berry over the breaking of her latest victim. She spun around, letting her sword drag again as she gathered force. Making a second rotation, she cried out as she cleaved it into the air with a whirr. A wave of force shot forth, but the power it contained had withered; the dragons were blasted back and concussed with only the one struck by her blade being wholly destroyed.

One dragon breached the frontline and reached Colgate. The unicorn knight aimed a hoof at it, but there was no flash from her horn this time. She raised her shield to block an overhead slam, crouching down to strengthen her position. Two curving waves of light flowed through the arm, slicing it clean off before wrapping around and beheading it. Derpy landed in front of Colgate as she rose up.

"Are you okay?" the paladin asked as she wiped blood from a head wound out of her eyes and off her snout.

Colgate hesitated a moment before answering. "I am, but you're not. We're running out of stamina." She scrubbed sweat from her brow and glanced around to the piles of bones, frowning. With Derpy covering the aerial forces, Colgate covering the left and Berry on the right, that left Trixie in the back line to keep the knights from getting overwhelmed by the reinforcements. Only Derpy had been struck with an open wound, but the fatigue reflected in each fighter, and Colgate clenched her teeth as she gazed back to the bruise on her side. The bluing of it meshed with her coat, but even the dull pain contributed to her creeping weakness.

"Nightmare Moon needs to hurry the heck up," shouted Trixie, loosing another meteor on advancing forces. It crashed through a couple dragons in the sky before smashing several more at the impact on the ground. "I'm running low on magic!"

Berry chopped down a dragon and let the weight of her sword lay on the ground, her chest rising and falling rapidly to her heaving breaths. "I wish I hadn't left behind my cestuses. They're a bit lighter than this," she said while watching the frontline.

Colgate slowed her breathing and peered around, gleaning the bleakness from everyone's faces, then to the vortex. Nightmare's spell swallowed one last dragon before it closed in on itself, dispensing dust beneath it. "This is the end of the line for me," she announced suddenly. The others turned to her with worry and wonder in their eyes, but she focused herself forward as more dragons landed and marched forward. "I'm going to sacrifice my energy to buy you three some more time."

"That's not your command to give," Derpy interjected quickly. "I am the—"

"—Paladin, I know," the unicorn knight said bitterly. "You don't need to remind me, but my power is stronger than her magic,"—she pointed to Trixie—"and I don't see any other option."

"Whoa, Colgate. We're not quite there, yet," chimed in Berry. "We can keep going, right?" she said, looking at everyone, but they glanced back with tired, disagreeing expressions. "Let me do it, then. I'll break the cliff and the boulders will smash any that are coming up the mountain."

"You and I both know that's too risky. Have the archmage put up a strong barrier when I start." The unicorn knight put her shield on her back and raised Gram, its glow having dimmed over the course of the battle. She turned to Derpy and stepped to her, pulling her close with a hoof and staring into her eyes with a heavy gaze. "In case we die, I want you to know something. I've always resented you for taking the title of Paladin over me without seniority."

Derpy's eyes widened. "But Colgate..."

It was too late. The unicorn knight charged towards the oncoming waves, Gram's glow rekindling brighter than before. She slowed to a stop as they drew near and her breath began to mist. She flipped her sweaty mane out of her face. As it draped against the rest of her armor, the blue within froze, crackling as it moved up her body. Ice formed a shadow underneath her and she cast a glance behind her to ensure Trixie had raised a barrier, each of the fighters watching her with tense wonder. A dragon stomped its way to her, raising a claw to strike. She stabbed Gram into the ground and her horn ignited into a blue fire as the claw swung down. She pursed her lips as her breath misted one last time, her body turning to ice from the ground up.

"Shatter!"

A nova of blue exploded from the unicorn knight, ripping through everything in the vicinity. Dragons turned to ice instantly, their forms crackling, as the magic expanded and swallowed nearby buildings. The frozen structures and forces in the sky held still like a picture for a moment, then everything fell, shattering. Popping from the ground battled with the cacophony of shards cascading down. Colgate's body thawed and she collapsed beside Gram, the sword and ground shimmering their own blue light against the hazy night.

Trixie ended the barrier as everyone gazed in awe at what the unicorn knight's power had done. Berry dashed forward and retrieved Colgate's body, shivering as she touched it, and carried her to the back line, propping her up against a slab of concrete. She scowled at her unconscious form, then to the battlefield. The shrill roars of more dragons climbed the cliff.

"I'm surprised she isn't an archmage instead of a celestial knight," said Trixie, wiping her face of sweat.

"Both of her parents were archmagi," Berry said, turning to her. "But she never talks about them."

"I didn't know that," Derpy muttered. "Why does she want to be the paladin so badly?"

Berry shrugged. "Who knows. She's wanted it since the last paladin was promoted over her, despite seniority over them as well."

"Who was the last paladin?" Derpy asked. Dragons made their over the cliff wall, touching down and gathering on the frozen streets. She tightened her grip on her swords as Berry hoisted hers onto her shoulder.

"Anypony that was around when they were active won't say and the records were sealed. That's all I know." Dragons began to charge through the frozen land, and Berry sighed as she poised herself to fight again.

"Wait a second," Derpy said. "They've slowed down."

"There's a spell active in the area," Trixie said, her eyes darting around as she tried to sense its source. She traced it back to Colgate's sword. "She's slowed their movement over the ice field. I don't know how long it will last, but we better use it to our advantage." Pushing both hooves outward, she bared her teeth while channeling magic. It might not be anywhere as strong as hers but this'll do the trick. An alchemy circle formed in front of her and a beam shot forth. "Ether Laser!"

The beam of energy annihilated every dragon in its path, disintegrating their bones in several seconds. She took a deep breath, grunting as she moved the beam across, sweeping up as many as she could before the drain on her magic became painful. With an exasperated cry, the spell broke and she collapsed to her haunches, wheezing heavily.

"That should buy you two more time to rest. We should alternate the waves to maximize on recovery. It's all we can do to hold out until Nightmare Moon gets back." She coughed and wheezed, wiping her face again as she peered haggardly to the frontline. Nightmare's vortex had vanished now, but they still had Colgate's last resort to aid them.

The knights nodded their thanks and agreement. "I'll try to take out as many as I can in the air. You take the next wave after that," Derpy said. She lifted off into and sheathed Moonlight. She held Glance Reviver in both hooves, the white shine of the blade glowing brighter with each second. Dragons poured into the air to meet her and she raised her sword, waiting until the last moment when one came close. As the first dragon reached her, she swung down, a wave of light ripping forth and slicing through any dragons in its path. She took in a gasped breath and pressed her free hoof to the flat of the blade.

"Aura," she breathed. The word incited Derpy's white aura to return, slowly growing into a shell of energy, then an expanding cloak. Beating her wings, she moved forward as more waves advanced, her aura growing until it reached towards the ground "Grand..." she heaved, as the first dragon came within striking range. "CROSS!"

Trixie and Berry shielded their eyes as the light became too intense to glimpse, Derpy's avatar of light swallowing her form. The mass of light surged forward, lashes of energy slicing through dragons at its edges, while those too close were burned to ashes as it absorbed them. The aura consumed all enemies in the air, and those on the ground were critically wounded. Only ash and charred bones rained down in Derpy's wake, and the aura faded as she hovered over the mountain's edge. Glancing down, her eyes widened as she allowed her sword to lower. "There's just no end to them." Even after her attack, more and more dragons were flying up the side of the mountain. In a white blur, Derpy appeared beside her comrades and collapsed to all fours on the ground, gasping for air as mixed sweat and blood dripped to the ground.

"Whoa, pal," Berry said, helping her back to standing. "What is it?"

How did she do that? Trixie wondered.

"Thanks, Berry," she said, but she couldn't remove the grim expression on her face. "There's more coming up the mountain. We don't have long before they get here." The others groaned.

"You've gotta be kiddin' me," the earth knight said, slapping a hoof to her face. "I've got one, max two, waves in me before my powers are out."

"That was the last of mine," the paladin said, drawing Moonlight again. "We're not going to be able to hold out."

"We have to until Twilight can come back," said Trixie, attempting to reassure them. "No matter what, I'm going to keep fighting until she returns."

Derpy shook her head. "We're running out of time, Trixie. I want to stay optimistic, but we're going to need to retreat at this rate." She glanced to Colgate. "If we can."

Berry agreed and turned to face the frontline, the shrill roars of the dragons signaling they were nearing the top. "I can fight a bit longer, but after that... we're really out of time."

***

Nightmare soared over the buildings, but her eyes went wide as she glimpsed the battle ahead. Dust and ash had swept through the streets, the epicenter of the duel marked by a canyon of rubble. She could barely make out the figures, but Aurelius's red and orange form made it clear which pony was which. She held her wings to glide into a descent, but a boom of magic sent gales rippling back and disrupting her advance. She grunted and redoubled her efforts to battle through the bursts of wind.

She kept her eyes on the battle as she continued to fly, watching as Telos formed a sphere of white energy, Aurelius creating a sphere of black flames to match. Even at the distance she could feel the amount of magic contained within each spell and it filled her with dread. It's too dangerous to teleport with the intensity of magic they're using, Nightmare mused.

Spells of that caliber could kill even us unprotected, agreed Twilight. As she drew closer, they fired their spells at each other. Look out!

Nightmare only had time to glimpse the flash as the spells collided before she teleported directly to the ground below. Crouching down, she braced herself and formed a small dark barrier over herself, layering it several times with magic. The ground violently revolted with the magical explosion just ahead, and she watched in awe as structures were crushed like sand castles and pushed beside her, the cacophony of destruction muffled by her barrier. Nightmare could feel Twilight's horror as parts of her home city disappeared in an instant. I'm sorry, Twilight, the Id said as she stared at the flow of debris.

It's not your fault, the lavender alicorn reminded.

As the avalanche of rubble halted, Nightmare stamped her hooves. Her barrier exploded upwards, clearing a path out, and she flew through as dust and chunks of concrete clattered against her body and armor. The battlefield was obscured by clouds of dust, ash, and smoke from the explosion, but the winds soon cleared enough to see again. Telos stood by Aurelius, his staff in his hooves, the prince laying defeated on the ground.

"It seems Telos is victorious," Nightmare said as she descended into the vicinity, but her heart tensed. "Something isn't right..." There was a sense of magic coming from some of the rubble, and as she scanned the area and found its source, she threw a hoof out. "Telos!"

Hurry, urged Twilight.

She was too far for the sage to hear and a black rod propelled from the rubble, impaling him. Nightmare gasped and teleported the last of the distance, arriving close enough to see the sage's end. The prince took a breath and wiped blood from his face.

"Far too close," Aurelius said, and he turned, his expression lighting with surprise and fear as he caught Nightmare.

The Id carried a fury about her as she huffed, baring her teeth and lowering her head. Her mane stilled with a deadly calm as her legs trembled, her anger rising. "You... You..." she managed, unable to articulate all of her feelings at once as she looked upon the wounded prince.

"I had hoped my undead army would kill you, Nightmare Moon, but I suppose I made you stronger than that. It looks like I won't be killing Princess Celestia tonight." A flame formed around him as Nightmare stepped slowly closer. "But you cannot stop—" A dark spike split the ground and pierced his chest. He yelped and coughed up blood, staggering backwards and placing a mangled hoof over the fresh wound, and his eyes fell on the Id, splotches of black appearing in her mane, her horn shining with a dark lights.

Calling to his trump card, Aurelius ripped the black rod from the sage's body, a spurt of blood as it pulled free, and sent at rocketing at Nightmare. The Id focused on it, attempting to catch it with her telekinesis. Her eyes went wide and she roared as it impaled into her flank. Why... didn't my magic...!?

The rod having missed vital organs, Nightmare took a step forward, sweat running down her face as she moved through the pain. "You're... going... to..." Her mane latched onto the rod and violently ripped it from her body with only a wince on her part. "PAY FOR THAT!" A dark hand erupted from the ground, snatching the prince and locking him in place.

Aurelius squirmed and thrashed, but it only made the hand constrict around him, compressing his body until joints popped. "You're more... resilient than I thought," he croaked. "But... you've forgotten, Nightmare Moon." In a light, the hand was broken free of and dispelled, and the prince expanded into his draconic form. His bloody, patchwork body carried all of the previous wounds, but he gave a deep chuckle in spite of them. "I didn't come this far to die here, to you of all things." He breathed out a flame that swept the ground in front of him.

Nightmare leapt backwards, allowing her wings to carry her further, but the landing was too much and she crumbled backwards into the ground, blood gushing from her wound. There was a wince to her features as she gnashed her teeth and stood again, her mane roiling now. This pain is nothing!

"You won't let such a small wound bring you down, will you? Why don't you let the lavender one out?" he mocked. He took a step forward and plucked Telos's body from the ground, dangling the body in front of his face.

Is he...? Twilight started, panic in her voice.

"Y-You wouldn't dare," Nightmare shouted.

"Oh, but I would." He tossed the sage's body into the air and caught it in his mouth, his hind legs protruding between his large teeth. He grinned before chomping down, chewing slowly as blood leaked from his mouth.

Nightmare's stomach turned sour and she grimaced away as she could hear the crunch of Telos's bones. She could only focus on her anger for the prince, her blistering hatred. Those feelings overpowered her nausea and she turned back to Aurelius and watched him swallow. "I have always despised you. And tonight is the last night you will draw breath," she snarled. She loosed a battle cry and began summoning great magic, her mane fluctuating wildly as her horn shined. "I'll show you a true nightmare. The nightmares only a soulless monster like me could have!" the Id bellowed. Magic spilled beneath her, pooling on the ground into a black, shifting void that grew around her, drawing in what light there was around. Twilight's runes shone against her black fur as her mane glowed. A monstrous avatar climbed out of the ground upon the Id, its ghastly, feral shape mirroring her features, and it cloaked her in darkness.

"Infin—"

Suddenly, Nightmare groaned. Her magic ceased and her avatar dispersed, the void on the ground vanishing with it.

Wh-what's happening to me!? she asked.

I don't know!

A white light engulfed Nightmare and lifted her into the air, whirling around. She could no longer move her own body, instead, Twilight finding herself in control. She tried to beat her wings to move, but the light held her firmly in place. "This... This is just like Draconis!" she screeched in terror.

FORGIVE ME, TWILIGHT SPARKLE

A voice echoed throughout both Mares' minds while the light anchored tendrils on opposite sides, two more piercing into their chest, slowly tugging in opposite directions. Twilight went numb as she found herself being torn from her own body, Nightmare appearing in her place again. They shot each other looks of fear and surprise as they glimpsed each other as separate entities for the first time since becoming more than enemies.

"Twilight! What's going on!?" the Id cried.

"I... don't know!"

Aurelius took a frightened step back, raising an arm to the light. "A-Astra? Here? It can't be!" He turned and attempted to flee, his ravaged wings flapping as hard as his body would allow, but he had been rooted to the area in much the same way. He screeched and tried to claw himself away, but his efforts were in vain. "Your meddling only delays the inevitable, sister. Release me at once!"

A white portal appeared between Twilight and Aurelius, drawing each in while Nightmare was thrown back. Their alicorns's mental link had been severed, and she scrambled to stand up and chase after her. She desperately tried to pull her back with magic, but it would not reach her. She charged forward, but a force pushed her back, humming in her ears, louder the harder she fought it. Twilight continued to float towards the white portal, pleading for Nightmare to rescue her. Aurelius's draconic form was canceled as he drew close to it, and he shouted curses to his sister as he was pulled inside.

Nightmare fired magic into the portal, but it only phased through and struck ground on the other side. In a last, desperate attempt, she tried to blast herself to Twilight, but the force caught and repelled her. She rushed back to as far as the force would allow her, the humming ringing in her head, and watched helplessly as Twilight reached the portal.

"I will find you, I promise!" she screamed, tears streaming down her eyes. "I won't stop!"

Twilight cried out her final words, but the hum in her head wouldn't allow her to hear it. As the lavender alicorn disappeared into the white portal, it closed in on itself and the force repelling her faded. Nightmare stumbled forward before charging for the portal before it closed entirely, but it suddenly collapsed on itself. She raised a barrier, but the explosion was too great, shattering it and sending her flying back as its light grew and shook the area. When she recovered, Nightmare bolted through the haze of dust for where the portal faded.

"N-No. Where? Where is it?" she shouted, throwing her head in every direction, trying to find a magical origin for the portal. "Where is it? Where are you, Twilight? Where did you go!?" she screamed as she broke down into sobs. A powerful drain hit her and she collapsed to ground as she continued to sob, blubbering and moaning. "Twi... Twilight! Why? Why did... this happen?"

Forcing herself to stand against her body's protests, she looked around again while quieting her sobs, giving one last effort to trace the portal or its victims. She could not even find a trace of the prince. There was nothing. It was only now that she noticed the grievous wound in her flank was gone, but it only reminded her that Twilight was gone, too. Continuing to sob, she fell to her haunches, tilting her head back as tears ran down her face.

"TWILIGHT!"

She sniffled and collapsed to the ground as the drain loomed over her consciousness. "You promised me... you promised me you would never leave..."

Author's Note:

9/15/2014 - Published, pre-Peppy proofing.

I think I did alright for the emotional impact. This is a very important chapter to me, and I put forth a lot of effort in that regard. Let me know in the comments how I did!

2/23/2015 - Peppy's edits are in now.

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