• Published 26th Feb 2012
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Upheaval: Reckoning - Visiden Visidane

Sequel to Breaking Point. The barrier is no more and the Legion is on the move. What happens next?

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One More Fight

Upheaval: Reckoning

Chapter 4: One More Fight

It had been less than a month since the wolven captured Fangbreaker Fortress, and their great symbol of victory already represented something else: a giant grave marker for its new wolven defenders. With the army on the retreat, and enraged thunder-foots already surrounding them, Fangbreaker’s wolven occupants had dug down, and prepared to be slaughtered to the last warrior.

Most of the main army had already retreated to Wolvengard to prepare for an invasion. Not a single wolven believed that the Legion would be satisfied with simply taking back its fort. A large group stayed behind to delay the thunder-foot advance. It was no secret that to stay was a sure and violent death, which was why hundreds volunteered. So many wanted to that not every wolven was allowed. Otherwise, Fenrir would have lost his entire army holding the place.

The wolven didn't really understand their ultimate goal in conquering Equestria. They knew of their king’s desire for fair Luna, but very few of them really understood it. Settling the land was no great prospect. Indeed, the few wolven that managed to journey into the western and southern portions of Equestria found the place uncomfortably warm, and did not relish the idea of settling in such place. The final goal didn't matter, however. The fighting was what did. All of the warriors who had consigned themselves to the last stand had joined the army because it was simply the natural thing to do after growing up. The bloody death that accompanied that career at some point was accepted as a natural, even preferable, end to one’s life.

For Hasrok, that basic choice was not one without some pleasures. He picked his fangs of the last bits of sinew, and threw it to the nearby pile of gnawed wolven bones. As far as the physical meal was concerned, Hegiskra was an awful dinner: far too gristly, and bony. Hasrok enjoyed every bite regardless. The old crone was an arrogant witch, and it was almost worth seeing the siege of the thunder-foot city fail just to see her “visions” count for nothing. Not one wolven protested when he meted out her punishment.

“Enjoy your meal, pup, you think I was mistaken only because you can barely see past your snout!”

Hasrok snorted at his meal’s last words. He had never met a more delusional dog in his entire life. He was far too ashamed of her to call her a proper wolven. A true wolven would not rely on dreams and strange creatures. It was a shame indeed. He had known Hegiskra before old age had broken most of her fangs. A few years ago, he would have happily slaughtered thunder-foots by her side. Now, she was doing him a final favor by filling his belly, and granting him the strength to kill as many of the thunder-foots before falling in this wretched fortress.

There was one more complication. Moon-Shadow was still around. As was her thunder-foot slave. Like the rest of the wolven army, Moon-Shadow had been forced to retreat by the coming of both cursed Celestia, and the unrecognized thunder-foot leader that decimated their forces. Unlike the rest of the wolven army, she wasn't doing her part in slowing the thunder-foots down. All she had done so far was stand on top the fortress, and glower uselessly for the past few days.

‘Here I am just a battle away from getting into the Final Hunting Grounds, and it has to be marred by this unnatural thing,’ Hasrok thought. The walls continued to take a pounding while he waited. The thunder-foots didn't have a problem with destroying their precious fortress. The reinforced gate the wolven built over the ruined ones was also on the verge of falling apart. Even with the final surge of thunder-foots so close, Moon-Shadow was only there to watch them die.

“How long are you going to put up this infantile resistance?”

A few days ago, Pyre Valor would have answered Nightmare Moon’s angry taunt with a stinging remark of her own. Now, she just didn't have the strength. The humiliating retreat to Fangbreaker for Nightmare Moon had been a triumphant return for her. The Legion had pulled through, just as she knew it would. She wasn't interested in the why’s and the how’s. The Legion had done what needed to be done, just as she did. Now, she was on her final mission. As soon as Nightmare Moon had landed on the fort, she had summoned every ounce of her will to hold her body rigid, preventing her from aiding the wolven.

That was days ago. She had been locked in a battle of wills with Nightmare Moon for all that time, and was on her last legs. Already, Nightmare Moon was able to move her legs, and was slowly climbing down her perch. She was barely aware of their surroundings, having already given up the use of her senses to Nightmare Moon. She had focused on holding her limbs, and shutting down her magic, but control over those was also being slowly wrested away. Nightmare Moon’s mental strength was limitless, while she was only mortal.

The faint sound of howling among the wolven brought some ray of light to Pyre’s slowly darkening world. The Legion was taking back Fangbreaker, and their last push was almost here. Nightmare Moon lifted her legs with more ease. They were galloping from the rooftop now. Pyre abandoned trying to control her legs, and focused all her remaining strength on trying to keep Nightmare Moon’s magic down.

“They’re here.”

Nightmare Moon’s mental tone all but assured Pyre as to who “they” were. She had heard “Elements of Harmony” often enough, and it was always with a tinge of concern. Nightmare Moon feared the Elements of Harmony. The thought of it was amusing if nothing else. Pyre hadn't cared about the Elements of Harmony save for Twilight Sparkle being part of them. Recently, she had viewed them with a bit more concern. They were important tools, the only tools good enough to destroy her “passenger”. Through Nightmare Moon’s enhanced magical senses, she had felt the barrier go down. She had seen Celestia appear in the Barrier Lands. For all intents and purposes, her mission had been a success. Nightmare Moon’s presence was the final wrinkle in this whole affair, and her disposal will be Pyre’s final gift to the Legion.

Then, there was Blademane.

With her vision gone, and her hearing following, Pyre had no idea what had become of Blademane. He was in the fort somewhere, likely waiting for the right opportunity to die by her side. She had told him to leave even during the siege of Bastion City, begged him when he refused, berated him when begging did nothing, going so far as telling him that his devotion was useless, and she was never going to return his feelings. Nothing moved Blademane. She would have been touched, but all she felt was a wish that it was Vanguard instead.

A trickle of magic slipped past Pyre, and Nightmare Moon used it to float to the front gates. Cursing at her distraction, Pyre shoved aside all her other thoughts.

There was little time to get their bearings once Twilight and the rest of her friends arrived in front of Fangbreaker Fortress. The Legion was pounding the front gates with catapult shot and fireballs. The snow had let up momentarily, providing a small measure of respite. Vanguard led them to the front lines, then went over to speak with the siege commander.

“How’s the siege going?” Vanguard asked.

“We’re giving them a thorough beating," the siege commander replied. He was a heavy-set earth-pony. What few signs of his coat that showed past the cloak and barding were light blue. "Losses have been minimal and we’re expecting the final charge pretty soon,” the siege commander replied.

“What about Nightmare Moon?” Twilight asked.

The siege commander looked at Twilight, then glanced at Vanguard. When Vanguard nodded, he spoke with some reluctance. “If by “Nightmare Moon” you mean that black flaming thing that’s been perched on top of the fort throughout the siege, it hasn't moved an inch since we started attacking.”

The burning figure suddenly jumped from its perch, and floated downward.

“Well, will you look at that,” the siege commander muttered. “Almost like it was waiting for your group.”

“She was waiting,” Twilight replied. Vanguard gestured for her and the others to move forward.

“Twilight,” Vanguard said. He looked at the gates that the wolven had constructed after Pyre destroyed the previous ones. Their enemies had done well with the time and material that they had, but there was no way that their makeshift gates could hold out much longer. It was badly scorched, and splintered by the time he and his squad had arrived. “Finish the job."

Twilight stepped forward. There were still bolters on top of the gates, but the pegasi kept them pinned with crossbow fire. There were also several earth ponies in front of her carrying enormous shields should a bolter risk getting turned into a bloody pincushion to take a shot. Upon Vanguard’s order, she remembered the first time she came to the Barrier Lands with her friends, and the horrific sight of the ruined gates of Fangbreaker. Pyre Valor had destroyed those gates. This time, she was going to do something similar. She went through the spells she could use. A fireball won’t cut it in one shot. No, she was going to have to use something with a stronger impact. Chunks of earth rose in front of her, forming a large sphere of red-glowing rock. After a few more moments of concentration, the rock burst into flames.

The siege commander looked on in awe. The meteor hurtled towards the gates as if it was launched by one of their catapults. It struck hard, splintering the wood, and igniting it. In the next instant, it exploded into a massive blast of red-orange flames. The explosion flung smoldering splinters as far as the rear lines, and left a partially burning and open path towards the fortress.

There were no cheers at the sight of the gates collapsing. No battle cries followed by a rush of charging legionnaires. For the next few moments, there was only an awed silence, like a brief calm before a storm. Several ponies stared at Twilight dumbfounded until one pony decided to shout. That shout was soon followed by others until there was finally a wave of legionnaires pouring in for an attack.

The wolven, after an initial daze from such a powerful blast, quickly filled the resulting opening with their troops. Legionnaires crashed into them so violently that several wolven were flung back into their rear lines. The air filled with snarls and howls mixing with fierce neighs, the thuds of something hard and blunt striking flesh, and the awful whining of metal grinding against stone.

Twilight stepped forward to cast a spell, and help out the attackers, but Vanguard pulled her back. “Stay together,” he told her. “This squad was brought here to deal with Nightmare Moon. Don't let yourself be distracted by anything from that mission.” He turned towards the rest of his squad. “Vice-captain!” he called out.

From the back of the squad, Applejack trotted forward. In addition to her usual barding, she now had the chain she had received earlier wrapped around her neck. It was too short to be used for any kind of lassoing, but she insisted on keep it around just in case. When Pinkie had been briefly separated from them, Applejack was assigned to rear guard to make sure that the squad stayed together. “Need something, Captain?” she asked.

“Make sure the squad stays together. If the Elements need some kind of formation make sure you can get into it right away. Scarlet and I will see if we can lure her out to a more open place.” Vanguard pulled out his weapon, and clamped it between his teeth. He gestured at Scarlet, who was already taking to the air.

Applejack saluted. “Right away,” she replied.

Twilight watched the two in confusion. It was a simple exchange between a higher-ranked legionnaire and a lower-ranked one. That was all. At least, that was what her brain told her. Applejack had told them a few nights ago about her new position. Nopony seemed to have a problem with it. She was certain that she didn't. Yet, that increasingly annoying twinge in her chest was back. It made no sense. Was she envious of Applejack’s promotion? ‘No,’ she told herself. ‘Applejack has worked very hard in the Legion so far. She deserves it.’ A cold, resentful tone badgered her anyway. ‘I've been working hard too. And wasn't Pyre Valor the previous vice-captain in his squad? She was a unicorn mage--’

“Twilight, what are you doing?” Applejack’s sharp question shook Twilight out of her reverie. Applejack was already wearing her necklace. “Put your big fancy crown on, and let’s get everypony here!"

They turned towards the rest of their friends. None of them needed any prompting. The Elements of Harmony were out and ready. Twilight closed her eyes for a moment, trying to get a feel of how ready they were. The Elements of Harmony resonated silently with each other. There was still a lot of wavering between them: Rainbow in particular, but she sensed some in Applejack as well. To her dismay, she also felt a lot from herself.

Nevertheless, actually having the Elements of Harmony with them this time had a reassuring effect. The ones who weren't used to the front lines: Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, looked a bit more confident. They could still use some more harmony, but Twilight was sure that they were coming into this fight in better condition than the last time. Besides, they didn't have Fenrir howling at a distance to paralyze them.

It wasn't long until the daunting sight of Nightmare Moon’s blackened aura approached them. Vanguard was slowly backing up while Scarlet was hovering nearby firing bolts. Twilight focused Nightmare Moon, and immediately noticed that something was wrong. This wasn't like their previous battle, and it wasn't just because of the different location, or their possession of the actual Elements of Harmony.

When Nightmare Moon moved past the wolven defenders, it wasn't through the blazing, explosive leap she had done the last time. Instead, it was a slow, laborious walk that made Twilight hesitate, not out of intimidation, but out of sheer confusion. Was this some kind of trap? Was Nightmare Moon baiting them into attacking? Sensing weakness, the other legionnaires were about to charge in, but Vanguard warned them to stay back.

“Twilight!” Applejack looked towards the center of their formation. Twilight answered the look with a determined nod. This wasn't the same Nightmare Moon who had so proudly attacked them, but that didn't mean they were going to be complacent.

The effect was telling. Faced with a weakened Nightmare Moon, their determination to finally defeat a dangerous foe resonated well. Everypony took a step forward. That lone step increased the flow of magic from one Element to the other. Twilight's crown hummed with energy; the same hum from when they drove Nightmare Moon out of Princess Luna, and when they returned Discord to stone. When they took another step forward, Nightmare Moon visibly flinched, and raise a hoof as if to step back.

“Why are you still doing this?” Nightmare Moon snarled. “Twilight Sparkle is standing right there! Don’t you want her dead?”

There was no response from the wretchedly obstinate Pyre Valor. The Elements of Harmony were steadily gathering their courage. Nightmare Moon took another step forward to show them that she was not out of the fight yet. She unleashed her magic, or tried to. Instead of unleashing, it felt more like desperately coaxing an animal out of its den. The blackened aura of her magic was no longer ablaze with Pyre Valor’s rage when it finally burst from her horn. This was even worse than trying to fight against the Elements with Luna’s constantly hesitant body. Her synergy with Pyre Valor had been superb because Pyre Valor never hesitated. When she wanted to do something, she dove right into it. When they both wanted the same thing, the resulting power was incredible. Now that Pyre Valor planned on hindering both of them, she did so with equal fervor.

Pyre Valor was already weak from the struggle, however. Nightmare Moon had control over all their physical form. It was their magic that the stubborn Pyre shackled, and that was failing as well. The blackness spread from their body like ink spilling, threatening to engulf anypony that tried to close in. It was no field of dark tentacles, but it gave even the Elements of Harmony some pause.

The pause didn't last long, Twilight had likely gauged the amount of magic she was putting forth, and realized how weakened she was. Twilight's horn blazed with magic while the crown on her head glowed brightly. A dispelling wave burst from Twilight, and smashed into the gathering darkness around Nightmare Moon. Her weakened array easily dispersed, like a guttering candle held up during a gale.

“Now!” Twilight cried out. More power swirled around the Elements of Harmony, centering on her crown. What started out as invisible wisps of power were now brightly colored streams of light. They swirled around until a prismatic tornado whipped into being. Nightmare Moon let out a cry of rage and frustration. It was happening again. For the second time, she was going to be beaten back by toy-wearing foals!

“Let go, damn you!” Nightmare Moon shouted at Pyre Valor. There was still no response. No words anyway. To her rage, Nightmare Moon felt a measure of amusement coming from Pyre Valor. The wretch was actually pleased by what was happening! She considered abandoning the body, itself a painful process, but it was unlikely that she would find another body even remotely compatible.

The prismatic cyclone enveloped Nightmare Moon, searing away any magic she tried to use. Desperate, she flailed her front hooves about to push away the inevitable banishing. “Not again!” she shouted. It couldn't end like this. Trapped in a falling fortress like a rat, then shoved aside by foals like a fly. She felt her grip on Pyre Valor slowly tear away. Desperation seared away any other concern, the only option remaining was…

“Oceanus, tuum ancillæ obsecrat!”

It was a final plea said more out of rage than any realistic belief that aid would come. The firstborn was still dormant, as was nearly all his followers. But, to complete her remaining tasks, she had to try. She wasn't going to face him with tasks still to be done. Especially with all the opportunities she had been provided with. Especially when Coruscaria would have a glorious offering ready.

Twilight had to admit that seeing the Elements of Harmony working in full concert was a little surprising, and immensely elating. She was worried that they wouldn't be able to get the Elements to work. The light surrounded Nightmare Moon just like it did the last time. All it would take now was that final flash and--

“Oceanus, tuum ancillæ obsecrat!”

The sudden outburst nearly caused Twilight to lose her focus. Oceanus. She had heard the name before. Hearing it from Nightmare Moon enclosed her heart in an icy grip. The bright glare of hope that the Elements gave forth wavered.

A small spark of blackness suddenly pierced the whirlwind of light. There was magic that accompanied that spark: a small yet chilling presence that sent the hairs on the back of Twilight's neck rising. Something was wrong. Something was going to go horribly wrong.

The light from the Elements flashed, but the brilliant white explosion was tainted by great arcs of blackness, and a drawn out and unearthly scream that set Twilight’s teeth on edge. One look towards her friends told her that none of them expected it. Around them, the Legion continued to fight against the remaining wolven defenders, but several had stopped to see what was going on.

That was when Twilight realized that something else was still coming after that blast: an immense explosion of harmful magic that could very well destroy all of them. “Everypony, stand back!” she cried out. She ran forward, and raised a magical barrier. It wasn't as good as Applejack’s golden shield, but it was more reliable for now.

Another explosion, this one as dark as midnight, erupted from the still fading light. Twilight gritted her teeth, and concentrated all her magic on the shield. The last thing she saw was a wave of darkness advancing towards her, then nothing at all.

The sudden explosion of darkness sent Applejack and the rest of her friends flying. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Vanguard try to reach Twilight only to be sent careening, his armor dragging loudly against the ground. She rolled on the ground for a good distance before finally coming to a stop. She squinted against the clouds of dust and snow raised by the blast. “What in the hay just happened?” she asked between coughs.

“Did we do it?” Rainbow asked as she dragged herself to her hooves. She was just a few feet away from Applejack. “Is Nightmare Moon gone?”

“I don’t know,” Applejack replied. “Things went a little too smoothly. Except for that second explosion. I can’t believe something could explode twice.”

“Is anypony hurt?” Fluttershy called out. Her hovering silhouette slowly approached them.

“I’m fine,” Rarity said from behind them. “Pinkie here hit her head on the ground, but she’s already recovering.”

"I'm over here!" Scarlet yelled. He flew through the dust and snow and landed next to Vanguard.

“Everypony regroup on me,” Vanguard called out from the cloud. They followed the sound of his voice, and soon found each other. “Did you do it?” he asked. “Has the threat been neutralized?”

“I dunno,” Applejack replied. “I think--” When a faint, metallic cracking sound came from around her neck. Worried, she looked down on her necklace. To her horror, a thin crack appeared near the apple-shaped jewel. The crack quickly spread into a spidery network of lines. “No!” she cried out. “How in the hay--”

The cracks continued to spread for another second, then the necklace shattered into fine, powdery pieces. With a gasp, Applejack tried to save the fragments as they fell, but a stiff breeze caught them, blowing them all across the snowy plain.

Cries of alarm came from Rainbow and the others. Applejack looked to them, and found Rainbow desperately crawling around, while Fluttershy held up an inch of crumbling gold chain, ready to burst into tears.

“How can this be?” Rarity asked. “The Elements are gone!”

Applejack looked around. The dust had settled. A lot of the legionnaires around them were also recovering. Where Nightmare Moon was standing was now an empty, still-smoking crater. “Wait a minute--”

Vanguard had looked around as well. “Where’s Twilight?” he asked.

With all of them now frantically searching, Vanguard walked over near the edges of the crater. As he did so, something crunched underneath his tramplers. He raised his hoof, and looked down.

On the ground was a crushed fragment of large crown.

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