• 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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Unicorn Magi

Upheaval: Reckoning

Chapter 5: Unicorn Magi

“What has happened to Master Oceanus?”

Bereft of any vision, Twilight focused on what she was hearing. The oily, menacing voice as Nightmare Moon’s. She tried to open her eyes, only to realize that they were already open. Her attempts to move revealed that none of her limbs were responding.

“He has already gone dormant as have most of our comrades.”

A second voice replied to Nightmare Moon’s question, this one of a slightly higher pitch. There was that name again. Oceanus, the prince who had been born before Princess Celestia. But, why was she hearing these voices now? Where was she? She listened intently when Nightmare Moon spoke again.

“I will leave my body here in dormancy while I venture out to strike against any agents the Eternal Herd sends. Thus, I shall pave the way for his majesty's rise without risk of being permanently destroyed. You must stay awake here, and turn these mortal ponies into a proper welcome for him.”

“How can you affect anything in this world without your mortal body? Have you forgotten how it works already?”

“I will work through hosts. There will be others out there who will become compatible with me.”

“As you say. When his majesty awakens, I expect the rest of this world to be ready to fall.”

“And, when I reunite with my mortal body, I expect a proper army out of these spawn.”

“For the rightful king, Lunalux Umbra!”

“For the rightful king, Solis Coruscaria.”

Twilight wanted to listen some more. However, just as things were slowly beginning to make sense, something struck her mind like an indignant slap to the face. The words faded. All of a sudden, she started to feel again: she was cold, freezing even. Her whole body shivered uncontrollably. Smell and hearing followed suit: snow crunching against hooves…or were they paws? Guttural, unfamiliar language, and the foul odor of wolven. Sight, and a sense of direction, were the last to come back. When her vision cleared, she realized that she had fallen on her side, and was half-buried in the snow.

The wolven presence brought back her alertness quickly. She tried to get to her hooves, succeeding only on getting to a kneeling position. She looked around for enemies, and cringed inwardly. She was somewhere in the middle of a vast field of snow with a pack of wolven closing in on all sides. She felt around her head. The Element of Magic was not on it.

Fireball. That was the first spell that came to Twilight’s mind. The wolven were particularly not fond of fire. She was a little woozy and drained. A fireball would be simple enough to cause some damage, and buy her time. She stood up, her horn crackling with magic.

Before Twilight could complete the spell, however, her vision blurred, and her balance failed. Panicked, she staggered a few steps forward. The wolven were quick to jump at this show of weakness. She was still desperately trying to complete the spell when the first wolven’s claws were inches from her face. At the last moment, however, fire did blaze up, and consume her attacker. At first, it seemed that she had completed her spell, and was lucky that she didn't blow herself up by using a fireball on a wolven so close. Another second passed, and she realized that she was still “holding” her fireball. The wolven searched for the source of the new threat, allowing her to lob her fireball towards a trio of them that had mistakenly decided to clump together.

The white-hot sphere connected with one the three, and erupted into a searing blast. There were no screams this time. The knowledge that she had killed them was still there, but the pitched cries that tore at her insides were not. Instinctively, she covered her nose with a hoof. The awful smell that wafted from those that burned to death still unnerved her.

“What’s the matter, Twilight Sparkle? The smell of battle too strong for your delicate little nose?”

The familiar mocking tone caught Twilight by surprise. There was no mistaking the stinging remark, and the angry voice that carried it. She joined the wolven in looking for the pony who had cast the earlier fire spell, and spotted Pyre Valor standing across her, horn already ablaze with another fire spell. A glimpse of Pyre’s eyes showed nothing but angry contempt as usual. “Pyre Valor…” she whispered. Now, she was unsure which to focus her next offensive spell on: the pack of bloodthirsty wolven or the traitorous unicorn mage. She assessed the situation briefly. The wolven surrounding them were of the smallest sort, likely a foraging party for the fleeing main army. She didn't even see any bolters.

A pair of wolven jumped at Pyre, but she lit one ablaze halfway through its jump without even taking her eyes off Twilight. With a yelp, it collapsed to the ground, writhing in agony. She sidestepped the other one, already focusing on another spell. The wolven snarled, and recovered, rearing up on its hind legs to scratch at her. Pyre completed the spell, conjuring a curved blade of concentrated flame from her horn. She ducked under the wolven’s claws, then slashed up, cleaving it in two. The wolven’s halves crashed next to her. There wasn't even a spatter of blood from its completely cauterized wounds.

Finding themselves caught between two spell-wielding ponies, the remaining wolven focused on one target. Twilight tensed once it was clear that the wolven picked her. She didn't know if she should be flattered that the wolven considered her a bigger threat, or angry that they thought she was the easier target. Her heart was racing either way. The wolven were too close, and she didn't have a line of earth pony infantry to engage them, or even a few friends to rely on. She reared up, and pointed her forelegs towards one wolven that was edging in too close for comfort. Twin jets of flame burst from her front hooves. The blast caught the wolven at its edges, lighting its fur on fire, and sending it rolling on the ground in a panic.

“Shield up!” Pyre shouted.

The ease by which Pyre’s voice could cut through anything occupying her mind at the moment surprised Twilight. She dropped the next spell, and focused on raising the same shield she had used against Nightmare Moon. Only a second after she completed the spell, a quartet of meteors came flying at her. She looked away as fiery chunks of rock collided with her shield.

Twilight winced as bright light penetrated her eyelids. She cried out as loudly as she could, but the ear-shattering boom drowned out all sound. She almost fell to her knees, and she was afraid that her ears would start bleeding. Her dome-shaped shield dispersed the shockwave, and the flames all around it, but a prickling sensation ran across her body at being so close to so much destructive power.

The blast dispersed, and the clouds of dust, smoke, and ashes, began to slowly settle. Twilight doubted that any wolven had survived that spell. They had surrounded her, hoping to bring her down. That was a big mistake easily capitalized by a unicorn mage whose love of magic was synonymous to her love of fiery explosions. She kept her shield up, and waited. With the wolven gone, she expected a second barrage of meteors to come at her any moment.

No explosions followed. Not even a singular blast of flame or an angry curse. As she waited, Twilight fought down one particular feeling welling up inside her. It wasn't the disgust at the horrid smell, nor was it the fear of facing down a unicorn mage that had previously beaten her in a fight. No, it was a more insidious feeling that she refused to acknowledge. It was…admiration. She now knew a lot of fire spells thanks to all the time she spent studying. She also knew that she could match Pyre as far as raw power was concerned. But the sequence by which Pyre took out her attackers was something to watch and learn from. Pyre made it look easy; transitioning from attacking at long range to short range bursts to attacking with a melee spell without any sign of hesitation or panic. No amount of reading, or even sparring, could provide that sort of ease, only battle after battle of experience. The dust and ashes settled, revealing Pyre just a foot away from her shield.

“How long are you going to waste your strength on that shield?” Pyre asked. “The wolven are all dead, coward. We’d better move, or more will come looking for their foragers.”

The mere surprise of having Pyre talk to her instead of attacking was almost enough for Twilight to bring her shield down. She caught herself, and kept a guarded stance. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “Aren't you going to attack me?”

“No, and your inane questions are making that decision difficult.” Pyre looked around. Twilight guessed that it was to ascertain their position. She tried to do the same, and failed. She didn't know the landmarks of this land, but she had to be sure that they were heading for Fangbreaker Fortress, not slowly crossing Wolvengard's borders. With the sun already setting, it was easy to determine where south was at least. Whether it was going to be equally easy avoiding the rest of the fleeing wolven army had yet to be seen.

Twilight eyed Pyre warily, then slowly dispersed her shield. When Pyre began to walk on, she followed slowly behind. “Wait,” she said. “Are you…just you? What happened to Nightmare Moon?”

Pyre stopped for a moment. “She’s gone,” she replied. “I don’t know where she went, but your last attack banished her somewhere. She teleported at the last moment, and we were caught up in its wake somehow. Now, keep walking.”

Still perplexed, Twilight obeyed for now. Perhaps, once they came to a safer location, Pyre would start explaining. It was a difficult walk, however. Each time Pyre made or looked like she was about to make a sudden move, Twilight would go for a shield .

“Hey,” Pyre finally said.

Twilight nearly completed the shield spell. “What is it?” she asked.

“When you were out…did you experience some kind of vision? Something about Nightmare Moon talking with somepony?”

“Solis Coruscaria,” Twilight said. “I did. Did it happen to you to?”

Pyre was silent for a time. “I thought it was just some worthless dream. I think I’m beginning to understand a little.”

“What do you mean?" Twilight leaned forward. "What happened during that explosion?”

The annoyed look that Pyre shot her told Twilight that the prodding was not appreciated. But this was Pyre Valor. Twilight guessed that her being still alive was not appreciated from Pyre’s end. It wasn't just annoyance that she saw. It seemed that Pyre herself wasn't sure why she wasn't hurling angry fire spells.

“While we were linked, Nightmare Moon was able to peer into my memories, but the reverse wasn't true,” Pyre said. “When she was about to be banished from my body, she let her guard down.”

"I was able to see as well," Twilight said. "How was that possible?”

Pyre snorted. “Maybe it was because you’re such a nosy nag.”

Twilight swallowed an angry retort. She had a lot to find out, and she didn't know how long Pyre was going to stay amiable. “That’s not a feasible explanation,” she said.

“I’m surprised you noticed,” Pyre replied flatly. “I don’t know how you listened in. Maybe it had something to do with the clash of magic. You had Nightmare Moon’s collapsing defenses, that touchy-feely beam of rainbows and sunshine, and…whatever it was that Nightmare Moon called out at the last moment. Did you add anything to that mix?”

Twilight’s eyes narrowed. “I threw up a shield to protect the others,” she said. “I was also standing at the center of that blast from the Elements of Harmony.”

Pyre didn't say anything after that. Instead, she quickened her pace, forcing Twilight to do the same.

“The wind’s picking up,” Twilight said as a breeze blew her mane about. To make matters worse, it was also starting to get dark. If they didn't make it to Fangbreaker Fortress soon, they were going to be caught in a blizzard at night. Her mage-coat should protect her to a degree, though. This was a familiar sight; trudging across the plain behind an uncaring Pyre Valor. When she still received no response, she trotted over, and put a hoof on Pyre’s shoulder.

The next moment, Twilight found herself sprawling on the ground with her face aching. “Don’t touch me,” Pyre hissed. Twilight rolled to her hooves quickly, ready to defend herself. Instead, she found Pyre already walking on.

“Hold on!” Twilight called out. “What’s going on, Pyre Valor? What’s with this sudden truce? What are you going to do now?” When Pyre Valor kept walking, Twilight cast her spell. A thin bolt of lightning, barely enough to give any pony a mild jolting sensation, flew from her horn and past Pyre’s face. “Stop running away from me!” she shouted.

The bolt had come close enough for Pyre to feel a little heat on her cheek. She stopped in her tracks, fighting back her natural instincts; instincts which seemed to be "break Twilight Sparkle’s legs and leave her for the wolven". “I’m trying to keep you alive here, Twilight Sparkle,” she said, her voice even.

“This is coming from a mare who told me she was going to kill me for showing her that the chosen can be strong too,” Twilight retorted.

Pyre looked to the distance. “The situation has changed since then,” she said softly.

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “How?”

“Can’t you just take things in stride?” Pyre snapped. “Terrato’s blood-smeared hooves! Every time you open your putrid mouth, you make this decision twice as hard!”

Twilight let out a long, frustrated sigh. She would have continued to stand there, but the sun had all but completely set. Pyre was right. They had to keep moving. Besides, she was completely lost here. Pyre seemed to have a good bearing on where they were. Without Pyre as a guide, she would have probably wandered around until she froze to death, or got overtaken by wolven.

They spent hours, or perhaps it just felt like hours for Twilight, walking in darkness. She focused on the steady crunching of their hooves in the snow, and making sure that she was just a few feet behind Pyre. Though it was difficult to see in the dark, she followed the heat radiating from her guide. Bereft of a mage-coat, Pyre was using another fire spell to stay warm.

‘She’s steadily using up her magic. At this rate, I can--‘ Twilight nearly hit herself. That was a horrible thought! Was her drive to beat Pyre that bad? Sure, constant insults, and the several attempts on her life merited some hostility, but-- She shook her head. If she was going to fight Pyre, it was going to be a fair fight. Her mind went to other things. It galled her that she actually needed Pyre to get back to Fangbreaker just as it galled her that something had happened during that last clash of magic that she didn't understand . The silence didn't make them move any faster, it just left her to stew on her own. “So how has the situation changed?” she asked. This time, she kept her tone low. If she could get past Pyre’s hair-trigger temper, she might get a discussion going.

Even more silence met the question.

More time passed. Twilight had consigned herself to walking for hours in total silence, and darkness, when Pyre finally decided to speak. “How’s Vanguard?” she asked.

“He’s fine,” Twilight replied. It wasn't the topic she wanted, but they were talking now. “Those burn marks you left him are still there, but he’s doing well.”

Pyre sighed. “Good.”

Twilight strained to hear that last word. It was a rare moment of Pyre Valor expressing something besides anger, and she didn't want to miss it. She looked away in a hurry when Pyre looked back in time to catch her leaning in. “Do I get to ask you a question this time?” she asked. Again, there was silence. Twilight picked up her pace so that she was walking beside Pyre. “You’re not being fair,” she said.

“This world is full of injustice,” Pyre replied.

It was Twilight's turn to snort. “And you’re just adding to it. Why--“

“Are you so desperate to know why I haven’t tried to kill you?” Pyre snapped.

“Yes." Twilight paused. "I mean, not so desperate that I’d do anything but--“

Pyre let out a slow exhale. “I still want to kill you, if you have to know,” she said. “I’d be very happy to rip your guts out with my teeth right now.”

Twilight tensed again. This was now sounding like the Pyre she knew. “Why aren't you?” she asked.

“If I had spent my life doing the things I wanted to, instead of things I had to, I’d have some ridiculous sparkling things on my flank too.”

“That’s not how cutie marks work…” Twilight muttered.

“Shut your horse mouth, and listen," Pyre growled, "or we can end this talk right now.”

“Fine, I’ll keep quiet.”

“When I woke up, I planned on going north. I was going to throw myself at Wolvengard until I was dead. Unfortunately, I spotted you about to be eaten. I had to change my plans.”

“That doesn’t make any--” Twilight caught herself and fell silent again.

Pyre’s voice lowered as she went on. “I’m going to die soon, Twilight Sparkle. I had hoped that it was while fighting wolven, not dangling on a rope for the nag princess’ amusement.”

Twilight stomped a hoof. “She’s not a nag and your hanging won’t amuse her!”

Pyre didn't even seem to notice the outburst. “Before I go, I still want the Legion to be as strong as ever. Especially after the price I asked it to pay. You’re part of some weapon that can hurt even something like Nightmare Moon. The Legion should keep that weapon, even if I want you dead. Also…”

Pyre’s voice trailed off, much to Twilight’s curiosity. She wanted to prod Pyre Valor, but she knew that it would only succeed in shutting her up completely. Fortunately, Pyre did continue without the need for prompting.

“I want Vanguard to have a strong unicorn mage by his side. Somepony who won’t throw a fireball at him at some point. The choice was either you, or Nightcanter. You’re just a slightly better choice than that ravening ditch pig.”

“I’m flattered,” Twilight muttered. She didn't miss the part about Pyre about to die however. That had her thinking again. How would that possibly feel? Knowing that your death was imminent one way or another…how could Pyre Valor continue to act as she did with that kind of weight upon her?

“Quiet!” Pyre Valor hissed. She had stopped as well, prompting Twilight to do the same. With her vision almost useless in the darkness, Twilight concentrated on listening intently. “Wings,” Pyre whispered.

Both of them looked up. Outlined by the light of the moon were the silhouettes of several pegasi. They carried lanterns constructed so that the light focused into a cone-shaped beam. They flew low, and seemed to be searching for something.

“Just as I expected,” Pyre said. “You have become important enough.” She fired a spell straight into the air: a small, brilliant, sparkling sphere that could be seen from a long way away. The pegasi were quick to converge on them.

“Over here!” one of the pegasi said. They surrounded the two in an instant. The sight of Twilight seemed to relieve the pegasi, but they tensed up right away when they focused on Pyre. One pegasus took out a piece of paper, glanced at it, then nodded at his fellows. They pointed their crossbows at her, anger and fear mixing on their faces. “Pyre Valor,” the lead pegasus said, “you’re under arrest for--”

“I know what I did, mule-feathers!” Pyre Valor snapped. She held out her hooves. “Clap me in irons already!”

Taken aback by the ferocity of their “prisoner”, the pegasi approached her warily, then produced a length of rope to tie her up. Through it all, Pyre didn't so much as flinch. Twilight watched her, more unwelcome admiration welling up inside. Another pegasus hovered by her side to offer her a lift.

“Your friends are causing a stir in the fort,” the pegasus said. “We’re lucky to have found you quickly.”

“Yes,” Twilight said. She didn't take her eyes off Pyre: the unicorn mage whose actions she might not fully understand. Pyre’s fate seemed perfectly clear. It was a fate that she, and Vanguard, had consigned herself to. Yet…Twilight didn't like that notion. For all the anger Pyre Valor stirred in her, for all the nights she spent learning every possible means to win their next fight, she didn't want Pyre Valor to die. Not like this.

With a flutter of wings, the two unicorn magi were taken aloft, and straight to Fangbreaker Fortress.

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