• Published 7th Sep 2013
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Glory Be - BlackRoseRaven

Luna and Scrivener struggle to set right all the wrongs from their past and save their family and friends. Tenth and final story in the Blooming Moon Chronicles/99 Worlds Saga.

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Crippled And Cast Out

Chapter Twenty: Crippled and Cast Out

One moment they were in Valhalla: the next, Luna Brynhild and Scrivener Blooms were falling through the sky, feeling like their insides had been ripped out and unable to process anything that was happening to them as vertigo and nausea and agony thundered through their bruised minds.

All they knew was that they were falling: in what direction, neither of them were sure. A moment later, however, they received a rude answer to that question when they smashed into what felt like the tops of trees, the two ponies crying out in agony as they crashed back and forth down a rickety ladder of boughs and branches until they flopped out of the evergreens and slammed into the hard, root-netted earth below.

Scrivener gasped for breath on his back, and then he slowly closed his eyes as Luna shook her head weakly before she coughed hard twice, spitting out a bit of blood. Her bruised eyes opened, and she looked across at the charcoal stallion as he rasped in and out before muttering: “Well, at least things can't get a whole lot worse.”

Luna made a face at this... and like an omen, there was a crack from above before a large branch fell, rattling several others loose in a hail around the two ponies. Luna winced and did her best to lean away as Scrivener felt one bounce off one of his destroyed front claws, white-hot agony so intense he couldn't even shriek running through his body... and then, to top it all off, an speckled egg fell out of some ruined nest above and splattered over his cheek.

The stallion slowly blinked several times, then he sighed tiredly and looked moodily over at Luna, who gazed back at him for a few moments before she gave a faint smile and shook her head. “Thou great idiot. Come then. Up on thy... thy...”

Luna halted, then she slipped silently forwards, reaching out to gently take one of the stallion's ruined front claws. She studied it quietly, shifting it back and forth in her bloody and cracked front hooves before she murmured softly: “Oh Scrivy...”

“That's never a good sign.” Scrivener looked up at her with his own small smile from his back, and then he laughed a little as she reached forwards and gently stroked egg away from his face, the earth pony asking quietly: “Are you okay? How are your hooves?”

“I can feel some of thy pain in them, but 'tis not as excruciating as I suspect thou feels.” Luna answered quietly, and then she shook her head slowly before shivering once and slumping against the large tree they had fallen through, the mare silently looking back and forth. “I do not recognize this place. Nor do I feel either Asgard's energies or the familiarity of Looking Glass World...”

“Great.” Scrivener muttered, and then he looked up at her quietly, studying her silently. They both rested together, neither saying anything, both feeling that temporary surge of strength and adrenaline that had come with surviving a fall from the skies fading quickly out and leaving them just with pain, and tiredness, and...

No, not anger. Scrivener wished it was anger, but it was more like disappointment in themselves. They had been no match for Gymbr, who had even been able to take away Luna's spear... who had humiliated them in combat, despite the two of them being sure that together, they would have been able to make some mark against him... but they supposed they had underestimated him. And it seemed like Gymbr had no weaknesses: nothing had been mentioned in any of Kvasir's narratives about any sort of vulnerability, after all, apart from antimagic energies...

Luna sighed softly, and then she and Scrivener glanced up with relieved smiles when Twilight flickered into being nearby, the specter quickly checking herself over before Scrivener murmured: “You're fine, Twilight. There's no need to worry. You didn't get ghost-dismembered or anything.”

The ghost, the Pale of Twilight Sparkle, gave him a mild look, and then she shook her head and glanced over at Luna. While she couldn't communicate through words like this, Twilight could still share her emotions with them... and Luna nodded in agreement to the sentiment she felt coming from the specter, muttering: “See? 'Tis precisely what I said, Scrivy. We are not in Looking Glass World.”

“I never argued that point with you.” Scrivener replied tiredly from the ground, and then he shook his head briefly before shifting backwards, reaching down to absently try and push off the ground with his front claws... and he immediately arched his back and flopped backwards in agony, pulling his wounded limbs up against his chest and clenching his eyes shut. “G-Goddammit...”

Twilight turned a worried look to the stallion, and Luna stepped forwards, leaning down... and cursing as her mane of light blue hairs spilled into her face and her broken soulstone horn only sparked weakly, muttering: “Oh, what a fine mess we are in... Scrivy, I... I am going to have to take a drink.”

Scrivener winced a little at this, looking between Twilight and Luna: Luna looked staunch, but her eyes had the faintest glitter, her features the faintest tremble, and he could feel that mix of both... shame and eagerness coming from her. And Twilight was clearly emanating concern, but he could also feel her helplessness... that there was no other real solution. The knowledge that this wasn't even a solution itself, but... it was the only thing they could do right now, too.

Luna and Scrivener looked at each other silently, and then the sapphire mare gave a faint smile, saying quietly: “I am not weak. Trust in me, my beloved... please. Just... a little trust, for a little taste... we need this. Thou knows that if we are caught unawares, even by a wild animal...”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Scrivener closed his eyes and nodded as he let his body relax a little. And Luna licked her lips slowly, swallowing thickly, trying to repress how... how eager she was, how thirsty she felt, as she slipped forwards and opened her mouth, fangs glinting...

She bit into the side of Scrivener's neck, just above his collar, and Scrivener grimaced and bit his lip, flexing a little before he forced himself to relax. It hurt at first, but the pain was never the worst part: it was this pleasure he felt from it himself, as Luna took one measured drink, one larger gulp... and then her body slipped forwards more, and she was trying to open her jaws wider as she shoved herself forwards, greedily guzzling down his black blood.

She pushed herself over him as her body grew hot with pleasure and strength and that raw, primal satisfaction that was like devouring a full meal after days without food, a drink of cold water after hours of being roasted beneath the sun... it was delicious. It was exquisite. She wanted more, and more, and more, even as she felt the corruption doing more than just making her mind insane with pleasure and desire, she felt her muscles beginning to grow, her body beginning to change, her-

Hooves pushed at her, but they weren't Scrivener's: it was Twilight, and Luna looked up as her eyes almost glowed with a burst of frustration, black blood running down her chin and dripping from her maw as she glared at the ghost and snapped: “I am fine! I am fine, let me drink in peace!”

Luna greedily began to lower her head forwards again, opening her mouth wide as drool mixed with the black blood running from her maw... but Twilight's spirit quickly leaned in front of her. The sapphire mare snarled, eyes flashing as she looked up, raising a hoof that had almost healed as if to strike the specter, but the Pale threw herself forwards and hugged Luna tightly around the neck, trembling violently, clinging to her... and the sapphire mare trembled before she slowly closed her eyes and her mouth, dropping her hoof forwards and wrapping her foreleg around Twilight's ghost, hugging the spirit as best she could back against her body.

Scrivener sighed softly as the euphoria faded out of his own mind, shivering a little as he lifted one of his mangled, broken claws... and then he bad-temperedly slammed it down against the ground beside him. The agony it sent through him was almost indescribable, and Luna gasped quietly as her forelegs sank through the Pale with how tightly she tried to clutch the incorporeal specter against herself... but it wasn't from the pain that a tear slid down the stallion's cheek, or that made Luna give a quiet curse as she clenched her eyes shut.

Twilight's spirit flickered, reappearing on the other side of Scrivener and silently putting a hoof over the broken claw he had just further injured as she gazed down at him quietly, and he nodded a little, looking up at her with a faint smile and a silent promise to treat himself a little better, at least for the moment. After all, Twilight would still feel some of their pain, even as a spirit... and while he and Luna might deserve to suffer, Twilight Sparkle never did.

Finally, Scrivener relaxed a little as Luna reached up and wiped black blood from her features, spitting a few times to the side before she shook herself out. She absently patted over her mangled armor, grimacing at where it had cut a bit into her body... but she was standing strong and tall, and while Scrivener Blooms could feel plenty of aches through his body and like he had no energy left, he knew that most of his own wounds had sealed shut.

The sapphire mare sighed quietly as she touched the large hole in her breastplate and then she attempted to concentrate... but her nub of soulstone horn only sparked painfully, making her twitch before she dropped her head forwards and grumbled: “This is ridiculous. Of all the places for Gymbr to fling us... into the middle of some unknown forest in some unknown world...”

Scrivener only grunted, closing his eyes as Twilight Sparkle's spirit vanished, but they could both feel her presence still. The Pale was just going to take a look around, and Luna sighed quietly as she glanced back and forth before murmuring: “Strange, though. Gymbr... he risked Twilight's existence. He did not seem to realize her spirit was with us, and he attempted to cast us apart from her... if we had really been separated...”

“She would have been ripped apart.” Scrivener shivered a little at the thought, then he shook his head and looked down, saying quietly: “Maybe it's not just that. It's that... he doesn't understand that she's equal. How much we love her. How much... I don't know...”

“No, thou does so. Speak, poet, thou art on to something... and besides, 'tis not as if we have anything better to do.” Luna said pointedly as she turned her eyes towards the enormous tree Scrivener was half-resting against, and then she sighed and walked over to him, grasping him and making the stallion groan as she firmly dragged him upwards and sat him back against the trunk.

She grimaced a little at the pain in her own system, then turned around and flopped back beside him with a sigh, dropping her head against his shoulder and closing her eyes as she ignored the twisting feeling in her gut, and the desire to turn, to taste the corruption, to push herself against Scrivener Blooms, to give in...

The stallion softened as he looked over at her, and he licked his lips before drawing his eyes forwards and murmuring, if only because he knew that Luna needed the distraction: “Gymbr might be nearly omnipotent, but he's not omniscient and he lacks... he lacks understanding of anything outside his own little world and how he looks at things. Maybe we can't take him on in a fight but... he must have some kind of weakness...”

“Aye, but... what? Nothing was mentioned in the damned narrative, aye? And I cannot generate antimagic with my soulstone horn... even if I could, 'twould probably shatter my own stupid head.” Luna grumbled, reaching up and knocking firmly twice against the broken prosthetic before she winced as it sparked a little. “Purification is also clearly out of the question, Antares... Antares and Morning Glory are the only ponies we know who can concentrate it so well.”

She fell quiet, looking down, and Scrivener closed his eyes as he felt the same twist of worry in his stomach. They wanted to reassure each other... but with what? They had just had the crap kicked out of them before being dumped in some alien, unknown world. Attempting to reassure each other that everything was going to be okay felt a little bit impossible right now, and neither pony was much one for false promises.

The two dropped their heads in perfect time, and then Luna shook her own before she asked quietly: “So thou thinks he does not love Twilight as we love her.”

“Did you see any love for any of his creations? Or did he just seem to enjoy the fact they were all 'his?'” Scrivener questioned in response, glancing up with a small smile, and Luna grimaced a little but nodded slowly in agreement. There was silence between them for a few moments, and then the stallion sighed softly and mumbled: “What really bothers me is that I don't think he was kidding when he said they were holding back...”

“What truly bothers me, Scrivy, is that he has them at all.” Luna said dryly, shivering once. “From whence could he have stolen them? Imago I did not precisely recognize, even if I think we must have crossed paths with her alter ego at some point ourselves... but to have kidnapped Twilight Sparkle, Celestia and a version of myself from another layer and transformed them into those monsters without Valhalla knowing...”

“Maybe Valhalla just isn't as watchful as we think... I mean, if there really are more than ninety-nine layers out there, or if they're... reviving themselves or splitting still or who knows what...” Scrivener shook his head a bit. “Even Hel wouldn't be able to watch them all. I mean, we monitor all these layers, but... who's to say that there's not some other Valhalla, or another Helheim? Or maybe those layers we don't know about don't feed anywhere at all... they just become Pales or go to the Void or... you know. We can't know, you know?”

“Aye, I know.” Luna replied with only the faintest hint of irony, and then she shook her head and murmured: “Thou has such a way with words, poet, truly.”

Scrivener Blooms only grunted and shrugged a little, and there was silence between the two for a few moments before Luna looked moodily back and forth through the forest around them. The trees were large and widely spaced, and the ground felt rough and the air was cold, and even the plants seemed strange to her. She could hear the calls of birds from somewhere, and at least that sounded somewhat familiar... but until they got a better look at the wildlife, Luna wasn't willing to make any further guesses on just where the hell they might be.

Then both ponies looked up curiously as Twilight Sparkle flickered into reality in front of the two, smiling encouragingly and pointing at them... no, past them. She wanted to head... south, if that was actually moss Scrivener was resting against and that old piece of advice was actually right.

Luna and Scrivener both only looked at Twilight's Pale all the same, and the ghost frowned at them before gesturing firmly a few times, but Scrivener Blooms only mumbled and Luna grunted, raising a hoof and gesturing moodily with it. “We know, we know. But we are not all devoid of physical pain here, Twilight Sparkle. I pity the fact thou art without a body, but I am also severely annoyed that thou art without a body, for thou does not feel as sore and achy and... broken-armory as we do.”

Twilight sighed silently, shaking her head slowly as the charcoal stallion closed his eyes and Luna nestled herself a little closer, and then the spirit fidgeted a little in place before she stepped forwards and vanished. A moment later, the black pearl in the hollow of Luna's collar gleamed, and the sapphire mare smiled a little as she felt a welcome warmth emanating from the stone, murmuring: “'Tis no better place for thee, my darling, then here in our heart.”

Scrivener Blooms laughed despite himself, and then he glanced over at her and said softly: “And there you go again. Being all poetic-like.”

“Shut up, beetle.” Luna replied in a mumble, even as she pushed deeper against his form. The stallion wrapped a foreleg tightly around her, squeezing her closer, and the sapphire mare sighed a little as she mumbled: “All things are stupid.”

“All things are stupid.” Scrivener agreed quietly, and the two rested together, the stallion feeling his energy slowly beginning to restore itself as Luna tried her best to relax, the aches gradually fading from their systems.

They spent about thirty minutes resting together before Scrivener frowned a little as he felt a tickling on his other shoulder. He opened his eyes to look at Luna, and she grumbled at him and squeezed her hooves into him to make him flinch a bit and show that she was nowhere near his other shoulder... before both ponies slowly looked over to the side to see a large, fuzzy tarantula was crawling lazily from the tree onto the stallion.

His eyes widened in horror and he went dead pale, and Luna blinked in surprise, then huffed and blew at the tarantula. In response, the arachnid rose its forelegs, waving them threateningly as Scrivener reared back slightly and hissed: “What the hell are you doing?”

“Oh stop it, great idiot.” Luna grumbled, swatting Scrivener, and then she flailed her hoof at the enormous tarantula and growled at it. In response, the tarantula took a few swipes at her with its front claws as it set itself gamely on the stallion's shoulder, and Scrivener whimpered a little before Luna complained: “'Tis barely the size of a Birdeater. Thou art such a great and whiny-”

And then the tarantula suddenly spun around and made a hard kicking motion, and a mess of hairs was propelled through the air, most of them hitting Scrivener's face and landing in his eyes. They burned where they landed, the stallion squawking and flailing violently as he threw himself sideways, the arachnid flung in one direction and Luna yelping as the stallion crashed into her before he grabbed at his face, rolling wildly back and forth as Luna felt a burning pain flare through her own head.

“Oh god what the hell did it do?” Scrivener clawed at his face despite how much it stung his broken hooves, blinking wildly as his eyes teared up from the painful hairs, his voice strangled as he snapped: “This is your fault!”

“Thou art the one who attracted the damned bug in the first place!” Luna shouted back, and she slapped furiously at Scrivener's features before shoving him off her and glaring at him... but her broken soulstone horn only sparked uselessly, and she winced in pain at the thrum that went through her head.

For a few moments, the two continued to writhe in agony, until Twilight Sparkle's shade appeared with a wince and carefully pushed at the two until she managed to get their attention, the two settling a little until they both grumbled and allowed the mare to untangle them. Then Scrivener Blooms cursed under his breath when Twilight reached up and slowly brushed a hoof along his features, the spectral mare sweeping the barbed hairs carefully up with her ghostly hooves.

The stallion winced as the Pale looked at him pointedly and tapped his temple, and then he grumbled and forced himself to open the reddened, swollen-looking eye as wide as he could, then he flinched back slightly and gritted his teeth when Twilight slowly reached forwards and pushed her hoof quietly against his eye.

Luna grimaced and blinked her own several times, then rubbed childishly at her features as Twilight's hoof was able to carefully sweep up the hairs stuck in the stallion's eye with minimal pain, Scrivener watching with a morbid fascination as the hairs were literally pulled up the Pale's limb and harmlessly allowed to sift through her spirit. Thanks to being connected to them and all the magical power she had as a Lich, she was able to do a lot of things that normal Pales weren't... although she still had that faint, misty sparkle around her that all Pales did.

“I guess that's why you're called Twilight Sparkle.” Scrivener mumbled, and Twilight twisted her hoof slowly against his eye as she pushed a little harder, making him wince. “Okay, okay, okay, I take it back.”

Twilight nodded and gave a small smile, and Luna grumbled a bit as she continued to rub at her own eye with a hoof, muttering: “Well, at least we are recovering little-by-little, despite the fact thou hast already attracted trouble to us, Scrivener Blooms. Great idiot.”

“Yes, I know. I'm monster-bait, apparently.” Scrivener muttered as Twilight finally stepped away from him, and he rubbed absently at his features before he smiled a little and nodded to her. She nodded back, giving him a tender look before she vanished from sight, and the stallion shook his head a little before he glanced over at Luna, asking finally: “So uh... do you think we should get moving then? I mean, the creepy-crawlies are apparently moving in, so...”

“Aye, the spiders do not fear me as they do in every other world...” Luna frowned and looked down moodily at this, shaking her head slowly. “Strange. Everything from mites to Bitterweavers know to obey me in every other place we have been to.”

“Abeyance does not equal fear.” Scrivener said mildly, and Luna gave him a glower that made the stallion wince and shrink back a bit. “Nevermind.”

“Good.” Luna said comfortably, and then she turned and began to head south, calling mildly: “Now come. We shall try and follow Twilight's directions. And perhaps we shall stop to commune with her for a few moments and find out more, but... I do enjoy surprises.”

Scrivener Blooms grumbled a little at this, then he nodded with a sigh as he fell in step behind the sapphire winged unicorn. He bit his lip, trying to ignore the throbbing in his front hooves as he hobbled a little, and Luna softened a little as she glanced over her shoulder at him and nodded supportively, slowing her pace a bit to try and make it a little easier on the charcoal stallion.

The two made their way through the shadow-strewn forest, not knowing where they were going, or even entirely sure of what time it was. When they were able to see the sky through the canopy, Luna estimated that it had to only be around noon... although the sun seemed to be in a strange position compared to where she was used to seeing it.

The stallion glanced curiously over at Luna, and she shrugged a little in response to his unasked question: everything still felt unfamiliar here. For all she knew, Gymbr could have dumped them in some world outside of the known layers... and Scrivener Blooms grimaced a little as he thought of the places they had seen before, outside of their...

No, that wasn't really true, was it? Even if their set of layered worlds where here... who was he to say they weren't all part of one universe? They knew nothing, really, about the cosmos, or deep dark space, or... anything. Luna had once been exiled to the moon, sure, but as Nightmare Moon she remembered it as being locked inside some terrible white room, a lonely, empty cell. Celestia hadn't simply flung her onto the surface of the rock that circled their planet: Nightmare Moon would have just found her way back, possibly by using her powers to drop said moon right down on top of Celestia's head.

Luna grinned widely at this, looking with amusement over at Scrivener and remarking wryly: “Thou hast the most wonderful ideas at times, Scrivy. I shall have to try this at some point. I shall have thee know, if I desired, I could easily teleport us all to the moon so we could prance about its surface.”

“I don't like places where you have to use magic to keep us alive. I also remember that space was cold, even for me.” Scrivener muttered, and then he shook his head a little and looked up with a frown as something stirred through the bushes ahead, before a large, shaggy brown beast lumbered out, heading toward a patch of berry bushes further south. It looked like a large brown bear, waddling and making Luna giggle childishly at the sight of its rump.

The bear halted at the sound of Luna's giggles, large, tufted ears rising up, and Scrivener cocked his head a little as he noted it had some kind of shaggy bib that had just puffed out. It slowly rose itself higher, pushing itself up onto its rear paws as the stallion pushed irritably at the sapphire mare, who was still giggling away... before both ponies yelped and reared back when the creature's head twisted entirely around on its neck, staring at them with glaring, hateful owl eyes through feathered features, its beak opening to scream a warning cry at them.

“Oh Horses of Heaven this is the worst world ever!” Scrivener almost fell over as he scrambled backwards, staring in disbelief at the creature as it reared around, slamming down what weren't front paws but instead large, wicked talons.

The... the owlbear screamed at them again, and then it simply charged, barbed beak glinting, talons ripping up the ground as it moved with terrible speed. Luna snarled, stepping forwards as she ordered Scrivener sharply: “Support!”

The stallion groaned, then he set himself, cursing in pain as his broken claws spasmed against the ground... and then he gasped and flinched, falling over and hugging his aching claws against his chest as black blood bubbled out of them and they flexed with sickening crackles, struggling not to whimper at the utter agony that filled his system.

The pain was bad enough to make Luna gasp, flinching forwards... and then she stared up just in time to see the owlbear lunging in with its beak, going right for her eyes. She barely reacted fast enough, drawing her head back and hissing in pain as the owlbear ripped a swathe through her cheek before she snarled and swung her right hoof up into the beast's chin.

The owlbear's head snapped back, saliva and blood flying from its cracked beak as its eyes bulged with surprise before Luna kicked off the ground with her rear hooves, using the pain to feed the battlerage that took her over as she flapped her wings and launched into the air to hover above the creature's face, slamming punch after punch down into it before a final haymaker sent it crashing down onto all fours.

The owlbear screeched as it scrambled hurriedly backwards to a safe distance, then it lowered its shoulders and shrieked at Luna as the sapphire mare landed, teeth bared. She roared furiously back, and the owlbear winced before the sapphire mare charged straight at the beast.

The creature stumbled back a step... but to Luna's surprise, it then lunged forwards, swiping both claws at her. The mare dodged backwards, but the beast followed up with a lunge and slash of its beak... which Luna instinctively attempted to block with a horn that wasn't there.

Its beak tore through her scalp and down her face, the sapphire mare crying out in agony as Scrivener gasped, head snapping back as the same bloody wound formed on his own features before his eyes widened. The owlbear threw itself forwards, sensing victory as its claws seized into Luna and it tried to drag her in close as it drew its head back... but a moment later, needles of black crystal peppered its features, and it lost its grip on Luna as it drew back, shaking its head wildly to try and get the splinters of gemstone out of its face.

Luna stumbled backwards as the creature withdrew, then she bared her teeth and leapt forwards, slamming her head viciously into the owlbear's lowered beak. It hurt like hell, but the reward of the sickening sound of the beak cracking far outweighed the pain as the owlbear stumbled, unable to even open its jaw as it gave a muffled squeal before Luna leapt forwards and slammed her hoof into the side of the cracked protrusion, shattering most of it.

The owlbear squalled miserably as it hurriedly stumbled backwards, then it flung itself quickly around and fled, Luna growling after the beast before she cursed under her breath as blood from her cut scalp slid into her eyes. She shook her head roughly, and then glowered as she felt her mane fall over her features, hairs sticking in her blood and pasting themselves against her skin. “Oh damnation.”

She sighed tiredly, then looked moodily over her shoulder at Scrivener Blooms, who was carefully picking himself up... but his front legs were trembling, and his claws felt broken and sensitive and simply agonized again.

He closed his eyes, breathing hard in and out before he sat back and looked down at his front claws. They were both flexing weakly, dripping his black blood as well as thicker mire, and he shivered a little before shaking his head slowly as Luna hesitantly glanced down at one of her own hooves.

There were still cracks in her hooves, and they stung... but there was no blood. She could feel Scrivener's pain, though, how badly it was pulsing through his lower legs, and she murmured quietly: “We need to get that healed, Scrivy. Will the mire...”

“No. I... I don't think so in this case. They're too... mangled.” Scrivener looked up at her silently, and then he smiled faintly as Luna reached up and gently scrubbed along the cut on his features. As she pushed his black blood and mire back around the wound, it began to slowly heal, dark liquid filling the trench and slowly repairing itself little-by-little.

As his wounds healed, Luna's did a little as well; enough to stop the bleeding and the worst of the pain, anyway. She sighed a bit and reached up, grouchily pushing her mane away from her face before she muttered: “Hair is stupid. I cannot begin to express my overwhelming joy at having earned my special mane, Scrivy.”

“Right. Because having magic hair is the greatest honor someone can get.” Scrivener said dryly, and Luna blew a raspberry at him. Then the two smiled a little at each other before he sighed a bit when she reached out and gingerly touched along one of his front limbs as she mentally, gently told him that he was a stupid idiot, in that weirdly-tender way only she could.

“I'm not arguing with you there.” Scrivener mumbled, and then he carefully put his claws down and grimaced a bit as he tested putting some of his weight on them. “Can you... splint them?”

Luna looked down at his mangled claws, then she shivered a little and shook her head, hating how... awful they looked. Worse was the fact she knew that the lack of pain wasn't exactly a good sign: his forelegs looked swollen, and considering the damages...

“No. We have to get thee to a safe place.” Luna shook her head, then she turned around and murmured: “Come, Scrivy. And let me know if the pain grows too fierce. Sometimes the husband must carry her wife, after all.”

“You've always been sexist in the most wonderful way.” Scrivener muttered, but he nodded a little before taking a few careful steps forwards. It hurt to get going, but the pain soon became an uncomfortable thrumming: as long as he kept himself moving at a good pace, it didn't have the chance to grow too terrible, like he was somehow walking faster than the pain could keep up.

“Well, sometimes pain is lazy and selfish.” Luna said softly, smiling a little over her shoulder at the stallion as they strode past an immense, curled tree and began to climb a gentle slope, and the sapphire mare looked thoughtfully up and murmured: “It looks as if the trees thin past here... perhaps we are on our way towards civilization after all. Or at least, what passes for it.”

“Too bad you can't just summon a demon or something.” Scrivener said moodily, and Luna grunted meditatively, making Scrivener Blooms wince a bit. “Please don't get any ideas.”

The sapphire mare only rolled her eyes, then she softened as she looked over her shoulder at him again and said quietly: “Thy welfare is important and there are more ways than one to call a demon to me. Besides, wounded or not, we are more than a match for any wild demon, aren't we? Especially with Twilight Sparkle to assist us.”

Scrivener grimaced a bit, then he sighed and nodded a little, murmuring: “Alright. I can't really argue with you when you say things like that.” He stopped, then looked up as they reached the top of the slope, looking out down a short, gentle decline that plateaued out into a thinner patch of younger trees. “Maybe we're almost out.”

But after ten more minutes of walking, both ponies strode into a verdant prairie that stretched south towards what looked like... more trees. To the east there was nothing, to the west looked like mountains, and Luna groaned and rolled her eyes before she mumbled: “Grand. This is grand, Scrivener Blooms. Maybe this world has nothing but beasts.”

The stallion only grunted at this, shivering a little as he shifted his weight to his rear hooves and closed his eyes. He could feel the pain growing worse again, and Luna looked up at the sky before she murmured: “When a riding horse was injured as thou art, Scrivy, we would have to put him down in the old days. Not even magic can always restore such damages, after all.”

Scrivener turned a dry look towards the mare, and she only shrugged and smiled a little over at him, informing kindly: “I will not kill thee, Scrivy, fear not. I am expressing concern for thee.”

The charcoal earth pony continued to look at her, then he sighed and lowered his head, murmuring: “I think I'd prefer to be dead than put up with pain like this for the rest of my life. Especially if I can't use my hooves anymore... I'll...”

He halted, looking silently down at one of his mangled claws, and Luna softened, stepping over to him and nudging him gently with her muzzle. “Now, cease that, foul idiot. Thou art not allowed to think these thoughts whilst we are stuck in an alien world like this.”

“Yes I am.” Scrivener mumbled, and when Luna glared at him, he smiled a little and shook his head a bit. “Hey, you know it helps in its weird way. I'm apparently fueled by depression and douchebaggery. It's when I'm happy I get all... stupid.”

Luna sighed a little, but then she leaned over and headbutted him lightly, murmuring in return: “Thou art such an idiot. But aye, I suppose 'tis true. Now let us speak to Twilight Sparkle, perhaps she can tell us why she guided us here.”

Scrivener nodded, and both ponies began to close their eyes before Luna's snapped open and she looked sharply up as she caught a glint in the air above. Then she cursed and leapt forwards, tackling Scrivener into the high grasses a moment before a javelin slammed down into the ground where they had been a moment before.

Immediately, Luna spun around and yanked the short spear out of the earth, spinning it around with surprising ease in her hooves. She glared up into the sky above at several low hanging clouds, shouting: “Show thyselves! I know thou art there!”

In response, something was lobbed over the edge of one cloud, and Luna's eyes widened: from the sparking fuse on the red, spherical object, the only thing it could be was some kind of explosive.

Luna flapped her wings and launched herself upwards as she lashed the spear out in a wide swing, whacking the bomb back on a high arc and launching it back towards the sky. It didn't quite reach the cloud before it exploded with a bright flash and bang, but the power of the explosion was more than enough to blow away most of the cloud cover above and drive a trio of creatures into the air.

They weren't ponies, like Luna had expected: instead, she growled as she found herself glaring up at three griffins as they hovered in the air above, all of them glaring furiously down at her. They had the heads of eagles with thick, white plumage that spilled down over their breasts, and while their bodies, rear legs, and tufted tails were all leonine and golden-brown, their front limbs ended in powerful, dexterous talons, and their brown-feathered wings held them easily aloft as they beat the air almost viciously.

One had a quiver of javelins over his back, and another was armed with a satchel that looked as though it was stuffed full of more explosives. The last had a buckler over one foreleg and a mace clutched tightly in one talon, snarling down at Luna and shouting: “You are not welcome here, pony! Your kind belongs on the other side of the world!”

Luna's eyes widened in surprise as she looked up, but before she could ask anything, the griffin bomber held up an explosive and what looked like some kind of crystalline wand: when he flicked it quickly against the fuse, the string caught alight before he flung it quickly down at the mare.

The winged unicorn flapped her wings hard, flying upwards and booting the explosive with a rear hoof to send it shooting at the three griffins, and they immediately scattered with squawks before it went off with a tremendous bang. The sapphire mare snorted at this, then she called up to them irritably: “I am in no mood for games today. My husband and I have already had much in the way of trouble and have been dumped here in the middle of we-know-not-where by a monster the likes thou would not believe. Cease throwing explosives and help us, or I shall pummel thee into submission.”

Scrivener sighed tiredly at this as the three griffins all flitted uncertainly back and forth above, before the warrior with the mace rose this threateningly. “And who are you to threaten us? Another Pegasus who thinks she's the same as the moronic myth she was named after?”

“Why are you guys always such jerks? Why do you have such a... a jerk culture?” Scrivener Blooms inquired moodily as he slowly picked himself up, and the griffins turned their glowers to him as the earth pony shook his head and continued flatly: “I mean, okay, I get it. Pride and strength, griffins are warriors, you value rough and tough and your concept of honor is 'he who beats others in the face is worthy of much respect,' but. Seriously. Who throws bombs at random strangers?”

“Shut the hell up, stupid little mudwalker!” snapped one of the griffins, and Luna's eyes narrowed dangerously before he added nastily as he rose his javelin: “Look, sky-traitor, you might be good at playing kickball but I'm going to shove this through your slave hoof's face if he doesn't-”

Luna shot immediately into the air with a snarl, and the griffin barely had the time to react before the winged unicorn lashed out with her javelin, with so much force it tore through the body of the short spear when the griffin feebly attempted to block with it before the tip ripped a swathe through his breast and tore apart the strap of the quiver hanging over one shoulder and the broken rawhide tangled into one wing.

As he was overbalanced backwards with a scree of pain, Luna half-spun, the spear in her hooves a blur as she windmilled it and then drove the butt of the weapon over the shield of the griffin warrior, knocking him senseless and sending him plummeting. The last griffin was panicking, grabbing wildly at his bomb satchel, but in less than a second Luna was right in front of him, driving a hoof into his face and knocking him out of the air.

The three crumpled to the field below in a hail of dropped equipment, and Scrivener Blooms smiled despite himself as Luna hovered in the skies above. She had a murderous look on her face still, but it only made him feel all the more amused... and in a strange way, touched. He liked the fact that she was so protective more than he really should, even if he'd been long used to being called those kinds of things before they'd even met. “You're so cute when you're angry.”

“Shut up, Scrivy, or the spear goes right up thy rump.” Luna grumbled, and then she flung the javelin down into the ground in front of him, but the stallion only shook his head with a snort of amusement before Luna let herself slowly descend on the other side of the groaning griffins.

She dropped to the field and glared at them as they picked themselves up: the bomber still seemed stunned, his explosives laying all around him and his crystal-tipped wand laying broken on the ground. The warrior was snarling at Luna, but hadn't quite regained the courage to say anything, while the last griffin was still moaning away and clutching at the large gash in his chest, whimpering: “She killed me! She killed me!”

“All I did was put thee in thy place, stupid little birdie.” Luna grumbled, glowering at the griffin, and then she shook her head and added sourly: “'Tis something thou should perhaps thank me for, by the way. For I could have been much more ruthless had I wanted to. Now, if we can put the savagery aside, my husband and I require assistance.”

The warrior growled, then flexed a talon as he glared at her, but Luna met his eyes fearlessly. And after a few moments, the griffin finally lowered his gaze, saying sourly: “You're still no friend to us, pony. Why should we help you and the groundwalker?”

Luna narrowed her eyes moodily, saying distastefully: “Because if thou does not, then I will beat thee. I will beat thee with my hooves. I will beat thee with sticks. I will beat thee with that mace. I will beat and bludgeon thee with each other's limbs after I tear them off. Do I make myself clear?”

The bomber paled at this as the warrior lost some of his bravado at the sheer malice radiating off the winged unicorn, and then he finally grumbled: “What do you want?”

The sapphire mare looked more pleased at this, nodding once before asking: “Where is the nearest settlement or base camp? Scrivener Blooms requires medical attention. And where, precisely, are we? I do not recognize this place at all.”

“Right, because I suppose you fell out of the sky.” muttered the bomber sardonically, and then he only stared when Luna nodded seriously. “Are you completely out of your-”

“We're in Epoche.” interrupted the warrior griffin moodily, looking irritably at his companion. “Far northeast of the griffin homeland. And far, far away from your Equestria and your Princess.”

Luna nodded, then looked pointedly at the griffin until he sighed and rolled his eyes, sounding exasperated as he said: “Our camp is two miles away. It's a military camp, ponies: you won't be welcome there, and I would much rather die than be the griffin to bring ponies into the camp who aren't tied up and in their proper place.”

The sapphire mare growled at this, and the warrior glared back as the wounded griffin finally unsteadily picked himself up. Then the mare huffed and spat to the side, saying grouchily: “What a useless flock of birds thou art. Very well. Get thee hence, I have other ways to acquire what I need.”

The griffins traded moodily looks, and then the warrior picked up his mace and gestured with it threateningly. “Go back home, pony, to wherever you came from. Epoche is our territory, and we're not about to give it up to you greedy Equestrians.”

With that, the griffins took to the air and flew quickly off, and Luna scowled at how many bombs they left behind, along with the fallen pile of javelins that had tumbled from the quiver. The sapphire mare walked over and leaned down to try and poke at them with her horn, then she cursed as she remembered it was broken, stomping on the objects instead as she grumbled to herself.

Then the mare shook herself out before looking over her shoulder at Scrivener Blooms, who was uneasily watching the griffins fly away. He hesitated, then turned his eyes towards the sapphire mare, asking finally: “Did they seem... I dunno. More hostile than usual to you?”

“Somewhat. We shall have to be wary: I have no doubt they will exaggerate our encounter to their encampment. Likely 'twill be ten powerful ponies that they fought against valiantly, instead of being swatted like flies by one mare.” Luna grumbled moodily, and then she softened as she looked over at Scrivener and saw the black blood dripping onto the ground from his broken claws, murmuring: “Well, we shall hopefully have more cooperative allies to speak to in a moment. Come, Scrivy.”

Luna paused, then she turned and picked up several of the explosives that had been left behind, tucking these under one wing and holding them firmly to her body. Then she shoved a few javelins into the torn quiver and picked it up with her teeth, making a face around the rawhide strap and mumbling something about griffin sweat.

The two ponies retreated into the forest a little ways, then settled down in a grassier area. Luna looked pointedly over at Scrivener Blooms, and the stallion grimaced before he sighed tiredly, raising a foreleg and muttering: “We'll do it the hard way.”

The sapphire mare only smiled a little, and then she tossed down the quiver and the explosives before lifting a javelin free. And, not letting herself hesitate, she slashed the spear down to cut Scrivener's foreleg open, the stallion cursing in pain as a similar wound formed on Luna's own limb and made her grimace.

Scrivener's black blood splattered down over the ground, and the stallion pushed the little that he dared with his powers, gasping in pain as more of his blood spilled out of the wound and a bit of mire dripped from his broken claws. He flexed in pain, then dropped the claw into the small puddle of blood, cursing weakly: it hurt even to focus his energy into it, but he forced himself to all the same as he muttered: “Come on... come on...”

At first, the puddle just rippled... and then, slowly, it expanded, the soil and grass melting into mire before Scrivener Blooms gasped and sat back, his claws trembling with pain. Luna nodded to him with relief before she reached up and touched his shoulder, and the stallion smiled faintly to her. “Just... give me a minute, then I should be okay. Just need a minute.”

He breathed slowly, closing his eyes and shivering a little, then he looked down and carefully rested both claws against the mire. He was careful not to push with his powers this time, instead only concentrating on shaping the dark ooze, and it became like soft stone after a few moments.

Luna carefully maneuvered the javelin between her hooves to push into the mire, tracing out rough symbols over the dark substance and forming a circular pattern with them. It wasn't exact, but it didn't need to be, either, and the sapphire mare studied the shapes before she tossed the javelin aside and rubbed vigorously at her open wound. It hurt like hell, but blood dripped out, splattering over the runes as the mare murmured quietly in the old language: “Hear thy mistress, servants of the night; I offer thee tribute of my own blood in return for thy presence alone...

Twilight Sparkle flickered into being beside Luna, looking back and forth attentively as Scrivener Blooms grimaced a bit, feeling the very air around them seeming to darken. Luna's broken soulstone horn gave a faint, strange glimmer, and then sparked painfully, but it carried just enough magic to send an extra pulse resonating through the air around them even as it made the winged unicorn's mind ache.

A silence fell through the forest, no birds singing, no insects chirping, no wind daring to whisper through the trees... and then, all at once, there were sounds. Growls and hisses, and clashing and the faintest flashes of light and shadow through the air around them, as all three felt the presence of the demons that had been called by the short ritual.

A normal pony would have panicked, but Luna recognized what these noises really were as she looked up coldly. Twilight Sparkle was watching with a look of mixed horror and fascination, and Scrivener Blooms grimaced as he felt his eyes automatically adjusting, unable to stop himself from seeing what was just below reality as he winced, and then leaned away with a grimace when several incorporeal demons rolled past. They weren't growling and hissing at them: they were struggling wildly with each other, to try and be the first to answer Luna's call.

“Enough!” Luna shouted, seeming to look straight at the fighting demons, and they all froze before the sapphire mare snapped: “Step into reality and present thyselves to me!”

The demons all glowered as they parted, but they were quick to obey, all three of them studying Luna with interest. Scrivener Blooms looked moodily at the trio, blinking his eyes a few times as he tried to force away his half-curse of seeing 'beneath the masks,' as he always called it: looking into a demon's emotions wasn't always pleasant, because their emotions, their passions, were so powerful.

One demon looked like a gorgeous, light-purple earth pony, but with a ram's horns and cloven hooves. Her mane was the same pink as her eyes, which were currently glaring at the enormous, muscular black goat beside her, who looked sourly back down at her as he pawed a hoof slowly at the ground. His size was what truly marked him as a demon, more than the small bony thorns sticking up out of his shoulders and all down his hunched back... well, that and the sharp maw of teeth.

The last demon was a little apart from the two... and Scrivener Blooms realized after a moment that it wasn't actually a demon at all, but some kind of evil spirit. Or maybe 'evil spirit' was going a little far: the creature looked like the skeleton of a deer, but brambles and thick vines twined around its limbs and through its ribcage, many of these thorny, and a few with dark, dried-looking blossoms. It had no antlers, and it eyes glowed with strange, poisonous blue light as Luna asked sourly: “Well, Scrivy. What mighty servants of the night have we here?”

“Such a powerful darkness... and oh, what a handsome stallion...” purred the demon mare, and she stepped forwards, her eyes locked with interest on Scrivener Blooms. “And he's not at all afraid of us, even though he's... oh, your poor hooves...”

The demon slipped forwards, then blinked and hissed over her shoulder, glaring furiously at the goat as it grabbed her tail and said sourly in a rumbling baritone: “Knock it off, teeny-bopper, I was here first. Besides, shouldn't you be scared of what your false goddess Hel will do to you when she finds out you helped Luna Brynhild?”

The mare – a succubus, Scrivener was easily able to identify her as – turned quickly back forwards, and then her eyes slowly went as round and large as plates as she began to shiver violently in excitement, grinning so wide Scrivener though the top of her head was going to pop off. Twilight Sparkle looked less than comfortable, and the goat demon rolled his eyes before the strange, dark spirit that was lurking off to the side asked in a squeaky hiss: “What is Brown Hilt?”

“Brynhild.” Luna enunciated slowly and sourly, and then she shook her head with a grumble before frowning over at the strange spirit, asking after a moment: “What precisely art thou, creature? I sense... demonic magic about thee, but also the power of nature herself. It makes for a strange amalgamation in thee...”

Both demons looked sourly at the dark spirit as it only slowly cocked its head, staring at Luna before it rasped: “Brown Hilt.”

“Brynhild... Brynhild!” Luna snapped in a frustrated voice, and when the dark spirit only continued to stare at her, she groaned and rolled her eyes, then looked grouchily over at the other demons. “And a succubus and an... ogre.”

“I am not an ogre, I am a Knight of Hell.” the goat demon said moodily as he straightened imperiously and touched his own chest, glaring down at Luna. “I am Sunder. And I do not fear you, Luna Brynhild... this is not a world where you are well known and Hel herself has no power.”

“Then how does thou know of me?” Luna asked grumpily, and then she shook her head slowly and sighed tiredly, dropping her head forwards and mumbling: “The dregs of the teacup. And apparently 'twas a weak tea at that.”

Sunder glared, and the dark spirit stared, and the succubus giggled before she waved a hoof and looked happily at Luna. “I'll be anything you want, Luna Brynhild! You just ignore Sunder here, he's just still mad about being exiled a few centuries ago, and that silly spirit is just a piece of leftover necromancy. But oh, I used to pray to Hel, you know, and here you are!”

“Yes, Volus, and as I just said, Hel has declared Luna Brynhild is not be aided.” Sunder growled, shaking his head sourly.

“I thought thou just said this is a world where Hel has no power, ogre.” Luna frowned, and the goat demon ground his teeth together in frustration, glaring at her. But before he could speak, the sapphire mare turned meditative eyes back to the succubus, asking slowly: “And thou art a wild demon, art thou not? No, more than that, thou art a heretic.”

“That's mean.” the succubus pouted a little, shaking her head quickly before Volus touched her own chest, staring almost pleadingly at Luna. “It's not my fault I was born here instead of in Helheim! My parents were exiles too... but I was always a good girl. I always tried my hardest to remember to pray to Hel and to ask her for forgiveness, but now that you're here... it must be a sign!”

Luna blinked slowly at this, and then Volus awkwardly looked up and pointed at the broken soulstone prosthetic, asking hesitantly: “Hel didn't do that to you, right?”

“Hel did not do that to me, no.” Luna said crankily, and then she jerked her head at Scrivener Blooms, who winced a little as Luna said blandly: “If any of thee truly desire to aid me, thou will help me heal my husband. We were engaged in a battle with... a terrible foe, who dropped us into this world for more reasons than I see were clear at first. This planet is not directly connected to the other layers of reality, is it?”

Sunder shook his head, the goat demon measuring Luna with his eyes before he answered slowly: “Not precisely. Hel has a one-way portal that she pushes her... undesirables into. Those who displease her personally for some reason, who she decides on whim not to have her Inquisitors deal with. There is no way back for the demons who are thrown here, and neither Heaven nor Hell have any real power here.”

Luna nodded and shivered a little as Scrivener Blooms muttered: “So there are worlds that Valhalla would be blind to... and Gymbr can clearly access them. Hel seems to be able to, too, but... maybe Gymbr can actually see us...”

“I do not want to think about it. Cease thinking about it, poet.” Luna grumbled, then she shook her head quickly and turned with a quiet sigh towards the demons. Volus was still looking at them like they were a godsend – no pun intended – while Sunder was carefully sizing them up and... well, Scrivener wasn't entirely sure what the last creature was doing. Drooling a little, it looked like.

The stallion leaned awkwardly back, shaking his head a bit before the sapphire mare turned her own eyes on the dark spirit, sizing it up again before she asked moodily: “So if thou art some... failed necromancy, does that mean thou wert tossed into this world and simply left to wander? And who created thee and for what purpose?”

The strange creature only stared at them, and Volus gave a roll of her eyes as Sunder grumbled: “You'll get no useful answer from him. He's nothing but a failed project from Helheim... a fusion of necromancy and nature. We call him Decay.”

“Decay.” Luna repeated in a moody voice, and then she shook her head slowly before the sapphire mare frowned moodily over the two demons, realizing... “The three of thee seem awfully familiar with each other. Why is this, ogre?”

Sunder fixed a horrible look on Luna, and Scrivener Blooms slowly looked over at the sapphire mare before Volus piped up: “Because in order to survive in this world, we demons have to form bands. There are powerful elementals, guardian spirits, and other bigger, meaner demons who are always trying to prey on us. And if we're destroyed here, there's nowhere to go... at least, none of us think there is. Oh, I know! You should come to the Red Altar! That's where we hold prayer meetings for Hel, and you're like our divine answer to our prayers!”

The sapphire winged unicorn scowled at this, shaking her head shortly. “I am no answer to any prayer, and while I would not mind finding better demons than a few misfits who were apparently in the area, I also do not serve Hel.”

“As I've been repeating to you, idiot child, Hel has decreed Luna Brynhild and her companions shall be excommunicated.” the goat-demon growled, and Volus looked grouchily up at him before he shook his head slowly and grumbled: “You need to better choose your alliances, little girl. Although I want to make it clear here and now that I have no interest in working with you over the long term, Luna Brynhild. But if you can make my life a little easier, and all I have to do in return is fix the broken stallion, then we can work out a fair deal.”

Volus snorted at this, shaking her head quickly before the succubus turned her eyes towards Luna and Scrivener, looking at them almost desperately and not seeming to really see the Pale of Twilight Sparkle as the ghost studied the demons with more... curiousness now than anything else, Scrivy thought. Which would normally be a good thing, but... his mangled claws were really starting to hurt like hell, and he wasn't able to find the antics of these three quite as amusing as she probably did. “No, no, no! I prayed to Hel for salvation, but Hel never came... but Brynhild is here. That must be a sign, Sunny, a sign that we should follow them, not Hel!”

Luna sighed tiredly... then frowned when Decay strode suddenly towards her, staring over her with his strange, glowing-pit eyes. The sapphire mare looked steadily back, muzzle wrinkling up slightly in distaste, and then the dark spirit's eyes roved towards Twilight Sparkle, staring at her as she stared back. Sunder seemed to realize something else was there as the demon-goat rumbled uneasily, while Volus was only smiling widely, clearing hoping she could somehow impress them... and then Decay flopped doggishly down on his stomach, looking up at Twilight with clear servility.

The Lich winced and shifted over towards Luna, looking at her anxiously, and Luna only grinned slightly... before she looked down in surprise as Decay turned towards her, cocking its head for a moment before settling and looking up at her with the same almost-serene submission. Volus and Sunder both stared down at the dark spirit, and Luna cleared her throat awkwardly before she asked slowly: “Art thou... my servant?”

“Yes.” Decay answered without hesitation, and when his eyes turned back to Twilight's spirit, Luna realized that Decay seemed to be taking his cues from the Pale. She didn't know why or how, but since Decay had seen Twilight turning to Luna for silent advice, Decay himself – or itself, or... well, Luna really wasn't sure precisely how to refer to the creature – was looking at Luna as a leader to follow. As someone to obey.

The sapphire mare grimaced, then opened her mouth... before closing it slowly, looking thoughtfully at Decay. He was corrupted nature, death-made-alive... and hesitantly, the winged unicorn pawed against the mire before saying almost abruptly: “Scrivener Blooms is hurt. Do what thou can to tend to his pain.”

The dark spirit picked itself up, then calmly strode over to Scrivener Blooms as the stallion winced backwards, shaking his head and saying awkwardly: “Uh, Luna, I don't think that you should be sending the evil spirit named 'Decay' to try and-”

Without hesitating, Decay rose a hoof, and vines stretched suddenly off his limb and tangled around one of Scrivener's forelegs, yanking it up and twisting rapidly around around his claws and lower leg as the stallion's eyes bulged with agony.

He could feel thorns sinking through his hide as the brambles constricted his limb, the stallion giving a curse of pain as his eyes widened in horror. He tried to yank backwards as Luna bared her own fangs in pain, clutching her limb up against her chest as bloody divots formed over it, but Decay clung tenaciously on, the dark spirit only continuing to gaze emptily at Scrivener until the stallion finally felt the vines loosen, and he was able to tear free.

He looked down at his foreleg, staring at it for a moment before he glared up at Decay, opening his mouth and pointing at the creature... and then he stared slowly down. It looked even worse than before, it was mangled and bleeding, but there was no pain. Decay had numbed his nerves and at least taken away the pain for now.

The charcoal earth pony started to open his mouth... and Decay simply swept up his other foreleg with his vines, nearly yanking Scrivener off his hooves as the earth pony shouted a curse and Luna Brynhild winced, then dropped her head with a tired sigh. Maybe these new allies weren't entirely useless after all... but as Twilight stared at the sight of Decay's idea of being helpful and Luna Brynhild rubbed moodily at a freshly-bleeding foreleg, she wondered morbidly if they would be better off trying to make friends with the griffins after all.

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