• 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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A Dangerous Road Home

Chapter Twenty One: A Dangerous Road Home

Late that night, Luna sat in front of a burning blue fire, looking a little more satisfied with their situation. They had been joined by no less than four Nightmares, and Volus had made herself useful and gotten them food, while Sunder sat grouchily on the other side of the flames, the giant goat demon eying the Nightmares distrustfully.

Decay was... well, he wasn't sleeping, Luna thought, but he was flopped down beside the sapphire mare, resting complacently on the ground. Twilight Sparkle had retreated for the moment into the black pearl in the mare's collar, and Scrivener Blooms was sitting on her other side, chewing slowly on a cooked fish as Volus gazed at him with eagerness.

Then Luna glanced up quickly at a flickering through the trees, but she settled after a moment as she realized it was just a Pale, silently wandering the forest. Then a Nightmare leaned in, saying tenderly: “Do not worry, Mistress. The griffins do not wander the forest at night... they are afraid of the spirits that wander here.”

“Ghosts are too well known in this world; in our world, the existence of Pales are still questioned. Apparently 'tis easier to believe in demons and that the living dead are made through magic than that our loved ones may wander the world when we die, instead of rising to Heaven or falling to Hell.” Luna halted, then reached up and caressed her black pearl gently, murmuring: “Or maybe that is it. We simply do not desire to believe our loved ones may become trapped in purgatory.”

“But you know and appreciate the truth, Luna Brynhild. Sometimes that too can be paradise.” said one of the Nightmares softly, and the sapphire mare looked mildly over at the smoky equine before she simply grunted and shrugged.

There was silence for a moment, and then Scrivener tossed the mostly-eaten fish into the fire with a sigh, watching the way the blue flames charred it but didn't actually begin to burn and break it down. Then he winced a bit when Volus leaned in and dabbed lightly at his mouth with a cloth, almost purring: “And now what would you like for dessert, Lord Scrivener?”

Sunder only rolled his eyes, saying moodily: “He doesn't want you, prostitute. You know what amuses me about all of you, though? You all expect to go with Luna Brynhild when she leaves, to join her mythical world of demons. Well, Luna Brynhild is neither a savior nor a messenger of Hel. You will be committing blasphemy.”

Volus huffed at this, looking up and retorting: “How do you know, Sunder? You can't see into our Mistress' mind, and furthermore, how can you even be so sure that your crystal ball doesn't just tell you what Hel wants you to hear?”

Sunder looked sour at this, and Luna grumbled and shook her head before she said pointedly: “I have yet to decide precisely what I am going to do, Sunder, so do not speak for me. Volus, thou art annoying.” Luna moodily looked over the two as they both sulked, then she absently started to stroke along Decay's spine, the dark spirit's skeletal frame relaxing completely as the sapphire mare continued: “First, we must gather the materials necessary to build a snare. Then we must lure in a Reaper to the trap to take away its scythe. 'Twill not be easy without my horn.”

Scrivener Blooms grunted, and then he looked uneasily down at one of his claws; they were in terrible shape, and they were starting to hurt again, and his forelimbs were beginning to look... infected... but Decay was able to numb his nerves for hours at a time, which let him kind of use his powers and move around the few digits that still worked.

Luna had rebroken all his claws, and one was wrapped completely in cloth bandages the Nightmares had stolen from somewhere, while the other was partly splinted, but with only a few of his digits wrapped up. And both he and Luna were afraid of what was going to happen to him if they couldn't get this taken care of soon...

But they didn't have a lot of choices at the moment open to them: he and Luna had discussed heading to the Red Altar, where demons apparently gathered, but getting in a fight with some higher-tier demons right now would be a great way to get themselves killed. So they had decided to rely on their misfit band here, and the Nightmares that were apparently drawn to Luna and were eager to think of her already as 'big sister.'

Scrivener Blooms flexed a claw slowly as he looked over at these dark shapes: life was such a strange path. He smiled briefly when one Nightmare turned its eyes towards him, and felt only a little creeped out by how much the Nightmare seemed to light up at that small gesture of kindness from him.

Then the stallion dropped his gaze and asked hesitantly: “Are you sure about this, Luna? My powers aren't working properly and I'm still losing blood. And this plan you have with Twilight is... a little bit stupid, to be entirely honest.”

“Aye, 'tis. But aren't all our best plans nothing but stupid hope?” Luna asked ironically, and then she looked down at Decay as she realized she was petting the dark spirit, and she halted for a moment... then grumbled when Decay rose his head and stared up at her, and the sapphire mare went back to stroking along his spine, muttering: “Oh, great idiot. Thou had best be useful against a Reaper thyself. Thou art... living death. I cannot wait to see Kismet's reaction.”

“His reaction is just going to frustrate you.” Scrivener remarked mildly, and Luna huffed loudly at this before the charcoal stallion shook his head and looked moodily down at one aching claw. “I hate that you have a point, though. Every time we try and act smart something bad happens. Every time we act dumb we seem to get away with things.”

The sapphire mare nodded a few times in agreement, and then Luna sighed and turned her eyes towards the Nightmares, gesturing at them moodily. “So far, thy kind has proven the most useful. I would like if thou could continue to be so, and fetch us some important materials. Can thou carry iron and silver if 'tis wrapped in cloth?”

“We can levitate it, although it's difficult... but anything you desire, we shall find the way to do.” one of the Nightmares murmured, bowing her head low, and the others nodded.

“I can touch it!” Volus said quickly, waving a hoof brightly, and Luna scowled over at the succubus, but the demon only smiled brightly. “No, I can, I really can! Daddy was a mortal. I have a lot of half-demon traits.”

Luna looked surprised at this, but then she nodded hesitantly and said finally: “Then perhaps thou can be of some use to me after all. Reapers are not servants of darkness, so 'twill require more than dark magic to draw one in. Fetch me the trappings used for funeral rites from a temple, it matters not the religion. Only that they are consecrated and real.”

Volus nodded eagerly, smiling brightly before the succubus leapt backwards and transformed into a black mist that shot up into the air. Luna nodded firmly at this, then she turned her eyes towards the Nightmares, saying softly: “And thou should know thy job as well. Fetch me rods of iron and silver... if the griffin camp is as large as thou hast said, I am sure thou shall find an abundance of such 'round the smithy.”

The Nightmares all smiled and vanished, and Sunder only shook his head with a grumble, then he glanced up sourly as Luna asked flatly: “And what of thou, ogre? Can thou do anything at all that is useful, or art thou just going to sit there and sulk?”

Sunder gave a sour rumble at this, and then he replied shortly: “I have already done more than enough for you, I think. I am not a friend of Hel, but I do not wish to make an enemy of her, either. Neutrality is a cherished treasure.”

“Aye, especially after thou hast been exiled by thy former queen, and now thou works as a merchant of knowledge like a greed demon instead of following thy actual nature, foul beast.” Luna said grumpily, leaning back against Decay. Then she paused and looked thoughtfully down at the dark spirit, before sitting up and saying firmly: “Play dead.”

Decay stared up at her with his blank eyes... and then the light whiffed out before the skeleton collapsed, the vines going still and silent over the jumble of bones. Luna covered her muzzle and giggled childishly as Scrivener Blooms looked sourly at the sapphire mare, before she hurriedly cleared her throat and patted Decay awkwardly. “Thou art performing admirably. Well done, creature. That is very well done, and precisely part of how we shall draw in the reaper.”

Decay's bones shuddered, then the vines over his body spasmed before the dark spirit's body tightened, the creature picking itself up and simply nodding to Luna before it complacently settled itself back beside her. Scrivener Blooms sighed and shook his head, and Sunder looked less-than-pleased before he said grudgingly: “If it will help get rid of you faster, then I will be more than happy to supply a few other tokens from Helheim to attract Pales.”

“And a reaper will be drawn by the energy, aye.” Luna nodded slowly, then she sized Sunder up meditatively: “And what does thou want in return, ogre?”

“For one, I desire for you to stop referring to me as that.” Sunder said crankily, and then he pointed at Scrivener and said moodily: “For another, I desire two vials of blood from him, and two vials from you, Brynhild. A trophy of sorts.”

“I think not. One vial, each, to ensure thou does not sell the other vials of our blood to some overeager Blood Seer.” Luna said crankily, and the creature growled in irritation, but then nodded grumpily. The sapphire mare nodded firmly at this, then she said pointedly: “And thou had best not attempt to call upon us some time in the future for thy own amusement. 'Twill not go over well, hear me clearly. We are not servants to be summoned.”

Sunder snorted at this, retorting: “As if I would willingly call on your help, even if it meant being dragged back to Helheim in order to take part in one of Hel's 'circuses.'” Sunder replied acidly, and then he shook his head before simply vanishing from sight, although they could still hear him as he trudged away, muttering sourly: “Stupid ponies and their stupid, self-centered ideas...”

The creature's voice faded quickly, and Luna huffed a little before she looked over at Scrivener Blooms. The stallion looked back at her, then the two simply traded shrugs and awkward smiles. There was silence apart from the crackling of blue flames and what sounded almost like Decay breathing, until finally Luna leaned back with a slight smile as the black pearl in her collar glimmered for a moment before Twilight Sparkle flickered into being.

The Pale yawned quietly, stretching out slowly before she gazed warmly between the two, and Scrivener was unable to repress the tender look he gave the spirit. Seeing her just... helped him, somehow, no matter what else was going on, and even if she wasn't physically here, just a spirit... she was still present. They could still feel her with them.

Scrivener Blooms and Luna Brynhild both smiled at her, and the Pale seemed almost to blush before she turned her eyes to the blue flames. She studied them thoughtfully before concentrating visibly, and both Scrivy and Luna glanced with smiles towards the blue fire as it flared suddenly upwards when Twilight's ghostly spirit pulsed.

But just that exertion made the Pale flicker in and out of reality for a moment before she shook herself firmly, but looked relieved all the same. She could do some minor magic as a spirit, but it was far, far more exhausting for her, since she had no body to naturally contain and channel the flow of her energies. Just existing as a Pale was like keeping water in the shape of a pony with her mind alone: attempting to use magic while a Pale was like trying to not only maintain that shape, but rip out a piece of that same essence and transmogrify it into whatever she was trying to do.

So even Scrivener couldn't downplay how impressive Twilight's powers were... much as he'd like to, sometimes. And the Pale turned an amused look on him as she sensed these thoughts, but Scrivener Blooms only shrugged a little before he noted Decay was staring over at Twilight almost eagerly from the ground, and the stallion swore that if his bony tail was more than a stub he'd be wagging it. “At least the dog likes you.”

Twilight rolled her eyes at this, and Luna looked thoughtfully down at Decay, which made Scrivener wince and shake his head hurriedly. “No way, we already have a pet.”

“What? No we do not, Antares is usually in Heaven.” Luna scoffed, and Scrivener dropped his face in a hoof as Twilight laughed silently despite herself. “And Abaddon is more like our child, Scrivy. Thou art so cruel, truly, to thy own little boy whom thou gave birth to.”

“I hate you.” Scrivener Blooms said flatly, and Luna huffed loudly before the stallion sighed and sat back, then he hesitated as he looked over at Twilight, asking finally: “So... are you sure about this? I mean... you're the one who's going to be in the most danger and all.”

Twilight looked softly over at the stallion, and Luna huffed loudly, flailing a hoof and grumbling: “Oh, aye, Scrivener Blooms, go ahead and flirt with Twilight Sparkle so. Go ahead and make me look like I am the terrible one here, willfully putting our beloved mare at risk. Who I love far more than I love thee, by the way.”

“That's fine, Luna, I feel the same way.” Scrivener said mildly, and Luna glowered at him before the charcoal stallion shook his head and said finally: “I'm just worried, that's all. It just feels like something's going to go wrong, you know?”

Both mares nodded a little, and then Luna shook her head and murmured: “Aye, but either way, there is nothing we can really do, Scrivy. Only push forwards, and hope for the very best... 'tis not a good situation to be in, but it could be far worse, too, I think. We have allies... allies I even dare to trust, for the most part.”

Twilight Sparkle nodded with a smile, and the charcoal stallion grunted before he flexed a claw slowly and grimaced a little. Luna sighed at this, shaking her head before she glanced down at Decay, saying softly: “Scrivy requires another injection. And be gentle this time, creature.”

Decay picked itself calmly up, then strode around the fire, eyes locked on Scrivener Blooms as the stallion grimaced before sitting back and awkwardly holding up his front hooves, mumbling: “Thanks, really. I think.”

The creature only halted and stared at Scrivener Blooms for a moment, then it sat heavily on its bony rump and reached both front hooves up. Short strands of vine snaked out along its forelimbs, reaching and curling around Scrivener's claws and the joint before they both squeezed firmly, and the stallion cursed quietly under his breath, dropping his head forwards as he felt the thorns sinking through his hide.

But he shortly felt his nerves going numb, and the stallion closed his eyes and forced himself to relax despite the fact he could feel pulses of pain traveling from his elbows to his shoulders. He could also see those... ugly blue lines that were his veins growing, worsening, and he was as well aware as Luna was that Decay might be able to take away the pain, but he also seemed to be making the infection growing through his forelegs worse.

After a few minutes, Decay's vines slithered back around the creature's own limbs, and it stepped back, studying Scrivener intently. The stallion looked awkwardly back, then he nodded a little and mumbled: “Well, uh. Thank you.”

Decay only nodded slowly again, and then it turned around and simply flopped over peacefully, resting its skull across its crossed forelegs. Scrivener looked moodily down at the creature, then he sighed a little and absently reached out to stroke along its spine, muttering: “Maybe I should lay down a patch of mire while we have the chance. It doesn't seem to be taking very well, though, but... I don't know if that's because this world feels so weird, or if it's because my own powers aren't exactly... functioning very well right now.”

Luna Brynhild nodded slowly, then she glanced over at Twilight Sparkle as the Pale caught her eye, then hesitantly pointed at her broken soulstone prosthetic. The sapphire mare blinked in surprise at this, trying to look up before she shook her head quickly and said finally: “Well... I do not know...”

Scrivener frowned as well, as he caught enough of Twilight's thoughts whispering through his mind to know what she meant. “That's... well, I dunno. I guess it couldn't hurt to try... but I highly doubt you're going to be able to do a whole lot with it, Luna...”

Twilight nodded encouragingly all the same, and Scrivy and Luna traded lame looks before the stallion sighed as he stepped back a bit, a little away from the fire, and he pushed one claw against the ground. He winced as he concentrated his powers downwards, creating a small puddle of black mire as his veins sizzled with pain and he felt his nerves warning him against using his powers much further even through the numbness that had shrouded them.

But thankfully, he didn't think it would take a whole lot more anyway, as he carefully made a slow upwards-pulling motion and concentrated. The mire trembled, then crystallized as it twisted upwards, transforming into a false horn in the shape of Luna's old prosthetic before the stallion grasped this and pulled it free as Luna approached.

He didn't have to say anything as she quickly lowered her head, Scrivener turning and plugging the dripping, not-as-solid base into the broken end of the prosthetic, the semisolid goop acting like cement and melding corrupt crystal to shattered soulstone. Then both Luna and Scrivener flinched and gasped at the spark of pain that ran through Luna's skull, before she arched her back, eyes widening in shock as the black gemstone lit up with nightmarish luminescence.

The dark energy pulsed through the field, Decay staggering up to its hooves and hissing as it drew hurriedly back, and Twilight Sparkle only gaping and staring, a shiver of... was that excitement? Because Luna could feel it, too: excitement, adrenaline, energy pounding through her veins as she shuddered before grinning widely, raising the black crystal horn higher as her eyes began to glow...

And then the light fizzled out of the dark crystal prosthetic, and Luna and Scrivener both stared dumbly upwards at this before the winged unicorn frowned as the excitement and energy faded. She reached up and knocked twice against the horn, then grimaced in surprise, drawing her hoof hurriedly away as she felt something... sticky.

She stared dumbly as she realized that the prosthetic had partially melted just from the energy running through it, and Luna groaned and shook the waxy corruption off her hoof, looking disgusted. Scrivener winced as well, reaching up and touching the horn gently, and it shivered at his touch... which caused Luna's whole body to quiver before she blushed slightly as she glowered over at the stallion, mumbling: “'Tis... 'tis sensitive.”

Scrivener Blooms smiled despite himself at this, and Luna blushed deeper before her mouth fell open and her whole body quaked for a moment when Scrivener stroked up the black crystal, making it reverberate as it rehardened into dark gemstone. Euphoria burst in waves through Luna's mind before she turned scarlet as she shoved Scrivener away, mumbling: “Thou... thou art not allowed to do such things, foul Scrivener Blooms. Touch me not.”

Twilight Sparkle herself was swaying almost delightedly, a silly smile on her face before she cleared her throat silently as Scrivener grinned over at her. The Pale hurriedly shook herself out, then awkwardly reached up and poked her own horn, and both Scrivener and Luna managed to become a little more serious as the sapphire mare nodded and muttered: “Aye. The cap cannot survive the full extent of my power, but perhaps 'twill survive long enough to allow for some magic...”

Luna reached up and absently brushed through her light-blue hairs of her mane, then she shook her head briefly as she muttered: “Damnation. If only 'twas enough to get rid of my stupid mane, 'twould be enough. Scrivy, find a sharp rock and let us shave this ridiculous mane away.”

Scrivener Blooms sighed at this, then he gestured moodily at Luna to turn around, and the mare huffed but did so. The stallion stepped up behind her, then grimaced as he slowly pulled her mane back and began to twist the hairs into a rough braid. “You can't shave with a sharp rock, Luna.”

“Can so. I have done it before.” Luna declared, looking forwards as Twilight Sparkle shook her head slowly, then the winged unicorn smiled a little before she asked softly: “Would thou mind scouting the area, sweet Twilight? 'Tis easier for thee than us, and I am lazy. And our wife is busily taking care of my hair, as thou can see.”

The Pale smiled and shook her head slowly, then she simply vanished from sight, and Scrivener sighed a little as he tugged gently on the mare's mane, murmuring: “One of these days, Luna, I might actually be offended by something you say. Then I'll have to divorce you.”

“I will kill thee before I allow such a thing to happen. Were we divorced, thou would be entitled to half my treasures. 'Twould be a crime to allow all that candy to be stolen away.” the sapphire mare responded softly, and Scrivener Blooms smiled despite himself before he fumblingly knotted her braided mane, cursing under his breath at how much it stung his claws to do so.

He sat back, and Luna shook her head out, then smiled over her shoulder at him before turning around and quietly bopping him with her crystalline horn. Scrivener winced, and yet felt strangely reassured by the gesture at the same time before Luna said softly: “I will need thou to push through the pain at least a little bit for me, though, Scrivy. Thou will do so, aye?”

Scrivener gave her a quietly-amused look, and Luna shrugged, giving him an entertained look. “Well, thou always does thy best when thou art a little patronized and a little frustrated with me. Thou becomes very determined. 'Tis rather delightful, really.”

The stallion sighed a little at this, but he nodded after a moment before looking down at one mangled claw, studying it silently, and the poisoned veins radiating along his foreleg. Then his eyes roved up, and he asked quietly as their gazed locked: “And what about you, Luna? Do you promise to do the same?”

Luna huffed at him, but then she nodded and smiled faintly after a moment, murmuring: “I do, Scrivener Blooms, damned idiot. I shall do whatever is necessary to make our way home, and afterwards to fight against Gymbr... even if it means...”

Luna bit her lip, looking down... and then she grumbled and closed her eyes, mumbling: “Even if it means we must ally ourselves with Hel. The thought is loathsome, but all the same... aye, we do not have the luxury of picking and choosing our allies, so much as we might like to.”

Scrivener Blooms smiled, and the sapphire mare huffed at him before mumbling: “I am not a complete fool, Scrivy. I know that sometimes I must do what is in the interests of others, and not just what mine own foul pride calls for.”

The charcoal stallion only shrugged a bit at this, then he leaned forwards and kissed the base of her horn gently, and Luna smiled a bit before stepping forwards and burying her face against his neck as he slipped a foreleg around her and held her close. And there was only silence for a little while as the two rested in the flickering blue firelight together, hoping against hope that they would be able to find a way back to their own world before Gymbr could bring his plans to fruition.

After Twilight returned, she went back to rest: this time inside the ponies she was soulbound to. It was dangerous for her to spend too long inside her living phylacteries, but short periods of time would rejuvenate her much faster and more effectively than just lingering in an object close by.

Volus was the first of the demons to return, and she came back with quite a few relics taken from the griffins. The Nightmares arrived shortly after, looking proud of themselves: two of them were wearing satchel bags filled with iron bars also taken from the griffin base, and Luna reflected wryly that it was fortunate, really, they had run into that patrol: she was always more hesitant about stealing from strangers, but she didn't mind ripping off an encampment likely composed of rude, self-proclaimed masters of the skies.

Sunder loitered his way back an hour or so before the sun was to rise, bringing with him a strange incense burner shaped like a coiled golden serpent. He set this up while ignoring all of the insults Luna flung at him for taking so long, continually shoving Volus away as she tried to poke at the different parts of the burner.

They had already set up the 'stage' that the snare would rest on, so to speak: a pond of mire that Decay was already sitting calmly in, waiting to be given the order. Not that he could leave even if he wanted to: Luna had submerged the iron rods an inch or so into the mire in a circle. Normally it was a kind of snare meant only for demons and spirits, but Twilight Sparkle would hopefully have enough strength to cast a spell that would allow it to hold a reaper at bay long enough for them to take away its scythe and pummel it into submission.

After Sunder lit the incense burner and the sweet-smelling perfume began to cloy the air, Luna turned her eyes to the Nightmares, saying softly: “Twilight Sparkle can perform the initial spell, but she will not be able to hold the barrier for long, as she has a much-different task. That is where thy aid shall be required. I do not think I have to remind thee that the reaper will not take kindly to being attacked, and if it escapes that trap, it will seek to claim all our souls as punishment.”

“We know, Mistress. But we are not afraid.” one of the Nightmares said softly, bowing its head and smiling almost tenderly. “We know you shall succeed. And we have no desire to fail you.”

Luna grunted and nodded moodily, then she looked over at Volus and said mildly: “Light those candles, and sprinkle the holy water thou hast brought, and speak a prayer: it does not matter to whom or what. Then, and only after these things have been done, light the mixture I have left in the black bowl in front of the phoenix pinions thou hast brought me.”

Volus nodded eagerly, turning to hurry and begin lighting the candles around the perimeter of the snare. Pales were already beginning to appear, drawn by the strange smell but staying to watch what was going on with silent curiosity, and Luna felt a strange twist in her stomach: both from guilt, because she was sure some of these specters thought they were opening a path for them to move on, and from memories rising of when she and Scrivener Blooms had helped in reviving a world they had thought lost forever.

She shook her head hurriedly before glancing over at Decay, ordering calmly: “Play dead. Do not stir, even if the reaper begins to drain thee. Do not move until Twilight Sparkle raises the barrier. Then thou may aid us if thou can, but the reaper must not be killed, and the scythe must not be damaged, does thou understand?”

“Yes, Brown Hilt.” Decay nodded several times, and Luna rolled her eyes before the skeleton simply collapsed into the mire, vines settling around the loose bones. She studied this moodily for a few moments, then shook her head slowly as she felt Twilight Sparkle stirring inside her.

She heard her whispers; less a voice, more like... emotions, images made into a blur of sound that just made some strange kind of sense in her mind. Scrivener could hear it too, and he smiled a bit as Luna soothed gently: “'Tis fine yet, Twilight. Scrivy, keep thy eyes open... Sunder, get thee hence. The reaper may not care about us being here but thou art useless.”

Sunder growled loudly, then he simply vanished from sight, his heavy footsteps moving quickly away from them. Scrivener Blooms looked mildly over at Luna, but the sapphire mare only grunted, looking pointedly back. “He is not actually leaving, thou and I can both hear the great plodding idiot. Besides, either way he will certainly linger behind. He will want his prize, after all. Now open thy eyes. Thou and Twilight Sparkle are the only ones who will be able to see the reaper.”

Scrivener Blooms nodded after a moment, closing his eyes tightly and taking a slow breath as he felt his mind twisting and a spark of pain in his brain. And when his eyes opened and he looked around, he saw the Nightmares now looked like beautiful black ponies, and Volus was glowing and rippling with an odd, pure energy, and he could even make out the hoofprints left behind from Sunder...

But it was the Pales that drew his attention most of all. They weren't just ponies, but also griffins and other creatures, and he could see so many details in them, read their emotions, almost hear the stories they had to tell about the lives they had lived...

Then the stallion winced a bit when Luna pointedly poked him with her black-crystal horn, and he looked over at her lamely as he snapped out of his reverie. It was hard not to become distracted just by the sight of her alone, though: she was so darkly beautiful in his vision, like she was made out of the night sky and thrumming with power...

He shook his head hurriedly, then he quickly scanned the area as Luna studied him for a moment before nodding with a grunt of approval as she double-checked that everyone was in place before reaching up and slowly stroking her black pearl in a nervous gesture as Twilight shifted silently inside of her.

The congregation of Pales was growing, and Volus was humming a prayer softly as she smiled to herself, clearly enjoying her role. She was taking her time, but it was a good thing, Luna thought: it gave them all the time they needed to settle in, and helped bait the trap.

The succubus flicked her claws over the black bowl filled with a compound Luna had carefully created from what she'd been able to scavenge and taken from her more-than-willing helpers. With only the barest spark of magic, the bowl burst into sapphire flames, flaring sharply before it quickly settled into an almost-liquid pool that swirled and twisted with a beauty all its own.

Volus cooed at this, and then looked up as Luna said clearly: “Retreat, succubus. We do not wish to give the reaper any hint that there is a trap laying here in wait, nor any provocation. We must make our bait look as appetizing as possible.”

The succubus smiled, then she pranced quickly around the snare and headed over towards Scrivener Blooms, sidling right up to him, and the stallion winced back a bit in surprise at the strangely-glowing demon. “Is this far enough away, Lady Luna?”

Luna grumbled moodily, and Scrivener cleared his throat as he looked up, pointedly ignoring the demonic mare. He went back to scanning the area even as he felt the succubus attempting to slip herself against him, half-drawing his attention with how strangely... bright she was. She wasn't like any demon he had ever seen before, with her aura...

“Thou art distracting my husband.” Luna said grumpily, and when Volus looked at her sulkily, the sapphire mare rolled her eyes and beckoned at the succubus. “Oh, fine, little harpy. Come here and cuddle up with thy mistress, if thou must.”

Volus almost squealed in delight, bouncing happily over towards the winged unicorn, and Scrivener couldn't stop his eyes from following the demon, seeing an earnest desire to please mixed in with silly, almost filly-like excitement and simple optimistic cheer...

And then Volus collided with a dark shape floating slowly through the area, and Scrivener's eyes widened at how the demon passed through it without seeming to notice the presence. And likewise, this dark thing, this living absence of light and form, paid no heed to the Nightmares or the ponies or even the Pales, even though the ghosts were all staring at the dark shape with a mix of awe and supplication.

It was a reaper, a force of reckoning and death. It was a creature that lacked the same emotions of those same beings it was supposed to ferry between worlds and into the Void, and who were drawn to congregations of spiritual energy and particularly-potent lost souls, seeking to remove them from the fabric of physical reality; sometimes to simply bring the to the next stage of life and death, other times to present these captured energy forms as payment and tribute to whatever forces they served.

Scrivener Blooms could see it – even if only as an amorphous shadow with how far outside reality it was at the moment – and through her husband, Luna saw it too, her eyes locking on a creature that could step further into the ether than most demons or spirits could, although the Pales were aware of its presence. They watched as the reaper was drawn towards Decay, lured by the energy in the air and the magic they had performed.

It passed over the stage of the snare, and Twilight Sparkle flickered into being beside Luna, the Pale setting herself and beginning to glow with energy as the shadow stretched down towards Decay... then suddenly halted. Luna and Scrivener both frowned... and then, before anyone could react, the reaper suddenly shot away from Decay and straight for Twilight Sparkle, apparently sensing her intent as it flickered into reality.

Silver claws drew a long scythe back as its smoky, tattered cloak rippled through the air with its speed, its eyes pits of blue flames burning out of a metallic beast-skull mask. The Nightmares all immediately panicked at the sight of this thing in reality, stumbling back and forth all over each other as Volus shrieked in surprise and Luna snarled, stepping forwards and sweeping her horn out as she poured all the magic she had into one spell-

Her horn exploded, sending shards of crystallized corruption and a few flecks of soulstone in all directions as the mare was knocked backwards, features badly seared and one ear bleeding. She couldn't even scream, landing on her back and skidding over the ground as an enormous wave of blue flames ripped through the air. The Pale of Twilight cried silently out as she was nicked by the spirit-eating flames, white mist bursting up from the wound in the specter, but the reaper took the hardest hit from the blast.

It was knocked flying out of the air with a rasping howl of pain, scythe flying from its grip and cloaked body bursting into blue fire as it crashed to the ground and rolled violently backwards. Without its scythe, the reaper was left almost defenseless and trapped in physical reality, rolling wildly back and forth as Luna managed to shout through the ringing tearing through her mind: “Hold... hold it down!”

Scrivener Blooms staggered forwards despite his own blurred vision and the pain thundering through his body, the stallion gritting his teeth as the reaper managed to shake off the last of the blue flames and fling itself in the direction of its scythe. But Scrivener leapt forward as well, and he managed to snag its cloak and firmly yank it face-first into the ground.

But the creature was fast, hurriedly wriggling out of its grip and jumping out of the way when Scrivener tried to tackle it, the stallion instead skidding face-first through the field as the reaper lunged for its scythe again. A Nightmare, however, plowed into the reaper in midair, knocking it away from its scythe before the other semicorporeal creatures smashed into it one after the other.

All the same, the reaper managed to quickly regain its claws, scurrying once more for its weapon... but finally, Volus managed to tackle the reaper from behind and shove it face-first into the ground, denting in its mask before she firmly dropped her rump and full weight on the back of its skull. The reaper's head was almost crushed into the soft ground, flailing its arms wildly as Luna and Scrivener both stared, and the succubus asked brightly over her shoulder: “Did I do good?”

Scrivener Blooms sighed tiredly as he shut his eyes, feeling the pain in them gradually fading before he opened them and blinked a few times, everything once more seeming normal... and as two Nightmares helped restrain the reaper and the other two picked up its long scythe to proudly carry it over to Luna, the stallion finally nodded and said wryly: “Yeah, I guess you kind of did.”

Volus beamed brightly, clapping her front hooves childishly together as Luna rolled her eyes, but then smiled as she was offered the scythe. She sat back, taking it and cradling it easily in one foreleg against her shoulder, then she gestured easily with her over hoof at the entities restraining the reaper. “There. Get thee gone. Twilight Sparkle, art thou alright? And... damnation, Decay, so much for the loyal hound thou art supposed to be!”

The charcoal stallion looked mildly for a moment at the dark spirit, which was still playing dead in the trap, and then he turned more-concerned eyes to Twilight Sparkle. But the Pale smiled a little, shaking her head briefly at the faint scar in the leg of her spirit, and the two nodded hesitantly. She was okay, just a little embarrassed by the way everything had gone to hell, but Luna only laughed quietly as she murmured: “Nay, fear not, my gorgeous mare. 'Tis not at all thy fault, 'tis my own for not taking into account the energy thou must emit when charging thy magic. It must have understood what thou wert doing.”

Twilight nodded, then she silently reached up and touched the shattered base of soulstone horn, and Luna smiled faintly and closed her eyes. “Nay, that too is mine own fault... I knew 'twas fragile and all the same I put too much power into the magic. But it saves thee from having to use thy magic to pin the reaper down and... I am sure Scrivy is happy that the danger for thee 'twas less after all.”

“Or more, technically. But it wasn't your fault at least, Luna.” Scrivener said mildly, and Luna gave him a dry look as Twilight sighed silently, then turned her own worried look on Scrivener Blooms as the stallion approached . But the earth pony shook his head a little, reaching up and rubbing at his face as he murmured: “I'm perfectly fine, don't worry. We're not out of this yet, anyway.”

Luna grunted in agreement, and Twilight nodded slowly. There was a moment of quiet, and then the sapphire mare finally looked over at the demon and Nightmares restraining the reaper and said calmly: “Allow it to stand. 'Twill be a good boy now, shall thou not, creature? Aye, for thy scythe contains thy very soul, and if I smash it, then I smash thee.”

Volus giggled as she sprung off the reaper's head, and the Nightmares drew back with much more composure, letting the reaper crawl up to its... well, Scrivener wasn't really sure if it had feet or not in the depths of its cloak. But it stood all the same, looking at them and rasping quietly through its dented mask as it stared at them with as much intensity as Decay did, and Scrivener Blooms grimaced a bit as Luna huffed and knocked firmly twice on the pole of the scythe.

The reaper dropped its head silently, and Luna nodded with a grunt before she sighed tiredly and rolled her eyes as she noted Decay was still playing dead, the sapphire mare shouting irritably: “Stupid idiot, Decay, get up on thy hooves and come here!”

Decay snapped itself back together and stood up, arching its back for a moment as the vines over its body writhed, and then it calmly strode forwards... and bonked almost comically into an invisible barrier, stumbling backwards before it attempted to walk forwards again. It once more bumped into the invisible wall formed by the iron snare around it, and Luna groaned loudly and shook her head slowly.

“I'll get it!” Volus trilled brightly, bouncing happily over to the mire platform, and she giggled a little at the sight of Decay continuing to calmly attempt to drag himself through the barrier. Scrivener watched with dry amusement as the winged unicorn slowly rubbed at her features, looking exasperated, and then she quickly turned her attention back to the reaper, who was simply standing with one of his claws pressed against the ground, the other flexing slowly.

He was just staring at Luna, but there was no hostility there... just a strange sort of curiosity. It wasn't completely emotionless, despite the strange distance the creature had between itself and them, but it didn't look at them with hatred, either. It seemed to simply acknowledge that it was in the worse position, and it was less than happy about this fact.

Luna glanced up uneasily at the sky, noting that it was beginning to lighten. She didn't want to spend much longer here: not just because she was so worried about what might have happened with Gymbr, but because she had a feeling the griffins would be coming to look for the ponies who had attacked one of their patrols... especially since she had no doubt the griffins would be blaming ponies for all the gear that had vanished from the encampment.

The sapphire mare's eyes drew back down to the reaper, and she leaned forwards, saying clearly: “I require thee to open a portal for me. We need to go to Valhalla, does thou understand what I mean by this? It is a Heaven, upon the world of Asgard.”

“Yes.” the reaper whispered, bowing its head forwards, and it was silent for a few moments before it shook its head slowly. “No.”

Luna frowned at this, tilting her head before she asked sharply: “What does thou mean?”

There was silence for a few moments as the reaper only breathed slowly in and out, seeming to gather its thoughts before it looked up and said in its strange, rasping voice: “There is a warning. A Great Reaper has marked this place as... poisoned. We must not enter it.”

“What?” Scrivener Blooms stepped forwards, his eyes widening slightly before he asked sharply, as Luna and Twilight traded worried looks. “What do you mean? What happened?”

The reaper only shook its head, murmuring softly: “I do not know. It is marked; that is the warning. It is poison, that is the warning. I do not know anything further, and I do not ask.”

Luna cursed quietly at this, then she leaned forwards, saying coldly: “So thou art not saying thou can't; thou art saying thou does not want to, is that it? Well, I am not asking thee for what thou prefers to do, reaper, I am telling thee-”

Then she glanced up as Twilight silently touched her shoulder, looking at her both imploringly and... almost angrily. The sapphire mare shifted back a bit at this, and both Scrivener and Luna felt Twilight's emotions, Twilight's thoughts, rollick through them: how she wanted to go to Valhalla herself, how she wished they could charge straight to Gymbr and make him answer for what he'd done, how terrified she was of what could have happened to their family, especially Innocence... but they couldn't just rush in. They had to trust that Celestia had saved everyone she could, that Terra maybe was still there, fighting, leading Heaven's armies against their foe... and for now, return home, to heal and prepare. An emotional charge right back into the heart of the conflict would be dramatic... and ultimately a lethal mistake.

And, Luna realized, it also confirmed that they needed help. Help she didn't want to go begging for, but knew that she was going to have to humble herself in order to get. Help from the only entity who could possibly match apparently almost-all-powerful Gymbr, as much as Luna wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Queen of Helheim at this moment.

They would have to head home, heal their wounds, and prepare for the worst. Because doubtlessly, Hel wasn't about to just up and give them whatever they wanted: she was going to make them play some bizarre game to earn her assistance. The sapphire mare gritted her teeth at this thought before she met Twilight's eyes and nodded slowly, and Twilight Sparkle gave a faint, small smile and nodded back with a clear look of relief.

Scrivener Blooms sighed quietly, but he nodded slowly as well, lowering his head and knowing they really didn't have much of any choice. But it bothered him as much – hell, maybe even more – than it bothered Luna, as the stallion dropped his head and muttered: “Maybe we should just let the griffins kill us.”

“Oh shut up, beetle.” Luna said sourly, although she had to moodily admit it was a bit of an enticing idea. Then she sighed and shook her head slowly, turning her attention back to the reaper. “If I say Looking Glass World, does it have any meaning to thee?”

The reaper only stared at Luna with the smallest tilt of its head, and the winged unicorn made a face before she frowned a bit when Twilight Sparkle looked at her pointedly, nodding after a moment in agreement and turning her eyes back towards the harvester of souls. “Does thou know of a Great Reaper named Kismet?”

“Kismet.” the reaper repeated the name, lowering its head as if this was a difficult question. It seemed to drop off into pondering, and Volus groaned loudly as the Nightmares traded looks between themselves and Decay simply continued to stare at Luna and Twilight from where he was standing.

Eventually, Scrivener couldn't help but finally suggest in a sour voice: “The Great Reaper that left that warning, that mark on Valhalla, could you take us to him?”

The reaper looked up, then gave a slow nod, murmuring in response: “Yes. He is in one of the Odin-God's worlds, with others like you. That look like you, and at least one that is like you.”

Luna grinned wryly at this, then she looked up mildly as Volus bounced on the spot, wildly waving a front hoof as she asked pleadingly: “And you're bringing us, right? Right? Right? Oh please, Mistress Luna Brynhild, I'd do absolutely anything to come with you, be with you, join you, I'll be the bestest filly ever, you'll see, you'll see!”

The Nightmares all looked up with anticipation and hope as well, and the sapphire mare and Scrivener Blooms traded looks before the winged unicorn grumbled and turned her eyes towards the reaper, asking: “How long can thou hold open a portal to Looking Glass World for?”

The reaper only looked at Luna, and the sapphire mare finally closed her eyes and said tiredly: “The world with the ponies. Where the Great Reaper is.”

“I shall not create portal there. I shall ask the Great Reaper to open a rift to here.” the reaper said quietly, and then it extended a claw calmly towards the mare. “I require my scythe.”

Luna grinned wryly at this, and then she leaned forwards as she asked calmly, keeping the scythe resting close against her body for the moment: “And do I have thy promise thou shall not flee, and nor shall thou attack us? Do I have thy promise to do the deed I bond thee to, and contact the Great Reaper of the pony realm?”

“Yes.” the reaper said simply, and that was enough. Like most demons, the creature's word was its bond, and Luna was satisfied enough by the answer to toss the scythe towards the entity: the moment its weapon drew close, the scythe spun itself easily into the reaper's grip as the creature floated up into the air and lost its sense of distinction, hovering silently above the ground.

It looked at them for a few moments, studying them, but Luna looked fearlessly back, and after a moment the reaper simply nodded shortly. Then it floated a little higher into the air as it cradle the polearm up against its body with one claw, calmly raising the other as its silver gauntlet began to glow with a faint, soft luminescence.

A spark of energy rippled through the air, then formed into what looked almost like a sphere, humming quietly as it floated quietly at roughly head level with the reaper. The creature gazed calmly at this, then simply reached up and touched it with one claw, a tremor rippling through the hovering orb before it suddenly expanded into a large, glowing rift in reality, the reaper murmuring: “The Great Reaper has agreed to hold the rift open. He calls you, urgently.”

“That is not a good sign.” Luna muttered, and then she gestured quickly to the Nightmares and Volus, saying curtly: “Go through. Decay, follow them.”

Volus trilled with delight before she turned and happily charged for the portal, the Nightmares following with more composure but just as much eagerness through the portal. Decay lumbered after them, and Luna and Scrivener started forwards before Sunder cleared his throat loudly, glowering over at the two.

The ponies halted and glared as Twilight Sparkle shook her head and vanished from existence, retreating into her living phylacteries as the goat asked sourly: “My payment. Or are you trying to renege like the mortals always want to?”

“Great foul creature.” Luna huffed, then she rose a foreleg and bit into her own limb savagely, making Scrivener Blooms twitch and wince in pain as a wound tore in his own limb. “Well, I hope thou has a container, or I shall simply flick a vial's worth of blood at thee.”

The goat demon growled at them in irritation, and then he gestured grumpily at the piled-up funerary artifacts, pointing in particular at a cup likely meant for blessings. “Fill that. And-”

“Scrivy, bleed in... a hole or somesuch, thy blood is everywhere anyway.” Luna grouchily gestured with her head at the mire all around them as she quickly approached the cup, then she swept it up and firmly pressed it to her wound, gritting her teeth in faint, visible pain as her blood dripped into the goblet. She looked uncomfortably towards the rift, but the reaper was only floating silently, one claw seeming to grasp the top of the glowing portal as it stared into the swirl.

Scrivener Blooms sighed tiredly, then he awkwardly pawed at the mire with one aching claw, wincing a few times as he scraped bit of a hole that he simply held his claw over. Dark essence was already dripping out of his wounded forelimbs, after all, and as Scrivener stared down at these, he realized how... shriveled they were starting to look, as large veins pulsed eerily and painfully through his flesh. He shivered and shook his head slowly, then muttered: “There. We gotta go.”

“Aye. 'Twas nice dealing with thee, Hell Knight. We shall put in a good word for thee if and when we see Hel.” Luna said mildly, and the goat demon scowled at them before nodding grudgingly to their backs as they made for the portal.

Luna and Scrivener passed into the rift side-by-side, and they both gritted their teeth as they strode quickly through the tunnel of light and sound before there was a flash as they emerged through the other side, and both ponies looked up in surprise as they emerged into... actually, Scrivener Blooms wasn't entirely sure at first.

The sapphire mare looked back and forth in surprise, then she glared at the sight of the Nightmares clustered in one corner with Volus and Decay, quailing and shivering and surrounded by Greater Nightmares and First Tier demons. The lesser Nightmares were so afraid they were actually beginning to smolder as their own fear acted like a poison in their systems, draining their energy, and Volus had her eyes wide and her skin was drawn tight against her body, staring back and forth wildly. Decay, lastly, was just standing there, although the vines over his body were writhing almost angrily.

“Cease!” Luna shouted angrily as the rift closed, and the Greater Nightmares and demons looked up in surprise before hurriedly withdrawing. Luna spat to the side, then she glared around the room they had entered: a presentation theater in the Magic Academy. They were fenced in by slightly-curling walls on all sides, and plate glass window-walls encircled the top of the room to give the audience safely gathered above a safe look down into the circular area below.

“Our apologies. But Valkyrie Freya and I both agree that... it is best to be cautious for now.” said a familiar voice, and Luna looked over her shoulder to see Kismet, the Great Reaper bowing his head to them politely his claws tented in front of himself. “We were beginning to grow worried. You've been gone a little more than a week, my friends.”

“What?” Luna looked up in disbelief, and she and Scrivener Blooms traded disbelieving looks before the mare shook her head vehemently, blurting: “No, 'tis not possible! It was... it was less than a day that we were gone, we ensured we returned as fast as possible, and-”

“Where's Antares and Innocence and Scarlet, what happened to Valhalla?” Scrivener Blooms asked sharply, and Luna nodded violently at this interruption, even as the two ponies talked over each other, stumbling and blurting further questions before Kismet politely raised his metallic claws.

But it wasn't until the double doors at the side of the room opened that the two halted, both ponies looking up as Celestia strode inside. Luna began to brighten at the sight of her older sister... but it faltered quickly at the sight of the bandaging along Celestia's neck and over her face, and the terrible marks over her breast that scrawled all the way onto her side that looked as if some dragon had ripped its claws through her body after dipping them in magma.

Luna and Scrivener both stared at Celestia, and Celestia gave a small smile as she bowed her head slightly, and both ponies knew in that moment that nothing was okay. “I'm glad to see you back. We need to talk.”

“Wait.” Luna glanced over at the uneasy creatures that had come through the rift with her, instructing quietly: “Greater Nightmares, these are new sisters. They are welcome here with us, so I ask thee to treat them well. Take Volus to Subterra and introduce her to Burning Desire, he is... familiar with succubi. Decay... thou may come with us, I suppose.”

The Nightmares bowed their heads and Volus smiled brightly, dropping into a respectful bow. Decay, meanwhile, just trotted doggishly over to Luna, the vines over his body settling back into calm as Kismet tilted his head and studied the creature intently, then murmured: “I do not know if this creature should be pitied or admired. I will have to speak to you later, Decay.”

Decay only acknowledged Kismet with a look, and Celestia frowned at the dark spirit before she shook her head briefly and turned her eyes towards Luna, gesturing at her silently. “We need to talk now, Luna. Don't want to rush you, but... this is important. In private.”

Luna frowned worriedly at this as Scrivener Blooms nodded quickly, and Celestia gave that faint smile again that made her insides twist up and her heart thud in her chest with fear. Then she turned around and headed into the halls, and both ponies shivered a bit: she was limping, too. But the wounds all looked several days old, at least... except that wasn't entirely reassuring. Celestia and Luna both healed abnormally fast with their Valkyrie heritage: for something to have left the scars it did and Celestia to still look so badly beaten up...

“What happened to thee?” Luna asked quietly, and Celestia smiled faintly as she shook her head slowly, leading them down halls that seemed... tense, and afraid. The sapphire mare looked back and forth with a grimace, shivering a little as several Royal Guard passed, focused on a tight patrol: for some reason, the first thing that came to mind was... “'Tis like the last great war with the dwarves... when Fjalar and Galar brought their barbarian hordes against Canterlot.”

“But we drove them back, killed the brothers, and chased the Nibelung into the tunnels beneath Equestria, where they faded into legend.” Celestia said softly, shaking her head and smiling faintly before she lowered her head, murmuring: “Valhalla is lost, little sister. Asgard... is lost. We held it for three days, but Gymbr's power was too great. We attempted to quarantine him and his army in a section of Valhalla, but... he turned our barrier against us. He was able to do magic I've never seen before, taking over the barrier we had set up around him and turning it into a protective shell instead of a prison. He...”

Celestia halted in the middle of the hall, then she closed her eyes and lowered her head with a sigh before smiling weakly over her shoulder. “He corrupted Valhalla as he herded and divided our forces up until he was able to capture us all. He...”

Celestia stopped, and Luna felt Twilight Sparkle twist inside of her desperately as the sapphire mare looked up and whispered: “Innocence... what of Innocence, Celestia? What has happened to my little girl?”

The ivory mare only gestured silently to the side at a classroom door, and Luna gritted her teeth before she nodded shortly and turned, punching the door open and heading inside. Scrivener Blooms followed her through, and both ponies turned... and winced in surprise at the sight of Decay, as the creature gazed at them strangely before it simply flopped down beside Luna.

The sapphire winged unicorn sighed tiredly as Celestia strode into the room and quietly closed the door behind her with one hoof. It was a small thing, but it made Luna all the more worried as Celestia leaned sideways against the door, not looking at them for a moment before she murmured quietly: “Innocence... was with Gymbr. Willingly.”

“No.” Luna trembled a little, then she snarled and punched the floor savagely, leaning forwards and shouting furiously as Twilight cried out in pain inside her: “No! She is smarter than that, Celestia! She... she must have... no!”

Scrivener Blooms only swallowed thickly, trembling a little before he opened his mouth... then slowly closed it, shuddering harder. He could feel Twilight's despair and protectiveness and fear, and he could feel Luna's wild anger, and it was blurring with his own... disappointment.

He rose a claw silently as Luna continued to curse and shout and Celestia just stood there, looking at them with such... such sadness in her eyes. The stallion studied his own mangled claw silently, thought about how he and Luna were when it came to power... thought about Twilight, and how they had changed her, and the secrets that had perhaps always been hidden inside of the now Lich.

And finally, he reached his claw out and touched Luna's shoulder, and she turned a furious glare at him that he met with silent eyes. Their gazes locked, trading thoughts and images and memories back and forth, seeing their daughter's face in so many of them before Luna swallowed thickly, her shoulders slumping, her head rising a little as her lip trembled a little and her eyes became almost pleading.

It hurt. It hurt like hell, and yet all the same Scrivener Blooms forced himself to turn towards Celestia, taking a slow breath before he asked quietly: “What happened?”

Celestia looked back at him for a few moments, and then she lowered her head as she murmured softly: “I think she followed us. I think after Gymbr finished with you and sent you away, he must have found Innocence... or she found him. I'm sorry, Luna, Scrivener... and Twilight Sparkle, I can't... apologize enough for not protecting her.”

The ivory mare closed her eyes, then murmured softly: “She was... acting as Gymbr's messenger and ambassador the next time we saw her, alongside Twilight Shadow, and... I'm not sure if it's better or worse that she was asking for peace. Begging us to help Gymbr... I think he wants us all to submit to him. The last time we traded communications, he was still claiming that the light was coming to destroy us, that he was trying to save us... but Innocence already seems to be... changing...”

“I do not care what Gymbr says or promises.” Luna said quietly, trembling... but in spite of the tears in her eyes, her gaze had become cruel, determined, cold. “I do not care about myself, or mine own pride. I do not care about the light; if poisonous 'good' comes, we shall kill it, too. But first, we will destroy Gymbr. We will break this god and drag him through mud and pig-mire. We shall hurt him. We shall hurt him badly.”

Luna halted, then traded looks and sharp nods with Scrivener Blooms before the sapphire mare turned her cold eyes back to Celestia, asking calmly even as tears spilled down her cheeks: “What is the quickest way to make contact with Hel?”

Celestia frowned in surprise, but both Luna and Scrivener rose their heads with the same cold look in their eyes. So after a moment, the ivory mare only nodded shortly and turned around to lead them back out into the hall, the ponies and Decay following... and inside the soulmates, Twilight Sparkle trembled with despair and anger, wanting to save her daughter... and punish Gymbr.

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