• 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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We're A Weird Family

Chapter One: We're A Weird Family

“Innocence! C'mon, Sin, wake up, we gotta head into town soon!”

The young mare groaned loudly, wiggling deeper beneath the mound of blankets and pillows comforting her. It was warm and comfy and she really, really didn't want to get up. Sleep was too nice. No, just lazing here was too nice.

A hoof pounded at her door, and Innocence mumbled under her breath before squirming around a little to peer through a small hole in the safe enclosure of blankets surrounding her. She watched the door rattle a little with a few more firm raps against it, knocking several of the paper butterflies she had taped up against the frame loose, and then her big brother called mildly: “If we're late again, I'm not going to take the blame for it, butthead.”

“You're a butthead!” Innocence retorted, although her response was mostly muffled by the shell of blankets around her. And then she shifted and grumbled before beginning to struggle for the surface, mumbling: “Okay, okay, I'm getting up, I'm getting up...”

The cocoon of pillows and blankets around her trembled, several layers peeling slowly back as she pushed up towards the surface; her horn was the first to push through, tall and curved and almost blade-like. Next visible was her frazzled, steel-blue mane and the top of her head, normally-straight locks puffed out in all directions.

She grumbled, then shifted back and forth before a snout pushed out of the blankets: it was covered in deep, regal violet scales. A small claw soon pushed up out of the hole the muzzle had shoved out of, widening it and letting Innocence free herself completely with a wheeze, like this was all taking her some monumental effort.

The cold air was half-welcome, half-uncomfortable against her body: sections of scale meshed smoothly into more-equine hide the same color. It was only the texture that gave away her... strangeness. She wrinkled up her muzzle as she absently rose one of her claws in front of her face, then she chewed on it slowly as she scratched at herself with the other claw before her amethyst eyes finally blinked open.

She yawned loudly, showing off her large, sharp teeth for a moment before blinking blearily and rubbing slowly at her face. Then she turned, slowly slumping towards the edge of her large, puffy bed, and she simply flung herself off it, half-catching herself on her front claws before flopping face-first into the ground with a loud thump.

Several of her pillows and blankets followed her, but Innocence paid as little attention to them as she did to the floor as she picked herself up, not fazed in the slightest as she stumbled to a standing position. She shook herself out, then yawned loudly again as she surveyed her room, smiling a bit at the bookshelves stuffed with books and art supplies and dolls of all shape and size, the closet stuffed with junk more than clothing, and the full length mirror.

She sniffed loudly as she walked over to this, then peered into it and studied herself for a few moments quietly. She was no normal pony, she knew that... but what made her feel a little better was that no one in her family was really a 'normal' pony. But she was still a pony... no matter what she looked like.

Innocence smiled after a moment, then shifted a bit so she could look at her cutie mark on her flank: a stylized golden sickle, the handle in the shape of a cross. Ceres, she had heard that symbol called before.

She shook her head out after a moment, then studied her frazzled mane for a few moments before her horn glowed a dark lavender as she leaned forwards, concentrating. Her mane lit up with the same aura for a moment, the mare wincing as her shoulder-length hair was yanked out straight in all directions, then allowed to fall straight again, naturally twisting itself around her features.

She smiled as her body lit up with the same aura after a moment, and she winced only slightly as scales merged together and lost their rubbery texture. Within seconds, she was no longer some half-reptile, half-pony, but instead a relatively normal-looking mare, a warm smile spreading over her features as she nodded firmly to herself a few times. “There!”

She shook herself briskly out, her long, dark blue tail flicking once before she rose her head proudly as she turned towards the door, horn glowing to yank it open and let her prance out of her room. She turned into the den room, smiling at the photographs of her family that covered one wall alongside several paintings done by her mother, before her big brother leaned over the counter that divided living room and kitchen, the glossy-black unicorn smiling slightly at her. “Hey, Sin, finally. I was about to eat your pancakes.”

Innocence licked her lips at this, sniffing the air and catching not just the scent of pancakes, but bacon, too. Then her eyes returned to her big brother: he looked like their father with his dark coat, unruly white mane and tail, and his scarred frame, but he had their Móðer's midnight-cyan-green eyes. And she could never help but admire him: there was about twenty-four years of difference between their ages, but they were still the best of friends, and he acted more her age than he did like an adult.

“So, Antares Mīrus, is there any reason in particular you're being so nice to me?” Innocence asked mildly, cocking her head pointedly, and Antares shrugged before he turned around, heading over to the stove as the young, sixteen-year old mare trotted into the kitchen and leaned towards him insistently. “Come on, I always know something's going on when you put on bacon, you never cook.”

“I cook. I cook great.” Antares retorted defensively, turning towards her with a huff as he picked up a spatula with telekinesis, making the necklace he always wore sway: plain, dark string that held a black star inset with a silver lightning bolt around his neck. As always, Innocence couldn't help but let her eyes draw to this, then over his scars along his breast: large, crisscrossing mars over his chest that were older, more stretched and faded than the smoother crescent-shaped scars over his shoulderblades.

Then the unicorn turned towards the stove, and her eyes roved to the emblem on his flank: a constellation of nine blue-white stars with faint lines between them creating an image of a rose blossom. “Also, you still look like a monster this morning, Sin. You're all morning-face, sleepyhead.”

“Well excuse me, some of us here didn't inherit Mutt's immortality or agelessness or whatever.” Innocence retorted crankily, and then she reached up with a claw and grumbled as she felt self-consciously along her features as Antares grinned over his shoulder at her as he began to poke at the bacon with the spatula. “You're a jerkface.”

“Yeah, yeah. Don't blame me, blame Móðer.” Antares replied mildly, and then he winced as grease spat up from the pan, flailing stupidly with the spatula at thin air as he stumbled backwards with a curse.

Innocence snorted in amusement, rolling her eyes and turning around with a flick of her tail to head back into the living room, calling mildly over her shoulder: “I don't blame Momma for the way I turned out. You shouldn't blame Móðer for being a giant jerkface.”

“I blame Móðer for you being a giant jerkface too, actually.” Antares replied grouchily as he poked the pan threateningly a few times with the spatula, and then he moved it onto another burner as he turned the stove off, opening a cupboard above the sink as he added: “Coffee's here too. Come get stuff, Sin, I'm not your butler.”

Innocence only flopped down on her back on the futon that dominated the den: it was most often used by her parents, and smelled faintly of the forest and coffee. She rolled onto her back, glancing up through her legs and whining: “You hurt my feelings, Tarry. You should make up by bringing me my food.”

“Oh, you're such a baby, Sin. I swear to Valhalla...” Antares sighed as he took down two plates, then grumbled under his breath, already resigned to doing what Innocence had asked. “You know, one day I'm gonna say no to you.”

“No you won't, I'm too cute.” Innocence let her head drop back, smiling slightly to herself as she gazed into the empty fireplace, then she yawned a little before flopping over on her side and snuggling down into the futon, peering across the den room and watching across the open counter that divided the rooms as Antares put their food and coffee together. She studied her big brother, then softened a little as he lifted the plates, utensils and mugs with telekinesis, asking in a softer voice: “How long are you here for?”

Antares shrugged a bit at this as he dropped the plates and mugs gently to the floor, then sat down on a pillow as Innocence crawled to the edge of the bedding. “Not much longer... you know I've got lots of work to do. The whole family does, and that's going to include you soon.”

“Two years is not soon.” Innocence grumbled in response as she picked up her fork and knife with telekinesis, cutting into the pancakes on the plate before she smiled despite herself: Antares had given her a bigger share of bacon than he'd taken for himself. There he goes again. “You know, you're the big strapping stallion here...”

“Yeah, and I don't really even need to eat... weird as that is.” Antares smiled a bit after a moment, then he shook his head and leaned forwards, saying softly: “Besides, you'll need your strength today. I'm sure our parents have something big in mind for you.”

Innocence shrugged a bit at this, poking at her pancakes and muttering: “Yeah, big, I'm sure. Maybe Mom will see if I can do a light spell again. Or have me recite all the different schools of magic. Or maybe I'll even have to grow a plant.”

“I wonder if I was this angsty and cranky at your age?” Antares mused aloud, looking pointedly at his sister, and she blew a raspberry at him in response, making him smile amusedly before he reached up and shoved gently on her face, making her huff before she shoved a large piece of pancake into her mouth and chewed disconsolately. “Sin, every day for the past two years, you've gotten up and put a simple but long-lasting polymorph on yourself. You're sixteen years old and... our parents are just trying to let you have a childhood. Take it from someone who knows, be a kid for a little while, kid. You'll be a lot less confused and bitchy growing up than I was.”

Sin huffed in response, but for a few moments they only ate in quiet before she nodded a few times, glancing up and smiling a bit. “It's just... hard, Tarry. For a lot of reasons. And at least you weren't a freak like me growing up.”

“No, I just had wings.” Antares quieted for a moment, glancing over his shoulder at the scars on his back, and then he cleared his throat before shaking his head and gazing forwards with a smile at Innocence. “But I also didn't have Móðer and Dad around for a decade, too. You're lucky.”

“Yeah, we're the luckiest kids ever. We have three parents.” Sin remarked ironically, and Antares laughed and shook his head slowly. “And even more, Móðer is nuts and Momma's crazy overprotective.”

“Mom is not crazy overprotective. You're just as crazy as Móðer is.” Antares replied with a shrug, and Sin huffed and glowered, but then Antares snorted and looked back at her mildly. “Okay, then tell me one way your latest attempt to fly was not completely stupid and insane.”

“It almost worked!” Sin snapped, even as she blushed deep red. “The spell was just... I didn't calculate my weight right and... stupid... it... shut up!”

Antares replied to this by reaching over and poking Innocence in the chest a few times, and the mare winced as she felt a faint ache spill through her from a rib that was still bruised from jumping off the roof and gliding – okay, spiraling wildly out of control – straight down into the ground. Innocence slapped at his hoof, then grumpily picked up a claw full of bacon and tossed this into her mouth, chewing loudly and speaking through her food: “Look. The sooner I prove I can handle myself, the sooner they'll let me do stuff to help them and Equestria. The sooner people will stop looking at me like I'm a freak of nature.”

“You are a freak of nature, Sin, but it's not the fact you got the messed-up side of Dad's genetics that makes you a freak. It's just... who you are. Hell, we're all freaks in this family, even Scar.” Antares replied reasonably as the mare swallowed her bacon, and then he picked up a dry piece of pancake with his fork and flicked it at her, making Innocence scowl as it bounced off her cheek. “And again, talking from experience-”

“Well, I don't want your experiences. I want my own experiences.” Innocence interrupted stubbornly, and Antares snorted in amusement, rolling his eyes and shaking his head briefly. The mare grumbled at him, then she complained: “Look, I've heard all the stories, okay? When you were my age, you fought a destruction entity-”

“Yeah, great times. He blew up Ponyville and killed my friends, and really it was all my damn fault. I shouldn't've gotten involved.” Antares said mildly as he poked moodily at his pancake: but these days, thinking about Cancer and the cost hurt less. It had been so many years ago, and... he had changed a lot from those days.

All the same, Innocence looked at him a little sheepishly, and Antares sighed before he smiled to show it was okay, raising a hoof and saying quietly: “Look, baby sister. I just... I don't want you screwing up, that's all. I know you're gonna make mistakes and I know you deserve to make mistakes and do stuff on your own, but... just... try and listen to me when I say that because you've got a chance to be kind of a spoiled little brat, you should take it.”

“Because you're not.” Innocence replied sarcastically before she could stop herself, and Antares replied by flicking another piece of pancake at her, but the mare huffed and caught this with telekinesis before flinging it back at him. The stallion winced as it bounced off his face, then stared as the mare demanded: “I want to do magic stuff!”

“Hell no. Also, food.” Antares pointed at his plate with his fork... and then stared when Innocence seized what remained of her savaged food with telekinesis and all but inhaled it, chewing it up violently before she picked up her coffee and guzzled it down, ignoring the streams of hot dark liquid that spilled out of her maw before she slammed the mug down and glared at Antares.

The stallion chewed thoughtfully on his inner cheek, then slowly lowered his fork and picked up a small piece of his half eaten pancake. His fork spun around, sliding slowly through the air towards his mouth, and he delicately took this and chewed slowly, drawing it out as long as possible before swallowing. Then, as Innocence glowered at him horribly, he said pointedly: “I'm not done eating yet. And we have to go into town soon.”

Innocence grumbled, then fidgeted on the spot as Antares slowly put a single piece of bacon into his mouth and chewed calmly. He savored the taste of the meat as Innocence groaned and rolled over on her side, then grumbled and rubbed moodily at her stomach before deciding to change tactics, looking up at him pleadingly. “Can't we please please please do some magic exercises together? You're my bestest big brother ever and you know I just wanna spend time with you, since you're away so much and everything.”

“That's cute, Sin. Really. I'm totally convinced.” Antares said mildly, gesturing at her with his fork, and Innocence glared at him before hurriedly changing back to a begging gaze, and the stallion looked back at her before he reached up with a hoof and flicked her nose gently. “Alright, alright. When I'm done, we can practice a little. They probably expect us to show up late with how lazy you are anyway.”

“I'm not lazy. You're lazy.” Innocence huffed, and then she reached out and snatched up some of the stallion's bacon, tossing this into her mouth even as he glared at her before she grinned at him through the mouthful of meat. “Monsters need to keep their strength up, right?”

“Mimir's head.” Antares sighed and rolled his eyes, then he grumbled and stabbed her lightly with his fork when she reached out to try and grab the last of his bacon, the mare yelping and quickly drawing the injured appendage back. “I already gave you most of the bacon. Do you know how hard this stuff is to get in Valhalla?”

“You're the one who accepted the job as liaison. And you're the one who spends all his time hanging around Heaven.” Innocence complained, then she shoved herself to her claws and arched her back, stretching out like a cat before bouncing away, saying positively: “I'm gonna go get ready. Finish up your food, Tarry.”

Antares smiled and rolled his eyes even as he gazed over his shoulder at his youngest sibling affectionately. She was so bossy, so strong willed, so much like his Móðer, Luna Brynhild... which was kind of funny, because he was the blood child of Luna, while Innocence's blood-mother was Twilight Sparkle. They had the same father, Scrivener Blooms, although their father's... odd genetics had clearly been passed down more to Innocence than it had to him.

The stallion quickly folded up his remaining pancake, then shoveled it into his jaws and chewed it up thoughtfully as he let his gaze drop to his plate, smiling a little despite himself. So many years had passed... he still remembered when he'd first heard that Twilight Sparkle was pregnant, and he was going to have a sister... no, he hadn't really accepted her as a sister then. He'd thought of her as a half-sibling... well, to be entirely honest, he'd thought of her as a terrifying accident of nature.

He'd been kind of an idiot about the whole thing. Well, no, he'd been a little worse than that. And he hadn't really handled Innocence all that well when she'd been a baby, either, not until...

He remembered that moment clearly. That defining moment where... she'd just been his sister, not the weird baby who was so much younger than him and had been born from Twilight Sparkle. After Twilight had been badly hurt – as badly hurt as an entity like Twilight had become could be, anyway – and his Móðer and Father had been leaving for a terrible, dark place. And the family had been there: his pregnant big sister Scarlet Sage, her partner Apple Bloom, and baby Innocence. He remembered picking her up, curling her against his body, feeling her clinging to him and realizing as much as he wanted to go with his parents, his little sister had needed him more.

The stallion smiled a little, then shook his head slowly before he glanced up mildly when Innocence came trotting back into the room, gazing at him brightly and wearing a saddlebag on one side. And now here she was: tall for her age, almost a full-sized adult pony, although who knew when she'd really stop growing... literally and metaphorically. He just gazed at her for a moment, and then Innocence scowled at him and said: “Hey, stop looking at me like that, creepy.”

“Fine, I'll stick to hovering over your bed while you sleep.” Antares replied eloquently, sipping at his coffee, and Innocence made a face at him before he said seriously as he stared at her as disturbingly as possible: “You're pretty, you know. Real pretty.”

Sin only sighed and rolled her eyes at this, then she retorted: “And you're not. Now come on, let's get to magic practice, I wanna try something new.”

Antares winced at this, picking up his mug of coffee and swirling it moodily before he said slowly: “You know, I'm thinking that maybe, since I was nice enough to agree to this and all, you should probably let me choose what we work on...”

“Uh, no.” Innocence answered flatly, and the stallion groaned before he sighed and picked up the dishes, utensils, and mugs with telekinesis. Then he winced as Innocence bolted forwards before he could even turn, sweeping the various dishes out of his telekinetic grip with her own and tossing them loudly into the sink from across the kitchen before she spun around and bounced from claw-to-claw. “Okay let's go, let's go!”

“You know, in my twenties, I started to basically magically turn into Móðer. I'm hoping that soon you turn into Mom.” Antares said moodily, and Innocence grumbled at him.

“Yeah, I get it, I know. You say that all the time.” Innocence complained, and then she turned and headed down the front hall to yank the door open, adding: “Let's get out of here, come on, I really want to get some work in before we gotta go to Ponyville!”

Antares rolled his eyes, but he smiled despite himself. He remembered when he had always been that eager to train... well, hell, some days he knew he still was. That was the advantage of having the bloodline of a reborn Valkyrie in his veins, and physically in his twenties for however long his life was going to last.

The stallion followed in his sister's wake, pushing out the front door of this beautiful little house that sat in the middle of the Everfree Forest. He glanced over his shoulder at it, softening: it had only been a few years ago when he'd finally given up his room here, and his Móðer had converted it into a sort of artist's studio for herself. But he still stayed here often, when he wasn't working. It was more comfortable for him than his little apartment in Canterlot.

Innocence was waiting impatiently near the edge of the forest, past the yard in front of the house, but Antares took his time loitering towards her. He stepped down from the polished deck, glancing towards the landscaped, hollowed out mound on one side that served as a storage hut of sorts, then he looked over towards the small shack on the other that contained Luna's prized possession: Epona, her monstrous motorcycle. Antares had only driven it once, and when he'd come back after a short little joyride he'd found his Móðer waiting for him with the most baleful look he had ever seen in any pony's eyes.

He was pretty sure the only reason she hadn't killed him was because he'd been careful not to put so much as a ding in her precious Epona.

The stallion drew his eyes thoughtfully back towards Innocence, who was stomping back and forth at the foot of the wide dirt path: it was a good hour or so march to Ponyville from here, and that was at a good pace. He always enjoyed the walk through the forest, though, and they had plenty of ways to get there faster if it was really necessary. But as he'd learned... sometimes it was important to take things slow and pay attention to the journey, not the destination.

“Come on, Tarry!” Innocence called irritably, and Antares sighed before he smiled despite himself over at the mare, shaking his head wryly as she bounded a short distance down the path, then ran back, looking both childish and agitated... and altogether adorable, really. “Now you're seriously just being a jerk.”

“Oh I am not. Calm down, Sin.” Antares rolled his eyes in entertainment, striding towards her before the stallion paused and flicked his horn firmly as it glowed brightly, and Innocence squawked as arcs of white purification streaked across her body, stumbling backwards with a wince before she glared furiously at Antares as he leaned down with a wide grin and a wink. “That makes me a jerk.”

Innocence grumbled, reaching up to touch her own features... and as expected, where the purification had touched, her polymorph had been dispelled. She glared after him as her horn glowed, quickly restoring her shape before she grumbled: “You're just jealous, that's all. Jealous that I can actually change my shape and you can't.”

“Do you want me to help you with your magic or not?” Antares asked mildly, glancing over at her with a tilt of his head, and then he paused and leaned down, poking his horn against a patch of scales on her cheek. “You missed a spot.”

“Bite me.” Innocence huffed, and then she concentrated and winced a bit as her horn glowed and the patch of scales vanished into pony-like hide, the mare wrinkling up her snout and mumbling: “There. Do I look okay?”

Antares smiled amusedly over at his younger sibling, then he nodded. “Yeah, kid, you look fine. Although you know it's kind of silly to disguise yourself but leave your claws out.”

“No one ever notices my claws, as long as I'm not grabbing and flinging stuff and stuff. They don't really care about that.” Innocence shrugged a bit, digging her digits against the ground as they walked as she looked down and watched as they made distinct marks along the dirt path. “Where are we gonna train?”

“I dunno, that little field about halfway to town, I guess.” Antares shrugged a bit, smiling a little over at Innocence. “You know, when I was your age-”

“Oh here we go.” Innocence rolled her eyes, then she nudged the stallion firmly with her shoulder, and he glowered at her as she continued in a teasing voice: “What great history lesson do you have to impart on me now, grampa?”

Antares grumbled and nudged her back, then paused and said reflectively: “If I was your brother and your grandfather, that'd be really bad.”

Innocence sighed tiredly at this, closing her eyes and looking pained, and Antares snorted in amusement before he looked ahead and shrugged. “Seriously though. Like, I know I keep repeating this, Sin, but it's because you won't listen to me. And I know you're probably never going to listen to me, but that's not why I'm repeating this anymore. It's because every time I tell you something helpful and you don't listen, when the day comes that you finally realize how right I was, I'm going to be able to give you the biggest I-told-you-so ever.”

“Fantastic.” Innocence said drolly, then she glanced at the side of the path before her horn glowed, yanking a treebranch back before she simply released it to send it lashing towards Antares' face. But her big brother only grinned, moving with sudden grace to simply slice the branch loose from the tree before he flung it easily to the side and into his sibling's face.

She yelped and stumbled, getting a mouthful of leaves before glaring over at her older brother as he laughed and shook his head, looking over his shoulder at her with amusement. “You're gonna have to do better than that, you know.”

“I can set you on fire, you know.” Innocence threatened, and Antares only rolled his eyes in entertainment before the mare hurried to catch up to him, grumbling: “Okay, fine, I'll tell Móðer I heard you clopping all last night in the guest room.”

“You're just the nastiest little person ever.” Antares said flatly, blushing slightly, and when Innocence looked up at him with amusement, he added hurriedly: “And I also wasn't even in the room upstairs last night. Don't think about me like that, you weirdo.”

“Stop whimpering your girlfriend's name and making the bedframe rattle, then!” Innocence shot back, and the two siblings halted to glare at each other before Sin suddenly rose her head and asked curiously: “How is Prestige, anyway?”

Antares shrugged, his own mood shifting just as quickly as he smiled despite himself, even as his blush faded only slightly. “She's good. Really, really good. She got promoted, finally, and Aunt Tia even promised to give her a few days of personal training when she can head back up to Valhalla. But you know how busy Aunt Tia is.”

“Yeah. I don't know why she doesn't just become queen or something. Then she could do anything she wanted.” Innocence remarked, and Antares smiled amusedly, making the mare frown up at him. “What? What?”

“It's not really that simple. It's like how... you know, Mom is busy all the time, and Móðer is busy too, but with different obligations.” Antares explained, and then he sighed when Innocence scowled at him and he realized it probably wasn't a good explanation after all. “Okay uh... look at it this way. When Aunt Tia was Baroness, she had to spend a lot of her time in council meetings or writing out reports or doing other not-fun stuff and never doing anything herself, sometimes even having to stay back on the sidelines while everyone else fought. Now that she's just kind of Ambassador, it's her job to be on the front lines, where she wants to be.”

Innocence frowned at this, then she looked forwards and said mildly: “I'd just make it a law that anyone who disagrees with me gets smacked in the face. There. Problem solved.”

“You're not as great at thinking as you think you are.” Antares said wryly, and Innocence huffed and swung her horn at him, but the stallion parried it easily with his own. “Can't you just accept the answer and move on?”

“No, not until I understand why, or you give me a good one. If you give me a stupid one I'm just going to keep pointing out it's stupid until you admit I'm right.” Innocence retorted, and Antares sighed even as he gazed at her affectionately.

Innocence really did just keep poking the same subject over and over until she got her answer: it was both one of her worst qualities and one of her best. Combined with her boldness, it got her in trouble a lot... but it was also part of what made her so sharp, too. And what would help take her far, as long as she remembered to rein herself in now and then.

Then she leaned forwards and lightly hacked at his nose with her horn, and Antares winced away in pain: unlike his horn, hers had a natural sharp edge to it. He glared at her, and she looked back defiantly before the glossy black stallion sighed and remarked to the young mare: “You know, this is exactly why sometimes even Móðer says you're a little too... direct.”

“Oh, she does not. Fine, don't answer my question. Are you and Prestige going to get married one day?” Innocence asked, and Antares winced a bit but quickly caught himself before he could be knocked too far off guard.

“One day, I want to, yeah. I want to start a family with her.” Antares said after only a moment of hesitation, looking down at the mare mildly. “Why does-”

“I want to be your best mare.” Innocence said immediately, and Antares stumbled to a halt and stared at her stupidly as the young mare halted and looked at him pointedly. “Well it's not like you have any guy friends, for one thing. For another... because.”

“Okay, for one thing, Innocence, I do so have guy friends. For another... I'm pretty sure Aphrodisia will want to be my second, and I'm pretty sure she can take you in a fight.” Antares said flatly, and then he shook his head and cleared his throat. “But anyway, come on, keep moving. You wanted to train, right? Stop wasting time.”

Innocence grinned inwardly as she bounced cheerfully alongside her brother, glad that they were picking up the pace and even more that she had found another subject she could use to poke at him. She felt both friendship and an odd form of sibling rivalry with her big brother, a need to keep him off balance and a way to turn the conversation to something else if he started to lecture her too much.

She knew he was right about a lot of what he said, she just really didn't want to admit it. She wanted to have her own experiences, make her own mistakes, and... live up to the legacy that had been built by her entire family.

Her parents were heroes. Her big brother was a hero. Her oldest sibling, Scarlet Sage, had saved countless lives. And she had to find some way to leave her own mark, to prove she could be just as strong as they were, that she had something that set her apart, too.

She descended into quiet, and Antares softened as he looked at his little sister: he had a pretty good idea what was on her mind, since he'd often felt a similar weight himself. He let her think, though, until they stopped near a small side path leading away from the wide dirt road that cut through the Everfree Forest, and the stallion smiled as Innocence glanced up from her reverie, blushing only slightly. “Twenty minutes, okay?”

“Half an hour.” Innocence said stubbornly, and Antares sighed, but grudgingly nodded after a moment, and the young mare grinned up at him. “Great. I was ready to go down to twenty-five, but thirty minutes is even better.”

“I kind of hate you.” Antares remarked mildly, and Innocence only snorted in amusement as she hurried down the side path. The stallion shook his head, following after her swishing tail as he glanced at the emblem on her haunch, and then he smiled slightly before questioning: “Remember when you got your cutie mark?”

Innocence huffed and glowered over her shoulder, and Antares laughed despite himself, shaking his head and saying in a pointed voice: “Okay, let me rephrase. Remember what got you your cutie mark in the first place?”

“Magic. And that is all I have to say on that subject.” Innocence grumbled, and Antares couldn't help but grin. Before he could pursue the subject, however, they stepped into an open, circular field that had a few distinct pockmarks and odd rock formations, and the young mare quickly said: “I want to practice mire thaumaturgy again.”

“Oh. Oh, I'm sorry, Sin, I thought I just heard you say: 'I want to practice using the powers my entire family has warned me I'm not supposed to use because I could short circuit myself or bleed to death everywhere,' but I must have just had something crazy in my ear.” Antares said flatly, scowling over at the young mare, but she glared defiantly back at him. “You can't seriously expect me to actually help you with that, can you?”

“Yeah, I can, because you also know I'm more than willing to lie and blackmail and generally make your life a living hell.” replied Innocence clearly, and when Antares looked at her moodily, she emphasized: “I love and respect you that much, that I am more than willing to completely destroy you and salt the earth with your remains.”

“Great.” Antares groaned, dropping his head back before he sighed and looked up, asking after a moment: “Can't we practice... I dunno, you can do your multi-element fireball thing or... we can do some terrible, hideous necromantic dark magic. Let's do that. Let's play with the laws of life and death, that sounds … far more fun and dangerous.”

“You are a ginormous pansy.” Innocence pronounced, and Antares narrowed his eyes at her grumpily before the young mare leaned forwards and said seriously: “If you really think that I'm not willing to put you in a world of nightmares, then I want you to remember my last birthday party, when you didn't show up until really late because you were out with Aphrodisia and Avalon.”

Antares groaned again at this, rolling his eyes and saying flatly: “Okay, for one thing, we were out so late because we were getting my motorcycle repainted, so we could give it to you. And then you complained about it because it wasn't as good as Mom's and trashed the goddamn thing.”

Innocence huffed at this, retorting: “You gave it to me with no gas and no battery and all dinged and dented up from how many times you or one of your psycho friends crashed it!”

“It's not my fault everyone in my life is completely crazy. That includes you, by the way.” Antares said sourly in return, and the two siblings glowered at each other before the stallion sighed tiredly and slumped, muttering: “But okay, okay, I get your point. Please just... let's just make this fast then. And if you fall over and die, I'm just gonna laugh at you. I may possibly make some token gesture to save your life, but only so our parents don't get mad at me for not being able to save you.”

“They'll be mad at you for agreeing to train me. Then Momma'll bring me back to life and I'll tell them you forced me into it. It won't make any sense whatsoever but Momma will still kill you because you know she loves me more than she loves you.” Innocence replied conversationally, and Antares slowly reached up and touched his chest.

“My heart just withered and died. It just. Shriveled up and rotted away to nothing because of you. You... monster.” Antares said grouchily, and then he grumbled and shook himself quickly before asking finally: “Okay. What... what did you want to do? Please don't die, because... you're mean.”

Innocence frowned thoughtfully, looking back and forth before she said after a moment: “I guess I should try and make the area around me mire, like Dad does. That shouldn't be too hard, right?”

Antares shrugged moodily at this, saying finally: “I don't know. I'm... more Móðer than I am Dad, I guess. I didn't inherit those powers, and I was born before... Dad really... started changing.”

He quieted, then smiled after a moment as Innocence looked up uncertainly, their rivalry forgotten, instead little sister who was looking at the big brother she adored for some kind of advice or reassurance. “But... if I screw up again...”

“Well, yeah, I'll save you, Sin. But wouldn't you rather... not having to risk owing me your life because you could mess up and I would have to be all amazing and sweep in and save you?” Antares asked pointedly, and Sin smiled a bit even as she sighed. The stallion nodded in response to this, then he gestured with a hoof before saying quietly: “Try and... remember what Dad said. You're not a Clockwork Pony like he is, Innocence, you're... you're something different. Something special. You have a little bit of everything in you.”

“Yeah.” Innocence closed her eyes, taking a slow breath as she let those words wash over her, and thought of her heritage. Not just three parents, but her father was a Clockwork Pony, with a dark substance running through his veins that gave him strange powers... her mother was Twilight Sparkle, a heroine who had died during the war with Decretum and had been resurrected as a Lich. And her Móðer – or Mutt, as Innocence still affectionately called Luna Brynhild now and then, like she had as a baby when she hadn't been able to pronounce the word properly – was a Champion of Equestria and former Valkyrie, the Mistress of the Night who entire legions of demons and dark spirits and the other things that went bump in the night bowed to.

So much darkness... but her parents weren't evil, or bad ponies. They had always done the right thing with all their power... powers she was still growing into, trying to learn to control. And she had been told over and over again, she had to be careful, because power could have a mind of its own. And if she didn't watch herself, that power could start to control her.

She wanted power: she wasn't ashamed of that, and she wasn't afraid of her ambitions. But she also didn't want her powers to control her, and she sure as hell was not going to be the first pony in the family to lose herself to her strength.

That meant she had to take things step-by-step, and next in line was mastering these abilities.

The young mare breathed slowly in and out as she closed her eyes, then she gritted her teeth as she concentrated, feeling the blood in her body beginning to boil as her horn lit up with its dark aura. Her body trembled as she felt the darkness surging through her veins before she concentrated on the ground beneath her, trying to push not just with her magic, but willing that sensation of dark powers downwards and into the earth.

She gritted her teeth as the uncomfortable sensation grew into outright pain, feeling herself teetering on the edge... and then she gasped and slumped as her magic and strength both gave out, shivering a little and opening her amethyst eyes to look quickly down. But the ground beneath her was unblemished; she couldn't even exert enough influence to poison the ground.

Innocence stomped her claws in frustration... then wobbled woozily as Antares sighed and shook his head, the stallion saying dryly: “Now you know I'm going to have to cut you, right?”

“What? No! I'm fine.” Innocence grumbled, shaking her head firmly. “I don't think I managed to summon up any poison or anything, I just... kind of lost my focus.”

Antares only looked at her pointedly, then he said mildly: “You know, we've been over this before. Unlike Dad, you don't do so well when you turn the blood in your veins into corruption. You get a little... how should I put this... dead.”

“I don't get dead. Your face looks like it's... dead.” Innocence shot back, and Antares rolled his eyes before the mare grumbled, shaking her head briskly: “Besides, I get sick, not dead, and then I get angry. You're just scared of being beaten up again.”

“Well, you have big teeth and I don't like it when you bite me.” Antares responded testily, and then he shook himself quickly before continuing: “Look, if everyone says that practicing this stuff is dangerous and that you might not be ready for it, maybe you should just try and accept that... practicing this stuff is dangerous and you probably aren't ready for it yet.”

“Hey, I know my own... self better than they do.” Innocence retorted, and then she grimaced and reached up to rub at her stomach as she felt a distinct twisting through her veins, like serpents coiling through her body. She breathed slowly through her nose, then abruptly added, in a sharper voice: “I mean, what about you? You were-”

The stallion groaned at this, rolling his eyes and saying almost pleadingly: “Can we not get into what I may or may not have done? Seriously, I was stupid. You have a chance to not be stupid. It would be really great if you took that chance.”

“That would be boring. Like Scarlet Sage. I don't want to be boring.” Innocence complained, and Antares gave the young mare a flat look. “Well she kind of is. I mean, I know she's really scary when she's mad but she never really talks about anything.”

“That's because Scarlet never really wanted to be... like us. But she is all the same. She just has... a different sort of way of dealing with things.” Antares replied delicately, and then he sighed when the mare wobbled a little again, grimacing and hugging herself. “Okay, you pretty clearly poisoned yourself again. I'm draining the corruption out of you.”

Innocence opened her mouth to reply, but Antares simply flicked his horn firmly down, and the mare instead squeaked when a blast of white energy raced across her body. Her eyes bulged as her polymorph was completely dispelled and her mane and tail poofed out almost comically, but it felt much less entertaining to the mare as the blood in her veins turned red hot, boiling her from the inside out, feeling like living, angry serpents had just come alive beneath her hide.

She danced back and forth on her claws, yelling and cursing, but Antares only leaned forwards as his horn glowed brighter, a faint grin cresting his features as he intensified the purification spell. This was the one kind of magic he was any good with, luckily for Sin... or unluckily, depending on how you wanted to look at it.

Finally, the burning white radiance died out around the mare, leaving her steaming visibly and glaring at him as one of her eyes twitched. She could feel the blood slowly settling in her veins, but every nerve and fiber of her body ached as she glared furiously at Antares. The stallion only looked complacently back, however, before he replied pleasantly: “I'm just trying to be helpful, Sin. You said you didn't want to be cut or anything so. I didn't cut you or anything. I just neutralized it all.”

He paused, studied her thoughtfully, then added after a moment: “Also, by the way, you're all morning-face again. Well, early-morning-face, I mean. I think you get that from Móðer too.”

“Ha, ha. Ha ha ha, oh, aren't you so funny?” Innocence asked drolly, and then she reared suddenly back as her horn glowed brightly, glaring at him. “Fine, we'll practice my other magic!”

With that, she snapped her horn forwards, sending a blue fireball at Antares, but the stallion was already reacting on instinct even as he winced, leaning forwards and slashing his horn fiercely into the sapphire sphere of flames. It was repelled, sizzling with energy, and Innocence's eyes widened in surprise before it smashed back into her face and exploded.

She was knocked crashing onto her back, looking dazed as one of her hind legs kicked weakly at the air, her eyes rolling stupidly in her head. Antares stared, then he cleared his throat awkwardly and reached up to rub the back of his head slowly, saying after a moment: “You uh. You need to give me a little more warning than that.”

Innocence blinked a few times on the ground, then scowled at the air before she sat up, moodily shaking her head out before glowering through her uneven, puffed-out mane at Antares. The stallion looked back at her plainly, then he giggled stupidly for a moment at her before hurriedly clearing his throat when she scowled deeper and holding up a hoof. “Hey, uh. You're not hurt, right?”

“No. I guess not.” Innocence mumbled after a moment, blowing some of her mane back with a huff. Yes, it had stung to take her own fireball to the face, but it was more her ego that had been hurt. The little physical pain in her body came mainly from getting knocked on her back and whacking her head off the soft ground: probably because of what she was and who her parents were and her own talents with magic, other magical energies simply couldn't hurt her all that much. Well, except for the goddamn purification that Antares was always poking her with.

She shook herself out, then rubbed her claw absently along her scaled features before scowling a little and complaining: “I'm going to use up all my energy on polymorphs at this rate, Tarry! Why do you have to be such a jerk?”

“Why do you have to be such a jerk?” Antares retorted immediately, and when Innocence simply gave him a dour look, the stallion cleared his throat before he gestured awkwardly with his head back towards the road. “Well, uh. Why don't we just head into Ponyville, then?”

“I want to practice.” Innocence said resolutely, and Antares sighed a little, dropping his head before nodding moodily, and the young mare smiled warmly before she took a breath and straightened, narrowing her eyes slightly as her horn began to glow. “Okay. I'm gonna try and turn the field to mire again. This time just let me do it, okay?”

Antares sighed and rolled his eyes, but he was smiling wryly all the same as he gazed across at his younger sibling, watching as her body began to shake as she focused her powers over herself. He was sure that one day, she'd accomplish something great... the tricky part would just be making sure she stayed alive until that day came.

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