• 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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The Nag Is Back

Chapter Eighty Three: The Bitch is Back

Scrivener Blooms shivered a little, head bowed, eyes closed. He was covered in blood, and there was a whimpering mass of meat strapped to the rack behind him that had once been a person. He shook his head slowly, dim red light shining over his face from the window before he flexed a Talon silently, gazing down at the metal claw and watching the way the red essence was absorbed into the strange metal.

He shifted a bit, then turned around, striding to the broken creature, and he studied it silently before he said softly: “I'm going to stop here for today. You'll heal, though... this is Hell, after all. We all heal. And then we go through this over and over again until we learn our lessons.”

He opened his mouth... then gritted his teeth. He couldn't quite manage to say the last bit that he was supposed to: he had trouble even mouthing the words. But then he looked up as there was a double knock at the door and a firm mental message in his mind, and the stallion smiled faintly before he nodded and said quietly: “Remember that Hel's word is law.”

The mutilated pony rasped weakly, and Scrivener closed his eyes. Only two things about this 'job' bothered him anymore: how much he enjoyed it, and the fact that all of this was being done in Hel's name, making him little more than a puppet to her will. A sycophant, a toy soldier.

He grimaced a bit, then strode towards the door and grasped the handle, twisting it to shove it open, but all the same he smiled faintly when he found Luna waiting for him on the other side with Twilight Sparkle. Not that they were ever far apart: apparently Nightmare Moon and Hel both had the power to manipulate the link between them slightly, giving them more or less 'slack,' so to speak, and increase the time they could spend apart at a distance... but their soul link always tightened back up.

They looked at each other for a few moments before Scrivener slipped carefully out of the torture room and let the metal door fall shut behind him, leaving them in a stone hall that was surprisingly clean for a building designed almost exclusively for the torture of souls. Faint screams echoed around them, but they had been here for years now, doing whatever Hel asked them: not because they really wanted to, but because this was the fastest way to get out of Helheim, and to prove they were ready and willing to do anything it took in order to fight back against the Light.

Scrivener leaned down, trading a kiss first with Luna Brynhild, and then with Twilight Sparkle. He smiled a little as he straightened, and there was silence for a few moments as the three ponies studied each other before Luna murmured quietly: “Well, at least we are all done work now. Let us retire back home, and perhaps take tonight to ourselves. We deserve a small break, do we not?”

“We don't, really. But I guess we can anyway.” Scrivener Blooms said softly, and Twilight Sparkle gave him a quietly-amused look before the three ponies turned in unconscious synchronization, striding slowly down the hall as the stallion muttered: “We torture people for a living, Luna. Bad people, yes. But still. Should I be considering this a good job or a bad job?”

Luna grunted, and then Twilight Sparkle looked up, the Lich smiling a little and saying quietly: “I know it sounds funny, Scrivy, but... it's not a bad thing if you enjoy your work.”

Scrivener Blooms looked mildly over his shoulder at her, the bone pistons on his back pumping slowly up and down before he said dryly: “Sometimes, Twilight Sparkle, I think your optimism is your absolute worst quality.”

“Says the pessimist.” Twilight smiled a little, and then she reached up and pointedly stroked over her pretty, and more impressively, smooth features, not a scar or stitch visible across her body as she said quietly: “I know that some of the things that we've gone through are awful. Some of the things we've done are awful. But it's not like we haven't done good things either, and we've had good things happen to us, too.”

Luna grunted after a moment in agreement, then she shook her dark, galactic mane slowly, the nightly-ephemeral locks sparking lightly as she said wryly: “Aye, I quite enjoy having little spikes upon my head. 'Tis very fitting for me. Although 'twould be more fitting for Scrivy, as 'tis usually his head that I ram into things which defy me.”

Scrivener Blooms grunted in agreement at this, giving a slight smile despite himself over at the sapphire mare before all three ponies winced as a demon at the end of the hall shouted: “Hurry up and clear out! This isn't a place for you to play your little games and bask in other demons' work!”

“Oh shut up, whoever thou art, I shall come down there and shove my hoof into thy eye and make it hoof party in thy face's house!” Luna shouted back down the hall, and then she sniffed loudly before striding forwards, leading the way onwards as both Scrivener and Twilight traded mild looks before following. But here in Hell, intimidation, loudness, and swagger could get you quite a long way, and those were all things Luna had in good supply.

They strode out of the end of the hall and into a circular lobby: several demons wearing Archive pendants were working at desks here, filing away all kinds of forms and information, and the three ponies approached one of these before Luna leaned down and said calmly: “We are done our duties for today. Souls have been punished and await retrieval in rooms three, six, and nine.”

“Yes, yes, yes. Go away.” muttered the demon, his four arms working rapidly over the desk, writing with two of them while his other set of hands sorted files hurriedly. “Oh, wait, we need proof of presence from each of you...”

Without looking up, his hands picked up three different clipboards, holding them out towards the ponies. Luna grumbled and rolled her eyes, then all three ponies simply rose a hoof – or Talon, in Scrivener's case – and pressed it firmly into the clipboard in front of them. All three felt a faint burning for a moment, and then they pulled their forelegs back, leaving large, black stains in the shape of their respective digits.

The demon filed these away without looking, and Luna grunted as she jerked her head to her partners, heading quickly towards the single large door across the lobby. They both followed, Scrivener unable to stop himself from looking back and forth at the strange sight of both Inquisitors and damned souls sitting in chairs, some looking irritated, some clearly terrified, others treating it like this was nothing but some casual, everyday ritual.

Luna flicked her horn lightly, and the door clanked before it swung open with a rumble. She strode proudly out into a wide courtyard, Scrivener and Twilight following before the sapphire mare said mildly: “Now. Twilight Sparkle, open a portal.”

“We have to get out of the courtyard first, Luna, and a little bit away from the Punishment Center. Otherwise we're going to set off the alarms again and we'll end up on the torture racks ourselves. Again.” Twilight answered patiently, and Luna rolled her eyes as they strolled down the stone path towards the large, open portcullis leading out into the icy, endless wastes of Helheim.

They passed a few demons, one of whom greeted them cordially enough as they walked past, and Luna gave him a loud, cheery 'hello!' in response that failed to get much of a reaction. Likely because most of the demons that either 'attended' or worked at this facility knew about Luna, Scrivener, and Twilight by now. To their surprise, despite their eccentricities and the fact that Hel was favoring them for her own strange reasons, they were usually treated like any other set of demons around here... pleasantly by some, and indifferent by most of the rest.

But as they approached the portcullis, they realized there was a figure leaning in the shadows beneath it, whistling cheerfully to himself before he grinned widely at them, the inverted zebra leaning forwards and saying easily: “Well, how-dee-do there, mes amis! And how are we doing on today of all fine days, ouaouarons?”

“Right now? Probably shouldn't answer that question because you'll probably be offended by what I have to say.” Scrivener Blooms said blandly, and Twilight Sparkle sighed as Luna Brynhild nodded fervently in agreement, then gave a glare and a little growl at La Croix. “What do you want, Cross? We're just about to head home.”

“A little respect for one thing! And a little tender loving care, too, oh, how you wound me so! But ouaouarons, I suppose you can't expect no manners from them, and especially not no cocodril like you, no?” La Croix retorted with a huff, the Loa raising his head high. “But I'm here on official business, friends, from Nanny Hel herself. Maybe that get you to show some respect.”

“You must be so proud. Some kind of crazy spirit lord from zebra religion and here you are, doing the bidding of some goddess from some other pantheon.” Scrivener said dryly, and Luna giggled a little to herself as Twilight Sparkle winced a bit and looked at the stallion almost pleadingly.

La Croix puckered his lips... and then he took a slow breath and smiled brilliantly, saying slowly: “No, no. I ain't mad. I ain't mad in the slightest, I am not. I'm not even a little bit peeved. See, you're right, you know. You might be the mouthpiece, cocodril, but you are right,and I know how I must look to all y'all. But guess what? I'm also the guy you little tadpoles gotta listen to, so what does that make you?”

“Unhappy.” Scrivener retorted irritably, and Luna grunted in agreement as Twilight Sparkle sighed and nudged him gently, and the stallion rolled his eyes as he mumbled grouchily: “Fine. I'll try and be nice. But you two are the ones who make me do all the damn talking. Maybe if someone else would speak up...”

“Oh shut up, Scrivy.” Luna paused, then looked reflective. “Aye. Do shut up, Scrivy, and I shall do the talking to our zebra friend. Zebra spirit friend, thou art very fruity.”

Twilight and Scrivener both slowly looked towards Luna, but she only held up a hoof to them both, looking almost impatiently at La Croix as he slowly blinked, then scowled at her and said sourly: “Well I suppose if there be anyone here who knows about the fruit, it would certainly be you.”

“So thou admits thou art fruity!” Luna said cheerfully, and then she looked over at Scrivener and Twilight positively. “This 'debate' is far easier than I had expected it to be. I must remember to do it more often in the future. Thou never told me 'twas so fun to be the so-called mouthpiece, Scrivener Blooms!”

La Croix rolled his eyes, and then he finally held up a foreleg, tapping firmly at his ankle with the other front hoof as he said mildly: “Well, would y'all look at the time? We gotta skedaddle, you hear? I'm afraid we gots all kinds of things we gots to do, before we can return you ouaouarons back to your sweet little bayou. So let's get going!”

“Where exactly are we going?” Twilight Sparkle asked uneasily, and the zebra grinned widely as he chuckled loudly, making the Lich wince a little. “Oh no. Please tell me we're not going to do another exhibition or something, right?”

“Hey, you a sharp one!” La Croix grinned widely, and then he looked up and called cheerfully at the sky: “She really is somethin', Nanny Hel! This sweet little thing, and you say that she's your-”

A blast of lightning shot down through the air, and La Croix squawked as it struck him, flinching upwards... and a moment later, he was left suspended inside a block of ice, frozen with a stupid gape and his hooves half-raised as if in supplication. The three ponies stared at this, and then a moment later the block of ice started to shiver before it became a massive, frosty bovine head, La Croix wincing as he fell free and reaching up to hold onto his top hat as the frost pulled away from his body before he squeaked in pain as the icy jaws bit down around him and chewed slowly.

Then the huge, frosty Hel-head spat La Croix out, and he bounced painfully across the stone path of the courtyard, landing dumbly in front of the trio of ponies as Hel's enormous head said grouchily: “The first rule of Fight Club is that no one talks about You Know Who being my You Know What! Now hurry up and step into my mouth!”

The bovine jaw stretched wide, forming into a wide archway as a portal sparked to life inside the huge jaws, and Scrivener and Twilight both winced and looked back and forth. Luna only huffed, however, slapping at the two before she glowered moodily at the open, glowing jaws of the Hel-head that could apparently defy her own security protocols as she pleased. “Oh come now, neither of thou should be surprised. Hel is Hel. She can do as she pleases.”

“At least someone gets that. Now hurry up... yes, you too, La Croix, I need someone to go back and tell the other goonies all about why they should continue to work with me on this instead of doing something stupid like screwing with my crazy plans. Not my words, your guys' words, crazy plans and all that.” Hel's voice grumbled, even as the enormous head remained frozen in place.

La Croix grinned weakly as he picked himself carefully up, wheezing a little as he brushed at himself before saying awkwardly: “Hey now, hey now, Nanny Hel, I... I was just about to-”

And then he yelped when Luna booted him hard in the rump, knocking him flying into Hel's jaws to vanish through the portal in a flare of light. The sapphire mare giggled a bit at this, then she cleared her throat when Scrivener and Twilight both glared at her, the mare saying after a moment: “'Twas... 'twas just a friendly little tap, that is all. Besides, we are going the same way, so... no harm done. I am simply being helpful.”

The two continued to glare at her, and then Luna awkwardly faced forwards and hurried towards the portal, vanishing through it as the charcoal stallion and Lich both rolled their eyes before grouchily following after her as she vanished in a thrum of light. They passed into the portal just as they both felt a moment of faint pain, thanks to the distance between them... but a moment later, the three were reunited on the sandy floor of an enormous arena, Luna glaring up at the empty seats before she shouted at the one frost puppet she could see: “What? What is this nonsense? Where are the spectators? Thou cannot expect me to fight without spectators!”

“Private show, sweetie. Besides, cinnamon, I can't have every demon in Helheim knowing about you lot! I gotta keep some things secret, you see, kind of like... secret weapons.” Hel said reasonably, and then the ice puppet reached down and picked up La Croix by the collar of his jacket, making him glower as she held him above the railings so they could clearly see the Loa. “Look, he's here at least. That's something, right?”

“That's something.” Scrivener agreed dryly, and then he looked uneasily up at the steel ceiling of the arena, while Twilight looked uneasily over the cool sands, taking in the size and depth of the coliseum. “You're not going to make us fight a dragon again, are you?”

“Maybe later, chocolate pudding, but for now I need to do a little assessment on you. See where you all are at, show you off a little.” Hel dropped La Croix into a seat, smiling over at him and adding pleasantly in a voice they could all hear: “Now, just you wait. I know you and your benefactors are on the edge about this whole thing, but I haven't just been twiddling my thumbs here.”

“Hey, Nanny Hel, I never said that!” The acoustics of the room carried the Loa's voice just as well as Hel's... or, considering the sly goddess, maybe it was some trick of her own letting them all hear the zebra's words so clearly. “You know that we're interested in maintaining a critical balance here, and both sides have been messin' with that... it's a lot like two neighbors are fightin' over some pretty farmland, and both of 'em decide to try and flood the other out. Well, what's gonna be left of that nice ol' ranch but a nasty-ass swamp full o' beetles and blackflies?”

Hel chuckled at this, and then she said kindly: “I am not responsible for Freya, though, any more than I'm responsible for the Pious. What I'm presenting to you and your respectable masters is... a solution to all our problems.”

“Yes, but you want to bend the cycle of life and death to your own will, too, and that's a big no-no, even for a goddess of your... repute. At least, that's what the other Loa and the bosses tell me, Nanny Hel, you know I don't got much of a say myself.” La Croix added hurriedly, gesturing widely and smiling lamely. “I'd let you do anything you wanted, Nanny Hel, and I ain't just sayin' that 'cause you're so pretty.”

Hel smiled warmly, covering her mouth and sketching a little curtsy with her snowy dress before she said positively: “Well, aren't you just the sweetest little duck?” She reached down, pinching the zebra's cheek before turning and half-yanking him into the air by his face, the Loa flailing violently and squawking as Hel shouted cheerfully: “Exhibition time, ladies! Come on, put up your dukes and show me what you've learned! Remember what happened last time you didn't impress me!”

“Well, now I am tempted to do nothing but show thee my great and glorious ass until thou sends out thy stupid Teddy Bear to come and try and kick it.” Luna grumbled, and Scrivener and Twilight both glared at her, but the sapphire mare only grinned widely at them, raising her head proudly as her soulstone horn sparked with energy. “As if we are not more than a match now for that wretched mechanical golem.”

“Luna, I. I really don't want to get punched in the face today by Teddy. Or worse, sentenced to the torture chambers again. Please shut up.” Scrivener muttered, and then he sighed a little before looking between the two mares, studying them silently and doing his best to remember what they'd all used to look like, years ago... before this had become their new reality. No, before... he and Luna had even started on this wild whirlwind of a life they'd lived.

They had all been normal ponies once: now, Twilight Sparkle was the only one of them who looked normal, and yet she was probably... the most changed of them all. For himself and Luna, life and this journey to Helheim had been more of an evolution, after all... no, not even that. More of accepting who they really were.

“And it wasn't that for me?” Twilight Sparkle asked softly, and Scrivener gave a small smile over at her. His eyes drew along her, over her beautiful, flowing black-fire mane with its streak of light like hope, and the soulstone core in her chest... and such a perfect, supple body, with no more need for stitches to hold her together. Although... for some reason, he missed those.

Twilight smiled at him, blushing slightly, and their eyes met: he gazed into irises that had become slitted, better adapted for darkness... to see through darkness. And Twilight's blush deepened as her own eyes roved over him: larger and bulkier, with almost random patches of scale in his rubbery hide and those pumping pistons and his rear hooves now cloven, his scars standing out all the more over his heavy frame. Monstrous, dangerous... yet somehow so attractive to her...

Luna cleared her throat loudly as she strode between the two, poking at them with her spired soulstone horn, and then she straightened and glowered between them, her own scars standing brightly out against her dark sapphire body. Her nearly-black, galactic mane and tail both swirling around her, half-hiding the row of small, spike-like horns that went across the crown of her skull, as blade-like, cloven hooves tapped impatiently at the ground. “Will thou stop romanticizing each other in front of me? And worse yet, in front of Hel and that forsaken, boring zebra?”

Scrivener and Twilight both only shrugged, but before the charcoal stallion could make a witty retort, a voice called to them calmly: “We do not wish to interrupt you, but we... I, desire to serve as your target for today. Please, do not feel that you must hold back on my account.”

Nightmare Moon was now standing across from them with a calm smile, her blue-fire mane swirling slowly, all manner of torture instrument, knife and sword and blade standing out of her back, her presence so ominous and dark that the very ground around her was turning to a mix of frost and rot. She looked at them with tenderness in her eyes... something that only made the scars crisscrossing her features stand out all the further as she smiled at them, somehow beautiful in spite of the apparent torture she had lived through, and her dedication made so frighteningly clear in the collar of red-polished steel roses around her neck.

There was silence for a few moments, and then Hel called loudly: “Hey, you! Don't you show off too much, I need at least one secret weapon, you know!”

“Of course, Lady Hel. I shall do my best to restrain myself, if that is what my King of the Night and my Mistresses command.” Nightmare Moon said softly, bowing her head politely towards the ponies, and then she smiled slightly as her eyes flicked up. “I have no problem with serving as only a target, if you so desire.”

Luna grunted, and Twilight set herself slowly as Scrivener Blooms grimaced a bit, but Nightmare Moon only smiled at them before the passion entity said gently: “Go ahead. Hel desires a show of strength that will frighten even the cycle into submission. And you are all certainly more than powerful enough to provide that.”

“Normally I'd feel bad beating up a pony who said she wasn't going to fight back.” Scrivener muttered, and then he looked up mildly at Nightmare Moon, flexing his Talons slowly against the ground before he said dryly: “But I guess you're going to enjoy yourself, aren't you?”

Nightmare Moon's only response was to smile lovingly, even as a tremble ran through her body... but that wasn't fear, oh no. That was excitement, perhaps even arousal, as her green eyes gleamed and she licked her lips slowly, her head lowering slightly as Luna grinned despite herself and Twilight Sparkle took a slow breath.

Then Scrivener Blooms rose his Talons with a snarl before slamming them down into the sand, and a massive ripple passed through the ground around the ponies before the ground rapidly transformed into mire in a black wave. In the seats, Hel clapped delightedly as La Croix leaned forwards with a curse in his patois, gaping in shock as the dark goddess said with relish: “And oh, just wait until we supe them all up! This is just the start of my plans, chicken!”

Scrivener looked down with slight surprise at the arena floor, even as Luna dug her hooves down into the mire and grinned as dark veins spread up through her body, and Twilight Sparkle smiled calmly as her coat turned a deep obsidian, her body taking on a soft, almost-liquid texture. The three ponies readied themselves, and then Nightmare Moon dropped her own head forwards and said kindly: “If I may make a suggestion, why don't you start with a bit of teamwork?”

“Thou art so annoying.” Luna said dryly, and then she glared over at Scrivener, and the stallion grimaced at the order even as he slammed his claws down into the mire: one thing had come from Helheim, at least, and that was even if he had concerns about something, he very rarely hesitated anymore. Hesitation in Helheim meant punishment.

Enormous spikes and blades of dark crystal tore up out of the ground all around Nightmare Moon, trapping her in a prison of black stone and tearing long slashes across her body and through her cloak. Yet she only continued to smile calmly, even as Luna lashed her horn upwards, and a geyser of blue flame and lighting exploded out of the center of the cage of black gemstone, the blue pillar rising high into the air before Twilight Sparkle flicked her own now-onyx horn and turned the sapphire candle to blue-white ice.

Then the Lich sprinted forwards, leaping up to hit near the base of the glassy pillar before she became a streak of darkness that spiraled violently up to the top of the column of frost and left a deep trench behind her, reforming into a winged unicorn atop the cylinder and slamming her front hooves viciously down into it.

Massive spikes of shadowy, dark energy tore out throughout the entire length of the pillar, ice cracking and shattering before the column simply exploded in a blast of dark energy. Twilight Sparkle was launched upwards on a narrow cap of ice as massive boulders of frost hurtled in all directions... then they all froze eerily in the air as Twilight grinned on top of her little island of ice, her whole body glowing with energy before she snapped her horn down and sent the enormous chunks of glacier smashing down one after the other into Nightmare Moon.

Then Twilight Sparkle calmly leapt off the platform of frost, becoming an inky streak through the air as Scrivener Blooms slammed his claws down into the ground, sending a wave of black mire ripping across the wasteland to hammer Nightmare Moon backwards out of the haze of snow and black slurry and smoke obscuring her. Yet even as her devastated, damaged body was flung backwards, it was clear that she was still smiling with almost anticipatory calm... and she continued to smile even as Luna snapped her horn upwards and summoned a wall of spikes of frost and black gemstone behind the passion entity, who slammed into this and was left pinned on her back.

But Nightmare Moon only gave a quiet sigh, her eyes closing as the three ponies across from her took up ready positions again. Then the black, enormous mare slowly tore herself free from the spikes and blades of rock, shaking herself out easily as her wounds healed almost instantly and she easily brushed a bit of detritus and torn cloak free from her form. “You have all grown exceptionally. But perhaps we should show your physical capabilities.”

“Well, I am not one to rely upon silly powers anyway.” Luna grinned widely at this, then she cracked her neck calmly before saying easily: “Scrivy, I shall pass her to thee when I am done with her. Twilight Sparkle, thou hast already gone and indulged thyself plenty, so there shall be no pummeling for thou. Thou can wait until we join our forces at the end of the fight. Or target practice, really”

The shadowy mare smiled slightly over at them, nodding to them silently, and Luna flexed and readied herself as Nightmare Moon bowed her own head forwards, saying softly: “Let's see how you've improved, Luna Brynhild.”

Nightmare Moon smiled, and Luna growled before she leapt into a sprint, her soulstone horn glowing. The passion entity only waited for her until Luna threw herself straight at the enormous, dark entity, and then Nightmare Moon simply swung a hoof up-

Luna's wings spread and her body twisted, narrowly evading the strike as she slammed both rear hooves into the creature's throat. Nightmare Moon was sent staggering backwards, flinching as she gritted her teeth before Luna launched herself forwards to slam a punch directly into her face.

Nightmare Moon was forced further stumbling, and the sapphire mare's front hooves flew in a flurry, smashing back and forth against the passion entity's features before she seized her by the head and slammed her face-first into the ground,

The passion entity attempted to shove forwards to spear her horn into Luna's body, but the sapphire mare had already shifted backwards and instead swung out with her own soulstone horn, the spires clashing and sparking as the two ground against each other before the sapphire mare began to push forwards, slashing viciously back and forth.

Horn clashed against horn again and again, sending up sparks as the two clashed savagely until Luna snarled and swung a hoof up under Nightmare Moon's chin, knocking her head back before she slammed her other hoof into her face, almost shattering her jaw and sending her stumbling. She recovered quickly, but not quickly enough as she looked up with a snarl... and was greeted by both of Luna's rear hooves smashing into her face.

She staggered again as the sapphire mare used her kick to launch herself and flapped her wings hard, sending herself rocketing up into the air before she dove sharply down towards Nightmare Moon and lashed out viciously with her horn, the passion entity barely parrying this with her own before Luna slammed a punch into her jaw, then used the momentum from that to twist her own body around and smash a rear hoof in a wide kick across her features.

Nightmare Moon was knocked backwards again, eyes closed, head lowered forwards as Luna dropped to her hooves, grinning widely and setting herself... before the passion entity suddenly smiled calmly, raising her head slightly and asking quietly: “Are you done playing games, Luna Brynhild? Because all this teasing is getting boring.”

Luna growled at this, then she flexed her body, her eyes glowing faintly as dark veins pulsed beneath her hide, saying coldly: “Very well then, Nightmare Moon. If thou art so insistent... then allow me to deliver what thou art asking for!”

The sapphire winged unicorn launched herself forwards in a blur, then twisted suddenly around to the mare's side and slammed a front hoof into her stomach, making her gasp before Nightmare Moon was rammed onto her side by a hard shoulder from Luna. The sapphire mare was on top of the fallen passion entity immediately, straddling her and slamming vicious blow after blow down into her face before Nightmare Moon attempted to swing a hoof up to shove her off, but Luna caught this and leapt to the side, twisting viciously at the same time to haul Nightmare Moon into the air before she slammed the passion entity face-first into the mire with a crunch.

Before Nightmare Moon could even start to fall, a telekinetic hammer smashed into her stomach, sending her skidding backwards on her face: a moment later, Luna launched herself forwards, flapping her wings hard and shooting straight at the passion entity before Nightmare Moon swung herself clumsily in the direction the starry-maned pony and kicked both rear legs viciously out as she tried to push off the ground at the same time.

And with ease, Luna dodged to the side, snagging one rear leg and roaring as she half-spun, yanking Nightmare Moon around with her in a circle before she flung the black-coated mare high up into the air. Nightmare Moon immediately attempted to spread her wings and catch herself, but Luna Brynhild was already in front of her, hammering her front hooves into her body with enough force to literally pummel the passion entity backwards through the air, Nightmare Moon unable to do anything but struggle to stay airborne before she was finally smashed out of the sky by a vicious slash of Luna's soulstone horn.

She sailed downwards like a blue comet with her mane and tail of sapphire flame streaking out behind her, and Scrivener gritted his teeth at the mental order he heard from Luna before he flung himself upwards, the mire erupting beneath him in a solid pillar to give an an extra boost. One of his Talons stretched out as he shot towards the passion entity, who twisted her head around to smile at him... and expose her throat, Scrivener seizing into this with one steel claw and meeting her eyes for a moment with his own before he growled and hurled her straight down.

She smashed into the mire face-first, sending up a splatter of black ooze before the stallion dropped and landed on her, crushing her down into the dark sludge before he seized her by the wings and leapt backwards. Part of him was tempted to try and rip the appendages right off, but he resisted the urge: less because he cared about Nightmare Moon, more because he was afraid that the masochistic passion entity might actually enjoy it.

Instead, he yanked her up into a seated position before he punched both claws into her lower spine, making her twitch and her head raise slightly a moment before Luna shot down and dove across the passion entity's face, knocking her bonelessly backwards. Scrivener slipped to the side as she fell, seizing her by her starry mane and flinging her forwards, sending her painfully bouncing through the mire on her back before Luna smashed down on top of her passion entity.

The stallion began to lean forwards... then halted and simply shook his head, sitting back as Luna pinned Nightmare Moon before the sapphire mare gave her own grim smile and looked over her shoulder calmly. She stepped off the passion entity, who was only smiling despite the wounds and bruises, and the sapphire mare shouted: “We are not here solely for thy entertainment, Hel! This is boring... my husband agrees, and Twilight must as well! We desire challenge, we desire to battle the Light, not play silly games with an ally, even one who delights at her use as a sparring dummy!”

Hel looked pleased with this, even as she tapped her icy fingers on the railing: beside her, the Loa La Croix was staring down into the battlefield, before he slowly turned his eyes upwards and asked Hel uncertainly: “And Nanny... you believe... you can control these bêtes? And you know that I like you, I like you plenty, Nanny Hel, but the boys upstairs, they ain't so big on you... how you think I'm gonna sell them on helping these three get on up into ciel?”

“These three aren't quite strong enough for that just yet, and we still have to wait for our friends on Midgard to make their own move... but I'm not worried.” Hel smiled kindly, looking pleasantly down at La Croix before she reached up and gently stroked a finger under his chin. “Because you see, these three were meant to be used on Heaven, oh certainly. But if your bosses won't help me with some of that voodoo-they-do... I can always send them over to pay a visit to your hometown.”

La Croix winced, and then he laughed weakly before saying finally: “I have to say, Nanny Hel... you... you sure got some negotiating skills. And don't take this the wrong way or nothin', but you scare me a little, too.”

“Good. I should.” Hel said comfortably, and then she clapped her icy hands together and looked forwards, shouting into the arena: “La Croix here doesn't believe you've quite got what it takes to go knocking on Heaven's door! Why don't you go ahead and prove that one of you alone has more than enough power to kick open the pearly gates, huh? Chocolate pudding, why don't you show him what a coconut or whatever it is you really are, how about that?”

“Seriously?” Scrivener asked dryly, and then he winced when Luna and Twilight both looked at him, before the stallion groaned and mumbled again: “Seriously?”

They both nodded, and Scrivener sighed tiredly, understanding why they wanted him to be the one to do it: Twilight Sparkle was still getting a full grip on her new powers, and Luna... tended to lose control of herself when she got too... excited. Scrivener, at least, could maintain most of his mind... or at least, the little bit that's there. “Fine. I guess I need the practice anyway.”

The stallion closed his eyes, digging his claws into the mire and pulling energy from it as he felt both Twilight Sparkle and Luna focusing their magic over him, and the charcoal pony gritted his teeth as the pistons sparked and began to pump over his back. Dark ooze spread upwards along his form, and Scrivener Blooms flexed his Talons as he felt his body beginning to expand.

Muscle bulged and flexed, and hide rippled as it became armor-like scale: white hair fell away, a crown of horn replacing his mane and a thick, reptilian tail swishing through the air behind him as the pistons on his back grew larger, before almost-black eyes snapped open as he rumbled slowly. The now Tyrant Wyrm's size had more than doubled, his scales black over most of his body and white along the underside of his frame, his Talons fitted perfectly over the ends of the Tyrant Wyrm's forelegs as he flexed one slowly, excess corruption falling away from his body as the transformation was completed.

His eyes looked moodily upwards, and Hel grinned before she held up a hand, creating a massive ball of ice that floated eerily above her head before she called gleefully: “Catch!”

The enormous boulder of frost launched itself straight at Scrivener Blooms, and without hesitation, the Tyrant Wyrm easily caught the meteor of ice that was almost the same size as him, skidding backwards a few feet before he slammed the ball of frost into the mire in front of him and shattered the lower half of it. He rolled his head calmly on his shoulders, then simply pushed one Talon down into the broken dome of ice, and it began to steam violently before melting away into black, brackish water.

Luna easily flapped her wings and launched herself up on top of Scrivener Blooms, looking proudly up at Hel as Twilight Sparkle stepped up beside the Tyrant Wyrm. There was silence for a moment, and then Hel giggled quietly before she said cheerfully: “Much better! Now, Nightmare Moon, what are you going to do?”

“Whatever you desire, Lady Hel.” Nightmare Moon said calmly as she picked herself up from where she had been resting in the mire, smiling lovingly across at Scrivener Blooms. “But there is no fitting opponent for the combined might of these three, my Queen. All the same, Scrivener Blooms is a Tyrant Wyrm... you desired an experiment, did you not?”

“Yes, that's right! I did!” Hel said positively, and Scrivener frowned as the dark goddess snapped her fingers, saying easily: “Let's see if it works!”

A portal opened, and Scrivener had enough time to frown before a massive beam of white light shot out of this, the Tyrant Wyrm reacting too late to get out of the way. It slammed into his breast, and he roared pain, stumbling backwards before looking down in shock as he watched purification wash over him and leave stone behind in its wake, struggling to move as Luna and Twilight were both thrown off the reptile-

And then the beam thinned out into motes, and the Tyrant Wyrm was left a solid statue of stone, unable to move and with an expression of horror frozen over his features. Luna was quivering, body aching and a snarl on her face as a figure calmly strode out of the portal, and the sapphire mare snarled furiously at this before she shot towards the pony-shaped demon.

But without a twitch, the pony flung something at her that exploded in a tremendous burst of anti-magic, and Luna screamed in agony as her soulstone horn vibrated violently, falling to the ground and twitching weakly. The reverberations were powerful enough to make Twilight Sparkle flinch, her shadowy body distorting before the demon flung a net at her.

The Lich began to look up at this, snarling... and then the net made contact and glowed with purification, Twilight Sparkle turning solid as she gaped stupidly at the sky before she fell brokenly forwards beneath the white web covering her body. She shivered brokenly under it, a bit of drool falling from her mouth as she breathed weakly in and out.

The demon grinned as the portal behind it sparked out of existence, and Hel laughed in delight as La Croix simply leaned forwards, looking confused. Then he yelped when the goddess slapped him firmly on the back, saying cheerfully: “See that? I can keep my own weapons in check, don't you fret about that. Whether they want to listen or not, I can make 'em listen.”

La Croix whistled loudly at this, and then he hesitated as he looked down over the petrified and captured ponies, studying them intently before he murmured: “Well, Nanny Hel, I will say that we think you crazy down in the bayou. But... maybe you crazy like a fox.”

“Maybe I am. But really, all I do is make the very best use of all the resources available to little ol' me.” Hel said modestly, and then she patted him on the back before easily flicking her wrist to the side, creating a portal and saying kindly: “Now, let's get down to business, La Croix.”

After a moment, the zebra nodded, turning to stride through the portal, and the Hel puppet grinned as she turned to follow... but as she moved, blue smoke wafted out of her back and formed into a second puppet that made a face at the two as they vanished through the portal. And the moment this sealed closed, the Hel puppet looked down at the demonic pony as it shoved a cigarette into its mouth, shouting: “Hey! Wake 'em up!”

“They'll get up fine on their own. Cannon was only at twenty percent and I only threw toys at 'em.” the demon replied moodily in a hoarse voice, and then she grinned when cracks spread through the shell of the Tyrant Wyrm. “See?”

A moment later, Scrivener Blooms smashed his way out of the stone case, back in stallion form but looking almost skinned and scalded in places, gasping in pain before he turned his eyes up with a snarl as Luna Brynhild dragged herself up to her hooves and the energy around the net died, allowing Twilight Sparkle to shrug it off and slowly stand. All three ponies glared across at the demon that had so effortlessly done this to them... and then Luna's eyes widened in disbelief as she whispered: “No.”

The pony across from them was tall, with a bulky body that all the same looked ill, and sallow, and lacked any sort of hair, with only transparent, plastic skin protecting raw muscle and sinew from exposure. She was clearly a she, with a heavy, octagonal collar locked around her neck that had several enormous glass vials filled with bubbling liquid sticking out of it, and large boxes and plates of steel were fused along her body, where more glass vials were inserted into large, metal plugs throughout her frame. Cables stood out of these like roots that burrowed through the demon's flesh, apparently attached to both muscle and vein.

But it was the cigarette in her muzzle, and the frayed bandanna that tied back her stringy, black-stained mane that gave her away. That, and her eyes... blue eyes, sharp eyes, intelligent eyes that looked at them callously, but not without a hint of her old self, as Cowlick asked coldly: “Well, ain't this a wonderful little reunion?”

“Kilby Kwolek...” Twilight Sparkle whispered and then she stepped forwards, laughing faintly and asking disbelievingly: “But... but how?”

“How long has it been for you guys? One decade, or two? The years just... they run all together, take leaps and jumps, don't they? And who knows how long it's been in the physical world, really. Could've been hours. Could be days have passed up there. Could be that it's been just as many years up there as it has been down here, if not more. That's Helheim, you lose track of time.” Cowlick said distastefully, reaching up and pulling her cigarette out of her muzzle. “That's how.

“For me, it's been at least a hundred years. Probably a lot more. Definitely not less.” Cowlick continued calmly, flexing one hoof slowly against the ground before she smiled over her shoulder up at Hel. “Turns out I was good enough to get noticed even by her. Now, I'm learning all kinds of things I never thought possible... of course, not without a price.”

She reached up, rubbing at the massive collar around her neck before a sour grin spread over her features, looking from Luna, to Twilight, to Scrivener. “But I guess you three understand that best. Or at least two of you... you, Scrivy. You're lucky enough to be the candy maker, aren't you?”

Scrivener shifted uneasily at this, and then Luna growled and leaned forwards, saying moodily: “'Tis amazing. I have already gone from tremendous joy to tremendous frustration, Cowlick. Thy special talent truly is to upset ponies.”

Cowlick only laughed loudly at this, then the engineer shook her head slowly before saying distastefully: “Ain't like I care. I'm not here to make friends. This is prison, where the biggest, meanest, and most useful survive. The only reason I'm here is because Hel told me to make you more useful.”

Scrivener and Twilight traded looks as Luna growled and stepped forwards, snapping: “Arrogance! Look upon me, Cowlick! Did I not regularly pummel demons into mush? Am I not so powerful that even Hel has cause to fear us? So much cause, she apparently corrupted thee into a pathetic little pawn?”

Cowlick narrowed her eyes dangerously, and Hel cleared her throat before she waved a hand and said awkwardly: “Hey, I can hear you, you know, cinnamon. That's really not a nice thing to say about your current mistress. Sounds insurrectiony.”

“Calm down, Luna. You've spent too long in the mire. Your emotions are becoming... exaggerated.” Nightmare Moon added quietly, and Luna growled moodily, glaring over at the passion entity. “Queen Hel means to do what is best for us, to help us. Kilby Kwolek, you have never forgotten your family or your friends-”

“And that I didn't die just so I could go right back to making weapons for these idiots.” Cowlick growled, glaring daggers over at Nightmare Moon. “Look at what I became... and after all her whole life spent killing and maiming and getting wasted on her husband's goddamn blood, Moon Princess here gets to come down here and go right back to kicking ass and getting high. Oh, right, and spreading her legs for whoever the hell she pleases, but I guess that's more of a personality quirk, right?”

Luna snarled in fury and stepped forwards, swinging a hoof at Cowlick, reacting with anger despite the fact that most of what she felt was hurt... and then she was left staring, stunned and stupefied, by the fact that Cowlick easily caught her punch without twitching.

Cowlick grinned slowly, then rose her other foreleg and calmly grasped a dial on her foreleg, twisting it several times: a moment later, the liquid in the vials plugged into her neck and body visibly bubbled before her body flexed, then in front of their very eyes, grew.

Muscle bulged larger as her height increased, plates of metal separating with loud clicks and revealing more of that ugly, almost-raw flesh, until Cowlick towered over Luna, looking coldly down at her, the hoof covering Luna's completely obscuring it from view. Then Luna gaped as she was hauled into the air before Cowlick slammed her other hoof into her stomach, sending the sapphire mare rocketing across the arena before she crashed down and skidded painfully through the mire.

The soulstone-horned mare coughed weakly a few times, and Scrivener and Twilight both winced in pain: they had both felt that. They glared at Cowlick, who was only grinning coldly, the demon blowing a set of smoke rings through her nose as she growled: “I need these drugs to stay alive, you see. But you know I can't ever be happy with just the basics. I had so much time on my hooves and so much free knowledge just waiting around to be plucked that I decided to spice things up a bit. I just need a classy name for it. I was thinking 'venom,' but I hear that's already taken.”

“Okay, okay, hey hey hey, whoa. Time out.” Hel said clearly, and the ice puppet vanished from the arena to reappear between Cowlick and the others, holding up her hands and saying mildly: “Now, we're getting off to a bad start here, I think. I mean, my name, you all used to be friends, right? This isn't how friends are supposed to treat each other! Now be nice. I'm not saying kiss and make out or anything, but. You know. Try and be nice.”

“That's not how that saying goes.” Scrivener muttered, and then he grimaced a little over at Cowlick as the now-enormous demon rolled her eyes with a growl. “You always had a brutal streak. But I thought you'd always stick to keeping it at a distance.”

“Shotguns ain't distance weapons. And I gotta admit. It's nice to have a little power in my own hooves.” Cowlick replied in a growl, punching her front hooves together and looking coolly down at Scrivener Blooms.

The stallion grimaced as Luna slowly stumbled back towards them, wheezing in pain before she spat: “This is a betrayal, Hel! How dare thou-”

“Oh, just shut up, Brynhild. I had to make it look like I could keep you three under lock and key by methods other than my whole... you know, you're-in-the-place-named-after-me-where-I-have-ultimate-power powers. I had to show La Croix I could take you guys down outside of here if necessary.” Hel paused, looking meditatively at the three ponies. “He's not a bad guy, I'll give him that. But he's still a Loa and you don't go making deals or trusting them just because. And his bosses well... they're a little unforgiving. Nothing yours truly couldn't handle, but I'd hate for them to cheat and go cry to the reapers about you guys.”

“So you're saying that this is all to protect us.” Scrivener Blooms said dryly, and Hel nodded brightly a few times before the stallion looked moodily back and forth between Luna and Twilight, who both grimaced a little.

“I'm gonna make it up to you, don't worry.” Hel said cheerfully, clapping her hands together and smiling kindly. “As a matter of fact, we both are. And I think that's why little miss kitty's so snitty. I swear, Cowface, don't make me put you back in another Pit of Torment.”

Cowlick only growled loudly at the goddess, and Twilight Sparkle shifted awkwardly before she said quietly: “We didn't... choose this, Cowlick. And we really are happy to see you. It's... when you died, it was...”

“Hard, not having someone around to make your weapons and help you feel better, right.” Cowlick said moodily, but after a moment the engineer gritted her teeth, and her eyes closed as she slowly began to shrink down, returning to her normal size as she breathed slowly in and out. It looked like it hurt... although Luna couldn't exactly dredge up much sympathy with how much her chest was aching right now. “Look. Let's just get this over with.”

The charcoal stallion frowned a little, and Luna shifted moodily as Twilight Sparkle sighed and looked pleadingly over at Hel. Hel only smiled kindly, though, saying gently: “Oh, don't get me wrong. I know you guys are pretty strong. But you need to be stronger, because it's going to be you three versus all of Heaven, and we don't even have much of a plan yet. Cowflank here is going to help you with that.”

Cowlick grunted, and there was silence for a moment before Luna finally asked pessimistically: “And tell me, creature, how precisely is a drug-addled engineer who is far less fun than she was whilst alive going to assist us?”

“I've been upgrading your weapons and building you armor to better work with your powers. That, and you three are going to train under my watch, in my facility. We're going to have lots of fun together.” Cowlick paused, then grinned suddenly, her eyes darkening a little: she looked vindictive, sardonic, and self-loathing all at once as she said: “Maybe I'll even let you look into my own personal scrying mirror and see how the world above is turning.”

Luna's eyes narrowed, and then Hel quickly snapped her fingers, and Cowlick's muzzle was frozen shut by a muzzle of frost as the goddess said mildly: “Now now, Cownut. You stick to your job, and don't go causing too many waves, you hear me? Scrivener, Luna, and my sweet little Twilight have a lot to prepare for, a lot to work for... and if the horseshoe was on the other hoof, you wouldn't want to be treated like this, would you? Remember, buttertart. Golden rule.”

There was silence for a moment, and then Cowlick rolled her eyes and nodded moodily, slumping a bit before the muzzle of ice melted away and let her mutter: “Fine. I hear you, loud and clear, boss. But these three would also want to know what's going on.”

Hel chuckled quietly at this, then she said softly: “Look at you, playing both sides of the field. Just like a mirror. But no, no, I'm not about to fall for that old trick... I need these three focused. And don't bother asking, I'll never tell! Not even you, daughter... just focus for now, my darlings. And I promise that when the time is right, I'll tell you. You can fret, and frustrate, and fluster then.”

Luna cursed under her breath as Scrivener Blooms grimaced, and Twilight Sparkle shivered a little before she looked up and asked quietly: “Our kids are okay, right?”

Hel only smiled and shrugged, replying candidly: “I can't tell you, and you know that, sweetie. Look, why don't you four just go with Cowbutt here to her nice shiny laboratory? She's been working for me for quite a long time now, and even she has to say I've given her the best of the best, now haven't I, Cowtail?”

“You did. You just took all that best of the best from the Nibelung.” Cowlick replied moodily, and then the engineer shook her head briefly before she straightened and looked distastefully between the trio across from her, before growling when Nightmare Moon leaned in almost pleadingly. “You stay the hell away from me. You're even worse than them. You're darkness that got goddamn rewarded for coming down here.”

“Touchy, touchy. Everyone has their own hells, Cownose. Maybe if you stopped being so damn whiny about yours you could finally start enjoying yourself down here some more. Isn't like you didn't get some shiny special treatment.” Hel said plaintively, and the engineer glared over at Hel, who only sighed in half-entertainment, half-exasperation. “Well, I do love your moxie.”

With that, Hel snapped her fingers, and a portal opened in reality, the mare saying kindly: “Go on through and take a look at your brand new home. Cowtongue, they are friends, not food. Friends. Not food. Be good to them, won't you, Cowleg?”

Cowlick muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a threat to 'shove my cowleg up her ass,' and then she stormed towards the portal and vanished through the swirling energy. Scrivener, Luna, and Twilight all looked at Hel, but the frost puppet only giggled and gestured hurriedly at the portal, saying eagerly: “Well, go on, go on! You're gonna be late for your playdate otherwise!”

Scrivener grimaced a bit, and Luna sighed and moodily rubbed at her sore chest once more before the two turned. Twilight Sparkle lingered only a moment longer, but then she followed herself, Nightmare Moon gazing tenderly after the ponies as they vanished together through the portal.

They found themselves standing on cracked icy wasteland at the bottom of a tall, half-landscaped mountain. A broken and badly-repaired stone road twisted up along the jagged face to an enormous castle in the distance, framed against the currently-stormy ceiling of Helheim. It looked like something out of a gothic horror story... but then again, they were in Hell.

Cowlick tossed away her cigarette, only to open a metal panel on one of the steel protrusions in her body and yank out a box of fresh smokes. She managed to pull one loose, then put the box back and said distastefully, without looking back at them: “Ain't much. But it's more stable than it looks, safe from wild demons and idjits. I've been ordered to give you room, board, and make sure you're training. Otherwise, you'll do your normal duties. But you'll stay here.”

“So. We're not allowed to live at our own home, and instead we have to live in yours. Even though you hate us now, and we're not done repairing that mansion yet.” Scrivener Blooms said slowly, and Cowlick nodded with a grunt, making the stallion sigh tiredly as Luna and Twilight traded moody looks. “This is going to just be fantastic.”

“Yeah. I'm really looking forwards to it.” Cowlick said sourly, and then the engineer started forwards, growling: “Come on, let's go.”

The three ponies followed her and started up the road, none of them quite knowing what to say. It was an awkward walk up... and made more awkward as Twilight Sparkle tried to ask in as friendly a voice as she could manage: “So uh... how's... life?”

“Well we're all dead. Especially you, you're like twice as dead as the rest of us.” Cowlick said moodily, and Luna cleared her throat loudly as Twilight winced a little. “So how the hell do you think it is? What do you think, you can just... start up a conversation with me or something?”

“I was hoping to.” Twilight said quietly, and Cowlick sighed tiredly, and there was an uncomfortable silence for a few moments, punctuated only by the sound of their hooves crunching frost and powder along the road, until the violet mare asked suddenly: “Did you hear that a lot of Blessed escaped Heaven after... well...”

“Your giant failure?” Cowlick asked nastily, and Twilight again shrank her head a little, as both Luna and Scrivener scowled a bit and shifted moodily. “Yeah, I may have. But if you're about to bring up Rustproof, I'm about to bring my hoof into your goddamn face. You leave him the hell out of this.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Twilight Sparkle said softly: “We all did the very best we could, Cowlick. I'm sorry that we screwed up, and I'm sorry that means we're getting special treatment, because... Hel thinks that Luna and Scrivy and I can put a stop to the Light. But we're only going to get that special treatment until we defeat Heaven. Then what do you think is going to happen to us?”

“Anything is a lot better than what happens to me or most others in Helheim.” Cowlick said moodily, and then she shook her head slowly and asked disgustedly: “You really have no idea how lucky you three have been, do you? What it's like for us? Do you have any concept of what any of us go through down here, about-”

“About being tortured, mentally, physically, emotionally, aye. About being forced to be the playtoy of demons and Inquisitors. About being cut, and yet not bleeding because thou has no blood left to give, and feeling their claws upon thy body and...” Luna shivered and then glared furiously at Cowlick's back. “Aye, we know. We know well, and we have been on both sides, Cowlick. And I do not say that with pride, because as we have learned... sometimes having our hooves forced to punish in the name of another is far worse upon our spirits than being tormented ourselves. And yet reminds us that... we are cowards. We are great, foolish cowards.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Cowlick chuckled quietly before the engineer said softly, lowering her head a little: “That makes me feel a little better. Not hearing you say that... but unlike you three, I embraced what this place was making me, and I became a full fledged demon. Got all the bells and whistles... like tasting your emotions. Yeah. You're being honest. A bit of a dramatic little filly, sure, but still pretty honest.”

Luna grumbled sourly at this, and Scrivener Blooms and Twilight Sparkle both gave small smiles before the demon looked up towards the scarred, ash-splattered castle walls. “Well, maybe the three of us are going to get along okay after all. We'll have to compare tortures: you know, I'm apparently not even halfway through mine. Barely made a dent. Makes me wonder, if things end up being fair after all... how long you three are going to end up on the racks for.”

“For a long, long time.” Scrivener Blooms said quietly, and Cowlick chuckled quietly at this, although her laugh had a bittersweet quality to it. Then the charcoal stallion looked up at the immense wall of the strange castle they were slowly approaching, before he asked almost abruptly: “So what exactly are we going to be doing here?”

“Immunization training. I get to run some fun little experiments that would have been considered immoral up top... hell, even here in the icebox, I guess you could say I'm on the edge of what's legal or not. But Hel decides that, not anyone else, and what she's decided is she needs you three topped off.” Cowlick replied calmly, smiling just as coldly as the wastes around them before the engineer said wryly: “Don't worry. I'm sure we're gonna be real good friends, soon enough. We're just gonna have to hate each other for a little while first. Me, for what you three have. And you three, for all the fun I'm going to have trying to teach your bodies to resist purification.”

Scrivener shifted uncomfortably as Twilight Sparkle looked down silently, but Luna Brynhild only boldly rose her head and smiled confidently. And strange as it was, even though she knew they were walking into what would essentially be nothing but torture, torment, and suffering as Cowlick beat them into some newer, better shape under Hel's orders... she would still rather have Cowlick doing this than anyone else, no matter how much time and suffering had hardened her.

Cowlick, after all, was rough, and bitter, and angry... but Cowlick was also a master of her craft, and an engineer who wasn't satisfied with anything less than perfection. She would help make them strong, probably even stronger than they really had to be... and even if it meant being a personal lab rat for a little while, Luna was ready to make that choice, and she knew her partners were as well.

After all, if they wanted to save Heaven, they were all aware that first they would have to give in to Hell.

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