• Published 13th Mar 2012
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Inner Glory - Erindor

A utopian society cannot exist without the corpses of the revolutionaries.

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Chapter 39: Mutation

Chapter 39: Mutation

The killer leaped forward, blade whistling through the air. Gareth acted instinctively, side stepping and jumping across the air, using his wings to catch himself. His hand scrambled over a nearby table, picking up a blunt letter opener. He brandished it defensively, tears welling up in his eyes. “Your soul will have no place in the planes for what you have done. She was innocent. She was pure.”

“Please, Gareth. She lost her innocence the moment she fell in love with you.”

“Who is behind that mask? Who is so cowardly? Gotre? Gilran?”

“Nobody so public. I'm simply taking the action that many others feel is necessary. We must go to war. Don't you see? It's not about the land, it's about our place in the world. If we allow the Equestrians to stomp all over us, it's only a matter of time before we become one of the slave races. Can you imagine the mighty griffon living in the same quarters as the cows? The sheep? The pigs? The Equestrians don't want to keep peace with us. They proved that the moment they took our land. They're trying to provoke us.”

“If that's true, then why fall for their trap?! Why act as they would expect us to? They were only reacting to the unlawful decision to try those griffons in our court. I personally visited the site of the battle, and I know for a fact the battle was on their land. We were the instigators.”

“The official report said-”

“To the hells with the official report! Who do you think made it?! It wasn't the one I handed over!”

The assassin gritted his teeth from behind his bandanna. “You're blind, Gareth. The time for peaceful action is over. As are your poisoning words.”

He rushed forward once more. Gareth parried with the letter opener, but was caught off guard by a slash from the other hand. The assassin's talons ripped out several feathers, and the three gashes began bleeding, a stark contrast to the perfect white around them.

Gareth growled in fury. He reared, putting his weight on his hind legs. His unarmed hand began glowing with light. Twilight realized with a start that he was using magic. No matter how often it happened, she was always caught off guard by non-unicorns casting spells.

The assassin drew back cautiously, but Gareth moved the glowing hand over his wounds. His skin stitched itself together, and once again, he was ready to fight. He was a doctor, Twilight remembered. Of course he'd have some sort of healing magic up his sleeve, if it were available to him.

The griffons began circling, waiting for the other to strike first. Finally, the assassin lunged, and Gareth began to side step. The assassin adjusted, and Gareth moved back into the path of the original trajectory, catching the murderer off guard. Gareth grabbed his opponent's arm, and pulled himself close. With a grunt, he jabbed the dull blade into his stomach. The assassin's eyes went wide. Not a killing blow, to be sure, but it was enough pain that it made him drop his blade, which Gareth quickly recovered. The second, sharper blade joined the first, and the assassin slumped to the ground, senses overloaded.

Once Gareth was sure his life wasn't in immediate danger, he ran over to his wife. He picked her up, crading her close. “Gilda, please be alive.” But as a doctor, he knew. Tearfully, he activated his magic once again, healing her wound and clearing away the blood. He set her down carefully, closing her unseeing eyes with a light sob. He turned back to the decommissioned assailant, who was trying unsuccessfully to pull the blades from his gut. Gareth grabbed him by his chest and shook him violently. “You killed her. You and all you fools who don't understand. I'm only trying to help you.”

The wounded griffon reached a weakened hand up, grasping Gareth's arm. “We don't want your help. That should be clear.”

Gareth's face contorted in sorrowful rage. “Nobody does.” He dropped the griffon, who let out an airy grunt. “My life has been devoted to helping others. I heal all who ask, many free of charge, but only one in ten comes back to thank me. I warn against actions that would cause pain, but so many rebel.” He turned his head towards the unseeing heavens. “I devote my life to the greater good, and I am harmed continuously. And the only way I made it through anything was with the support of the one person who cared.” A dark aura came over him. Gareth's glare made even Twilight cringe. “And now, you've taken her from me.”

He hefted the killer up once more, leaning him against the wall. “What was once used to heal shall now be used to destroy.” He ripped the daggers out, eliciting a cry of pain. “This government will fall. Mark my words.” He stabbed the daggers into the griffon's arms, pinning him in place. Tears and blood flowed alike.

“You'll need a messenger. Leave me alive!”

“Your body will be message enough.”

Gareth's hand glowed once more. The light was no longer white, and instead, red pulsating energy surrounded his outstretched claw. The killer, identity still hidden and all confidence gone, was begging profusely. “Please, don't! Don't!”

Gareth paused for just a moment. Then he plunged the hand into the griffon's stomach wounds. The magic seeped in, the reverse of the healing process Gareth had used on himself. Skin tore itself apart as if it were formed of repulsed magnets. The cries echoed across the night, as the griffon's midsection detached itself violently from its owner. It dropped to the floor with a meaty thunk, the killer still gasping, barely holding onto consciousness and life.

Gareth turned away silently, his face completely stoic. There was no pleasure, nor any anger. He stepped to his wife. He bowed his head silently, as if in prayer, then left the room.

The scene changed. Twilight found herself in some sort of circular meeting hall. It was completely silent, though the griffon at the podium was mouthing words and the griffons in the crowd seemed to be responding. Discord's voice entered her mind. As you may guessed by now, I, Discord, am Gareth. My failure to attend the meeting the next day allowed the corrupt to sway the minds of the timid. The vote went through. The griffon kingdom was to go to war with Equestria.

The scene changed once again. A group of griffons were running after one, who Twilight recognized as Gareth. After the discovery of the scene in my former home, I became a wanted man. Those who had sent the assassin still wanted my head, and those select few who still followed the law demanded that I be given a trial for what I had done. But I didn't care. The law meant nothing to me, as the law had allowed my wife to be killed.

Twilight's eyesight faded, the returned once more. Gareth was alone in a dark library. He was sitting with his back to a bookshelf, crying quietly. Twilight stepped over. He was holding a small picture of his wife. “Oh gods, what I have done?” He dropped the photo, which fluttered to the ground next to him. “What am I about to do?”

His left hand glowed with the same red aura. With a single claw, he traced a line around his left arm, at the shoulder. He gritted his teeth, though despite his attempts, whimpers of agony slipped through. Twilight's jaw dropped in confusion, disgust, and respect. It took an incredible amount of willpower, she was sure. But why?

Gareth's right arm flopped helplessly to the ground. His face tear-stricken and distraught, he cauterized the wound with another spell. He picked up his former arm, giggling in despair. “Well, when nobody else is around to give you a hand, you have to arm yourself...” His light laughter trailed off into sobs.

He placed the severed limb on the ground in front of him. He traced a circle around it with some of the blood that had fallen. It was then that Twilight saw the book that lay next to him. Transmutation: Sacrifice and Return. Her eyes widened with understanding.

Gareth bowed his head gently, closing his eyes. “With this sacrifice of blood, I invite the powers that be to recognize my devotion. Bless my quest to be quick, and my will to be unbreakable. Let me see the way to the return of my beloved.”

The arm glowed with white light. It vaporized, the light collapsing to the ground like a pile of sand. Even from where she stood, barred by the passage of time, Twilight could feel the power of the material. Gareth placed his other and into the pile, eyes still closed in concentration. The light pulled into the tips of his talons, disappearing into his body.

Gareth leaned back, sighing deeply. He had the slightest hint of a smile. He held the stump of his arm gently. “Gilda, I'll make things right. You'll see.” His form and the world around him began shifting, as if everything were moving at incredible speeds. After some time, Gareth reappeared. He was in a cave of some sort, hunched over the ground. Twilight stepped around, and found he was busying himself with some sort of arcane circle. It was like nothing Twilight had seen before. The glowing lines twisted and turned upon themselves, several prominent lines tracing a large triangle. In the center of the graphic lay the corpse of a manticore.

Gareth stepped back, a lightly maniacal glint in his eyes. He seemed giddy, almost. He held out his one left arm, head bowed as before. An arc of power struck the corpse. The circle glowed, and an odd humming filled the air. The maticore's body lifted into the air, the light from the circle pulling into the body. It pulsed with the energy, a ring of light emitting with each pulse. Then, just before Twilight was sure something was going to happen, the energy shorted, and the body dropped with a heavy thump.

“No! No, this can't be right!” Gareth rushed forward, grabbing the body. He checked for a pulse. “Nothing.” He murmured to himself quietly, pacing furiously. “I need more power. There's not enough. Perhaps it's the wrong surrogate? Or perhaps there's not enough primer?” He continued pacing. “Hm. Yes, that must be it. I haven't invested enough of myself. I have to prepare.”

He knelt to the manticore, activating the red magic once more. He traced circumference of its arm with a single claw. The arm dropped off meatily, and Gareth picked it up, holding where his other arm would be. “It's messy, but it'll have to do.” With a good deal of dexterity, he balanced the severed arm on his leg, and opened his own wound, wincing only once. The way prepared, he pressed the mismatching arm against his body, and with a flourish of his hand, it stitched itself to his body.

He paused for a moment, then raised his new arm experimentally. He flexed its fingers, before nodding to himself in satisfaction. “Well, I guess I'm closer to two-thirds of a lion at this point. Hm, maybe I'll work on growing out a mane.”

He sat for a moment. “If Gilda was here, she would have laughed.” He scowled for a moment, then returned to pacing, limply slightly on his new leg. “Perhaps the method itself is at fault. It was purely theoretical, after all. Not many griffons devote themselves to magic. Very few would dare press the boundaries of the art. Perhaps I'll have to go to Equestria. No, no, not yet. Not until I've exhausted all of my options here. Even if it costs me every single one of my limbs, I'll figure this out.”

The scene shot forward again, and when it stopped, a new circle was in place, but Gareth wasn't in sight. Twilight heard a grunt coming from behind her. She turned around, where she saw Gareth pulling a small, deceased dragon into the cave. As he came more into the light, she saw he had held to his promise. Both of his wings had been replaced, one draconian, and the other still avian, though it was now blue. One of his back legs had been replaced by a hoofed leg of some sort, possibly a goat, or a deer. Twilight grimaced as she wondered how Gareth's victims had met their demise. There was no doubt in her mind now. She was watching the creation of a monster. A monster whose name was his passion. Discord.

Gareth finally managed to get the dragon to the circle. The dragon, though small, was still large enough to hang out of the circle. Gareth frowned. “No, that won't do.” He reared onto his hind legs, lifting his maticore arm. The dragon's body began to lift ever so slightly off of the ground. After a moment, it dropped back.

“Ugh, I do need to practice with this arm more. No time, though.” He switched his power to his familiar griffon arm, and with a good deal of expertise, the dragon was adjusted into a position where it just barely managed to fit into the runic circle.

Before anything could ruin his setup, Gareth activated the ritual process once more. The dragon's corpse, like the manticore's had earlier, began lifting into the air. This time, however, the body began to morph. Twilight's mouth fell. Despite the misgivings she had about the morality of the process and the stability of Gareth's mind, she had to admit this was an impressive feat.

Before her eyes, the dragon's wings sprouted brown feathers, their leathery covering shriveling up. The tail shrunk dramatically, sprouting fur. A beak began growing out of the dragon's face, and the spikes trailing its spine were replaced with feathers. Gareth wrung his hands in anticipation. The transforming creature began to breathe. Twilight felt herself leaning forward.

The still transforming creature's eyes flew open. After a moment's disorientation, they fixated on Gareth. “Is... is that you?”

“Dearest! It's me! Gareth!”

“What's happening?”

“You were killed by cowards, so I'm returning you to life. We can be together again. It's been so hard for me. You were my light.” Tears crept to his eyes, but they had a very different meaning than the others had.

The forming Gilda was confused, for obvious reasons, but a smile crept over her face. “Gareth, I feel... happy. Oh Gareth, my love!” She strained to reach for him, but she couldn't gain any traction in the air.

“Hold on, the transformation's almost complete. Just stay calm.”

Gilda nodded. The two just looked at each other quietly, smiles on each. Gareth stepped forward, reaching out to touch his lost wife. Then, without warning, the spell began to fail. The lights on the circle flickered.

Gareth's eyes went wide. “No! NO! I have done everything correct! I triple checked!”

“Gareth, what's wrong?” Gilda's voice was full of fear.

“We're so close... Gilda, something's gone wrong with the spell. If I can sustain it for just a minute more, we'll be together again.”

“Gareth, you said I was killed?” Her voice shook, but was full of resolve.

“Yes, but that doesn't matter anymore.”

“Gareth, listen to me. My life isn't worth you wasting yours. If this goes wrong-”

“It won't!”

“-If it goes wrong, give up. Carry on with your life. Make the world a better place.”

“That's what I'm trying to do!”

“The loss of your honor is not worth my life. When we married, we said we'd die for each other. I've already died for you. Don't let them win. If my death convinces you to forget your ideals, they got everything they wanted.”

“Don't say that, we're almost finished! There's no need for goodbyes!”

“I'm sorry, Gareth. I love you.”

The spell finally broke. The transformation undid itself quickly, and before Gareth's unbelieving eyes, his wife was ripped from him once more.

Gareth simply sat there for a good five minutes. Then, without warning, he let out a scream. The scream spoke of the agony in his heart, the pain in his mind. He slammed his fists into the ground, shattering the earth around him.

He just shook his head. He stepped towards the dragon's body, and almost casually severed its hind leg. With no emotion, he did the same to his remaining hind griffon leg, sacrificed it for magic, and then attached the dragon's leg. He paused for a moment, looking at the failed attempt. He then left the cave, and didn't turn back.

I lost my will to live that day. My wife, in the most loving way possible, had told me to forget her. That only made me more obsessed. And without regard for my life, I became the most dangerous being in the land. The world would soon tremble as a testament to this fact. I would become a God. A God of everything the world had taught me. Pain, anger, and most of all, betrayal.

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