• 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 40: Tipping Point
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Chapter 40: Tipping Point

Celestia shook her head, clearing her mind of the vision she had just. “Hm. I guess I can understand why Discord acted the way he did. I was right for not killing him, I think, but I'm still not entirely sure it was the right choice. Unlike Luna, he didn't change after his banishment.”

One of the oracles stepped forward. “It was the choice you made, Princess. It has happened, and thus, it was meant to be.”

“I suppose so.” She sighed gently. “Well, I guess it will be some time before Twilight and her friends return, won't it? I shouldn't abandon the kingdom any longer, though I wish I could watch all of their progress. Thank you oracles.”

“Of course,” they answered in unison.

“Farewell, Doctor.” The Doctor nodded absentmindedly in return.

Celestia opened a rift, leading back to her throne room. She stepped through without hesitation. Her guards turned to look at her. “Princess Celestia, you've returned!” The guard on duty seemed relieved, though he tried to hide it behind a professional and stoic face.

“Yes, I have. I apologize for my absence, but it was necessary. Has everything gone well?”

“There has been... a disturbance in Ponyville. We managed to take care of it under Shining Armor's supervision, so we chose not to trouble you until you returned.”

“What happened?”

“A strange phenomenon. A couple of days ago, a tear appeared in the sky, dropping a building's worth of books in the spot where Twilight's library once was. We managed to gather them all and retrieve the few that the citizens had picked up. We've stored them in the unused wing of the castle, should you wish to examine them.”

“I think I would like to, thank you.”

“Of course, Princess. We are here to serve.”

Princess Celestia, upon seeing that there were no other concerns demanding her immediate attention, made her way towards the mentioned books. It did seem a bit strange that books would rain from the sky, but she was glad nothing more dangerous had escaped her notice.

She found the first of the recently-filled rooms. A guard saluted her as she passed by. Her eyes passed over the spines of the books, somewhat distracted by the events she had just seen. With a start, her subconscious alerted her there was something worth her attention. She did a double-take. She lowered her brow in concern. She pulled the book off the shelf, flipping through it quickly. Her throat caught in fear. Had any of the guards read these? Shining Armor? Had the guards missed a book?

She placed the book back on the shelf, continuing down the aisle. The Phylactery, Engines and Transportation, Firearms, Equestrian Biology, Theories of Economics, The Prince...

She got to the end of the shelf. There it was. A Study of Alicorns. Celestia sat down quietly. She picked up the infamous book with her hooves, drawing it close. She opened it, and in a whisper, began to read aloud.

“Alicorns. What magnificent beings. The pony race in its purest form. This manifest was written to reveal their inner workings and source of their glory. A brief account of the history of the first alicorns is given by consent and for understanding's sake. The contents of this book are meant for the betterment of all sentient creatures of Equestria and the world beyond. The knowledge inside is powerful, and the most precious I've collected. To use it for dark purposes will only lead to destruction of self.

-Quicksilver, co-authored and overseen by Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.”

Her voice trembled as she closed the book. A flood of memories filled her mind. Like the Forgotten Realm, they refused to be filed away, never to be seen again. They demanded to see the light of day once more. Each pony that had been mentioned in the introduction had fallen. Celestia knew that she lacked her former glory. She could not blind herself as she had her kingdom. These books were proof her plan was unraveling. She gave a silent prayer that she could be forgiven for the evil she had done, and would do, for the greater good. But as a goddess herself, who could she pray to?

{- - -}

When her vision cleared, Twilight found herself standing in front of the dark altar of the Metaspectre. The humming of the crystals made her step back in preparation, but when she realized that she wasn't drawn to them as she had been in reality, she stood her ground.

With all hope exhausted, and every other path frustratingly futile, I turned to my last resort. Even in my addled, desperate state, I knew how foolish it was. I turned to the Devil himself.

Gareth stood in front of altar. His mismatched body arched over it, looking over the Metaspectre's orbs with both awe and fear. There was a manic glare in his eye. If he hadn't lost control of his mental faculties yet, Twilight feared he was on the brink.

The orbs glowed brightly, then lifted into the air slowly. With a gust of powerful wind, the Metaspectre's body formed around its soul. Twilight was surprised to see it didn't look like a pony. It seemed to be a shadow of Gareth's form; it was decidedly a draconequus. Thael looked Gareth over quietly.

Go home, Gareth. No good will come out of a deal made in desperation.

Gareth shook his head violently. “If you know my name, you know my plight. You can't turn me away.”

No, not by my own rules. But I warn strongly against this. I will be fair, but all of my lent power comes at a price.

“Oh, of course. I learned the lesson that true power comes only with sacrifice long ago. Heh, can't you see me? Why, the only part of me that's part of my original body is my left arm. I even sacrificed my head in pursuit of my goal! Quite the experience, completing a ritual without an attached brain. I've tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING else.”

You haven't tried letting go of her.

“NO!” Gareth slammed his fists into the altar. Thael didn't flinch. “No. I can't. She was my entire life. Don't you see? If I let go of her, I have nothing else to live for.”

I see your mind is made up. Very well. What is it that you desire?

“Power over death. I want the knowledge of resurrection magic.”

The price is steep for a knowledge so valuable and dangerous. The conditions are such; I will grant you the knowledge of the steps and the pure arcane power required for the ritual if you initiate total war between Equestria and your own people.

“He, no stress for me. I have no love for either of them. Maybe once for my kingdom, but it took away all I held dear. Maybe once for Equestria, but loving them didn't save her. How should I go about it? I'd be jailed on sight if I return to my own country, and the citizens of Equestria wouldn't accept a monster such as myself.”

A small black shard broke off of a nearby crystal. Thael levitated it towards his side. Quickly, deflect this.

“Wha-”

The shard flew forward with shocking speed, splitting up into many as it neared Gareth. The swarm of sharp slivers certainly would cause traumatic physical damage if Gareth didn't react quickly.

Working on instinct alone, Gareth lifted his griffon arm, encasing it in an arcane aura. With a flash, each of the shards was turned into a grain of rice. They lost momentum, and fell into a materialized bowl.

“What was that? Are you trying to kill me?”

Remember, we're trading for resurrection magic. Even if you had failed, I could have brought you back. More important than your physical well being, however, I see you've been practicing your magic.

“Yeah, well, there's not much else to do when you're alone and an outcast.”

What was that particular spell?

“One of my own creation. I haven't named it yet, but while destroying my own body, I realized that all matter is energy. It took me a while, but I managed to find a way to cause that energy to manifest itself differently.”

So, you've created a matter-shifting spell?

“Yeah, it's actually really useful. I can literally feed myself with the sweat of my brow, if I need to.”

Interesting. Have you tried it on living creatures?

“Not yet.”

I imagine shape shifting would be quite helpful to your quest. To emphasize his point, Thael changed from his draconequus form to his more familiar pony form.

Gareth's eyes widened with understanding. “Ah, now you're thinking. I'll have to come up with some sort of identity to go with my new body, though. Somebody who people would trust, but also respect.”

Infiltration, then?

“You said start a war, not emulate one, right? I can't just go on a killing spree?”

Infiltration then.

{- - -}

With a howl of winter wind, the door flew open to the castle of the ruling Equestrians. The guards quickly shut it behind the visitor, who payed them no heed as he continued forward. Twilight was taken aback. She was obviously looking at Star Swirl the Bearded. There was no mistaking his classical robe, nor his white beard. But what was he doing here, in Discord's memory? She had been under the impression that he hadn't come to power until after the Princesses' reign. And, of course, the Princesses hadn't risen to power until Discord's defeat.

Many of her ideas about history had proven to be misconceptions already, however. With a shrug, Twilight had to accept that perhaps she just didn't know, and instead of worrying, just wait to see where the memory took her.

She followed closely behind Starswirl, looking him over with some awe. This was a pony she had looked up to since she had first heard of his abilities. He looked so thoughtful, so perceiving, so purposeful.

The two of them neared large double doors that Twilight recognized as the entrance to a throne room. It was then that Twilight realized that this wasn't castle in Canterlot, nor was it the Everfree Forest's. She glanced out the window. Something about the surrounding landscape seemed familiar. The placement of the hills, the dip just a small distance from the cliff... If she wasn't mistaken, the castle would be in ponyville somewhere. A long time ago, to be sure. None of the foliage was familiar. She tilted her head in concentration. Then it hit her. If she triangulated the landmarks, then...

This castle, and specifically, the throne room, was where her library had once stood.

She took a couple of steps back, wondering what it could mean. She looked back to Starswirl, who had continued on, oblivious to Twilight's pause. She ran to catch up with him. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but she felt something else was at play here.

Starswirl threw open the doors confidently. He strode forward along the velvet carpet, until he was standing before two thrones. He gave a short, curt bow. “Your Highnesses, I bring news from the north. It seems the griffons are beginning to militarize.”

Twilight jumped forward in excitement, forgetting where she was. “Prince Terra and Princess Awyr! Oh, I've only read about you in history books! And there was so little available. What happened to you two?”

Twilight was suddenly very aware of three pairs of eyes focused on her.

“Do we know you?”

Starswirl eyed her over darkly. “How did you get in past the guards?”

Twilight's mouth gaped open. “Oh. Whoops. I guess I forgot you can change the playback if you interrupt the flow.”

“The playback of what?” Starswirl drew closer, looking her over intently.

“A memory bubble. Sorry for the interruption! Rewind!”

She had just enough time to see recognition flicker on Starswirl's face before the memory obeyed her command. “...to militarize.”

“You're certain of this?”

“Have I been wrong yet, my Princess?”

Princess Awyr shook her head softly. “No, not yet. Starswirl, I thank you for everything you've done. You've helped us keep the kingdom together for so long now. Why, without you, I'm not certain we would have survived last winter.”

“It was nothing, my leige.”

Prince Terra rose. “Nothing my hindquarters. If it weren't for you and your brilliant Omniomorphic spell, the kingdom would have starved. Your ability to shapeshift the rocks into life-saving food makes you the hero of the nation.”

“I do it only for the greater good.”

“Pause!” Twilight yelled. Each of the ponies froze in place. Twilight paced in a circle while she took in this new information. She gave a slight frown, trying to remember if she had heard right. “Rewind!” She let it go for only a moment.

“...brilliant Omniomorphic spell, the kingdom-”

“Pause!”

Twilight shook her head, disbelieving. “Omnio. OMNIO. Not amnio. All-forming. Not earth-forming. This changes everything.” Twilight looked at Starswirl once again. It was understandable that she had misinterpreted. Old Equestrian was somewhat hard to read, and the author of the particular book Twilight had first read about Starswirl in had particularly terrible handwriting. The A's and the O's looked pretty much the same. But this moved Starswirl up from the already impressive pioneer of magic to a peer of the Alicorns.

Which brought up another point. She turned to the monarchs. Neither of them were Alicorns. They weren't even the same species. Terra was an earth pony and Awyr was a pegasus. Both paragons of their respective races, but once again there was a misstep in history. All the illustrations she'd seen of them marked them as Alicorns. Was this before they had ascended? Or had they never become Alicorns in the first place? And where were Celestia and Luna in all of this? Luna had implied she knew Starswirl personally, when she had visted Ponyville on Nightmare Night. And if Luna had known Starswirl, it stood to reason that Celestia would have as well.

Twilight knew she was missing something. Something critical about Terra and Awyr. How had their reign ended? She groaned as she tried to remember. She was so flustered she couldn't concentrate. She took a deep breath. There was still more to see. “Resume.”

“...would have starved. Your ability to shapeshift the rocks into life-saving food makes you the hero of the nation.”

“I do it only for the greater good.”

“Which makes you that much more of a hero. Thank you, Starswirl, for another fine service.”

“My lord, what shall we do about the griffons?”

“Nothing. If we make a show of force, it will only escalate the conflict. We'll be ready for them, but only if they strike first.”

Starswirl's face flickered with emotion, before he bowed gracefully. “Of course, my liege. I take my leave.”

He turned, and walked out of the throne room. Twilight followed quickly, up several stairwells and finally, into a bedroom. It was simple, though comfortable. A bed, a hooflocker, and a small closet. Starswirl stepped in, closed the blinds, and blew out the lone candle. Twilight was blinded by the sudden darkness. Before her eyes had time to adjust, there was quick flash of light, which blinded her in its own way. When she recovered, she saw a golden orb, no bigger than her front hoof. It spun slowly, deliberately. Out of nothingness flew in six smaller, satellite orbs. The collective gave off a gentle glow, but there was undeniable power behind them.

Greetings, Gareth.

Twilight's eyes turned to Starswirl. No. It couldn't be.

“Don't mock me. You know my plan failed.” With a burst of light and dancing stars, Starswirl transformed into the monster named Discord.

It's still salvageable. The Equestrians are too kind hearted. We warned you about this.

“Then what do I do?”

Take a more direct path. You know of love potions, of course?

“Hey, I'm not going to marry Awyr, if that's what you're implying! I wouldn't mind offing her dolt of a husband though.”

We imply no such thing. In fact, it would be for the couple themselves.

Discord frowned. “Isn't the problem that they love each other too much?”

Yes, and the solution is the fact that they don't love each other enough.

“I don't follow.”

Twilight did. Now she remembered what she had been forgetting about the monarchs. It hadn't mentioned them by name, but the book of potions that the Cutie Mark Crusaders had borrowed mentioned a Prince and Princess who had been slipped a love poison. She couldn't remember all of the rest, just something about chaos and a dragon.

She looked once again at Discord, though she wasn't certain he had taken that name yet. Well, if there was another part-dragon that embodied Chaos, she knew nothing of him.

Too much of a good thing is still too much of a good thing. If you increase the potency of the potion, they'll forget the kingdom and ignore any action you take.

“See, what I don't understand, if you come up with these ideas, and you're the one who wants the kingdom to fall, why don't you just do it yourself, and just save me the trouble?”

Everything we do is for a purpose. It must be you who takes this path. Sometimes, the means are the end.

“If you're going to speak in riddles, at least make them rhyme.”

We save the rhyming for the zebras.

“Give it a try, at least.”

Our purpose is hidden, just do as you're bidden.

Discord smiled slyly.“Was that a joke? I think I'm rubbing off on you.”

Or being alive for countless thousands of years means you can take a breather every now and then.

“Come on, there are plenty of rhymes for 'then'.”

Something, something, hen.

“Now you're getting it.” Discord flashed back into the wise, bearded sorcerer. “I'll go look into the overpowered potion.”

Are you sure you want to go through with this?

Starswirl paused midstep. “I keep asking myself the same thing. But I've already come so far. I can't turn back now.” Starswirl paused for a moment more, then he determinedly put his hoof down, stepping forward once again. “I can't let my wife go.”

Then we shall wait for your return, whether it be on the tail of your victory, or your fall.

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