• 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 42: Renewal

Chapter 42: Renewal

And so, I claimed the throne as my own, subjecting all to my plan. I was cruel and selfish, tyrannical and whimsical. It was an empty rule, with no constants. A few tried to rise against me, but they were as corrupt as I. Time passed, factions rose and fell, but everything turned out as hoped. Two beautiful, good hearted unicorns rose with the strength of justice and mercifully allowed my continued existence, though I deserved nothing less than obliteration. They'll never know it, but I owe my life to them, because just before they overthrew me, I had lost my hope. I had almost given up.

Since then, I've done what I could to benefit the whole, though my actions might seem contrary to those who don't know my greater purpose. Sometimes things need to be shaken up, or indeed, fall apart. And somebody's got to be the demolitionist.

On to the great beyond. I do not know what my place will be in the upcoming events, but I place no blame on what happened on the Metaspectre, or, the devil, as he's called. Because he was my savior. Perhaps like all of us, he has been mislabeled? I am Discord... no. I am Gareth. And I am at peace.

Twilight was kicked out of the memory. She fell onto her haunches, her body reacting instinctively to the strictly mental force. All around her, her friends did the same. The memory field sprung back, the golden orb bouncing to the floor.

After the tired unicorn recovered, Twilight placed the memory back into her saddlebag. She looked at her friends around the dark cave. All stayed silent, but their looks told enough.

With only a nod, they began settling down for the night. If she had been keeping track of time correctly, when they awoke in the morning, there would only be three days left before the solstice. Three days to recover Luna from the Metaspectre. So much had happened since they first came. They had a duty to Celestia to see the job through, but Twilight couldn't help but wonder if their task was still important. Split personalities and a dark god waiting to be released certainly sounded a little more pressing. Luna could handle herself, couldn't she?

Twilight's thoughts buzzed for a while until they were so many that they became white noise. She felt herself drifting off, but before she lost consciousness, one thought rose above the rest.

“What is my purpose?” she whispered quietly. Her eyes slowly shut.

{- - -}

“Why would Celestia hide this from me?”

I dare not give a definite answer, but it seems likely she was trying to protect you.

Luna stopped pacing and frowned at the Metaspectre. “From whom? Not Seren, of course. We were close. He'd never harm me.”

From yourself, I'd imagine.

“Does she not trust me to control myself?”

I fear my fulfillment of your wish might have jinxed that.

“You only gave me the willpower to do what I had wanted to do for quite some time. I see now that had I the strength, I would have acted as you influenced me to do.”

Then her fears are reasonable?

“No, the problem is not that I lack resolve, but that I have too much. I cannot be swayed by distracting things such as mercy or tolerance.”

What about love?

“Yes, yes, that did cause me to overstep my bounds. It was with good intent, though, I swear! I threatened eternal night as an ultimatum, to force a compromise, but I got sucked into the conflict and allowed myself to lose control. I'm a better mare now, yet the core problem still remains. Perhaps it's even worsened, since she's split the worlds. Justice is not just about condemning the criminals, but rewarding the good. A full day's pay for a full day's work. The people of this realm, despite their crimes, deserve all of the pay. They have done all the work, putting up with the refuse of our world. Celestia has effectively shoved the problems into the closet. They must be addressed and then dealt with, and the balance restored. You cannot condemn a bad person for being bad in a bad world, nor can you praise a good person for being good in a good world, unless they had knowledge of the other. We must have a merged world of both light and dark or else Justice cannot hold.”

Luna sighed. “Celestia was trying her best, of course, but she made a grave mistake and she's let it go on for far too long.” She drew up her lip in resolve. “Thael, thank you for showing me the light. I am willing to do what I must to help.” She bowed softly.

Thael bowed in return. No, thank you, my princess. Welcome back.

“I am glad to be back, my friend.”

{- - -}

Twilight was pulled out of her, well, twilight sleep, by a quiet chittering noise. Her ear flicked instinctively, her eyes still shut. If it wasn't important, she didn't particularly feel like getting up. The group wasn't supposed to be awake for a couple of hours, and she needed all the sleep she could get. She sighed deeply. The chittering stopped. After about a minute of silence, Twilight felt herself falling asleep once more.

A jolt shot through her mind, pulling her back from the brink of sleep. It took her a moment to realize she had been bit, in the neck. She reared up with all of her strength, dislodging whatever had bit her. Now wide awake, she cast a quick and uncontrolled illumination spell. The flash of light hit every edge of the cave in blinding illumination. Twelve voices hissed in unison. Twilight stepped back in fear. Changelings, in their natural form. It looked like nothing more than a scouting party, but that was terrible in its own right. Scouts stayed close to the main group.

Twilight gently touched the two bleeding holes on her neck. They were pretty deep, though certainly not fatal. They had been trying to drink her blood, it seemed. One of the changeling's teeth was proof of that. But why? They fed off of love, not...

Twilight came to her senses. “Everybody up! We're in danger!”

Those who hadn't already been stirred by the flash and the hissing jumped up, having been conditioned enough by the past to know to jump immediately into action when they heard that tone of voice.

The changelings wasted no time with their diminishing advantage. They leaped in unison, each pony immediately beset by two changelings each. All semblance of control was lost, as each pony fought for themselves. Spike rushed to Twilight's side, once again underestimated. As one of the changelings lashed forward to bite Twilight, Spike intercepted it, breathing a full blast of green flame into its open maw. It dropped to the ground, the acrid smell of burning flesh filling the air. It struggled along the ground in agony for a few moments, before curling into a fetal position, whimpering pathetically.

The second changeling stepped back, analyzing the scene for a moment before transforming into Twilight, who had seen this coming from a mile away. Spike laughed. “Nice try.” He leaped forward, claws bared. The changeling sidestepped his attack, and tackled Twilight. It didn't seem directly intent on hurting her, but rather on getting the two of them mixed up. As they tumbled, the changeling grabbed Twilight, and forced her head down onto its neck. Twilight didn't give much resistance, as she had been expecting it to bite her. Her bite, aided by the changeling's magic, resulted in puncture wounds identical to her own. Twilight pushed it off in disgust, both at the act and the taste now in her mouth.

Spike turned around. “Wow, for real?” He smacked his hand to his face, dragging it down slowly in impatience.

“Spike, help me take her out!”

“No, Spike, go save our friends!”

Spike looked between the two of them. “Either way, helping the others will be good for us.” He turned and ran off to go assist Applejack, who was doing what she could to help Rainbow Dash in a three-way aerial battle against herself.

Twilight faced down her changeling. “Just what is going on here?”

The changeling smiled. “Oh, we were in the neighborhood and decided to stop in for a friendly visit and some liquid refreshment.”

Twilight stuck out her tongue. Her voice sounded so saccharine coming from the changeling. “Why are the changelings drinking blood now?”

“This may come as a surprise, but we have been all of our lives. It was only once we entered your world that the word for the physical blood was lost. So we had to feed on the closest substitute your world offered. The abstract concept of love. The victims look the same after a feeding, however.”

“What are you doing here now?”

“Chrysalis seeks revenge.”

“So why isn't she in the real world, trying to overthrow Celestia once again?”

“Real world? This IS the real world! Yours is the fake. As fake as the bodies we changelings put on to take it from you. But no, it's not Celestia she's after. She's one of the contributing factors. It's not even you. She's after a bigger prize. She wants a refund from the Devil.”

Twilight began stepping to the side, aware that the changeling had been trying to circle around for a better opportunity to attack. She needed as much information as she could get, and so this conversation needed to continue. “The Devil? You mean, The Metaspectre?”

“Indeed I do. Curse him!” The changeling spat after saying Thael's title, trying to clear the awful taste it left.

“What do you have against him? It makes sense that Chrysalis would try make a deal, but that sounded like you take it more personally than having him as your enemy just because Chrysalis hates him.”

“Ah, you don't know. Why would you?”

The changeling stopped, tapping its hoof. “I wonder if I should even say this... No, I might as well. Do you know what we are?”

“Changelings, of course.”

“Where did we come from?”

“What kind of question is that? Where do any of us come from?”

“Some have origins long after the beginning of recorded history. Each of us are the husks of the Devil's work. Remember that it refers to itself in the plural? Somewhere out there, the mind I used to have is part of its collective intelligence. Us changelings have no soul, no life of our own, and so we have to feed on the life force of others to sustain ourselves. The Devil's only offered sure-fire way to break a contract is your soul. Hee hee hee!” The changeling giggled darkly. “Ask any one of us. We'll all say the same thing. Even now, this personality I'm portraying to you is an unholy mix of yours and Chrysalis'. We're just an extension of her mind. I am not my own person.”

“Who were you once?”

“No idea. I could be the fabled Jealous Brother, or I could just be some poor schmuck who thought it would be a good idea to play in places he shouldn't have. Most likely, though, I was somebody who wanted to be a God. But such a desire is almost always influenced by emotions, and emotion is the quickest path to destruction where the Devil is concerned.”

“So, what, you're saying the changeling army consists almost entirely out of failed Alicorns?”

“But of course. Haven't you seen our beautiful wings and fearsome horns?” The fake Twilight suddenly sprouted majestic, lavender wings. “Most of us couldn't make it through the ascension process, and rather than have our very being destroyed for all of eternity, we were willing to give up our souls to remain alive, in the vain hope we'd be able to redeem. But now, we want a refund.”

“So Chrysalis is promising that the Metaspectre will return your souls?”

“She promises nothing of the sort. In fact, we are counting on the fact that he won't. He just want to pass on. We are half-alicorns. Immortal, yet unfulfilled. We have no individuality, no purpose, and no aspirations except destruction. Feeding only prevents the intense pain we'd feel otherwise, but it brings no joy. And so, Twilight Sparkle, thorn in our side, we have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Just try and stop us.”

Applejack jumped in from Twilight's peripheral, hitting the changeling squarely in the head with a solid kick. Its neck snapped, and it crumpled to the floor in a sickening heap, its last breath a quiet laugh.

Applejack laughed nervously. “Good thing I guessed correctly. I figured you hadn't gone and ascended to becoming an alicorn yet, so I thought the one with the wings must be the changeling.”

“Well, you were right. Thanks, Applejack.” She looked around at the rest of the group. They had managed to fight the changelings off, it seemed. Fluttershy was bleeding heavily from a scratch all along her front leg, but she was insisting it was nothing, despite Rarity's protests. Rainbow Dash seemed to be missing, but Twilight was certain she was okay. Rainbow never went down without a fight.

Twilight ran for her saddlebag, spilling the contents. “Map, map, where's the map? Ah!” As she reached to pick it up, she heard a humming from the small pile. She brushed aside the other papers, the Alicorn book, and some food, before finally finding the source. It was the crystal from the Metaspectre's altar. It was not only whole, but full of energy once again. She picked it up carefully, far too aware of its power. With some consternation, she placed it, and everything else, back into her saddlebag. Odd. She'd have to look it over later.

She trotted back over to the others, who were gathering their things, carefully sidestepping the dead or wounded changelings. She spread the map out, looking it over carefully. “Alright, we've proven that we can't just sleep out in the open. We've been lucky thus far, but if a secluded cave didn't stop the changelings, I don't think much short of a fortified building will stop them. I don't want to wake up too late next time.

Rarity came over to look at the map. “What about that place?” She pointed out a marking on the map that read simply The Abbey. “It doesn't seem to be near any of the factions, and it's on the way to Canterlot's reflection. We only have three days you know. Three days until Luna's safety is not guaranteed.”

“And if Luna's not safe, I'm not sure any of us will be.” Fluttershy limped over, her wound staunched by one of Rarity's scarves. Fluttershy nodded her thanks once more silently, and Rarity acknowledged it without a word.

Twilight looked it over. Rarity was right. It had seemed insignificant when they first picked up the map, but The Abbey looked like it would be a nice place to rest, with the added threat of the changelings. She could only hope its inhabitants were friendly, though in this world, it was admittedly a long shot.

“It's better than nowhere. Thanks for pointing it out, Rarity.”

“Of course.”

“Pinkie, where did Rainbow go?”

Pinkie half-hopped over. It was odd, seeing her so conflicted with her personalities. Her dark personality was proper, though unstable, and Pinkie was just the opposite. If there was one thing you could count on Pinkie for, it was being unpredictable.

“One of the changelings ran, and Rainbow was chasing it down. I have expected her to be back by now.”

Twilight frowned. “That means trouble. Everybody, be ready to run. If she's not back in five minutes, we're going after her.”

As she spoke, Dash reappeared, a trail of namesake rainbow following behind, denoting that she was in a rush.

“I know you won't believe it, but I wasn't able to catch the changeling. It lost me in the forest. I could have tracked it, but it's probably getting more of its friends. We need to get out of here.”

“Then it's decided. Sorry for the early wake-up call gang, but it's time to move out.”

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