• 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 48: Two Fronts
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Chapter 48: Two Fronts

The newly formed pony looked over herself quickly. “No wings?”

Pinkie shrugged. “I never got wings. But you do have an excess of power, which I suppose you could use to ascend. Do you know what concept you represent just yet?”

The purple mare shook her head. “It's like finding a cutie mark all over again.” She stuck out her tongue.

“Gah, merit mark is such a better term.”

Twilight probed her shared mind. It felt strange, sharing thoughts with another creature. Lustrous' stray thoughts occasionally would find their way to Twilight's 'side' of the brain. It was almost like it was just the two of them in a room, and both were speaking at the same time.

Astute observation. Even if you are a bit weak, at least you're intelligent.

Hey, I just beat you down. You're one to talk about being weak.

You hit me with a cheap shot. As I said, intelligent.

Motor skills were, thankfully, largely unchanged. Unless they actively worked against each other, movement was defaulted to the personality who initiated.

“So, uh...” all eyes were on Rainbow Dash. “Who won the fight?”

The merged pony opened her mouth to respond, then shut it as both personalities found they had no answer.

“And what do we call you?” asked Spectral Slash.

“I still vote Twilustrous.”

“Ugh, that's sounds so silly,” Lustrous said. Though Twilight agreed they should find a new name, it wasn't for the same reason. She just didn't want to taint her name by smushing it together with another.

I'm offended. Lustrous is a wonderful name. By itself, anyways.

Your actions aren't in harmony with my beliefs.

“We're the same pony now, remember that.” She craned her head for a moment, realizing she had said that out loud.

“You'll control that eventually, as well.”

We need to name ourselves. Twilight reminded. We're one pony now, and to pretend we'll stay two is just foolish.

I don't know, it's not like I was the one who initiated the merging. How did that happen anyways?

They turned their head to Pinkie. “I never asked. How did the two of you end up merging?”

“Same way you did, though minus the duel and blood everywhere. It was a desire for something more than we were, and seeing the fulfillment in the other half. Like it or not, the two of you merged because you wanted to merge.”

Looks like you did initiate the merge, at least in part. A chill ran up their spine. “We need to take care of this excess energy. If we're not going to ascend, then we need to find some way to store it.”

Lustrous retrieved Twilight's memories of the Metaspectre's crystal, then turned their head to Eclipse. Twilight felt a bit exposed, her memories getting prodded like that. “Any chance we can borrow the crystal?”

Eclipse shook her head.

“Worth a try,” Lustrous muttered. They walked out of the courtyard and into the hallway to join the others, pausing only to wait for the anti-magic field to fall.

“Oh gross! Is that mine?”

Lustrous' back half hadn't been caught up in the merging, so there it lay, discarded and oozing a pool of blood. Lustrous zapped it with a disintegrate spell, the organic mess turning to ashes in a matter of moments.

At that moment, in ran a little purple dragon. “I heard a scream that sounded like... Twilight! Are you alright?” Spike ran up and hugged her front legs. Lustrous pulled away and kicked out before Twilight could stop her. The kick wasn't enough to hurt, physically anyways.

“Twilight... ?”

“Yes and no, Spike. I uh, I just merged with Lustrous Revolt.”

“Wasn't a fair trade on my part.” Their body sniffed in disdain. Twilight mentally glared at Lustrous' half.

Spike looked at the glowing pony in confusion. It was understandable, considering the closest thing he had to a mother was now simultaneously rejecting and comforting him, speaking with two different minds.

“Wow. I missed something, didn't I?”

“Yeah, just a bit.” An epiphany struck their shared mind. It was odd, considering it didn't distinctly originate from either half.

“Ah, the Elements of Harmony!”

Flare stepped forward, lifting a leg in question. “What about them?”

“They're energy containers, much like the Metaspectre's crystals. Perhaps the only ones that challenge it for supremacy in efficiency and capability. The Element of Magic was destroyed when Lustrous–”

“–when I–“

“–blew it up back in Moon Pool.”

“And then it exploded again,” Spike added helpfully.

“Yeah, not much survived from that one, did it?” Temperament lost herself in her recollection. “What a surprise that one was. Just about to get another strike on a griffon, then suddenly I'm awake in the Forgotten Plane, with no idea how it happened. Heh, trying to watch the battlefield afterwards was an experience. I thought that maybe it had accidentally switched the coordinates and was looking someplace in the zebra wastelands.”

Well, shall we try this?

It's a longshot, but if we can fix the Elements of Harmony, it might help both of our cases.

The two of them concentrated on the spell. The glowing aura around them gradually faded as the orb in front of them grew larger. Much like Twilight's force-ball, they compressed the energy until it was as dense as possible. Twilight focused on the shape of the object, pouring her memories of the peace of Equestria into it. The process took a couple of minutes, but finally, the glowing shape faded.

“What did you do?!” Twilight yelled at Lustrous verbally. The resulting crown-thingy was not as Twilight remembered it. For one thing, it was silver instead of gold, and the embedded, star-shaped gem was white, not purple. Overall, it was much more utilitarian. Graceful, yet not superfluous. Powerful, but in no was showy. It drew its beauty from its simplicity. But a certain darkness emanated from it as well.

“The same thing you did. Poured the memories of this world into it.”

“It's supposed to be pure!”

“No, it's supposed to be useful. If it was a direct replica of your Element, I wouldn't be able to use it, and that would hardly be fair, would it? We're supposed to be working together, remember?”

“You know, you sound a bit insane when you're talking to yourself like that.”

Twilight sighed. “I know, Dash. Not too much I can do.” She turned her attention to the newly created Element. “So... what is it?”

“An Element of something, I'd assume. Whatever you get when you merge creation and destruction, interpreting magic as creation, of course.”

“And what is that?”

“I'd imagine once we discover that, we'll have a good idea of how to ascend.”

Twilight's face lit as she finally came up with a name. “How about we call our collective consciousness Gemini, after the constellation of the twins, and then refer to the individuals by their name if we want to address only one?”

Lustrous mulled it over for a moment. “I suppose that will work, if nothing else than as a temporary solution.”

“So, Gemini, what's the plan of action?”

Now that was a bombshell. Shuddercry was the one who had said it, a hint of mockery in her voice, Twilight noted. But each of the others were looking to her. It was strange, even the reflections were looking to her for direction.

Looking to me, remember.

Right, to you. Well, what do you think we should do? Trying to fight each other for control will only make us inefficient.

We could look for a way to split again, so then we don't have to agree.

No! This is the first chance we have to resolve this conflict between us, and we might as well take full advantage of it.

Well, then what do you propose?

My friends and I have a mission to complete for Celestia. We only have two days left, and I fully intend to be in Windark before the deadline.

My companions and I must merge the worlds. We know our methods are harsh, but it's nothing compared to the continued pain that we, and the rest of the reflections in this world, will feel if we're delayed. Each day takes our souls heavily. You should be thankful we're as civil as we are.

Well, I don't think our goals are mutually incompatible.

Gemini rose a brow in response to Lustrous' surprise. No? Since when? I thought you were trying to stop us from merging the worlds.

Well, we were, kind of. But regardless of our desires, it looks like things have already been set in motion that we can no longer influence. The merging would likely happen, at least on some level, regardless of what we might try to do to stop it.

What about when you return to your world?

It's as one of you said. If we return, we bring back the memories of all the Atrocities we've experienced. By merit of the fact that we're the Elements of Harmony, that will cause a leak that would eventually consume all of Reality.

Thus, turning it into what?

The true Reality, I suppose. The one we have is just an illusion of grandeur, isn't it? So its name is a bit misleading.

If I and the other reflections come with you, then, you won't intentionally prevent the merging?

No, we won't. And you promise not to hurt my friends any more? Nor will you prevent us from reaching our goal?

I suppose I can't, given the circumstances.

Very well, it sounds like we're decided.

Gemini spoke up, reporting her findings. “We've decided. We're going to continue with the Reality ponies' mission to rescue their princess of the night. The Forgotten Realm ponies will join them in their travels. It seems that banding together is the fastest route for both of our goals. By rescuing Princess Luna and returning to their own world, the Reality Ponies will only speed up the merging process. It’s in the reflected ponies' best interest to not only tolerate their presence, but to aide them in any way they can.”

After some minor objections riding along the lines of “But we can't trust them!” the two parties finally gave their uneasy consent. Gemini turned to Flare and Eclipse.

“What of you two?”

A glance passed between the reflections of Mercy and Justice. Flare spoke first. “I don't want to leave the Abbey unprotected, but I recognize that I might be able to better serve its inhabitants by speeding you along your way. A merged world will bring them greater joy than this one offers.”

“And I, of course, want what is Just, and as I have insinuated, I find the Reflection's goals Justified. We will both join you in your travels.”

“I've been meaning to ask,” began Twilight, speaking through Gemini's body, as Lustrous Revolt donned their new crown-Element, “How did you find your way into the Forgotten Realm?”

“You will recall that I am able to sense energy releases. There was none bigger than the Metaspectre's appearance in Reality. I caught up to you when you and Princess Luna were leaving the altar. I felt the energy coming from the orbs, and realized that it might be the missing link I was looking for. I stealthy followed you to your home, where I waited until it went up in flames. That's when I was sure that my intuitions were correct. I blended into the background until you left with Celestia's troupe, and after you all entered the mirror, I followed. I bent the natural plane around myself to hide until you all finished speaking to the Oracle, but I lost you in Moon Pool. I spent the next week or so gathering information and inadvertently experiencing firsthand the trials of this world. I very quickly confirmed this was the world of my nightmares, and struggled to make sense of it all. I was caught up in the fighting around and eventual destruction of Moon Pool. When we revived, I skirted around the outside of the fighting until I found the tracks leading away from the fighting. I followed them, hoping that they'd lead me to you. And, well, here I am.”

“You have been following me for almost two weeks?”

“No, it took me a good week to discover you had been imprisoned. But I didn't want to influence events unless it was necessary. Besides, I had research of my own to do.”

“So, Twili– uh, Gemini. How soon do you think we'll be heading out?” Rainbow Dash was already fluttering her wings, itching to be traveling again.

“As soon as we gather our things. Flare, if you don't mind, could we take some provisions from the Abbey? I'd like to avoid dying of hunger again, if I could.”

“Of course. We'll bring enough for five days, that should be enough for the journey there and back.”

“Everybody, meet up back here in half an hour. Use any extra time you have to rest up.”

Spike approached Gemini carefully. “Um, is it alright if I come with you?”

“Of course, I'll never reject you, Spike.” Twilight said. A moment later, Lustrous tacked on “As long as you don't annoy me, I'll allow it as well.”

Spike looked relieved. The two of them walked off to the room the reflections had stayed in. It was another bedroom of sorts, but it was less sterile than the one Twilight and her friends had woken up in. This looked more like a normal bunking room.

As they opened the door, a screech greeted them. Thorn eyed them over carefully, fully aware something had changed about his master.

“It's alright, Thorn. I'm still in here.” In response, Thorn lowered his wings slowly, still wary but willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Spike gave a quick salute.

“Hey man, what's up?”

The other reflections piled in, moving about quietly and quickly. Gemini stepped in and grabbed Lustrous Revolt's saddlebags. “Oh. Huh.”

“What's wrong?” asked Spike.

“Well, we're already carrying Twilight's bags, there isn't exactly room for another set.”

“Time to decide what's worth keeping, then,” said Spike. “Here's as good of a place as any to drop stuff off.”

Gemini set Twilight's bag on the ground next to Lustrous'. She dumped the bag, spilling the contents carefully. The Study of Alicorns, the small picture frame featuring the Reality ponies, the remnants of her rations, the map she had stolen from the library, the anti-changeling poultices from Salie, and a small bag of ritual components.

Lustrous' bag spilled next, revealing a wicked looking dagger, two small bottle of chemicals that exploded upon being thrown, a notepad and a quill with spare ink, and another bag of ritual components.

“Alright, I'm keeping the book, especially since it'll likely prove useful soon.” Twilight returned it to its place in her bag.

“I can probably leave the explosives, but I want the notepad and the quill.” Lustrous moved them to an inner pocket of the bag, where it was less likely to be crushed. “You won't need the map; I know the way.” They set it aside. “And, just saying, the picture's nice and all, but I don't think it's necessary.” Twilight sighed, and placed it next to the map.

“Ritual components? Will we need them?”

“Better safe than sorry. Let's keep both bags of them. And, keeping a physical weapon is nice, so I think we can spare the space for the dagger.”

“Now, the rations...”

Gemini looked around in confusion. The rations had disappeared. Spike coughed, a crumb of bread falling from his lip. “Well, you were getting more anyways, right?”

Gemini just shook her head in reply. “The poultices, those we'll need... and there we go. That's everything.” She slung the bag back over her back. “Come Thorn, Spike.”

The two dragons followed closely behind as they made their way to the kitchen, where most of the others were waiting. Several cooks busied about, gathering non-perishable foods and wrapping them up neatly. The packages were distributed to each of the travelers, who were quickly shuffled through the line.

“Where's Flare?” Gemini asked to no one in particular. The graceful white unicorn was missing from the procession, though Eclipse was present.

“She muttered something about saying farewell to her guards,” answered Jackie absentmindedly.

Eclipse nodded in confirmation. “Indeed. She went up to the ramparts to leave them with some final instructions.”

“Spike, Thorn, get our rations for us. Well, a ration for us. I guess we only need to feed one body.”

“Sure thing!”

“Screech!”

Gemini left the room and made her way to the staircase.

Any particular reason you want to see her? Lustrous Revolt asked.

I just have this nagging feeling...

Yes, I can feel that, but I was wondering if it had any higher purpose.

The cleared the top of the stairs, entering the cool, clean air once more. Flare caught sight of them. “Ah, good to see you. Are you finding everything you need for the journey?”

“Yes, your facilities are quite adequate. Um, is anything we can help you with?”

“No, they should be quite alright. The children of the Abbey aren't helpless without me, but I feel like a mother hen. I'm worried about leaving my chicks, so to speak.”

“It's understandable. Whenever I leave Spike alone, I worry constantly.”

Lustrous snorted. “Well, I dunno, in these memories you seem to have forgotten him pretty easily once you were actually with your friends.”

Flare laughed softly. “The two of you are getting along already, I see.”

Gemini rolled her eyes.

One of the guards caught her attention. She was leaning forward, straining her eyes in the distance. Gemini looked out over the fields. Sure enough out in the extreme distance, there was a large shape getting nearer. As they drew closer, it became apparent that it wasn't just one object, but many individuals. An army was marching towards them. Just as Gemini recognized it, the guard yelled out.

“Approaching army of unknown intent!”

The changelings in the field shivered in unison. Simultaneously, the masses transformed into a crowd of griffons and ponies, each unique and intermixed. They began charging the shield all at once. Flare ran to the side in concern. “They shouldn't be able to break through the shield, but the fact that they're doing this without Chrysalis is unusual.”

The changelings bounced off of the shield, ricocheting backwards into their own ranks. But they kept trying. Each line would fall, and the next would strike. The organic wave collected around the base of the bubble, pressing with all of their strength.

Flare knit her brow. “It should still hold...”

The armies grew even closer, and it too seemed to be a combination of griffons and ponies. The rear lines of changeling-griffons and changeling-ponies turned and waved their arms to the army. The army doubled its speed, giving a battlecry. The army was armed to the teeth, sometimes literally, and looked like they expected a full conflict.

The entire fighting force of the Abbey gathered to the ramparts. At best, they were short of a hundred able-bodied fighters. They stood no chance if the armies got through. “What are they doing?” whispered Flare.

The changeling army split as the the front-runners of the reinforcements reached the huddled mass. But instead of attacking the changelings, they plowed right through, and into the...

Well, past the shield.

Flare's eyes widened in horror. “Drop the portcullis! We're under siege!”

With a metallic clang, the metal gate slammed down in front of the entrance. The attackers slowed, but continued forward, unafraid. In the middle of the army, Gemini caught sight of sight of several lines of the army pulling back magically-generated bowstrings, like Lustrous Revolt's.

“Archers!” she yelled. The defenders retrieved their shields, waiting for impact.

The volley continued for half a minute. Gemini tried to stay as close as she could to the wall, wincing every time one the screams filled the air, confirming a hit.

When the deadly rain stopped, she peaked over the edge of the wall. The soldiers directly below had pooled their magic to make a large rod of force. “Battering ram!”

Flare turned to Gemini, face dead serious and eyes full of determination. “Gather your friends and leave. The Abbey may be lost.”

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