• 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 51: Endgame
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Chapter 51: Endgame

“Is everything in order for today?”

The guard nodded, bowing slightly before Celestia's presence. “All the proper preparations have been made. Unless something unexpected comes up, the Winter Solstice celebration should run flawlessly. We're only missing Princess Luna. Is there any news on her return?”

“Not yet. Twilight and her friends are doing their best, but I fear they won't make it in time.”

“If I may ask, my princess, what do you plan to do?”

Celestia sighed, rubbing her head tiredly. “I'm not sure. I might have to take direct action, but I don't want to endanger anypony if I can avoid it.”

“I trust your judgment, princess. We all do.”

“That's what keeps me going.”

The guard saluted as Celestia left the room. She slowly stalked through the halls until she came to her bedroom. The guards had perfect posture, ears perked for an order. She nodded her acknowledgment and dismissal, then passed them by and stepped inside.

She strode over to her desk, once again looking over the papers she had prepared. She was running out of options. She couldn't allow the darkness to escape, but to trap her sister, and her closest subjects, well, that simply wasn't an option.

Or was it?

She shook her head. She couldn't think such things. And yet...

She paced back and forth, mind racing. The first priority was to prevent Seren from escaping. She was the only pony alive with the memory of his rise to power. And that was the way it should be. If he escaped once more, due to the nature of his element, he'd be worse, far worse than last time. Everything centered around him. If he wasn't an issue, Celestia wouldn't oppose merging the worlds. If it wasn't for him, they wouldn't have split in the first place. If it weren't for him, Luna wouldn't have fallen, if it weren't for him, Celestia wouldn't have needed to kill her sister. She wouldn't have lost control of the Elements, and perhaps the last thousand years would have amounted to more than a waiting game.

Despite all the bad, she had to recognize the good. If she hadn't lost the Elements, if Luna hadn't fallen, Twilight would have never reached her potential, or at least, not nearly as quickly. Challenges were necessary for growth. But it was so painful until you could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

She turned back to her papers once more. It would have to be done. She couldn't allow Seren's influence to spread once more. She had to deal with the threat before it rose. She looked outside. It was about time to raise the sun.

She opened the chest at the foot of her bed. Four glowing orbs of pure energy greeted her. Every spare bit of power she had gathered over the last year had been poured into these, as she had done every year for the past thousand years.

It was time to renew the barrier between Reality and the Forgotten.

{- - -}

“Looks a bit more run down than Canterlot,” Rarity commented.

Jackie nodded curtly. “A year and a half ago... yeah, I suppose it'd be to the day, our goddess was reborn. She was to rule this land, to unify the races with an eye single to fairness, but something intervened, and she disappeared.”

“And this was Luna?” Applejack asked.

“Yes, or rather, Nightmare Moon. When she appeared in the summoning circle, four stars above the castle blasted her with their light, destroying much of the main castle itself, while the resulting chaos, power struggle, and wars caused the rest of the damage.”

“And these four stars belonged to the intelligence in the Moon Pool, Seren.” Gemini flexed her leg in anticipation. “When I spied on him while in the Natural Plane, I saw those four stars hovering above the water. It wouldn't be wrong to say we should expect him to act sometime soon, based on what I know about him.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Spectral Slash nodded towards the city gates of Windark. “We've only got five hours until noon, when the eclipse is supposed to happen. I'm no historian or astronomer, but landmarks in the heavens seem to attract big events, and I don't think we'll want to miss it.”

The group clambered over the last rise and onto the broken road. The streets were, as expected, empty. The air had a tangible spark to it, the trace of arcane warfare.

“So, uh, Eclipse. Any idea what the upcoming eclipse will do?”

Eclipse turned to look at Gemini. “Not much. I do find it ironic that my namesake will play such a pivotal role in today's proceedings, however. My only guess is that the physical blocking of the sun's light will weaken Celestia's power in both worlds. It could possibly boost Luna's power as well, as Celestia's light is absorbed by her magical reserves. Yet eclipses are not entirely uncommon, so they must have some sort of agreement, I'd imagine.”

A sudden, audible and visible pulse struck the group. It passed through their bodies harmlessly, but it filled them with dread.

“What was that?” asked Pinkamina with worry.

Gemini raised her head, looking around slowly. “I'm not sure. It was... almost restraining, more than anything. Whatever it was, it must have taken an awful lot of energy. I can't pinpoint, or even guess the origin, which means it must have come from really far away. Miles upon miles, actually.”

“Will it hurt us?” asked Shuddercry gruffly.

“It shouldn't.”

“Then let's keep moving. We'll figure it out later, and if we don't, it wasn't important in the first place.”


The sun began to peek over the mountain top, announcing that the morning had officially begun. High in the city, Luna was examining the abandoned streets pensively. “Was this all really meant to belong to me?”

While the worlds were split, but I'm afraid you'll have to share your inheritance with Celestia once the worlds merge.

Luna stretched her neck, her wings flaring out in sympathy. “She's done it, hasn't she? Sealed the worlds, I mean.”

Yes, as a matter of fact.

“Does she think that'll stop Seren?”

She's quite sure it won't. She's just trying to buy time. Which also explains why she's on her way.

Luna turned to look incredulously at Thael. “She came to the Forgotten Realm?”

Yes. She locked the world when she came inside. And, as you know, her presence means that your safety is no longer guaranteed.

The dark shadow and the princess of the night stared each other down. The light wind rustled Thael's mane, causing particles of ash to fall loose. He didn't move, seeming to settle for pondering Luna's presence and past.

“Well? Aren't you going to attack?”

Thael laughed quietly, and for once, the expression was audible. No, you have misinterpreted what we said, as I intended for your sister to. I wish you no harm. From the beginning, this has been about rebalancing the worlds. I'm the closest I've ever been to achieving my life goal of meaning, but experiments will be inapplicable unless dark and light reside in the same world.

No, you need not fear me. When we made the statement that I could not guarantee your safety should she enter this world, we meant only that her presence causes too many variable outcomes. Some are certainly more likely than others, but Mercy is a tricky thing. If applied at the right times, it can turn even the darkest heart. How she chooses to throw her weight will decide the final outcome of this hour.

“Where is she, then?”

A few hours off. She should be passing over the Moon Pool right now.

“You don't mean... ? But her proximity will inflame his Element of Vengeance!”

Oh, we do. That was the other part of us not being able to guarantee your safety.

{- - -}

Across the great distance Twilight and her friends had covered flew a single streaking blaze of glory. Celestia's wings were folded back, her horn shining with divine brilliance. Her magic-fueled flight exceeded natural capabilities, but she only expended the energy due to necessity. She knew she only had once chance. She had left him unattended for too long. The problem with banishment spells was that you could never truly defeat an immortal. When one was your sworn enemy, that lead to a lot of uncomfortable reunions.

In the distance, she saw it, rushing towards her. The lake of blackness, Seren's prison. The Moon Pool. Sure enough, there were the four stars of Atrocity. Famine, Plague, War, and Death. They hovered over the Moon Pool excitedly, waiting for the catalyst. Even if Celestia hadn't arrived now, the upcoming Solar Eclipse would have done it, and then Celestia would have been at her weakest when she needed her power the most. No, it was better to get the pain over with.

An irony, she realized, since pain would be introduced to Reality soon enough anyways. She braced herself, and streaked directly over the center of Seren's prison, her aura of light descending upon the dark waters, piercing and dispelling the gloom. At the bottom of the now crystalline pool was bowed a form she had long tried to forget. The Alicorn of Stars, and Vengeance. Her once good friend, and Luna's closest confidant.

Seren.

The male alicorn stood, breaking the weakened arcane chains tying him to the bottom of the waters. Celestia craned her neck to see what she could even as she continued to flee.

The four stars instantaneously gained terminal velocity, plummeting the few feet and smashing the surface of the water, which shattered like glass. The waters parted, and the dark creature opened his brilliantly golden eyes, looking up into the sky, directly at the sun goddess. He narrowed his eyes in dark disdain. Celestia could then see no more without slowing down. But she felt the presence haunting her trail, and now she dared not look back, not without support.

{- - -}

The ragtag collection of ponies darted between the rundown buildings, nearing the castle gates. They gathered behind an old bank, near the drawbridge. The castle itself seemed in far greater repair, and the traces of arcane warfare disappeared at its perimeter. Either it had been avoided as a target or else somebody had put in a good deal of effort repairing it.

Are we expecting an ambush? Twilight asked Lustrous.

Not particularly. But it's best to be on our guard.

Gemini motioned for the others to follow. The Spike and Thorn hybrid was still excited about his wings, and it sometimes took physical force to remind him to stay silent, which Shuddercry was happy to provide.

They remained in the shadows for a few moments to make sure the coast was clear. “It feels too easy,” Jackie hissed.

“That's because it is.”

“Maybe the Metaspectre doesn't have an army? Maybe he doesn't want us killed?” Fluttershy looked around for support.

“We can only hope. Let's go.” Gemini jumped from her cover, checking around the natural corners of the battlements. Only silence and the wind greeted her.

They reached the heavy oaken gates. Gemini gave a tentative yet hefty push. The doors swung open, creaking softly. The hallway inside was dark and ominous, and the shifting air could easily be mistaken for voices.

The moment Gemini crossed the door's threshold, the torches in the many braziers flared up with a ghostly white flame, much like the Metaspectre's eyes. The comparison gave Gemini the uncomfortable impression she was being watched. The flames, while perhaps spooky, didn't seem particularly threatening, nor did anything else greet the party, friend or foe.

They walked through the halls, which naturally flowed towards what they could only guess was the throne room. There were many rooms on the side, but the doors were shut. They opened a few out of curiosity, but they just lead to other, abandoned parts of the castle. Dust was a constant reminder that they were one of the few to tread these floors since the city's destruction.

What will happen to Equestria, should the pony race ever pass on? What would we be remembered for? Will our existence have been meaningful?

The Metaspectre's concern for the fate of his race seem a little more understandable with this sense of inevitability, doesn't it?

The torches finally ended, in front of two more doors. These were certainly smaller, but were far more ornate, aesthetics valued over simplistic practicality. In the middle of the doors, beginning on one and bleeding onto the other, was a crudely carved message: “Know yourself or be forgotten.”

The leaders eyed each other thoughtfully, and, with nothing to publicly be said on the matter, Gemini opened the second set of doors. The initial push was caught by some unseen force, gaining momentum beyond what she had given.

The doors revealed a throne room that, for all intents and purposes, matched Celestia's. But in place of her throne was one made of silver, adorned with symbolism representing the moon. Sitting in it was the mare of the moon herself, their long-sought quarry. Gemini let her shoulders relax in relief. She was still alive, and finally, her quest was coming to an end. She caught herself and stood at rapt attention. It wasn't over yet.

Luna caught Gemini's eye. “Good to see you once again, Twilight. It feels like it's been so long.”

Gemini nodded, stepping forward. “We're here to rescue you, Luna.”

Luna smiled softly. “I appreciate the effort, but I am quite alright. The Metaspectre kept his promise.”

Gemini, largely controlled by Twilight at the moment, was taken aback. “What do you mean, princess? Don't you want to come back to Equestria?”

Luna's smile fell off of her face, replaced once again by stoicism. “I'm sorry, but I can't. Not until the Great Crime is answered for.”

Gemini began closing the gap between the two parties, subconsciously hoping that her advance might convince Luna to change her mind. “The Great Crime? What are you talking about?”

“Celestia's trespass. Her missteps, her sacrifice that killed me and made us lose the power of the Elements of Harmony. She has forgotten her place, and as I have been restored to Justice, she must be restored to Mercy.”

“Hasn't she been merciful all along? In your absence, she ruled well.” Lustrous exerted her will. “Heh, not quite. Remember my people.”

Luna raised a brow. “You've merged already? Well then, you of all people should understand. Celestia's been working in forced conditions, wallowing in her crime. You see, Mercy must transcend the law, but it simultaneously be subject to it. Until she has purified herself once more, she is not at her full power, and is in no case fit to rule.”

Twilight laughed. Two weeks ago, she wouldn't have dared question what either of the princesses was saying, but she had been through too much. “Are you sure this isn't just petty revenge? I don't mean to offend, but can Justice function if it's tainted by ulterior motives?”

Luna stood suddenly, her rising causing a crack of thunder to sound. “Do not question my motive! I wish there were another way! Despite what you may think, I love her more than I love myself! I do it not for me, but for her!”

“She's right, you know.”

Gemini whipped around. Once again, Discord had held his tongue just long enough to steal the spotlight. He was hiding behind the door Gemini had opened, and she realized now that it wasn't some mysterious, dramatic force that had pulled the doors open for her, unless you counted Discord dressed as a butler as mysterious or dramatic.

Gemini didn't give him more attention than acknowledging his presence. There were more important things to take care of. “Well, if you're not coming with us, what would you have us do? We've made a promise to Celestia that we'd return you to Equestria. How would we explain it to her? And do you really expect us to go through all the trouble of finding a way out of the Forgotten Realm just to return empty hoofed?”

“Celestia's on her way now, as a matter of fact. You won't have to find her; she's coming to rescue us now.”

“Rescue us? From whom?”

“Seren, of course.”

“But if she's come into this world, then–”

“Yes, you're correct. The deal Thael made with her is off. My safety is no longer guaranteed. I prefer it this way, to be honest. It gives my actions more weight, when I don't have a shield to protect myself.”

Gemini grimaced. Everything they had worked for was crashing around her. But it didn't come as a shock. With how much both halves of her had changed in these past two weeks, it was foolish to think that Luna wouldn't have changed in some degree or another. Yet, she had blinded herself to the facts. It would have been too much to deal with on top of everything else that had happened during her travels. It was a survival mechanism, and nothing more, but she hated it. It kept her from critical knowledge, and this wasn't the first time it had happened to her. Well, to Twilight anyways. Most of her friendship problems came from her blinding herself to the truth, because it was hard to face. She sighed. It was just something she'd have to learn to deal with.

Jeez, cool it with the self-pity. I don't want any of that rubbing off on me. It only distracts you from your goals.

Gemini looked accusingly towards Luna. “What made you change your mind? Such a shift in attitude doesn't come with time alone.”

“You're right. It comes with experience. And that's exactly what happened. Thael restored my memories to me, reminding me why I had acted the way I did, so many years ago. I was foolish, and yes, I fell prey to one of his traps. But his interference has made me a better person, no matter the pain at the time. And for that I cannot blame him. It was all within the confines of Justice.”

“Thael!” Gemini yelled to the largely empty room. “Get out here! You have explaining to do!”

Gladly. The Metaspectre appeared directly in front of Gemini, between Luna and the enraged unicorn.

“I want a straight answer. Why?”

Why what?

“Why everything? Why have you lead me on a merry chase all the way out to the warped reflection of Canterlot? Why did you blow up my library? Why capture Luna? Why are you always in the middle of every event, but never the focus of it?”

We only ever acted at your command, my lady.

Gemini scowled. “Excuse me?”

You are the first in many thousands of years to have outsmarted me. You made a deal, fulfilled the debt, and I couldn't refuse my contract. All along, we have been acting under your orders, Princess Dawn, Goddess of the Earth.

Thael grinned slyly at the silence. Even Luna and Discord’s mouths were hanging in shock.

How's that for a bombshell? Boom.

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