• 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 57: Inception

Chapter 57: Inception

“How... no, I suppose you would just know.”

Know what, my dear?

“I was going to ask you how you knew my name, but seeing as you're the Devil, and it's your business to know these things, I thought otherwise.”

You're correct. If we didn't know one of the two rulers of Equestria, we'd hardly be worth our salt, now would we?

“Well, it doesn't seem like most of Equestria has difficulty forgetting me.”

Sounded like there's some heavy baggage behind that one. Please, come take a seat.

The Metaspectre floated down the short path that lead directly to the humming crystals and the altar. He took his place behind the altar, sitting behind it as if it were a desk. Out of the ground burst a chair made of the same crystalline material, startling Luna.

Sorry, we could have made the seat appear slowly, but we figured you would be pressed for time, being a princess and all. We didn't want to keep you waiting from your duties with unnecessary distractions.

Luna twitched at the realization that, no, there weren't any pressing duties, despite the fact that she was technically on-duty. This was part of the reason she was here, after all. She felt unneeded. “Before we begin, Devil, I want to let you know that I can leave at any moment. I don't need you.”

Of course you can, and of course you don't.

“I'm only here because I'm curious.”

Who wouldn't be?

“Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, tell me what you're offering. I'd like to know, but if if you begin pushing me too much, I'll just leave.”

Shouldn't you report us to Celestia? We do pose a threat to Equestria.

“If you're really as powerful as you claim, you could have done that long ago. And, if you're not, then there's nothing to fear. Besides, those who easily fall to your influence deserve what they get. And most of all, I can handle anything Celestia can.

You're quite intelligent. Very well, we'll tell you why I've called you here. As you can surmise, I've taken a particular interest in you. You'd be a valuable addition to my collection of personalities. As such, we thought we'd approach you with an offer. Most of the time, I allow others to flounder, attempting to come up with their own one-sided deals, but the simple truth of the matter is, well, they haven't been around as long as I have, and as such, are easily outsmarted.

In this case, we think that most contracts that could be made would result in a stalemate. So we've chosen the one that is the fairest for both of us. We offer you the following: We will make you Celestia's equal. Your voice will be heard and respected by all, and your Element of Justice will be stifled no more. Of course, all good things, especially something so great, comes at a price.

You must allow us to possess you.

Luna scoffed. “Are you daft? Why would I allow such a thing, even for such a grand prize? And, need I remind you, I have no guarantee that you'll keep up your side of the deal? How do I know that you won't use my body to harm others, only to pin the blame on me?”

Perhaps we misspoke. We don't quite mean possession in the sense you were thinking of it, as in, our taking direct control of your body. We simply meant that we would influence your mind, just for a moment. We intend to give you the courage you don't have. We will amplify your emotions and desires, your commitments and your faults. After we are finished, you will be yourself, if you were unrestrained by your fears and your worries.

“So what's the price?”

That is the price. Your essence will be amplified. It is both the cost of and the cause that will fulfill your desire.

Luna narrowed her eyes. “And what do you get out of this? No creature I've ever met will make promises like this unless they can get something in return.”

I want change to come over Equestria. Nothing more. This is the most non-disruptive way to ensure it.

“But why do you want change?”

Consider us a scientist. I'm here to experiment, nothing more. As you said, if I wished to conquer Equestria, we already could have done so. Not a threat, simply a statement of fact.

“Before I agree to anything, let me hear the exact terms of the deal.”

Very well. I will take control of your mind, for the sole purpose of amplifying what's already there. I will not force you to make any movements nor vocalizations, nor will I introduce any ideas of my own. I will cause you to feel more confident about yourself and your ideals. You will become a paragon of your beliefs, unrestrained by previous inhibitions. The moment I enter your mind, I will immediately fulfill my contract, without delay, and exit the moment I am done.

I have tried to cover all the loopholes you might have been concerned about. Is what we've proposed fair?

“Perhaps. But you've yet to tell me why I should trust you. I've heard about you all my life, described as the prime example of evil and deceit. I thought them just stories, but here you are, in the flesh, and if they were correct about your existence, why shouldn't I believe their morals?”

Those who get the short end of the stick in my arrangements would have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it was their fault, yes. Nasty rumors spread when you're fair, because people will feel as if they have been treated unfairly, since they're used to leniency. Something you have experience with, unless we're mistaken?

Luna didn't answer for a moment. “Now I know why so many have fallen to your influence. It really is hard to resist when your greatest wish is obtainable right before your eyes.”

Do we have a deal?

“May I have time to think about it?”

We do not work that way. You would forget your emotions, convince yourself with contrived logic, and crush the burning in your heart. It's now, or not at all. But if you choose to leave, you'll be forced to live with the realization, as your life remains just as it was before you arrived. Celestia will continue to outshine you, and you'll be nothing but an afterthought, as you've always been.

“Shouldn't I speak with her about this first? To get a second opinion, I mean.”

The Metaspectre rose into the air, showing a great deal of controlled anger. Do you dare mock yourself? A wind kicked up around it, whipping its ethereal mane wildly, its flaming eyes burning brighter than ever before. You are here because you feel she has too much control in your life, and you'd surrender your chance to stand up to her only to give her even more influence? No wonder she ignores you. You whine and you spit, but you never do anything about your problems. We're beginning to wonder why we even thought you worth our time. Go, and take your pain with you. We cannot help you.

“Wait, don't make me go!”

The Metaspectre turned, slowly, deliberately. Say what you will, but do not try our patience.

“I... I'm not rejecting your offer. I just need a few moments to decide.”

Very well. You may stay on this plateau until you have decided. The moment you touch any of the stairs or begin to fly away, the deal is off, and you'll have a hard time finding me again.

The Metaspectre's body disappeared with another gust of wind, the orbs settling into the altar, and the smoke disappearing into the crystals. For all intents and purposes, Luna was alone with her thoughts.

Her initial reaction was to run. To run and to never dare turn back. She was afraid of this creature, of its power, of its influence. She knew that she was playing with fire. Even if this creature was all-powerful, it was clear from the mythos that it wasn't to be trusted. She had heard of only one account of a creature that had come from its gaze unscathed; and that was a pony who had the willpower to turn away from his heart's wish. As far as she knew, nobody had outsmarted it. Was she really so foolish to think that she would be the first?

Luna’s thoughts turned to her sister. She tried to think of all the things that she loved about Celestia, but only found longing. What had made Celestia loveable was a thing of the past. She had become too blinded by her duties to even care for her little sister, the last family she had. Though Celestia’s intentions were good, she certainly needed to be taken down a notch. That was why Luna remained; this was her chance to solve her problems. She admitted that she lacked the courage to act, but if she had it… She was certain she would soon be able to strengthen Equestria’s position, as well as fix their relationship.

What about Quicksilver, Luna wondered? He had been acting strangely lately, and she couldn’t quite read him. He had changed, somehow. He was more driven, certainly, but that most recent suggestion to overthrow Celestia’s power was unacceptable. Was it really as harmless as he had suggested? He seemed sincere, but something was off, and Luna couldn’t quite put her hoof on it.

With a sigh, she realized that she had lost some critical aspect from each of the ponies she loved. She needed to find some way to win it back. With a forlorn glance towards the altar, she knew the core of her problems. She simply wanted to be respected, to be noticed. She could suffer silently for months, or perhaps years to come, hoping that something would change, or she could take action herself. She was too passive, like her night, being chased away by the sun’s rays. She needed to act, she needed to take a stand. To draw a line and declare that she would not cross it, to make her voice heard, to make her thoughts known!

And it seemed like this was the only way to make it happen. She knew what she had to do.

She marched forward determinedly. “Devil! I accept your offer, based on the terms you gave me! You will get your wish. Equestria will change.”

The orbs glowed brightly, the Metaspectre’s body erupting from the crystals. We’re glad you were able to make up your mind. The contract is sealed. Now, hold still. You may experience some slight discomfort.

The smoky body darted forward, enveloping Luna’s head, blocking out her vision and beginning to suffocate her. She began to have second thoughts, but she then snuffed them out. For the greater good, she told herself.

Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. She began to feel a telepathic presence in her mind, filling it to the point that she could think of nothing else. She felt sharp pricks in her consciousness, followed by an expanding, warm feeling. She felt renewed, powerful, perhaps even a little bit dangerous. Then, just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. She regained her vision and control of her body, as promised. The Devil floated silently before her.

“Are you finished?”

Yes, we have done as we promised. Return home, and you’ll find yourself with the strength to confront your enemies. We do not think it will come to this, but remember; the only guarantee you have from me that we will set things back to the way they were before is at the cost of your soul. If you find the results of this transaction so unbearable that you’re willing to give up your very essence to reverse it, well, we would say to come find us, but we’ll likely find you first. Now go, and enjoy your new self.

Luna nodded curtly, then, after a moment’s consideration, trotted down the path, then the stairs, and finally, into the forest. The moon shone brighter than it had in recent months, resonating with her newfound giddiness. Whatever the Devil had done, it worked. She felt like she could take on a whole army, whether they be dragons, griffons or ponies.

As she more or less skipped through the forest, she passed by a small pool. With curiosity, she stepped over to look at herself with this new perspective on life. When she looked into the waters, she blinked her eyes in surprise. It looked like her coat had taken on a much darker hue. Almost black, she noted. Her ethereal mane remained much the same, though it was perhaps a bit more vivid than before. The changes weren’t inherently wrong, just… different. Her facial features and eyes, and –after a moment’s test, her voice– were all the same. She would still be recognizable, though those who knew her might be a bit confused at first. She smiled at the thought. At least the beginning of her new life would be universally acknowledged. Nobody would be able to mistake her as the wimp she had been before.

In short order, she had returned to the castle. The guards on duty moved to stop her before stopping misstep. “Princess Luna?”

“It’s me. Good to see you’re still awake. You don’t know how many guards I’ve had to reprimand for sleeping just because it was night.”

“Just doing our jobs, princess.”

“Doing a better job at it than others often do. Keep up the good work.”

The guards swelled with pride, standing a bit straighter, their eyes more intently focused on the road leading up to the castle. Luna continued on, looking at the castle in a new light. It wasn’t just her home, it was a center of command. One that both she and Celestia were using ineffectively. That would have to change. Why did they, and Equestria as a whole, only react to the actions of others? The Devil was right, she needed to act on her own, for once. Equestria had the potential to be the greatest power on the continent, but only if they acted quickly. The longer they allowed the other countries to prepare, the closer Equestria’s demise drew. It was a simple fact of nature that each country would protect its own interests, at any cost. If the Equestrians didn’t secure the future for themselves, it wouldn’t be guaranteed at all.

Without anywhere else to really be at the moment, Luna entered her bedchambers. She wanted to confront Celestia as soon as possible, but she was willing to wait until Celestia was awake and officially on duty. Perhaps being on the job, so to speak, would make her realize the truth of Luna’s words.

For now, she would wait.

{- - -}

Quicksilver took a deep breath, gathering his courage. It was time to face the facts, and own up to his mistake. He knocked on the door before entering. “Luna? Are you in here?”

Luna turned to see him. “Ah, Quicksilver. You’re just in time. I needed another opinion on my plans.”

Quicksilver was taken aback. “Did you get your coat dyed? Whatever for?”

“It wasn’t intentional, just a nice side effect of speaking with the Devil.” Any other day, Luna would have been ashamed to admit she had accepted help, but she realized now that it was foolish to not take assistance where you could. Assistance itself was harmless, if not beneficial. Its danger only arose when you felt indebted to those who had helped you, and the Devil had explicitly stated that the debt had been paid. She had quite the lucky break with him.

“Pardon me princess, you spoke with the Devil? You don’t mean the villain of the childhood stories meant to scare foals into not wandering strange forests?”

“That’s the very one I met. He’s not just a story, it turns out.”

“Luna, I’m confused. I thought you more careful than that.”

“I was quite careful, never fear. He promised to make me more confident, that was it. I didn’t have to pay him anything in return, he only said that he wanted to see a change come over Equestria, and I’ve decided that so do I.”

Quicksilver shook his head. “Before we speak any further on this matter, I came to apologize about yesterday. You were right, princess. It wasn’t my place to suggest such things, and I beg that you’ll forgive me. I wasn’t myself. Yes, I had a headache, but I haven’t told you the full truth. I’ve been speaking with Seren quite a bit lately. He hasn’t gotten quieter lately, he’s gotten stronger. I’m suppressing him now, so he doesn’t know what we’re saying, but I’m having a harder time discerning between my thoughts and his, and that’s beginning to scare me. At first I thought he was the one who made me suggest that, but I’ve realize now that the idea was mine.” He looked down silently. “If I may, my lady, I think it’s time we purge him from my system. He has indeed proven useful, but I’m afraid I’m beginning to weaken under his will.”

Luna laughed heartily, catching Quicksilver off-guard. “Quicksilver, I’ve already completely forgiven you! Quit your groveling for a moment. So you’ve been hiding Seren from me? Well, I suppose I should feel betrayed, but you’re still a good man. You’re apologizing when I know it must have been difficult, and that’s penance enough.”

“You… you’re not mad at me?”

“Perhaps a bit disappointed, but in the end, there’s no harm done. Now, you say you’re afraid Seren’s overpowering you?”

“I think he’s maliciously attempting to take full control of my body. But he was doing it so slowly, I didn’t see it until it was almost too late. I don’t know what plans he has, but I’m getting jittery. I would exorcise him myself, but he’d know what I was planning and he’d interrupt. Could you do it for me, as we agreed?”

“Very well. After this, we need to talk about the affairs of the nation.”

Quicksilver forced a grin. “You sound so confident that it’ll work. What if something goes wrong? What if Seren fights back?”

Luna raised a brow. “Do you doubt my abilities?”

“Well, of course not, but–”

“Neither do I, so we have nothing to fear.”

Luna calmed herself, draining her excitement and plans from her mind. As she began to focus, she could feel the omni-present magic around her, swaying, guiding life and circumstance. She looked into the collection of energy that she called Quicksilver, and plunged into it. There, at the core of the being, was a ball of lavender energy. It was agitated and lashing out at the energy around it, and Luna could feel the hatred coming off of it. It was certainly bigger than she expected it to be; it had grown since Quicksilver had taken it in, like a cancer.

The more she probed it, the more it seemed that a cancer was the correct term. It had spread subtle tendrils of influence throughout all of Quicksilver’s body. It looked like Quicksilver was right in his worry.

Luna began prying at the tendrils. The energy reacted instantly, all of it withdrawing into the center, and then traveling up through Quicksilver’s body and into his brain. Luna began attacking in earnest, trying to prevent whatever scheme Seren was trying to pull off. Each attack made the energy wither and die, but it pressed on aggressively, fighting for its survival. Quicksilver began twitch and jerk in pain. “Get it out!” he yelled, wincing once again.

Luna made a final effort, ripping the energy free from Quicksilver’s body. Only residue remained, and that was quickly overpowered by Quicksilver’s natural resistance. Luna pulled out of her trance, her natural eyes beginning to see once again. Before her stood the obscured energy alicorn, looking much as it had when it first appeared.

“Please,” it began earnestly, “Put me back! I’ve done nothing to harm him.”

Quicksilver stared the apparition down coldly. “I’ve stayed with you long enough to know when you’re lying. You were attempting to smother me, and take my body for your own. Why my body, specifically? You never did give me a straight answer.”

“You want the truth? Fine.” The being poured of annoyance in waves. “I told the truth about being from the future. I came back here to see if I could change my timeline, to prevent my own death. A lot of good it did me, it seems. I chose your body, Quicksilver, because you’re a key player in upcoming events, and you had the potential to save me. But did your importance come from the fact that I chose you or from some higher, transcendental cause? I’ll never know. Kill me know, and end it, but know I’ve already won. Though I will die, I am already immortal. My words and actions will last long after we are gone, even as the universe is consumed by fire. You’ve separated me from your body, Quicksilver, but can you pluck away the thoughts as easily? One day you will realize that, in the end, you and I are not very different. We don’t like losing.”

“We can see that.” Luna telekinetically ripped the energy in half, causing the entity to screech in pain. The two halves tried desperately to form back together, but Luna forced them apart. “Any last words, snake?”

“The night will last forever,” Seren gasped. The last of its energy was expended in a pathetic attempt to survive Luna’s cold grasp, and it finally died, shriveling like a dying flame.

Author's Note:

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After the fundraiser is over, I will still be accepting donations for the perks listed, directly through paypal to erindorstriker@yahoo.com, though I won't be able to guarantee the delivery's timeliness, as I'll make the first group of donators my priority.

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