• 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 58: Realignment

Chapter 58: Realignment

“You killed him.” Quicksilver's voice was flat. It wasn't a question, nor an accusation, simply a statement of fact.

“Yes. He'd grown too dangerous. Thank you for coming to me when you did, Quicksilver. If we had waited too much longer, I fear you would have been consumed entirely.” Luna dropped her telekinetic spell, now that there wasn't anything left to grasp.

A shudder ran down Quicksilver's spine. “I regret that we lost him before we could find out why he came here, but it's probably for the best.” He made a small exclamation as he remembered something. “You wanted to talk about what the nation is doing?”

“Yes, thank you for reminding me. I believe it's time to act independently from Celestia. She's forced our hand, and if she's not willing to work with us, we will work separately.”

“Are you talking of splitting the nation? Making your own country?” Quicksilver hurriedly objected. “I have to voice my disapproval, if that's the case.”

“Not quite. I'm thinking more about splitting the forces. We'll make it clear that we and our followers are acting independently from Celestia. We will be the defenders of Equestria, since Celestia can't find it in her heart to actually fight back when we're attacked.”

“Vigilante justice, then?”

Luna grinned wildly, the shadowy color of her new coat accenting her determination. “It's time we took matters into our own hooves.”

{- - -}

Quicksilver panted as he crouched in the ditch. “Luna, what are your orders?”

The dark princess looked at the forces huddled around her. There were a good thirty soldiers, each loyal and willing to die for the cause. If everything was going according to plan, the two other patrols, with similar numbers, would be in position by now. Luna peered over the edge of the ditch. Only a few hundred meters away was the enemy griffon encampment. A few fires burned, with sentries posted around them, but as a whole, the camp was asleep.

“We move as silently as possible until first engagement. After that, we go all out. Strike hard, strike fast, and most of all, strike viciously.”

Quicksilver paused for a moment, telepathically relaying Luna's message to the other point guards. When he finished, he turned to Luna once more. “They await your signal.”


Luna hurdled over the edge, leading the charge. Her soldiers followed close behind, moving as silently as a breeze. In her peripheral vision, and far behind the camp, Luna could see the other groups moving in. A three pronged attack. The enemy wouldn't know what killed them.

One of the griffon sentries peered through the darkness. He'd made an effort of avoiding the fire's comfort for the sake of night-vision, but he still couldn't quite make out what was moving out there. With realization, he gave a brief cry. “We're being–”

Luna lowered the gasping defender to the ground, sliding him off of her sharpened horn. The other sentries were alerted by the call, but before they could raise one of their own, they were snuffed out by the other patrol leaders. The soldiers moved quickly, surrounding the sleeping enemy. Luna made her way through the camp to the commander's tent. After dispatching the guards, she threw open the tent flap. The commander, who had been awoken by the sound of the tussle outside, opened his mouth in confusion and distress.

“Who... guards!”

“There's no use. We have your forces surrounded and subdued. I'm sorry, commander, but you've lost the battle. That's what happens when you sleep on the job.”

“It's a holiday! Common practice allows a ceasefire! You haven't sunk so low to attack us on a day of peace, have you?”

“Anything to win the war, commander. I'm not my sister, and my forces never agreed to those rules. You attacked our people, you do not get to choose the terms of conflict.”

“You're a horrible person, I hope you know that. Yet even I must recognize when resisting is useless.” The old griffon sighed. “We surrender.”

“I never said I was taking prisoners.”

The griffon shot out of his bed. “What? You don't mean that you're going to kill us all, do you?”

“You killed our people for a few pieces of gold. I hardly think your lives are enough to pay the debt.” Luna stepped forward menacingly. “Your crimes couldn't go unanswered for long. Consider yourself lucky to have lived as long as you did.”

“What are you talking about, you crazy horse? A few raids on supply lines shouldn't merit genocide!”

“No, it shouldn't. That's why we're only killing you and your forces. The criminal gets the punishment, after all. I'll make sure to tell your family that you died as a coward.”

“What are you?” The commander looked at Luna with fear.

“Haven't you heard? I'm the Night Mare.” Outside, the moon darkened, and the world was cast into shadow. The signal for attack. In unison, Luna's forces dispatched their helpless enemies, their avian cries echoing through the night's air.

Luna turned back to the terrified griffon. “Justice is swift, commander.” With a blindingly fast movement, he was dispatched. Luna stepped out of the tent, where Quicksilver was waiting for her. “Burn the place to the ground.”

“It will be done.”

In short time, the remains of the camp were ablaze. Luna turned to her troops. “How many did we lose?”

“Three were injured, none were lost.”

“Wonderful. I dare say that the griffons will think twice before attacking us again.”

The soldiers cheered, raising their hooves to the sky. “Mai y noson yn byw am byth! ” They yelled.

Luna's eyes shot open, her ears erect as she realized what they had said. “May the night live forever...” she whispered. “Thank you all, but who has taught you the arcane language? And why that phrase?”

One of the soldiers, obviously confused, stepped forward. “You did. Yesterday, you said that it was a good way to express our devotion to you.”

“Oh, yes, right.” Luna bit her lip for a moment. Yeah, no, she was completely bluffing. She couldn't remember saying anything of the sort, but it was not a good idea to make the soldiers question your sanity, even after a victory. “You did a wonderful job tonight. We'll retreat back to the others at our camp. Rest up, but stay alert. The enemy could try the same tactic on us. Tomorrow, we'll march to the griffon capital. May their wives be comforted if other patrols cross us.” The soldiers recovered from their concern, cheering once again. Luna nodded to them, then led the way back to their camp.

Quicksilver remained behind, staring into the inferno he had created. Corpses crackled and popped as trapped gasses escaped. The acrid smell of charred flesh, hair, and feathers filled the air, leaving an aura of revulsion and unnatural gloom. In the past, Quicksilver wouldn't have been able to stomach it. Now? He only smiled.

{- - -}

“Celestia!” The doors to the throne room flew open, Luna nada Quicksilver stepping in triumphantly. “We managed to subdue both the griffon and the dragon forces with minimal losses. They've signed a treaty with us, forcing them to pay for the damages that initiated our retribution, as well as the cost of the war itself.” Luna swayed with a bit of a swagger. “And you said it was foolish to get into a fight.” She threw the treaty at Celestia's hooves.

Celestia grimaced. “Congratulations,” she managed to muster.

Luna gave a coy and mocking smile. “Don't tell me you're jealous of my success, sister?”

“Jealous isn't the right word.”

Quicksilver, who was quite excited, missed the subtle warning. “While on the battlefield, I invented a few new spells specifically for warfare. Did you know that souls are essentially pure energy? Using this knowledge, I was able to tear through their forces with easy. Once you get the ball rolling, with a kill or two, your power grows exponentially. You can't contain the power for long, sadly, but as it is, a mage to each group should be enough to defend us in the future. The few griffons who survived are trying to figure out the nuances of the spell, but they're having difficulty. We should be able to stay ahead of them for quite some time, especially if we plant spies to misinform them.”

Luna nodded. “Quicksilver was quite the assistance in the battlefield. He proved critical on several occasions.”

“Of course, I could have done nothing without Luna.”

“It's for this reason that I'm suggesting he be promoted to the captain of the guard.”

Celestia drew back in her chair, trying to settle down comfortably. “What of Captain Apollo?”

“I don't mean to displace him—” Quicksilver began. Luna quickly interjected.

“He's about due for retirement anyway. He's good at what he does, but he's getting old. The royal guard needs fresh blood to breathe life into it.”

Luna sighed, rubbing her eyes softly. “If you think it's best. I just worry about you two. Are you sure you're not getting us into situations we can't handle? Shouldn't we be kinder to the other nations? It's better that they be indebted to us because we helped them than because we slaughtered hundreds of their people.”

“We only did it to let them know that Equestria would not just roll over and take blows.”

“As a matter of fact,” Quicksilver added, “We intercepted several messages indicating they were planning on carrying out several larger-scale raids. If we hadn't stopped them when we did, they likely would have brought us to war, regardless of how understanding we tried to be.”

Celestia nodded consent. “I suppose I have to thank you both, though I wish there had been another way.”

“Sometimes the only way to show mercy is through justice. We have prevented a greater tragedy than if we had been too kind.”

“And I must thank you for that, on behalf of the kingdom. From now on, however, please, I beg you, consult me before going to war. We need to maintain the peace that lives have paid for.”

“Consult you first? Like I tried to?”

“Luna, please, not now.”

Luna shrugged. “Fine. I just thought you might like to hear the report from our mouths, rather than just a piece of paper.”

“How many died?” The question hung heavy on the air. For a while, neither were willing to respond.

“Since you're the official report, I thought it only fair I got the whole story,” Celestia continued.

“Twenty-three of our soldiers, and four thousand, eight hundred and eighteen of the enemy, both dragon and griffon,” Quicksilver rattled off quickly.

“Four thousand...”

“You're more concerned with the deaths of the aggressors than those of our own forces? Do you mock their loss?”

“I question their need.” Celestia gave Luna a meaningful glare. “You're lucky we only lost twenty-three. However, their sacrifice will be remembered and honored. You, on the other hoof, have mocked their loss if you are not fully certain that the fight was necessary.”

“It was.” Luna returned Celestia's gaze. “I have physical evidence of their intentions to attack, written testimony that they were beginning to prepare for a greater invasion, and the foresight to not need either.”

“You're concerned with foresight, Luna, but you never take time to look at what's right in front of you. Have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately?”

“A jab at my personal attire?”

“You know as well as I do that was not my intent. Look inside yourself, Luna. Do you like what you're becoming?”

“Do you like what you're stuck as?”

Quicksilver stepped forward. “Very good, both of you. Turning this momentous occasion into a petty argument. How about this; both of you try to see the way the other thinks? How about we just take a few weeks of relaxation? We've finished the war, Celestia, your foreign relation problems have been largely solved, let's step back for a moment and remember that we're all working for the same government. We're all trying to help the people of Equestria, to create peace and prosperity and to ensure our futures.”

The two princesses looked at him carefully. Luna spoke first. “Very well. I'll make an effort to be more reasonable.”

“I as well.”

Quicksilver smiled. “Alright, we'll take our leave on a good note. Take care, Celestia.”

The princess of the night and her personal guard stepped out of the room. Luna immediately accosted him. “What are you doing? That was the time to push our advantage!”

“I'm sorry, but if you want to prove yourself right, you're going to have to do it through controlled actions and thought-out words. You can't be rushed by emotion.”

“What do you know? Maybe you should follow Celestia's advice too. Go look in a mirror. Where's the bright, loving friend I once knew?”

Quicksilver looked at the ground. “He disappeared when you stopped being content with him. I’m sorry for offending you. I’m only trying to make you happy.”

Luna raised her head, sniffing. “I’m sorry too, but I can't be happy until Celestia —and by extension, the kingdom— appreciates my contribution. I've proven myself time and time again, and yet she still doesn't see. But she will, one way or another. That is when I'll be able to rest.”

Luna turned away, heading off to her room to do some thinking and planning. Quicksilver was left alone with his unspoken pleas, wanting to go after her, yet knowing it would be fruitless. Ever since she had come back from her deal with the Devil, Luna had been a changed pony. At first it seemed like a good change. She was able to better express and defend herself. She had gained a large number of followers throughout the kingdom. Quickly, however, the subtle price of the deal became apparent. The Devil had said there wasn't any cost attached, and in a way, he was correct. He hadn't lied except through omission; every action has a price that cannot be avoided. Luna's dealings in the kingdom made her feared, rather than ignored. Those who attached themselves to her were like dogs hoping for a scrap to fall from the table. Quicksilver was afraid they cared more for benefiting from her actions than they did the merit behind them.

Quicksilver sighed, and began walking to his own quarters. Where did he stand? He was still Luna's servant, in title and in heart. That didn't change the fact that her actions were becoming harder to approve of. At least when she hadn't been acting at all, it was obvious she was in the right. Now, the line became blurred. Who was righteous? Who deserved his support? Luna or Celestia, the darkness or the light? The changing moon or the constant, scorching sun?

Quicksilver shut the door behind him, flopping onto his bed. After realizing rather uncomfortably that he was still wearing his armor, he sat up, telekinetically undoing the straps, freeing himself from its protection. His eye caught his reflection in the mirror. It'd been a while since he'd taken a good look at himself, seeing as he had been so concerned with other activities.

Quicksilver stepped over to get a better look. He was physically fit, but his eyes betrayed the wear on his mind. The golden hues had lost their luster, his mane was unusually messy, and as a whole, he appeared less confident.

“What a mess...” he muttered to himself. He levitated a nearby comb, trying to make himself presentable. He continued for a while, pulling at the knots, flinching at each one, feeling a sense of helplessness building up inside of him. Each jolt of pain was a jolt to his slothful mind. Why should he stand aside as Luna allowed herself to fall? Why should he remain silent as Celestia unknowingly berated her sister? Could he look away as the kingdom tore itself apart? Could he remain a pawn, or would he rise to become a king?

“Never!” He yelled, throwing the comb at the mirror. It bounced uselessly to the ground, only making him feel more worthless. Quicksilver closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He had some personal issues he had to address, and there wasn't anyone to talk to. He'd have to handle it himself.

Unless... Perhaps there was somebody else to talk to? Quicksilver went to work, throwing the floor rug into the corner of the room, already beginning to carve deliberate runes into the floor with the piece of chalk he had saved for his studies. Each stroke was a step closer to the truth, he told himself. Each mark, a mile towards the answer he sought.

Quicksilver sat back, looking over his handiwork. The runes were in place for the first summoning spell he had learned. “I look into my mind to find the truth. Be bound, and speak.” Perhaps his subconscious would be able to shed understanding and guidance on his current situation.

The gray pegasus stepped forward, planting his hooves and reading the runes once again, in the arcane language. As was expected, the runes shone with red light, their power reaching out and into Quicksilver's mind. When the process was complete, Quicksilver opened his eyes, only to blink in confusion.

“I thought the spell was supposed to access my subconscious.”

“It has.” The apparition stared him in the eye. “Rituals are different from standard spells in that they will predictably achieve the same result no matter who casts them.”

“Then who are you? You don't look anything like me.”

The lavender, female alicorn spun around slowly. “Don't you recognize me? I'm Seren, your new subconscious. I told you that you'd have a harder time removing my influence. This shouldn't come as a surprise.”

“STOP!” yelled both halves of Gemini in sync. The memory's playback halted. With an exertion of will and a display of aversion, Twilight and Lustrous' minds were detached, splitting them into separate bodies. They faced each other with confusion and distrust.

“Alright, how do you explain this?” Twilight threw an accusatory hoof towards their third bodily clone, still trapped in the summoning circle.

“I was about to ask the same of you!” Lustrous yelled back. The two unicorns looked at each other darkly before simultaneously looking back at the frozen memory.

“It's impossible...” They whispered. And yet, there it was. One of them stood before Quicksilver, far in the past, as an alicorn. Lustrous simply shook her head.

“Why?” she asked, looking to Twilight. Why would either of us want to be part of this? What could we cause to gain?”

“This is a memory of the past. I think this is the beginning of a paradox that has no beginning.”

“You don't mean...”

“We now know that Seren is, at least in part, one of us.”

“Or both of us.”

They looked back once more. Lustrous posed her question once again. “Why?”

Twilight thought for a moment. Her eyes widened with understanding, the very moment Lustrous' did. “Whoever takes this path is not only guaranteed to become an alicorn, but to become a god. Immortality is quite attractive to both of us.”

“But then... everything was a setup? All we've gone through was caused by... us?”

“It would seem that way. The beholders claimed that I'm destined to become the creator of the world. If that's true, I'd have enough time to set things in motion, and preserving my fate seems like something I would try to do.”

Lustrous took a deep breath of air. “But, if you're the creator, then you can't be Seren. Does that mean...”

“Yes. I think you'll become Seren, the destroyer.”

The two looked at each other with a new curiosity. Finally, Lustrous spoke up. “Well? Aren't you going to try to kill me? I've been a thorn in your side this entire time, but now I'm suddenly dangerous. You should save yourself the trouble you'll have later.”

Twilight shook her head. “Why bother trying? I'll either cause the event in the first place, or else I'll change the future, dooming our timeline. Besides, can I kill a part of myself, no matter how annoying I find it to be? Without you, I wouldn't be me.”

Lustrous looked down. “We're never going to truly merge, are we?”

Twilight shook her head. “How could we? No offense, but I hate you.”

Lustrous gave Twilight a friendly punch. “I hate you too, you goody-four-shoes.”

“I'll be glad to be rid of you, you little punk.”

“Just try to be rid of me,” Lustrous smirked.

The two were silent for a moment, before they began laughing uproariously. All the animosity between them melted away. They were in direct opposition, but did that mean they had to fight? An opponent wasn't necessarily an enemy.

“Well, that just happened.”

“So it did.” The sat, taking in the moment. All their worries seemed far away. They knew that they would soon dive back into the conflict, but at the moment, they could rest in the sudden clarity and purpose they had just felt. Finally, the future could wait no longer.

Twilight cleared her throat. “Want to continue watching?”

Lustrous shrugged. “Sure, why not. You have room for another?”

Twilight nodded, and the two of them touched hooves, their bodies merging once more. So, we're playing a game of chess now? Lustrous questioned.

It seems that way. I wonder what the others will think.

Why tell them? It would cheapen the experience.

Twilight nodded consent. “Continue!” she yelled. The memory began moving once more, the tension gone, with only curiosity and concealed plotting filling their shared mind.

Author's Note:

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