• Published 21st Jan 2014
  • 2,091 Views, 241 Comments

Pony Age: Catalyst - OmegaPony11


With the defeat of the Archdemon, Twilight Sparkle, new Arlessa of Amarethine, must assemble a new team of Grey Wardens to defeat the threat of the ponyspawn. Her friendships will be challenged by a cunning new foe while betrayal lurks around her.

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The Just Hoof

Twilight’s stomach rumbled. She wanted some food right now.

That was her first thought as she slowly opened her eyes and stood on shaky hooves. The second thought was wondering where exactly was she? Twilight tried to remember where exactly was she before falling asleep. There was a swamp… she was fighting someone, but fighting was bad. The nanny always told her to never fight. Fighting was for bad ponies and bad ponies didn’t get any sweets.

“My head hurts,” Twilight said, her voice high and… young? That wasn’t right, was it? She was a big pony! A unicorn of great power! Yet as she looked around, she saw that she sat inside a playpen made of tall wooden fences. They extended into the very clouds themselves. She just needed to wait for the nanny to come by. She finished her nap, so after nap time was snack time.

Twilight galloped to the fence of the wooden playpen and tapped on the polls with her hoof booties. “Nanny!” Twilight called out, “Nanny, I’m hungry!”

“Be quiet,” said another young pony, “I’m trying to get comfy here. You are too loud! I can’t sleep with my toys if you are going to make a racket!”

Twilight turned to see another unicorn just like herself in the corner of the playpen, surrounded by all manner of large stuffed pony dolls. The green pony stuck out her tongue and buried herself in her toys. Twilight remembered her name: Lyra the battlemage of the Imperium.

No… not a battlemage. Lyra was just a naughty pony. But why did she have so many toys then? It didn’t seem fair! Naughty ponies like her shouldn’t have so many toys. But then, she didn’t have books like Twilight did. Wonderful books about plants and animals and magic and ponyspawn.

“Nanny… nanny said books about magic and ponyspawn are for big ponies,” Twilight said. She rubbed her head, specially around her horn. Something about everything was not right and it confused Twilight. It hurt so much! Too much! Twilight began to cry at the top of her lungs, her wails echoing throughout the house.

Poking her head from under her stuffed toys, Lyra pressed her hooves against her ears. She then began to cry herself. Both fillies cried louder and louder, as if this was contest for the nanny’s attention.

Their bawling turned to sniffling as heavy hoof steps echoed throughout the house. Walking towards them from the kitchen, an adult pony wearing a brown cloak and hood looked over the edge of the tall playpen fence. She looked down on them with her bright eyes and cheerful smile.

“Oh my,” she said in a low but sweet voice, “Don’t worry, little fillies. Nanny is here for you. Shhh… shhh…”

Twilight and Lyra looked up at their nanny and wiped their eyes. “We’re hungry,” they both said, though they shot dirty looks at each other. Nanny chuckled at the childish display. They both floated in the air and the nanny touched noses with both of them.

“Of course you are,” nanny replied, “It is after naptime, so now it must be snack time! I have some lovely leaves that will fill your tummies! Come now!”

Nanny placed both fillies on her back and trotted while humming a tune. Twilight and Lyra giggled as they bounced on the nanny’s back. They liked the rides. In no time at all they entered the small cobblestone kitchen where nanny already laid out their leaves for snack.

First Nanny placed Twilight in her high chair, then Lyra. “Now then, eat your leaves, dearies,” Nanny said as she turned her hooded face towards the kitchen. “Eat them all up and I’ll come back with a special treat! Who wants cake?”

“Me!” Twilight and Lyra said in unison, though Lyra quickly stuffed her face with leaves, munching away loudly and messily. Twilight shook her head. Lyra was always such a rude pony, never once using her table manners. Such a dirty, naughty pony.

However, as Twilight lowered her head to eat her leaves, she stopped. The leaves looked familiar. Like something she read from a book. Twilight’s horn sparked as she wanted to lift the leaf to take a good look at it. She was still just a little filly though and as such she could not do magic yet. Nanny said magic was bad, but Twilight thought magic was important to her. Something special. Something she was talented in.

Her horn sparked again, this time with the leaf finally moving on its own within the grasp of a violet aura. Twilight’s eyes lit up as she saw what she accomplished. “Nanny! Nanny! Come look! I’m doing magic!”

Nanny rushed into the dining room and immediately slapped the leaf out of the air. Her voice turned sharp and raspy. “What did I tell you about using magic?!” she hissed. She raised her hoof as if to strike Twilight who cowered in her high chair. Fresh tears began to form in her eyes.

Nanny’s features softened as she saw Twilight’s fear reflected in her white eyes. “Now, now, little one,” she whispered, lifting Twilight into her hooves. “You know it’s dangerous to use magic. Mean, nasty ponies called Templar will snatch you away and then you’ll never have fun or eat sweets again. That would make Nanny very sad.”

Twilight continued to sniffle as she and Lyra were carried by Nanny to the playpen. “Now you two stay here. Read your books. Play with your toys. Take a nap. Rest and never fear again. You are just little fillies with no worries or responsibilities. Nanny will take care of everything.”

That sounded nice to Twilight, who giggled as she scampered towards her pile of picture books. She laid one of the leather-bound books on the floor and flipped the cover over. The story told of a brave knight who fought against an evil dragon. His purple scales and green spines shone in the light Nanny put out for them, and the knight—

Spike.

Twilight’s head began to hurt again as she remembered that name. It was important to her, but she could not recall why. Twilight pushed away the book and went for another one. Flowers adorned the cover and Twilight thought them incredibly pretty. She opened the cover and the first page showed three daisies. Their white petals and yellow center looked like a—

Daisy.

Again a pang went through Twilight’s head. Something… everything wasn’t right. These names… Twilight knew them. Daisy was a friend, a Grey Warden. Brave and bold, she died fighting the Indomitable.

Spike… a dragon Twilight hatched from a forgotten egg. He was her number one assistant. A knight made so by her friend Applejack. He had a crush on her other friend Rarity. He gave his life to help some ponies at the battle of Trotterim.

Names of friends who fell in battle. Names of friends who screamed her name. How could Twilight forget them?

Twilight opened her mouth to speak, but her horn blazed to life instead. “This… this isn’t right!” Twilight screamed with purple streaks of magic from her horn ripping the cottage apart. Lyra started to cry once more, hiding beneath her dolls and other toys.

The Nanny stormed back into the room, though her form shifted. Her legs grew longer and spindly, while her cloak turned more twisted and took on the colour of blood. The jaw stretched outward while her teeth gained length and sharpness. Her eyes molded into one, and then split into the dozens. A single, sharpened horn jutted from her head and at the tip crackled with a baleful green energy.

“Stupid little filly!” The nanny demon shouted as she took hold of Twilight and slammed her to the ground. “Is rest not what you wanted?! I could have made you forget your pain, but I should have killed you from the start! I can feed on the other as much as I like! You… you are extra morsels I do not need to trouble myself with anymore!”

The nanny demon roared as she reared up, her mouth opened impossibly wide. She aimed to gobble Twilight in one bite. Twilight struggled to be free, but the demonic grasp on her body held steadfast against her.

The door of the cottage burst into splinters, making the Nanny demon hiss in surprise. A blinding light, like that of the sun, shone through the entrance of the cottage. Twilight covered her eyes with a hoof and screamed as a set of hooves walked into the room joined by the clang of metal. When the intense light abated, Twilight looked up and gasped at the sight.

Clad in shining white armour from head to toe was a tall pony bearing a gleaming sword at its right side and a pair of scales to its left. It wore a blindfold on a feminine face, but Twilight knew the being could see better than anypony. As the armoured one walked towards the nanny demon, Twilight saw that the face was not such, but rather a metal mask. The pony did not have a body to speak of, but instead appeared to be living sunlight inhabiting a suit of armour.

“A spirit…” Twilight breathed out.

The spirit raised its scales and spoke in a voice of a mare that commanded respect and deference. “I finally found you. The surge of magic is like a beacon in the Fade. It is time for judgement, Lazilia. Face Justice.”

“A curse on you and your name!” Lazilia spat at the spirit. “These two are mine! Mine! The power of these two are mine to consume! They have already given in to my world! You have no place in it!”

A surge of light shone through the body of the spirit. It raised its scales towards the demon, a feather on one platform and nothing in the other. As Twilight watched, a crimson orb formed in the other scale; she recognized it as a heart of a demon. The orb pulsed like a heart with black bolts of magic arcing around it.

“To my left, the Scales of Judgement!” The spirit yelled, her voice booming throughout the house. “To my right, the Sword of Retribution! The Scales will judge your heart, Lazilia!”

Unfortunately for the demon, her heart weighed heavily against the feather. The spirit turned her mask towards the demon, who hissed and crouched low, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. A pair of tendrils sprouted from her back and formed into sharpened edges.

The spirit raised her sword which glowed with a holy light. “The Feather of Truth has found your heart wanting! I hereby decree you guilty! The penalty to your crimes is destruction! Make peace with Chaos, demon of sloth, for I shall give you the mercy you showed your victims!”

The nanny demon shrieked a noise far more terrible than any screamer could produce. She jumped to attack the spirit, only for the spirit to make a deathblow with her sword. The brilliant blade cut through the demon as if like air, cleaving the foul monster in two. Lazilia collapsed in two heaps on the ground before disintegrating into the ether.

May your foulness never again rise in this realm, though I find these words hollow.” The spirit slid her sword into its sheath and looked to the two fillies in the playpen. They both looked up at her shining mask with curiosity and terror in equal measure. With a nod of her head, the spirit removed the playpen and approached the two.

What has that monster done to you?” she asked, “No matter. I will reverse it. Take my hoof, and all will be as it should be.

Twilight did not understand what the spirit meant that everything would be as it should, but there was something comforting about her presence. She felt warm in the glow of the spirit. Reaching out with a small hoof, Twilight touched the spirit only for a white light to overtake her. She did not scream, as the light gave her nothing but joy.

Soon Twilight found herself in her adult mare body once more, covered in the armour of the arcane warrior rather than the clothes of a foal. Sophia and Ironguard hung at her sides. She turned to face the spirit.

“Thank you so much for helping me,” Twilight said with sincere gratitude. “That demon of sloth… Lazilia…”

She found your spirits in the Fade and took you both to her lair before I could save you,” the spirit explained, “Until now, I was unable to find her in the Fade because of the Bannora’s influence. Thanks to you, Arcana, I was able to find her. Now, let me help your friend.”

Twilight looked at the spirit, puzzled. “Arcana?” Twilight asked as the spirit approached the pile of toys. “I think you have the wrong pony.”

I do not,” the spirit retorted. “One moment. Little one… your heart is heavy with guilt. I must weigh it against the Feather of Truth.”

Lyra, still very much a filly, dove back into the protection of her stuffed toys. “No!” she screamed, “I saw what you did to nanny! I don’t want to die! Leave me alone!”

“What are you going to do?!” Twilight rushed over to the spirit as she held the scales in front of the pile of toys. She saw what the spirit did to a guilty demon; what would she do to a guilty pony? The spirit did not reply to Twilight, instead focusing on the scales. A beating heart materialized on the scale opposite of the feather. After a moment of watching the scales tip back and forth, both the heart and feather remained in balance.

Despite this, the spirit made a noise of confusion. “Her heart is heavy with guilt, but the Feather speaks that she committed no crime against another pony, not of her own volition in any event. I hereby decree you innocent. Take my hoof, and all shall be as it should.”

Twilight stifled a laugh at the thought of Lyra being innocent, but the spirit was right; Lyra was no criminal who brought harm to other ponies. Lyra slowly withdrew herself from the pile of toys and stepped towards the spirit. With her eyes shut, she reached out and held the spirit’s hoof.

Much like Twilight, Lyra’s filly body began to glow with light until she reappeared back as her former adult self. Lyra took a deep breath and turned to regard the pile of toys she once found refuge in. She knelt down and brushed a particular toy’s mane.

“That demon,” she said, her voice low and cracked with guilt. “She made all my past lovers into toys… just like how I treated them. I found comfort in their hooves, but it was empty. Hollow. Just like any other wish granted by a demon.”

Lazilia was known to bring ponies from the Material Plane to the Fade and turning them into foals.” The spirit turned around and started to walk out of the cottage. “She fed on the desire to remain young and no longer have responsibilities. A devious demon of sloth if there ever was one. But you are not out of danger yet.”

Lyra began to follow the spirit but stopped at the edge of the doorway. “Who are you, spirit?” she asked.

The spirit turned to face them. “I am the spirit of Justice,” she said, “I am the embodiment of the world’s desire to see wrongs righted, for those who trespass to be punished by the rule of law. If there is no law to follow, then I am to use my own judgment.”

Lyra’s jaw dropped as the spirit introduced itself. “You’re Justice. The spirit of Justice. I can’t believe it! Do you know how rare this is, Twilight?! To have a spirit, any spirit, come to us directly like this in the Fade!”

“It is an honour, Justice,” Twilight said, bowing low out of respect, only for Justice to shake her head.

You should not bow to me, Arcana. Your return has long been expected. It is my honour to meet you once again. You have been gone for a thousand material years. You must not be able to recognize me. The previous Justice died in the Imperial Age. After you and the rest of the Harmonium saved the Luminescent from Chaos, you did not return.”

Justice then looked around, despite the blindfold on her mask. “I do not see the others of the Harmonium with you. All spirits felt their power many material months ago, only for you to go silent once more. What is wrong, Arcana?”

Twilight began to understand what Justice talked about. “The Harmonium. There were six of… us, right?”

Of course,” Justice replied with a nod. “Honor. Joy. Charity. Fidelity. Compassion. Arcana. The Harmonium as chosen by the Radiance to be the greatest of us all. You were sent to the Material to protect the Luminescent and the ponies of the world, but have long been silent.”

“The Elements of Harmony…” It made a degree of sense to Twilight that the Elements of Harmony might have at one point been Spirits of the Fade, servants of the Sisters. Justice likely did not see her as she was, a unicorn from the real world, but instead as a spirit of Magic, Arcana.

“I’m afraid I’m not Arcana, at least, not as you might know her.” Twilight explained, “My name is Twilight Sparkle. I’m a Grey Warden and bearer of the Element of Magic… in the Material Plane, we know the Harmonium as the Elements of Harmony. There is a lot I have to inform you of.”

Justice, despite not having visible eyes, appeared to peer into the depths of Twilight’s soul. “You speak truth…” she said, “I would like to know more, but we cannot tarry here for too long. The demonic forces under the Bannora’s command will likely feel the defeat of Lazilia. They will want to feast on her entrails and on those that defeated her. We must flee to the Chantry. There the spirit of Faith will keep us shielded from the Bannora’s dark magic and her demon hordes.”

As Twilight stepped out of the cottage behind Lyra and Justice, she saw that she was in fact once more in the Fade, the realm of dreams and nightmares. She could only guess that the tear in the Fade back in the Blackmarsh and the black magic energy that flowed from it caused her mind to be drawn into the realm once again. It would take some time for Twilight to figure out a way out of this mess. Once one was in the Fade because of magical influence, it took a great deal of energy to return to one’s body.

To do so, Twilight needed to find the focus that kept her and Lyra’s spirits trapped in the Fade. The last time Twilight found herself in this predicament, a demon kept her bound using its own influence. She held a suspicion that this Bannora Justice mentioned acted as the same vile anchor.

They approached the edge of the small floating island, the same kind that made up the vast majority of landmasses in the Fade. If they could be called such. The Fade shifted at a whim more often than not, and Twilight had reason to be cautious. Spirits like Justice were a boon to be with, but demons haunted the realm more than any other.

“Twilight,” Lyra said, her voice low, “About what happened in the swamp…”

“Forget about it,” Twilight quickly replied. She meant it in every possible way. She did not want to hurt Lyra’s feelings, but she also did not want to deal with Lyra’s advances in any way, shape, or form while they traversed the Fade. “We’ll discuss things once we get out of the Fade.”

Lyra merely nodded and stepped back away from the group. Her face downcast, she turned her focus to the sky when she gasped. Twilight followed Lyra’s look and almost lost her breath herself.

Hanging above their heads, the dead city of Black Canter loomed like a terrible shadow. Twilight suddenly felt an intense pressure on her heart. It took all of her mental fortitude to break away from the site of the hellish burg.

Black Canter.” Justice shook her head. “If there was ever a place so hated by my kind, it is the place we once called home. The Bannora knew her spell would bring us close to the den of demons, but even with the gates sealed, we feel its presence.”

“You haven’t explained who the Bannora is or what’s going on,” Twilight said, keeping her gaze towards the abyss. She did not want to cast even the slightest glance at Black Canter.

There is much to be explained, Twilight Sparkle Arcana,” Justice said, with Twilight noting the addition to her name. “All shall be revealed once we reach the Chantry. The Fade is a vastly different place than when you left it millennia ago. Be on your guard and follow.”

Justice drew her sword and pointed the tip at the empty expanse. Tiles materialized in thin air in the direction of her blade and Justice began to walk down them like a staircase. Twilight followed suit with Lyra right behind her. As Lyra stepped off of a tile, it vanished into the ether of whence they came.

This is not the Fade as you are familiar with,” Justice said, turning her mask towards the east. “The magic that tore this place apart eighteen material years ago lingers as strongly now as it did then. Faith and I long suspected that a great magical force within the Material Plane burst, one born of Chaos, and created this pocket dimension in the Fade as you see it now”

“You mean the explosion in the Lyrium mines,” Lyra added. “I’ve never heard of an explosion causing damage to the Fade and the Veil to such a degree though.”

Justice did not seem to register Lyra’s question. “I know not what occurred in the Material, but know that time moves differently in the Fade. Those caught in the burst are living in the same village they lived before thanks to Faith’s shield. However, the Bannora will use the disturbance of your arrival to make an attack on the Chantry.”

A loud whinny shook the Fade itself, making Twilight, Lyra, and Justice turn their heads to source of the disturbance. Galloping in the sky as easily as land, two demons of hatred rushed towards them. Known also as windigos, the hate demons charged forward, their wispy bodies leaving a trail of ice behind them.

Twilight recognized them. She felt their icy breath once before in a cloud temple of the pegasi. Drawing her sword and shield, Twilight yelled at Justice. “We need to get going! Can you make the path faster?!”

I can, but it will be unstable!” Justice began to gallop down the tiles as more materialized. “Quickly! The demons of hate are powerful here, for they feed off the Bannora’s loathing of unicorns! They have come here for a quick meal, but we will show them that we are not simple prey!”

Twilight raised Sophia to the air and fired a lancing beam of violet energy. Lyra joined her by launching a fireball at their direction. Both attacks failed to connect as the windigos shifted their very bodies to avoid the attack. Both windigos opened their mouths and let loose a gust of frigid air. Twilight braced herself by raising a barrier that protected herself and Lyra.

With a shout to hurry, Twilight began to gallop anew down the path Justice provided. The windigos gained on them, however, and with their powerful magic began to create large shards of ice with which to skewer the two unicorns. As the icicles flew through the air with lethal intent, Lyra turned to face the two windigos, the strings of her staff glowing with a golden light.

Opening her mouth, Lyra unleashed a torrent of flame with her familiar Dragon’s Breath spell. This caught the windigos off guard. They whinnied and galloped away from the flames, but Twilight knew they would simply make another pass for them. Lyra turned around to join Twilight and the two continued to run down the tiles, with Justice waiting for them halfway down.

Hold fast!” Justice said as she pointed with her sword. “The demons, they attack again!”

True to her word, the winidigos surged through the air like the winds of a hurricane. Both of the hate demons rushed by the Grey Wardens, making the tiles beneath their hooves shift, even though they were under Twilight’s shield. With a yelp, Twilight felt her footing slip from under her and she fell, only just able to catch onto the edge of the tile with her forelegs.

Twilight felt her lower half swing underneath as she tried to desperately hang on to the platform. The biting cold from the windigos did not help her hold and her hooves began to slip. The windigos closed in for the kill only to be warded off by a sudden flame sparked from the edge of Lrya’s staff.

Lyra set her staff to hover in front of her, the strings of the lyre spewing a continuous stream of fire all around. With the windigos at bay, Lyra knelt down and pulled Twilight up with her hooves. Twilight scrambled in the air, stretching her hind leg as far as she could to so as to get a hold on the tiles.

As much as this battle took place in the realm of dreams, Twilight knew all too well the real and deadly consequences of dying in the Fade.

With all four hooves set on the platform, Twilight launched a quick reprisal at the windigos, throwing Sophia at them while igniting the edge of the blade with violet flame. The sword struck one of the windigos, slicing through one of its forelegs which vanished as a wisp of cold air. All this did was make them hate Twilight further and they redoubled their efforts.

Quickly!” Justice shouted, pointing a hoof towards another large landmass. “I see the way to the village! We must hurry!”

Twilight and Lyra did not need to be told twice about the danger they faced. They galloped as fast as their hooves could carry them, firing more spells at the windigos as opportunity allowed. As they neared the edge of the landmass, Twilight took a deep breath. They were almost on firm ground.

As they made hooffall onto the ground, the land they stood on began to shake. Suddenly more demons appeared including several pony shaped shadows wearing ragged robes and a single burning eye where the face should be. In the center of the shades, a small volcano erupted, spewing forth a creature of fire and lava. The creature roared as it took shape in the form of a large boar. Molten tusks dripped lava from the tips.

Curse them,” Justice said as she entered a battle stance. “They attack with hunger shades and a demon of rage!”

That is a rage demon?!” Lrya balked, “I thought they were formless masses of fire!”

Twilight grimaced as she raised both shield and sword, prepared for battle against the mass of demons. “They must be getting stronger, just like how the windigos did not even exist hundreds of years ago!”

The rage demon scraped its hoof on the ground, kicking up both dirt and fire. It let out a loud, primal squeal as befitting a boar. “Kill them! Kill them!” the burning boar roared, “Scorch their bones! Feast on flesh!”

I will keep the demons of hatred off of our backs,” Justice said, moving to the rear. “You two will need to contend with these other monstrosities.”

Twilight nodded and kept her sword and shield raised high. Lyra drew the sword from her staff and held them aloft. They both nodded to each other knowing the stakes of the coming conflict. As the hunger shades drew closer, Twilight and Lyra both sprung to attack.

In a storm of swords and spells, both unicorn Grey Wardens cleaved their way through the shades. While the shades tried to scratch them with twisted claws instead of hooves, their power as the weakest of the Fade’s demons meant little to the sheer magical might of the Commander of the Grey and an Imperial Battlemage. Twilight’s sword swung like a deadly pendulum cutting through the raggedy robes of the hunger demons, while her horn blasted any foe that came near with either arcane power or the frigid cold of cryoturgy.

Lyra did the same, making her way through the demon horde that rose to defeat them with her thin blade and her spells of flame. The narrow sword she drew from her staff pierced its way through the glowing eye of a hunger demon while a fireball set the robes of several more alight. The demons ran off screaming, but for every demon they vanquished, another took its place.

The rage boar, infuriated from the defeat its minions suffered, charged through its own allies, knocking them aside so as to get to the Wardens itself. It aimed for Twilight first, bringing its molten tusks to bear against her. Twilight managed to turn at just the right time, bringing Ironguard up just at the moment the tusks came within striking distance. The blow still struck her hard and her magic wavered from the strength the boar exhibited.

A bolt from a crossbow embedded itself into the boar’s shoulder, eliciting a squeal of pain. The boar and Twilight turned to see Berry Punch once more taking a high vantage point and reloading her crossbow.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Warden,” Berry Punch said as she snapped a new bolt into place. “I’m here to because I didn’t really have a choice, and I’d rather take my chances with you than these demons!”

Berry quickly silenced herself and ducked behind cover as the boar opened its mouth and spewed out a cone of flame. With the rage demon distracted, Twilight levitated her sword over to the fiery creature’s hide and stabbed it in the midsection. The rage demon squealed again, only this time its legs buckled from under it.

Her teeth grinding against each other, Twilight raised her sword for a finishing blow. In one downward slash, she severed the boar’s head from its body. She quickly backed away from the molten mess that spilled from the creature’s body. It was not dead, not in the true sense of the world, but it would take a long while for it to reconstruct itself. With its demise, the other demons fled from the battlefield. Justice returned to them as the windigos sped off into the Fade’s sky, missing many of their limbs.

Berry leapt from her perch to join Twilight, Lyra, and Justice. “This place is insane,” she said, loading another crossbow bolt. “I’m going to need something strong down my gullet after this. This is the Fade, isn’t it?”

She looked around for a moment and marveled. “I can’t believe I’m really here,” she said in awe. “They said it was impossible.”

“You’re real body isn’t here,” Twilight explained, “This is just an image constructed by our minds, but believe me; it is very, very real. I guess it will be us three and Justice though; Oghren and Sparky don’t have Fade presences, so they can’t help us on this side.”

Before Berry could say something else, Justice rushed to her with the Scales of Judgment held high. “I feel the weight of crimes on this one,” the spirit said, “I would judge her for her crimes!”

“Justice, stop!” Twilight blurted out, pushing Justice’s scales down. “I know what you are sensing. She tried to kill me, so I gave her a trial. I found her guilty and exiled her from my domain. However, she also saved me twice now. Once from the ponyspawn and now from a demon. I believe some leniency is allowed.”

Justice stared at Berry, only to put away her scales. “If she has been judged by the court of ponies, then my duty will not interfere in that ruling.”

“In any event, we are close to the village and thus the Chantry. We should hurry, as more demons will--“

Justice’s words cut themselves short as the ground rumbled again. All brought their weapons in preparation of a fight as dozens upon dozens of shades, rage boars, and other demons appeared before them. In the distance came a roar. Twilight looked to the source and used magic to enhance her sight. Barreling down the hill of the landmass galloped a pride demon of exceptional size, his lithe reptilian body shining in the ambient light of the Fade. Both of his tentacles, ending in snapping claws, clacked about as it landed in the midst of the army of demons. At the pride demon’s sides stood two desire demons, both wearing sheer silk and jewelry of gold. Their flaming manes crackled as they hung off the pride demon’s body. They looked to each other and smirked before letting loose a deafening scream.

“There’s too many of them!” Lyra shouted.

“Run!” At Twilight’s words, the four galloped across the Fade with Justice at the helm and a horde of demons at their hooves. Twilight never saw so many demons in one place before. The sheer numbers alone would make any hardened soldier of Fade-traversed mage pause with terror.

As they ran away in the direction Justice led them to, Twilight heard the sound of dozens of hooves galloping towards them. Twilight stopped and took a deep breath. A demon horde behind them. An unknown force charging in front of them. The edge of the abyss to the side. A mountain to round things out. Twilight found herself trapped between dangers often, but this was ridiculous. Brandishing her sword, Twilight decided to not run anymore. She summoned the arcane warrior’s helm and felt the cold encasement of steel surround her head. Despite the helm only having a small visor, to Twilight, it was like she did not wear a helmet at all.

If they wanted to bring the Commander of the Grey down, they would come for a fight.

Only for Justice to chastise her. “You have spent too many nights surrounded, my friend,” she said, “For those that come to us mean us not harm, but to rescue us.”

True to her word, a dozen ponies, actual equines crested over the hill shouting war cries. Unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasi all held weapons aloft to fight against the demon horde. Pegasi rained down spears and arrows while earth ponies and unicorns formed a defensive perimeter around the Grey Wardens, Berry, and Justice. Two unicorns, dressed in the plain robes of scribes, raised their staves high and created a lattice barrier.

“Stay behind!” shouted the stallion, “The will drag you into their swarm if you get out of the barrier. Seen it enough times! Rather not see it with happen to our new guests!”

Twilight charged her sword with simple yet potent blasting spells, launching a barrage of magical bolts to keep the demons at bay. Lyra joined her with a stream of fire from her staff. Others formed up at the edge of the barrier. Whenever a demon drew too near, an earth pony sword drove them back before they could breach the barrier.

“We can’t keep this up forever,” the unicorn mare shouted to Justice. “They’ve grown in number too much!”

“So have you!” Twilight lowered her horn and joined her magic with the other two. With her arcane might working in tandem with the unicorns, the shield grew even more powerful. Demons that threw themselves against the barrier bounced harmlessly off. Even the barrage of spells the desire demons lobbed at the ponies did nothing against the barrier.

However, while the demons struggled against the reinforced barrier, Twilight felt something within the two unicorns’ magic. Something familiar, as if she felt her own presence within their spellwork. The thought unnerved her. It couldn’t be… could it?

Justice stepped forward, her sword and scales held high, and Twilight refocused on the barrier. Justice held her scales aloft towards the demons. The scale did not need to represent their hearts against the Feather of Truth: the scale for the judged dropped almost instantly.

I judge you all guilty!” Justice shouted, “The penalty is death! You are fortunate though that practicality stays the Sword of Retribution, but while Justice may slow this day, Justice will never waver! You will be punished for your crimes!”

Stabbing the ground with her blade, Justice reached for her mask and removed it. A single radiant, almost blinding orb of light shone where the mask once was. To Twilight, it looked more like a small star. With the mask removed, Justice unleashed a wave of light from her very being, a wave that washed over the demon hordes as if they were nothing. The weaker hunger shades disintegrated almost immediately, while the more powerful demons retreated. The desire demons hissed and fled, while the pride demon stood its ground.

“We come for you!” the pride demon roared, “One day, Faith will be broken and Justice brought to ruin! All will feel the sting of our barbs, our teeth, our magic! There will be no mercy!”

With that said the pride demon opened a portal and stepped through it. Those demons that did not have such power simply opted to continue their retreat. Justice stared at the fleeing hordes, put her mask back on, and promptly buckled onto her knee-plates.

Lyra rushed to Justice’s aid and offered her side for support, which Justice took gladly. “Thank you, Lyra Hearthstrings,” she said, sounding winded. “The use of such power drains me. I will need to rest. But we won this day. We should continue on to the Chantry. Faith is waiting for us.”

Aided by Lyra, Justice took the lead once more, followed by the other ponies trapped in the Fade. Now Twilight took a good look at the unicorns that felt so familiar to them. The stallion was tall, lean, with an indigo coat and a darker blue mane. His yellow eyes seemed to carry a shine to them, and as Twilight regarded him, he gave her a warm smile. The mare had a white coat with a white mane accompanied with purple streaks. Her violet eyes shared the stallion’s comforting virtue. For some reason Twilight felt safe near them. They were not demons in disguise. Sadly, their robes covered their cutie marks.

As they walked, Twilight saw in the distance a small village. She tentatively approached with the rest of the group. The last time she was in a village in the Fade, demons occupied it and haunted her and her friends with their deepest desires as a means to avoid conflict. This time, the village appeared deserted with nary a soul wandering the roads. The buildings looked old and dilapidated save for the Chantry near the village’s central square.

The Chantry stood tall and resplendent with its high steeple roof and shining stain glass windows depicting Celestia, Luna, and their various symbols. At one point the Chantry would have given her comfort, but ever since Twilight saw the vision of the Eluvian, she saw nothing but an establishment built on a lie. She sighed and then joined the others as they stepped inside the Chantry.

Humble in its presentation, the Chantry building saw itself more of a refuge than a house of worship. Amongst the ponies who stood about were the elderly, the infirm, and the young. Twilight’s heart broke at the sight of foals huddled in the shadows; they might not know their bodies were long dead. The sight of new ponies scared them, and they huddled in the hooves of their parents.

“Look,” Berry said, pointing a hoof upward. Twilight looked up and gasped at the brilliant sight. Floating high above all of their heads, the spirit of Faith maintained a sphere of light all around its body. The soft glow of sunlight that shone through her form gave Twilight ease of her worries. Everypony glanced up to the spirit and thanked it with a quick recitation of the Chant. To them, Faith might as well be Celestia and Luna themselves. Of course, she protected them with a very real shield that kept the demons out.

Like Justice, Faith wore a mask to cover her sunlight body. Unlike the more martial spirit, Faith wore flowing robes that appeared to be made of long scrolls of text. As Faith floated down, Twilight saw the text as being passages of the Chant.

Justice, my friend. My heart is lightened to see you here once again.” As Faith spoke, Twilight thought she heard Chantry chimes ringing in her ears. The voice was beautiful, melodic, and easing. “When I felt the Bannora’s demons grow in number, I feared the worse.”

“None can stand against Justice,” Justice said, standing up on her own power. “I have found those who crossed the Veil and saved them from Lazilia’s clutches. An Imperial Battlemage Lyra. An assassin already punished. But of all, I found Arcana.”

Faith turned her mask towards the three ponies and much to Twilight’s surprise, the light from Faith dimmed considerably. She backed away. “You are all… broken. Arcana… I feel your faith… broken. I feel the Battlemage’s faith… broken. And you…”

“You never had Faith to begin with.”

Berry shifted uncomfortably on her hooves, but otherwise did not react to Faith’s accusation. “You have something to drink in here?” she asked incredulously.

Faith moved on from Berry, casting a cautious glance at her, then went on to Lyra. “Your faith is broken after years of lies and deceit. What has happened to the world of the Material that I look into your heart and see your faith in such disrepair?”

She then moved on to Twilight, who still wore her helmet. “And you, Grey Warden… your Faith has recently been shaken. You have seen things that confuse you, that tears your heart asunder. But while your faith in the Chant dims, I feel another, more powerful faith in your friends. So long as you believe in the strength of friendship, your inner strength will shine through. But beware, for faith is easily barraged by the circumstances of our lives. It can be shaken, or turned to a dangerous Fervor.”

Faith then floated back to the middle of the room and resumed her task of keeping the Chantry protected. Berry walked away, turning only to give Faith a dirty look. Lyra returned to aid Justice. That left Twilight with the two unicorns she felt she knew.

“Been a heck of a day, hasn’t it, Warden?” The stallion unicorn said, sitting on his haunches against one of the Chantry’s support pillars. “I both wish you were not stuck here in the Fade and very glad you and your allies came through to help us, but I don’t think you went looking for us. How did you end up in this realm anyways?”

“I was fighting a powerful ornlock in the real world,” Twilight explained. “He used the most potent blood magic I’ve ever encountered. I used my own magic to stop him, but with the Veil around the Blackmarsh so damaged, I think that sloth demon was able to use its influence and bring our minds into the Fade.”

The mare shook her head. “Blackmarsh… is that what became of Cornucopia? That land… the ponies who lived and worked there… so much promise gone in an instant.”

The mare buried her head into the chest of the stallion, sobbing lightly while Twilight stood awkwardly to the side. She did not know what to say to comfort those two. With their bodies long dead and their home a mire of nightmares.

“There, there, hun,” the stallion said, stroking the mare’s mane. He looked up at Twilight and offered a sad smile. “I’m sorry you have to see us in such a sorry state. It’s only because of Faith and Justice we hang on at all, if only barely. Still, it doesn’t do me any good to be rude. Allow me to introduce ourselves. My name is Night Light, resident bookbinder and record keeper of Cornucopia. At least, I was. And this is my wife, Twilight Velvet.”

Twilight’s heart stopped as she stared at the older mare. After all this time… all the silence, could it really be that these two were…? Twilight… Twilight was an uncommon name… one could say rare but… it couldn’t be…

There was only one way to make sure.

With a spark from her horn, Twilight dispelled the arcane warrior’s helmet around her head. Her lavender locks fell to frame her face. Both at of the unicorns stared in shock at her. They looked to each other with mouths agape.

Twilight choked as she tried to find the words. “My… my name is Twilight. Twilight Sparkle. I think… I think I’m your daughter.”