• Published 11th Jul 2011
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Pony Age: Origins - OmegaPony11

The Ponyspawn have invaded Equestria, and it is up to the newest addition to the Grey Wardens, Twilight Sparkle, to find the means to drive them back! With her friends and allies at her side, can Twilight win before Equestria is devoured?

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The Sky is Over

Chapter 35 - The Sky is Over

Twilight walked the now-familiar paths of the temple as she followed Fluttershy towards the home of the hippogryph matron. The memories from the phylactery gave her uncanny knowledge of the cloud complex, and, as they walked, Twilight noticed they were headed to the room where the Eluvian once rested.

On the way, Twilight saw the body of the mantiskarn the other half of the party had encountered. It had been a foul, corrupted creature cursed by the ponyspawn taint, yet she could feel only pity for it. Hunger had driven the manticore to desperation, and unfortunately it (had) found a meal in the corpse of a ponyspawn.

“It was here that we found Quick Kill and his son,” Fluttershy explained. “Pinkie, Applejack, and Oghren should be in the Matron’s chamber now.”

They approached the cloud door to the Eluvian chamber, and watched as the clouds drifted open to allow them entry. The rest of the party approached Twilight, with each clamouring to take a good look at Twilight’s new armour.

“Boy howdy, Twilight, those are some impressive duds.” Applejack whistled at the impressive sight before scratching her chin. “Somethin’ about it seems different though. Ah can feel the magic coming off the armour, but it seems different. Cleaner some how. It’s not gettin’ mah anti-magic all persnickity.”

“This temple taught me much in such a short time,” Twilight answered, “It taught me about magic. True magic, not the sorcery unicorns draw from the Fade. I can’t wait to teach you all what I’ve learned, but first, we need to end this conflict. I want to meet this Matron of the Hippogryphs.”

Perched upon clouds surrounding the chamber stood dozens of hippogryphs both young and old. They stared down at the party with trepidation. Unlike the warriors they were familiar with, who were large and powerful, many of the hippogryphs appeared small and frail, as they hid away in the clouds and took cautionary glances at the assembled equines. Many were small children, some eager and some afraid of the ponies.

Quick Kill stood in the center of the chamber where the Eluvian used to sit, his wounds from the battle against the mantiskarn still bandaged and bloodied. Despite this, his fierce presence did not waver as the hippogryph’s leader, and he still looked down at the ponies with barely hidden contempt. He scratched the ground with his talons as he stared down the ponies. While he did not appear happy to receive the ponies as guests rather than on a plate, the rage he had shown in the Everfree was lessened.

It was a start.

“Matron,” he said reverently to the sky. “They have come.”

Twilight looked up and gasped as she saw two streams of the blue sky flow downward. The party made a wide berth around the center of the chamber as the sky streams merged on the impromptu stage until they formed a small tornado. Despite the strange phenomenon, a gentle summer breeze washed over the temple from the twister, and the hot air felt good on Twilight’s coat.

When the tornado stopped, in its place stood a tall pegasus mare the like of which Twilight had never seen. Instead of a coat and mane, this pegasus appeared to be made from the bright summer sky, clear and blue with a few clouds drifting across her skin. Her mane and tail were made from autumn leaves and drifted in an unseen summer wind. While she would have been considered beautiful, she lacked a real definitive face. Without that, Twilight felt disconcerted in dealing with the Matron. How could one speak to a pony who had no eyes or mouth and not feel bothered?

“It has been decades of waiting for this day. To you, honoured guests, I bid you welcome.” Her voice was calm and melodious like chimes in the wind. Quick Kill bristled at her calm, inviting, and not at all murderous words, but said nothing to contradict her greeting.

“I am the Matron of the Sky, caretaker of the hippogryphs, and guardian of the Everfree Forest. I have heard from my young Quick Kill that you are here on Boreas’ orders, to find Notus the Thunder Roc. Before I answer any questions, I ask for forgiveness on behalf of the hippogryphs. They have been cursed with savagery, and as such their initial reaction to threats is to become violent.”

“Not every day ya get asked to give forgiveness to those who try to gut ya,” Applejack said. Twilight stepped forward and looked the Matron in the “face” before bowing.

“We will forgive the hippogryphs and their trespasses against us, but now I ask for you to do the same.” Twilight took a breath to compose herself, her head low. “I regret to inform you that in our skirmish, I was forced to defend myself and take the life of one of your hippogryphs. I beg forgiveness for this act.”

If the Matron was furious, Twilight could not tell on a face that held no emotion. Instead, the Matron looked to Quick Kill, who bristled for a moment before he spoke in a hushed tone. “He was Swift Flight, a young and brash hunter. He knew the risks, as we all do. I hold no ill will to you, pony.”

Twilight let out a sigh of relief. While her conscience was not completely clear, she had at least gained some measure of forgiveness. She took no pride in killing, and felt more confident that she would not have to spill blood in the temple. The Matron nodded to Quick Kill, and turned her attention solely on the party.

“You came seeking the Thunder Roc under the command of Boreas, of this I know,” she said. “But what you do not know, information Boreas has withheld from you, is his true purpose in the Everfree. Every twenty years, since the curse on the hippogryphs had been cast, Boreas would bring his clan of Dalish into the forest and seek out Notus. The two would do battle, and Boreas would emerge the victor using dark magics before he took the essence of the Thunder Roc to heal his aging body. You would not know it by looking at him, but Boreas is well over two hundred years old.”

That was old even by unicorn standards, and unicorns were long-lived. Twilight scrunched her face, puzzled by the Matron’s words, yet it was Dash who spoke up. “So what you’re saying is that Boreas is staying alive and leading his pegasi into danger every time they come into the Everfree?”

“Yes.” The Matron nodded. “Many years ago when he was still young, Boreas’ clan and a rival clan of pegasi fought over the Everfree Forest, as land for the Dalish was sparse and they were hunted down by the Filesians when they occupied Equestria. In a night raid, several enemy clan members ambushed their brethren and slew Boreas’ family. He swore vengeance. To complete his revenge, he used ancient sorcery to create Notus the Thunder Roc and the Curse of Savagery.”

“Together, the curse and Notus made swift work of the rival clan, turning them into the hippogryphs you see before you. To ensure that his curse would not be easily broken, he linked his own life to that of Notus by performing an ancient pegasi ritual known as the Breath of Life. This is one of the most fiercely guarded secrets of all magic, for the Breath of Life could restore life to those near death as well as forge new life, as Boreas did creating Notus.”

“That… that sounds impossible…” Fluttershy’s voice carried an edge of disbelief that the pegasi once held such powerful magic. Twilight could not help but silently agree. The Matron lowered her head.

“It is not an act a single pegasus can accomplish. The Breath of Life can only be harvested once a generation, and only by a collection of Keepers. There are so few Keepers with the knowledge that Boreas holds that he had to find another source of magic. Something unnatural.”

Twilight looked up with realization, yet before she could speak Rainbow interjected again. “How can we trust you? Your hippogryphs never listened to a word we said! They kept trying to kill us at every turn!”

“Yes, spirit. How do these ponies expect to trust the prey they were meant to hunt?”

Quick Kill growled as he crouched low,ready to pounce towards the newcomer as the other hippogryph warriors screeched their anger. Twilight spun around to see that Boreas walked towards them, a long sword against his side and his faced marred with a scowl.

As she watched Boreas approach, Twilight did not know what to expect from him. Somepony lied to her, yet whether it was the Keeper of the Dalish or the Matron of the hippogryphs, she could not tell. The party gave both Boreas and the Matron a wide berth as the two regarded each other.

“Did you tell them everything, spirit?” Boreas began to pace, his wings open while he grilled the Matron for answers. “Did you tell them about what you were before you took in these savages as your ‘pets’? Do they know that they are speaking with Notus the Thunder Roc himself in this mockery of a pegasus form!?”

Boreas spat and the venom of his words dripped with hatred as he cursed the Matron before him. The winds around Boreas picked up with each shouted word, and they chilled Twilight with their icy gusts. Despite the doubt cast on the Matron, Twilight drew away from Boreas. The way he spoke disturbed her with his words thrown like weapons, and they undermined her efforts for a peaceful resolution.

The Matron bowed her head. “This is true, I’m afraid,” she answered. “It is as Boreas says. I am Notus the Thunder Roc. As the storm destroys the land, so too does the rain heal it. I am the fierce gale that tears apart forests and villages and the kind wind that fills the sails of ships. The aspect of the Matron was my growth. I was never meant to be anything but a tool for Boreas’ revenge. And after generations of hippogryphs passing on their curse made their numbers increase, instead of punishing them with the wind, I cradled them with it. Through them I saw the result of your hatred, Boreas, just as I was. I swore to protect them. To help them grow as a people. Boreas, you are more a father to the hippogryphs than to the Dalish you ‘protect’.”

“That is a lie!” Boreas seethed with rage, his eyes bulging and the veins in his neck growing more defined. “I wanted the hippogryphs to suffer as I did! They deserved to suffer for what they have done! For what they still do! Just as you now deserve to be shackled again, Thunder Roc! You went against my designs, took the hippogryphs as your pets. You even named the savages!”

“Matron! Let us be done with this fool!” Quick Kill snarled despite his injuries and readied himself to leap against Boreas. “He wishes to kill you! We shall defend our matron to the last!”

“Hear me, brothers and sisters! I am Quick Kill, flock leader! Though weakened, still I would fight our enemies! Join me! This pegasus threatens our beloved Matron and protector! How will we answer!?”

The hippogryph warriors all shouted in unison, their anger filled their voices. “With the fury of the storm!”

Twilight watched the exchange as she felt a low growl rumble in her throat. Both Boreas and the hippogryphs refused to listen to reason. Both sides did not want to give peace a chance. Between Boreas, his hatred of the hippogryphs and their hatred for the Dalish, there was no room for anything else. As she looked to the Matron, Twilight could see the conflict in her very body as dark storm clouds drifted across her sky-body as the blue sky appeared to struggle against them.

“Wardens, help me!” Boreas turned to Twilight. “Together, we can defeat the hippogryphs and Notus. Once the savages are gone and the Thunder Roc is brought to heel, the Dalish will be free to help you against the Blight.”

“No.” Twilight’s word was simple, yet filled with contempt for both sides. The others gave her a worried glance as she took a few confident strides in front of Boreas. “I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen two sides that will never reconcile, even in the face of the greatest threat this land has ever seen. I’ve tried to reason that we should try peace, but neither of you will listen. And you know something? I’m tired. I’m not choosing sides again. Fight it out amongst yourselves. I don’t care. Come on girls and Oghren. We’re leaving.”

“Twilight… we can’t just leave them. They’ll destroy each other,” Pinkie begged, but Twilight’s fatigue over the situation brooked no argument. Instead of following Twilight, she moved between Boreas and the hippogryphs.

“Please! Stop fighting! We can fix this! We can make everyone happy!” Pinkie galloped to Boreas side, desperation on her face as she pulled on his armour. “Please, just give talking a chance! I’m really good at talking, I can help you! I can offer courses on the subject! We can have a party with food and games and we can try to be friends and be happy!”

Boreas snarled, then smacked Pinkie away with a hoof. Rainbow drew her dagger as she flared her wings in anger. Twilight’s horn glowed, her sword drawn, and she glared at Boreas while the others stood ready.

“Enough of this,” Boreas hissed, “If you are not my ally then you are my enemy.” He stomped both hooves on the cloud floor, the crackle of arcane energy flashing brightly around his forehead. Twilight averted her eyes, yet as the magical energy swirled around Boreas, she felt the familiar energy of a dangerous weapon she had not sensed since Red Apple Castle.

On Boreas’ forehead stood a false horn, small sparks of demonic energy breaking off from the appendage. It was much more powerful than the false horn Applebloom had on her head, and unlike her, the Keeper was not possessed by a demon. No, the lack of corruption could only mean that he had taken on the horn willingly. This only made Boreas even more monstrous, and even more deadly to deal with.

“There are other spirits of the wind besides you, Notus!” Boreas shouted, and his false horn blazed with power. “I have found spirits much stronger than you! Spirits of the mighty north winds! They will freeze you all to the bone!”

He opened his mouth, and Twilight stood agape as monstrosities of wind escaped from within him. They grew larger as they galloped around the Eluvian Chamber, massive ponies made from frigid winds. Everything about them was as cold as winter, from their frozen manes to their icy hooves, yet their radiant eyes frightened her.

Twilight grimaced as she felt powerful magic permeate off the bodies of the wind horses. They were not spirits as Boreas knew them, but the familiar presence of demons from the Fade. As three of the creatures stood near Boreas, Twilight’s mind raced. There were five classes of demons: rage, hunger, sloth, desire, and pride. They had fought and defeated them all. Yet this was a new form of demon, and Twilight did not know what horrified her most. That she now encountered a new demon for the first time…

Or that this was a sign that the demons of the Fade were growing even more powerful for the first time in generations.

Boreas pointed a threatening hoof at Pinkie Pie, his eyes lost in his own frenzy. “You will be the first. Your kind is no better than these savages! Wherever the Dalish stopped, earth ponies would bring their soldiers to watch us and harass us! They thought us thieves and vagabonds when all we wanted was to be left alone! This will be my message to all who fight against me! Windigos, spirits of the north wind! Remember! Show these fools your power!”

One of the windigos reared on its hooves and charged towards Pinkie before it turned into a stream of cold air. Twilight tried to raise a shield, but the windigo moved too fast as it flooded into Pinkie’s mouth. She choked as the windigo entered her lungs, her hooves clasped at her throat in an effort to open airways. She suffocated as the windigo stole the very air from her lungs.

“Let her go!” Rainbow shouted, and dove towards Boreas, only to be rebuffed by a blast of cold wind. The other windigos blocked her path, all the while everypony else surrounded Pinkie. Twilight and Rarity worked their magic to ward off the windigo to no avail, and not even Applejack’s anti-magic could remove the creature. The demon’s magic proved too powerful and alien to the two unicorns, the wispy nature of the creature easily evading their efforts.

Pinkie fell to her side, her eyes closed as small wisps of cold wind streamed from her mouth and back into a windigo. Her body stilled, and as Twilight moved to check on Pinkie, her horrors were confirmed. Pinkie did not breathe, and her body sunk into the clouds. Rarity’s horn glowed as she frantically tried to catch Pinkie’s body. Rainbow scrambled over to Pinkie’s side as the body was held in levitation.

“Pinkie… no…” Rainbow held onto Pinkie’s hoof, and tried to find a pulse before she pressed her hooves onto Pinkie’s chest. “Come on… breathe… This isn’t funny, Pinkie! This is a totally lame prank! Just open your eyes, laugh, make a joke… anything!”

Rarity shook her head as she wept, yet her spell held strong over the body. “I can’t feel anything. No pulse, no breath… she’s gone.”

“No!” Rainbow shook in denial as she held Pinkie close to her. “She can’t be gone! She had so much to live for, and I was going to help her! What about the Blight, Pinkie? We still have to save Equestria from the ponyspawn. Don’t you want to be a hero? And the party you were gonna have when we won. With all your friends? That can’t happen without the party pony in charge of making it. What about Geldwall, and finding your family? They’re waiting for you, Pinkie. Your mom and your sisters, what am I gonna tell them? We were supposed to go on adventures together. Please, Pinkie! Wake up! Wake up…”

Twilight rubbed the tears out of her eye as she shivered, only to feel her hoof touch cold ice on her face. In their grief, the party was too distracted to notice what the windigos concocted, all three of them galloped in a circle high above the ceiling of the Eluvian chamber. From their demonic magics came a terrible blizzard that blasted hippogryph and pony alike with frigid winds. Several hippogryphs took flight to attack the windigos, only to fail. Their talons swiped at nothing but air. The windigos laughed, a ghastly alien noise, before one of their number washed over a hippogryph warrior, his wings frozen solid. He plummeted into the cloud temple floor and then right through them towards the surface of the Everfree Forest.

Behind her, Twilight could hear the low rumble of thunder resonate. She turned to see the Matron’s wings at full spread and extended outward, the clouds in her form grey and ominous. Her face was more defined as a beak jutted outwards, and eyes in the shape of electrical orbs flashed open. Soon she ceased her appearance as a pony entirely, instead now as her true form as a giant eagle of a thunderhead.

The Thunder Roc roared, and a violent crash of thunder reverberated throughout the chamber. The Matron, so filled with fury, had transformed into her violent personality, and now the thunderstorm of Notus challenged the blizzard of Boreas.

Rainbow stood up while Rarity continued to hold the body of Pinkie in a blue aura. As Rainbow drew her dagger, Twilight could see that she visibly trembled; not from the cold of the windigos, but from a pent-up rage as Rainbow tried to breathe through her nose. Her eyes opened into a look that made Twilight slightly sorry for the reckoning she was about to commit.

“Murderer!” Rainbow approached slowly, her wing beats violent as she made her way towards Boreas with violent intent. “All she wanted was for you to stop fighting! And you just killed her! My friend!”

“Be silent, traitor!” Boreas shouted, “You would rather join these shem in trying for a futile peace with savages than stand with your own people! You deserve to die as much as the rest of them! Windigos! Spirits of the north wind! Come to—“

“I’LL KILL YOU!” Boreas was unable to complete his command as Rainbow flashed forward with incredible speed. The fallen Keeper drew his sword with his teeth and narrowly deflected a lethal stab. The two clashed in the air before Rainbow swung her hind legs and kicked Boreas square in the chest. The blow sent him flying out into the halls of the cloud temple.

With Boreas and Rainbow locked in battle, Twilight could turn her attention to the windigos. Many of the non-warrior hippogryphs were caught in the icy blasts from the blizzard and huddled close in fear while the warriors did their best to cover families with their wingspans. Quick Kill crouched low, shivering as he tried to cover his son within his wings. He looked up at Twilight through the winter storm, and instead of the usual savage nature in his eyes, he gave a look that pleaded for help.

“Rarity… let Fluttershy take care of… of Pinkie.” Twilight swallowed. She couldn’t bear to call it her corpse. Not yet. Fluttershy’s arrows would be useless in the fight anyways, as the windigos proved impervious to conventional weapons.

Twilight took a breath before she continued. “Oghren, help evacuate the hippogryphs away from the chamber. Applejack, Rarity, with me. Our magic and Silverbite should be able to hurt the windigos.”

“Let’s do this!” Applejack reared on her hooves and drew Silverbite from its sheath. “For Pinkie!”

“For Pinkie Pie!” Rarity yelled. She glared upwards as her horn and her staff crackled with electricity.

Sword and horn glowed in unison as Twilight pulled a large tuft of cloud for the three to ride on as they ascended to the sky. The demons outmaneuvered Notus with their small size and quick movements. They galloped in the air as easily as they would a dirt path.

Twilight stood next to Applejack and Rarity on their cloud and felt her magic pour from within herself to propel the cloud upward. Weapons ready, Twilight could only urge the cloud faster as they watched the Thunder Roc continue to be battered by the windigos’ blizzard. As they got closer, the windigos turned to face them. Their hooves thundered upon the sky with the frozen winds stormed behind them.

All three of the windigos passed through the ponies, and Twilight took in a sharp intake of air as she felt their frozen bodies pass over her. Her teeth chattered ceaselessly as she felt her body grow numb from the cold. Another pass like that, and they would all die from the chill.

Rarity’s horn crackled again before she sent out a glyph that hung in midair behind them. The windigos crashed into the glyph, electicity stunning the demons as they wailed in pain. “C-can’t k-k-keep this up,” Rarity said through her shivers.

“At least we know they c-can be hurt by sp-spells.” Twilight’s sword spun in place, a rune drawn in the air before beams of arcane power fired from the magical script. Each beam pierced through Rarity’s glyph and slammed against the demons’ chests and caused another chorus of pain. Despite the magical attacks, the windigos pushed through the glyph and resumed their charge.

Applejack stepped to the edge of the cloud. “They’re demons of hate, right?” she said, repeating Twilight’s thoughts as to the source of the demon’s power. “We need to separate ‘em! Together they’re too strong! Ah got an idea!”

With a leap, Applejack jutted her sword outward, her blade ready to strike. Twilight watched in disbelief at the reckless move Applejack made, only to wince as Silverbite sunk into the “hide” of a windigo. The creature howled with icy winds and pain-filled screams, and its body shifted in and out of existence as Silverbite continued to rend it.

The plan worked too well. The windigo shrieked as it charged towards Applejack, its hooves clamoured on clouds as she waited for an opportunity to avoid another frozen assault and perhaps counterstrike again.

The windigo reared on its hind legs and charged Applejack. It moved to trample her under its hooves, before the demon stopped in front of Applejack and opened its maw. A torrent of icy air and snow blasted forth and tossed Applejack to her side, her hat blown away to a corner of the room. Her armour froze from the frigid cold, and Applejack fell to her knees.

“Applejack!” Rarity leapt from the cloud and in front of Applejack, her form shifting in midair to the shape and size of a large bear. With Rarity in front of the windigo, she took the brunt of its icy attack. The windigo snickered after it ceased, and sauntered towards Rarity as she transformed back into a pony.

“Are you all right, dear?” Rarity said through haggard breaths. “Can you get up?”

“Ah’m fine,” Applejack grumbled. “Takes more than a winter wind to keep this farm pony down. But how are we gonna get close to that critter to take him out?!”

Two shouts rang out from behind them, a signal for the oncoming assault from Oghren with Spike on his back. “Remember what I taught ya, Spike!” Oghren called. “Give ‘em your war cry! Cry havoc and all that sodding crap!”

Spike leaped from Ogrhen’s back before he tumbled on the ground, his firebrand sword in his grasp. With a deep breath, Spike breathed streams of viridian flames at the windigo, and the demon recoiled at the sight of fire. The windigo howled its terror at the flames, and its hoof stomped down towards Spike, only to be tossed off balance by a lightning bolt to its side.

The windigo sputtered for a moment before it turned its ire completely on Rarity. It moved slowly for a moment as its injuries took their toll on the windigo’s body, until it formed a stream of cold air. The same stream the demons used to suffocate Pinkie Pie. Now it surged towards Rarity and aimed to do the same.

“I’ve been a victim too many times for my liking, you brute!” Rarity’s horn sparked to life as she channeled another glyph around the wisp form of the windigo. Electricity danced along the lines of the glyph as it forced the windigo back into its equine form. The demon screeched as the glyph kept it trapped and left it wide open for attack.

“Spike, Applejack! Now’s the time!” Rarity pointed her staff at the windigo, a continuous bolt of lightning striking it in the chest. “Hit that wretch where it hurts!”

The warriors spared no time in their joint attack. Spike clambered aboard Applejack’s back, and both of their swords were poised and ready as the trapped windigo struggled against the glyph that bound it to the floor. As the two approached, Applejack found the wound she had made with Silverbite and thrust the sword back into it. Spike followed suit, and his fire sword sliced through the ethereal flesh of the windigo.

The demon of hate roared in agony as the magic of the two swords worked their way inside it. The magic tore it apart from within. Cracks formed all along its hide as flames burst open and began to consume it. The windigo scrambled to escape Rarity’s glyph and failed, and it was soon engulfed in flames. Nothing but a glyph was left in its wake.

High above her friends and their battle, Twilight stood alone on her makeshift cloud skiff and propelled it with her magic as she was chased by the other two windigos. Her teeth clenched, Twilight pushed her magic to its limits as she felt the cold blasts of air from their mouths snap against her flanks. Twilight grimaced as she willed her sword to cut through the roof of the Eluvian chamber. This opened the room to the sunshine as well as freeing both her and Notus to fight in the open sky.

And fight the Thunder Roc did, as he took one of the windigos in his talons and flung it far into the sky, and he soared on wings of thunder and lightning. High above the surface world, Twilight turned to see a furious hate demon gallop through the air, the sky like a road for it. Her eyes narrowed to slits as she twirled her sword in front of her, ready for a fight.

“For Pinkie.” Twilight held her breath as she channeled the magic of the Arcane Warriors through her body and felt the magic from within her empower her. Already she felt stronger and faster with her inner magic, rather than the constant struggle to control the magic of the Fade. Her body glowed faintly, and a small buckler of pure magic shimmered into existence next to her. She was ready.

The windigo charged on hooves of ice, nostrils blasting cold air as it galloped towards her. With a thought, Twilight forced the cloud into movement, her hooves planted firmly on the nimbus as it sped off towards her adversary. Twilight felt her heart beat rapidly as she rushed the windigo. She was several leagues above the surface of the world, locked in combat with a previously unknown species of demon with magic unknown to unicorns in millennia.

No pressure.

With a shout, Twilight sent Sophia through the air. Its razor blade sought out the windigo while her horn peppered the air with beams of magical power. The windigo, a demon of wind, moved swiftly in the air and dodged her sword and arcane barrage while answering in kind with a cone of cold magic from its mouth.

Twilight shrieked as the cold air seared into her skin, well beneath her armour and fur. Once she shook off the ice, Twilight countered as her sword whirled in a death blossom. With the sword as a distraction, she attacked the windigo under the cover of her shield. The violet energy around the blade cut into the otherwise non-corporeal entity.

The windigo howled as Sophia left marks on its flesh. The slash wounds glowed and appeared to crack along its body. With a snort, the windigo stopped its pursuit of Twilight and instead began to run around in circles, a blizzard quickly forming with the wind and ice. Twilight halted her charge and stood back, waiting to see what the windigo would do, while she cast simple spells to summon orbs of violet energy.

A low noise rumbled from the whirlwind of snow and ice, the sound of a malicious laugh from the twister. In the eye of the storm, the windigo continued to laugh as it resumed its charge, the hurricane carried along by its demonic magics. Large, sharp icicles spun in a flurry of blades, and Twilight felt her confidence drain at the sight of the storm.

With force of her will, the orbs of energy flew towards the windigo and slammed into the blades of ice. The demon paid no heed to the shards and continued its gallop as a cruel smile formed on its lips. It had caught its quarry, and Twilight had few options save one.

With a stomp of her hoof and full exertion of her magic, Twilight urged the cloud to widen the gap between her and the windigo. Her mind raced for some means to combat her foe, but as the windigo grew gradually closer, her thoughts shifted from “combat” to “survival”. She could feel the winds lash against her body, and it took all her willpower just to keep her sword afloat. The blade deflected sharp icicles as the windigo drew closer.

Twilight grimaced as her cloud platform was caught in the windigo’s icestorm. She had only just raised a shield in time to protect herself. Every blow against her barrier racked her bones with pain. A sudden drop in temperature made her shiver when she looked up into the eyes of the windigo. She now appraised the true size of the demon and found herself face to face with an equine of massive proportions, compared to her or any other. Its long snout snorted streams of cold wind, while its large, radiant eyes leered at her.

The monster cackled in triumph, lifted its hooves, and smashed them against Twilight’s shield; its immense strength took Twilight by surprise. She lifted her sword to attack in an all or nothing strike. Sophia hummed to life with a purple glow as it sliced through one of the windigo’s forelegs, and the demon gave a great shout of pain as the portion below its knee came clean off.

The windigo did not take kindly to being hobbled and thrashed on its last legs before a powerful kick bashed Twilight’s chest. The strike was one of the stiffest Twilight had ever felt. The wind rushed out of her as she was knocked off her cloud platform.

No! Twilight struggled in disbelief as she plummeted helplessly towards the ground. Not like this!

Out of the cloud temple came a brown speck that hurtled towards Twilight. She squinted for a moment before her eyes widened. Quick Kill flew towards her at full speed despite his wounds from the mantiskarn, and soon she found herself caught in his talons as gently as he could, almost cradled in his forelimbs compared to the last time she was lifted away by a hippogryph.

“Perhaps...” Quick Kill said through great effort. “Perhaps we give peace a chance after all. If you ponies could stand with us even though we were your enemies, perhaps there is something to learn from you after all. Perhaps.”

“First things first,” Twilight replied, “those windigos won’t give us that opportunity. We have to send them back to the Fade!”

“Your friends already slew one. Get your sword. We will only have one chance for this!”

Twilight climbed onto Quick Kill’s back and wrapped her hooves around his neck while Sophia floated to her side. With a determined look, both hippogryph and Grey Warden flew with incredible speed towards the windigo. The demon watched in surprise and began to channel its dark magic in creating another hurricane of sleet. Twilight winced as she felt the winds whip across her face but kept her focus on the windigo.

“Get ready to jump when we are near!” Quick Kill shouted through the torrential air around them. “I will distract it! Use your magic to finish it off, and then I will catch you!”

If somepony had told her that plan an hour ago, she would have called them completely stark raving mad. She was on the back of a hippogryph who just yesterday had tried to kill her and her friends and now asked for trust. At worst, she would miss and give the windigo the opportunity to counter attack or simply fall to her doom.

“All right,” Twilight said, “Let’s do this.”

Without a moment of hesitation, Twilight pulsed with the magical knowledge of the Arcane Warriors, her body fueled by her inner magic as she leapt off the back of Quick Kill. Her sword held tight in her magic, Twilight felt the winds of the windigo’s storm lash across her armour and exposed fur without a twitch. If Twilight had ever needed total concentration, it was now.

The windigo whinnied as it opened its mouth to unleash another deadly cone of cold. Twilight reacted with speed as her horn exploded with light, a violet flare blinding the windigo and sending its head upward in pain. The neck was completely exposed.

With a downward slash in the air, she watched as Sophia cut cleanly straight through, leaving a cauterized mark where the blade severed the head. The windigo went silent as its head was separated from its shoulders. The remains dissipated into the ether.

Once again, Twilight found herself in freefall, only to be scooped up in the talons of Quick Kill. Once she was safely on his back again, Twilight felt the faintest amount of satisfaction in her chest as she watched the final windigo challenge Notus. Together, they could hold off the great eagle without many worries. Now that there was only one, the Thunder Roc could tear apart the windigo at his pleasure.

With a cry of thunder, Notus opened his beak wide, a bolt of lightning arced from his gullet towards the windigo, and the creature was fully engulfed in electricity. The demon roared in agony as it fell from the skies as smoke trailed from its ruined body. With a flap of massive wings, Notus soared towards the windigo, its body turned so talons would strike.

Twilight winced as she saw the talons of Notus sink into the body of the windigo, as she remembered all too well when she was caught in a similar grip. With a screech, Notus began to pull his talons away from each other as the windigo struggled to be free from the clutch. The fight was in vain as the Thunder Roc continued to pull the windigo in two, the last cries of the demon evaporating into the air just as easily as the body did.

The battle was over and the enemy was banished back into the Fade. Still, Rainbow and Boreas were unaccounted for, and they had paid for their attempt at peace dearly. Twilight could already feel tears welling in her eyes at Pinkie’s memory when she heard an explosion detonate high above her. Both Twilight and Quick Kill looked up to see a cascade of colour flood towards them.

Rainbow clenched her teeth as she and Boreas fell through the cloud wall of the temple into the corridors and lifted a hoof for a punch. She cursed as Boreas tilted his head to the side and her hoof collided with the cloud. He slammed his hind hooves into her chest in retaliation. Rainbow skidded onto the corridor floor, and her body crashed into the enchanted alabaster stone.

She needed to widen the gap between her and Boreas, get him into open air where she could fight effectively, and make sure he did not go back to help his windigo monstrosities against her friends. Rainbow had already lost Pinkie to the murderer; he would not be killing any more. Not as long as she drew breath.

Rainbow sunk her hooves into the clouds under a segment of stone, and she felt the tingle of the innate pegasi power of cloudcrafting as she split the clouds apart. She opened a hole within the clouds that allowed her to see the ground below the temple. Boreas charged, sword in his mouth and the crackle of magic on his false horn. The leader of the Dalish clan was powerful and had more options, Dash realized.

With a smirk, Rainbow dove into the hole she made, narrowly dodging Boreas’ sword as she hid beneath the stone work. She twisted her body around in the clouds, though this proved to be a challenge. The clouds were thicker than Rainbow was used to, but she was able to pop out again and grab Boreas around the neck, then pull him down the hole with her. Dagger in her mouth, Rainbow moved to finish this with a quick stab to his neck. It was too merciful for what Boreas had done, and Rainbow wanted little more than to make him suffer for the pain he had inflicted on Pinkie.

Her distracted mind gave Boreas an opportunity. His horn glowed with pale light, and the air around the two pegasi chilled with haste. Rainbow felt the sting of sudden cold against her wings and forced herself to kick Boreas away. They were now under the temple, the sunset’s glare in the distance. Rainbow pressed the advantage while Boreas shielded his eyes from the light.

Celestia’s finally with me, if literally. Rainbow narrowed her eyes before she pumped her wings against the air. She sped off toward Boreas with her dagger clenched tight in her mouth and aimed for one of his eyes. The taste of a leather hilt in her mouth was a familiar one, but never had she tasted it like this. Never had she wanted to use her blade with such intent as she did now. Not since the day her mother died.

Boreas growled, his false horn ablaze again as the wind picked up around her. The winds grew cold around Rainbow, and she slowed down considerably as Boreas readied his sword for a counterstrike. He propelled himself forward on his wings, aided by his arctic winds, and brought his sword straight for Rainbow’s chest.

Rainbow banked left as an emergency maneuver, only to just catch the edge of his blade as it tore into her armour and flesh. Blood flowed from her wounded leg as she curved her trajectory away from Boreas. She increased her altitude as quickly as possible, with her teeth grinding from the wound as she flew near the temple. She heard the crackle of magic behind her.

Boreas summoned another gust of wind that left Rainbow at another disadvantage. She needed to do something that would keep her momentum strong and steady in the wake of a created storm. Rainbow’s mind clicked as she turned to face Boreas. With a smirk, Rainbow pointed herself towards her enemy in a downward dive, her wings locked together to allow gravity to do the work.

Her timing had to be just right for this work. Her spins became faster and faster as she free-fell towards Boreas, and winced only slightly as she felt Boreas’ cold winds lash against her body. Despite the gale, her body kept spinning in perfect motion. Boreas’ eyes widened before Rainbow’s hooves collided with his chin.

With a cry, Boreas dropped his sword and spun out of the way. He cradled his bruised jaw while Rainbow regained control of the skies. Without a moment of hesitation, Rainbow sped through the sky towards the stunned Boreas. She sheathed her dagger and hurtled towards him. She wanted this moment for herself.

Rainbow dove towards Boreas and grappled with him in midair, beating her wings to lift both of them upwards. Boreas struggled against Rainbow’s grip, only to be met with a stiff hit from her right hoof. She continued to pummel Boreas as she made her ascent. For once, Rainbow focused on something else rather than flying: the punishment of Pinkie’s murderer.

“Pinkie’s gone because of you,” Rainbow growled, loud enough for Boreas to hear despite the turbulence of their ascension, yet low enough to let her ire known. “You blamed her for something some earth ponies did to you, just like you blamed the hippogryphs for the crimes of their ancestors!”

“Sins of the father must be punished!” Boreas yelled. “I hate them all, and my hatred has made me strong! The hippogryphs who slaughtered my children! The unicorns who destroyed our once noble and powerful kingdoms! The earth ponies that to this day subjugate and belittle our kind! You stand with them... now die with all of them!”

Boreas proved stronger than Rainbow expected, twisting Rainbow around in mid-flight and following up with a strong punch to her face. Rainbow shouted at the strike, feeling blood trickle down her snout. Though Boreas fought back, he was still caught in Rainbow’s clinch.

Both pegasi continued their ascension high above the clouds, with Rainbow responding to the punch with a head-butt to Boreas’ nose. Her headache lasted only for a moment as a smirk formed on her lips once she saw the once proud Dalish Keeper stunned by such a brutal yet efficient attack.

In any other context, Rainbow would have enjoyed herself immensely. She was above a world that gave her little but cruelty and sorrow, soaring higher and faster than most pegasi could ever dream. Yet as she looked to the stunned foe in her clutches, she reminded herself of everything she had gained since returning from Pura Raza. She had friends, true friends. They offered mercy she did not deserve. They offered compassion and understanding she did not expect. Most of all, they offered her the joys of friendship she had not felt in years.

Boreas’ irrational hate had taken one of those friends away from her. Pinkie Pie was the one who stood up for Rainbow, not because she was useful as an assassin, but out of true mercy. Rainbow owed everything to Pinkie, from her life to a new purpose. They were supposed to go to Geldwall together, two friends trying to find Pinkie’s lost family. All of that was gone too soon.

Rainbow was going to make Boreas pay.

High above the temple and the world at large, Rainbow ceased their collective ascent to take a look down below. The battle against the windigos was over. Twilight and Quick Kill somehow worked together to finish one off while Notus tore another in two. While she was unsure on the fate of the third, Rainbow had faith her friends had taken care of it. Now was the time to rub Boreas’ defeat in his face.

“I want you to take a good look at the sky, Boreas,” Rainbow said, her voice calm despite her anger. “One last look before we go down. Way down.”

Boreas mumbled some sort of spell or curse, his false horn crackling with energy in an attempt to cast a spell. Rainbow punched his snout again and broke his concentration as well as a few more bits of cartilage. With one last flap of her wings to turn their position, she was now pointed down to the ground. It was now or never. It was now time for Boreas to feel what rage really hurt like.

Holding Boreas close to her disgusted her, but it was necessary. Flapping her wings as hard as she could muster, Rainbow’s velocity increased with every moment. She could feel the wind ripping by her, her mane lashing back and forth in the turbulence. In a moment like this, she would have said this was her destiny. To fly higher and to fly faster than any pegasus ever.

Only one thought filled her mind. The only thing that mattered, no matter who it was for.

“For Pinkie Pie, you son of a bitch.”

She could feel herself at terminal velocity, a wind tunnel surrounding her and Boreas as they continued to hurtle downwards. Boreas’ eyes were wide as saucers as he looked around at the sky rushing past him. “What are you doing!?” His voice shook with fear, yet Rainbow paid him no heed. “Are you insane?! This is impossible! You’ll die as well!”

Rainbow ignored him, repeating her oath to make Boreas pay over and over until she felt it. To those on the outside, it sounded like an explosion. To Rainbow, it was a simple pop in her ears. Deep down, she felt liberated.

A wave of colour burst from Rainbow’s body, filling the sky with the chromatic spectrum as she sped away from the temple. Boreas felt the full impact of the explosion of sound and light as he was let go from Rainbow’s clutch and sent careening towards the cloud temple. Rainbow looked back in surprise, her body creating a stream of colour behind her as she flew at the fastest speeds she ever dreamed of achieving.

To an athlete like her, this would have been the greatest moment of her life to share with her friends. All of them.

Rainbow’s adrenaline rush wore thin, and her flight ceased before gravity take over. Before the situation dawned that she fell to her doom, Rainbow felt herself land on a warm cloud, speeding off in the direction of the sky temple. When she looked down, she found herself on the back of Notus, the Thunder Roc’s great wings stretching far to her sides as the pain of her injuries settled in.

“Thanks,” Rainbow croaked. A low rumble of thunder echoed from within the Thunder Roc in response. They flew downward together in silence while Rainbow saw Twilight and Quick Kill return to the temple. Notus did not return immediately, however. Instead, he dove towards the still-falling Boreas. With one outstretched talon, Notus caught Boreas in mid-air, and left a confused and bitter Rainbow wondering what the point of her duel was if Notus went out of his way to save his hated enemy.

They glided down towards the temple, Rainbow looking down to see Twilight arrive just before her. They all looked battered and chilled from the windy attacks of the demons, and as Rainbow jumped from the back of Notus onto the cloud temple, she crumbled to the ground on her damaged leg. Her wound was deeper than she thought, and walking made her legs sting.

Notus unceremoniously tossed the weakened Boreas to the floor, standing perched on the center dais. His eyes of lightning peered down on Boreas, the sound of distant thunder from the Thunder Roc’s throat a sign of his displeasure. Boreas crawled away from the eyes of Notus, his swollen eye and broken snout leaving him a bloody mess on the floor.

Rainbow turned away from Boreas and dragged herself to her friends. The adrenaline rush from battle had worn off for everypony, all of them now tired from the fight and from the loss of their friend. They all stood around the body of Pinkie being kept aloft by Rarity’s magic, her face appearing uncharacteristically serene in the white glow of magic. Rainbow fell to her knees and took Pinkie in her forelegs in a tight embrace. Unable to contain her grief, her tears opened like floodgates, her wracked sobs echoing in the temple.

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