• Published 1st Feb 2014
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One of these Days - Wrabbit



Far in Equestria's past, an old threat once more rears it's head, seeking revenge on the princess who thwarted it; a princess that is no more, her life claimed in the effort to destroy it. But this time is different. This time.. it can&

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Chapter 16: On the Dark Side

ONE OF THESE DAYS


Chapter 16: On the Dark Side


~21 Aevum Illuminationis~

The cool, crisp winter air turned stiflingly hot so fast that Twilight would have wondered if it was instantaneous, had she not known that it was a clear indicator that she had just entered Draconia. That wasn't the only indicator of course, the jagged teeth of the mountains, the perpetual ash cloud that hovered over the land, and the bleak landscape below were good signs all on their own, but it was always the sudden change in temperature that most demarcated the border for the alicorn.

She lazily winged over the barren land, seemingly without purpose, but that was purely for the benefit of the dragons no doubt watching her. She landed several times and pawed at the ground with a hoof in a desultory manner before taking off once more. She grinned internally knowing that her behavior was confusing the little wyrms Nightmare had turned to her cause with promises of power and wealth. It took several hours before her actions caused the desired outcome, and she saw her manxome foe flying her way.

Twilight paused her flapping, letting the thermals do the work for her and soared, letting the enormous dragon catch up to her. Rather than attacking outright, Nightmare kept station at the alicorn's wing, and they silently flew together in instinctually perfect formation. When one banked, the other followed; when one gained altitude, the other did so as well. They remained silent for the whole flight, only speaking when they finally landed.

“This shalt be our final tilt, Nightmare. Thy crimes art too great a sin for this world to bear any longer,” Twilight said grimly.

Nightmare seemed amused at this at first until she saw the look in her eyes. “How now, O, princess? Thy prior attack wert deflected with ease afore. How wilt thou move the mountain this time?”

Twilight started a slow walk around the larger dragon which continuously moved in a circle to keep the bulk of her natural weaponry within easy striking distance of her small foe. “Last we met, I wert o'ercome by rage; beyond my senses. My blood yet boils with the need for justice, indeed, I am eager to whet my appetite for it; yet I shalt not fall prey to thy bait once more. If vengeance is a dish best serv'd cold, then justice must surely be chilled by a clear mind.” She stopped walking, then started walking the other way, still circling around the great serpent.

“A pity,” Nightmare replied. “I was so looking forward to grappling with thee once more. None hath fought with me so since I laid Bahamut to rest.”

Twilight came to a stop and studied her face. “Thou dost not prevaricate. We hath suspected thee of as much, but thou buried the leads well. All the more reason to see thee fall, then.” Her horn glowed, and the peytral normally hidden by magics appeared and unhooked itself from her neck. With a flash, it disappeared again, this time by teleportation, and the alicorn stood, revealing all her glory to a disinterested audience. Had the smaller watching dragons been closer, they might have been able to appreciate the transformation, but as it was, only Nightmare was close enough, and she affected a grand yawn.

“Ready, at last to join my past foes, princess, or dost thou need time?” Nightmare asked, stooping into a crouch with her wings half spread.

Looking left, then right, the alicorn nodded. “Aye.” She darted forward, tearing through the dragon's wing membrane, but was struck by her serpentine tail as she passed it. Twilight continued on for a fair bit before coming to a rough landing. With a shake of her wings, she shed the blood on them, both hers and Nightmare's onto the ground and took off like a rocket again, this time going through the other wing, but not without taking a hit on her flank by a lightning quick claw for her effort. Again, she flew on before landing again, and shaking off their blood from her coat.

This scene repeated itself four more times, each time with Twilight striking another part of Nightmare, but not without suffering a hit herself, and after each pass, she flew on and landed before shedding the blood she had accumulated. After the last pass, instead of attempting the same tactic, she calmly flew over to Nightmare, her inky blood dripping to the ground, mixing with Nightmare's own life essence. She landed a dozen hooves away in front of the dragoness, her burning glare never leaving the scaly form.

Nightmare was curious about the mare's behavior, but the calm was what really unsettled her most. “What is thy game, princess? Death by a thousand cuts? We shalt be at this all week if such ist the case.”

The glowing, purple fire in Twilight's eyes intensified, flaring up even higher than her mane. “Prepare thyself, monster! Thy reckoning ist at hoof!” The alicorn flew up into the air, though her wings remained still. A cyclonic wind blew around the pair of them, enveloping them a wall of sand and debris. Six columns of light appeared where Twilight had touched down after each attack pass, each in a different color. The beams of light bent with the wind, twining around one another, forming a rainbow pillar around the combatants.

Twilight's body began to disintegrate, starting with her hind hooves floating off the ground. Her body transcended into motes of light that joined the pillar as it sublimated into pure magical energy. Nightmare's fear was readily apparent now, and she screamed at the alicorn, “What hast thou wrought?”

Twilight smiled at her, even as her body disincorporated. “Thy doom, Nightmare.”

Suddenly more afraid than she been since she was a hatchling, Nightmare flew up, attempting to fly out of the pillar of rainbow light. The pillar tightened however, and her wingtips brushed against the sides, burning her, and causing an inky black smoke to rise from the wounds. With a hiss of pain, she drew her vast wings in closer so they would not strike the light again, but that meant that she no longer had the power to lift herself any higher. Indeed, she was barely able to maintain station as the walls of the pillar inexorably closed in on her. Looking down, she saw Twilight still hovering near the ground and slowly being consumed by her spell, but looking up at her, not with hate, but sadness. In a fit of rage, Nightmare inverted her position and aimed herself straight at the alicorn, hoping to strike back one last time before being consumed by the trap.

Twilight's form continued it's sublimation, now merely a head and neck. She looked into Nightmare's eyes, noting the abject fear in them, and felt moved to sadness. “Know that I take no pleasure in this, Nightmare, but thou art a threat to the innocents of this world, and that is unacceptable.”

Nightmare roared in defiance passing through the space where the alicorn stood an instant after she disappeared fully. Unable to pull out of her dive, she slammed into the ground with a sickening THUD and CRUNCH. The dragoness looked around for her foe, but she was already gone. What had remained, was the pillar of light which continued its inward spiral, engulfing the helpless wyrm. It was said that her scream of rage and pain was heard as far away as Equus, where a weeping Celestia and Luna clung to each other.

(\ /)
( . .)
*(“)(“)
~2015 Aevum Illuminationis~

Scandia alighted on a boulder near Plubia and Polly with a sigh. “Anything?” Plubia asked.

Shaking his head sadly, Scandia replied, “Nothing. They either took to the wing, or they're exceptionally good at covering their tracks.”

“Considering that only two of them can fly, I sincerely doubt that the air was an option,” Polly said as she absently scratched at the sides of a cactus with a talon then sucked on it before returning it to the task.

“And even if one of them can teleport, I sincerely doubt they could carry all of them very far,” Plubia added.

Scandia rolled his eyes. “We don't even know how many there were!”

“Ssseven, to be precccissse, unlesss they picked up or lossst sssome, yesss.”

The two younger griffons turned towards the voice, bristling, but Plubia remained calm. “Finally decided to show yourself? Why don't you come out from hiding?”

From behind a rocky outcropping, Brimfrost calmly walked, grinning maliciously at them. “Oh, but sssuch ssscary facccesss you all have! It'sss enough to make a defenssslesss dragon to want to flee! And here I wasss, coming to offer asssissstanccce, yesss.” Her badly scarred face and body was a fright to behold; not an inch of her was not covered in scar tissue, and her horns were broken close to her head.

“I sincerely doubt you were here to do anything of the sort,” Plubia said.

“Light! What happened to you?” Polly exclaimed.

Turning as if to show off a new trinket, Brimfrost exhibited her scars to the griffons. “You like? It's just a simple reminder to all what happens to those who fail Nightmare. A sort of 'walking declaration' she called it, yesss.” She walked over to the smallest griffon and held her beak with a talon. “I'll make sure that any who pursues them will end up just. Like. Me.” She punctuated the last three words with a tap on each of their beaks. She walked away saying, “It's nothing personal, you understand.” Stopping, she turned back and grinned at them again. “Oh, who am I kidding? It's very personal.” With that, she flew off into the badlands that bordered the minotaur lands with the dragon lands.

Polly rubbed her beak gently. “Do you think she's right? That we'll end up like her?”

“Not if we get that stone first,” Plubia replied, taking to the air herself.

(\ /)
( . .)
*(“)(“)

“I don't like this. We're too exposed out here,” Paladin remarked to no one in particular as she trudged along. Although wide open plains were the pony's natural habitat, she had good reason to be concerned. First of all, ponies didn't usually have to worry about predators from the skies in this day and age, but the war had changed that, possibly for good. Secondly, and most importantly, this was no ordinary plain through which they walked; instead, it was the badlands desert deep in dragon territory, the one race of creatures they wanted to tangle with least of all.

“Well, you'll have to grin and bear it,” Silver Script said. “We've a long way to go until we get to Nightmare's lair, and the other Elements.”

“I think she's finally warming up to you,” Awesomeshine whispered to Paladin.

Paladin glanced back at the earth pony in question who was trudging along with the same neutral expression on her face, then shot her an incredulous look. “How can you tell?” she asked.

Awesomeshine waved her off like it was a joke. “Silly. Anypony with eyes and ears can tell that,” she said, then slowed down until she was even again with her best friend.

With a confused shake of her head, Paladin dismissed the whole conversation from her mind. With greater concerns weighing on her mind than whether or not a pony she was unlikely to ever see again once this was all over liked her or not, she ruminated on just how they were going to get the Elements back from Nightmare and get them to Celestia and/or Luna, wherever they might be.

It was a thought that had consumed her since the quest had begun. What's happened to the princesses? Surely we would have heard of them organizing a resistance force of some sort, if only to confront the younger dragons and their mercenaries so they might fight the elders and Nightmare. I'm afraid to admit it to the others, but that pillar of light I saw as I fled Equus just does not bode well for us.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Ricochet saying, “Take cover! Dragon!”

Ponies scattered as they sought cover in the open plain, and seeking to not bunch up, making an inviting target for her breath weapon. Brimfrost landed and hissed with laughter as she called out. “Come out, come out wherever you are. Jussst give me what I want and we can part waysss peacccably, yesss.”

Paladin poked her head out from cover just enough to keep her in sight. “Not happening, Brimfrost. We can't let you dragons run unchecked any longer, so we aim to stop you all.”

Raucous laughter exploded from the wyrm that she tried to contain. “Oh, you ponies never fail to make me laugh. You mussst sssurely be delusssional thinking that you of all creaturesss could ssstop usss, yesss. Your preccciousss princccesssesss have already fallen to the Nightmare, and ssshe will sssoon control all of the landsss.”

“What are you talking about, wyrm? The princesses could never fall to a mere dragon,” Paladin shouted. Though she managed to keep the quaver out of her voice, she knew that what Brimfrost said fit the evidence too closely to be just a bluff or baseless taunt.

“Thisss isss ssso rich, it mussst be fattening!” Brimfrost declared. “Your princccesssesss are being held by their conqueror, Nightmare! Their sssoulsss have been trapped within gemsss, you sssee. Ssshe sssometimesss wears them like jewelry; it isss quite amusssing.”

“You lie!” Ricochet shouted as she came out from her cover, firing her bow as rapidly as she could. A flurry of arrows flew at the dragon, who was too slow at dodging, but brought her wing up as a shield. The arrows tore through the thin membrane, and on into the thick, scarred hide, lodging themselves deeper than she had anticipated they would.

Brimfrost whirled around to breathe at her, but was struck in the throat by several bolts from Paladin's wands. She reflexively swallowed, the dangerous exhalation discharged harmlessly inside of her. With a wiggle of her hips, she swung her tail at Paladin. The unicorn darted out of the way, but the rock behind which she was hiding was smashed to bits.

Knightengale flew out from a bush, booming an ultrasonic scream at the top of her lungs, causing all within the area to go a little cross-eyed, but sending Brimfrost at whom the cone of sound was aimed reeling. The dragoness staggered, trying to find her balance, but fell on her back, crushing one wing beneath her her bulk. She continued rolling, trying to get away from the horrible sound, but Knightengale continued after her until the dragoness found a large stone and threw it at her. The blow was only a glancing shot, but it was enough to drive her off.

Brimfrost stood in time to see a boulder flying her way, easily large enough to cause her serious harm. With a wing dangling limply, she leapt out of the rock's path and saw another being loaded into some sort of ballista-like device being aimed by Kitten, and loaded by Awesomeshine and Silver Belle. Silver Script was somehow carving runes into the rock with her bare hoof as it was being loaded. Where did they get that? Not wanting to wait around to see what would happen, she leapt again, breathing a cone of frost at the approaching Paladin and Ricochet.

The ponies dived to either side, avoiding the worst of the cold, forced to neglect their attacks. Brimfrost had no time to enjoy her rout, as she was struck from behind in the head by Knightengale, whom had recovered enough to continue the fight. The aganippe had caused minimal damage from the pass, but had distracted her enough to forget about the ballista until a boulder the size of a fully grown pony struck her square in the chest, sending her flying backwards.

The dragoness skidded to a halt and coughed up blood. Paladin Ricochet, Knightengale, and Awesomeshine approached cautiously, but when no attack was forthcoming, Paladin looked to the others, who nodded, then walked forward. “We remember how you honored your deal with us when you had the upper hoof. We did not like tricking you like that since you had dealt honestly with us, so we're going to let you live and call it even. We don't want to hurt you anymore, especially since you've obviously suffered because of our dishonesty with you. I doubt the fight would have gone so well for us, had your mistress not wounded you so. We hope that if we cannot be friends, then we might at least not be enemies.”

The ponies walked away, but Awesomeshine paused and looked back mournfully. She ran back and pulled a small bottle from her saddlebag and left it next to Brimfrost's snout. “It's a healing potion,” she whispered. “One of my strongest. It'll help you mend faster.” She then turned around and ran to catch up with the rest of the group.

(\ /)
( . .)
*(“)(“)

Brimfrost smacked her lips, still tasting the sweet liqueur-like potion she had swallowed earlier, bottle and all. She had been contemplating what to make of the ponies as her body mended. Already, her wing had snapped back into place and was mobile again, if not at its peak, but it soon will be. She laid on her belly staring off into the horizon and replayed the confrontation in her mind for what must have been the seventh time. What struck her hardest were the looks of sadness and regret in Paladin's eyes as she apologized, as well as the compassion in Awesomeshine's as she gave her the potion. The dragoness had not often had the need to sample such brews in the past, even she could tell from her limited experience that this particular concoction was of superior quality.

Why would they go so far for an enemy? Surely, it can't be for the simple reasons they gave. No creature could be that stupid... As she contemplated the encounter, her sharp eyes spotted three forms in the sky flying more or less in her direction. Not wanting to confront anyone right now, she closed her eyes and hoped they would go away, but when she opened them again, she saw they were now close enough to make out, and cursed under her breath.

The three griffons landed near her, but only Plubia was brave enough to come within striking distance. Brimfrost remained as she had fallen, not moving a muscle as she approached. Plubia walked with the cocksure strut of one who knows she has her talon on the meat. “So, bit off more than you could chew, I see.”

“You'll never take them down. You're too weak, yesss,” Brimfrost replied, drawing out her “s” even more than usual.

“Please, you're a wreck. Don't judge us by your pathetic standards. Once we bring Nightmare her trinket, we'll be savoring your reward.” Plubia seemed to take unseemly pleasure in rubbing this in her face.

Brimfrost gave a weak chuckle that turned into a coughing fit. “Foolsss. The only thing bringing her what ssshe wantsss will give you will be a ssswift death, yesss. Do you honessstly think that ssshe wantsss to ssshare what thossse 'trinketsss' will give her; let alone with a lowly creature sssuch as yourselvesss? No, our missstresss will make sssure to put you out of her misssery before you become a thorn in her ssside.”

The dragon's words seemed to be having a strong effect on the other two griffons, who looked at each other with concern. Plubia however, would not be dissuaded. “Cute. However, we have been personally rewarded by her in the past, and seen her reward others who have brought her great prizes. This will simply be another such time.” She turned to walk away before lifting off.

“There hasss been no greater prizzze brought to her, and look how I wasss rewarded for my faithful ssserviccce. Chew on that while you hunt,” Brimfrost said as she closed her eyes.

Scandia and Polly kept glancing at each other as they flew off after their leader, careful to not give the dragon another look.

(\ /)
( . .)
*(“)(“)

The attack this time wasn't such a surprise. The ponies had been keeping an eye out on the skies more than on the horizon, which is how they were able to spot the griffons so soon. They even had time to run for better cover than they did from Brimfrost. Instead of trying to hide behind rocks or bushes, they instead ran for a rocky mesa with a split down the middle. While they had to go through the crack single file, they would at least be protected from aerial assaults.

“I'm not so sure that this is a good idea,” Kitten said, nervously looking at the walls of the narrow cleft.

“I have to agree with the half-pint,” Knightengale added. “All they have to do is block the entrance, and we're trapped until we die of thirst or starve, while they're free to come and go. It's why sieges almost never go well for the defenders. Tactically speaking, this is a bad idea.”

Ricochet ducked, narrowly avoiding hitting her head on an outcropping. “Aye. There's nae room to turn aboot, let alone fight. T'was a daft idea cooming in here.”

“Hey, it widens up ahead, everypony!” Awesomeshine said excitedly.

“Great. Ay least we won't be hugged to death by rocks,” Silver Belle muttered, hoping that Paladin didn't hear her despite the slight echo in the cleft.

The cleft did indeed widen out, and the ponies breathed a little easier knowing that they didn't have a rock face pressed up against either side of them. They walked out into the opening which turned out to be a cul-de-sac, and was large enough to fit a pony-sized house. Right away, the martially-minded among them began looking for cover that would allow them to see the entrance, but Silver Script looked up and said, “We have a problem.” Looking up with her, they noticed that the roof overhang wasn't quite as narrow as it was in other places, widening out enough that a dragon might comfortably drop in.

Distracted as they were by the hole in their defenses, they failed to notice Polly stealthily creeping down the rock face over the only exit where she had been hiding in the shadows. She dropped down and let out a screeching roar peculiar to her kind, totally surprising the ponies.

Ponies scattered for cover as the other two griffons in the hunting party dropped through the skylight. Ricochet and Paladin got off a few shots, and the rest threw rocks and Kitten tried to set up her ballista on her own.

Plubia swooped down on Ricochet and swiped at her twice, scoring a deep gash on the mare's foreleg, causing her to drop her bow. Quick to seize on the opportunity, the griffoness kicked at the weapon, sending it skittering across the ground towards Polly, who regarded the weapon with a healthy respect.

“Rico!” Knightengale cried, darting over to help her marefriend. Plubia smirked, and jumped, not at the oncoming threat, but placing the pony between herself and Paladin, who had just rapid-fired several bolts of force at her. Knightengale cried out again, this time in pain, and flew into Ricochet, where they fell to the ground in a heap.

Scandia landed heavily on the ballista Kitten had almost fully assembled, crushing the device beneath his bulk. Kitten fell backwards, throwing a hooful of dust at him as she rolled, blinding him. With a disgruntled cry of alarm, he lashed out blindly, hitting the tiny pegasus who bounced off the rock wall and fell, unmoving. Silver Script threw a tiny glass vial which landed at Scandia's feet and broke. A thick, noxious cloud of green gas poured out of the spill, and the griffon stepped back screaming, “My eyes!” He could get no more out as a severe coughing fit overtook him and he staggered away from the fumes.

Awesomeshine and Silver Belle were lobbing stones at Polly, but stopped as she flew at them in a sudden lunge that crossed the entire distance. She landed in front of them and buffeted them with her wings. The relatively delicate unicorns were confounded by the strange tactic, and were backed against the wall and were knocked down and Polly pinned them to the ground with her foretalons.

“No!” Silver Script cried out, and rushed over to help her friend, but was tackled by a still partially blinded and coughing Scandia. She too, bounced off the rock wall and fell to the ground moaning. To make sure she would cause no more trouble, the huge griffon sat on her, covering most of her body with his.

Paladin saw that ranged attacks weren't likely to get her anywhere, and leaped with a charge at the lead griffoness who suddenly decided to not be there when she arrived, and scurried along the ground at a speed that took the mare by surprise. Paladin landed hoof-first on the wall and pushed off, tackling the griffoness' leonine tail, sending them both sprawling. Plubia rolled on top of the mare and pinned her to the ground. “Now then,” she said with a smirk, “Let's talk magic artifacts, shall we?”

The box canyon suddenly became much darker, and all looked up to see Brimfrost diving down through the opening. She flew down and pulled up to throw herself bodily into Plubia, sending her careening into the rock wall herself. The dragoness landed next to the mare and said, “Get your poniesss out of here. I'll take care of thessse walking appetizzzersss.”

Not waiting to see if they took her advice or not, Brimfrost swiped her tail at Polly, sending her into Scandia, who merely grunted as the smaller griffon bounced off of his chest. She then went back after Plubia, not letting her gain breath to speak. The griffoness fought back viciously, and was joined by her two cohorts seeking to aid her. Every time she tried to say something, Brimfrost would time an attack she had been holding back to stop her from getting anything intelligible out. The four tore at each other with a hatred born of competitiveness turned horrifically ugly. Although Brimfrost had the advantage of size and weaponry over the griffons, she was badly outnumbered and still wounded not only from her encounter with the ponies earlier, but also from Nightmare's punishment.

Paladin looked at her friends, noting that all of them were wounded, and wouldn't likely last long, even with Brimfrost's aid, especially those without any formal combat training. Choking back her bile, she shouted, “Gather, ponies!” She was proud to note that they at least responded promptly, even those who had been so roughly knocked around by the larger griffons. With a flash of light and a loud pop of air rushing to fill the void, the ponies teleported away.

“No! After them!” Plubia shouted.

Before the griffons could lift off, Brimfrost took in a deep breath and breathed upwards, her eyes glowing an unnaturally bright blue. The griffons wisely stayed out of the path of that deadly cold, but were unable to leave. The cold air formed crystals of ice around the opening that quickly grew into a wall, sealing them off from their path of escape. It was almost a full minute before the dragon ceased her exhalation, and collapsed on the ground in a bloody heap.

With her foes standing over her, Brimfrost felt a spark of pride in thwarting their efforts, not matter how temporary. “They'll be long gone before you break through that iccce. I only regret that I won't be around to sssee you get your 'reward' from Nightmare,” she croaked out with a smile and a chuckle.

With a roar of frustration, Plubia swiped a claw across the dragon's face.

Author's Note:

We're in the home stretch! 2 more chappies to go! Woo! I kinda like know how many chapters I have left that planning out tells me, but I do miss the spontaneity of just winging it.

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