• Published 16th Apr 2014
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Besides the Will of Evil - Jetfire2012

A shadow from the deep past returns to threaten Equestria, along with all the world. Can Twilight Sparkle and her friends be a light in the dark?

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Chapter 34

Twilight Sparkle rolled onto her back atop her bed. The ceiling of her room within the Deer Elders' fastness was beautiful. Everything here was beautiful- it was a sparkling, wondrous place, lined all over with graceful white stone and gleaming crystal, formed and shaped in swooping curves and wondrous lovely soaring vaulted heights. The fastness was somewhere inside the Archback Mountains- she hadn't really learned where, precisely, as she hadn't gone outside in the few days she'd been here. All she knew was that it was peaceful and quiet, that it brimmed with magic- and was filled with books! She'd stacked a pile of them on the table by her bed. She probably would not have time to read them all before the fight with Reiziger, but still she loved their titles and their looks. Practical Aeromancy, The Spells of Creation, Converging Harmonic Gifts With Charms- on and on, a master class in magic scholarship.

“So why does my heart hurt?” she asked herself, and it was a rhetorical question, nearly. She knew why she felt awful, why she felt that she was burning every step she took. I had to do it! There had been no other choice. She had to save the world, even if she no longer could save Equestria. It was, deep down, what Princess Celestia would want, if she could only think more clearly.

Still, Twilight reflected- as she sat up on her bed- that she had made a break that could be irreversible. If- when they defeated Reiziger, Equestria would no longer be habitable. Where would she go? What would she do? She was bound to the Elders now, and such a uniting seemed permanent.

“I'd better start brushing up on my Laewtil,” she told herself.

Just then there was a rapping on her door. “Twilight?” Fëanor's voice echoed through the wood. “Are you in there?”

“Yes, Lord Fëanor.”

“Good! I wanted you to join us in our council room. We must discuss our plan of attack against the Herd Lord.”

“All right!” she said, sliding off the bed. It was still so strange to be so tall, yet she was getting used to it. Opening the door, she saw Fëanor standing in the hall. She nodded. “Lead the way.”

On the went into the hall, then through it, out into the towering and gleaming chambers that were even now aglow with soft white light. A waterfall was thundering down a deep chasm that they crossed upon a stony bridge. Twilight wished to stop so many times, wanted to halt to observe her towering and glorious surroundings. Fëanor, however, did not slack his pace, so she continued, following him through the stony passages.

At last they reached two double doors. Fëanor's magic pried them apart, so Twilight saw a table around which Nona, Decima, Morta, Nordeshang, and Glorfindel had already gathered. “We are all here then,” Fëanor said. “So let us begin.”

The air was thick with magic. Twilight started filtering it in and out her horn, simply so that she could think straight. The spells and counterspells and countercounterspells were woven heavily, making clean perception difficult. Yet when Nordeshang spoke, his voice was clear as thunder: “So then, you mean to make your move, my lord?”

“I do,” said Fëanor. “The Herd Lord is settled in his fastness now. He is content. He is not expecting an attack. Now is the time to strike.”

“A pity we could not have recruited more from among the ponies,” said Glorfindel.

“A pity, further, that we could not find more deer about the world to rally to our banner,” Nona said. “What of the mule deer, the ones that lived in the Everfree Forest? Surely we could ask them.”

“We do not need common deer,” said Fëanor. “As harsh as it sounds, they lack the power for the fight we are about to commence.”

“Refusing help? Now? That is unwise,” said Nordeshang.

“Have you something to say, Lord Nordeshang?” said Fëanor.

“I have many things to say, Lord Fëanor. You know that. I have said them time and time again, yet you have chosen to ignore me.”

“Well I am not ignoring them now,” said Fëanor, his voice low and dangerous. “So why don't you get on with your lecture, old moose?”

“Take some wisdom from these tired old bones,” said Nordeshang, his voice remaining even. “You have alienated those who could help you with your bright line of devastation. Your talk of sacrificing Equestria did you no favors with Celestia and Luna.”

“I merely spoke the truth. I did what I felt was wise.”

“Celestia is wise as well, or have you forgotten? You still see her so much as your student, but she is now thousands of years old herself, and more than that, she is a goddess- she has a channel of her power and her thought that flows straight to the Wills That Draw The World. You will not even consider the possibility that she knows things that you may not.”

“I cannot see inside Celestia's mind, that is true. I can only look at the results of her gambit, and they are gruesome. She has failed completely.”

“Until all ponies are dead, and all Equestria is bathed in shadow, she has not failed to the fullest extent.”

“Father Nordeshang,” said Decima, “you don't seriously think Princess Celestia is right about the Elements of Harmony, do you?”

“Is anyone at all right about the Elements?” asked Nordeshang. “The Elements are beyond us. The Elements are beyond all creatures. They ripple out directly from the Wills. Their power is like nothing in reality.” He swiveled now to, “Twilight Sparkle, surely you can attest to this, you who have felt the power of the Elements of Harmony firsthand?”

Twilight flinched backward as everydeer stared at her. “I...” she started, stammered, “I...” she glanced down toward the ground, “I suppose... it's so hard to describe what it feels like- the Elements, I mean. It's like...” she raised a hoof and waved it round, “like suddenly you're so much smaller than you thought you were, and at the same time, you're so much bigger, too. Like all of a sudden everything fits together perfectly.”

“But you cannot access them without your friends, can you?” asked Morta.


“So there we have it,” Fëanor said. “The Herd Lord has taken for himself two of the Elements, so using them is out of the question. We must beat him as we did before, with magic and with battle.”

“But we are not as we were before, Fëanor, can't you see that?” Nordeshang said.

“We have power as we did of old. Indeed, I should say the Deer Elders are stronger than ever.”

“Come to your senses, Fëanor!” snapped Nordeshang. “When you and I rode against the Herd Lord, after Gil-Galad fell, we, the most powerful of all the deerfolk, numbered thirty. Now we number six- seven, if Princess Twilight Sparkle proves as strong as you hope. And even when we were at our mightiest, we never defeated him, we merely sealed him away. Now you think you can annihilate him in open combat with so few bulls and cows? You are overestimating this force, Fëanor. Don't be a fool!”

“We held back before,” said Fëanor. “We held back, we were frightened, we still hoped that brightness would prevail at the last second. We know better now. Moreover, each deer here, individually, is more powerful than the thirty that were with us for the Last Fight. What we lack in numbers we make up for in ability and strength. We are capable of blasting the Herd Lord off this Earth.”

“Even if it means the destruction of Equestria? The destruction of multiple nations and folk, all over the world?”

“If it is necessary!”

“Gil-Galad would not have so callously consented to sacrificing species.”

“Gil-Galad did not face such circumstances as I face,” snarled Fëanor. “I must do what I can with what I am given.”

“Gil-Galad also never gave up hope of a better solution. He fought as a last resort. He-”

“I am not my brother!” roared Fëanor, lunging forward. Nordeshang, in shock, drew back.

However, he composed himself in short order. “No,” he said, “you are not. You are your own bull, for good or ill, and you must do what you feel is right. I, however, cannot consent to your decisions. My killing days are done, Fëanor. If you choose to crack the land, to boil the seas, to destroy everything simply so that the Herd Lord may be vanquished... you will do it without me.” He backed up, and suddenly it seemed as though a wall of tallest, hardest stone had come down in between him and the other deer. He glanced at all them, blue eyes fierce and firm and bright. “I wash my hooves of this business. All I shall say, before I go, is this: be careful, my beloved deer. Be careful.” Then he took a step- and vanished.

Fëanor sighed. “So then,” he began, “shall we discuss our plans?” The others remained silent. Fëanor arched an eyebrow. “What?”

“We... have never been without Nordeshang before,” said Nona, voice unsteady.

“We do not need him,” said Fëanor. “Twilight Sparkle is more than strong enough to stand in his stead- aren't you, Twilight?”

Twilight's throat grew dry. She swallowed, she breathed in and out so totally bereft and lonely that she had no thought or hope of what she might do if she wished to do a thing beside what she could hope for now- “Yes,” she said, throat still dry and parched. “Yes, I'll do whatever I have to!”

“Excellent,” said Fëanor. “Now, regarding our plan...”

Luna stood atop the highest reaches of the palace of the Crystal Empire, dusk finally falling on the land. She breathed in, smelled the creeping night and growing darkness dank and soft. She could smell the frigid air that came out of the northern wastes around the Empire. She smelled the faint traces of salt that came out of the distant sea. With a furrow of her brow, she swung back toward the south and could smell... nothing. The wall of shadow, blacker than the deepest depths of midnight, cut off not just sight but scent from all beyond it, leaving nothing to her senses.

Luna sighed, heart aching from sadness. But she had a job to do, the job that she'd been begotten to do. Her horn glowed silver, and silver light began to shimmer on her whole dark body. She raised up, flapping hard her wings, pulling, touching, gently guiding- until, with swelling silver radiance, the Moon rose over the horizon, soft and gentle. It was full tonight, or nearly so. Luna smiled up at it, and nodded. “A good evening to thee, kind sir,” she said. “I wish thou shonest upon a happier land.”

The Moon, of course, was silent. Its silver beams were bathing all the Empire, catching on the crystal surfaces and lighting them as though a pale soft fire burned in every wall and tower. Luna smiled. Then she sighed, her heart so heavy. She glanced down o'er the castle, seeing all the guards changing their stations as they marched, seeing-

“Tia?” There was her sister, standing on the tallest balcony out from the castle's tallest reach. Flapping wings of midnight blue, Luna fluttered down until she landed gently just behind Celestia. “Tia, whatever brings thee out here? It has been a long day.”

Celestia did not immediately answer. She sat upon her haunches, gazing up into the sky. In the moonlight her coat was particularly white and ghostly. Luna was about to speak again when Celestia finally said, “Lulu, you never quite explained to me how you became Nightmare Moon.”

Luna blanched. “I...” she shook her head, “I do not quite understand it, myself. It involved the Nightmare, a thing I encountered in my wanderings upon the Moon. I would often go to the Moon to brood and seethe in those later years, consumed with jealousy as I was. There I found the Nightmare- or I created it in my hate, I am not sure. It may have been there waiting for me. I think there may be more of them upon the Moon- or there may not be. Again, I cannot be certain. So much of those late, dark years is hazy to me.”

“Do you think you could conjure that power again- or draw that power to you, again?”

Luna's eyes bulged. “Perhaps... but why?”

“And if you could do it to yourself again, why not to me as well?” Celestia had still not turned around.

“Tia?” Luna said, with growing fear.

“You yourself estimated that, as Nightmare Moon, you were as powerful as Reiziger, or close. If you and I were both infected by Nightmares, surely the two of us could destroy him.”

“Likely we could,” said Luna, voice unsteady, “but then Equestria would trade one tyrant for two.”

“Surely we would not be as bad as he. Moreover, with our power we could repair Equestria, rebirth it. It would be a land of shadow... a land of dark moons and a black sun. But it would be a land, still... not a smoking crater.” At last, Celestia turned round. Tears were streaming from her eyes. “What say you, then, Luna? A Nightmare for each of us. Can you do it?”

“I... no! No, I shan't! Tia, thou art speaking madness!”

“I don't know what else to do, though!” Celestia exclaimed. “I... my faith is failing, Luna. It's nearly failed completely. Maybe Fëanor is right. Maybe I am a fool.”

Luna trotted up beside her. She sat down next to her, and then her dark wing stretched out, wrapping round Celestia's large sides. “Celestia, my sister dear,” Luna reached a hoof up, took Celestia's chin in it, and made those pink eyes look down into Luna's seafoam stare, “what dost thou feel? Is hope truly lost?”

“I...” Celestia stared down at Luna, “I...” She took a breath. “No,” she said at last. “I... I don't know how, I don't know why, but I have not given up hope. I cannot. Something in the back of my mind... in the depths of my heart... tells me that I cannot give up on the Elements of Harmony. I feel, in a way I cannot describe, that they will prevail in the end.”

Luna smiled. “Then I shall keep hope. I shall not give up.”

Celestia smiled, shook her head. “Neither will I.”

“Tia, I too have faith. Thou art not the only pony who believes in ways she cannot explain. I do not doubt, I do not fear.”

“I don't either. I mean, my head keeps telling me that everything has failed, but... my heart says differently.”

“Let us stay strong, then.”

Celestia nodded. “Yes. Let's be the princesses our ponies need us to be.” She reached out then, and wrapped her sister in a hug. “Thank you for not abandoning me when Fëanor tempted you.”

“I could never abandon thee, Tia. Thou art my family. I shall stay beside thee unto the ending of the world.”

Celestia nuzzled Luna gently. “You're the best, Lulu.”

Trixie shivered and fidgeted in her dirty corner of the throne room. She had grown gaunt and thin. Her coat had turned a stony gray, her eyes were bloody red, her mane and tail were nearly white with paleness. She gnashed her sharpened teeth, gnawing on the magic in the air. This place- this castle of her Master's- was new. He had forged it from pure shadow no more than a week ago, grafting it onto the mountainside where Canterlot had been. She was so happy to be here. It was not as cramped and damp as it had been inside the changeling hive, and she could better feel the magic of her Master. How she loved his presence! And yet, how she hated it! His power burned her skin, made her writhe. Always always in her mind he was and she said it was for the best but still she hated it and then she blinked and wrinkled up her nose a smile split her face he was coming he was coming-

And like that, Reiziger emerged, great doors swinging open at his entry. The mythicorn and thestral were beside him, walking close in stead. Continue to scour the hills for more survivors, he thought at them, thoughts also booming into Trixie's mind. He was always in her mind now, he was she and she was he and she was we. I know by now that most ponies have fled north to the Crystal Empire, but likely there are some dozens still scrounging through the nooks and crannies of the country. Find them and bring them to me.

“M-Master!” cried Trixie, scampering toward him. “Oh, Master, we missed you! We must-st be with you, Master!”

Ah, hello, Trixie, he smiled down at her. Trixie smiled back stupidly. How she loved his smile! How she loved that mouth of razor teeth that was her everything! He stretched out a hoof. Come now, my dear.

“M-Master, we loves you!” Trixie lunged forward and began to kiss the hoof, slobbering all over it. “We l-loves you so much, Master! Y-You are our everything!”

That's my girl, he smiled again, she squealed in glee. His antlers shimmered crimson, and a long leg bone appeared beside him in the air. Here you go, dear. Enjoy. His magic flung the bone into the corner. Trixie scampered to it; she skittered to a stop beside it, caught it up within her hooves, and started gnawing on it, sharp teeth stripping off the little muscle still upon the leg. Reiziger chuckled. That is all for now, he thought, turning to the thestral and the mythicorn. Go to your business. They bowed, and trotted from the room. The throne room doors slammed shut. Reiziger mounted the steps to his black throne, settling upon it. Now he could-

“Hello, hello, hello! Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo, I think that's how you say it.”

Starting up, Reiziger whirled around, antlers wrapped in crimson flames. He relaxed a bit, however, when he saw the source of the disturbance. “Ah, hello, Chaos Lord.”

“Hello, Annatar,” said Discord, floating down before the throne, “or should I call you Prince Elbert of the Caribou?”

Reiziger growled like a beast. “That name no longer has any meaning for me.”

“Well that's strange. You recognize it, after all.”

“Only as a snake recognizes its old skin. I am beyond it now- the Deer Elders made certain of that by stripping it from the world.”

“Oh, yes, that little detail is important, I suppose.” Discord spun around. “I love what you've done with the place, by the way. Black and spiky is très chic this season.”

Reiziger's empty red eyes rolled in their sockets. “What do you want, Chaos Lord?”

“Just wanted to take a tour of the place, and to see a dark lord at the height of his power. You don't always get a glimpse at these evil empires before they fall.”

“Ha! The world will fall, true, but only because I shall drain it of all life.”

“Hmm-hmm, yes, of course,” said Discord, leaning up against a wall and looking at his claws.

“M-Master, M-Master is greatest, M-Master is best,” stammered Trixie, crawling on the floor beside him.

“Huh?” said Discord, glancing down at her. “Hmm,” he hummed, and reached behind his back. He seemed to be rummaging through something, which was very odd because there was not a bag or sack or pack in sight. At last he pulled his paw back, revealing a pair of fluffy earmuffs. “I wonder,” and he slipped the earmuffs over Trixie's head.

Trixie blinked, her eyes becoming clearer. “Wait, what?” she said. She glanced down at herself, horror growing on her face. “What am I-” Discord yanked the earmuffs off, and Trixie's eyes grew red and hazy yet again. “M-Master!” she panted. “W-We loves Master!” She started writhing, rolling in the dust.

“Huh,” said Discord, stroking his goat's beard. “When you get in somepony's head, Annatar, you really make a home for yourself in there.”

“I am the focus and the end of all things,” said Reiziger. “All things will reflect me, and then they will perish.”

“I'm sure they will.”

Reiziger's eyes narrowed. “Do you doubt me, Chaos Lord?”

“Well, don't take it from me,” said Discord. He started roller-blading round the throne room. “Take it from Sombra, and Nightmare Moon, and Chrysalis, and the Sirens, and Tirek sooner or later, and- well, actually, you can take it from me. I've been on the business end of those six ponies too, after all.”

“The Elements of Harmony are finished. They are no longer a concern.”

“Keep telling yourself that.”

Reiziger teleported right in front of Discord, eyes burning, antlers burning with red magic and red fire. “I am Death ascendant, you ugly, gangly practical joker! I shall not be disrespected, not in the palace I built on the corpse of my enemy's greatest city!” Reiziger channeled yet more power. The crimson fire on his antlers blazed and rose. “I am the Lord of All the Herds, first and last and greatest of the deerfolk! No buffoon of a draconequus will-” Discord took a deep breath suddenly and blew-

And the fire on Reiziger's antlers was blown out. Discord loomed above him. “Don't sass me, Elbert. It will only end in tears.”

Reiziger sighed and turned away. “Fine. But if you were going to attack me, you would have done it by now.”

“True enough. In fact, I'm not going to attack you, and I'm not going to help the ponies- but I'm not going to help you, either. I want to sit back and see how all this ends, so this is the last you'll be hearing from me- on one condition.”

“I'm listening.”

“There's a pony- a pegasus, soft yellow, long and wispy pink mane and tail.”

“Fluttershy,” said Reiziger. “I know her- bearer of the Element of Kindness.”

“She's a good friend of mine, and I was hoping I could take her away from all this if Equestria falls for good.”

When Equestria falls, you mean.”

“No, I said 'if.' If Equestria falls, I'd prefer if you not do anything to her.”

“Fine,” said Reiziger. “As I said, I have nothing more to fear from the Elements of Harmony. Take her when she is crying over the death of her friends and her folk. Take her wherever you wish. In time, no place in the universe will be safe. No creature in all existence will be able to withstand me in the end- not even you, Chaos Lord.”

“I'm glad you think so.”

“Ha! So we are in accord, then?”

“For the moment,” said Discord, stretching out his paw. “Shake?”

Reiziger stretched out his hoof, and the two of them shook as best they could. “You know, if you'll stay, I could show you around.”

“Oh, I'd love that!” said Discord. “Give me the grand tour!”

“Heh.” Reiziger trotted through a short hall to a great balcony that looked down onto deep, dark pits. “We'll start here, where you can get a good glimpse of my Foundries. Even as we speak, my dark power is crafting new nightmares that will topple Equestria once and for all- then the whole world after that.”

Discord floated down onto the balcony and looked below. Burst of light were rising; grunts and rumbles filled the air. “Ooo,” he said, “shadow and flame! Very nice.”

“I think so,” said Reiziger. “Now, if you'll follow me this way...”

Author's Note:

Every dark lord needs their dark throne.

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