• Published 29th Jun 2014
  • 1,894 Views, 69 Comments

Samael's Prison - Craine



When he came, he promised mercy. When he left, he promised life. When he returned, he promised wisdom. Soon enough, Celestia learns the pros and cons of trusting a demon.

  • ...
8
 69
 1,894

Chapter Three

Twilight’s eyes snapped open, her first deep breath scratching her throat with dust. She ripped her face from the broken soil, coughing and gasping.

She ran a hoof over her throbbing forehead with gritted teeth and closed eyes, collecting herself. She opened her eyes and combed her surroundings, lifting off her prone hindlegs. She glanced behind her, noting the deep, thirty-foot groove leading to her.

A rueful smile pulled on her lips, knowing a fall like that would’ve killed her if she wasn’t an alicorn.

But when she recognized the area, nothing made sense anymore.

Ponyville.

With a gasp, Twilight threw her eyes skyward, and saw the magical force-field raised to protect her home. She was sure there wasn’t a gaping hole in it before she left to her… diplomacies. It was wide and jagged, like a stone had been thrown through glass.

Quickly, Twilight put two and two together.

“Must’ve have been quite a drop,” she said. Twilight gave her legs an experimental stretch. Then her back. “Good. Nothing’s broken.” She carefully rose to her achy hooves and unfurled her purple wings, eyes narrowed. “I’ve got to get back to them. I’ve got to get the key--”

You know, Sparkle-clan...”

Twilight’s wings bristled and stiffened. She spun, ears flat, eyes bright with fury, hooves pressed to the ground.

There he was, leaning on a house, staring at one of his claws. “Standing there talking to yourself won’t close that gate. But then, when have you ever taken sound advice for what it was?”

“Samael…” Twilight growled slowly behind clenched teeth. “What have you done? Where are the others?”

The red demon chuckled, a habit that quickly grated on Twilight’s nerves. “Heed me well; you should worry little about your fellow princesses,” he leaned forward off the house, “and more about yourself, Sparkle-clan.”

Twilight’s horn glowed with a sharp zap. “I. Have. A name!” she warned.

Horse, it is, then,” Samael said with a careless wave, grinning at the alicorn’s puffed red cheeks. The demon scanned the dead-silent village, his toothy smile never fading. “Such a quaint little place. Yet so thick with fear and ignorance. Locked in their homes. Cowering beneath their beds. Holding loved ones tight. You were wise to keep them inside, Horse.”

A slight twinge in the temple made Twilight’s eyes twitch. Samael’s vast knowledge slammed back into memory like a speeding train into a sandcastle. Right then, Twilight feared her mind would break before her patience did.

“Enough, Samael!” she shouted. “Just hand over the key and go home!”

Samael’s smile dropped like an asteroid, and no matter how hard she tried, Twilight couldn’t keep from gulping. He stepped forward, the heavy impact caving her eardrums as she stepped back.

His steps were like boulder-sized diamonds falling from Mt. Canterlot, every dip of his head and sink of his shoulders hardened with purpose. An inconceivable dominance. Twilight stomped the ground and stayed her hoof, her glare held strong. A cold sweat prickled at her body.

The gap between them was closed, reduced to mere inches. He hunched over, his face looming unbearably close to hers.

“You’re making demands? You, who are no better than your worthless compatriots?His voice twisted and crackled in her ear, like stone pressed and crushed onto her skull. “Don’t delude yourself, Horse. Once, you were strong, a force of nature, a great wind that toppled mountains and bent the very sky to your whim.”

Twilight narrowed her glare.

“But now…” Samael lifted from the sweating mare and stood tall. “Now, you aren’t even a shade of what battled Tirek. You are naught but harmless dust, a child gawking stupidly upon the universe. And you dare command me?”

Twilight wanted to stop it. With every deep-breathing exercise, and meditative chant, Twilight tried so very hard to keep her mind intact, to regain her shallow ragged breath and take a more reasonable tone with the demon.

But the unforgivable urge to be stupid crashed into her logic like a wrecking ball.

“Yes! Now surrender the key, or else!”

A rock-solid foot swung into Twilight’s body. Her airborne journey was only a blur, made even more hazy by soil, buildings and sky flipping and spinning around her. She crashed back-first into the village clock tower, the resounding gong shaking the air.

Eyes blankly open, Twilight free-fell from the clock’s dented face and bent arms. She hit the ground with a bounce and a shower of glass, wood, and gears followed.

There she lay, face in the dirt, motionless for a time.

She twitched to life, her arms craning up. With a deep scratchy groan, Twilight lifted herself up, one eye wide and sharp, the other half-lidded and blurred. She saw him, marching toward her, step by prevailing step.

Her eyes rolled back and her face hit the dirt again.

She gasped sharply, throwing herself to her wobbly hooves, but fell back onto her haunches. With strained eyes, she looked up and saw Samael only a few feet from her, still marching.

“Hah,“ the demon laughed. “It escapes me why Celestia dubbed you the perfect student. Sunset Shimmer was always stronger than you.”

His clawed hand whipped out, fingers curled like dead tree branches. Before Twilight could even fathom why her lungs felt ready to combust, her hooves lifted off the ground. Samael stepped closer.

“Perhaps she pitied you, wanted more from a fallen warrior’s descendant.” Samael paused. “But it seems your brother filled those shoes quite nicely.”

Twilight ground her teeth as Samael closed the gap again, her limbs bound.

“Ah, yes,” he continued. “Captain of the Royal Guard. Ruler of the Crystal Empire alongside Cadenza. Captain Dusk Shine would’ve been so proud.”

Twilight’s glare softened, her eyes glimmering with curiosity. Samael grinned.

“You really don’t know. Do you?” the demon taunted. “Oh, the things Celestia has kept from you, Horse.”

Twilight’s ears pressed flat to her head, as though it would block out the words. She wasn’t listening to this—she couldn’t listen to this. He was just trying to distract her, to waste time before demonic legions flooded the fiery gate and sailed Equestria on a sea of blood.

Samael clenched a fist, and Twilight hissed as her every limb ground together. Then she shrieked. The red fiend swung his arm aside, and Twilight followed, crashing and tumbling across the dirt.

Samael slowly turned to the downed mare. “So many lies. So many lies…” He stepped forward again. “And you’ve looked up to her most of your life, wanted to be her to some degree. It only begs the question, Horse…”

Twilight found only the strength to remain conscious, training her blurry sight on her assailant. Samael crouched beside her, an arm resting on his knee.

“How many skeletons are hidden in your closet?” Samael finished.

A sickening grip of despair closed around her heart, and a maddening question with an even more maddening number of answers bounced in Twilight’s head.

Why, Celestia? Why did you open the gate?

Just as his deep rumbling chuckle began, however, it ended. He turned his head to a gleaming fortress; a jeweled tree with a vaguely familiar symbol atop it. His bottom jaw trembled and his smile grew.

“Oh, yes. Your friends...” he hissed. “I can taste their despair. And it’s delicious.”

Twilight’s right arm twitched.

The demon laughed. “What were you trying to do? Protect them? Is that why you shut them inside, too?” Samael’s glowing eyes fell back on the now-shaking Twilight. “Did you actually plan to confront me alone, to make them watch as I rent you apart, piece by piece?”

How?

The word hung and flopped behind her lips like a freshly-caught fish. She wanted to ask it, but already knew the answer. Soon, Twilight realized Samael wasn’t lying. There was, indeed, very little they could keep from him.

Samael turned back to Twilight’s castle. “They’ve been watching the whole time, you know, driving themselves bedraggled waiting for ‘the signal’. Why haven’t you given it, Horse? Is there a fool-headed pride pushing you forward? Or do you still believe they’ll be safe when I’m finished with you?”

Twilight’s right leg twitched again, her vision finally cleared enough to take in every disgusting crack and stony wrinkle on Samael’s face.

“You… you won’t win,” she growled weakly.

Samael laughed again. “Oh, what? You think your fellow princesses will swoop in and save you?” Twilight scowled. “Don’t hold your breath. They’re not going anywhere without going through me first.”

Twilight’s eyes brightened, a whole new possibility clutching at her throat. A horrible possibility.

“What are you saying?” she asked.

Samael brought a finger between his eyes and shook his head. “You couldn’t possibly fathom the concept, Horse—to be anywhere you choose.”

Slowly, like tall weeds hacked away with a scythe, hope was diminishing, leaving Twilight with a growing pit in her chest. Whatever she was up against—whatever Samael even was—Twilight wasn’t ready for it.

And she knew it now.

“Why, I could be in there right now,” Samael continued, jabbing a thumb at Twilight’s castle, “enjoying the scenery, feeling the smooth, radiant jewels crafted into every design… Getting to know your friends…”

Twilight’s right arm twitched again, and her horn gave a crackling white spark.

“Shh. Listen… Can you hear them? Screaming for mercy, their throats gargling with blood, being twisted apart, limb by snapping limb?”

A brighter, louder crack of power.

“Like music to my—”

A thick white wave threw a roaring Samael off his feet. A crater in the dirt, a hole in Quills and Sofas, and a shattered cart littered the demon’s wake. His clawed feet dug into hard soil, gouging his path as he finally stopped before Carousel Boutique.

He lifted his head with a grim smile, and punched at a ball of power soaring toward his face. The ball popped like a balloon, sparks floating about like harmless fireflies. Samael slowly rose to his feet, stray dirt and masonry falling from his shoulders and chest.

He stared ahead, and saw Twilight Sparkle land several yards away, teeth bared, eyes narrowed, forehead wrinkled, and wings jutted out.

“Don’t you dare hurt my friends!” she roared

“Ahh, that put some fight in you! Very well…” He flicked the remaining debris off his shoulder, and opened his enormous, inverted wings. “Show me your power, Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

With an earth-shattering takeoff, Samael soared toward the enraged alicorn. With wings bristled and horn beaming brightly, Twilight did the same.

Iron-like claws pressed into her shoulders, the demon roaring as he furrowed the soil with Twilight’s back. They stopped, and Samael was upon the prone mare. She yelped and her body glowed just as a mighty fist dashed upon her. The protection spell shattered.

The other fist fell and Twilight leaned aside, grazed by only a hair. With a squinted eye, she blasted her magic in Samael’s face. He reeled back with a grunt, and Twilight rolled to her belly to fly away.

Claws snatched her tail, leaving her flapping hopelessly in place. An elbow to the back drove her to the dirt again.

Twilight gasped at the hand clamping onto her skull, and shrieked when that hand bounced her face off the ground. She rolled onto her back again, a clawed foot smashing the ground, missing her by an instant.

With glowing eyes, surging horn, and shrill cry, Twilight threw her arms and head forward. A blunt wave of power hit Samael with a deep cracking pop. His torso was twisted back, saliva jetting from his fanged, roaring mouth.

By then, Twilight was already several feet away, darting into the air.

She flapped like she’d never fly again, her eyes stinging from the wind whipping her mane about.

A distant cry tickled her ears, past the whistling wind. The cry grew louder. Deeper. Closer.

Powerful claws clamped around her wings. Twilight fell, screaming all the way down until her and Samael crashed in a rolling tide of dust, rocks, limbs and wings. Twilight’s eyes blinked into focus, barely grasping the growling demon upon her again.

She gasped and yelled, “No!”

A blazing fist hammered down on her, a purple wave blanketing the Town Square. Samael lifted his arm, grinning at the protective bubble around a now terrified Twilight. He dropped the other fist. Then the other. And the other again. Again and again. Without end. Without tire. Without mercy.

The bubble cracked.

With an echoing roar, the demon raised both arms.

“Samael, stop!” Twilight cried.

All of Ponyville was swallowed by a purple rippling wave, a deep shatter tearing at the sky. The wave subsided, and at the center of a shallow crater, stood a growling Samael. And below him, a twitching, groaning alicorn, her horn flickering like an old lightbulb.

The horned beast stared down at her for a time, his growling calmed, his smile gone.

He clicked his tongue and wedged a clawed foot beneath the limp mare. He kicked up, lifting Twilight to waist level. He drove his knee into her back and relished her pitched whine as she was lifted higher.

Samael lept to Twilight with his head thrown back. He knocked the alicorn away with his skull, a thin bloody trail left in her wake. Samael vanished in orange light. Twilight would’ve hit the ground with more rolling tumbles if the fiend wasn’t already waiting with a clothesline.

His arm crashed into her, and he vanished again.

She flipped away like a thrown knife, and her face crashed into Samael’s waiting palm, her body stretching forward, pulling taut away from her. Her body swung back. Then swung forward again. A few seconds and it stopped. Motionless. Hanging from Samael’s firm grip.

He lifted the limp mare high, adjusting himself on the house he sat on.

“Is this all Equestria’s newest princess can offer me?” Samael muttered.

He tossed Twilight like a useless tool, watching her flip and twirl. She hit the ground with a loud thud, rolling only a little more until listless on her side. The wind whistled past the still pony, her mane and feathers dancing to its sad tune.

An orange flash burst behind Twilight, and there stood Samael with his arms crossed.

“You’re as disappointing as your predecessor, and I’m tired of this game,” he said. He received only silence. “Fear not, though, little one; you will not be long alone in death.”

Still, there was only silence from Twilight.

“The war beyond even your darkest nightmares, will ensure that.”

Twilight twisted around and shouted, her horn launching a swirling beam of color. Samael tilted his head, the beam missing his cheek by a hair. He straightened again, ignoring the loud fireworks above with an unreadable face.

“Huh. Well… That may just go down as the most anti-climactic assault in history. Commendable.” His raised a fist as it swirled and crackled with power. “But it ends here.”

Twilight strained and grunted, struggling to rise. But soon, her head fell back down and all her legs spread lifelessly aside. She had nothing left.

Samael crouched over the bloodied mare, nudging her onto her back. His terrible claws brushed over Twilight’s soft, vulnerable chest, as gently as a morning breeze.

“Know this, as I reunite you with your ancestors, Horse.” Samael unfurled his crackling fist, his fingers straight, pointing at Twilight’s chest. “You died losing everything you’ve fought for. And you died alone.”

Samael lifted his hand, like a spear ready to plunge.

“No…” Twilight croaked, gaining a raised brow from Samael. “Never alone…”

The demon smirked and raised his pointed hand higher. Higher. Higher.

A deep, booming burst rattled the sky and earth, and Samael stumbled forward.

He paused for a moment, frowning ahead trying to decipher the sudden bang. He slowly turned to look behind him, and was sure he’d never seen such a colorful shockwave of power. The sky became a prismatic explosion, a snippet of Creation painting Equestria’s sky.

“What in the nine Hells is th—”

Samael was ripped away by a yowling streak of colors. His arms, legs, and wings flapped forward as a screaming, rainbow-colored pegasus took him to the sky. Tears broke and sprinkled from her tightly shut eyes.

Samael could only watch in unutterable shock as he was sailed through the blue, beyond the clouds even. He watched Equestria’s horizon sink below his vision, and his stomach caved as the winged mare took him right back down.

A pair of blue hind legs braced onto his large chest, and the first things he saw were blazing magenta eyes. The next thing he saw was a blue hoof. In fact, he saw that hoof again. And again.

And again.

“Leave! Her! Alone!” The mare’s cries matched every strike, her wings still jetting the demon toward the earth.

The mare raised both arms and brought them down with earth-shattering force. Samael’s body whistled to the earth like a shot-down plane, burning with color instead of heat.

He met the earth.

Trees, rivers and buildings alike, rumbled and shifted at the resulting shockwave. The deep boom and crumbling earth cried into the sky, filling it with a mushroom cloud of debris.

A rainbow streak zipped from the destruction and toward a very frantic group of ponies. Specifically, the beaten and broken alicorn sprawled on the ground.

“Idiot!” Rarity shrieked, clutching Twilight’s bloodied face with shaky hooves. “Dolt! Simpleton!”

Twilight could only smile weakly, but cringed a bit at Applejack’s hard nuzzling.

“Darnit, Twilight!” the orange mare cried, her hat tipping off her head. “Why didn’t ya signal us sooner?! We could’a stopped him from hurtin’ you!”

“Baffoon! Oaf! I-ignoramus!” Rarity continued, tears finally collecting at her eyes.

Twilight gently shut her eyes, a hoof brushing against the weeping farm pony’s head. She felt nudging pressure at her sides, turned her aching neck, opened an eye and saw a sobbing Fluttershy on one side, and a quaking Pinkie Pie on the other.

Twilight, just soaked it all in. “You’ve never let me down,” she whispered.

“Stupid! You’re just… so stupid!” Rarity finally crumbled, burying her loud, hacking sobs in Twilight’s neck.

The alicorn flexed her neck, trying to rise. Applejack and a sniveling Rarity hurriedly aided her. Twilight sat up, her hooves lazily plopped on the dirt, wobbling side to side.

She was quite suddenly strangled by crushing blue arms and peppered with kisses on her head and face. Twilight gave a quiet squeal, her eyes tightly shut.

“Are you okay?! Is anything broken?! Can you walk?!” Rainbow Dash’s hurried words were chopped between kisses. “I swear, I’ll never let anything happen to you again! Never, ever, ever!”

After a final, loud kiss between Twilight’s eyes, Rainbow froze in place, and realized the others were gawking at her. Speechless. Rarity, in particular, started giggling behind her hoof despite her tears.

“Goodness, Dash. We’re all happy she’s alive, but, puh-lease, a little restraint?” Rarity teased with a little sniff.

Rainbow lept off of Twilight with a sputter, also realizing she was straddling the alicorn. “U-uh, what are you talkin’ about? I was, uh… just a little concerned. Yeah!”

Applejack dried her own tears with a soft chuckle. “Thinkin’ your lips were a bit more concerned than you were, sugarcube,” she said.

Dash shot to her hooves with stiff wings and a red muzzle. “Spur of the moment! Any of you would’ve done the same thing!” she finished, throwing her nose in the air.

There was a pause until Pinkie Pie burst with laughter. And soon, everyone else but Rainbow Dash followed.

Twilight hissed in pain, and the laughter swiftly died. Her friends closed in on her, leaning in with concern. Rarity offered Twilight a hoof.

“Come now, darling,” she cooed. “Let’s get you to the hospital and—”

“No…” The word left Twilight’s mouth like venom from a cobra’s fang.

Rarity flinched back. “Why, whatever do you mean, ‘no’?”

“Not yet…” Twilight muttered, straining to lift herself. “It’s not over yet.”

She collapsed, but Rainbow Dash darted forward, catching the alicorn with her neck.

“We have to stop him,” Twilight weakly added.

Applejack stepped forward. “Uh, hate to burst your bubble there, Twi, but…” She turned toward the fading mushroom cloud made from Samael’s impact. “Seriously? I think we’re good.”

Honestly, Twilight admired AJ’s confidence, but she didn’t show it. No. That would give the wrong idea, that would imply that the battle was over. Twilight knew it was anything but.

She lifted herself from Rainbow Dash and steadied her hooves, standing tall against the wind.

“We’re talking about someone who challenged Princess Celestia and won.” Twilight didn’t even turn to see the hope ebb away from the others’ faces. “He’s every bit as powerful as she described, and… and...”

Pinkie, now worried, stepped to her side. “And?” she urged.

Twilight glared hard into that fading mushroom cloud. “Girls, Samael is dangerous. More so than I imagined. One little hundred story drop won’t change that. Trust me, he’s alive and well.”

There was a thick silence. Then a cautious clatter of hooves.

“Are…” Applejack gulped. “Are ya sure, Twi?”

“Yes,” Twilight almost spat, glaring even harder at the debris. “I can feel it. I felt it the first moment I spoke with him; something deep. Overwhelming.” Twilight’s achy wings twitched at her sides. Unknowable.

Her horn glowed, and a soothing spell enwrapped her body, making her wounds shimmer.

“It’s not something you forget, Applejack,” the alicorn said, a few of her wounds healing. “He’s there…”

Another beat of silence. Then another careful clatter of hooves.

“Then… What do we do, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked, her usual timidity all but gone. “What does he want?”

Twilight growled with a stomping hoof. Fluttershy meeped away. “That’s just it! I don’t know!” Twilight shouted. “When he got here, he actually seemed reasonable, like he wanted to talk. Then he turned on us!” She threw her head aside, as though wrenching away from an unbearable stench. “I warned them. All of them. I told them this would happen, and they didn’t listen…”

The bitterness in Twilight’s mouth poisoned the very air they breathed. This wasn’t her. She knew it, her friends knew it… This ordeal was taking its toll.

Twilight took a cleansing breath and said, “We need to close the gate he came from, the gate to his world. But he has the key.” The others gasped. “We get the key, we close the gate.”

Yet another pause, and another clatter of hooves.

“Twilight,” Rarity called gently, her brows knitted with concern. “What happens… if we don’t close that gate?”

Twilight’s eyes fell to the ground, silent for only a moment. She turned to her friends, noting the dread in their eyes.

“Then we’ll have a war on our hooves.”

No one spoke. For one insufferable moment, Twilight could feel five pairs of eyes boring into her—boring through her. Just when she started to wish she was somewhere else, a strong hoof sat on her shoulder. She turned to a determined Applejack.

“We’re with ya, Twilight,” the farm pony said. “Always.”

Chatters of agreement buzzed around Twilight, and she could only smile and nod, fighting back tears that shouldn’t have even been there.

“Yes…” she whispered to hide her shaky tone. “Yes, I know.”

An orange burst blinded them for but a moment, and they screamed at the hulking beast now standing before them. Rainbow leapt over and landed between Twilight and the red demon, prone for attack alongside a growling Applejack.

Samael slowly turned to look at the all-but-gone mushroom cloud, then back to the ponies.

“Disguising ‘the signal’ as a final attack,” he began with a wide, toothy grin. “One of the oldest tricks in the book. Now you have my attention, Sparkle-clan.”

Rainbow’s face brightened with disbelief. That can’t be… she thought, her hoof scraping the ground and her brows plummeting over her eyes. There’s not one scratch on this guy!

Samael crouched over and studied the group with no small intrigue, stroking his horned chin.

“I was beginning to think you’d abandoned young Twilight in her time of need, cowering in your little corners like the rest of your village. Clearly, I’ve misjudged you, trinkets.”

“That’s right!” Rainbow shouted. “We’d never abandon our friend!”

Samael’s yellow eyes whipped to the now-gulping pegasus, his grin remaining, his words unspoken but crushing.

“Samael…” The demon’s eyes whipped back to Twilight. “The key.”

Samael’s brow raised, noting the faint glow around the group, a power seeping into the air like gas from a broken can. His smile grew as he saw the rest of Twilight’s wounds close and heal. Every scrape and scuff was gone.

“Hmm… This power. The same power I felt from you when I arrived.” Samael looked toward Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, prone at Twilight’s flanks, their eyes locked with a warrior’s focus. “Indeed, I see much power in you all.”

Rarity frowned and said, “Yes. And if you comply, we won’t have to use it.”

Samael threw his head back and laughed. In a heartbeat, he was standing tall before the ponies, his wings and arms stretched out.

“Spoken well, Generosity!” he bellowed. “Perhaps, now, I’ve something to work for. Hmm… Let’s put this power through its paces, shall we?”

He vanished again, and was now sitting atop the City Hall. That, though, wasn’t what skyrocketed the temperature and thickened the air with the smell of burning stone.

The three massive fireballs hovering over Samael’s head, however…

“Live or die, Princess Twilight?” Samael asked, clenching a fist. “Choose.”

He threw his fist forward, and one fireball soared toward the Elements of Harmony. The ball hit, and a near-melting blast of heat blew against Ponyville’s building and trees. The hot, gusty blast stopped, and only a pillar of smoke remained.

Samael sat with two remaining fireballs, stroking his chin. Waiting. A faint glimmer shone from the smoke, and when it cleared, Samael’s eyes brightened with amazement.

There they were, a sphere of raw power and magic embracing them, protecting them. Their bodies, riddled with stars and streaks. Their manes and tails broadened and bold with new colors.

And in the center of it all? A very, very unhappy princess.

With a deep grunt, Samael launched the remaining fireballs, and watched with great interest as they popped into thin streams of harmless light.

His grin widened.

“Ah, yes… ‘The most powerful magic of all’,” he muttered, a tiny chuckle in his tone.

His eyes met Twilight’s. “Samael,” she began, her voice dripping with strength that could move mountains. “This is your last chance. Will you surrender the key?”

“Silly little horse,” Samael taunted, craning a knee up on his seat. “You already know the answer.”

Twilight’s eyes slowly fell closed. Then shot open, glowing like a bright shining star. The sphere around the six swirled and writhed, whisking the trees with a warm, soothing wind. The sphere beamed like the sun, and Samael squinted one eye.

“Entertain me,” Samael grumbled.

A thick rainbow blasted from the sphere, careening toward the smiling demon. In an instant, that smile dropped.

“What’s this?!”

He vanished in a flash of orange. The rainbow hit City Hall and a blinding light whitened the town square, whitened Ponyville, whitened the entire sky.

Ponies, barred in their homes, gawked at the display, their loved ones-—husbands, wives, and foals alike—clinging to each other. Smiles returned to their faces, and hope flickered back into their hearts.

The light faded, City Hall still intact, and Samael was nowhere to be seen. The powerful sphere around the six heroes faded and, one by one, their eyes opened. They peered at the black stain on City Hall’s roof.

Silence fell between them all. But a slow, deafening clap of hands shattered that silence like glass. The Elements whipped their heads to a house beside them, gawking at the figure leaning on it, clapping.

“Hold on, he can’t do that!” Pinkie shouted. “Can he do that? He can’t do that!”

The clapping stopped, and Twilight frowned.

“I’ll admit: I didn’t expect that much power,” Samael said, leaning on an elbow. “It was faint, but for a moment I saw a power that could stand alone against any army. How disturbing.”

For once, Samael didn’t smile. His face was grim, seething with… resentment. This did not escape Twilight.

“You can’t win this Samael,” she said. “You had your chance to finish me—to secure victory—and you lost it. If you surrender the key and give up, I’ll see that you’re judged fairly for your crimes.”

Samael said nothing. He just stood there, steamy breath wafting from his nostrils.

“What say you?” Twilight asked.

He was silent for but a moment longer. Then he smiled.

“It seems I’ve met my match,” he muttered deeply. “Your combined power vastly exceeds my own. Only a fool would deny you at this point.”

Twilight’s frown softened a bit, and so did the rest of her friends. Well, everypony except Applejack, whose frown only hardened.

“Yes, a power that transcends your very history. Clearly you’ve all been chosen to take the next step in evolution. You should be honored.”

Applejack frowned even harder, and leaned toward her friend’s ear. “Twilight, I don’t like this…” she whispered.

Twilight turned to the orange mare, still frowning. “Relax, AJ,” she whispered back. “This is obviously a lie. Just let him monologue for a bit.” She nearly let a smile slip.

“But that’s just it,” Applejack argued. “He’s tellin’ the truth.”

Twilight’s brows lifted high. “What? How can you tell?”

Applejack turned her hardened eyes back on Samael. “I can tell.” she said.

Twilight’s frown returned, but was more thoughtful. “Then, let’s say you’re right. Why is that a problem?”

“I… I don’t know.” Applejack never looked away from the smiling demon. “Sure we’ve got him on the ropes, but just look at him. He’s so… calm.”

“Perhaps Celestia was right. Perhaps your ‘Harmony’ can be maintained.” He held out his smoking hand, and the black key burst into existence, yet again. “Far be it that I deny those who earn their keep.”

This time, that smile escaped Twilight’s grasp, and she stepped past the protective circle of friends. “You’re making the right choice, Samael,” she said.

“Indeed,” the demon replied, holding the key tightly.

His smile pulled behind his gums. He flicked his wrist, and the key was gone. Twilight stopped dead in her tracks and scowled.

“Although,” Samael began, “there is an… obstacle… you must overcome.”

“No! No more games!” Twilight barked, her friends leaping to her side once more. “We’ve already been through this! You’ve challenged us and lost!” Her horn crackled with power.

“Did you really think that’s why I brought you here? To ‘challenge’ you to mortal combat?” Samael restrained his laughter with a curled finger to his lip. “You misunderstand me, princess; I was just having a little fun.”

Twilight just glared.

“My true intention is far more meaningful, and I reveal it now.” Samael’s breath was like smoke before fire, his voice as deep as the earth’s core. “You… All of you—the alicorn royalty—believe you are beyond reproach. You believe your secrets well-hidden, and your lies infallible. Lies that have carried the weight of your society for… well, it’s difficult to say how long, really.”

Twilight’s frown softened.

“Each of you carry a burden of secrecy. Princess Celestia. Princess Luna. Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.” Samael paused, then threw his glowing gaze at the flinching Twilight. “And you…”

Samael’s wings stretched out.

“You’ve accomplished many things. Passed many tests. Your path is righteous. Your cause is just. Your heart is pure. One could only guess what you’d be like without him.”

Twilight’s frown crumbled, her eyes now bright with despair, her chest tightening.

“Just remember, Princess Twilight,” Samael continued, his rising hand set ablaze. “Secrets always shine brighter.”

He reached his flaming hand toward Twilight’s distant castle.

“No!” she barked as strongly as her worry would allow.

“Yes!” Samael retorted.

His hand curled, and his joints crackled. And before anypony could breathe a word of opposition, a yelping purple dragon burst into the fray. Right in Samael’s magical grasp.

“What the…! What’s going on?!” Spike screamed, his eyes catching the Elements of Harmony. “Twilight, help me!”

“Spike!” they all cried.

Samael stroked his chin as he studied the whimpering Spike, his eyes vivid with wonder and curiosity.

“Yes… So remarkably filled with power. Yet so wholly lacking in knowledge and vision. So you’re Equestria’s dirty little secret,” he said.

Twilight’s eyes glowed again, the sphere of raw power returning. “Let him go, Samael! He has nothing to with this!”

“He has everything to do with this,” the demon retorted. A familiar glow caught his eye, and he looked down upon the Elements charging another attack. “Careful, ladies. I’ve brought the child here without harm, every scale on his little head intact.” His smile fell. “You go on being ungrateful, and I’m liable to get upset.”

His curled hand twitched, and Spike yelped in pain.

“Stop it!” Twilight shouted.

“What’s that, now?” Samael’s hand twitched again, and Spike yelped again, tears collecting in his eyes.

“Samael!” Her horn glowed even brighter, and Samael’s smile returned.

“Go ahead and try it, Horse,” he said. “But how much power do you think you’ll need to take him from my grasp? How many seconds will you need to gather it up? At least three. But for me,” he lifted a finger, “all I need is one second and a bent finger...” He curled that finger ever so slowly, and Spike’s head began to turn. The young drake screamed.

Twilight’s teeth ground so hard she was sure she tasted blood. Her hoof burrowed at the dirt, her wings flapped on their own, her ears burned, her breath hissed between her teeth.

And finally, the dam holding her tears crumbled.

“Just… just let him go,” she begged. “Don’t hurt him anymore.”

Samael stopped, his eyes slowly shifting to the purple mare’s tears. He levitated the now gasping Spike closer to his head and gave Twilight a withering glare. One that assured her, beyond any doubt, that the tables had turned, and victory was only a dream.

Samael spoke. A deafening buzz of a thing. A force that crumbled the chasms of will and rebellion. A single, inexorable command breathed by fire.

“Submit.”

Twilight felt as though her heart teleported into her throat, destroying all air flow and rational thought. She looked up at her tearful assistant--her baby--and knew she’d lost. She glared at the ground like it would somehow show her the way, show her how to stop this.

A gentle hoof fell on Twilight’s shoulder. She turned. It was Rarity, chest shaking with held sobs, tears and mascara staining her face. She nodded silently, and Twilight knew what she had to do.

A breath of which she didn’t know left her in a swift gust. Her horn dimmed, and soon, the sphere around the group did the same.

Manes shrank. Tails shrank. Colors faded. Power depleted. With another bright flash, six ordinary ponies stood before Samael.

Defeated.

“You learn fast, equines,” Samael said. With back bent forward and arms swung back, Samael sprung away from that house, his limbs spread victoriously. He landed before the scowling mares, who flinched at the dirt and rocks pelting them. “That will serve you well.”

He regarded the still-whimpering dragon in his thrall, turned him away with a twirled finger, and set him down to the ground.

“Look away, child.”

Samael threw his head back and drove it into a shrieking Twilight’s cranium. A ring of dust blew out, and Twilight lay still in a cracked imprint of her own body.

“Hey!” Rainbow barked, leaping at the demon.

Cold claws clutched her mane and yanked her face into a waiting, armored knee. Samael glared at a screaming Pinkie Pie, lunged over, and slammed the limp Rainbow Dash onto her, their bodies crashing into a tangled heap. Unconscious.

He swung his foot left and kicked a yowling Fluttershy away, her legs and wings twisting awkwardly as she tumbled across the dirt.

He whipped around and lifted his foot, catching a powerful buck from Applejack with it. In one motion, he swooped down, snatched her up by the belly, spun on his heel, and threw her head-first to the dirt. He watched her body snap rigid as a tree trunk, then fall limp to her belly.

His flashing, smoky eyes turned to a hyperventilating Rarity. He marched toward her with heavy, crushing steps. The unicorn shrieked and turned to run, but immediately fell on her face. She twisted to her back, fighting the paralysing grip of Samael’s eyes. She frantically backpedaled away, her breath shallow and sharp.

Two more steps and he was upon her.

He threw his terrible grip onto Rarity’s scalp, and squeezed. Hard.

“Ow!” Rarity cried. “Ow! Unhand me, you brute!”

He yanked up, hoisting her high.

Ponyville echoed to gibbering squeals as Rarity tried in vain to loosen the vice, her hind legs kicking and flailing, her now-bedraggled mane pulled by the very roots.

Samael squeezed harder, and Rarity screamed long and loud.

He curled his arm aside and swung a chopping hand into the unicorn’s side, listening to a symphony of snaps and pops. The screaming stopped with a final squealing bark. Samael took his hand from the mare and her arms fell limp to her side.

He watched her dangle lifelessly in his grip.

She coughed a hacking cough, and thin lines of blood dribbled from her lips, over her chin, and finally onto her chest.

Samael dropped her and turned back to the beaten Twilight. He smiled at the little dragon trying to nudge her awake.

However…

Just as he was going to step forward, something weakly grabbed at his ankle. He whipped his head down, and his eyebrow raised at the biggest, brightest, most pleading blue eyes he’d seen in eons. He noted the blood-streaks from her nostrils.

“Why…?” Pinkie Pie whispered, her tears falling without a fight. “Why? Why are you doing this?”

Samael stood rigid for a time, gravely contemplating whether or not to punt the pink pony into a lake. Instead, he turned to her and crouched down, his arm resting on a knee.

“Do not grieve, little one,” he said with a deep gentleness that widened Pinkie’s eyes. “Your leaders… they must see this struggle to its end, so that they may understand. So they may finally grow.”

Pinkie’s eyes somehow found a way to become bigger and more pleading than before. Samael almost looked away.

“But… but what do you mean?” Pinkie begged, squeezing tighter around the demon’s ankle. “What do they have to understand?”

Samael snorted wistfully and remained silent for a very uncomfortable moment.

He leaned in closer and said, “You strive for happiness in all things. Your heart bleeds for that purpose. You feel when you’ve achieve that goal, and when you fail. Tell me, Laughter; can you also feel other’s pain? Their despair? Every piece of their heart torn by the very fibers? Do you share their sorrow?”

When he felt Pinkie’s grip weaken, and her eyes crumble into a horrified frown, he smiled in triumph.

“Pray that you don’t…”

A hand chopped the back of Pinkie’s head. Her eyes rolled back and her body fell limp at the demon’s feet. He wiped his hand on the ground, stood up, and marched away from the sleeping earth pony without another word.

“Twilight! Come on, Twi, ya gotta get up!” Spike cried. “The others, h-he took them out! What do I do?!”

A heavy rumble made him stop. And another made him look up. It was Samael. Walking straight for him with smoky yellow eyes. Grinning.

“Spike…” came Twilight’s dry call.

Spike’s eyes darted to his caretaker, blood trickling from her head and over her closed eyes.

“Run…” she whispered.

So he did. As fast as his little legs could carry him. Twilight’s eyes opened just as his little form became even smaller, his patting steps fading. Then she felt it. That constricting, suffocating vice, binding her limbs to her body.

She felt herself rise and her eyes closed solemnly. Before she knew it, she was floating in midair. Her eyes opened with a scornful, piercing glare and saw Samael grinning at her, just as she knew she would.

“Those eyes…” Samael muttered. “The same eyes that glared upon me centuries ago. The same as Dusk Shine. You are indeed his progeny, Sparkle-clan. Funny, I seem to remember that exact look—in this exact pitiful state—right before I killed him.”

A wad of saliva hit his cheek. Samael’s smile was practically frozen at that point, the loogie sliding down his face.

“I’m going to enjoy this,” he said, blinking several times.

He raised a glowing fist, and a yelping Spike poofed right back where he started: in Samael’s thrall. This time, though, Spike had company.

“Damn… you…!Twilight cursed through gritted teeth. “Don’t… hurt him!”

“Here’s where your true test begins, Sparkle-clan. It should be easy, it’s multiple-choice,” Samael said, twisting his wrists and forcing them to face one another. “Will you tell him? Or should I?”

He forced them closer, and Twilight looked to Spike with wide, unsure eyes.

“Tell me what?!” Spike hollered, flailing like it would actually get him somewhere. Then he glimpsed his caretaker’s face, and his struggles ceased. “T...tell me what?”

Even as she tried to harden her eyes and find her strength, her lips trembled, blocking the words she wanted so much to say.

“Spike. Whatever he tells you… don’t lis--”

Samael open his fist and Twilight dropped to the ground.

“Well, that answers my question,” the red demon said. He guided the scared dragon face-to-face with him. “Tell me something, whelp…”

Spike squeezed his eyes shut and covered his ears. Samael smiled and pressed his thumb and index finger together. Spike’s arms shook away from his ears, forcing them uncovered.

“What do you know about your heritage?” Spike’s struggles completely died, leaving him gawking at Samael. “Do you even know what you are?”

Spike spluttered for a response. Surely he knew the answer—he was a dragon. Thick scales, breathed fire, and ate gems. The works. But his tongue tied around his teeth. Samael turned a disgusted frown to Twilight.

“You feared that I would hurt this boy? With his knowledge so limited? I would not have the Wyverns’ glory die with their child.”

Spike cocked a brow. “Wyvern?”

“Yes,” Samael hissed. “You come from a very ancient line of dragons, boy. A line that Equestria has severed.”

Spike frowned thoughtfully, “W...What do you mean?”

Twilight jerked up and shouted Spike’s name. Samael scowled and threw a curled hand toward her. Her throat caved in a bit, like something squeezed it, and her mouth clicked shut.

“Quiet!” Samael barked. “You’ve had your chance.”

Spike frowned at the horned beast. “Hey! Leave her alone! What did she ever do?!”

Samael smirked at the dragon and said, “Ohoho, so fiercely loyal to one who kept your heritage away from you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Spike demanded.

Samael lowered his curled hand and Twilight burst with a long-held breath, gulping for air and caressing her sore throat.

“Does it amuse you, Sparkle-clan? To deny him what’s rightfully his? To jerk him around at your side like a blindfolded dog?”

“Samael, stop it! This isn’t fair!” Twilight shouted.

“And was it fair to slaughter that which did only what it was born to? Was it fair to take a lost Wyvern egg, hatch it, and mold the whelp into the weapon Celestia’s always wanted?”

Twilight dragged herself forward. “But he’s not…! I wasn’t…!” She stopped, then glared at the ground.

“Oh, right, of course. It wasn’t you. ‘Not your fault’. ‘You weren’t even conceived,’” Samael continued with a jabbing finger. “Pathetic. Professing your innocence when corruption gargles in your veins, when you knew the whelp’s fate and did nothing but aid it.”

“Shut up! Just shut up!” Twilight bellowed, the tantrum stabbing her temples with more pain.

Smoke jetted from Samael’s nostrils. “You’re right, of course, princess. I’ve been taking the spotlight, taking every chance to talk about that which doesn’t concern me. So why don’t you share a few words? Go on, tell us how you stifle the Wyvern’s knowledge, to keep him on Equestria’s leash.”

Twilight’s lip trembled, her frowning eyes glistened, and her ears lay flat.

Samael whipped his horned head to Spike, his eyes flashing a rusty yellow. “Boy,” he said, the depth in his voice putting a jump in the dragon’s chest. “You’ve been a blinded dog for far too long.”

With every grunt and whimper, Spike tried to wrest his head away, block the foul monster’s words. But he was held completely still, bound by Samael’s magical grip, and could do nothing else but listen.

“You are a Wyvern, a child of the lost. Yours was a proud race; a beautiful race. Your ancestors carved a path for all of dragon-kind to follow. While only a few thousand strong, they were a force of nature—no, a force of reckoning. Fighters, builders, artists, pioneers, prophets—they created a means by which dragons could break their greed and share their spoils with all, to share knowledge, vast and ancient, with minotaurs, goblins, griffins… and equines alikes.”

Spike no longer tried to resist. He was hooked like a big-mouth bass.

“They were powerful, young whelp, for theirs was a power that could vex even the Grim Reaper. With their every breath, they consumed the world’s mana. More so, they consumed the mana of creatures around them. As I said, they were only a few thousand strong, but their power?” Samael paused to laughed deeply to himself. “They. Were. Formidable.”

“Wh-what happened to them?” Spike’s hand shot to his mouth, shocked that the words fell out.

Samael smiled. “The Wyverns learned to tame their consumption eons ago, in that the world and creatures from which they fed were unharmed—none the wiser, one might say. They allied with several nations of this world, teaching, learning, giving. Feeding on their power, but sharing limitless knowledge and potential.”

Samael paused with a frown. Spike stared back, confused, then followed what Samael was staring at. It was Twilight, her eyes wet and pleading.

“Then, only a few hundred years after Equestria’s founding, they met equines. A race so rich with magic, the Wyverns were drawn to them like sharks to blood. And, predictably, they were welcomed with open arms. Their philosophies were… compatible—a common goal sought. Harmony. Soon, the Wyverns gained their trust, and after a time, pledged their loyalty. This was not unnoticed by their rulers, Celestia and Luna. As such, the Wyvern leaders were called to a summit, to discuss further negotiations.”

Samael stopped again, and turned to the now awestruck Spike.

“In that instant, their fate was sealed.”

“Samael, please… Twilight could only whisper.

The demon ignored her.

“Once the royal sisters learned of their consumption, they dubbed the Wyverns a ‘threat’, and not to be trusted. And with all the power they’d consumed from their subjects, an angry Wyvern might have very well proven them right.”

Spike gulped as everything sunk in like a knife through the chest.

“But they never had a chance,” Samael continued. “There was no warning or clue of what came next. The sisters, who’d allied the same nations as the Wyverns, enlightened those allies, warned them, told them of the mighty dragons’ passive ability. Not long after… the purge began.

Spike looked to Twilight again, his head tilted as she sheltered her head beneath her arms, shaking.

“They all knew, however,” the demon continued, “that a direct attack would doom them from the start; the Wyverns were simply too powerful. So they used… other methods. With unexpected results.”

Samael paused, and Spike felt as though his guts were being pulled from his green fins.

“What? What? What happened to them?” he all but shouted.

Samael ran a claw along his horned chin, studying the young drake. “Tell me, boy. Do you know what happens when the Elements of Harmony are used against a non-hostile opponent? An enemy who, by all intents and purposes, means no harm?” He paused again just to shake Spike up a bit more. “Murder…”

Spike’s eye widened.

“The Elements were only known to punish the wicked. Imprisonment, banishment, usually both. But when they meet the opposite, they become… far more hostile. They are a weapon, after all.”

“So… ” Spike trembled. “So, you’re saying they… they…”

“It started with one, the overseer, the Wyvern King. He was summoned for more ‘negotiations’. Then it happened. The Elements of Harmony tore through the king like a drill, broke him into dust. And it just. Didn’t. Stop. It was an hour that burned into history. All over Equestria echoed the screams of a doomed people, silenced one by one. All too soon, as suddenly as it began, it was over. Wyvern ashes littered the land, thrown into the wind. Silent.”

Spike didn’t say a word. He just stared at the demon. And he continued to stare, his head craning higher as Samael lowered him from his invisible grasp. His feet touched the ground and Samael crouched before the dumbstruck whelp.

“Search within yourself. A great power stirs inside, power fed by the very creatures that tamed you. In your fingertips, you hold your people’s tools. In your mind, you hold their wisdom. In your heart, their anger.”

Spike clenched a fist, staring at it.

“Focus, young drake. Heed the Wyvern’s call. Within you is a lost culture, crying out for reason and justice! You must embrace it! Sever the ties that bind!”

Spike clenched his teeth, staring harder at his fist. Then he felt it. It was only for an instant, but a sharp crack of power struck the dragon’s heart, numbing his every limb. He stumbled and fell back, his now open fist trembling.

He gazed up at the grinning demon, once again dumbstruck.

“You… you were there, Spike said in wonder.

Samael flinched back like he’d heard a ridiculous joke. “What? Hah! No, no, boy. I was here for a time, but not that much time,” he said.

“But you…” Spike found enough of himself to stand again. “You described it as if you were there.”

Samael continued to stroke his chin and said, “I may not have been there in person, but I hold much knowledge of those days.” He hunched over, his head now beside the young dragon, staring ahead. “And so does she…”

Spike turned around to Twilight, who pressed her forelegs over her chest like her heart would explode any moment. Spike said nothing else. He marched to his caretaker.

His every step was like a stomp on Twilight’s heart, and the alicorn’s eyes darted left to right, searching for escape, so frantic and frightened that she’d forgotten she could teleport. Or fly. Or run.

She did neither of those when Spike stopped before her.

“Spike… I—”

“Is it true, Twilight?”

“Please. I can expla—”

“Twilight.” Spike ignored the mare’s whine. “Is. It. True? Everything he said? Am I…?”

She could see it now: ‘Here lies Twilight Sparkle’, carved into a tombstone on a hill, decorated with flowers fertilized by her own ashes. Oh, what sweet, sweet relief she’d have—never to see that sad, innocent, accusing face. Never to tell him a truth she was forbidden to tell, but was forced to.

Sadly, no matter what she thought, how deeply she dug, or how hard her tears fell, Twilight Sparkle simply couldn’t set herself on fire.

With eyes squeezed shut, she nodded.

And the silence clawed at her heart like a starving wolverine.

Her eyes slowly opened, wishing Spike wasn’t actually there, wishing she’d wake up from this nightmare between her covers in bed. But Spike was there, his eyes very interested in the ground, frowning tiredly.

“And you knew…” he muttered.

Immediately, Twilight shattered the distance between them, knelt and prone before the dragon.

“Yes! B-but I swear—I swear—I only found out a month after my coronation! Princess Celestia told me everything when she felt I was ready!” she defended, edging closer. “When… when we spent that night researching dragons, to find your origin, I knew as little as you did. I wanted… I wanted to help you. I still d—

“Your coronation, Twilight, was a year ago,” Spike said, never looking up.

Twilight’s sentence finished with a mute croak, her mouth shutting and closing like a gasping fish.

“Just… Why, Twilight?” Spike finally looked up, his frown wet with tears that could bend Twilight’s ribs into her lungs. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because she couldn’t.”

Twilight whipped her head up to the side, as did Spike. It was Samael, slowly marching toward them.

“Only those of royal lineage, or royal privilege, could know,” the demon continued. “But none could speak a word of it to you, whelp. It was forbidden.” Samael stopped close before the two, and like a stony whip, his index finger point upward. “By her.”

Spike followed the pointed red finger, and winced at the sun’s glare.

“Princess Celestia?” Spike asked, dumbstruck again. “But that’s…”

“That, my young Wyvern, was a sacred duty sworn by every guard, advisor, prince, and princess from the very day you were born,” Samael said. “It was not mere secrecy that held their tongues for eighteen years, whelp. Their charge was to prevent the Wyverns’ return at any cost.”

Spike’s eyes returned to the ground, and Twilight’s back to Spike.

“I see,” Spike muttered, his voice a low scratchy thing. “If I ever found out, I might’ve gotten ideas.”

Samael clapped his hands together. “And he gets it in one,” he said.

Twilight ignored the demon, reaching a hoof out to the now shaking dragon. “Spike. Please, please don’t think that? We—”

Her hoof was swatted away and wide, hateful eyes met hers. “Don’t you dare touch me!” Spike barked.

Twilight gasped short and shallow, her breaking heart clutched by her swatted hoof.

“So that’s it, huh? I’m a threat to you like the others were? That’s why you left me in the dark? That’s why you’ve spent the last year pretending you still cared?!”

Twilight’s hoof clutched harder over her chest, her head shaking oh so fast. “No, no, no, no, no, Spike.” She couldn’t bring herself to raise her voice, managing only a pitiful meeping tone. “I’ve always cared, and I always will. I love you Spike.”

She hadn’t uttered those words since the first day she made Spike cry, but she meant it. More than she ever did, perhaps more than she even wanted to.

But she meant it.

“I… I love you so mu—”

“Liar!”

She gasped longer and louder, another piece of her heart breaking like dusty old porcelain.

“You knew what I went through to discover myself! You knew what it meant to me! Still you kept me in the dark, kept my own people away from me! Mentors, creators, my parents…!” Spike completely stopped, his jaw numb. “My… my parents.”

Out of sheer instinct, he looked to Twilight. But turned to Samael instead.

“My parents! Did they…? Are they still…?”

The demon stroked his chin, considering Spike for a time. Misty smoke puffed from his nostrils as he sighed.

“No, little one,” Samael said. “They are not.”

Every glimmer of hope in Spike’s eyes dimmed, flickered, and died, his eyes averting. He looked back up at Samael.

“Spike,” the dragon said. Samael raised a brow. “My name. It’s Spike.”

Samael blinked. Then, out of every snide remark or rude gesture he could have made, he smiled. Genuinely. He crouched before Spike and put an open palm to his own chest. “Samael,” he said. “Understand this. While not a single living Wyvern escaped the purge, that didn’t account for their eggs.”

“Wait…” Spike said with a squinted eye. “What?”

“Your people evolved to survive seasons upon seasons of solitude in their unborn state. Some have said that Wyvern eggs can survive centuries at a time, through hot or cold, land or sea. Like tiny fortresses all their own.”

Spike frowned thoughtfully. “Was I…?”

Samael nodded. “Indeed. Another adaptation, however, proved to be… double-edged. Without the presence of their caretaker—parent or otherwise—Wyvern eggs can still be hatched. But only with powerful magic,” he said.

Spike’s eyes widened. “Wait… Are you saying… Are there more eggs out there?”

Samael carelessly waved a wrist and said, “Perhaps.”

Spike frowned. “‘Perhaps?’”

Samael gave another careless wave. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. For all I know, they could’ve been picked off by hungry predators eons ago.” He leaned closer to the small reptile. “But what in this life is ever certain, until we discover it for ourselves… Spike.”

The glimmer in his eyes returned, if only as a dim light. Something struck his heart, leaving him breathless, a hand against his chest. He turned away from Samael, away from Twilight, away from everything, and stared vastly at the mountainous expanse of Equestria.

His eyes darted to every nook and cranny he could find, his breath shallow, his heart racing.

Then his eyes flashed green fire and he gasped. He stumbled back and stared at his shaking hand.

“They’re… I can… I have to…” Every word was whispered, every whisper, a call for duty. “I have to go.”

A deep-seeded, long buried instinct drove his steps forward, but stopped at a clamping pressure on his tail. He spun around to a frowning Twilight, her face absolutely hideous with tears. His tail between her teeth.

Spike grunted and said, “Twilight, let go.”

Twilight shook her head.

He frowned. “I said let go.”

Her tears fell harder, her head shaking faster. Spike glared straight ahead with a defeated sigh. Then turned back around with small blast of fire. Twilight yelped off the dragon’s tail swiping at her darkened nose like an annoyed cat.

She regained herself and saw Spike turned to her, a solemn frown on his face. She could only stare at those defeated, abandoned eyes, her knees still prone.

“Twilight… I...” Spike stammered. He stepped back, and instinctively, Twilight leaned forward. “Just don’t follow me.”

The alicorn began to crawl. “No… You can’t go, Spike,” she whispered, somehow knowing Spike would hear. “Not like this.”

Spike’s feet rooted to the ground, looking away.

“After everything we’ve accomplished? After every trial we’ve overcome?” Twilight crawled closer, her belly scraping against the soil. “Spike, you’ve conquered your dragon greed here. Your worst instincts were cast aside for us—your home.” Her tears sprinkled the dirt as she crawled closer still. “Your family.”

Spike frowned, but remained where he stood. Finally, Twilight reached him, her a gentle hoof on his turned cheek.

“You’ve even turned down your own to be with us. Doesn’t that mean anything, Spike?” She turned his head to face her. “What about the crystal ponies, who practically worship you? What about our friends? What about Rarity?”

Spike frowned harder. But in an instant, that frown shattered into bright and wide eyes. The corners of Twilight’s mouth twitched, hope returning to her tear-soaked eyes.

“Ponyville wouldn’t be the same without you. I wouldn’t be the same,” she said, daring a nuzzle against the seemingly shocked whelp. “Please, just return to the castle, and I swear, when this is over, everything will be just fine. I swear I’ll make things right again.”

Spike’s hands reached up and grabbed those purple hooves, his touch soft. Soothing. Twilight’s smile shattered when her hooves were thrown away like broken crutches. Spike’s face never changed.

“I… I think I finally understand,” he said. “My purpose here? Why you raised me?” He stepped back, and Twilight couldn’t help but reach for him, shaking her head, her eyes pleading for reason. Spike stepped back again. “Why, Twilight? Were you that afraid of what I could be? Or couldn’t you stand failing Celestia?”

Twilight crawled forward again, her already-teary face accompanied with more tears. Spike stepped back again.

“‘The weapon Celestia always wanted’. Now I get it,” Spike continue with a lower voice. “I’d collect all this power, and Equestria would have their juggernaut. A loyal pet. Of course I’d never think to turn on you. Because I’d never know my heritage—my culture—was destroyed by those I’d protect.”

Twilight crawled onward, her short breaths falling to quiet sobs.

“That was your plan, wasn’t it?” Spike asked, now full-on walking backwards. “To raise me from a lie? You think I’d be a part of this, knowing everything I’ve been taught was a lie?”

“You’ll never make it, Spike,” Twilight said, her child constantly out of reach. “Don’t you get it?! You’ll never make it!”

Spike stopped, and for some unknowable reason, so did Twilight.

“You’ll be hunted, Spike! Not just feared, but hunted! If you leave, they’ll know! Celestia will know! Canterlot, the Crystal Empire, everyone! They’ll hunt you to the ends of Equestria, and they won’t rest knowing you live! And I… I-I’ll have no choice! YOU KNOW THAT!”

A single tear ran down the dragon’s cheek, but evaporated before it fell. He stepped back again.

“Don’t do this, Spike, “Twilight pleaded. “Don’t make an enemy out of me. Don’t leave me.”

Finally, Spike turned his back on Twilight, and that cut deeper than any blade.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Twilight persisted, now knowing the futility. “You don’t have to face this alone.”

Spike marinated in those words, his eyes captured by a rich world he’d only seen from inside his backwoods home. A world he may have never truly known until that day. With a thousand-mile stare, he prepared to take the first real step of his entire life.

“I won’t have to…” he said.

“I’m sorry.” It was all Twilight could say. “I’m sorry.” Her tears fell even harder, sprinkling the dirt. Her teeth gnashed together, her frown as strong as she could muster.

“I know,” Spike muttered.

He ran.

“No, Spike!” Twilight shouted, lifting off her knees and falling back down. “Don’t go!”

Spike kept running.

“We… we can work this out! You and me! Just come back!” Her horn flickered with light for a teleportation spell, but she shrieked with a splitting headache instead. Her chin hit the ground, and she could only stare after the fading dragon.

“Spike.” Long-forgotten memories swept passed her eyes. “Spike!” The thought of waking up every morning without him beside her bed--of looking into a mirror and seeing a coward staring back, of realizing her secrecy caused all of it--finally broke the remains of her heart. “SPIKE!”

Spike kept running, his little form fading to a shallow dot far away.

Twilight’s cheek hit the dirt, and she cried. Loudly. Her tears slowly darkened the dry soil.

Samael, too, found himself transfixed on Spike’s fading form, looking on with great interest.

“The Wyverns are broken, shattered against the walls of history. Forgotten,” Samael said, if only to himself. He pet his chin. “But… from the dusty remains, beats the heart of their child. And with him, beats hope; a new future.”

Samael stared for a while longer, until Spike was completely gone. He nodded and turned away, his heavy steps carrying him past the broken ponies he’d beaten.

One by one, he admired his handiwork; Rarity shaking and clutching at her broken side, Pinkie Pie sprawled on her belly, Applejack motionless on her side, Fluttershy weeping in a pile of broken wood—probably a cart—with a splint shoved through a wing, and finally Rainbow Dash, sprawled on her back, glaring at the demon like a restricted child.

A distant stomp caught his ear.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Samael already knew it was Twilight. But he kept walking.

“Leaving, of course,” Samael replied. “My work here is done.”

Twilight’s hooves gave out again, and she crashed back onto her knees. “‘Leaving’? That’s it? After everything you’ve done, you think you can just leave?!” she shouted.

Samael kept walking.

“How dare you…” Twilight hissed. “How dare you?!”

Samael kept walking.

“We were a family, you monster! I raised him! Me! No one else! I loved him like a son and a brother! I fed him by hoof, I burped him, I sang to him in his crib, I pushed him on the swings, I kissed his bruises and cuts to make them all better!” By then, Twilight knew she was crying, but excused it for perfectly justifiable rage. “You! You took him away from me!”

Samael raised a fist, and a swirling mesh of red and orange light burst open in his path. He kept walking.

“I’ll never let you get away with this!” Twilight swore, lifting herself again. “You hear me?! Never!”

Then, just inches from that fiery light, Samael stopped. Twilight’s wings stood erect, blood pumping through her shaky legs.

He turned to the alicorn with smoky glowing eyes. “You have shown me something today, Twilight Sparkle. Something that, despite your misguided ideals, has put my faith in you.” He faced her completely. “You’ve lied to your oldest companion, stole from him his heritage, and did it with an honest-to-God smile on your face. It seems you too understand that, sometimes, loyalty must be forsworn to do what must be done. For the greater good of your people.”

Samael’s eyes averted, his gaze thoughtful and reflecting.

“Huh. Not so different, you and I,” the demon said.

Twilight quite literally spat at the comment, like raw sewage was thrown in her mouth.

“I am nothing like you!” she hissed. “You gallivant from life to life and trample on them! You hurt others with nothing but delight! You take the most important things to ponies away from them! I hate you!”

Twilight gasped, barely keeping a hoof from shooting to her mouth. Her last three words were like biting into moldy hay and swallowing by complete accident.

“I… I hate you,” she whispered.

Red light trimmed her body.

“I hate you!”

Her eyes smoked with a misty purple.

“I HATE YOU!”

Her horn burst with black energy, a green light dotting the tip. Her irises fell red, her whites turning a murky green.

Samael just grinned.

“Hmm. It appears King Sombra left you a little gift.” He turned back to the swirling light. “Good. Use that gift, and there may just be hope for you yet, Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

He stepped through the light, and with a shrill scream that scratched and shredded her throat, Twilight shattered the ground on takeoff, and followed.

The portal bent into itself and collapsed.

Author's Note:

So...

*sniffs*

Any of you hate me yet?