• Published 10th Jul 2011
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Antipodes - PK



An epic post-apocolyptic adventure fic surrounding Celestia and Luna's dissapearence.

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Antipodes- Chapter 31

Antipodes

Chapter 31

By PK

The bright blue juices from the strange fruit drizzled down Incendia's muzzle, the bitter, slightly electric, taste fresh in her mouth.

"Are you sure these are safe to eat?" she asked, eyeing the half-eaten fruit floating a few inches in front of her.

"Pretty sure," Jigsaw said, his own fruit hovering next to him. "When I examined the tree, I really didn't feel anything malignant. These definitely aren't natural, though, whatever they are."

Incendia's stomach growled in hunger, but she put the fruit away.

"I think I'll save this for later," she said.

The trees only grew thicker as they walked. A layer of thick gray clouds blocked out the sun, the blue green light illuminating the area coming from the thin layer of moss on the forest floor.

A loud, clear whistle and a rustle of branches heralded Tiptoe's return. She slowly fluttered down from the canopy, the buffets of air disturbing the moss below and causing it to flare brighter and cast strange, spindly shadows on the trunks of the trees on the edges of the clearing. Tiptoe alighted on the bright patch of moss and she trotted up to Incendia and Jigsaw.

"Something's keeping me from breaking through," Tiptoe said. "When I fly up, it’s like… like there’s something breathing down, a hot gust that keeps me from going up any farther.”

“I was afraid of that,” Jigsaw said seriously. “I think we’re more than lost. Something wants us here.”

“A fragment?” asked Tiptoe, ruffling her wings.

Jigsaw sighed, his shoulders drooping as he stared at the ground. “It would explain a lot. These trees didn’t grow like this naturally. In fact, I think that might be why the goddesses have finally calmed down. Maybe we’re getting closer.”

Incendia cleared her throat, and Jigsaw turned to look at her. “If there is a fragment here, wouldn’t that make three? As in one full goddess? What happens then?”

Jigsaw’s face remained blank, but his voice was heavy with fatigue. “I guess we find out.”

For a long while, nopony made a noise, preferring to sit in the gloomy light from the moss and eat the strange fruits.

“I think we should probably camp here tonight,” Jigsaw finally said, breaking the silence. “Incendia, can you light us a campfire?”

“There’s no firewood,” Incendia pointed out.

“I’m a bit nervous about burning these branches, as full of magic as they are. Can you do that fireball, the one you did back at the castle?”

“It will only last a few hours,” Incendia warned. “We can’t count on it to keep things away.”

“It’s the best chance we have without being unsafe.”

“Alright,” Incendia said. Her horn shimmered orange, and with a sudden flash of light and heat, a tiny ball of fire hung a foot above the ground in the center of the clearing, rotating like a miniature sun. The heat and light it gave off seemed to drive out some of the gloom.

“Thank you,” Jigsaw said, promptly curling into a tight ball and closed his eyes.

“I’ll be right back,” Incendia said. “Nature calls.”

One of Jigsaw’s eyes fluttered open. “Don’t go far, and if anything happens, shout.”

Incendia nodded and left the clearing. She trotted past the giant, thick trunks of the strange trees before stopping at the mouth of another, much smaller clear area.

A warm breeze picked up, blowing through the clearing, and a clear beam of silvery light washed out the strange blue green illumination of the fungus. Incendia looked up to see the bushy limbs of the trees had been pushed aside, giving her a clear view of the sky.

Incendia stared up in awe, for above her was not the colorful twilight she had grown accustomed to. The moon was directly above— not the crumbling, dull gray moon she was used to, but a whole, bright moon, shining brilliantly down into the clearing.

However, even as she watched, the moon shifted and changed, seeming to flicker and grow transparent for a moment before snapping back into place, as though it was being projected. The sky didn’t seem right, either— instead of the pale blue tinted with the orange of the perpetually setting sun, the sky seemed tinged green— a sickeningly familiar green.

Then, without warning, the tree limbs snapped back into place, cutting off the strange silvery beam of light. Where it had touched the clearing, the moss seemed to glow brighter, and brighter until a strangled shout from the distance broke Incendia out of her reverie. A moment later, Tiptoe burst out from between the trees, screaming, “Incendia, help! Something’s attacking the camp!”

~~~

Jigsaw’s dreams were turbulent. He was walking over a snowy landscape, the wind whipping around him and causing white frost to form at the edge of his mane. His voice rasped when he tried to speak, his throat as dry as sandpaper. As the wind picked up, however, it blew away the layer of snow, revealing a huge, elaborate tangle of water pipes, valves, gauges, and switches.

Jigsaw bent down and touched his horn to the nearest valve and felt the blockages in the system. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, drawing magical power from his internal reserve and holding it for a moment, then he let the spell loose. Blue light pulsed from his horn and down through the pipes, forcing the blockages out and breaking them into pieces.

Jigsaw smiled at a job well done and turned the nearest valve with his mouth. A small faucet and basin rose from the pipe and Jigsaw eagerly awaited the flood of water he expected.

The faucet rumbled and, with a distant scream that was nearly drowned out by the wind, thick, steaming blood poured out.

Jigsaw’s eyes whipped open just in time to feel a hot, wet gust of air blow through the clearing. As it met the glowing miniature sun in the center of the impromptu campsite, the sphere flickered and grew suddenly bright, sending off a wave of heat so intense Jigsaw had to scramble to his hooves and step back before it suddenly winked out.

Jigsaw looked around wildly, but the only thing he saw was Tiptoe, standing at the edge of the clearing, wings outstretched in shock, staring back at him.

“What in Celestia’s name was tha—

Her words were cut off by a pair of sudden, piercing electric blue lights that appeared from the darkness behind the edge of the clearing.

The lights came forward into the gloom of the moss, and the creature’s featured became defined. A small, somewhat squashed face surrounded by a pale blue mane, leading back to a monstrously huge body terminating in a long, segmented tail with a sharp, hooked stinger on the end.

“A manticore,” Tiptoe said, her voice barely more than a whisper in the gloom of the clearing.

The manticore sniffed at the air, bright eyes flickering back and forth between the two ponies.

“Tiptoe,” Jigsaw said, his voice oddly even and calm, “go get Incendia. Now.”

“Jigsaw, I can’t leave, you—”

“Go!” Jigsaw shouted, igniting his horn and slamming the manticore across the face with a magically bent tree limb.

Tiptoe lept off and galloped into the darkness, and Jigsaw focused on the manticore, who stared at him angrily, baring its teeth.

The creature roared at him and lowered its head for a charge. Jigsaw jumped to one side, skidding a bright track in the moss below. The manticore wasn’t able to turn tightly enough to hit Jigsaw, but his tail whipped around and the stinger caught him in his right flank above his cutie mark, leaving a bright red trail.

Jigsaw let out a strangled cry as a white-hot pain shot through his whole right side. The manticore growled and lined itself up for another charge. Jigsaw attempted to stumble to the side, but his right side didn’t appear to move. With horror, Jigsaw saw that tendrils of electric blue were winding out from the spot where the stinger had pierced his flesh. The white-hot pain was rapidly fading, replaced by a horrible, tingling numbness.

The manticore roared and lowered its head to charge again, when a bolt of bright orange came whizzing out of the trees and slammed into the muscle bound side of the creature. The beast roared and stumbled, crashing into the ground and cutting a gorge into the mossy ground and revealing the dark soil underneath.

Not a moment later, Incendia and Tiptoe burst out of the undergrowth, panting heavily. Flames danced around Incendia’s horn and, as the manticore unsteadily rose to its feet, the flames immediately spread down and brought her coal-black fur.

The manticore shook it’s head, seemingly unphased by the attack. Where the fireball had hit, blue sparks danced across the manticore’s skin, as though a bundle of electrical wires had been exposed.

Before the manticore could fully recover from the shock of the sudden hit, Incendia blazed brightly and blasted it with another burst of fire. The creature staggered, but the fire seemed to roll off it with an electric crackle of power.

“Incendia! Look out!” Jigsaw cried, and Incendia artfully dodged the sudden flash of black as the creature’s stinger embedded itself where she had been standing a moment before.

The manticore yanked its stinger out of the ground, leaving a pool of blue venom behind. It raised the stinger in preparation for another strike, but before it could follow through, a flash of yellow darted in, twisting the stinger out of position and causing the beast to roar in pain.

Tiptoe dived down again, hooves outstretched, driving the tip of the stinger deep into the wood of a nearby tree. The manticore roared in frustration and attempted to pull its stinger out of the unyielding wood.

“Incendia! Now!” Tiptoe shouted. Incendia braced herself and felt a pressure building in her horn, drawing magic from her internal wellspring and focusing in her horn. The flames that billowed forth from the tip of her horn began to turn blue, flowing over the rest of her body. When Incendia couldn’t stand it anymore, she let the power issue from the tip of her horn and directed it towards the trapped creature snarling at her from across the clearing.

The flames poured over the manticore, flames meeting the magical flesh with a sharp blue crackle. However, the crackling appeared to be diminishing even as Incendia watched- the blue flames seemed to be creeping under the crackling blue shield, scorching the flesh below.

The manicore began to writhe, strangled cries of pain and agitation barely audible over the jet-like roar of Incendia’s onslaught. With one mighty yank and the sound of splintering wood, the manticore freed itself from the tree and retreated, smoking, out of the clearing and into the dark of the woods.

With concentrated effort, Incendia cut off the flow of magic and felt the flames that cloak her die down and fade into darkness.

She stood there, breathing hard, staring at the flaming trunk of the tree with the oozing stinger wound embedded within until a dry cough from her right caught her attention.

“Jigsaw!” Tiptoe shouted, rushing over to where he laid on the ground, scarlet blood staining the blue-green moss below. Strange, curling electric blue tendrils spread out under his skin from the gaping puncture in his flank, pulsing eerily, like a perverse heartbeat.

“I can’t feel my right side,” Jigsaw said, weakly. “I think that stinger was poisoned.”

“Are you okay?” Incendia asked, trotting up beside Tiptoe.

“I don’t know, but you saved my life,” Jigsaw said, lifting his head so as to better see the two. “Thank you. I need you both to step back, though. I’m going to try and heal it.”

Incendia and Tiptoe obliged, and Jigsaw slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position. To Tiptoe’s disgust, a small amount of brilliantly blue liquid spurted from the wound as he sat up, mixing with the blood soaking into the moss below.

Jigsaw’s horn began to glow, a much more comforting and familiar blue. He craned his head around, attempting to better aim at the hole in his flank. His horn began to glow brighter.

Tiptoe’s ears suddenly perked up. A quiet, extremely high-pitched keening noise had begun in the clearing. As the glow in Jigsaw’s horn grew in intensity, the sharp noise grew louder.

“What is that?” Incendia shouted over the ring that had risen to a deafening pitch.

In answer, Jigsaw gave a shout of pain, and the keening noise grew louder still. His horn flashed several times, so brightly that Tiptoe was momentarily blinded, then, without warning the noise was cut off and Jigsaw slumped to the ground with a heavy thump.

Tiptoe rushed forward, but Jigsaw allayed her fears by struggling again into a sitting position.

“What happened?” Tiptoe asked, eyes wide with concern and surprise.

“I have no idea,” Jigsaw responded, breathing heavily. “It’s like something is blocking me. A-and… and I feel so weak.”

His eyelids fluttered and he swayed where he sat for a moment before he snapped back to consciousness.

“Okay, listen. I’m almost certain there’s a fragment here. I don’t know what else could have affected the local flora and fauna so much, but I don’t think I have much time.”

“But,” Tiptoe said desperately, “but the fragments of the goddesses will protect you, right?”

“That’s the thing,” Jigsaw said. “I can’t feel them anymore. Or, I can, but it feels like they’re far away and being blocked in the same way I am. It has to be a fragment. We need to get to it quickly. You need to…”

Jigsaw trailed off as his eyes rolled back into his head and he slumped, unconscious, onto the glowing ground.

“Jigsaw?” Tiptoe said, quietly. Then, she shouted “Jigsaw!”

“Look,” Incendia said, “he’s still breathing.”

Tiptoe looked closer and, sure enough, Jigsaw’s chest was still rising and falling slowly and regularly. Gently, she lowered her ear to his chest, listening to his labored breathing for a moment. “Well,” she said anxiously, “what do we do?”

“We’re going to have to find the fragment by ourselves,” Incendia said grimly.

~~~

Jigsaw felt as though he was floating weightlessly through a world devoid of substance or color.

Jigsaw retched, and a moment later, he felt a sharp shock as he collided with the ground. Dimly, he heard a high-pitched, melodious voice say: “Jigsaw?”

Slowly, his eyes focused, and Tiptoe’s face swam into focus.

“Where are we?” Jigsaw said. His throat felt dry and hot, and his mouth tasted of bile.

“Incendia carried you through the forest,” Tiptoe said. “Every now and then, that strange, warm breeze would blow from one direction or another, and we just followed it until we found this place. I don’t know what it used to be, but the walls are still standing and the door locks.”

Jigsaw looked around, taking in the space they were in. The space was lit by a bright, floating orb, hovering in the center of the space, like a miniature sun. There was no moss on the ground, instead, lightly colored packed dirt formed a solid surface. The wooden walls were spotted and warped with age, and seemed to have taken on some of the strange blue color of the trees, but they were otherwise still intact. Incendia slept soundly under directly under the floating orb, her face distorted by the heat waves radiating off the sphere. The door at the far end had a heavy wooden beam across its berth, blocking entry from the outside.

Jigsaw himself was lying on the ground underneath a small bench that was serving as an impromptu cot. With great effort, he managed to clamber onto the surface of the bench and lay down.

“Do you have any water?” Jigsaw asked weakly.

Tiptoe nodded, trotted out of Jigsaw’s vision, then came back a moment later with a small, curved flask in her mouth. Gingerly, she tilted a small amount of the liquid into Jigsaw’s waiting mouth, and he gulped it down eagerly.

“We’re going to sleep here, for now,” Tiptoe said. “I’m sorry, Jigsaw but we just can’t keep going.”

Jigsaw nodded. “It’s okay. I think I need some proper sleep too. Just… just hurry, okay?”

Tiptoe nodded, and with that, Jigsaw laid his head down and drifted into sleep.

Tiptoe gulped and her eyes went unbidden to the wound in Jigsaw’s side. The spiderweb of blue, pulsing veins spread had spread further out from the wound, which was oozing a semi-transparent, bluish liquid. Carefully, she bent down and softly kissed Jigsaw’s forehead, then turned towards the warmth of the sphere.

She approached as to the burning sphere as she dared and whispered, “Incendia? Are you awake?”

Incendia stirred and her eyes opened. “I am now,” she said, sleepily as she got to her feet and moved away from the ball of light.

Tiptoe shuffled her feet uncomfortably and said, “I’m really scared, Incendia.”

Incendia looked at the pegasus and sighed. “I know, Tiptoe. I’m scared too.”

“What if we can’t find the fragment without him?” Tiptoe continued. “What if that breeze thing isn’t what we’re supposed to be following?”

“It doesn’t do any good to speculate,” Incendia replied.

Tiptoe sat down and turned her eyes to the fire, staring intently.

“Back in Stalliongrad,” Incendia continued, “we saw a lot of injuries. Lost a lot of ponies. Living like that… I guess you sort of get used to death. I didn’t let ponies get close because you never knew who you might lose and when.

“I had… when I first started out, when I first decided I needed to rebel, I had a girlfriend. Her name was Selene. She was the most beautiful shade of brown you could ever see, and she…” Incendia’s voice caught, and she had to swallow hard before continuing. “We fought back together, at first. Recruited a team, built a headquarters, built a life. Then, one day, she found out her sisters had been killed by Rubidium’s forces, and… I found her in the bathroom. She had... She followed them.”

Tiptoe broke her gaze from the fire and stared at Incendia. Steam was rising from the corners of her eyes.

“She left me all alone. After all we’d done, all we were planning to do, and she left like that. After that, I learned I couldn’t get too invested in any members of the team because I didn’t know what was going to happen next.”

Incendia’s voice grew stronger and more confident as she spoke. “That’s not going to happen here, Tiptoe. I know what’s going to happen next. We’re going to find that fragment and Jigsaw is going to get better. He’s not going to leave you. I’m going to make sure of that. I swear.”

“Thank you,” Tiptoe said. Then, she paused. “Incendia? Could I sleep with you tonight?”

Incendia’s eyes widened in surprise, and she felt the heat of a blush rise to her cheeks. She hesitated for a moment, then came back into the world. “Of course you can,” she said with a smile.

Tiptoe trotted over to Incendia and lay down, head resting gently against Incendia’s neck. Together, side by side in the warm, magical light, they fell asleep.

~~~

They awoke when the spell holding the magical ball of fire in mid-air unraveled and it blinked out of existence with a ear-splitting snap.

Tiptoe anxiously trotted over to where Jigsaw lay shivering on the wooden cot. His wound hadn’t closed, and though it was no longer weeping bluish fluid, the electric blue tendrils radiating out of the wound had grown in both numbers and intensity, and were flashing much more rapidly.

“How is he doing?” Incendia asked, slinging her saddlebags over her shoulder.

“He looks a lot worse,” Tiptoe said. “ I don’t think we have much time.”

Incendia nodded. “We’d better get going, then.”

Tiptoe flew over to the wooden door and flung the bar over it upwards, letting the doors to slowly creak open and reveal the thick vegetation beyond.

Incendia’s horn began to glow, and Jigsaw was gently lifted off the cot, hovering in mid-air behind her.

As if on cue, the warm breeze began to blow in through the open barn doors.

Strangely, though the air felt pleasantly warm on Incendia’s skin, the same gust felt as though her horn had been plunged into icy water. The glow in her horn diminished, and Jigsaw wobbled in the air for a moment before she refocused and her horn flared back into brilliance.

Together, they set off into the gloomy half-lit world beyond.

~~~

The vegetation grew thicker the deeper they penetrated into the forest. Eventually it was so thick that Incendia had to lashing out with a flaming whip in order to cut the thick brambles apart and carve a path through the foliage.

The warm breeze continued to blow out from random directions, growing in strength and frequency as they walked. Tiptoe and Incendia interpreted this as them getting closer to the source.

“How large is this forest?” Incendia asked, carefully stepping over the smoldering remains of the brambles. “It didn’t look this large from the air.”

“I guess it’s like the castle with the first Luna fragment,” Tiptoe said. “It’s probably been leading us around in circles or something.”

“At least it isn’t throwing ghosts at us,” Incendia said, shuddering. “That was disturb— Ah!”

Incendia stumbled into a river that rushed through a small canyon in the forest, quickly stepping back and checking that Jigsaw was still floating behind her.

“Oh, Goddesses, I didn’t see that coming at all! My heart is pounding, how do you think we can—”

Incendia noticed the slack-jawed expression on Tiptoe’s face and turned to follow her eyes.

As she looked across the expanse of the canyon, her breath caught in her lungs. A huge, half-sunken ruin was visible across the canyon, ruined spires jutting up at forty-five degree angles to the trunks of the trees around them. But the most impressive vista was the countless tangle of spiderweb-thin strands of blue light that crept out from somewhere inside the ruins.

“Wow,” Tiptoe said. “I’ll bet the fragment is in there.”

“We have to get over there soon,” Incendia said, glancing back at Jigsaw’s sweat-soaked face. “I don’t see any way to get over.”

“Look over there,” Tiptoe said, pointing at a spot on the far side of the canyon. “Do you see those posts?”

Incendia squinted for a moment, then saw that there were indeed two brown posts sticking out of the ground at odd angles, frayed and yellowed rope still tied around one of them.

“I think there used to be a bridge here,” Tiptoe said. “But I don’t see any way to get over it now.”

“I’m going to try levitating Jigsaw over,” Incendia said. “You fly underneath him in case anything happens. Once he’s over, you can carry me.”

Tiptoe grimaced at the thought of carrying Incendia, but nodded her assent.

Incendia gritted her teeth and carefully floated Jigsaw to the mouth of the canyon. Tiptoe dived off the edge, wings outstretched, and shouted, “Ready!”

Jigsaw’s unconscious body hovered out over the ledge, slowly and steadily advancing towards the opposite edge of the canyon.

Without warning, a gust of scaldingly hot air blew out from the castle. Incendia once again felt the heat all over her body, except on her horn. Her horn felt as though it had been plunged into icy water, so cold and shocking that the orange glow surrounding it died instantly.

Jigsaw dropped out of the air like a puppet whose strings have been cut. Tiptoe gasped and flew up to meet him, arresting his descent in a flurry of flapping wings.

“Incendia!” she shouted. “What happened? Are you alright?”

“Yeah!” came Incendia’s shaky voice. “I don’t know what happened. That air blast just… it was like it shut off my magic.”

Tiptoe struggled to flap back up to the level of the canyon, then, as gently as she could, she deposited Jigsaw on the far side. With deep unease, she noticed that the blue tendrils on his flank were pulsing in time with the blue veins on the ground.

“Can you still get me over the canyon?” Incendia called.

“I hope so,” Tiptoe replied.

Incendia gulped.

After a very shaky and uneven flight, Incendia and Tiptoe plopped down on the other side of the canyon rim.

“Is he alright?” Incendia inquired, looking at Jigsaw nervously.

“He’s still breathing,” Tiptoe said, voice quavering, “but it’s shallow and irregular. We need to find that fragment as soon as possible.”

Incendia nodded, and without another word, her horn ignited, and Jigsaw again floated up into the air.

As they approached the sunken ruin, Incendia’s horn began to tingle, like a cold pressure forcing itself against her face, trying to quash the magic that emanated from her horn. With every step she took towards the castle, Jigsaw sunk a little more in the air.

“Do you feel that?” Incendia asked through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, I do,” Tiptoe said. “It’s like I’m wading through ice water. We must be close to the fragment now.”

“Yeah, that, or we’re walking right into a trap,” Incendia said darkly.

With great effort, Incendia made it across the threshold of the ruin and into the strange foyer. The floor, though tilted sharply, gripped her hooves and made walking only slightly more difficult.

Plant life had invaded this space, too. Tree limbs trespassed into the hall through long-shattered windows and shrubs and bushes grew in abundance. At the far end, on a raised dais, a silvery-blue orb hovered silently in the air. Every few seconds, it let out a pulse of bright blue light, accompanied by a blast of hot air. Once again, the hot air turned suddenly icy on Incendia’s horn, and Jigsaw slumped to the ground again.

“Incendia!” Tiptoe shouted.

“I know, I know,” Incendia said, “I’ll pick him back up.”

“No, Incendia! He’s stopped breathing!”

Incendia whipped around and galloped to where Jigsaw lay. Sure enough, his chest had ceased its rise and fall, and his eyes were shut. The wound was pulsing violently now.

“We need to get him to the fragment now!” Incendia said. “Just grab him!”

Tiptoe took to the air and wrapped her forehooves around and under Jigsaw’s shoulders. She beat her wings hard, and she took off over the slanted floor and dove towards the floating orb.

The hot air roared out yet again. Tiptoe beat her wings so strongly they felt as though they were going to tear out of their sockets. Even so, she could only barely manage to hover in place, a tantalizing few feet from the fragment.

In one last, desperate action, Tiptoe hurled Jigsaw at the fragment, putting all her remaining strength into the motion before tumbling back in the onslaught.

As the tip of Jigsaw’s horn met the surface of the pulsing orb, the roar of wind died abruptly. The electric blue streaks in the orb began to fade, and silvery light enveloped Jigsaw. As Incendia and Tiptoe watched, shockingly blue liquid began to trickle out of the wound in Jigsaw’s side, then, with a sudden flash of light, the fragment was gone, and Jigsaw was standing, unaided, on the dais.

“Jigsaw!” Tiptoe and Incendia shouted, rushing toward him, but they came to a screeching halt when he turned to face them.

His eyes were a solid silver, as shiny and reflective as a mirror. When he spoke, his regular voice was overlaid with a resonant, and unmistakably female voice.

“Fear not. Jigsaw is recovering. You have the honor of being the first in these many millennia to address Princess Luna.”

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