• 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 32

Antipodes

Chapter 32

By PK

(In the last chapter, our intrepid trio ventured deep into the Everfree forest only to find it twisted by an unknown magic. Jigsaw fought with a manticore and was fatally poisoned. Working together, Incendia and Tiptoe brought Jigsaw to a mysterious ruined castle, where and unconscious Jigsaw collected the new fragment and Luna fully reformed, expunging the poison in the process.)

“I— you’re— what?” Tiptoe spluttered.

Jigsaw’s solid silver eyes flashed in Tiptoe’s direction. For a moment, a slight frown creased his face, but then recognition dawned. “Tiptoe,” Luna’s voice said, “I understand that you must be confused. Know that all shall be explained soon.”

“But…” Tiptoe blinked took a deep breath. “What happened to Jigsaw? Are you… is he alright?”

“His wounds were serious, but I believe I have expunged the poison. He is merely unconscious, in a healing sleep. I am using his body as a sort of mouthpiece.”

“What gives you that right?” Tiptoe responded incredulously.

Luna’s eyes narrowed for a moment, and Tiptoe’s stomach twisted with a sudden realization of whom she was speaking to.

“Forgive us, Princess,” Incendia responded quickly, breaking the tense silence. “We’ve been through a lot today.”

Luna sighed. “I am not without sympathy to your plight, or to his, but in times as dire as this, action must be taken. We shall have to share this body. I have no desire to take it as my own.”

Tiptoe nodded begrudgingly. “Okay, but when he wakes up, you let me talk to him, alright?”

“You said you don’t want to take that body as your own,” Incendia cut in. “Does that mean you can’t regain your former form?”

“We should not discuss such matters here,” Luna said, glancing around the ruins. “This is not an auspicious place for such talks. It is fortunate that you found one of my battleships. I have power enough for this.”

“For what?” Tiptoe asked, but a sudden swirl of air rushing around her cut her words off. Jigsaw’s horn began to glow with an eerie silvery light.

“No!” Incendia cried. “You’ll burn him out! He can’t—“

A sharp snap echoed out through the forest as the trio vanished from the ruins.

~~~

Tantalus carefully wrapped the hide around his claw, making sure that the wriggling and squirming green symbols that slid across the surface were all present. When he was confident that they were, he reached out and gingerly grabbed the cracked and softly glowing crystal with one gloved claw.

In response to the touch, the crystal began vibrating and shooting off shafts of brilliant, golden light. The symbols on the hide flared and burned against the crystal, though their brilliance diminished as the golden light slowly washed them out.

Unbidden, images flooded into Tantalus’ mind. A purple unicorn smiling down on him. A bright, shining gemstone, begging to be eaten. A brilliantly red unicorn, his image rippling due to the magical field between them, laughing as Spike pounded his fists against the shield, desperately trying to penetrate it…

Tantalus roared and forced the images back. This was his body now.

And its work was nearly done. The pieces were falling into place.

He had to get to Ponyville.

He stood at the mouth of the cave, brightly shining gemstone in hand, and unfurled his wings. Neon green flames spurted from his snout as he exhaled. With a great pump of his wings, he took off into the twilit sky.

~~~

“—handle it!”

Incendia blinked and glanced around. Jigsaw stood before her, horn rapidly dimming, and Tiptoe stood at her side, blinking and looking around as confusedly as she was.

“What just happened?”

“I brought you to the ship,” Luna replied. “It is fortunate you found one of my battleships. It was designed to be receptive to me.”

“That was dangerous,” Tiptoe said. “You could have killed him!”

Incendia winced, convinced she had angered Luna again, but she only smiled.

“Now that I am whole, I am better able to focus and restrict my magic. Before, our minds were fractured, not thinking clearly, and we lacked restraint. Every time we were forced to tip our hooves, Jigsaw had to channel the raw force of a goddess. That is dangerous even for one with his blood.”

“His blood?” Incendia asked. “What do you mean?”

“I suggest you have a seat,” Luna said. “We have much to discuss.”

Incendia and Tiptoe shared anxious looks, then plopped down on the chairs that lined the wall.

“What do you first wish to know?” Luna said.

“Can you make the sun and moon move?” Incendia asked. “The legends say Celestia did it while you were… well, imprisoned on the moon.”

“I cannot.” Luna replied solemnly. “Celestia was always the stronger of us, and I am greatly weakened by the centuries I spent split. If I was at my peak, perhaps… but that is neither here nor there. The only hope for healing the world is for both of us to regain our bodies and combine our powers, as it should be.”

“What happens to Jigsaw when we get the last fragment?” Tiptoe asked anxiously.”

“Do not fear,” Luna said. “Given adequate time to regain our powers, we should be able to reform ourselves and vacate Jigsaw. He shall not be harmed.”

“What happened when you were broken?” Incendia asked. “Why is any of this happening?”

Luna hesitated, as if trying to find the correct words, then said, “What do you know of the beginning?”

“The beginning of what?” Incendia and Tiptoe asked in unison.

“Everything. The world,” Luna replied.

“Not much,” Incendia admitted. “Where I came from, information on the goddesses was hard to find.”

“Yes,” Luna agreed, “Stalliongrad. My sister has fragmented memories of it. If you do not know, then I suppose I must start from the beginning.”

“Before the world, there was order and chaos, with the void separating them. Order and chaos waged constant battle, but the void intervened. From nothing came the world, barren and empty, a battleground. From order came my sister. In those days, she was a pure avatar of order. Where she strode, life sprung, spreading across the surface of the world. She created the sun in order to spread order’s light over the world.”

“I came soon after. I was formed out of the void. Neither chaotic nor orderly, but capable of both, wanting only to be, I gave minds and thought to the creatures that roamed the world, allowing them to ponder their own existence and choose what path they wish to follow. I created the impartial moon, sharing the night sky with chaos’ realm but reflecting the light of order. Celestia embraced me as a sister, and I resolved to strive towards order and away from chaos.”

“Then… came Tantalus. Though the youngest of us, he was by far the most powerful. Chaos wants only to destroy the works of my sister and me and remake it as it sees fit. Tantalus is not his original name, nor is his current form his original, but that is irrelevant. He used his power to cut my sister off from order and… corrupt my nature. We were greatly diminished. He created the night sky and stars, a mockery of both the blank canvas that is the void and the light that is order. For a time, Tantalus held sway over the world.”

“However, we found a way to control him. It was one of your kind that found the way, in fact. They poured the best of themselves into six magical artifacts- the elements of harmony. They presented them to us, and combined with our powers, we bound Tantalus into a special vessel. Over time, we began to identify with the elements and with your kind more than our respective spheres. Really, we are only shadows of what we were at the beginning. Eventually, my sister gave the elements back to your kind.”

Tiptoe looked as though she was going to be sick, but Incendia had enough composure to say, “This is fascinating, but the elements of harmony haven’t surface for thousands of years. What exactly is our plan going forward?”

“Hush, child,” Luna said, “I must explain fully if we are to have any chance against Tantalus.”

“We buried the vessel deeply and got back to the business of running the world. That was our mistake. Tantalus was too powerful to be fully contained. He bided his time, gaining strength, sending out parts of himself when he could. I… I understand him better than most. For a time, he managed to corrupt me. You know I was banished to the moon, correct? That… that is why. Once I knew the touch of chaos in the beginning, I was never truly free of it. Susceptible. I grew complacent. Only the elements of harmony freed me of Tantalus’ influence.”

“Rubidium was a truly exceptional magic user, but much too hungry for power. He dabbled in powers that should have stayed dormant. Eventually, he found the book Tantalus had been imprisoned in and freed him. Tantalus had grown strong while bound, but we had managed one important goal- we had cut him off from chaos as he cut my sister off from order. He could not form a coherent physical body, so he had to posses the nearest available mind.”

Luna opened her mouth as though she was going to continue, but hesitated. With sudden sympathy, Incendia saw her blink away a tear.

“The nearest open mind was a young unicorn named Twilight Sparkle. She… she bore an element of harmony. Her mind was unprepared, and Tantalus used her raw power to unleash a vicious attack against us. She… did not survive.”

“I knew this part,” Tiptoe finally said. “That was in our historical accounts.”

Luna nodded. “I would hope so.”

“I’m sorry,” Incendia said, not unkindly, “but I don’t understand how any of this is relevant to us.”

“I shall be quick, then. Though we did not drain his power as intended, Tantalus was prevented from retaking his original form. He- like us- has become more mortal. We believe he is bound to his physical body now. If we destroy it, he will be eradicated with it.”

“That’s not true,” Incendia said sadly. “I drove a statue through his head after we got your first fragment. He just came back angry.”

Luna made a move as though to respond, but froze in place. After a moment, she said, “Jigsaw is awake.”

She blinked, and when her eyes opened again, the silver glow was gone, replaced by the solid, familiar blue of Jigsaw’s.

He staggered forwards for a moment, but Tiptoe rushed forward and allowed him to lean on her.

“Thanks,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t know how she was keeping me upright. My leg aches.”

“Are you going to be alright? I mean… you were so bad in the forest,” Tiptoe said weakly.

“I actually feel okay, other than my leg,” Jigsaw said. “Now that Luna’s whole, she’s not pushing against my mind anymore.”

“I don’t understand,” Tiptoe replied.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s like I had a thorn in my head and now it’s been pulled out.”

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Tiptoe said, her voice quavering. “I thought I was going to lose you.”

Before Jigsaw could respond, Tiptoe threw her hooves around him in a tight embrace, and after a moment, Jigsaw returned the gesture.

A few moments later, the two broke apart, and Jigsaw began to hobble down to where Incendia stood. To her great surprise, Jigsaw wrapped his hooves around her, too.

“You saved my life back there,” Jigsaw said quietly. “You didn’t even hesitate to go up against that manticore. Thank you.”

Incendia relaxed and smiled. “What else could I do?”

Jigsaw released her and Tiptoe trotted to his side.

“I feel like I want to sleep for a year,” Jigsaw said.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep for a while,” Tiptoe said. “Luna gave us a lot to think about.”

Jigsaw could feel the mood in the room change. The sense of levity was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

“She’s not done,” Jigsaw said. “There’s still things she wants us to know.”

“She thinks that Tantalus has taken the soul of the body and trapped it in something, binding the body and himself to the earth. She says if we can release the original spirit of the body, Tantalus will be vulnerable.”

“’For Rarity,’” Tiptoe said. “The gemstone we saw when we first went to Tantalus’ castle. Remember how angry he got when I mentioned it?”

“That’s brilliant!” Incendia said. Her mane began to shimmer and flicker, as though it was about to catch fire. “All we have to do is destroy that crystal and we have that bastard right where we want him! We have to get to that castle!”

Jigsaw shook his head solemnly. “Destroying the crystal will only take away his immortality. Once he’s exposed, he won’t be so easy to destroy. And… there’s a caveat.”

“What?” Incendia inquired.

“It works both ways. Luna’s bound to me now. She’s possessing me the same way. If I die, Luna goes with me. She thinks that’s his plan- maybe it wasn’t at the beginning, but when he realized that I stand a chance of actually assembling all the fragments, I think he just decided to let me. He thinks that he’ll be able to take me out once I have all six and destroy the goddesses forever.”

A stunned silence followed this pronouncement. Eventually, Tiptoe managed to squeak out, “But that doesn’t make any sense. Why didn’t he just kill you after the first fragment if that was the case?”

“He tried,” Jigsaw replied dryly. “Several times. But I think that was an attempt to maintain the status quo, because this is a dangerous gambit. But if he killed me when I only had some of the fragments, it would just release them from my body because they still have a tether on the world. Tantalus would just snatch them up and hide them again.”

“I don’t understand any of this cosmic stuff at all,” Incendia said.

“I don’t either, really,” Jigsaw said. “Luna’s telling me all these things, and I’m not convinced even she understands it all. She’s trying so hard to be stoic and regal, but I can tell she’s scared and hurt and disoriented. And… truth be told, so am I.”

“I’ll always be there for you,” Tiptoe said, planting a soft kiss on his cheek.

“I will be too,” Incendia said, voice full of conviction, though her stomach churned at the sight of the kiss. “We and Tantalus are on a level playing field now. We can end this once and for all!”

“Have I ever told you that I love you? Both of you,” Jigsaw said, with a genuine grin. “You’re my best friends. I wouldn’t want to do this with anypony else.”

“I wouldn’t either,” Incendia replied.

“So what’s our plan?” Tiptoe asked, bringing the party back down to the matter at hoof.

“We need to go get the last fragment and avoid Tantalus enough for the goddesses to regain their bodies and get out of me,” Jigsaw said. “Once they’re out, the can help us steal the gem and defeat Tantalus.”

“What about the sun and moon?” Tiptoe said. “can they really be restarted?”

“Luna says yes, but not until they’re back to full strength. Having Celestia back will speed the process considerably. Right now, though, I feel as though I need to sleep.”

“Agreed,” Incendia said. “I’m exhausted.”

“I suppose I should try, too,” Tiptoe said.

“Luna’s gone quiet,” Jigsaw observed. “I guess that was all she needed to tell us for now.”

“She certainly told us a lot,” Tiptoe said wearily.

With that, the trio set off down the stairs from the control room and towards their rooms. Jigsaw immediately dropped onto the bed and snuggled under the sheets.

Tiptoe hesitated. “Jigsaw, will you be alright here by yourself? I have to go do something.”

“I might be asleep when you get back,” Jigsaw mumbled. “Fair warning.”

“You sure are in a good mood,” Tiptoe noticed. “All things considered, I would have thought you’d be…”

“More upset, not less?” Jigsaw offered. “I thought so too, but… Almost dying tends to put things into perspective, as does seeing things from Luna’s point of view. For the first time, I feel like we have an actual, real plan. I don’t feel like I’m a pawn in some cosmic game of chess. Well, maybe I am, but at least they’re honest about it, you know? I’m just happy that I’m still breathing and that when things were at their worst, my girlfriend and my best friend did everything they could to help me.”

Tiptoe swallowed in a futile attempt to clear away the lump in her throat and said, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Jigsaw muttered from somewhere deep in his pillow.

“I’ll be right back,” Tiptoe said. “I just need to talk to Incendia for a bit.”

“Mmkay,” Jigsaw responded sleepily.

Tiptoe quietly slipped out of the room and into the hallway and made her way down the tight passageway to Incendia’s room. When she opened the door, Incendia was sitting on the bed, an old world instructional pamphlet folded open and hovering before her.

“What are you reading?” Tiptoe asked.

Incendia jumped in surprise. “Tiptoe!” she said, startled, “what are you doing here?”

“Sorry,” Tiptoe apologized. “I should have knocked first.”

Incendia relaxed. “It’s alright. I was just looking at these diagrams. I can’t read very many words of the old language, but the illustrations are interesting.”

“I could help translate for you, if you’d like,” Tiptoe offered. “We had to learn to read the old language because so much of the old consoles were labeled with it.”

“That’s alright,” Incendia said with a smile. “I think I might prefer not knowing what it says.”

Tiptoe trotted over to Incendia and sat on the bed beside her. Incendia fought to keep the butterflies in her stomach from showing on her face.

“You impressed me in the forest,” Tiptoe said. “You’ve proven over and over again that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for others, and this time the other you saved was my boyfriend. Thank you.”

Tiptoe leaned forward, closed her eyes, and planted a small kiss right on the tip of Incendia’s nose. It was very warm— on any other pony, it might have been feverish, but on Incendia, it just felt like the heat from a warm campfire.

When she pulled away, Tiptoe said, “I’m sorry about how things had to be between us. I know it can’t be easy for you to watch me and Jigsaw, but through it all, you’ve never complained or let it interfere with your work. I just want you to know that I notice, and I want you to know that I do care about you, Incendia.”

Incendia’s mouth flapped up and down wordlessly, and Tiptoe giggled. Without making a sound, she hopped off the bed and trotted out of the room.

Incendia came back to her senses when the bedsheets under her ignited. She hastily put them out and stared back at the door where Tiptoe had been only a moment before.

~~~

The huge, gnarled tree grew ever larger as Tantalus flew towards it. He could feel the fragment inside it, calling desperately towards its greater whole, trying to draw it near.

He touched down on the emerald carpet that covered the ground, and the grass immediately withered and died. Hastily, he dropped the gemstone and threw the enchanted animal hide off his claw. He would have to move it later- there was no rush now.

Here was where he would wait. He smiled, bearing his razor-sharp teeth. The trap was set, and it was only a matter of time until they sprung it.

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