• Published 13th Sep 2014
  • 5,637 Views, 257 Comments

The Seventh Element - PaisleyPerson

Thestrals are thought extinct. But what will happen when one moves to Ponyville? Disguised as an earth pony, Acrylic does her best to fit in. Can she keep the secret, or will she expose her entire race?

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Chapter 35: War of the Thestrals

Chapter 35
War of the Thestrals

“Is anypony else starting to feel like this is a lost cause?” Rainbow wondered from the air.

“How much farther is it, Acrylic?”

“I don’t understand. Midnight Armor should be right here!” I exclaimed, circling the area for the hundredth time.

“Maybe they moved?” Pinkie suggested.

“You can’t just break down an entire encampment and move it.”

“It has been almost a year since you’ve last been here. Ya sure they wouldn’ta moved so nopony would find them after... Canterlot?”

“I just... don’t understand,” I mumbled. “How could they just move? You’d think we would at least see the barrier Discord was talking about.”

“You don’t suppose it might be an invisibility barrier, do you?”

“Or an infinity loop?”

“I...” I stuttered. Had I led them right into a trap?

“Are we even sure that this Tree of Harmony actually exists?” Rainbow went on. “What if what Twilight saw when she took that crazy potion wasn’t real? Maybe-”

“Maybe it’s right there.” Everypony jerked in the direction Applejack indicated. A deep gorge cracked open the ground before us. The vines were at their thickest here.

“But how are we supposed to get down there?” Rarity huffed. A lot of banging and clunking attracted our attention as Pinkie tumbled down a long stairwell.

“Take the stairs, silly!” Pinkie called from the bottom.

While I was relieved we’d made it, I wondered why we hadn’t come across the thestral encampment. Granted, we strayed as far as to find the Tree of Harmony, but I knew where we were the majority of the time. How could I have missed it?

The vines were growing ever closer, ever denser. A disgusting ooze soon coated the walls, and a vile smell wafted to our noses. All these signs let us know that we were on the right track before we ever saw the tree. It was pale and colorless, draped in a cloak of parasitic vines and dripping with the green sap.

“I think it's dying!” Fluttershy diagnosed.

“So let's save it already!” Applejack took the lead, being our most experienced in agriculture, and started yanking on the weeds. It proved too strong, and flicked her away.

“Nice try,” Rainbow snorted before charging head on at a vine. “Heh- Whoa! Oof!” She was knocked back as well. The parasites were defending their host.

“Valiant efforts on both your parts, but the tree remains in jeopardy,” Rarity reminded.

“And I suppose you've got a better idea?” She remained silent. “That's what I thought.”

“Now what?”

“Thestral fire might be able to counter this,” I guessed, squinting at a weed. “If we could find them, we might be able to get some help.”

“But we haven’t exactly been able to find them, have we?”

“And anyhow, why’d they wanna help us? We haven’t exactly been on good terms as of late.”

“I know who would know what to do. But we sent her home,” Fluttershy moped. Rainbow realized the weight of our call, and desperate not to feel the same guilt from chasing me off, tried the blame game.

“It was your idea, Applejack!”

“We all agreed it was the best thing, Rainbow Dash! We were tryin' to protect her.” I whipped around when I thought I heard movement behind us. Nothing was there. I chided myself for becoming so paranoid, but a certain feeling of dread never left the pit of my stomach. I was drawn out of my thoughts when Spike tumbled down the stairwell.

“Oof! Ow! Ugh!” Hoping Twilight was with him, everypony crowded around. All he managed to spit out was, “Twilight! Trouble! Help!”

“No! Get off of me!” Twilight shouted. I barely heard her voice over the sound of my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. “STOP! Let go! Where are you taking me?”

“Stop asking questions,” a gruff voice shot back.

“Move it,” another agreed.

The smarter tactic would probably have been to regroup unseen and find out what they were up to. But in our time of panic, all we could think about was Twilight’s safety. All of our company shot out of the trees and into the clearing to face Twilight’s attackers. I was frozen solid when I saw who we were about to battle. Two very large, strong looking ponies held Twilight. The dragon wings were what stopped me in my tracks. Even Twilight’s magic was useless against their thestral fire. Their focus snapped onto us, pupils like daggers piercing us all with a critical stare. These were trained, deadly thestrals that we were up against. Even worse was that I recognized one.

“Let. Her. Go,” Applejack demanded.

“They’ve seen us. Seize them!” Before I could scream, “Wait,” ponies were flying every which way. While Rainbow was the first in the air, she was also first on the ground. AJ lasted a little longer, but soon was sent sprawling across the clearing. Fluttershy tried to avoid the fight altogether and worked on freeing Twilight. She was almost instantly subdued for her efforts. Rarity wasn’t used to this kind of behavior, and it didn’t take much for her to be caught. Pinkie was the only one really doing any real good. Her crazy antics kept her away from the goons for the most part.

Our ponies kept bouncing back whenever they were thrown off, which elongated the battle. I’d been petrified, glued to the spot all this time. Now I had to move if I didn’t want a black eye. The hooves of the green one I didn’t recognize were flying right at me.

I ducked, and lashed out with my own hooves, swiping his legs out from under him. I stood over the thestral as he landed with a thud. “STOP!” I screamed... or tried to. From below, he bashed me off balance, knocking the wind out of me. I was thrown across the clearing, cloak discarded. Everypony froze. The second thestral with Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Rainbow all hanging off of him batted the ponies away and squinted.

“No...” he breathed. “Acrylic?”

“Meteor Strike, WHAT is going on?” I demanded, shaking the dirt out of my coat.

“You know this earth pony?” The other growled.

“She wasn’t always an earth pony,” Meteor retorted. His companion took a second look at my faded cutie mark and glinting scars.

“This is...” he began, lost for words.

“SOMEPONY TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON!” I boomed. The two thestrals looked at one another.

“We have to take them to Torchwood,” the one said.

“Agreed,” Meteor reluctantly concurred.

“Torchwood? What does Torchwood have to do with any of this?” Applejack called, now being yanked to her hooves and forced to walk.

“Oh... didn’t I tell you guys? He’s a thestral too,” Rainbow sheepishly blushed.


“Torchwood’s attacking us now?”

“No! He would never!” I roared.

“Hate to break it to ya, sweetheart, but he’s the one leading this whole operation,” the green thestral disrespectfully drawled.

“No,” was all that I could manage. “No, no, no! Not Torchwood! Meteor Strike, it isn’t true! It can’t be!”

“It is,” he remorsefully sighed, nudging me into line with the others. I noticed that I received gentler treatment than my friends.

What was going on? We were up against Torchwood? The stallion I loved? Who cared for and loved me back? I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it! He had to be under some influence... could the same evil that kidnapped the Princesses be somehow controlling Torchwood? It had to be. I would accept no other explanation.

I was too numb to comprehend what was going on, and the others were too exhausted to fight back. We allowed ourselves to be led away. Luckily, we were being led just where we wanted to go anyway: back to the Tree of Harmony. At least, I thought this was lucky. The sight that met my eyes was worse than any nightmare. I’d been right when I thought I saw movement. There was no way this many thestrals could have arrived in the time we were gone. They must’ve been hiding in the shadows, out of our sight. An army’s worth of angry thestral ponies lined the edges of the tavern, unfazed by the huge black creepers curling amongst them.

“Ah, her majesty has arrived,” an all too familiar voice scornfully called. The stallion I used to know mockingly bowed to his prisoner. His coat was darker than any transformation I’d ever seen. His pupils were just slits. Though he was already tall, he’d shot up almost another foot. Despite these minor changes, I still recognized him. “How nice of your friends to join you in your imprisonment.”

“Torchwood,” his father scolded. He shook his head to tell him to stop.

“What’s wrong, father? Are you finally feeling the weight of what we have done?” Meteor gently, even kindly nudged me forward. I took a few more strides on my own until Torchwood had a clear view of my face. The haughty sneer vanished. For a moment, even his pupils rounded back out. “Acrylic, my dear! You’ve come back!” He ran to greet me in a tight embrace.

“I have,” I squeaked, nervously nudging him away.

“I didn’t quite believe it when I first heard you had returned, but here you are.”

“Who told you I was back?” He ignored my question.

“You’ve come just in time to help us complete our conquest of Equestria!”

“I have?”

“Come with me, and I will show you all that we have accomplished in your name.”

“My name?!” I shrieked.

“Is this so surprising, Darling?”

“Yes! What’s going on? Why are you doing this?”

“Why, I thought you’d be pleased.” He honestly looked aghast. “After what they had done to you,” he gestured to my friends, “we have plotted against Celestia. We did this for you! To avenge this crime.” His eyes ran over my bare sides, which became damp with pity.

“This isn’t what I would have wanted,” I pleaded. “The colt I knew would know that!”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“My Torchwood would never do this. He would never wish harm upon anypony!”

“What would you have me do, then?”

“Forgive,” I begged.

“Forgive? After all they have done to us?”

“To me, Torch. They did this to me and me alone. You say that you fight for revenge in my name,” I argued. “I have forgiven them for what they have done to me.” I looked over at the six mares still being held back, eyes shining. Theirs, too, reflected joy as they looked right back. Pinkie was about to break into happy tears. “I’ve forgiven them,” I repeated. “The least you can do is to do the same.”

“But my sweet-”

“STOP CALLING ME THAT!” I neighed. He stepped back in surprise. “You aren’t the stallion I fell in love with.” Torchwood’s eyes turned cold.

“First you disgrace our kind, and now you turn my love against me?” he boomed at Twilight. “EQUESTRIA WILL PAY FOR THE CRIMES IT HAS COMMITTED TO THESTRAL KIND!”

“Stop this right here, Torchwood,” I pleaded. “Nopony has to get hurt. Please!”

“Never fear, my sweet. You will not be harmed. Father, please take her to join her two young dragon friends.”

“Blaze and Garble are here? What have you done with them?!” I screamed. Meteor Strike’s pale coat approached from the left while the other thestral from before took my other side. “Get off!”

“Please don’t try to resist, Dearest. Your dragons are safe. I intend to keep all three of you out of harm’s way until this is all over. You will love me yet; you’ll see. Perhaps you only need time to remember your feelings.” He pecked my cheek as he walked by. My heart didn’t flutter as it used to. It remained as hard and unmoving as a rock. My whole body clenched in his presence. The green thestral shoved me forward. “Do be gentle with her, Earthen Flame,” Torchwood almost kindly scolded. The thestral Earthen Flame obeyed his orders and prompted me to walk with a light tap to my hindquarters. I tried to whip around him, out of reach and back to Torchwood.

“No!” I cried. “You can’t! PLEASE!” Meteor had to catch me and hold me back.

“Please don’t make this harder than it has to be,” he whispered. I still fought back, trying to escape their grasp.

“Acrylic!” My friends, too, were trying to pull away. A ring of thestral fire kept them blocked in. Those with wings were held down so they couldn’t get away. I finally stopped struggling when I was dragged back behind the Tree of Harmony and could no longer see my friends.

It seemed that this whole vine business was their doing. The creepers had been bent to their will for sure. How else had a perfect prison been formed from the thorny vines? Two prisoners already resided inside.

“Blaze! Garble!” I finally ran of my own free will to the cage where the boys were. Garble got up and gripped the bars upon my approach. The vines parted as I advanced, but before the boys could slip out, I was shoved in. The gap sealed itself behind me. I hugged my boys, just glad that they were safe. “I was so worried,” I tearfully sniffed.

“You’re the one that disappeared,” Garble half accused.

“Discord’s teleportation landed me in a different part of Ponyville,” I assured. “I looked everywhere. Even Rainbow did a fly-over for me. We couldn’t find you anywhere.” Meteor Strike cleared his throat from outside the cell. Blaze hadn’t let go of me, so we both swiveled to see what he wanted.

“Torchwood wants you to let me know if you need anything.”

“Please don’t do this, Meteor,” I begged.

“I’m sorry,” he wilted. Earthen Flame had already exited the corridor.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” I pressed, moving to cling to the vines. “Just let me talk to him. We both know this isn’t the real Torchwood. Maybe I can talk some sense into him.”

“I wish I could.” He turned and began down the same passage. Then he stopped and looked back. “But I’m only a call away.”

“METEOR STRIKE!” I screamed, banging on the cage. The vines didn’t like that, and wound themselves around my hoof. I couldn’t yank it away. It was crawling farther up my arm, and I was beginning to panic. Then, in a crackle of fire, Garble burned it away. I was nearly hysterical at this point; Garble had to drag me to the center of the room, away from the vines. I wept uncontrollably, holding Blaze tight. Garble eventually let me cradle him, too. The thestrals had started a war, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

“Now what?” Rainbow asked, tugging on her binds for the hundredth time.

“I don’t know,” Twilight sobbed. “I just don’t know. We were so focused on making up for what we did to Acrylic by making peace with the thestrals that we ignored the possibility they could be hostile. I don’t know what to do!”

“This ain’t your fault, sugar cube,” Applejack consoled.

“But it is. I promised that I would take on thestral negotiations as my own responsibility. Now look what’s happened.”

“All may not be lost just yet, Princess Twilight,” a deep voice thrummed from the side. All six girls turned to spot Meteor Strike’s form amongst the shadows. “I know we have not given off a good first impression, but please realize that not all of us are this way.”

“You’re Torchwood’s father, aren’t you?” Twilight sniffed.

“I am Meteor Strike,” he nodded. “I don’t know what’s gotten into my son. He’s been like this ever since he first heard of Acrylic’s punishment. He wanted to protect her, but now I see he’s gone too far.”

“You can still help us stop him,” Twilight pressed.

“He will listen to nopony,” he sighed. “I myself have tried reasoning with him, but to no avail.”

“He’ll listen to one pony,” Rainbow spoke up.

“Acrylic,” Meteor nodded, realizing what she meant. “But I cannot get to her without being missed at my post.”

“There must be some way to get a message through, at the very least,” Rarity thought. Just then, a long black and yellow snake dropped in from the roots above. Rarity squealed with fright, which roused some amusement from nearby thestrals. Applejack poised herself to stomp the snake away.

“No! Don’t hurt him.” Fluttershy squealed, pulling the snake to safety. “It’s just a little garter snake. What did he ever do to you?”

“How did it even get in here?” Twilight wondered.

“It must have dropped in from the vines,” Pinkie commented, stating the obvious.

“Hey... that snake made it past the weeds...” Twilight thought. “Fluttershy, do you think you could convince that snake to get a message to Acrylic?” The snake needed no bribery; it vigorously nodded, accepting the assignment. This done, Twilight turned to Meteor. “Will you help us?”

“Tell me what you need.”

I must’ve fallen asleep at some point or another, because I woke to something crawling up my leg. Thinking it was another vine, I jumped up to try and kick it off. A startled snake was all that came free.

“Heckley!” The garter snake recovered within a few moments, and realizing the misunderstanding, slithered back. “How’d you find us?” I asked, drawing him close. The dragons were also waking up from their nap. Heckley only hissed, opening his mouth wide. A small roll of paper lay inside. “What’s this?” I removed the parchment from his maw, and he coiled himself around Blaze’s neck while I read what was written.

“Thestrals move to attack in fifteen minutes. You have until then to talk some sense into Torchwood,” I read aloud. The questioning look on my face changed to one of realization as pale orange flames streaked down the corridor, circling back to the prison. The walls were slowly engulfed in the fire, and ultimately burned down. Meteor Strike was giving us a second chance. A chance to stop the war.

“So... does this mean we can go?” Blaze hopefully piped up. I turned to Garble.

“Take him and get out of here.”

“What about you?”

“I’m going to stop Torchwood.”

“We’re going with you.”

“No.” I looked him square in the eye. “I promised your mother that I would keep you both safe. So please, go and... be safe. Do it for her sake, if not mine.”

“Will we ever see you again?” Blaze whimpered.

“I sure hope so, baby,” I sighed, giving him what I somehow knew would be a last nuzzle. As much as I wanted to extend the embrace, I couldn’t let on to him that I thought we may never see one another anymore. I straightened, and prepared to make a more formal goodbye with Garble. To my surprise, he initiated the hug. He knew, too. I fondly squeezed back.

“Take care.”

“You too.”

“What about Heckley?” Blaze lifted the snake up.

“Take care of him for me, yeah?” I sniffled. Blaze coddled the snake fondly. It was there that we split ways. I ran down the corridor, but Garble lifted Blaze and Heckley onto his back and took to the sky.