• Published 27th Mar 2015
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Dusk Falls - NorrisThePony



Celestia discovers an eldritch conspiracy in the small beach town of Dusk Falls. Luna fights back growing feelings of jealousy and isolation.

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Heart of the Sunrise (XIV)

I flew rapidly in the direction of Pink Sunset under a sky of orange, the shimmering yellow of my barrier interfering with the crimson red of the sky beyond. I suspected Luna would already be there. From my position high above the sky (but only a dozen feet below the rippling surface of the barrier's ceiling), I had a clear view of the Smooze creeping past the boardwalk. The Ferris Wheel was half covered, and I could hear the sound of its metal screeching out in protest as the whole great device threatened to keel over and yet somehow had not yet. The boardwalk had fallen into the sea in large sections, its form tossed about as if it were a cheap rug instead of strong wood that had endured decades of the tide's persistent beating. The Smooze itself seemed unaware of the dome it was contained within as it crept inland, but the same could not be said about the section that had broken off into the water stream. It was beating itself against the side of the magical walls over and over, trying and failing to find a way out.

There would be none. The substance could not break through it as easily as it had my hastily constructed ones in the caverns, which had been performed using an injured horn. I was the only pony who could lift the barrier now, and I wasn't going to. The only chance Hydia had to get the sludge into the world as she planned was to kill me and end my magic's flow.

She had controlled my sun; already her power was greater than I had been anticipating. And with the dome in place and the flare about to incinerate all within...

Luna wasn’t going to take well to my decision at all.

The barrier had missed Pink Sunset by a mere several meters, which meant that the house would be almost amusingly saved from the flare that would destroy everything else. There was an ever-persistent burst of light in the corner of my eye every several seconds, as the lighthouse's bright beam illuminated the shimmering yellow wall directly before it, and I did my best not to be distracted by it as I landed in front of the barrier's edge.

Luna had created a sizable crater in the dirt where she had landed at great speeds, but she was some distance away from it with the magical wall dividing her from the path leading towards the town that I had flown from. She looked greatly distressed at the sight of the barrier, but not confused in the slightest. There was no explanation required of me.

There was, however, the requirement for justification.

"Celestia, why are you doing this?" Luna said with odd calm. "Have you forgotten your promise?"

“I didn’t have a choice. If I waited any further it would have been out of range for me to keep it contained.”

"But won't the shield stop your teleportation spell?" Luna protested, slamming a hoof down against the dome to emphasize her point. It let out an electric hiss but if it caused Luna any sort of pain she didn't show it.

"I already cast it fourteen minutes ago," I said, shaking my head.

"Then where is the flare?!"

"It's ninety million miles from here to the sun. My magic is going to take awhile to reach it."

"How long is awhile?"

"I'd guess thirty minutes."

"Sixteen now," Luna said grimly.

“I’m sorry it has to be this way, sister.”

Luna whispered something in reply, a sharp, angry hiss under her breath.

“What was that, Luna?” I said, not with malice or annoyance but simple curiosity.

“I said you should have trusted me.”

“Luna, at no point would I ever not trust you with my life,” I thought my voice would have been much weaker sounding, all things considered, and I really was surprised by the calmness in which I spoke my assuring words.

“We could have defeated Hydia together. All of this senseless death and destruction could have been avoided.”

“You know that isn’t true, sis. I didn’t know this would happen.”

“Dissolve the dome then. Let us fight together!”

I thought of our conversation earlier, and of the oozing substance devouring all in it’s path, slamming itself repeatedly at the landscape on the other side of the magical barrier, searching in vain for a way out. A way out of Dusk Falls and into the world.

“No, Luna.”

“If you really do trust me, you will.”

Her words struck hard, insulting and honest at the same time. A challenge, a plea, and a taunt all at once. Truthful and yet suspicious, but it would not have mattered to me in the end anyways. I wasn’t about to doom Equestria just to protect Luna’s pride.

“I’m sorry,” I shook my head. “I cannot."

“Then at least I know...” Luna hung her head and turned away from me.

“Goodbye, Luna. In case I don’t survive the flare...I love you, little sister.”

I noticed for the first time that Luna and everything else looked faded and blurry, and realized that my eyes were watering. In my panic, I hadn’t even noticed that my entire world was blurred and illegible. I wiped them gingerly with a sheepish grin, and brought a hoof to the dome. As though sensing the source of its existence making contact with it, the barrier gave a sparkling shimmer for a moment, but remained sturdy and resolute all the same.

The moment my eyes were clear I caught sight of Luna’s horn aglow with magic, and she turned around wearing a sly, smug grin. I followed Luna's magic, and realized with a start that it seemed to be attached to some patch of the shield, so that this one section was tinted a subtly blue.

Cautiously, I raised a hoof to touch this particular section, and felt it pass cleanly through. I was dumbfounded, but Luna's explanation was quick to come.

“I knew you weren't going to open the barrier...” Luna muttered, “I figured I’d have to make my own solution.”

“W...what?! Luna, how did you—”

“A tear, Celestia,” Luna cut me off. “I can’t break your barrier—not the whole thing—but I can at least form an isolated gateway across a tiny place. Using this.”

Floating it delicately before her, she presented the mirror shard. It was glowing not with dark magic but instead with magic of her own. In the reflection the mirror cast I could see myself and my surroundings, but all was tinted with a ghostly blue, like some holographic spell. It looked like the myself and the world around me was not truly there, but instead was all part of some tapestry of glowing blue magic. I hadn’t any clue how it had worked, at best I had made sloppy assumptions that had fortunately proven to be somewhat correct, but it seemed Luna's knowledge had allowed her to manipulate it with much more simplicity.

“Luna, you weren’t supposed to—”

“You can’t order me around, big sister,” she said with sudden intensity. “I'll do what I see fit! Have you forgotten that your decision is not final?”

“I was under the assumption you respected mine enough to not contradict me!”

“You were hence under the assumption I would feel comfortable sitting on my flank while you kill yourself for no discernible reason?” Luna was screaming now, advancing closer and brandishing the mirror shard like it were some ghastly weapon. “Do you truly see me as that pathetic?”

I said nothing. The distant hissing of the Smooze audible even so far from the town filled the silent void between me and Luna, and at some point long out of sight the bass vibrations of another dying building sounded like a pin dropping in an opera house.

“Thank you, Luna...” I said slowly; with cautious gratefulness and firm accusation. What Luna had done had perhaps saved my life, but it had endangered Equestria. She should have known better, “...but you shouldn't have done this. You've given Hydia and the Smooze a route of escape.”

“I'm in control of the tear. I can close it when I please.”

“Luna, what if I were Hydia now?” I pointed out. “You would have let her through without objection. Then you would have sealed the tear. Then, I would have perished in vain when the flare struck!”

This time, it was Luna's turn to be silent. She had evidently forgotten about Hydia's changeling magic. She stood glaring into my eyes with fading malice, and I could tell that in her mind she was stuttering for some response. I decided to spare her the trouble.

“It doesn't matter, Luna,” I said, and sighed. Being scrutinized under her harsh glare was an assault I wished only to swiftly discharge, and I did so with forgiving words. “Truly, thank you. How did you manage this feat?”

“I’m drawing magic from the Moon,” Luna explained, straightening her stance and allowing her bitterness to dissolve only somewhat. She pointed up at the Moon, which I saw indeed was glowing with strange and additional luminosity, slicing through the red sky with its silver light. The night was, in this one isolated place in proximity to the Moon, beautiful and starlit, surrounded by what looked like a sea of murky blood.

But, gradually, the Moon's light was waning, working its way from a burning circle of silver to the eventual promise of nothing but a black orb of nearly nothingness in the sky. Already it was a sad, waning quarter moon, half the size that the abnormally bright beacon in the sky should have been.

“It’s enough to counter your magic, Celestia, but it’s quantity is limited and once it runs out my own magic won’t be enough to keep the tear open.”

“Your magic, slicing its way through mine,” I said. “I'm somewhat intimidated, Luna. What else do you have planned I should know about?”

I had been attempting humour, but the tenseness between us did not allow it to succeed. As such, Luna saw my gibe not as joking but genuine, and let out a short, offended growl.

“Come through, Celestia, and I’ll close the tear,” she said gruffly.

“Alright,” I nodded, and started slowly advancing towards the towering electric dome.

And then, in a sudden vivid moment of startling remembrance, my mind leaped back to another matter. One still unresolved. One that Luna's ease with manipulating the tear had just proven.

“Wait,” I stopped, and cast a quick look behind me at the dust billowing over Dusk Falls and rolling over the top of the barrier. Another quick, jarring vision of the grotesque ponies, Hydia's emotionless responses to their horrifying state, and the magical, glowing white hair-like tremor through space that had split my front lawn in half. All these bounced through my mind to settle on one final determination, and instantly I became firm in my conviction, and furious at my foolishness.

I had assumed magic would not be able to allow for escape when I had erected the barrier, and I had been correct. But in that assumption, I had completely forgotten about the damn mirror that had started the whole crisis to begin with. So determined was I for an instant, simple solution, and so desperate was I to formulate one in the dwindling hours I'd had before it was too late, that I had ignored the most obvious of flaws.

“There are others,” I looked to Luna, telegraphing my dread through my widened eyes. “You opened a hole with the mirror shard, but it isn't the only one! Hydia has one too!”

“No...” Luna said slowly, and then repeated it as a frustrated snap. “No! Celestia, seriously? This is a problem you didn't remedy?!”

“What was I to do?!” I shot back, “Ask Hydia kindly to provide me with the rest of Sombra's mirror?”

“You should have killed her!” Luna screamed into my face, baring her fang-like incisors like a feral animal, her hostile confrontation only divided by the shimmering barrier of light. “What stopped you? Mercy? She doesn't deserve it anymore, sister!”

“No, Luna. Not mercy. I don't care about that anymore. I tried my best to stop her. It's hardly a simply affair when she wields the power of hundreds of ponies.”

“It would have been a simple affair, had you let us fight together!”

“Then come now! Through the tear you so graciously opened.”

“No,” she said, tapping her horn and then pointing to the Moon. “I need to stay and keep it open, for to allow it to close may leave me without enough magic to open it once again. We must hope she will fail to realize the dome is more than a simple delay, or else solve whatever occurs next together.”

To do so would be folly. I knew it, and it shocked me Luna would even express it as an option. Clearly she had her doubts as well—I could see it in her face—but in lieu of losing my life she was willing to wager Equestria's fate.

Yet in the end, it remained my decision, and I knew I felt much more comfortable making it than Luna ever would.

“Come, Celestia, to the side of the living.” she practically begged, driving a hoof into the ground with childlike desperation, all the while with the same fury at my actions still etched on her snarl. It was an oddly natural combination of emotions only Luna could have managed.

“I can’t keep it open forever,” she said. “Look to the Moon!”

I did, and saw that it was indeed gradually dimming in luminosity and waning even further. If what Luna had said was true, then it's magic had been drained for as long as fifteen minutes, with perhaps even less left.

Still, if Hydia escaped...or if she saved even a bit of the Smooze...

“I’ll go alone,” I shook my head and turned to face the direction of the town once more. “I'll...I'll stop her. A few minutes is all it’ll take.”

“Celestia, don’t be an idiot. Or a hero. There is simply no way you’ll have enough time—”

“Look, Luna, I’m going! I’m not wasting any more time fighting with you. I’ll be back before the Moon is empty, I swear.”

“Fine. Go!” Luna flared her wings angrily. Her horn’s magic seemed to increase a little in intensity as her cold glare did, too. "I'll keep the tear open, but hurry! And good luck!

I once again took to the sky, crossing the distance between Pink Sunset and the former site of Dusk Falls’ boardwalk in what felt like mere moments. The only sign that it had existed at all was the Ferris Wheel; while the sound of its groaning metal filled the air (the only audible sound beyond the hissing of the Smooze) it had miraculously not yet fallen. But as I flew past it something below finally gave way, and the heavy wheel broke free, rolling for some distance before tumbling and falling with an immense booming sound into the Smooze which promptly began consuming the metal structure. Some ghost of magical remnants still remained in it, and several times its colourful lights blinked and sparked, before going dark completely. Without fully understanding why, I felt intense sorrow at the sight that the rest of the destruction had failed to bring about. The damn wheel had been whole reason I had paid this place any mind at all, and now it was crumbling into nothingness along with the rest of the town around it.

The moment she spotted me, making my return to the site of battle, she snarled in animalistic fury.

“What did you do?” she screamed. I did not know if she was using some spell to amplify her voice, or if she simply was so furious that it seemed so. “You're not delaying anything with this barrier, are you? What have you done?!”

I returned Hydia’s questions with violence. I had only a goal now, and only a narrow amount of time to do it. No time to stand about gloating about the incoming apocalypse. I flew towards her, my horn springing to life as my wings mercilessly beat the tepid air rich with dust from the destroyed buildings. Just as I physically made contact with her, I also unleashed a burst of rich, solar energy, my mane and body igniting as I did. The combined force of both my magical and physical assault sent her flying madly backwards, but she recovered just well enough to narrowly miss falling into the dark purple sea below us.

No longer on a collision course with the Smooze, Hydia paused her flight long enough to glare upwards at me with an enigmatic frown.

“You're not a leader, Celestia,” she said, hovering over the Smooze at a distance I dared not match. My assault had broken two of the unicorn horns atop her barbaric crowns, and I saw them spilling out the last of their bloody energy through the glowing fibers; ghosts of their former, rightful owners.

Hydia spit out a bloodied tooth and smiled a changeling's fang-filled smile. “Fairy tales about you will the same as those about me. Not a leader, but a warrior. A merciless bringer of death.”

“And herald to a fiery end,” I nodded. “It's like they always say in those old tales, Hydia...”

I smiled a mirthless grin as my mane started to once again ignite into flame.

"Burn the witch."

There was nothing more to be said, but plenty more to be done. As I fired a blast of energy at Hydia, I also allowed a portion of the magic to also flow into my own ceremonial regalia. The enchantment filled the holes in the silver, and also made it form sharp spikes, which would make my forcible collisions all the more devastating. Another group of spikes emerged from my crown, surrounding my horn and serving as both a weapon and shield. It was a barbaric set of armour, but it would be all the more beneficial to accomplishing the goal I only had several minutes to accomplish.

Hydia deflected my beam, and it was consumed by the Smooze below. Seeing me unwilling to play her game any longer, Hydia rose a hoof at the Smooze below her, and to my surprise it began clumping together, not as an ocean but instead forming into some sort of limb-like entity. No longer a formless sludge, this portion was now one extensive tendril which began flailing in a desperate attempt at reaching me.

It succeeded, but I was not grasped by it but instead swatted as if I were some pestersome insect. My body sung out its pain but I felt no broken bones. I quickly clipped my wings as I flew carelessly about, crashing through a delicate building and landing in a clump. I had little time to waste as it began crumbling under the stress of the impact, and I blasted a hole in the stone and took off just as it fell downwards.

I had just enough time as I tore from the falling building back into the dust-filled air to see a flare of brilliant white light. It was the familiar blinding tear, Hydia doing her best to activate the foreign magic. I cursed and made an attempt to pursue her and put the spikes on my regalia into practice.

The tear flickered, faded, and returned in rapid disharmony. Every time it's light returned it stayed illuminated for a split-second longer, and gained more and more form.

Fortunately, with her attention diverted to opening the tear and escaping, she was left open and defenseless. Before the moment slipped I fired.

My magic struck, but I was given no time to make any advantage from the tiny success as the long tendril once again flung at me, flailing at rapid speeds and forcing me to nimbly perform various maneuvers to avoid once again being struck.

I flared my magic not outwards but instead directly back into my horn. The spiked regalia embracing it began glowing with heat, and I shifted my flightpath backwards so that I was flying alarmingly close to the Smooze. It sliced through like a sword, and the tendril snapped only to fall downwards and become consumed by the Smooze again.

Hydia was busy fumbling with the mirror, which she had before her and was trying to activate it's magic in a panic. Light flashed from the reflective surface in blinding frequency, threatening to become resolute in any moment.

I beat my wings and drove myself forwards through the air, colliding with her at a bone-crunching speed. The moment I struck her, everything seemed to happen at once, at a breakneck blur of swift precision and calculation. The spikes I’d created in my crown collided with her as I made contact. Blood was drawn and we were both flung forwards, just as I wrenched the mirror from Hydia's magic and tucked it underneath my wing as I used my spiked hoofguards to prevent her from flying away.

We careened through the air, and suddenly the world burst into brilliant white light, a deafening blast of some great magic spell nearly shattered both my ear drums, and then…silence and darkness.

I looked about, my mind turning my surroundings over still at a strangely calm crawl. The Smooze was gone, but Dusk Falls seemed to still be around me. Or, so it seemed...it looked akin to a ghostly projections, like the reflections I had seen in the mirror Luna had been wielding. What was more odd then the imperfect glimmering of the town, however, was the strange duality of objects existing in its place. Buildings that had long since fallen to the Smooze stood in their half-present glowing glory, but in the same place I could see palm trees and pines, as if the forest that had once stood on the site of the town was there once again.

And, with a start, I realized that if I focused carefully, I could see a heavy crater of charred earth there, too.

In a moment, what I was witnessing was made clear. Luna had claimed that the mirror was a gateway to any place...and perhaps any time.

Below me wasn't Dusk Falls from any one time. It was Dusk Falls from all of them. A thousand variations of the same town, clashing for dominance.

But in the skies above, and the distant reaches of the dark above the ocean, there was nothing but black. No stars, sun or moon, instead an empty cacophony of darkness.

And in the darkness, I knew I was not alone. As I peered over the still, unmoving waves, I saw only a perfect abyss of black, but in that abyss I felt as though there was something beyond the distant reaches of the veil of shadow.

I felt it all around me. Everywhere that should have been sky was this indescribable presence. It was all around, as if the whole of Equestria was a marble being grasped in some great creature’s talon. This realm the mirror had accidentally thrown me into was populated, with what I could not know.

The vision lasted for a moment of only several seconds, and with a sudden lurch I was flung forwards, my impact with Hydia resuming and the red light of the cursed bloody sky divided by my shimmering magic barrier once more contrasting with the blinding white the world had momentarily become.

She looked down at my bewildered expression, gave me a patronizing smile, and then kicked me away with her back legs that were only a little shorter than my own. She yanked the mirror from my grasp, the glass sending a clean, bloody line down my coat as she pulled it from underneath the wing I had grasped it in.

The mirror was again sputtering to life in an instant. I had interrupted its magic before she could use it, and I had every intention of doing so once again

All I had to do was shatter it. Luna had said so.

I shot a single beam, not at her, but at the mirror. It was no devastating blow, but nonetheless it was one she had no defense from as her magic was diverted solely on the mirror. I failed to shatter it, but the impact was enough to launch it from her grip and send it in a dive towards the Smooze.

There was no necessity to dive after it. With another burst of magic I teleported it closer to me, holding it firmly in my magic.

Hydia tensed. She dared not make a single move towards me, for with a simple, subtle action, her last chance for survival would be destroyed.

One final escape, a simple means to save ourselves from imminent destruction. And...a source. A source to so much more evil.

I could not know where Hydia had come from, truly. Some other realm beyond, one adjacent to Equestria. One that this damned mirror had bridged the gap between.

I shot no devious grin upwards at Hydia's hovering form, instead I stared blankly ahead at the mirror as I brought an armoured hoof down onto it. It shattered into dust-like particles of glass. There was no burst of escaping dark magic, as I had been expecting. It simply fell like snow.

“You bitch!” Hydia screamed. She made a move as if to attack me—knowing that my death was now the only way the shield would fall—but I reacted quicker.

Instead of beating my wings to bring myself upwards, I flew in a mad corkscrew, falling to a dive towards the Smooze, for but a brief moment before I let loose with a quick teleportation spell. In an instant the Smooze was gone, or rather it was pushed slightly further back as I myself teleported further above it.

I collided with Hydia with the momentum of my dive and the force of the bone-breaking spiked hoof-guards I had donned. Then, with another buck coupled with a quick burst of forcible magic, I sent her sprawling downwards at the Smooze.

Her recovery had been sloppy, performed on wings not used to taxing flight, and allowed me clear opportunity to strike her with a further volley of similar magic beams she was in no position to deflect. Hydia crashed onto the roof of the town hall, the tallest building before the Hotel, and undoubtedly the oldest and strongest building. It’s ancient Gothic architecture gave it many tall spires, and it was against one that she struck at an alarming speed. I heard her back snap the moment it made contact with the stone. The whole building shook as if it were a boat on a river, even without our presence atop it. I landed moments after she did, and shot another blast before she had the chance to recover to her feet. Hydia’s crown had been knocked off by her impact, and before she could even begin to scramble after it I lifted it towards me in my telekinesis, analyzing it with innocent curiosity.

It was too ferocious and barbaric looking to be beautiful, but it was aesthetically intriguing all the same.

I let it fall onto the stone roof of the town hall. Then, with a firm stomp, I shattered the entire bronze or gold affair and every horn atop it. It exploded in a puff of red smoke.

The moment the crown was destroyed, her alicorn form dissipated. Before me was not the ferocious dark purple alicorn, but instead a feeble, hideous biped creature dressed in rags that might have been clothing at one point long ago. This form lasted for but a moment, before her alicorn form suddenly clicked back into place. Whatever link to power she had gained, it seemed the destruction of her crown had not been enough to bring it fully about.

If she had anything to say, it was lost as a large portion of the roof we were standing on crumbled. I was forced to spring into flight as it gave away. With fingers, not hooves, she began clawing her biped self up the stone spire, large bits of brick and mortar raining down and pattering against the disintegrating roof. When she finally made it to some sort of landing, she stumbled to her hooves, once more in her alicorn form. I effortlessly flew upwards, too, not landing and instead hovering next to the spire, looking piteously down at her. My expression was not one of a victorious rival, but instead a moderately disappointed school-teacher reviewing some hopelessly incorrect yet meticulously attempted assignment. I could not help but wonder at all that could have been prevented, had she only been willing to co-operate with my suggestions for a peaceful negotiation.I could have found use for her foreign magic, and learned so much about whatever adjacent world she came from, and perhaps found a place for her within my own.

And yet I knew it was too late for me to tell this to her once more, for if she did not realize it in that moment herself then no words of mine would ever deliver the information to her.

The spire shook, and across from us the other spire tumbled downwards to join the rest of the doomed building. The spire Hydia had climbed was now the tallest thing in Dusk Falls, and amongst the few buildings not lost to the Smooze, but it was evidently ready to collapse soon, like the rest of the town. Too weak to fly now that her alicorn form no longer bore any merit, she could do little more than cling onto the shaking spire.

I realized how pathetic she was in that moment.

“Do you know what your greatest mistake was?” I asked, as if we were chess players comparing strategies. It was perhaps a little presumptuous to speak as if I had already won, but frankly I was in no mood for courtesy with her anymore. She glared at me with her strange, round eyes against furless flesh, not answering.

“You underestimated how much I was willing to destroy to stop you,” I finished. “Goddesses of Destruction. I suppose that's us both. No matter how much we may deny it.”

For a moment—a brief, fleeting moment of child-like curiosity—I pondered what exactly her past would have entailed. I suppose that by then I knew: sacrifices in her name, my own ponies believing her some hero to end my tyranny. She herself had perhaps been biding her time subtly and slowly, until she could start killing changelings and minotaurs to use for their magic. And then when she herself was powerful enough, she turned her gaze both to the future of Equestria, and the traditions of her own past. She must have figured that what had failed her once could not have failed twice.

The spire suddenly buckled wildly, interrupting my thoughts, and Hydia began scrambling even further up the brick tower. She did so in her biped form, which was still every bit as hideous and ancient as when my magic had first weakened her.

By contrast to her frantic climbing ascent of the spire, I flapped over easily. Beneath both of us was a sea of the dark purple sludge, only the occasional traces of a once frivolous city poking up from beyond. In minutes, even they would be lost to the purple sludge. In several minutes more, none of it would matter, for instead of an ocean of sludge encased in the dome, there would instead be an ocean of fire.

"Hydia…this is farewell,” I said coldly. There was no purpose staying any longer, and no reason to stay and watch her inevitable demise. Her crown was gone, with it her control of the Smooze now no more than what anyone else had possessed...when the spire finally gave way…

Her death would be poetically ironic, how they usually were with these fiends.

She refused to acknowledge my words. I wondered if something had broken in her mind, but regardless she continued clawing her way upwards. Pathetic resounded in my mind once more. More bits of stone broke free, the spire sung out it’s discontent, and soon it became obvious that in mere moments the whole thing would fall. I turned my head in the direction of Pink Sunset, downwards at the Smooze still trying and failing to claw through the barrier, and back towards Hydia.

Pathetic as she had been, it was by her actions that Solar Flare and Sky Blossom had died. It was by her actions that Deepsy had nearly been killed and was now was suffering from injuries no medicine could fix. And it was by her actions that a whole town had just fallen, with Equestria itself being inches from meeting the same grim fate.

The spire crumbled near its base. I hovered for several seconds more, and then turned around to leave the spire behind. I didn’t see it crash into the Smooze, but I heard the sound of the last of the stone striking. I did not turn to see it, instead I flew as rapidly as I could back towards Luna, the tear, and freedom. The flare would be arriving in moments now, and Luna’s moon had virtually no luminosity left.

There was nothing left of the town for the flare to destroy, and the forest leading to Pink Sunset had already fallen victim to the Smooze. I had plenty of opportunities to look down at the grotesque substance as I flew, faster than my wings had ever carried me before, shaking off my doomed regalia which fell into the Smooze. The substance fed on life, and it had just eradicated all of it within the dome. Now, I was the exception, the only living creature besides the Smooze itself. Or so I thought, when a heavy burst of fire suddenly rippled through the few remaining trees below me, garnering an earsplitting screech from the Smooze. Another followed, but the trees had already been razed by the first burst, and instead they exploded into ash from the combined strength of the heat and the acid.

Initially, I thought that the flare had already commenced, but I knew I was mistaken the moment I saw that the fire had a source; Luna standing with her rump pressed against where the tear had been, ignoring the painful electricity coursing through her and lighting the dim blood-tinted morning with her magic. The Smooze was converging towards her, and it was only the burst of flames she was continuously casting that was keeping it from reaching her entirely. The Smooze was a distance of less than fifty feet from the tear Luna had opened, but Luna was no longer on what she had called “the side of the living.” Swirling around her were all six Elements of Harmony, but she evidently had not been using them, instead merely keeping them in her possession so that we could both use them together.

The entirety of Dusk Falls, with the exception of this tiny island of charred earth Luna was standing on, was a dark purple, ever-moving ocean. It had even begun climbing up the walls of the dome, raining down acid that fell onto my back as I swept down towards Luna. In some places I could see the half-decomposed frames of buildings, trunks of trees, and a sickening amount of animal's bones. It was impossible to decide to what animals the perfectly bleached white bones had belonged to, but I knew that amongst them were the bones of the cultist ponies, too.

“Sister!” Luna screamed when she saw me descending from the sky. With panic and fear to thank, she was given no time to disguise the relief in her voice as I landed beside her. “I couldn’t keep the tear open, for the vile sludge was too close!”

“Then what are you doing here?!”

“Our magic combined has a better chance of surviving the flare than you do alone,” Luna explained between exhausted panting. Another bout of flames erupted from Luna’s horn just as a tendril flung forwards in an attempt at grabbing her. I followed suit, but it was clear we were only slowing an inevitable advance.

"Don't look at me like that!" she snapped when she saw my narrow glare. "You're the one who promised we would fight together."

In no position to argue, I stood firmly beside Luna, our eyes both locked at the unpleasant sight before us. The town, forests, beaches, rivers, and oceans were all gone, and there was nothing left but impending doom.

“Hydia?” Luna asked, not bothering to waste time formulating an actual question.

“Dead.” My response was equally as brief. Besides our spitting magic and the drowning hiss of the Smooze before us, there was silence for several seconds. Eventually I continued. “I tried, Luna. I really did.”

“I trust so,” she said simply. “At least your plan saved Equestria from her. Lets hope we can save ourselves from the solar flare. We’ll combine our shield magic.”

Combining magic was a surprisingly straight-forward affair, one made easier when the Elements of Harmony were involved. The moment I had set down beside me, half of the stones had diverted their attention from Luna to me, somehow not colliding with each other as three of them orbited myself and three orbited Luna, despite the fact that our horns were in very close proximity

“Speaking of which...where is it?” Luna barked.

As if the heavens themselves were irritated by her griping, a sudden deafening crack resounded from the sky above, and I felt a sharp, throbbing vibration in my horn, precisely the same frequency as when I had first cast the teleportation spell so long ago.

“Now!” I screamed. “Luna, it’s coming now!”

There could have been no more time to waste on discussion or planning. The Elements of Harmony began glowing in synchronization with both of our horns, which were now quite literally in contact with each other. I felt Luna’s magic stream flow into my own, but for the first time it seemed as though it was willing to conflict with my own. I did not fully understand what was happening, nor was my panicked mind in any state to focus on it, but I felt that with every intense increase in Luna’s magic there was a violent, countering force from my own. It was as if a miniature war was being fought between our combined magic flow.

The flare would be striking at any moment. If we did not remedy the problem and activate the Elements of Harmony, we would both perish in the sea of fire.

Not that my experience in the matter was particularly exemplary, but I knew all the same that any conflict between bearers of the Elements of Harmony would mean they simply could not be wielded together. And yet despite the situation and intensity, something was still wedged between me and Luna, something that was now threatening to destroy us both. There was still a bitter battle being waged.

And, like so many battles had begun and ended with a final shot or blow, it took one very simple thought, indeed, one mere word, for the entire static conflict to suddenly cease. I even said the word out loud, and despite the intensity of the situation I saw Luna smile cheerlessly in my peripheral once I did.

“Sister.”

To say many things promptly followed would be a massive understatement. Our magic erupted into a centralized shield around the tiny circle of life amidst a furious ocean of death, as the Elements of Harmony spun wildly all about us, casting a silver sphere which obscured from us the flames that would have erupted. Our world become one of aggressive white light blinding our eyes, veiling the flames bounding first across the land, and then across the resolute surface of the barrier I had cast. Somewhere far off in the distance a crystal erupted under the stress the barrier was under, and two more followed suit. Even as the magic of the Elements of Harmony coursed through my veins and out my horn, I felt their loss and prayed the others would not suffer the same fate.

The screeching of the Smooze became the only sound Luna and I knew. The sound of the Element’s magic was no small affair, but even it was drowned out by so much of the substance all letting out the same awful scream of pain, bubbling and sizzling away as the heat of the Sun was suddenly and inexplicably forced into the tiny sphere that had once been a town. Dusk Falls had once been a settlement of colourful, white-trimmed buildings, and then it had fallen into a pile of dust and destruction. Now, the dust itself was vaporized, in its place a charred crater of impossibly perfect proportions. The magic of the Elements of Harmony sent coursing jolts of energy into my veins and my magic, not comforting in the slightest but instead feeling like I was being struck by lightning. Nonetheless, it was a welcome alternative to the flames outside.

I had begun counting seconds, wondering when the flames would die down. When I’d counted to sixty thirty times over I ceased, although the time itself had not felt like half an hour at all. Instead, it had all felt like it had happened in the space of an instant. The Smooze had perished in a fraction of this time, and yet the flames were still reverberating off the walls of the barrier with nowhere else to go. Luna and I were trapped in a snow globe of fire.

The last four crystals holding the barrier in place finally erupted in unison, and when they did it collapsed. The force of the flames, now with somewhere else to flow to, was vented upwards into the sky, outwards over the ocean, and far across the land to the West for miles. The forests had been soaked by weeks of rain but many erupted in flames all the same, vicious forest fires that were a mere shadow of the much more severe fate Equestria had avoided.

When the barrier collapsed, our magic did too. We both fell to the charred ground, but the Elements of Harmony were still spinning around us. albeit much slower. Our orb of shield magic dimmed, and the smell of smoke for the first time crossed its barrier to reach our nostrils. It was nearly overpowering as we struggled back onto our hooves to behold the wasteland of destruction before us.

Even lying abandoned on the ground, the Elements of Harmony were still humming with energy. I blinked several times, looked to Luna, and saw that she was equally as perplexed.

Suddenly, a loud noise and bright light interrupted our wordless confused discussion. A white tear ripped across the sky, not straight like a blade but instead in a vicious, jagged line. It projected the same blinding white light that the smaller one had before, but this time it stretched all along the beach, from Pink Sunset to some point far past where the boardwalk had once been. It was spilling out dark magic in an instant, but the waves it was above had fallen motionless, not from inactivity but instead as though they had been frozen exactly as they had been.

For a moment, I did nothing but stare. Then, I looked to Luna and saw that she, too, was doing little else but staring straight before her.

And then, she exhaled as if from mild annoyance. As though what would promptly ensue would just be a bit of an inconvenience.

"There it is," Luna said, and with a few flaps of her wings she daintily flew from the residual grasp of the Elements of Harmony, setting back onto the ground some ways ahead. The Elements flying around both of us fell the moment she did, clattering against the razed ground and flickering for several seconds before extinguishing completely. "Sombra's Mirror."

“No. I destroyed it! What's it doing?” I asked, trotting after her, although she had not travel led much further. Instead, she stood in place with the streak of magic unfurled directly before her, lighting her deep blue coat and refracting strangely through her mane. She did not respond immediately, so I posed my question once again, with added intensity.

“Luna, I saw it shatter! It can't be here!”

“It isn't,” she said, shaking her head. “But the last of its magic is. It's dying away. I feared this would happen.”

“Dying away...” I repeated. “So it is closing?”

“Yes, but gradually. The Mirror is gone, but the magic that allows it to work remains. It's...venting, Celestia. Fading into the skies.”

I squinted my eyes to look closer at the blinding light, and saw that Luna was not mistaken. The tear was brilliant indeed, but its radiance was a dying flame.

“That's good…” I said, unable to keep the uneasiness from slipping into my tone.

Luna chortled rudely.

“Good? Hardly. The Mirror's magic fading into the fabric of our world is anything but good.

Luna seemed too weary to appear any more than moderately upset by the potential catastrophe before us. She did not answer the implicit question she had presented, and she did not have to.

“Whatever,” she sighed, as if dismissing some thought. “It's...a worst case scenario. The important thing, I suppose, is that the Mirror is gone.”

With her ambiguous, unnerving piece said, Luna turned to regard the land around us.

Where Dusk Falls had once been, there was now a perfect circle of blackened earth, fallowed land never to support life again. Much of the ocean had erupted into steam, and now the rest of it was allowed to freely flow across the created gap as roaring rapids of saltwater. Half of Dusk Falls was gone, the other half that had been beyond the barrier was oddly still standing, albeit in the presence of catching fire from the residual force of the solar flare. Had it not been for the flames, I could have waltzed in, as if what had just taken place had in no way affected me.

But it did. I had risen to my hooves, but I promptly fell back down the moment I did, not out of exhaustion but instead out of a simple lack of motivation.

“What have I done, Luna?” I said solemnly, and then fell into a fit of rapid coughing and squinting as I tried to get the smoke out of my eyes and lungs.

Luna didn’t answer. Instead, she took off without a word to fly over the dead circle that had been a town. I watched her flying until she was a speck on the horizon, a simple task with nothing to sully the view. She was looking below her for any residual signs of the Smooze, any bit of it that had survived the flare. She had returned in less than fifteen minutes, not smiling triumphantly but looking as though she greatly wished to.

“It’s all dead, Celestia,” she confirmed.

“Yes,” I said, looking at the town. “I suppose it is.”

“Don’t look so glum,” she nearly commanded, using her wing to roughly help me to my hooves. “We truly triumphed today.”

“At what cost?” I asked, shaking bits of dust and mortar caught in my own feathers.

“At the death of few ponies, and the loss of brick and mortar.”

She was generalizing, ever so cruelly. Perhaps few ponies had died, but I had destroyed an entire city. A thriving community of potential. The only home to be saved from the hand of destruction was my own, looming sadly behind me with its tall pink roof a vivid juxtaposition to the pure blackness before it. Above Dusk Falls was the same red sky, now scorched with the heat of the last dissipating fury of the solar flare.

Oddly, as I looked up at the red sky, I thought again of the postcard that had drawn me to this town.

Again, it was Luna’s voice that jerked me from my own introspective thoughts.

“I’m going home,” she said matter-of-factually, shaking her wings. After all that had transpired, she was now brushing it all off as in the past. “I suppose you are too. I’ll call for our chariot.”

I watched her disappear, far off in the distance where several miles down the beach the rest of the Royal Guard was waiting, a safe distance from the residual blast. It was there that Indigo and the rest of the ponies had fled to, and it was there that they would have watched in shocked silence as a tower of flames had erupted into the sky like a volcano, lighting the world aflame for a brief several seconds. And then a wall of massive heat would have erupted past them, thankfully not enough to deal any permanent damage. The point where, hours later, I would reconvene with the guards who had fled, as well as the few cultists who had escaped, waiting to be tried for their treason against Equestria. Morning Glory and Dune Shores, freed from the grip of time and reunited once more, mother and son, the injuries they had sustained mere veils which hid the unparalleled joy they felt at each other’s presence. It was as though all my life had become the past nine months had culminated into this small encampment several miles from the town limits of Dusk Falls.

While Luna disappeared towards this far off point of promise, I stood staring at the recently deceased town before me.

And then I turned back to look at Pink Sunset, standing alone and slumping slightly over a bit of earth that had given way into a small sinkhole. The framework of the house was largely intact, and with a little repair it would soon be back to its former self. The flare had left the paint charred and blackened, but miraculously the house itself had not actually caught fire, as if out of some taunting irony.

Alone it stood, its tall and sad windows gazing not at the former town beside it, but at the lonely waves, rippling with the last traces of morning mist disappearing into the warming spring air. From where I was standing I could hear its groaning wood; while the house itself lay undamaged, it would fall into the ocean if something was not promptly done.

I took one final look at the lonely house that had never truly been my home, and then I turned to follow Luna into the still dark remnants of the night that had finally begun to pass, leaving the sun to carry on its course towards the ocean waves.

Author's Note: