• Published 13th Oct 2015
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Utaan - Imploding Colon



Rainbow Dash endures many trials to reach the edge of the world.

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A World That's Worth Protecting

It was a storm that never ceased—rolling and boiling with cold haunted blues, reds, and silvers beyond a thick gray malaise. Lightning forked in every direction, accompanied by trumpeting thunder that echoed outward into utter endlessness itself. And yet—the very heart of the cosmic tempest couldn't feasibly be seen—for a thick line of ever-rising mist forever obscured the crest of elemental madness. It formed a deathly border for as far as the eye could see: a pallid lip upon which all things ended.

And all things ended with a monumental roar, a listless moan formed by incalculably thick sheets of water forever flowing, forever perishing. They fountained out into the dim ether, only to be consumed by friction and lightning. Pockets of heated air returned the moisture back in sporadic, raging waterspouts, where they would flow back onto the terrestrial shelf and return to the shifting deluge through ghostly clouds of thick gray rain.

Here, upon the edge of all dying, impossibly large structures lingered—granite slabs constructed countless millennia ago, carved through sheer harmonic magic, barely enough intact to still serve as rectangular islands in the midst of maelstrom and madness. Eons of flowing moisture curved their once-jagged edges to pearl-smooth curves. Multiple generations of civilized life would later have to fasten thick oak platforms to the sides of them. These rain-soaked beams and planks formed docks along the west ends of the slabs, and it was here that several boats had gathered, amazingly immaculate wood-carved dreadnoughts whose hulls were covered in every inch with equine carvings and cosmic motifs.

One such vessel drifted up to the western docks. The ship had no sail or rudder, for it was propelled by pure magic itself. Orbs of light levitated along the bow and stern, pulsing in alternate patterns, distributing a field of leylines that perfectly counteracted the nightmarish flow of water that would otherwise dash any normal skiff or sailing vessel to shredded bits against the platforms. Voices shouted to one another, booming commands against the roar of lightning and the howl of raging winds. One by one, armored unicorns marched up to the vessel's starboard side, levitating a platinum-embossed ramp into place.

Once the ship was sufficiently moored, multiple stately figures trotted down onto the platform, dressed in royal silks and fineries. They were tall, graceful equines—many of them larger than the average pony. Their horns shielded themselves from the watery mists and their eyes shimmered as if with starlight. Unicorns and pegasi wearing gold armor accompanied them as they trotted down a procession of water-slick granite platforms, approaching the line of mist and the raging tempest beyond.

And then—on pensive little hooves—a tiny filly disembarked from the ship. She hesitated before stepping onto the platform. When—at last—her gold-laced fetlock scraped the ancient granite, she shuddered in her thick velvet coat, suffering a nervous chill. Her porcelain coat paled twice over; her alabaster hair billowed in the wet, wet wind. Gritting her teeth, she stared out into the shattered sky, her aqua blue eyes flinching with each flicker of lightning. Try as she might, she couldn't summon a pulse of magic through her horn—at least one strong enough to repel the moisture. Each raindrop chilled her even harder, and for a moment it looked as though she was about to turn and waddle back on board the ship—

Whitemane,” spoke a strong, male voice.

The filly jolted with a flutter of her wings. Her pearl blue eyes darted right... then left. A rigid shadow crossed over her. The foal looked up, shivering.

On long dark legs, a tall stallion with ebony wings and a lance-like horn trotted by. His royal purple eyes gazed down at her. “Follow me, child,” he said, his voice deep and rumbling. He gathered her closer with outstretched feathers. The air rang—as with bells—for his horn had summoned a translucent black shield, protecting them from the cold, cold jets of precipitation. “And stay close.”

Whitemane nodded, stifling tiny breathy squeaks. “Y-yes, father.” She trotted briskly along to keep up with him.

“And avoid the edges of the Harmonic Foundations at all costs,” he said. “All around us, the waters of the ocean flows out, only to be heated by the friction of the Firmaments and then returned to the Light Side.” He slowly shook his head, gazing forward. “The same thing cannot be said of little princesses who fall into the drink.”

Whitemane gulped. “Yes, father. I shall be careful, father.”

“You always are, my Morning Light.” His purple gaze swam across the islands of water-swept granite. “Hmmmmm... everything is as it should be. The spells are still protecting the sanctuary as they did when we built them ten thousand years ago.”

“But...” Whitemane's eyes danced across lines of broken archways and sundered marble columns. “But everything looks so—” Thunder boomed overhead. She flinched, trotting closer to her father's legs as she sputtered: “—so broken apart!”

“Indeed. About three centuries ago, the Foundations suffered a costly blow.” The alicorn's nostrils flared as he shielded the two of them. “The Sarosian Exodus brought much strife and discord to the East Bastions.”

“Uhm...” Whitemane gulped, blinking at the sheer plummets into raging waters on either side of them. “...because of the Lunar War, r-right? The forces of Nightmare Moon fled this far and attempted to cross over into shadow.”

“That is correct, my child.” He nodded. The two scaled a waterstained wooden bridge spanning the tiny gaps between granite islands. A quartet of armored unicorns bowed as they passed by. “Your mother and I continue to be proud of you and your studies.”

“What I don't understand is how they think they c-could even get to the Dark Side!” Whitemane looked up, her blue eyes blinking. “Nightmare Moon's army, I mean.”

“The same way that they crossed the Plains of Magical Drought,” her father explained. “They possessed Alicorn artifacts, much like the ones that brought us here.” He held a hoof on her shoulder, urging her away from a chunk of granite that had fallen off into the rapid currents. “You see, Princess Luna, shortly after traitorous turning, blessed them with the same power that she used to curse her and her sister's kingdom.” He gazed down at her in mid-stride. “Many of those vile creatures perished to make the journey possible... if not through the sun's burning kiss, then through starvation or madness. The scant few companies that made it this far were empowered by pure rage and bloodlust. Even our finest guard could not match their ferocity.”

Whitemane glanced up at the dark gray sky. Through gaps in the thick overcast, she saw indigo swirls of cosmic light. Then—with a roll of thunder—the clouds closed up again.

“Looking for the Mare in the Moon, my child?

“I... I haven't seen any moonlight since we passed the jagged bluffs,” Whitemane said. “Or sunlight for that matter.”

“This far out, the Firmaments act as a barrier to the Sun and Moon,” the regal stallion explained. “It is like this on the Dark Side, though far... far bleaker. The Sarosians didn't understand this. They fled to the Dark Side in hopes of communing with their Lunar Empress. Never underestimate the power of passionate zealots, my child. They are thralls to chaos.”

“But what of the local kingdom, father?” Whitemane asked. “There are ponies who lived this far east then, just as they do now! Couldn't they have helped protect our Bastions?”

The alicorn's eyes flickered in brief anger. “No. The Queen of Frost did not lend her forces. And we shall not speak of that vile despot on these hallowed grounds.”

Whitemane gulped, nodding towards the wet granite beneath her. “Y-yes, father...” She heard shuffling hoofsteps. Curious, she glanced to her left.

Past her father, she saw other alicorns trotting in patient stride. Among them—walking the slowest—was a young adult mare whose figure mimicked the hazy twilight lingering ever-present beyond the storm clouds. Her coat was dim and dark like a faded blue metal. Midnight black hair hung in heavy curls along her graceful neck, and a horn made of spiraling blue alicornia glistened from the moisture in the air. Unlike the others, she didn't bother to erect a spell to shield herself from the rain. Instead, the young alicorn's dull violet eyes scaled the lengths of the platform beneath her while she coiled her ebony wings tight.

Whitemane fought a lump in her throat. She tried smiling. “Mortuana?” she called out.

The mare didn't reply. In fact, her muzzle tightened, as if locked in a grim frown. She trotted slightly faster, scaling ahead of Whitemane and her father.

“Mortuana?” Whitemane's lips pursed. “Mor-Mor? Is everything alright?”

“Leave your sister be, Whitemane,” the stallion said.

Whitemane glanced up. “But—”

“She has much on her mind. As well as she should.” He led Whitemane towards a wide, wide platform at the end of the procession. Here, the roar of rushing water reached its peak, and he had to speak boldly to be heard by his younger daughter. “This is her second visit to the East Bastions, after all. Her future requires her to be in deep reflection. As does yours.”

“As...” Whitemane blinked. “As does m-mine?”

“Your Excellency!” a strong feminine voice suddenly exclaimed.

Whitemane's ears twitched. Instantly, she smiled, looking up with bright blue eyes.

A pegasus mare with lithe muscles trotted swiftly towards the two. She removed her gold helmet and bowed before the alicorn stallion. “King Onyxxus. All royal hooves are accounted for.” She tilted her head up at him, her blonde mane flowing in the misty breeze. “I have my soldiers posted along the north and south tips of the platform. I have doubled protection around the parties of Prince Valiance and Duchess Starshade.”

“And the Gondola?” Onyxxus stared past her at a point along the edge. Two cylindrical towers stood tall, their golden summits pulsating with cosmic manalight. “Has it returned yet from Darkreach?”

“No, Onyxxus. But we've received messages from the other side in rapid pulses. The leylines are energized and the First Expedition is sending the transport back for reserves. I shall be there for the unloading.”

“I have full faith in you, Commander Sun Sheen.” And for the first time since arriving there, a smile crossed Onyxxus' dark muzzle. “My love.”

The pegasus smiled back. They leaned in together, with Onyxxus lowering his muzzle to stroke his cheek against hers. Sun Sheen took a deep breath, nuzzling him back with warm affection. Then, clearing her throat, she stuck her helmet back on and bowed once more. “My troops need me. Fear not, Your Excellency. I shall keep an eye on Mortuana at all times.”

“You always do.” He bowed back.

Sun Sheen then turned towards Whitemane. She leaned in low, kissed the filly on her forehead, then stroked her soft snowy bangs. “We will talk later, my Morning Light. And you can share with me what you've learned from your first pilgrimage to the East Bastion.” Fwooosh! On thunderous wings, Sun Sheen soared fearlessly into the sky, narrowly avoiding gusts of wind and rain as she made her way towards the brightly-lit towers.

Whitemane stared after her, smiling. Her tiny wings fluttered while her front hooves slowly inched off the ground—

“Come, Whitemane.”

The filly's limbs returned to cold granite. She blinked towards her left.

Onyxxus was trotting towards the very extreme edge. “It is time that you see... my child...”

Whitemane gulped. Nervously, she shuffled after him.

The two filed their way through the crowd of royal equines gathered along the penultimate platform. As the King made his way in, several of the princes and princesses—dukes and duchesses trotted aside, bowing low in deep reverence. The soldiers did the same, each bearing a crest of the Royal Household.

“They... they don't look so scared, father,” Whitemane remarked.

“I would imagine not,” Onyxxus said. “Their pride overpowers any and all trepidation. After all, they are the only mortals of their generation to make this pilgrimage.” He gazed down at the filly. “It will be many, many generations before a trip across the Plains of Magical Drought can be attempted again. Mortuana will be charged with enchanting our artifacts so that the future expedition may surpass the Blight. And you, my Morning Light, will be responsible for choosing who among Verdestone's most elite will make the trip.”

Whitemane looked up with a gasp. “M-me, father?”

“Indeed.”

“But... b-but Mor-Mor... Mortuana is older than me! Wiser!” Whitemane gulped. “Sh-shouldn't she be entrusted with such a task?”

“Do not discredit your own potential, my child,” Onyxxus said, strolling closer to a last line of crumbled marble columns. “There is rich alicorn magic in your veins. As such, your foalhood will last several decades. But your adulthood? That will last millennia. And in that time, you will gain more wisdom and more understanding than you can even dream of.”

Onyxxus looked to his left. Whitemane's gaze followed his line of sight. She saw Mortuana at a distance, reaching into her velvet vest and retrieving a glowing vial of luminescent fluid. The older alicorn let loose a long sigh, kissed the vial, then approached the platform's extreme edge.

“Your older sister has already found her Harmonic Calling,” Onyxxus spoke, his voice taking on a darker, melancholic tone. “She is enlightened... and I can no longer inspire her in the same way that I can teach you. Whatever her conviction, it has empowered her with subtle magics, that which is secured by shadows, tempered in silence. Do not lose faith in her love for you and your mother, my Morning Light, for it is still there. But—as in all things with your sister—they are hidden in the deepest pockets of Mortuana's heart, where she knows that she will keep our legacy safe.” Onyxxus turned to gaze at the filly. “You too... will someday answer this calling.” His dark brow furrowed. “Far sooner, in fact, than you may have expected, I fear.”

“But... wh-what do you mean, father?” Whitemane asked, trembling slightly.

“Whitemane...” Onyxxus dipped low, squatting on his haunches. He reached his fetlocks out, taking Whitemane's tiny hooves in his own. “My beautiful Morning Light...” His purple eyes narrowed. “For over a hundred thousands years, I have watched the civilizations of this plane come and go. I was a young foal like you—nervous and uncertain—when my mother and father first brought me to the shores of this derelict world. While their wisdom came from the stars, their immortal flesh still belonged to the Plains of Harmony. The cloud of chaos that engulfed this world would eventually drain the life from them, and their ghosts left me before their labors were fully complete. I soon found that it was my task to become acquainted with the perils of terrestrial life, so that I might ensure a proper balance, much like Luna, Celestia, Tchern, and all other alicorns foaled during the cosmic exodus. Through many trials and tribulations, I discovered the price of preserving harmony in this precious, fragile vessel of mortals and beasts. I established the Citadel of Verdestone for the very purpose of protecting this plane. But—much like my mother and father before me—the venom of chaos has taken its toll. I now know that—despite the alicorns' best efforts—this beautiful, majestic world is dying. And I realize this... because I too am also dying, Whitemane.”

Whitemane's ears folded back. Her little lips quivered. “D-dying... father...?”

“Mortuana already knows this,” Onyxxus said. “I am telling you now because you—like her—are one half of the greatest gift I have to give this plane.” His dark eyes scanned the nebulous horizon of storms and storms. “We are surrounded on all sides by encroaching tempests. Our forebears gave us many artifacts to prolong the life of this world. But already, our grip on the Harmonic elements are starting to fade. Luna's madness compromised the moon, and Princess Celestia has been forced to take on an isolationist stance while she guards both celestial beacons entrusted to her Royal House. This leaves the Elements of Harmony in limbo. And—still, as of yet—the Midnight Armory continues to elude our grasp.”

“But... but the Expedition...?” Whitemane murmured.

Just then, a loud chime ripped through the air.

Whitemane flashed a look towards the edge of everything.

The two cylindrical towers were suddenly flickering with harmonic light. Sun Sheen's soldiers gathered closely while a platinum mechanism rose up out of the deluge, brimming with alicorn magic. Whitemane saw great, gigantic, iron-wrought chains rippling through a taut metal pulley system. Something immense and sparkling lifted from beyond, drawn by an unbreakable tether.

Onyxxus' voice drew her attention back. “Darkreach is an experiment at best,” he said. “It is our most desperate attempt to place a hoof-hold upon the fringes of the Dark Side. If successful, it will allow us to establish a base, so that we might be able to undo the Sarosian incursion and forge a harmonic path towards the Midnight Armory.”

“What... what's there, father?” Whitemane gulped. “What's in the Armory that we need so desperately?”

“An old... old artifact,” he said. “The oldest and most powerful of all Alicorn Artifacts. It's the tool by which we christened this world with Harmony in the first place. Without it, the Elements wouldn't exist. And if the Elements were to some day lose their luster, then it will fall upon what was locked away in the Armory to restore a final hope for this world.” Onyxxus sighed, his dark wings coiling. “When the plan for Darkreach was first drafted, I had hoped that I would live long enough to oversee its execution. That was back when Mortuana was born. Ever since, I have felt harmony drained from my body. And I finally understand that it will not be up to me to ensure the success of our endeavors.” He turned towards Whitemane again. “It will be up to you and your sister, my Morning Light.”

“But... b-but why can't you stay with us so we can work on it together?” The filly sniffled, trying to keep from trembling. “You look so healthy, father!”

“But the magic in my leylines is fading, and an alicorn without magic is as useful to Harmony as the faded fossils of our forebears.” He slowly shook his head. “If I desired to... if I was selfish—I could dwell on this plane, living and breathing, for another five centuries at least. Alas... that is a luxury I cannot afford... not while I still have a sliver of Harmonic essence left to give.” He closed his eyes, and his horn glowed with emphasis. “No, my Morning Light. I shall not linger upon this earth as a feeble mortal. Instead, I shall pass on my magic to you and Mortuana, and join your beautiful mother during her mortal passing.”

“Father...”

“My gift of Harmony will strengthen your abilities... and it will extend your life.” He gazed at her with a gentle smile. “And you shall live to accomplish that which I can't...” He nodded towards the droves of ponies gathered along the rainswept platforms. “And nurture generations of ponies who will need our blessing most of all.

“Father, n-no...” Whitemane choked on a sob. She leaned forward, burying her face in his chest. “Please! You c-can't leave us so soon! There... th-there has to be another way!”

“Shhhhh...” He swept her into a feathery hug. “Whitemane...” His hoof tilted her chin up. “We will yet have many afternoon strolls on the balconies of Verdestone... and lessons of wisdom shared beneath Emeraldine starlight.” He kissed her forehead, then murmured lovingly into her soft ears. “I am sorry that I must leave you to guard the twilight of this world. But it would be irresponsible of me to do otherwise. There is far more that I can give you and your sister in passing. And when all is said and done—and all the energies of this universe have run their course—your soul and mine shall reunite across the Plains of Harmony, so that we may embrace the Glorious Cycle together, and stave off darkness forever more.”

Whitemane nevertheless wept. She clung to her father, her eyes squeezing loose dewy tears.

“Whitemane...” He stroked her cheek. “Look at me.”

She sniffled... cringed... but nevertheless found the strength to comply. The princess tilted her head up, eyes puffy and entreating.

Onyxxus gazed at her. “Everything ends, my child,” he said. “And all things perish. All things but love.” He stood up tall. “It is this, more than anything, that you must bestow upon the mortals who will depend on you. For even if all of our bold endeavors are to fail, and it's chaos that defeats harmony in the end, it is most important... most righteous and necessary that those who have lived and died do so with peace and prosperity in their heart. You cannot be expected to ensure the security of all creatures... but it will be in your power to inspire them... or at least inspire the most courageous of them to inspire others. For there will come a time when you too must pass, like all alicorns, and it will be the mortals of this plane—the most fragile and precious of living things—who carry our gifts into eternity... empowered by artifacts of their own. Do you understand, my Morning Light?

Whitemane took several deep breaths. Despite a shudder or two, she managed to dry most of her tears away. “Y-yes, Father.” She stood tall, teeth clenched. “I... I understand. And I will protect them the best I can.”

Onyxxus smiled gently at her.

Just then, a loud splash rocked the platforms.

Both Whitemane and her father turned to look at the edge.

Dragged by the thick iron chains, an elliptical sphere rose from the churning depths, finally reaching the twin golden towers. The Gondola's glass windows rippled with steam and seawater. Its platinum framework shone in the Harmonic light. Sun Sheen marched up, shouting commands to various guards. Unicorns galloped over to a metal dock attached to the granite slab's edge. Using telekinesis, they undid several locks, then opened a glass door in the Gondola's side. Air hissed, and soon a small company of frazzled ponies marched out. Their limbs were thin, and their faces looked a little emaciated. Nevertheless, their eyes lit up with joy as they found the soldiers on the other side. Sun Sheen and her fellow comrades reached forward, shaking hooves with the arriving ponies... even going so far as to give them deep, adoring hugs.

Whitemane exhaled. “The... the Expedition...” She gulped. “So many of them are alive.”

Onyxxus nodded.

“It's... it's a miracle...” Whitemane grinned, sniffling. She looked up at her father. “It is a miracle, r-right?”

“No miracles happen without a purpose. Remember that, child.” Onyxxus strolled forward, motioning for her to follow. “It will still take much effort... much magic... much dedication to make the success of Darkreach possible.”

Whitemane scampered briskly to catch up with him. She soon found herself being led to the extreme edge of the platform. Here, a second noise rattled against the thunder from beyond. It was a delicate percussion, like wind chimes dancing in a summer breeze. Whitemane blinked, and soon she spotted row after row of metal stakes stabbed into the water-swept edge of the last platform. Many of the stakes were far older than she could comprehend, their rusted stalks bent and curved from the weight of time. Off of each pole, vials hung... shook... dangled. They were filled with thick translucent fluids, and they each glowed with Harmonic energy—some dimmer than others—some as bright as stars.

“It is time, Whitemane,” Onyxxus said. He reached into his vest with a stream of magic. Whitemane watched as he levitated a thick vial—streaming with ethereal blackness. Vapors trailed as he held the item to his lips, kissed it, then floated it forward. He hooked the top of it securely to a lone stalk. As he left it dangling, the filly could see how its magical glow staved off the mists and fog, like a lantern on the edge of a shadowy precipice. “Did you bring yours, dear daughter?

Whitemane nodded. With a gulp, she reached awkwardly into her velvet vest, fumbled around, then finally produced a thin little jar. It swirled with fresh red juices, and when the liquid so much as shifted, it produced a glittering golden aura.

“You did a good job preserving it,” the stallion said, smiling slightly. “Your sister wasn't quite so lucky on her first trip.”

“How could I not?” Whitemane shuddered. She glanced to her far left, but she couldn't spot Mortuana anymore. “It... h-hurt getting it out of me.”

“It's a pain like no other when an alicorn sheds blood, child,” Onyxxus said. “Producing it reminds us of the cost that mortals pay every single day of their brief lives. Placing it here is a testament to our dedication in protecting them.” He then gestured to the stalk right next to his.

Whitemane held her breath. Kissing the vial tenderly, she then trotted forward. With the use of feeble magic she floated the item up onto the hook. The vial dangled there—shining its gold light brighter and brighter with each gust of the tempestuous winds.

Whitemane shuddered from the chilling breeze. Her eyes stared across the array of vials—both old and older. They resembled starlight against the lasting veil of darkness.

“We must remain stalwart in our preservation of Harmony,” Onyxxus said. “For the future of this plane will only be extended through our combined efforts.”

“There... there are so many of them...” Whitemane gazed and gazed at the vials. A knot formed in her throat. “There were,” she murmured.

“My child...” Onyxxus squatted behind her. He braced one hoof against her shoulder, then pointed the other one straight out. “Take a good long look...”

Whitemane slowly, pensively raised her head.

“Gaze for the first time upon the end itself...”

Whitemane's pearl blues twitched. Nevertheless, she stood resolute, her gaze piercing into the churning heavens... the dark everlasting thunderclouds of the Firmaments... rolling with ethereal light, chaotic and sporadic, hungering...

Onyxxus' whispering breath sailed along the roar of crashing waves. “Tell me, my child, what is it that you see?

Whitemane stared and stared. The trembles redoubled.

“What do you see?

Shaking... quivering... Whitemane clenched her eyes shut.


A flash of Harmonic light.

Whitemane's eyes opened wide, twitching.

Seven hundred years later, she stood on a tall, looming balcony, surrounded in twinkling starlight. The valleys and townships of Emeraldine glowed with specks of candlelight below. The great tower of Verdestone bathed her in brisk winds.

The alicorn exhaled. Her horn glowed with residual telepathic energy. Just as it dimmed, she rubbed her forehead, clenching her eyes shut as she squeezed the vision of sobbing mares and ashen circles out of her mind.

Several breaths later, she fully recovered. Whitemane stood up, coiling her ornamental wings at her side. One graceful step after another, she turned from the east horizon, strolled past marble columns, then passed a veil of windblown silk curtains on her way into the heart of the royal chamber.

Up ahead—across a pristine marble floor—there lingered a bed of velvet pillows. Through the filmy white canopy, Whitemane spotted a petite blue figure.

The monarch shuffled up, coming to a quiet stop along the edge of the bed. She stared down, eyes moist and contemplative. At last, summoning an endearing grin, she reached her hoof out... gently stroking the prismatic mane of the robed mare lying in fitful, deep slumber. Her hoof lingered along the pegasus' muzzle, wiping the beads of tears dry from her lashes.

“Tell me... Austraeoh...” Whitemane murmured. She smiled, a compassionate rosiness spreading through her facial features. “What is it that you see, child?”

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