• Published 10th May 2016
  • 1,952 Views, 422 Comments

The Titan's Orb: Rising Storm - Old Man Dusters

While Callum and the Mane Six continue their quest to find the shards of the Titan's Orb, their path ahead grows only more deadly as they are now stalked by a relentless shadow that will stop at nothing until they are vanquished...

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Epilogue: Once Upon a Mortal Coil

“None but two before you have come this far… And yet your journey, is far from over…”

Six voices, three of them male, three of them female, spoke to the boy.

Callum, bewildered, looked around and observed his surroundings; an abyss of black, blue, and the glimmer of faint stars. It looked as though he were stood upon a dinner plate, which floated throughout the outer reaches of space. His body had a seemingly astral form, his skin faintly glowing, and within his chest a ball of pure mana could be seen.

Towering above him dwelled the source of the voices, six vibrant nebulous structures.
The first, the smallest, was pure mana, and radiated a faint golden aura, it almost looked like a dress.
The second, yellow, with pale pink roots, swaying side to side, it seemed to resemble a seed.
The third, a brilliant white, with a deep purple mist, shaped like a diamond.
The fourth, and biggest of them was red and black, with a serpent-like shape, coiled around itself.
The fifth, hot pink, with tendrils of the same colour, dancing with attentiveness.
Lastly, the sixth was sky blue, shaped like a cloud, shrouded in rainbow coloured fire.

“You… You’re the Titans, aren’t you?” Callum asked nervously, his voice shaking.

Like before, they replied in unison, as though they spoke as a singular entity.

“Memories… Mere shimmers of such existences, fledgling human…”

“But, there are six of you… I thought Appleox was, well…”

The deepest voice which belonged to the largest titan, presumably Appleox, seemed to overtake the others, but they continued to speak in unison; to speak otherwise seemed impossible, they were all one in the same.

“This is a captured moment in time, looped eternally, prior to the Corruption of Mass.”

“Okay, makes sense… Well, where am I?”

“Dead, and frozen with us in this fracture, young one. Your soul, now encased within the blade you so eagerly desired to grasp. A mistake for all, but our chosen…”

“Stardust Moonshimmer?”

“Aye, that’d be me, lad.”

Callum turned around to see Stardust beside him, his body also glowing slightly and with a core of mana.

“What’s the meaning of this? And please, no riddles.” The boy pleaded.

“The time’s come, ya wee blighter, you’re dethroning me.”


Looking back to the Titans, Callum awaited an explanation.

“Moonshimmer has served beyond adequately, repelling Appleox and imprisoning his son, putting an end to a war, and bringing forth an age of peace to the world we so tenderly created.
But peace is but a flame, a temporary flicker that grants the illusion of life. Like all flames, the peace of Stardust has extinguished, as the Defiler returns with a vengeance.
Where is the chosen hero to stop him? A bodiless soul encased within our Orb is no longer a champion, but instead, a placeholder for another. When you became a host for our chosen’s spirit, you imbued the right to challenge him, even though you do not descend from Equus, a most peculiar event indeed, which even we could not foretell.”

“I’m to challenge Stardust? What are you saying?”

Callum might as well have stayed silent, for his confusion was painted across his face and body language, so much that Stardust had to approach him to whisper.

“You’ve been chosen to be their next champion, lad.”

His eyes flared wide open, looking up at the Titans, he awaited their confirmation.

“Many challengers have come and gone, one succumbed to the Fel, another drowned in blood, hundreds have faced Moonshimmer in combat for the personal splendour of becoming his successor.
But not one of them stood here before us…
As you do, now…
Selected, but not yet established, you must first prove yourself, as the others before you.
You must conquer your foe in battle to obtain the title for yourself, but only a true champion can claim such a thing. While Stardust has been your ally until now, you must cast your affections aside and accept the fate of this ilk, and face the trial that awaits you.”

Turning to Stardust once more, Callum looked down upon his friend with great hesitancy.

“We’re to fight?”

“Aye, to the death.”

“Is there any other way?”

Stardust sighed and gave the boy a warm smile.

“Lad, from the moment you touched the first shard, and I hopped into your noggin, this day has been a long time coming. I’ve simply been guiding your path towards this moment, it has to end like this.
Besides, I’ve been alive for over a thousand years, most of my time’s been incarcerated inside that bloody Orb, it’s high time I rest at last, if you’re able to kill me, that is.”

Remaining silent and attempting to process the weight of the ordeal before him, Callum simply stood still and watched the Titans as they slowly drifted apart to surround the two mortals, and then, with a sound akin to shattering glass, a rift in space appeared between them; it only lasted for a brief moment, and in its place was the Titan’s Sword, floating in place and waiting a wielder.
The Titans hummed quietly as Callum stared at the blade, as did Stardust, whom lit up his horn with anticipation.

“So what are the rules? You’ve got magic, so am I not at a disadvantage?”

“No rules I’m afraid, lad. Just kill or be killed.”

“I’m hardly prepared for this.”

The Titans emitted a laugh, all six voices causing a demonic ripple through them both, and then they spoke.

“A hero is never prepared, it is what makes them a hero. To fight onward in circumstances that others would fail to succeed in, which is precisely what you have done thus far since beginning your journey.
So, conqueror of adversities… Give us your answer…”

Stardust bared his teeth, and Callum clenched his fists; the answer was given.

The human moved first, darting forward to take the blade, only to be stopped by a telekinetic blast from Stardust; although it struck him down, the sword was also knocked towards him. The unicorn tried to grab the weapon with his magic, but Callum was quick enough to dive forward and claim it first, gripping the handle firmly and quickly getting a feel for its weight and reach.

“You went easy on me.” Callum spat.

“Actually, you’d be surprised, it’s practically impossible to lift a human with telekinesis, your souls in general are somewhat resistant to magic, and you, lad, have a mighty strong fuckin’ soul.”

“Huh, I remember Twilight mentioning once that it was harder to use some spells on humans.”

With that said, the unicorn fired a bolt of lightning at Callum, who deflected it with the flat of the sword.

“Now who’s at a disadvantage?”

Stardust responded by blasting three enormous fireballs in a wide arc, Callum had to dive out of the way to avoid getting engulfed, and even then, it singed his legs slightly. Aggravated, he charged at Stardust, attempting to pressure him into moving more than casting spells; the tactic worked and the unicorn was forced into defensive spells and avoiding slashes, thrusts and kicks.
One of the most eerie parts of the duel was the sound, their footsteps were muffled and sometimes couldn’t be heard at all, it sounded unnatural, the only thing to be heard clearly were their voices, Stardust’s magic, and Callum’s sword.

“I should have hopped into Twilight’s body and left you with a brain fart, you persistent little shite!”

“You’re the asshole who went by the name Conscio for months on end!”

“You’re the dimwit who believed I was just your sentient conscience!”

Hopping sideways, Callum was able to nick Stardust across the flank, cutting deep for such a slight scratch; the response was that of another lightning bolt, which was successful in hitting Callum square in the chest, leaving a black mark and stunning him for a moment.
Gripping the blade tightly, Callum thrust the blade in Stardust’s direction, which was when a smaller lightning bolt shot from the tip and narrowly missed him. It appeared that some of the spell had been absorbed into the sword, and could then be cast back at the unicorn.

“Shite, not even I knew it could do that!”

“I like this thing!”

Callum laughed as he realised he could not only deflect magic, but was partially shielded from it when the blade was in his possession, meaning he could most likely survive some fatal spells.

As each moment of the battle passed, the Titans closed in on them, slowly forcing them closer and closer together until there was nowhere left for Stardust to run, time was running out for him.

“Want to know something funny?” He asked, his horn bright orange.

“What?” Callum replied, dodging the fireball.

“If you kill me, you’ll never get to hear my joke!”

“I’m okay with missing out on a joke in order to become the Titan’s Champion.”

“That’s probably the first time you’ve had your priorities in order!”

Callum’s retort was to slide underneath the laser beam and kick the unicorn in the face, who quickly teleported behind him and bucked him as hard as possible, sending the boy into the air, although he landed on his feet, he was left off-guard and open to another direct hit from Stardust’s lightning.

Your hair stands on end when I do that!” He bellowed with laughter.

Growling, Callum broke free from the electrical stun and closed in on Stardust once more; the Titans also closed in, the ethereal arena now no bigger than an average bedroom. Callum made a swipe for Stardust and severed his tail, causing him to yelp in pain and leaving behind a bloody cerulean stump with a few brown hairs remaining.

“Too fucking close!”

“Oh, I can get closer!”

Stardust, for once in a thousand years, was afraid; this boy was driven by sheer human determination, something he’d never seen, not even in himself. While he didn’t fear death, Stardust knew in this moment that Callum would erase him from legend, when the Titan’s Champion would be talked about, Callum’s name would accompany it, and no longer the brother of Starswirl.
Stardust wasn’t just about to die, he was about to be destroyed entirely.

This thought distracted the unicorn, and the distraction sealed his fate.
Callum changed directions and cornered him, before giving a horizontal chop into his upper foreleg, severing it completely.

Argh fuck me, you could have made it painless at least!” He howled.

“I’m sure you’ve had worse.” Callum teased, gripping the unicorn’s horn to prevent further spells.

“Grrr… Well… You got me, lad, it’s over… End it…”

Hesitating, Callum’s battle adrenaline subsided, and he quickly realised that he was truly about to kill Stardust, to execute his own friend.

“Any last words?” He sighed.

“Aye… I know Hawnu Rey’eng’s true identity...”

“Oh, fuck you.”

They both laughed, knowing that Stardust would never reveal it, an attempt to get the last laugh.

“Anything else?”

“Well... Now you mention it… Over my time as champion, I bedded many mares… Even a few griffons!
But never a human… So I just wanted to say… Fucking Bunnie with you was simply gr-eAcK-”

Before his sentence was done, Callum slid the sword deep into his chest.

“May you die, knowing that you pissed off your successor until the very end.”

A weak smile emerged from his quivering lips, after so long of living, he could die on the funny side of things, something such a character would have always wanted.

“Goodbye my friend.”

Closing his eyes, the ancient hero went limp, and Callum watched the mana within him dissipate, before flowing into the sword; the body then seemingly evaporated, along with the bloodstained arena.

“Young one, we congratulate you. Not only did you defeat and surpass our chosen, but you did so while clouded by emotion. To slay a friend is no easy feat, this we understand.”

Shakily, the boy stood, looking up at the celestial beings which had now drifted close together again.

“You displayed great skill, and yet no training, such reflexes, determination and strength stem from a very powerful soul indeed, one that shall now grow in strength with the mana of your fallen friend.”

“I… I don’t understand…”

Without warning, the sword leapt from Callum’s hand and floated in the air above him, as the Titans went on to explain exactly what it was and how it worked.

“This relic, engrosses the soul of which it kills, destroying the memory and leaving mana, allowing you to harness it, either to heal your wounds, or to permanently strengthen your own soul.”

“So, I can use magic now?”

“Incorrect, neophyte. You are granted the ability to internally harness mana, a gift that even magic wielders cannot possess. While unable to cast spells, you can strengthen your abilities, taking in the souls of others to increase the power of your being. Your physical strength, stamina, and reflexes, and so on, may be improved with each soul you consume, this is the way of the champion, to grow until you are more powerful than any that could hope to challenge you.”

“I think I understand… Every life I take, will make me stronger?”

“A simpler explanation, but you are not incorrect.”

Nodding with understanding, Callum wondered how the sword had never fallen into the wrong hands; sensing his thoughts, the Titans explained how the blade could alter its temperature, when touched by anyone other than the chosen, the sword would grow colder than ice, colder in fact, than any material exploited by man; it would almost instantly freeze whatever touches it, not even telekinetic magic would be able to hold the deadly artefact.

Understanding the ins and outs of his new prize, Callum changed the subject.

“When you first spoke to me, you called me the Coveter of Glory, what did you mean by that?”

“Quite simple, our champion, and that question must be answered with another.
What is it, that you truly covet? Protecting the ponies is your duty, acquiring the orb shards is your mission, but your lifelong goal is to escape oblivion itself, to be remembered when you are dead and gone.
You wish for a statue of you to be built somewhere, with masses to tell your story, so you can leave with the knowing that you achieved some sort of worthwhile life.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing.” Callum grumbled, somewhat defensive.

“It is a distraction, a mere interference with your newfound responsibilities. You must understand, nothing lasts forever, whether it be weeks, years, or even eras and ages past, you’ll be forgotten, your stories will be forgotten, and your mortal acts will be forgotten.
Never forget, no matter how tender or how exquisite, a lie, will remain, a lie!

The sudden hostility in their voices shook through Callum, shaking his very soul into fearing such words, his deep and passionate goal of being remembered, shattered. But as the shame and bitterness subsided, the boy felt a comforting sensation, almost as strong; while his acts wouldn’t be forgotten, they would change the course of time itself, he would literally shape the world’s future with what he chose to do in life, and that was something the Titans couldn’t take from him. It wasn’t about his memory, or his name at all, it was about continuing the work of the first champion, contributing to the age of harmony on Equus.

“I understand.” He spoke firmly, confident once more.

“We know.”

A portal opened up before Callum, and the Titans came closer, beckoning him towards it.

“This memory has served its purpose. Go now, Champion of the Titans, walk your newly written path.”

“Newly written? This was never my destiny?”

“No, we never had authority over your kind, we only weaved the fates of lives on Equus.
Mankind in fact, has never had a destiny, it’s what makes you most peculiar.
You advance, you control, conquer and learn, without ever really knowing why.
Man has no path, rather, you craft your own.
Very few races have this quality, the ability to shape your own fate.
You are unbound, untouched by the powers of other dimensions, use it to your advantage.
Now go, retrieve the shards, and save our world.”

Bowing his head in honour, Callum stepped through the portal without uttering another word.

And thus, began the next chapter of his life, with his new and respect-demanding title.
Callum Tobias Harding Horncastle, Champion of the Titans of Equus…

Author's Note:

As a massive thanks to all my wonderful readers, I've got something special for you...
With this closing segment, I've released an Audio Theatre (Radio Drama) edition of the epilogue!
Fully voiced, carefully edited, and lovingly created for you all.

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