• Published 21st Nov 2016
  • 412 Views, 57 Comments

Because I Could not Stop for Death - ShinigamiDad



Zecora tries to get home with Reaper and Luna's help, while Twilight seeks answers from a dark past.

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Embrace

Zecora’s limp body crashed to the charcoal-and-orange turf and lay twitching as blood seeped from her nose and ears. Bramble knelt next to her and kept a weak shield hovering above them both in an attempt to fend off the Sentinel.

“Damnit, Gil! I know you gave it your all, but couldn’t you have held out for just another couple of minutes?"

He looked up toward the flickering, twisting maelstrom of black and gold and violet above and squinted, trying to make out details. He caught a glimpse of something green, tossed around like a storm-blown leaf.

“Green Streak! If you’re still conscious, get down here! I need all the help I can get!”

The pegasus fanned out her wings and regained her balance, peering down through the distorted, shimmering air toward the two small figures huddled next to a growing rift at the base of the Sentinel.

She glared up at the battle just beyond her reach, tucked in her wings and shot toward the ground, flaring to a sudden stop next to Zecora’s head.

She furrowed her brow and pointed to the blood, which was now also dripping from the Zebra’s hindquarters: “What’s going on? Where’s Gil?”

“She’s dying, and Gil’s last trace was destroyed protecting her. We have to get her out of this spot before everything comes crashing down!”

“How in Tartarus are we supposed to do that when we can’t touch her? Do you have enough power left to levitate her, or whatever it is you unicorns do?”

Bramble looked up at the maelstrom above them and glared: “No, through Celestia knows there’s more than enough being wasted up there!”

Green Streak chewed her lip for a moment, then her eyes went wide: “Hold on--I have an idea!”

She shot off into the air, making again for the heart of the battle, weaving in and out of knots of black bands and showers of violet sparks, zeroing-in on Twilight, squinting through the haze, heedless of the drain of the encroaching Vacuum.

She cut in front of one of the Sentinel’s lashing branches at the last moment as a gap opened, risking entanglement, and screamed: “Help me!!”

Twilight’s head snapped around, and Green Streak saw her eyes for a split second: “I hope that’s enough--gotta go!”

She tucked her wings in and dove hard toward the rippling orange turf, tendrils hard on her tail, making directly for Bramble’s shocked, upturned face.

Moments before impact, the pegasus fanned her wings and rolled over on her back, facing upward in time to see dual streams of violet and gold magic streaking downward, scorching the Sentinel, severing tendrils, and bathing the surface in blinding radiance.

“Are you crazy?!”

Green Streak grinned savagely: “No, suicidal--there’s a difference!”

Bramble spread out over Zecora and pushed his feeble shield to its maximum as Twilight’s power coursed over him in searing waves, tearing at him, threatening to evaporate the remnants of his tattered spirit.

He screamed in agony and ecstasy as his essence was suffused with raw power. His eyes glowed white, and he rose to his hooves, reestablished his shield, and levitated Zecora’s limp body.

He looked over his shoulder as he trotted toward the summit of the Swamp: “Stay low and follow me! I don’t know how this is all going to end, but it’s going to end soon, one way or another!”

He skirted another chunk of falling, glittering debris, and caught Squish’s scurrying form out of the corner of his eye. He paused a moment as the creature slid in front of him and took the lead again.

Bramble bit his lip, then resumed following: “I don’t have you figured out, yet, but you seem to know where you’re going, so…”


Twilight slashed at the mingled bands of darkness, withering both her own tendrils as well as the Sentinel’s, pushing back the now-combined nimbuses, desperately trying to force her way back to the top of the Void.

She had nearly fought her way free when a muffled cry came to her mind.

Help me!!

She snapped her head back over her shoulder and saw a glint of pale green, falling away, pursued by a host of tendrils. She felt the web surrounding her slacken for a moment, and poured down a twin bolt of violet and gold magic, aiming for the point at which the Sentinel would contact the plummeting green figure below.

The gashes on her wrists suddenly widened, and she cried out in pain and anger: “No! No more!”

Twilight fanned her wings, clenched her teeth, and pulled the web of fibers and ribbons and tendrils tight to her blood-smeared chest as she rose the last few yards separating the now-blazing first sacrifice circle from the upper rim of the Void.

She spread her hind legs, locking them into position against the final, outer boundary between the Vacuum and the outside world. Her eyes went blank as gold-and-violet fire built around her, tearing through the nimbus, flooding both the Void and the creation chamber with a flickering, ethereal light.

Twilight heaved with every fiber of her being, pulling at the tendrils, willing the Sentinel to her, hauling against its roots and tethers, lashing out with raw power and blood and rage in an effort to sever the entity from the device, to unmake the heart of the Void. The second sacrifice circle glowed like red-hot, molten gold.

Suddenly she was jerked backwards as she felt the immense tension beneath her give way for a moment. She heard a tearing, facturing sound and felt a rush of Death’s energy course through her.

She smiled, teeth bared, eyes glinting gold and black: “Got you now, you son of a--”

The sudden, disorienting agony shattered her mind as her left wing ripped away, twisting her backwards over the lip of the containment device, dragging her, twitching and thrashing halfway back into the outer world.

She flopped over at the last moment, preventing her spine from snapping, and looked in confusion at the shredded remnants of her wing, caught in a river of blackness streaming to and from the table in the distance.

Twilight’s head whipped back and forth as her eyes darted from the nimbus-swathed table to her blood-drenched hooves to the edge of the Void to the roiling mass of black and red and gold within. A heavy, soot-black, root-like shape emerged.

“Oh, no…”

Oh, Reaper, was it too much?


Luna watched in horror as Twilight was dragged backwards over the rim of Grey Thorn’s containment device in a shower of violet and gold sparks. She redoubled her shield and tried to move forward toward the Void to help, when Twilight’s wing was suddenly wrenched loose and tore free in a spray of blood and bone and feathers, which was immediately consumed by the pulsing black stream now flowing between the table and the Void.

Luna lurched sideways and dropped to her knees as a wave of dark magic swept through the chamber. She pushed off the floor and squinted at Twilight, who was now lashing out at the tendrils surrounding her with her hooves, teeth bared, eyes burning with ultraviolet fire.

Reaper swept forward and threw up a bright blue shield in front of Luna: “Back up Princess! I don’t think there’s anything you can do, and that damn thing’s coming out! It’ll consume you instantly if it touches you!”

Luna stepped back a yard and set her hooves again: “Is there nothing we can do?”

She glanced over her shoulder: “Can we break the connection to the table?”

Twilight blasted the Sentinel’s branch, now less than a yard from her face: “No! Don’t get near it! I need that power!”

Reaper phased and dodged multiple tendrils: “Twilight! We have to end this! You have to get this thing back into the Void!”

A stream of glyphs appeared before Twilight’s quivering, foam-flecked lips, re-forming the third sacrifice circle as the blood spurting from below her shoulder blade joined that flowing from her wrists: “J-just keep Lu-Luna safe! I have this!”

Her eyes darted back and forth between the emerging Sentinel, the table, and Reaper who was slowly advancing on her, sword hovering off his right shoulder. She furrowed her brow, closed her eyes and spread her trembling forelegs.

Reaper’s eyes went wide as the Sentinel drove forward into Twilight’s chest, smothering her in a wave of inky, writhing tendrils and smoke.

He bolted forward, sword sweeping before him in a crimson arc: “I’m sorry, Twilight! I have to stop this! You’ll be lost!”

He phased out almost completely and jumped up beside the warped, twisted storm of violet and charcoal and black and gold. He readied his blade, and swept out an opening with a thrust of his broad, blue shield--then froze as Twilight threw a rune of warding in his face.

A black-and-purple tendril darted out of the mass and seized Reaper’s sword as he blinked heavily and fell back: “S-sorry, again--I n-need this one last time…”

The second and third sacrifice circles reformed around Twilight and the Sentinel, and dragged them swiftly and relentlessly back through the mouth of the Void.

Her horn flared brilliant gold as she cleared the inner rim, and a web of equations and diagrams and glyphs sprang into being, glittering in the air like constellations.

The Sentinel pulled in its tendrils and compressed itself into a dense column, its billowing nimbus re-materializing and swirling like a cyclone. It brought three of its branches forward as it released a massive pulse of psionic power.

Twilight felt the air charge around her, and threw up a shield as she maneuvered toward the top of the Sentinel, seeking the point in space where it made contact with the inner boundary of the Vacuum. All the glittering glyphs and diagrams and equations suddenly coalesced at one point, which pulsed faintly, just beyond her ability to focus.

She closed her eyes and shot forward behind a wedge of golden magic, blood trailing behind her, hovering like red raindrops in the fractured, murky air.

“I-I have you n-now! You can’t f-fool my eyes anymore! I feel it now!”

The Sentinel wrapped itself around the purple invader, seeking to crush Twilight’s shield as Reaper’s blade darted forward, slashing at the attachment point. The Sentinel screeched and the light inside the Void died, save for a bright golden glow rising like steam from the Sentinel’s surface. The light began to form shapes.

Twilight Sparkle, please report to the Principal’s office!

“Not this time! I know this trick!”

Twilight opened her eyes as a broad, dimly-lit staircase materialized before her. She furrowed her brow, dashed up the stairs and kicked the heavy, ornate door open.

Reaper turned to face her, standing in front of a glowing fireplace. Before he could open his mouth to speak, Twilight darted forward and drove her (his?) sword through his chest. He staggered forward, eyes wide, and pressed his bloody mouth to hers.

Twilight grabbed his face and pulled him away: “No! My turn!”

She turned on her heel and threw Reaper’s bleeding body on the nearby bed as her body shifted from Kurlin back to pony, jumping after him, driving the blade through his hip. She fell on him hungrily and crushed her mouth to his, sucking and breathing, feeling his chest collapse, hearing his breath falter, tasting his blood.

She stopped, sensing someone behind her. She turned her head and spat out Reaper’s blood just as Grey Thorn dived at her, horn leveled.

She parried his horn with her blade and rolled off the bed onto the cold, dusty stone floor, nearly stumbling over Luna’s twisted, oozing corpse.

“You, too, huh?”

Grey Thorn shook his head and pointed behind Twilight at a new bed: “No, her.”

Twilight spun and felt the pit of her stomach drop out.

Moondancer lay there, spread out, eyes half-lidded, tracing her folds and teats delicately with the edge of a hoof while patting the quilt on which she was laying: “Come back to bed, lovermare! I’ll be dead in the blink of your eye, and I want to spend every minute I have left tasting you!”

Twilight shuddered and leveled her trembling blade at Moondancer: “Y-you’re not real. None of this is real!”

Reaper stood up, a stallion again, and moved next to Grey Thorn, who now appeared to be Kurlin, with close-cropped gray hair and light-brown skin.

Reaper smiled and nodded: “You’re right--you’re the only real thing here, Twilight. But we’re with you nevertheless. You’ll never be rid of us unless you surrender your power.”

Grey Thorn crossed his arms: “This power is not for you. You will never be free as long as you have it.”

A cold, feminine voice came from the shadows: “And it must be wrested from you. You will never surrender it willingly--I know from experience.”

The darkness began to close in around Twilight as Reaper, Grey Thorn, Nightmare Moon and Moondancer advanced, horns blazing. Zecora lay before the now-sputtering, smoking fireplace, struggling for breath.

Twilight turned around, eyes flickering from figure to figure--from Reaper with a shining horn driven through his breast, to Nightmare Moon, battered, cut, blood running down the insides of her legs, to Moondancer, a sunken, ancient, desiccated corpse, to Grey Thorn, his chest ripped open.

They collapsed toward Twilight all at once as her eyes flared with violet flames and bloody, black tendrils shot out from her, entangling her assailants, twisting and crushing them, pulling them into her embrace.


I’m afraid.


Twilight threw back her head and screamed in anguish and lust and pain and terror as the blackness swirled into her, and the Sentinel howled and the roof of the world tore free. Death’s Token flared with crimson flames as it sheared through the Sentinel’s final connection point and Twilight’s left foreleg.


Oh, Reaper! Was it too much?

I don’t know. Maybe.


Tears streamed from her sightless eyes. Blood coursed down her legs and back: “No...”

Twilight heaved and pulled, dragging the twisting, splintering, crippled Sentinel with her, rising back through the now white-hot sacrifice circles, her hide blistering from their intensity.

The peak of the Swamp below shredded, crumbled and fell upward toward the Vacuum in the Sentinel’s wake as four small, glowing figures tumbled through the wrack.


Zecora stood and shook her head: “I do not understand you, Gil / I fear I am now deathly ill!”

Gil walked slowly through the hut, examining baskets and jars, poking and moving items: “While it is true that you are sick / your presence here is due to a trick.”

Zecora furrowed her brow: “The last I recall / is Kla’atra’s fall. / How can you be here now in her stead / unless this implies I’m also dead!”

Gil tipped his head sideways and slowly approached a faintly-glimmering jar: “You are not dead yet, this is true / I saw the signs and then I knew…”

“Signs?”

Gil sent a pulse of magic at the jar, shattering it as the glittering scale beneath fell to the floor. Zecora raised an eyebrow and bent down to investigate.

“This is my home and I do not recall / an item like this being here at all!”

Gil sighed: “My oldest friend has stowed away / why this is so I cannot say.”

The scale suddenly trembled and expanded in a silvery flash. Kla’atra stood tall on her hind legs and took a step forward, eyes alternating between pale green and white.

Zecora shied away in response and looked back and forth nervously between the alien and Gil: “Again I do not understand / The Sentinel slew her with its black band!”

Gil shook his head sadly: “She used the attack to cover her scheme / revealed through silence and silvery gleam.”

Zecora turned to Kla’atra: “Why would you do this, what could you gain? / Surely your life force must also wane!”

The hut shook violently and the roof began to separate, revealing the white emptiness beyond, which now glittered with gold and violet and black sparks. Zecora stumbled sideways and sank to the floor.

Kla’atra’s mandibles worked and chewed for a moment as her eyes flashed pale blue: “The ending would now have come to this place / and should then also all spirits erase!”

Gil nodded and braced himself as the roof began to break away, exposing a swirling vortex of dark grey and pale violet far above. He looked up and bit his lip.

I-I have you n-now!

He squinted at the growing brightness and looked back at Zecora and Kla’atra: “It’s true that the end of all things has come / We all must fight lest Zecora succumb!”

Kla’atra pointed around her at the shuddering, warping hut: “We shall then have all stayed within this pony shell / It could perhaps to have lifted us from this hell!”

Gil furrowed his brow, gestured at the crumbling hut, then pointed at Zecora, now panting and struggling to stand: “Her body and essence can no longer take / moments from now her spirit will break!”

A section of the roof peeled away, and the door wrenched free from its hinges. Gil glanced up as beams of pale violet and gold magic broke through the haze and fell across his back and head. His horn began to glow. He smiled grimly and closed his eyes for a moment.

No.

Kla’atra’s eyes flashed silver as she looked up at the vortex above in response to Twilight’s voice. Suddenly a pale magenta ring formed around Kla’atra. Her head snapped to her right as Gil pulled hard against the restraint binding his horn to Kla’atra. He turned and dashed through the doorway, hauling the shocked alien with him into the blank expanse beyond.

Zecora lurched to her hooves and stumbled to the splintering doorframe, now blocked by a shimmering, translucent barrier.

Kla’atra slashed at the restraint and directed a blast of psionic energy at Gil’s head. It was blocked by a shield that formed around the unicorn. A second trapped Kla’atra a moment later in her own glowing bubble.

She lashed out at the bubble, and fired a silvery beam at the restraint that still held her fast: “No! I shall not have perished here! This were not to have been my home reality! I might not end my days here! Please!”

Gil gritted his teeth and fought both Kla’atra and the pull of the vortex: “You’ll kill her if you stay within her any longer, Kla’atra!”

“Perhaps she would to be killed, but all three of us then might have passed beyond the Vacuum and have a chance for our spirits to leaving this plane!”

Gil shook his head sadly: “It’s all-but-certain that all that would happen as we traverse the boundary, is that the Vacuum will take its final toll, erasing all three of us. Alone, in her living body, at least she has a chance!”

“Please. This cannot to have been my ultimate fate. This were never my reality…”

Tears welled in Gil’s eyes as he drew the two bubbles together. Zecora craned her neck to look up at the vortex now filling the space directly above her hut and the two figures outside.

She lost sight as Gil’s control of the now-merged shield weakened, and it was pulled inexorably toward the unearthly swirl of grey and violet. He held open his forelegs and pulled Kla’atra close.

Her wings fluttered briefly then went still as her eyes faded to a pale green, nearly matching her body: “I’m afraid…”

Tears ran down Gil’s face, and he squeezed his eyes shut as the bubble failed: “I know you don’t have tears, so I’ll cry for both of us.”

Kla’atra emitted a low humming noise as Gil pulled her tight: “Let’s go into oblivion together, old friend…”

Zecora choked back a sob as she saw a faint flash of silver in the distance. She curled up on the floor of her crumbling hut and closed her eyes.


Bramble trotted briskly behind Squish, casting an upward glance at the wrack and battle from time to time, balancing Zecora and his shield. Green Streak swooped down beside him and took shelter beneath the golden glow pulsing from the colt’s horn.

“How much further? Where are we going?”

“I doubt much longer--the summit of the Swamp seems to be coming apart, which means one way or another we’re all about to get a lot closer to the exit, ready or not.”

He dodged a rift in the turf and ducked a tendril, pressing close behind Squish’s scuttling form: “As for where, I don’t know. I’ve never approached the Sentinel this close before. I always assumed it would largely avoid me, but I never wanted to get close enough to test that.”

“What if it doesn’t? Can you fight it?”

Bramble let out a short, harsh laugh: “Hardly! If that thing has finally decided to end me, there’s not much I can do about it.”

“Like Squish and Grey Thorn’s shades…”

Bramble winced: “Don’t remind me.”

“So it could be leading you into a trap.”

Bramble shrugged: “Don’t really see the point. If the Sentinel wants me--”

He stopped suddenly. Squish was directly in front of them turning from side to side as the orange turf began to lift away. A dark gray root emerged and slashed wildly.

No.

Everything heaved and lurched up. The very space around the ponies warped and shrank, then snapped back. The Sentinel groped for purchase and reached toward Bramble, who had dropped to his knees in an attempt to keep Zecora safe. Squish moved directly in front of the unicorn and raised up on two of its limbs as if to smother him.

Bramble grimaced: “I guess I’d rather you take me, Squish, than your kin, if Zecora’s right. Fly, Green Streak! Avoid the collapse or it’ll pull you up into the Vacuum!”

He gritted his teeth and isolated his shield around Zecora and Green Streak: “This’ll buy you a few seconds. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more…”

The Sentinel's root struck, spreading fibers and tendrils, slicing through the air with a hiss. They stopped short as Squish spread itself wide, absorbing, deflecting and blocking the thrust.

Bramble furrowed his brow: “What…?”

Squish twisted sideways, severing the fibers, forcing back the root tips just as the air was rent by a deafening peal of thunder and a high-pitched shriek. The sky exploded with violet and gold and crimson fire, and the three ponies and Squish were thrown free of the Swamp, tumbling upward toward a ring of blazing glyphs.

Bramble squinted through the glare, and latched onto Green Streak, Zecora and Squish, using his magic to shield them from the worst of the buffeting, attempting to steer them away from the flailing Sentinel.


Where do we go when we die, Gil?


Reaper staggered back, waving a hoof before his eyes, trying to reorient himself: “Damnit! The bitch took it again!”

Luna sidestepped a tendril that was writhing on the floor near the main band connecting the table to the Void. She redoubled her shield and moved closer to Reaper: “How did she do that? Why did she do that?”

“There are already wards on the Void that make it disorienting for me as it is. It was pretty straightforward for her to surprise me with another one of Starswirl’s damned, defensive glyphs.”

“But why?”

“Same reason she needed it for the table: it’s a key, a catalyst. I assume she’s using it to channel and focus Death’s energy--one of the few things that can likely affect that entity in there.”

Luna squinted up at the crown of the Void, now wreathed in a blinding gold-and-violet halo of magic and heat shimmer. Crimson and black streaks forked through the haze like dark, bloody lightning.

Reaper stood stock-still, staring at the bolts and bands of energy. Luna stepped up beside him and glanced back and forth between the table and the Void: “I sense the pull against me has lessened, though it is clear the dark connection is still strong.”

Reaper nodded: “It’s all happening down in there now, past that circle, which prevents me from sensing anything in detail. We’re just going to have to--”

He was cut short and phased in the nick of time as a blast of mingled psionic and magical power ripped through the chamber, followed an instant later by Twilight’s battered form, entangled with two splitting, writhing branches of the Sentinel.

Luna was caught off-guard and thrown back to the chamber’s front wall. She dropped to the floor, senseless.

Reaper’s head snapped back to follow her path: “Shit!”

He phased-in next to her crumpled form and wrapped her in a bright blue shield as he looked back over his shoulder at the battle unfolding across the chamber.

Twilight hit the ground, slashing with Reaper’s blade, blasting at tendrils with magic from across the spectrum, screaming power words, eyes burning white-hot with rage. She threw out hooked tethers, sinking them deep in the Sentinel’s dark-gray hide, and pulled back, extracting another ten yards of its squirming, scarred body onto the floor.

Reaper’s eyes went wide as he saw a swarm of tendrils from Twilight, the Sentinel and, now the table begin to materialize, accompanied by waves of psionic power. He stepped back and stood directly over Luna.

“What are you thinking, Twilight?! How could you bring that thing out here?”

Twilight bared her teeth and sunk her horn into a branch, blasting it apart as it ripped across the side of her face, tearing away her left eye. She howled in fury and agony: “I-I h-have this! It-it’s almost d-dead!”

Reaper glared back: “As are you! And most likely Zecora by now! What was the point, again? Drop your wards so I can clean up this mess!”

Twilight formed two more tethers as the first sacrifice circle now crested the rim of the containment device, pulling along another three yards of the Sentinel. The circle pierced its body like a saw blade, spraying the chamber with dark-teal ichor.

As the fluid splattered the chamber’s front wall, it left translucent splashes and streaks, creating window-like blotches, like lightly-frosted glass. Reaper glanced back and saw Celestia pressed up against one of the larger patches. He looked back down at his hooves and saw Luna’s eyelids flutter for a moment, then close again.

His attention was taken by another blast of raw power from the Void. He turned and stared, slack-jawed.

Twilight rose from the blood-and-ichor-smeared ground on a black-and-violet nimbus, sword glowing red like molten iron, eyes blazing gold, a swirl of glyphs and runes crowning her pulsing horn.

“GET...OUT...OF...THERE!!”

She hurled herself backward toward the table, tearing the final length of the Sentinel free. It flopped over the rim of the containment device with a screech, trailing clots of orange turf and a glowing, golden figure.


The three ponies and Squish hurled upward, pelted by chunks of turf and rock and shredded pieces of the Sentinel, which left black, smoking welts on the surface of Bramble’s shield.

He glanced to his right and saw Squish disengage from the now-severed root fibers. He tipped his head down and saw Green Streak tumbling beneath him: “I’m going to try to cocoon Zecora and let her go up with what’s left of the Sentinel!”

The pegasus squinted up at the blinding, incomprehensible maelstrom above them: “Th-then what?”

Bramble blinked back tears as Zecora’s body, now sheathed in a brilliant, golden shroud, broke free from his control and was sucked up into the vortex.

“I don’t know! I’ve done all I can! I’m going to use what power I have left to pull us back, and hope this all ends in a few more seconds when the last of the Sentinel clears the Vacuum!”

Green Streak angled her wings and drifted close to Bramble, squeezing her eyes tight against the madness now surrounding her: “I-I’m afraid!”

“So am I…”

The sky burst open then collapsed as the second and third sacrifice circles shattered.


Where do we go when we die, Gil?


“Shit!”

Reaper moved forward a few steps then stopped, noting that Luna was still unconscious. He chewed his lip as he watched the golden figure on the floor next to the Void fade and resolve into a black-and-white-striped pony, coated in ichor, oozing blood from multiple wounds and orifices.

“Zecora’s out!!”

Twilight’s head snapped down, and she sent a pulse of magic to the floor, pushing the unconscious zebra aside, clear of the bulk of the Sentinel. The pause was all the Sentinel needed to throw out a last wave of tendrils, stimulating both the table and Twilight. Multiple black ribbons snaked through the air and across the floor, converging on Luna and Zecora.

Reaper’s eyes darted back and forth between the two prostrate figures as Luna’s eyes half-opened: “Luna! Wake up, damnit! Shield yourself!”

He dashed across the floor, dodging tendrils, a crimson flame blade forming before him.

Twilight’s eye blazed with inky-black fire as she brought Death’s Token down on the Sentinel in a shower of red-and-gold sparks. She caught Reaper out of the corner of her eye: “DON’T YOU DARE, D’HURGMREI!!”

A pair of glyphs suddenly burst into being above Zecora, halting Reaper in his tracks: “Are you insane?! That thing’s going to consume everything in its death throes! You can go to oblivion if you want, but don’t damn Zecora to the same fate!”

Twilight threw her head back in rage and ecstasy as black bands shot out from her, piercing the Sentinel, severing its connection to the table: “I AM FATE!!”

She poised the sword downward toward the roiling mass of dark-gray and black and crimson and violet beneath her.

Reaper’s eyes went wide: “Luna! To me! I can’t protect Zecora, and Twilight’s out-of-control!”

Luna shook her head as her eyes focused on the scene across the chamber. She lurched to her hooves and teleported to Zecora.

She wrapped the limp, battered zebra in a black bubble with her and staggered a few yards to her left, near the mirror alcove. Celestia pounded futilely on the wall and watched in horror as Twilight poured out her final measure of power.

Twilight let loose a feral howl and drove Death’s Token into the Sentinel.

The chamber was instantly flooded with a blinding golden light as the tendrils swelled and pulsed. Waves of magic and Death’s energy and psionic power coursed through the air, washing over Reaper, driving him to the floor, distending and tearing at Luna’s shield.

“DIIIIIIIEEEE!!”

Twilight's horn splintered as the table blew apart into countless shards, ripping through the chamber like grapeshot, shattering Twilight’s pelvis, fracturing the front wall, tearing huge chunks out of the Sentinel, dissipating Luna’s shield.

The chamber fell utterly dark and silent. Even the stones dropping from the crumbling roof and walls made no sound on impact. It was impossibly cold.

Celestia forced her way through the damaged entryway and took a tentative step inside. Her horn flickered weakly for a moment, then surged with white light, briefly illuminating the scene beyond.

“Oh, no…”