• Published 23rd Nov 2016
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Lunaris - Madame Ponka



In a world of eternal night, three ponies must come together and survive.

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Chapter II - Auris

Eventide looked down at her cider glass. Almost empty. She blew through cider faster than she’d like to admit. It wasn’t necessarily good for her magic, especially when she was being hunted, but sometimes one needs to drown their fears with an ice cold glass of cider.

Aurelius was a big tavern in a small village. It was practically the only thing Auris was known for. Ponies from all over Lunaris flocked to Aurelius for some of the best cider and mead in the land. Her eyes scanned her surroundings. Most of the patrons consisted of ponies that were too drunk off their flanks for their own good. Lunaris had no shortage of these types.

What had caught her eye though was a strange bat pony. Unlike most ponies, she wasn’t drowning herself In booze. She hadn’t even ordered any alcohol. From the time she first laid her eyes on her, she could tell what she was. She was one of those “psychics”, or “mind-meddlers” as General Polaris called them. She had been trained to hate them and fight against them. They were one of the few types of ponies in Lunaris who weren’t afraid of the Lunar Mages. If anything the Lunar Mages were afraid of them.

She got up from her table and went to the front counter. She gave the bartender her mug and the 10 bits for a refill. She sat next to the bat pony.

“Eventide, is it? One of the best Lunar Mages. Well, formerly,” the psychic said.

Eventide rolled her eyes. “No sense of privacy, eh?”

“It’s easy to read your mind when your body is overflowing with cider,” the bat pony said with a smirk.

“You got me there. And you are?”

“Mythic Azure. I don’t do much except wander this dark frozen wasteland in search of an answer to all this. Why are we all here?”

“So not only do you have no sense of privacy, but you’re also a pretentious philosopher,” Eventide said.

“You could say that,” Mythic said.

“Let me guess, you’re also an egghead.”

“You’re catching on, Eventide.”

“You psychic folk are always the same, I swear,” she said.

“When you can single-handedly destroy armies with a thought, you become a lot more… introspective.

“Right. Have you ordered anything?” Eventide said.

“I don’t do alcohol unless I’m having a garbage night. You can probably guess why.”

“Being intoxicated probably does wonders for you,” Eventide said sarcastically.

“Oh you don’t even know. One time I set a bar in New Ponyville on fire.”

“Damn…”

“Yeah. I had a bounty on my flank for six months after that. Couldn’t go anywhere near New Ponyville for a long time.”

Eventide gave a chuckle as she took another swig of cider. “So why are you here if you aren’t interested in alcohol?”

One of the bartenders came and placed a slice of raspberry cake next to Mythic.

“Aurelius has amazing dessert.” Mythic said.

“You can say that again.”

Mythic took a deep breath as she started eating the cake. She looked over to Eventide as she took another swig of cider. “Do you ever just stop and think about why it’s like this? Why Lunaris is the way it is?”

“The way I see it, we’re all just stuck in a loop. It’s been this way for who knows how long, and in the end we’re all just struggling to survive,” Eventide said with a burp.

“I see what you mean. For generations we’ve all been stuck in a constant battle between our will to survive, and those that want to take that will away,” Mythic said.

“It’s been said that things used to be much more peaceful. Ponies used to thrive and make peace with one another, and didn’t have to worry about being mauled by monsters. Barely any record exists of those times. Makes me wonder if there’s a point to it all. Are we really going to be remembered if history becomes lost in the end?”

“Perhaps this is just another chapter in the story of ponykind, a dark and possibly long chapter, but it’s just a section nonetheless,” Mythic said. She telekinetically lifted the fork and ate a piece of the cake.

Eventide stared at the strange mare. “You make a good point, but what if this is just the end? We have nothing more to look forward to until the day we all just murder each other for our own selfish desires,” Eventide said.

“You’re quite deep when you’re drunk,” Mythic said.

“You get used to it after all these years,” Eventide said as she took another swig of cider.

“Nothing truly ends. We may decline, but ponykind will never truly die.”

Eventide gave a nod. “It’s just been a bit hard for me. Adjusting to this new life and all.”

“Anyways, what’s your story? Why’d you leave the Lunar Mages?”

Eventide froze for a second as her period of drunkenness paused.

“Well?” Mythic said.

Eventide leaned over and whispered to her.

“Meet me in Room 47 of the inn and I’ll explain,” Eventide said.

Mythic nodded. Eventide quickly finished her cider, tipped the bartender, and went outside.

Mythic scoffed. It’s always the drunk ones.

~

Eventide sat on the old wooden bed. It creaked loudly with even the smallest of movements. The walls were covered with cobwebs and dust. The moisture had collected on them over years of neglect. The books on the shelves hadn’t been open in ages until she read a couple pages in the late hours. Botany was so boring to her. The drawer knob broke off when she first used it, and the closet contained nothing more than a torn cloak and a smelly old boot. No wonder it was so cheap, she thought. The innkeeper was puzzled when she had requested to settle in room 47. Most ponies requested the lower number rooms. The higher numbers were reserved for the bums and tramps. Eventide didn’t mind though; they won’t find her here.

She was reading the botany book again when she heard a knock on the door. With a touch of her magic, she opened the door and was greeted by that psychic bat she met at the tavern.

“Huh. No wonder the innkeeper was confused when I asked to visit this room. Looks like a load of crap.” Mythic said as she walked in.

“Poor bastard probably thinks we’re running some sort of illegal operation here. Why else would two ponies gather in such a mudpile?”

Mythic sat on the bed next to Eventide. “Last time this room’s been in use has been… about four years,” she stated.

“Well, make yourself comfortable I guess. At least, if you’re able to.” Eventide said.

Mythic laid down on the bed. Despite the roughness of it, it felt leagues better than the patches of dirt and snow she so often slept in.

“Don’t fall asleep on me, Mythic. I still have to explain why I left.”

“I’m all ears,” Mythic said. Eventide cleared her throat.

Four knocks on the door rang in their ears. Eventide jumped, though Mythic didn’t even flinch.

“Who in Lunaris could possibly be here?” Eventide said as she opened the door.

Parallax stood in the open doorway, clearly looking like he’d been through Tartarus and back.

“Oh great. A damn guard. What do you want?” Eventide asked.

“Name’s Parallax. I’m a member of the Fillydelphia Royal Guard. My, uh, friends were killed on the way here, and I am looking for a place to stay,” he said.

“I take it nopony else let you in,” Mythic said.

“Basically. Look, I’ll only be here for the night. I won’t touch anything or whatever. You won’t even know I’m here.”

“And why should I let some complete stranger in here? How do I know you aren’t just somepony who was sent to spy on me?” Eventide asked with a glare.

“Relax, Even. Let me handle this,” Mythic said as her eyes emitted the purple mist.

Eventide rolled her eyes. This wouldn’t end well. Parallax froze up. He had been probed by psychics before. It wasn’t painful. In fact it was sometimes pleasant, but at a moment like this, when he was still shaken by the loss of his friends, it made his heart drop.

“Do we really have to do this? Now is… not the best time,” Parallax said with a shudder.

“Just relax. Fighting back will only make this even more hard,” Mythic said as she focused on him.

Parallax took a deep breath and prepared himself. He was practically shaking with fear. Mythic could sense it within him.

Mythic’s presence gently closed around Parallax’s mind. He froze completely still like a freshly cut statue. His thoughts became foggy and he felt as though he was floating on a cloud. His mind tried to relax, but it kept running with thoughts of trepidation and loss.

Parallax heard a voice echo throughout his head. “I said to relax. If you don’t, then I’ll make you,” Mythic telepathically said. He tried to tell her that he couldn’t, but he found himself unable to open his mouth. He attempted as hard as he could to relax, but to no avail.

Mythic was getting frustrated. She understood that most ponies hate having their mind probed, but there was something… different about him. He didn’t struggle, but his mind was obviously on red alert. It was filled with fear. More so than anypony else she had probed in recent memory. She knew what she had to do.

“I take it back. This will hurt a bit.”

Before he had a chance to react, he felt a sharp pain in his head as it was psychically assaulted. He tried to relax. Guards suffered through pain all the time, and he was trained to stay calm in the face of it, but her power was incredible. He was sweating greatly and his breath was growing shorter.

Mythic hated to do this, especially to such a troubled pony, but it was necessary for their safety. She closed around his mind even harder, searching his thoughts for any hints if the stallion's true intentions differed from what he said.

Eventide looked on with a blank stare. “What a baby,” she thought to herself. Being a mage, she was trained to suffer through stuff like this.

Parallax fell to his knees as the pain grew more intense. He groaned as Mythic assaulted his thoughts. She felt around his mind, and came up with nothing but fear and sadness. She slowly began pulling out of his head. Parallax was visibly twitching and struggling as his thoughts started coming back to him.

Mythic fully pulled out of his mind.

“Huh. Poor lad. He was scouting out the wilderness with some friends when they both got killed by a hellhound. He barely managed to survive in one piece,” Mythic said.

“A hellhound!? Oh please. I can take those out in ten seconds flat.” Eventide boasted.

Parallax struggled to his feet. He was visibly drained from the probing he had just received. “S-So… a-am I welcome here or not?” he said with a quiet voice.

Mythic stared at Parallax for a good few seconds. “Fine,” she said with a sigh. “Just don’t do anything stupid and we’ll be good.”

Parallax gave a weak nod. “Thank you.”

Eventide rolled her eyes. “Give me a break. Are we seriously gonna let the scrawny little guard who could barely manage a hellhound into our little clique?”

“Better than a thief or a murderer. Besides, The poor lad has been through some tough times. The least we could do is let him rest,” Mythic said.

Eventide sighed. “Fine,” she muttered as she sat back on the bed.

Mythic rolled her eyes. “You’ll have to excuse her. She’s a bit arrogant at times. Anyways, I’m Mythic Azure. As you can guess, I’m a psychic.”

“Parallax. You probably know all about me because of… well, that.”

“Yeah… sorry. I hate to do it, but it was necessary. We can’t exactly trust many ponies here,” Mythic said.

“I understand. Just… please be careful.”

Mythic gave a nod. “The other mare’s name is Eventide. She’s a member of the Lunar Mages. Well, used to be.”

“Used to be?” Parallax asked.

“Yeah. Well, she hasn’t explained why yet. She was going to, but we were interrupted by you,” Mythic said.

“Right. Sorry for interrupting,” he said.

“There’s no need to apologize. You were desperate for help and you needed it. It’s the least I could do.”

“Well, thanks so much. I really appreciate it,” he said with a nod.

Mythic smiled and nodded back. She trotted back over to the bed and Parallax followed.

“So, about you and the mages…” Mythic said.

Eventide sighed. “Oh, right. Hm... I’ll spare you all the details and get right to the chase.”

Eventide cleared her throat.

“I first had an interest in magic ever since I was a filly. I had studied day and night for weeks and months on end. My dream was to join the Lunar Mages just like my mother and father had. I wanted to fulfill Nightmare Moon’s goal of total dominance over Lunaris. I had truly felt at a young age that this was what I was called to do.

I was always considered to be a prodigy. Frankly I find that to be a load of manticore crap. I became powerful because of my intense training and determination, not some lame genetic thing. Anyways, everypony was impressed with my abilities. After a long time, I was finally accepted into the Canterlot Magic Academy, and was subject to intense training. To say it was hard and rigorous would be an enormous understatement. Every damn day was the most brutal training one can experience. All under the strict watch of the guild’s elders, and the leader, General Polaris. Even for someone as strong as me, they still kicked my flank any second they could get.

Eventually, after numerous tests, I finally became a Lunar Mage. Throughout the years, I slowly became one of the guild’s strongest members. Even General Polaris himself knew that I was a strong asset to the team, and he’s hard to impress.”

Her voice started shaking. “My duties were… awful. I had… executed so many of the enemies of Nightmare Moon. I slaughtered countless rebels and traitors, destroyed many settlements and separated many families.”

She started trembling. “Do you know how it feels?” she said quietly. “To hear the cries of the innocent as you’re about to slaughter them? To hear the screams of the damned as you beat them senseless?” she said as tears formed in her eyes. “To see the fires of destruction as you burn down houses?” Eventide’s voice began growing louder. “They’re sounds and sights you can never stop hearing! They echo in my head like the loudest blast of a horn! I’ve been haunted by them every single damn day! I hear them in my dreams, and I see it all when I close my eyes!” she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “

Parallax spoke quietly. “Eventide… if this is getting too much for you, you can take a break. We’re getting the idea.”

“No, no. I’ll be fine… I’ll be fine…” Thanks for understanding,” Eventide said.

She sniffled as she wipes the tears from her eyes. “All of this weighed on me during my service. I initially enjoyed it. I enjoyed the feeling of power and loyalty to Her Majesty. I had felt alive through the blood of the innocents. I felt like this was my calling. To do Her Majesty’s will and fulfill it to the best of my ability. But the more pain I caused, the more pain I felt inside of myself.

“After a while, I grew tired of the same old crap. I had started to realize that there was likely more to life than what Nightmare Moon wanted to do. So I left. I left…. and never looked back.”

Mythic chimed in. “Wise choice. The Lunar Mages are a borderline psychopathic group. What do you plan on doing now?”

“Well… that’s a hard question to answer. Here’s the thing. The Mages aren’t done with me yet. I was one of their most powerful members, and they want me back. They’re going to do anything in their power to bring me there, even if it means killing everyone who stands in their way. I already met two of them on the way here. We dueled around for a bit, and thought about killing the two poor sods, but… I decided to lead them here and buy them a drink and a room. They were only a bunch of mediocre rookies.”

Mythic ran a hoof through her mane. “Any idea where they’re at now?”

“Hell if I know. Probably hightailing it back to General Polaris. Poor lads never stood a chance…”

Parallax sighed. “So what you’re saying is that you’re one of the most powerful mages in Lunaris and these borderline insane mages are continuously hunting you down and will stop at nothing to bring you back. Sounds bloody dandy. I take it you’re always on the move then?”

“No shit. I plan to take a good night’s rest and hightail it out of here to… someplace. I don’t exactly know where yet,” Eventide said.

“You know the rumors of Las Pegasus, right? The alleged rebel capital? Perhaps you could head there and see if you can join their ranks,” said Parallax.

“Not a bad idea, Laxxy. We’ll see,” Eventide said. Parallax cringed at the lame nickname.

“Want us to tag along? Better than trotting around all alone in the frozen dark wasteland for days on end,” Mythic said.

Eventide paused as she glared at the two.

“I’ll think about it. Right now I need to take a nap.”

“Right. Eventide, you and Parallax can have the bed. I’ll sleep on the floor,” Mythic said.

Parallax looked at her bewildered. “You sure? The floor ain’t exactly the most comfortable place to sleep.”

“I’ve spent weeks sleeping in muddy snow and rotten trees. I can handle a damn wooden floor,” Mythic said.

“Suit yourself,” said Parallax.

Eventide gave a yawn as she took off her garments and threw them in the chair. Her long golden mane cascaded down her face as she gave a long stretch. Mythic and Parallax both blushed as they stared at her. Eventide rolled her eyes as she got into bed.

“Right… Well, you go and get settled. I’m going to go outside for a bit,” Mythic said.

“Mind if I come with?” Parallax said.

Mythic gave a nod and headed out the door. Parallax gave one last look at Eventide, who was starting to fall asleep, and quickly followed after Mythic.

The halls of the inn were a breath of fresh air, at least compared to the rotten wood of room 47. They were dark, yet gave off a comfortable atmosphere. He followed Mythic down the hall and outside the inn.

Mythic stood on the front porch of the inn. She took in her surroundings. Old, drabby houses that look like they were built eons ago. Peasants fixing up their dinners of hay stew with beans and carrots. Guards patrolling the perimeters of the village. Yep. It was Auris alright.

Parallax stood next to her. “Can’t believe I had to end up in Auris of all places. ‘Pigsty of Lunaris’ it’s been claimed to be.”

Mythic nodded. “Could be worse. Least it’s not Artem. You ever been there?”

Parallax shook his head. “Don’t reckon I have.”

“Think Auris but the bar is a load of trash,” Mythic said. They both gave a light laugh. “Damn rum isn’t worth the mold off a timberwolf’s foot.”

“I certainly hope we don’t go through there on the way to Las Pegasus,” Parallax said.

“Doubt it. Artem’s way up north. Las Pegasus is to the west,” Mythic said.

“Right, right…”

They both stared for a moment. Parallax shuffled his hooves through the snow.

“That Eventide is an… interesting lass,” he said.

“It’s always the loud and brash ones that have the darkest pasts,” she said. “Eventide seems like a good pony, just a bit hardened from her traumatic past.”

“Not every day that you come across a Lunar Mage who managed to break free. Usually they’re just captured and used for target practice by the students there,” he said.

“Comes with the price of having them on our flanks constantly. Gives us no room to rest,” Mythic said.

“Indeed. We head out west to Las Pegasus first thing when we wake up and only stop when necessary.”

Mythic nodded in agreement. She adjusted her billowing cape and stared up at the night sky. “I’m, uh, sorry about your friends. No offence, but I thought you’d be more… upset,” she said.

“Should’ve seen me when I came into town. Was a damn mess. All bloodied up and had trouble breathing and all that. Thankfully the clinic healed me up a bit. That and a few mugs of cider helps,” he said.

“Glad that you’re doing okay. Got a family?”

“Used to have a marefriend. She got… killed by bandits a year ago,” he said quietly.

“Holy shit. You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”

“Welcome to Lunaris, I suppose. Where all your friends and loved ones get slaughtered in the blink of an eye,” he said.

“It’s a harsh reality we live in. Sometimes it’s not a matter of if we die young, but when…” she paused for a moment.

“Sorry. Don’t think I’m helping things,” she said.

“No, no! You’re fine. For all intents and purposes, I kind of agree,” Parallax said.

“Let’s not focus on that though. Just set our minds towards our goal,” she said.

Parallax nodded in agreement.

“Do you plan on going back to Phillydelphia and meeting back up with the rest of the guards?” Mythic asked.

“Maybe someday. After the death of some of my friends, I don’t have much to go back to. Right now I just want to get to Las Pegasus and do what I can to help,” he said.

“Will the guards be okay with you leaving for a long time?”

“Guards do it all the time. Plus there’s thousands of them. They can afford to lose one,” he said.

“Ah.”

“So… a psychic, eh?”

“No, I just pretended to probe your mind,” she joked. “But yes, I am. Been practicing psionics since I was a filly. I don’t do much aside from wander around Lunaris in search of a meaning to all this,” she said.

“How long have you wandered?” he asked.

“Couldn’t say. At least for a few years now.”

“All alone?”

“No, I’ve been a member of some groups over the years. Most have either split up, or had most of their members killed,” she said.

“So it’s all a routine for you. We’re just one of many groups that you’ve been a part of,” he said with a sigh.

“Something like that.”

“And you’ve survived this harsh land for years. It’s amazing that you’re still here. Most ponies just die within a few weeks or months,” he said.

“If there’s one thing ponies learn about surviving in Lunaris, it’s that you don’t mess with a psychic,” Mythic said as she grinned.

“Can see why. I’ve met a few psychics before. Most seem to be very pensive individuals.”

Mythic closed her eyes and breathed deeply. “When you have the ability to melt brains, it’s all but natural to feel that way. It’s interesting, you know. How psychics can just bend the world to their whim with a single thought. How just a few pounds in a pony’s skull can do incredible things. Not just in the realm of psionics, but in everything ponies do.”

“I see what you mean. How long did it take to master psionics?”

“Can’t really say that I’m a master. Even I, a 30-year-old mare who spends most of her life deep in thought, have barely scratched the surface when it comes to this. Started doing this when I was 7, so about 23 years.”

“Was it hard for you?”

“Unbelievably. I studied it all by myself. Took me months to even telekinetically lift a leaf. Of course, when all you have to go by is a bunch of ancient books written in outdated languages, it becomes a tedious process.”

Parallax gave a nod, and stared up at the night sky. The snow fell gently on his muzzle and he wiped it off.

“How long do you think it’s been like this?” Parallax asked.

“The only one who truly knows is Nightmare Moon herself, and even she’s refused to come up with an answer,” Mythic said.

Parallax gave a nod. “Could just be a century, or it could be millions of years. You’d think we’d have some written records of life before Lunaris, but that’s all long gone,” he said solemnly.

“Destroyed in the War of the Cosmos, at least according to rumors. Nightmare Moon wanted everything about that era destroyed. She wanted to practically erase it from existence. In a way she kind of succeeded,” Mythic said as she ran a hoof through her mane.

Parallax nodded. “Sometimes I don’t mind it. Staring at the night sky gives me a very relaxed feeling. It’s almost hypnotic.”

“I agree. If it weren’t for all the crazy shit out in the wilderness, I’d be perfectly fine with living out there,” Mythic said.

They remained silent for a minute, basking in their surroundings.

“You know, you’re quite alright, Parallax. Seem like a decent pony. That’s more than I could say for most ponies I’ve accompanied,” Mythic said as she put her hoof around his shoulder.

“Thanks, Mythic. I appreciate it. You’re alright too,” he replied.

“Think we should head inside?” Mythic said.

“Sure. Eventide’s probably fast asleep by now. We need some shuteye. Got a big day ahead of us,” said Parallax.

“Let’s go then,” she said as she trotted back inside the inn. Parallax followed closely after. The inn was eerily quiet since everypony was asleep. They trotted quietly to their room.

Mythic opened the door and trotted in. Eventide was fast asleep in the old bed. She gave a quiet snore as she turned in her sleep a little. Parallax took off his armor and set it by Eventide’s robe. He climbed into bed right next to her. He pulled the blankets over him and sighed happily. Even though the bed was old, the blankets were as soft as a cloud.

Mythic sat in one of the old wooden chairs. She wrapped her cape around herself and closed her eyes. Within seconds, she was on the Astral Plane and doing her nightly routine. Parallax stared at the bat pony as she sat as still as a statue. He almost felt bad for letting her “sleep” in that old creaky chair.

He stared up at the ceiling and reflected. The pitch blackness engulfed the room. He had lost two close friends in the past 24 hours, joined a strange group of ponies, and would walk back into the jaws of the wilderness when he woke up. It had truly been an eventful day. He felt the embrace of slumber take over, and he closed his eyes and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

~

“Eventide! Wake up!”

The sudden shriek instantly made her awaken. She glanced up and saw the horrified face of Mythic staring at her.

“The entire village is under attack! We have to go!” she cried. Eventide quickly got up from her bed and threw on her robe.

“Who in Lunaris could possibly be attacking us?” Eventide said in a panic.

“I don’t know. I tried sensing their presence or something, but I couldn’t. Something was preventing me from doing so!”

“Shit. Where’s Parallax?”

“He went outside to help defend. Come on! We need to get to a safer place!” Mythic said.

“I’m right behind you,” Eventide said as she followed Mythic out of the inn.

Eventide’s thoughts raced at a million miles an hour. She wondered if this was all just a horrible nightmare, but the longer she lingered on that thought, the more she realized was that this was real. As she stepped outside of the inn, the thoughts of creating a plan started to fade, and were replaced with a sense of dread.

Everything in Auris was on fire. Every last building and home was set ablaze in scorching embers. Corpses of unfortunate souls who were caught in the carnage lay bloodied and burned. The screams of the villagers and the cries of their children, combined with the crackling hellfire, sounded almost like a symphony—a most horrific symphony that could make even the most courageous pony’s hearts shrivel up in fear. Eventide’s fear only grew even more as she made out the figures of a couple ponies in robes. The exact same robes that she was wearing.

Parallax quickly ran up to them, beaten from trying his best to defend the village.

“It’s no use! We have to get out of here now!” He shouted. Eventide barely heard him, too focused on the carnage that ensued all around.


“Give me a minute…” Eventide said as she started trotting towards the robed figures.

“Even! What do you think you’re doing!?” Mythic shouted.

“I’ll be right back! I promise…” she said as she trotted further towards the robed figures. The ponies looked at her and gave a dastardly smile.

“Finally turning yourself in, eh? Quite anticlimactic, if you ask me,” one of them said.

“I’m not here to turn myself in,” she said. “I’m here to have a little talk. Now where is General Polaris?

“He’s right behind you,” an all too familiar deep voice sounded from behind that sent a chill down her spine. All the mages in front of her suddenly quickly bowed as fast as they could.

“It’s impressive that you’ve eluded me for the past month. Most ponies don’t even last a week,” he said.

“Well aren’t I just special,” Eventide said, still staring at the mages.

“Indeed. The problem with being one of our best mages is that you’re so hard to capture. It’s quite astounding, really,” he said.

Finally, Eventide turned around and faced him.

“Make that formerly one of your best mages.”

Author's Note:

I'd like to thank my editors and friends Michael T. S, Sinny, Tai, Aquila, and Heros. You guys mean so much to me and I couldn't do this without you.

And that's chapter 2! I hope you lads enjoy it. Chapter 3 should be out sometime within the coming months.

~Ponka <3