• Published 25th May 2017
  • 8,863 Views, 1,221 Comments

Spectrum - Sledge115



Secrets come to light when a human appears, and the Equestrians learn of a world under siege – by none other than themselves. Caught in a web that binds the great and humble alike, can Lyra find what part she’ll play in the fate of three realms?

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Prologue ~ This Burning World

Spectrum

The Team

TheIdiot

JedR

DoctorFluffy

VoxAdam

Sledge115

The Void

RoyalPsycho

TB3

Kizuna Tallis

ProudToBe

With Special Thanks To:

Gay For Gadot

RanOutOfIdeas

RDT

chris the cynic

Prologue
This Burning World

* * * * *

For who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish rather, swallow’d up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night…”
Paradise Lost, by John Milton

There was a time…

Neither the beginning of time, nor of recorded time. But here, tonight, under cold skies, in a period so far gone as to be lost to history, the beginning of the story...

The frozen wastes of the world of Equus.

Snow fell hard upon the mountains, dusting the tops of the great stone edifices in white. Carried by flurries of the wind, the silver flakes howled through the valleys and massed on the slopes, gathering strength like a mustering army. In the light of the setting Sun, the fresh snowfields glowed a hearty red, deepening to the colour of blood as the shadows grew thick.

Shadows…

At the foot of these mountains, a circle of hewn stones, a henge, a gateway to the spirit world.

There upon a high and treacherous path, stood a maroon Reindeer. Young but exceedingly tall and well-built in stature, he stared out across the peaks and onto the spirit circle below, a deep frown upon his face. Across his strong body he wore a fur-lined red cloak, and a single mighty pickaxe was hooked onto a harness he bore.

“Sunflare…” he whispered. “Lady Mother..."

Here, on a peak amongst many in these windswept mountains, he stood before a cavern, sealed by rock and roots intertwined so tightly he could scarcely tell where one began and the other ended.

The Great Stag pressed a forehoof against the wall, tracing circles upon it. He leaned closer, whispering a few words in the language of the Old Ones.

“Come, open up your gates, Winter’s Hearth. Let a friend enter… and blessed be your days…”

The rock parted with nary a sound, the roots retreating. He stepped past the threshold. And there was light.

He found himself standing in a garden. The freezing cold of Winter was forgotten, the howling winds faded. Now, there was warmth, and light and life, safe from the desolate wastelands beyond. Greenery, from bushes to vines that crept up the walls, filled his sight. Glowing lanterns not unlike those of his native Adlaborn illuminated the sanctuary with a gentle yellow light.

Yet, here too something was wrong. The greenery, lush as it once was, had wilted since the last time he had come here. The garden’s spring had gone still, with old leaves turned just as dry falling upon the surface to break its tranquility.

And there, he saw her, sitting before cracked stone doors.

“This twilight epoch, this age of disillusion…” spoke the alabaster mare, contemplating the doors, her gaze hidden by a long, willowy mane of purest red, like a hearty apple in Summer. “I depart the world into an undiscovered country. Mine only companions, shadow and doubt.”

She raised her head a little, though she did not turn around.

“Albeit with some small promise of joy, too, it seems. I welcome thee, friend Sint, but I had rather thou hadst not come.”

Sint Erklass smiled sadly. “What manner of friend would I be, if I did not come to thine aid? Tell me, Lady Sunflare. What troubles thee so?”

It was not Sunflare who answered. From the corner of his eye, Sint witnessed a figure emerge from the shadows of the vines. Only it did not emerge into the light, so much as brought darkness with it, coalescing into shape by the shadows from whence it stepped, a figure of blackest shade.

°The Lady hath spoken, Guardian,° spoke the shadow, in a dark voice that reverberated deep into one’s soul, though it was sibilant, no more raised than a hush. °Her work is almost complete.°

“You… what doest thou mean, shadow?”

°Ask not of us,° the shadow replied, the darkness sounding almost disdainful. °Our purpose is not to enlighten thee, Guardian Of Joy.°

“Then what purpose doest thou hold? Thou art nought but a shadow,” Sint replied, wary and cautious, “stirring in the dark where none would tread. Why now dost thou emerge? Tell me, shadow-creature, whose light doest thou follow?”

The shadow’s eyes glowed, its only source of light. But it was a cheerless white, that appeared to consume all surrounding colour, akin to the negative reflection of those dark pits in the farthest corners of the heavens, once told by now long-departed astronomers to be the graveyards of stars. It spread its great, blackened wings, snarling with teeth like knives.

In the face of the shadow, Sint stood his ground.

“Now thou standst here, like a mockery of the Lady Mother herself–”

“Sint, please…”

Upon his shoulder, he felt the gentle touch of a wing. He turned, and his eyes beheld Lady Sunflare’s own, their wearied gaze aching him so. An alabaster hoof reached up, caressing his cheek. She had the gentlest touch, such as only the Lady Mother of the Land could provide. Her horn lit up, lifting one of last remaining flowers from this decrepit garden – a droopy little thing, yet alive, and of a comforting white.

White as the Lady’s coat at full glory. White as the purest snow.

“Snowdrop,” Sint said, to which Sunflare nodded. “Thou always hadst a fondness for them.”

“Of course. They are beautiful, humble little things, and bless your land come Winter’s beginning,” Sunflare said, beaming. Gently, she fixed it upon his ear. “Thine people look to thee for guidance, Sint, and I have faith in thee, always.”

Kind as her words were, the sorrow that lay beneath them did not escape Sint, that of an artisan forced to leave behind their work unfinished.

“A long path awaits them. I suppose it awaits all of us,” Sint answered. He steeled himself. “I shalt do what I can, take on whatever challenges lie ahead.”

Yet Sint could not help but steal a surreptitious glance towards the stirring shadow, even as Sunflare’s soothing stare was unwavering. An unknown force, drawn from darkness, now company to his oldest friend in her final journey.

He did not let the chill that washed over him show, as he returned his gaze upon the Lady.

“What of our duty to defend this world against the dangers without?” Sint asked. “What of the Krampus, or its accursed progeny? We cannot be certain of their whereabouts. To say nothing of the other, nameless horrors that fester and lurk in the dark places of the world…”

“Alas,” sighed Sunflare. “Mine Architect, too, evades my sight. Out of all who served the Krampus, her enchantments were ever the most subtle, the most beguiling… the most deceptive.”

Sint followed her eyes. Her gaze was fixed upon the stone vault, hidden by leaves and vines, etched with a language only the Old Ones knew.

“The construct which the Architect left thee,” Sint continued. “What shall become of this watcher?”

“I know not,” Sunflare replied wistfully. “The Architect’s works have set events in motion beyond mine control. Yet I have done what I can for it, and I know what I must do. Now, only fate knows what the future holds.”

She stood up to her full height, standing almost as tall as he. The shadow glided to her side, as Sint took a few steps back.

°It is time,° spoke the shadow.

“So it is,” said Sunflare. She looked back at Sint. “Our work will grace this world in due time. But mine time is at an end.”

“Must it be so?” asked Sint. “There is so much left to be done, so many Winters to pass.”

“I wish it were not so, old friend,” whispered Sunflare. “But fret not. For when the storm clouds part, the Sun will shine bright. Come now, even the rain brings its own blessings.”

She spread her wings, majestic and all-encompassing even when faded and dull. And for a moment, the garden looked as beautiful as it should have been, many colours dancing before Sint’s very eyes, the flowers rejuvenated, and none bloomed so lush as below Sunflare’s own forehooves.

Alas, it was only ephemeral. The bloom passed, its lifespan gone by in the blink of an eye, and the colour went out for good from the garden. Last to expire was the patch at Sunflare’s hooves, for the vibrance held on defiantly for a time, only to share in its company’s fate in the end, as it too withered and died.

Sunflare looked down upon the newly cracked, parched earth at her hooves, and sighed. Without further word, she raised one hoof a fraction off the ground, and by the peculiar mechanisms of her kind’s dexterity, there came away the gilded horseshoe she’d worn.

Only it was no longer truly gilded, Sint could see even at his height. One side had tarnished and cumulated the rust of centuries in but an instant, whereas divided by a line of perfect symmetry, its other side had retained the beautiful golden shine.

Delicately, Sunflare’s now bare hoof pushed the horseshoe towards Sint, an offering.

“The flower I gave thee shall die, in time, as all things do,” Sunflare whispered. “But if tended well, other flowers will grow to take their place. Keep mine horseshoe in memory of me, though. In reminder of the boundary between matter and spirit, mortal and immortal.”

Sint cast his gaze around the cavern, one last time. This mountain had been given a name by the Old Ones, once, a long time ago. He knew in his heart that, in his mind, he would only ever know it now as Foal Mountain. Someday, he hoped, the world would too.

“What if I should need thy guidance once more?” Sint asked finally, softly.

Tau Sunflare, the Lady Mother, smiled as a soft light began to envelop both herself and the shadow. “Trust in thineself, old friend, as I do. Live well.”

“I swear it to thee,” Sint said, his voice raising as the light enveloped the two, brightening until they could not be seen.

°Look to see us no more, Guardian of Joy,° the shadow said, its voice of wind and shades raised until it seemed to emanate from this mountain’s very heart of stone. °Never again shall we grace the paths of this world.°

And then, they were gone.

Sint Erklass, Guardian of Joy, closed his eyes and wept.

… Thus did he begin his path, and so, too, was he to meet the end at many a crossroads.

“Wait for the dawn. I will come for you.”

Such a beautiful lie. Another promise left unfulfilled.

Biting back growing pain in her hindlegs, the unicorn mare kept running, one forehoof wrapped ‘round a bundle. The lonely figure cast on the Moon above was their only companion, in the early hours of dawn. It hurt. So much of it hurt. Yet she had to run.

He’d come for their daughter at last. She knew not how the monster had found her after so long. Thrice as tall as a stallion was, with piercing blue eyes in a visage cold as the Frozen North or South, chiselled muscle beneath his armoured hide, there was little she could do as the hulking warlord had swatted her aside, cracking ribs and sending stars exploding in her vision.

Then she saw him pass by, holding a gem-topped staff, reaching for the crib with a large, furred, claw-like hand. Her pain had faded away, as she saw fiery red, and cast a mighty blow with her horn.

All of it, gone by in a blur. She had to run. Had to leave. Call for help.

The warlord was not alone, but neither was she. Her husband had come running back in time. He chose to stand his ground. Clumsy, foolish, stubborn as any earthpony, but so brave of him to hold back, to delay the enemy. He’d shouted at her to keep going, keep their child safe, to live till the dawn came as the Enchantress told them. That was the last she’d seen or heard of him, before she fled their little cottage.

Lightning had struck down, and as wood had splintered and rock shattered, she heard not a whimper from her husband anymore.

She ran, and she ran very far indeed, as far as she could, her daughter held in one forehoof, pressed tightly against her chest. She ran across hills and copses, by evergreen trees and hundred-year old oaks, crashing through the undergrowth, avoiding the open fields.

It hurt. Every breath drawn sent pain coursing through her. Cracked bone moved in unison with bruised muscles. Her hooves were chipped, bleeding against the soil. The pale blue light of her horn grew weaker still. Her lips bled from biting down her pain. But she had to go on. On, till the Sun rose upon these shores. Until the Enchantress could come.

The Enchantress. So many promises. So much to do. And she’d believed her grand words. Believed that her family would be home, after so many years. Believed that she, heir to the Moon, would set it all right, to bring the Two Sisters together, after so many centuries apart. But there was nothing here in the forest. No promises of grandeur, no hope, nothing, nothing but the falling leaves of Autumn...

“Please… please come back,” the mare whispered, pausing to draw a short breath that jolted her with stinging pain, “I just… I just want to go home.”

There was no use, nothing left to be done. The Enchantress’s promise was as distant as the waning Moon above. She was gone, gone like the wind, just like everyone else. What a fool she’d been to think otherwise. To hope otherwise.

When she could no longer walk steady, she collapsed, panting, chest heaving. All the healing spells she knew failed to come to her. Her reserves had dried up. Nowhere to run, nor hide. And the seashore was close. She prayed it was.

How she wished that she could scream her lungs out, to call for aid from any passerby. In this beautiful land, with the shade of olive trees and all warm colours of Autumn, surely someone would come. A fool’s hope. Wishes of a dying soul.

The Sun would rise soon, to cast the land under its light. But the pain in her chest and body and ringing head would not leave her so easily. Amidst her tears and quiet sobs, she heard it. Crying, feeble and soft.

She stopped, and unfurled the swaddled bundle.

Her eyes beheld her daughter. Such a beautiful child. Soft, rosey-pink coat that shimmered like crystal beneath the Autumn Moon. Tiny wings that were tucked tight beneath the cloth. A lush, colourful mane of purple and pink. And her eyes. By Orion above, such warm, kind eyes, like the Sun that reigned over Equestria far far away.

Those eyes were teary now. Her little one was crying. And it was all her fault.

“I’m sorry, Mi Amore,” the mare whispered, parting her little one’s mane, holding her tight. Her Mi Amore, bright and pink and sweet. “Your Papa and I... we wanted to take you home.”

Such a strange notion. A home her little one would never see. A home she would never see again. A dream as distant a thousand years from then and now.

Her daughter’s crying softened, fading as the mist around them did, and that was good.

“Shh, it’s alright… it’s alright… Mama’s here, Mi Amore, Mama’s… Mama’s here for you.”

She felt tiny hooves rub her muzzle. Mi Amore’s tears had disappeared. Only her smile remained. That innocent, toothy little smile. The child’s grip reached for her mother’s horn. How often she had laughed with delight to see the images her mother magically drew in the air. A little show and reprieve from days on the run.

Through the trees, rays of light filtered through. The morning mist had begun to dissipate. The Sun had come. And the mare allowed herself a flicker of hope stirring within. Perhaps the warlord awaited her in the woods, with all his underlings in tow and the storm he commanded. But so would the Enchantress. She would know where to find them.

One last gamble. One last gamble and her daughter would be safe. One last gamble and all would be right. She need only try. She looked down at her daughter. The child’s smile never left. So the mare answered with one of her own.

“You’ll see the Sun rise again,” she whispered, wiping away tears that had pooled, “maybe even the Moon. Live your life, Mi Amore. We love you.”

She pressed her lips against her daughter’s forehead, listening to Mi Amore’s joyous coos, feeling herself smiling through the persistent pain.

Gently, with voice clear as crystal, the mare began to sing.

“Join voices, every child, in Winter turned harsh and wild,” so the song went, a melody from the Frozen North. “There is only one solution, and we… we have made our r-r-resolution.”

She knew she’d butchered the song with her shaky voice. Her own mother had sung it so wonderfully every Winter. But one look at her daughter, her tender magenta eyes staring up at her in marvel and joy, hooves reaching out to caress her cheek, was enough.

The mare forced a smile, as warm as she could muster, and continued, running a forehoof through her daughter’s mane.

“We... shall lift our… spirits, to the sky, our h-h-hearts grow full, and our hooves rise up high.”

She felt it stir in her heart. A primal magic flowing within. It flowed out of her, water down a quiet stream, met halfway there by her daughter, cooing and giggling. The scent of roses and snowdrop filled the morning air.

A heart of crystal had shone bright in the Frozen North so many years ago, she remembered, to cleanse all fears and hold off the coming dark.

“Hooves cold, hearts warm. Cold hooves, warm hearts. Oh, Spring of Garden Hearts, we all... take... part…”

Perhaps little Mi Amore would set it right after all.

There, as the Autumn Sun rose past the horizon, its rays embracing them with a familiar warmth, the mare cast a radiant light.

History does not repeat, but it rhymes.

In what was once Adlaborn, Homeland of the Reindeer...

Ashes swirled in the air as the Queen trotted slowly through a dead forest, settling like grey snow on the living and the dead. Branches cracked beneath her hooves. Bodies, charred and smouldering, surrounded her, and she breathed it in, the scent of burnt flesh, smoke and charcoal filling her nostrils. A twinge of something like sadness flared through her mind, and was swiftly drowned in The Light.

I should not feel this way. This was a necessary sacrifice, however regrettable. He would never have understood what we have to do, in order to achieve, at last, the true Harmony we have long sought.

She took another breath, looking around, and almost subconsciously, a soft smile lit up her face, her eyes aflame with something unreadable.

Do you see me now? Do you see me now, that I have laid waste to your friend? That I have cast down what he built? Am I unworthy now, Mother?

Celestia, Queen of All Equestria, First and Only of Her Name, Sol Invictus and Empress of Europe, merely shook her head, before taking another breath. Behind her, she could hear the crunching of another set of hoofsteps, and she turned slowly, casting a gleaming eye on one of her many Guardsponies, an ugly, elderly greenmane of a pegasus, standing at attention.

“Captain,” she said. “You have a report?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the Captain said, bowing low and pressing his forehead to the sullied earth. “I bring the word of your Sword. Her task is done. Sint Erklass is dead.”

Celestia nodded slowly, and deep within her mind, felt a touch of relief that her own presence had not been required to deal the final blow. That, would have been… too much, no matter how necessary, how vital. After all her trials and sacrifices, she was entitled a moment of sentiment. Yes, sentiment, that’s what this was. Not cowardice, or regret…

Those whispers of doubt melted away under The Light, and she drew herself up with pride, as a conqueror should, her armoured raiment blazing bright as the break of day.

“Then we have completed our work here. We shall withdraw the division immediately and install the new garrison to ensure Adlaborn remains pacified. Return to Her Ladyship and inform her troops that they are granted three months’ leave for their successes.”

The Captain smiled crookedly, and saluted. “The survivors will be grateful to hear that, Majesty.”

Something sad and broken underscored his words. Celestia said nothing, turning away to her own thoughts. She heard the pegasus depart, but paid it no mind. Unless relevant, such little things were beneath her notice.

This distraction is ended. Now, our attention must once more fix on the primary threat. Witness me, Mother. Witness me burn the human race, as I have burned Adlaborn and the Guardian of Joy. Witness me tear down a broken world and rebuild a new one.

Her face twisted into a scowl. For an instant, her mane flared, no longer a wispy gossamer of daybreak pastels, a spectrum of light beloved by all, but a brightness so burning as to make black spots dance before the eyes of any who might have beheld it.

And when you witness it, you who betrayed me, I hope you feel the pain I felt! I hope that you weep bitter tears at what you helped create! I hope you drown in them!

I am the Scribe of the Stardust, the watcher of the world.

It is a lonely vigil. Yet it is the reason for which I am made. I have observed the world change, and I have let it continue on its course, while it is the Sun and Moon who spin around the world. To do more was not mine place.

But this… I feel this world’s pain. There is good in pain, I have learned this, when taken as a burden we choose for ourselves. Pain is a saddle not to be cast off lightly, pain is warning and memory… Sometimes, when it stays with us, there can be no greater sign of love everlasting.

Yet why would there be such suffering now, enough to reach me, bury itself in mine nerve endings? That is not natural. It is not a growing pain, it is a pain spreading, like from a mortal wound. Slowly though it creeps, the world shall die, and not know its agony until too late to stop it.

And if it takes another world down with it, then whatever doubt I had left is removed. I can watch no longer. I must act. For Equus, and for Earth.

I am awake.

Author's Note:

Spectrum 2.1 - Autumn 2021

Sledge115: Special thanks to Gay for Gadot, RDT, and RanOutOfIdeas for their feedback in the new segment, adapted from one of the prompts in the Bean Writing Group. Also special thanks to chris the cynic, for her help here and throughout :twilightsmile:

Vox will take you step-by-step regarding edits made for 2.1, the rewrites made, now the author's notes have been restored for the newer readers. We do hope you'll find it great, heh. Also included in the rewrites are, well, the old author's notes, for archival purposes.

Cheers!

VoxAdam: So begins Spectrum 2.1.

In ancient times, told old friends reunite atop a mountaintop, for the final time. Further into the future yet still in our story’s past, a loving mother spends her last moments protecting her child. And within a different refraction of the prism of existence, we are reintroduced to a familiar face, turned dark and twisted.

  • The first big change is in the title, going from a previously nameless prologue to the addition of the subtitle ‘This Burning World’.
  • Dialogue between Sint Erklass and Tau Sunflare is considerably altered.
  • Removal of concept and character; relatedly, the third participant in the conversation is no longer the OC Spirit of Possibilities, but the Pony of Shadows.
  • The Half-Gilded Horseshoe of Sunflare is introduced.
  • Addition of a scene; a flashback to Cadance’s mother fleeing for her and her daughter’s lives.
  • Removal of a scene; the opening monologue by Galena. This was my own choice to remove as the writer on that scene, which I no longer liked.
  • The closing monologue by Galena is reworded to better reflect her characterisation.

Spectrum 2.0 - May 26th 2017

TheIdiot: Hello everyone, this prologue was crafted thanks to our efforts on a rough process of looking over various ideas regarding history and lore. Thankfully, after varying efforts, something was reached and thus this nugget was made. As for what comes next… we’ll see what happens. Until next time all.

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