• Published 22nd Jul 2012
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Rites of Ascension - CvBrony



Twilight makes a new spell and starts the gears of fate with her ascension to alicornhood. (Writing started before Season 3.)

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Two Wrongs

Twilight brought her blade down on Gilda's back, slicing into her armor with explosive force. The hawk-like screech in response existed only for a split second before Twilight spun around and kicked with all her might, sending the gryphon careening into a set of stairs. The voice was replaced by breaking bone as Twilight exited another projection teleportation, this time slamming her forehooves into the chestplate and burying the tip of her sword into Gilda's arm.

Twilight's hoof punched into the gryphoness' jaw, forcing the beak closed as she leaned in and met the tear-filled avian eyes. Smoke from burning feathers and cauterized flesh went ignored by her nose, and panic and pain went unmet by mercy.

"What are you--Aaargh!"

Twilight twisted and tilted her blade, then summoned a second one to hold under the gryphoness' beak. Though she was nearly snarling, her voice was clear as crystal, her lips moved with utmost certainty, and neither doubt nor hesitation existed in her voice. "Gilda, if you so much as dream about hurting any of my ponies ever again, I will carve up your tendons and toss you into a hell so dark and incomprehensible, you'll jump into the jaws of the nearest monster you see and burn there for an eternity just so you don't have to look at it anymore. Understood?"

Gilda made some kind of gurgling sound followed by a nod.

"Good. Now get the buck out of this city or the next time Morvana sees you it'll be as thaumic residue in a pine box!"

Slowly, the gryphon's eyes rolled back, and she slumped over.

Twilight used her Sight and peered at Gilda's chest. A yellow wellspring pumped magic slowly but steadily. "Figures." She got up off her and turned to Rainbow. Her friend was hunched over -- no, cowering from her, and shaking like a leaf. "Dash, you okay?"

Rainbow shook her head very, very slowly.

"What's wrong?" Twilight raised her eyebrow. Rainbow was looking like she was roughed up a little, and rather damp, but otherwise no worse for wear. A Wonderbolt wouldn't normally let a few minor cuts and ruffled feathers slow her down. "Did she hurt you? Do you need a medic?"

Nothing. She simply put her hooves over her head and cringed.

Twilight blinked. "What's wrong?" She approached her friend, lightly and cautiously, and rubbed Rainbow's back with a hoof. "Hey, come on, it's me, remember?"

An eye creeped open."T-Twilight?"

"Yeah. It's me. Are you okay? I need to find Trixie. Can you fly?"

Rainbow all but melted into the floor, like some kind of drug-induced terror had vanished in an instant. "I... I think so. Gilda..." Rainbow sat up and rattled her head. "Sorry. Sorry, I just... Wow, Twilight. You were freaking scary! I mean, Sweet Celestia, your eyes!"

Twilight took a step back and gasped. "My eyes? You were scared of my eyes?"

"Yeah! They were, like, black. I mean, black black. Black fire black!"

She winced. “I… I.. I didn’t know. I didn't mean to do that. I didn’t know I could do that…”

The instinct.

“Twilight, is Gilda... dead? Did you actually kill a gryphon princess?"

She struggled to look in Rainbow’s pained eyes. The lump in her throat made it difficult to respond.

“N..n-no. She’s just unconscious.” Twilight shook her head. “I’m sorry Rainbow. I was trying to protect you, and Trixie and… and…everyone … was getting in my way… and… I just blew up!” Twilight hiccuped for air and her chin was quivering.

“I have to go.” She sniffed back a sob. “I understand if you want to stay and get Gilda medical attention.”

Rainbow looked back at her former friend then limped up to standing. “No, I’m with you. Let’s go find Trixie. My wings are good.”

Twilight took a couple deep breaths, steeling herself, and Rainbow returned the back pat. “You were pretty bad-flank back there.”

A smile and a blush creep on Twilight’s face as her horn starts to glow.

Bang!

Twilight re-emerged into physical space flying over the stands at probably thirty meters per second. A second burst moments later solidified the notion in her mind. Wings? Who needs wings? After the third, a suspicious cloud to her right caught her attention. Even without her magic sight, it looked wrong, even putrid. A shift into her higher vision gave her a glimpse of magical fire and corrosion.

"Trixie. Gotta find Trixie." Twilight sparked through a vanilla teleport and appeared over the edge of the stadium. Most of the gryphons were still dots on the horizon, but somewhere beneath her, two of them huddled over a lone pony.

"Trixie!" Twilight burrowed through reality like a mole, leaving little rocks of it scattered about to dissolve into thaumic waste. She popped out next to the figures of Prince Ragnar and Chief Enok, both of whom were over Trixie's body.

"No..." Twilight choked back her tears at the sight of her. Each of her leylines was visible on the surface of her flesh, her armor having been taken off and piled next to her. The traces of magic pumping slowly across her were a mix of violet and green, and shifting back to her Sight revealed additional colours of white, black, and silver.

Most important, though, was the wellspring itself. It was sputtering like an engine about to die, flickering to life one moment and fading the next.

"Her physical wounds aren't that severe, but..." Ragnar put a hand on Trixie's forehead, wiping away some sweat. "I have no idea what those ponies did to her. I've never, ever seen anything like this. Never in a thousand battles."

"Who?" Rainbow asked, growling. "Who was it?"

"Ponies in suits," Enok answered with a glare. "They used illusions the likes of which I can scarcely believe were real. This brave young mare defeated one of them, but another appeared from nowhere and used some kind of device I've never seen before on her. The other mare pointed some kind of device at her for a while and left after dropping a green fire bomb on the stallion that Trixie fell.

"When we left, we carried her out of the fumes with us. The fire was eating through the floor."

"You're kidding..."Twilight's eyes lit up. "Through the stone? And there were fumes and green flames?"

"Why?" Rainbow asked. "What's that mean?"

"I think... I think they used faerie fire. It’s an alchemical substance based on Chlorine Trifluoride. The base substance all by itself is the most effective fluorinating agent in existence, a more effective oxidizer than oxygen, and can burn through almost anything via a fluorine fire. Once transmuted by magic, it becomes faerie fire, which is even worse; it could destroy anything with it’s flames. Though, it gives off fewer fumes.

“Still, we’re talking about the potential for acidic hydrogen fluoride gas. I'd get your lungs checked out after this is over. That stuff is extremely toxic."

Ragnar stood up and leaned on his sword. "Lady Sparkle, I think it's time we had a frank and thorough discussion."

"I agree. But first," Twilight rubbed a hoof on Trixie's chest, feeling her shallow breathing. "Trixie needs immediate medical attention. Her wellspring has been attacked. There's only one pony in the world I know that can help."

Twilight fired off a series of purple flares high into the sky, each exploding into a blossom of fireworks. It wasn't long before a pair of chariots found their way to them, one pulled by nine Day Guard stallions, the other by two of the Night Guard.

"Twilight!" Spike yelled from the darker of the pair, his form among three ponies clad in the armour of the Night. "I brought reinforcements!"

The three Night Guard ponies and Spike jumped off the chariot as it landed. One Twilight recognized right away: the pegasus Cardinal Bloodmoon. The other two were unknown to her.

He probably ran for help as soon as he saw I was fighting. "Excellent work, Spike." She turned to the larger group of soldiers. "Day Guard!"

Each and every one of the Day stallions stood at attention in nearly supernatural synchronization.

"We have a medical emergency. Trixie has been severely injure--"

Two of the stallions leapt out of their harness before Twilight could even finish her sentence, one going for a rather large first aid kit and the other moving to Trixie's side.

"What is..." The stallion next to Trixie asked.

"Her wellspring has been attacked. She should be stable to move. I need you to get her to Princess Celestia right away. She's Trixie's only hope." Twilight signalled another of the ponies to lift her into the chariot. Twenty seconds later, seven of the Day Guard were spreading their wings, and the other two were watching over the mare in their care.

"Move, stallions! By the order of the Sun, we fly!"

Just like that, they were off.

Prince Ragnar stepped forward. "Now that that's been taken care of, we have things to discuss, Lady Sparkle."

"Watch your tone, Ragnar!" Bloodmoon snapped his bat wings out, jangling the chains coming out of his shoulders.

"Easy, Bloodmoon." Twilight held up her hoof towards him. "We need a DE-escalation here, not an escalation." She turned to the Prince and bowed deep. "I apologize for my deception, Prince. It was not meant in hostility to the Empire."

Ragnar raised his eyebrow. "I'm listening."

Rainbow winced as she turned to the Night Guard. "Listen up, ponies! This is highly classified information! Breathe one word of this to anypony and you'll hear from Luna herself!"

The ponies other than Bloodmoon bowed their heads and turned their backs.

Twilight cleared her throat. "Right. Well, to start, up above me in the stands is Princess Gilda. She attacked Rainbow and she was forced to defend herself. Gilda is injured and needs medical attention."

"You must be joking!" Enok stepped between the two. "Highness, are you actually going to listen to --"

Ragnar held up his hand to silence him. "Gilda is a hard headed idiot that has been looking for an excuse to hurt Rainbow for years. I believe her, at least that far. See to her care, Chief."

Enok clenched his beak but sighed in defeat. "Yes, your Highness." With a flap, he was off, only to be replaced by an incoming Princess Freya.

"I think I've managed to evacuate most of the city, but there's a huge red fog consuming the valley! Do we know what's going on?" Freya asked.

Ragnar tightened the grip on his sword. "Not yet. But I think Lady Sparkle does."

Twilight sighed. "I scarcely believe it myself, but here goes." She sucked in a deep breath, filling her lungs down to their very bottom.

"Our objective when we came here was to investigate a lead on the presence of a group of ponies subversive to the crown who were known to use powerful mental projections as illusions, and remove them, preferably without casualties or anyone finding out." Twilight lowered her ears against her head. "Obviously that was a catastrophic failure."

"To say the least." Ragnar stroked his beard. "But, I believe you about the illusions. I saw them myself. Go on."

Twilight continued, "Trixie went undercover to root them out, and when she came under attack I realized that there was a massive crystal inside Gryphonhelm Tower, which the illusionists were using to aid in the creation of their projections. My plan was to enter the tower and disable the crystal to give Trixie an advantage until she could be extracted."

Ragnar nodded. "I'm following you so far. I'm guessing that when you arrived in the valley, that idiot Aldrik took it as a challenge."

"Yes. Unfortunately, he didn't listen to me when I told him I didn't want to fight, so I had no choice. I blew up the tower."

To say that the two gryphons were stunned was an understatement, but Twilight plunged forward, if nothing else to avoid a war.

"The entire structure turned out to be a single massive protection crystal disguised by metal plating. It was probably capable of allowing the Illusionists to create whatever reality that they wanted anywhere in the city. When I destroyed it, there was an enormous amount of thaumic contamination, or miasma, released. These crystals seem to generate it when they operate. The cloud you saw is the result.

"In addition, it turned out that Aldrik was nothing more than another of this group's illusions."

The two royal beaks could have plummeted to the valley floor. "You must be joking! I've known Aldrik since we were fledglings!"

"His armor is at the bottom of the valley, if you're brave enough to go down there. That was the only part of him that was real. I don't think you'll ever see him again."

Ragnar leaned on Freya for support and covered his beak. "Sweet Maker Above..."

Twilight continued, "Afterwards, I teleported out of the cloud and saw Gilda about to execute my Guard Captain, so I... intervened. She passed out."

Silence overtook the gryphons. After an entire minute, Twilight bowed her head. "I'm very sorry about this incident. I meant no harm to the Empire or its citizens. If it will avert a war, I'm willing to send immediate aid in the form of ponies trained in handling hazardous thaumic waste to clean up the miasma. Since the source was destroyed, if we act fast we can avoid permanent ecological damage."

"Avert a..." Ragnar covered his eyes and ran his palm down his face.

Twilight swallowed a lump in her throat. It's a damn good thing I have diplomatic immunity. I hope.

Freya looked like someone had just taken something dear from her. "Twilight, Gryphonhelm Tower was five hundred years old."

"Six," Ragnar interrupted.

"And something like that can't be just snuck into the structure, no matter how good their illusions are. That must have been there for the entire history of the city!"

Twilight's eyes widened, as did Rainbow's.

"Which means," Ragnar said, slumping to the ground like he was being crushed by the revelations.

Twilight's eyes opened wide when she saw the weight on his shoulders. "Every single fight that has ever been done here, every score settled, every contract disputed, every family squabble, everything has been completely invalidated. We don't know which fights were fair and which were manipulated by the Illusionists. It's going to take you years to sort it all out!”

Ragnar nodded. "At this point, the internal disputes will be... It's not about whether we want a war or not, Lady Sparkle. At this point, there's no way we could wage any kind of war against anyone. It's going to take an unbelievable effort just to keep the Empire together!"

"Holy crap, Twilight!" Spike said, leaning back on the chariot for support. "You didn't just start a war with Gryphonia!"

"Yeah!" Rainbow grinned. "You conquered them, the entire nation, single hoofed!"

"That's one way of putting it..." Ragnar grumbled.

"Not. Helping." Twilight said under her breath. "I swear, my objective was to investigate and remove the Illusions, not plunge Gryphonia into civil strife." She took in a deep breath. "Not to mention getting myself declared pony non grata."

"We'll..." Freya looked off to the stadium, "get back to you on that. Probably. Maybe."

"One thing, and only one thing, is certain right now." The Prince stood and sheathed his blade. "You have exposed a great dishonour to our city, and cut the cancer out. Perhaps if you had done so maliciously, it would have meant eventual war. Since you did so in the name of honour, even if the results were cataclysmic, I will personally vouch in your favour. Whether or not that will mean anything, I do not know."

An image of Trixie flashed briefly in Twilight's mind, bringing a shiver of worry to her chest. "We... We have prototype spells to detect and eliminate the illusions. I'll ask Princess Celestia if we could maybe train some unicorns in them and have them work with you to make sure they don't come back."

Freya gave her a bow. "I don't know if Morvana will allow it, but we would appreciate the effort."

Twilight looked to her senechal. "Spike, prepare some letters."

"Speaking of," Bloodmoon said, stepping in. "Lady Sparkle, I'm to deliver this letter to you personally. It is of the utmost importance." He reached into his bag and pulled out a scroll sealed with the personal sigil of Celestia herself.

Twilight took it in her telekinesis and broke the seal, then scanned it contents but stopped after the first paragraph. "I'm being recalled?!"

"Wow," Spike whistled. "That was fast... Wait, I just said you were in trouble. She couldn't have wrote that after my letter!"

"Uh-oh..." Twilight swallowed, reading the rest of the letter. "It's not that, Spike. It's, well, internal to Equestria."

"Bad enough to recall you? Well, now you have my attention once more." Ragnar leaned forward, possibly to read the letter from the traces of ink that bled through to the backside. "Just what happened?"

"Promise to keep it to yourselves?" Twilight peeked over the top of the paper to look at the gryphons, who were giving her dirty looks. "At least for half a day or so? There's no way on Equus this is going to stay under wraps for longer than that anyway, if it hasn’t gotten out already. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a few newspapers just ordered extra ink."

Freya shrugged. "If it's internal to Equestria, I don't see why not."

Twilight rolled up the scroll and stuffed it in her bag. "Rainbow, Spike. Board the chariot. We have an investigation to conduct." She turned to follow them. "Duchess Artfeather of Cloudsdale has been assassinated."

Author's Note:

And that’s the end of both mission and block five! I hope you guys enjoyed this one!

Be sure to check my blog for news and such, including information on how to join the Rites Skype and Discord chats! I’ll be updating Patreon, soon, too, and seeking feedback on coming chapters for those Patrons in the Patron-only chat.

-Cv

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