• Published 25th Jul 2012
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Under A Luminous Sky - Jake The Army Guy



Twilight and an investigator from Canterlot must catch a killer

  • ...
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Chapter Fifteen- Sudden Death

Under A Luminous Sky

By

Jake The Army Guy

Chapter Fifteen: Sudden Death


With a warbling, alien howl, the thing that had been Mac slammed its fists into the ground and charged forward.

“Scatter!" At Bentgrass's yell, the group dispersed in different directions. Rarity and Applejack dove behind one of the stone altars, Twilight popped out of existence and reappeared by the wall next to the fallen Fluttershy, and Bentgrass ran towards Parchment. Dash’s legs refused to move, the sick feeling in her gut paralyzing her as the thing barreled towards her. Mac...

“Rainbow!”

The beast lunged for her, mouth open, only to bounce of a blue dome of magic surrounding her. Dash snapped back to reality and turned to see Rarity, horn aglow and jaw clenched.

Rarity cast an eye to Rainbow. "R... run!"

Behind her, the beast howled once more. Dash turned back around and saw the things raised fist flying towards her. Dash rolled out of the way right before the giant fist shattered the weak force field in a shower of sparks. Rarity let out a loud cry and collapsed.

The creature's head whipped towards the fallen Rarity and snarled. With unnatural agility, it leaped towards her, landing only a few lengths away. It licked its gnarled lips and leaned down, jaw stretched wide. A flash of movement and the beast met with a pair of orange hind legs. It cried out and fell back to its haunches.

Applejack spun back around and faced the thing that had been her brother. "Come on, Macintosh. It's me, your sister Applejack, remember?"

The Mac-thing rubbed its aching jaw and stood back up on its freakish legs, looking down at her through narrowed eyes. It slammed its fists into the ground, sending grass and cobblestone flying, and snarled at her.

Applejack didn't budge. "Snap out of it, Mac!" Her jaw was set and her brow furrowed, but tears had begun to well up in her eyes.

With another demonic howl, it lashed out at her with a fist. Applejack jumped back, narrowly avoiding the hit, and she turned and ran, the beast in hot pursuit.

* * *

Across the courtyard, Bentgrass slowly crept behind Parchment. The old pony was watching his creation chase Applejack through the yard, laughing with twisted glee each time it tried to smash her. With his other-worldly stealth, Bentgrass positioned himself right behind Parchment, bent his legs slightly, and pounced. There was a blur of movement, and he hit the ground muzzle-first.

"Looking for me, lad?"

Bentgrass whirled around just in time to catch Parchment's hoof to his face. The supernatural strength of the hit knocked Bentgrass back several lengths before he rolled and recovered his stance. He spun to face Parchment, but only saw a blur as he zipped away at impossible speeds. Before Bentgrass could even register the sound beside him, two hind legs viciously bucked his side, sending him sprawling again. This time, Bentgrass was slow to recover. He lay on his side, gasping for breath, and blinked several times to try and clear the large black spots from his vision.

Parchment slowly walked over to him. "It didn't have to be this way, boyo." He delivered a savage kick to Bentgrass's midsection, earning another groan. “You could have had a place in my new world.” Another vicious kick. "I let you go! Why did you have to come back?"

"Y... you know me, professor." He struggled to his elbows. "I always enjoy it when things get complicated." Bentgrass swept his hind legs towards Parchment, knocking him down to the ground. Bentgrass followed through with the movement, spinning himself around and rolling on top of Parchment. Bentgrass wrapped his hind legs around Parchment, pinning his forelegs to his body, and delivered a series of vicious punches. Parchment's head bounced of the stone floor under the force of the blows.

Bentgrass pulled back for another blow when Parchment roared at him, his eyes glowing brightly, and a pulse of telekinesis slammed into him. Bentgrass was sent sailing through the air, the world around him tumbling and spinning until a pair of blue forelegs caught him. Rainbow eased him down to the ground, all the while glaring at Parchment.

Touching down, Bentgrass turned to her. "Thank you for th—"

Rainbow launched towards Parchment, moving so fast she tore a small trench in the ground before barreling into him. The two rolled across the courtyard before Rainbow landed on top of him. She slammed his head into the ground. "Change him back!"

Parchment laughed up at her. "Why would I want to do that?"

Rainbow punched him in the face, her eyes wild. "Change him back!"

Faster than even Rainbow could have moved, Parchment grabbed her and rolled, ending up on top of her. Rainbow struggled and kicked, but he pinned her legs with his, leering at her. "Insolent little filly." With a loud pop, the dagger appeared on his hoof. He raised it high.

"Parchment!"

Bentgrass wrapped his forelegs around Parchment's chest and hurled himself backward, slamming Parchment’s head into the ground with a sickening crack. Bentgrass released his hold and spun his body to the side, pushing himself back to his hooves and taking a few steps back to join Rainbow.

As they both watched, Parchment slowly stood back up, his head hanging limply. With a loud crack, he jerked his head to the side and it righted itself, the skin on his neck pulsing and writhing as the sinew healed. He rolled his head around and looked back at them, smiling.

"I think not."

* * *

Applejack rolled to the left, narrowly avoiding the giant fist that slammed down next to her. Her breathing was ragged and sweat poured from her brow, but she pressed on. The thing that was her brother tirelessly chased her around the courtyard, slashing away at her.

Up ahead, Applejack saw the far wall of the yard rapidly approaching. Groaning, she veered to the left. The slight loss of speed cost her, as the monster lashed out once more with a fist, this time connecting and knocking her to the ground. Bouncing roughly a few times, she finally came to a halt and struggled to her hooves just in time to see the thing lunge at her. She cried out and rolled away, the beast so close she could feel it's rough hide against her fur.

Before she could recover, its tail whipped around and the bony mass at the tip struck her. A loud crack echoed in her head as an agonizing pain lanced through her chest and she was sent skyward. She sailed through the air until a blue glow enveloped her, jerking her to a halt. She screamed at the sudden movement, the pain in her sides intensified tenfold. Below her, Rarity eased her to the ground. As she helped her to her hooves, the creature barreled towards them, head lowered and mouth agape.

"Girls, get down!"

Rarity and Applejack fell to their bellies, Applejack crying out again. No sooner had they landed than a brilliant beam of purple light lanced above them. The beast howled in pain, the force of the beam sending it reeling backwards. Twilight stepped forward to her friends, her horn still aglow. Grunting loudly, one of the massive pillars of earth rose from the ground and darted to the stumbling creature, knocking it off-balance and sending it crashing to the ground.

"Rarity! The vines!" Twilight raced towards the fallen monster, her horn already charging for another shot. The monster locked eyes with her, and rolled to the side as her horn discharged, the beam impacting the far wall in a shower of sparks. It climbed back to its hooves and roared, charging at the approaching unicorn.

Twilight looked past the creature and saw her target. Gritting her teeth, she poured on the speed, now at a dead sprint towards the beast. Its large, bulldog-like teeth glistened in the torchlight, its fiery orange eyes locked on her. Twilight's heart fluttered, but she pressed on. This worked before. Please let it work again.

Now merely a few lengths apart, the best reared up on its hind legs, fists clenched to smash Twilight. She grinned and pressed on. With only inches to spare, Twilight ducked and ran between its hulking legs, its fists hitting nothing but dirt. The monster howled and spun to find its target, and immediately froze.

Standing in front of the wall, Fluttershy Stared at the behemoth, her wings still bleeding and her legs shaky beneath her. The creature fell to its haunches, its jaw hanging open. Fluttershy slowly limped towards it. "Big Macintosh? I'm sorry... I'm so sorry about this." Her gaze hardened, a tear dripping down her face.

A brilliant beam of light slammed into the creature's side, sending it howling in pain to the ground. Before it could move, Applejack leaped in front of it and bucked its face as hard as she could, crying out from the pain in her chest. One of its massive canines snapped off as its head jerked back.

"Rarity, now!"

From behind the stone wall, dozens of vines floated towards the creature, propelled by blue magic. With a seamstresses precision, they wove and wrapped around its legs and tail, binding them to its massive chest. One vine, nearly as thick as Twilight's leg, wrapped around its mouth and tied into a tight knot.

The vines spun and danced around the creature until finally the glow surrounding them died off. Rarity fell to her knees, panting heavily. All four ponies looked down at the bound monster, now still save for the rise and fall of its chest.

* * *

Bentgrass ducked his head to the left, narrowly avoiding the hoof flying at him, and came back with a vicious uppercut. Parchment cried out and staggered back. "Why did you bother to kidnap them, Professor? Still the same old pervert?"

"That unicorn bitch needed to be taught a lesson!" Growling loudly, he lunged forward and unleashed a flurry of punches. Bentgrass bobbed and weaved, deflecting the blows with his forelegs, but could not keep up with the supernatural speed. A hard right hoof hit his jaw, sending him sprawling. Parchment slowly advanced on him. "To be so casually turned down—as if my life's work, the work of gods themselves, was somehow less important than her worthless sniveling in a treehouse's basement!" Rearing up, he brought his forelegs down to crush Bentgrass's skull.

Bentgrass jerked to the side and Parchments hooves met nothing but dirt. Throwing a hoof around his legs, Bentgrass heaved his weight against Parchment, knocking him to the ground, before rolling on top of him and pinning his legs. "You really have gone mad."

Parchment slammed his head into Bentgrass's, knocking him back. Parchment flipped up and landed on top of him, slamming his foreleg into Bentgrass's throat. A strangled cry escaped Bentgrass, a faint cracking coming from his neck as his windpipe began to buckle. Parchment leaned in towards him. "After I kill you, I'll make that filly watch as I slaughter and consume her friends, slowly and' painfully!" He slowly twisted his elbow on Bentgrass's throat, smiling widely at the panicked gasps he made. "Time to sa—"

A cyan blur slammed into Parchment. Grasping him in her forelegs, Rainbow repeatedly drove her knees into Parchment as she pushed through the air. With one final blow, she released him, sending him crashing to the ground after several hard bounces. Parchment slowly got back to his hooves and looked up, only to see Bentgrass's hind legs flying at his face. The blow knocked him back, but he managed to stay upright. Before he could react, Rainbow blazed past him, striking his face with a satisfying crunch.

The two continued the assault, never allowing Parchment time to recover. Every time Rainbow would strafe by and deliver a flying punch, Bentgrass would immediately follow with several lightning-fast strikes. Parchment's world devolved into a series of blue and white blurs along with searing pain.

Finally, after countless passes, Rainbow banked hard and charged Parchment again. She scooped her forelegs around his midsection and rocketed skyward.

She continued rising until the torchlit courtyard was a just a speck beneath them. She tossed Parchment up, spinning him around, bringing his broken, bloodied face to hers. "Last chance! Change him back!"

"I... Insolent little filly! I'll-"

"Wrong answer."

Dash spun and rocketed downward. She could feel the professor's bones healing beneath her. Faster and faster she flew, the wind screeched around her, her eyes stinging from the cold air. Dash's wings pumped hard, still picking up speed. Below her, she could now make out the faces of her friends, staring up at her.

With mere lengths to go, Rainbow shouted and hurled Parchment to the ground, simultaneously banking hard and leveling out. Parchment slammed into the ground with bone-shattering force, sending plumes of dirt and rock skyward.

Rainbow executed a tight circle in the air and landed next to Bentgrass. The two slowly approached Parchment's broken body sprawled on the ground. Already, his bones were beginning to to knit themselves back together.

He slowly lifted his head to them. "You... you cannot beat me."

"It's over, Professor!" Bentgrass knelt down to him, a pleading look in his eyes. "Look! Your monster has failed!" He pointed to their left. Parchment slowly turned his head and gasped. The thing that was Macintosh lay on the ground, unconscious, its legs, tail, and jaw bound in heavy vines. The remaining five mares slowly walked towards him. Twilight was supporting Pinkie, who had regained consciousness at some point, while Fluttershy leaned on Rarity.

"Professor." Parchment whipped his back to Bentgrass. The battered agent knelt beside him, his eyes soft. "Please, end this. Let me help you." He extended a hoof towards Parchment.

Parchment's eyes darted between the bound creature, the approaching mares, and Bentgrass's hoof. "No." His eyes blazed to life again, the air around his head crackling loudly. "No, no NO!"

A wave of telekinetic energy slammed down on top of them, pressing them down to their bellies. A deafening crack came from all around them as the wall surrounding the courtyard exploded outward, sending stone and earth flying into the forest.

Parchment rocketed skyward, glaring down at the struggling ponies. He panted heavily, his eyes dilated and wild. “I will not suffer you insects any longer! The power of the Celestial Parents themselves is at my hooves!" He floated down, landing in front of Twilight with a sharp thud. "Of what consequence are you anymore? I am more than pony, more than life! I am a god!" With a loud pop, the dagger appeared on his foreleg. "And now, I take my place among the stars." With that, he raised the knife high. Twilight closed her eyes.

He tensed to bring the blade down, but paused, then stepped back, lowering the blade. "But first," he walked over to Bentgrass, glaring down at him, "you've been a dear friend for so long, Benty, so I'll give ye a choice. Is there any particular way you'd like to die?"

Bentgrass looked around at the others struggling to move, deep fear and pain in their eyes. Facts raced through his mind, everything he’d seen in the past few days. He tried to think of some other way, any other way. It was stupid; it was insane; and most likely, he wouldn't survive. Finally, his shoulders slumped.

It must be done. Forgive me, Twilight.

"No dragons, please," he whispered.

Parchment narrowed his eyes. "What?"

Bentgrass looked up at him, a pleading look in his eyes. "I... I don't care how you kill me, just please, no dragons." He hung his head, his voice barely a whisper as he looked down at the ground. "I'm... I'm terrified of dragons."

All was still for a moment. Parchment stared at Bentgrass curiously before a wicked smile crept into his face. He chuckled quietly. "Are you now? Well then, it's your lucky day, boyo!" His eyes glowed again, as Spike's limp body floated over to him. "We got a dragon right here."

Across the courtyard,Twilight struggled fiercely against the downward push of his magic. "No! No, you leave him alone!"

"Silence, worm!" Parchment floated back several lengths, placing Spike on the ground between him and the group. His eyes scanned over Spike. "Although, he's just a wee little blighter, isn't he?" He smiled cruelly at Bentgrass as his eyes blazed brighter than ever. "I think a growth spurt's in order."

"No! No!" Twilight's horn glowed brightly, but something was suppressing her magic. She could only shake helplessly as the air around Parchment began to crackle and buzz.

Spike's eyes shot open as the same field enveloped him. "Tw... Twilight, what's hap—" His speech devolved into a pained howl as he was slammed spread eagle on his stomach, small sparks shooting from his scales.

A loud groaning sound, like grinding rocks, echoed across the courtyard. Spike's left arm jerked outward, nearly doubling in length as the scales ripped apart, leaving most of his arm covered in sinewy muscle. Twilight watched in horror as the muscle inflated and bulged, new scales growing in from the exposed tissue. Boiling hot tears streamed down Spike's snout, blubbering cries of agony escaping his lips as the process repeated on the other limbs and his tail, green blood staining the ground beneath him.

The two small lumps on his back suddenly exploded in a shower of blood. Long, thin bones shot skyward before breaking apart, taking the form of skeletal wings. Tiny, snake-like tendrils of flesh crawled up the bones, fanning out in a thin, purple membrane with red veins snaking in between. As Spike cried through gritted teeth, his face stretched and narrowed, the scales tearing to reveal bone before healing. The process repeated over and over as the horns on his head began to jut upwards.

Twilight whimpered, tears pouring down her muzzle. "Spike!" She mustered her strength and fought hard against the magic binding her, but her hooves didn't budge. It felt like a manticore was sitting in her.

Spike's cries of pain gradually deepened, the high, cracking shrieks now rumbling roars. A series of deafening cracks, like twisting metal, and his torso began to lurch forward, the muscle and sinew tearing and reforming constantly, making him slowly grow. His tear-filled eyes turned to Twilight. He reached out for her with a trembling arm, still rippling with growing muscle. "T... Twi—llllliiii—"

"Spike!" Twilight struggled to reach her hoof to him, when she felt the weight on her back begin to lift. Around her, the others were beginning to move, as well.

The instant she regained her footing, Twilight leaped towards Spike, but before she could get close a white foreleg restrained her. She whirled around, glaring at Bentgrass. "Let me go! Let me go!"

Bentgrass held her fast. "Twilight! Twilight, wait! Look!" He pointed past the still growing Spike to Parchment.

Twilight looked and gasped. The professor's entire body was shaking violently. A thick plume of what looked like white smoke was pouring out of his mouth, eyes, and nose before being drawn towards Spike.

“S-s-s-st... st-st-stop.” His voice was barely a dry croak escaping from his shriveled lips. His face distorted, the skin around his mouth retracting and shriveling, revealing rapidly decaying teeth. A milky film spread over his eyes, still wide and staring at Spike. The deep crimson of his mane began to fade to a stark white.

S-S-St—st-stop!” All over his body, the firm muscle began to shrink, leaving cracked, wrinkled flesh hanging from his bones. His eyes, still locked on Spike, looked like rotten grapes barely sitting in their sockets. The skin on his head cracked and flaked, but no blood flowed; tiny flakes of skin and dust fell from the cuts.

A final, parched squeak escaped his torn lips, then the storm around his head instantly dissipated. The frail, skeletal body remained motionless for a moment before collapsing to the ground. In front of him, Spike convulsed one more time then flopped to the ground.

All was still in the courtyard.

Finally, Twilight lunged to her hooves and raced to Spike. She skidded to a halt in front of him, her eyes wide. His head was now almost as big as she was, two horns jutting out from his forehead. Large, membranous wings draped his massive back, still slick and glistening. His hind legs were thick and squat, his arms long and muscled. Patches of exposed flesh dotted his hide, scales half-formed in some places.

She knelt before him, reaching out and placing a hoof on his massive snout. "S... Spike?"

Spike groaned, a deep, rumbling sound that made Twilight's tail twitch behind her. Slowly, his eyes opened. "Ugh... T... Twi?" His voice was deep and clean, a far cry from the scratchy, adolescent voice she had heard that afternoon.

"Yes. It's me, Spike." Tears still leaked from her eyes, but a wide smile had settled on her face.

"When did you get so tiny?"

Twilight laughed. "I'm not sure. I," she sniffled and wiped her eyes, "I guess I haven't been eating my alfalfa lately."

Spike groaned and tried to stand up. He made it halfway before crying out and falling back down. "Take it easy, Spike. You've been through a lot."

"Good idea. Oh, hey. I... uhn, I think we need to keep an eye on that Parchment guy. He seems a little sketchy."

Twilight cried out and lunged at him, wrapping her forelegs around his massive snout. She gripped him tight, nuzzling into him. "Sh... Shut up, Spike."

Across the yard, Bentgrass and Rarity slowly approached Parchment’s dessicated corpse.

"W-What happened to him?" Fluttershy asked, limping up to them.

Bentgrass knelt down to Parchment’s body. “Dragons are innately magical creatures. Their fire and immense size are fueled by unparallelled natural magics. Parchment was... ill-equipped to handle the raw power of Spike’s biology.” Bentgrass gently ran his hoof through the remains of Parchment’s mane. “He dumped so much energy into the spell that it awakened Spike's inherent draconic nature."

"It... it got greedy, began to draw in all his magic," Rarity whispered.

"A beginner's mistake..." Bentgrass muttered as he stood, turning away from the lifeless husk before him. "There are few forces on Earth that can withstand the pure, untempered fury of a dragon's inherent magic."

"So, it's over?"

"Not quite." Slowly, Bentgrass turned around and walked away. Rarity and Fluttershy shared a quick glance and followed.

Ahead of them, Rainbow and Applejack stood before the deformed creature that had been Macintosh, still bound and unconscious. As Bentgrass approached, he heard quiet sniffling from Applejack. Rainbow stood with her jaw hanging slightly, her eyes wide.

Bentgrass eased next to Applejack. Neither said anything for a moment, both simply stared at the beast before them. Slowly, Applejack and Bentgrass turned to face each other.

"Is there anythin' we can do?" Bentgrass slowly shook his head. She sniffled. "There has t' be somethin' you can do t' help 'im!"

"Just one thing."

The two locked eyes, understanding passing between them. Finally, Applejack turned her back to the monster. A single tear fell from her eye. "Make it quick?"

"He won't feel a thing."

Applejack tersely nodded and stepped away, while Bentgrass knelt down next to the things throat. Rainbow darted her head between the two. "Wait, what's going on? What are you doing?"

Bentgrass looked over his shoulder. "What must be done," he whispered.

Rainbow stared for a moment before her eyes went wide. Moving at blinding speed, she shoved Bentgrass away, standing in front of the monster, her wings flared. "Oh, no! No way!"

Applejack turned back to face her. "Let 'im through, Dash."

Rainbow stomped her hoof, staring at her through narrowed eyes. "What are you doing? AJ, this is your bro—”

"My brother's dead!" She glared at Rainbow, tears now streaming down her face. "That... that thing, ain't my brother, an' he ain't your..." she sniffled loudly, "it ain't your husband. Only thing left t' do is put that thing outta its misery."

Rainbow stood slack jawed. She sputtered, trying to find words to protest when Bentgrass laid a hoof on her shoulders. "I'm so sorry, Ms. Dash, but she's right. His mind is gone. Whatever remained of your fiance was... ripped out. This beast," he motioned towards the thing behind him, "cares not for you, nor Ms. Apple. It's... it's the equine thing to do." With that, he gently pushed Dash out of the way. Her legs moved in their own, her mind still reeling, tears welling in her eyes.

Bentgrass knelt by the monster’s throat, feeling for its windpipe. When he felt the solid lump, he placed both his hooves on it. Behind him, the girls all turned away. Bentgrass cast one more glance at its eyes as he tensed his shoulders. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Ap—”

"No!"

Rainbow violently shoved Bentgrass away, her teeth barred and eyes narrowed. "This is not happening!" She spun around to face the creature. "Mac? Come on, Mac, wake up." The beast didn't stir. Growling, Rainbow struck its snout with her forehoof. "Wake up, Macintosh!"

The beast let out a low growl. Its eyes fluttered open, the crimson irises darting back and forth before locking onto Dash.

"Mac, it's me, it's Rainbow. You remember me, right?" She eased forward and placed her hoof on its head. "It's just you and me now, okay? He's gone now, it's just us."

The beast growled at her, struggling with its bonds. Its narrowed eyes glared at her, but she never faltered. "Come on, Mac! You have to remember!" Rainbow stepped back a bit, her eyes never leaving the monsters. "You... you know, I'd known for a while that you had your eye on me. Remember that cider thing a few years back?" She laughed at the memory, but her voice was cracking, tears still in her eyes. "Don't think I didn't notice you slowing down on that treadmill a few times to get a look at my flank."

It growled again, this time loud enough that the others all took a step back. The thing began to fiercely struggle with the vines. "Rainbow..." Twilight's voice was shaky.

Dash’s eyes never left his. "My parents said I was crazy when I told them I was dating an earth pony. Heh, 'you'll never be able to slow down enough for that' they said."

"Rainbow, get back!" Applejack retreated further as the vines surrounding its legs began to crackle and fray.

"The daredevil and the farmer! Ha, not even Discord could have thought that one up!" Dash was nearly yelling now to be heard over the barely muffled cries of the thing as it struggled for freedom. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she realized that she should be terrified. She should be running away, but she held her ground. "But we made it work! A year later, and I still love you as much as when we first went out!"

With a mighty crack, the vines around its legs finally have way. The beast rolled to the side, climbing to its hooves. It's tail whipped back and forth as it raised its fore hooves to paw at the rope muzzle.

Twilight's horn glowed brightly. "Stand back, girls." She set her shoulders, Bentgrass stepping beside her and leaning into a fighting stance.

"No!" Rainbow jumped in between them and the monster, head low and wings flared.

"Ms. Dash, get out of the way!"

"Not a chance, Milky!" She spun around to face the creature. "You hear that, Mac? I’m not giving up on you! You know why?” She stomped her hoof. “Because I'm marrying you, Macintosh Apple. Whether you want to or not, dammit I'm putting a ring on you!"

The beast finally worked the vines off its muzzle. It let out a loud roar and lowered its head, glaring at Dash.

She never faltered. "I don't care if I never fly again. I don't care if I never leave the ground!" The tears finally broke the barrier and began falling down her face, despite her fierce gaze.

The beast raised a hoof to move, but stopped mid-stride. It's raspy breathing slowed somewhat as it stared at Rainbow.

"I'll do whatever it takes. I'll live on the farm, sit in a rocking chair, make lemonade, knit foal clothes, churn butter, whatever! I'll spend the rest of my life on the farm, just as long as I get to spend it with you!" She took a step forward, her jaw clenched despite the flow of tears. "Because I love you, Mac."

The courtyard was silent, save for the raspy breathing of the monster. The other ponies held their breath, watching the scene unfold, silently hoping, yet ready to flee.

Slowly, the things head tilted to the side, its eyes never leaving Rainbow. Its mouth opened, and a deep, rumbling growl came out.

"D-DDAAAAAASSSSSHHHHIIIEEEEE."

"Yes!" Rainbow took several steps towards it, now only a few lengths away. Tears still flowed down her face, but her eyes brightened. "Yes, it's me, Mac! Now come on, I need you to fight this. I know you can beat this, Mac! Don't let that wacko win!"

The monsters head began to twitch to the side, it's breathing growing erratic.

"Think about me. Think about us. Think..." she looked down briefly, placing a hoof on her belly before turning back to the beast, "think about our... our foal."

The twitch grew more pronounced. It began to grunt loudly, its muscles convulsing.

"You want her to grow up like Apple Bloom, never knowing her father? Then you need to fight this!"

The creature’s entire body began to convulse, as it groaned in pain. Its skin began to smoke, and Rainbow could feel heat radiating off it, but she still stepped closer.

"Your foal needs you, Mac. I need you. So you'd better fight, cause dammit I'm not going to be a single mother!"

It sank to its haunches, clutching its deformed head. Loud grunts of pain echoes across the courtyard as more tendrils of smoke rose off it. The heat was intense, but Rainbow remained.

"You need to come back to me, Mac. Because I need you. I... I love you." She looked him right in the eye, slamming her hoof into the dirt. "You come back to me, you inbred redneck!"

A deafening roar, and the monster burst into flame. Rainbow was yanked back by a lavender glow, before she was dropped on her haunches next to Twilight, her eyes wide and full of tears. The beast fell to its side, howling and pounding at the ground. The fire burned so brightly that all the ponies had to turn away from the searing heat. The stench of burning hair and flesh wafted over them, the light so bright they could see it through their closed eyes.

Then, as soon as it started, it stopped. The heat, the light, the smell, the sound, all vanished in an instant. Rainbow turned around first and gasped. There, laying in a circle of burnt grass and cracked cobblestone, body marred by countless bloody cuts, was Macintosh. Smoke still rose from him, but it was quickly fading.

In the blink of an eye, Dash was at his side. "Mac!" She cradled him in her hooves, placing her ear to his chest. She let out a bark of laughter when she heard his heart and felt the rise and fall of his chest. Her smile faded when she looked at his face; his eyes were shut, no expression whatsoever.

"Mac? Come on, Mac, wake up." She gave several light taps to his cheek, but he didn't awaken. She tapped him again, harder this time. "Mac?"

No response.

"Mac! Wake up! Please, wake up!" She leaned down and nuzzled him lightly, tears flowing once more.

"Mac, please wake up..."