• Published 8th Aug 2012
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The Crystal War Book I: A Spark to Light the Dark - NatureSpark

A unicorn burnout, two pegasus brothers and Princess Luna's protégé, along with many other friends they meet along the way, embark on an epic journey to prevent war from consuming Equestria.

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Ch.15 Downward Spiral

~Chapter 15: Downward Spiral~

Strata and Inferno had already packed up the camp and had breakfast ready before Spark woke up. The rising sun hadn’t been enough to disturb the unicorn’s rest, so Inferno had to shake him awake. Even though she tried to be gentle, it was still startling for the stallion and waking up blind sent his heart racing madly. Spark spun his head around, frantically searching for danger, until his brain processed the sound of Inferno’s voice in his ear and he calmed himself down.

“Mother of Luna, being blind is such a pain in the flank,” Spark huffed as he struck the ground beside him in frustration. “What the hay did I do to deserve this?” He sighed and got to his hooves, doing his best to start the morning with at least a mildly optimistic attitude. There was no reason to spread his sour mood around to his friends after all.

“Um, Spark,” Inferno mumbled. He had almost forgotten the dragon standing next to him until she spoke up again. “Do you want some breakfast?” The pony started chuckling at her question as he imagined her puzzled expression, which only served to increase his laughter.

“Yeah, some breakfast sounds great,” Spark chuckled in reply. He got to his hooves and Inferno placed a clawed hand on his withers as she led him over to the chariot. The cold autumn air sent a shiver through the stallion’s body and he pulled a cloak out of his bag, wrapping it tightly around himself. Winter was definitely right around the corner, Spark mused. Before long, they were going to have to stay bundled up most of the time, just to keep from freezing.

“We’re going to leave while you’re eating,” Inferno explained to him. “Strata and I already had breakfast and packed up the camp, so we can get a bit of an early start if we go right now.”

“What about all of my junk?” Spark asked as he sat down.

“Strata is grabbing that as we speak,” Inferno replied. The dragon took a seat on the chariot bench next to him as she asked, “What do you want for breakfast?” She began rummaging around in one of the bags looking for food a moment later. Spark felt useless as he sat there, waiting for breakfast. They didn’t want his help cleaning up the campsite, making breakfast or even carrying his own damn weight. There was nothing that the unicorn could do to help them now. If it wasn’t for the fact that his father was some sort of hero to the hippogriffs, Strata probably wouldn’t even bother talking to him. The good mood that Spark had tried to force on himself began to fade along with what appetite he had.

“You know what? I’m not really that hungry after all,” Spark mumbled quietly. He closed his eyes, not that it made much of a difference, and feigned being tired. “I think I’m just going to try to get some more sleep,” he said over a fake yawn and then turned his back on her.

“Yeah, okay,” the dragon replied, her rasping voice soft and filled with worry. Spark could hear the concern in Inferno’s voice, but he wasn’t in the mood to talk to anypony right then. He just wanted to wallow in self pity alone and closing his eyes while pretending to sleep was about the closest the stallion could get.

“Was it all worth it?” he asked himself in a whisper. Is this what you expected when you started this mission of yours? No. How long will you go on and what else will you give up just to prove that you are as good of a stallion as your father was? I’m not sure. Face it; you don’t even deserve to wear his dagger. I know. You haven’t even begun to help the situation and you’ve already been handicapped, so do you really think that you can make a difference now? Maybe it is pointless to even try. Spark’s brain continued to pester him as he feigned rest. What about your family and your friends, can you protect them? I sincerely hope so, but you’re doing a damn good job of convincing me otherwise. What if they pay the price for your foalishness, would you be able to live with that? I don’t know. How about Charm, what could you do for her like this? Spark just wanted his thoughts to stop already. He just wanted all of it to go away.

There is only so long that you can keep your eyes closed before you actually fall asleep though and soon enough, Spark’s depressing thoughts became depressing dreams. Dreams of being cast in the middle of a war torn Equestria and trying to find his way through without sight. He dreamed of his friends and family abandoning him and leaving him to his fate. Most of all though, the frightened pony dreamed of Charm and how she would react knowing that he wouldn’t even be able to see her face anymore. A tear rolled down his cheek as he slept, but it went unnoticed until the wind blew it dry.

Inferno woke Spark up when they landed and informed the unicorn that he had slept all morning. Spark certainly didn’t feel very well rested, but he took his friend’s word for it. It was lunch time now and they were going to set up camp, so the pony got to his hooves and stumbled out of the chariot, landing face first in mud rather unexpectedly.

“Perfect. Just bucking perfect!” Spark shouted as he spat out slime and did his best to wipe the gunk from his mouth. “Like my life isn’t shitty enough already.” He stomped off to find dry ground and dropped onto his flank to pout.

“Calm down, Spark. It was just a little mud,” Inferno told him.

“Just leave me alone, Inferno,” Spark retorted. He was sick of acting like being blind was something that he could deal with. Even Spark had his limits and this was one of them. All his talk about being a good pony was proven useless. No matter what the unicorn did life was going to kick him around. As soon as he was done talking to the hippogriffs, Spark had half a mind to call it quits on everything. “Let the princesses solve their own problems. It’s not like there’s anything I can do to help now anyway,” he whined to himself.

“Don’t make me hit you again,” Strata told him flatly. The half pony hybrid walked over and took a seat beside the stallion. She was always interrupting his self pitying and Spark was getting sick and tired of it.

“Do it. See if I care,” Spark barked back. Strata complied. He felt her fist connect with the back of his skull a split second after he had dared her, knocking him face first into the dirt once again. The unicorn got up and spun around to face where he thought she was. “I swear to Celestia, hit me one more time! Just one more bucking time!” Normally Spark would never even think of striking a girl, but the hippogriff was doing a very good job of changing his mind. Strata walked right up to him and pressed a clawed finger into his chest.

“You couldn’t stop me even if you wanted to, now sit down and shut up,” she ordered the stallion. Strata gripped Spark’s shoulder and forcibly sat him down. He fell to his flank with a grunt and she took a seat next to him. The stallion’s skull began to throb from the blow that she had landed. Strata really knew how to throw a punch, Spark admitted to himself, though he would never tell her as much.

“What do you know anyway?” Spark asked bitterly. “Have you ever been blind?” He didn’t care if he sounded like a whiney brat. He was pissed off and needed to let out some anger. “Do you know what it’s like to be stuck in darkness, unable to see the sunrise or your friend’s faces? Do you?” Tears began to well up in the unicorn’s brown eyes, but he did his best to hold them back.

“No, I haven’t been blind,” Strata replied. She sounded much calmer than Spark did, which only irritated him even more. “That doesn’t mean I don’t know what it’s like to lose an important part of your self.” She grew quiet for a long time and he almost thought she had left until he heard the sound of her breathing.

“So, what is it that you’ve lost?” Spark asked. His curiosity was slightly peaked.

“I gave up what soul I had when I killed a group of griffons,” Strata explained. She sounded on the verge of tears, which did nothing to help the stallion maintain his own fractured composure.

“They hunted your clan first,” Spark recalled. “It’s not like you had much of a choice.”

“That’s just it though,” Strata sighed. “The first few that I killed were for protection. They had come to take the lives of my clan, hippogriffs that I cared about. Killing them didn’t feel good, but it had to be done.”

“I don’t see how you gave up part of your soul then,” Spark replied honestly. He would have done the same thing if he was forced into the hippogriff’s situation, no matter how unpleasant it would have been. Why she was so mellow dramatic about it, Spark couldn’t fathom, not that he really had any room to talk given the immature way that he had been acting lately.

“Those times were all when I was forced to fight back,” Strata continued, her voice cracking with emotion as she spoke. “I gave up a part of myself last year.” The tone of her voice was one of longing, filled with a pain that Spark couldn’t yet understand. “I gave it up the day that I decided to take revenge.”

“Oh,” Spark uttered softly. He had an idea of where her story was going now.

“It was only a few days after my younger sister had been killed by them,” Strata explained. “We had always chosen to fight only to protect ourselves.” She took a few deep breaths to calm her nerves and Spark settled in for what was sure to be a depressing story. “One of my father’s friends found her body. The Red Eyes had killed her while she was just flying around having fun. She was still a bucking child and they murdered her…” Spark didn’t need to see the tears in the hippogriff’s eyes to know that they were there. “They broke her wings and pushed her over the edge of the clouds. My father’s friend heard her scream, but he was too late to save her.”

“I, Celestia, I am so sorry,” Sparks replied. His words seemed too shallow to convey the sorrow he actually felt for her however. The unicorn couldn’t imagine losing his younger brother like that. It would have torn him up inside.

“My father told us not to go after them. He said that violence would only lead to the death of our clan,” Strata said after a moment. “I didn’t understand why he would say that. They had killed his daughter and he wasn’t going to do anything about it. It just, it made no sense to me.” Spark had no idea what to say, so he remained silent and waited for her to continue with her tale. It took her a few moments to regain her composure before she began to speak again. “I was pissed. I didn’t understand how life could be so unfair and I decided that if the rest of my family wouldn’t avenge her death, then I would. So I tracked them. I followed their trail for days waiting for the opportunity to get the jump on them. The whole time, I let my hate for what they had done consume me. The rage and pain festered in the deepest parts of my mind like an open sore. One night, I finally got my chance for vengeance.” The tone of her voice grew spiteful as she recounted the events and it sent a shiver down Spark’s spine.

“What did you do?” Spark asked, not that he needed to, because Strata had finally opened the gates to her past and the story was going to come out whether he wanted to hear it or not.

“They were sleeping and I snuck up on them from above. The only thought in my head was making them suffer. Suffer like they had made my sister suffer, like they had made all hippogriffs suffer for years,” Strata replied venomously. “I dove down with a heart full of rage. Living a life as prey had made me strong. Only the strong can survive the life we had been forced to live.” She was lost in her own memories and spoke with a malice that Spark hadn’t expected, even from a hippogriff. “The first one fell without even screaming. I ripped his throat out in seconds and set my sights on the next target. She woke up before I got to her, probably sensed the hateful energy rolling off of me, ha ha ha.” There was no joy in her laugh, only a deep bitterness.

“Strata, I-” Spark fell silent, because there was nothing he could say.

“I could see terror in her red eyes and what truly scares me, is that I kind of liked it. Some part of me relished the feeling of being the predator for once.” Strata sniffed back the tears of shame that had begun to form as she continued her tale. “She put up a struggle, but eventually I broke one of her wings. I snapped it like a dry twig and I dropped her off of the edge of their cloud camp… Spark, I let her fall. I heard her screams as she watched her death approach, like the way I imagined my sister screamed when they did the same to her.” She took a few more deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself. “I felt no remorse for it either.” Spark thought about reaching a hoof out to Strata for comfort, but was unsure how she would respond to his touch.

“They pushed you to that point,” Spark tried to convince her, but he knew it was only a half-truth and Strata didn’t even acknowledge that the unicorn had spoken.

“Her screams woke up the others. I remember seeing the panic in their eyes turn to realization and then into fear. I snapped at that point and all I can remember is the sound of screaming and the feeling of pure rage drowning out my thoughts. Everything went blood red and I guess my instincts took over.” Spark finally got the courage to place a hoof on his friend’s back and felt her shudder at the memory. She shook off his touch and wiped her burning tears away. “I don’t deserve your sympathy and I don’t want it.”

“Of course you do,” Spark replied. “Yes you snapped, but it was only because of what they had done, only because of the blood feud that their clan decided to start.” The pony hoped his words would get through to the hippogriff, but they didn’t.

“You don’t get it!” Strata shouted back. “I looked around when I came out of the daze. They were dead, Spark, all of them… I killed seven griffons that night!”

“You did what you thought was right,” Spark replied.

“Ha! That had been a small camp they were using. There were children there, Spark!” Strata angrily snapped. “Three of them were bucking children and I killed them!” The words Spark was about to say caught in his throat. No wonder she was so distraught about what had happened, he thought. “They were torn apart. I left the entire group a shredded mess. Young, old, it hadn’t mattered to me and their blood was still wet on my talons.” The dam broke then and tears spilled from the hippogriff’s cheeks to the ground unabated. Spark was too shocked to even try thinking of something to say. The thought of going through what Strata had, well it certainly put his meager problems in perspective. “My father was right. Seeking revenge had turned me into a monster. I was just as bad as they were, if not worse.” She tried to take more deep breaths to ease her aching heart. “I flew away after that. I flew as far and as fast as I could and I didn’t stop until I was no longer able to move.” She choked out the last few words over more tears. “Then I cried. I cried for my sister and for myself, so don’t tell me that I don’t know what it is like to give up part of myself. Do you know how mad I was at what they had turned me into, what I had chosen to become?” Her sadness turned to rage as she spoke to him.

“I’m so sorry,” Spark whispered.

“I would give up my sight in an instant if it meant that I could stop seeing the faces of those children whenever I close my eyes. Every day since that moment, I’ve looked into the eyes of griffons that I killed with my own claws! Every day the wretched memory kills a little more of me!” she screamed at the stallion and he sat there quietly while she did.

“I-I had no idea, Strata,” Spark softly replied. His words seemed to fail him after that. Compared to Strata’s pain, his loss his seemed insignificant and the unicorn cursed his own cowardice in the face of adversity. He didn’t deserve to call himself a stallion when he acted like little more than a foal.

“I know you didn’t, Spark and I didn’t tell you this story to gain your pity,” Strata sighed. The unicorn could hear a slight waiver in her voice as she tried to reign in her emotions. “I told you so that you might learn not to harbor resentment for what happened. No good will come of you being angry or bitter about what happened.” Her words hung in the air as they both sat in silence. Eventually, Strata stood up and left Spark alone to mull over what she had told him.

The small group stopped for lunch, but Spark had no idea how long they had actually been flying. The food that Inferno prepared for them tasted very good, but Spark was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice the flavor. The blind stallion picked at his meal absentmindedly and barley ate anything, even though he had skipped breakfast earlier. It just wasn’t a good day for his appetite. Eventually Spark dumped the rest of his plate, saving what he could and leaving the rest for the animals to scavenge once they had left. Inferno didn’t appreciate him wasting the food she had prepared.

“Next time you plan on starving yourself, tell me and I’ll make sure not to bother making you up a plate,” Inferno said with a huff.

“Oh, uh, sorry,” Spark apologized. “I guess I’m just not that hungry today.” He smiled sheepishly in the direction her voice had come from.

“That’s fine,” Inferno sighed, “but I could have saved time if I knew you weren’t hungry.” She took the unicorn’s plate from him and began to pack up the camp.

“Inferno?” Spark mumbled.

“Yes, Spark. What is it?” she questioned.

“I just wanted to apologize for how I’ve been treating you ever since the accident,” Spark explained. He hoped she could hear the genuine sorrow in his voice. He had been rude to the dragon when she hadn’t deserved it. All she had ever done was try to be a good friend to him and he had treated her horridly.

“Its okay, Spark. I can only imagine what you’re going through right now,” Inferno replied. “It must be hard to lose any one of your senses, especially when that sense is sight.”

“No, it isn’t okay,” Spark argued. “Yes, being blinded is awful and I really wish it had never happened, but that doesn’t give me the right to take it out on you. From now on I promise to stop being a dick… Pardon my language,” he said with a smile.

“Wow,” she commented. “Where did this sudden change of heart come from?”

“I had a nice long talk with Strata and she helped me put everything in perspective,” Spark explained. “I realize now, that there are far worse situations to be stuck in.”

“So she kicked your flank again?” Inferno asked him, with a little more joy than Spark would have liked.

“No. We just had a long talk,” Spark retorted. “She didn’t kick my flank again.”

“Whatever you say,” Inferno chuckled as she got back to cleaning up the campsite, while Spark just shook his head in annoyance. Spark had a feeling that the dragon would be holding Strata’s blow to his face above his head for a long time to come.

It didn’t take long for the two girls to get everything packed up again, especially since they hadn’t bothered making a fire, despite the cold winds that continued to blow. Spark did his best to help, but only managed to get his own bags packed and loaded before they had finished with the rest. It was a slight improvement over that morning, but not much of one.

“Well, at least I’m getting a little better,” Spark acknowledged dryly. Yes, at this rate, you might be able to cross the street alone by next year, that depressing part of the unicorn’s brain thought. He chose to ignore that piece of his mind. It didn’t do anything good for him anyway.

“Spark!” Strata shouted at him with obvious irritation in her voice.

“Sorry, what’s up?” he questioned the hippogriff.

“I said, get in the chariot so we can leave already,” she replied. Spark did as he was bid and sat down on the bench. All of the sitting he had been doing lately was starting to hurt the stallion’s flank. Spark would be happy when he could take a nice walk, without having some looming deadline hanging over his head. He felt the wheels of the small chariot start to roll as Strata built up speed and then lifted them off of the ground with a kick of her powerful hind legs.

It didn’t take long for Spark to get bored of sitting around doing nothing. He almost rolled up a joint, but thought it best to wait until he wasn’t around Inferno. He really didn’t want to deal with a repeat of what had happened the last time. That reminded the stallion that after he was done napping, he needed to have a talk with the dragon about following directions better. For now though, the unicorn only wanted to get some sleep that wasn’t plagued by nightmares, so he rolled over and pulled his cloak tightly over him.

Spark heard shouting cut through his dreamless slumber. Somepony was trying to wake the stallion up. No, not somepony, he realized, some dragon.

“Spark, wake the hay up!” Inferno screamed, emphasizing the command with a slap across his face. He shot up from the bench instantly, still half asleep.

“What the buck? I’m up, I’m up,” Spark mumbled in confusion. “What’s going on?” The unicorn almost tried to glance around, but that would have been useless. He briefly wondered how long he had been asleep, before the screaming started again.

“We have a big problem!” Inferno shouted. She sounded terrified and Spark’s guts leapt into his throat as the chariot dropped down a short distance, before being stabilized again. His heart skipped a beat and he had to stop his stomach from churning over as the chariot rocked unsteadily.

“Tell me what the hay is going on!” Spark screamed back. Something very bad was happening and he didn’t want to be out of the loop, especially while they were flying through the sky. The stallion really wished he could see for himself, but there was no time to think about that now. One word was all Inferno managed to get out before something hit the cart.

“Griffons,” she replied. The entire craft shook after that and they dropped a little more before Strata was able to steady the chariot once again. They had been ambushed while Spark was napping. Out of all the terrible things that could have happened, this had to be the worst possible thing, he realized.

“Damn,” Spark muttered as he turned to where Inferno was seated next to him, most likely gripping the sides of the craft for dear life. “I’m going to use the cloud walking spell on you, just in case something happens.” He really hoped that nothing would, but it was better to be safe than sorry, as his mother had always told him.

“What!? What’s going to happen?” Inferno asked him. Spark ignored her terrified questioning and instead focused on his magic. He could feel the glow of his horn as he did his best to cast the spell. “Did it work?” she asked with a trembling voice.

“You two, I’m going to try to bring us down!” Strata called back. “This might get a little rough!” The hippogriff had to shout to be heard over the rushing wind as they soared through the air. The front of the vehicle began to dip before she had even finished her sentence.

“I really hope that it worked,” Spark mumbled as he shut his eyes and attempted to cast the spell once more. The glow of his horn felt weaker, but the unicorn managed to pull off the magic. He wasn’t going to be able to count on his horn to do too much more without getting burnt out though. “Inferno, I want you to try and keep them away from the chariot with your fire. Can you do that for me?”

“I-I-I’ll try,” Inferno replied, on the verge of tears as she spoke. Spark knew that this had to be one of the worst days of the dragon’s life already, but she was facing her fears admirably. They only had to fight off the griffons until Strata could safely land. He had no idea how high up they had been flying though, so it could take a while.

“Good. Can you also hand me my dagger? It should be right in the side pocket of my bag,” Spark added. A few seconds later, she placed the metallic weapon in his hoof and he twisted it down on his horn. By the time they got close enough for the weapon to be much use, it would probably be too late to make a difference, but Spark didn’t plan on letting the winged bastards get away with attacking him and his friends. He just needed to think of a plan. Warm air shot by the stallion’s face as Inferno let out a stream of black fire behind them. Apparently, the Red Eyes had come in for another strike, but Spark hoped that the fire would keep them at bay. “How many are there?” he questioned. The chariot dipped into a steeper dive and Spark felt the cold air rushing past his face even quicker than before. His short tail whipped behind him in a frenzy as the chariot lost altitude.

“Um, I see, uh, three,” Inferno stuttered. “I think that there’s only three.”

“Okay,” Spark replied. The blind pony had a plan, but it would be difficult enough while standing on stable ground without a moving target. Pulling it off while hurtling through the open sky would be next to impossible, but Spark didn’t really have any other options at the moment. “Tell me where the closest one is. Try to be as accurate as possible.” He prayed to Celestia that his magic would be strong enough and that his plan would work.

“Um,” Inferno started, until they dropped a few more yards suddenly and the young dragon shrieked with fright. Spark placed a hoof on her scaly shoulder to try calming her down.

“Inferno, I need you to focus,” Spark explained as calmly as he could. “Where is the closest griffon?”

Inferno took a deep breath before answering, “To your left and a little ways out.” Spark facehoofed when he heard the poor directions the young dragon gave. With him being blind, she had to be very precise so he could guide his magic to the right spot.

“I need you to be very specific,” Spark explained to her. “One o’ clock, three thirty, ten inches out, twenty yards out or what?” Hopefully she could do this even though she was panicked, Spark thought, otherwise the outlook for all of them was going to be pretty bleak.

“Oh, uh, there’s one charging toward us on your, uh, four. It’s about, um, maybe fifteen yards out and about head level.” That was much better, Spark acknowledged. The rest was up to him now. His horn flared with light as he probed around for the attacking griffon. The reach of the unicorn’s magic was put to the test. He didn’t feel a connection with anything solid though and his focus began to waver.

“Damn it. Come on, Spark, you can do this,” he whispered to himself. One last reach of his power finally yielded results. Spark felt some part of the griffon straining against his grip. “I got you.” The sightless stallion’s horn flashed with green light as he twisted whatever body part he had grabbed onto as hard as he could. Beside him, Inferno inhaled sharply as she watched his work.

“I think you just broke his wing,” Inferno grimaced. “He’s dropping like a stone.” She sounded sorry for the griffon and Spark understood her apprehension for violence, but it was them or the enemy at that moment. The unicorn would do what he had to in order to keep the promises he had made and if that meant ending a life, so be it.

They both nearly toppled over as one of the griffons rammed into the bottom of the chariot. Spark heard Strata cry out in pain as the harness bit into her flesh. This time he didn’t need Inferno to tell him where their enemy was. As soon as he steadied himself, the stallion reached out and took hold of the hybrid creature with his magic. There was a struggle from the mercenary as they fought against the spell, trying their best to break free of his magic. Spark was nearly dragged over the edge of the chariot and would have been doomed, had Inferno not taken a firm hold of his tail right then.

“Ouch!” Spark griped as he fought to keep his concentration on the spell, even as he felt strands of his coarse hair beginning to rip out of his tail. “Just bucking stop already!” he shouted as he ripped hard on the griffon. Finally, Spark felt something on the griffon give, with a loud pop! At the same time, the unicorn’s horn sparked and died. The magic dissipated and allowed the griffon to fall out of the grey skies and to his certain death, far below the clouds. Inferno pulled Spark back in the chariot and let out a sigh of relief, but the moment was short lived.

“There’s one more and he’s diving right for us!” Strata screamed at them as she tried to maneuver out of the path of the incoming attacker. The weight of the cart was slowing her down too much though and she wasn’t able to get out of the way in time. “We’re about to take a direct hit!” A loud crash sounded out as the griffon nearly toppled them over and Inferno screamed out in terror.

“Inferno, my horn’s dead! I need you to torch them when they get close!” Spark shouted. She didn’t answer, so he placed a hoof on her shoulder and asked again.

“I-I think I can manage,” the dragon replied. Spark knew he had to think of some way to save them. Magic was out of the question, because his horn wouldn’t produce more than a spark. His heart raced as he tried in vain to figure something out. Whoosh! He felt hot air rushing past his side as Inferno unleashed a blaze of dragon fire into the air. The stallion’s mind shot into overdrive, thoughts racing through his head at an unbelievable speed. Whoosh! Another torrent of flames deflected the mercenary’s next attempt, but there was no way that the young dragon would be able to keep it up for long. Suddenly everything clicked into place as Spark came up with an idea. There was no way the chariot could get away with the three of them. His friends were top priority in the unicorn’s mind, so that left only one choice that he thought had a chance of success.

“Tell me when he comes back around again!” Spark shouted over the rushing winds. Sweat poured from his brow as he dug through his saddle bags, searching for a specific container.

“He’s coming back this way!” Inferno shouted back. Spark was having trouble finding what he sought, but he kept frantically rummaging through his belongings. Finally his hoof brushed against the object he was after. “He’s almost here!” screamed the red dragon. There was no time for Spark to talk himself out of this then. Good. He opened the small vial and shoved it up to his nostril. The minute the pony snorted the crystalline powder, he felt his heart hammering against his chest as if trying to escape.

“Aaaagh!” Spark screamed. The rush of adrenaline was intense, but it was also the only way he was going to be able to do what he had to.

“What are y-”

“Where is he, Inferno!?” Spark cut the dragon off with a scream. His entire body felt like it was on fire. The blood coursing through the unicorn’s system seemed to radiate with static energy and his veins throbbed with every beat of his heart

“Left side and coming fast,” Inferno told him. The dragon sounded scared and that only increased Spark’s pulse. “He’ll hit us in five, four, three-” She didn’t finish the count before Spark had launched himself off of the side of the chariot and into midair, aiming right for the griffon.

“What the hay!” Inferno shrieked in surprise. Spark barely heard her scream of horror over the rush of blood in his ears. Time seemed to slow for the stallion and it felt like an eternity passed before he crashed horn first into the approaching mercenary, the force of Spark’s entire body weight slamming into his adversary and knocking them off course. Libra’s pointed tip pierced flesh and elicited a cry of anguish from the griffon. Claws raked against the unicorn’s hide in return as their bodies entangled and they began to plummet to the earth.

Nausea overcame Spark as they spun through the air and he tasted bile when it rose to the back of his throat, but the tearing of flesh drowned out the unicorn’s other thoughts as the Red Eye’s claws met with his face. The stallion’s stomach gave out then and vomit spilled out of his mouth coating the both of them in its sticky filth. The stomach acid burned Spark’s throat and had a foul stench. Finally, the falling pony was able to get his legs between himself and his enemy and kick them apart. Now he was in full free fall and the terrible realization of what he had just done hit Spark like a charging hydra.

This was worse than any of Spark’s nightmares. He could gauge the speed of his descent by the force of the air rushing past his body, as his mane and what was left of his tail whipped behind him. He couldn’t even muster a scream and every breath entering his lungs burned like smoke. His heart was beating so furiously that Spark was surprised it didn’t give out. No, that would be too easy, he thought, of course I have to live for the whole ride down. The stallion wasn’t as scared as he thought he should be however, and it seemed a little strange to him. Even with the large quantities of drugs in his system, Spark’s mind seemed to be in a state of calm. Well, most of his mind was anyway.

You did it, you saved your friends, Spark thought as he plummeted down to the earth. At the cost of your own life, you bucking moron, a darker part of the unicorn’s mind argued with him. Tears filled Spark’s eyes and were swept from his cheeks by the force of the air rushing past him. It was worth it, he thought. Was it really though? Is Strata going to be able to convince the hippogriffs to form a treaty without you? You only delayed your friends’ deaths, moron, his mind argued. No. Even if they can’t form the alliance, I know that Draft and Downpour will stop the war from occurring, Spark told himself. Those two slackers, are you serious? Spark really hated his own psyche sometimes. The pegasus brothers would have help from Chestnut, Silver Blood and many others. Spark was pretty sure that they would succeed. Only pretty sure? Shut up. I’m a part of you, stupid, I can only ask what you’re really thinking, his mind shot back. Let me die with at least a little peace, he sighed inwardly. The negative voice in the stallion’s head finally quieted after that.

Spark wasn’t sure how long he had been falling anymore. It seemed like ages, but without being able to see, the unicorn couldn’t really tell how far he had dropped or how far was left to go. He said a quick apology to the princesses in his head, not that they could hear Spark, but it did make him feel a little better. He wished the best for his home, his family and his friends. Mostly though, Spark thought about Heart Charm, the mare he loved. He hoped that his death wouldn’t break her heart, that she would move on without much pain and that she would eventually forgive him. With that last thought finished, the doomed pony took a deep breath and waited for impact. A few seconds later however, Spark still hadn’t died yet, so he let out his breath as a scream of annoyance.

“Celestia damnit!” Spark shouted. “How long until I just die alr- augh!” Crunch! His body finally connected with something and the air left his lungs in a burst of hot, wet breath. Pain lanced through his body, a pain unlike anything that the stallion had ever felt in his life. The breaking of bones sounded like thunder in his head and the coppery taste of blood filled the unicorn’s mouth. For a few minutes, Spark lived in pure agony. He cursed the fact that he hadn’t smoked one last joint before the end. What a tragedy, he thought. The fight to stay conscious only lasted a brief time before Spark passed into a nothingness worse than he had already been stuck in.

Author's Note:

Damn, I can be a bit cruel to that poor stallion sometimes, but at least it can't get any worse, right? I like to think that my action writing has improved over time, but I must say that last scene was still fun to write.

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