• Published 1st Jun 2019
  • 1,826 Views, 105 Comments

The Tomb of the Nameless Evil - Klamnei



Sidestory to Fecundity. The Elements of Harmony and Maud Pie struggle to learn the ancient secrets of Mount Everhoof's most deadly cave.

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Part 7 - Emergence

Part 7 - Emergence

Sacred light, outshine the dark
stave off the spirits’ glow
Fill our hearts with harmony
and melt away the snow.

They came from farthest reaches north
those ghastly, eerie wights
The shrill howls made our blood run cold
and filled our hearts with strife.

Scores were frozen in their tracks
as tribes turned tail and fled
For those who tried to fight them were
soon buried with the dead.

Sacred light, outshine the Dark;
stave off the spirits’ glow
Fill our hearts with harmony
and melt away the snow.

We galloped south to warmer lands
frost clinging to our manes
At last a home we found anew
Equestria its name.

Yet soon those foul ghosts followed us
to bring more strife and fright
First there came the icy gales
and then the wint’ry blight.

Sacred light, outshine the dark;
stave off the spirits’ glow
Fill our hearts with harmony
and melt away the snow.

-Excerpt from the Hearth’s Warming Ballad


“I doubt the windigos know the Elements power up on a curve.” Twilight’s blazing mane flapped in the wind as she spoke. “We can use that to lure them in for a point-blank attack. By the time we reach our power spike, it’ll be too late to stop us.”

Below them, the frozen violet sea was trembling. Eerie arcane lights flashed from the leylines like some perverse night rave. The crawling sensation of evil clawed at their minds and made their skin shiver, leaving them cold inside despite their light and flame.

Applejack fiddled with her hat... only to remember she wasn’t wearing it. Earlier, she’d been the one to ask why blasting the windigos through the ice wasn’t an option. In short, the ice would dampen their attack, they didn’t know how deep the three leylines were, they didn’t know how many windigos there were even down there, or even where said windigos were located. They couldn’t just aim down and fire when each leyline was a half-mile wide “river” snaking throughout the forest-sized cavern.

Twilight called to the odd member out on their team. “Neighsay, you’re probably aware your space to maneuver will shrink as we gain power. I can suggest some tactics my sister has taught me, but this isn’t the time for bickering.”

Neighsay regarded Twilight, a scant thirty yards away. She was smaller than a doll to him, yet her incredible power, just hers alone, was like a thousand thunderstorms. Being this close to all six of them nearly made his skin blister. “Your sibling is one of our best tacticians. I’d be an idiot to refuse that kind of advice—”

CHKKKKKKKT-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T

The group whirled. The sound had come from the machine below: Clunky, ancient parts were chunking, some moving faster while others slowed down. Entire components fought to switch gears with jerky, stilted motions like a seizure. The scraping squeal of metal nearly made their ears bleed.

“What’s happening?!” said Fluttershy.

Neighsay gaped at the Centimane. “That girl! She’s done something! I can sense her essence directing the machine itself!”

Rainbow’s pupils shrank. “Maud’s what is doing WHAT?!”

Pinkie’s world slowed. The memory of the pilfered scroll from Sombra’s lair flashed in her mind. “Maud...”

A hydraulic whine rose above the tempest. The leyline current was increasing, its strobing light drawn stronger to the Centimane. Chemical clouds spewed from grates and tall stacks as the arcane glow travelled up and into the Centimane’s trunk. Many branches closed their vents to cease belching frigid air, their internal sluice gates directing the gathered magic.

“Look!” Rarity pointed at several branches lighting up. “Those have spell runes!”

Indeed they did. Engravings as broad as the foundations of houses, all glowing along the longest branches and angled towards the outgoing pipelines. The runes were so bright that Twilight could read them through the haze.

“Time.” Twilight leaned forward, squinting. “Space. Heighten. Enlarge... Open? That sounds like a—”

RUMMMMMMMBLE

Freezing, magic-laden winds spewed from the Centimane. Tanks ruptured like overfilled balloons, the shrapnel tearing through mechanisms and nearly causing a chain reaction. There was now an eerie, heavy feeling throughout the cavern... like time itself was getting denser.

“WE’RE OUT OF TIME!” Neighsay’s bellow startled the girls. “THEY’RE COMING!”

Twilight gnashed her teeth. “DO WHATEVER YOU CAN! Girls, form a circle! Backs to each other!”

The glow of magic travelled up the Centimane’s branches and gave their tips a blinding glow. Sizzling lances of arcane energy distorted the surrounding air, the building energies fighting with the impossible interference. The windigos’ disembodied screams were louder than ever: hoarse, straining, and filled with despair.

Then, for the first time in over a millennium, ALL of the Centimane’s vents stopped. Even the humongous wing vents came to a standstill, sputtering and dying out with a wheeze. The girl’s hearts hammered as they looked all around. They could hear the thrum of the planetary leylines, the groan of straining metal, the whoosh of Neighsay’s retreating mist form, the WHUM of the charging—

KRA-KOWWWWWWW

Energy beams bigger than trains exploded from the Centimane. The recoil crushed its branches like aluminum, each ray gouging the icy surface like a pressurized ocean swell. Twilight and the others braced themselves as the shockwave threw them back. It was several seconds before the blinding flash had dimmed, but in its wake, Twilight spotted the fading gargantuan rays travelling along the rattling pipelines.

Seconds passed. The air was still heavy, charged, and ominous. There was no indication on what Maud had just done, and Twilight hadn’t yet voiced her suspicions. They huddled close and scanned the horizon for any—

zrrrrrrrrm

The girls froze.

zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm-zrrrrrrrrm

It sounded like a cross between Twilight accessing her pocket dimension and Neighsay’s portal medallion. The noise came from every direction, and each time, it was followed by a spike of energy that was both familiar and unsettling. Twilight was the most disturbed, shuddering at the memories of being trapped in that horrible void...

Except that these rifts weren’t the same. Their construction was similar, but they exuded no evil. Their auras were serene, almost musical; random notes chiming in the girls’ minds and making their hair stand on end.

Then, at last, something fragmented, tarnished, jumbled... and beautiful emerged.

“Holding cells...” Twilight understood what she’d fallen into now. The ones in Sector Three had likely been repurposed like everything else, their occupants only detectable while the door was open. A devious prison with a ridiculous lock in a nigh-untraceable location.

“Oh, my...” Rarity put a hoof to her chest. “Is that—”

VRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRM

The low thrumming of a geomancy signal reverberated through the cavern. In response, the sources of musical energy pulled free of the portals and zoomed forward, travelling towards the Centimane via Sombra’s tacked-on pipes.

“Maud...” Twilight steadied herself. “We need to protect that machine! Start charging the Elements, girls! We’ll get them as they—”

And then it happened. The fixed point in their timeline; one of the greatest temporal bottlenecks of quantum causality. The convergence of countless timelines made local space-time slow to a crawl. Reality stretched around the moment like a rubber band, the temporal inertia building until it was able to force the fixed point through and catch up with the rest of time. Twilight and the girls had no meaningful temporal senses to speak of, but were an interdimensional being to scry this moment, they’d see local space-time “snap” forward to catch up.
And for any interdimensional creatures within the fixed point, this “snap” would be enough to disrupt any temporal abilities... like blocking out a past event.


Ŕ̴̤͉͓̐͌̋G̷͚̈́̇͛̋G̴̬̳̭̏͂̊ͅG̴̙̬̣̭̎͗̆G̶̡̪͔͐̊G̵̢̨̠͎̔̈́̽A̸͐̈́̐͌͜Ǡ̸̦̹̬͚̾̕A̸͖̻̋̀͛Ä̷̬͔̙̤́̽̕Á̸͈̖H̴̛̙̫̦̆͝͝H̷͇̱̜̔͂̈́̕H̵̨̡̟̭̄̀͆H̷̘́̅͌H̶̰̙̟̔̎H̴͈̲̜͊̈́͗͘H̵̟͆̋͌


The windigo’s psychic voices felt like sandpaper. To call their screams enraged would be like saying the surface of the sun was warm. Their murderous, vengeful, vicious emotions erupted from the depths to ravage the group.

Krk-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k!

The first split of ice was indescribable. Cracks large enough to be crevasses formed beyond the girls’ range of sight, but they soon saw the cracks creeping towards the Centimane. Each one came from the direction of a pipeline.


̷̛͚̓̔Ä̷̧M̶̡͓̰̼͊́͘O̵͓̅R̸̤͑̄Ẹ̷͙͛̽͆ͅ


W̴͇̅̀͌E̶̻̪͍̎͝ ̵̘́̽̚R̸̡̬͋̌E̴̬̦͊͒̀ͅM̶̡̧̞̓̍E̵̻͒̈́̃͠ͅM̶̩͛̾B̶̢̥̲͙̍̀E̷̗̍̅R̴̠͍̤͒ ̷̧̢͍̦̍N̵̘̯̯̱̓͂̍Ó̷͚͙͓̚͝Ẇ̴̬̼̮͉̃͝


Ý̷̰̈́͌̕O̵̯̬͊͒U̵̺͗ ̵̤̘̬̓͑̒Ŵ̴̩̫̿Ö̶̻̪̭̤́́̍N̴͕̈́'̷̯͈̥̖͒̔̿Ţ̸̼̞͘̚ ̵̜̽̎̀̅Ȩ̷͠S̷̰̠͗͠ͅÇ̸͔͓̒͠ͅÁ̷̧͗͝P̷͖̞̪̅̌̆E̸̹͕͈̲̒̑́


Fwwwwwwwwwshhhhh!

The first numbing gale was like death itself. Deafening, bone-chilling wails resonated with the evil haze to strengthen it into corrosive, filmy gunk. The air tasted like ashes as a fiery prismatic sphere took shape around the girls, the hiss of vaporized filth rising alongside their spreading aura.

“YOU WANT HER?” Twilight’s empowered shout boomed throughout the cavern. COME AND GET HER!”

Meanwhile, Neighsay watched the tarnished objects zoom towards the Centimane. He might’ve pursued them were the circumstances different, but alas, the apocalypse waited for nopony. It was time to enter the fray.

“Now, if the shadowfrost sheet will hinder the Elements, then these vapors certainly won’t help.” Neighsay’s fanged grin grew wider. “And I can’t very well fight on an empty stomach...”

What none of the fools had realized was the fetid darkness wanted to pour into him. Abstaining hadn’t been easy, but now he could relax, open his maw wide, and let it all come to him. Electric tingles raced down his spine as the energy spilled down his throat. His hunger was so great that the bland, airy taste may as well have been sweet cotton candy. Wild, tingling ecstasy shot through him as the flow of energy doubled, then doubled again, and again, and AGAIN, new strength adding to his already-tremendous power.

“Yesssssssssssss...” Anticipation swirled in Neighsay’s breast. He could feel his body soaking up the energy like a sponge, sparks crackling around him and his entire form rumbling. His shoulders widened with new muscle. His tail thickened and snaked out farther. His neck stretched skyward to elevate his perspective. He became the center of a hungry cyclone, his frame expanding outward, growing leagues faster than he had in the Sanctum.

But of course, such actions didn’t go unnoticed.

“NEIGHSAY!” Applejack’s Element blared in her mind. “CONSARN IT!”

Rarity sneered. Far off in the distance, she could see a hazy whirlwind sucking up all the fog. “I see his game.”

She didn’t, actually, but Rainbow did. “He’d be going for the ice over the fog if he had! He’s clearing the air to give us a better shot!”

Fluttershy meeped as the vacuum’s radius spread past them. “B-But, he’s getting even bigger! What if he gets too strong to stop?!”

Twilight bit back a curse. Whether Neighsay intended to or not, he’d just given her an idea. A stupid, reckless, utterly insane idea. “I’ll handle him in a second! Focus on charging the Elements!”

“Shouldn’t you stop him NOW?!” said Pinkie.

“TRUST me!” Twilight said back.

The corruption haze dispersed rapidly. It first cleared along the lake’s surface before lifting like a billowing curtain. It wasn’t long before the girls saw the widening cracks in the shadowfrost sheet, though each “crack” was a trench the size of Ghastly Gorge. The upheaval was deafening, but it still couldn’t drown out the windigos’ screams. A stifling sensation was pressing in on the girls; a cold, lonely despair woven into the noise. They were nothing but meager specks of light struggling to stay aglow.

Several hundred-foot thick glacial slabs began rising in great heaves. As they did, the visibility improved enough for Twilight to spot something a few miles out on the ice: thin, tall tower-like structures supported by numerous cables. The pipe that’d led them here was using its architecture to climb to the ceiling.

“Look!” Applejack pointed to another tower in another direction. It too was connected to a pipe. “Maud musta been firin’ at those!”

She was right. Twilight could see the towers were covered in strange prongs like tuning forks that were glowing from the Centimane’s beam. They almost looked like miniature mana wells—

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT!

The prongs lit up like stars. The other towers came to life as well, white energy surging down them to pierce the icy depths. Distorted, elongated silhouettes flickered across the ice that could’ve enveloped whole towns in shadow. The windigos’ enraged cries became tortured shrieks as they were caught in a sort of inverted lightning storm.

“By Celestia...” Twilight watched the glacial slabs fall with incredible BOOMS! She could sense something vile, twisted, and POWERFUL being drawn up and pumped into Sombra’s shoddy pipes. “Maud...”

“I BELIEVE IN HER!” Pinkie yelled. “C’MON!”

The shadows kept flickering amidst the fissures’ warped light. The girls’ flames burned hotter as a sense of calm fell over them, the oppressive dark struggling against their rising might. Their eyes danced with every color under the sun. The sigils on their legs shone brighter. They could feel each other’s Elements as much as their own, their souls singing and becoming ever-more entwined.

SHKKKKKT!

The fissures destabilized the towers. First the foundations gave, then the support cables snapped, and the pipes came loose and fell with loud CLANGS that were lost in the wind. The prongs shorted out as the structures buckled and fell into the leyline abyss...

...and the windigos stopped screaming.

Twilight’s voice echoed with power. “Be careful! Watch for cracks beneath us!”

It was chaos. Ancient pipes fell like dominos while lethal winds blew and mammoth glaciers heaved. Eldritch light strobed amidst the struggles of a dying contraption and a foul monster taking form. The girls took solace in the Elements’ rising light, but the stakes weighed heavy on their minds.

The chasms were advancing fast towards the Centimane. The darkness was receding, but it almost seemed too easy. Where once their purifying blaze fought to gain ground, now it spread unchallenged. The windigos were still silent.

Twilight’s eyes flicked to Neighsay. He was insatiable, devouring energy ever-faster like a black hole. It was hard to tell how much he’d grown, but his aura was downright cancerous. Had he surpassed the largest dragons now? How long until he was—NO! FOCUS! Embrace the virtues of the Elements! Keep the rising energies stable! Twilight grimaced, thinking back to her parents’ lessons of stability and control. That wisdom was the reason she could now—

Her parents.

NEIGHSAY.

MAKE. HIM. PAY.

It was the risk of channeling such volatile power. Twilight snarled, seeing red from a sudden eruption inside her. The others gasped at her anger, but they could do little more than keep Twilight’s fury from spreading. There was a whooshing as they saw her channeling energy into a focused point before her.

“T-Twi!” Rainbow yelled. “TWI!”

All Twilight could hear was the pounding in her ears. A superheated bead of flame formed at her command, its brightness casting everything into sharp relief. Her raw fury made arcs of energy dance across it like plasma.

Rainbow reached for her, but it was too late. With a mighty scream, Twilight unleashed hell.

Neighsay was in bliss. His bulky muscles rippled, his bones lengthened, his scales expanded, all while invigorating strength saturated his majestic form. His body felt as light as a feather. The wondrous sensation thrummed in his ears; he’d never felt more alive in his entire life! Power coursed within his very flesh! He could feel the sheer weight and power behind his movements, yet all he wanted was MORE! Forget the windigos, forget the puny Elements of Harmony, forget EVERYTHING—

There was a twinkle in his peripheral.

BOOM!

The turbulent winds turned the fireball into a firestorm. There was only a split second before everything faded to white, yet even that second was hell, for in it he felt his scales sizzle and split, his skin blistering and charring. Fire, light and sound engulfed his colossal form several times over, throwing him back like a ragdoll and sending him plummeting to earth like a burning wreck.

Twilight’s rage morphed into horror. Someone far away was still screaming. She learned later it was her.

RUMMMMMMMBLE

As the vortex around Neighsay cleared, they all saw he’d been hovering over a spreading fissure as wide and long as a small farm. He fell somersaulting in freefall while the girls looked on in horror, the exposed leyline giving his falling form a bloody tint.

Then, a WHOOMPH of upward-rushing air made their ears pop. A loud, horrid grating tortured the girls’ senses. The whole cavern shook more than ever, vapors billowing from the revealed fissure...

... as the head of something BIG—FAR too big—emerged from the depths.

The windigo looked exactly as the legends described. It was a translucent creature with glowing white eyes and a mane like a winter thunderstorm. However, nowhere had the legends said anything about their size being out of the ordinary. The windigo wasn’t just huge, it was impossible. It was beyond possibility or understanding, beyond thought or idea! Its ghostly head alone dominated the girls’ vision, with Neighsay, large as he was, barely a morsel!

Twilight’s plans lay forgotten. She tried to rally the power of the Elements, but her efforts fell on deaf ears. There was only this god-like creature and its inescapable, suffocating aura. The girls were drowning in insignificance, sinking ever-deeper despite their feeble struggles.

It felt like it happened in slow motion, yet also far too fast. The giant windigo emerged right underneath Neighsay, his burning, smoldering form showing no sign of life. The creature opened its fanged mouth wide... wider... wider... then with a booming SNAP and audible GULP, he was gone.

Ö̸̭N̵͉̿Ḛ̵̽ ̶̬̿D̴̹̂O̵̫̽W̴̪̽N̸͇̚ The windigos’ profane chorus invaded the girls’ minds. E̵̗͒I̶͈̋G̵͓̈́H̸̲̉T̵̝̚ ̵̱͊T̷͈̈́Ọ̴͆ ̵͚̉Ğ̶̺Ŏ̵̮

There was no time to process the loss. The shadowfrost sheet was still rumbling, convulsing like a dying host. The first windigo freed itself in full with a vicious, baleful cry. Behind the girls, the second one burst out of the ice like an oversized parasite. Three more emerged in the distance, raw magic dripping off them like liquid. Another seven broke free in eyeshot, and seven more after that. Too many to count were breaking free, creating so much cracking and grating the girls feared their ears might explode. The scope of this cavern was proving to be even more unfathomable than they’d anticipated.

Windigos emerged in droves across the colossal cavern. The force of their escape sent stray shadowfrost chunks the size of buildings sailing through the air...

...many of which fell toward the Centimane.

“NO!” Whatever terror Pinkie had was replaced by a greater fear. Flames jetted from her hooves as she drew deep on her Element, taking off like a living rocket and blasting straight THROUGH the nearest multi-ton chunk. She continued to zip around breaking up as many as she could, each strike marked by mighty CRACKS and the bubbling hiss of steam.

Pinkie’s takeoff was enough to rouse the others. They reacted, following after and helping protect the Centimane. Every hunk of catapulting ice took time and energy to destroy, which in turn allowed more and more panic to worm into their hearts. How could this be real?! There’d never heard a single thing about the windigos being so... so BIG! No survivor accounts had mentioned it, no journal entries, no myths, nothing! Was this some kind of “true” form that’d never been revealed? Had multiple millennia of absorbing magic turned them into gods? Had Hydia done something worse than her epitaph had implied?!

None of them were sure. They weren’t sure of anything anymore.

The windigos paid little heed to the would-be “heroes” (more like literal gnats). Rather, they were far more intent on removing the devices connecting them to the ruined Centimane towers. These devices, which were attached to the back of their necks, resembled giant syringes with shorter, thicker plungers and barrels. Far-too-large needles became visible upon the windigos assisting each other in their removal, their fresh bellows of pain not helping the girls’ fraying nerves.

The Centimane ultimately endured, but the damage had been done. The Elements’ power spike was still far off. The windigos were flying closer to them now, their white eyes alight with malice. The girls couldn’t take in all of their immense bodies. Lithe and transparent, each windigo was like an entire traversable field, a plain, a mountain. The sheer weight and power behind their simplest movements was palpable, enough to ruin cities just by passing nearby. The girls couldn’t tell how many there were, not even with their magical senses. Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?! Were there still countless more yet to emerge?!


T̶͖̯͑H̵̛͖̘͛̅͝E̷͎̊ ̸̪̹̋̃͂̈M̷̭̣̘̯͌̀̎Ò̸̳̬̑̂̚S̴̩͗T̸̤̘̹̭͐ ̸̘́̑̍̚P̷̗̥̯̃̋̇͝Ò̶̤̻͇̲̀W̷̦̹̙̾E̸̛̼̔̍Ṙ̵͖̘̓͒̾F̷͓͑̾U̶͈̓͋L̷̡̅ ̶͈͕̓ͅƠ̸̲͚̅̇̚F̴̺̥̭̔̈́͜͝͝ ̸̡̊̃̕T̵͔̻͉̚H̵͙͂̆E̴̟̟͓̓̃ ̸̛͚͓̲̎̃͌E̴̖̻̗̺͑R̶̞̮͛͆̄A̴̛͕̘͕͖͆ The windigos laughed, cold and cruel. Ṗ̸̖̙̈̆͝͠ͅÀ̴̻̏̒T̴̨̛͚̥͖͍̑͒͋Ḩ̸̪͇̿̿͌̎͋E̷͕̖͍͚̜͑̑̂Ṯ̶̰̟̽́̕͜Ȋ̴̦͔̊̄͒͝C̵͖̋̓̌̕͝


Pinkie was whimpering. Rarity was hyperventilating. Applejack was choking back a scream. Rainbow was clenching her jaw enough to crack a tooth. Fluttershy was using The Stare on impulse just so she wouldn’t faint. Twilight knew she should rally them, but her sharp mind was gripped by dread. The windigos were veritable forces of nature; vast, spectral servants sworn to bring the end! Had it been insanity to challenge fate like this?

The windigos hemmed the girls in on all sides. Twilight could clearly see every detail of their serpentine forms, their bodies arched up into the sky to loom over them. The windigos began circling while singing a manic, high-pitched song. The remaining haze started to lift; not disappear, but lift.

“No...” Twilight realized what they intended. She was the one who always came up with the great ideas, but if what they were already trying couldn’t defeat this...

Up, up, up the haze traveled on the rising wind, guided by a maddening melody that shaped it into dark clouds.

Storm clouds.

The entire ceiling was obscured in moments. Like a rain of grimy ash, enchanted flakes of malice and scorn started falling down in suffocating sheets. The girls’ flames shielded them from the effects at first, but soon frigid flakes were pelting their coats and soaking their skin. Thoughts of an ice-covered world filled their minds: Frozen oceans, endless bleak tundras, cities turned gravesites with mountains as their only marker. The Elements’ power had plateaued. The girls couldn’t see anything but the immense, over-bright eyes of their circling foes. The chill was seeping into their lungs and dampening their spirits, the vile, viscous gunk so cold it burned.

“N-Not... like th-th-this...” Twilight felt the Elements falling out of sync. She was wet and shivering, numbness setting into her limbs. Visions of the windigos reigning from an eternally-dark sky dominated her mind. Perhaps there really had been no sense in trying to change a fixed point in time. Perhaps Hydia’s victory really had been secured long ago, and a lowly group of six hadn’t stood—

SKREEEEEE

—but perhaps seven could.

The shrill whistle came from the Centimane. Its vents had reopened so they could vomit out a black, smoke-like substance. Each metallic retch made the smoke rise into the swirling storm, with strange dark columns now splitting away as if cut by a knife. These columns continued to spiral up like a multi-faceted helix.

NOW the windigos noticed. They stopped singing and growled, the wounds on their necks throbbing.

The columns split into thousands of globs. Each glob ranged from the size of a pony to an ursa minor, continuing to take shape like a potter molding clay. They were all unique save for they all looked like polished stone constructs—eyeless, faceless things with angular features, dense bodies, and wicked hooked claws.

Seconds later, a new Army of Shadows hovered in the evil storm.


The windigos snorted. D̸̜̆Ỏ̴̤͔̖̌̆͌Ñ̶͎͈̻̭̉̀'̴̳̪̹͎̌͊̋Ṱ̸̂̔̃̊̆ ̸͔̤̫̐̏M̴̩̜͎̈̊̌A̶̡̝͍͇̮͊̒͝K̸̛͔̲͎̃͂͜E̷͎̰̋ ̴̭̰̝̔͝U̸͙͉͂͑̃̌Ś̴̪̣͖͎̣͛ ̶͕͉̦͒̀̀͠L̸͕͙̳͇̤͊͐A̶͙͂̈́̆͑Ū̵̗̔G̸͍̀H̸̠͙̖̓,̴̣̙̰̀ͅ ̸̱̅͗̅Ḁ̸̼̐̾̇̀̓M̶̢̤̖͖͍͋̋͘O̷͔̐̽̓R̴̹̼̈́͑̈̕É̶̥̏


One of the larger soldiers flew to the front of the army. It made the shrill whistle again, pointing at the windigos and slicing across its throat.

Murder filled the windigos’ eyes. Yet tempted as they were, that alone wasn’t enough to draw them—

CRUNCH

Stabbing, gut-wrenching pain wracked the windigos' hivemind. One of them let out a raw scream, clutching its abdomen and doubling over. The others spun and gathered around it, though they weren’t entirely sure—

Another excruciating CRUNCH. The afflicted windigo shrieked and took off in an erratic flight across the cavern. Its pain continued to echo through the hivemind, not only making them all suffer... but making the unnatural storm falter.

It was all the opportunity Fluttershy needed. Eyes still glowing, she locked gazes with the others one by one.

A third CRUNCH wracked the windigo. It’s body was now shrivelling, silvery blood leaking from its mouth. It continued to deflate like a balloon while thrashing and bucking, a leprous discoloration starting to spread across its torso. Its screams were getting weaker. Its movements were becoming sluggish. The truth was dawning on its comrades, yet they could only look on in horror while shouldering its pain.

The creature was a half-sized husk by the time its cries faded to nothing. It wasn’t so much bucking now; more like convulsing. There was one final CRUNCH, but the windigo hardly even flinched. Finally, it’s eyes darkened, and its body went limp. It started to fall out of the sky—

KA-BOOM!

The windigo was half a mile away when it happened. Its summoning spell ended, leaving behind all the magic it’d absorbed over the millennia, which then violently reverted and dispersed. Glittering shockwaves, concussive sound, and blinding light further added to the chaos in a spectacular display. The reeling windigos never even noticed the sudden absence of six bothersome fireflies...

M̶̫̬̉̊͝ǫ̶͚̪͑R̷͕̂ȇ̸̙͋

... though it soon became clear why.

Neighsay emerged from the smoke a burned, bloody wreck. He’d changed even further: His draconic eyes glowed with wintery light, his newfound psychic voice was abrasive and insane, leyline-violet accents graced his leathery wings, and swirling arctic winds mended his wounds faster than ever. He’d more than doubled in size since being eaten—still a toddler compared to the windigos, but also larger than the entirety of Canterlot Castle.

Neighsay’s expression was nothing but hunger and cunning. He roared, caustic drool streaming from his cavernous mouth, the force of his lungs alone a terror.

m̸͎̩͐͑̑Ò̵̩͍͑R̸̙̤͑͆͘͜ę̴̮͎̚

The windigos’ battlecry was hellish. They charged Neighsay with a speed that belied their great size, intent on avenging their fallen comrade no matter the cost. Neighsay charged as well, his hunger overriding even self-preservation. The storm resumed around them as they sped—

FWOOOOOOOOSH!

Merciless light. Unrelenting heat. The local area became bright as day as superheated flames ignited the very air. An incredible wall of holy fire sprang up between the opposing sides that stopped them in their tracks. “Incredible” truly was the only way to describe its power and scale, for even the scale of the arena and the combatants weren’t enough to overcome its might.

Neighsay bared his fangs. Perhaps self-preservation was important, after all. His broad, wavering shadow enveloped the Centimane as he hovered in place, his burn wounds only just closed.

Meanwhile, the windigos weren’t quite so deterred. They regrouped and split into groups to go around the wall at different angles—

SKREEEEEE

Except they’d forgotten about the Army of Shadows. The dark soldiers swarmed the legion’s rear in a silent and brutal ambush, dozens of windigos overwhelmed by a carpet of stabbing, slashing “ants”. Their targets tried disengaging and continuing on, crying out to the hivemind for help, but no luck. Maud’s army was too persistent, and the hivemind’s bloodlust too great.

The first group of windigos tried going over the wall. It was likely the safest option, as the storm clouds would give them—

THWPPPPP!

Ten GIANT flaming lassos whipped out of the fire wall. Screams of pain erupted from those captured, raw and unnerving.

“Can’t say I—ergh—enjoy this, but...” Applejack’s sigils flashed as she readied more sequoia-sized “ropes”. “At least y’all got an extra life!”

The group that tried going left fared no better. As soon as they got near the edge, a host of aurora-like embers sprang out to sow terror through their ranks. The entire force shrieked and recoiled.

“Take THAT, greedy brutes!” Rarity directed the ribbons with twirling, sweeping motions. “If you’re not going to share the world, you’ll just have to go home!”

The windigos’ blind fury proved their undoing. Those that kept trying to go over encountered Rainbow’s columns of divine fire. Those that went right were repelled by great fireballs that exploded like fireworks—Pinkie’s newly dubbed “Party Meteors.” Those that went under had to get past a host of flaming ursa majors, their wicked teeth and claws searing the windigos’ flesh. Some did get past despite the girls’ efforts, Neighsay meeting them with a renewed roar... but where before it would have been suicide, now at least there was a chance.

“A last... ergh... resort, discovered by luck.” Within the heart of the blaze, Twilight used her divine spark to empower her abilities. Her fiery mane was pure plasma, her body shining like a newborn star. “A balance could... nnngh... indeed be struck, until the Seeds of Evil’s Bane... mmf... could turn the tide and let peace reign...”

She didn’t feel like saying the last part.

Meanwhile-

The core was coming down around Maud. The squeal of metal was ear-splitting, the rushing wind like a constant rattling gasp. Colossal blasts of air pressure kept pushing her into her seat as structures above imploded. The floor was almost completely gone, and slick snowflakes fluttered from the ceiling amidst the windigos’ keening cries.

SCAN OF PARASITIC ENTITY COMPLETE

ALERT: BIOLOGY OF ENTITY ALLOWS FOR ASSIMILATION AND RAPID METABOLIC GROWTH

UPPER LIMIT UNKNOWN

Maud licked her lips. A strange, silvery liquid dripped from a pipe beside her, its tangy taste still on her tongue. Her body had become translucent, her aura of multicolored flames still somehow bright as ever. She’d gained the pure white eyes of a windigo, but the shadowfrost contrails had been replaced by holy fire. It was fortunate the flames didn’t hurt Sombra’s helm. Looks like the Elements’ upper limit is beyond your scanning boundaries, too. It’s going to be hard to determine—

“Let’s assume the best case scenario for a moment,” a voice said to Maud’s right. “Even if helping the girls winds up leading to victory, it’s not going to be enough to escape Pinkie’s shadow. It won’t even matter if all six of them shout your name from the rooftops; nopony’s going to remember your name, let alone the part you played.”

Maud’s eyes flicked to the speaker. They’d appeared upon her drinking the windigos’ blood, but she still wasn’t sure what they were. They looked like Maud’s ghostly, far more beautiful and expressive twin: sporting feminine curves, a gorgeous mane, bright twinkling eyes, and a beautiful emotive face.

“It’s a little late to try taking a page from Pinkie’s book.” The doppelganger's tone was matter-of-fact; no trace of mockery or cruelty to be had. “Besides, unlike her, your motivations are far from selfless. Do you think she cares about acknowledgement and distinction? Does she see disasters as opportunities to prove herself? Does she look at her friends and secretly want more of the spotlight?”

Maud ignored her. She focused on directing her army’s efforts to delay the windigos. I think I know what Twilight’s doing, Centimane. If the bulk of the legion is kept occupied until Neighsay is strong enough, the six of them can withdraw and finish charging the Elements. It’s a delicate balancing act, but I think it’s doable with our help.

ASSESSING...

NO ERRORS IN LOGIC DETECTED

ADVISORY: UPON ALLY WITHDRAWAL, USING FURTHER DELAYING TACTICS ON WINDIGOS AND/OR PARASITIC ENTITY WILL PROVIDE—

Pssshhhhhhhhhhhh!

The noise came from the back of the room. A cloud of glittering mana flowed into the air, the hissing leak only adding to the growing mayhem. The magenta mist quickly sank into the yawning pits which continued to open up throughout the room.

So much for the last mana coil. The mana vapors made Maud’s fangs tingle. I’m reading ten minutes now to core collapse. It’s going to be—

“What has harmony brought you, really?” Her twin circled around her with a scowl. “Fear and worry for your sister’s well-being? Anger and resentment at being constantly compared to her? Seclusion for fear of being used? I guess I see now why you’re willing to become a martyr, but that doesn’t seem very fair.”

It was hard to say why that cut so deep. Perhaps some part of Maud’s heart that agreed, some hidden aspect long turned bitter and resentful. Perhaps her logic and rationale were more compromised than she’d thought, or perhaps there was another reason she wasn’t even considering. Regardless of the catalyst, Maud found her resolve wavering, the Tears’ light an instant later.

“You of all ponies know the difference between theory and application.” Her twin stopped to stand in front of her. “It’s time you realized friendship and harmony are nothing more than just sweet-sounding words. Anxiety, anger, paranoia... THAT’S what this world has given you, so USE it! Wield it as a weapon, crush anyone who dared to keep you down! Give them a reason to fear you!"

She knew she shouldn’t listen. She knew she shouldn’t be letting her guard down and allowing more corruption to seep in. She knew she shouldn’t be enjoying the exhilaration of drowning in a velvety black sea. Her twin’s face was fervent, passion still etched upon her face; a passion that Maud only wished she could express.

Maud could feel the Tears responding less to her. The purifying light around her was fading, leaving her insides to feel like they were boiling. She felt light, like the slightest breeze would blow her away... yet the howling winds went right through her.

Centimane... Maud looked down at her body and almost screamed at the sight of her skin—no, her body—growing translucent. I-I... what’s the status of Princess Amore?

UNPRECEDENTED RESPONSE TO QUASI-ARTIFACT “TEARS OF LAUGHTER” RESULTING IN EXPEDITED RECOVERY

CURRENT SHARD INTEGRITY: 35%

Maud could swear the windigos’ song was getting louder. She could hear their ethereal voices calling her, their vast minds beckoning. I... know you’ve v-voiced concerns, but... I want you to w-wake her.

There was a long, painful silence.

Damn it, Centimane! Whispers of never being alone again filled Maud’s ears. She couldn’t hear them as well through the helmet; perhaps she should take it off. Can’t you tell I’m slipping?!

WITH OUR LIMITED TIME FRAME, THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE SEER

THIS METHOD CARRIES EXTREME RISK TO—

F̵O̷R̶G̶E̸T̸ ̶T̸H̵E̷ ̵D̸A̵M̷N̷ ̴R̸I̵S̴K̵ ̴Y̴O̴U̴ ̴S̴T̸U̴P̴I̷D̵ ̸M̴A̸C̷H̴I̸N̴E̷ Maud’s eyes flashed like winter lightning. D̵O̶ ̴I̷T̵ ̷O̴R̴ ̶I̵'̵L̸L̸ ̸T̸E̴A̸R̴ ̸Y̸O̶U̸ ̶A̴P̸A̶R̴T̶ ̵M̸Y̵S̴E̶L̸F̴

...

...

ESTABLISHING SOUL LINK NOW

The crystallized remains of Princess Amore were... not what Maud had expected. Jagged and unpolished, the dozens of black fragments were small and light enough for Maud to store in her meager straight mane. The Centimane’s intelligence had assured Maud their current state was merely a side effect of being in the pocket dimension for so long, and, all things willing, they should revert to their normal size and mass in a day or so.

A day may as well be a millennia right now...

Maud braced herself. She knew her twin was watching, but she couldn’t see their expression. The rumbles grew worse as the Centimane exerted more influence on Maud’s faltering mind. Pushing past her subconscious to access the metaphysical threads of her soul almost triggered the mental equivalent of a gag reflex, but she stomached it.

A thread of pure magic became attached to Maud’s spirit like a vacuum. It then went taut as the Centimane attached the other end to the Tears of Laughter. The Centimane then repeated the process with Princess Amore... somehow.

SOUL LINK ESTABLISHED - GALVANIZING SEER CONSCIOUSNESS

ADVISORY: IN THE EVENT OF IDENTITY OVERFLOW, THE LONG TERM EFFECTS ON AN UNSTABLE SOUL ARE UNKNOWN

SEER RESPONSE DETECTED - AVAILABLE FAILSAFES STANDING BY

There was no time to process Centimane’s words. Maud could feel the link resonating with her thoughts now, which basically meant she was thinking into a microphone. She had no choice but to swallow her questions for now. H-Hello? Princess Amore? Can you hear me?

The thought made the soul link vibrate like a harp string. The message disappeared beyond her mindscape, Maud losing track of it not long after it travelled through the Tears of Laughter. She watched and waited for any sign—

soul of Creation the queen of dark and dawn rises shAtter the witchs crystals scorn chaos at your peril oceans of Dead facEs a southern storm marches north the seveNth light is mine protect the scarlet viZier

Noise. Harsh, dissonant, overwhelming noise. Maud was aware of Amore’s soul now—a timeless, immeasurable, nonsensical presence. It conveyed colors Maud didn’t recognize, showed images she didn’t understand, divulged memories that weren’t hers.

shes going to hAte Me the lost student shall return scYthing blades will turn the tide she will never choose redemption soul of Destruction a school shall lead to peace bAlance in all things her heart remains on mount aris eleventh law of fUture siGHt

It was like standing on a beach and trying to comprehend the entire ocean. Maud was in two places at once while the jumble of nonsensicality BURNED her like acid. It was wonderful. It was horrible. It was unnatural. It was intrinsic. It was everything and nothing.

I can still see his face wayward hearTs of sirEs hollow an outsider wins the scepter the lifebRinger Is the key what if they never find me please let Me See her again the devourer knows the cure

She could see choices rippling across time. There was still so much to do; still so many that were owed an apology. She could only hope Celestia and Luna would give her the chance to explain. What was it Starswirl had always said? Something about paved roads and intentions—

NO! Maud struggled against the noise. She was drowning in Amore’s identity, sinking more and more into its depths. If the weight of it all didn’t crush her, its purity would burn her away. PRINCESS AMORE!

first law Of future Sight a trio restores the seven immunity of the mOons chosen beware the rook-marked child seek the dark pRinces counsel life and love will fill the north mourn not the tRee of harmonY

Nothing. Not a positive response, not a negative response. Even Amore’s barest “movements” drowned out Maud’s feeble voice. Desperate, Maud forewent her portion of the link and instead focused on the Tears of Laughter, attempting to make them shine once more. The action burned like pressing her face to a hot stovetop... but hope wasn’t something Maud lost easily.

ERRRRGH! The Tears shone like a lighthouse in a storm. Maud embraced the pain and shouted the only thing she could think of. Futures twisted, futures turned! One succeeded, the others burned! A foul fixed point, the path is set!

The flow of identity didn’t stop. Maud soldiered on nonetheless. She refused to believe this wasn’t part of the plan! She was NOT destined to become a windigo! The agony of channeling the Tears was worse than ever, but that just strengthened Maud’s resolve all the more. With all of her remaining strength, she let loose a scream echoed through their souls.

BUT ALL HOPE ISN’T LOST!

...

The deadly noise ceased. Deafening silence reigned. Amore’s memories and sensations vanished in a blink, fragmented echoes bouncing throughout Maud’s skull.

An impossible sensation of being noticed made Maud’s hair stand on end. The vast presence stirred again, the soul link thrumming with two gentle words.

Not... yet.

Maud would’ve slumped back if she wasn’t already sitting. Everything about her hurt, her twin was still staring, and the Centimane hadn’t stopped coming down around her... but a win was a win. W-Welcome back, Your Highness. I’ve come to get you out of—

A̶̬̤̐̈M̸̻͒Ö̷͈́̃R̸͎̎Ẽ̵̻

It happened in the blink of an eye. Maud’s twin ceased to be beautiful and instead became a gangly nightmare with claws and fangs. It leapt at Maud with an unholy shriek—

FAILSAFES ACTIVATED

FWSSSSSSH!

BZAM-BZAM-BZAM-BZAM-BZAM!

FWTTT-FWTTT-FWTTT-FWTTT!

VRRRRRRRRRRRRRM!

The room became a warzone. Fires ignited from hidden compartments, bursts of light exploded like fireworks, a strange geomancy signal went off, and Maud’s helmet released a psychic burst. The phantom’s shriek became a squeal, thrown back head over hooves and laid out on the cold steel. It teetered on the edge of a pit while continuously hammered by Sombra’s traps.

ALERT: FAILSAFE USAGE HAS EXPEDITED CORE COLLAPSE

REVISED TIME - TWO MINUTES

Maud’s blood ran cold. She could sense the phantom’s emotions now; what it was truly after. I... played right into their hooves...

Amore’s voice, if it could be called as such, was like a chorus of chimes. Your... name?

The shattered echoes in Maud’s head responded to Amore’s voice. Maud shuddered, still not sure what they were. M-Maudeline... Maud for short.

Maudeline... Amore played a gentle melody. Each note was as pure as fresh snow, her mysterious power reaching deep into Maud’s soul. Strong... name.

A great gust of wind blew in from outside. The phantom writhed on the ground while screaming Amore’s name. We don’t have much time, Maud told her. My friends are outside fighting the windigos. I’ve used Sombra’s adjustments to create an army under my control, but now I’m on the verge of becoming a windigo myself. We could really use your help.

A pause. Then, slow, warm chords drifted in like a waltz. Stone... metal... crystal... Each set of notes echoed more than the last. You... have... a... bond.

A chill went up Maud’s spine. Partially from worry, but she’d also become aware of a mental knot in her mind. It was resonating with Amore’s song. Princess, please. I know you’re disoriented, but—

Princess... Amore’s song became quite regal. I... was... Crystal... Princess.

The knot was untangling little by little. It hurt something fierce, but it was a good pain. Maud had no words as something bubbled up inside her, faint at first, but soon with a fullness, weighty in the depth it promised.

Love... joy... hope... The pain of channeling light and dark faded beneath Amore’s synchronizing song. No matter how strong one force became, the other grew as well; separate, yet connected. They... burn... bright... in... you.

And then the lingering echoes converged. Years of training, study, comprehension, and more, all gifted and understood in an instant. At first Maud didn’t understand The spiritual knot fully unravelled right after, and when it did...

Th-This is... It was like Maud had been wearing a blindfold all her life, only to have it suddenly ripped off. She could sense all the metal all around her, the stone above and below, even the sparkling Tears of Laughter in her ears. Princess...

Amore’s song quickened into a march. We... must... fight.

It was a strange thing. Half of Maud’s soul revelled in the corruption around them, yet the other half was now an unblemished beacon. The pain should be enough to drive her insane, yet she just felt... neutral. Of course, Your Highness. I swear I’ll do everything I can.

The failsafes were starting to give out. The phantom was struggling, outrage seething in its glowing eyes. It was still unclear whether it’d been trying to turn Maud or not, but the moment had passed either way. Maud could feel its revulsion for her, its murderous intent.

Rise Ser... Maudeline. Amore’s notes reached a crescendo. Paladin... of... Hope.

ALERT: FAILSAFES OFFLINE

The phantom screeched. It leapt at Maud with serrated claws bared.

Maud dissolved into mist. The phantom’s slash passed harmlessly through her as she flitted away. The phantom screamed, partially from fury, but also from a blinding shock of pain up its limb. It pulled back just in time to see its claw crumble to ash.

CLANG!

A series of pipes swarmed the phantom. They wrapped around its body and pinned it to the caving floor. Maud rematerialized in midair within eyeshot of her foe, hovering there with ease just like a windigo.

“All that talk about ‘what I really want’, yet you never even came close.” With a casual wave of her hoof, Maud RIPPED the metal throne free of the center column. Bolts of mana sizzled around the multi-ton mass. "What would a windigo know of family, anyway?”

Ŷ̸̢̛̗̯͝Ö̷̥̹͉U̷͍͑̉͝ ̷̩̥̊W̶̛͈͌͝Ị̴͆͋̓L̵̮̦̖̐̽́L̵̻̚͘ ̸̰̎D̸̼́I̶̭͑E̵͔̝͕̔͂̈́ ̷̖̦̅̉͘S̵̢̓͜C̴̡̣̃̀͆ͅR̶̢̈́̂É̸̢͉A̶͎̜͚̓͠M̵̞̳͂̔͝Î̷͚̲̥͝͠N̵̨͚̣̐͒G̶͎͖̑̒ The phantom tried piercing Maud’s mind with brute force, but despite the emotions flowing through her, her psyche was like a fortress. Ẁ̷̝̪E̸̖̭̾̍ ̷̹̂̒W̷̭͖̓I̴̭͙͒L̶̡̿͝L̶̘̓ ̸̰̼͝Ṭ̵͋ͅE̶͕̓À̴͔Ṛ̵̨͂ ̷̦͐͛Y̴͕̠͘O̵̺̊Ụ̸̀͌R̶̳͊͑ ̵̥̱́S̶͎̽ͅÓ̷͖U̵̯͆̋L̴͖̍̒ ̴͎̾̈Â̵̞̞͝Ṕ̵̤A̵̱̓R̴̡̰̾̓T̶͕̿̕

Maud took aim. “You talk too much.”

Author's Note:

There are a ton of little details about this chapter I love, but my favorite is probably Amore knighting Maud. Amore IS a princess, after all, so there's nothing that says she can't :D

I apologize for the cliffhanger again. Finishing this story has been an incredibly difficult and complex ordeal due to all of its moving parts. As you can see, I decided to try and be creative with the font sizes and various settings here on the site. Please let me know if it's too obnoxious--I don't want it taking away from the story.

Last chapter has 5k words written at the moment. I've been skipping around a bit in it, but it's coming along. I'll get it out as soon as I can.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for reading this labyrinthine story. I hope I've entertained you so far, just as I hope the conclusion meets your expectations.