• Published 31st Aug 2020
  • 405 Views, 22 Comments

The Pony Loa - Leila Drake

A troll couple accidentally summons ponies to Azeroth. And a flustered human. But for the trip back they need the help of a mage as powerful as Twilight Sparkle...

  • ...

Chapter 22: Balance Gained and Lost

After collecting all the other things on the list, Darren and Nylene eventually managed to get a ceremonial drum. There were a few for sale in the auction house and one of them did not need bidding. Nylene bought the drum, accepting it from the hands of an obese human. Grinning, she passed it on to Darren who tilted the small object in his hands. Tauren tribal symbols decorated the kodo skin.

"Probably looted in one of the wars," Darren muttered and Nylene nodded.

"At least it's finding its way back into the hands of the Horde," she whispered back. Then, a small chuckle escaped her. "I never thought I would say that."

"People change." Darren stepped aside to let her leave the auction house first.

If there was something that annoyed Mark to no end it was the attitude of his sister. Even though they were equal in rank she always kept ordering him around. And every time she did, he was too surprised not to obey. It did not matter that what she wanted him to do was right. You just didn't order a brother around like that, prophecy or not.

Still grumbling to himself, he entered the laboratory. He stepped to the table where his experiment was. Checking the glass tubes and the small fire, he confirmed with satisfaction that the trial was finished. It had been smart of him to let the experiment go on by itself over the night, he had saved a lot of time that way.

Mark removed a small flask from the end of the rack, careful not to touch any of the other vials. He readied a sheet of paper and used a sterilized paintbrush to cover it with arkhana dust. Then, he put it onto a flat porcelain plate. Next, Mark poured the contents of the flask onto the arkhana-infused paper.

He watched as the blue liquid was soaked up by the threads of the sheet. Lines of purple, blue and - pink formed on the edge, their distance to each other increasing as the tiny puddle grew.

"That can't be right," he muttered. The lines were supposed to indicate the origin of the liquid but if he read this right, the creature was not from Azeroth!

Mark knew that the color scheme did not correlate with Azeroth, Draenor or even Argus. That meant that the winged horse was either from a world that they did not know or from a different plane altogether.

Shit. He hit the table with his fist, instantly regretting it as the experiment almost fell over. Luckily, it came to a stand-still again.

The horse was useless to them. She might have returned from beyond the Veil but her origin was not Azeroth. He would have to find another creature who had crossed the Veil and returned.

The knight! His eyes widened as he remembered the horse's company. She had been with Archmage Khadgar but also with a death knight. The runeblade had been unmistakable. Mark remembered the way they had talked to each other. They were definitely friends. Maybe he was even the friend she hoped would come to rescue her.

That could work. Death knights had been killed and brought back by necromancy. Many were necromancers themselves. So if he got hands on the knight's anima, they would be one step closer to salvation.

Now all that was left was to convince Dianne to abd- to acquire a corporeal target this time. They would definitely need more people for that. How strong was a death knight anyway? They said that one of them could easily take down a dozen men at once. But maybe those were just rumours.

Mark sighed. What should he do with the poor horse spirit now that it was useless?

When Eclipse appeared back in his room by means of his hearthstone, he felt tired again. Training and translating on the same day was apparently too much. He dropped his saddlebags where he stood, then flopped down on the bed, all four legs outstretched. Staying like this for a while, he repeated the new spells he had learned in his mind. His hooves shone a little bit as he did so, and a feeling of peace made him relax.

Then he remembered that Darren did not want to fall over his bags. He put them next to his side of the bed, then he washed himself. Satisfied with the result, Eclipse left the room and ran down the stairs.

He looked around and saw some other guests but his friends were not there. His ears went down as the peaceful feeling dissolved. Where was everyone? Were they still busy collecting items for Vol'Shalai's summoning ritual?

Eclipse turned to go to the kitchen when the innkeeper Allison caught up with him. She had been at the other side of the room, putting books onto a bookshelf.

"Hey, little pony," she said with a smile.

"Oh, hi," said Eclipse nervously. "Do you know where my friends are?"

"No, but they said they'll be back soon."

"Okay, thanks." Eclipse frowned as Allison left. He sat down on one of the couches close to the bookshelf. Staring at the abstract pattern on the cloth, he leaned forward, tucking his hooves under his chin. After hours of concentration, the last thing he wanted to do was to read a book. Actually, he would like to play in the park, like they had discussed with Vera. But without Darren there was no point. And he definitely would not go out alone. There was a fine line between being adventurous and plain dumb.

Mom would have suggested to go play in the garden. But there was no Mom and no garden.

Eclipse closed his eyes. If only he was with Mom and Dad and Peridot. They would eat together and hug each other. He would have to do boring homework. He would play guard and annoy Mr Coelistine with questions about the ancient Crystal Empire. He would train Meditation and Void Magic with Darren - without any time pressure. He would be at home.

Eclipse closed his eyes. He suddenly felt extremely lonely. Everyone was doing something useful except for him. He had to practice just so he was not a problem. Sure, the grown-ups meant well but sometimes being the "special" child just sucked.

Something poked his side. Eclipse twitched, immediately alert. His eyes snapped open.

Allison's son stood there. Frank. His human face, dotted with freckles and framed by copper-coloured hair, looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and something else. Not fear. But something similar. Caution, maybe.

"Hi," said Frank. "My friends and I are gonna play cards. You want to join?"

Eclipse sat up. "Er. Sorry. I'm not supposed to go out alone."

Frank grinned. "Well. One, you wouldn't be alone and two, do you always do what your trainer says?"

"Trainer? Oh, you mean Darren. See, he said it's dangerous for me to get lost."

Frank rolled his eyes. "He just says that cause he's too lazy to look for you."

Eclipse felt the sudden urge to punch Frank. Instead, he said, "No, it's just too much of a hassle to get rid of the bodies. Kidding!" he quickly added when he saw Frank's face. "Where do you wanna go anyway?"

"Nowhere, actually," Frank admitted, "we're gonna play here. Just wanted to check if you're cool."

Eclipse snorted, suddenly nervous. "And am I cool?"

"You're alright," Frank decided. "You know how Hearthstone works, right?"

Vol'Shalai and Tarik were the first to return from their little quest. When Vol'Shalai pushed the door open, he saw Eclipse and three boys several years older than him sitting around a table. One of the boys, a human with darker skin, seemed familiar to Vol'Shalai but he could not place him. The second one was Frank, the third one a young dwarf with dark hair and beard stubble. Hearthstone cards were spread on the tablecloth.

Eclipse's ears shot upwards as he noticed him and a smile of relief spread on his muzzle. He put his cards face down and stood up.

"Hey," said Vol'shalai, wiping his feet on the doormat. He staggered for a second when Eclipse tackled him with a hug. "Ya alright? Sorry it took so long."

Eclipse let go of him and frowned. "Did you get everything?" he asked.

Vol'Shalai nodded. "Be right back. We need ta put our stuff away."

Nodding, Eclipse trotted back to the table. The three boys stared at Vol'Shalai, then at Tarik who had just entered behind him. Then their eyes wandered back to Eclipse.

"Later." Vol'Shalai left for the stairs, trying not to grin. Tarik followed him, nodding politely at the teenagers.

Frank stared at Eclipse. "There was that troll again," he said. "Are you really friends?"

Eclipse nodded and shrugged. "Yeah. His name is Vol'Shalai. He's nice. And his Darkspear stew is awesome, I could bathe in that stuff."

"How do you know him?" Carl asked cautiously. "Did Darren bring him along?"

"Never mind how ye know him! How is he allowed in Stormwind?" demanded Havar, pointing at the now empty staircase.

Eclipse sighed, getting annoyed. He should have expected a dwarf to ask that kind of thing. He leaned back, raising his brows. "Look, I know it's unusual. But we're really friends. Darren met him in the Plaguelands, I think. He came with us to help me get home."

"But he's Horde!" Carl said incredulously.

"Well. I guess. He doesn't like Night Elves but he's not at war or anything. I promise!"

Frank crossed his arms. "Isn't your other friend a Night Elf?"

"Huh." Eclipse rubbed his chin. "You're right. He wasn't nice to her at first. But we're okay now." He sighed again. "I dunno why but I don't find making friends hard. Why is it so difficult for people on Azeroth?"

Havar frowned darkly. "Might have ter do with everyone being at each other's throats all day long," he said, picking up his cards again. "I think the Horde and Alliance first clashed when the Orcs invaded. That was afore I was born. So I ken not exactly what it was all about."

"That was the first Horde," Carl threw in. "They were not the same guys as the ones in Northrend or Pandaria. But do you even have any idea how many people died because of them?"

"Whatever," Frank muttered. "The less trouble the better."

Eclipse felt sweat forming on his neck. "Yeah, I agree with that. Darren's neutral anyway. He only ever wanted to get rid of the Scourge. I don't know about Orcs. The only one I met wanted to kill us so... yeah. I know the trolls were sort of nice to us. At least their chief was. And Jonathan is good, too."

"Who's that now?" Frank asked.

Eclipse picked up his own cards. "A Forsaken," he said matter-of-factly.

Carl groaned. "Eclipse, you have a messed up circle of friends."

"I like you, too," Eclipse countered.

Carl could not help but grin. "Okay, okay. So let's see: You are friends with," he counted on his fingers, "A troll, a Night Elf, that death knight we just saw, a Forsaken - am I forgetting anything?"

"A ghost and another death knight," Eclipse added.

"I'm confused," Havar said, holding his head. "Let's just get back to the game."

Eclipse's gaze fell on the cards in his hooves. "Oh," he added with a grin, "I'm also friends with an Archmage."

Everyone laughed as they saw he had played the "Khadgar" card.

Carl sighed. Then he seemed to make a decision. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked Eclipse.

"Uh, sure." They stood up and walked away a few steps, around a neighbouring table and the people sitting there.

Eclipse looked at Carl expectantly, a sense of dread building up in his gut.

The human suddenly looked shy. He bit his lip, then put his hands on his hips. He took a deep breath. "Eclipse, is Darren actually a death knight?"

Eclipse nodded. There was no point in denying it.

"I knew it!" Carl hissed. "So he did die?"

"Look... Carl, I know you guys are related. And I get that you were just a foal when the Scourge attacked Andorhal -"

"What? How do you know that?"

"You said so," Eclipse reminded him. "When we visited you for lunch. You said that you lost friends and family twelve years ago. And that - that's when Andorhal was destroyed."

Carl stared at him, his face frozen. He did not say anything.

Eclipse grimaced. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to remind you like that. What I meant is: Darren lost his family, too. When he went missing, he was actually killed. And resurrected as a death knight. But he's been healed. I saw it happen. And he just wanted to... to say Hi. Maybe hug his cousin, I dunno." He looked at the floor. "Guess it's too late for that, huh."

"Eclipse, it's not that he simply got lost," said Carl, his face turning red. "He murdered people. Probably hundreds!"

"Yeah, I know. I do. But he didn't want to. The Scourge forced him to do that, he didn't have a choice," Eclipse said desperately. "Please, just give him a chance! We'll be gone soon anyway."

"Why? What does it matter to you if you're going away?" Carl demanded.

"Because he's my friend!" Eclipse exclaimed, turning a few heads. "And I hate how sad he is! He tries to hide it but he's worried like crazy. He keeps freezing stuff. And everyone keeps getting lost! First we get lost, then we lose Vol'Shalai, then Darren loses his family again, now Levinia's gone and..." He huffed, angrily stomping his hoof. "I'm just sick of everything falling apart. But that's not your fault. Sorry. Maybe we should stop with the game for today." Eclipse wiped his muzzle, his ears folding back. He felt like an idiot. A pushy, pathetic idiot.

Carl sighed and raised his brows. "No," he said. "I think I get it, more or less." He gave Eclipse a stiff smile. "You got me convinced, actually."

"What do you mean?" Eclipse asked. He sniffed, inwardly cursing his tendency to cry when he was upset.

"I wasn't sure if Darren could be trusted. But I believe you. I can't say why exactly."

"Well," Eclipse offered, "I was being honest..."

"Guess so. You know what, how about we try again?" Carl offered.

"Wait," Eclipse said. He blushed. "Actually, we're already on it," he admitted.

"Who, 'we'?"

"Well, Nylene, Vera and I. We wanted to make Darren and, and Stephen meet today. It's just that with Levinia missing and all we got held up..."

Eclipse was deeply relieved as he realized that Carl had really changed his mind. They agreed to arrange for a meeting as soon as Levinia was safe. Carl promised he and Vera would convince his father that Darren was alright.

They played for another hour, ignoring the fact that Eclipse's face was a little wet. In the end, he laughed again. Vol'Shalai and Tarik came downstairs after a while. They sat down at another table and talked to each other quietly. Carl and Havar occasionally looked over to them. Once they realized that the troll and the death knight seemed not to care about their presence, they returned their full attention to the game.

"Thanks for inviting me," said Eclipse to the boys as they tidied up the table. "Even though I'm a pony and only ten and have a messed up circle of friends."

Carl smiled at him. "Thanks for being our fourth man," he said.

They stood up and while Carl and Havar picked up their card boxes and bumped their fists to say goodbye, Frank helped Eclipse with storing his cards in a box that was a bit too small to handle properly with hooves.

"Now I can beat Tarik even more easily," Eclipse said with a grin, jerking his head towards the death knight. Frank grinned back, then he wished Eclipse a nice evening and went upstairs.

The front door opened and Darren entered, followed by Nylene. They gave Eclipse a little wave and he waved back with a smile.

Carl and Havar turned to leave. They bumped their fists against Eclipse's hoof and made a small berth around the newcomers. Havar frowned at Nylene but refrained from a comment. Carl said a small "Hello" to the surprised Darren, then he shut the door behind them.

Darren pointed at the door. "Wasn't that -"

"Carl Fletcher, your, er, first cousin... once... removed? I'm not sure, really. But yeah." Seeing Darren's confusion, he added, "We played Hearthstone. With Frank and Havar."

"I see," said Darren evenly. He walked over to Vol'Shalai and Tarik.

"Did you get everything?" Eclipse asked Nylene.

She nodded, kneeling down to get closer to eye level with him. "Even the ceremonial drum. How are you feeling, An'dorei? You look tired." She touched his cheek.

"Guess auras don't lie," Eclipse quipped. "I'm okay. Really. Carl and I had a discussion but we made up. And hey, I learned two new spells today!"

"Indeed? At Karazhan, I presume?"


"Come on," said Nylene, leading Eclipse to the table where the others waited, "you shall tell us all about it over dinner. But first we need to discuss who prepares what for the summoning ritual."

While they talked about the ingredients for Vol'Shalai's modified spell, Darren noticed that something had changed about Eclipse. Somehow the colt seemed less upset and more focused. He kept asking constructive questions, was eager to help Vol'Shalai with anything that needed to be done - and he ate his dinner with a vengeance.

Eclipse spilled the beans about his newfound energy when Nylene asked him about his training with Khadgar. He admitted that they had been stuck at first. Somehow he had kept using his aggressive Void spells. Only after Miindra had arrived and guided his meditation, he managed to get truly calm again. She had said some prayers with him, which had been nice, and he had felt warm inside his chest, some kind of connection to Harmony, maybe the Light itself.

Vol'Shalai hummed thoughtfully as he heard that. He pursed his lips, thinking hard, then rubbed his arm absent-mindedly. When he realized he was fiddling with his injured arm, he quickly stopped.

Tarik leaned forward and frowned. "Eclipse, are you saying that you established a connection to the Light?"

"I think so." Eclipse blushed as he relized how intently everyone suddenly looked at him. "What?" he asked, slightly irritated.

"People on Azeroth usually need a special ritual to become priests," said Darren. "There are a few exceptions but it still doesn't just happen to those who have been meditating for a few months. How did you do it?"

Eclipse huffed. "I dunno, really. Maybe it's because I'm a pony?"

"Perhaps." Nylene crossed her arms, leaning back. She smiled. "Perhaps you have an affinity for the Light. You seem to be a creature that prefers Harmony."

"Good for you," said Darren, also smiling a little.

Eclipse nodded. He remembered what Darren had said about losing his right to wield the Light. But the knight seemed genuinely glad about Eclipse's newfound abilities.

"What spells did you learn?" asked Nylene.

"Er... a healing spell and a shield. The healing was hard. And I'm not sure if it really works with big wounds. We didn't have any creature there which was actually hurt." Eclipse shifted his weight on the chair. "The shield was easier, but Khadgar said that it just works for a few seconds. Maybe it's because I already saw Jonathan make shields. I knew what they're supposed to be like and feel like. And that people can make them." He sighed happily as he remembered the feeling of joy as he had cast the spell. "The Light is awesome! I thought it was just a trick for being calm but it's more like... being completely okay and safe. Deep inside. I love it. It's almost as good as being home."

Nylene and Darren nodded. Tarik seemed to be thinking about something sad, he stared down at his folded hands.

Vol'Shalai smirked. "Ya know, maybe ya can help me with someting," he said. "Cause I need a priest for da ritual."

Heat crept up Eclipse's face and he raised his forelegs defensively. "Dude, I'm not a priest! I can only cast two Light spells!"

"Dat's alright, mon! Only... two people need ta sing da song cause we need da help of both the Elements and da Holy Light. Or the Void. Can ya sing?"

Eclipse chuckled. "Of course I can sing."

"What I mean is: Can ya sing well?"

"Good enough for Hearth's Warming carols," Eclipse said hesitantly. "And for the Crystal Faire."

"That's a Yes," Darren clarified.

"Great! Ya gonna be our Loa Singer, then!" Vol'Shalai cheered, clapping his hands together. "And don't ya worry ya likkle head about any wrong notes. It's not just da words, it be mostly about heart. Ya need to mean it. As long as ya do, we gonna be just fine."

Eclipse nodded, unconvinced. He had wanted to help so badly but now that he was actually being asked he was not sure if he was prepared. But he had to try. For the sake of their friend, he just had to. They could not afford to mess up.

It was cold. As a spirit, Levinia had never felt chilly before. Was it the runes that bound her to the ground? It was as if there were invisible chains holding her in place. She tried to jump but something pulled her down again. Landing on her hooves, she winced as a stinging pain shot up her leg. Her wound was still there. It was smaller than before but she was still weakened by it. Maybe it took time to gather the energy to heal it. It was not like she could eat or sleep to speed up the process.

The door opened. Somebody entered her round, for lack of a better word, cell and quickly shut the door behind themselves. A key turned inside a lock with a sound that echoed through the chamber. The hooded figure approached her without bringing their own light. The only source of light were Levinia's glowing astral body and the vile runes in the ring at her feet. The blue shimmer made her visitor look like a ghost, too.

"Where are you from?" the hooded person asked.

Levinia huffed and rolled her eyes as she realized who it was.

"You're the guy from before, aren't you?" she said sharply. "The one who put me in the bottle."

"Suppose there's no point for this, then." The man removed his hood. He looked tired - or maybe it was just the blue light casting shadows on his face? "So," he said again, "where are you from?"

"You abducted me. You put me in this ring, you hurt me - and now you want to have a chat?" Levinia scoffed. "You're an idiot."

"I know," the man sighed. He sat down on the stone tiles, folding his legs like Jonathan did when he meditated. "Sorry about that."

"'Sorry' doesn't cut it in a case like this," said Levinia. "Let me go! I promise I won't take revenge or anything. I just wanna go home."

"I can't do that," said the man. "My sister would kill me - or worse. I must keep you here as long as you're useful."

Levinia frowned. "And what happens when I stop being useful?" she asked slowly.

There was a moment of silence. The man avoided looking into her eyes. Eventually, he said, "My brethren don't know that I'm here. I analysed your anima last night. I'm looking for clues about the origin of creatures that returned from Death. But you're not from Azeroth in the first place, are you?"

"No, I guess I'm not. And I didn't return because I never left."

"That means you're of no use to us. So unless you give me information that I can share with my sister..." He cleared his throat. "We have only one containment ring. These runes of Domination... they're extremely rare. We made this thing by welding runeswords of the Scourge together. I wouldn't know how to make a second one."

"What's your point? So you have a rare torture device, congratulations," Levinia said angrily.

"Well - if we want to capture someone else, we'll need it," said the man.

"Oh?" said Levinia. Then, slowly, as she understood, "Oh."

"Yeah." The man raised his brows, looking guilty.

Levinia sat down, leaning forward a bit. "You don't seem like a villain to me. Why are you doing this? Can't you just... I don't know, do your research at a hospital or university or something? With volunteers?"

The man chuckled at that. "We don't have a license for that. We work in secret."

"Who, we?" Levinia pressed on, realizing that she was now the one asking the questions. But the man was eager to answer. He must have been alone with his worries for a long time.

"The Circle of Approaching Death. That's what we call ourselves."

"Well, that sounds ominous," Levinia commented dryly. "So what's your deal? Is Death approaching you or are you the ones approaching Death? The name's not really clear on that, you know."

"Both." The man stood up. Pacing up and down in the chamber, he said, "We founded this movement because of the Shattering of the Veil. Although many members had already been looking for answers for years." As he saw the clueless look on Levinia's face, he went on, "About two weeks ago, there was a tremor that went through the entire fabric of space. Something happened in Northrend, something big. And soon thereafter, the news came here, to Stormwind: Sylvanas Windrunner has destroyed the Veil. Not crossed, not bent, but shattered. We don't know how she did it but soon -"

"Wait, wait, wait," Levinia interrupted him, holding up her hoof. "What is the Veil?"

"That's the barrier between this life and the Afterlife."

"You mean, where people go after they die?"

"Yes, exactly."

"And it's broken now? Does - does that mean there's no Afterlife anymore?" Levinia shuddered. She remembered how, two weeks ago, Tarik had screamed in torment. How they had healed him and how he had said that the control of the Lich King over him was no more.

"No, the Shadowlands, the place beyond, they're still there. But priests and shamans all over the world say that something's wrong over there. And as long as we can't control where our souls are going when we die, we can't be sure that we'll continue existing at all." The man talked faster now, louder, almost in a panic. "What if every soul wanders around aimlessly now? What if we get judged and punished for breaking the Veil? Or what if they just destroy everything that crosses the border?"

"Stop! Please!" Levinia shouted. Desperation got hold of her. She had always thought that as a spirit she would be safe. But what if that was not the case? She shuddered again. "That can't be true!" she begged. "That mustn't be true!"

"That's why we need to find out more," said the man mercilessly. "We can't afford to fail. Balance between Life and Death must be restored but we don't know how - yet. Your soul and the information it can give was supposed to get us one step closer to that."

"I'm sorry," whispered Levinia. "I'm sorry I can't help. I don't know anything because I never left. And - and now I'm glad I never left, actually. Who knows what would have happened to me. This is awful!"

The man stood up. "I'll give you some time. Maybe something comes to your mind that could help us. Then I can tell my sister that you need to stay here."

"As opposed to destroying me." Levinia covered her face with her hooves. "You're not really evil. But you're still cruel."

"Good night," he said sadly. "Please don't tell her that we talked." He walked towards the door, his back stiff as if he carried the weight the world on his shoulders.

"Wait!" called Levinia. "What's your name?"

"Mark," he said, looking back at her. "Mark Veren."

"I - I'm Levinia."

Mark nodded. The corners of his mouth twitched. Then, he put the hood up, unlocked the door and left.

Levinia was once again alone in the dark. She curled up into a ball, feeling terribly lost. Her light faded to a dull sheen as she tried to make herself as tiny as she could.