• Published 20th Aug 2012
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The Balance - Path_of_cloud



Two very diffrent groups of beings come together to save the world in its darkest hour.

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The Legacy of Spike

Discord chimed in from his throne, “And that’s how I got my Cutie Mark.”

Wrath finished the tale, ignoring the interruption, “Celestia and Luna created the Love and Tolerance policy of Equestria after that. I went on to gather the rest of the Sins and bring vengeance to the world. About one hundred and fifty years after that horrible night, Celestia created Hearts and Hooves day. It was a way for her and Luna to remember Discord’s love, let others celebrate their love, and provide a warning to never try to force love onto someone. She changed the story though so that no one would know it was her that had been affected by the love potion, or what had really transpired.”

Spike could only stare in amazement from his bean bag chair after hearing the tale. He slowly clapped and spoke up, “Cool story. Too bad it has some horrible plot holes.”

Discord laid his head in his claw and frowned, “There’s the Celestia in you. So tell us then, little one, what plot holes?”

“First off, you speak perfect modern Equestrian even though you were encased in stone for a thousand plus years. Then, you supposedly turned back to good after being turned to stone, but you broke out and caused all kinds of trouble not even a year ago. Let’s not forget that Wrath apparently could have broken you out whenever. Wrath is apparently only a few years younger than you and the Princesses. On top of that, you’re still insane! ” Spike threw his arms in that air as he shouted the last part.

“I was conscious the entire time. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear! My only reprieve from that stone hell was the spell I applied to Wrath’s eye. When he learned Aura Mastery, he became aware of what I had done and could shut me out at will. He normally wouldn’t though. After a hundred years of that, even a worm would learn to read lips. A thousand years though, and anyone would go a little,” A clock appeared next to Discord head and a small bird flew out chirping cuckoo-cuckoo. “The Sins are immortal, and so are the Elements.”

Spike instantly realized that Twilight, Rarity, and his other pony friends that he had been so afraid of losing one day would always be around if the draconequus was telling the truth. He almost jumped for joy, but Discord was not finished.

“As for why Wrath never broke me out, that damned book said that I had to break out on my own. Somehow my escape would play a role in the darkest days. The book explained little details about us, our appearances, attitudes, an approximation about when we were born, and a brief description of our powers. Wrath used it as a guide to hunt down every Sin and stop their fall before something similar to mine happened again. If I had been that… monster again, I would have killed the bearers of the Elements of Harmony” He took a breath as his tirade came to an end.

Wrath broke in, “We all have a role to play, Spike. The book explained that only a Sin or Element could stop the fall of a Sin or the betrayal of an Element.”

Spike looked at Wrath as if he had just grown a second head, “What do you mean the betrayal of an Element?”

Discord appeared in front of him with a chalk board. “You remember when I broke out right? How I, ‘Discorded,’ your friends? I forced their betrayals to come early. By doing so I could assure that their betrayals were short lived, before they spiraled out of control like…” A picture of a puppy with a basket on its head remained unfinished on the chalkboard.

“I’ll take it from here, Discord. Spike, do you remember when I first mentioned the book?”

Spike nodded quietly.

“Seven sections for the Sins and seven sections for the Elements. There exist a seventh Element known as Unity and it is wielded by two different ponies, Celestia and Luna. Every Element wielder carries a physical manifestation of their Element; the royal regalia worn by the Princesses are theirs. Nightmare Moon was caused by Celestia and Luna betraying their Element. I wasn’t there, but from what I gathered in the aftermath; Luna had fallen into depression as Celestia gained popularity from her subjects. Without the worries of the kingdom to fog her mind, she started blaming Celestia for banishing Discord. It was in those dark thoughts that Luna decided to wrench control from her sister, and Nightmare Moon was born. Celestia sharing her Element could do nothing for her sister, and in her fear of having another Discord created, she banished her sister to the moon before I could arrive. She didn’t want Luna having to live with the thought of killing somepony, and in her haste she caused her own betrayal.”

Spike’s rage was building as he listened. Wrath had left, and in his wake, tragedy had befallen. “And where were you instead of stopping all of this?”

A strong voice came from above, “Stopping me.” A large shadowed figure fell from a window near the ceiling. At the very last second its knees bent and it made not a sound as it landed. It stood up on two legs and walked out of the shadows, revealing a male Minotaur with very toned but not overly large muscles. He was covered in brown hair and two large horns adorned his head. His left pec had a large, wide X shaped scar on it that had healed hairless and pink. “So this is Discord and the dragon huh?”

“You’re early. You weren’t supposed to arrive for another three days, Power House,” Wrath seemed unsurprised about the intrusion however.

“You know me; rather get here early than rush to make it on time, takes more effort.”

“Mother fucker! You totally stole my entrance, you ass!” A gold Pegasus dive bombed through the window, his wings opening at the last second to propel him up and make his landing as silent as the other new additions. He struck a heroic pose, showing off a silver cross-hair shaped mark on his flank. Everyone else in the room, beside Spike, rolled their eyes.

A bucket of water fell on the Pegasus’ head as Discord rolled on the flooring laughing. He wiped a tear from his eye as the newly humiliated intruder stared daggers at him, “So this is Pride. Maybe we should call him bucket head.”

“I’ll kill you!” Pride's wings burst forward and three very deadly looking feathers flew towards Discord. Before they could hit their target, a flash of red evaporated them instantly.

“ENOUGH!” The aura subsided into the pissed off Earth Pony's body. “You two will behave until we’re done here.”

Having his question of who the Pegasus was answered, Spike now looked at the Minotaur, who was staring back. “So if he’s Pride, the Sin of Pride, who are you, Power House?”

“I am the Sin of Sloth young dragon. You look a lot like your egg.”

The room went silent. Spike stood with his mouth agape.

“I hadn’t gotten to that yet,” Wrath said aggravated.

Power House simply gave him a glance before looking back at the whelp. “I know. We’ve been here the whole time. Something we’re short on mind you. He doesn’t need to know about how you stopped my fall, nor how we stopped Pride’s. He needs the information pertaining to him so we may continue.”

“Discord, go lay some traps in the forest in case they come looking for you. Take Pride and Power House with you. Spike and I need to talk in private.”

The three Sins looked at each other before walking out of the throne room.

“How does he know what my egg looks like?”

“Because, back then we were travelling together. Take your seat, you’ll need it.” Wrath motioned to the bean bag chair.

Spike sat down, “What do you mean back then?”

“Back when I met your mother, and she left this beauty mark on my side.”

Wrath stared down at a battlefield from a steep cliff. He had gone looking for food and water as Power House slept. Instead, he found twenty Griffins attacking a lone, dark purple dragoness with red spikes. The dragon should have made quick work of her attackers, but easily avoided attacks were landing effortlessly. A Griffon that had been too slow fell to her sharp claws, as another was caught by her tail. Its neck snapped loudly before being dropped to the floor lifeless. The deaths had not been in vain though. The dragoness’ thick scales had been ripped from part of her body and the flock had swarmed her, clawing and pecking at the now vulnerable flesh that lay beneath.

Wrath had seen enough. Something was very wrong, and he was not about to sit quietly and watch. The air whistled past him as he free fell from the cliff; his wings sprang into existence propelling him towards the onslaught. The Griffons screamed in anger as he barreled into them, tossing them from the large gap bleeding down the once pristine scales. A burst of brilliant red flames reduced three of them to ashes. The smell of cooked Griffon saturated the air.

Within moments one of the birds had descended upon his back throwing him to the ground. “Why are you attacking her?”

“Why not? Dragon scales and eggs are worth a king’s ransom to the right buyer.” A beak stabbed deep into the back of his neck. He gritted his teeth, refusing to give his attacker the satisfaction of hearing him yell out in pain.

A red aura consumed the misfortunate soul as it screamed in agony; its skin evaporated from its bones. Not even a drop of blood escaped from the bastard as he disintegrated. The same could not be said for Wrath’s neck as he felt the disturbingly warm liquid flow from the newly created hole in his body. He rushed back into battle.

Two more Griffons hung from the powerful fangs of the apex predator, blood dripped from the corpses down her face. Seven more bodies littered the floor mangled, charred, or broken. The magnificent creature roared and sent two more Griffons to their death, her tail smashing them into the ground. Wrath came fast from above, his hoof collided with the top of a head, and the head crashed violently into the ground. He wiped his hoof on the grass as the last two assailants attempted to escape. Before he could pursue them, they were incinerated by the dragoness’ fire breath. Wrath instinctively sped forward to check the wound where the scales had been removed. A claw shot at him, and he barely survived by moving at the last second. A gash now adorned his side, a symbol of his impatience. He fell to the ground shouting his pain to the world.

Large red reptilian eyes stared at him as a gentle, weak voice reached his ears, “I’m so sorry. I was still in-”

Wrath righted himself, “I’m fine. It was my fault; I should have given you a second to calm down.” A glance over his shoulder showed him three deep cuts and blood pouring onto his coat. It wasn’t pleasant, but he’d survive as long as he stopped the bleeding. “Just a flesh wound. I’ll need to see your side to check the damage.”

She looked at him, her eyes sad. “My name is Nightshade, little one, and you may do as you please. I fear it won’t matter though.” She laid her body down gently on the grass, brushing any corpses in her way to the side.

One glance at the injury made it abundantly clear what she meant. It was larger than he was, and blood was pouring out like a waterfall cascading down her scales and pooling under her.

“I already know. I can feel my life draining from me.” Nightshade had accepted her fate, and he could only ponder the kind of strength-of-will that took.

Wrath stomped the ground in anger, causing him to wince from his injuries. “If only I’d have been faster.”

“You did everything you could young one. Do not blame yourself; the ones at fault are dead and justice has been dealt. I must ask one last favor of you…”

“Wrath.”

She smiled as she heard the name of her savior. “Wrath, please take care of my egg. You saved it with your actions here today. The father is dead,” a weak cough, “and it seems I’ll be joining him. Without a dragon or extremely powerful magic, my child will never hatch.” She rolled over with the last of her strength revealing a single light purple egg with violet spots. “One last thing, come here.”

Wrath did as he was instructed and gingerly walked over to the dying dragon, trying not to upset his injuries further. When he reached her face she brought a claw up and blew an intense hot flame on it, causing it to glow slightly.

“This is going to hurt. I suggest you find something to bite down on.”

A medium sized branch had fallen close by; he bit into it, fully aware of the dragoness’ intentions. The claw pushed against his side as her thumb was placed on his neck. His teeth dug into the branch as the worst pain he had never known coursed through his body. The claw fell away a few seconds later, the wound cauterized. He could smell his own flesh burning, but knew that the bleeding had been stopped.

“Tell my child about me one day… and that I loved them.” Nightshades eyes closed and a single tear escaped.

He forced his body to crawl to the egg. Once he had it, he wrapped himself around it. Unable to continue any further, Wrath blacked out.

Spike sat crying as he finally discovered where he came from.

Wrath put a hoof on his shoulder to help calm him down. “She was an amazing dragon, Spike. Her love for you was the strongest I have ever seen in my very long life. You remind me a lot of her, even if I only knew her for those few seconds.”

Spike hugged the stallion who had taken him from his friends. “Thank you.”

He gently stroked the young drakes back. “It was, as it has always been, my pleasure. Power House woke up and followed the smell of blood in the air. He carried the two of us back to the camp. I found out later that night; your egg was described in the book. I took you to Canterlot and left you outside the newly built castle with the book. After making sure Celestia had both, I left to pursue the rest of the Sins. This was seven hundred and fifty years ago. Your egg was very special. I’m sure you know how you were hatched correct?”

“Twilight hatched me during her entrance exam.” He released his grip.

“You were the only dragon in Canterlot for one reason. The test for admittance was to merely affect the incredibly resistant shell of a dragon egg with magic, simple levitation would have proven proficiency and talent in magic. The participants were told to hatch your egg for a different reason, whoever managed to complete a task that even Celestia herself was unable to do would be the Element of Magic. Celestia knew who Twilight was from the moment you were hatched, Curator had deemed it so himself.”

The floor suddenly seemed very interesting to the dejected whelp. “So I was just a pawn? A way of finding Twilight?”

A simple confident smile graced Wrath’s face. “Not quite. You have a whole section to yourself in the book, Spike, the Sin of Greed.”

Spike took the news about as well as one could expect. “NO! I refuse! I swore I’d never be greedy again.”

He looked up into the stallions eyes. “You will, it is in your nature. You told me when we were talking that it was about the positive attribute. Instead of seeing your greed as a need for items and other material things, see it as being greedy for your friends. They’re yours; it’s your town, your ponies, your princesses, yours, yours, yours! Control your greed and make it work for you.”

“You're insane!”

Power House returned with Pride and Discord as the drake shouted to the heavens. “Pride and I would have agreed with you not to long ago. Your fall was traumatic, it always is, but you have to accept that it’s part of who you are.”

Discord spoke this time, “Greed Growth is natural for an adolescent dragon, but not the size and power you displayed. It’s also unheard of for a dragon to be able to stop as long as they have possessions. You wanted the white Unicorn more than any of those baubles, and it was that greed for her that freed you from the rest. Rarity stopped your fall.”

Wrath broke in, “In time, you will learn to control your greed and your Greed Growth; it is the ability granted by your Sin.”

Spike could not accept the new information. Controlled Greed Growth was crazy. He had never wanted to see that monster again, but maybe it didn’t have to be a monster. If he was careful, he could use his power for good. Something meaningful could come out of it, and just maybe, Rarity would be proud of the hero he could become. “I, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Wrath smiled warmly before taking on a foreboding tone, “We need to bring out your full potential first. To do that, Discord is going to have to age you one hundred and fifty years. It will be incredibly painful, and once we start, we cannot stop.”

Spike clenched his fist together, closed his eyes, and gritted his teeth. “I’m ready.”

The Lord of Chaos floated over and placed his talon on Spike’s head. “I may enjoy chaos, but I take no pleasure in causing pain.”

A large white dome appeared around the dragon, pushing Discord back. Inside, Spike screamed as his bones were shattered and reconstructed over and over. His scales crawled as his skin broke and muscles boiled underneath. He clawed at his back as two disfigured bumps sprouted from his shoulder blades. They slowly grew further from his back as his body grew longer and larger. His claws hardened and elongated. Within him it was just as bad, his heart grew and speed up to unreasonable speeds as gallons of new blood were created to compensate for his increase in stature. Lungs were stretched as his stomach and other internal organs expanded. Unearthly sounds filled the enclosed space as Spike’s agony continued.

Outside the dome the four Sins stood in silence as no sound escaped the barrier. Discord was the first to speak, “This will take a few hours, even I can’t cheat time in mere seconds. I suggest we get some sleep; it’s been a long night and tomorrow his training starts.”

The light of day entered the castle as the sun reached its peak in the sky. Discord was asleep on a cotton candy cloud, while Pride slept on his own cloud bed. Power House had fallen asleep against a wall, and Wrath had woken an hour ago from sleeping on the floor. The dome exploded outwards with the sound of glass shattering and a blinding light. Discord fell from his cloud, Pride swore at the light as he stood on his, Power House managed to get over next to Wrath, who was covering his eyes.

In the epicenter of the explosion lay an unconscious, Alicorn-sized, teenage drake. He was toned perfectly and now sported two leathery, amethyst wings with emerald film.

The sound of fingers snapping brought forth a hill of gems and two buckets of water. A few moments later Spike woke up screaming. Noticing that the pain was gone, he stopped. Without asking or waiting for any sort of information, he dove into the hill of gems devouring them.

“You'd think he hadn’t eaten in hundred and fifty years acting like that,” Pride quipped.

A bucket of water diminished to nothing as soon as the hoard was gone. Having been fairly satisfied, he looked before drinking the second bucket. His claws felt around to make sure it was really him, before retracting into his fingers scaring him slightly. “Is this really me?” Even his voice was changed, it was now deeper and coarser. He dared to think, attractive. Nightmares of the transformation were sure to haunt him, but the results spoke for themselves. He had gone from a baby dragon to a young adult, skipping the stage where his wings hadn’t fully developed entirely. Wait until everyone got a load of him!

Wrath cleared his throat, “If you're done staring at yourself, we need to start your training. Flight and marksmanship training with Pride, Draconic ability training with Discord, and finally, combat training with Power House and me. I’ll be teaching you quadruped fighting, while Power House teaches you bipedal. Discord may have given you the perfect body, but you’re not used to it. You missed over a hundred years of practice so prepare to get a thousand year of training in a week. Pride you're first.”

The gold Pegasus strutted over cockily, “I always am. First off, newbie, stretch those oversized wings of yours.”

Spike did as he was instructed, or he tried at least. The new muscles felt foreign and stiff. It took all of his concentration to get them fully open.

Pride seemed bemused at the effort of his new apprentice. “That was pathetic. I’ve seen some horrible displays of wing power, but that takes the fucking cake. You are to open and close those eye sores you call wings two hundred times.”

Spike groaned, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“NOW, weakling!”

Spike obeyed, closing his wings with just as much difficulty. The first fifty continued to be challenging, taking over an hour to complete. Each time made the task slightly easier, and wanting to shove Pride’s insults down his throat wasn’t hurting his drive either. He completed the rest in the next hour, his new wing muscles screaming in defiance.

Pride looked down at him like he was a spit out piece of gum. “Maybe if we had a month instead of a week I could actually get you flying. Go talk to Discord, I don’t feel like looking at your ugly mug anymore.”

Spike trudged outside to find the Draconequus sitting in a lawn chair with sunglasses and a sun tanning sheet. “Howdy, Spike.” In the blink of an eye Discord was next to Spike sporting a ten gallon hat and a pair of chaps. “So you want to learn how to be a real dragon, huh?” He spit hitting a rock on the ground that made a ding sound. “Then let’s start with the basics. Show me how hot you are?”

Spike looked more than a little uncomfortably at his teacher, “Uh-”

“Fire breath, don’t flatter yourself,” Discord deadpanned.

A deep breath of air filled his lungs, more than had ever been possible before. He forced his breath out, tapping into his inner fire. The lawn chair disintegrated as a giant emerald fire wave of fire flew past it.

Discord seemed delighted at the random destruction, which was odd being his lawn chair and all. “Not bad kid. Distance, heat, spread, you got a lot of skill, but you lack control.” A target materialized where the lawn chair had been. “This time I want you to push your lips together like you're whistling. Use a short breath and hit only the center of the target.”

Spike did as he was instructed. An emerald fireball erupted from his maw this time, destroying the entire target. “Oops.”

“Right idea.” Discord rubbed his goatee thoughtfully. “Marksmanship is Pride’s problem anyways. I’ll be showing you how to control your flame for different effects. Let’s try something more interesting though. Unicorns aren’t the only creatures with a teleport ability. I know you use your breath to send letters and objects on the occasion, but have you ever tried to tap into your power and send yourself somewhere?”

Spike looked at Discord as if he’d grown a second head, and being Discord, it wasn’t all that improbable. “I can do that?”

“Indeed, but it’s rather uncommon and takes a lot of concentration at first. Close your eyes and focus on your inner flame. Now imagine it expanding around you. Allow it to carry you to your destination. I suggest where the target was, anything further would be too difficult at the moment.”

Spike visualized his flame covering his body; he gave himself away to the fire as he planned his arrival. Opening his eyes he saw that he had not moved an inch. “What the hay?”

Discord just smiled. “I said it was uncommon, which really means difficult.”

After an hour of practice Spike was ready to give up. “This is impossible!”

“Try it one more time; let the flame wash over you.”

Once again his eyes closed. He saw the emerald fire in his body, felt the heat. He coursed it into enveloping his body; he felt a passion in the fire he visualized as he became one with it. He saw where he wanted to go and imagined the flame, him, traveling through the air, eating it as it went, before landing and releasing a dragon from itself. His eyes opened. In front of him stood Discord with his finger pointed to the side. Spike followed the talon and jumped when he saw the castle a good twenty feet away.

“Not too shabby. Now report to Wrath and Power House, and I suggest you prepare for a beating. I’m going to stir up a little chaos.” With a snap of his fingers Discord was gone.

He ran to his next lesson. Sure, Discord made it sound bad, but it was the one that had excited him the most. Wrath and Power House were stronger than anyone he had ever met, even the dragons. As he reached his destination he saw both sparring against one another. His eyes could barely keep up as Wrath sent hoof after hoof at the Minotaur, who dodged them all without any real movement. A fist flew towards Wrath, who mimicked his opponent’s previous movement. The fist went past the side of his face before colliding with a tree and reducing it to firewood. Wrath swept Power House's hooves sending him backwards. A quick flick of the wrist though, and instead of falling on his back he launched himself up, landing with his eyes locked on Wrath’s.

Never taking his eye off of his opponent, Power House spoke, “Enjoying the show, young dragon. I hope so, as you’ll be part of it soon enough.”

The two combatants faced each other and bowed. They walked over to their young charge. It was apparent from the sweat through their coats and the amount of destruction around the castle that they had been at it for hours, but neither was breathing heavily.

Power House stood in front of Spike with his feet firmly planted. “I’ll be your first sparring partner. Unlike Wrath here, we have hands. This offers us a number of unique possibilities. Earth Ponies weren’t the only ones who had to learn to fight without wings or magic. Minotaur’s created a style of bipedal combat known as Jujitsu, as well as, the gentlebull’s sport of Boxing. I’ll be teaching you combat Boxing and Jujitsu. Now come at me.”

Spike charged at the Minotaur and swung wide with his claw, before it even got close Power House grabbed his wrist, slid under his body, took ahold of his stomach, and threw him over his shoulder onto his back. The landing made a loud thud and reminded him of his sore wings.

The bull offered Spike his hand and helped him off the ground. “Jujitsu is about using your opponent’s strength against them and manipulating both theirs and your center of gravity.”

Wrath chimed in from the sides. “Also, keep your arm in; wild flailing like that is easy to counter. Wait for your advisories guard to slip before attacking. Oh, and for Celestia’s sake, get those claws out!”

Spike looked at his hands and realized he still had his claws retracted from hours ago.

Power House took a different stance this time, hopping back and forth on the tip of his hooves. “Get on two legs and pay attention.”

The drake stood on his back legs and rushed his opponent, screaming. His claw barely missed. Power House's fists didn’t; his feet planted firmly into the ground as the first one smashed into his chest, the next nailed him in the face, and finally an uppercut struck his jaw sending him through the air.

“Much better, but you have to watch for counters when you’re attacking.”

Once again a shout came from the sidelines, “Power House's Sin bestows him with perfect efficiency. It’s something every fighter wants. His quick minimalistic dodges use the least amount of movement and energy. His punches use every muscle in his body at the same time. If he wanted to, he could punch through your head with his pinkie. You have to learn to be efficient as well.”

An angry response came from the Minotaur, “You mind if I teach him something! And you forgot to mention that I need almost no sleep or food because of my body’s perfect processing.” He returned his attention to Spike who had managed to pick himself off the floor. “Boxing is about being light on your feet and making your punches fast and heavy. Now get off your ass and hit me!”

After an hour of getting the shit kicked out of him by the machine that was Power House, Wrath decided to take over. Spike could barely breathe; he was so exhausted as the Earth Pony walked up. “For today, we'll work on perception. Instead of me beating you to a bloody pulp, I’ll demonstrate the technique.” Power House threw him a small black piece of fabric. “Spike, tie this over my eyes.” Once he was unable to see, he took his stance. “Now attack me, and don’t hold back.”

Spike, determined to get in at least one blow, threw claw after claw at his opponent. Every attack was avoided at the last second, to the point he had even touched the blindfold a few times. He roared in anger, sending a wave of flame at his combat partner who easily dodged with a back flip. “Good use of your fire breath. I can feel those sharp claws barely missing me.” A hoof struck Spike as he launched forward, snapping his jaw at Wraths throat. “You’re angry, good. Channel your rage into your attacks, but don’t let it consume you. Allow it to fuel you and shatter your limits, but remain in control of that passion and fire.”

Exhausted, brutalized, and happy to be alive, Spike finished his first day of training. An hour of fighting Wrath had been less painful, but far more energy consuming than Power House. It was no wonder those two had been such monsters when he saw them fight. The girls had gotten off very easy. And he had to do this all again tomorrow, yay. He collapsed on his side and fell asleep alone in the castle.

The moon shone on four shadows as they sat outside the castle conversing.

“He’s no me, but he wasn’t bad. I haven’t seen someone work their wings that well so early into flight practice in a century.”

“You should have seen the work over I gave him. I don’t know a Minotaur in existence who could have taken that beating, and then sparred with Wrath.”

“He’s a fast learner, teleportation magic for dragons usually takes years to achieve. As for my mission in Ponyville, Celestia has already appeared with the Elements of Harmony, and the four you hospitalized have woken up. She wasn’t happy when she heard about you taking Spike. Didn’t take long for her to connect the dots and realize you released me. It appears that she intends to prepare them for our coming. I don’t think she believes the book. Also, Luna has joined the fray. She’s rather pissed off with her sister, and I believe she will be the key to winning the Elements over.”

“Good. Fix up Spike’s injuries and restore his energy. It’s going to be a long and brutal week for him, but we need him ready. All fifteen of us are going to have to be at our best if we want to stop this, let alone survive it. Get some sleep. I’m going to visit their graves; it’s been a long time since I’ve been home.”