• Published 24th Oct 2012
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Absolution - BlackRoseRaven



A pony begins a journey to find his parents, lost heroes who vanished years ago.

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Eternal Freedom

Chapter Thirty Eight: Eternal Freedom
~BlackRoseRaven

Clockwork World had offered no further danger, and Scrivener and Luna had both been exhausted, but recovered quickly. The corruption didn't bother them... in fact, with them present, the dark world seemed to take on a different kind of atmosphere, like it was responding to the two ponies, and obeyed them on instinct.

They rested and talked for a while, checking over each other, but Luna and Scrivener had returned in full health... only tired from what they had experienced, and a little... distant. But they treated their family with adoration and love, and Antares basked in their presence as Celestia recounted some of the events that had led up to this: she wanted to wait until they were all safely back in Equestria to tell the whole story.

They made their way back through the Corruption Sea once everyone felt ready, and Antares had eyes only for his parents still, almost ignoring his friends, constantly running up to his mother or father or slipping between them as they strode calmly behind Celestia, and smiled indulgently at their son as he acted like a silly foal. Every now and them, he'd impulsively hug one of his parents... and they'd always hug him back, and nuzzle him, kiss his forehead, rub his back, compliment him or reassure him. It was everything Antares had craved to have... and the joy he felt over it was indescribable.

It took them longer to make their way back up to the surface than it had to descend into the trench, Luna and Scrivener complaining every now and then, but it always made Celestia smile, and relaxed the others. They seemed the same they had always been... or at least, close enough. There was still... something... that felt off, felt a little strange, but the ponies were trying to disregard it... and when they eventually did manage to reach the campsite above and found everyone waiting for them, it became far easier to push past any worried feelings when Pinkamena stormed up to Scrivener and punched him in the face, knocking him flat as she shouted furiously: “You stupid jackass crowbait!”

Scrivener looked dumbly up at her from the mire, laying on his back in his damaged, black and silver armor as Luna giggled stupidly despite the fact that with the soul-link that existed between her and her husband, she felt everything he did... before she wheezed in pain even as she continued to take obvious amusement in Scrivener's plight when Pinkamena tackled the earth pony into the ground and rolled violently several times with him, beginning to pummel him viciously as Scrivener howled apologies and excuses.

Aphrodisia giggled a little herself, tilting her head with a bright smile as Meadowlark and Avalon only stared, before the young demon chirped: “They really must be best friends! Mommy only ever beats on Daddy like that.”

“Oh aye, they are the very best! And friends, 'tis so wonderful to see so many of thee here, that so many ponies felt-” And then Luna's head snapped to the side even as she turned, stumbling with a wheeze when Pinkamena smashed a particularly-vicious hook across Scrivy's face, the earth pony gargling as black mire burst from his wounded jaw.

Pinkamena seized him by the throat, then frowned at this before she leaned down... and slowly, she licked up along the earth pony's torn lip, Scrivener and others staring at her before the demon licked her own lips slowly as she closed her eyes and gave a soft sigh of pleasure. “I'd almost forgotten. You're still full of that delicious dark chocolate sauce, huh? That just makes me want to beat on you even more.”

“Please don't. This is not precisely the welcome back party I'd hoped for. Although... it is what I expected from you, yes.” Scrivener said sourly, and then he smiled suddenly before reaching up and touching Pinkamena's face, saying quietly: “I'm glad to see you.”

Pinkamena blushed a bit, then grumbled and punched Scrivener in the nose, Luna's own head twitching before she wrinkled up her muzzle and blinked several times as Scrivener groaned and grabbed at his face. Then the Devourer demon shoved herself off the earth pony, glowering over her shoulder and shouting: “They're back! Say hi! Get over it! When the hell is that stupid Bifrost going to be recharged so we can go home...”

“Soon, Pinkamena, we'll be able to open it soon.” Celestia said gently, and then she smiled warmly as Scrivy slowly picked himself up, rubbing absently at his face as the others crowded in. “But yes. It was very close, but my sister and brother... they've returned. All thanks to their son, Antares Mīrus.”

Antares smiled and blushed, shrugging as Luna gazed lovingly over at her child, and ponies crowded in to welcome then and talk with them. The young stallion always lingered nearby, though, gazing warmly over at his parents, listening to every word they spoke and simply staring at them, watching them, admiring them.

Celestia was almost the same, and while the ponies celebrated and forced away the doomsday atmosphere of Clockwork World, as the initial bright flares of joy faded slightly into warm acceptance, many of them couldn't help but note things here and there that didn't add up, or that felt... strange. How even as Antares acted almost childlike, Luna especially seemed to encourage it, snuggling her son like he was a colt instead of a growing stallion, stroking through his mane, cooing compliments. Celestia, too, seemed nearly submissive to their desires, and Luna and Scrivener both almost acted like they were glad to take advantage of this, having her do little things for them, patronizing her a little, even pulling her close not just for a hug or affection, but almost like a beloved pet.

But maybe it was just paranoia, and the way reality was harsher here: maybe it was because almost ten years had passed, and Luna and Scrivener had been frozen beneath a sea of corruption for all that time, deaf to the universe. There were a thousand possibilities, and no one wanted to speak out against them, especially right now.

The Bifrost was opened as soon as possible after several days of simply camping at the edge of the trench, and Luna and Scrivener headed the charge up the rainbow bridge, and back home, with Antares running between his parents and Celestia following just behind. The feeling was more than triumph, more than victory; it was like every action, every breath, had meaning behind it, and added to the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that filled the air.

They had done it: and when they ripped out the other side of the tunnel and charged down the bridge into the fields outside of Ponyville, Luna and Scrivener both cried out in joy at the sight of their beloved village, at the blue sky above, at the green grasses beneath their hooves. And they didn't stop, didn't slow, Antares laughing in delight and following eagerly as his parents bolted over the ground and the Nibelung gaped in amazement from their posts at the gates ahead.

Scrivener and Luna ran into Ponyville, and ponies stopped, stared, cheered at the sight of the two, yells and calls rising through the air as the two sprinted through the village. They headed straight to the library, and the door was flung open just as they began to cross the square, Twilight stumbling out with her collar around her neck and studs in her ears as she looked up with untold, unmatched joy before both ponies all-but-plowed into her, Scrivener and Luna almost crushing the Lich in their embrace as she clung tightly back to them, whispering: “I knew you'd be back. I always knew that if you didn't come back, Antares would bring you back... I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I... I... I'm so happy...”

“Yes, Twilight, we've returned...” Luna said softly, and then she smiled warmly over the Lich, who blushed deeply: she was still in a rough, almost half-dead state, and yet neither Luna nor Scrivener flinched away, looked at her with anything except compassion and love as Antares beamed happily at the three.

Then both ponies looked up curiously as Burning Desire strode out of the library, smiling faintly as Twilight blushed deeply and turned to gesture at the fiery stallion, saying awkwardly: “This is... this is Burning Desire. He... he helped me a lot, and... I owe him a lot and... we're...”

“Antares and Celestia told us all about you.” Scrivener said softly, and then he smiled as he pulled away from Twilight, even as Luna continued to rest with a foreleg around the Lich's shoulders, holding her close, smiling... and yet her eyes gleamed strangely, she seemed almost possessive as the earth pony approached the demon and said quietly: “We want to thank you. You've done a lot for us by taking care of Twilight, by watching out for our son... and we want you to know we're not going to forget that, and we'll find a way to return the favor.”

“I... thank you. Glad to have kept the seat warm.” Burning Desire said after a moment, unable to keep all the bitterness out of his voice as he looked silently towards Twilight, who blushed and lowered her head before the fiery stallion cleared his throat and lowered his head. “I apologize. I should go...”

“Antares, why don't you go with Burning Desire? Luna and I will catch up later, we're... eager to talk more with you. We just have something we have to do first... you know, apart from getting out of our armor.” Scrivener said softly, and Burning Desire looked up awkwardly before the stallions' eyes met, and the charcoal earth pony insisted gently: “Please. It would be good for you both, I think.”

“I... I suppose, yes.” Burning Desire said finally, even as Antares frowned a little and stepped up beside Luna, and even Twilight looked uncertain at the childish way he pawed quietly at his mother.

But Luna only smiled down at her son, shaking her head and leaning down to kiss his forehead, murmuring soothingly: “Nay, 'tis okay, Antares. Go with Burning Desire, thy mother and father shall catch up to both of thee soon as we can. But for now we need... but a few moments with Twilight Sparkle, is that understood, darling?”

“Okay Mom.” Antares said after a moment, smiling up at his mother before he turned his eyes to Burning Desire, saying quickly: “We can go out to help the others... I think Aphrodisia had some questions for you, Burning, she... had some problems with her... you know.”

“Duty calls.” But all the same, Burning Desire looked almost relieved to have something to do attend to, nodding slowly before he hesitated, then slipped past Scrivener and strode up to Twilight. He gazed down into her eyes, then reached up and gently took one hoof in both his own, leaning forwards to kiss the Lich's forehead tenderly before he smiled faintly as he drew back; and while it was sad, it was also honest, as he whispered: “We had a wonderful time together. Take care, my sweet violet. I'll always be there for you.”

Twilight smiled faintly up at him, nodding slowly before she blinked in surprise as Luna reached up and grasped Burning Desire's shoulder before she leaned up and whispered something to him. The demon flinched back a bit at this, then he looked silently, consideringly down at Luna before nodding hesitantly, and Luna smiled kindly. “Good. Think upon it. We shall speak soon.”

Burning Desire hesitated, then he nodded again before turning and hurrying off, and Antares glanced after him before he apprehensively looked towards his parents as they headed towards the library, but Scrivener only called gently over his shoulder: “Go on, Antares. We've got all the time left in the universe now, remember. And we'll spend it together.”

Antares smiled after a moment, then he slowly began to turn as Scrivener gently closed the door... before the earth pony slowly drew his eyes towards Twilight as Luna smiled warmly at the Lich. She looked back and forth between them, joy shining in her eyes even as she said softly: “You know, he is an adult... and Burning Desire, I mean...”

“Oh shush, Twilight Sparkle, I am gone less than a decade and thou thinks thou art suddenly some master of demons. I have been dealing with demons for countless years.” Luna huffed, waving a hoof, and Twilight couldn't help but laugh before the sapphire mare grinned over at Scrivener and winked. “Furthermore, I believe that I also have more experience than thou with stallions...”

“Oh, shut up, Luna.” Scrivener retorted, and Twilight laughed again, earning a curious look from the two, and she blushed deeply before the male smiled softly as he reached up to begin pulling off his fractured armor. “We're going to need to get this repaired...”

“Aye, but it is only another reason to visit my brother as soon as possible. I look forwards to seeing all their faces again, Scrivy...” Luna murmured, smiling warmly as her horn glowed before she simply flicked it, and Scrivener watched with affection and entertainment as the armor of the winged unicorn glowed faintly before clasps opened and belts unhooked themselves, the armor rapidly pulling itself apart and making it easier for Luna to wiggle free of her gear as Twilight simply looked back and forth between the two, eyes radiant.

Scrivener was the first to pull completely free, revealing the cutie mark on his haunch of a black rose blossom, with a raven feather quill overtop this... and then, without hesitation, the male strode forwards and reached up to grasp the back of Twilight's scalp, pulling her forwards into a firm kiss. The Lich all but melted against him, kissing him eagerly back as she grasped at his shoulders with a soft sigh, even as she was surprised by Scrivener's forcefulness... but then he drew back, and even as her eyes remained closed, she smiled in delight as she felt Luna's lips meet hers next, pushing into the second kiss, feeling Scrivener's hoof play gently down through her mane.

Then Luna drew slowly back, and Twilight's eyes fluttered open as she breathed slowly, blushing deeply, looking from one to the other. She studied them, Luna lithe and gorgeous, with the splotch of black night sky and the moon as her emblem adorning her flank, and Scrivener strong and wearing the signs of years of battle over his body, marked with scars that had always carried a strange fascination for her... and all the more now that she was what she was.

Then Scrivener smiled softly, leaning forwards as his eyes locked with hers, and he asked gently: “Do you trust us, Twilight Sparkle?”

“With my life. With my absolute life, and... I never want to be apart from you two again, ever.” Twilight whispered, shaking her head and smiling faintly. “Antares... he and Celestia, they were the only things that kept me going. Burning Desire too, yeah, but... that was after... only years and years, and only because he was okay with... you know.”

“Yes, we do.” Luna smiled softly back, reaching up and gently stroking Twilight's face. “Look at thou, though, such a mess, and because of the treacheries of a monster we have heard little about... but we have a way to make it better, Twilight. And one that should make thou stronger as well, we hope... reduce the need for thou to change between bodies, because thy phylactery is only so strong. Come, Twilight, show us what remains.”

Twilight nodded, turning and leading them towards the stairs before she blushed and added hesitantly over her shoulder: “This can wait though, you know... I mean... I saw how eager Antares is to spend time with you, even if... well... you know he's a stallion, right?”

Luna only smiled kindly, however, shaking her head as she and Scrivener followed Twilight up towards the guest room, the winged unicorn murmuring in response: “Twilight, 'tis... surprisingly hard to remember, if thou wishes to know the full truth. We were in darkness... there was no passage of time, only... frozen emptiness... and now... we are free.”

Luna looked up with tenderness as they stepped into the guest room, sighing softly in relief as Twilight nodded slowly, then blushed and gestured quietly to the side of the bed. As Scrivener stepped into the room as well, he smiled a little bit and shook his head a little, murmuring: “You've been staying here a lot, huh? I see your little personal touches all over the room, Twilight... makes me nostalgic.”

“Yeah. It.. it's been easier.” Twilight replied softly, sitting back on the bed as Luna slipped past and studied the broken music box, softening as her eyes drew along it. The Lich hesitated, then she continued quietly: “It was easier for Antares, too, after... everything that happened. Has... has he told you about Prestige?”

“We did not press him. He... hurt at the mere mention of her name, so it seemed better not to push the subject for now. He will tell us when he is ready.” Luna replied quietly, and then she nodded once before smiling over her shoulder and striding back past Twilight, before her eyes roved to Scrivener Blooms.

Their gazes locked, and Twilight gazed affectionately, admiringly at them, watching the way they traded entire conversations back and forth. Seeing it for the first time in so long filled her with a strange sense of relief, before she tilted her head curiously as the two nodded firmly before Luna gazed affectionately at Twilight Sparkle, asking softly: “Does thou truly desire to be with us forever?”

“I'm still wearing this, aren't I?” Twilight smiled faintly, reaching up to touch the lily-shaped clasp of her collar, and then she nodded slowly, gazing from one to the other silently. “I'm never, ever going to let you two run off without me again. No matter what that means, no matter what I have to drag with me. It... losing you, even if I always clung to the hope that you'd return... it hurt. And I'm surprised to feel that it still hurts... but at the same time, I know why. Because I think of all those years and experiences that passed, of all the things I never got to share with you...”

The Lich closed her eyes, shaking her head slowly as she whispered: “And it's been so hard. Celestia, Antares, and precious few others... look at me the same way they used to. When you were here, I knew it didn't matter... but when you were gone, I've felt... every stare, the bite of every word, all the insults and... how hard it's been, I can't... I just can't imagine the strength you have to have gone through worse than the treatment I still get these days outside of Ponyville.”

“We shall have to remedy that.” Luna murmured thoughtfully, and Twilight felt a strange flutter of not just apprehension, but almost... gladness, at her tone. But before she could question either her own feelings or the sapphire mare, Luna glanced up and nodded firmly, saying calmly: “But much more importantly, Twilight Sparkle, is the matter of what should hold thy soul... and I can think of nothing more suiting than bonding the essence of thy phylactery into ourselves.”

Twilight looked up in surprise at this, blinking before she said in a stupefied voice: “Like... like in that story? But Luna, Scrivy, isn't that supposed to be incredibly dangerous? And... and I would be like... if I let you do that, you'd be able to treat me like a puppet, and...”

“Does thou not trust us, sweet Twilight? Did thou not just say thou wants to be with us... forever?” Luna chided gently, and Twilight blushed and lowered her head, even as she looked nervously up as Scrivener strode slowly forwards to sit beside the ruins of the phylactery, as Luna continued in a cajoling voice: “Aye. We could strip thee of thy will if we wanted to... but will thou not trust us, Twilight? We would never wish to harm thou that way, for we are free... instead, the three of us shall be bonded like one. All our strengths, amplifying each others, but thou shall still be able to travel far and wide, not encumbered by distance like Scrivy and I are with our single soul. Thy soul shall be... separate and yet fused to us. 'Twill be in our flesh and blood... we shall be thy living, breathing phylactery.”

“Together forever...” Twilight closed her eyes, swallowing thickly, bowing her head forwards as she thought for a moment: Scrivener and Luna never would have asked her something like this in the past, and yet at the same time... as she thought of all the pain she had gone through without them, as she thought of how much she loved and trusted them, she couldn't help but shiver a little before finally glancing up, whispering: “Will it hurt? Not just me... will it hurt you? I don't want to hurt you... and this magic... this is dark magic, isn't it? Is this... Nightmare Moon's idea?”

“Thou art worth a world of pain, Twilight... but no. I suspect that Scrivener and I may... enjoy it, even, and as long as thou believes in us, trusts in us, and aids us with the process... it should not hurt thou, either.” Luna said reassuringly, and then she smiled softly and shook her head, saying soothingly: “Nay, fear not, Twilight Sparkle. This is no machination of Nightmare Moon's... she sleeps still, deep in the darkness, and I suspect she may sleep for a long, long time yet.”

“But Luna and I... want to protect what's important to us, all the more now that we're home. And we want to indulge ourselves, and live our lives the way we always should have... free.” Scrivener replied quietly, stepping forwards and smiling calmly down at Twilight, before he leaned in and kissed her... and there was no way Twilight could resist kissing him back, trembling a little before the male drew back and closed his eyes, murmuring softly: “Good. Luna?”

Luna smiled slightly, her eyes half-lidded before she said gently: “'Tis not so different than the magic thou would use to place thy energies in a different container... I suspect thou must have learned the spell by now, Twilight. Come, follow along. 'Twill be easy once we begin. Scrivy?”

Scrivener nodded, then he closed his eyes and lowered his head, and Twilight trembled for only a moment before she looked back and forth between the two ponies, feeling her worries fading into absolute trust and adoration, into naïve, almost childish belief and love, before she whispered as her own horn lit up: “Okay. Together forever... I love you both.”

“And we love you, Twilight.” Scrivener said softly, and Twilight smiled radiantly at him before she closed her eyes, pushing power into the magic, the pieces of her phylactery trembling violently as they were surrounded by a strange sapphire aura and melancholy music poured up from their remains...

Twenty minutes later, Scrivener and Luna calmly strode out of the library, quietly closing the door behind themselves before they traded grins and a loving look that all the same was somehow predatory, hungry. Scrivener's body was covered in a faint sheen of sweat, and Luna was trembling a little, breathing hard as she whispered: “Oh, we should have done this long ago, Scrivener Blooms... what fools we were. Oh, glorious Ponyville, our humble sanctuary that we were always too shy to share our desires with in full...”

“But not any longer.” Scrivener murmured, smiling slightly as he licked his lips slowly, gazing affectionately over his shoulder at the door. “But maybe it's a good thing we waited, Luna. This way, we didn't have to run the risk of losing her in Clockwork World... and now that we're back, she can be ours for forever.”

“Yes, and we shall no longer hesitate to indulge others as well.” Luna replied with a wink, and the charcoal stallion laughed quietly and nodded, rolling his shoulders as the sapphire mare murmured softly: “Aye. We shall speak to Celestia soon... but I suppose we should hold to our promise, and go to meet Burning Desire and Antares.”

“We don't have to if you don't want to, Luna, we can just say we forgot and wander around Ponyville.” Scrivener said easily, and the winged unicorn smiled up at him as their eyes locked, the charcoal stallion saying softly: “We're free, after all. Of... almost everything.”

Luna half-lidded her eyes at this, leaning forwards and trading a brief, firm kiss with the stallion before she murmured: “Free to do anything we please, free to seek power, free to experiment... but do not be silly, Scrivener. If we do not go, Antares will worry and Burning Desire may judge us before knowing us, and I have become... interested in him. 'Tis in our best interests to go.”

Scrivener nodded thoughtfully in agreement, then he reached up and stroked slowly through Luna's mane, murmuring softly: “Yes, you're right. I suppose it's just this feeling, of... no longer having to care about anything, except for ourselves and the things we cherish... it's intoxicating. And without having to worry about any anxieties, or any voices in my head telling me how wrong it is for us to search out all the things we've always wanted to in our darkest dreams, but never quite dared...”

“Mayhaps one day we'll even return to Clockwork World... make it our own beautiful kingdom, like thou and I both know that it could easily be.” Luna whispered enticingly into his ear, and Scrivener rumbled as he nodded slowly again, grinning at this thought before the mare turned with a wink, flicking the male gently with her starry tail. “Come, Scrivener Blooms. Onwards. We have much work to do... we have many pleasures to chase.”

Scrivener smiled as he followed after the female, nodding slowly as his eyes almost glowed. They smiled at ponies that cheered and greeted them, and they waved happily back to those around them, but at the same time, the only reason they responded was because they enjoyed the attention and enjoyed the reactions of the other ponies. They were free now, after all: free to live however they wanted, and all they cared about was what made them happy, and what made them strong. They were free... and they would both do whatever it took to pursue that freedom, and never let anyone take it away from them.

Antares smiled happily as he sat in the cottage with his parents, but all the same, something gnawed at him. Something was bothering him, although he couldn't quite place a hoof on what it was, as he laid comfortably between his parents. He felt like a foal, and they were letting him bask in their love, indulging his childish regression. It simply felt so good to... to no longer have to worry about anything. To feel like, now that his parents were here, everything was okay. He didn't have to be a leader, or responsible, or anything except what he wanted to be.

It was late evening, and the day had been incredible. Mostly a blur for Antares, but he had seen how many ponies had welcomed Luna and Scrivener back, had celebrated alongside them, and they had started planning a big party of sorts to be held tomorrow for their triumphant return. It was a wonderful start to what felt like a brand new life, as Antares shifted... then gazed radiantly over his shoulder at the sight of Twilight Sparkle, who was humming quietly as she worked gladly away in the kitchens.

The violet mare had regenerated incredibly over the day, from whatever his parents had done for her: she still had a lot more stitching on than usual, but that didn't matter. Her body was most of the way back, and she seemed vibrant, bouncing around, talking excitedly with his parents, and thanking Antares again and again for bringing them back like Antares had done it out of generosity, not selfishness, making him laugh.

Then he smiled warmly when Luna gently pushed the young stallion onto his back, rubbing his stomach with one hoof as she gazed down at him and Scrivener rolled his eyes, saying mildly: “That's our son, Luna, not a dog.”

“Oh shut up, Scrivy.” Luna said mildly, then she blew a raspberry at him before smiling down at Antares, leaning down and studying him curiously as she rubbed a hoof along his chest. “So... thou art almost a stallion, art thou not? The time we have missed, Antares... and here I am, treating thee like a young foal again! But even though I see thee... 'tis so hard for me to remember that thou art an adult. It still feels like 'twas only yesterday that we were saving thee...”

Luna closed her eyes, and then she shook her head slowly before massaging gently upwards along Antares' breast, then she cupped his cheek with one hoof, gazing down at him lovingly. “But look at thee. Handsome, strong, and an adult. A strong stallion of his own merit.”

“It's okay, Mom, I've... I've enjoyed this. It's been like catching up on all the time I never had with you guys before.” Antares said softly, reaching out and touching Scrivener's foreleg, and the stallion gazed down at his son softly. “I'm only lucky I had Twilight and Scarlet Sage to help look after me...”

“And aye, Scarlet Sage!” Luna shared a warm look with Scrivener. “She is married now, is she not? Damnation, of all the things to miss, Celestia performing the marriage of my beloved daughter to Apple Bloom... I suppose now we shall have to marry thou off to a handsome stallion, Antares, if I desire to see such a ruckus.”

Antares laughed despite himself, shaking his head slowly before Twilight entered the room with a plate of dumplings. She put it down in front of the fireplace as the three ponies shifted on the bedding, before Luna leaned down and kissed Antares' forehead. “Make room for Twilight, Antares, thou hast hogged us all to thyself for the last few days. Besides, there is room enough to spare.”

The young stallion nodded with a bit of a blush, slipping sideways a bit as the Lich laughed softly and shook her head, carefully sliding onto the cushions. Scrivener wrapped a foreleg around her as she slipped between the stallions, as Luna wrapped her own foreleg around Antares, pulling him against her, and the young male closed his eyes, resting his head on his mother's shoulder as she said softly: “See? 'Tis no trouble at all.”

“Yeah, Mom. You're right. You and Dad are always right...” Antares murmured softly, smiling complacently before he opened his eyes... and then blushed a bit at the sight of Twilight and Scrivener kissing slowly, hurriedly turning his eyes away as he cleared his throat. “I... uh...”

“What, does thou desire a kiss too?” Luna asked teasingly, grinning slightly as she squeezed him playfully close... and something about her tone made Antares feel uneasy and nervous, a chill running down his spine before the sapphire winged unicorn smiled slightly as her horn glowed, lifting a dumpling from the plate. “'Tis what loving ponies do, Antares. But eat, eat! I do not desire to see my son going hungry.”

Antares winced a bit, and then he awkwardly took the dumpling... but when he felt Twilight's side gently push against his, his ears still picking up sounds he really didn't want to recognize but did anyway, and he cleared his throat as he tossed the dumpling into his mouth, chewing nervously.

Luna was studying him with strange intensity, but then her eyes flicked up, and Scrivener Blooms and Twilight parted as the violet mare blushed, murmuring quietly: “I'm sorry... I... I should know better, Antares. But... we're all back, and... well, we haven't had... much time together. And I'm so elated over being...”

She reached up silently to touch her features as Antares looked back towards her, and he softened a little, shifting embarrassedly before saying quietly: “I'm sorry, I... didn't think of that, I guess. I know, I keep clinging to you guys and acting like... well, I am an adult, yeah. Not a child...”

“'Tis fine, Antares, thou art always welcome with us... so long as thou remembers, my son, that if thou stays with us at all times thou may see thy parents do things not usually witnessed by children.” Luna winked, and Antares winced a bit: her tone was joking, yet the look in her eyes... “And I do not care how thou acts, Antares, or what thou does, as long as thou enjoys it. Thou hast already proven thou art our son... the blessed child of myself and Scrivener Blooms... and aye, Twilight Sparkle, thou art the second mother, for only thou could help such purity blossom even with us as the parents of this young stallion.”

Twilight laughed and blushed, and Antares smiled warmly as he looked up happily. Luna nodded firmly a few times, and then the sapphire mare studied Antares thoughtfully before asking Twilight curiously: “Tell me, does Fluttershy still have those cute clothes she used to? The foal's pajamas she liked to wear.”

The Lich smiled a bit, and Antares shifted nervously as the violet mare answered softly: “I bought her a new set of those things just last year for her birthday, actually, Luna. Nirvana doesn't mind her eccentricities, but... we all deserve our quirks.”

“Uh...” Antares looked lamely back and forth, an awkward feeling swirling through him: he half-wanted to ask what they were talking about, and half-wanted to hide, since something told him this was likely something he shouldn't know about.

But Luna only smiled at him, reassuring him for a moment, but then his eyes widened as she said kindly: “I am only thinking of ways to indulge thee, my handsome little colt. We can get thee some new clothing, and perhaps some toys... aye, and 'twould be nice for us, too, would it not, Scrivener? To have a colt who never grows up and at the same time, an adult son who can be trusted with the hardest of tasks...”

“No, no, no! I... no, that's okay, no, no!” Antares babbled hurriedly, sitting up and shaking his head with a wince. His parents were only looking at him curiously, Scrivener chewing a dumpling as if nothing was out of the ordinary before the young stallion said lamely: “I... really don't... am not into that, I just... I guess I got carried away enjoying having you back in my life. To help... take care of me, and help me... not be so responsible.”

Luna nodded after a moment at this, eyes tender as she studied her son quietly. “Of course, Antares Mīrus, whatever thou desires. Just know that thy father and I are here for thee, to help thou indulge thyself and free thyself of all worries, as we have tried to aid Twilight.” The winged unicorn gazed affectionately over at the violet mare, then looked flatly at Scrivener, who looked dumbly back as he shoved another dumpling into his mouth. “Well, as long as thy father can stop stuffing his face, that is.”

Scrivener grumbled around the food in his jaws, and Twilight laughed and shook her head before Luna picked up a dumpling herself and bit into it, chewing thoughtfully before she smiled and nodded in approval. The violet mare blushed at this, meeting Luna's eyes, seeming to speak to her without speaking, and Antares smiled at first... then felt a strange chill as he thought he saw a flicker of deeper communication, a hint that there was more than just the silent speech of eyes and emotions trading between them...

But then Scrivener looked up, his eyes lingering on the torn painting on the mantel before he shook his head slowly, and the others all followed the stallion's gaze as he murmured softly: “To come back here, though, and see that... Luna, I'm still surprised you haven't torn the whole house apart.”

“Aye, but what good would that accomplish?” Luna grumbled, shaking her head slowly as Antares looked at the sapphire mare softly, watching as she grouchily pawed her hooves at the bedding and her starry locks swirled backwards. “I cannot even go out and pummel the enemy that has done this, as the enemy is already dead and gone... but I can at least take solace in that small comfort.”

She sighed a little, lowering her head as Scrivener added moodily, eyes lingering on the painting: “Yeah. But I almost wish he wasn't, just so we could properly teach him why not to hurt our family... why they shouldn't play with the things that belong to us.”

Antares shivered a little despite himself at his father's tone, even as Twilight nodded slowly and Luna grunted in agreement, and then the charcoal stallion shook his head before he turned his eyes to his son, studying him. After a few moments, he smiled a little, then asked gently: “Tell us, Antares, about... what happened. You'll feel better.”

For a few moments, the young stallion was quiet... and then he nodded slowly, lowering his head as he murmured: “Okay. I... I'll try to tell as much as I can, then. But I don't know if I can tell you the whole story in one sitting.”

Luna and Scrivener both nodded, and the young stallion took a slow breath before he began quietly: “I... it feels like so long ago now, when me and Prestige Luster were in Canterlot, and Aphrodisia and Pinkamena came to warn us about a sickness that had spread like wildfire through Ponyville...”

Antares talked for hours, as the three listened: Luna and Scrivener gazed at their son with tender affection and sympathy, as Twilight smiled faintly now and then, nodding and adding a rare word here and there: complimenting Prestige, reminding Antares that he had done his best, or simply sharing her own quiet thoughts when it was appropriate. And Luna and Scrivener remained quiet and respectful, and his mother hugged him close when emotions started to overwhelm him and his father massaged a hoof along his back, and Antares cried a little but felt... like he was letting everything finally drain out of him, all the same.

He ended it with finding them in Clockwork World before falling quiet, and Luna and Scrivener had gazed at their son before the sapphire mare said gently: “'Twill all be fine, my sweet Antares. Do not fear, 'twill all be fine. We shall help thee to be free of this burden... to be free of all pains, and all burdens, as a matter of fact. Mother and father are here for thou, as is Twilight Sparkle, as are countless others...”

“There's no need to be afraid anymore.” Scrivener slipped his forelimbs around his son, hugging him gently close to his own body for a moment, and the young, glossy-black unicorn gladly buried his face against his father's chest, curling up a little as Luna reached up and stroked tenderly through her son's mane. “We're going to fix everything we can that's wrong.”

The young stallion smiled faintly, curling up childishly, breathing slowly, feeling... safe. Safe and loved and warm, and believing naively every word his parents said. And he simply let himself be cuddled and coddled by his strange family, enjoying it more than he knew was healthy, but... they were back. Everything was going to be fixed, his mother and father had returned, Twilight was happy, everypony was happy...

Except now he thought of Burning Desire, who had looked so... uneasy, not just sad. He thought of Discombobulation, how the Draconequus had looked uncertain the entire time he'd spent around his parents, the distance he'd put between himself and Celestia. And Twilight was smiling and bouncing, but it was like she had thrown all her own cares away, like nothing mattered... and he shivered a bit from where he was still curled up on the bedding with his parents as he heard the soft sound of lips meeting lips again, not wanting to once more witness another kiss that no child should be privy to seeing their parents share. And that was before even considering the awkwardness of having three parents, and...

The young stallion carefully climbed to his hooves, and heard his parents shift before Luna asked curiously: “Art thou alright, my son?”

“Just... tired, Mom. I haven't slept for like, three days.” Antares replied with a small smile, opening his eyes and gazing at Luna, and he realized it was true. Maybe that was why he had a knot inside his stomach, maybe that was why his mind was twisting itself ragged... “I think I just need to go sleep for the rest of the night.”

“Alright, Antares. Go ahead, then, my son.” Luna said softly, smiling across at him, and the young stallion nodded a little before the winged unicorn asked gently: “Would thou like me to tuck thee in, like old times?”

“I...” Antares blushed a bit, glancing over his shoulder... but then the three older ponies all smiled at him as they stood, and the young stallion dropped his head with a bit of a blush, feeling both pleased and embarrassed at the same time.

He turned to stride quietly down the hall to his room, heading inside and looking silently at the bed as he slipped his necklace off to put it up on the hook. He could still faintly feel Prestige's presence here... and he closed his eyes when he felt his mother's hoof rub along his back gently, before Luna said soothingly: “All is fine, my little colt. Slip into bed now...”

Antares nodded awkwardly, carefully stepping forwards and sliding himself beneath the covers, before he smiled lamely as Luna grasped the edge of the blankets and pulled them up. She paused for a moment, though, then leaned down, asking kindly: “Would thou like one of us to stay with thee? Myself, thy handsome father, thy gorgeous Twilight-Mommy? Any of us would be glad to hold thee, and comfort thee...”

“No, no, I... thanks Mom, but no.” Antares said hurriedly, trying not to wince, but Luna only smiled before leaning down... and the young stallion turned his head slightly as her lips almost brushed his, kissing the side of his muzzle before she leaned back with a calm, benevolent look on her face.

He was silent, and so were his parents as all three looked down at him almost like predators observing prey, before Scrivener said softly, as he slipped a foreleg around Twilight: “Don't worry, son. One day, you'll have Prestige back... you'll have everything you've ever desired, we'll help you see to that. First we all just have to recover our strength, though... reestablish ourselves in our little kingdom.”

These words sent a chill down Antares' spine, but then Luna gently tucked the covers in, saying lovingly: “We love thou, Antares, with all our hearts. We want only the best for thee and all other things we care for in this world... and we shall ensure that thou has it.”

Antares only swallowed a little, nodding awkwardly before the trio turned and left, and the young stallion simply laid in bed, almost afraid to move. The door was left ajar, and he could hear soft conversation... and then voices rising in excitement... and then...

The young stallion shivered, horn glowing as he closed his door with a quiet snick, and it muffled things at least as he seized his pillow and yanked it over his head, deafening himself to the sounds rising through the house now. Worms twisted through his guts as he wondered if his parents had always been like this, but... he couldn't think of one time when he'd been foal when he'd heard... no, they had always been careful, especially about exposing him to anything like that. Respectful, and compassionate, and mature in their very immature way.

He shook his head slowly, trembling beneath the blankets, fighting back tears as he thought of the way Luna had looked at him. As he thought about how his father sat back with the mares, as if he possessed them, owned them. But no, they were his parents! He just wasn't a child anymore, and maybe he was just trying to see all the flaws... maybe he was just so convinced everything would be perfect that now he was picking up on every tiny little thing, making mountains out of molehills. That had to be it...

Yet he heard Allonym's yell of warning in his mind all over again, and memories flashed through his head again and again of what had happened as he tossed and turned in bed. And even as he fell into uneasy, broken sleep, the memories merged with nightmares, and he saw himself, screaming and crying and hysterical, acting like a child as everypony tried to stop him, but no, he made the wish, he called them back...

And claws ripped out of the black earth in front of him before some vicious, fanged monster emerged, alongside an awful Tyrant Wyrm with clanking pistons on its back. They roared and laughed and grinned, and yet Antares ran to them anyway, tried to make them his parents, and he was crying... but even when they embraced him, he felt their claws cutting him: the Wyrm's breath scalded him, the monster's fangs bit him with every kiss. And they were not his parents, and he was not their son: he was their prized possession, and they were masters, slavers, owners. He was a much-loved pet that they preened over and played with. And it wasn't that they didn't care about him in their sick and twisted way, but all the same he had no rights but what they gave and took away as they pleased.

Antares woke up in a cold sweat, sitting up in bed, breathing hard... and then he trembled, staring, as he saw Twilight sitting beside his bed. The Lich was smiling softly, but her eyes had a faint glow to them, and her stitches pulsed faintly over her body before she slowly reached out and took his face in her hooves, whispering: “Enough, Antares. Don't fight it. Just give in... trust and love your parents. I did... and now I'll always be with them, forever. I'm powerful, and I feel true freedom, for the first time in my entire life...”

She closed her eyes, then leaned in slowly, and for a horrified moment Antares thought she was going to kiss him. But instead, she only stopped an inch or so away, hovering over him before murmuring: “It's morning now, and your mother and father and I are going to go out. I have to visit a good friend... but around noon, there's going to be a celebration at Sugar Cube Corners, so you don't forget. You don't need to bring anything, just come and celebrate with the others... be good to your parents, Antares. They deserve it. They deserve to have anything they desire, and I'm going to help them get that.” Twilight's eyes opened, her smile genuine, the look of love in her eyes terribly dangerous. “Even you.”

With that, the Lich turned as Antares trembled violently, breathing hard in and out, and Twilight Sparkle let herself calmly out of her son's room and closed the door behind herself quietly. She shook her head out after a moment, feeling a few wisps of conscience roll through her, but they were easily pushed aside as she returned to the bedding, where Luna was sprawled against Scrivener as the male massaged her shoulders slowly and easily, the two glancing up as the Lich said quietly: “I think he'll adjust. It'll just take time... they'll all need time.”

“We'll give them as much as we can afford but... Scrivener and I already grow bored. We hunger to pursue our urges and dreams...” Luna paused meditatively, and then she smiled slightly as she sat up, nodding firmly once. “But aye, at least we can pursue one Desire for now, so to speak...”

“That was an awful pun.” Scrivener remarked, and Luna huffed and glowered over her shoulder at him before the stallion licked his lips slowly, looking meditatively down. “You are right, though, and I'm eager myself... he's earned what we can offer.”

Twilight smiled softly at this, then she turned and gestured for them to follow, saying quietly: “Then come with me. Burning Desire has a little hideaway I'm sure he's at... I'll lead you to him.”

“Thou art eager, but I am glad to see it. I can celebrate that joy...” Luna smiled slightly as she climbed to her hooves, Scrivener following last as the Lich led them towards the door, before the sapphire mare paused as she glanced at Antares' room. “Perhaps I should speak to our son, though...”

“No, Luna. Let him come around. He's been happy, and he'll understand soon enough why things are the way they are.” Scrivener said gently, and the sapphire mare nodded thoughtfully in agreement before the charcoal earth pony murmured softly, glancing up at Twilight Sparkle: “But what Luna said is true. You're bound to us, you're ours now and forever... it makes it easier to be... more lenient. We're greedy, after all.”

“I like you two being greedy. You deserve it. You deserve the entire world.” Twilight replied softly, her eyes glowing faintly for a moment before she licked her lips slowly and turned, pushing the door open as she smiled radiantly. “And this isn't for me... this is to help you both, and for Burning Desire to understand what wonders you two work. Your power, your generosity, and the freedom you plan to share with the entire world... I want him to receive that gift.”

Luna and Scrivener both smiled as the Lich pushed open the door, and they strode calmly out after her, striding easily towards the forest path, sharing affections with one another as the trees whispered and rumbled around them, as the forest seemed to half-recognize them and half-fear the trio that strode again through its misty, early morning grayness. But the sapphire winged unicorn only sighed in delight, drinking in the atmosphere as Scrivener smiled warmly, and Twilight had eyes not for the path ahead, but almost solely for her lovers, glancing again and again over her shoulder at them until she tripped on a root and fell in a sprawl.

The others laughed, and Twilight blushed even as she smiled lamely, picking herself up and mumbling: “Sorry. I just... there's so much I want to do with you both...”

Scrivener smiled at this, then he reached up and grasped tightly into Twilight's mane, leaning in and making her shiver in delight as he replied quietly: “And there's so much we want to do with you, Twilight... Luna, shall we take a break?”

Luna grinned at this, and Twilight's breathing quickened, heart thudding before she closed her eyes and nodded eagerly... and an hour later, as true dawn's first rays shone down through the canopy, the Lich smiled dazedly as she led them onwards, shivering in bliss and delight. It felt wonderful to be free, to act free, to be able to do anything she wanted now that Luna and Scrivener were beside her... to understand nothing else mattered as long as they had each other, and freedom. And better yet, she could taste their plans in her mind, and they delighted her: they would start in Ponyville, sharing their gifts with each and every pony they could... but even more important than that, Celestia...

“Now do not peek.” Luna chided, and Twilight smiled embarrassedly over her shoulder at the grinning sapphire mare. “Wicked, naughty Twilight. Scrivener will be placing thee upon the racks later, to properly... punish thee.”

Twilight shivered, delighted at this thought in a way she never thought she'd be as the charcoal stallion rumbled slowly. His eyes glowed faintly, and the Lich gazed longingly at him before Luna looked thoughtfully between the two, then murmured softly: “Perhaps Antares could use a younger sibling... but many glorious ideas spin through my mind now that I no longer have to worry about restraint or fickle limitation. 'Tis wonderful. I understand now that 'twas only silliness to have anything out of bounds or off-limits... we do not need rules. We do not need limitations. We are...”

Luna grinned slowly, licking her lips as Scrivener mirrored her expression, and Twilight let out a shiver and a soft whisper at the pleasure that rollicked through her entire body at just the thought, at just the look on Scrivener and Luna's faces. All the same, there was the faintest twist inside the deepest part of her, that shifted uneasily... but a moment later, whatever it was went back into its deep sleep, and instead Twilight looked forwards, gesturing down the side path they were taking through the forest towards a little hut in the distance. “There.”

The others nodded, and Twilight smiled as she approached the awkwardly-constructed log shack: it was halfway between cabin and shed, with a thatched straw roof and badly-constructed walls, a single door on creaky hinges the only way in and out of the small structure. Without slowing, Twilight simply flicked her horn and threw this open, and Burning Desire glanced up in surprise from where he was sitting on a soft bed of blankets next to a boiling cauldron.

The fiery stallion started to open his mouth, and then his eyes widened in shock when Twilight grasped his shoulders, leaned down, and kissed him firmly. The demon's eyes fluttered, and he kissed her back eagerly on instinct... but then trembled and mastered himself, carefully pushing her away and pulling his head back as he looked up and saw Luna and Scrivener step into the doorway, whispering: “What is this? I... I mean... violet, darling, look at you, but... you...”

“I'm here to offer you a position, Burning Desire, as a bodyguard to Luna and Scrivener... as part of the world we plan to build together. To be beside me, each and every day... to share things with me, freely. Because we are all free...” Twilight said softly, reaching up and stroking the demon's face as she gazed into his eyes adoringly, and the fiery stallion trembled a little as he gazed up at her silently. “I want you to be free, too. And if you accept, I'll gladly share my time with you... we can't have what we did before, but we can still share something special. We can be close friends, and more. And all your longing... Luna and Scrivy will take that away...”

“How? I... T-Twilight... violet, you don't sound like yourself...” Burning Desire whispered, and the Lich only smiled, her eyes glowing faintly as Scrivener and Luna both loomed in the background, their expressions coy and eager.

“Luna and Scrivy... they want the whole world to become free, and I understand why. To bring happiness to everyone... because now that they are free, they are truly happy. I... am truly happy. The only rules and laws will be simple common sense... even if I believe that Luna and Scrivener should be thanked properly. Should be... obeyed.” Twilight looked lovingly over her shoulder at the two, smiling softly. “I love them, Burning Desire. Now close your eyes, and tell me that you'll help us. And we'll take away all your pain... you'll be beside me, and I'll be beside you, forever and ever... you can have everything you've always longed for...”

“No, I... I won't. I won't really be with you. Twilight Sparkle, I love you.” Burning Desire whispered, silently taking one of her hooves and looking into her eyes as the demon smiled faintly, the Lich frowning a little. “And I know that we can't be, all the same... and oh, you entice me. Honestly, you do. How could I not want that, how could I not when... when I am longing? But I'm not a child either, Twilight, and I know I've earned my pain and punishment, and while I appreciate what you all offer... I cannot accept. I want to, but I can't accept. It wouldn't be right.”

Twilight frowned at this, stepping slowly back and drawing away as she whispered in surprise: “I... I thought you loved me, Burning Desire... I was so sure that...”

“I do love you. Twilight Sparkle, I love you with all my heart and soul.” The demon continued to smile at her weakly, reaching up and touching his chest with both hooves as he whispered: “But I'm a Passion that's lived for so many years now... and hard as it is, that has taught me all the differences between love and lust, looking out for someone and controlling someone, submission and servility, and dominance and rulership. I love you, Twilight Sparkle. But I can't let myself become a toy for you and your lovers. I'm so sorry, but... please look at yourself. Please, Scrivener and Luna, I have heard so much about you, and if you had offered me something like this in earnest, I would have gladly accepted it, any and all terms, but... look at yourselves. This is not love. This is...”

He broke off as Twilight trembled, the Lich lowering her head as both Luna and Scrivener stepped forwards, touching the violet mare's shoulders... and then Twilight looked up with a snarl, tears running down her cheeks as her stitches pulsed and several popped loudly, whispering: “You should have said 'yes.'”

Burning Desire's eyes widened as Twilight's horn lit up brightly, and then he screamed in agony as the walls of the shack shook violently. Electricity crackled through the ramshackle structure before part of the roof was blown out from the blast of concentrated energy that followed, and in the white flash that tore free from the building, a howling red bird shot wildly into the air, smoking as it fled with all the speed it could muster, holy energy sizzling violently over the firebird's body as it flailed its way wildly towards the skies.

Twilight snarled up through the hole in the ceiling, eyes glowing, but then Luna grasped her shoulder tightly as Scrivener looked coldly up as well, saying quietly: “It's alright, Twilight. Not everyone will be open-minded to our gift of peace, and we'll deal with them as we see fit. Come. Let's make you feel better, and then we have the party to prepare for...” He paused, then smiled softly, as he and Luna leaned in at the same time, both slowly licking a trail of red-tinged tears from Twilight's cheeks as the Lich flushed. “Besides, it doesn't matter... you have us, and Antares... and very soon, Celestia...”

And at this, Twilight smiled faintly, nodding slowly before she turned and buried her face against Scrivener as Luna embraced her tightly from behind, the two terribly-free ponies gazing lovingly down at the once-innocent soul locked eternally in their dark embrace.