• Published 6th Nov 2012
  • 25,765 Views, 654 Comments

Grossly Incandescent - Crack Javelin

Thrust headlong into a strange new world, Solaire of Astora must make amends before he can continue with his mission. Unbeknownst to them all, a shadow from his past approaches.

  • ...

Chapter Two - A Matter of Pride

The palace grounds was a different place at night. The colorful gardens and perfectly-kept lawns had adopted an eerie look in the light of the moon. Gone were the servants and gardeners, leaving behind only the chirping of crickets and rustling of leaves.

Though she had every right to be out there, Applejack stepped lightly along the stone pathway, her head bent low and eyes darting every which way.

A soft voice hummed from behind.

Rarity, who had been silent ever since they left the castle, trotted up to Applejack’s side. A look of concern was apparent on her face and her mane bore the signs of someone who was recently pulled away from her work.

“Applejack,” Rarity whispered, “are you certain that Twilight came this way?”

“Not a doubt in my mind,” Applejack whispered back. “I heard a guard come fetch her from her room and sure enough, I see Twilight walkin’ this same path from my window not five minutes later.”

In the distance, a white spire loomed overhead.

The tallest point in Canterlot.

Rarity followed her friend’s gaze.

“Do you think—”

Oh yeah, sugar.” Applejack exhaled deep and shook her head. “I reckon Princess Celestia’s givin’ her a right good talkin’ to just about now.”

Rarity frowned.

“Still can’t believe it,” Applejack continued. “Makin’ us worry about her the past two months and just when we think she’s gettin’ better, she tells not only us, but the rest o’ the world what she’s been up to.”

"Soul magic," Rarity murmured. "I knew something was wrong, but... maybe I should have seen this coming."

"You quit that right now, Rarity. Not a single one of us coulda guessed what she was doin' in that library of hers, so don't you go blamin' yourself about this."

They continued walking without a word, the sound of their hoof-falls forming an odd staccato in the night. Out of the corner of her eyes, Applejack saw Rarity breathe out a quiet sigh.

Applejack bit her lip.

"The gala dresses?" she asked.

When Rarity only hummed in response, she felt a twinge of guilt pulse in her chest.

"I'm mighty sorry for askin' you to come along,” Applejack said. “It’s just that I saw the light under your door and everyone was else was asleep, so I—”

Rarity gave a weak laugh.

“So you asked me to go with you,” she said, smiling. “No need to apologize, darling. Making a whole dress is one thing, but putting the final touches on one is another. Besides, I still have all of tomorrow to finish my work.”

The white spire continued to draw closer.

“Plenty of time,” added Rarity.


“And I know for a fact that this is more important.” Rarity’s looked up, her smile falling away as her gaze traced the contours of the tower. “I think I should be grateful, really. I wanted to speak with Twilight right after her lecture, but I… I lacked the courage.”

She turned to the side.

“So thank you, Applejack.”

The earth pony quirked an eyebrow.

“For what?”

“For being just as scared as I.”

Grossly Incandescent

Chapter 2 - A Matter of Pride

The pit in the floor stretched wide and far, a gaping maw that threatened to swallow anyone who drew too close. Moisture flowed from the cracks up above and a steady drip drip drip could be heard, beads of water falling through the pit and into a pool far below.

The bottom could just barely be seen—a sickly blue glow lingered in the hollow as if the light down there carried a physical weight and had no desire to ascend.

Solaire watched as Adria peered over the side, her eyes searching through the darkness.

“The water’s shallow,” she said. “It will do nothing to stop a fall, let alone one from this height.”

“No matter,” replied Solaire as he dropped to a knee by the edge of the pit. “We’ve been through worse.”

“Except we don’t know what’s down there,” Adria said. “I’d say we look for a different way forward, but there’s nothing. This is the end. This is as deep as we go.”

Solaire plucked a pebble off the floor before flicking it into the hole.

“So we do know what’s down there.” He turned to the side and looked up at the figure standing a few feet away. “Those lights, that feeling in the air—who else could lurk in such a place if not the Gravelord?”

Adria wrinkled her brow.

“Are you proposing that we just drop into Nito’s domain? He’s no doubt prepared traps, infused the place with magic. For all we know, Solaire, he might not even be alone. We may as well be insects flying into a widow’s web.”

Solaire smiled.

“I can go first if you wish.”

“That’s not the point,” Adria said. “We’re a team aren’t we? We’re supposed to protect each other. If you jump down that hole without a plan, you’ll be making both our jobs very difficult.”

A strand of black hair fell over her face. She spoke again, quieter than before.

“But this is the only way, isn’t it? I can see no other option. We either turn back, or we go down.”

“An easy choice,” Solaire said. “Are we in agreement then?”

Adria sighed as she brushed the stray lock behind an ear. She looked down at him with tired eyes and a weary smile.

“It’s always troubled me, Solaire, not being able to see your face.”


“I can’t tell if you’re frightened or not,” Adria said. “If any of this is even affecting you.”

“Would you like to see?” Solaire brought a hand to his helmet. “Or is this a trick to remind yourself of how handsome I am?”

Adria looked away.

“Just jump, Sir Knight.”

Chuckling, Solaire rose to his feet.

“As you wish, My Lady.”

Sword and shield in hand, the knight took one last look into the pit before he leapt, a powerful push from his legs throwing him forward and into the darkness below. The shallow pool rose up to meet him and with a resounding splash, Solaire slammed into the rocky bottom, all four limbs bracing against the fall.

His entrance echoed around the chamber.

Water dripped off his armor in uneven trickles.

Slowly, Solaire stood up, the slits in his helmet nothing but black in the shadows of the cavern.

A voice, distant and fleeting, called out from above.

“It’s safe!” Solaire called back as he squinted against the dark. When his eyes were fully adjusted, he took a moment to observe his surroundings.

From the ankle-high water emerged a series of giant stalagmites, bordering the cave like an armory of earthen spears. In the center of the cavern stood a thick pillar of rock, extending into the ceiling where it joined even more of its pointed brethren. As Solaire looked around, his boots sinking into the thin layer of grey sand, he realized that a quick escape from this place would be impossible.



Nowhere to hide.

Solaire nodded. Perfect conditions to kill a god.

A splash from behind signified his partner’s arrival. Adria cursed under her breath, sloshing about as she pulled herself from the silt.

“I thought you hated heights,” Adria gasped out.

“Only sometimes,” Solaire said as he turned around.

His eyes were drawn to one of her knees—the cloth and skin had been sheared off by the impact of her fall. Wincing, Adria palmed one of the cuts, blood flowing from between her fingers.

Solaire took a step forward.


She shook her head and with a trembling hand, reached into a leather pouch hanging from her belt. Pulled out was a dull green flask filled with an orange liquid, the contents glowing as it swirled around within its container.

Adria brought the flask to her lips, a moment passing before she tilted it back. Sip after measured sip, her breathing soon came easier and the shaking in her hand stopped.

Solaire looked down to see the cuts shrinking, folding and knitting together as if an invisible seamstress worked her wounds. She lowered the flask, the relief clear on her face.

“I think it was broken,” Adria said.

“And now?”

Adria rose to her feet, testing her weight with a few bends of her legs.

“I’ll be fine,” she whispered, placing the half-empty flask back into its pouch.

As she gazed around the cavern wide-eyed and tight-mouthed, Solaire turned his attention to what lay behind the pillar. The stone formation was thick enough to obscure a large portion of the chamber. If Nito truly was down there, that was the only place he could be.

With a wave of his hand, Solaire caught Adria’s eye.

“Follow me,” he said, “and stay close. Whatever happens, you stay where I can see you, understand?”

Adria nodded and fell into place beside him. After adjusting his shield and readying his sword, Solaire started toward the center of the room, eyes focused on the distant shadows. Though they reached the pillar without incident, Solaire couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling churning in his gut.

It was too still.

Too quiet.

The only sounds to be heard was the dripping of water and their own labored breaths.

“I don’t like this,” Adria whispered, clutching her staff against her chest. “We should have seen something by now. Heard something. If this continues, I fear my heart might burst.”

“Tell your heart to wait a moment longer,” Solaire said. He turned to face her. “Adria, can you produce that light from before?”

She looked up at him.

“Are you certain? Whatever’s down here is sure to see us.”

Solaire nodded.

“If Nito already knows we’ve come for him then it matters not. I’d rather us be revealed than blind.”

She grimaced, her hands tightening around her staff.

“Okay,” she whispered. “I’ll do it.”

Solaire watched as Adria shut her eyes, her mouth uttering silent incantations. A second passed before a ball of yellow light emerged from the tip of the staff. Hovering the light over one of her fingertips, Adria guided the miniature sun high into the air, illuminating row upon row of stone-grey stalagmite.

As he gazed around the cavern, Solaire couldn’t help but notice that the shadows cast upon the walls looked like jagged teeth, the jaws of a ferocious monster closing shut on them.

He banished the thought.

“Solaire...” She was staring at a far-off point above his shoulder.

“Solaire,” Adria repeated, “we need to move.”

The air was thick.

His breath hitched in his throat.

And as Solaire turned around, he already knew what he would see.


Rays of moonlight poked through silver clouds, bathing the balcony in a soft glow. Despite the cold winds, Twilight felt no inclination to go back inside. Forehooves perched against the railing, she observed the night sky above with attentive eyes.

Next to her, Celestia stirred.

“It’s a beautiful sight, isn’t it? Ever since my sister’s return, I’ve found myself coming out here more and more.”

“I still remember,” Twilight said. “You used to stargaze with me when I was younger. It’s a little silly, but... this spot holds some of my fondest memories.”

Celestia smiled.

“What of this night, Twilight Sparkle? Will you remember this ten, twenty, fifty years from now—the night that your old, greying teacher shared with you her deepest woes?”

Though she could hear a hint of humor in Celestia’s voice, the actual question gave Twilight pause. She looked away.

“Princess, I… I hope I do. A year from now, I hope I can look back on this day and just laugh with everypony about how I secluded myself in the library. A-about how foolish I was acting. And maybe on that day too, I… I could work up the courage to properly thank you.”

Twilight felt a grin forming on her face.

“And you’re not that old,” she said.

Celestia gave a small chuckle.

“I think the historians would disagree with you,” Celestia said, extending a wing and lightly tapping her student on the side.

Twilight shied away, a second passing before her smile faded into a contemplative look.

“I really do need to thank you though,” Twilight said. “You didn’t have to tell me any of those things but you did, and… I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate it—you trusting me like that.”

Celestia took a moment to respond.

“Whatever you may think of me as, Twilight, just know that I will always think of you as friend. And is that not what friends do? Trust each other?” Celestia breathed out a quiet sigh. “Maybe I owe you thanks as well. I’d been holding onto those secrets for far too long—to have finally let them go, I don’t think I can put into words how it feels.”

Twilight looked down at her hooves, an odd sensation welling up in her throat.

“Earlier… was Princess Luna upset? Was she angry that I had used soul magic?”

The question lingered between them.

“Upset, yes... but not at you." Celestia paused, an air of anxiety surrounding her. "Let me say this, Twilight, it has been a while since my sister raised her voice at me with such a passion. I suspect that ever since she returned, Luna has been making a great effort at keeping her emotions under control, but… to see that fire in her eyes again—it reminded me of how my sister once was.”

She hummed a thoughtful sound.

“Perhaps I shouldn’t be so taken aback that your lecture stirred something within my sister. Where I was Kindness, Generosity and Laughter… Luna was Honesty, Loyalty and—”


Celestia nodded.

“Does that surprise you?”

“Y-yes,” Twilight murmured, “it does. And what about Honesty? Her powers. I mean, she goes into the dreams of ponies, and… and I don’t even know. She’s so mysterious, and—”

“And what are dreams, Twilight? Are they not simply the mind’s truths laid bare? Just as Luna delves into dreams seeking that truth, she once plummeted into the depths of magic itself to peer at her very soul...”

Celestia went silent, her eyes downcast.

“She said I should have anticipated this, that you would eventually seek out the truths just as she once had. ‘Both a blessing and a curse’ she called it, the unquenchable thirst for knowledge.”

Twilight shook her head.

“I-I don’t understand. Why are you telling me these things? Would Princess Luna be upset that you’re sharing this so freely?”

“I’d imagine not, Twilight.”

“Then why didn’t she speak to me herself?”

Celestia took a deep breath.

“It’s a matter of pride with her. Though Luna is slowly adapting to the changing times, her mindset is still very much rooted in the past. The fact of the matter of is, Twilight, my sister does not deem herself worthy of speaking to you—especially on a taboo that she herself has practiced.”

“But still,” Twilight whispered, “if she had just told me what soul magic had done to her…”

“And what if she had?” Celestia said. “Would something coming from my sister have changed your mind? You do not know Luna… and Luna does not know you.”

Twilight felt something sink in her chest.

Celestia looked away.

“She left it in my hooves, and now I am leaving it in yours. Regarding your research, Twilight, whatever you do from here on out is your own business. We have said what we needed to say. You’re a grown mare, and you are entirely capable of making your own decisions.”

Far on the horizon, black clouds were forming. A rogue storm judging by its appearance, but soon the proper authorities would take notice and dispatch a team of pegasi to break down the phenomena.

There was no way it could reach Canterlot.

The unicorn sighed.

“I’ve already decided,” she whispered.

Twilight found herself thinking of Spike, of how he constantly pleaded with her to leave the library. She found herself thinking of her friends, of how they begged her to at least tell them what she was doing. And two months after it all began, she found herself at the top of a white tower in Canterlot, her teacher staring down at her with a deep focus in her eyes.

Twilight swallowed away the lump in her throat.

“I’m stopping my research on the soul,” she said, her voice quiet. “I knew that pursuing this was going to be a challenge, but… I didn’t realize how deep the danger ran. I-I’m sorry. To both you and Princess Luna.”

A small smile appeared on Celestia’s lips. She responded without missing a beat.

“I am happy to hear you say that, Twilight, but there are others who are in much greater need of an apology than me or my sister. When you wake up tomorrow, please do not forget that.” Celestia started for the doors but soon turned around. “And for what its worth… I’m glad that we were able to have this talk.”

Twilight’s hoof shot out.

“Wait,” she said. “Before I go, there’s something else I wanted to ask. You’ve already helped me with so much, and, well... I thought you’d like to see this through to the very end.”


“The crystal I showed at the lecture—my soul crystal… will you help me get rid of it?”

Far in the distance, the black storm continued to draw closer.


Solaire heard the air rip apart first. Like a pendulum gone wrong, the massive sword smashed into his shield with a deafening clang. He felt the floor wrench away and before he could comprehend anything else, Solaire crashed into the stone pillar, his breath knocked out of him in one ragged gasp.

A woman cried out.

Dust scattered all around him.

Solaire fell to a knee, unceremonious as he braced himself against the wet sand. In those precious few seconds, he managed a slow quavering glance upward—upward towards the creature that had attacked him.

He saw its sword first, hovering over him like an executioner’s blade. The sword was curved, a giant shard of steel riddled with pits, its color dulled into a dirty brown. The hilt appeared to be corroded, but as Solaire’s eyes came into focus he knew that his hunch was wrong.

Not steel, no, but human bone twisted and warped into a perverse guillotine—its only purpose to cut short the lives of men.

Solaire turned his focus to the sword’s owner.

Skeletal fingers far too large wrapped around the blade’s handle. A forearm as tall as he stood creaked and groaned with every movement. Solaire’s gaze travelled up the monstrous limb and toward the skull perched atop a torso of skeletons. Somehow, he knew that the god was staring down at him, regarding the intruder with its black pits for eyes.

Gravelord Nito.


He dies today.

“Solaire!” Small hands gripped at his tunic as Adria struggled to pull him to his feet. “Get up!”

Panic in her voice.

Danger looming.

It was only by instinct that Solaire managed to block the second blow. He raised his shield high above his head, bracing with both arms as the colossal sword struck again. A shockwave coursed through his body as weapon connected with steel.

A quick glance told him that Adria had fled a safe distance away, brow furrowing as she stared up at the ancient god.

Gravelord Nito pressed him deeper into the earth.


With a burst of strength, Solaire pushed Nito’s sword off to the side. He surged out of the sand, already gripping his own blade before springing forward. In a few bounds, Solaire closed the distance, his sword arm coiling back for a heavy strike.

Solaire let loose a primal roar as he hacked at Nito’s exposed legs. Hit after frenzied hit, small shards of bone were chipped away in a shower of dry dust.

Not nearly enough.

“Get back!” Adria again. Yelling.

Solaire looked up, barely in time to see Nito aiming his sword straight at the ground.

A scream shrill and rattling shook the chamber. A magic foul and hateful filled the air. Nito reared back, his hands almost touching the ceiling before he brought his sword down, the blade piercing through the earth where Solaire once stood seconds before.

The knight’s eyes widened.

Not intended for me.

He whipped his head back toward Adria only to see a look of realization dawning on her face.

In an instant she was gone, her form shrouded by a massive explosion of stone and dirt. Small bits of rock rained down, splashing into the water like hailstones into a lake. As the air cleared, he saw what caused the damage—a red translucent spike had burst out of the ground, already fading as if it never existed.

Solaire gritted his teeth. If Adria were still alive, she’d make her presence known.

Slowly as if mocking him, Nito retracted his blade from the earth, bone grinding against bone as he raised himself again to his full height. Solaire stood just out of Nito’s reach, a grimace forming under his helmet.

The knight looked down at his sword then at the small notches he cut into Nito’s legs.


And then he heard it, that familiar whir of magic.

The air hummed with energy. His hairs stood on end. And like a spear thrown, a javelin of blue light arced overhead before slamming into Nito’s chest with a ripping crack.

Solaire’s ears rang.

Splintered bone showered all around him.

What remained of the soul spear was gone—it had disintegrated from the impact into a blue mist. But the damage was done. Nito staggered back, hands clawing at the smoking crater in his chest.

Solaire smiled.

Several meters back and behind a thinning haze of dust stood Adria, the end of her staff letting out a bright blue glow. She widened her stance, a snarl forming on her face.

Nito!” she spat out. “Do not think that such an attack would kill me! I’ve battled with chaos demons. I’ve seen with my own eyes the city of the gods! Your greatest efforts pale in comparison to what I have already endured!”

Adria took a step forward and spoke again, a deep malice in her voice.

“You know why we’ve come, don’t you? You hid yourself away deep in the bowels of the earth because you knew. You knew you wronged us!” Her knuckles whitened as she gripped her staff. “You and your ilk turned and fled when you realized our curse could not be contained! You left humanity to rot in this… this agony!”

A hum of magic, and soon another blue bolt lanced through the air before exploding into Nito’s chest.

The chamber shook as Nito began crashing to the ground, body rattling as the god struggled to keep upright. Chunks of bone dropped from his smoking wound in shattered clumps. From deep inside, a human skull dislodged and fell into the shallow water, half-submerged as grey sand began creeping into its crevices.

Solaire stepped back, his smile fading.

He didn’t need to look to know that Adria was continuing her slow approach—the sound of her boots pushing through the shallows was enough indication. Seconds later, a blue light entered his peripherals.

Adria looked up at the subdued god.

“You’re weaker than I expected, Gravelord. What is it like to be killed by those who cannot die? To have your soul taken from you by those who lack their own... it’s a cruel irony, is it not?”

A sense of unease welled up in Solaire’s throat. He gripped tight at his shield.

“Caution, Adria. Don’t get too close. Let’s not forget who this is.”

“He’s nothing but a filthy betrayer of man,” Adria said. “And I know precisely what he’s planning.”

“What do you—”

“You can feel it, can’t you? That palpable desperation in the air. Nito’s gathering what remains of his energy for one final attack. He means to collapse this tomb onto our heads. He means to bury us... but I won’t allow it.”

Solaire studied her face, his gaze tracing the dark circles around her eyes.

“You’ve changed,” he said. “The Adria from before never once spoke with such contempt in her voice.”

Her severe expression was unmoving.

“Maybe I’ve realized what I need to become if I want to survive this place.” Adria glanced in his direction. “I think I finally understand what you meant. Our affliction... it’s as much a blessing as it is a curse, isn’t it, Solaire?”

The knight sheathed his sword and reached for the small bundle of cloth tied to his belt. With a quick tug, he undid the bindings and cradled the white fabric in a loose grip.

Solaire spoke in a quiet tone.

“You’re correct. Our affliction, it’s a curious thing—a death sentence for some but for others, it’s... it’s the opportunity to do the impossible.”

Adria readied her staff.

“And which are you, Solaire?”

He frowned.

“I do what I can.” With the barest hint of a thought, energy surged through his fingers. “And right now, there is only one thing I can do.”

Gravelord Nito dies today.

In one fluid motion, Solaire raised the talisman high above his head, open-palmed as if plucking fruit from a tree. The air crackled with energy. Static jumped within the talisman, and in an instant, Solaire wrapped his hand around a volatile bolt of lightning, pulling it from nothingness as if it were there all along.

Electricity arced between his fingers. Sparks kicked and surged against his grip. The lightning spear was nothing more than a vicious projectile that wished to be let loose—his faith given a destructive form.

And it always struck its mark.

Solaire turned to the side, silent as the tomb they stood in. Their gazes met, a moment passing before Adria gave a slow nod. They understood well enough what was on the other’s mind.

A blue glow pulsed from the tip of her staff. Adria stepped forward, gloves straining as her hands tightened around the pale wood. Without warning, the blue haze gathered together on the staff’s end, materializing into a cluster of shimmering cobalt crystals.

Solaire felt his brow furrow as the crystals morphed into sharp barbs, growing larger and larger until the tip of Adria’s staff was a crystalline spearhead of nightmarish spikes and thorns.

Your soul magic continues to impress me, Adria.

Several meters away, the mountain of bone that was Gravelord Nito heaved up and down, leaning against his sword as he struggled to his feet. With one final push, Nito’s tremendous form left the ground, clumps of mud and dirt falling from his rising bones.

It’s time.

Solaire squared his feet, drew his arm back, and gripped tighter on the lightning bolt in his hand.

The air reverberated with energy as Adria focused her magic.

And straight ahead, Nito spread wide his arms as if welcoming his destruction.


Twilight couldn’t help but feel a sense of melancholy at the sight of the crystal. Standing opposite of her was Princess Celestia, a lavender glow illuminating her face. The hoof-sized stone hovered between them, emitting a low melodious tone as if someone were playing the cello several floors below. With a sigh, her gaze travelled over the crystal’s clouded surface, taking in its rough edges and jagged structure.

Eyes wide, Celestia stepped forward, a hoof slowly reaching out.

“Whoa, wait!” Twilight pulled the crystal out of reach. “What are you doing, Princess?”

A moment passed before Celestia let her hoof down, gold shoes clicking against stone. She gave a slow nod.

“I apologize. It has been almost a millennia since I’ve last seen a soul crystal like this. I’ve forgotten how destructive they can be.” Celestia’s ears twitched in the wind. “Twilight, are you sure this is the decision you want to make, wanting to dispose of it?”

Twilight breathed in deep.

“It’s the only decision,” she said. “I can’t keep it in the library and I can’t leave it here—I realize that now. If something went wrong again...”

Celestia raised up suddenly.

“Again? What happened?”

“Nothing major, just—” Twilight let out a weak groan. “Without really thinking I had asked Spike if he could bring it up from the basement. I had just made the crystal you see, so I was still pretty exhausted. The next thing I hear is a loud crash and...”

“The crystal cut through his scales,” Celestia said, shutting her eyes.

Twilight looked away.

“Through dragonscale. I… I couldn’t believe what I saw, Princess. I still don’t believe it. After we made sure everything was okay, Spike told me all he did was touch the crystal and it just—” She shook her head, grimacing. “I cannot keep it in the library.”

The glowing gem quavered in her telekinetic grip.

Celestia looked on, a curious expression crossing her face.

“Could you not leave it here?”

“That’s what I originally intended, but… I can’t. It wouldn’t be right, not after everything you’ve told me.”

Celestia’s gaze flicked between the crystal and her student.

“Twilight, I understand how much this crystal means to you. No matter how you view things, that piece of rock was created from your soul. Wanting to discard a piece of yourself, it can’t be an easy decision. It shouldn’t be an easy decision.” Celestia paused, a moment passing before she spoke again, quieter than before. “Only if you wish... I can take the crystal off your hooves. To hold it for you—in a vault—until such a time comes that you wish it returned.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You aren’t, because I’m offering.” Celestia tapped her hoof against the floor. “If there is even a small doubt in your mind that you may want to keep it, just tell me and I won’t press you further. Once destroyed, there will be no getting it back.”

“There isn’t,” Twilight said with an air of finality. “I just want it gone.”

Moonlight bounced off the balcony’s stone tiles. A cold wind blew by, but neither pony took notice. Instead, Celestia nodded and moved away from the railing on steady hooves. She came to a stop in the center of the structure, her tall form silhouetted by the light pouring out from within the tower.

For a brief moment, Celestia was still. Her ears stood tall and alert and a deep intensity stormed behind her eyes. With one deep breath, her chest filled with brisk summer air before she exhaled through pursed lips. Celestia nodded.

“Very well, Twilight. I will help you dispose of your crystal.”

The unicorn smiled, her shoulders straightening as if a great weight had been lifted.

“That’s good,” she said, the relief apparent in her voice. “That’s very good. It’s wonderful actually! When can we start, Princess?”

“We can begin now if you wish. It won’t take but a moment and I imagine that you’re eager to put this all behind you, yes?”

Twilight nodded, the crystal bobbing with each rise and fall. Horn glowing, she started toward Celestia, an eyebrow raising when her teacher remained rooted in place. She shot a glance into the tower.

“Princess?” she began. “Is this a simple spell? Something that, well… you can conduct out here? It’s just that this isn’t what I’d call the most secure of testing environments, and considering what we’re doing, I—”

“Peace, Twilight. For the spell I have in mind, I couldn’t ask for a more ideal location.” Celestia smiled. “Besides that, I don’t think the palace staff would be too happy with me if they found out I’ve been burning things indoors, would they?”

Twilight only hummed a response, but inside a thought was churning. A thought of what was to come. A thought of heat and flames—a thought of fire.

Princess Celestia lowered her head, a second passing before her horn took light. From root to tip, a soft yellow glow bloomed outward, a beacon in the night. She spared a glance toward Twilight, her eyes lingering as if searching for a confirmation to proceed.

Twilight nodded.

And then the balcony burned.

A kaleidoscope of oranges and reds burst from Celestia’s horn, forming shapes, flowing, living and dying in the span of a heartbeat. Despite the harsh brightness, Twilight didn’t step away or shield her eyes—she watched in wonder as the lights danced on whispers of wind, flowing around her like falling leaves in the middle of autumn. But it was not meant to last. A pressure built up in her head as if she stood abruptly, and with a sudden clarity Twilight knew it was over.

The first thing she noticed was the quiet warmth licking at her coat. The only feeling Twilight could equate it to was snuggling into a thick blanket after taking an especially cold bath. She smiled, savoring the tingling sensation in her face.

Celestia hadn’t moved; she stood where she had always been, but now there was something else. At her hooves was a small flame, flickering about in a cool breeze.

As Twilight’s eyes came back into focus, the oddities surrounding the flame became much more apparent. The fire didn’t flicker so much as it did sway, and like ribbons, bands of orange light rose up into the dark before fading away.

Unnatural, Twilight would have called it. The fire looked as if someone without eyesight were asked to illustrate a flame using only a description as a guide. Brow furrowing, Twilight’s sense of calm was replaced by one of deep curiosity.

Twilight took a step forward, but the words died in her throat when Celestia hit her with a silencing gaze.

The princess spoke in a tone that brooked no further argument.

“I will answer your questions, Twilight, but not at this precise moment. Right now, there is only one thing that I need you to do.”

The crystal floated in a field of purple magic.

Celestia nodded slowly, the whites of her eyes catching the flame’s glow.

“Drop the crystal into the fire.”


Atop the pile of corpses stood Solaire, his gaze searching through the bones and dirt. Gravelord Nito was dead—the god had been blasted apart by their two-pronged attack, reduced to nothing but a mountain of skeletons and several bits of bone that had been scattered by magic and lightning. Several meters away, Adria waded through the shallows, her head bent low as she occasionally paused to sift the sand with a boot.

Without a sound, Solaire leaned down and plucked a ribcage from the pile, wordless as the ancient bones crumbled between his fingers. Whatever magic that was once infused in them was now gone. Sighing, he directed his attention to the sorceress.

For ten minutes they had been searching, and for ten minutes she had been silent.

Find it, was all Adria had said before she turned away, a weariness in her gait. There were no smiles. There was no celebration. They may have killed the Gravelord, but something was missing.

Only when she cleared her throat did Solaire realize that Adria was looking his way.

“Have you found anything?” Her voice echoed through the cavern.

Solaire shook his head.

From such a distance, it was hard to tell what she was thinking. Adria wrinkled her brow and murmured something under her breath.

“Keep looking,” she finally said. “I’m not leaving here without the Lord Soul.”

Solaire looked down at the untold number of bones beneath his feet. Buried somewhere within the remains was the driving force behind Nito’s strength.

The soul of a god.

My very own sun.

He nodded to himself before lowering to his knees. A quick breath filled his lungs and with a renewed spirit, Solaire dove back into his work. As the seconds dragged into minutes, a quiet monotony set in. Reach inside, scoop away. Reach inside, scoop away. Before, the thought of so carelessly tossing aside such an obscene amount of human bones would have appalled the knight. Solaire clenched his jaw, pushing the sentiment far out of his mind.

He dug with a fervor, a silent dedication to his work, and as he brushed aside bone after bone something finally caught Solaire’s eye.

A skull—yellowed and desiccated—appeared within, twin pits of black staring back at him with lifeless intent. Frowning, Solaire reached in and grasped the skull, a quick tug dislodging it from the grime.

Immediately, a bright orange glow filled the cavern. Solaire reeled back, his grip loosening on the bone.

“Solaire!” Adria’s voice.

The knight shielded his eyes, his other hand already gripping the sword at his waist. From within the depression poured out a single beam of light as if a torch were burning inside.

Water splashing. Adria approaching.

Solaire leaned in close, an orange glint catching the front of his helmet.

“What is it?” Adria again, somewhere below.

A smile spread across his face.

“The Lord Soul,” he breathed. “Adria, it’s more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.”

Amidst the dirt and bones whirled a wild sphere of fire. Brilliant oranges and yellows twisted and churned, raged and boiled, but somehow the soul retained its shape. In a daze, Solaire reached out, not caring about the impressive heat battering his hand.

As expected, the soul was intangible—pure energy could not be grasped—but the soul clung to his outstretched limb, seeking out life in any way it could.

With a victorious grin, Solaire held out the Lord Soul in an upturned palm, hovering inches from his skin. He cast his gaze out and in an instant he saw her waiting several feet below, staring up at him with narrowing eyes.

His grin widened.

“Adria, the Lord Soul! Praise the Sun, we’ve did it—there’s hope for this world yet!”

Adria was motionless.

“Why are you so excited?” she said, her voice just loud enough to be heard. “Our quest has only just started, and you’re acting as if we have already reached the end.”

Solaire bit back his response. There was something in Adria’s tone, in the way she spoke that gave Solaire pause. Slowly, he descended the pile of bones and was soon standing face to face with his partner.

Adria’s gaze was piercing.

“Undying optimism, Solaire. That’s what you have.”

“I tend to not let things get me down, yes.”

“To be honest, it’s refreshing… to know that there can exist someone with such a positive outlook in a land so bleak.” An unidentifiable expression crossed her face. “But it makes me wonder.”

The Lord Soul swirled between his fingers, a wild dance that caused the shadows to flicker along the walls. For the first time, Adria looked down at the light, a moment passing before she turned away.

“Before, Solaire, I couldn’t help but smile around you. Like the knights from my childhood stories, you swept into that tower and rescued me. You taught me how to swing a sword, you sat with me and talked the horrors out of my mind. If it weren’t for you, I’d be gone. Through you, I survived.”

“I did only what I was able. I could not have left you there knowing that you wouldn’t have lasted the night.”

“Yes, and that’s what separates you from everyone else.” Adria shut her eyes. “That’s what separates you from me.”

An uncomfortable sensation welled up in Solaire’s throat.

“What are you saying, Adria?”

“You were right when you said I’ve changed. I didn’t want to acknowledge it at first, that this place was leaving its mark on me, but… I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Not with you constantly at my side. Even now, you continue to smile, you continue to laugh, but deep down I know that I’m wasting away.” She shook her head. “You can talk away the horrors, Solaire, but there are some things that cannot be forgotten. They’re burned, etched into my memories like some sort of hideous mark, I—”

Adria took a shallow breath.

“I didn’t understand,” she continued. “We have both seen the same things—you’ve been with me since the very beginning, and yet... I’m the only one being scarred.”


“But then you told me,” she said. “From out of nowhere, you told me your secret. I had only assumed at first, it was the sane thing to do—to assume that you were a victim of the curse just like me. That your bright, shining optimism stemmed from your hopes of making the best of a bad situation.”

Adria barked out a humorless laugh.

“You cursed yourself,” she stated. “You cursed yourself! You willingly came to this land bearing the burden of undeath to spread the light of your lord! I realized then, Sir Knight, that logic does not apply to you.”

Solaire watched in silence as she raised a hand to her head, gloved fingers tracing the side of her face like the multi-jointed legs of a spider.

A smile, cold and cruel, graced her lips.

“Insanity is a curious thing, isn’t it, Solaire? In a just and fair society, a man who is of unsound mind is quickly identified and isolated. Laws are made and those with power uphold them—it’s the natural order of things. But in Lordran, there is no guard at the gate or walls to surround you as you sleep. You are truly and utterly alone, and in this unnatural land without law or reason... those who follow the rules are the ones who are truly insane.”

A bead of sweat trailed down the bridge of Solaire’s nose. He tried to speak but his brain was a jumble of words and disconnected thoughts.

Adria continued unabated.

“Like a shining beacon you emerged from the dark with your honor and gallantry. At the time I was nothing but a shell of a human—how could I not have been taken in? The power you possessed, I had never once seen anything like it. You were so soft-spoken, and yet there was a confidence in your words that touched me in such a way I couldn’t help but believe in them too.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“I realize now that it was just air all along. Your words: the product of an addled mind.”

“Adria,” he began, “everything I am I owe to the Lord of Sunlight. My strength, my—”

“Again you discount yourself. The gods are gone. They care not about you or me or anyone." Adria breathed in deep and let it all out in a quavering sigh. “The only person you can truly rely on is yourself, Solaire. Our time together has taught me that.”

For only a second, Solaire glanced down at the Lord Soul sitting atop his palm.

“So that’s what this is about,” he said. “You think you’ve discovered my true nature, and now you wish me gone. Why is that I wonder… you don’t like what you see?”

Adria nodded slowly.

“I’m continuing this quest without you. You’re a good man, a good person. A shining example of what it means to be human, but… but we’re not exactly human anymore, are we? Honor and chivalry have no place here, and there’s no longer a place for you at my side.”

“You’re only deceiving yourself,” Solaire said. “I wish to save this world just as you do.”

“I wish to save humanity.” A quiet intensity raged across her face. “Do you see now where we differ, Sir Knight? Look around you. This is what you want to preserve.”

“Tis the work of the gods. The crown of civilization.”

“And they abandoned it and left their subjects in ruin.”

Solaire shook his head.

“What is it that you intend, Adria?”

“When I succeed here in Lordran I will continue on and wipe this world clean of their existence.”

“You would destroy everything I stand for.”


“And you realize now that we will surely come to blows. I will not take this affront standing.”

A sharp whistle cut through the air as Adria drew her weapon: a thin silver rapier that still glimmered despite the lack of light. She pointed it outward, her brow lowering.

“Give up, Solaire, and we can end this peacefully. Just surrender the Lord Soul and I will disappear like a dream upon waking. You’ll never see me again.”

“I can’t do that. If I quit now, I will surely hollow.” Solaire reached around his back and grasped his shield, lifting the metal plate by its grips before holding it steady at his side. “Or maybe you’d like to see me that way—a shambling corpse of a man who can hardly string together two thoughts.”

“Never,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy.”

“Then what am I to you, Adria?”

“An obstacle. Nothing more. Nothing less.” With her free hand, Adria pulled free the steel buckler strapped to the side of her leg. She held her arm out, fingers flexing around her shield’s leather-bound grip.

It’s come to this then.

Not once taking his eyes off her, Solaire deposited the soul into the dark leather pouch tied to the back of his belt. He secured the knot with practiced fingers before grasping the pommel of his sword.

“Then I will do what I must.”

He started forward, each step sending a ripple through the dark waters below.


The heat only grew more intense the closer Twilight drew to the fire. It seeped into her body, lingering as if something inside her desired the warmth. She came to a stop at the edge of the small flame, the flowing reds and oranges a stark contrast against the dark sky.

Above her horn hovered the soul crystal, emitting a strong glow as if it were aware of its own impending destruction. Twilight took a slow, deep breath, a wave of heated air filling her lungs.

Celestia stood several paces away, her face a mask of neutrality. Twilight spared a glance toward the princess but no words were exchanged. Celestia gave one final nod.

She’s leaving it in my hooves, Twilight thought. She’s always done that, hasn’t she? Letting me learn and grow from my mistakes.

Twilight smiled a small smile—a quiet, personal thing for herself and herself alone. With a quick thought, the light surrounding her horn blinked away, severing her ties with two months of hard research.

For only a brief moment the crystal hung suspended in the air before it started to fall, plummeting downward into the awaiting flames. A splitting crack sounded across the balcony as the crystal shattered against the floor. Twilight watched as the remaining shards disintegrated within the fire, each one fading into nothingness.

Only when all the shards were gone did Twilight look away from the flame. She turned toward her teacher, an appreciative smile prepared, but what she saw sent a cold dread shivering down her spine.

A wide-eyed Princess Celestia stared back at her, the fire’s glow illuminating the alarm on her face.

“Princess, what—”

“Step away, Twilight.”

“I-I don’t...”

“Step away from the fire!”

She never heard what Celestia said next.

A bloom of blinding light and smoldering heat smashed into Twilight’s side, sending her sprawling to the floor. There was no sense of direction. There was no up or down. There was only the flames, the fire enveloping her face and coat. In desperation, Twilight tried to cry out but quickly realized that she was already screaming. She wrapped herself into a ball, squeezing shut her eyes to protect them from the superheated air.


Something prodded her just below her neck.

“Twilight! Get up!”

Celestia’s voice.

Twilight’s eyes shot open. A haze of shifting white filled her vision. Her mouth felt as if it were stuffed with cotton. She attempted to speak but all that came out was a garbled mess of vowels and half-hearted consonants.

“Shh, Twilight. You’re okay. You’re okay.” Celestia’s voice again. Calming words but the distress was apparent. “Can you move?”

Twilight blinked away the blurriness only to see Celestia standing over her, the princess’ legs like pillars off to each side of her head. Far above, stars shimmered in the night sky.

“I-I don’t know,” Twilight murmured. It was taking a considerable effort to speak. “What happened?”

Celestia didn’t look down at her.

“The fire expanded—violently. I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s caused this or why it’s happening.”

Twilight took a moment to assess her body as much as she could. She was laying on her side—she could tell that much by her forelegs splayed out in front of her and the balcony’s flooring pressing shut one of her eyes. After taking a deep breath, she willed her rear legs to move only for a searing pain to shoot down each limb.

Twilight grimaced, a surge of panic bubbling inside her chest.

“Princess, am… am I…”

“You’re okay, Twilight. You’re not burned or scorched or anything. The flame’s magical in nature—the pain will fade in time. For now I need you to stay calm. Can you do that for me?”

The unicorn nodded slowly, shakily, a quiet relief sinking in. Already, she could feel the pain subsiding as if a flip were switched in her brain to tell her body to stop hurting. After a moment’s contemplation, she craned her neck upward to catch a glimpse of the fire.

Twilight paled.

Celestia had diminished the scale of it. The fire was massive, dominating the center of the balcony like some blazing overlord. The flames arched and stretched through the air, pulsing back down before surging again to towering heights.

Twilight’s mouth was dry.

“I-I was in that?”

“Not even for a second,” Celestia said. “I pulled you out as quickly as I could, but… not quickly enough it seems. Again, I’m so sorry, Twilight. If I had only reacted faster—”

“It’s okay, Princess. I’m just glad you were there.” She focused on the raging flames, a frown forming on her lips. “My soul crystal… it caused this, didn’t it?”

Celestia shook her head.

“I don’t know. I really don’t kn—” Her ears perked up and her body stiffened. She looked down at the pony between her legs, dark shadows cast upon her white face. “Pray tell you heard that as well, Twilight Sparkle.”

She looked up toward Celestia, her eyes widening.

“W-what is it?”


Twilight concentrated on her hearing, ignoring the sounds of her racing heart and the constant roar of the fire. She frowned. “Princess, I—”

A scream.


A scream from within the flame.

Oh no.

Twilight clambered to her hooves, ignoring the dull ache piercing through her legs. She focused on the fire, hoping that she would see nothing at all.

There’s nothing there. Please let there be nothing th—

A shape. The barest hint of a figure obscured by the coiling flames.

Something pulled within Twilight’s chest. She gasped out, just the very thought of it sapping the strength from her knees. Her legs buckled together, and she would have fallen back down had Celestia not caught her with an outstretched limb.

The princess gazed into the fire, an orange glint reflecting in her eyes.

“Get behind me, Twilight.”

“Princess, w-what is that! There’s something in there!”

Get behind me.”

Twilight gave a shaky nod before falling into place behind one of Celestia’s flared wings. They both stared straight ahead, but for Twilight there was a mix of confusion and fear boiling beneath the surface.

Another scream echoed out, louder than before.

The thing in the flame twisted and writhed, growing more and more defined as the seconds passed.

And then she saw it.

The fire shrank in a thunderclap of heat and noise, immediately exposing the creature that was caught inside the inferno.

Twilight blanched. That same pulling sensation returned, squeezing her lungs and choking her breaths. She fell to her rear, unable to stand but unable to look away.

“What is that thing?” Twilight whispered.

The creature was tall, she realized—at least twice her height—and it gave off a metal clinking sound with each step it took. Small wisps of flame still clung to its body and grey smoke curled around its limbs. She looked again to its gangly legs, its cloth-adorned back, before finally settling on the reflective bucket it wore on what she could only assume was its head.



Armor. The creature was wearing armor.

But only warriors would need...

There, grasped in its hand was something Twilight recognized. A long steel sword hung limply from the creature’s grip.

A weapon. Its blade coated by rust or some sort of red—

A quick gasp forced its way out of her mouth when the sword fell to the floor with a loud clatter. Snapped out of her thoughts, Twilight sucked in air when she realized that she had not been breathing. Apprehensively, she looked up towards Celestia.

“Princess,” she whispered, “what is that thing?”

“I was hoping you could tell me, Twilight...”

“I’ve never seen anything like it before. Not in any books or texts or—”

A low groan cut through the air.

Twilight’s ears perked up.

“Was that…”

“...killed me.” The creature grasped at the railing, arms shuddering as it struggled to hold its weight. “She’s killed me…”

With wings spread wide, Princess Celestia took a single step forward, her gold-shod hoof tapping against stone.

Celestia’s voice rang out crisp and clear.

“Identify yourself. What are you?”

The creature swivelled its head in their direction, revealing the two black slits in the front of its helmet. The fire guttered weakly between them, casting everything in an orange glow. As one of its hands left the railing to complete its turn, Twilight saw the image emblazoned across the front of its chest.

A large radiant sun was stitched into the fabric of its tunic, eight red rays surrounding a bright sphere of yellow.

Twilight bit her lip, a thousand questions racing through her mind. She was about to speak when something caught her eye.

There, on the left side of its belly was a dark red—almost crimson—stain, blooming across the white fabric at an alarming rate.

“Blood,” Twilight whispered. A dull buzz rang in her ears as she looked to the floor, silently cursing herself that she hadn’t noticed the drops of red earlier.

Celestia took another step forward.

“I’ll say this only once more… what are you?”

An eerie silence had fallen over the balcony. The creature stared back at them as if petrified, the slight rise and fall of its chest the only indication that it hadn’t been turned to stone. A shaking hand went to its wound, patting down before pulling away wet.

Twilight’s ears flattened when the creature let out a feeble cough. She tried not to notice the blood dribbling down from the bottom of its helmet.

Another cough.

“I-I suppose that’s it then.” The creature’s voice. Masculine, but weak and terribly muffled. “Talking horses—I’ve hollowed. I’ve gone insane.”

The creature swayed on his feet, and for a second Twilight thought he would collapse right then and there.

“You’re hurt,” Celestia stated. “We can help you.”

“And now the tall one with the pretty hair is offering to help me. It’s too late, ghost, I’ve already died.”

Celestia raised a hoof.

“You seem to be suffering from a delusion. Please, calm yourself. We must sp—”

He let out an unsteady chuckle.

“Figment of a broken mind or not, your hair… it truly is beautiful.”

And then the creature plummeted over the side.


Rarity was the first to notice the strange lights. Not five minutes ago she pointed a hoof to the top of the tower, drawing Applejack’s attention to the glimmering orange glow.

“No idea,” Applejack had remarked, and that was that. Rarity fell back into silence and Applejack simply sat under the tree next to her, content with waiting at the base of the tower until Twilight was done with her talk.

She drew in a contemplative sigh, savoring the calm atmosphere. She needed this—a weekend away from the farm. Her closest friends, a new city, and nothing but good cheer to keep her company. Applejack smiled.

A vacation of sorts, Rarity had called it.

Over the last several days, Rarity had assured her that this year’s gala would be different, that the poshness remained but the snobbery had been dialed down to acceptable levels.

Times change, Applejack. The unicorn’s voice echoed in her head.

Applejack thought back to Twilight’s lecture and that darned crystal of hers. She may not have understood any of the magicky, technical jargon, but she could pick up on words, and what she did hear, she did not like.

Severing and splitting and attrition, they had all left a terrible taste in her mouth. Applejack shook her head, her smile shrinking away.

Change, huh?

She hoped it was for the better.

As if reading her thoughts, Rarity bumped her in the side.

“Things will improve,” she said. “I’m sure of—”

A harsh crack ripped through the air. Without thinking, Applejack flung herself across Rarity’s back and in that instant, the world was a dizzying blur of swirling leaves and splintered branches. When she finally dared to open her eyes, she saw only bits of wood and fallen vegetation scattered all around them.

Rarity’s head was turned over her shoulder, a single wide eye regarding Applejack with a look of shock.

“You okay?” Applejack asked as she pulled herself to her hooves. She helped Rarity up before dusting off her own forelegs. “Talk to me, girl. Yer not hurt or nothin’?”

Rarity shook her head before craning her neck upward. Barely visible through the thick foliage of leaves was the top of the tower, a white spear in the dark sky.

“W-what was that?” she whispered.

“Something fell,” Applejack said.


“From the tower I reckon. Hit our tree like a bolt of lightnin’.”

“Applejack, what...” There was a slight quaver in Rarity’s voice.

Applejack gave a slow nod.

“There’s nothin’ for it then. We best have a look before our imaginations get the best of us.”

The tree was old; a massive, gnarled oak that stood in the center of the clearing. Applejack got as close to the trunk as she could and started her circle, stepping between the protruding roots as she followed the circumference of the tree. A quarter of the way around, Applejack stopped dead in her tracks.

There, several yards out in a patch of moonlight, a shallow groove was gouged into the earth. A number of leaves and large branches lay nearby, knocked loose by some unknown force.

Something had impacted that spot. Hard.

Rarity gasped.

“Wha… what did this? Applejack, please tell me that you have some idea...”


She slowly raised a hoof. Clearly visible in the pale light was a trail of crushed grass as if something heavy were dragged across the ground. Without moving, Applejack traced the path, eyes squinting as it took a harsh left before disappearing out of sight behind a row of trimmed hedges.


The earth pony shook her head.

“I don’t like this. Not one bit.”

“What do you mean?” Rarity asked her. “Somepony could be hurt or dying or worse. We need to investigate.”

“It’s not that I’m against helpin’, Rarity, but listen.”

“Come again?”

Listen.” Applejack frowned. “It’s quiet… no sound, no cries for help. There’s nothin’. We didn’t hear anything, did we? Not even a groan of pain. Don’t you find that just a tiny bit odd?”

Rarity was silent for all of three seconds.

“What do you propose we do then?”

“Don’t get me wrong, Rarity, I ain’t turnin’ my back on this. If some poor, prideful pegasus took a nasty spill then we’ve gotta be there, right? All I’m sayin’ is... is that we proceed with caution. We’re dealin’ with Twilight here—a thousand and one things could’ve crashed into that spot.”

A voice sharp and vivid cut through the air.

“Well spoken, Applejack. I could not have said it better myself.”

The earth pony’s heart leapt into her throat. She did a slow turn, her eyebrows raising when she saw the solitary figure sitting under the opposite side of the tree.

“Princess Luna?”

Rarity gasped, stepping forward.

“Princess Luna!” She brushed out a leaf that had fallen into her mane. “My word, how long have you been there?”

“Quite some time,” Luna said. “If you’re afraid that I’ve been listening in on your conversation, strike away any doubt.”

“Oh my, well... thank y—”

“I heard everything.” Luna finally looked in their direction. “You fear for Twilight Sparkle and that is why you’ve come. But let me ease your mind—regarding her research on the soul, she has the made the right decision here tonight.”

Rarity’s ears gave a small twitch.

“You… you’ve been eavesdropping.”

“On whom, might I ask?”

On everypony!

Luna poked at the grass with a hoof.

“Eavesdropping is such an ugly word isn’t it? I dislike ugly words, especially this one. It implies that I was spying on you: gathering classified information using subterfuge and back-hoofed tactics.” Luna smiled. “When I sat here tonight, I had no prior knowledge that you and Applejack would show up as well. Besides, is it really my fault that you didn’t check who else was in your presence before you so freely started speaking?”

Rarity narrowed her eyes.

“We didn’t see you.”

“If you looked hard enough you surely would have.”

“Ladies, please.” Applejack stepped between them and breathed out an exasperated sigh. She turned toward Luna. “Princess, you said you were here the entire time… earlier than us even. You must’ve seen whatever it was that fell, didn’t ya?”

“Indeed I did,” said the princess. She adopted a more serious tone. “To be honest, I’m still reeling from the shock of it all.”

Applejack studied Luna’s face but it gave away none of her emotions.

“What was it?”

Luna looked up, her blue eyes catching the light of the moon.

“Not a pegasus, I can assure you of that.”

The princess rose to her hooves and started forward like a breath of wind, making not a sound as she came to a stop next to the damaged earth. Frowning, Applejack sided along next to her before being joined by a hesitant Rarity.

One by one, their gazes focused on the wet soil.

“That’s blood,” Rarity breathed.

“Sure as shootin’,” replied Applejack. “A lot of it too.”

Luna’s eyes followed the damp trail of crushed grass. She sighed, looking to each of them in turn.

“This is from a wound most grievous. No one will fault you if you turn back now.”

Applejack pulled at the brim of her hat.

“You heard me earlier, didn’t ya? I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”


The wound didn’t close. The flow hadn’t stopped. Despite his preconceptions, despite the talking horses, despite everything, the coldness that pervaded Solaire’s body felt all too real. Slowly, he leaned forward to peer at the mess of crimson that was his tunic.

Didn’t close.

Too much. With a pained gasp he slumped once again onto the stone wall behind him. Even sitting down he could feel his energy draining away with each pump of his heart.


It hurts.

Solaire shut his eyes and focused on his breathing. That was all he could do.

And think.

Solaire could think.

Her voice—the one with hair like dawn and sunset—she had a very pretty voice.

An angel in disguise.

He could feel a faint trace of a smile cross his lips. And then there was the smaller purple one like a tiny orchid who barely reached up to his waist. She had big expressive eyes, true windows into the soul.

And she was afraid.

Afraid of me.

He willed his body to move but it was no use. His arms lay uselessly at his side and his legs were splayed out at odd angles in front of him. He had gone far enough.

Solaire breathed out a weary sigh. The grass felt nice between his fingers. The air was fresh and clean. And voices, faint but growing more pronounced, floated on the edge of his senses.



With enormous effort he craned his head toward the sound, and there, staring back at him was a trio of ponies, wide-eyed in their silence. The blue one moved first, starting forward on slow, silent hooves. It watched him every step of the way as if he were a snake ready to lunge.

The other two—orange and white—took the rear. They shared a look before falling in line behind the blue one. Again, Solaire could read the doubt and apprehension on the duo’s faces as if they were an open book.

Soon, the leader was standing at the edge of his feet, staring down at him with emotionless eyes.

“Can you speak?” she asked in a decidedly feminine voice.

As Solaire looked from her horn to her wings and finally to the small crown resting atop her head, he realized the absurdity of his situation. Solaire held back a chuckle.

“Might I have your name, My Lady? I know not what else I’d refer to you as...”

“Luna,” she said. “Princess Luna of Equestria.”

“A beautiful name. A befitting name.” Solaire attempted to raise his arm but it refused to move. “I’d honor you respectfully but I’m afraid I am on the verge of death! How troublesome.”

"I care not about what you are, I won’t allow you to die in this garden.” Luna looked to her charges. “Rarity?”

The white unicorn stiffened as if waking from a trance. She stepped forward, her eyes widening.

“Y-yes, Princess?”

“I may need your help,” Luna said. “Are you able?”

“Of course!”

Rarity trotted to Solaire’s side, her hesitant gaze searching across the surface of his helmet.

“Don’t worry, Mister… ah—”

“Solaire of Astora, it’s… it’s a pleasure, truly.” He let out a weak cough. “Would you take offense if I said that you have a wonderful color?”

Rarity bit her lip as she looked down at his wound.

“Princess, whatever you have in mind, please hurry.”

“A healing spell,” Luna said. “I will need you to guide it into the affected area. Your magic is concise and controlled where mine is flowing and uncontained. We will be more effective if—”

“It won’t work,” Solaire murmured. “I’ve tried and it didn’t close.”

“We will be the judge of that, Solaire of Astora.” Luna glanced down at his wound, her horn taking light. “Rarity, are you familiar with cooperative casting?”

The unicorn gave a shaky nod. “It’s been years but I’ll manage.”

“As long as you understand the basics,” said Luna. “I will start slow so that you may get used to the spell. After fifteen seconds, I will gradually increase power until the wound is sealed. It will be overwhelming at first, but if you focus only on the task at hoof then everything else will fall into place.”

Luna narrowed her eyes.

“Are you ready for this?”

Far in the back, the orange pony stirred.

“Yes,” said Rarity.

Immediately, the light surrounding Luna’s horn intensified, bathing everything in a soft blue glow. Rarity paused only for a moment before her own horn sparked to life. A vibrant hum filled the air as the blue light began coalescing into a bright sphere inches above Rarity’s head. Luna nodded in approval when a transparent ribbon of magic appeared between them, connecting their horns from tip to tip.

“Very good,” Luna said, “but now it gets difficult.”

With a look of pure concentration, Rarity exhaled through clenched teeth. Solaire watched as the sphere began projecting a thin beam of blue light onto the center of his chest as if Rarity were deliberately aiming for the sun stitched there.

“Now gently guide the spell into the affected area,” directed Luna. She glanced upward. “Solaire, if you could please move your hand so that we may get a clear line of sight.”

“A-ah… I apologize.” The knight let his arm fall to his side. “I’ve never been fussed over by such kind ladies before. I-I pray that your efforts will not be in vain.”

“Save your strength,” Luna said. “Quickly now, Rarity, I will be increasing my magic output in but a moment. Be ready for it.”

Rarity gave a stiff nod, and soon the beam of light was aligned with the giant red splotch on Solaire’s stomach.

Luna leaned in closer.

“What do you feel, Solaire? A slight tingling? A feeling of weightlessness as if you might float away any second?”

Solaire tried to shake his head.

“Cold,” he whispered. “Tired. Freezing, I… I can’t feel much of anything really.”

Luna’s brow lowered, her horn pulsing into a brighter blue.

“Increasing energy flow,” she uttered, not looking away. “How do you fare, Rarity?”

The unicorn’s voice came out strained.

“I’ve a strong grip on the spell. Don’t worry about me.”

A strange silence fell over the garden. Only the faint hum of magic could be heard as the two ponies worked together in tandem. All the while, Solaire was still. He watched them without a word, his gaze flicking between their blurred forms. When the seconds bled into a minute, then two, then finally three, Solaire could feel something wrench in his chest when he saw that Rarity’s magic had started sputtering. The unicorn clenched her jaw and a bead of sweat trailed into her brow.

She looked as if she were about to collapse.

Luna’s eyes fell shut.

“That’s enough,” said the princess. “There’s no use in continuing.”

“No…” Rarity shook her head. “I-I can go on! Really, I can!”

Luna frowned, her horn losing its light. “You yourself know those words are false. I admire your spirit, Rarity, but you’ve reached your limit. If we were to continue, you’d only exhaust the rest of your magic..”

“Princess, we can’t quit. We cannot. Another spell perhaps, or maybe a—”

A feeble cough caught their attention.

“I-I’m sorry,” Solaire said. “To both you. I could see it in your faces, you both really wanted to save me. I… I think that’s all I could have ever asked for.”

Another cough.

“Again I’m sorry, but… I’m afraid I too have reached my limit.”

Rarity approached on slow hooves, her gaze focused on the slits of his helmet. She sat in the grass by his side, the small bump in her throat bobbing up and down.

“I-I don’t know what to say,” she whispered. “What do I say in a time like this? Can I say anything? Should I say anything? I—”

She ran a hoof across her eyes.

“—I don’t know what to say…”

Solaire let out a quiet chuckle.

“Save your words, Miss, we will surely speak again.”

That drew a smile from the unicorn but only for a second. She turned away, a pained look crossing her face.

“Listen to you, like those silly knights from my foalhood stories with their grandeur and romanticisms.” Her lips formed a tight line. “But… but I suppose that it’s me who’s being silly, isn’t it?”

“Not silly,” Solaire said. “It’s because you have a kind heart. To think that you’d worry for a wretched soul like me… you’ll only waste your tears.”

“I believe every life should be mourned for,” Rarity whispered, taking a long pause. “Even though I don’t know who you are, let alone what you are, it’s… it’s sad.”

She sniffed.

“Did you have many friends?”

Solaire looked her in the face.

“At one point, yes, but… not anymore.”

Rarity’s ears lay flat against her head. She opened her mouth for a brief moment but no words came out.

“What of you, Miss?” Solaire voiced quietly.

Rarity drew in a slow, staggered breath. “They’re the most wonderful ponies in the world.”

Despite his vision blackening around the corners, Solaire didn’t miss the small smile that appeared on the orange pony’s lips.

“You’ll have to introduce them to me later,” he murmured. His body felt heavy. It was getting difficult to speak. That familiar sensation of being pulled away was growing in his chest.

Luna bent low her head.

“He will die soon,” said the princess. “It won’t be long now. Minutes at most.”

A moment passed before Solaire realized that Rarity was resting her hoof atop his hand. She was looking down at him with sad eyes—eyes that bespoke the misery that she was feeling. Solaire frowned. He knew that look, he had seen it many times before.

With all the strength he could muster, he raised his hand and grasped at her fetlock. Startled, the unicorn gave a quick tug but Solaire only gripped tighter.

The orange pony stepped forward.

“Save your tears and save your words,” Solaire said. “You may think me insane, but I promise you… we will speak again.”


Great miracle cast by advance clerics. Return to last bonfire rested at. Would normally link to one's homeland, only the curse of the Undead has distorted its power, redirecting casters to a bonfire. Or perhaps for Undead, this serves as home?

Author's Note:

A heartfelt thanks to my friend and editor, Kitsunerisu.