• Published 6th Dec 2012
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Starfall: Dominion of the Night, Part I - AuroraScribe



The course of time has been changed... and as the war of the sisters begins, will Star Swirl's involvement change things for the better, or has the mage doomed Equestria to an even more terrible fate?

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Chapter Ten: Precipice

Star Swirl was dimly aware of the flickering torches as he brought his eyes to close, allowing himself a brief moment of reprieve from Zaira’s menacing glare in hopes of refocusing his thoughts. In that fleeting bit of time, a period no longer than the passing of a few wheezing breaths, the agonizing pain of his wound subsided, the sense that each of the various magical barriers being dispelled paused, and his ebbing loss of control over the arcane halted. But the serenity would not last; a static-like charge broke the moment of peace with a tingle across his body and raised the hair on his neck, a clear sign of powerful magic at work. As he reopened his eyes, he knew he had given his enemy far too much time.

“You’re looking tired... Well, even more so than usual.” Zaira said as she gave a sympathetic look of concern. “I’ve told you everything you’ve asked of me, so answer me this, archmage… What was your plan?” She paused to gulp in a deep breath and shift against the wall. “You came here for answers, that’s obvious enough… but then what? Looking at you, I’m amazed you can even stand let alone use magic - what more could you do?”

Star Swirl considered speaking but instead tugged his beard and looked at the changeling still pinned to the wall by his spell, feeling as if he had been taken off guard by how true her assessment was.

With a roll of her eyes, Zaira gave a long sigh. “I’ll give you this much; you do at least live up to your legendary tenacity… but what does it matter? Tenacious or not, that doesn’t change the fact that your robes are turning scarlet.”

Star Swirl swallowed then glanced to his side. A matted purple stripe ran the length of his body, a clear sign the cauterized wound had reopened and his blood was now seeping into the soft folds of his robes. Almost instinctively, the incantation for the regeneration spell was upon his lips, but he already knew it wouldn’t have any effect. His time had run out.

“I gave you a chance to leave… and had you; you might have found a point in time where you could’ve healed.” Zaira shifted almost seductively against the wall, the sweet tone of her voice now venomous. “But not anymore. That opportunity has come and gone.” As she spoke, Star Swirl noted the clarity of her voice and how it lacked any hint of pain. Inwardly he cringed knowing this meant his spell had greatly diminished and it likely wouldn’t be long before she’d be able to counter it.

Slowly Star Swirl turned from the changeling then gazed at the glowing red gem in the center of the room and to the dark ethereal unicorn standing silently next to it. “You fed the princess lie after lie, weakening her resolve but keeping her in line just enough to prevent her from having her conflict.” He blinked warily as he looked deep into the unicorn’s onyx-like, lifeless eyes. “All of that to build up to what’s happening now…” Feeling anger surge through him, he quickly turned to face Zaira. “You willingly stand upon the precipice of destruction… what you’re doing will hasten this monster’s return, but do you truly know what that entails? Has he told you what will happen?”

Zaira’s head tilted as if showing interest, but she said nothing.

“Millennia from now, there is a moment eternally scorched in the annals of history. To the survivors, it is remembered as Starfall – the day the heavens fell upon Equestria. On this day, the world will be reduced to nothing more than a charred wasteland, a place of hopelessness and despair,” Star Swirl blinked then rubbed his eyes trying to suppress the horrible memories. “Changelings - your kind - feed on positive emotion… why do something that would bring so much misery upon the world?”

Zaira’s eyes flashed with energy as her gnarled and porous horn erupted with green magic, her power dispelling the sphere of energy keeping her pinned to the wall. As if light as a feather, she gently slumped to her hooves then stretched, displaying how easy it was to counter the magic. “You have it so very wrong, Star Swirl.”

Knowing this was inevitable; he quickly cricked his neck and scowled. “Oh, is that so?” He asked innocently. “Then please enlighten me.”

Zaira gave a tiny smirk as thin waves of green energy danced around her horn. “It isn’t the kind of emotion that matters… it’s the intensity. When my master returns, and before that, with all the terrible things that princess is bound to do, my kind will be able to feed endlessly.” Her words seemed to echo as her sinister gaze focused on Star Swirl. “Allow me to demonstrate.”

A wave of green fire erupted across the walls, the flames quickly engulfing everything hanging upon or near the stone. As the last painting blackened, its beautiful imagery of a purple unicorn practicing magic turning to ash, Star Swirl’s eyes widened; not because of the charred heaps of tapestries and once-illustrious artwork collapsing to the floor, but rather because of what had been hidden behind them.

Zaira canceled the spell and in an instant the flames of the jade fire was gone, leaving only thick plumes of acrid smoke that hung heavily like a dark cloud on the ceiling. With a smile, she pointed to the gap in the wall where the largest of the tapestries had been hanging. “I’m certain you're familiar with at least some of the ponies within this cell. Don’t be shy… say hello.”

“Aurorus… Sunglimmer… and so many more.” Star Swirl’s whispering voice wavered as he caught sight of the renowned mages and moved close to see them better. He quickly counted at least ten other ponies locked within the tiny prison with them. Each of the trapped unicorns shivered and whimpered as he stepped closer, their vacant eyes belying their terrified expressions. He could see many were thin - far too thin - their sagging skin prominently displaying the bone underneath. Even through the smoke, a thick pungent smell wafted from the cell, the weirdly sweet and foul scent of decay. “What… have you done to them?!”

“What was needed, of course… You know as well as I that each of these ponies likely would’ve made a difference in the days to come. Instead, one by one I tore them down." Zaira stood proudly then jabbed a porous hoof toward the prison. "Was it a desire for greater power?” She began and pointed to a yellow unicorn named Lantern Gleam. “Or perhaps a misguided passion to help others?” She turned and pointed to a pony Star Swirl didn’t recognize, the poor thing laid in a crumpled heap and looked as if it were only moments from death. Zaira inhaled deeply, obviously content with the display of misery. “It doesn’t matter… through all of their pathetic flaws, I brought them here and in their torment I’ve grown strong. But don’t look so surprised… After all, you’ll be joining them soon enough.”

Star Swirl stood quietly, seemingly oblivious to the changeling's threat. I had been so focused on Luna, I didn’t even think something like this would be possible, Star Swirl thought. Every attempt I make to save the future only seems to cause greater damage - and the evil tied to this world only grows stronger. Shivering in anger, tiny dots of blue light began to sparkle around his horn as he gazed angrily at Zaira. “I had almost convinced myself you were under a spell just like so many others, falsely believing even something like you could be controlled to further his ends... but I’ve been blind, haven’t I? This has been your own twisted plan all along… conceived willingly.” He glanced once more at the feeble imprisoned ponies then looked away, tears shining at the edge of his eyes. “I am so, so very sorry I couldn’t do something sooner but I swear I will do everything I can to stop this nightmare.”

Zaira flashed a tiny smirk as her eyes narrowed and flickered with green energy. In response the bars to the prison crumbled as they turned to sand and poured to the floor. “Well, don’t leave us in suspense... Show us, archmage. Show how you intend to stop it,” she paused to give a wicked laugh as her horn erupted in green energy. “But do be quick about it… I have a war to ignite.”