• Published 19th Jan 2013
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Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars - Radiant Dawn

Ancient beings of long since past are returning, but for good or ill?

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Chapter 27: Shattered Ice

Chapter 27: Shattered Ice

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

For some reason, what was happening reminded me of my childhood.

I remember when I was four or five, I once stepped on an anthill of fire ants, and had to be taken to the hospital because of the dozens of bites I received from them. What I found was similar between now and then, however, was the fact that as soon as the H.O.S. team broke down the mountain face, the enemies inside reacted the same way as the ants did. For a few moments there was silence except for the sound of falling rock and boulders...but then they swarmed.

Thousands of monsters poured out of the breach we had made, and I could only watch in horror as they began to approach the front line. I quickly righted myself though, and pressed the armor around my throat with my thumb, activating the voice enchantment that Trixie had placed on it. The magic flowed into my vocal chords and greatly amplified my voice.

With a deep growl of a voice, I shouted, “ALL FORCES, REPEL THESE BEASTS!”

With my order, the front lines that included Ditzy and Dash’s forces fell upon the approaching tide, while Luna and Celestia took control of the air again. They all tore into the creatures that were lumbering, flying, or crawling towards us, and cut them up and down without mercy.

As this happened, I motioned to Venn and Moonfang’s groups to follow me, and we began to descend the hills to the battlefield, taking out whatever enemies were in our way. The two wolves had no problem in ripping apart anything in their path, and their trained troops were more than capable of backing them up.

We were caught unawares, but things were going alright.

Nearly an hour later, the initial rush had been cleared out, and we had laid siege against the mountain, establishing a “dead-zone” between the troops and the mountain itself while we tended to wounded and prepared for the next push. I met up again with all the officers for status reports, and was pleased to find that our planning had paid off, and we didn’t actually lose anyone in the advance, though we did have quite a few wounded.

“Commander Darkflight!” shouted a young pegasus stallion, who I recognized as Keeneye, a highly-trained scout officer from Vaporia.

I nodded to the red-coated stallion. “Report, sergeant.”

“We’ve spotted Prince Frostbreaker.” he stated gravely.

My eyes widened, and I frowned. “And are there casualties?”

He shook his head. “None, sir. As per your orders, none have approached him. He seems to be waiting for something, but he is guarding the entrance to the mountain. He hasn’t moved since we spotted him, and made no move to advance on us.”

“Consider us lucky then, because he’d wipe out an entire unit faster than you could blink.” I replied with a grimace. I then looked to Spike and nodded, at which point he made his way over to me. “Spike, we found him. It’s time to go to work.”

The lavender gem dragon nodded with narrowed eyes. “Let’s get this done, Dark.”

I turned my gaze to Rainbow Dash and gestured to the perimeter line. “They’re under your command now, Dash. Don’t approach us under any circumstances, and keep everyone else out of the way.”

The cyan alicorn looked really worried, but nodded slowly. “I will, Dark. Stay safe.”

“Commander, there is one more thing you should know...someone you need to see before you leave.” Keeneye notified. I nodded and followed him to the medic tent about a half-mile away, and was taken aback by the sheer number of injured that were here. The scout nodded sadly. “This is just one of fifty tents...so imagine how many wounded we have. Nonetheless, I brought you here to meet personally with somepony...he was asking specifically for you.”

We moved through the many cots that were set up for the injured until we came upon a solid black pegasus with green eyes.


He was greatly injured, and the sight almost made me start to tear up. He was missing his left wing, and one of his sides was covered in a large bloody bandage, from shoulder to cutie mark. But lastly was the fact he was missing his left hind leg...all that remained was a bloody stump.

I took a deep shaky breath and kneeled next to his bed, causing one of his emerald-green eyes to look up at me, and he smiled. “Hey commander. Sorry you gotta see me like this, but well, this is war after all.”

I looked over him briefly before swallowing hard and shaking my head. “Nightwing...I’m so sorry this happened.”

The proud pegasus still smiled and just shook his head. “It’s alright, commander...I’ll be with my brother soon.” My eyes widened at his comment, but he just shrugged. “Something about one of my arteries being nicked and they can’t stop it, blah, blah, blah.”

I had to take a deep, shaky breath to keep from letting out a very undignified sob. “Still...I’m so sorry all of this happened. You...none of you should have had to go through this.”

The black pony shrugged softly as he whispered, “We can’t control where life takes us, only what we do on the way.” His eyes sparkled as he thought for a moment. “And I have to say, I think I did pretty darn good.”

“You did the best, Nightwing.” I assured strongly. “You lost Brightwing so long ago, and still you fought for your home with a determination I’ve seen in few others. You’re an inspiration to us all.” I sighed sadly as a tear dropped down my face. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you, man...I really mean that.”

He chuckled weakly as his foreleg touched my shoulder. “I know. Celestia knows you need at least somepony who knows what they’re doing.”

Again I had to take another breath, as the sadness building in me started to make me nauseous. “Nightwing...we’re going to finish this once and for all. I’m not going to let what you gave for us be in vain.”

He nodded slowly as the monitor next to him began to beep loudly, and I looked up to see the heart rate monitor showed 70bpm, and it was slowly dropping. “Don’t worry about me, commander...I’ll be alright now. My story’s almost over here, but you can make sure that the ponies that are still alive and the foals that will be born can live in a world free from shit like this. Your story is going to be filled with moments like these, where you have to watch a pony like me pass on...but that doesn’t mean you give up.” Again he placed a hoof on my shoulder, though it was trembling now. “You better not give up on them...especially after all this. We’ve all worked so hard and lost too much for you to not come out of this better off.” He then weakly jerked his head to a saddlebag next to me, and I reached inside and pulled out a letter. He whispered, “That’s to my mom. I want you to give it to her for me, okay?”

More tears slid down my scaled cheeks as I nodded with a sniffle, folding the envelope and placing it in my belt pouch. “Sure thing, bud.” I then grabbed his hoof and squeezed tightly. “We’ll never forget about you, Nightwing...any of you. You and all the others will be remembered forever.”

The pegasus’ eyes began to droop a bit as he nodded. “I know. You take care of yourself, commander...and thanks for the chance to do some real good in the world.”

I nearly choked on a sob that rose in my throat, but didn’t allow myself to break in front of him...he deserved more than that. As the monitor began to beep slower and slower until a long sustained whine was all there was.

A medic unicorn looked up at the monitor sadly before moving next to the bed and turning off the different pieces of equipment. He then levitated a white sheet and placed it over Nightwing with a sad sigh before looking up at the clock. “Time of death, 16:27.” The unicorn looked up at me sadly. “I’m sorry commander, but we need to move him to the burial yard. We need the bed.”

I shook my head. “No...he’s getting a dragon warrior’s burial. I’ll take him.” And without waiting for a response, I gently picked up the fallen soldier and carried him out of the tent with me.

Around twenty minutes later, me, Applejack, the princesses, Twilight, Veruuthas, and Ditzy were all gathered out in an open field to the south, near our base camp in the mountain.

I had struggled to keep my composure the entire time, but as the body burned with red, yellow, blue, white, and green fire, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. As AJ and Celestia held me, I cried, heavily and without restraint. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I could hear Veruuthas chanting in an ancient dragon tongue, wishing Nightwing’s soul a pleasant journey to the afterlife, but I couldn’t process it right now. Having to watch Nightwing pass away brought back the memory of my grandmother so many years ago, who I had never really allowed myself to mourn. Like Nightwing, I was by her side as she slipped away, and so it was like an avalanche of pure anguish that tore through me, and I became a sobbing heap of tears.

Nightwing was a good friend, and an excellent soldier. I hadn’t been lying to him when I said I couldn’t have done any of this without him. Many times when I was feeling hopeless or depressed, he would reassure me and give me strength. He was one of the ponies who stood by my side as I mourned the loss of Drew...

And now he was gone.

Determination flooded me as the tears stopped, and I reached down on the ground and clasped my helmet on my head before strapping it down and lowering my visor. I then stood and looked to the many gathered there before nodding firmly. “Alright, we can’t put this off any longer. All of you keep the troops in high spirits and keep clear of our A/O. Once the area is clear and the threat is neutralized, we’ll prepare to move in on the mountain.”

Applejack stopped me before I could walk away, and planted a kiss on me, long and strong. After she broke away she smiled sadly and nodded. “Be safe, Dark. Ah love ya.”

I nodded as well with a smile of determination. “I love you too, AJ. Keep your friends safe, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.” With that last piece said, I flew away towards the mountain.

I landed with a loud thud in front of a napping Spike, startling him awake and making him flare his razor-sharp claws in defense, but once he saw it was me, he relaxed and stood up straight. “Are you ready, Dark?”

I shrugged as I looked to the icy-armored form of my brother, standing a few hundred yards away. “About as ready as I’m going to be. Stay on the move, Spike. Just because he can’t hurt us with magic doesn’t mean his ice can’s still do damage. He can still spear us with it and trip us up with it, so stay mobile and keep your eyes open. Use your blue fire to get that ice off of him and try and knock his ass out.”

My fellow dragon nodded before adjusting his green armor, making sure it was snug. “Alright, I’m ready when you are.”

The two of us calmly walked towards my brother, and when we had arrived some hundred feet away, I stopped, with Spike flanking me. I cleared my throat and asked, “What the fuck are you doing, man? Why are you fighting against us?”

The helmet he was wearing completely covered his face, so I couldn’t see him react at all, but neither did he speak. The only sound I heard was as the ground started to rumble, and suddenly huge crystal formations of razor-sharp ice shot out of the ground all around us, nearly skewering both me and Spike. The crystals covered an area the size of four football fields, and the entire area was encased in a dome of clear ice as well...meaning we were trapped and our movement was restricted.

“I got this.” growled Spike, and he set about breathing a blue flame over the crystals, causing them to melt...but this only lasted a few seconds before they reformed, more jagged than before, and further reducing the amount of space we had to move.

I placed my hand on the gem dragon’s shoulder and shook my head. “It’s pretty clear that’s not going to work, so stay close and keep your eyes and ears open.” Spike nodded and followed me as I started to carefully make my way through the sparkling ice field, my head swiveling all around in an attempt to find Drew.

For a tense twenty or so minutes, Spike and I carefully made our way through the frozen deathtrap, until I heard the crunch of ice from beside me. On instinct, I slashed Yamato horizontally to the left, cutting away the crystals and revealing our quarry, who then rushed me and knocked me down. I caught an ice lance in my hand just as it prepared to plunge into my chest, at which point Spike breathed blue fire over the icy stallion. He roared in pain and flew away before creating a blizzard around us, reducing our visibility to little more than a few feet in front of us. Save for the howling winds, all was quiet around us, and I started to feel even more nervous with my vision being impaired.

“This game of cat-and-mouse is really starting to piss me off.” I grumbled.

“I have an idea.” Spike said quickly. “But I need you to stay away from me while I do it, because I don’t want to fry you.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “What the hell are you using, red flames?”

He smirked. “In part. Have you tried combining different color fires yet?”

I shrugged. “I didn’t want to mess with it and blow myself up or something.”

The dragon just took a deep breath and blew a violet fire into the air, which immediately dropped to the ground. He picked it up and threw it into the air above us, then followed with a red flame, which I commonly call the “radiant flame” because of its ability to burn for a long time without any additional fuel and generate a lot of heat in the process.

What happened when the two different colors met, though, I’ll never understand.

When the red flame met the violet, the red flame burst into a blanket of fire that floated in the air above us...and then didn’t move. It burned, suspended in the air, neither rising nor falling at all. As the air began to warm, the blizzard began to become simple rain instead, and as this happened, our field of vision returned...

Just in time for Spike to take an ice lance to the back.

Because of his armor and strong scales, it didn’t penetrate very far, but I knew for a fact that it hurt like a motherfucker, so I rushed towards where the lance came from and tackled Drew to the ground, breathing a hot blue flame all over him. Again, he yelled out in pain, but his armor melted away, leaving him vulnerable. I wasted no time in rolling him over and grabbing him in a rear naked choke, cutting off his air supply and hopefully causing him to eventually faint.

For a few minutes, he thrashed around, gouging my face more than a few times with his horn, but he finally did stop thrashing as he went still, unconscious.

“As if you weren’t ugly enough already.” Spike quipped with a grin.

I chuckled as I picked up the limp body over my shoulders and stood up. “Come on, we need to keep him restrained, and the princesses and Trixie made a magic dampener device that will negate all his magic...even his ice magic. Until we figure out how to give him his own mind back, it’s the only choice we’ve got.” I watched as the icy field and dome around us melted into normal water, so I secured my brother tightly with my arm before taking flight towards the camp.

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

As the icy cage fell away, I felt some stress crawl through me. I hoped that Frost had been subdued, instead of Spike and Dark getting killed, because I didn’t know how we’d deal with that.

Thankfully as I spotted a flying red and black figure in the distance, I let out a sigh of relief in knowing that they were all alive.

A few minutes later Darkflight arrived with Frost over his shoulder, and he dropped him on the ground in front of Celestia and Luna. “Get that dampener device on him right away, because I’m not sure how much longer he’s going to be out.”

Luna nodded before levitating a weird crystal out of a saddlebag behind her. She then crushed the crystal with her magic, and blew the dust over Frost. “It is done. He can do no harm until the particles are removed with an herbal remedy that we have locked safely away.” She then looked at Darkflight and added, “Bind his legs and wings.”

The Obsidian nodded before one of the troops handed him a few coils of rope, and he went about tying Frost’s legs together, and tying his wings down at his sides. With all of that done, he stepped back and removed his helmet with a sigh...and I noticed he was bleeding from a lot of stab wounds on his face. “Medic!” Nurse Redheart appeared from seemingly nowhere and set about treating his wounds while he spoke. “He acted like he didn’t even know who we were, and he almost killed both me and Spike...twice.”

“He was using a derivative of what humans call ‘black magic’.” Luna explained sadly. “For the spell to work correctly, Frost had to submit himself to it. I should be able to nullify it with Night’s help, but it will take awhile. In the meantime, you must get medical attention before we begin the charge. No doubt that with his defender neutralized, Death will be attempting to escape again, so we must lock down the entire area...nothing leaves the area.”

I nodded. “Good idea, Luna. I’ll fly around and let all the troops know. You get working on Frost, and I’ll come back when I’m done.”

Perspective change ‒ Twilight Sparkle

As Night appeared and started on dismantling the complex spell that was set upon Frost, I spent my time going over the different pieces of information available to me, namely the troop positions available for overwatch of the coming advance, as well as the number of usable units we had left. I was glad that Frost had been brought back, but at the same time I was afraid.

I mean, what if he never was normal again?

By Celestia, he tried to kill his own brother, and Spike. Gods know I loved him, but I was constantly having to remind myself that it wasn’t his fault, and that he probably didn’t even realize what he was doing. So, in order to keep myself from having a breakdown, I focused on practicing the battle-worthy spells that I knew.

As I went through the rather mindless exercises to further hone my skills, I let my thoughts wander. Many things came to mind, most often about Frost and Luna, but one thought that I found curious was our little vacation to Earth. I began to realize it sounded rather like a dream instead of a true possibility. I mean, we couldn’t very well just leave Equestria on its own, could we?

I’d have to ask Frost about it later on...he must have something in mind.

A knocking at the support pole of my tent caught my attention, and I smiled when I saw Celestia standing there with a smile on her face. “Hi Celestia.”

The princess smiled and stepped forward, nuzzling me affectionately, which made me giggle. “Good afternoon, Twilight. How are you?”

I couldn’t help but smile warmly at my mentor and friend. “I’m pretty good, all things considered. How about you?”

The princess sighed and shrugged. “The same.” She then motioned to the stack of books and paperwork upon the desk behind me. “Going over the field commands again?”

I giggled and nodded. “I can never be too prepared, you know.”

The white alicorn giggled in return and sighed happily. “I am pleased you are keeping a level head, Twilight. I can always count on you to inject logic into an otherwise illogical situation.”

I pointed at myself and commented, “Hello? Equestria’s biggest bookworm, here.”

Celestia giggled and nodded. “Very true, my dear....but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your intelligence is only overshadowed by the love of your friends...and I know that is why you are doing this.”

I felt a warmth within me at her praise, and I felt a small blush on my cheeks from the words of my mentor. “Of course...I’m doing it for all of you.”

She made her way over to me and wrapped her large white wing around me, holding me close to her. “And it is that kind of devotion that I love about you, Twilight. I hope that if I have a foal one day, it will have that same devotion to its people and its loved ones.”

I nodded as I looked out the tent flap and over the field that held our forces. “It’s that devotion that’s going to make sure we come out of this alive...it’s that devotion that’s going to make sure harmony reigns true on Terra.” As the memories of the pony we just put to rest surfaced, I felt a tear slide down my cheek. “Ponies like Nightwing had that kind of devotion...and I hope that I can live up to that and make sure him and the many others like him didn’t die in vain.”

I felt as the soft, warm wing tightened around me, and I looked up to see Celestia smiling down at me. “It is that empathy and leadership that will ensure you are a great princess one day, Twilight. I’m so proud of you.”

As the two of us looked out at the battered mountain, I leaned into the comforting embrace of my princess and smiled.

If she believed in me, I could do anything.

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

After getting my face cleaned up and bandaged, I graduated to listening to a lot of soldiers basically tell me they were glad my brother hadn’t killed me, which for some reason made me chuckle repeatedly like an idiot.

Honestly though, I was in a good mood. Night was working to restore my brother’s free will, and from what we could tell, Death had decided not to risk and escape, which meant he was likely fortifying the inside of the mountain. It was during our incursion into the natural fortress that we were going to need Spike’s digging skills, because if we followed the tunnels that were already present, there was no doubt in my mind that we’d be walking into multiple ambushes...and the loss of life would be extraordinarily high.

That was something I just couldn’t allow.

And so for the past two hours, I spent time ironing out the details in our advance. My unit was going to act as a decoy, while the main force was going to follow Spike in through the top of the mountain, straight down. With Spike’s ability to sense vibrations through the earth, he would have a much better chance at pinpointing Death’s location, thus allowing us to corner him, and if we were lucky, avoid a bloody fight. Applejack of course was upset that we were only going to have three units heading into the mountain, and that mine would be the bait, but I assured her that it was only because I didn’t trust any of the others to do it right...and I had faith that her and her brother could pull this off flawlessly.

She blushed and kept silent after that.

It had been almost six hours since I had brought back Drew, and night was fast approaching. The time of day wouldn’t matter much inside the mountain, of course, as either way we would end up having to create our own light...so I didn’t worry too much about the time.

As I sat outside of the war council tent, I noticed as an exhausted Night walked next to Celestia, and I quickly stood to address them.

“How is he?” I asked.

Night frowned a bit. “I have done all I can...the rest is up to him. I have been greatly weakened, however...I do not believe I will be much help in the final advance. I apologize.”

I shook my head and surprised the mare with a tight hug. “Don’t worry about that. Your job is taking care of Drew...I’ll handle Death.”

The black alicorn trudged away to a tent, leaving Celestia in front of me. The sun princess frowned a bit before saying, “He his fighting the rest of the magic off, right now. I am firm in the belief that he will be perfectly fine, but it is likely he will be emotionally frail for quite some time.” She then stepped closer to me with sad eyes. “He will need you, Darkflight.”

I nodded as I placed my hand on the princess’ shoulder. “And I’ll be there...we all will.”

Celestia nodded once more before trotting off after her sister.

I looked to the early evening sky and sighed, knowing that this was going to be hard for all of us. Still, knowing that my brother was eventually going to be fine put a spring in my step as I headed off to the field, ready to address the gathered soldiers for the final charge.

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