• Published 24th Jan 2013
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The Elements - hell00001



Celestia and Luna have gone into exile under Discord's tyrannical rule, and now struggle to find a way to stop the draconequus before he can gain the full chaotic power of the Element of Chaos.

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Chapter 11: Attachments

The Elements Chapter 11

“If you could stop squirming,” Forza said, glancing up at Luna. “The healing process is not going to accelerate if you continuously shift your leg around. In fact, it will probably slow down from all of the movement you are doing.”

Luna ground her teeth together and cringed when she felt the magical tendrils from Forza’s healing spell snake its way through her muscle. She sat on their bed while Forza sat next to her with her horn lit up in a deep red hue. The room was dark from the blackened night sky aside from the lone candle that sat upon the nightstool next to the bed.

“I thought you didn’t know how to heal other ponies?” Luna asked through strained teeth.

“I do not know how to heal grievous, permanent wounds,” Forza replied, remaining focused on Luna’s hind leg. “I do, however, know how to speed up the healing process to have wounds that would take a month to recover heal within a few hours. Besides, if we were to use one of your unicorn nurses, you would be screaming in agony. Their techniques are a little more... brutal.”

“Brutal?” Luna asked, raising an eyebrow. “How so?”

“Instead of repairing the tissue of the wound, many unicorns simply grow new tissue over the old and damaged tissue,” Forza said. “It is a very messy process, and generally takes longer than repairing the tissue that is already here.”

Forza’s eyes began to droop, but she quickly shook her head and regained focus on Luna’s leg. Luna winced when she felt more of the tendrils slide through her flesh, and she asked, “Would repairing tissue also require more energy than growing it back?”

“I’m fine, Princess,” Forza said, giving Luna a half smile. “You need to be as fit as you can be for the next two trials tomorrow.”

Luna examined Forza more closely, observing that along with her eyes drooping, sweat soaked her body and she was shaking unsteadily. Forza’s breaths became more labored as she poured magic into Luna’s leg and the tendrils. Her mangled wings lazily hung against her sides. Luna placed a hoof on Forza’s shoulder, causing for the Flutterpony to disperse her magic and look at the princess.

“I think I’ll be fine, Forza,” Luna said with a smile. “You have done more than anypony could ask for.” When Forza sighed, the princess cocked her head. “Is there something wrong?”

“N-no, it’s nothing,” Forza said, looking away and laying her head down on her hooves. Her ears slowly folded back.

Luna frowned, and she turned to look down at her leg. The wound had been closed up with a small scar as wide as the spear’s head staining her body, and when she moved her leg closer to her body, she felt only a dull tickling sensation run up along the length of her leg into her spine. She shivered as she pulled all of her legs underneath her body, and she moved herself up to sit next to Forza.

“Perhaps there are some things that we should discuss with each other,” Luna said. Forza merely glanced at Luna. “But we should discuss them later. You need to sleep, you can hardly hold your eyelids open.”

Luna charged her horn to use a small gust of wind to blow out the candle, plunging the room into darkness. She lay her head down on her hooves, but her eyes remained open as she stared out of the window across the room. The lights from High Talon Rock shone brightly against the dark sky, while the stars glistened magnificently over every visible corner of the land.

“You were right, Princess,” Forza said quietly. Luna glanced at Forza, raising her head up, but instead of continuing she rolled over onto her side.

~~~

Luna stood in front of a large, gaping hole that had been dug into the side of a hill located within the steppe lands of the Griffon Kingdoms. She gripped her Runka spear tightly between her teeth, and her wings shifted uneasily against her sides as a cool breeze escaped from the cave. The air smelt stale, causing Luna to recoil slightly. Rikkard slowly walked up next to Luna. His face was completely expressionless, and when he came to a stop, the armor he wore clinked quietly.

A larger crowd of ponies and griffons had gathered for the second day of the trials, completely encompassing the starting position of the trial with six rows of attendees. A few pegasi and griffons floated above the crowd, while the rest remained content trying to peer over each other or hopping from the back row to catch a glimpse of the princess and the Flutterpony. Everypony was silent, waiting for Rikkard to speak.

After glancing behind him, Rikkard finally said, “Here we stand at the third trial of the Twilight Gauntlet. An impressive show you have put on thus far, Princess Luna.” When the princess didn’t look at him, he continued. “For this trial, you are simply to enter the caves and find the exit on the other side.”

“That is all?” Luna asked.

Rikkard nodded. “You may begin when you are ready.”

The griffon turned a left, allowing for Forza to slowly sidle up next to Luna. Her eyelids still drooped, and heavy bags hung under her eyes. Her coat had faded from its usual white and bright red colors. Luna placed the spear up against her shoulder and bit her lower lip, extending one wing around Forza and bringing her closer against her side.

“You should return to High Talon Rock, Forza,” Luna said. “You haven’t recovered after exerting yourself so much yesterday. Have one of Rikkard’s griffons take you back.”

“No, Princess,” Forza said coldly. “You’re going to need all the support you can get, and I want to be there to see you finish each and every trial. You...” Forza trailed off, looking down at her hooves.

Luna raised an eyebrow and asked, “I mean a lot to you, don’t I? Traveling with me to the Griffon Kingdoms, asking about my nightmares, talking to me about what you endured back in Everfree; you think of me more that just a companion.”

Forza sniffed. “We should talk about this later.” She lifted her head and and nuzzled her muzzle briefly underneath Luna’s chin. “You have a trial to complete.”

Before Luna could say anything more, Forza turned and trotted back towards the edge of the crowd between two large griffon guards. The princess gazed at Forza for a moment longer, eliciting a small smile from the Flutterpony, and then turned and made her way into the dark cave. Cheers and hollers erupted from the crowd as they watched Luna disappear, and their voices started to dwindle to dull shouts as she made her way further into the cave.

Quiet drips from the damp walls of the cave echoed through the air. Luna’s ears folded back when she felt water splash onto her forehead, and she visibly shuddered as the contact sent a shiver running down her spine. The rock underneath her hooves felt slick from the perspiration in the air, causing Luna to trod carefully when the cave descended further into the ground.

“There must be an underground water source around here somewhere,” Luna said, recoiling when another drop of water landed on her head. “I must be treading underneath a stream.”

The air began to feel heavier as the humidity within the cave increased, causing the water in the air to stick to Luna’s body. Each breath she took felt more laborious than the last, and the heat that rose added Luna’s own sweat to her already clammy coat. Her eyes had fully adjusted to the darkness below ground, allowing her to see the steam vapor that filled the space around her. Luna stopped in her tracks as a dull rumble filled the cave.

A vent several meters in front of Luna erupted, billowing superheated steam into the cave. She jumped back when she felt the rush of hot air brush against her body, and after a few seconds, pushed herself up against the wall of the cave when another vent exploded next to her. The hot air singed the tips of her fur. Without waiting another moment, she dashed forward over the vents.

Luna sped through the cave as quickly as she could, soaring over vents that temporarily lay dormant, while narrowing skirting around vents that discharged more steam into the air. More of her fur was burned from the searing water vapor, causing Luna to grit her teeth against the pain that shot through her body. Her skin felt like it was melting with each exploding vent she went around, and small blackened bits of fur were left if Luna was too close to the vents when they went off.

As Luna neared a sharp turn in the cave that curved away from an overhanging precipice, she started to slow down, only to have her hooves slide out from under her and send her sliding towards the edge. Luna tried to use her hooves to catch onto something in vain, and she ended up careening off of the side of the cliff and into a shallow pool of water that barely rose above a pony’s hooves. The impact between the water and the ground sent a jolt of pain through Luna’s body.

The princess groaned as she tried to lift herself back onto her hooves. Water dripped from her body, and she staggered into a nearby stalagmite to support her. Her Runka spear still lay where she fell, and once the dull pain that pulsed through her body slowly subsided, she slowly made her way over and picked it up in her teeth. The water tasted metallic on Luna’s lips, and she coughed slightly with the spear in her mouth.

All around her were dozens of oddly shaped stalagmites that were shrouded by the darkness of the cave. Luna cocked her head at one stalagmite in particular, slowly making her way over to it and adjusting her eyes to the darkness. Her breath caught in her throat.

“Gorgon,” Luna whispered. In front of her was a pony turned completely to stone with a sword still gripped in her mouth. Luna spun around, making out the rest of the shapes of the other stalagmites around her. Ponies, griffons, and even zebras lay petrified, trapped within the stony tomb that had claimed their lives. A steam vent roared above Luna.

“Another pony makes her way into the caverns beneath the Griffon Steppe,” a feminine voice from behind Luna said, who gripped her spear and refused to turn around. Hisses of several dozen snakes echoed off of the walls of the cavern, sending chills up Luna’s spine. “I can see that you have already found my collection of prizes from over the years.”

“Prizes?” Luna asked coldly.

“Why yes,” the gorgon responded. Luna heard her slither closer. “Well, I guess only a few are. Some did fight back when they discovered what lay beneath the barren steppe, but they all were vanquished just as easily as the last.” She paused, and Luna felt the presence of something looming over her. “But you are different, young pony. I have never seen the likes of you before, nor have I felt so much... power radiating from one’s body.”

Luna’s ear twitched, and she slowly looked down at the water. She saw the reflection of the gorgon, observing as the strands of hair moved on their own, hissing like snakes. Other than that, however, the gorgon looked like any regular mare, with large eyes and two forehooves above the snake body.

“Alicorns contain more power in their beings than unicorns,” Luna said, staring into the gorgon’s face in the reflection. “You might have encountered a few treading through these caves.”

“Yes, I may have encountered a few.” The gorgon leaned back and scratched under her chin with a hoof. “But this power you speak of, it feels... much different than the power that emanates from a unicorn. It’s darker and... and more volatile.”

Kill her.

Luna blinked. “What is your name?” she asked.

The gorgon retreated from behind Luna, slinking around some of the petrified ponies and griffons and reappearing in front of the princess. Luna looked the other way, avoiding looking the gorgon directly in the face, whose tongue flickered out gently, licking Luna’s cheek.

“Isthus, young alicorn,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “I would be pleased if you told me yours.”

“Princess Luna of Equestria,” Luna said, unfurling her wings.

“Princess? Of Equestria?” Isthus retreated back slightly. “I am genuinely interested. What brings you out here to the Griffon Kingdoms?”

I said kill her.

Luna’s teeth ground together. “My homeland has been overrun by an enemy, so I am here requesting the aid of the griffons.”

Isthus pulled away from Luna and began to circle her slowly, causing Luna to look down at her hooves while her ears followed the gorgon. Luna gripped her spear even tighter in her mouth, grinding into the wooden handle.

“Why has this enemy of yours overrun your homeland?” the gorgon asked slowly.

She already knows. Kill her. Escape.

Isthus visibly flinched in her reflection in the water, and Luna’s eyes widened. Her teeth relaxed their grip on the spear handle, and she said, “You can hear her, too, can’t you?”

“I hear the moon calling within you, yes,” Isthus said, stopping behind Luna once again. “I can feel her dark magic residing in you. Dangerous and curious indeed. How did you acquire it?”

You’re wasting your time, nave. She wants nothing more than to add you to her private statuary. Kill her now.

“Why do you wish to know?” Luna asked, slowly turning her head.

When have I been wrong?

Isthus’s serpent hair ceased to hiss. “You wrong me, Princess, accusing me of deceit and hostilities.” Her tone was despondent.

Luna stopped turning, and her wings began to retract back against her body. She stared at the water and the reflection of the gorgon, watching as Isthus looked down past her hooves. You were wrong about ‘Tia. Luna dropped her spear.

“How I acquired the power is irrelevant, Isthus,” Luna said. She faced the gorgon, looking away from her face and towards all of the petrified ponies and griffons around her. “Why did you petrify all of these ponies and griffons?”

“They were afraid, Princess,” Isthus replied with her eyes still downcast. “They thought of me as some kind of trophy,” she glanced at a griffon only a few meters away, “or they were too afraid to give me a chance.” Her eyes drifted onto a pegasus behind Luna. “For all of the years that ponies and griffons have been entering these caves, all of them stood ready to take my life, aside for one. Why you’re so different, why you have given me a chance to speak, I do not know.”

Luna took a step forward. “You remind me of somepony who is lost and outcast. Pensive. Nopony respects or even trusts them anymore, thinking that they are just some sort of masqueraded enemy.” Luna took another step forward, standing just below the gorgon. “But I know better.”

The gorgon looked up, staring Luna directly in the eyes.

~~~

Luna and Isthus stood near the exit to the caves, crouching low behind a rock. The sound of dull chatter echoed into the cave, causing Isthus’s ears to twitch back and forth. She nervously peered over the top of the rock towards the crowd of ponies and griffons waiting outside, while Luna carefully set her spear down against the side of the rock. She took a deep breath and nudged Isthus’s side.

“So, I have a feeling that if we were to both walk out of there together at the same time,” Luna said, “the griffon guards stationed would undoubtedly attack you on sight. What I was thinking was that I would emerge from the cave first and speak with Bloodbeak, and when you see me wave back into the cave, that will be your cue to come out.”

Isthus nodded her head, but her eyes remained worried and dilated. Luna leaned over and gently rubbed one of her hooves against the gorgon’s scales.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they don’t hurt you,” Luna stood up and grabbed her spear in her mouth. “Besides, if they want to get to you, they’ll have to go through both me and an angry Flutterpony.”

Luna gave Isthus one last look and began to trot out of the cave. A wave of cheers and hollers blasted towards Luna when everypony first caught sight of her, and she quickly bowed before striding up to Bloodbeak, Rikkard, and Forza. Forza was smiling, bounding up to Luna and wrapping both of her hooves around the princess and giving her a hug. Luna dropped her spear and nuzzled the Flutterpony back.

Rikkard’s face still remained expressionless, but Bloodbeak’s face had contorted into both surprise and contempt. His claws dug into the ground, and when Luna and Forza broke away from their hug, he pushed forward and stood over Luna.

“How did you manage to trek through the caves alive?” he asked. “As for that matter, how did you manage to trek through the caves completely unscathed aside from a few burns?”

Luna stared up at Bloodbeak with frigid eyes, flaring her wings out. “That is actually something I wish to speak to you about.” She paused, taking a deep breath and throwing Forza a side glance before continuing. “As you are probably aware, there is a gorgon that goes by the name of Isthus who lives in the caves. She has lived there for hundreds of years, shunning herself away from all of society because of the backlash she receives from her... differences.”

Bloodbeak stared at Luna quizzically, and even Rikkard began to raise an eyebrow as she continued.

“After speaking with her for some time, she has requested that I ask that you allow her to depart with me back to Equestria once the Twilight Gauntlet is over.”

Everyone who was in the vicinity fell silent, and those that continued to chatter grew silent, too, as word spread of Luna’s request. Forza glanced at the princess with warmth in her eyes, while Rikkard stared at her with awe. Bloodbeak, on the other hand, began to have his face turn a slight tinge of red.

“You want me to what?” he asked, his voice crescendoing. “You want to let that beast leave the caves? You want to let her roam free and potentially harm other creatures? You’re asking me to give up what is, perhaps, one of the most essential assets to the Twilight Gauntlet.”

Upon the last remark, a wave of chatter from the crowd rose. Luna looked on either side of her, observing as ponies and griffons alike conversed among themselves over what Bloodbeak had said. Her ears swiveled around listening in, and she smiled.

“That is precisely what I am asking for,” she said, “and by the sounds of the ponies and griffons around you, it seems that they agree with my request.” A few nods and shouts of assent burst through the crowd. “So, what is your verdict, King Bloodbeak?”

Bloodbeak looked on either side of him at the crowd, and he leaned in closer to Luna. “I suggest that you undermine my authority no further, alicorn,” he said quietly. “I’ll see you at the next trial.”

Luna watched as Bloodbeak turned and headed off in the direction of the next trial. She watched him walk a bit further, and then she turned and waved with her hoof towards the cave. Isthus saw Luna’s hoof, and she began to slowly make herself towards the cave entrance. Gasps rung out through the crowd when she made her way into the light of the sun overhead, and many of the ponies and griffons shielded their eyes in case they met the gorgon’s gaze. Luna strode up to Isthus with Forza in tow, staring directly into her eyes.

“You are free to depart with me when we leave for Equestria, Isthus,” Luna said.

Isthus looked around at the crowds, biting her lower lip and sighing. “I don’t know if this is a good idea, Princess,” she said sadly.

Luna opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, she heard Forza say, “Do not care what they think of you, Isthus. The Princess and I are here to protect you.” She glanced back, noticing that a few ponies and griffons slowly began to avert their eyes towards the gorgon. “Just give them a little time.”

~~~

Luna, Forza, and Isthus arrived at the next trial, and stood staring out across the Griffon Steppe towards High Talon Rock. Behind them was a pit that was enclosed by net wrapped around pillars of dragon bone, creating an arena for all sorts of duels or games to be held. The arena had been built on the top of a tall rock spire that sat among the rolling plains of the steppe, allowing for everyone to gaze across the vast landscape of the Griffon Kingdoms. A slight breeze kicked up, rustling everypony’s mane and tails.

The hisses from Isthus’s mane quieted, and she asked, “Princess, who is this enemy that you fight?”

Luna placed the spear up against her shoulder and said, “They used to call themselves Flutterponies, Isthus.” She glanced at Forza, who continued to stare out across the Steppe towards High Talon Rock. “They were a peaceful race who strived to achieve love and unity among themselves as well as their allies. They had beautiful cities all across the Eternal Valley, and they had a beautiful and loving queen who cared for all of her subjects.

“Well, a dark and twisted force arose from seemingly out of nowhere, and using his powers, he twisted the Flutterponies into a shadow of their former selves known as the Changelings.” Luna paused, watching as Forza looked down at her hooves. “They... allied themselves with the dark force, and unleashed the full might of their armies upon Equestria, killing my parents and shattering our capital. After six months of my sister and I trying to find a plan, here I am, taking these trials so I can win the allegiance of the griffons.”

“Where is your sister now?” Isthus asked quietly.

“I don’t know,” Luna replied. “Last we spoke, she was traveling east in search of a powerful artifact that would stop our enemy.”

Isthus looked over at Forza, watching as the Flutterpony looked down at her hooves and lazily fluttered her mangled wings back and forth. Luna also had her head lowered, but Isthus noticed that her eyes were locked on Forza. The gorgon lowered her head next to Luna’s ear and whispered, “I don’t know much that has happened between you two, but you should try to talk to her before the trial starts. I’ll be fine.”

Before Luna could reply, Isthus had already started to slither away to another position on top of the mountain. She sighed, turning to look over at Forza, who had sat down on her haunches and was back to staring out across the steppe.

“Are you doing okay?” Luna asked, sitting down next to Forza.

“I am thinking about Chrysalis again,” Forza said. “I... miss her.”

Luna looked off towards High Talon Rock. “I know, Forza.”

“I-I cannot do this anymore, Princess,” Forza said. “I feel so empty inside, like I have nothing left to fight for. There is nowhere for me to go, and there is almost no one left for me to follow. My whole life I have had somepony to look up to and fight for, but slowly all of those options for me are dwindling away.”

“For somepony who has lost much,” Luna said slowly, “you show more leadership than those who have everything.”

Forza chuckled. “Speak for yourself, Princess. You, who has lost her home, her nation, and her parents within the span of six months. I at least still have a mother.”

Luna flinched, and Forza’s eyes dropped as she said, “I am sorry. I should not have...”

“No, Forza,” Luna said, wrapping one of her wings around the Flutterpony. “See, you do have something to fight for. Chrysalis is out there, waiting for you to return to her. You can still fight to return to her, to get her back as your mother.”

Forza sighed. “Although you may be right, there is one other pony who I would rather fight for. Chrysalis may be my mother, but you are my friend. You are my beacon to get back to Chrysalis, and you are my sanctuary where I can find a home again. Chrysalis cannot grant what it is that I wish, but you can.”

Luna looked over at Forza and said, “Forza, I can’t guaran-”

“It does not matter, Luna,” Forza said, looking into Luna’s eyes.

Luna opened her mouth, but she was stopped short by Rikkard’s talons scraping on the rock behind her. She turned.

“We await on you for the trial to start, Princess,” Rikkard said. He turned and started to walk back to Bloodbeak.

“Well, that’s my cue,” Luna said, rising to her hooves. “I guess... I guess I’ll see you after this trial.”

“Wait,” Forza said, getting to her hooves as well and holding a hoof out to stop Luna, who turned and faced her. She bit her lip and looked down at her hooves. “Be careful in there, Luna. I-I have a vague suspicion of what they have in store for you for this trial.”

Luna glanced back at the arena and cringed inwardly. “I can only imagine what awaits for me down in that pit.”

Forza leaned forward and planted a kiss at the base of Luna’s jaw, who froze from her touch. When she slowly started to pull away, Luna jerked her head towards Forza and bit her lower lip when she felt her face flush. Forza’s face remained impassive as she stared into Luna’s eyes, and she nodded towards the arena.

“It’s good luck,” Forza said, walking past Luna, “for when you are in the arena.”

After watching the Flutterpony walking by her to stand at the edge of the arena next to Isthus, Luna started to make her way around the arena towards a tall set of doors. She stopped before the two guards who stood on either side of the doors and gave them a nod, signalling for both of them to slowly open the two doors just a crack so she could step into the arena.

The ground underneath her hooves felt like sand, sinking in slightly and leaving visible hoofprints as she treaded towards the center. A few rocks lay scattered across the arena, along with a few prickly shrubs that hardly provided any cover. Looking up, Luna could see the scores of ponies and griffons that made up guests who wished to see her participate in the Twilight Gauntlet. She spotted Forza and Isthus directly in front of her and nodded at them.

“Princess Luna,” Rikkard roared from his seat next to Bloodbeak, “for the fourth trial of the Twilight Gauntlet, and for the last trial of today, you are to prove to us your worth in the art of combat. You have battled against other enemies in the trials, but only after you have shown your worth defeating a beast of challenge, will you be recognized to continue on with the gauntlet.” He paused, nodding at a griffon who stood next to a lever. The griffon pulled the level, allowing for the gate on the far side of the arena to slowly open. “You have seen them before, and now you must kill one of them. Good luck, and may you fare well against a gargoyle.”

A deep snarl rumbled from behind the gates, and before either door could open half way, a massive hand grabbed onto the side of the door and forcefully pulled it open. The hinges bent and cracked, leaving the door to hang limply against the wall it had been shoved against. The other doored fared better, avoiding the destructive force behind the gargoyle’s other hand as the beast shot out from the darkness behind the doors and into the light of the arena.

The gargoyle was larger than the one Luna had encountered in the gorge, standing much taller than her even as it stood hunched over. It’s entire body was a dark, sickly gray color, and massive wings protruded from its back with a wingspan three times as long as its body. A rat tail swished behind the gargoyle as it stared directly at Luna with its large, black eyes.

Luna’s heart raced in her chest as she gripped her Runka spear tighter in her mouth. Her wings flared out, but they looked pitiful compared to the massive, leathery wing span of the gargoyle. The beast crept closer, saliva dripping from the corners of its mouth and onto the dusty floor of the arena.

When the gargoyle was within an arm’s length of Luna, it swiped its massive hands at her, forcing her to leap back to avoid its sharp talons. Luna dug her hooves into the ground, and when the gargoyle made for another attack, she bolted to the left to avoid its hand yet again. The gargoyle left an opening as it recovered from its second swipe, allowing for Luna to make a dash towards the beast with her spear pointed forward. She almost made it to the gargoyle’s belly, but as the spear was only meters away from puncturing its skin, she was slapped heavily to the side by the gargoyle’s massive rat tail. She slammed into a rock and the spear was knocked from her teeth.

Luna stumbled back to her hooves and lept to the side before the gargoyle could bring its massive body on top of the rock. She was separated from her spear, the gargoyle blocking any possibility of getting to it, so she bolted to the other side of the arena in the opposite direction. The gargoyle let out a roar, pursuing her and spreading its wings. The beast blasted off into the air once its wings had unfurled, casting a shadow across Luna and causing her to look up. Her eyes widened as the gargoyle descended upon her, and in a last ditch effort to move out of the way, she dug her hooves into the sand again to stop herself.

The gargoyle plunged into the sand ahead of her, shaking the entire arena and throwing Luna off balance. She tried to scrambled back to her hooves, but before she had time to dash away again, the gargoyle’s tail lashed out against her and sent her flying into the wall of the arena.

Luna groaned as she unsteadily rose back onto her hooves. The gargoyle’s growl rumbled in her ears as it slowly approached, treading over the sand on all fours with its wings flared and tail in the air. The princess spread her legs and lowered her head, pointing her horn directly at the beast’s mouth.

After a second’s pause, the gargoyle lunged forward, and Luna darted from next to the wall to underneath the gargoyle’s head. The beast tried to stop Luna’s advance by swiping at her again with one of its massive hands, but she deftly leapt over the attack and stabbed her horn up through the gargoyle’s chin. She quickly dislodged her horn before the gargoyle could rear back and hiss loudly. Again, it tried to swipe at her with its claws while she made a break for her spear, but she dodged those attacks, too, by skirting around its enormous hands.

Luna picked up her spear once she reached it and turned around, bringing up her spear just in time as the one of the gargoyle’s hands came crashing down on top of her. The spear punctured through the gargoyle’s hand, causing the beast to let out another deafening cry as it pulled its hand back. Luna dashed forward, pushing her spear deep into the gargoyle’s chest and twisting before pulling out.

Before she had time to react, Luna was slapped across the arena as one of the gargoyle’s hands finally made contact with her, its claws scraping across two of her legs. Luna rolled to a stop on the other side of the arena with her spear flying through the air and driving into the sand in front of her. She quickly got to her hooves when she saw the gargoyle charging her from across the arena, picking up her spear and launching into the air with just enough time to narrowly escape.

“Princess Luna!”

Luna zipped out of the way as the gargoyle launched into the air again after her, and she spun around to see who was shouting at her. Forza was hopping into the air next to Isthus, fear stretched across her face. She saw that she had grabbed Luna’s attention, and she pointed in the direction of High Talon Rock. Luna’s breath caught in her throat.

Approaching the city was a massive column of black shapes, marching together in a line that stretched far into the pass that bordered the Griffon Kingdoms and Equestria. Bells rung faintly from the city, and griffons were pouring out of the castle catacombs into High Talon Rock to take their positions inside the city.

As the gargoyle made to make another lunge for her, Luna sped away from the beast again and flew as fast as she could over to Forza and Isthus.

“Luna!” Forza shouted again, “High Talon Rock is under attack by the Changelings. You need to get out of that arena now. A pair of griffon guards are over by the exit with the doors poised to open when you get near. Go!”

Before Luna could respond, she was grabbed by her tail and flung across the arena into the sand. Her spear had been knocked from her teeth again, and as she scrambled to retrieve it, she was pinned underneath one of the gargoyle’s hands while it reached over and picked the spear up. In its other hand, the spear snapped easily into two pieces and was discarded to the side. The gargoyle grinned, rows of sharp teeth visible and slaver dripping from its mouth.

Luna growled and charged her horn, shooting a beam of pure energy into one of the gargoyle’s eyes. The beast shrieked, rearing back and lifting Luna into the air with it. She struggled to release herself from the gargoyle’s powerful grip, and when merely slipping out of its hand failed, she charged her horn again and released several bolts of energy against it’s throat. Several holes ripped open as Luna’s magic punctured through the gargoyle’s skin, and the beast released Luna so that she fell heavily to the ground.

The gargoyle stumbled, gripping its throat with both of its hands as blood seeped through its fingers, and after it released a few guttural chokes, it collapsed to the ground and went limp. Without giving the gargoyle a second glance, Luna dashed over to the two doors and pushed one of them open. Forza and Isthus were waiting for her.

“Come on,” Forza said, falling in behind Luna as they galloped to the path that led down the mountain. “Bloodbeak and Rikkard have already left with the rest of the griffons and ponies who were able to fight. If we move fast, we might be able to catch up to them when they enter through the side gates.”

They started to speed down the mountain, and Luna was able to catch a glance of High Talon Rock and the army of Changelings that was still moving towards it.

“Where did they come from?” Isthus asked.

“I don’t know,” Luna replied, “but my guess is that we are going to have far less time to carry out our plans that ‘Tia and I calculated.”

Author's Note:

Alright, after trying to get my butt in gear and work on this chapter, I finally got it out. Unfortunately, I am going to take this time to take about a one to two week hiatus on this story. I feel completely burnt out writing this, and I wish to try my hand at writing out a skeleton of a romance fic I have stashed in the back of my mind. It's nothing spectacular, just a little story about a female changeling falling in love with a pegasus.

Anyways, thank you to Redracer for editing!

Although it may take a while to come out, the next chapter will be called Chapter 12: Izdihar al Nazari