• Published 10th Mar 2013
  • 17,899 Views, 411 Comments

Incepto Ne Desistam - MAGO5

Death from Darksiders 2 demands the Elements from Equestria's ruler.

  • ...

A Clash of Values

The double doors of the throne room’s foyer loudly slammed open, causing a gush of hot, summer air to blow into the long hallway and rattle Poindexter’s papers. The secretary sighed, not even bothering to look up, for he knew what it was that entered the room. Another fuming noble looking to emblazon his passionate mark on the princess’s day about whatever thing he needed funding for. They’re all the same, their lot. They think themselves above everything else. Why, just today, Poindexter had to turn away two of them. He had to suffer their heated breath and their spittle-coated venom. Their disregard for a proper indoor volume. He would have liked to shout down both of them where they stood, give those ingrates a piece of his mind, but that would be unprofessional. He merely gathered his wits and prepared to politely talk down the enraged aristocrat.

Poindexter was quite an old stallion. He has been Celestia’s secretary for the past 60 years and his employee record was virtually spotless. He’s had more than enough of the damnable politics of the kingdom. Still not averting his gaze from his desk, he could hear the sound of the heavy steps getting closer. Must be one of those. The nobles that were swollen with their own fat and self-infatuation. He could hear another set of hoofsteps. These were lighter, and they were accompanied by the slightly familiar voice of a mare.

“Please, can you slow down? Can we save this for another day? The Princess is probably very busy! Just give her a bit of the respect she deserves! She might be shocked by... um... your appearance.” But the pace did not deter one bit.

It sounded as if this one had a bit more sense than most. Poindexter smiled at her last statement. “Shocked by his appearance” indeed. Why, Her Majesty would be distraught to try and figure out how a beached whale managed to grow legs and hooves and learned how to walk and talk. Well, hopefully this mare could help him talk the bloated windbag away. The pair was getting close to his desk, now. Poindexter removed his glasses with his magic and began to clean them while he sucked in a breath with his withered lungs.

“Sir, the Princess is in a very important meeting. I’m going to have to ask you to leave or schedule your... appointment later.” The steps still did not stop.

“See?” Said the mare. By ‘Tia, thought the secretary, she sounded quite shaken. This stallion must be very powerful or very imposing. He’d put money on the latter. “She’s busy, hehe... Looks like we’ll have to come back some other time!”

“Her petty meetings can wait, Twilight.” Said a deep, gravelly voice. Poindexter was suddenly uneasy. This didn’t sound like any stuffy aristocrat. In fact, now that the rude intruder was closer, his steps didn’t sound like hoofsteps. “The fate of my brother and an entire race hangs in the balance.”

The secretary fumbled his glasses back on and caught a glimpse of the figure marching in. He only had a split-second to observe before... it shoved open the throne room door. He caught pale skin, black hair, unusual armor, the glint of a sharpened blade...

“W-wait!” He shouted, now physically trembling. “Y-you can’t have that in here!”


There was the crash of the double doors. The heads of the lord and ladies of Equestria simultaneously turned towards the disturbance. Even Celestia was caught off-guard, for she ordered her secretary firmly that she was not to be disturbed.

“Princess Celestia! Ruler of Equestria! I come seeking the power of this land, and I will not be turned away!”

The council gasped. In the doorway stood a tall, gaunt, bipedal figure that had some sort of skull mask adorned on his face, surrounded by strands of hair, black as night. Baleful orange, piercing eyes gazed out from the sockets, staring directly at the divine ruler and mistress of the sun. The livid creature was clad in armor: a crow’s skull adorned his left shoulder. Clawed gloves wrapped his hands. A strap was the only thing covering his chest, which was thin, but contained corded, dense muscles. Fragments of an eerie green crystal seemed to be forcefully embedded in his right pectoral, but he showed no signs of pain. From waist down, a thick kilt of black-and-violet leathers trailed over his legs, adorned with skulls, chains, and other gothic paraphernalia, ending in heavy greaves. Strapped to his hip on both sides were two small, sickle-like blades.

Celestia, once her surprise was overcome, glared at the gate-crasher with scorn. She could feel a dark power emanating from him like a churning volcano. Those blades have been bloodied thoroughly. Then, her eyes caught her faithful student, trailing behind the creature. She looked thoroughly rattled and shameful.

“Twilight? Who is this? Why does he interfere with our meeting?” She gestured to the lower rulers of the various provinces of Equestria. Not one of them had recovered from the confusion and were still gawking at the lanky, yet horrendously imposing figure that was still walking closer as their liege spoke. “Where are the guards?”

“They did not offer me trouble.” The stranger returned. “They seemed too busy fleeing for their lives when I approached them.”

“I-I’m sorry princess. I tried to stop him!” She squeaked out, trotting closely behind the man in question. “He just won’t listen!” Her anger finally flared. “Will you just stop and listen to me for more than two bucking seconds?!

“I’m done listening to your drabble, pony.” He replied coolly and pushed the annoying mare away with his foot. “You spoke of a great power, vested by your ruler. I can feel it myself.” He came to a stop and raised his voice. “There is no denying it! I will no longer be lied to, stalled, or impeded!”

The princess’s gazed narrowed. “And just what is it that you want with this power?”

“My brother stands accused for a crime he did not commit: bringing the destruction of the entire human race.”

Celestia could barely maintain her composure. Such an action was unthinkable, unfathomable. The stranger continued regardless.

“I seek to absolve my brother’s so-called crime by resurrecting the humans so that they may continue to prepare for the End War and the balance may be restored. To do this, I require a vast amount of energy. It is my understanding that you,” He pointed a bony finger at the alicorn. “know the secrets to this power.”

Her glare intensified even further. “And who are you to make such demands?” She rose to her hooves and spread her voluminous white wings. Twilight seemed to shrink a bit, while the newcomer was not phased in the slightest. “Who are you to think yourself above my business?!”

“I am Death.”

The aristocrats sitting in their seats were finally pulled from their fearful stupor. They leapt out of their chairs and quietly ran for their lives, streaming out the throne room door. Death still did not flinch away from her eyes. Locked in an intense stare-off, the atmosphere around them buzzed with tension.

“I am one of the Four Horsemen, Champions of the Charred Council and Keepers of The Balance.” He continued. “Your ‘prodige’ tells me that these ‘Elements of Harmony’ contain near-limitless capabilities. Where are they?”

“I have not heard of this ‘Council’.” Celestia retorted.

“Your world is young; younger than humanity was, in fact. You will come to know The Council in a couple eons.”

“They have no power here.”

Death folded his arms. “I am their enforcer, so, quite frankly, I am their power. I also happen to be here.” He tilted his head sardonically. “Must I go on?”

The Princess leaned forward. “If you think you can intimidate me...”

“With a name like mine, Your Highness,” He interrupted. “one cannot strive to do much else.”

“Please, Princess, Death,” Twilight cried in a feeble attempt to calm both of them down. “we don’t have to do this!” The lavender librarian stepped between them and turned to her ruler. “His cause is noble! He wants to revive a destroyed race of innocent beings! They were caught in the middle of a war they could not have hoped to defend themselves from!”

“Noble?” Celestia shot. “He only means to bring them back so they may make war!”

“Conflict is an inevitability. War will happen one way or another.” Death spoke coldly. “It is a fact. The universe itself was founded upon it. No being is below or beyond battle and bloodshed.”

“My kingdom stands as contradiction to that. We have not known war, large or small, since its creation. No blood will blemish our history.”

“Wrong.” He roughly pushed Twilight aside once more. “You may have peace now, but that is only because your world is but a child, no, a fetus in a womb. And while you grow fat and complacent from reaping your fertile lands, the neighboring kingdoms will become bedraggled and hungry from their own scarce fields. They will gaze upon Equestria and see a plump swine, belly up, ready to be slaughtered, and they will not hesitate to plunge the knife in, hilt-deep.” Death’s eerie, orange gaze narrowed. “You may not want war, but it will come, and your foolish sentiment will not save you. It is as certain as death itself.”

Celestia did not listen to him. War can always be avoided. Pacts could always be made. Truces could always be agreed upon. She knows because she had done so for the past millennia. It was not always easy, and she had made mistakes along the way, but fighting was always avoided. This stranger was only trying to throw her into despair. She knew his kind. He was a creature of evil that used fear as a weapon. She was done listening to his insults and impetuosity. How he convinced Twilight to support his cause was rather bothersome. She’d have to give her a stern lecture on judging character later.

“Your words hold no sway on me, Death. I’ll not cower in terror on the count of your lies. You may have used intimidation and dark words to get you this far, but I’ll not be moved! If you think-”

“Shut up, horse.”

The Princess looked as if she was slapped.

“You... You can’t talk to the Princess like that!” Twilight angrily hoofed towards the biped.

“Take one more step, Twilight, and I will kick you across the room.”

The lavender unicorn froze in place. Death turned back to the alicorn.

“I’m rather pissed right now. I’ve done nothing but frivolously galavant to world after world! I’ve been sent on the errand of just about every sentient being in the universe with nothing to show for it! I finally come here on the hope that I might find what I seek, but your witless student here,” He jabbed a thumb at Twilight. “has only been shoving me into tea parties and playdates with the rest of her moronic friends! I’ve had it with this world! I’m done with your candy-colored, sugar-coated bullshit! You will give me the Elements, or I shall take them by force!”

“You’ll never have them.” Celestia growled.

“Tread carefully, Your Majesty,” His hands moved for the blades at his hip. “it would not be wise to confront forces you do not understand.”

“I would give the same advice to you.”

“Please, Death,” Twilight meeped. “we can work this out some other way...”

“For the last time, SHUT UP!” Death turned to the smaller pony. “You are no longer releva-!”

A bright flash seared Twilight’s eyes, accompanied by the crack of superheated air and the release of powerful magic. Death’s feet were ripped from where they were planted and he was sent tumbling across the throne room at a breakneck speed. Like a stone splashing across a pond, each painful connection with the floor tore chunks of marble tile from their place. His momentum was cancelled by the thick stone wall, which, on contact, exploded in a rain of white masonry and left only a crater. Fresh dust lapped from the scar on a once-pristine wall, settling once the vibrations that shook the very floor subsided. Even more shaken than before, Twilight looked back upon her Princess. Wisps of hot magical excess slowly rose from her horn like gunsmoke.

“P-Princess...?” The student stammered. “You...”

“Twilight,” The alicorn rose from her battle stance and regained her usual regal posture. “there comes a time when one must not yield to any demands from evil men like him. He was threatening with violence that I could assume he was quite capable of dealing-”

A soft, but carrying chuckle emanated from the gash in the wall, followed by the shifting of rubble, caused the two to turn their heads. Celestia’s blood went cold. Death yanked himself from his stone cage and stood upright, brushing off what little dust sat on his shoulders, laughing the whole time. Aside from some light scorch marks from where the blast hit him, he bore no wounds.

“I’d hate to disappoint, Princess.” He removed the weapons from his hip. With a flourish and the singing of steel, the blades grew from small knives to large sickles, each vaguely comparable to the sharp beak of a carrion feeder. He reversed the grip and brought the blades behind him, giving him the semblance of a venomous cobra, coiled and ready to strike. “Let me show you just how much violence I am capable of dealing!”

From the place he stood, he applied massive muscle-power to his leg and took off like a crossbow bolt, charging towards the Princess with malicious concentration. Celestia had barely any time to react, such was his speed. She fired another hot blast from her horn. The yellow-white beam, bearing the power of the sun itself, was blisteringly fast, but the nephilim was faster. Angling his left foot in his next step, he twisted his body over the sunbolt and landed on his right foot. He lost no momentum and continued to charge towards the matriarch. Panicking, Celestia fired two more quick bolts, both missing. Death was almost upon her, blades screaming for blood. Pumping her massive wings, she took to the air just as he tossed a spinning scythe, which sliced the air of where she just stood.

The whirling blade returned to his hand and, with a great flex of his leg-muscles, he leaped after the Princess, scythes raised over his head. Celestia dodged left with agility that surprised Death. Though, upon retrospect, it really shouldn’t have surprised him, knowing his hefty brother, War, could do the same. Instead of hitting the Princess, the blades were impaled into the wall behind her throne. Without a second thought, he yanked the blades from their place and launched himself at Celestia once more. She shot yet another sunbolt at her attacker, but this time it was deflected by a swipe of his violet blade. He swung with his other arm while she beat her wings backwards, striking off her golden chest-armor but missing her flesh by a mere hair-breadth. The jeweled chest-piece clattered to the ground with a loud clang. With nothing to grab hold of, Death, once more, became grounded. He landed with a roll, turning his attention to the flying alicorn just in time to dodge a sunbolt. Then another. And another, another, another. He was becoming impatient.

“Get DOWN HERE!” He sheathed his right blade in an instant, whipped out his revolver, Redemption, and fired a single shot. The bullet seemed to graze her right wing, but the splash of blood showed that it tore clear through a muscle. The Princess shrieked, knowing true pain for the first time in thousands of years, and fell to the floor, flapping her uninjured wing wildly. Her alabaster coat was tainted with red and the stain was only growing larger. She looked up from her screaming wound to see Death charging towards her. Adrenaline coursing through her veins, Celestia narrowly dodged the relentless onslaught of sweeping scythes. The Pale Rider’s movements were nearly impossible to see, such was his quickness. Only by her augmented senses immanent to an alicorn and her vast reserves of magic were she able to avoid another bloody wound, or worse. She would not be able to keep it up, though. Celestia summoned her magic in the form of a well-practiced spell. A slightly-visible golden orb surrounded her, and when the nephilim hit it next, his blade bounced off as if he hit a solid object. Surprised, he staggered backwards. The Princess took it to her advantage. Heaving her hooves up, she struck Death with as much strength as she could muster. He was much heavier than his agility and grace would imply, but he was pushed away a good twenty feet and knocked prone.

This gave Celestia a chance to heal. She used her powerful sun-magic to knit the wound. It stung, but it was no more painful than the steel bolt that was shot from his strange weapon. The flesh closed and the bleeding stopped, but the muscle would not be functional for a while. She still could not fly. Meanwhile, Death brought himself to his feet, chuckling weakly. He lifted his mask up a little, spat a gob of blood onto the ground, and quickly put his mask back on. She never saw his true face.

“You are more well-versed in battle than I thought, horse.” He popped his vertebrae and tightened his grip on his scythes. “I supposed its time for me to stop going easy on you.”

There was a flash of black and violet, the sickly smell of cadavers, and suddenly the nephilim was upon her, raining down blinding blows upon her shield. He danced this way and that, striking the side, then the back, then her front, then above her, then behind her again. Celestia struggled to maintain her force-field against his barrage, such was the intensity of his attack. Sweat beaded on her brow. She sank to her knees. The subtle golden orb around her began to flicker. Her horn glowed intensely, trying to maintain the flow and form of her spell, but it was too much. At last, the shield shattered in a brilliant shower of light. Death raised his scythe for one final downward stroke. It came singing down.

...But it never struck. The Princess, still weary from his onslaught, looked up. A glowing lavender aura held his body in place. She could see his muscles straining, his cold blood pumping through his bulging veins. Celestia looked to find the source of the interference. Twilight Sparkle, horn glowing, tears streaming from her clamped eyelids, held Death in place with all her magical might.

“Dammit... pony...” The Pale Rider strained his arm. He dropped his scythe and reached for his gun. The librarian gritted her teeth and tried to tighten her mystical grip on him to little effect. Inch by agonizing inch, he leveled the revolver in Twilight’s direction, determined to dispose of the nuisance. The hammer cocked back.

“No!” Celestia cried and leapt on him just as he fired once more. The bullet went astray, grazing the side of a marble pillar with a puff of disintegrated stone. Twilight collapsed shortly thereafter in exhaustion. The Princess pinned both of Death’s arms to the ground with her hooves, pressing all her body-weight into the effort.

“You will NOT hurt my student!” She shouted.

“Despair!” Was his reply.

This confused her for an instant, but that bewilderment dissipated when she heard a shrill, ghostly whinny come from her left. She turned a second too late. A horrific steed, as livid as Death himself, mane and tail glowing a necrotic green, clad in dark plates and chains, materialized from a portal in the floor and rammed into the matriarch. Its nostrils snorted green fire, furious at the impetuosity of this being bringing harm to its master. The horse, knowing no fear or remorse, relentlessly lashed out at the Princess. Death jumped to his feet and scanned the room for Twilight. He found her, still recovering from her arcane exertion. The rider dashed towards her. The unicorn saw Death coming and attempted to cast another spell with whatever magic she had left. Too late. Death’s bony fingers wrapped tightly around her purple horn, effectively silencing her casting. Magical sparks leapt out from between his digits. Twilight now suffered his orange eyes piercing into her very soul. Her heart stopped in her throat. She had no time or brain-power to contemplate what he would do to her next. Her thoughts were of total fear and the darkness in his pupils.

“That’s enough out of you.” He touched the tip of his blade to Twilight’s neck. It did not cut her flesh, though, but she felt an icy stab of cold seep into her blood and her bones suddenly becoming very heavy. Her eyelids fluttered, her vision blurred, and finally, her body slackened into a deep slumber. Death let go of her horn and let her drop to the ground like a ragdoll. He stood over her motionless form, and, as an afterthought, looked at the hand that held her horn. He wiped it on his kilt and muttered something unflattering under his breath.

A whinny evoked his attention. He turned to see that his steed, Despair, had been overpowered by the Princess with a blast of forceful magic. The horse flew backwards and tumbled across the floor, lying prone, but still flailing. Celestia found Death standing next to the prone body of Twilight. The sight enraged her.


“She is not dead, merely sleeping.” He let loose from his lips a clipped, high-pitched whistle. Despair got to its hooves and raced towards its master. The rider caught the steed by the chest and flung himself onto its saddle. It banked around until they both were facing the Princess. His scythes fused together at their hilts to make one large, two-handed scythe. “I may not offer the same mercy to you.”

He kicked the stirrups and Despair eagerly began its charge. Death gripped the reins with focused anger as he sped towards the matriarch. Celestia braced herself, aiming her horn at the nephilim and planting her hooves firmly on the floor. The blade glinted in the sunlight that came through the stained glass. The two were about thirty feet apart. Then twenty. Then ten. Celestia charged her horn, letting the power of the sun to flow through it, building it up until it could be used in a blast or a beam. Then, Death did something she did not expect. He sheathed his blades and, in one smooth motion, propped his boots on the saddle and leapt forward, combining the momentum of his horse with the force of his jump. The abominable steed disappeared into the ground in a flare of green flame while the rider sailed through the air. He caught hold of Celestia’s neck and gripped tightly, inertia still propelling him forward. The Princess was lifted from her hooves and flipped head over flank before her back was finally subjected to the crushing ground. She felt at least two of her ribs crack. Blood flew from between her teeth as she hacked, but Death was not done. His scythes forming back into a two-hander, he straddled the alicorn, placed the cold, hard shaft to her throat and pressed down. Her vision swam. She tried desperately to pull what little air she could into her lungs, with little reward. She tried to use her magic, but she could not concentrate. The metal of his weapon was affecting her mind somehow.

“Do you feel that, Princess?” Death taunted. “Do you feel your bones cooling? Your soul sinking into a pit of eternal darkness? You think yourself immortal, but no being is immortal. Nothing is eternal. Death claims all creatures in the end. Give me the Elements, and I’ll see to it that your life does not end now.”

In one final, desperate effort, she kicked whatever she could find purchase with her rear hooves. One caught the Pale Rider’s leg and he stumbled, losing some of the pressure in his grip. Celestia finally had the leeway to remove the shaft from her throat. She pushed back with her forelegs and flapped her functional wing, effectively placing her on top of Death and his weapon pressed on his throat. His orange eyes widened in surprise. Spite drove her to press harder.

“My death will gain you nothing but more blood on your hands!” Celestia shouted with as much force as her sister’s voice. “Then what would you do? Kill another? Two more, perhaps ten more? Hundreds? Thousands? Would you extinguish an entire race just to bring back another?”

Death knee’d her in the stomach and places were swapped once more.

“To be truthful, Your Highness, I have already done that. I took every single one of their deaths to heart, and I will do it again if necessary.”

Her mind may have been have been in the process of slow asphyxiation, but she caught the eerie green crystals embedded in his chest for what seemed like the first time. It was like it had a presence of its own. It had a weight that could not be described, but the Princess could feel it. The haunting glimmer it exuded seem to take form, and then, she could finally see it, or more specifically, them. She could see the wailing souls of countless persons flowing through the refracting faces of the crystals in a maelstrom of agony. She could feel a shadow of their pain, a fraction, but incomprehensible, such was its magnitude. He slayed them. He slayed them all and trapped their essence in a crystal prison. This man truly was a monster.

Focusing as much as she could, she let loose a bright flare of light from her horn. It did not do any harm, but it blinded Death just long enough to knock him off. She got up and put as much distance as she could muster between the two of them. The nephilim recovered quickly, his long scythe propped on the floor. The Princess breathed more heavily than him. The biped did not seem to require as much air.

“Why do you do this?” Celestia shouted. “Why do you commit these atrocities?”

“These ‘atrocities’ are the only thing keeping your race alive. I wiped out the nephilim so they did not scour the universe in a tide of blood. I killed them and banished their souls to this crystal so that they could do no more harm. I did it to preserve the Balance.” He started to strafe around her, his scythe tapping against the marble floor like a walking staff. “From your student’s brief history of this land, I understand you had to do something similar about a thousand years back. To your own sister, nonetheless. Can you imagine being stuck on a lifeless rock for a millennium? I would rather slit my own throat then go through that.”

The Princess ground her teeth together. She matched his footsteps with hers. “I did not banish my sister, I banished the Nightmare that possessed my sister. I did it for the good of my nation, for she would have shrouded Equestria in total darkness.”

“See, Princess?” He gestured with his free hand. “We are not so different. We do what we must for the preservation of the many.”

“I am nothing like you!” She spat. “You take enjoyment in your violence! Your slaughter!”

Death chuckled. “One should love his job, should he not? I consider death to be an art, an art older than paintbrushes and pottery. I have seen the Land of the Dead with my own eyes. Souls flow through it, waiting to be reborn in a grand cycle of life and death. It’s majesty is greater than any achievement by the greatest races of the universe, the bloodiest conquests by the most brutal, the harmony of the most peaceful.” His orange gaze fixed on the Princess’s eyes once more. “I also happen to be very good at sending people there. You will regret opposing me.”

“I could say THE SAME!” Celestia’s horn lit up and she jerked her head to the right. Death reacted too late. A boulder, dislodged from the gash on far side of the room, slammed into him with at least five tons of force and sandwiched him against the wall. She had quietly levitated it into place while he gave his monologue. From the shattered debris, Death shakely rose, putting his weight on his scythe.

“You seem to... have an affinity... for those opportunity attacks...” He recovered, shifted his scythe back into two blades, and leapt at the monarch once again.


The throne room door slammed open again, this time yielding Captain Shining Armor of the Royal Guard, and a small, elite force of his finest stallions. He was clad in attire of his namesake. The most finely crafted silver armor adorned him, covering every part of him, save his head. The crest of the Royal Guard sat emblazoned on his chest-piece. He saw the Princess locked in ferocious battle with the creature that the other guardsmen had described to him.

“Princess!” He cried, noticing the large, red stain on her side, and the number of cuts on her alabaster coat that increased with each passing second. His eyes drifted to the motionless form of his sister and grew even wider. “TWILY!

Meanwhile, Death caught the Princess’s horn between his sickles just as she lunged at him with a magic-charged stabbing attack. He raised his weapons to that he came face-to-face with the furious alicorn.

“Fret not, Your Highness, for I shall attend to our guests.” He bent over backwards and flip-kicked her square in the jaw. The heavy boot tossed her up in the air and painfully brought her back to the floor. Death somersaulted away in a gratuitous display of his acrobatic skills and met the new threat head-on. The unicorn with the blue hair looked especially angry.

“Give no quarter!” The leader spoke to his soldiers. “He means to take our Princess from us! Charge!!!”

Saying nothing, the nephilim sheathed his blades and held his clawed gloves palms facing up. He slowly closed his grip. Darkness bled from his fingers. The room seemed to drop several degrees in temperature. The stench of corpses became almost gut-wrenching. Some of the unicorns and pegasi of Shining Armor’s guard faltered, suddenly stricken with dread, while the rest and Shining himself galloped on without hesitation. Celestia recovered and instantly caught a whiff of the air. Dark magic! She could see the inky blackness drip from the creature’s hands, ready to unleash whatever foul spell upon her Captain. She rose to her hooves and bounded towards Death, trying to stop him from conjuring evil into the world. She was closing fast, and at the same time, so was Shining Armor and his warriors. Then, The Pale Rider shifted his stance at the last second, glanced at the Princess with a devilish smirk under his mask, and extended his arms at both the monarch and the guards.

His hands gushed out a fountain of ebon crows. Cawing, squawking, shrieking, the unnatural birds enveloped the ponies like a swarm of locusts. The guards let loose several cries, shutting their eyes tight, flailing their hooves, flapping their wings, and firing off bolts of magic with abandon, all to no effect. The crows looked as if they were made of smoke with red, beady, glowing eyes, but they carried the weight and pain of their sharp beaks and their scraping talons. The Princess screamed in horror and revulsion. The smell of the carrion that exuded from their necrotic bodies was unbearable. Shining Armor, however, stood his ground, protecting his eyes with his foreleg and gritting his teeth. After a few agonizing moments, the crows began to dissipate. The room partly cleared, revealing that most of the guards had passed out, too weary to withstand such a psychological assault. The rest stood on doddering legs, looking upon Death with fading determination. Shining bashed away the last ghostly crow, which dissolved in a wisp of black mist. He was panting, with minor cuts and bruises dotting his body. The nephilim gave a clipped bark of laughter.

“Still standing, pony?” His right hand darkened. “This should keep you busy a while longer!”

From pitch-black, pestilent-green portals in the floor rose three weather-beaten coffins that stood upright for a second before exploding in a cascade of rotten splinters. Leaping from the epicenters were three frenzied, moving, bipedal corpses that charged at the remaining ponies, limbs flailing. Their yellow eyes stared blankly as their decomposing bodies surged forward like deranged beasts. Shining experienced true fear for the first time since the encounter as one of them bee-lined straight for him. He was knocked to the ground. The zombie’s gnawing maw tried with unholy might to devour the unicorn. He could feel its putrid spittle spatter on his face. He lashed out with his hooves, recklessly keeping the cadaver from biting distance. The rest of the ponies were having similar trouble with the other two.

Seeing that his new adversaries were otherwise occupied, he turned his attention back to Celestia, who was coming after him once again with her radiant horn. He whipped out his blades and side-stepped her attempt to gore him whilst delivering a swift counter-attack. Celestia almost completely dodged it. She earned another cut in the process. Wincing, she kept fighting, using her magic to keep her body healed and protected while she used her horn like a short lance. A single stab from it should make sure he does not get up. Death seemed to know this, for he avoided her horn like it was a red-hot poker. As they clashed, the two drifted to one of the marble columns of the throne room. Death slammed the Princess’s back into the pillar and wound up his arm for a beheading stroke. Celestia avoided it with a backwards flap of her remaining functional wing. Death’s blade sliced clean through the column, a feat accomplished due to the blade’s unreal sharpness. The pillar did not topple, though. Avoiding a downward stroke, the Princess weaved herself to the other side of the column and bucked it with her hind hooves, enhancing the kick with a strong portion of her magic. The pillar broke at the top. Death had no time to move. He was hit square in the chest and rammed into the floor with the weight of several tons of marble pressing down upon him. The floor crack underneath him, but to Celestia’s dismay, he was still intact.

Death coughed. A bit more dark blood trickled down his cheeks from under his mask. “That... tickled...”

From nowhere came two ghostly, bony, floating arms that pushed the pillar aside with such force that it hung in the air long enough for Death to get back on his feet. He summoned the arms once more and held them above his head to catch the falling column. It groaned and dispersed dust from its broken end when it came down into his phantom hands, but the heavy marble remained above him. Death gazed at Celestia and gave an unseen smile.

“I’m just full of surprises, aren’t I?”

The phantom arms swung the pillar at the Princess at blistering speeds. It struck her, sending her body flying over Shining Armor’s entourage, who were still occupied with Death’s undead. She crashed through the heavy double doors, splitting them into mangled, useless heaps, and skipped harshly across the foyer floor until friction slowed her enough to bring her to a stop. She laid there, battered and bruised, with little energy to rise. Poindexter peeked out from behind his desk and, as soon as he saw it was his ruler, dashed over to help her in any way he could.

“P-Princess! Your Majesty!” He wailed. “Are you hurt?”

“Yes.” She replied between pants. “Very much so.”

“I apologize profusely, Your Highness, I could not stop that... thing from gaining entrance! I called Shining Armor with all haste! I would have gone in there myself, but alas, I am but one pony... and a coward...”

“It’s not your fault, Dexter.” She winced hard, the broken fragments of her ribs digging into her insides. Her healing magic was already working to knit them back together, but it would take a few minutes. “You did what you could. I appreciate you sending for Shining.”

“I-I’ll call more guards!” He resolved. “I’ll bring them all here! They’ll take care of that rotten beast, or whatever he is!”

“Quite frankly,” Celestia replied emptily. “I don’t think there are enough guards in the world to stop him.”


After Death taught the Princess how to fly again, he turned his attention to the pack of ponies that were battering down his mindless minions, pillar still in The Reaper’s arms. One of them was already slain; a smoking crater engulfing most of its skull. From the pile of herbivore vomit sitting close-by, he could assume the unicorn who killed it found the bits-and-pieces extremely unappealing. The second zombie was in the midst of being brought down. Four ponies were ganged up on it, lunging at it with their hooves and horns. His thrall was attempting to claw at them madly, but it was otherwise ineffective at this point. The last undead was locked in single combat with their leader. To Death, he looked like, for lack of imagination at this point, a horse among ponies. Out of all of them, he alone was unfettered by his aura of fear. He found his passive ability to strike dread into the hearts of these lesser mortals to be quite useful and amusing. The only ones who have more-or-less resisted it are the six ponies back in Ponyville and the Princess herself. Also, judging by how well he was dealing with his minion, he was just about as bold and brazenheaded as the flagrantly-colored pegasus (by the Council, that mare was a nauseating sight) he met the other day, with just a degree of martial restraint. His reflexes were commendable, too. He parried and struck his foe with grace that the Pale Rider would not have thought possible of a quadruped. Death concluded that the stallion might prove to be a problem, so he decided to single him out.

“Hey, pony!” Shouted over the din of battle and heaved the detached column in Shining’s direction. “Catch!”

The Captain risked a single glance in the direction of the voice. His eyes shrank. With adrenaline-heightened reaction-time, he flattened his equine body to the floor. The zombie he was engaged with was hit with the column’s full weight. Its brittle, decayed skeleton snapped in half at the spine, the upper part carried by the pillar. The marble mast slammed into another one at the opposite end of the room, toppling it in a staggering display of devastation. Chunks of stone scattered across the throne room, begetting the attention of the rest of the guard. Shining Armor slowly returned to his feet with the nephilim in his sight. The latter was calmly strolling towards the gallant unicorn, deadly scythe in each hand, orange eyes gleaming with disdain.

“I have fought Celestia, the most powerful being in your kingdom, your ruler. She was something of a disappointment.” He boasted and raised one of his blades in the blue-haired stallion’s direction. “What challenge can you offer me?”

A senseless cry of rage came in reply. The unicorn charged with stunning ferocity, meeting the Pale Rider with his searing horn. Death vaulted over him, twisted himself in mid-air, landed behind the pony, and kicked him in the rear-end, sending him sprawling across the floor. His shame was evident, as he could feel the eyes of his squad upon him, even as they were finishing off the last ghoul. The rider snorted.

“You have a great capacity for anger and hatred, but only a mortal’s lifetime of training and power.”

Shining whirled around to face the creature. “You will answer for what you’ve done to the Princess and my sister!”

That managed to raise his eyebrow. “Your sister?” He glanced at the motionless purple unicorn a distance away from him. He understood now. “Heh. It’s a small world. Tell me, pony-”

“Shining Armor.” He hissed.

“...Pony it is. Tell me, are you as thickly-skulled as your sister? What can you hope to accomplish where your ruler has, so far, failed?”

The unicorn shot a magic bolt at the Rider. Death effortlessly sidestepped it. Shining fired several more, and the biped danced around them. He weaved his way toward the pony, jumping, flipping, and deflecting every scorching projectile. When he was close enough, he delivered a swift kick to his muzzle, sending him to the ground. With his clawed hand, he picked up the large stallion by his throat. The rest of the guard, who have finally vanquished Death’s remaining minion, were already rushing to engage the nephilim. With a wave of his other hand, Death summoned a great barrier of green fire between him and the approaching pegasi and unicorns, who whinnied in surprise and outrage. Shining Armor kicked the air beneath his hooves, struggling, gasping for breath in the creature’s vice. His eyes bulged. His vision swam. Painful pressure was building up in his lungs.

“You didn’t answer my question, pony.” He punctuated the final word with a squeeze. The stallion gagged. “What do you think you can accomplish? What do you think you can do?!”

Despite his watering eyes and the burning pain inside his ribcage, he smiled. “I can... stall... you...”

An achromatic meteor rammed into him at that moment, causing Shining to fall, gasping, from his hand. Princess Celestia, wings healed back to full strength, drove Death through the air, across the room, and straight into a wall. The crack of breaking masonry echoed through the throne room once more. The Princess drew herself back and allowed him to fall to the floor, reeling from the impact.

“Have you had enough yet?” Celestia mocked.

The nephilim popped his vertebrae once again. “Not a chance.”

He whipped his blades in a blindingly quick upward stroke, which Celestia dodged, but followed up with a kick to her front leg in an attempt to shatter the bone. What Death didn’t know was that, in the time she was recovering, she had reinforced her skeleton with magic, making her about as durable as her opponent. She merely stumbled backwards. Relentless, Death continued to swing his scythes, determined to hack the alicorn to pieces for all the trouble she has caused him. Celestia either dodged them or blocked them with her magic while returning a few blows with her hooves and horn as well. Fusing his scythes together, the nephilim spun his blade and moved even faster, too fast for the mortal eye to follow. He gracefully wove the blade about as if it were an extension of himself, putting Celestia, once again, on the defensive. She could not hope to match him in speed, so she put her brute, arcane force into play. Her wings heaved forward, propelling her back while she shot a bolt at Death’s leg. The Rider spun around to avoid it, but Celestia shot another bolt, this one with more physical force than searing heat, and knocked the scythe from his hands. Free of the grip of its wielder, it spun through the air and embedded itself in the long, red carpet that covered the stone floor. In an apparent bout of anger, Death lunged at the Princess with his bare hands. Without his weapon, though, she knew he wouldn’t have as much lethality as before. Then, Death twisted around, and the next thing Celestia knew, she was hit with something very, very heavy and was, once more, sent flying across the room.

“W-what?” She stammered after she had landed. Her legs trembled as she put her weight on them. She had lost her focus in that surprise attack. The weapon hit her again, even harder this time, and launched her clear through the stone wall and into the next room. The Princess coughed as stone-dust invaded her throat and lungs. She shook off debris from her white wings and realized that, at some point in the fight, she had lost her crown. That didn’t matter right now, though. “What happened?” She glimpsed at the hole where she was knocked through. There stood Death with what looked like a massive war maul resting on his shoulder. Even though it was almost twice his size, he wielded it in a leisurely manner whilst he strode closer to the shell-shocked Princess.

“Where...” Celestia choked out. “Where did... that... come from?!”

“Not sure.” Was his laconic response. He twisted his body and swung the maul at her again. She shielded some of the damage with her magic, but still caught every pound of force. She was driven through yet another wall and into a dark guest chamber. She landed, thankfully, on the relative softness of a large mattress. Unfortunately, most of the bed was destroyed in the process, and a number of sharp splinters were trying to pierce her magic-reinforced skin. She attempted to push off the tangling blankets and wooden debris, but her body was drained of energy. His colossal blows were to thank for that.

“Tired, Princess?” Death sneered in a sadistic sing-song tone as he strode into the room. “By all means, take a nap. Rest a bit. Relax your body. Give me the Elements before you do so, of course.”

“The Elements...” Celestia panted out. “...Aren’t meant to be wielded by the likes of you...”

Just as the nephilim was getting closer and thinking up a witty rebuttal, a blinding burst of pure light shone from her horn, immediately causing Death to shield his eyes. It was so intense that it seemed to fill the room with nothing but white. When his vision recovered, the Princess was gone. She left no trace.

“This game is starting to get on my nerves.” He lamented. The Pale Rider turned to a seemingly empty corner of the room and nodded. “See what you can find, Dust.”

A squawk was heard, followed by the soft flap of wings as the small creature flew out of the room. Death paced after it.


Celestia could hear her heart beating wildly. She could feel her blood burning through her body as she crept through the maze of hallways and rooms of the palace. They were unused at the time, so they were mostly dim. The only light that touched these rooms was the sunlight that streamed through the tall windows that bespeckled the palace walls. And it was quiet. Eerily quiet. Where were the maids, she asked herself. Have they fled? It was fortunate that they did so, for she would not have wanted any of them to get hurt in the wake of Death’s destruction.

It became clear to the Princess that this outsider has powers beyond what she had thought possible. Move after move, hit after hit, she had pulled out all the stops and gave him everything that she had, but he had only adapted and struck back with even more force. His strength was unmatched, his speed was unreal, his determination was unfaltering. This battle was clearly out of her ability to control or contain. He would not compromise or relent. She needed help. All the help. She needed...

No! She couldn’t! She hadn’t used that for several millennia. Not since before Discord’s tyrannical reign, before the founding of Equestria, before the creation of the Elements of Harmony.

But she had no choice.

Celestia dodged her way into another small bedroom, lavishly decorated like every other room of the castle. She took a few moments to catch her breath, calm herself. She closed her eyes and concentrated, projecting her mental self beyond her physical form. Her ethereal body flowed to her sister’s room, where Luna was sleeping in her windowless chamber. Her facial muscles twitched as she entered her mind.


Luna stirred, annoyed and totally unaware of the situation in the castle.

*What is it, Celly? If you’ve forgotten, may I remind you that I still sleep during the day...*

*This is urgent! Find me and be prepared to fight! And bring my... The Armor*

She could feel her sister jerk up from her bed, bewildered.

*Sister? What’s wrong? What has happened?!*

*No time to explain exactly what’s going on. He is most likely looking for me right-*


Startled, Celestia’s projection was pulled back into her physical form. She snapped around to her left, where a rather large and bedraggled crow was perched on top of a vanity, looking at the Princess with animal curiosity. It ruffled its feathers, shifted its talons on the polished wood, and squawked once more. The Princess look upon the bird with bemusement. In her long reign over her kingdom, she had never seen a single crow in Canterlot, which presented the even more puzzling question of how it got into the castle. To add on top of that, it was a crow the likes of which she had never seen before. It must not be native... to... Equestria...

Oh no.

Her acute senses caught the sound of whooshing air before the colossal maul tore another hole in the wall behind her, knocking her to the ground. Covered in powdery dust and splinters, Celestia regained her stance and reacted just before an overhead swing attempted to turn her into a scarlet smear on the plush, ornate carpet. She banished the irritants from her eyes and once again found herself looking at the armored form of Death while he removed the maul’s head from the indentation in the floor. The crow flapped towards him and landed on his pauldron. It looked particularly pleased to be reunited with its master.

“Well, that was a rather interesting game of hide-and-seek, Your Highness,” Death softly chortaled. “but I’m afraid we must resume the matters at hand.”


Shining Armor fought away the blackness surrounding his vision as the flow of oxygen returned to his brain. His legs felt heavy. He could smell the fire and smoke, but it smelled dirty and putrid. Everything sounded muffled, even the great, loud crash of shattering stone was nothing more than a deep thump on his eardrums. He looked to his stallions behind the fire, which was quickly smouldering. A couple pegasi had recovered from their bewilderment and flew over to assist their Captain.

“Sir! Are you alright?” One of them said.

By that time, Shining had regained most of his senses, but he was still reeling from the encounter. The attacker wielded such power and control... He felt as if he were a foal placed next to a Tarrasque. For all his martial prowess and training, all his magic and his skill, his life could have been snuffed out like a candle at a whim. At his whim. How could anypony come to terms with something like that?

“I’m... I’m fine.” He was still in the midst of trying to stand up when his royal schooling took over and a list of priorities in the face of disaster appeared in his head. “Alert the rest of the garrison. Tell them to evacuate the populous around the castle, farther if necessary. Then report back to me as soon as you can.” The pegasus saluted and flew off. Shining turned to the second pegasus. “You there. Get a medical team here as quickly as possible. Tell them to tend to those over there first.” He gestured to the gaggle of soldiers who have either passed out, were in shock, or have taken some of the nastier blows from the zombies.

The pegasus faltered. “But, sir, what about you?”

“I said I was fine! Now go!” Still, there was hesitation. “THAT’S AN ORDER!”

He bolted off. The Captain turned to the rest of his entourage. “All of you, watch over the wounded.” They each galloped off to their comrades.

Shining Armor quickly whipped around and ran off to see her sister, dreading the worst. Her body was still not moving when he arrived at her side.

“Twily!” He nudged her side, tears welling up around his eyelids. “Please don’t dead... Please don’t be dead...”

To his immense relief, she sighed and twitched a little. It was as if she was asleep. Shining knew she could be a heavy sleeper at times, but this?

“Wake up, Twily!” He nudged harder. His sister stirred and a lethargic moan escaped from her lips.

“Smarty Pants... books aren’t hats... silly...”

Her brother’s expression soured into that of annoyance. He lightly charged his horn with magic and poked Twilight, sending a jolt of energy through her body. Her eyes flew wide open and she awoke with a cry. When she caught her breath, she was aware that her brother was looking at her.

“Shining, what happened? What are you doing here?” She noticed his cuts and bruises on his face. “What happened to you?!”

“Nevermind that. Are you alright?”

“Yes, but...” Her eyes dilated as her memories came flooding back. “Oh no. Death! The Princess! I gotta stop them!” She tried to stand up in a panic, but her brother gently forced her back down.

“Wait, do you know him?”

“Yes...” She cast her eyes downward. “He showed up in Ponyville a few days ago. Just... out of the blue. He said he was looking for something. A great power, enough to resurrect an entire race, a race called the ‘humans’. They... they were destroyed in a horrible war, their world reduced to nothing but ash and corpses. He said that his brother was blamed for it. Wrongly blamed for it, so he wanted to fix the problem by bringing them back. I... I tried to help him however I could, going through books, looking up lost legends, flipping through page after page of magical spells... but when he learned that the most powerful force that I know of was the Elements, he demanded to see them. I... I couldn’t stop him from coming here...” She was on the verge of tears.

Shining placed a caring hoof on her shoulder. “Nobody blames you for not stopping that monster. I couldn’t even-”

“But he’s NOT a monster!” She shouted, causing her brother to recoil. Twilight paused and turned away in shame.

“How could you say that, Twily?” Shining raised his voice. “How could you be defending him when he’s busy trying to kill the Princess? When he almost killed you?”

“But he didn’t!” She shot back. “He didn’t kill me! He was right there, with his scythe to my neck, but he didn’t kill me.” She lowered her voice. “And yes, he’s angry and he’s taking that out on Celestia, but he doesn’t know anything else but battle and violence... His world is lightyears away from ours... So very different, yet...” She dropped to a whisper. “He just... he would do anything to protect his brother...”

And suddenly, he understood. He didn’t like it, he didn’t quite comprehend the whys and hows, but he could see what Twilight, his sister, could see in Death. Humbled, he comforted her while she vented her tears and frustration into his armored chest for several minutes.

“I... I want to help him.” The lavender unicorn said after her sobs had dissipated some. “But I don’t want anypony to die. We need to stop him. We need to stop both of them before something terrible-”

There was another boom-rumble as the number of holes in the castle walls increased by one. Princess Celestia, battered and bloody, rolled across the throne room floor, followed closely by the Pale Rider. She stood up and roared in fury, charging her horn and releasing into a devastating beam of pure sun that sliced across the room in a wide arc, scorching a path along the walls and pillars. Death leapt over it and rolled to where his scythe was embedded. He yanked the weapon from the floor, brandishing it with a singing spin before wielding it in his hands reaper-style. Celestia fired another focused beam, straight at the biped. He caught the beam with the flat of his blade, holding it steady with both hands as the torrential energy was deflected into smaller beams that streaked outward in random directions. Twilight, Shining, and the rest of the room’s occupants all rushed to cover. Grunting vehemently in exertion, Death slowly marched forward against the force of the sun, grinding his greaves into the polished tiles. Celestia held her shaft of light steady, but he was only getting closer. She focused as much power as she could-

A jab hit her in the throat, causing her to choke and lose her concentration. The ray flickered out and her horn fumed faint smoke. Celestia stumbled backwards, eyes bulging and mouth gasping for air while Death closed in and wrapped his arms around her belly. Snarling as he heaved, he planted his feet firmly on the ground, spun once, and hurled the alicorn out the nearest stained-glass window, which exploded outwards into countless kaleidoscopic fragments. The nephilim shifted his scythe back into two blades and coiled his body to vault himself after the Princess.

“Death, wait!” Twilight cried out. “Stop! You don’t need to do this!”

“NOT. LISTENING.” He took off, leaving only a gush of turbulence and a room broken by his hands. Silence reigned. Hot, summer air wafted into the room, carrying the distant sounds of conflict as the battle continued outside. Twilight sunk to the ground in haggard woe.

“How do we stop him? How can we stop him?” The librarian expressed her despair aloud. “He’s lived longer than Celestia. Longer than this planet. He’s virtually a god. What can anypony do against something like that?”

Shining Armor said nothing, for he had no answer.


The citizens of Canterlot, peasants and prevalently snobby aristocrats alike, were jaunting up and down the streets. Ponies were commuting for the purpose of business, to meet friends, or to enjoy an afternoon promenade. But if there was one constant among the great diversity of personalities and mindsets, it’s that they were all confused as to what the Royal Guard was doing showing up in force and ordering everypony to evacuate. True to procedure in such dangerous circumstance, not a word had been spoken as to why. Every guard more-or-less knows that this is so because to give danger form in the mind of the common citizen would incite panic, chaos, even anarchy. Unfortunately, to the pegasus who was ordered by Shining Armor to lead the evacuation, it seemed that somepony in the high brass had gone out of his/her way to make it so the general populace does not know this simple truth.

Maiden Flight was his name, and, at this point, he was absolutely sure that anypony else could have been the better stallion for this job. Although he was a senior ranking member of the guard, he had only attained such a rank because of his outstanding reflexes and maneuverability in flight, not for his charisma. He wanted nothing more than to be just a rank-and-file trooper: loyal as a dog and dumb as a doorknob. Well, that was giving himself too little credit, he had to admit. Maiden was fairly smart. He could grasp tactics, formations, strategies, the like. He just did not want decisions laid in his hooves. He hated making choices, especially if they were important ones. His choice to join the guard was probably the easiest in his life, for it was a family tradition. His father served, as did his father’s father, as did his father’s father’s father, and so on. In fact, he could probably trace his ancestral roots back to one of the founding members of Celestia’s Royal Guard. His pedigree nearly made him an Elite by default. Well, on to pressing matters, he thought to himself. He stopped daydreaming as soon as he realized that a sumptuously-dressed stallion was in the middle of screaming into his face.

“...have I no right as a citizen anymore? I ask again, what is the meaning of this interruption? Are you even paying attention?!”

Maiden fought to keep his head cool and his expression neutral. “Sir, we are only asking you to calmly return to your home or someplace away from the castle.” He put emphasis on calmly, which did as much for the stallion’s demeanor as a fart in the wind.

Return to my home? Can you not see that my wife and I-” He gestured to a rather bored-looking mare with too much makeup and jewelry sitting at the bistro table, poking her salad. “-are enjoying an afternoon meal? We were perfectly fine and safe when you and the rest of you brutes came strong-arming everypony to leave for a reason you have yet to mention! Why, I would even go so far as to think that this is merely an exercise of force! A ploy to further drive us into submission! Condition us to be obedient to your whim! I have a bit of news for you! I pay your earnings! Yes, that’s right! Without the population’s monetary contributions, you wouldn’t have a single bit to your name!”

“Oh, so you know the basic principles and functions of government. Good for you, you stuffed-up nitwit.” Maiden thought. But, when he saw the look of shock on his face, he realized he had accidentally said it aloud. Here we go...

“How DARE you! Do you know who I am? I am Baron-Lord Theos Medulla of the Precious Metals Mining Syndicate. I don’t expect you to know what that means, you simpleton, but I can say that my family has provided the raw materials for the Royal Guard's armor for several generations! The very armor you are wearing! On top of that-”

His rant was silenced by the sound of the Princess’s bloody, disheveled body thumping on the pavement next to them. All of her gilded ornaments have been stripped from her body. Her hair did not elegantly flow in a glamorous spectacle of light and color, rather it was messy, tangled, and caked with crusty-black blood. The rain of vibrant glass shards came down a moment afterward. At some point, Maiden Flight realized that the Baron-Lord Whatever had taken off with his wife like a startled fawn. He swore he could smell a little urine in the air.

Celestia placed her hooves on the ground and forced her legs to lift herself for what seemed like the hundredth time today. Her body screamed in pain. Her bones, while augmented, were still cracked in several places, but she could not tell exactly where. She was numbed by the agony. Being struck in so many places in so little time, she couldn’t figure out where she needed to apply healing magic. Her brain throbbed with what she assumed was a result of blunt force trauma. Either that or the over-expenditure of magic. Her horn gave erratic sparks of golden magic, partly from overworking it, partly from the fact that she could no longer think straight. Celestia couldn’t take much more of this fighting. All she wanted was for her concussion to take over so she could lay down and rest, but she knew the consequences of letting Death win. She had to be strong. For her subjects. For her country. For her kingdom. As long as she still had a breath left in her, she would not relent. She just hoped her sister would get here soon.

“Princess!” Maiden cried and rushed to help her.

“Stay back!” She croaked.

The shrieking scrape of metal against stone drew her weary attention. Death had leapt out of the window and was slowing his descent with his extraordinarily sharp blades. When he was close to the bottom of the castle wall, he heaved away, drawing a burst of more green fire and putrid magic. His steed, Despair, sailed through the air with his rider upon him. It landed with a screeching whinny that sounded more like a cry of rage than a yelp of pain. The livid horse veered towards the Princess without any loss of balance and began its charge. Death, once again, fused his weapons together and brought the shaft behind his back. The rest of the bystanders who had been loitering around to gawk at the Princess were now fleeing from the magnified terror of the Rider’s presence.

Celestia could no longer hope to defeat him in her current, haggard state. The only action she could conceivably accomplish was to stall for time. She magically hurled anything she could find at the Rider: fruit, rocks, glasses, plates, tables. She gathered them all up and forced them toward his path. They sailed through the air with wisps of golden aura trailing behind them. Death whipped out Redemption and fired several times, each bullet smiting the smaller objects while a twist of his other wrist and a flash of his blade took care of the larger ones. Tables and chairs were split cleanly in half while The Pale Rider was not slowed in the least. He released a triumphant, wicked laugh as he closed on the last few yards of his charge.

Without thinking, Maiden Flight placed himself between Death and Celestia, wings spread and hooves planted firmly on the ground.

“My life for the Princess!”

The nephilim wound up his right arm and prepared to deliver a fatal stroke. Celestia knew she didn’t have enough time to convince her loyal guard why he shouldn’t be giving his life for her, so she quickly shoved the pegasus out of the way with a burst of force just as Death’s scythe sang towards her. She ducked, squeezed her eyes tight, and conjured whatever defensive magic she could in the split-second it took for the blade to pass through the air. She could hear the high-pitched whine of steel, the sound of something being sliced, and the trampling of hooves growing fainter as the distance between them grew. Celestia opened her eyes. Her neck was intact, her head was still on her shoulders... yet it felt as if a load had been taken off of her neck muscles. Sure enough, when she turned around, she found a pile of multicolored hair on the ground, tainted with blood and dirt. She reached for her freshly-cut mane upon her head with her hoof while she experienced an indescribable feeling of bewilderment combined with a flair of relief and anger.

“Love the new look, Princess.” Death taunted while his mount cantered around to face her once more. Before he could take advantage of the matriarch’s distracted state, a cry came behind him. He pulled Despair’s reigns and wheeled around. From the sky descended an ebon alicorn of similar build to Celestia (with the same ostentatious collection of jeweled armor pieces), but clearly lesser in age and size. The nephilim realized that she must the sister, the so-called “Ruler of the Night”, Luna. He did noticed, however, the intricately-weaved satchel that hung over her back as she landed about twenty feet away from him, placing Death directly between the two sisters. He also felt the raw, ancient power that flowed from whatever it held within its arcane fabrics.

“Celly!” Luna shouted, taking well into account the ravished state of her beloved sister. She glared at the Rider with boiling wrath while the elder had regained her balance. Death kept his senses attuned to both of them.

“It seem another has come to the aid of the Princess. I pray this will hold better results than the last few.” He jerked his head to the unconscious body of Maiden Flight, who had been unceremoniously tossed into a fruit stand by Celestia. The Princess herself felt a twinge of guilt for the luckless fellow as soon as she was aware of the position she had put him into, but at the very least he was alive and safe.

“You believe you can commit whatever action you desire with impunity?” Luna’s voice echo painfully in Death’s eardrums. “Terrific,” He thought. “Another loudmouth.”

“What I believe or do not believe is irrelevant, horse. I have a duty to complete. That is all that matters.” His steed whinnied, aching to charge once more and taste battle and blood, but a deft tug of the reigns subdued it. “What do you believe? Do you believe it is necessary to put the life of you and your sister, as well as the future and well being of you kingdom in jeopardy for the sole sake of denying me?”

The younger Princess faltered ever so slightly, but held fast to her anger. “We believe it is our duty to protect the innocent from you and your ilk!”

“My ilk?” Death could hear the faint shuffling of hooves behind him and the whine of magic. Celestia was preparing for an attack. Scratch that, he thought when he heard a fizzle, it seemed that it would take a bit longer to do so. “You are mistaken. The problem which I am meaning to resolve does not concern your world in the slightest. I only require power, power of which it seems your sister would die before it fell into my hands. I have no reservations against granting her that.”

“You bring here your fighting, your violence, your darkness! I’d say that it does concern our world!”

“Before we engaged in combat, I gave your sister a choice: give me the Elements of Harmony or suffer my wrath. The former could have been chosen, I would have been on my merry way, and you two would have continued to govern your land without interruption. Unfortunately, she had chosen the latter. The answer was very clear to me, for she was the one who had struck first.”

Luna’s expression was abolished as she looked past Death at her dear sister. “Celly? Does this monster speak the truth?”

Celestia was visibly stricken with remorse. “Luna... I...”

The nephilim threw his head back in laughter. “It seems that we have a difference of values between the two of you! I can honestly say that this is a surprise. How you have ever maintained order in your pathetic little province without civil war is beyond me. Well...” He pointed to the ebon mare. “You have been gone for the last thousand years, and your sister had been doing a fine job without you.”

Luna’s rage once again came surfacing back. Her horn lit up in a blaze of darkness.


Death glared and gripped his scythe tightly and let his eldritch power slowly build up inside his body. He could feel the elder sister getting ready to attack him in sync with the younger. He could sense the subtle telepathic exchanges between their minds. They sought to overpower him. They were going to get a nasty little surprise.

“You wish to face my power? You wish to know what I am capable of doing?!” Luna heard the creature say in a voice like thunder. “Come and see!”

Death seemed to rupture as dark energies that were building up within him were suddenly released, tearing asunder his physical form. A brilliant explosion of necrotic aura resulted and from the center leapt two Deaths, one green, one violet, from a stationary stone statue of a hooded, cloaked figure wielding a great scythe. The dopplegangers sailed through the air with their blades raised over their heads like a bird of prey swooping in on its quarry. They engaged the two sisters in perfect synchronicity, weaving their blades about in a flurry of steel. Luna’s eyes widened and she broke into a sweat as she hastily avoided the purple copy’s strikes and slashes. Nothing could have prepared her for this fight. Celestia, deft as she could be in her weakened state, dodged the green one’s scythes as well. She had barely any time to deal any damage to him, and what attacks she did execute were either evaded or deflected. Her opponent seemed to be something less than the Death she had fought. Not in strength or quickness, but his presence was only half-there. The arrogant, grandiose flair that he put behind every swing was gone, replaced by silent, almost machine-like intent. His irises and pupils were gone, replaced by the same sickly color that covered his entire body. But his affect was secondary at this point. Celestia was beginning to wither under his merciless strikes.

“Luna!” She called out. “The Armor! Give me the Armor!”

The younger sister, who had adapted as well as she could in the situation, stunned her adversary by removing his footing with a swipe of her hoof and tossing him back with a magical blast. By the time the violet Death collided with the statue, Luna had quickly unfastened the satchel at her side and levitated out a heavy-looking chest-piece of unimaginably intricate design, with a glossy black surface and shining gold trim. It seemed to drip with pure fire. Luna pushed the piece towards her sister with her magic, but just as it was midway there, a smoky, dark, disembodied claw reached out and snatched it, bringing it back to the violet copy.

“-Don’t- -think- -so-” He said with a phantom-like voice that echoed between the two clones. In a single, swift motion, he combined his scythes to full length and golf-clubbed the artifact into the distance, towards the vast stone garden.

“No!” The Night Princess prepared to fly after it as it shrunk into the sky, but she was intercepted by her opponent and grounded, forced into a deadly dance of survival. Locked in combat with the green Death, all Celestia could think about doing is staying alive. Her mind was taxed to its limit. It was only a matter of time before she slipped, made a mistake, and it would all be over. She needed that armor, but she couldn’t make a dash for it without giving Death an opportunity strike. Straining her attention away from dodging and sidestepping ever so slightly, she noticed that, as they were tossed around by singing steel, the two copies did not stray far from the strange statue that appeared when Death casted the spell. The thought clicked in her brain.

*The statue!* She telepathically broadcasted to her sister, her mental voice hoarse. *It is the focus for the spell! Destroy it!*

Luna, being more physically and magically capable at this point, fired a quick bolt of energy at the stone effigy. The iridescent bolt sizzled on contact with it.

*My magic does not work against it!*

*Use something else!*

The Princess of the Night backpedaled with her wings, using the strong gust of wind to incapacitate the violet Death. Nearby was a gilded pike. A flag with the emblem of Equestria fluttered in the wind. Using her potent magic, she ripped the pointed pole from the concrete ground, leveled it at the statue, and hurled it with all her might. The pike flashed through the air.

With an echoing, defiant cry, both the green and the violet copies disengaged and leapt at the statue just as the spear make contact. There was another flare of dark energies and a sucking, soul-wrenching sound neither sister could describe. From the aftermath, a dark haze enshrouded the area where the stone figue once stood, blotting all sight. When it cleared, Death appeared before them. Luna gasped. The nephilim, now whole and restored to his original coloration, was kneeling, weapons laying on the ground on either side of him, the golden pike impaled straight through the center of his chest. Viscous, dark blood streamed down the crevices of his abdomen in fine, sharp lines. The banner was covered with splashes of scarlet-black. He slowly brought his gaze to the younger sister. His eyes were no longer filled with amusement, cockyness, wit, or determination.

They were ablaze with hate.

“I... initially assumed...” He brought one debilitated arm up, grasping the shaft. “...that it was my duty... nhhg!” His grip tight, he deliberately forced the shaft further into his torso. “...to maintain balance... between the forces of... Heaven and Hell...” He lifted his other arm and continued to push the speak through. Blood continued to run. “...But it seems that... I’ve taken another task alongside it...” The pole was almost at its end. Death reached around back and, with one final yank paired with a clipped cry of agony, the blood-covered pike was free. Both sisters were breathless, having to endure the hideous display of his mettle. He tossed the pike aside, gathered his scythes, and slowly got to his feet. The open wound was still drizzling grimy blood onto the ground, but it did not gush like a wound should. It just leaked out, like his heart never beat and his life-fluid was just a needless part of his body. In a stark change of animation, his blades whirred in his hands and were, once again, reversed in grip. He lifted his head.

“Putting you... dull... filthy... quims... IN YOUR PLACE!!!

Screaming with rage, he charged Luna in a typhoon of steel. The Princess had to deploy every defensive technique she knew in a split-second to even have a chance at withstanding Death’s barrage. Shields up, skin hardened, senses heightened... and it was barely enough to keep her appendages intact. Rushing to help her younger sister, Celestia caught a dozen more scars from his twin scythes as they blurred across her field of vision. If she could attribute her survival to pure will and fortune prior to this point, Death in a berserker rage squashed that possibility. He was no longer an opponent that could be conceivably outmaneuvered. He was a force of nature, a law of the universe that was essentially inevitable, a power beyond comparison or reckoning, greater than that of a God. Celestia backpedaled as quickly as her wings and hooves would allow. Death followed, his scythes whining in his hands, his swings and strikes enhanced by his own necrotic magic. The whites of his eyes throbbed red with blood.

Suddenly, luminous, violet chains sprung from the ground, wrapped themselves around Death’s bloody chest, and snaked back into the ground before tightening. His movements constricted, the nephilim roared and struggled with all of his eldritch might. Luna held the hard-light constructs in place with as much power as she could muster. Her horn was conflagrant with dark fire. Sweat poured from her brow. Through gritted teeth she called out to her sister.

“Go! Get the Armor! I’ll hold him as long as I can.”

Drained as she was, Celestia’s confidence was relit at the sight of her younger sister putting her life on the line for her. “I’m not leaving you to this madman!”

“We have no chance of stopping him otherwise!” Luna retaliated, wincing as Death snapped a handful of her chains. Her horn blazed even brighter as she summoned a dozen more, binding his arms, his legs, his neck, and pulling tight. Wrapped in a cocoon of solid energy, The Pale Rider was forced to his knees, which broke the pavement on impact, but he continued to struggle even more furiously. “Go! Now! I don’t know how much longer I can restrain him!”

Celestia felt as if her hooves have sprouted roots and taken hold of the earth beneath her. Her sister was not as powerful as her. It had taken just about every inch of her vast reserves of mana to just fend off Death’s attacks. What could her sister hope to do against him once he was free from her chains? How could she possibly defend herself when she, the one who could move the sun across the heavens, could barely do so? She did not want to lose her beloved sister in a battle that she had ultimately started. For the first time in a very, very long time, she was indecisive of what to do. She began to hyperventilate. Her eyes darted between Death and Luna. Should she stay? Should she go? Should she hold him down while Luna made the dash for the Armor? Should she-

“GRAAAHHH!!!” The nephilim howled as a score of chains shattered and dissolved into a dark, effulgent mist. The Princess of the Night forced the last of her magic through her horn and conjured twice as many as he broke, burying him in a tangled mess of lilac links.

“CELLY!! GO!!!!!”

Unwittingly galvanized into action, she took off for the stone garden without another thought in her head. Through squinting eyes and blurring vision, Luna watched her older sibling disappear into the distance.

“You think you shall be triumphant?!” A voice spoke from the writhing mass of chains. “You think you can WIN?!”

A crack of pain speared through the Princess’s mind as her threshold was reached. Wailing in anguish, her concentration was obliterated. The shell of solid magic exploded outward in an instant, hurling the alicorn away in a tide of residual, lavender aura. She hit the ground, rolled, slid, and finally stopped. Dirt and debris matted her sweat-soaked coat. Placing her hoof on the stone ground, she raised her head, only to gaze upon The Pale Rider as he strode towards her.

“I am Death! Horseman of the Apocalypse! You are an insignificant speck of a mortal upon an even more insignificant speck of a world! I have slaughtered entire races, beings that could destroy your entire country with a snap of their fingers! I have filled graveyards the size of planets! You are NOTHING to me!!!”

Luna placed her another hoof next to the first and raised herself further off the ground, all the while blocking out the overwhelming despair that was threatening to undo her. His voice shook her to the core. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew this psychological effect was another machination of his vile sorcery.

“I... d-don’t... care...” She coughed. Her eyesight was fading in and out of darkness. “As long... a-as I s-sti-ll... draw b-breath... I... will d-defend-”

She was wrenched off the ground, the Rider clenching her horn. Incomprehensible agony coursed through every inch of her body. Her eyesight flashed into insanity, her psyche scrambled by the manhandling of her most sensitive appendage. She felt her spine bend, her body heaved, and her horn was released, subsequently replaced with the sense of vertigo one perceives when tossed through the air. She hit something solid, but it gave way shortly. The sensation of thousands of needles digging into her skin became vaguely apparent. She could not see, her vision was muddled with lights and colors from shock, exhaustion, and mental strain. She could not hear. That was another sense dulled by her shattered equilibrium. Everything felt detached and slow. Then, the side of her ribcage found the edge of a table. Her senses came flooding back with the crack of splitting oak, the torment of breaking bones, the sound of her own involuntary screams ringing in her ears. She tumbled across the empty bistro’s floor, sundering a couple more chairs in her wake. After an excruciating eternity, her inertia came to a halt. She sat there, her throat dry from her screaming, a headache vehemently lancing through her brain, splinters of wood and shards of glass embedded in her skin. She could feel her hot life-fluid trickling down her back. Her eyes were still clenched tight, as if one of her senses did not want to acknowledge the nightmare that waited for her outside. With whatever infinitesimal will she had left, she craned her neck off the floor...

Only to have a fist bring it back down. She felt his knuckles crash against her skull, sandwiching her between it and the unyielding, unforgiving surface. The ringing in her ears increased exponentially. Without thinking, she tried to rise once more, yielding the same, painful consequence. The blow came again. And again. And again. And again. Under Death’s merciless, bare-fisted assault, she could hear him punctuate every strike with his own voice.

“Weak! Trifling! Waste! Of flesh! Knave!! SWINE!! WHORE!!!” He spat each word and drove his fist harder and harder. Luna’s face began to bruise, then crack, then bleed profusely. She could not even raise her hooves to defend herself. He brought his fist up to deliver one final blow. To smash her skull. Break her neck. Split her horn. Grind whatever’s left of her face into a slimy, scarlet pulp. He raised it higher.

And higher.

And higher.

...It never came down. Kneeling above the abused and brutalized form of the Princess of the Night, the sounds of her heavy breaths were accompanied by Death’s, who had finally exerted himself to require that level of oxygen intake. Luna’s face was now misshapen and ugly: blood leaked from cracks on her lips, her eyelids were swollen shut, some of her teeth were scattered on the floor near her. His clenched, white-knuckled fist still hung in midair. Slowly, he brought it down, not upon the alicorn, but softly laying it upon the floor. The nephilim sat there, staring at the ground, staring at nothing. His eyes were expressionless. He brought his fist up to his face, unraveling it, observing the pony blood that was spattered on his glove. He began to quiver, then began to tremble. Before long, his hand was shaking violently. Death tightly clenched it once more.

“GAAAHHHH!!!!!!” He roared and drove his fist into the floor, splintering the polished surface. No reaction came from the heaving body of Luna, who had drifted into unconsciousness. The Pale Rider continued to kneel there, his hand embedded in the floor, breathing excessively. Minutes passed. Eventually, Death withdrew his fist from the floor and rose. He took one last look at Luna, turned, and walked away. He walked through the gash in the wall and summoned his steed with a hand gesture. His horse was mounted and he rode away towards the stone garden with saying another word.


Twilight and her brother rushed to pursue Death and Celestia as soon as the medical team arrived to watch the rest of Shining Armor’s entourage. The pony Captain would rather not abandon his loyal stallions, but his sister’s urgings convinced her that he was needed elsewhere. They needed to find a way to stop this conflict without any more pain or suffering.

With one additional unicorn tagging along for support, the three emerged from the nearest exit. The spread of panic was evident. The streets were mostly empty, with some abandoned carts and chariots here and there. The presence of the Royal Guard made the process amply smoother, but not by much. Twilight could practically smell the stink of fear that hung heavy in the air as they galloped along the vacant streets in search of signs of battle. Besides the sound of their own clopping hooves, the grand thoroughfare of Canterlot was eerily silent. They found what they were looking for. A mangled miscellany of wood and glass was strewn about the street. A gaping hole was visible on the building of the local bistro. The cobbled pavement was freshly cracked in several places. In consideration of the magnitude of the clashing forces, the damage was rather minimal. Twilight was half-expecting smoldering fires to be dotting the landscape, buildings left in complete ruin, the like. She noted that her imagination seemed to conjure the worst possibilities.

The first thing Shining noticed was movement coming from a collapsed vegetable stand. A pegasus wearing Royal Guard armor and covered head to hoof in fodder wriggled awkwardly from his prone position. The trio of unicorns converged on him just as he was shaking pulped acorn squash from his wings. He caught sight of his commanding officer and fumbled a salute.


“What happened here?” Said Shining, skipping the formalities. Whether that was intentional or he had too much on his mind to remember to return the salute, nopony could know for sure.

“I was evacuating the citizens, just as you ordered, Sir, when the Princess and the... enemy met here. I attempted to defend Her Royal Highness, but... he somehow overpowered me. I have no recollection of what happened after that. I’m... I’m sorry.”

Shining recognised him as the pegasus he had sent off earlier. He cast a glance at his younger sister. Vexation was transfixed upon her brow.

The Captain turned back to the pegasus. “What’s your name, soldier?”

He hesitated for a moment. “M-Maiden Flight... Sir.”

Shining placed a reassuring hoof on his shoulder. “You’re a brave stallion, Maiden, and I commend you for actions. Don’t feel any shame in doing your duty, but next time, don’t do it alone.”

The unicorn guard that was accompanying them spoke urgently. “S-Sir! You need to take a look at this!”

All heads whipped in his direction. The grey, armored stallion was standing next the hole in the bistro wall, dread plastered on his face. Shining Armor, Twilight, and Maiden all came galloping to where he was pointing. When they arrived, all three gasped. Twilight had to shield her eyes from the sight. There lay Luna, beaten and battered, almost beyond recognition. Shining rushed to her side and checked if she was still alive. She was, but just barely. Her breaths came in emaciated, sporadic bursts. The blood that wept from the shards on her torso was already beginning to messily clot. Her legs gave the occasional twitch. Shining’s expression darkened deeply.

The lavender unicorn came forward, falteringly. “Is... is she...?”

“She’s alive.” He turned to his sister. “Still thinking about defending your friend?” His voice was cold and bitter. Twilight flinched.

“I... I...” Was all she could say.

“No more games, Twilight. This abomination is no longer deserving of my sympathy. You should do the same. We’re doing this my way now.” He faced Maiden. “I need you to deliver another order. Go to the garrison and get every available guard that’s not absolutely necessary for the evacuation and defense of the general public and tell them to rally here. Have them each issued lances.”

The pegasus’s eyes widened considerably. “B-but Sir... those are wartime weapons. We’ve never had to...”

His gaze narrowed. “Make no mistake. This is war. We are no longer to incapacitate this enemy. Tell everypony that we will not rest until this menace is dead.

Maiden stared at him for a moment longer. Then, when he gathered his wits, he saluted and flew off into the distance.

“You there.” Shining then gestured to the unicorn. “Tend to the Princess. Heal her in whatever way you can.”

His hoof clinked against his gilded helmet. “Sir, yes, Sir.” He went to work, using his magic to remove the shards from the Princess’s body and healing the cuts.

“B-big brother...” Twilight squeaked. “We shouldn’t-”

“You going to tell me to calm down?” He retorted venomously. “You going to give me some ‘spiel’ about how he can’t understand peace and empathy?! Look at what he’s done!” He shoved his hoof at Luna. “That monster beat her within an inch of her life! Without an ounce of restraint! How much more convincing do you need?!?”

She was trembling now, but Shining Armor continued heedlessly.

“When I joined the Royal Guard I took an oath. I would protect the Princesses and their subjects at any cost, by any means necessary. I will defend them to my dying breath. If he won’t show any mercy, then neither will I. I don’t care about where he comes from or why he’s doing this. I have a job to do.”

Eyes brimming with tears, she nodded slowly. Twilight sat there, holding her breath, trying her hardest not to break down in front of him. After a long, pregnant silence, her brother sighed, no longer able to bear the sight of her beloved little sister in shambles.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you, but this is serious. Never in my life have I ever had to deal with such a direct threat to the Princess. Lives are at stake here, and extreme circumstance calls for extreme measures. There’s no other way.” He turned his head away. “I just wish you could understand that.”

Her words stuck in her throat, she could say nothing. Shining turned and left to prepare for battle, leaving Twilight to sink to her haunches. She looked to Luna. Bruised, broken, and comatose, she was a heartbreaking sight. Somepony so noble brought so low. By his hands, nonetheless. Was he really worth defending anymore? Was the resurrection and absolution of his brother really worth all this violence? All this bloodshed? But what about the other side of it? Is it really worth going to these grim lengths to protect the Elements of Harmony? How did this whole fight start, anyway? Twilight couldn’t remember. Her mind was lost in a haze of confusion. So much has happened in so little time... She could hardly believe that it was only yesterday he had arrived in Ponyville, giving half the town quite a fright. She could hardly believe it was only the previous night she was pouring through books in search of ways to help him while she and her friends ask the nephilim so many question, some of which he grudgingly answered. Pinkie Pie even threw him a party, which he seemed to take no enjoyment in attending, but attended anyway. He told her all about his duty, about the vast, incomprehensible scope of the universe, of the worlds beyond her own. He shared those thoughts over supper while she listened with starry-eyed wonder. Celestia, she even gave him a bed to rest in!

How did it ever come to this?


The Ruler of the Sun hovered over the garden, scanning the greenery for the artifact. She did not visit this place often, and to those who knew of her past, it was thoroughly obvious as to why. From here, she could see the pale, petrified form of what was once Discord, the Lord of Chaos. She would never admit to anypony, not even to her own sister, just how much his frozen expression of despair haunted her. To think that they were once good friends...

Celestia refocused her thoughts. Now was not the time to daydream. She glided over the hedge maze, eyes darting to every crevice of the enchanted garden. She reached out with her mind to try and detect its presence, but she couldn’t narrow it down my much. It had been millenia since she had even thought about it, let alone seen it. She had never had to use it up to this point, for it was from an era her kingdom had all but forgotten.

There was a time, long ago, before she and her sister had been birthed, before Equestria had even been conceived. A time when alicorn were plenty in number. They were a proud, strong race with a passion for conquest. They scoured the continent in a tide of fire and battle, taking much, bending the landscape to their will. They did not share the moral values of the pony kingdom today. Those were dark times indeed. Times, in which, many weapons of war were created.

The Armor was one such weapon.

Its true name had been lost in crumbling annals of time when it had first come into Celestia’s hooves, but its purpose had not. It was one of the most powerful artifacts of that age. It was said to magnify the magic of the user twentyfold and make him or her invincible. She had only used it once before, when she was young. When she did not know any better. She then vowed: never again. It was too powerful. Too destructive. It had no place in the world today; the world she had built upon the foundations of love and tolerance, of peace and kindness.

But she had kept it safe and hidden despite that. One, just as it took a vast amount of power to create it, it took even more to destroy it. Two, she dreaded to dispose of something when she knew it could be used again in times of dire emergency. This was one such time. If this did not work, all is lost. The thought of failure weighed heavy on her mind, as well as her sister which she had left behind. “Luna, forgive me.” Celestia thought to herself more than once. She considered sending out her astral self to see if she was still alive, but she did not want to bear the thought. What difference did it make? What help could she offer her now? All she could do was find the Armor and defeat Death once and for all.

The Princess sailed over the greenery, feeling the cool wind penetrate through her mane straight to her scalp. She knew it would take a long time to get used to the impromptu haircut. Though, to be honest with herself, it felt quite exhilarating to deviate from the norm; from what was expected to be regal and matronly. She had wanted to do something like that for the longest time, but she had never worked the nerve to withstand the unnecessary flak she would inevitably get from such a capricious decision. Celestia could admit to herself that Death’s blade gave her something that she could have never obtained on her own. “Stupid!” She silently chided herself. How could she allow herself to think like this at this time? Why do these ridiculous fancies even appear in her thoughts when she should be focused on the physical manifestation of violence that was undoubtedly tailing behind her right now?

As if on cue, she was ripped from the sky, a purple claw of energy contorted around her body. Hardly having time to release a cry, Celestia smacked against the ground. A scream of pain tore from her throat. She had landed hard on her outstretched wing and, as a result, the bones snapped. Searing agony arced through her nervous system. As quickly as she could manage, the Princess stumbled to her hooves. She rounded her head left and right, looking for the bipedal frame of the nephilim among the tall hedges. Her broken wing hung at an awkward angle. Tears threatened to blind her vision. She could find no trace of any other being among the vegetation besides the occasional small animal. Wherever he was, she had to keep moving. She had to keep looking for the Armor.

“Your student could not save you. Your guardsmen could not save you. Your own sister could not save you.” His gravelly voice somehow rebounded from every direction, making it impossible to pin where he was coming from. Another mind-trick. “You’ve abandoned them all and exhausted every bit of your magic, every spell at your disposal. I am quite curious as to what sort of faith you place in a dusty slab of metal.”

She ignored his words. She was done casting back retorts. She only had one option, one chance, one last hope. She wasn’t going to squander her breath talking to that hellspawn.

“Perhaps...” The voice echoed, musing. “You know you’ve been routed, and you are merely exhausting the last of your contrivances on the slim chance of victory and, if not that, survival.”

A squawk finally drew her attention. She risked a glance above her. Crows. Red-eyed, black-feathered crows were gathering, perching themselves on the blocky green walls, staring at her with anticipation. With hunger. They were few at first, but as she moved through the maze, more came, lining up in long rows upon wherever they could find purchase. Their gaze did not falter. Celestia noticed that her breath was quickening once more. Her fears were getting heavier and heavier. She imagined herself crumpling, collapsing under the weight of her eyes. She forced herself to ignore them. Just mind-games and dark duplicity. Those crows were at his command, sent to unnerve her. In spite of herself, she knew it was working.

“I can assure you that is not possible. I am a warrior of the Charred Council. I am not just another force of reckoning. I hold the scales of the universe, the balances of destiny. The fates of entire races have been sealed by my hands. You lost this battle before it began. You cannot win. You. Will. Not. Win!

The hedge next to her exploded in a burst of leaves and twigs. Death came barreling through, scythes blazing. He forced Celestia through the adjacent leafy wall and into a clearing containing a bubbling stone fountain. He spun and tossed the alicorn straight towards the spring. In a blast of water and stone, the Princess tumbled through, aching and soaked. With the garden decoration mutilated, jet of water sprayed in random, ugly angles, saturating the ground with mud. Some of it got on her coat, adding to the blood and dust from before. She rose from the ground, scowling through gritted teeth at Death, always defiant. He merely stood there for a moment, watching her, wielding the tools in his hands that could end her life at any given time if he chose to.

“I can give you one final chance, Princess.” The nephilim spoke and began to stride towards her. “One final choice that will spare your life, spare your kingdom the strife of your absence.”

Celestial turned and limped away, face covered in wet mud, squinting through her blurry eyes. She had to keep looking. She had to keep looking...

“Think on this very carefully, Your Majesty.” He continued, keeping his pace steady. “Think of your loved ones. Think of your dear sister. You can spare her the grief of losing you.”

It clicked somewhere in her mind that he had not killed Luna, but she did not acknowledge that fact the the fullest extent. She was focusing on getting past the next hedge wall. The wall topped with the silent, inky bodies of the crows.

“Think of your student. Who will be there to teach her once you are gone? You put much faith in her, but I doubt she can carry out your task at this point in time.” He stopped following her and raised his voice. “What say you?! My patience grows thin!”

She said nothing in reply, merely continued to limp onward.

“Pathetic.” He spat. “Is this the best this world can offer? Is this the full extent of the prowess of Equestria? You have all this power at your disposal, yet you squander your time drinking posh tea and arranging get-togethers for your high-culture bourgeois jackanapes! Can you even see yourself now?! You’re crawling through the mud like a lowly earthworm, writhing in your own pettiness! Where are your clever rebuttals? I insist, regale me of your misguided, childish ideas of righteousness! Give to me the full scope of what shattered, useless principles you stand upon!”

Death’s words were falling on deaf ears, for Celestia was nearly there. Just a little bit more...

“What do you choose, horse? Life or death?!” His grip on his blades tightened audibly. “ANSWER ME!!”

The Princess felt a sharp pain in her ribs as his boot connected with substantial power. She was sent sailing through the air and crashing through a hedge. The crows on top squawked and flew away, landing on another surface close-by. Celestia groaned, clearing the debris from her eyes. Her consciousness drifted in and out of a dream state. She saw flashes of her childhood: a red-maned, alabaster alicorn stood over her with a matronly smile. She smelled sweet breakfast and the beautiful perfume of her dear nanny. She heard her baby sister playing while the Empress discussed politics with a dour unicorn. She shook her head again and saw mud and crows. Smelled death and carrion. Heard the sound of the nephilim’s hateful voice and his foreboding steps inching closer. “What do I do now, mother?” She could feel darkness closing in all around her. Despair grabbing ahold of her throat, clenching harder and harder. She rolled over to her side, getting ready to rise again and limp onward.

The glint of gold and the shimmer of polished black made itself known right in front of her face.

“Very well, then. I shall take pleasure in killing you, horse, for all the difficulty you’ve caused me.” Said Death as he stomped towards where he punted the Princess, scythes in hand.

A blast of angry red-orange light filled his field of vision, blowing him backwards. He brought his arms up to shield himself from the intense heat. The fauna around him caught alight. The smell of smoke drilled into his nostrils through his bone mask. His ears were filled with the sounds of countless flapping wings as his crows scattered, never to return. Death forced himself to look at the burning source of light. Celestia hovered above scorched earth, the chestpiece donned. Its golden trim blazed like a solar flare, with its blots of black like sunspots. All of her mud and crusted life-fluid was singed off like slag from a forge. Her cuts healed instantly, her broken wing snapped into place and flattened against her body. The Armor gave another pulse of seismic force, shifting Death’s footing. Segments began to extend from under the plate, covering her torso, legs, and neck. It stretched over her joints and molded itself into solid pieces of armor. It covered her wings, her flank, and her tail, concealing them all. It reached down to her hooves, wrapping them in gold-black and extending glowing-hot spurs like small flamberges. The Armor slid up her neck to her jaw, crawling over her head and face, encasing it. Golden film spiraled up her horn, gilding it to the tip. Celestia opened her eyes. Solid, radiant light burst from between her eyelids. The light continued through her body, spearing from every crevice of her armor, setting the place where her mane and tail would be afire with a vivid inferno. Two joints separated from her sides and brought forth great wings of pure flame. She casted a red, infuriated aura around her, turning the sky above her crimson. Princess Celestia, Ruler of Equestria, Matron of the Sun, and most powerful alicorn on the planet stood before Death as the personified essence of the great blazing star in the sky itself held in check by a layer of unbreakable armor.

“Heh. That was quite an amusing spectacle, Princess.” The Pale Rider spoke, unphased. “Was your intention to frighten-”

His words were lost as The Princess rammed into him, hurtling them both away from the garden and back to the city, leaving behind a fiery contrail.


“This is it, men. This is our final stand. This is where we prove ourselves as Celestia’s guardians, as soldiers under Her cause, as warriors worthy of Her name.”

Shining Armor paced side to side in front of a great array of guardponies. Pegasi, unicorns, and earth ponies; mares and stallions alike. They were all encased in the golden armor of their namesake and wielding sharpened spears of steel, edged with tungsten, each affixed to their right side. Many were sweating with uncertainty, but they kept a neutral mask on and their gaze straight ahead for their commander. Beside said commander stood Twilight Sparkle, her ears flattened and her eyes lost in deep, grim thought. She occasional lifted her head to steal a glimpse of her brother, hoping for the slimmest chance of him being any less determined than before, but such was not the case.

“On my command, we shall march forth and find this menace, the one named ‘Death’,” A ripple of dread spread through the ponies at the mention of his name. “And do everything within our power to eliminate him. Once. And. For. All

He paused and scanned at the faces of his subordinates. They were hiding it well, but he could see their fear. It went without observation, in fact. All these ponies have been roused, equipped with weapons that have never been used before in the history of Equestria, and told to mass here, in the middle of Canterlot. Of course there would be fear. There would be confusion and maybe even resentment. He would make them understand the situation and prepare them as best as he could with the time that was given to him. It was all he could do.

“I’m not going to hide the truth from you. Some of you may not make it out alive. This creature wields great and terrible power. He has used it against Princess Celestia. He has used it to defeat Princess Luna.” Some of the guardponies gasped. The rest held their expressions. “But do not falter! Today, we conquer our fear of death! Today, we strike without hesitation, without mercy! Today, we show this stranger the might of Equestria! The might of the Royal Guard!!!”

The guards cheered, stomping their hooves on the ground. Adrenaline coursed through the crowd. The noise was nearly deafening, but Twilight heard something beyond the heated clamor. Or rather, she felt it. Her ears unfolded and she turned her sight to the distant stone garden, watching with intent.

Shining continued. “As I said, some of you may not live to tell of this day, but I want you to know that it has been an honor serving with such devoted and selfless ponies. This day may be sung into history, and-”

“Shining!” Twilight’s called to him urgently.

The blue-maned unicorn sputtered and turned to his sister, voice seething. “What is it?! I’m talking to... the...”

He saw it. He saw what she was looking at, as was everypony else. A faint dot of light, growing larger and brighter by the second. The sky around it bled with orange. A low rumble came with it, which ascended to a roar, then an ear-splitting cacophony that caused them all to cover their ears and press themselves to the ground. The earth shook violently beneath them. They all felt blistering heat scorching their backs, making them sweat even more. The meteor passed in less than a second, but the ponies found themselves still flattened after a good long moment. They stood up and immediately whipped their heads around in the direction of the airborne anomaly. Twilight spoke to her brother, trauma pervading into her voice.

“I... think we’ve found them.”

“Move out, MOVE OUT!” He shouted to his troops. Their armor clanked as they reversed direction and followed the trail of smoke left behind.


The living comet traveled a distance before it connected with the solid stone of an empty building corner. It burst apart like a rotten fruit, eliciting a cascade of flaming debris to shower down upon the street. Among the smoldering stones was Death himself, unceremoniously ejected from Celestia’s grip upon impact. He landed with plenty of forward momentum, skipping across the ground, limbs loose and flailing like a ragdoll. As ably as he could, he brought his scythes to bear and dug them deep into the cobbled road, righting himself and slowing himself down. The blades sparked and shrieked as they grinded against the stone. He finally halted with a pained grunt, immediately yanking out his blades and batting down the small flame that was threatening to consume his hair. His hearing was temporarily blunted, but besides the constant ringing, he could hear something else. Something that sounded like voices. He looked around and, sure enough, he was surrounded by braying, panic-stricken ponies. Citizens. Bystanders. The crazy jezebel put him down in the middle of the populous.

Speaking of such, Death followed the fading trail of fire upward into the sky, where The Princess had rose and proceeded to rocket down back to the earth. She landed with an earth-shattering crash, cracks spider-webbing out from beneath her armored hooves. She reared, her fiery mane and wings flaring in a glorious blaze befitting of a living deity. Her front hooves came back down with another crack.

“Death!” Her voice resonated with an immaculate ring, like the toll of countless bells. “For your maleficence of the highest caliber against the sovereigns and denizens of Equestria, I shall condemn you to oblivion!”

“Enough with the damned theatrics!” He spun his blades and reversed the grips. “Fight me already!

Celestia was all too keen to oblige. Heaving her wings, she thrust forward, her gilded horn glowing like molten metal. Death flung himself towards her with a charge of his own, adding necrotic magic to his scythes, causing them to drip blackness. They met with a thundercrack of steel on steel, sickle on horn. The nephilim’s eyes widened as one of her gold-black limbs rammed into his stomach with unreal speed. He twisted and swung a horizontal, reaping strike at her head, which suddenly wasn’t there. He quickly discovered where she was when a pair of hind hooves connected with the bottom of his jaw. The Rider moved with the blow, bending backwards through the air and landing on his feet just as The Princess fired a blazing bolt of energy in his direction. He deflected it with his blade, leaving it to explosively splatter on the stone road to his right. He dashed forward, tossing his left scythe like a whirling boomerang while simultaneously extracting Redemption from its holster. Celestia side-stepped the blade but was subject to a barrage of lead projectiles as Death emptied the entire cylinder on her armor. They plinked and sparked off with no visible effect, but served to stun her long enough to intercept her and catch his other blade when it returned to his person.

Death then swung both weapons in an attempt to sever her legs while she was seemingly reeling from the supersonic impacts. Alas, the alicorn was able to hop over their air-splitting path and bring a foreleg down on his head. The nephilim brought his bracers to bear, blocking the bare-hooved attack. The force of the impact traveled down through his rigid body, causing the stone beneath his feet to ripple and break. Celestia was not done. Without any loss of speed or momentum, she latched onto his gauntlets with her forehooves, using it as a fulcrum, and kicked his greaves, causing him to lose his footing completely. While suspended in mid-air, she twisted him around so he landed cataclysmically with his back shattering the rubble-layered ground and proceeded to stomp his face flat with her front hooves. She never got the chance. While her head was closest to him, Death hooked his scythe behind her neck while shifting it into a two-hander. Celestia’s head was forced to the ground. The Pale Rider somersaulted over her, neck still hooked, shaft still in hand, and planted himself on the other side of her. He swung his weapon overhead in a vicious arc, taking the armored form of The Princess with it by her head and slamming her into the ground.

He removed his scythe and parted it back into two, leaping up into the air with blades poised overhead. From the tip of The Princess’s horn a small point of light appeared, which birthed several brilliant, golden chains that snaked and wrapped around Death in mid-leap. The hot, magical constructs singed his skin and armor, and he was swung to the ground, wrapped tightly, while Celestia rose to her hooves.

“Again with the chains, Your Majesty?” Death swayed to his knees. Wisps of smoke rose from where the chains and his body came into contact, but the pain did not seem to bother him. “I’m starting to think you and your sister have a hidden ardor for binding people. Hehe...” He thrashed around, attempting to free himself. “Though it’s about time you gave me a challenge. I was starting to wonder when this battle would begin.”

“This is no battle!” Celestia jerked the chains, pulling the nephilim into the air and sent him smack into the street’s hard surface. “This is no challenge for you to overcome!” He was subjected to another crushing slam into the pavement. “You have caused too much chaos! Inflicted too much pain! You will not get even the smallest amount of mercy from me!” The tortuous action was repeated several more times, each one resounding a thunderous boom and adding another crater to the street.

“This is no longer a decisive clash that will end in victory for one and defeat for the other!” She swung the chain-mass high into the air, allowing it to stall while she used her magic to mold a short divider made of solid stone in front of her. “This is a PUBLIC EXECUTION!!!”

She yanked at the chains. They came loose and withdrew into Celestia’s horn as Death came hurtling down. His back hit the divider. A sharp, disgusting crack was heard. The nephilim cried out in agony, his blades slipping from his grip. A gush of blood spurted from the re-opened wound in his chest. Then, all was silent, save the wheezing breath of The Rider, folded over the stone wedge, and hushed murmurs from the onlooking crowd, who had remained in place out of paralyzing fear. Death coughed twice, turning his head to Celestia.

“So much for... love... and tolerance...”

The Princess spun around and bucked him, divider and all, with explosive force. Tumbling through the air, he disappeared into the horizon.


He crashed straight into a tower. The vibration shook the guardpony stationed on top, who had been deemed necessary to maintain the structure of the usual Royal Guard routine. Somepony had to watched the tower, after all. He careened on his equine legs, nearly losing his balance completely. Thankfully, the impact did not topple the tower, it merely left an unsightly hole where Death’s body connected. After the initial quake, more thumps were heard and felt by the guard, getting closer. The wooden hatch cracked and splintered as it was torn off of its hinges. From the opening emerged Death, chest still dripping dark, viscous fluid. He adjusted his spine, putting the vertebrae back into place as the guardpony was approaching him.

“Stop right there, criminal scu-!”

The Pale Rider wasted no time picking up the abrasive pony and hurling him far off the tower. The unlucky sod landed in a private pool, eliciting a shriek from the mare who had been bathing there and giving them both one hell of a story to tell their children about their first “date”. Back on the tower, the nephilim was left to wonder just where these guards get their moxie. He deemed that thought irrelevant to the situation at hand as he glimpsed the approaching flaming missile with narrow-eyed contempt.

“So that’s how you want to play?” He shoved a handful of bullets back into his revolver and thrust it back into its holster while striding to the edge of the tower. When he reached it, he kicked off the stone barrier barring the path between him and the alicorn. Death withdrew his war-maul from the pocket dimension where he kept his belongings and embedded the heavy head on the ground next to him, the bottom of the shaft pointing directly skyward. He popped his taxed knuckles with several loud crunches. The Princess grew ever closer. “Come and get me, then!”

The roaring sound of flame was reaching a climax. Death grasped the handle of the maul with both hands, lifted the weight from the tower surface, twisted around, and hit the armored alicorn at the apex of his swing, painfully diverting her flight path into a flaming arc across the sky. The shockwave that resulted did away with the last of the creaking supports within the tower. The ground beneath The Rider’s boots began to heave and lurch. With a grunt, he drew up his maul and threw it like a javelin in the direction of Celestia, leaping closely after it and leaving the tower to crumble into ruin. He reached out with his Death Grip and caught hold of his maul, pulling him towards it and allowing him to ride the maul’s inertia as it followed The Princess. Meanwhile, Celestia managed recover from his blow and slow herself down. It was all for naught, for as soon as she turned around, she was sent rocketing towards the ground by the force of Death’s flying maul.

They both impacted upon the ground in the middle of one of the many parks of Canterlot, decimating the stone statue of The Princess’s likeness among the green grass and trees as they recklessly barreled through, carried by their momentum. Aristocrats, peasants, young couples, and playing foals all screamed and scattered. Celestia was the first to land upright, followed by Death, who caught his spinning maul with one deft hand. Without skipping a beat, he began to charge The Princess, a war cry fleeing from his lips. She had recovered with impossible efficiency and swiveled her body over the nephilim’s initial swing. The whooshing, displaced air lightly brushed against the black-gold of her carapace. She landed and brought her sharp horn to bear, impaling it through Death’s right shoulder, causing him to yelp and drop his weapon. In her haste, she had forgotten to charge it with magic to make it more effective. He brought up his left hand to her horn and tightened his glove around the base. The horn was yanked out before an ounce of magic was channeled into it. Death swung around and tossed Celestia into a tree, felling it in a crash of leaves and snapping bark.

The Pale Rider winced as he clutched the fresh wound, his blackened blood trickling over the green crystal fragments holding the souls of his slain brethren. He clenched and flexed his arm, trying to force feeling to return to his weakened limb. His head turned to The Princess, who had relieved herself from the tangle of branches. Her bloodstained horn began to glow. A radiant aura surrounded the felled tree and lifted it into the air. Vapor rose as the lush leaves and twigs withered and turned a brownish color from the intense heat. A spark shot from the tip of Celestia’s arcane focus and buried into the dry tinder. It caught alight like in an instant and burned fiercely as if it were petroleum-soaked torch. The alicorn’s shining eyes fixed upon Death, still debilitated from the dripping puncture. The blazing tree came up, then came crashing down on the picayune nephilim like the burning fist of an angry god. He had barely any time to summon an aegis as the conflagrant mass came crashing down. Celestia relaxed her magical grip, gazing upon her decimation. It only took a moment for Death to free himself from his fiery cage, maul in hand.

And so they exchanged blow after blow in the flickering red light of the bonfire. Death proved to be quite agile and deadly even without his preferred weapons. He swung his oversized club with control and grace, pairing its ponderous motion with jabs and kicks, feints and grapples. In the wake of Celestia’s ruthless offensive, The Horseman’s strikes were becoming progressively more and more vicious and besital. He spat, grunted, and swore with each hit landed on him, retaliating with greater hatred than before. His attacks became frenzied, forcing The Princess to move quicker, react faster. Finally, she would take no more.

“ENOUGH OF THIS FARCE!” She bellowed. Celestia dug her hind hooves into the dirt and caught Death’s maul. Raising one foreleg high, she charged it with magic, concentrating it to dangerous levels. The limb came down and, with a echoing clank and a flash of light, the thick, steel shaft was sundered. The Pale Rider reeled backwards, staring at what was left of the Creator-forged weapon that he had thought to be unbreakable. Within the second, The Princess had coiled her legs around Death’s body. Her flaming wings gave one massive pump and both of them shot from the earth, leaving a column of flame in their wake.


All of Canterlot bore witness to the small star that ascended towards the heavens with no sign or intent of stopping. Twilight, following Shining Armor and his forces stopped to gaze at the beacon that lit up the evening sky. Evening? Has it really been that long? No, she thought with dread, The Princess has been too preoccupied to control the sun’s motion. It had drifted down to its own accord, faster than usual, and rested beyond the distant mountains, waiting to be lowered so the moon could take its place. Shining called his soldiers to a halt. They stopped with a series of clatters, waiting anxiously for their next order. The Captain fixed his eyes on rising point of light.

“Dear Celestia...” He breathed.

“No...” Twilight said to herself silently. “No, no, no... no no nononono... Please stop... Please don’t kill him...”


The battle resumed somewhere in the upper-atmosphere. Celestia released her grasp and began with a punch across his face, spinning the weaponless nephilim freely around in the air. Death did his best to right himself, to control his movements with nothing to grasp. It wasn’t working. Another hoof found his bone mask, crunching it against his skull.

“You come into MY kingdom! You enter MY domain!” She pummeled him some more, focusing her strikes mostly on his vulnerable wounds. He could not help grunting from the pain. “You have the AUDACITY to make demands and expect things to be given to you! You think everypony you see is below you! Not capable of defeating you! Not worthy of your time or presence!”

Death conjured solid footholds below his boots, flexed his knees, and pushed himself off, hands extended for the alicorn’s throat. Celestia easily dodged him, catching his arm. She brought up her hoof and dislocated his elbow. The Rider cried out.

“You slaughter everything to your fancy, your blades soaked with the blood of countless other races! You do so thinking you’re bereft of the consequences!” She bucked him in the chest. Dark blood splattered from beneath his mask, where his mouth was, floating in the air as he went into free-fall. The Princess intercepted him and press her hooves to his back, driving him faster and faster towards the ground. A cone of blistering heat formed around him as Celestia propelled him past his terminal velocity.

“Damn your ideas of Balance! Damn your Council! You shall not bring harm to another soul! YOU WILL KNOW JUSTICE!!!”

With one, final, seismic kick, Death’s body broke the sonic barrier and sped towards the ground.


Twilight felt the air ripple. She saw the halo of golden force expand across the sky. She heard the thrum of a high-speed object traveling through the air, like Rainbow Dash performing a Sonic Rainboom. She knew she could do nothing.

“GET DOWN!” Shouted Shining Armor. “EVERYPONY DOWN NOW!”

There was a deafening explosion. Stone and earth ejected from the impact, flying high over the city in every possible direction. Dust-filled wind gushed from the epicenter, sweeping back the lavender unicorn’s mane and almost filling her eyes with dirt. Her ears were ringing painfully. A minute amount of blood ran down the sides of her head. She shielded her face from wayward pieces of rock. Her senses became overloaded from the force of the devastation. The dusty, buffeting turbulence threatened to throw her off her hooves. She brought herself to the ground. Pain was building up in her throat and she could taste dirt. Twilight couldn’t recall when she began to scream.

Then, as suddenly as it began, it was over.

The crowd, which consisted of Shining Armor, his sister, his lance-wielding company, and a hoof-full of lingering citizens all tentatively recovered from the shock. A few were still flattened and braced long after the haze of dust had dispersed and the wind became still. They trembled with clenched jaws and forelegs over their heads. Some even refused to budge, despite the urgings of their friends or comrades. Twilight was the first to step forward, taking care not to breath in too much of the dust-heavy air. She walked, nearly crawling, as if the thunderous detonation had removed her ability to make a sound. She began to peer over the edge of the gaping crater, to see what was left, if anything was left. The librarian hesitated, not wanting to come to terms with whatever truth, whatever result lay in the center of that immense depression. She forced herself to look. A pile of smaller bits and pieces of stone were gather in the middle of an otherwise smooth bowl. Twilight leaned forward a bit. She thought she saw the pile move slightly.

The first rock crashed down upon in. It looked like it was a chunk of masonry taken from a building, or a jagged rock from the mountain. Whatever the case, the sound and sight made Twilight shriek in surprise and horror. More large boulders came thereafter, each trailing a hint of golden aura, each packing themselves in towards the center. The rain of rubble did not cease. The lavender unicorn backpedaled wildly as they filled the pit, heaping higher and higher. The frequency of impacts petered out before coming to a halt. In the end what was left was a small mountain. A burial. A tomb for whatever was left of Death after he crashed down into the earth. Twilight’s legs gave away and she was brought down to her haunches, tears streaming down her cheeks, her mouth open in a breathless wail of sorrow.

Princess Celestia, clad in her lustrous, radiant armor, gently touched down next to her student. Her fiery wings shrank and folded to her sides. She stared at the pile of rock she had created with her eyes of sunlight, feeling his immense, dusky presence no more. Celestia turned to her prodige, the intensity of her flaming features softening. She looked upon her, broken, empty, suffering. She could not console her for what she had done. She only did what she had to do. What she was forced to do. Her head lowered and came level with that of her student’s.

“I’m sorry.” She spoke quietly. “It’s over.”

Twilight broke down into wracking sobs. She cried and howled and moaned, baying out half-formed words about what she could have done differently, what she could have said to prevent this atrocity, laced with apologies and self-depreciations. Shining Armor somberly trotted up to her and brought her close to his chilly, armored body. The civilians and soldiers alike said not a word. A pyrrhic victory; destruction void of purpose, leaving questions and confusion as to why and how. Their beautiful city had been scarred by this worthless conflict. Nopony bore the weight greater than Princess Celestia herself. She had broken her personal vow she made millennia ago and used The Armor. She had used it for what seemed like a justifiable purpose, but it ended with the same result: a hollow feeling of guilt in her chest and unwashable blood on her hooves. Her mind wandered back through the fray. She cringed at her recklessness, how she had dropped him and fought him in a place packed with innocent ponies. To what? Prove a point? Make a spectacle of his defeat so that all may understand why she risked what she did to defend the Elements of Harmony? To fuel her own conviction in pursuing a conflict with the Rider, a conflict she had ultimately started?

“W-wu-what a-about the h-humans?” Twilight choked out, more coherent than a moment ago. “W-what about h-his broth-er? H-he h-h-had a f-family...” She disintegrated into more incomprehensible sobs. The Princess felt as if a dagger had been driven into her heart. The pain she felt from her student’s words might as well have been a blow of that severity. She knew that Death was violent, unwavering, and a monster, but sometimes, even monsters have ones they care for. Celestia drew in a long, controlled sigh. There was nothing that could be done. It was over. All that was left was to rebuild, recover. Heal the wounds and forget the pain. Time will wash it all away. Time eventually claims all things.


Something changed. Gravity seemed to shift slightly, causing Celestia’s stomach to lurch. A powerful sensation of absolute dread overtook her. She found herself bending her knees to this sheer feeling of hopelessness that washed over her like a consuming tide.

Other ponies felt it, too. Felt it even stronger. One soldier began to vomit uncontrollably. Another civilian’s nose spurted twin gushes of blood. Her eyes glazed over wordlessly and she and passed out. Several began screaming, gibbering senselessly, crying out for mercy, motherly figures, Celestia herself. Some just sat there with blank expressions, drooling mindlessly. A wave of panic hit like an earthquake. Ponies scattered, ran aimlessly, dashed into building and behind nearby trees. Shining Armor could have been calling for his troops, reprimanding them and ordering them to stand fast, but he, too, was gripped with wide-eyed terror, as was Twilight. The temperature began to drop several degrees and did not stop. Creeping rime appeared appeared under The Princess’s hooves. She even felt the piercing cold through her enchanted carapace, which should have been impossible. Absolutely impossible. Visions of unnamable despair flashed across her vision. A constant, maddening buzz seeped into her ears. No breath left. No time left. No hope left. Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

Celestia began to sweat beneath her armor, despite the cold that chilled her to her very bones. She looked at the pile of rubble. Death’s tomb. Foul, inky smoke billowed from the cracks and crevices. The atmosphere took on a frigid boil, with the smoke becoming more and more abundant with each passing second. It washed over the rime-coated street. A numbing of their limbs resulted immediately with contact, combined with their strength and body heat being simultaneously sapped. Twilight and her brother inched away, their limbs driven by horror. Even The Princess found herself backpedaling, her legs moving to their own accord. She stamped her hooves and forced herself to remain in place. It took nearly every ounce of her willpower.

From a quivering stack of rubble shot a bony fist wrapped in tattered, shadowy, undulating cloth that almost hurt to stare at. Its pallid, slender fingers unravelled, exuding more black emulsion. Another limb exploded from the pile, this one gripping a giant, jagged scythe of horrendous design. Countless skulls, sockets empty yet ever-gazing, decorated the flat of the massive blade. The metal it was composed of gave a hint of grain, as if it was carved from bone. Its wooden shaft was dark and weathered, covered in the same eldritch cloth. The blade came down and bit deep into the stone before it, the place where it touched immediately darkened and became desecrated, with wisps of blackness evaporating from the creeping edges. A robed form rose from between the two limbs. Great, bat-like skeletal wings sprouted from its back, with thin tatters of withered sinew stretched among them. As it withdrew its abhorrent weapon from the ground, the miscellany of dark fetishes became obvious on its floating body: A lantern of pale, sickly light. An hourglass with its sands gradually pouring dry. A book containing unimaginable secrets, unthinkable truths. The paldron on its shoulder was adorned with spikes, each impaling dry, dusty skulls. The constant buzzing in her ears morphed into an overwhelming peal of a thousand death bells. It ponderously gripped the shaft of the scythe with both of its cumbersome digits and raised its hooded head at The Princess.

Nothing was held in that fold of cloth. No... more than nothing. Less than nothing. An eternity of nothing.

With every last drop of her courage, Celestia bellowed a cry. Her mane and tail blazed brightly. Her wings grew large and pushed her forward. She raised her front hoof, charged it with radiant magic, and threw the first blow.

It landed in the leisurely-raised left palm of the aberration. There was no give, no push. The alicorn felt like she just punched a wall of solid steel. She felt colder. She felt weaker. She felt as if her body was being drained of heat, life, hope, reason, will... The fingers slowly wrapped around the cold metal of her armored foreleg. Tighter. Tighter. Tighter still.

“Ahh! Ahhhh!! AHHHHHHH!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!” Her bones slowly twisted and snapped. All the while, the thing looked upon the groaning, bending limb, its head tilted in dog-like curiosity. Such frailty. Such trivial mortal strife.

The haft came up and struck her across the face. She corkscrewed away about thirty feet and hit the ground rolling. She halted, trembling like a babe, moaning from the numbing pain in her foreleg. She tried flex her neck, tried to raise her head.

The bony hand coiled around her head and brought it back down. She collided forcefully with the stone below. Up it came again and down it went. It mercilessly pounded the alicorn’s helm until the cobbled street was crushed into small, fine pebbles. Then, it lifted her battered helm and sent it grinding across a nearby building. She felt glass and brick break against her armor, making divots and dents. Her mind could not think due to the trauma. The glide reached the building’s end and she was tossed away with a crumbling, ripped-off chunk of masonry. Driven only by muscle-memory, she swayed on her remaining, functional hooves, tilting, careening.

The wicked blade met her. Celestia’s neck was twisted around painfully, almost breaking. Time seemed to slow down. She felt a cool breeze on her face from the weapon’s lash. She saw the imperfect gimmer of her mutilated helmet before her widened eyes. It was unbreakable, yet it had been struck off with just a single blow. The Reaper’s hands turned and the scythe came back around. Another flash. Another deafening clang. The warped segments that covered her neck flew through the air and plinked off the ground. *whoosh-clang!* Her chest-piece clattered to the earth. *whoosh-clang!* The leg-plates were replaced by alabaster, sweat-soaked fur. Her body twisted around from the massive force. *whoosh-clang!* The fiery wings flickered and died as they were separated from her body, revealing her own feathery appendages. *whoosh-clang!* The image of the sun, an eight pointed star, appeared on her flank, flaming tail no more. *whoosh-clang!* The last of The Armor came off her hind legs. It was now drained of its magic and protective properties. It could never be used again.

Celestia landed on her back. She frantically half-limped, half-scuttled away from the ghostly abomination, never taking her eyes off of it. She naked before it. Powerless. A mere child in the presence of the universe. This was no longer the Death she had fought, wounded, bled. This was something incomparably different. Death was a force of reckoning. This was reckoning. The Grim Reaper. The Ferryman. The Undertaker. The End of All Things. Its black facelessness disappeared into infinity, into oblivion. I cannot be opposed. It cannot be overcome. It cannot be cheated, bribed, or bargained with. It was Death. Death incarnate. Damnation itself.

It brought the heavy blade down to The Princess and pressed the outer edge to her throat. The effect was staggering. She felt her life-energy being funneled through the point where flesh and steel connected. She felt her soul being drained into nothingness. She felt every ounce of her conscience being slowly dragged into a crevice of darkness eternal. Breathing became an excruciating effort. Painful. Torturous. A phantom whisper began to take form, like a wailing wind. It grew louder and sharper, filling Celestia’s ears with a single word. A single, inexorable command.


She could not say a word. Her mouth hung open, trying to speak against the fear, sucking in wheezing breath after wheezing breath. The encompassing terror. Her eyes started to drift up into her sockets. Darkness closed in around her vision as the hellion deliberately lifted its scythe, higher and higher, preparing for one final beheading stroke that would end her permanently. She could hear a fading voice over the numbing of her senses; over her final descent into blackness everlasting.

“Death! Stop! You’re killing her!!! YOU’RE KILLING HER!!!!!” The Reaper acknowledged nothing. Its blade was now poised overhead, slowing its motion, ready to reap another soul for the journey to the World of the Dead. The Princess could no longer see. She could no longer think or feel. Shadow was all she knew. A final breath passed her lips-


The skull-blade never came down. Twilight looked at The Reaper, her throat on fire, her eyes soaked with tears. It stood still for what seemed like minutes. Hours. The tatters of cloth that clung to its body gently swayed in the breeze. Not a sound was made. Then, it shifted. It lowered its scythe slowly, bringing the haft down first. The floating figure lowered itself, draping its robes over the gravel-strewn street. The pommel of the weapon slammed to the ground with a echoing crack that signaled the end of the conflict. The Reaper began to bleed black smoke. It ran off of its hood, its robes, its fetishes, its scythe. It melted off like a block of sooty ice, vanishing soon after it touched the ground. The pile of smoke shrank to a much smaller size, and Death’s nephilim form became clear. He held his crow scythe in its two-handed shape, the end propped against the ground. He leaned on it with both hands, saying nothing, gazing off in a thousand-mile stare. His forehead rested on the shaft.

Twilight Sparkle inched forward before breaking into a quick gallop as she rushed to her ruler’s side. The alicorn was still. Her chest did not rise and fall. Her legs did not move, did not even twitch. As her student hung her head over her teacher, she could hardly believe the following words that came out of her mouth.

“She’s... dead...” Twilight’s breath became stuck in her stinging throat. Her lips quivered and the tears began to flow once more. She buried her face upon the cooling body of her mentor and wept. “She’s de-e-e-e-ead...”

“You MONSTER!” Spat Shining Armor, too emotionally drained to make any sort of physical action against his ruler’s murderer. “Look what you’ve done! You’ve killed her! And for what?! What have you gained from this?!? WHAT HAVE YOU GAINED?!?!?”

Death said nothing.

“She was our Princess! She was loved by everypony! Respected by everypony! Then you came and ended that! Have you ever done anything but take lives?! Destroy kingdoms?! Ruin everything in your wake?!”

A desolate pause ensued. The nephilim’s gaze did not falter. Then, he spoke. He spoke in such a manner that it barely rose above the wailing laments of Twilight.

“I’m sorry.”


Death’s hands tightened around the shaft as his gaze hardened with new conviction. He set his fingers into motion, morphing the two-hander back into individual blades, then into small sickles and placed them at his hips. He strode forward, past Shining and his berations, towards the fallen Princess. His foot pushed Twilight off of her body, her hooves scrambling to find balance as she landed on her side and continued to sob. He kneeled over Celestia and took her equine head into his hand, lifting it from the ground. Death stared at her closed eyes, her expression of peace and serenity that could only come from being laid to rest. He squeezed his own eyes shut, sighed, opened them once more.

He took off his mask and leaned down.


Celestia awoke with a loud, long gasp, as if her head had just broke water. Her lids went wide, taking in the blinding light of the day. It felt as if her senses were new to her. She felt her body starting to warm. She knew the caress of the light breeze on her skin. She could taste... something awful in her mouth. It tasted like blood, but it had a bitter and grimy edge. She saw Death above her, his gloved hand over his bone mask as he placed it back on his face.

“In my long eons of life and service to the Charred Council, I have always killed and taken lives. Never, not once, have I had to give one back.” He looked at her with his smoldering, orange eyes. “But don’t think this is because I have feelings for you. I am not that sort of horse rider.”

She suddenly knew what the taste was in her mouth. The nephilim saw the horrified expression on her face and smiled under his mask.

“Kiss of Death, baby.”

She rolled over while sputtering, spitting, coughing, trying everything to get the taste out of her mouth. All the while, Death kneeled there chuckling quietly to himself. In her bout of humorous panic, she noticed the eyes of Twilight and her Captain, Shining Armor, upon her. She let her head drop to the pavement, weary.

“What have I done?” She said, mostly to herself. “All this destruction. All this devastation. All for the protection of The Elements...”

“Do not feel sorry.” Death interjected. “You put up a good fight. If my sister Fury ever found out that I was nearly beaten by a pony, she’d never let me live it down. But, while we’re on that note-” Celestia interrupted him.

“The Elements will not help your cause. They are not the great power you seek. Their power is no greater than mine, for their power is mine.”

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked in a sore, taxed voice. “I thought...”

“They were created by me. Me and my sister for the purpose of defeating Discord, but it was not because they were powerful. They are a certain kind of power. Magic that embodies the ideals and values we founded this kingdom upon. Kindness, Loyalty, Honesty, Generosity, Laughter, Magic... Their magic extends across the land. Every pony is born with these ideas already formed in their minds. It is present in every moment of their lives. It even presents them with their clear purpose in life by marking them with a symbol, embodying their uniqueness and giving them a sense of belonging.”

The librarian blinked. “You mean they’re responsible for giving everypony cutie marks?!

The Princess nodded. “They are what holds this kingdom together, enforcing the morals and ethics of peace and happiness upon the subconscious of every denizen of Equestria.”

“Isn’t that like mind control? Brain-washing?

“No!” Celestia squeezed her eyes tight, trying to come to terms with what she had just revealed to her student. A secret kept for so long. A secret so dark that she had to banish her sister and the Nightmare that corrupted her because she threatened to divulge it all those centuries ago. “You have free will, Twilight. You all do. You can choose to do whatever it is you want to do. The Elements merely cull the bad, chaotic decisions from your mind, pushing them down so deep that it would take something emotionally powerful to bring them to light. Crime is sparse. True greed is hard to come by. Murder is unthinkable. War is no longer.” She looked at her student, her very soul aching. “Can you not see that what I have done is for the good of my citizens? My little ponies? All I’ve ever wanted was for nopony to suffer. Nopony to perish in chaos and despair.”

“But...” Twilight went on. “If their power comes from you... then why did we need them to defeat Nightmare Moon? To turn Discord to stone?”

“I’m not one to impress my thought on matters such as this,” Death interjected while standing up. “But I’m starting to get the feeling that these challenges you’ve faced in the past, these ‘crises’, are also carefully contrived by your ruler.”

Celestia spoke not a word.

“But I shouldn’t press. If The Elements are of no use to me, then I shall be on my way. I will find some other means of resurrecting humanity.” He turned and raised his hand, which glowed darkly. From a burst of green fire came his horse, Despair, stamping eagerly in anticipation of a long ride. As he walked towards it, Shining finally broke from his stupor.

“That’s it? You think you can just leave like that? After all you’ve done? After all the things you’ve destroyed?! Luna is still in a comatose! You almost beat her to death!!!”

“If her sister is anything to go by, she will recover with vigor. Building and cities... they can always be rebuilt. No one has died this day.”

That’s not enough!” He shoved his lance in the nephilim’s direction. “You have to answer for your crimes!!

Death turned and stared into Shining’s eyes for a pregnant moment. His pupils shifted from each large orb on his scowling face.

“Hold onto that hate, pony,” He uttered in a low voice. “And someday, you’ll be just like me.”

The Captain was struck with a stupefied expression. Death turned back and placed his foot in his horse’s stirrup and lifted himself onto the saddle. Despair whinnied as he gripped the leather reins. From the sky came Dust, his companion. The crow landed on his pauldron and gripped tightly, prepared to ride with its master.

“Wait!” Twilight galloped past her brother. “Before you go, I just... why? Why didn’t you kill anypony? You could have easily done it. You’ve done it so many times before. Why was this time so different?”

“I... I don’t know.” He gazed thoughtfully into the distance. “I’ve been fighting and killing all my life. It is all I know. With every living thing that I find, the first thing that crosses my mind is ‘How shall I kill it and when?’ Here...” His eyes followed the horizon around the resting, glowing sun. “...This place. It’s so... quiet. A contrast from the screaming domain of Hell, or the damnable holier-than-thou choir of Heaven. A breath of fresh air, as it were. This place has given me a sort of peace that I thought I’d never know. This place may even be the last place in the universe that is not soaked in blood. I do not want to be the one to spoil it.”

They all stood in silence, save for the constant urgings of Death’s steed. The nephilim lowered his head, staring at the hands that held his reins.

“Take care of your brother, Twilight.” He said suddenly. “Love him and protect him. Always. Make sure he does not go astray.” He faced the lavender unicorn with such gentleness it surprised her. “My brother, War, I care for him. I cared for him so much that I once cut off his arm so he did not suffer The Council’s wrath for his brazenness. I hope you will not have to do something as drastic.”

He tugged the reins. Despair reared, its front hooves churning the air before landing and beginning its gallop.

“Take care, Twilight Sparkle!” He called. “May you live a long, prosperous life!”

Celestia, Shining Armor, and his sister all watched Death as he disappeared into the distance and into the sunset. Since neither Princess had the magical strength to move the heavenly bodies over the sky, Equestria was subjected to the longest sunset of their history. Across the land, many ponies took advantage of this occasion, watching the bright-orange orb cast its warming glow over the grass and trees, over the rocks and the mountains, over the cities, towns, and small villages. It its wake, they worked in content their destined professions and dreams, relaxed and bathed in Celestia’s boon, played merrily with their tall shadows, made love passionately to those whose souls would be intertwined forever. And when the sun finally did pass under the horizon and the moon sailed over the night sky, all of the kingdom enjoyed a long, dreamy sleep. They woke the next morning, refreshed and ready to live the rest of their lives in everlasting harmony.

Death was never seen again.