• Published 28th Mar 2013
  • 19,880 Views, 1,028 Comments

The Code's Apprentice - Lapis-Lazuli and Stitch



For a thousand years, the Code of Harmony has ruled Equestria, and the Code of Dissonance has sabotaged its works at every turn. Now the war for control over the land will come to a head, and one unicorn's decision may decide the fate of all.

  • ...
45
 1,028
 19,880

Chapter 25 - The Ritual

And the end did not come.

Twilight's eye cracked open, and she saw a vibrant purple bubble shield had come from seemingly nowhere. Her head turned slightly to see the white coat of her brother. Shining Armor stood in front of her and was projecting a shield. The massive beams of energy emitting from her friends and Celestia were simply pouring off of his protections. Shining Armor bared his teeth in a triumphant grin, his voice thundering across the square "That all you've got, bitch!? Nopony messes with my sister and gets away with it!"

"Shiny!!" Twilight exclaimed, her heart suddenly blooming with hope. My greatest general. My knight. My most valiant protector. the voice of her future whispered to her, and Twilight felt a fierce grin come to her face. I'm not beaten yet, Celestia! Twilight stepped up beside him, and growled. "I think the time for secrets is past, Luna! We're going to have to do this the old fashioned way!"

Lilith nodded, her disguise melting away into the ground, and a moment later Princess Luna stood next to them in the shield. "We are in trouble." Luna proclaimed, her hoof gesturing around them. "This is an Ascendancy ritual, but it is not like any I have ever seen before."

Twilight shook her head. "What do we do then? She's not letting up on that attack!" Twilight squinted at the massive burst of light that was enveloping the shield, wishing she could see outside of it.

Shining grinned at them, winking cheekily. "She ain't getting through this, ladies." He grit his teeth, triumph written in his eyes. "So you'd better think of a plan for when she realizes that!" The shield around them pulsed with energy, and Shining Armor let out a whoop.

Luna nodded, her face a study in thought. "Rituals are very precise magic. They require a very precise number of participants." She slowly chewed on her lip, then nodded. "If we can interfere with that, perhaps we can force the ritual to break. Once it does, it is likely the shield over this city will shatter."

Twilight's eyes lit up. "And we'll have a chance." It was a daring, risky sort of plan. Insane really. I like it. "How are we going to do that, Luna? Celestia's not going to let us just waltz up to her!"

Luna smiled thinly. "I am not as powerful as my sister, Mistress. But she will be shocked to see me present, lending my power to you. It will give us the chance we need." She nodded. "Prince Armor. You must protect her. My sister will not kill me." Her grin was fierce, determined. "We shall enter the circle together. Once within the circle, she will be unable to complete the ritual. Then we need only hold out."

Twilight nodded once, and put a hoof on Shining's shoulder. "We'll try talking to her one more time. We've got to. Maybe with all of us together, that will make the difference. If it doesn't... then we'll do what must be done." Twilight could feel a surge of joy and pride in her closest confidants. "If anything goes wrong, I want you both to know something."

Luna blinked, and so did Shining. Then Twilight grabbed Luna around the neck and kissed her, deeply and thoroughly. For a few long moments Shining armor blushed and turned his head away, muttering something about Fillyfoolers. Twilight held the kiss for as long as she dared, pulling away with a soft gasp of air. "I love you, Luna."

Then Twilight turned and hugged her brother fiercely around the neck, kissing his cheek softly. "You'll forgive me if I don't give you the same, but I think Cadence might get mad at me if I did." There was a wicked grin on Twilight's face that told Shining she wasn't entirely joking. "I love you, Shining Armor."

Twilight hopped down and turned her eyes to where the spell blast was slowly fading away. "Now let’s go have a talk with my mother." She growled, settling the silver crown of Magic upon her head once again.

~~~~~

"We are approaching our designated co-ordinates, Admiral."

Aboard the bridge of the H.M.S Commander Hurricane Admiral Fire Drake crossed his old hooves behind his back and flared out his wings. "Very good, Navigator. Helmsman, set course thirty degrees southerly. Reduce turbine power to one eighth. Mister Skybolt, please inform the senior Battlemage we shall be in position within the next twenty minutes."

A Shuffle of "Aye, Ayes" sprinkled across the room as the pegasi within it set to their tasks. For a few moments, all was right with the world. "Admiral, we have reports..." The commspony frowned a little. "That can't be right. Say again flight deck, please confirm original message."

The Admiral walked slowly over to the communication station, his eyes narrowing. This couldn't be good. "What's the matter son?" He asked in his best fatherly voice, hoping to Celestia something hadn't gone wrong with the First.

The Comm's pony shook his head. "First Air Wing just landed on the primary flight hangar. No clouds with em, sir. No injuries either." He frowned. "We've just confirmed that report. No idea what's going on, Commander Spitfire's apparently giving out a lot of orders."

The Admiral sighed softly. "That girl... I'm going down there." He snatched up his hat with a wingtip and marched stolidly down the stairs, grumbling. "I'm getting too old for this crap." He growled softly, soon reaching the first sealed hatch. The earth pony soldier swung it open for him with a salute, and the Admiral returned the gesture as he stalked out onto the deck.

Sure enough, First Air wing was piled all over the damn place. Most of them in quiet little groups huddled around the warming fires that had been built into the walls of the hangar. Some of them were eating, some were drinking. Only Spitfire and Soarin seemed to be doing anything.

The Admiral tromped out into the hangar, and a call went up from the deck master. "ADMIRAL ON DECK!" Everypony in the room stood and saluted at that, and the Admiral waved his hoof at them. They quickly resettled themselves, Spitfire's gaze hard as a rock.

The admiral opened his mouth, and spitfire growled. "Don't say a word, old man." She brandished a scroll at him like a lance. "I've invoked Article 17. This farce is coming to an end right now." Her words rang with conviction and righteous fury.

The Admiral just stared. Article 17 had not been invoked in a thousand years. That was because Article 17 had been the Equestrian Military's emergency command override provision. The last time it had been invoked, it was because Princess Luna had become Nightmare Moon.

"Yer daft." He whispered, unable to believe what was happening. "You can't possibly be suggesting that Princess Celestia has betrayed the Military, can ye?!" He felt his voice wheezing, and his chest began to hurt a little from the powerful emotions.

Spitfire glared. "You know who's in command down there, Admiral? Prince Shining Armor. " She stabbed her hoof into his chest softly. "You know who was with him? Hivemaster Stratego and Commander Night Scythe." The Admirals eyes widened, his jaw dropping to the ground. Spitfires' words came out bitter and angry, "Yeah. You know what I call that kind of mission, with just one air wing? I call it suicide."

The Admiral began to feel sweat breaking out on his brow, like had not felt in decades. Even with the mightiest cloud fortress in Equestria, he was very badly outnumbered. Stratego and Night Scythe commanded sufficient forces between them to seize this vessel intact. Those forces under the command of Shining Armor would be enough to do it while taking on the Solar Guard too. "Starswirl's Beard, lass." He whispered. “I... I suppose I can't blame ya then."

Spitfire nodded shortly. "I'm sorry, old man. Something has cracked in her head. I can only hope Twilight Sparkle and her friends can deal with it." She eyed the golden cage of light and shook her head slowly. "We need to get this thing out of here as fast as fast as we can."

A rumbling voice interrupted them. "No, we shall not leave until our mission has been completed, Commander." A pony wearing a stark white hood and cloak, bearing the sun-in-glory symbol of Celestia upon its back slowly marched up. The Senior Battlemage smiled slightly, his name unknown to any but Celestia. "When we have completed our task, we may leave."

The Admiral growled, his wings flaring up as he felt the spark of fire inside of him. "Now you listen here, hornhead. I ain't puttin my ship intae harms way just cuz yeh got a bug up yer tightwad ass!" The admiral's voice had degraded into the old northern Trottingham accent, his eyes blazing.

Spitfire reached out and grabbed at the Admiral's shoulder. "Dad. He's got not more authority than we do." She glared at him. "But I've got the authority to limit him. You've got fifteen minutes. Admiral, go tell them to get the engines ready." She gently shooed the Admiral, who glared at her, and then at the Mage before trotting off quickly towards the door.

The Senior Battlemage spoke smoothly. "Intelligentsia Spitfire. We do not approve of you interfering with Her work." the voice was raspy and accusatory.

Spitfire just laughed in his face. "I don't give a buck what you think. Fifteen minutes, old man. You disobey that order, and I'll have you thrown off this cloud with ten limiters strapped to your horn." Spitfire turned and stalked away, calling out orders to the rest of first air wing while a pair of burning golden eyes glared at her from behind.

~~~~~

Celestia sighed in exasperation. Foolish child. She won’t be able to hold shields like that forever. As the first attempt at initiating the ritual died away, the five ponies bearing the Elements slowly sank back down to the ritual circle. I should not be surprised. The poor filly has been through so much, it's no wonder she's come to this.

Celestia had only herself to blame, of course. Sombra might have given her the book, but Celestia had practically dared Twilight to study dissonant power. Tch. I ought to spank her anyway. It was a thought of annoyance as the magic died fully away, revealing a thick violet bubble shield. Celestia frowned. That is far too powerful for her. Too complex.

Celestia' stared as the bubble slowly began to dissipate, revealing the three ponies who stood against her. Shock raced through her at the sight of Shining Armor, but it was the sight of Luna that caused the bottom to fall out of her stomach. No. Ancestors, please no. Not again. The three figures slowly walked forward, boldly invading her ritual circle.

Twilight spoke first. "Celestia..." She swallowed visibly. "Mother. Please. I do not want to fight you." Twilight took a deep breath, her body leaning forward in an aggressive stance. "But you are wrong. Everything about this plan of yours is wrong. Celestia, think about the three ponies standing in front of you."

Celestia did paused, not speaking as her eyes drifted across the three figures there. All of them had determined looks on their faces. There was no hate, no animus. Just resolve. Twilight's voice cut through her thoughts. "We are not your enemy, Celestia. We would not be fighting you if we did not think you had simply gone too far." Twilight's voice was pleading with her, cutting through the thick emotions that churned inside of Celestia's mind.

Shining Armor spoke next, his blue eyes blazing. "Princess. This has to stop. Realize what you are suggesting, for bucks sake! You're talking about enslaving the forces of life and passion! Would we even be ponies any longer if we didn't have the lust for life and all of the things that came with it?!" His voice thundered across the square, and Celestia flinched back from his words/.

Luna was next of course, and Celestia stared at her - wondering how long she had been working in the silent shadows. "Sister." Luna's voice began, softly. Much more softly than either of the two before her. Luna crossed the ground between them, laying her hoof over Celestia's. "Come home with me, sister. Leave this place. We will talk. We will find a better way to protect the world." Luna reached up with one hoof to touch Celestia's cheek. "Remember our promise to one another, sister. We can restore the balance. All of us, Celestia." Luna's hoof gestured to the other two ponies, and the ones who lay on the ground. "We can do it together."

Celestia slumped on the spot. "... I... " She could barely speak. Here, confronted with three of the greatest ponies she had ever known, she hesitated. Have I been blind? she forced herself to ask. Have I been so blind as to not see the wisdom of my own sister? The honor of my greatest champion? The brilliance of my own daughter?

Twilight, Luna, and Shining Armor all watched her with those eyes. Those damnable eyes. They are not bespelled by darkness, you fool. A soft voice whispered in her head, one she had known for many centuries. They are trying to help you! They are right, my dearest Celestia. The balance can be found once again! The voice of Harmony spoke to her, as it so often had through the years with conviction and surety. It spoke in the voice of her mother, so long lost to her.Celestia. Have faith.

Celestia felt her resolve break. She felt the world shatter around her. Celestia, Sun's Glory, fell to her knees in the center of the ritual circle, and buried her head in the shoulder of her beloved sister. "Luna." She whispered softly, tears falling from her eyes and splashing silvery upon the ground. "Prince Armor." It was like a prayer, like the whispers of the converted. "My most faithful student. You are right. You are all right. Ancestors forgive me. All of you, forgive me please..."

Luna wrapped her hooves around Celestia, kneeling upon the ground. "Tia..." She spoke gently. "It's alright, Tia. It's over."

~~~~~~

The white cloaked figure stood on the edge of the cloud fortress, his hooves raised high into the sky. "Let Judgment be brought down upon the wicked!" His raspy voice boomed. "Let darkness know its destruction!" Magic flashed from twelve massive crystals arrayed behind him. "LET THE WORLD BE REBORN!"

A massive crackle of energy burst forward from each of the crystals, uniting above the head of the single robed pony. His horn glowed for a single moment and a massive column of white and gold energy sped towards the center of Ponyville. Moments later, a massive magical backlash struck the cloud fortress with incredible force, dealing massive damage to the structures.

The crystals shattered into nothingness, vanishing into the wind like so much dust. The white robed unicorn smiled for a moment. "And may Chaos Reign." He gave a harsh laugh, and vanished a moment later in a flash of teleportation magic.

~~~~~~~

Spitfire yelled "What the bloody buck was that!?" her voice screamed as every pegasus around her dove for cover as the impact smashed through the hangar bay, sending cloud debris and solid shrapnel flying everywhere. "What hit us! I want a report!"

One of the First Airwing pulled himself out of a corner and yelled back. "Those damn Battlemages cast something insane! I saw them do it myself!" There was another rumble, debris fell from the ceiling as a second magical shockwave shook the entire cloud fortress.

Spitfire grabbed Soarin by the collar and yelled into his face. "Get the wing in the air! Find me that Celestia-damned battle mage!" Soarin saluted, and Spitfire took off straight up, right through a hole in the roof of the hangar bay. Behind her, First Air wing buzzed out of the place like bees disturbed from a hive.

The damage was bad, but it wasn't catastrophic. Three propeller fans were down, and half the damn command deck was in tatters. Even from here though, she could see the Admiral croaking out orders and directing traffic. Thank Celestia. She thought without irony. He's okay.

She turned her eyes back to Ponyville, where a massive ball of pure white energy seemed centered on the town. "Aw, Buck me." She whispered softly. "No telling what the minimum is gonna be on that thing." There was no hope for it. She screamed down towards the ship, in her most bellowing voice. "BRACE FOR IMPACT!"

Spitfire took off down into the bridge at record speeds, grabbing the Admiral she pulled him into the nearby safe room, and slammed the door shut. "Get your head down, pops!" She growled, grabbing him and covering his body with her own, her own hooves covering the back of her neck as she felt the shock wave before it even hit the air, and then the sudden rumbling and crashing as the wave of air struck the cloud fortress again, likely disabling it for the near future. Damnit, Shiny. If you die down there, I'm going to kill you!

~~~~~~~

Far away, in Sweet Apple Acres - Granny Smith watched the light show over ponyville. She had long been a strong believer in the Church of Harmony. It was how she'd been raised, and how she'd tried to raise her foals. She was just glad all the foals in town were far enough away from that magic to be safe.

Most of the citizens of Ponyville should be alright too, shielded by the Sweet Apple Acre trees. There had always been powerful earth pony magic in the farm, something that made this place special. Granny didn't rightly know how she knew, but she was sure the ponies would be safe.

As for her? Well, she was too plumb old to try and find much cover. If Harmony wanted her alive, it'd have to work a little harder to keep her that way. So she pulled her rocking chair up closer to the window and pulled out the old Apple Family Album, leafing through the pages as she waited. Her thoughts went to Applejack, that crazy foal.

Just like an Apple, she never could keep her nose out of royal business.

~~~~~~~

Zecora gently tucked the blanket over Applebloom, and walked silently past the bodies of the dozens of foals who had found places of rest within her home. It was a bit cramped, but many of them had enjoyed the little adventure. The thought of so many happy foals had made Zecora smile wider and brighter than she had in a very long time.

She quietly slipped out doors and up into the trees. Even from here, deep within the forest, she could see the white magic pulsing through the town. Zecora swept her hoof around her, raising all of her defenses, wards and shields. Within this small clearing at least, there would be safety.

Zecora hopped down, only to see the worried eyes of those three silly fillies. All of them could see the sun-like glow to the east, even over the trees of the forest. Zecora felt her heart break a little, realizing that each of them would have family in that accursed place.

Zecora gently knelt down and pulled those young ones close, holding them so that they would not have to be alone in this moment. Her eyes closed and she whispered a prayer. Ancient earth, hear my call. Give unto these little ones your blessing, and watch over those that they love.

~~~~~~~

Twilight felt the tension, the energy and the strength drain out of her. She sank to the ground, and let the fiery power vanish from her. It was done. It was over. It was- "TWILY!" The scream of Shining Armor snapped her out of her haze, but it was too late. The massive bolt of energy struck them all, flinging her brother through a nearby wall.

Twilight's mouth opened in a silent scream, and she could see her friends slowly lifting off of the ground. That didn't come from Celestia! she stared, realizing her hooves had been chained to the ground by pure Harmonic energy. That bolt! It came from somewhere outside of town! What in the name of Harmony did that?!

Her eyes raced over to where Celestia knelt with Luna - the two sisters gripping on to one another with all of their might. "Luna! You must run!" Celestia yelled over the sudden rushing of magical energy. "Take Twilight! Get as far away as you can!"

Luna shook her head once, her horn bursting to cerulean light. "No sister. I shall not abandon you. Not this time. Twilight! Can you take up your power?" Twilight nodded and tried desperately to push Dissonant magic into her horn... and failed completely. The bonds around her hooves were sucking it away as soon as she could gather it. Luna had been watching and she shook her head, eyes darting to and fro. "Sister. We may be able to contain the power within ourselves."

Celestia's horn lit up with shining golden light, and the two sisters stood side by side. "We shall save Twilight and her friends then. Together, as it should be." Celestia's hoof grasped Luna's, and the two Alicorns smiled, their eyes closing. A Moment later they burst open - their eyes filled with an endless white light. Twilight stared in shock at them. They have embraced Harmony. Her mind whispered...with a new voice. One she had never heard before. You must be strong, Twilight Sparkle. The voice spoke again, a kindly female voice that reminded her so much of Celestia. The world is about to change.

Twilight could only stare in horror, the necklaces of her friends suddenly lighting up with powerful arcane energies. She wanted to close her eyes, but she did not. She would not. She would honor those she loved, and their sacrifice. "Mother! I love you!" Twilight screamed out as beams of color shot towards Celestia and Luna from the Elements, swirling around them in a cone of ever ascending light. Oh brightest harmony! Oh darkest dissonance! Please! Help me! Twilight thought desperately....

The beam of energy began to build in front of the two sisters, and Twilight faced it with all the courage she could...and then she was not alone. A flash of pink and purple feathers filled Twilight's vision, and hope surged through her. Cadence. Her mind whispered. Cadence swept her horn, and the shackles holding down Twilight vanished from sight. Her hooves pulled twilight up as the beam of energy suddenly shot towards them at incredible speed. Cadence pulled Twilight close to her with her hooves and hugged tightly.

Twilight could hear Cadence speak just a few words, her voice soft and full of love. "Don't worry, Twilight. I'm here." The Alicorn's wings flared and Twilight could feel impossible power gathering into Cadence's horn. "I'll keep you safe, little sister."

And then the world went white.