The light was dim, the air stale, the mood dull. Now, repeat that setting over and over and over again for over a thousand years, and you might just know how I’m feeling right now. Countless centuries I’ve been locked in this perpetual prison of everlasting hopelessness. And now, I’ll stay here for so much longer, and all because of those blasted ponies.
If I had it in me I’d smash my fist against the floor of my iron cage. But alas, my strength was all but gone, my power reduced to a small puddle of the once mighty ocean it used to be. It took effort to even stand up now.
But stand up I did, for I had a visitor at the doors of my cage. The first one I’d ever had in my thousand year incarceration to this place of torment.
He approached the weak light that Tartarus allowed, nearing my prison up the narrow path to the hill I resided in. Cerberus, the eternal guardian, eyed his approach but let him pass. That could only mean my visitor had no intent on freeing me, or else Cerberus would have torn him in two in an instant.
I stood with my hands against the bars, their support the only thing keeping me upright. When the light finally allowed me a clear view of who had come all the way down here, in the worst possible place imaginable in the entire world, I knew that my efforts were in vain. If anything, rising up to meet him was a waste of strength on my part.
He stood tall and lanky, wiry muscles the only thing making it seem that he wasn’t frail. He had a mane that covered much of his chest in the form of a beard, his coat a light brown like the dirt of the earth. A bat-like face with a hard-lined frown was the only expression to greet me, further bat appendages in the form of wings stretching out and returning to fold against. The only accessory he wore was the red, studded belt along his waist. A belt I made for him, like the medallion he made for me.
I was glad to be rid of the cursed thing.
“Scorpan, you have come a long way to greet someone you promised you’d never want to meet again,” I said. Everything about him made me shiver in pure, unfiltered hatred. Him, the weak one, the dishonest one, the betrayer, out to walk free while I’m stuck in this cage? Despicable! “I was hoping you’d actually keep that one, unlike your others.”
He stopped in his tracks, only a few feet away from my cage. Oh, how I wished I could break down these bars and do unto him what a thousand years of imprisonment had did unto me.
“Brother,” he began, the lying worm’s voice just as sly as ever, “I have come here to speak with you.”
I snarled my teeth. “Don’t brother me, you backstabber!” I hissed. I rattled the bars, the effort lost and nearly causing me to tip over. I rest my face against the cold iron, breathing heavily. “How dare you come here to speak with me! Is gloating in the world above not enough for you? You just have to come down here and rub it in worse!”
Scorpan held up a hand, his expression softening to eyes filled with worry. Worry that I’ll kill myself in exhaustion before he could do the deed himself!
“Tirek, please, I am here not to gloat.” Scorpan returned his hand to his side, taking a step closer to my prison. “I am merely here to talk.”
The grip tightened on the bars of my cage, my knuckles turning white. Just to see him again, the worm, on the outside of those bars while I remained trapped. My blood was boiling.
“You want to talk? Talk? Fine, let’s talk!” I blew steam from my nostrils, my teeth gritting so hard I was sure I’d crack a molar. “Let’s talk about how you betrayed your own flesh and blood! Let’s talk about how you sold your only brother to a bunch of pribbling ponies! Let’s talk about how I’ve been trapped here for over a thousand years while you remained free! Come now, let’s discuss any of these topics, your choice!”
Scorpan blinked, his ears drooping down. His tail flicked side to side, a habit I grew to know meaning he was anxious. Of course, the gutless, yellow-bellied traitor would want to use his words carefully. He knew his silver-tongue wouldn’t work on me. Not anymore.
“Tirek, please, you have to understand, I had no choice.”
“No choice? Was the only option to trap your brother in a prison hundreds of feet underground?” He didn’t respond for a few seconds, my seething anger still burning white hot. “Was it?”
Scorpan looked downward, a deep sigh escaping his lips as he closed his eyes and shook his head. “No… it wasn’t.”
“Then how dare you come down here to speak with me when even your words are trash.”
“But it wasn’t my choice, Tirek,” he said, holding a hand to his chest. “I had no idea that Tartarus would befall you as your fate. On my word, I didn’t.”
I snorted. “Your word? Your word? What good does that garbage do for me?”
Scorpan cut his hand through the air and took another step towards my cage. “Tirek, end this petty hatred against me! The princesses were the ones who trapped you here, not me! I merely ended my contributions to this campaign to take over Equestria that you were dead-set on achieving!”
“Ended your contributions? Don’t give me such rubbish! You stabbed me in the back, then gave each of the princess turns in twisting the knife deeper!” My front hooves fell to the floor of my cage, my strength ebbing to a mere trickle. Panting hard, I drew my head up to glare at the pitiful excuse of space that was once my brother. “Don’t just lie to my face like that, Scorpan. Don’t you ever lie to my face like that, ever again.”
Scorpan’s hands turned into fists, but his face never broke out into a frown or even a smile. “I swear to you, I didn’t lie. When I discovered that the princesses locked you down here, I was dead-set on coming here to free you myself.”
I barked out a laugh, the action causing me to cough enough my bones rattled in my frail body. “Kind of late for that now, isn’t it?”
“The only reason I didn’t free you, Tirek, is that I knew I couldn’t allow for what you did to ever happen again.” Scorpan stomped a foot on the ground, pointing a single accusing finger at me. The nerve of him! “I had already seen one land reduced to ashes because of you. I knew I couldn’t allow another.”
“So you traded your loyalty to your own kin to those worthless ponies?” I asked.
Scorpan shook his head. “I traded my loyalty to what is right. I already witnessed you transform our home into a barren wasteland in your bid for power. Our people enslaved and their magic removed just for your own personal gain. I stood to the side and even helped you turn everything I once loved into a shell of its former self.” Scorpan’s eyes narrowed, his fangs protruding out. “And I refuse to just let it happen again!”
“So… why come down here, then?” I chuckled mildly under my breath. “Why come to the one person who ruined everything for you, and who you made sure should never ruin anything ever again?”
“I came as soon as news reached me that you freed yourself. I had feared that you would eventually. Doesn’t suit you to be stuck in one place for too long, does it?” Scorpan chuckled as well, but while mine was bitter, his was sad. “I came here to talk… and for us to be at peace.”
My entire body shuddered, but it took much more effort than I had thought to keep the laughter from breaking out. At this rate, I’ll be left nothing but broken bones if this continues. “Peace? You always were the weak one, weren’t you? How could you possibly think we can ever be at peace?”
“I can set you free.”
My laughter died down. I stared into my brother’s eyes. The eyes of a crafty, untrustworthy liar. The eyes that watched me be chained underneath the earth, oh so long ago.
“I have talked with Princess Celestia. While she is hesitant about the decision, she still owes me for my assistance to her all those years ago. After all, if it wasn’t for me, Equestria would have been doomed. All because of you.” Scorpan approached the bars and kneeled down, so that the two of us were eye to eye. He rested his hand on my shoulder, the first time I’ve felt any closeness to him in over a millenium. “Tirek, I have convinced her that you can be reformed. The road shall be difficult, but I’m sure it can be done. With the power of friendship, you can be freed, brother.” He smiled. “Just agree, and we can get started.”
I stared down at his hand, then back to his smiling face. A grin that used to light up my day all those years ago, when we were young and as close as brothers can be. I rested my own hand over his, and squeezed hard.
“Don’t you ever call me brother again,” I snarled, throwing his hand off of me. He backed away, my pitiful attempt at a swipe at his face ending in my arm banging against the bars. “Don’t you ever, ever, call me brother again you sniveling worm!”
Scorpan lifted up a hand, palm out. “Tirek, please, reconsider it! You’d no longer have to be trapped in this place! You can be free!”
“I’d rather be burning in fire and brimstone than ever agree to be reformed by those ponies!” I yelled. I spit at his feet, my spittle not even coming close but the message making it all the way. “And neither by you! You’ve always been a spineless fool! Allowing yourself to be twisted by the magic of friendship? You make me sick! Sick! What was once my brother is now a worthless tool!”
Scorpan blinked, not even bothering to react in any possible way to my rant but instead staring down at me, his eyes cold and calculating. Finally, he nodded his head. “I thought you’d say that.”
“Then why bother asking me in the first place?” I spat out.
Scorpan touched his belt, running a finger along the studs that my own hands worked on. “Because, Tirek, I love you.” He ran a hand up along his forehead to the back of his head, still shaking his head. “Even after all you had done, all the evil deeds you have enacted, the pain you caused thousands to suffer through… I still love you like a brother should. If I didn’t love you, I would not have come down here to express my offer to you. Because even after turning our homeland in a desert and seeking out to destroy another land in the same way, I still love you.”
My grip finally laxed from the bars of my cage, and my hands fell to the floor. My arms hung down on either side of me, twig-like things with not enough muscle to spare lifting a single pebble. My coat was thin and patchy, the colors drained away, much like me.
“You always were the weak one,” I muttered. A drop of water spilled from some unknown source fell with a plop on the cold, iron floor, forming a tiny puddle before me.
“Yes, I know. I know.” Scorpan had a small smirk on his lips, his dark eyes twinkling in the dim light. “My offer still stands, if you’re willing to take it.”
I didn’t answer him.
Sighing, he nodded, his wings unfolding themselves. “Well, I guess you’re set in your ways, Tirek. But, there’s still hope yet.” He kneeled so that he could stare into my eyes one more time. “I’ll be back another time, don’t you worry about it. Let’s just hope I don’t become a constant visitor if you’re going to be too stubborn about it.”
“You already know I’ll never agree to it,” I reminded him.
“Yes, I suppose so. But I won’t give up trying.” He winked. “And you already know why, don’t you?”
And with that, Scorpan jumped and took to the air, flying high above out of my field of view as he left Tartarus. However, before he departed, he swooped past my cage and hovered before the door.
“Oh, forgot to mention,” he said, “Mother and Father, they wanted to say hello.”
“They’re…” I gulped, my lips trembling. “They’re still alive.”
Scorpan nodded. “With the princesses’ help, I managed to find a way to reverse the damage you did to our home. It’s been tough, but over the centuries I’ve managed to return the magic to our lands. Everything is what it once was, before… well, before you did what you did.”
I didn’t speak, my heart feeling like it’d rip my body in two.
With a final wave of farwell, Scorpan said, “Goodbye for now, Tirek, my brother. Even if the feeling isn’t mutual.”
A few wing beats later, and Scorpan was gone, leaving me for the world above where there was light and friendship and magic and happiness. Then there was me, down here, with nothing but darkness and my own cage for company.
Once again, I was alone.
And for the first time in an entire millenium, I did not want to be.
“So weak,” I whispered, more drops of water splattering to the floor. “So, so… weak.”