Fallout Equestria: Memories Best Left Buried

by CivilWarPony

First published

The rebuilding of Equestria has finally started to take shape after the world was destroyed in magical bonfire from Tartarus. Now an old foe and long dead memories resurface to plague this fragile world that is struggling to find meaning again.

The rebuilding of Equestria has finally started to take shape after the world was destroyed in magical bonfire from Tartarus. Now an old foe and long dead memories resurface to plague this fragile world that is struggling to find meaning again. When old sins that cast long shadows into the present moving forward can be difficult. Airborne is sent to the southern most reaches of Equestria to unlock a mystery of a place that was thought long forgotten by the world and to find what has emerged from the dark there. Join Airborne and his friends in one final journey in the Equestrian Wasteland in Fallout Equestria: Memories Best Left Buried.

Cover art by Turtledude.

Part One: A Rumor And Echoes

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Part One: A Rumor and Echoes

Airborne sits on a cloud high above the city of New Cloudsdale watching the sun rise in the distance, it had been five years since the events that made him a hero in the eyes of many ponies. By having a hoof in finding Rainbow Dash and ending the both collective threats of a renewed Grand Pegasus Enclave offensive and effectively dealing with the Red Remnant, he had become an unintended symbol of the hope of possibility that Equestria could resemble the world that it once was before it was destroyed by the hatred that gave fuel to the magical fires that scorched the land. Sighing he leans forward over the edge of the cloud he was sitting on and pushes himself off of it.

He rockets down through the soupy mixture of clouds and shivers as pellets of water spatter into his face. His wings pulled tight against his side, listening to the howling of the wind in his ears as he picks up momentum. Then as he breaks through the cloud cover he snaps opens his wings and is jerked upwards breaking off his descent. He glides down towards the main campus quadrangle the New Wonderbolt Academy, carefully choosing a spot where he will land that will attract the least amount of attention. He softly flaps his wings a few times before landing behind the Administrative building. He hears somepony chuckle from behind him, whirling around he comes muzzle to muzzle with Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow smirks and says, "If you didn't want to be noticed you shouldn't have sped down through the clouds like that you know. I could hear you breaking through the clouds like a clap of thunder from all the way in my office."

Folding his wings to his side Airborne replies, "Well maybe I wouldn't attract so much attention if you or Fluttershy keep sending me on these missions that make me look like something I am not."

Rainbow Dash cocks her head and says, "What you are Airborne, is a hero whether you like it or not. Besides I figured a descendent of Lightning Dust would enjoy having this much admiration from so many ponies. Besides you cannot deny that you don't enjoy the extra adventure every now and again. Getting to poke amongst the ruins of Old Equestria is something of a habit of yours is it not Airborne?"

Airborne snorts and doesn't reply, his pride slightly offended. He thinks, "Rainbow Dash knows me better than myself it would seem. Also doesn't help that Starshine keeps her informed of all of my activities." Airborne then sits on his haunches and says, "So, you must have sought me out for a reason other than to criticize my supposed habits. What do you want from me? Another suicide mission that elevates my status from hero to god to more bright-eyed new recruits?"

Rainbow says, "Hey it wasn't my idea to find you in the first place okay, it was Starshine's and secondly I have just got back from a debriefing with one of our scouting patrols that I believe you will find very interesting. Normally I wouldn't say anything to you until I had passed along the information to Spitfire so she could analyze the facts for herself then she could decide what the appropriate response would be. Contrary to whatever beliefs you have about me sending you on more fantastic missions I have been trying to give you a break. Nopony and I mean nopony has done so much in such a short amount of time as you Airborne. I figured you could use a rest but it would seem that I need your particular abilities yet again."

Airborne rolls his eyes and says, "So you haven't been keeping me around and giving me the soft details just to spare me from further missions where I might get myself killed or was it because you wanted to keep Soarin around so he wouldn't have to go on these missions as well." Rainbow Dash's face turns bright red and she nervously paws at the ground with her forehoof. Airborne laughs at her reaction and then says, "So, what was so interesting about this scout debrief that you decided to tell me all about it?"

Rainbow quickly composes herself and says, "As you are aware we have been sending patrols into the badlands regions near the borders of what used to be Mustangia. Nopony has been heard from Mustangia since the war ended but by all reports whole streams of ponies have been coming across what used to be Equestria's southern border. These refugees have been saying things that don't seem to make any sense. First some of them say that Discord has been spotted in Mustangia then other reports say Nightmare Moon has been seen roaming the badlands causing destruction wherever she goes. None of these reports can be accurate but if they are then we need to find out the truth of these matters before we face another threat that makes taking down the Red Remnant look like foal's play."

Airborne's ears swivel forward and his widen with surprise. He replies, "How is that possible? Princess Luna died during the War, Littlepip found her remains and cremated them. How is it possible that she still yet lives? Also nopony has heard from Discord in two hundred years and now of all times he chooses to reveal himself. None of what you just said makes any sense."

Rainbow nods and says, "I know but we cannot afford to ignore this. I knew Discord before the War, even when he was supposedly reformed I never truly believed that. I knew one day that he might slip back into his old ways and cause chaos to spread throughout Equestria again. We cannot let that happen. The peace we have tried to maintain across Equestria is a fragile one at best. The rebuilding has gone a lot more smoothly since we defeated the Red Remnant five years ago and our patrols with the Talons has ensured that the most hardened raider gangs have stayed clear of the trade caravans and settlements. But we have still have so much to do in order to restore Equestria to its former glory. Somepony like Discord could throw a serious wrench into our plans and that is something he is more than happy to do with his quirky sense of humor. I need you and Starshine to leave immediately. You will rendezvous with a team that is already on its way to the edge of the badlands. I think you will be surprised by a few familiar faces in the team once you meet up with them."

Airborne asks, "Why? Who is among them?" Rainbow winks and says, "Wait and see Airborne. Until then you have your orders meetup with Starshine at the departure station in thirty minutes. She will fill you in on the rest of what you need to do." With that statement Rainbow trots off leaving Airborne pondering over what he just heard. Thirty minutes later Airborne had gathered his gear and headed towards the departure station. The station itself was a modest building at the edge of the New Wonderbolt Academy campus. It was where various Pegasi patrols would check in before heading out on patrol and check back in when they returned. Also it doubled as an extra security measure for New Cloudsdale as any and all air traffic going to and from the city had to pass through the departure building. If anypony tried to sneak in illicit materials such as drugs from the Wasteland below. A few times some of the new recruits had brought back a bomb hidden away in their saddlebags that a raider had placed in their pack while they weren't paying attention. A new recruit out on their first mission now posed the greatest threat to New Cloudsdale.

Rookie mistakes were often expected amongst raw recruits being forced to take up their respective flight schedules over the Equestrian Wasteland but sometimes these mistakes were made carelessly and somepony out of their own stupidity would get themselves hurt as a result. Airborne notices Starshine awaiting near the front entrance with his weapons she had taken from the armory. His trusty assault rifle named The All Equestrian that was a gift from its former owner Soarin and his two Firewing Fourty-Fives named Gust and Thunder respectively. He also had a revolver given to him by Rainbow Dash herself that he rarely used as he preferred his two automatic sidearms to get any job done but this time he brought along the weapon. Rainbow had named the revolver Lucky Star and it had seem a lot of service during the War but Airborne had maintained the weapon so that it would function if he needed it and something told him that if he was going up against Discord he would need all the firepower he could get his hooves on.

Starshine seeing Airborne approach happily raises her forehoof and waves to him. She smiles as he gets closer then says, "So, you ready to go on another adventure into the wild blue yonder?" Airborne replies, "I think you mean the wild brown yonder. The badlands aren't exactly known for their beauty." Starshine shakes her head and says, "Fine so I gathered up all of our usual supplies, plus some extra ammo and medkits given how many times we seem to attract trouble whenever we go on these excursions. It is a wonder at all that we have come back from any of them given no matter what we do you always seem to be taking fire from somepony Airborne." She laughs loudly as Airborne becomes embarrassed and hides his face in the folds of his wings.

Starshine trots over to Airborne and nuzzles him underneath his chin. She smiles as Airborne removes his face from the folds of his wings and she says, "I know we haven't been able to spend any time together lately. Ever since we were married things have been so hectic these past few years. Between all the missions Rainbow Dash sends you on and the details Fluttershy assigns me to, I feel like we have never really been able to start our own lives. But after this mission Airborne, let's take a long extended vacation away from New Cloudsdale. Maybe we can visit the spa and grab something to eat at Tenpony Tower in Manehattan. Either way we are getting away from here for awhile." Airborne smiles and kisses her cheek saying, "I couldn't agree more, but let's wait until after our mission is over. I am sure Rainbow Dash wouldn't mind granting us leave from New Cloudsdale for a few weeks."

They both turn and walk up the stairs into the departure building. Inside Airborne asks, "So, Rainbow Dash said we are going to be meeting up with someponies down below on the surface. She said I might recognize a few, do you know what she meant by that?" Starshine stops and says, "Well she meant that we will be meeting up with both Fractured Heart and Celestial down on Equestria's surface. Also Sunrise will be joining us as well, she stayed behind to wait for us so its important that we get to the badlands as soon as possible otherwise I fear Fractured might melt in the intense heat. Crystal Empire ponies aren't exactly used to the heat you know."

Airborne smiles and stamps his hooves excitedly saying, "It has been awhile since I have seen either one of them. I wonder what they have been up to in all this time. Its strange to think that Fractured Heart will becoming along with us into the badlands. It will be interesting to see his reaction to seeing so much sand compared to the Crystal Empires vast frozen wastes." Starshine nods in approval pulls out a small piece of paper as they approach the security station. The guard takes one look at the piece of paper and waves them on through. They pass through the security scanners that use unicorn magic to detect various concealed items before exiting out the rear of the building.

Ahead another guard waits for them at the edge of the large cloud that the city of New Cloudsdale rests upon. He nods at their approach and says, "You are all clear to proceed. Fair winds on your journey Airborne and Starshine." Airborne gallops towards the edge and jumps off spreading his wings as he flies down towards the surface of Equestria with Starshine following close behind him. Airborne thinks, "It's going to be great to see Celestial and Fractured again. Let's hope that the goddesses are watching over us on this mission. I really want to come back from this with everypony in one piece." After a few hours of flying the surface of the badlands emerges through the cloud cover below them.

The vast landscape is covered in reddish brown sand that stretches for miles occasionally the landscape is interrupted by sandstone buttes that jut out of the ground like tall pillars. The chaotic appearance of the badlands was a fitting place to start their search for the God of Chaos himself. The air was hot and humid, it seemed to stick to Airborne's insides sapping his strength as they made their way towards the rendezvous point. In the distance a green flare is shot up into the air marking the location where they would meet up with the rest of the team. Wheeling down towards the ground Airborne lands to see Sunrise, Fractured, and Celestial waiting for them.

Celestial quick races over to him and hugs him tightly. Airborne notices a mechanical whirring that emanates from her throat as a female voice with a tinny sound speaks, "I am so glad to see you again Airborne. It feels like it has been ages since we last met." Airborne tries to adjust to hearing Celestial's voice for the first time. She lets go of him and says, "Like my new voice? Fluttershy's techs have some Old Equestria medical tech that they found while scavenging amongst the ruins of a hospital. Apparently they found this replacement tongue and voice box for somepony long ago. Now I can speak to you for the first time. Its kinda weird isn't it?" Airborne shakes his head trying to find the right words to say to Celestial. Starshine lands behind Airborne and says, "Yeah, sorry I should have said something about this before we left New Cloudsdale. Celestial had passed along a note that I received from Rainbow Dash before we left saying that she had a new voice and wanted it to remain a secret that she didn't want you to know Airborne. Apparently she wanted to surprise you with it and I would say that it worked!" Starshine and Celestial laugh loudly as Fractured approaches from behind them.

He raises his left forehoof up to Airborne for a hoof-bump, Airborne quickly shakes his head and hoof-bumps Fractured saying, "It's good to see you again Fractured. What are you doing all the way down here?" Fractured replies, "Well after you defeated the Enclave I went back to the Crystal Empire and had the bodies of Princess Cadence and Shining Armor properly buried in a tomb we built for them. Afterwards I sent about cleaning up the Crystal City and rebuilding it. We are going to try and make the city liveable again for anypony who comes there. A month ago Fluttershy contacted me saying she needed my help on mission that she said you were going to be involved with. How could I say no after all that we had been through together also I feel like I owe you ever since I took you captive in the Crystal Empire. Call my appearance here as a way to repay you for the things that I have done."

Airborne replies, "You don't owe me anything Fractured. As far as I am concerned I owe you for saving my flank back in the Crystal Empire. So consider us even from now on okay." Fractured nods and pulls out a large trench knife from his utility barding saying, "We found this while combing through the ruins of the Crystal Place. I think it belonged to Shining Armor during the War, his cutie mark is on one side of the handle while Princess Cadence's is on the other side. I think they would want you to have it." Airborne carefully takes the knife and attaches it to his combat barding. He thanks Fractured and smiles as Sunrise pulls him into a hug.

Sunrise says, "So, are you ready to go? We are already behind schedule?" Airborne, Starshine, and Fractured collectively nod and then Sunrise says, "So, lets go!" They trot into the badlands towards the border of the former country of Mustangia to find out the what Discord has to do with Nightmare Moon's appearance. Elsewhere in the badlands a lone figure stands on clifftop overlooking a small valley watching a plume of black smoke rise in the distance. The figures face is hidden behind a cloak, the only revealing feature of the figures face is a horn that pokes out from beneath the cloak. The figure makes their way down the cliff side and walks towards the burnt out husks of a wagon circle.

Above the carrion crows circle ready to feed on the scattered bodies of a dozen ponies that lie among the remains of the wagons. Walking over to a couple of the bodies, the figure sees that it is a mother and foal. The mother attempting to shelter her foal from Death with one final embrace. What this pony could see however was something that no mortal pony in Equestria could ever see and that was the other figures wandering aimless among the burnt wagons and scattered personal effects. They were not solid figures, they appeared transparent in the fierce sunlight. Sitting next to the bodies of the mother and foal were the disembodied spirits of the same mother and foal. The mother's spirit stared fearfully at their former remains while still shielding the spirit of her foal in Death. The figure knew that Sleipnir's servants would be along shortly to escort the spirits of these ponies to the other side.

But these ponies were the reason why this figure was here. There was still a pony clinging to Life, and this figure knew they still had a job to do. Eventually the figure found the pony they had been looking for, the pony was a cream colored female Earth pony. Her cutie mark was hidden by the dried blood that clung to her flanks. She weakly opened her eyes as the figure approached. She said, "Who's there? I cannot see you properly. What do you want?" The figure spoke, "Don't worry I am a friend. I just came here to see if everypony was alright."

The voice that the spoke to this pony was distinctly male but it spoke with some authority like this pony had long ago possessed a position of power. As the figure got closer the female Earth pony could see that the figure was wearing a cloak. She started to panic and her heart began to race. The figure could sense the pony's distress and pulled back the hood of his cloak saying, "Don't worry I am not going to hurt you." The male Unicorn settles next to the female Earth pony and wraps his arm over her shoulder saying, "What is your name?" The female replied, "My name is Peach Cobbler. I was on my way to Equestria to join my husband when we were attacked by somepony. Everything happened so fast that I didn't get a good look at the pony that did this. When I awoke everypony was dead." Peach's eyes start to fill with tears as she gazes down to her wounded side, she then gazes back at the strange Unicorn saying, "I don't want to die here.I want to be with my husband." The strange Unicorn pulls Peach closer to him feeling that the moment is almost upon her. Peach looks up into the Unicorn's face and asks weakly, "Who are you?" The Unicorn replies, "I have no name."

Peach's eyes roll into her head and the Unicorn can feel the life fading from Peach's body. In the moment he feels everything that everything Peach Cobbler feels. Her fear and uncertainty as well as her regret that she will not be able to see her husband again. The Unicorn then performs his job, the reason he had come to this desolate spot in the Equestrian Wasteland. His hooves glow with a white aura as he gently reaches into Peach's body to separate her soul from her dying body. This was a task he was all to familiar with, he had lost count how many times he had performed this task over the centuries. It was always the same though, he would feel in the moment of a ponies death every single thing that they were feeling from their emotions to the pain they felt. It was a way to make him empathize with the recently deceased. Peach Cobbler's soul stood up and stepped out of her dead body like a snake shedding its skin.

When Peach Cobbler opened her eyes she turned to look at the strange Unicorn who appeared differently than he did before. His face was pale and his eyes were icy blue in color. He seemed to glow with a strange aura and she asked her voice sounding like a whisper, "What are you?"

The Unicorn replies, "What I am doesn't matter anymore. What matters is that you must move on." The Unicorn approaches Peach Cobbler's soul and says, "Go now, be at peace." Peach Cobbler's soul disappears in a flash of white light as she moves on. The Unicorn turns around and closes the eyelids on Peach Cobbler's now lifeless body. Using his Unicorn magic he digs a grave and levitates Peach's body into it then covers the body with layers of dirt. He then does the same for the rest of the of the ponies who were killed in the attack. By now Sleipnir's servants were already performing their task by escorting the spirits of the recently deceased to the other side. He hid his presence from them, not wanting them to mistake him for a dying pony. The Unicorn with no name walks away from the wreckage of the caravan and into the desert determined not to leave a trace of himself on the landscape for Sleipnir or anyone else watching to sense his presence. Preferring to remain another nameless ghost in this destroyed world that has no place for him.

Part Two: Ghost Of The Wastes

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Part Two: Ghost of the Wastes

Pulling out a canteen from his utility pack Airborne a long swig from it, feeling the cooling waters rush through his overheated insides. He passes the canteen to Fractured who dumps the contents of the canteen over his head then passes back the empty canteen to Airborne. Starshine angrily says, "Nice going Fractured! We could have used that water instead of you deciding to take an impromptu shower!"

Fractured looks back at her saying, "Maybe you ponies are used to this blasted heat but I am not! My skin is practically boiling out here." Celestial snorts and rolls her eyes trying to ignore the argument instead she focuses on a plume of black smoke rising steadily in the distance. Airborne notices her gaze and follows it seeing the smoke as well. Celestial says, "We should go investigate what happened. It might give us a clue where Discord or Nightmare Moon might be." The small group of ponies trots towards the smoke and they quickly begin to smell the pungent stench of burnt flesh. Coming over a rise they see the burnt remains of a wagon caravan and the hastily dug graves of the ponies who met an unfortunate end at the hooves of something.

Airborne trots down among the wreckage and stops before the first grave saying, "What do you think happened here? Somepony came by here before we did and buried these bodies." Sunrise pokes the remains of a wagon wheel and watches as it crumbles into a pile of ash. She notices a set of barely recognizable hoof-prints leading away from the destroyed caravan wreckage, the prints were only a few hours old. Whoever made them was still in the area. Sunrise turns and looks at the other ponies saying, "There is a set of prints here. They are still fresh, if we follow them we might find somepony who knows about this attack." While Sunrise and Airborne scout out the route the tracks head off in, Starshine and Fractured gather what little supplies they can from the remains of the caravan. Fractured comes across a small doll half buried beneath a pile of what used to be a wooden axle. He grabs a hold of the doll and stares at it then he looks at the blackened scorch marks carved into the ground like angry scars. He says, "Something foul happened here. What could have done this?"

Starshine trots over to him and sees he is holding a doll. She says, "Even though we have made the Wasteland safer for ponies to travel there are still a lot of threats that can claim somepony's life out here." Starshine takes the doll from Fractured and gives it a cuddle before placing it onto a small grave nearby. She turns to see Airborne and Sunrise returning from their scouting mission. Airborne says, "The hoof-prints head east. If we follow them we should be able to find somepony who has the answers we need." Starshine finishes loading the last of the supplies into her saddlebags saying, "Well let's get going. We need to find them before nightfall. I would rather not stick around to find out what did this in case it comes back." Airborne nods and trots away from the from the wreckage followed by the other ponies. As they leave a dark figure emerges from the shadows of the destroyed caravan. Her piercing blue eyes narrow and shes smiles sinisterly. She chuckles and says, "Well, what do we have here? Perhaps somepony worthy to finally challenge me?" Airborne turns thinking he heard something but doesn't see anything.

After a few hours they find that the tracks lead into a cave. Entering the cave Airborne hears a voice say, "Stay where you are if you value your life mortal. Otherwise I will defend myself." A blue light suddenly appears illuminating the face of a unicorn standing at the back of the cave. His face partially hidden behind the cowl of a tattered black cloak. Airborne can see the intent to kill in this pony's eyes should he make a wrong move.

Airborne hears Starshine, Fractured, and Sunrise readying their weapons, the unicorn reaches into the depths of his cloak and grabs onto something. Airborne says, "We mean you no harm. We just want to understand what caused the attack on the caravan. Whatever information you can give us would be very much appreciated." The unicorn looks at Airborne, the air around this Pegasi whispered silently to him. Telling him everything about this particular pony but unlike his companions this pony was different. He had been touched by Death, the experience had left traces on both his body and soul. But something had happened to reunite the two again. Something that could have only been accomplished with the magic the permeated Equestria. The unicorn says, "You have been to the other side and returned. Tell me how is it possible that you are still alive?"

Airborne pins his ears back in surprise and asks, "How do you know that?" The unicorn smiles slightly and then he says, "These kinds of things are for me to know. All those who can read the world like I can have this information at their disposal." Airborne asks, "What are you then?" The unicorn says,"Something beyond your comprehension, but where are my manners. Please sit and allow me to cook for you. I will tell you the information you seek." Airborne watches as the strange unicorn gathers up some scraps of wood from around the inside of the cave and using his magic he lights a fire. Fractured, Starshine, and Sunrise take their seats around the fire while Airborne cautiously sits next to the strange unicorn. The unicorn can feel the uneasiness that all these mortals feel and he says, "Don't worry I do not wish to cause you any harm. Please relax and enjoy your meal." The strange unicorn quickly produces a frying pan from his saddle bag and cooks a few slices of bloatsprite meat. Airborne says, "What do you know about the pony who attacked the caravan?"

The unicorn replies, "I don't know who attacked the caravan. I arrived on the site a few hours after the attack. There was only one survivor, everypony else was dead. What I do know is whomever attacked that caravan was exceedingly powerful. There are not very many ponies who possess that level of magical skill in the wasteland to destroy a well armed caravan. So whoever attacked it knew what they were doing although I doubt they had any intent to take what the caravan had as nothing was taken from the ruins of the wagons when I arrived. The only intent I could discern from the attack was that the pony wanted to cause as much destruction as possible. Only a maniacal fiend would attack a caravan with foals and mothers." Starshine and Airborne both look at each other and nod.

The unicorn says, "You don't seem as surprised to hear that. Mind telling me what you know?" Sunrise says, "We had received some conflict reports that both Discord and Nightmare Moon had been spotted in this region. We came here to investigate and if possible put a stop to whatever plan they both have come up with." The unicorn stands up and says, "I knew it. Only the God of Chaos could be so devious to attack caravans of innocent ponies and that would also explain the echoes of pain I felt from Princess Luna at the site of the attack. It would seem that Discord has violated the laws of nature to revive Princess Luna in whatever form she possesses now. What Sleipnir wouldn't give to wring the life out of that twisted Draconequus's neck."

Fractured stops eating and says, "Did you just say Sleipnir? What would you know about the Goddess of Death?" The unicorn looks at Fractured saying, "I know Sleipnir very well, you could say I know her intimately although it has been along time since I last saw her." Airborne asks, "Who is Sleipnir? I have never heard of her before." The strange unicorn replies, "Not very many ponies would recognize the name these days but she was as familiar to ponies as Discord was in the past. I am or was one of Sleipnir's servants tasked with the eternal duty of escorting the recently deceased spirits of the dead to the other side. But I have failed in my duty and know I am trapped here unable to properly perform my duty as her servant."

Airborne asks, "If you are a servant of Sleipnir what were you doing at the attacked caravan site?" The unicorn replies, "Even though I am trapped in the body of this mortal I can still perform my duty in separating the souls of those who are dying from their shells and making the process easier for them. Its the least I can do for them." The unicorn's hooves glow with a white aura and he continues to say, "I have been guiding the spirits of the dead to the other side for centuries. The way I am now however is an unintended consequence of me violating my duties to Sleipnir."

Starshine says, "If you don't mind, could you please tell us how you ended up this way. Maybe we can help you return to normal after we deal with Discord and Nightmare Moon." The strange unicorn replies, "As I said before I was a servant of Sleipnir. But before that I was a mortal the same as you are. I don't remember my old name but I only have flashes of my old life, a few precious memories I was allowed to keep before I became to be in Sleipnir's service. I don't know what made Sleipnir choose me to be one of her servants, I can only assume she attached some value to my abilities from my former life. All servants of Sleipnir are to obey a few unbreakable rules while they are in the employment of the Goddess of Death. The first is that they are to never to reveal our presence to the living with the only exception being when that pony's appointed time has come. Second, we are to never to intercede in the saving of anypony from Death, this is so the natural order of things is maintained. The last and most important rule is that we are to never to covet the life lives of any of the ponies we interact with, this is to prevent us from becoming to emotionally involved in the lives of the ponies who's souls we must part from this world. However upon the moment of death we feel everything that the specific pony we have been assigned to guide to the other side feels. We feel the final pains as their body dies to the emotions they feel. It is so we can empathize with them more effectively and guide them so they do not become a wandering spirit who cannot cross over."

Airborne asks, "So if you were once a servant of Sleipnir what made you violate your duty?" The unicorn stares into the fire and says, "The War changed everything not just for you mortals but for the servants of Sleipnir as well. Day by day more ponies were dying from the horrific wounds they had sustained in battle. Many of them dying before they even had a chance to fully live their lives. As the War dragged on our numbers grew, Sleipnir could not compensate for the amount of ponies we had to cross over on a daily basis. As a result the servants could not effectively perform our duties. The souls of those we could not cross over wandered through the physical realm in an attempt to reconnect with their old lives. Even today there are many places were these long dead ghosts linger and where the living can feel the confused emotions of the dead."

Fractured bites into the last piece of bloatsprite meat on his plate before belching loudly while rubbing his now distended belly. The sound doesn't even phase the strange unicorn as he goes onto say, "From seeing all that seen and felt during the War I came to understand how truly precious life was and how easily it could be thrown away when hatred consumed somepony causing them to kill somepony else. There was one couple however that I came across during that chaotic time that managed to hold onto the love they felt for each other. Even when they were on the front lines killing other ponies they still didn't allow the reality of the horrors of war to drown the feelings they felt for each other. You could say I became envious of what they had. I wanted to experience this for myself but I could not because of my duties to Sleipnir. When I had made up my mind that I had to experience what they had at least once before I could go back to fulfilling my duties it was too late."

"Everything ended so suddenly I had to act fast. Both of these lovers I had been watching over were stationed in the city of Manehattan on The Last Day. When the bombs dropped I possessed the body of the male and infused my magic with his to create a large protective shield to protect us both. But my efforts were in vain she died before the shield could fully enclose us and I was trapped inside of her lover's body. Spirits of Death are never meant to inhabit a physical form and I found out the hard way why that was. When I possessed the male I had destroyed his soul and his body underwent a metamorphosis. Effectively I became immortal, my body will never age nor can it ever come to harm. Also I do not need to eat or sleep. But while this might seem like a blessing it has been a curse I have endured for two hundred years. I lost my one chance to feel something real for the first time and my actions only ensured that the love I had so admired came to a very tragic end. So now I am trapped as a living immortal in a world that has no place for a living servant of Sleipnir." Tears streak down the sides of both Starshine's and Sunrise's muzzles while Airborne sits stunned digesting all he had just heard. Fractured just stares blankly at the cave wall ahead of him not saying a word.

Airborne finally says, "So what will you do know then? You have been still attempting to perform your duty as a servant of Sleipnir for these past two hundred years for some reason. Maybe you can come with us and find out that reason for yourself." The strange unicorn stares at the Pegasi and says, "Perhaps I will anything is better than just sitting here waiting for Sleipnir or Discord to find me. If I aid you in your quest I can finally redeem myself in the eyes of Sleipnir." Airborne smiles and says, "We never did get to introduce ourselves. My name is Airborne, and this is Starshine, Sunrise, and Fractured Heart." Airborne gestures to each of them then asks, "What is your name?"

The unicorn shakes his head and says, "I have no name. I gave whatever name I had up when I became a servant of Sleipnir and I will not take the name of the unicorn in whose body I reside. It would not be a fitting way to honor the memory of the lives I destroyed in my selfish actions to have what I should not possess." Starshine says, "Well we cannot simply call you nothing so I will call you Duty as it seems to be a fitting attribute that you have." The unicorn mulls the name over and says, "The name Duty will do. So call me that from now. But for now you ponies should get some rest. We have a long day of searching tomorrow. I will stand guard and watch over you until you awaken."

The next day Airborne awakens to find that Duty had already prepared for them breakfast. He says, "We were planning on traveling further south today towards the border of what used to be Mustangia. But I am curious what direction you think we should travel in?"

Duty replies, "I was heading south as well. From listening to the information I was able to gather from the caravan attack site the individual responsible for its destruction fled south shorty after they destroyed the caravan." As they both speak they suddenly look over to Fractured as he flips onto his back with all four of his hooves pointed into the air. He flails them around mimicking like he is running as a pool of drool soaks the ground underneath his head. Duty and Airborne laugh hysterically, their laughter awakening both Starshine and Sunrise.

Starshine rubs her eyes with her left forehoof saying, "I don't see what is so funny that you both had to laugh so loudly to wake me up." She then notices Fractured's strange behavior and starts to laugh as well. Sunrise quickly takes notice of Fractured's flailing form as he rolls around the cave floor and she quickly doubles over laughing so hard she holds onto her sides from the pain. Fractured rolls over the fiery embers from the previous days fire and whinnies in pain as he springs to his hooves wriggling his nose from the smell of burnt hair. He sees all of his friends laughing at him and his face turns crimson. He says, "Nice of you all to wake me up before I rolled over a bed of hot coals. I really do appreciate it."

Airborne catches his breath replying, "Sorry Fractured. I would have woken you up but you seem so content in your sleep. I figured I will continue to let you get some rest before we headed out. Although I don't know why you were flailing about so much. What were you dreaming about anyway?" Fractured's face turns a deeper shade of red and he doesn't respond. Duty says, "I can tell you all what the Crystal pony was dreaming if you desire to hear it." Fractured says, "Don't you dare say anything or I will have to test how immortal you really are." Duty ignores the threat knowing the Crystal pony was only saying that because of his hurt pride or his burnt flank, it was hard to tell when a pony was feeling so much at one moment. Starshine and Sunrise continue to snigger at Fractured who simply sticks his tongue out at them. An hour later they had packed up their camp and followed an old buffalo trail further south towards the border of Mustangia and hopefully Airborne thought to the location of either Discord or Nightmare Moon.

Part Three: Nightmare In The Badlands

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Part Three: Nightmare in the Badlands

Fluttershy sat staring out her window at the horizon as she often did, contemplating what might have been had she the power to undo fate and remake the world into what it once was. She was still trying to adjust to this new world that resembled so much of the old one but in many ways was merely an echo of it. Twenty years had passed since Littlepip changed Equestria's fate for the better but she had to wonder had the change that the little unicorn mare from Stable 2 ushered in would last. There were in so many dark places in this shattered world where the embers of the war that had destroyed her world lay dormant, simply awaiting somepony to spark the flame of hatred that would scorch the world once more. Fluttershy's pensive stare was broken by the sound of familiar wing beats as Rainbow Dash landed outside. She took comfort in knowing that at least one of her friends still walked by her side in these uncertain times.

Rainbow knocks on her door and Fluttershy says, "Come in." Rainbow enters the room wearing her old armor from her days with the Shadowbolts. Behind her enters a small guard of six ponies all dressed in salvaged Enclave power armor reflecting the latest weapons tech that had come into the Dashite's possession.

Rainbow dismisses her guard with a wave of her forehoof before sitting down in a chair across from Fluttershy saying, "So, Fluttershy how are you doing these days?"

Fluttershy replies, "I am alright Rainbow Dash. Just worrying about things I cannot change. What brings you here?" Rainbow looks at her then turns looking out the window saying, "What do you think Airborne will really find out there? Do you really believe Discord is back after all this time? And what of Nightmare Moon? Can your reports really be that accurate?"

Fluttershy sighs and gets up from her chair then starts to pace about the room saying, "I don't really know how much I can be certain of these days Rainbow Dash but what I do know is that I haven't seen Discord for two hundred years. As his friend I feel it is my duty to offer whatever aid I can to him. Things have changed since the war and its possible that Discord has become a hurt and confused creature who only wants somepony to be his friend again. As for Nightmare Moon, I cannot say why she has appeared from beyond the grave. Magic is a strange force in our world, its possible that it even defies Death itself. All shall be revealed whenever we receive our next report from Sunrise in a few days."

Rainbow Dash replies, "You are hinging the fate of Equestria on betting that Airborne and his friends will find something out there. Do you believe that he will succeed? Granted he has done so much for us and Equestria already but Discord might be more that he can handle." Fluttershy turns to Rainbow Dash and replies, "The fate of Equestria doesn't hinge on Airborne because of what he has done in the past, its rests in his hooves because I have faith in him. Airborne will find away to triumph over any obstacle because that is what his friends enable him to do." Rainbow Dash smiles and nods at her friends words. The power of friendship was still as potent a force these days as it was in her day. She silently hoped that Airborne would prove her friend right, because the consequences if she was wrong were too ghastly to conceive of.

Far to the South a small band of ponies heads towards the border of Mustangia. It was like stepping back in time as the group entered a vast wasteland of wartime vehicles and other abandoned wrecks that lay strewn across what once was a large road leading North. The majority of the wrecks had long been gutted of anything valuable and all that remained were the shells of vehicles, some that nopony could even remember the names to. Looking at all the detritus of a war long passed Sunrise asks, "What happened here?"

Duty replies, "During the war this road was used for military convoy's. When the bombs went off across Equestria, this convoy was caught by the fallout from those detonations. Many of the ponies who were apart of this convoy died as a result of the radiation. It was not a very happy ending for them."

Starshine asks, "How could you know that?" Duty turns and looks over his shoulder back at her. For the briefest moment Starshine can see his true age reflected in the strange depths of this immortal ponies eyes before saying, "Oh, right I am sorry for asking. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

Duty replies, "I was not offended by your question. I have gotten used to you mortal's curiosity about what I am. Besides your friend Sunrise can easily inform you about what happened in Mustangia with that device on her forehoof."

Sunrise looks down at her Pipbuck then back at Duty saying, "How did you know that?" Duty cracks a smile and chuckles saying, "I know much about the technology of this world. But I didn't need to be familiar with your technology to know you carry a great abundance of information that is stored around your hoof. As a servant of Sleipnir I can read the smallest amount of information from the wind and the soil. Also the secret thoughts that pass through your mind are known to me but I never invade a ponies privacy when it comes to their inner most thoughts."

Surnsie calls up the appropriate files on her Pipbuck and says, "Fluttershy was able to fill me in on some of the history of Mustangia during the war. I figured having this information might help us in our search for Discord and Nightmare Moon. During the war, Mustangia provided arms and food to the war effort. Eventually the need for new recruits to fill the ranks of Equestria's military led Princess Luna to annex Mustangia and absorb it into Equestria. This decision was not received very well and led to wide spread rioting in Mustangia. Many of those who lived there were more than willing to send material aid to the battlefront but after hearing about how horrific the war had become and seeing how high the death toll was many ponies weren't willing to send their sons and daughters to fight for Equestria just to have them sent home in a box a few months later if they were lucky to recover their remains. Eventually Mustangia was cited as a priority target by the Zebra Empire for destruction. The war destroyed Mustangia as it did Equestria."

Airborne says, "Sounds like Mustangia is going to be just as pleasant as the Equestrian Wasteland. No wonder why Discord chose to hide out here." On the horizon a large cluster of shapes appears and Airborne asks Duty, "What are those?"

Duty replies, "The place has no name only a purpose. It is where many refugees fleeing from Mustangia have gathered and formed a settlement before their final push across the badlands into Equestria. Its a good place for us to start to find the most recent sightings of either Nightmare Moon or Discord in the area before we cross the border to Mustangia."

As they got closer the walls of a large compound came into view. The ponies who lived here had erected a large wall made out of scrapped military transports and various other vehicles they had dragged out of the wastes. Then wielding them together they had made a rather formidable fortification. From above on a catwalk a voice calls down,"Stop right where you are otherwise I won't hesitate to blow your head off. State the nature of your business here?" Duty replies, "We are mere travelers seeking shelter from the harshness of the wastes. Will you allow us entry?" The massive hulking door to the settlement slowly opened, the metal grinding and screeching as the door raised up. The guard above them waved his forehoof and said, "You can enter just don't cause any problems."

The door revealed the settlement before them. A small narrow avenue clustered with ramshackle buildings stacked awkwardly upon each other giving the settlement a haphazard appearance. Duty took the lead as the group of ponies walked into the town. Many of the Mustangs that lived here closed the windows of their homes as the group of strangers passed by. Others simply lowered their heads and pulled the hoods of their cloaks over their faces to hide the glaring stares they were giving the strangers. It was seldom that the settlement received visitors journeying from the north along the road, most of the traffic came from the south but even that had trickled off in the past few weeks. Airborne looks around and says, "Not a very welcoming place is it?"

Duty replies, "I cannot say I blame them for being this way. A lot of dark rumors have been floating around the wastes lately and the ponies here have always been a suspicious bunch. They are less likely to trust strangers now more than ever." Duty hears a high pitched screaming coming from one of the alleyways. Dashing towards the sound he finds a small filly curled up at the hooves of a menacing and heavily scarred pony brandishing a large revolver. Duty senses this pony's intentions and he pulls out a large knife with a thin blade. Airborne notices the blade almost seems to pulsate and it gives off an uncomfortable feeling that makes Airborne shiver in fear of it.

Duty pounces onto the raider pony and stabs the blade into the center of the pony's chest. The pony looks surprised as it looks up at Duty then down to the blade that pierced its chest. The raider pony starts flailing around trying to shove the strange pony off of it. The blade of the knife Duty holds turns blue, Duty presses the knife into the raider pony's heart and mutters something Airborne cannot pick up. The raider pony's eyes widen before he lets out a panicked whinny. Something seems to leave the pony as the blade pierces his heart. A sound of something being shredded echoes through the alleyway before the raider pony's eyes cloud over and appear empty with the light fading from them leaving a look of absolute horror remaining. Duty turns to the young filly and says, "Are you alright young one?" The filly nods sobbing wiping the tears away from her eyes with her forehoof saying, "Thank you mister. I don't know what that nasty pony wanted but thanks for saving me." The filly quickly gets up and runs off.

Airborne looks astonished at Duty and asks, "What did you do to him?" Duty places the knife back into its sheath and says, "This is what happens when unjust souls meet their right and proper end. This blade allows me to destroy the souls of those who are unworthy to bear them. Outside of shepherding the souls of the deceased to the other side we can intervene in the the lives of evil ponies and makes sure they come to the end they so rightfully deserve and that was what happened with this piece of filth." Duty turns and leaves the alleyway with the others following close behind him.

Duty recommends that they check out the local cantina for any information that might lead them to the whereabouts of either Discord or Nightmare Moon. Duty trots into a dingy lit building opposite the alleyway. Groups of ponies huddle around low shabby tables. Most are dressed in dirty and stained clothing with some wearing the rags wrapped around their muzzles concealing their suspicious glares as Duty walks into the cantina followed by the rest of his group. Duty pulls up a stool to the bar and takes a seat, Airborne sits next to him while the other ponies sit at a table facing the front entrance looking out for any potential threat from the cantina's patrons. Duty leans over and whispers something to the bartender Airborne cannot hear then Duty turns to him saying, "He says several caravans coming up from Mustangia have been hit over the past few days by some mysterious force. The latest attack was only a few hours ago south of here."

Airborne asks, "Were there any survivors of the attack?"

Duty nods replying, "Yes, there was at least one survivor of the attack. Currently they are resting at the healers home but they aren't expected to make it. We should get over there right away." As Duty tells Airborne the news about the survivor, a pony at the back corner gets up and makes their way towards the front entrance. Fractured notices the pony and nudges Starshine who's ears perk up and swivel around to the pony's direction.

Starshine says, "Fractured once that pony leaves follow them and detain them if you can. I want to know what they are up to." Fractured nods subtlety and follows the strange pony at a short distance out of the cantina. The strange pony rounds the corner and just as Fractured rounds the corner he hears a bone chilling maniacal laugh and his eyes widen as he whinnies in fright, "By the Goddesses!"

A massive explosion rocks the cantina shattering the windows and sending Airborne, Duty, and the other ponies in the cantina flying into the far wall opposite the bar. The fragile chairs and tables crash back down to the floor shattering into pieces. Airborne shakes his head and feels around for his hat through the clouds of dust and dirt hanging in the air in a thick cloud. Starshine hands Airborne his hat saying, "Make sure to keep it on your head. I doubt Braeburn would appreciate you losing his favorite hat." Airborne thanks her and places the hat back on his head tightening the chin straps. Rushing out of the cantina and into the street that is filled with panicking ponies rushing hither and thither about. Airborne races towards smoke rising from an alleyway two blocks up the street. They find Fractured lying on his back covered in debris.

Starshine and Duty help him to his hooves and are surprised to find that he is perfectly fine. Starshine asks, "What happened to you Fractured?" Fractured coughs and replies, "It was Nightmare Moon, she is loose in the village! She is after the caravan attack survivor!" Starshine snorts nervously and paws at the ground wanting to find Nightmare Moon before she can kill the survivor.

Starshine leds the group of ponies towards the healers home. Airborne notices a large sparkling mass phase through the front door of the home. Airborne rushes over to the door and kicks it in firing at the shadowy mass before it enters a room at the back of the house. The mass quickly bursts through a nearby window laughing. Airborne trots into the back room and finds the village healer pointing a pistol at his chest. Behind her lying on the bed is a small filly hooked up to some Old Equestria medical tech. Airborne slings his rifle behind him and raises his hooves saying, "I mean you no harm. I just want to ask the filly a few questions about the caravan attack."

The healer lowers her weapon and allow Airborne to approach the filly's bedside. The filly weakly opens her eyes and says, "Who...are you...Mister?" Airborne replies, "My name is Airborne, the reason I am here is because I came to find out what happened when your! caravan was attacked and to put a stop to them." The filly coughs and starts to cry. "My mommy and daddy were traveling in the caravan from our home when some wicked pony lady attacked us. There was so much blood! She tore my mommy in half and incinerated my daddy!" Duty waits outside feeling the filly's moment nearing trying to avoid being seen by Sleipnir's servant. Starshine and Fractured watch as the black mass circles menacingly overhead. Sunrise says, "Why doesn't she just attack us? She must know we cannot stop her." Celestial with her mechanical voice says, "She is a sadist, a predator enjoying the thrill of the hunt before she claims her prey."

The filly continues to tell Airborne the details of the attack before she starts to shudder saying, "Mister Airborne....I know I am going to join my mommy and daddy soon but please I don't want to die!" Tears start to stream down Airborne's muzzle and he gently pulls the filly into a hug. The filly smiles briefly before shuddering then falling silent. Outside Duty feels the filly's soul depart from this world and he says a brief prayer for her. Airborne let's go of the filly's body and pulls the blanket over her head. Airborne turns to the healer and sees she is crying. The healer says, "Thank you for making her final moments more peaceful. Please find whomever did this to her and put a bullet in their head." Airborne nods and leaves the room.

As Airborne leaves the healer's home he sees the black mass take the shape of Nightmare Moon. She looks down at the male Pegasi focusing her icy blue eyes into thin slits as her blue mane and tail ripple about her. Airborne shouts up to her, "Princess Luna! Why are you attacking these innocent ponies? I though you had changed!" Nightmare Moon laughs saying, "I have not changed you insignificant and foalish pony. I am still this lands rightful ruler after my sister abandoned me in this desolate place."

Starshine says, "Princess Luna, your sister didn't abandon you or Equestria! Everypony thought you had died in the War. What are you doing helping Discord?"

Nightmare Moon laughs saying, "I, Nightmare Moon did not die in that war. It will take a lot more than some Zebras magic to kill me. I do not serve that pathetic draconequus, he serves me. I will not allow my sister and her influence to continue to corrupt Equestria. Look at what she has done to my land, she has destroyed everything and I will crush anypony who gets in my way!" Nightmare Moon's horn glows and she creates a magical beam that destroys at least three blocks of the village setting them on fire. Celestial aims her battle-saddle at Nightmare Moon firing at her. The bullets pass through Nightmare Moon's wings clipping them sending pieces of black feathers spiraling down towards the ground. Nightmare Moon horn starts to glow again with her devilish magic. Fractured shouts, "We need to get out of here now before she blows us to pieces!"

Sunrise runs into the healer's home and grabs the mare who wraps her hooves around the filly's body saying, "I won't leave her!" Sunrise helps the healer place the filly's body onto her back and they quickly leave her home before Nightmare Moon blows it up creating a large crater in the ground. Sunrise covers the filly's body with her own protecting it from the bits of wood and metal raining down onto the small group of ponies.

The ponies living in the village start to evacuate as Nightmare Moon continues her onslaught blasting many of the homes and walls of the village into smoking ruins. Airborne gets off of the ground and watches Nightmare Moon rain down her fury upon the innocent inhabitants of the village. He yells up to her, "Princess! You don't have to do this! There has to be a better way!" Nightmare Moon pays little heed to Airborne's comments. Starshine pulls on Airborne's tail saying, "You cannot get through to her Airborne she is too consumed by her hatred for Princess Celestia and whatever lies Discord has fed her has corrupted her further. We have to find Discord to put an end to all of this madness to bring peace to Princess Luna and Equestria." Airborne nods and looks up sadly at Nightmare Moon one final time then joins his friends in evacuating the village helping as many Mustangs as they can escape from Nightmare Moon's wrath. After leaving the village Duty asks, "So, what did the filly say to you? Did she know where Discord was hiding?"

Airborne nods saying, "Yes she did. She said her caravan was hit once crossing the border from Mustangia but they had been followed all the way on their journey to the border so Discord is likely hiding inside what used to be Mustangia. We should go there right now to find that trickster and make him pay for everything he has done." Fractured snorts and says, "Sounds like a plan so let's get going already." He turns around and begins trotting down the road towards Mustangia followed closely by the other ponies. Airborne begins to wonder what they will find once they cross the border into Mustangia, a land where nopony has been since the Great War. A feeling in the pit of his stomach makes him feel nervous about what they might find down this road to into the past.

Part Four: Stale Memories On The Wind

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Part Four: Stale Memories On The Wind

The pale sunlight beamed down through the dust and grime, rays twisted around down through the shattered blackened limbs of the trees over him that seemed to point down menacingly. In his mind flashed what these bucolic woods appeared before the Flash. Small woodland critters flitting in the branches of the trees as small green leaves floated down on a warm wind. Next to him trotted the mare whom he wanted to give his heart to. She was his whole world, even in this place of extreme beauty he ignored everything else. The memory faded as the wind howled stinging his face irritating his eyes making them bloodshot. The rags that were once pulled tightly around his muzzle were made loose by the tearing wind, he tried to ignore the mountains of sand that filled his vision but the feeling of guilt the accusing fingers above made him feel. He was the only living thing in this place of death. He was also a lie, walking on borrowed hooves wearing another pony's life in whose body he now occupied.

Airborne carefully shook Duty awake from what seemed like a restful slumber. Duty quickly pounced onto Airborne pressing his strange knife to his throat. Airborne's eyes widen in shock and he gulps nervously watching the knife press into him. Inside he could feel something stirring wanting to wrench free of his body. His very soul seemed to quiver at the touch of the knife. Airborne could feel himself fading into darkness and what waited beyond that was bleak nothingness. He wouldn't even so much as be a memory to his friends should Duty plunge the knife into his throat. Gradually Duty lifted the knife away from Airborne's throat.

"It's unwise to touch me young Mortal." He said as he sheathed the knife back. Airborne picked up his hat, his hooves trembling from the experience. "I will make note of that Duty. Tell me though if you don't sleep why did you close your eyes?" Airborne asked. Duty sat silently not uttering a single word. Airborne let the silence remain having felt that maybe he had pried too deep into the mysterious pony. "I was not sleeping just merely remembering things from before. Even though this body is not my own I possess the memories of this pony who's life I stole."

Airborne rubbed the back of his head having felt that he pried to far into Duty. Duty sensing his feelings pats Airborne on the shoulder, "You did nothing wrong Airborne and thanks for your concern. I am not used to other ponies asking about how I am doing." Airborne smiles hands a small pouch to Duty. "I am not sure if you like to eat but here are some of my wife's apple crisp cookies." Duty holds the small pouch and opens it carefully with his hoof. The aroma from the pouch tickles his nostrils as a smile slowly spreads across his otherwise stoic muzzle. Duty removes a cookie from the pouch and takes a quick bite of it. Normally he doesn't tend to eat the food of mortals but it would be rude to refuse such a kind offer after he nearly slit Airborne's throat by accident. The cookie was warm and briefly the bright smile of somepony flashed in Duty's mind before fading into darkness.

Duty blinked as he felt tears rolling down his cheeks, lifting a forehoof to his muzzle Duty caught a tear as it fell off of him. Looking at the gleaming liquid Duty could have sworn he saw a face smiling at him. Duty blinked and the image was gone. Shaking his forehoof the tear disappeared, being soaked into the dry cave floor. Fractured turned over in his sleep snoring loudly, the sound echoing through the cave. "I am glad the others are able to sleep with him snoring so loudly." Airborne laughs while Duty chuckles slightly.

The next morning the small group of ponies left the safety of the cave they had sheltered in during the night. A few hours later they had crossed the border into Mustangia. Sunrise only had noticed they had crossed the border when she trotted over the sign causing the aged metal to clang loudly under her hooves. Brushing away two hundred years of silt, she barely makes out the words, "Mustangia welcomes you." The royal crest of the Princesses was barely visible, the paint had cracked over the years after sitting under the harsh sun. The other ponies came over and stared down at the sign. "At least we know that we have finally arrived. Now all we have to do is find Discord." Starshine said as she looked around her cautiously.

Duty looked up from the sign towards the twisted jagged structures which rippled up from the horizon. "Our goal lies there." He said as he pointed at the dead city. "That city was once Cimarron, the capital of Mustangia. If we are to find our foe chances are that is a good place to start looking for them." Airborne looks at the city ruins in the distance and tightens his armored barding and checks his weapons. The others look at him and do likewise. Duty watched the ponies prepare themselves thinking, "It would appear that they can handle themselves. It's good to know that ponies like this can defend those who can't fight for themselves still exist." Fractured opens his canteen and takes a swig of water. "So I think I will be the one to say it. We are officially in enemy territory now. Every move we make Discord will no doubt be watching or worse Nightmare Moon." Duty nods.

The ruins of Cimarron were at least two days walk ahead of them. Passing by the wrecks of downed Raptors that had been caught in the blast when the city of Cimarron was destroyed. Other than the occasional burnt out husk of a carriage containing the skeletons of the Mustangs who were unfortunate enough to be within the blast radius of Cimarron there wasn't a single pony anywhere to be seen. "Most of those living near the city have fled since Nightmare Moon appeared." Duty said. Although there were no living ponies around every now and again lay the body of somepony who had died with a look of sheer terror on their muzzle. The air around the bodies crackled and snapped in a weird way, the remnant of some strange enchantment that had killed them. Duty was unable to discern what enchantment had killed the ponies but whatever the spell was it was far more powerful than anything that a normal Unicorn was able to produce. As night approached the small band stopped in the village of Kiger.

The village wasn't very large and despite the War it had survived relatively intact. Searching through the rubble Starshine and Fractured found some Pre-War food. Sunrise had managed to start a fire in the ruins of an old department store. As night fell Airborne patted his stomach, as he leaned back on his bedroll he saw somepony lurking beyond the ruined doorway. Carefully reaching for his weapon he slowly lifted it. The others sitting nearby didn't seem to notice and they faded as Airborne took aim through the scope on his rifle. Who emerged in the firelight made Airborne's heart stop, it was his great-grandmother Lightning Dust. His eyes widened in surprise, only once before had his great-grandmother visited him like this and it wasn't exactly something he was used to. The world where the dead stayed dead made more sense than having their ghosts come back to offer pieces of advice to their living descendents but Lighting Dust looked more solid than a spirit come back from the grave.

Lightning Dust smiled at her great-grandson and brushed a lock of hair off his muzzle. Her smile was warm, it made Airborne feel both uneasy and at home. Looking around he saw that his companions were gone just leaving him and his great-grandmother by the fire alone together. Airborne slowly lowered his weapon but didn't easy his pressure on the guns trigger. Lightning Dust perked her ears and smiled once more at her great-grandson. "Airborne, do you really think I am here to hurt you?" Airborne shrugs and shoulders his weapon while keeping his eyes fixed on her. "I don't know why you are here or what exactly you are. The last time I saw you was at Baleout's funeral and you didn't exactly look so alive then as you do now." Lightning Dust sat down by the fire and helped herself to some food. Airborne sat a few feet away watching her. "So why are you back? Don't you have to move on or something?"

Lightning Dust swallowed her meal, "I came back because I wanted to spend sometime with my great-grandson. Honestly Airborne I figured you would be happy to see me again." Airborne blinks and shuffles his hooves in embarrassment, "It isn't like I didn't want to see you again Grandma but I had expected that we would see each other when I umm passed on." Lightning Dust chuckles. "Well I did have a reason in coming back to see you again Airborne and that was to say why are you doing here in Mustangia? You should be at home with your wife in New Cloudsdale."

Airborne sighs and trots over then sits by her side. "Its not like I want to be here grandmother its just this is something that I have to do. Rainbow Dash herself gave me this mission to find out where either Nightmare Moon or Discord is and I intend to see it through to the end. Then I will go home to New Cloudsdale." Lightning Dust wraps her hoof around Airborne's shoulder while she leans in close to him. "I am just worried that you might not make it back from this trip Airborne. Going to look for both of them seems like a really bad idea, just go home and you won't have to find out where this path leads to." Lightning Dust says as she leans away again helping herself to more food. Airborne looks at his grandmother and smiles slightly feeling his cheeks grow red as his grandmother's words sank into him. It wasn't like there wasn't any truth in them after all he and his friends were going to out why the two most powerful Pre-War entities were still roaming around. Even though he wanted to return home to New Cloudsdale this was a mission given to him by Rainbow Dash herself. She had placed her trust in him to see this mission through to the end and he didn't want to let her down.

Airborne sighs, "I can't go back to New Cloudsdale after not having completing my mission Grandma. Like I said this is something I have to do so please just help give me the courage to get this done." Lightning Dust frowns at his response and stands up looking down at her grandson. Airborne pins his ears back at having felt that he upset his great-grandmother. "You will die here Airborne. Going after them is a foalish thing to do. If you are so determined to die then don't expect me to see you when you arrive on the other side." Airborne flicks his tail in annoyance and before he can respond Duty appears saying, "Enough of this!" He grabs onto Airborne and jerks him around as he does so the angry image of his grandmother Lightning Dust disappears.

The next thing he knows he is laying on his back staring up through the hole in the ceiling of the building at the twinkling distant stars above him. Airborne sits up and feels a knot in the pit of his stomach. Duty stands nearby, his chest heaving and his flanks covered in sweat. Duty looks at him, "It took me awhile but I finally broke the enchantment that held you and the other mortals in its grasp. The enchantment was draining your life forces, if I hadn't broken it then it would have killed you all." As the others awoke they all looked at each other in complete disbelief. Sunrise nervously said, "Did you all experience what I just did?" The other ponies just nod in surprise.

Fractured looks at Sunrise, "Who did you see?" Tears start to streak down the sides of Sunrise's cheeks, "I saw Baleout. But then he disappeared as Duty helped us. He said that if I didn't return to New Cloudsdale that I would die on this journey." Celestial nods and coughs, her metal voice whirring to life, "Well if this is Discord's trickery then he made the mistake of pissing me off. I say we continue on to find that twisted draconequus and put a bullet in between his eyes." Duty rolls his eyes and walks outside. Airborne and the rest of the ponies follow him.

He turns looking at them sternly saying, "Do you really think it's going to be that easy to kill Discord? That a bullet between his eyes is really going to stop the God of Chaos? What a foalish notion! Every step we take towards Cimarron we have to watch out for more tricks like the enchantment I just saved you from because you can bet on a pretty bit that he has far worse in store for us. Even I can recognize that and I am immortal. Don't let your guard down for even a second in this land of death otherwise you will end up just like those who we passed on the roads and if he has indeed managed to enlist the help of Nightmare Moon then I fear for all those who live in Equestria. With her at his side Discord could reign supreme over everypony and everything. Nopony will be able to match their combined power. So I suggest we put all foalish bravado aside and realize that we are up against two of the greatest threats that Equestria has ever faced. The only way we will triumph against them is to never underestimate our opponents and to find a way to deal with them. Otherwise I don't look forward to having to perform my job on those who I have come to consider brothers in arms."

Airborne was taken aback by Duty's statement, the normally enigmatic Servant of Sleipnir didn't tend to share much of himself with others so this sudden outburst showed that there was more to this deathless pony than it seemed. Celestial clicks her tongue and snorts in annoyance at having been lectured by Duty. She then turns in embarrassment trotting back into the building. Sunrise and Starshine both hug Duty tightly, "Thanks for saving us Duty. Its nice to know that underneath that fierce demeanor that there is somepony who genuinely cares about us." They both collectively say as they let go of Duty. Duty while he doesn't smile at their hug does nod in response before heading back inside of the building. Airborne and the others join them to get some rest after their ordeal in order to make the final push towards Cimarron in the morning. As Airborne starts to close his eyes Starshine cuddles close to his side, the warmth of his wife comforts him as he closes his eyes hearing his grandmothers words echo in his mind, "You will die here Airborne."

Part Five: Hard Roads Are Never Easy To Trot

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Part Five: Hard Roads Are Never Easy To Trot

The road to Cimarron was taking longer than expected. All along the road Discord had placed a number of traps designed to make anypony falter and turn back. Some of the traps bore his trademark sense of chaotic humor. Once Airborne felt himself having walked backwards, retracing his steps only when did he notice his hoofprints in the sand that he stopped and turned around to face the ruins of Cimarron in the distance to make sure he actually would walk in the right direction. The rest of the spells drained the ponies of their strength, every now and again did they have to stop to regain their energy. Only till Duty cast a spell on them that helped block the effects of Discord's necrotic magic. After that they started to make some real progress towards Cimarron. There wasn't anything left of the outskirts of the city. Most of them were thatched roofed multi-story buildings made of timber. Most had burnt to the ground only leaving charred outlines in the dirt of where they once stood. Among the burnt piles of wood poked out yellowish colored objects that Airborne mistook for some kind of cactus but upon closer inspection it was revealed that they were in fact old bones turned yellow by decades of sitting exposed to the brutal sunlight above.

"What happened here Sunrise?" Airborne asked. Sunrise lifted her forehoof up to look at her PipBuck. Scrolling through the records in her PipBuck, Sunrise reads off the limited reports Rainbow Dash had collected about the fate of Cimarron. "The city of Cimarron was heavily targeted during the War. They hadn't even completed the building of the stables that were to house the city's population when the bombs fell. Anypony who was caught inside of the city was instantly killed. Any of the mustangs who survived the bombs did so because they were away from the city when it happened. This is why Mustang ponies are rarely encountered back in Equestria. They are practically on the verge of extinction." While the ponies talked Duty cast his eyes about the broken remains of the houses. The souls of Cimarron still lingered in this place. The problem with so many ponies having died during The Last Day is that there wasn't enough servants to help those who recently lost their bodies to move on. Duty had no doubt that some of the residents of Cimarron had moved onto the other side on their own but most still remained living out their last moments over and over again for 200 years. A fate Duty considered worse than Death.

Duty knew that even though they relived their last moments over and over again often ghosts would wander away from the site where they had died to roam the wasteland in search of anypony they felt might comfort them in their eternal agony often seeking long lost descendents to connect with but these ponies were different they seemed to be stuck in this hellish place. Something or somepony had cast a spell that drew on the life forces. Such a spell was beyond Discord's ability to weave. The spell was very similar to the one they had encountered a few days prior but on a much larger scale. Only one such pony in all of recorded history wielded such a malignant power and she was thought to be long dead. "Nightmare Moon" Duty whispered under his breath.

Celestial had heard Duty say something under his breath. She was still smarting from the tongue lashing she had received from the immortal unicorn a few days prior. Her pride hurt just as much as her sore hooves did. As she turned to say something, in the distance she noticed something with large black wings take off from the nearest ruined skyscraper. She whirled around to Fractured Heart who nodded, "We need to find a place to hide! Now!" Starshine quickly searched among the ruins of the houses, she eventually found the entrance to an intact basement did the other ponies rush inside after she removed the debris that covered the entrance. The large winged creature flew closer, peeping outside Airborne looked up to see that the pony that flew overhead was none other than Nightmare Moon herself. The long dead alicorn wore a grimaced smile that spread across her muzzle. Clearly wherever the princess was bound she was up to no good Airborne thought. Nightmare Moon flew overhead and didn't notice the ponies hiding in the basement like breezies cowering in the shadows. As the princess disappeared from view Airborne breathed a sigh of relief.

Ever since Airborne had learned the purpose of his mission into Mustangia and the possibility of facing down both Discord and Nightmare Moon terrified him but facing down one of the legendary princesses made his legs shake. Equestria's Pre-War rulers had developed a godlike status among the ponyfolk of Equestria. There wasn't any point in denying the fact that Equestria's duo rulers had access to magical abilities that far outstripped that of any unicorn. The legacy of Nightmare Moon was enough to still strike fear into the hearts of anypony who so much as even heard her name uttered aloud despite her having redeemed herself in the eyes of her subjects as Princess Luna.

Starshine looked at Airborne, "Don't worry. I don't think we are her main concern right now. Besides we need to know where she came from and where Discord might be. Let's focus on what we can do now and worry about how to deal with her royal highness later." Airborne nodded in agreement. After a brief conversation it was decided that both Fractured and Sunrise would recon further into the ruined city while Celestial, Starshine, Airborne and Duty would stay behind in the basement to make it somewhat habitable to use as their hideout while they searched for Discord. Celestial helped Airborne remove the remains of a family of Mustang ponies who had sought refuge in the basement when the balefire bombs went off. The act caused the family's ghosts to protest in anger and Celestial noticed Duty gritting his teeth as he listened to their invisible complaints. Celestial smiled taking some satisfaction in Duty's agony, the immortal unicorn seemed very much made of marble to her.

A couple of things made her feel uneasy around him, firstly that she like the rest of her companions knew so little about him. He hardly ever spoke and when he did it was like listening to a long forgotten recording that had sat collecting dust until somepony decided to give it a listen to. The way he moved and spoke reminded her of some stories she had heard growing up about the Canterlot Royal Guard. Duty certainly had the skill of a warrior of old and he carried himself like somepony who possessed an authority that extended beyond his unnatural lifespan. Which was the other thing that made her nervous, this pony would never die no matter how many times she might unload into him. He would simply rise again and again until he finally sunk that wicked blade of his into her side. Not that she didn't enjoy the thought of testing her skills out against somepony like him. In the wasteland she had grown too accustomed to dealing with small time bandits and raiders. While they certainly always outnumbered her they lacked the necessary skill to take her down. Duty however was different, he obviously could handle himself in a fight as he had demonstrated back in the ramshackle village they had visited before crossing into Mustangia.

Duty could sense Celestial's thoughts echoing through the air. Her desire to kill was great but he felt that her malice towards him wasn't based on his earlier lecture but instead centered around her fear of him. He was accustomed to the reaction he got from any mortal he encountered in his endless wanderings across Equestria. He knew that he was something unnatural, he had violated his Mistress's taboo by taking the body of the unicorn who he now possessed. He often tried not to draw attention to himself when he visited any settlement in the wasteland. He often tried to avoid visiting large groups of ponies but his duty as a servant drove him into some of the more remote villages in the wasteland to help the recently deceased move on. But there was something else that drove him to seek out other ponies, this body he wore had memories of enjoyment with those he called friends. The concept of friendship was foreign to Duty, he had longed to experience it but never had found it. Often when he completed his duty of shepherding the departed to the other side he found that he sometimes would run into somepony who would watch in horrified terror as he completed his duty by removing the soul of the dying from their shell. Often those who encountered him were the loved ones of those he had to reap.

His duty was also clear on what should be done if anyone saw him completing his task. It was one thing that he regretted doing time after time, he would have to dispatch the individual or individuals before they got word out to other ponies about a strange unicorn in their midst. Should anyone become enlightened to the fact that the legends about Sleipnir's servants were true then the very balance of nature and magic in Equestria would start to unravel. The worst experiences he had was to execute his duties on an unknowing foal who had wandered into their parent's bedroom only to find him waiting for them once they entered the room. It was never something he enjoyed doing and their haunting wails still filled his dreams even now he could see their wide eyed innocence as he drew near them with an unnatural speed and the ease in which the act was done never made him feel good about what he had done afterwards but his duty was clear. Nopony was to know and this is why he never had developed any friendships over the centuries with the living. He could only bring death and pain to those who crossed his path. His path was not one that he would wish upon anypony but it was his and his alone to walk. Since the old world had collapsed his job had become that much harder to fulfill. These days pony's lives were filled with so much pain and torment that when he arrived to carry out his job that Death itself became a much needed release from the twisted world that these pony's knew.

This sometimes however wasn't always the case, there were those who tried to live their lives to the best of their abilities and did what was right very much like his current companions now. He always admired those who could prevail when it seemed that they were cast into the pits of Tartarus. After Airborne and Celestial had returned to the basement after burying the bodies of the deceased family, Duty noticed that their ghosts disappeared finally having received a decent burial. Duty approached Celestial, "I am sorry to have offended you. It is difficult for me to reign in my emotions especially when I perceive somepony acting so callous in their rush to meet their end. Too many times I have witnessed such an act and always found it foalhardy. I only said what I said because I believe it is better to be cautious and never underestimate your opponents especially when they are as powerful as Discord or Nightmare Moon. I can see that you are not a foalhardy pony Ms. Celestial and that you bear the mark of somepony who has been through much but has never given in. I respect that quality in you. So please accept my humblest apology." Duty bows his head waiting for her response.

Celestial was taken aback by Duty's forthrightness and his sincerity. She could tell that he actually meant what he said, that much was clear. She briefly nodded her head, "I accept your apology Duty and I also apologize for the way I have acted. I will not be unkind to you ever again." Duty felt her relief as she relaxed. He had gained her trust and as long as she knew that she would never feel threatened by him she had nothing to fear. Duty quietly turned and sat down in the corner pulling the hood over his face. He was quietly meditating trying to sort through his thoughts. He was finding that he didn't quite know what this new feeling was that was arising inside his chest. It was one of both intense affection and mutual understanding that he had with his companions. He knew that they all considered him to be a friend but he had never even given it any thought as to what it meant to be a friend to another or what it would make him feel. "This life has certainly been interesting. I never expected this to happen in all my centuries of living," Duty thought to himself. Slowly a smile spread across Duty's muzzle pulling his lips away from his mouth exposing his bright teeth that flashed beneath the hooded cowl of his cloak. He felt the smile remain on his face and snorted in disbelief that he would ever really have found something as rare as friendship in this upside down world he called home.

After a few days Fractured and Sunrise returned from their journey into Cimarron. They had reported that the building Nightmare Moon had left from was not where she had taken up residence. It was most likely a perch upon which she could stand watch out over the wastes outside of the city to see if anypony was approaching the city and had made it through the many traps she had placed on the road. "Although," Sunrise said, "There is a slight problem, most of the major roads into the city have been blocked by heavy rubble some of which looks purposely placed there to begin with. I am sure Discord or Nightmare Moon did this to prevent anypony from reaching their main base somewhere near the center of the city. So our only choice is to either fly into the city center which I have no doubt Discord has prevented by placing spells that make flying just as difficult as walking along the road here was or we have to call off the mission for now and wait for reinforcements from Equestria to aid us. Either scenario gives Discord and Nightmare Moon the upper hoove. If we sit and wait they gather strength if we decide to fly in we risk dying. Personally I would rather not wait any longer and let Discord's plans whatever they maybe unfold any further."

Airborne didn't need to think about the decision very hard. He knew what was at stake. "We go forward at all costs. We have come this far so let's get the job done and get back to Equestria. We will wait until tomorrow to start our mission until then let's get some rest and check our weapons. I don't know about you but I probably have a good few inches of sand inside my weapons already." Airborne sits on his haunches pulling out his weapon cleaning kit from his utility barding and spends his time disassembling the various components to his rifle the All-Equestrian. As he figured the weapon had accumulated amount of grit inside the bore which he cleaned out. He spent the rest of the time carefully cleaning the weapon's components and lubricating them before assembling the weapons again then did the same with his two Firewing Fourty-Fives Gust and Thunder. Sunrise checked her shotgun while Fractured and Celestial also cleaned their weapons. Starshine and Duty got a fire going and were able to get suitable meal prepared within a matter of minutes. Duty despite not having a desire nor need to eat was an excellent cook something that shocked the rest of his companions. "Aren't you a jack of all trades Duty?" Starshine said as the immortal unicorn pawed in embarrassment at the ground with his forehoof.

The meal had left Airborne feeling full and content for the first time since coming across the border into Mustangia. It was nice to finally have some time to relax without having to constantly look over his shoulder for threats. Starshine cuddled up next to him as he placed Gust and Thunder back into their respective holsters. "Airborne after all this is over I want to start a family. I mean we are always risking life and hoof on each mission we undertake. It would be nice to have something to fight for than just each other and our responsibility to help rebuild Equestria." Airborne blushed and blinked as she nuzzled him under his chin.

"I know what you mean but do you honestly think we are ready to have kids? In this world nothing is certain, I mean one day we could be at home as happy as can be and the next we could end up dead on a mission. Who would take care of our kids if we are both killed on a mission?" Airborne replied. Starshine tenderly turns her husband to look at her. "Which is exactly why we need to have a family. I am tired of always having to fight for a world that seems to try to strangle the life out of you. I know that sometimes you feel so worn out by everything that is happening in Equestria and your desire to help everypony is part of the reason why I love you but it would be nice to have a reason of your own to fight for and something you could focus on in between missions. So let's have a family and actually start living a life rather than just trying to always defend ourselves from the very world we are trying to help." She places her lips on his and kisses him. She could feel his heart pounding away inside of him as the heat from his blushing face made her laugh slightly.

Both Fractured and Sunrise turned away from the kissing couple focusing on cleaning their weapons while Celestial sat in the corner looking in envy at them. She longed to experience that feeling of having somepony to fight for again but she had lost the only pony she had ever loved when Darkstar died back on their very first mission into the ruins of the Crystal Empire. A few tears streamed down the side of her face and she lifted a forehoof to wipe them away. She had to stay focused on the mission ahead of them and not let her feelings about Darkstar get in the way. She knew that he had died defending his friends and that it was the way he would have wanted to have gone out of this world. Not that his absence made it any easier for her. She sometimes wondered what life would have been had he survived the mission to the Crystal Empire. She wondered how he would have reacted to hearing her voice for the first time since she had the operation that replaced the tongue she had lost to bandits. Somethings though could never be and Darkstar wasn't coming back. She wiped the tears that refused to stop flowing away from her eyes as she sat staring happily at both Airborne and Starshine together. Both of them had been saved by her love Darkstar and that was comfort enough to know that his death had some meaning in the end if two ponies like her friends could live.

Airborne laughed as Starshine pushed him onto his back as she climbed onto his chest. She was so beautiful and he briefly forgot that they were both in a small basement surrounded by other ponies. To be honest he didn't really care either, in that moment all that mattered in the world was Starshine. Duty felt the air crackle around both Airborne and Starshine as they became more intimate. He cast a spell that would shield their activities away from their other companions and would let them have some privacy. He was glad that they both had time to find happiness in each other while they still could. The task ahead of them was daunting enough, it would be better if they could have this moment to refocus themselves and strengthen their resolve for what came next.

In the center of the city Discord sat in a large twisted throne made from metal girders he had warped into a suitable yet stylish throne for the God Of Chaos. He had been aware for sometime that a small group of ponies had made it through his traps and were now somewhere on the outskirts of the city. While it was tempting to seek them out and make sure they no longer presented a threat to him he knew in time they would seek him out then he could have all the fun in the world while he amused himself with the sounds of their dying screams. He had sent Nightmare Moon on a mission to wreak havoc in her own way in the land he once called home. She would be disrupting the dreams of those who lived in the land formerly know as Equestria by sending her servant the Tantabus into the dreams of the unsuspecting ponies to torture them with nightmares of death and despair.

Discord shivered in delight feeling the first of the waves of chaos hit him as Nightmare Moon carried out his commands. The panicked whinnies of so many ponies was music to his ears but in that endless chorus he recognized a voice. One he had thought long silenced and one that made him remember a much more idyllic time before the War. Fluttershy's screams made him place his paws over his ears and he wailed aloud making the foundations of the building he had taken up residence in shake. He quickly got up off of his throne and smashed his clawed paw through the nearest pillar as if it was made of the brittlest material imaginable. The God Of Chaos sank to his knees screaming trying to drown out Fluttershy's whinnies of terror and felt tears gather in the corner of his eyes for the first time in two centuries. "I am so sorry Fluttershy." The God Of Chaos whispered into the ether as he continued to scream with her into the night.

Part Six: Darkness Awaits In Cimarron

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Part Six: Darkness Awaits In Cimarron

Nightmare Moon laughed as she enjoyed watching her creation The Tantabus infect the dreams of the pathetic pony's of Equestria, her rightful subjects. She could not believe that her sister invoked such strong loyalty and love from so many of these wretches. In the back of her mind she could feel Discord's pull. He was calling her back to that empty shell of a city. She hated being at his beck and call, the Draconequus was a creature so lowly that he was beneath her. She was of royalty and should not have to suffer Discord's company anymore but she could not resist him. She swore that she would find away to break his hold over her even if it meant strangling the answers from his lanky neck. Something else had bothered her, she had not seen her sister in many moons and wondered where she could have gone to. Her sister's absence wasn't the only thing that seemed off about the world. Everywhere she traveled she barely recognized her kingdom.

Her memories from before were of a rich green land of flowers and magic that stretched into the horizon. Now it was a barren place, covered in scrub brush and tumbleweeds. Every now and again she would fly over the twisted metal girders that remained of the cities she once ruled over before her banishment to the Moon. This was no land even fit to rule over, as there was nothing left of anything even the palace she shared with her sister in the Everfree Forest was an overgrown ruin. She knew that her sister had plans to move to Canterlot but even that place was gone to. She wasn't sure what had caused such a cataclysmic event but she would make her sister pay for ruining her birthright.

Discord whispered into a small glowing orb held outstretched in his clawed lion's paw. The image of Nightmare Moon glowed brightly, her icy blue eyes seemed to stare through the orb and into Discord's twisted soul. Discord knew that Nightmare Moon hated him with every fiber in her body but that didn't matter to him. He held the reigns of power over her and as long as he did she would be forced to differ to his authority. The magical orb in Discord's paw disappeared as Nightmare Moon emerged from a cloud of dark blue smoke. "Why have you summoned me Discord? What could you possibly want now?"

Discord sat down on his twisted throne, "When you were flying over that dreadfully desolate desert out there did you perchance sense anypony?" Nightmare Moon stomped her foot in annoyance against the hard cement floor sending a shower of sparks onto Discord which scorched his fur. Discord smiled, "I take that as a no?"

Nightmare Moon narrowed her eyes, "I only sensed a few life forces out there in the wastes but nothing that would pose a significant threat to myself." Discord rolled his eyes and rested his head on his bird like hand. "You must be slipping Princess, there are currently five ponies within the city limits themselves along with something I never thought possible. Apparently among their number there is also a Servant of the Goddess of Death Sleipnir. This is a most unwelcome turn of events. This servant could report back to his Mistress and be the downfall of both of us." Nightmare Moon stood silently thinking. She had only encountered Sleipnir a few times in her life. The enigmatic ethereal pony was always very withdrawn. She only ever interacted with her older sister Princess Celestia on rare occasions usually concerning the death of a member of her sister's court or the few times she actually came to visit on a social call rather to enact her unique business on the residents of Equestria.

"If a Servant of Sleipnir is here within the city then I will find him and his compatriots." As she stretches her large black wings and turns to leave Discord calls out, "Now what would be the fun in that Nightmare? Let them come to us, I am most interested see who came to visit us, maybe I should brew up some tea for their arrival?" Discord chuckles twiddling his thumbs in eager excitement at the prospect of having visitors after all these years. Nightmare stopped and looked back at the curious draconequus. Ever since they had first met all those moons ago she could never wrap her mind around his paradoxical nature. She refused to take orders from such a creature deciding that if Discord was going to wait for these guests to arrive that didn't mean she could have fun slowing their arrival and making Discord wait a little longer. Nightmare left the wretched presence of Discord behind as she soared out over the ruined city her horn glowing as dark clouds gathered in the sky above the Princess of Terror.

Airborne left the sheltered safety of the basement he and his friends had been hiding in for the past few days. He felt well rested after his night with Starshine sleeping by his side. In the distance he could see the growing darkness that sent tendrils reaching out from the confines of the dead city. Duty appeared by his side without him noticing, "It would seem our enemy has learned that we are here. We should leave now before their defenses grow too strong for us to pierce." Behind Duty followed the rest of his friends. Celestial was tightening the straps on her battle-saddle with her teeth. Looking towards the ruins she smiles, "This is going to be fun! I cannot wait!" Starshine and Fractured smile at the brutal Earth pony's desire to fight. Sunrise was checking her supplies of ammo and did a last check of her weapon. This gun was her last link to her love Baleout, she hoped that he would be with her and make each shot count.

Fractured looked at Airborne, "Just a question Airborne, how do you suggest that Celestial, Duty, and I make it into the city? We cannot fly as you, Starshine, and Sunrise can. We would have to hoof it through the city ruins before we could reach Discord and I would rather not walk through that city without knowing what kinds of things we will find in there." Duty chuckled, "The solution is quite simple Fractured Heart. I will use my magic to fly us into the city. My abilities as a servant many just come in handy as we go to meet our foe." Fractured clicks his tongue and shrugs, "Well if it gets us into that blasted city without us having to trot another step count me in." Duty's horn glowed as his magical spell envelopes himself, Fractured, and Celestial in blue aura. Slowly all three ponies levitate high into the air. Watching Airborne flaps his wings following closely behind them. Starshine and Sunrise appear on either side of Airborne as they take up a position ahead of the levitating ponies flying in a standard v-formation. Starshine casts her head side to side as they enter the narrow steel canyons of Cimarron.

Despite having survived a direct hit from a balefire bomb most of the cities large buildings were intact with the exception of the lower floors which were buried in centuries of accumulated sand blown in from the desert that surrounded the city. The dry air quickly makes Airborne thirst for some water and he coughs out sand that had flown into his mouth. The sound of his coughing echoed through the city, as the ponies quietly approached the cities center. As they fly by a building to their right starts to collapse around its base. "Watch out!" Airborne shouts as he ducks and weaves through the shattered interior of the building as it smashes into a neighboring building sending a cascading rain of broken glass and metal. Both buildings topple onto each other. Duty guides the magical orb containing himself and the others high above the ruined buildings.

As he does he sees a dark figure flapping her wings and cackling. The sight of the long dead princess makes Fractured's blood run cold. Duty levitates the orb away from the princess who sends what seems like a thousand bolts of lightning hurling towards the orb. The lightning ricocheting into the city below causing large plumes of flame and smoke to rise up from the ground. She laughs watching her attack bounce off of Duty's protective magical barrier, "I see the Servant's of Sleipnir live up to their reputation! Tell me what brings you here?" Duty snorts and refuses to speak. The princess grins, "Well I guess I shall have to pry the information from you and your friends. I look forward to testing whether or not the rumors of a servant's immortality are true."

Fractured and Celestial stick the barrels of their respective weapons through the barrier of Duty's orb and fire at Nightmare Moon who quickly conjures a protective barrier of her own. "You dare shoot at me! You worthless sacks of dug! I am your princess, you should all be groveling before me!" Celestial yells to Nightmare Moon, "As if I would ever bow down before you bitch!" As Fractured and Celestial continue to fire at the alicorn she doesn't notice Airborne, Starshine, and Sunrise emerging from the clouds above. As Nightmare Moon raises her shield again all three Pegasi slam into her like feathery rockets sending the princess tumbling down into the nearest building. She slams through the wall disappearing into a cloud of dust. The momentary disappearance of the princess doesn't last long as she quickly flies towards Duty's protective orb. She uses her horn to slice through the bubble and grabs a hold of Celestial's neck. "You will pay for your remark with your life you pathetic pony!" Nightmare Moon hurls Celestial down into the city below before Duty can repair the bubble. Celestial screams as she descends on her way down smashing through the roof of a nearby skyscraper.

Duty uses his magic to float Fractured over to Starshine and Sunrise. "Here take care of him! I will draw her away while you two go after Discord then I will heal Celestial and join you!" Duty draws his knife and both ponies watch in amazement as two black wings appear on his back. The daring immortal unicorn had conjured a pair of wings with his magic that would allow him to fight Nightmare Moon on equal footing. Airborne starts to fly towards Duty who holds up a hoof, "No, Airborne. This is my fight. Get out of here while you still can." Airborne sighs and turns away from Duty flying towards the now obvious lair of Discord which is lit up like a hearth's warming eve tree.

Nightmare Moon watches the other ponies leave and she turns back to Duty, "So noble of you to let them go on without you but also futile. Only one pony has ever bested me and she was my sister. What hope do you think you have of defeating me you undead wretch?" Duty flies towards her with his blade held aloft, Nightmare Moon blocks the blow with her horn. Normally Duty's blade would cut through even the thickest armor but Nightmare Moon was unlike any opponent he had ever faced. She was a princess of Equestria endowed with powers the likes of which he could never even imagine his Mistress wielding. Instantly he knew this wasn't a fight he could win. As he parried a thrust from Nightmare Moon's large horn he flew as fast as he could away from her. The maddened princess laughed as she gave chase. She spewed curses while launching deadly spells of both fire and lightning at him. Using the buildings as cover Duty ducked and weaved in between them. Attempting to draw her as far away from Discord's grasp as he could. If he somehow could trap the princess then he could at least even the score between Discord and his friends by denying the God of Chaos the ability to use the princess's magic against his new friends.

Duty flew into the ground floor of a building in which some of the letters had fallen down from the fascade but where still readable, "Stable-Tec Industries, Cimmaron Branch." Duty waited for the princess to find him which did not take long. She landed with a tremendous thud which shook the ground beneath her hooves. Her horn glowing as she prepared to launch another spell at him. Duty quickly ran for the stairs, running as fast as he could with Nightmare Moon following closely behind him. As he reached the roof of the building Duty took off again. His horn glowed as he summoned all the strength he possessed and funneled it into the spell he was casting. Above him a large sphere grew and gained size until it dwarfed the unicorn who had created it. As Nightmare Moon emerged onto the roof of the Stable Tech building, Duty hurled down the massive ball of spells. Nightmare Moon attempted to deflect the ball as it bore down towards her. But the spell had picked up too much momentum and the princess knew she could not teleport out of the way in time. The last Duty heard of the princess was laughter as the spell smashed into the building causing it to give way burying Nightmare Moon beneath more than one hundred floors of concrete and metal. Duty hovered over the smouldering slag heap before rushing back to see if Celestial had survived her fall.

He found the brave pony lying on top of a pile of dry wall and twisted pieces of metal. One had penetrated through her abdomen creating a wound he knew was fatal. Celestial's blood ran in rivulets down the side of the pile and collected in a large pool. Duty could sense she was still alive but fading fast, her consciousness which was once like a bright flame now flickered as the eternal darkness pressed in to snuff it out. She opened her eyes and tried to turn her head but found she couldn't. "Duty, I know you are there. Please don't tell me that now I have finally found a way to scare you?" Duty trots over to her side and takes her left forehoof into his as she raises it up. She blinks smiling at him and it strikes Duty that this is the first time he has ever seen her do that. Normally her scarred face doesn't betray how she is feeling at any particular moment but now she has finally decided that there is no point in maintaining her grim expression any longer. "Did you get her?" Celestial asks weakly. Duty nods and she smiles again, "Good, I hope the bitch rots in Tartarus for all the trouble she has caused." Duty gulped not having the heart to tell her that Nightmare Moon had most likely survived his attack and was only momentarily trapped beneath a pile of rubble.

"Yes, Nightmare Moon won't be a problem any more." Duty said as he felt the moment drawing closer. Celestial looked into his icy blue eyes and pulled him closer to her muzzle. "Before I go, please kiss me. Nopony has kissed me since Darkstar died and I cannot rest in peace until somepony makes me feel loved again." Duty blinks and isn't sure how to react. He had never in all his centuries been asked to kiss anypony before but quickly puts his feelings aside as he leans forward kissing Celestial deeply. His face becomes wet as Celestial's warm tears soak into his fur. He opens his eyes and stares into Celestial's glistening green eyes. Duty brushes the locks of her grey mane out of her face and she blushes as he does so. "Thank you Duty, for everything. Now do what you have to do." Duty nods as his hooves glow with a strange aura. Celestial takes one final breath, despite the air being so humid she catches the scent of apples on the wind much like the cologne that Darkstar used to wear, "I tried my best Darkstar to live on for the both of us and protect Airborne. Look's like I failed but at least I will get to see you again." Duty could hear her final thought's as tears poured down the sides of his cheeks staining the valiant pony's fur cleaning some of the dust and grim of battle from Celestial. Celestial felt the curtains of her eyes closing as she felt tired loosing sight of the world beneath a black velvet curtain, she exhaled releasing her hold on this life and awaited to join her beloved Darkstar on the other side.

Duty pulled Celestial's soul free from her broken body, she did not fight his grip as so many had done when their final moments came. Celestial smiled as she shimmered in the daylight, her bright soul casting a thousand rainbows across the dingy dark interior of the building in which she had met her end in. Duty had never witnessed such an event and his eyes widening in surprise. "Duty, protect Airborne for me. Please get him out of her safely. Tell him I am sorry for having to die for him, I know he isn't fond of others sacrificing their own lives for his. I have faith that he will be the one to go all the way to defeat Discord and heal this world of ours." Celestial's ghost whispered in a faint voice, she noticed somepony approaching her.

As the pony drew closer Celestial began to shake nervously, out of the shadows emerged Darkstar with a large smile across his face. "After all that you up and die on a mission like I did. I thought you were supposed to carry on for the both of us?" Celestial shuffles her hooves in embarrassment, "Sorry about that. I tried my best to stay alive for the both of us." Darkstar nuzzles her cheek and smiles, "None of that matters now. We both know Airborne will take care of business besides I was getting tired of waiting for you." He laughs as he places his forehoof over her shoulder. At finally reuniting at last both pony's fade away until nothing remains but the wind and the empty silence. Duty smiles having watched Celestial disappear with her lover. Turning back to her remains his horn glows and her body is covered in blue aura that both cleans the blood and dust of battle from her fur. As he finishes his work he hears someone call his name. Turning he sees his Mistress step out from behind a large concrete pillar.

"It has been sometime Orion Sky. I haven't seen you in nearly two centuries and now I find you in the body of a unicorn who's life you have stolen. Violating my greatest taboo at becoming entangled in the lives of the mortal's whom we are honor bound to escort to the other side and also deserting my service after you failed to turn yourself in to me. I hope you can give me a good reason not to cast your soul into The Void." Sleipnir bore into Duty's eyes as he kneeled bowed before her. Even from distance of a few feet away he could feel her raw fury tearing through his body and threatening to remove him entirely from the body of the unicorn who's life he stole and whom he had called home for two centuries. "I am sorry to for failing to come to your side after I took this mortal's body. I have no excuse that could justify my dereliction in my duties as your servant but know that I have never failed to carry out my task since taking this body. I have escorted the souls of those who have died in this world to the other side and have just now again completed my duty by escorting the soul of this pony I have come to know as my friend."

Sleipnir stamped her hoof into the floor causing it to crack and groan, "SERVANT'S DO NOT HAVE FRIENDS! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IMPARTIAL, UNINVOLVED IN THE LIVES OF MORTALS!!! THAT IS WHAT KEEPS AND PRESERVES THE BALANCE OF LIFE!" Sleipnir's voice cutting through Duty like an icy cold wind. He stammers, "But Mistress.....the God of Chaos has violated that balance by keeping the soul of Princess Luna from passing on. How he has managed to do this is beyond me but he has done so and in doing so he has trespassed into your realm offending your honor. This is why I beseech you not to cast me into The Void until I have taught that draconequus not to meddle in your affairs Mistress." Sleipnir looms over Duty, her eyes narrowing as her chest heaves with her angered breath. Ever since the pony's of Equestria so foalishly destroyed their own world two hundred years ago when her abilities as the Goddess Of Death were strained to the limit. She on that day had sense Princess Luna's passing but didn't feel her cross over as she does with every single pony who is attended to by her servants as a way of keeping track of who has died and who yet lives in order to preserve the balance of life and death in Equestria.

It had been Discord's interference that had kept her majesty from passing on, a duty she would have carried out herself if it wasn't for the extraordinary burden of dealing with the deaths of so many ponies in the first war in Equestria's long history. Discord had upset the balance and had trespassed into her domain by keeping the soul of Princess Luna here. She wasn't sure herself how he managed to do it but the God Of Chaos was a wily one so she had no doubt he found a way to usurp her power. "Fine, I will allow you to carry out this one final duty as my servant but then you must give up that body you have possessed. Your place is no longer among the living Orion Sky, you gave up that right when you entered my service." Duty's ears perked up at the name Orion Sky. He had never heard it before and was curious to know if that is who he really was. The only memories of his time before taking the body he now found himself in were of watching the two lovers he came to envy and ultimately failed to save on The Last Day, anything before that was a blur, like trying to see a picture through a fog. "Mistress, that name you keep using for me, is that who I was before entering your service? Was I Orion Sky?"

Sleipnir snorts and shakes her head from side to side, "Don't tell me you do not remember your old life? You must have lost those memories when you took that mortal's body for your own. Here as my final gift to you I will restore those memories for you in honor of all your years of dedicated service." Sleipnir raises a forehoof to Duty's head and gently taps him on his horn. Instantly Duty's mind flashes with memories from his long lost life as Orion Sky, captain of the Royal Equestrian Guard. Duty falls to his knees as Sleipnir disappears, Duty grasps the sides of his head as it throbs painfully. He recalls that before he entered his Mistress's service he had once been a unicorn named Orion Sky, who was an extremely gifted unicorn who showed a knack for protective spells. Princess Celestia herself had selected him to be the head of a new unit she had created after she had banished her sister Princess Luna to her heavenly prison in the Moon above. Orion Sky had occupied the rank of Captain for many years before dying peacefully at the ripe old age of seventy-five. When he passed his Mistress had been waiting for him, she only took pony's into her service after they showed that they were extremely honorable and dedicated in their lives.

He found himself unable to refuse the offer of the Goddess Of Death and chose to become one of her servants to spend an eternity putting the skills he had used in his life in the Royal Guard by safely guiding those who passed in Equestria to the other side. As Duty got up off of the floor he found that he had a knew sense of purpose, "My name is Orion Sky and I will protect Equestria from Discord." Turning to Celestial's body he bows his head, "I promise I will protect Airborne no matter what, so that he might go on to do even greater things for this ruined world." Duty sheaths his knife and conjures the strange pair of magic wings which quickly emerge from his back as he takes flight leaving the silent body of Celestial laying where she finally been reunited with her long lost love.

Part Seven: An Encounter With Chaos

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Part Seven: An Encounter With Chaos

"I wonder what is taking Duty and Celestial so long to get back to us? Duty is usually very prompt about these sorts of things and Celestial wouldn't miss out on a good fight even if she had been hurt Duty could fix something like a fall right?," Airborne thought as he waited in the building opposite the one where Discord had taken up residence in. Discord had chosen a Pre-War office building called Cimarron Plaza. The building had once house the offices of various wartime ministries that were an extension of the government in Equestria. Discord's magic had turned the building into a twisted spiral making the building stand out among the destroyed skyline of the ruined building. "Might as well hang a giant neon sign advertising his location." Fractured said.

Airborne sighed and sat down flicking his tail impatiently, "Where are Duty and Celestial? This isn't normal for them to be taking so long." Sunrise checked the clock on her Pipbuck while Starshine kept watch for any sign of activity coming from Discord's twisted palace. Duty arrived with a blinding flash that briefly blinded Airborne and his friends. Duty sat down on his haunches facing away from both Airborne, Starshine, and Sunrise. His sides were heaving from the strain of the magic he had used to fly himself to his friend's position, but Starshine could see a few tears dripping down the sides of his cheek. "Where is Celestial?" Starshine asked as she pinned her ears back in concern for the normally so composed immortal pony.

Duty sighed and turned around facing his friends, "I am sorry to have to say this but Celestial is gone. She fought valiantly against Nightmare Moon but the Mad Princess was too much for her to handle. She died sacrificing herself so we could complete our mission." Airborne found himself unable to breath as Duty told him that Celestial was gone. Out of everypony he had ever met in his time in the Wasteland he always thought that Celestial was the most formidable pony who could survive any situation. He couldn't imagine that she was actually gone. He had journeyed with her through the frozen wastes of the Crystal Empire and she had fought by his side against a resurgent Enclave. Now she was gone. Airborne felt hot tears roll down his cheeks as his legs wobbled before they gave out. Starshine caught him before he hit the ground, "Duty, are you sure she is gone? Could you be mistaken?" She said.

Duty nods, "I am sure. I performed my duty on her personally. Out of all of the souls I have escorted from this life she was the bravest pony I have ever met. I was an honor to be there for her in those last few seconds." Starshine hugged Airborne close as she tried to comfort him. While Sunrise quietly stood nearby holding her grief inside. Celestial's death here in this forsaken place reminded her of when Baleout had died in Coltpolis. This city was an evil place where nopony deserved to die. Airborne sniffled and nuzzled into Starshine. Her warmth comforted him, he looked up into her eyes and she nodded. "Let's finish this. For her, and for everypony who has helped us get this far."

Discord sat upon his twisted throne, "Oh dear it looks like Nightmare Moon went and over did it again. I specifically told her not to delay my guests and look at the tea I boiled for them is already starting to grow cold. I shall have to take measures into my own claws should Nightmare Moon kill anymore of my guests." Discord snapped his fingers, within a few seconds Airborne, Duty, Starshine, Fractured, and Sunrise sat bound before him. "Now who might you all be? Have you come to pay me a visit?" Airborne blinked at Discord then turned to his companions who all sat with equally confused looks on their faces.

As they sat their Nightmare Moon flew in through a broken window. "What is it now Discord? Can't you see that I am busy?" She noticed the four ponies sitting bound before Discord. "So why have you summoned me if you already have apprehended them? Why waste my time Discord?" Normally Nightmare's crass comments didn't bother Discord. He had grown used to the unruly princess chiding him at every opportunity that she got but this time she had crossed the line in delaying his guests after he specifically instructed her not to do so. Discord quickly rose from his throne whipping his tail across the Princess's muzzle knocking her across the room and into a metal beam. Nightmare hit the ancient metal beam with enough force that it brought down not only the beam but a part of the ceiling above as well. Nightmare rose from the pile like a long dead ghost covered in bits of dust from the ancient dry wall and paint. She glared at Discord, her icy pupils contracting into slits. Discord merely stared back, a large vein on his forehead throbbing just beneath the surface of his skin. She couldn't believe that she had been caught off guard by Discord's sudden attack. Discord had never in all the centuries she had known the wily draconequus, had she ever seen him once lose his temper with her despite all she did to resist his strange holdover her.

Discord continued to return her gaze before turning away from her and towards the captive ponies who sat in stunned silence. "I do so apologize for Nightmare's behavior. In all this time she has never had very good manners especially when it came to guests visiting my city. Do apologize to our guest Nightmare for your rude behavior?" Nightmare humphed crossing her forehooves across her chest and turning her nose up at Discord. Discord this time asked more forcibly, "Do apologize to our guest Nightmare. RIGHT NOW!" Nightmare felt a burning sensation spread like lightning across her body. At first she tried to block out the sensation but the more she resisted the more pain she felt. Nightmare writhed on the floor in agony in front of Discord refusing to apologize to such a pathetic creature. Soon the pain crept into her heart making her gasp for breath. Every nerve felt like they were caught in a searing blaze from fires from Tartarus. Finally she screamed, "I'M SORRY DISCORD!!!!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Nightmare's chest heaved as her body labored to breath, the pain pressing down onto her like an anvil. Suddenly the pain relented as Discord spoke, "Was that so hard for you to do Princess? Such uncouth behavior from a ruler of Equestria."

Airborne gulped nervously as he watched Nightmare stagger to her feet. He had never thought to see one of the legendary godlike rulers of Equestria be made humble by the God of Chaos. Duty sat unimpressed by Discord's antics. This demonstration of control over the Princess was just another reason why he should finally put Discord in his place for having subverted the powers of his Mistress. Duty then decided he had enough of this charade severing the bonds that held him and his friends. "Discord, this game of yours has gone on long enough. In the name of my Mistress, I will allow you one chance to surrender before I sunder your soul into a thousand pieces." Duty drew his long fierce knife from its sheath. Airborne and his friends took up firing positions on either side of Duty waiting for Discord to make his move.

Discord sauntered back to his throne and sat down upon it. "Really Servant? Do you and your little rabble of pony pals think that you can tangle with the likes of me and stand a chance? You seem to overestimate your ability to hurt me. I have known Sleipnir for eons and not once has her power ever even rivaled my own. She might control the balance of life and death in this world but I control something far more powerful. Since the war chaos has reigned in every corner and every heart of the pony that still call this blasted heap of horse apples home. There is nothing you can do to me that I cannot do unto you a thousand fold so why even bother trying? Now can I offer you some tea?" Discord offered up a cold cup of tea to Duty who sliced the bottom half of the cup spilling some of its contents onto the dusty floor. Discord rolled his eyes and took a swig of the remaining liquid in the cup which was held in place by his magic before tossing the cup out the window which landed below with a massive explosion that rocked the entire building. "Shall we begin?" Discord said as he disappeared in a blinding flash along with Nightmare Moon.

"We need to find them quickly otherwise that devious draconequus might destroy all of Equestria if we allow him to escape. Normally I would suggest splitting up but in this case I will advise against using such a tactic. All the easier it will be for Discord and his thrall Nightmare Moon to pick us off one by one until nopony is left to stand in his way." Duty said. Fractured snorted in annoyance, "I hate all this sneaking about minotaur shit. I prefer stand up fights. I wonder where Discord has gone to anyway? It's not like this place leaves a whole lot of places to hide." Both Airborne and Starshine shrugged while Sunrise flipped through her Pipbuck looking to see if she had any files on the layout of the building.

"I don't have any files on hoof showing the layout of this place. Records from Mustangia were fairly limited even during the War. So I would suggest looking for them starting with the most obvious place. The roof, if Discord is not there then we can search the lower floors for him. I would imagine that Nightmare is nearby as well." Sunrise stated as she turned off her Pipbuck. Duty's horned glowed as a spell which sent magical tendrils through the floor and ceiling. After a few moments his face contorted with frustration, "I cannot sense either of Discord's or Nightmare's magical energy signatures. Has Discord found a way to block me?" Fractured watches as the tentacles ripple out from the immortal unicorn. He smiled, "I do hope you find them and I get to live long enough to see you rip Discord into tiny bloody pieces what a memory that will make!"

The magic effects of Duty's spell recedes as his horn stops glowing. "I cannot sense where Discord has gone so if we are to go search for him we better do it now otherwise he might find a new place to hide from whence we will never find him or Nightmare Moon,"Duty woefully says. At the back of Discord's throne Airborne finds a set of stairs leading to the upper levels of the skyscraper. "Well if we are to start looking for him here is a good place to start." Airborne replies as he places a hoof on the first step. Slowly the rest of the group follows him likewise up the stairs. Most of the upper floors of the Cimarron Plaza building were completely filled with years of sand blown in through the broken windows.

Occasionally echoes of the past would poke up from the sand dunes that filled the upper levels of the building, here and there the swirling dust would move the sifting sands to uncover the remains of an unfortunate Mustang pony caught still in their final moments with their skeleton's mouths agape in a silent scream. Their bones charred and melted to the metal frames of the chairs they were sitting on when hellfire ended their lives. "It isn't right that Discord made his home in this place. It's more of a tomb than a ruin." Sunrise said. Duty tried to ignore the many ghosts that wandered past him, their eyes beseeching him to release them from their eternal torment. If his Mistress allowed it he would try to help these poor ponies move on, they had lingered too long in a world where they no longer belonged.

Nightmare sat silently as Discord awaited for his guests to arrive. She rubbed her right foreleg as it had gone numb from the pain Discord had inflicted upon her earlier. She very rarely felt afraid of anypony especially Discord but she had to admit that she did feel her fear rising inside of her chest like an icy cold that refused to leave. She began to understand that the power Discord held over her extended beyond his ability to simply call her to his side whenever he had need of her but that he could if he felt like it torment her in ways she never expected from the normally inconsistent draconequus. She knew that his nature was so contradictory but his foalish pranks never went beyond deliberately annoying anypony she never expected that he was capable of outright cruelty.

He didn't seem like the draconequus she defeated alongside her sister those many moons ago. Instead he seemed hardened and at times she thought she could see him shaking from silent sobs but she had never known him to cry before. Something had happened to Equestria in her absence as was obvious by ruined city and the lands beyond Mustangia. On some occasions what seemed to be memories of her sister crying over her surfaced in her mind, they were always accompanied by the feeling of something drawing her away as her sister cried out for her not to go. These moments made her feel sad and loved at the same time but she always in the end brushed them off as being meaningless. She hated her sister for imprisoning her in the Moon above after she tried to rightfully claim what was hers.

Discord could feel Nightmare's fear gathering around her like dark storm clouds. He smiled as he turned towards her noticing that she squirmed while averting her eyes from his gaze. "Good, it seems that my little demonstration of my power over her seems to have worked. She seems to have learned her place again. Honestly, these little spurts of independence from her have become so tedious. I wonder why I even bothered to rescue her in the first place?" Discord thought. He sensed something more though bubbling to the surface in Nightmare's mind, had she only known how far his control extended over her that he seriously doubted that he would survive the onslaught that would ensue. With a gentle nudge of his magic he wiped the memories of her past away. This was key in maintaining the short leash he kept her on. She could never have her old memories back, if she did he would be left without his greatest asset and be rendered that much weaker. Even though he could wipe her memories away so easily he could not do the same in his own mind.

Slippery ice sliding like glass underneath his feet as he skates with Fluttershy followed by tea parties inside her warm cottage on the edge of the Everfree forest, these memories and a thousand more from the Last Day cause Discord to hide his face from Nightmare as tears roll down the sides of his face. He tries to suppress everything beneath a veneer of self assurance, but it is a poor ruse that fails as his body quivers with silent sobs that rack his elongated body. Under his breath he mutters, "Oh Fluttershy, I do miss you so." Discord watches the sun set over the city, one way or another all of this would end soon and he could finally set out to find his old friends again.