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BiE Bonus Story: Bat Out of Hell

Mandroid Aug 9th, 2014 551 Never
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  1. =Bros in Equestria Bonus Chapter: Bat Out of Hell=
  2.  
  3. >Year 4 in Equestria.
  4. >You and Thunderstrike were home along, just a dad and his adoptive son for the day.
  5. >Not that you really wanted it to be…
  6. >It had all started a day or so ago, Twilight had been summoned to the Crystal Empire alone and closed down Golden Oaks for the trip.
  7. >At the time, you were happy for the time off, it’d give you a chance to spend some time with Thunder.
  8. >But when Twilight got back…
  9. >You hadn’t been there, but Dash had been, and whatever the situation was, Twilight made a beeline for the old forest in the middle of the Everfree with Dash right behind her.
  10. >”Dad.”
  11. >Rainbow had asked you to stay home while she helped Twilight, someone had to watch the boy, he was barely seven.
  12. >Something was up, you could tell, so you rang up Mous on a payphone and asked if he could make a visit.
  13. >”Daaaaaad…”
  14. >Lotus would love the chance to visit her sister and if another army of Diamond Dogs were gonna be showing up, you wante-
  15. >”DAD!”
  16. >You snap back to reality in the kitchen with Thunderstrike on a bench next to you.
  17. “Huh! Huh! What? What!?”
  18. >”Dad, the hayburgers are burning.”
  19. >You look down, you had a spatula primed and ready to flip a pair of hayburgers on the stove.
  20. “Gah! Shi-cra-poop!”
  21.  
  22. >Thunderstrike giggles as you transfer the hayburgers from the pan to the buns on the plate and blow on them a bit.
  23. “Uh…sorry buddy, they may be a bit raw.”
  24. >Thunder takes his and bites in a bit. “It’sh okay, dad. You had your thinking face on, what were you thinking about?”
  25. “Oh, you know, just…”
  26. >Don’t scare the boy.
  27. “Stuff.”
  28. >”Were you thinking about where mom went?”
  29. “Something like that, yeah…”
  30. >”Mom’s helping Princess Twilight, right? It has to be important.”
  31. >Yeah…it -has- to be, but…
  32. >You rub Thunder’s head and grab your burger.
  33. “Don’t worry about it, bud. It’ll all work itself out.”
  34. >Thunderstrike smiles and you prepare to bite into your hayburger when someone knocks frantically on the door.
  35. >”Anon!? Thunder!? Are you there?!”
  36. >You and Thunder both perk up.
  37. “Dash!?”
  38. >You run to the door and throw it open. Rainbow Dash is on the other side, mane disheveled like she just flew around the world and eyes wide.
  39. “Dash! What’s wrong?”
  40. >”You and Thunderstrike need to come with me to town hall FAST!” she says, already fluttering that way.
  41. >Thunderstrike runs past your legs to follow his mother.
  42. “Dash what is-“
  43. >”No time Anon! Let’s go!”
  44. “Graaaah!”
  45. >You grab your keys and run out the door after her, leaving your hayburger behind.
  46.  
  47. >The three of you run all the way from your house to town hall which is more than a bit packed with ponies.
  48. “Whoa, what is all this?”
  49. >”Inside! Quick!” Rainbow shouts.
  50. >Rainbow hurries you both inside where the situation is ten times worse.
  51. >It’s standing room only inside the assembly room at town hall but almost everypony is laying on the floor groaning and moaning in pain. Staff from the hospital on the hill are milling between them and obviously doing what they could, but the gesture seemed almost futile…
  52. “Holy hell…what happened here…”
  53. >”What’s wrong, mom…?” Thunder asks, shirking away from the scene.
  54. >Rainbow lands and holds the boy close to her to comfort him. “Well…it started with-“
  55. >”It was Tirek, Anon…” someone says.
  56. >You look over your shoulder, Twilight is approaching the three of you from the main office with her head low and face in a frown. “It was all Tirek…” she says.
  57. >Tirek…Tirek…
  58. “That name rings a bit of a bell…”
  59.  
  60. >”Tirek was a conqueror from a far off land with his brother Scorpan long, long ago…before Celestia and Luna defeated Discord. He came to Equestria to steal the magic of all the ponies here.” Twilight says. “But…Tirek’s brother Scorpan betrayed him after learning to appreciate the ponies living here. Celestia and Luna used their magic to banish Tirek beyond the gates of Tartarus and Scorpan returned to his home but…Tirek’s escaped.” She finishes, her face bearing some sort of unknown guilt you can’t pick up on.
  61. “Escaped huh…?”
  62. >In hindsight, killing Cerberus during the Dog War was probably a bad idea…
  63. >”And it’s worse than that…” Twilight says looking up at you.
  64. >You don’t know -how- it could be and your face must betray that fact because Twilight continues.
  65. >"Remember when Mous defeated Discord?" Twilight asks, an uncertain hitch in her voice. "Somehow Tirek managed to absorb the magic he left behind. He's so powerful now, Anon."
  66. >Ooohhh…
  67. “Right…that’s…bad…”
  68. >”Real bad…” Rainbow says, comforting a scared Thunderstrike.
  69. >You look over the room of ponies.
  70. “So…did this lot…?”
  71. >Twilight nods solemly. “Yes…Tirek stole the magic in all these ponies…he got some in the air, ambushed them in Canterlot, and other places. Some even said he derailed their train.”
  72. >That’s aw-
  73. >…Train from Canterlot?
  74. “Oh no…”
  75. >Your legs start moving on their own as you spot a robin’s-egg blue mare and her identical pink counterpart among the masses.
  76. “Oh GOD, no…”
  77.  
  78. “LOTUS!”
  79. >You run over from the front door to the side of the room the spa-sisters were laying on.
  80. >Lotus’s head lifts up slowly at the sound of your voice and she offers a weak smile. “Anon…so good to see you again…can never rely on public transit, can we?”
  81. >You kneel down and cup her head.
  82. “Lotus…good lord, what happened?”
  83. >She shakes her head. “I…don’t rightly know, Anon…” she says. “We were on our way here…on the train and then this…enormous Centaur from the depths of my nightmares themselves appeared on the hill nearby…”
  84. >You pet her shivering head as she recounts.
  85. >”He cast a spell on the train and I just…felt the life being sucked out of me…we all did. If he had stopped the train, I doubt I’d have had the strength to get here to safety…”
  86. >You stroke her mane as you hear Twilight, Rainbow, and Thunder trot up behind you.
  87. “It’s okay…we’ll find a way to fix you.”
  88. >Lotus redirects her vision. “I’m afraid…we’re not the only ones in trouble, Anon.”
  89. >You follow her gaze to a blonde-maned grey Pegasus in the same state as Lotus, laying on the ground while her little girl tried her best to comfort her.
  90. >It broke your heart.
  91. “Twilight…where’s Celestia? We’ll need her help in this.”
  92. >Twilight’s mysterious face of guilt returns and for a moment she seems like she’ll stay quiet, but she leans in so only the two of you can hear.
  93. >”Anon…Tirek sent the Princesses to his cell in Tartarus…I’m the only one left.”
  94. >Oh. Crap.
  95. >Yeah, this couldn’t get much worse for you gu-
  96. >Wait.
  97. >Lotus…Celestia…Derpy…
  98. >…
  99. >It just got worse.
  100. >Your stomach sinks.
  101. “Where is he?”
  102. >Twilight shakes her head. “I haven’t had the time to finish my Tirek-tracking spe-“
  103. “Not him.
  104. >You look down at Lotus.
  105. “Where is he?”
  106.  
  107. -Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlbxI3eazqk -
  108. >Lotus directed you to a storeroom in the back of the amphitheater.
  109. >You told Twilight and Dash to not follow.
  110. >Pushing open the door and stepping inside takes you into a realm of almost palpable outrage.
  111. >He’s standing at the back of the room, scratching his knife against the rear wall to the little bit of light coming in from the small window.
  112. ”…Mous.”
  113. >”Anon.” His response is short, curt, and underplayed with barely contained outrage.
  114. >He hunches over and scrapes at the wall some more.
  115. “…I heard what happened.”
  116. >He pauses his scratching and turns his head a bit, almost looking back at you. “You feel it too, don’t you?”
  117. “Feel what, man?”
  118. >Okay…this is new…and scary.
  119. >Mous slams his fist against the wall and makes you jump.
  120. >“That feeling…in the pit of your gut…the one that tells you that someone has to pay for this…in the WORST way possible.” He growls before returning to scratching.
  121. >You swallow your nerve, this had to be handled carefully.
  122. “Can’t say I do…”
  123. >”It’s something, I promise you that.”
  124. “Mous, I’m sorry. If I hadn’t asked you to come, this wouldn’t have happened.”
  125. >The scratching pauses, just for the slightest moment.
  126. >”Not your fault, it’s his.”
  127. >You take a few steps away from the door towards him and hear him muttering. “Gonna take it back…get back everything he took…”
  128. “Mous…what are you going to do?”
  129. >Mous scratches one last thing on the wall and turns around, when he does, you almost reel back.
  130.  
  131. >You’d seen him mad before. Before the Dog War, when you both were invading that mine, you’d thought you’d seen him as mad as he could get.
  132. >That Mous would be eaten alive by this one. His tilted glare bored through you and past the wall, barely containing the rage behind it.
  133. >”I’m going to find Tirek…and then I’m going to cut his eyes out.”
  134. “Mous…we can fix this…we can work together and fix this so tha-“
  135. >”Don’t fucking patronize me, Anon.”
  136. >Your words die in your mouth.
  137. >”And don’t waste my fucking time.” He says.
  138. >You reposition yourself directly in front of Mous, blocking his path.
  139. “I’m not going to let you go after someone who sent the Princesses to Tartarus solo, Mous.”
  140. >”You won’t be able to stop me.” He says, sheathing his knife.
  141. “I can do my be-“
  142. >Mous’s fist slams into your face with rocket force and knocks you off balance. Your hands instinctively shoot up to the fluid leaking from your nose as you fall back against the wall and sink to the floor.
  143. “FUCKING HELL, MAN!”
  144. >”DON’T get up Anon, I mean it.”
  145. >Mous kicks open the door to the amphitheater to the gasps of everypony in the room.
  146. >”Move.” He spits.
  147. >You sit nursing your face as Mous walks through the parting crowd and out the door. Rainbow Dash and Twilight run into the storeroom.
  148. >”Anon! Are you okay?!” Rainbow asks.
  149. “Think he broke my goddamn nose…” you say through coughs.
  150. >Rainbow Dash does what Rainbow Dash normally does in these situations and gets mad. She tilts your head back and looks up your nose.
  151. >While she does that, you look at what Mous was scratching.
  152. >It’s a crude map showing Ponyville, Canterlot, and the railway between them. A circle was drawn around Ponyville and the surrounding countryside and railways leading away from the down.
  153. >Okay…okay, this was serious…
  154. >You turn your gaze to Twilight.
  155. “Twi?...We need a plan…”
  156. >Twilight silently nods her approval.
  157.  
  158. -Later-
  159. “Ow! Ow! Take it easy! I bruise easily!”
  160. >Twilight rolls her eyes as she sets and bandages your nose with her magic. “Yeah, I can tell.”
  161. >The two of you plus Rainbow had hurried you off to Golden Oaks for some quality time with Twilight’s first aid bag after Mous legitimately broke your nose.
  162. >You’d explained to Rainbow Dash that you didn’t know why he did it other than “he was mad” which, of course, resulted in her getting mad.
  163. >”He’s your best friend and the uncle to our son and he just goes and punches you!? I mean, who -does- that!?” she had exclaimed.
  164. >After some venting, Twilight had asked her to watch the shop back at the town hall, probably for her own sanity.
  165. >A good thing, in hindsight…
  166. >Twilight sighs and cleans up the bandages, setting them by the windowsill and looking through the glass to the town beyond.
  167. >Houses were boarded up, windows closed tight, and nopony at all was on the normally bustling streets.
  168. >Twilight sighs. “It’s the Diamond Dogs all over again…”
  169. “The town’s still standing…”
  170. >”For -now-. But Tirek is close…and I-…” Twilight looks back at you. “I have –no idea- what we can do, Anon.”
  171. >Whoa, this isn’t like her.
  172. “What kind of talk is that, Twilight? You’re the smartest pony in town and a Princess to boot!”
  173. >Maybe the last Princess in Equestria too, but you don’t mention that.
  174. “And the two of us helped manage the Discord crisis and jailed the Dogfather, we can solve this too…I know we can.”
  175. >Twilight takes a deep breath. “IknowwedidallthatAnonbutthisissomuchdifferentbecauseTirekwasjailedinTartarusforagoodreasonlikeDiscordandwecouldn’tevenbeatDiscordandhadtouseTirektodoitandhe’sprobablyonlygrownstrongersincethenandallthispiledontopofbeingaprincessisjusttoomuchcraptohandle!” she quickly shouts out.
  176.  
  177. >Wow.
  178. >Motormouth said a swear word, it must be serious then.
  179. >You sigh and lean your head back.
  180. “He’s really that big of a deal, huh…?”
  181. >”Tirek is classified as a Class-X level threat, not only to Equestria, but the entire –planet-.”
  182. >You look at her.
  183. “For serious?”
  184. >Twilight simply nods. “If Tirek drains all the magic in Equestria, he’ll have nothing to stop him in the rest of the kingdoms as he slowly conquers everything in his path.” She hangs her head. “Just like the old-times…”
  185. >Uhg…
  186. >You pinch the bridge of your nose, wincing a bit as you touch the wounded body part.
  187. >Twilight shuffles her hooves. “Anon…if I tell you something, can you promise me you won’t tell –anypony-?”
  188. >What…?
  189. “What is it, Twilight?”
  190. >The Littlest Princess takes a deep breath. “Before Tirek came to Canterlot and sent the Princesses away, they transferred their magic out of their bodies…and into me.” Twilight looks at you stonefaced.
  191. “…Bullshit.”
  192.  
  193. >As if in a show of force, Twilight’s horn glows bright white…and the gradually descending sun outside does a loop-de-loop.
  194. >Your eyes go wide.
  195. “Okay, not bullshit. But this is great, Twilight!”
  196. >Huh?
  197. “You’ve got all that magic in you! You can beat Tirek and save the kingdom and everyone in it!”
  198. >Twilight’s eyes take a turn to bug out and she waves her hooves. “No no! I can’t! I don’t even know how much of this I can control, let alone fight an ancient demon with! I don’t even think that I have enough magic to –do- that!”
  199. >Your heart and head sink.
  200. “Oh…”
  201. >Twilight matches your demeanor. “I’m sorry, Anon…maybe if we had twice as much magic…”
  202. >You rack your brain thinking of what to do. You’ve come a long way since you first arrived in Equestria…and been a part of amazing things, but never like this.
  203. >Twilight was right, beating Discord was a shot in the dark and that involved days of preparation with the smartest minds in the kingdom working around the clock to come up with an at-best stop gap solution.
  204. >And even your ace in the hole-hail Mary-shot in the dark-bullheaded-odds defying wizard had stormed out after breaking your nose and left you without.
  205. >Now it was just you, a new princess who couldn’t control her powers, and your two brains against an ancient evil that could destroy the world.
  206. >Destroy Dash and Thunder…destroy your life and everything you loved…
  207. >In that moment, you feel something change.
  208.  
  209. >Once a few years ago, before you came here, you had ask Mous how he lived when he was constantly able to solve both his problems and yours the way he did.
  210. >His answer was simple; “It aint that big a mystery, man. I just consider the options I have and then pick the one with the best odds of working for what I want.”
  211. >”And what if that kinda shit goes on your record, man?” You had asked. You remember, the police had been called that time in the past.
  212. >Mous had shrugged at you. “So long as the end result is that our side is golden and the pricks that screwed us over know not to anymore, I can deal with a day of jail time or two.”
  213. >You think of Dash, Thunder, Twilight, the rest of the girls, and everyone huddled in that town hall…
  214. >If it meant them being safe…then you had to not brush anything off the table.
  215. >You felt the most interesting thing as you stood up, a wash of cold in your mind as ideas you once considered reprehensible popped in.
  216. >It might cost you your soul, but this might work…you just had to angle all the parts at the right solution.
  217. >”Anon?” Twilight asks.
  218. “Twi, show me a map of the kingdom.”
  219. >Twilight cocks an eyebrow and pulls down a map of Equestria and the outlying kingdoms. You grab a red marker and begin circling various parts.
  220.  
  221. >The Crystal Kingdom…
  222. >The Badlands to the west…
  223. >You circle one area off in the white of the map and put “TBD” next to it.
  224. >”Hey!” Twilight shouts. “I need that map!”
  225. “You can take it out of my pay. When does the next train to the Crystal Kingdom leave?”
  226. >Twilight steps back a bit shocked. “It can leave whenever if a Princess asks…why? Anon, what are you getting at?”
  227. “I have a plan, Twilight. A plan that may not work and has a lot of chances to go wrong, but has the potential to stop Tirek.”
  228. >”Plan? What plan?” Twilight asks, now looking at the map behind you as her curiosity piqued.
  229. “You said yourself that Tirek would destroy Equestria if he was left unchecked, and that you alone don’t have the power to defeat him.
  230. >You cap the marker and set it down, looking Twilight in the eyes.
  231. “So that means we need –more- power.”
  232. >Twilight gulps. “You can tell me on the train…”
  233.  
  234. >”I’m not sure about this…” Twilight says across from you.
  235. >You lean against the train car window as it speeds along the countryside.
  236. “What choice do we have?”
  237. >Twilight had used her influence to get the last train out of town and a crew brave enough to operate it. Brave might not be the best word, they probably just thought that being mobile meant being one step ahead of Tirek…
  238. >Twilight purses her lips, you can see the wheels in her mind turning until…
  239. >”I can’t say…” she sighs. “This wasn’t exactly covered in Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns…”
  240. “Neither, I doubt, was being a princess. But we do what we can.”
  241. >”You’re sure this will work…?” Twilight asks.
  242. >Poor girl…she hadn’t been a princess long, you could tell she was nervous.
  243. “There will be no one there to try and stop us.”
  244. >Now who do you sound like?
  245. >Twilight shakes her head. “Not what I meant. I mean, can you trust them?”
  246. >You’d told Twilight your plan over the ride, she’d be the ONLY one you could tell.
  247. >She was the only one you could trust.
  248. “They’ve got just as much to lose as we do here, Twi…”
  249. >Not entirely true, but you were hoping to pull something out.
  250. >Twilight rubs her head. “I feel like I’m trying to pin a tail on a bot-fly here…”
  251. >You mull that over and nod.
  252. “An apt analogy, but not entirely accurate.”
  253. >Twilight’s eyebrow elevates in curiosity.
  254. “There’s a storm rolling across Equestria that’s the biggest we’ve ever seen, we’re trying to start some smaller storms around it and hope they mash together into a supercell that can crack it.”
  255. >Twilight just looks at you.
  256. “That properly captures the…cataclysmic nature of all this.”
  257. >The conductor comes over the loudspeaker. “Princess, we’re coming up on the Crystal Kingdom now.”
  258. >You rise out of your seat.
  259. “Let’s get to this…”
  260.  
  261. >The Crystal Kingdom, with its monarch “absent”, was much like Ponyville just one chapter earlier.
  262. >Houses were being boarded up and while citizens still walked the streets, guards were posted on every street corner and the shield was raised.
  263. >You and Twilight didn’t stick around though, you both hurried to the vaults underneath the Crystal Palace and obtained a…artifact. Then it was back up above ground to obtain another.
  264. >The rise continued up the foot of the palace, through the living quarters, past the winding spiral staircase and up to the focusing iris at the top spire.
  265. >You turn to Twilight, the artifact box in your hands.
  266. “Are you ready?”
  267. >She nods, the second artifact in a saddlebag on her back. “As I’ll ever be…”
  268. >You reach into the box in your hands and grab the sharp unicorn horn inside. You extend your arm and hold the horn in the center of the arcane circle carved on the floor.
  269. “Hit it.”
  270. >Twilight aims her own horn at your hand and casts her spell, causing the severed horn and her own pack to glow a lavender color.
  271. >”Back away, Anon.”
  272. >You jerk your hand back and step back next to Twilight, watching the spell unfurl. The horn floats in the ring and begins to bleed black smoke as its bearer is reconstituted.
  273. >The smoke forms a shape, forming a strong torso and legs to stand on that end in diamond black hooves.
  274. >Smokey green eyes with hellish black pupils emanating purple smoke turn their gaze to you.
  275. “King Sombra…you look in good spirits.”
  276.  
  277. >Sombra’s pupils shrink even further upon seeing you both and he snarls, baring his fangs and scraping his hoof on the ground.
  278. >”YOU!” he growls, lunching at you and dissipating into a giant smoke simulacrum of himself that bares down on you.
  279. “No.”
  280. >Twilight’s pouch glows, as does Sombra’s horn. The Shadow King releases a “What!?” of surprise as he’s forced to re-solidify and crashes to the ground in front of you.
  281. “Yeah.”
  282. >You kneel down and get closer to the surprised pony on the floor.
  283. “I’m told that sucks.”
  284. >”What did you –do- to me!?” he snarls.
  285. >”We bound your spirit before we let you out.” Twilight says, opening her bag and floating out the crystalline heart artifact you’d gathered out of it. “To this.”
  286. “We thought you’d appreciate that.”
  287. >”BOUND!?” Sombra roars. “YOU CANNOT BIND ME, APE!”
  288. >His horn begins glowing an angry red but-
  289. >You lash out and slap the Crystal Heart, Sombra reacts in kind and reels as if struck.
  290. “Stop that, or we’ll make you.”
  291. >Sombra growls and looks up at you, not saying anything.
  292. >You don’t let him.
  293.  
  294. “You’re going to help us do something, Sombra. A mission of grave importance for the good of the entire kingdom.”
  295. >”Or else what?” Sombra asks.
  296. “Or else we’ll smash this and your crystal obsessed spirit will go back to being the quantum foam that holds reality together.”
  297. >Sombra glares daggers into your eyes and you glare right back.
  298. “You’ll have no mind, no body, and no soul. You will cease to exist in every and all forms that you could conceptually exist in and will put the energy that makes you be you to work doing something good for someone.”
  299. >”HA!” Sombra spits his first saliva in over a year at your face and lands it on your cheek. “You cannot bluff to me, ape. I will –NOT- spend my newfound freedom as your lapdog and you will not destroy me.”
  300. >You subside your anger and grab the heart from Twilight.
  301. “Well Twi, you heard him.”
  302. >With a flick of your wrist, you toss the heart out over the open edge of the tower.
  303. >”NO!” Sombra shouts, making a dash towards the edge.
  304.  
  305. >Twilight looks up at you half frantic, you quickly nod and the all-too-fragile Crystal Heart levitates dozens of stories off the ground.
  306. >You march over to Sombra who has a hoof outstretched in a futile gesture to touch his new phylactery, grab him by the jaw, and turn him towards you.
  307. “Let me tell you how this is going to work, you little pissant. You are –going- to help me because –you have no choice in the matter-. You are not my partner in this. You are not my minion. You are not my employee, my slave, my comrade-in-arms, or even my soldier. You are my pawn. A sacrificial piece on a board that is nation sized in a plot you can’t even start to comprehend.”
  308. >Sombra blinks at you as your fingers dig into his “flesh” deeper.
  309. “You will obey my orders without question, you will not scheme, you will treat Twilight with the utmost level of respect and you will perform your duty for Equestria because –you have absolutely zero say otherwise-. This mission, my will, and the safety of Equestria through whatever means are needed are the only reason you are here. You will do this because you are aware firsthand what I am, what I do, and the individuals I routinely do it with, and that if I detect the slightest hint that you are disingenuous, disobedient, or attempting to sabotage me, I will –unmake- you.”
  310. >A few tense moments pass as you release Sombra and rise to your feet.
  311. “Do I make myself crystal clear?”
  312.  
  313. >Sombra spends a few moments staring into your eyes, not in hatred or anger, but seemingly of calm shock until he finally opens his mouth.
  314. >”Perhaps once more…with feeling.”
  315. >You tilt your head a bit to the side.
  316. “Quaint. Now on your feet, we’ve got a train to catch and a long distance to travel.”
  317. >Sombra grunts and gets to his hooves. “Do you expect me to call you “master” as well, ape?”
  318. “I –expect- you to not bother me unless you have something to add to the situation. You are centuries old, there can’t be just cobwebs knocking around up there.”
  319. >You turn on your heel and head for the door, fists clenched and marching.
  320. “Twilight, we’re done here. Let’s get headed southwest…”
  321. >Twilight exchanges a quick wary glance at Sombra which he returns with restrained contempt before bagging the Crystal Phylactery. “Right behind you, Anon…”
  322.  
  323. >The train ride from Northern Equestria through Gildedale’s boarders and past Shimmerwood to the western badlands had been long. Even at top speed, it’d still taken overnight to get there, forcing the three of you to sleep on the train.
  324. >You think Sombra needed to sleep, anyway.
  325. >Archback Mountain was your destination, right at the southern tip of one of the splits in the Central Ley Line.  The area was a no-man’s-land ever since reports of missing ponies and griffins started coming in from the area.
  326. >You could do the math well enough to figure out who was there and why you needed to go.
  327. >The three of you had been walking along the sand in the mid-day sun for what felt like forever, scarfs around you and Twilight’s faces to keep the dust out.
  328. >”This had better be worth it.” Sombra jeers.
  329. “How’s not dying? Is that worth it?”
  330. >”I promise, you get used to it, human.”
  331. >”Nopony is going to die!” Twilight shouts. Sombra rolls his eyes. “Children…”
  332. >You put your hand over your eyes and squint. In the distance, you could see the jagged peak of Archback.
  333. “You think they know we’re here?”
  334. >”Assuming they have not changed in the thousand years since I last saw them, they knew we were here the moment we stepped into this sand.”
  335. >Great…
  336.  
  337. “Why aren’t they doing anything?” you ask over your shoulder.
  338. >”They might still be deciding if they should come closer or not…” Twilight say.
  339. >Hmmm…
  340. >You look over your shoulder to your other companion.
  341. “Get their attention.”
  342. >Sombra gets petulant. “I do not take orders from anyone, human. Phylactery or not.”
  343. >You jerk your head towards the mountain.
  344. “I’m giving you the opportunity to pretend they’re me and work out some frustrations, be grateful.”
  345. >Sombra grits his fangs and rolls his eyes, taking a few steps forward. “I’ll show you grateful…”
  346. >Sombra’s horn and eyes glow with a smokey lavender aura as he makes the ground shake, forcing you and Twilight back a step.
  347. >Sombra throws his head forward and the rumbling heads away from you, but Sombra still keeps his head low in concentration.
  348. >”Sombra…what did you-“
  349. >Twilight is cut off by a large purple crystal breaking through the ground near the base of Archback Mountain. It rises high up into the air and strikes the center of the peak dead on, sending a shockwave and accompanying tremor your direction moments later.
  350. >”…Oh.” Twilight says as Sombra steps away, a cocky grin showing he’s quite pleased with himself.
  351.  
  352. “Very good…now look.”
  353. >Sombra turns around and sees what you and Twilight are really gaping at.
  354. >From behind the top, bottom, every side of Archback Mountain came an ever growing black cloud, like you’d just kicked over the biggest anthill in the world.
  355. >And you had, technically. It was a Changeling hill, but whatever.
  356. >The cloud of insectoids nearly blocks out the sun before it rushes towards your party with startling speed.
  357. >Not unexpected.
  358. “Twilight, put up a shield if you please.”
  359. >”Huh? Right!” Twilight says, snapping out of her trance at the spectacle.
  360. >The Changeling swarm descends from the sky and Twilight’s horn sparks.
  361. >Just sparks.
  362. “Twilight that shield please.”
  363. >”Trying Anon!” she says.
  364. >You feel a pit in your gut.
  365. >This was NOT the time for your powers to not work, Twilight!
  366. “Faster.”
  367. >Spark. The swarm gets closer.
  368. “Faster!”
  369. >”I’m going!” Twilight says, beginning to panic as she produces another spark.
  370. >You can see the purple reflection of Twilight’s magic in their blue eyes now.
  371. >”I’m going to die again so quick, wonderful…” Sombra adds dryly.
  372. “FASTER WOULD BE BETTER!”
  373. >Twilight’s horn sparks again and begins to glow. “Got it!”
  374. >A purple bubble emanates out from Twilight and covers the three of you just in time for the Changeling swam to slam headfirst into it. Like a sea of angry ants, the ones closer to the rear just fly past the ones who impacted the barrier before them to try their luck. Each of them bounces off either onto the ground or into the air.
  375. >Finally they wise up and cease the river of chitin against you, opting instead to begin circling your relatively small enclosed space in a black tornado of deafening wing beats, angry hisses, and green magic reflecting off blue eyes that reaches up to the heavens.
  376. >And the three of you at the heart of the swarm storm.
  377. >You walk to the edge of the safe zone and look out at no Changeling in particular.
  378. “Bring your leader to me. Now.”
  379.  
  380. >A green glow, one brighter than the glows form the smaller Changeling’s horns, breaks through the gaps in their tightly woven flight pattern.
  381. >In an instant, a gap opens as the vortex of bugs rotates and a Changeling larger than the rest steps through, standing just outside your dome.
  382. >She snorts. “You again…I suppose I should have known…”
  383. >Her sickly green eyes move to your companions. “And you brought the rock-humper…wonderful.”
  384. >Sombra stomps a hoof. “SILENCE, you miserable insect…”
  385. “Chrysalis…in as pitiful form as ever, I see.”
  386. >Seriously, rock-humper? That was lame. You guess eating love means she has to diet her sense of humor.
  387. >”Why are you here ape?” she literally hisses.
  388. “Why does anyone come to anyone else? I want something.”
  389. >Chrysalis laughs, a shrill flanged laugh that somehow pierces the buzzing roar of the Changelings around you.
  390. >Responding to their queen’s command, the twister breaks movement and arcs behind her, the Changelings landing in neat and orderly regimented squadron behind their monarch and stretching back almost half a mile.
  391. >”You –want- something!? You who were responsible for our failed invasion and who attacked our hive –WANT- something!??!” she exclaims, snorting near the barrier separating the two of you with green fire coming from her nostrils.
  392. >You fold your arms behind your back and stand still there.
  393. “You heard me Cheeselegs, I want something from you. And you’re going to give it because it’s something you want to.”
  394. >Chrysalis gives you a “Zebra, you serious?” look. “Oh really now.” She says flatly.
  395. “Damn straight.”
  396. >”And that is?”
  397. “Your lives.”
  398.  
  399. >Chrysalis’s eyes narrow to dangerous slits. “Are you threatening us, human? You’ll find that you need more that rocks to defeat the Changeling Swarm…”
  400. >Psssh.
  401. “Don’t give me that load of horse shit, Chrysalis. We’re at least ten miles away and you live in a fucking MOUNTAIN. I’m not a geologist and even I know Sombra caused nothing more than superficial damage, idiot.”
  402. >She pauses a bit after being insulted, taking a deep breath to, no doubt, rip you a new one but you don’t give her the time.
  403. “I’m talking about something far more destructive than a rock, Chrysalis. Tirek is loose and he’s gorging himself on Equestria and any other magic he can find.”
  404. >Chrysalis shuts her insult in her mouth and chews the inside of her cheek. “Yes…my sleepers reported as much back to me...if Tirek comes here, he will find himself beget by the Swarm and devoured.”
  405. >Now you laugh.
  406. “HA! Bull.”
  407. >You offer Chrysalis a little golf-clap.
  408. “You invaded Canterlot and successfully knocked Celestia down after stuffing your flank with love for weeks beforehand, good for you, sport. But Celestia, the princess of love, and Luna all had their magic eaten by Tirek.”
  409. >Chrysalis blinks twice, clearly not believing your words. Good thing too because you were lying about where that magic was.
  410. “And now they’re in Tartarus.”
  411. >”HA! Serves Celestia right.” Chrysalis says.
  412. >”Don’t talk about the Princess like that!” Twilight snaps.
  413. >You give her a look over your shoulder.
  414. >Stick to the plan, girl…
  415. >You hope a triple dose of deific power lets her read minds.
  416. >Chrysalis smirks. “Good to see the Princesses new toady getting out and about…”
  417. >Before this can go further, you signal Twilight to drop the shield.
  418.  
  419. >The purple barrier lowers, much to Chrysalis’s surprise and Sombra’s embarrassment if his facehoofing is an indicator.
  420. >The smirk grows wider. “You are unwise your lower your defenses…”
  421. “And you’d be unwise to act without letting me finish.”
  422. >Chrysalis sarcastically nods, letting you continue.
  423. “It’s simple. You want to let your people thrive, that much is plane as the desert sun. But this isn’t a question of thriving, it’s one of surviving.”
  424. “This lone wolf, Queen-bitch-of-the-Badlands thing isn’t going to cut it this time, Chrysalis. So you have two choices.”
  425. >You hold up two fingers and count them both off.
  426. “You can fight alone in which case all of you will die, or you can fight with us in which case only –some- of you will die.”
  427. >Chrysalis looks at you like you just told her to eat a shit pie.
  428. “You’re smart enough, do the arithmetic.”
  429. >Chrysalis takes two steps forward and gets right up in your face. “Why…should I believe –anything- you say? Why should I believe that you won’t exterminate us after what we did in Canterlot?”
  430. >You think over the best way to answer her, how best to direct her feelings.
  431. “Because I, like you, care about my people. And unfortunately the best chance for their survival is for us to work together.”
  432. >You sidestep Chrysalis and walk around her, arms still behind your back.
  433. “If you’re going to turn me down, figure out how many of your people’s lives your pride is work. I have other things to do.”
  434. >You feel Chrysalis’s glare burn into the back of your skull. “Were I you, I would watch my words…”
  435. “Were you me, you’d be pretty. Clock’s ticking.”
  436. >All eyes are on Chrysalis save yours, the Changeling army ahead of you and Twilight and Sombra behind you.
  437. >A long silence passes in the statue still near-battleground.
  438.  
  439. >”Thissssss…will be an alliance of –CONVIENIENCE-“ human…nothing more. We are not now, nor will we ever be beholden to you.” Chrysalis says trotting up to your side and looking down at you.
  440. “I don’t care if it’s an alliance of attraction so long as you bring what I need to the table. –Can- you? I saw you in Canterlot.”
  441. >The Changeling Queen sneers at you. “You will see our numbers darken the sky, whelp. Then we will see where your opinions on what happened in Canterlot stand…”
  442. >You stare her down for a minute before turning around.
  443. “Whatever. Just get your people ready and come with us. I need your host for Tirek but I need you personally for what comes next and your entourage isn’t exactly inconspicuous.”
  444. >You look behind Sombra and Twilight in the direction you came from, the train waiting just past the horizon.
  445. “I hope you have good reception.”
  446. >Chrysalis snorts and flutters her wings back to her swarm.
  447. >You walk up to Twilight and Sombra.
  448. “And that makes two…”
  449. >”Just how many more strays are you planning to add to this party, human?”
  450. “How many more strays am I planning to add to this party” what now?” you say in a mocking tone.
  451. >You can –hear- Sombra grind his teeth. Having his phylactery was awesome. “How many more strays are you planning to add to this miserable waste of time, ANON?”
  452. “I’m glad you asked, Sombra. The four of us have only one more stop to go before everyone on my list is gathered.”
  453. >You look down at Twilight who eyes the Changing Queen and the Crystal King with clear and obvious worry. You offer her a reassuring pat on the head and a half smile so Sombra can’t see.
  454. >”And where might that be?” he asks.
  455. >You put your hands back in your pockets.
  456. “Canterlot, duh.”
  457.  
  458. -Chrysalis PoV-
  459. >The human and his lackies herded you onto the waiting train shortly after you’d communed with your commanders.
  460. >They would have your assistance until you could verify that Tirek was actually a threat and possibly do something about it and not a second more.
  461. >Your people depend on it.
  462. >But for now, Tirek was not the primary concern of yours.
  463. >You walk from the train car with Anon and that insufferable new princess in it and into the next one, in doing so you trade one annoyance for another.
  464. >An entire empty train and you get stuck with him.
  465. >You scoff.
  466. “I’m amazed you were able to make it on this train without wondering at the marvels of modern machinery.” You chide.
  467. >Sombra rolls his eyes. “Did you spend the last thousand years thinking that up? I’m impressed you strung the sentences together.”
  468. >You narrow your eyes.
  469. “Repugnant as ever, Sombra.”
  470. >”Likewise, insect.”
  471. “Why are you even here?” you ask. “I thought the human needed those who could actually do something.”
  472. >”Your hive saw enough of what I could do to warrant my place here.” Sombra snips. “And besides…I am bound.”
  473. >You laugh once.
  474. “Bound?”
  475. >”The worm used a phylactery.”
  476. “HA!” you laugh once more, throwing your head back.
  477. “Finally you learn your place.”
  478. >”Then you’ll do well to pay attention, Chrysalis. Because this fate is your own should you not heed my warning.”
  479. “Mmm?” you ask.
  480. >”He is gathering his objects of power, and soon we will not be able to fell him should he attempt something, not without a plan.”
  481. >You cock your eyebrow, interest rising.
  482. “You have something?”
  483. >Sombra’s eyes glance out the window and then to the car behind you. “Come…listen well.”
  484. >You sit in the chair behind Sombra and listen intently to his plan.
  485.  
  486. -Anon PoV-
  487. -Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDZTGTjnhBE-
  488.  
  489. >You just saw Sombra look at you through the car window and now Chrysalis is sitting behind him, his jaw moving and clearly saying something.
  490. >You scribble on your paper next to your notes.
  491. “And the bait is taken…”
  492. >”What’s that?” someone behind you says.
  493. >You turn your head and catch Twilight coming down from the conductor’s cabin.
  494. “Nothing, just a side thing. Are we gonna be on time to Canterlot? It’s important we get there at a dark hour.”
  495. >By your math, you should just be able to make it.
  496. >”We’ll get there…” Twilight says, craning her head.
  497. >You turn your paper to her to let her see, you’d been drawing a map of what you could remember about Canterlot.
  498. “It should be just like I told you on the way out here. You go ahead while me and the goon squad head along the ground to meet you along the outer wall.”
  499. >Twilight nods.
  500. “And you’re sure you know where the prison is?”
  501. >Twilight nods nervously. “They wouldn’t have moved it.”
  502. >Good…
  503.  
  504. >You chew your pencil.
  505. “Then all that’ll be left after we grab both of those is finding the right place for a summoning and praying the last storm doesn’t hit before the rest of us are…”
  506. >”What?” Twilight asks.
  507. >You wave a hand.
  508. “Nothing, pay it no mind.”
  509. >Twilight frowns. “Anon, you’ve been acting…strange since we left Ponyville. Different from how I know you, are you sure you’re okay to do this?”
  510. >You nod slowly and look out the window.
  511. “Strange times, Twilight…”
  512. >Her frown deepens and her head begins to sag.
  513. >You speak to skillfully avoid a lecture.
  514. “Hey, don’t worry. I’m just…tired from a day of walking in the desert is all…”
  515. >Twilight looks into your eyes, you hate doing this to her. “You promise?”
  516. “Cross my heart and hope to…you get the rest, huh?”
  517. >Twilight giggles.
  518. “There we go…now go get some rest, it’s a long ride to Canterlot and you’ll need it for your solo sneaking mission.”
  519. >Twilight sighs and crawls up on a seat. “I just want this to be over soon.”
  520. “We all do Twilight, we all do…”
  521.  
  522. >Twilight looks over your shoulder. “How’s the spell matrix coming?”
  523. >You sigh.
  524. >The two of you had gone over a hypothetical endgame for this crisis on the train ride to the Crystal Kingdom, the lynchpin of which was a magical spell that you were hoping could be your ace-in-the-hole.
  525. >You lift your page of notes to the magical blueprint underneath. Runic letters, calculations, and even a layline map were all scribbled around the boarder of a spell matrix that you were worried might not even fit in a crystal.
  526. “Slow. Slow and with lots of guesswork. I’m sorry Twilight, I just don’t have that much information to work with…”
  527. >Twilight grimaces. “Well…let’s hope our third acquisition has a bit more information for us.
  528. >Powerhouses were important, but so was information so you could apply it. It was the hope that your next destination would yield both.
  529. >You sigh and go back to your notes.
  530. “Only time will tell, Twi.”
  531.  
  532. >Night fell before you made it to Canterlot, a good thing too for a solo sneaking mission.
  533. >Twilight had taken to the sky after the train stopped at the foot of the mountain, a single purple dot against the inky lavender of the night sky.
  534. >Meanwhile, you, Chrysalis, and Sombra hike through the trees and fields underneath the platform that Canterlot rested upon.
  535. >”Are you going to inform us what your scheme here is human? Or do you expect us to stumble in the dark?”
  536. >You continue on ahead.
  537. “You know everything you need to know, Sombra. Besides, I hear that stumbling around in the dark is one of your talents.”
  538. >Chrysalis chuckles.
  539. >The three of you enter into a clearing with a circle of grass that appears different than the others. Unlike the rest of the grass, this has a perfect circular ring of newer, taller, slightly different shaded grass.
  540. >You head over and kneel down in the middle of it. You rub your hand on the dirt and look above you, judging the layout of the city based on where you were.
  541. “So this is where it was…alright.”
  542. >You stand.
  543. “You two, on me. Sombra. Float this chunk of dirt straight up and stop when I tell you to.”
  544. >”And –what- would that accomplish besides making our presence known?” He asks while Chrysalis just steps onto the chunk, probably to spite him.
  545. “Well, do it and you’ll find out? Come on, chip chip.”
  546. >Sombra grumbles and stands behind you, he may be bound but he certainly didn’t like this. Not that you needed him to.
  547. >His horn glows and the circular chunk of earth once more rips from the ground and rises vertically up the side of a mountain, eventually floating just a few feet away from Canterlot’s exterior walls.
  548. “Chrysalis, can you magic us up a door?”
  549. >Chrysalis points her glowing horn at the wall and makes a single pinpoint of emerald fire on it. The fire spreads into an oval ring that reveals a well-stocked museum inside.
  550. “Where eagles dare, kids.”
  551. >You run and jump through the hole, leaping into the museum.
  552.  
  553. >Galloping hooves and buzzing wings behind you tell you that your compatriots have joined you.
  554. “Keep those spells going, the other way out is significantly harder than an elevator.”
  555. >The two of them sneer. “It may be easy for you to say that, Anon. But maintaining these spells will be draining. You had better be sure this is worth our time.” Chrysalis says.
  556. “Well then let’s not drag our feet.” You say.
  557. >You head over to a help kiosk and grab a brochure. You flip it open and begin rapidly scanning the contents of the museum for what you’ll need.
  558. >”What could be in this collection of relics that could possibly help us, human?”
  559. >You flip a page.
  560. “Well right now I’m considering adding you two dusty relics to their collection.”
  561. >You get two deadpan looks in response as you find what you need.
  562. “Come on, down the hall and three rights.”
  563. >You toss the brochure and hurry away, your companions following you.
  564. >As you run, you can see the vault that once held Zod’s Repeater, the crossbow that got stolen so many years ago, and other priceless artifacts from ages past. Battle standards and tomes of ancient lore and discs of forbidden knowledge, but you blew past all that on your way to a more recent acquisition.
  565. >You hurry into a large room that has a single pedestal in the middle. On that pedestal rested a wood hewn box and in that box, on silk dressings, rested something small and gold.
  566. “I had a dog and his name was Bingo!”
  567. >You begin hopping on one foot.
  568. >”What are you-“
  569. >You get your shoe off and into your hand as you smash the glass case into pieces and snatch the box.
  570. >The burglar alarms, despite no guards able to respond to them in the wake of Tirek’s rampage, begin to blare.
  571. “Okay! Now we run!”
  572. >You get your shoe back on and hold the box under your arm, dashing down the hallway with your surprised companions behind you.
  573.  
  574. >”WARN US NEXT TIME!” Sombra roars.
  575. “Less talking more running! We need to get out befor-“
  576. >Next to the three of you, a display case with a sombrero inside winks out in a flash of light.
  577. >Ah. That’d be the automatic teleport system designed to get the pieces out of the museum and into a safe place in the event of another robbery.
  578. “Let’s go! Unless you want to be a permanent resident!”
  579. >You, Chrysalis and Sombra pick up your pace and dash for the hole Chrysalis maintained open, jumping through in quick succession and landing on Sombra’s plot of land just as a crystal blue barrier sealed the hole shut with a force field.
  580. >You sigh explosively.
  581. “Good work, team…”
  582. >”Exciting visit to the museum?” asks a voice above you.
  583. >You look up and see Twilight fluttering in place some 20 feet above you.
  584. “Riveting. Do you have it?”
  585. >Twilight floats up a small wool bag with something jostling around inside it. “Right where we left it.”
  586. “Good…”
  587. >You turn to Sombra.
  588. “Lower us and we can begin.”
  589.  
  590. >”Be careful!” Twilight shouts once you’d gotten on the ground. “The runes of a summoning circle are the very language of summoning itself! Make one small mistake and the entire array can fall apart! Who in Tartarus taught you how to make a summoning circle in the first place?”
  591. >Sombra’s eye twitches as he stops spreading crushed crystal dust in the circle. “I did. When I REFINED THEM A THOUSAND YEARS AGO!” he shouts.
  592. >Twilight looks back to you. “He’s being bad again.”
  593. >You just stay out of it.
  594. “Sombra, keep doing what you’re doing. Chrysalis, go help him. Twilight, come over here.”
  595. >Twilight trades places with the Changeling and sits down next to you.
  596. “You’re enjoying this.” You say so only she can hear.
  597. >”Only a little bit.” She answers coyly.
  598. >You roll your eyes.
  599. “Do you have the spell?”
  600. >Twilight’s face drops from the impish smile she had to one of worry. “I do but….are you sure about this, Anon?”
  601. “It’s all we have, Twilight. Give me the tesseract.”
  602. >Twilight deposits the ever shifting cube-within-a-cube into your hand.
  603. “You two, clear the circle.”
  604. >Sombra and Chrysalis back away from the summoning circle you’d been so carefully drawing on the ground this last hour and head back over to Twilight.
  605. >You step inside and set the tesseract right in the middle before stepping back just to the edge.
  606. “Do it.” You say without looking.
  607.  
  608. >Twilight’s horn audibly sparks while her spell drifts through the air and into the hypercube.
  609. >As soon as the spell reaches it, the cube sparks to life. Hopping into the air on a jolt of energy and sending power along the crushed crystal of the summoning circle.
  610. >The power consumes the crystal like gas did fire and bathes the glade in purple light.
  611. >Twilight grunts as the tesseract levitates into the air and begins to spin, it’s outer cube one direction and its inner cube another at alternating speeds.
  612. >A sound comes from the cube, a shrill sound of something being pulled from a pocket universe of absolutely nothing into the material world through a hole the size of an atom.
  613. >The perfect prison.
  614. >The shrill howl grows louder and louder until it echoes off the mountains themselves.
  615. >And then, all of a sudden, it all stops.
  616. >The lights recede back into the cube which stops spinning and heralds the end of the screaming with a loud THUMP and heavy panting.
  617. >You wave away the steam from the magical reaction and crouch down to the familiar figure that’s sprawled on the ground trying to catch its breath for the first time in years.
  618. “Comet…so nice to see you again.”
  619.  
  620. -Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVINeir1TDk -
  621. >Comet sits on what passes for his knees staring at his own paws in utter disbelief.
  622. >Twilight and you had thrown him into a 4D prison you’d made for Discord before you learned he died, but it was only after some more recent research into the topic that you learned what 4D was like.
  623. >No lights. No sound. No body. No sense. Nothing. So Comet’s reaction to finally having sensation after his stay was understandable.
  624. >But it was also wasting time.
  625. “YO! FIDO!”
  626. >Comet’s ears perk up and he looks over his shoulder at you. As soon as he meets your eyes he stumbles over himself and falls on his face.
  627. >Comet growls and gnashes his teeth like the mutt he is while he also not-so-subtly tries to remember how his legs worked.
  628. >Sombra stares. “This is what passes for a villain while I am away? Appalling.”
  629. >”The hell do you want!? You aint puttin’ me back in that cage, if that’s what you think. Not on my rotten life…” Comet growls.
  630. >You put your hands into your pockets and step forward.
  631. “Wrong. If we wanted to, that’s what we’d do.”
  632. >You roll your shoulder.
  633. “Look behind me. I’ve got conquerors and would be monarchs here on my whim, don’t kid yourself into thinking I won’t put you down with another block of ice in a second if you make me, puppy dog.”
  634. >Comet’s eyes narrow.
  635. “What I’m –here- for is information. You know something we want to know.”
  636. >Twilight steps forward and nods.
  637. “So count yourself lucky.”
  638. >”Infor-what?” Comet asks in disbelief.
  639. >Twilight takes another step towards the summoning circle now separating your party from Comet.
  640. >”Comet, Tirek has escaped from Tartarus and is draining the magic out of everypony he can find. At this rate, nothing will be able to stop him and he’ll take over Equestria. You were in Tartarus at the same time as Tirek, can you tell us anything?”
  641. >Comet growls. “What’s in it fer me?”
  642. >Ever the businessman.
  643. “Leniency.” You say.
  644.  
  645. >Comet cocks an eyebrow.
  646. “We’ll put you in a cage that –isn’t- worse than Tartarus, IF you help us out here, that is.”
  647. >Comet lowers his head, still crouched over and clearly not trusting you. Not that you could blame him.
  648. >”…If you wanna know that…you gotta know the whole story.” He says. “Whaddayou think happened in Tartarus after yous guys shut out Discord?”
  649. “You and your buddies killed him is what.”
  650. >Comet nods. “Yeah…but that’s only half the story.”
  651. “See, all the big shots down there each carved up a little piece’a’tha Big D for themselves…Tirek took his skull and Grogar sucked up alla tha magic in him…but they didn’t keep that stuff.”
  652. >Twilight nods. “Go on…”
  653. >”Turns out, old Horn Head McGoat couldn’t use dat magic, too unpredictable for his spells so it was totally useless to him…but not Tirek. Grogs and Tirek traded their pieces, see? Grogar got Discord’s skull fer who the hell knows and Tirek got alla his magic, last I heard. This wuz right before I broke out.”
  654. “How can Tirek use it when Grogar can’t? Isn’t he a master magician?”
  655. >Comet rolls his eyes. “Friggen surfaceser’s…you don’t even know how Tirek works, doya?” When you both shake your heads, he continues. “Tirek aint magic, not like hornhead ova here or Grogs. See, you’s craft ya spells and throw ‘em around, and that’s all well’n’ good. But Tirek? Tirek is a friggen –juggernaut- wit magic. He don’t craft it, don’t shape it, he just consumes it and burns it up like some kinda furnace. And Furnaces’ don’t care what they burn.”
  656. >You chew the inside of your lip.
  657. “So…take away the coal…”
  658. >”The flame dies down…” Twilight says.
  659. >You and her look at each other, both thinking the same thing.
  660. “Do you have the materials to modify the spell back at the library?”
  661. >She nods. “Down in the basement, we’d better hurry.”
  662. >You take a step towards Comet.
  663. “We will but…hold on.”
  664.  
  665. >Comet’s eyes shrink and his fur stands up as you get closer. You clutch the box in your pocket.
  666. >”Gonna renege? Send me back now? Don’t grow too attached ta ya throat if ya do, humie.”
  667. “Relax, Comet. I’m not.”
  668. >”Then…what?” he asks, still wary and probably pissed.
  669. “Come with us.”
  670. >A stiff breeze passes between you two.
  671. >”…Wut.”
  672. “You heard me. I’m putting this Army of Darkness together, make it an Army of Barkness.”
  673. >Twilight facehoofs, Chrysalis groans.
  674. >Twat, like she knows a good joke.
  675. >”Are you…friggen SERIOUS?” Comet asks. “Tha’ HELL would I do that?”
  676. >You shrug.
  677. “A chance to wail on Tirek? A chance to do some good with your life? Because you know that Tirek is going to bowl over this kingdom if we fail and we need all the help we can get?”
  678. >You walk closer to him, he backs away towards the trees out of instinct.
  679. “Because, you –know- that’s what’s going to happen, right? If we fail? You’ve already been in two of the worst places imaginable in your un-lifetime, do you –really- want to go for a third?”
  680.  
  681. >Comet grinds his teeth and narrows his eyes. “Temptin’ offer…but like ya said, I’m just an undead mutt who’s been outa the game for a while. I aint throwin’ what time I got left away against a juiced up Tirek if that’s all I got.”
  682. “Then it won’t be.” You say.
  683. >You grab the box in your pocket and whip it at Comet. His rough lifestyle makes him reach out and grab it in a heartbeat right before it’d have hit his face.
  684. >He looks at you questioningly, you decide to keep staring and let your offer do the talking.
  685. >Comet opens the box, his eyes widen in the second life shaking shock of his day.
  686. >He reaches in and pulls a golden amulet on a long chain out of the box, letting the light casting off it catch him in the eye and illuminate them with wonder.
  687. >”Is…this…?” he starts.
  688. “Yeah, it is. Welcome back, Dogfather.”
  689. >You pocket your hands again and turn back to the hills.
  690. “Now fall in with our other little stormclouds. We’ve got our local library to get to…”
  691.  
  692. >You yawn at the top of a hill just outside Ponyville the next day.
  693. “Mmnnnn…”
  694. >Been a while since you pulled an all nighter.
  695. >”If you cannot stand on the battlefield, human, return to your bed and let us handle this.”
  696. “And miss your fantastic personality, Sombra? Not a chance.”
  697. >Chrysalis joins the two of you from the bottom of the hill where Dogfather is doing some sorcery.
  698. >”Blunt as he is, the rock biter has a point. If you cannot maintain awareness on the field, perhaps your responsibilities are best left to another.”
  699. >You fiddle with the spell crystal in your pocket. You and Twilight had spent all night refining and crafting the spell as per what Dogfather told you.
  700. >Just like old times.
  701. “And give you two both the leverage to do what you want? Not a chance.”
  702. >Raspy laughter comes from behind you as Dogfather walks up the hill in a newly conjured suit, tie, and hat. “Sounds like ya learned a bit since I last left, eh?”
  703. >You grunt in acknowledgement. As you do, Twilight swoops down from the sky and lands next to you three.
  704. “Everything set?”
  705. >Twilight nods. “The others moved the townsfolk as far away as they could...but…”
  706. “Twi?”
  707. >Twilight frowns angrily. “Why aren’t we going into the Everfree Forrest to try and get the Elements? It can’t –hurt- to have them helping us.”
  708. “Do you think you can control them in your…state?” you ask.
  709. >”What? What state?” Sombra asked.
  710. “Shutup.”
  711.  
  712. >None of the others new about Twilight’s absorbing the Princesses’ magic, but time on that secret was rapidly running out as planned.
  713. >Twilight remains firm. “It can’t hurt to try.”
  714. “That’s a no….Look, Twilight, I’m asking for your trust. As your friend and colleague…please, we’re almost done.”
  715. >Twilight was the one who’d been with you the longest through this and every step of the way, so for a moment, just for her, you let her look into your eyes and see something that isn’t the ice cold you’d been presenting to everyone. She looks into your eyes for near an eternity and sighs.
  716. >”I hope you know what you’re doing, Anon…”
  717. “Me too…”
  718. >You look at your watch. It had been about 40 hours since news had broken about Tirek…
  719. “That’ll have to do…Twilight. Light it.”
  720. >Twilight raises her horn into the sky and fires a magenta sphere of magic high up into it. The sphere explodes in a shower of sparks that rains down on the countryside for all for miles to see.
  721. >…And then the ground starts shaking.
  722.  
  723. >He comes through over a hill from the Everfree, pushing the larger trees out of his way like branches and crushing the smaller ones. His titanic size rivals the mountains in the distance and his horns point straight up and seem to scratch the sky, arc of energy sparking between them.
  724. >He stands clench fisted, his red infernal skin coursing with the magma hot magic of an entire kingdom flowing through his veins and his body seems to radiate power. His black and yellow eyes focus on your hilltop and seem to bore through you and into the pits of Tartarus beneath you.
  725. >When he speaks, the world rumbles. “So…this is that presence I felt moving around. I see you collected a group of rejects in your spare time. Tell me, did you come here to grovel at the hooves of the new ruler of this world?”
  726. >Bravado bravado bravado.
  727. “What the hell do you think, idiot?”
  728. >Tirek chuckles once. “Ah, morsels then. Very well, you’ll go well with the other things I’ve obtained…”
  729. >”I think not, Tirek!”
  730. >Twilight steps forward and stares up at the colossus.
  731. >”And you are?”
  732. >”Twilight Sparkle.” she begins. “PRINCESS Twilight Sparkle.”
  733. >Tirek’s face contorts. “Another? They’ll make anyone a princess now…where were you when I imprisoned the rest of your kind, Alicorn?”
  734. >Twilight stands her ground. “They sent me away so I’d be safe…along with all their magic!”
  735. >A long silence passes and Tirek laughs heartily, causing snow on a mountain peak in the distance to fall. “I had wondered where they had sent it! But never did I believe that they’d be fool enough to place it all in one little pony who can barely control it!”
  736. >Twilight’s eye twitches and her horn glows.
  737. >A lance of purple magic erupts from the tip of her horn and streaks past Tirek, grazing his cheek.
  738. “…You were saying?” You say, still in awe of the display.
  739.  
  740. >Tirek watches the bolt fly off and explode in the distance before he turns back to you and scowls. “I see…then if we’re going to drop all pretense…”
  741. >Tirek opens his hand and reveals something, a crystal chest with six holes for six keys in it.
  742. >”Hey! That’s mine! Give it back!” Twilight calls.
  743. >”Hold onto your things better.” Tirek jides before throwing the chest into his mouth and biting down with a loud CRACK.
  744. >Chrysalis stands next to you wide eyed. “Uh oh…”
  745. >Tirek begins to swell as he absorbs…whatever the hell was in that chest and grows to even greater magnitude, now towering over the hill you were sitting on and glowering down.
  746. >”If you will not surrender your magic to me…I’ll pick it clean from your corpse!”
  747. >Sparks erupt from his horns and meet in the middle, forming a glowing ball of nuclear fusion between them.
  748. >”Oh my.”
  749. >”We need ta leave now…”
  750. “Twi?”
  751. >Twilight continues to glare at Tirek as he releases the energy at you.
  752. >AW SHIT.
  753. >”MOVE US, GIRL!”
  754. >Twilight’s horn momentarily glows purple as the beam of negatronic Fuckyouium races towards you-
  755. >A ping sound is heard.
  756. >-and you materialize on another hill some distance away. Back where you were, Tirek pours heat and rage and power into where you once were, reducing it to slag.
  757. >He turns and catches eye of you.
  758. >”He can see us…”
  759. >”Now Anon?” Twilight asks.
  760. >You’re still catching your breath from having your body pulled through your asshole, but you manage to get a few words out.
  761. “Go! Go! Go fuck his day up!”
  762.  
  763. Music:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPqJwmCuVss
  764. >Arcane fire ignites along the length of Twilight’s horn and she vanishes in a burst of violet light, appearing behind the gargantuan Tirek’s head and laying into him with a lance of magic.
  765. >The attack breaks against the monster and erupts into a violent supernova, staggering Tirek and clouding his vision.
  766. >At the same time Sombra glares contemptuously up at the centaur, his eyes flaring evilly as dark magic fills him.
  767. >He stomps his right fore hoof sharply against the ground, spikes of black crystal erupting up through the soil at his touch in a line towards Tirek, growing in size as they approach.
  768. >At last a spike like the trunk of a redwood lances up from the ground in front of Tirek, shattering against the beast’s skin.
  769. >Almost as an afterthought Tirek swipes at the crystalline pillar, shattering it and sending boulder-sized masses flying through the air.
  770. >One shard embeds itself in the ground scant feet from where you overlook the conflict on a small hill.
  771. “…Meep.”
  772. >Suddenly a spray of ice splashes against the demonic centaur’s torso, tendrils of frost creeping across his skin.
  773. >The source is soon revealed to be the Dogfather, one hand in a pocket and the other raised at Tirek, thumb and forefinger extended in the shape of a pistol.
  774. >”Ya like dat, big guy? How’s about a little more, eh?” Once more a ray of frost issues forth from his outstretched finger and bursts explosively against the demon, hastening the spread of the frost.
  775. >Tirek merely sneers arrogantly as the icy veins slowly spread, a look the canine mobster doesn’t miss.
  776. >”Think dat’s funny, eh? Well ow’s about somma dis!” he calls, withdrawing his other hand from his pocket and taking aim.
  777. >Though this time instead of frost a great ball of fire erupts from his finger accompanied by a cry of “Badda bing!”
  778.  
  779. >The flaming projectile strikes Tirek squarely in the chest and engulfs him completely, a violent explosion rocking the area and concealing him in the resulting plume of smoke.
  780. >As the Dogfather cheers loudly you frown; if Twilight and Sombra’s attacks had been brushed off so easily you doubt this one had fared any better. You can’t help but find it at least a little unsettling that some of the most powerful beings in the land are troubling Tirek about as much as a particularly annoying fly.
  781. >Then as though to confirm your suspicions a red hand reaches out through the veil of smoke and raises high into the air, twisting into a claw as though trying to grasp at the sky.
  782. >Suddenly streaks of lightning part the air, striking the ground for leagues in every direction.
  783. >You glance up at the sky and after a moment take a few steps to the right.
  784. >As you continue to survey the devastation you offhandedly note a spray of dirt erupting from the spot where you had been standing only moments prior as a bolt of lightning strikes the ground.
  785. >A frown comes to your face as you watch the goings on; they aren’t fighting together, they’re all just waging individual battles against the same enemy.
  786. >You search the area for any sign of Chrysalis, noting that the changeling queen had yet to make any move.
  787. >Twilight seems to share your thoughts and decides to make them known. “Feel free to lend a hoof any time you want, Chrysalis!” she calls out.
  788. >A flash of green draws your attention as the villain in question appears by your side. “An impatient girl, that one. I wonder if she’ll live long enough to outgrow it.”
  789. “Well you certainly could be contributing a little more,” you remark conversationally.
  790. >The queen scoffs. “The swarm marches at its own pace, human, not yours.”
  791.  
  792. >Before you can retort a low rumbling catches your ear. Every second the mysterious sound grows louder and louder until the ground beneath your feet is vibrating.
  793. You cast Chrysalis a sidelong glance. “Would this be your doing, then?”
  794. >The changeling queen says nothing, but the growing smirk is all the response you need.
  795. >Soon the ground beneath Tirek’s hooves begins to crumble, of flood of chittering black monsters spilling out from great rents in the earth.
  796. >The chitinous mass wastes no time and within seconds the changelings swarm over Tirek gnawing, biting, and burning as they go.
  797. >As Tirek’s red skin vanishes beneath the writhing mass of black Chrysalis’ smirk slowly changes into a smile like that of a proud mother.
  798. >Tirek thrashes about for a while trying to dislodge his attackers, but to no avail; the swarm holds tight with teeth and magic and gives no ground.
  799. >”Such good children they are, braver than any army.”
  800. “Bravery doesn’t count for everything. And I seem to recall that they don’t exactly have the best track record.”
  801. >Chrysalis looks as though she wants to retort, but the words die in her throat as an orange glow becomes visible through the swarm engulfing Tirek.
  802. >A look of terror overcomes the queen’s features. “Oh no,” she says barely above a whisper.
  803. >Her anxiety is palpable and even you can’t deny that what’s happening isn’t at least a little worrisome.
  804. >”Fly,” Chrysalis whispers to herself. “Fly, FLY!”
  805. >Almost at once the swarm scrambles to obey her command, the air darkening as hundreds of changelings take flight. It does them little good in the end.
  806. >A storm of nuclear fire erupts from Tirek, filling the air and scorching the land for leagues in every direction.
  807. >You notice your companions shielding themselves through various means, but your view of impending death is blocked off as emerald flames burst from the ground to envelope you and Chrysalis in a protective shell.
  808.  
  809. >After a few moments the flames die down and you’re left to take in the scene of destruction.
  810. >The land is black and glossy for a kilometer in every direction, trees stand dead and bare, and the faces of mountains glow cherry red. Only a small patch of green remains beneath you where Chrysalis had warded off the flames.
  811. >And all the while ash drifts gently down through the air like black snow.
  812. >You hear a light thud as a small fragment of debris lands on the blackened ground before you and Chrysalis, the queen’s eyes going wide as she recognizes what it is.
  813. >A chitinous, black horn.
  814. >From the way she stares at it you can tell the others will have to fare without her for a while.
  815. >You decide it best to not say anything, anything you say could very well attract ire that would be much better directed elsewhere.
  816. >Meanwhile Twilight decides to take advantage of the situation, teleporting to the still glowing peak of a nearby mountain and alighting upon it, taking no notice of the near molten stone beneath her hooves.
  817. >Eyes burning with power, she brings a hoof sharply down upon the stone, the blow backed by her near godly magical might.
  818. >Fissures split the stone, but the mountain holds together.
  819. >Undeterred, she brings her hoof down again sundering the rock yet further, but still it holds.
  820. >Before she can muster enough energy for another strike a shadow falls over her, coalescing into the form of Sombra.
  821. >”Frail child,” he mocks in a hoarse whisper.
  822. >Without another word the mad king’s eyes flare that familiar sickly green and brings his own hoof down upon the mountain.
  823. >Spires of jagged crystal erupt from the rents in the mountain side, finishing the job Twilight had started and tearing the peak apart, sending much of the rock face tumbling.
  824.  
  825. >Though the instant the rock face breaks free Twilight is in action, grabbing hold of the debris in a magical grip.
  826. >Twilight, straining from the effort of holding up nearly half a mountain, gives one final burst of energy and sends it sailing away.
  827. >The debris hurtles through the air propelled on by alicorn magic, a storm of crystallized evil and half-molten stone bearing down on Tirek.
  828. >The assault catches him fully unprepared, a hail of wicked crystal razors and glowing red boulders pummeling him until nothing can be seen from the dust cloud kicked up.
  829. >Your companions waste no time taking advantage of the lull in combat to regroup, each of them making their way to the small, pockmarked hill you’ve chosen to base yourself on.
  830. >A flash of violet heralds the appearance of Twilight. “This isn’t working, our attacks are having no discernable effect,” she wastes no time in pointing out.
  831. >A cloud of black fog materializes nearby, solidifying into Sombra.
  832. >”You’ve no one but yourself to blame for this, usurper. Say what you will of me, but how many times have you brought your world to the brink of destruction? Even I was never so careless.”
  833. >You imagine that you can hear Twilight’s teeth grinding from where you stand.
  834. >”Yeah, but didn’t little miss princess over ‘ere give you a good beatin’ not long ago, buddy? Where’s dat put you?”
  835. >”Still higher than you, mutt,” the mad king growls.
  836. “This solves nothing,” you interject, gesturing towards Tirek. “There’s only one enemy here, at the very least wait until he’s taken care of before turning on each other.”
  837. >”How can we do that, though?” Twilight asks. “He’s thrown off everything we’ve hit him with so far. I know we’ve only just begun but this isn’t the least bit encouraging.”
  838. >”Perhaps you should have chosen better companions, these fools you’ve chosen to ally us with are pathetic,” Chrysalis hisses.
  839.  
  840. >The Dogfather laughs in response. “Listen lady, I may notta hit ‘im the hardest, but at least my plan was better’n ‘buzz around for a while and die’. Please tell me you got somethin’ better’n dat.”
  841. >”I agree with the dog on this matter, your efforts were singularly pathetic,” Sombra mocks with a sneer.
  842. >Chrysalis rounds on the pair with such fury that for a moment you’re sincerely worried that your group might tear itself apart that instant.
  843. >”They were braver than either of you pathetic weaklings!” the changeling shouts in a wounded fury. “Any of my subjects is ten times the warrior either of you are! Such miserable beings as you have no right to speak. A king without a kingdom and a princess’s lapdog; what sorry creatures you are.”
  844. “Enough of your bickering!” you shout at last, your patience spent. “Arguing does not help our cause. If Tirek succeeds we all die, I hope you haven’t forgotten that. There must be something you can do to put him on the defensive.”
  845. >For a moment the group is silent, though whether they’re considering your words or plotting to murder each other you can’t say.
  846. >”I’m thinkin’ we should just take the kid gloves off. Just go all out ‘n hit wit everthin’ we got.”
  847. >”Do we know if that will even phase him?” Twilight asks.
  848. “I think you should save that for when he’s weakened. You can’t tire yourselves out and exert all your strength in the opening moments of the fight, save the killing blow for when you’ve gained the upper hand.”
  849. >At last Chrysalis speaks up. “If you can buy me some time I will summon my guards. They are powerful and will match this monster blow for blow, but they are far away and will need time to arrive.”
  850. “Good, that’s something.” You turn to the others. “What can you do to buy her the time she needs?”
  851.  
  852. >”Might be safe ta say that Tirek ain’t too homesick,” the Dogfather offers. “If youz can distract ‘im long enough for me ta get in all good n’ close like I can give ‘im a little present from ol’ Tartarus.”
  853. “You could blind him,” you suggest.
  854. >”I can set the sun and change it to night,” Twilight offers.
  855. >”The beast shall never see the knife at his throat,” Sombra adds.
  856. >”I think I can help youz out wit dat,” the Dogfather says. “Now we got a plan or what?”
  857. >Twilight looks dubious. “How do we know this will work?”
  858. “How do we know any of this will work?” you counter.
  859. >She shakes her head in exasperation. “Fair enough. I’m ready when you all are.”
  860. >At that instant Tirek’s voice thunders out across the battleground
  861. >”YOU CANNOT WOUND ME, INSECTS! I SPIT UPON YOUR PATHETIC EFFORTS!”
  862. >Your companions need no further prompting.
  863. You glance at Twilight. “Let’s get it started.”
  864. >The alicorn takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, violet fire springing to life along her horn as she channels her power.
  865. >In an instant the sun crosses half the sky and falls below the horizon with the moon rising to takes it’s place, all the land being cast into darkness in mere seconds.
  866. >Wordlessly Sombra is engulfed by shadows, his shade becoming nearly invisible in the blackness of night.
  867. >The Dogfather straightens his jacket and takes one last drag on his cigar before leaving, the orange glow casting his face in an unsettling shadow. “Looks like I’m off den. Wish me luck.”
  868. >”I hope this works,” Twilight says as you stare at the Dogfather’s retreating form.
  869. “You and me both.”
  870. >”YOUR TRICKS WILL NOT AID YOU,” Tirek bellows out through the shadows. “THE NIGHT WILL NOT HIDE YOU, DESTRUCTION WILL FIND YOU ALL THE SAME.”
  871. >At that moment Sombra descends upon him, a black shade with evil, burning eyes.
  872. >”Darkness!” he hisses as he whips around Triek on a contrail of black fog, a cloud growing and spreading each second.
  873.  
  874. >”TIRESOME INSECTS,” Tirek snorts as he blindly tries to swat Sombra from the air.
  875. >On the ground the Dogfather closes on the giant centaur, a smirk on his face. “Can’t hit what ya can’t see, tough guy.”
  876. >He takes a long, hard pull on his cigar, and then with a mighty breath exhales a plume of thick smog that clings Tirek and adds to Sombra’s efforts.
  877. >The shroud of smoke and evil soon engulfs Tirek fully, only his shouts of anger escaping the veil, though soon his shouts are followed by spells of incredible magnitude.
  878. >A torrent of fire bursts from the cloud, scorching acres of land and turning the ground to glass.
  879. >A bolt of lightning erupts next, lancing across the land and striking a distant mountain, shattering it like glass.
  880. >Each spell carries with it a force to lay waste to entire cities, and as each is vomited out you can’t help but wish for this fight to be ended.
  881. >Then as though in response to your wishes the Dogfather manages to close on Tirek, coming to a halt just before the swirling cloud.
  882. >”What’s dis? Ya don’t call, ya don’t write; ya don’t seem too keen on keepin’ in touch, so ‘ows about we bring da party ta you?”
  883. >He takes his cigar from his mouth and give it a swift, hard flick that sends the end flying to the ground.
  884. >As the ember sinks into the scorched earth and the ground catches fire the Dogfather smirks and ficks a thumb to reignite his cigar.
  885. >”Courtesy ‘o Tartarus, no need ta thank me,” he calls as he retreats.
  886. >While Tirek rages obliviously in darkness the fire spreads over the dead and blackened earth, the flames eating away at the very ground.
  887. >Almost frighteningly quickly the flames spread across a swath of earth nearly as great as Tirek himself.
  888.  
  889. >As the fire burns higher and hotter the ground begins to crumble away, giving way to a view of a realm of madness.
  890. >Otherworldy flames flare up through the wound in reality, bellowing high into the sky with such intensity that it dispels the choking cloud engulfing Triek.
  891. >His sight restored at last, Tirek is greeted with a sight that stills even his great fury for a moment.
  892. >The fires of Tartarus reach up for him, grasping at him with burning fingers and raking black lines across his red skin.
  893. >Tirek backpedals furiously in an effort to put as much distance between himself and the flames as possible.
  894. >So illuminated by the light of hellfire, for a moment you’re able to catch what might pass for a glint of fear in the demon’s eyes.
  895. >There it is.
  896. “Chrysalis, how much longer?”
  897. >The queen closes her eyes, appearing almost lost in thought. “Soon…” she hisses shortly after.
  898. “How soon?”
  899. >“Very soon,” she says, eyes flitting back and forth beneath their lids.
  900. “Twilight, change it back.”
  901.  
  902. >Once more Twilight channels her magic and moves the heavens to her will. The moon whips through the skies as the sun returns to take its spot once more.
  903. >Wide with fear and already partially blind from the flames, Tirek’s eyes are painfully assaulted by the sudden shift back to day. The centaur roars with pain and screws his eyes shut, raising his hands to ward off the light.
  904. “How long?” you press Chrysalis.
  905. >She snaps her eyes open and fixes her gaze upon Tirek.
  906. >”Now.”
  907. >At her word the ground erupts behind Tirek, a colossal black monster tearing free of the earth and leaping upon him, driving him forward and into the flames.
  908. >Tirek thrashes about in panic as hellfire sears his skin, the screeching monster on his back a maelstrom of bladed talons and slashing claws.
  909. >After a moment the centaur manages to regain his footing, grabbing hold of his assailant as he does and throwing it from him while he makes his escape from the fire.
  910. >With the nightmare creature’s form no longer obscured by the flames you’re finally able to get a good look at it.
  911.  
  912. >Tirek as well wastes no time sizing up his newest challenger, placing himself a safe distance from the burning portal as he does.
  913. >The creature is a terrible mix of spines, chitin plates, and wicked claws, though even as you observe it green fire spreads across its carapace.
  914. >Chitin melts and runs like wax while limbs snap and sunder, its form altering before you. Slowly its new shape takes solidity and you can’t help but feel the slightest bit unsettled.
  915. >Before you all now stands a twisted mirror of Tirek, though in place of red skin and fur black chitin plates clothe the beast. Four arms ending in long, bladed talons protrude from its shoulders and a single jagged horn rises from its head while from its back protrude great, black armored spikes.
  916. >But as monstrous as it is; all claws and spines and fangs, even worse are the two burning eyes in its skull, glittering with malign intellect. This is no slavering beast Chrysalis has called, but an engine of war, its eyes cold and calculating as they size up their prey.
  917. >”What in Equestria is that?” Twilight demands.
  918. “My thoughts exactly.”
  919. >”Rajaxx,” Chrysalis almost purrs. “First of my praetorians and commander of my armies in my absence.”
  920.  
  921. “A cockroach on steroids?”
  922. >”Just watch and you will learn something of changeling might, human.”
  923. >And you intend to do just that, the more you can learn of your enemies’ strengths the better.
  924. >For his part Tirek remains wary of the beast despite it only being a little over half his size, though none of his bravado vanishes. “You will burn like the others, worm,” he snorts derisively.
  925. >In response the monster opens wide its fanged maw, a hideous roar issuing forth in challenge.
  926. >Tirek paws the ground with a hoof. “Come then, insect. Come and die!”
  927. >The warrior beast needs no further invitation and charges Tirek, its chitinous hooves tearing up great swathes of land as it barrels down its war path.
  928. >Tirek charges to meet it and the very land quakes beneath the fury of the thundering giants.
  929. >The two collide with a resounding crash that seems to shake the entire world, laying into each other with unholy fury.
  930.  
  931. >Tirek lands a blow on Rajaxx’s armored chest with a force to sunder mountains, but the praetorian’s hardened carapace simply soaks up the damage, the strike doing little more than halting the monster’s charge.
  932. >Then more swiftly than such a being has any right to be Rajaxx lunges forward, taloned claws ensnaring Tirek’s arm and pulling him forward into a vicious left hook delivered by two armored fists.
  933. >The blow catches Tirek off guard and staggers him, having been unprepared for the might his adversary was possessed of.
  934. >Rajaxx presses his advantage and delivers a powerful backhand from both left claws, the jagged chitin of his fists raking deep gashes across Tirek’s face.
  935. >Tirek, left arm still ensnared by the changeling’s talons, responds with another punch aimed at Rajaxx’s head, but the praetorian is already in motion to intercept it.
  936. >Rajaxx catches the fist in his left claws before it can land and drives his plated forehead into Tirek’s nose, releasing his victim as he does.
  937. >Tirek staggers backwards clutching his ruined face, droplets of burning demonic blood falling to the ground where they spit and sizzle.
  938. >With Tirek so distracted Rajaxx surges forward and delivers a double right hook to the centaur’s already wounded head, turning him away.
  939. >At that moment the ground before Tirek erupts once more, yet another horror twin to Rajaxx bursting forth.
  940. >As it collides with Tirek it vomits a torrent of burning green ichor into his face, blinding him temporarily and setting him ablaze.
  941. >Tirek roars in agony and staggers away from the dual assault, the emerald fire clinging to him and refusing to be extinguished regardless of his thrashing.
  942. >You stare at the newest arrival in morbid fascination, it’s almost identical to its twisted counterpart though with a few marked differences.
  943.  
  944. >Instead of claws the beast sports two pairs of scythe-like mantis blades, as well the horn sprouting from its head is considerably larger than its twin’s.
  945. >And while this one’s eyes burn with the same calculating malevolence, there is also an evil fire deep within them, ancient and terrible. This is not a warrior of brute force like Rajaxx, but something different.
  946. “And who would this fine fellow be?” you ask conversationally.
  947. >”Skeram, my advisor and second only to Rajaxx in power.”
  948. >”I wonder what he had to say about the attack on Canterlot,” Twilight mutters, though if Chrysalis heard her she gave no sign.
  949. “That he wasn’t there probably tells us…” you mutter back.
  950. >Meanwhile the newly arrived Skeram wastes no time displaying his power. His jagged horn glows a sickly green while similarly colored flames fill his maw.
  951. >Skeram disgorges a destructive bolt of changeling magic, the arcane assault striking Tirek full in the chest and nearly sending him to the ground.
  952. >In amazement you watch as the once unstoppable demon begins to give ground under the combined assault of the two praetorian warriors, Rajaxx laying into him relentlessly with fist and claw while Skeram bombards him spells of terrifying power.
  953. >This is what you’ve been waiting for, Tirek is completely on the defensive now.
  954. >Evidently your companions take notice of this as well. The Dogfather, having beat a hasty retreat once his business with the portal was done, now observes the battle from a safe distance though is eager to enter the fray once more.
  955. >”Ain’t dat a fancy trick. Well I got a few fancy tricks of my own.”
  956. >He brings a hand to his mouth and delivers a shrill whistle. “Up ‘n at ‘em boys, dere’s work ta be done!”
  957. >At his command the blazing portal to Tartarus flares even brighter for a moment before quickly dying altogether.
  958.  
  959. >The flames die but leave behind a parting gift from Tartarus in the forms of six constructs of stone and fire. Each stands four meters tall with demonic visages carved into the stones that serve for heads. But though their eyes burn just as bright and terrible as Chrysalis’ praetorians, they lack the vile cunning the former possess. They are mindless constructs of hate and rage in thrall to the Dogfather’s will, though their master wastes no time in putting them to good use.
  960. >”Alright boys, sick ‘em!” he commands.
  961. >The infernal constructs charge into battle, fearless of the towering demon lord.
  962. >Meanwhile Tirek manages to break away from the changelings, gaining himself a brief respite. As he regains his breath he returns to battle with vigor, charging forward and aiming a blow at Rajaxx.
  963. >But before the blow contacts he stumbles, the fiery golems grabbing at his hooves with burning claws and holding tight with demonic strength.
  964. >Tirek’s blow falls short and as it sails by Rajaxx catches him under the chin with a dual uppercut.
  965. >The blow sends him careening to the ground and within seconds the golems swarm over their victim, burning and clawing at the downed demon.
  966. >You can hardly believe it, you finally have the upper hand. You make an effort not to become too hopeful, but it really looks like Tirek might be weakening. It appears as though even the others are noticing as well.
  967. >However your hope is short lived.
  968. >An evil red light emanates from Tirek and his muscles swell with unholy strength. With one mighty sweep of his arm he flings the fiery golems away, a few simply disintegrating as his blow connects with the rest shattering as they strike the ground.
  969. >With deliberate slowness Tirek raises himself from the ground and turns to face the praetorian guards, snuffing out the flames eating away at him with a burst of magic while his wounds close and heal before them.
  970. >”That is more than enough of this foolishness, you die now insects.” He rumbles.
  971.  
  972. >Rajaxx screeches out a furious challenge and charges Tirek, a clawed fist lunging at him.
  973. >Hand blazing with a hellish light, Tirek grabs at the incoming claw and catches it in an iron grip while his other hand wraps itself around Rajaxx’s throat and holds fast.
  974. >With a powerful tug and a crack of shattering chitin, Triek rips the arm free and flings it away, a rain of caustic green blood trailing it.
  975. >Tirek then drives his forehead into Rajaxx’s face, fragments of chitin flying as he makes contact.
  976. >Then with a strong shove he then throws the wounded warrior beast away where he falls to lie bleeding on the ground.
  977. >As his brother hits the ground Skeram unleashes another magical artillery round. The attack strikes Tirek full in the chest, but the demon barely budges  under the assault.
  978. >Tirek reaches out with a hand, chains of fire leaping from his palm to ensnare the screeching insect warrior. With a sharp yank he pulls Skeram from his hooves and sends him sailing through the air towards him.
  979. >As Skeram nears Tirek clasps his hands together and raises them high into the air, bringing them down in a mighty haymaker that connects squarely with the praetorian with a thunderous crash and sends him into the ground.
  980. >He then wraps a hand around one of the spines protruding from Skeram’s back and digs his fingers into the back of the changeling’s centaurian lower half. When his grip is firm enough he begins to pull.
  981. >With a horrendous crack of shattering carapace and a screech of agony, Tirek rips the warrior’s abdomen free, its lower half falling dead and useless to the ground.
  982. >Out of the corner of your eye you notice how Chrysalis stares unblinkingly at the scene of carnage. Almost out of nowhere you feel an unexpected twinge of pity for her, this can’t be easy to watch.
  983.  
  984. >As Tirek holds up Skeram’s severed torso he drinks in his victory, however his assumption is premature. Springing into unexpected action Skeram wrenches himself free of Tirek’s grip, swinging onto Tirek’s back and driving all four of his scything talons into the demon’s chest where he holds fast, sinking his teeth into Tirek’s shoulder as he does.
  985. >Tirek snorts in anger and reaches up to finish off the warrior for good, but he finds his arms ensnared in the death grip of Rajaxx’s talons.
  986. >As the two stare each other down, you notice both Rajaxx and Skeram’s horns flaring a brilliant green.
  987. >Soon the glow spreads to their eyes and their mouths fill with fire, tongues of flame flaring out through their teeth.
  988. >Within seconds the glow infuses their carapaces as power grows and surges within them. It isn’t particularly difficult to figure out where this is going, especially if the look on Chrysalis’ face is any indication.
  989. “Aw crap. Is this something we should know about, Chrysalis?”
  990. >Chrysalis swallows. “They will die before they fail me,” she says hoarsely. “And die they will. As will everything caught in the blast.”
  991. “Caught in the blast?” You don’t like the sound of that one bit.
  992. >She spares you a brief glance. “Guard yourselves.”
  993. Your eyes go wide. “Twilight?”
  994. >A transparent violet field of magic envelopes the three of you, though you hardly feel any safer. For all purposes it appears as though little more than a thin shell of glass is all that stands between you and the suicidal behemoths about to go supernova.
  995. >As glowing fissures split what chitin remains intact on the beasts you notice a figure sprinting up the hill towards you.
  996. >”Oi! Let me in, I only jus’ got back, I don’t wanna die again this soon!” the Dogfather calls, his coat flapping madly behind him as he dashes for safety.
  997. >For a moment you think Twilight might just leave him to die, but as he reaches the bubble a hole opens up and grants him entry.
  998.  
  999. >The hole reseals not a moment too soon, the bodies of Skeram and Rajaxx proving unable to contain the amassing power for any longer.
  1000. >Their shells split with a crack like a thunderbolt and then the air turns green.
  1001. >A wave of power washes over the shield Twilight projects and you find yourself hoping dearly that she doesn’t falter.
  1002. >However the praetorians’ death knell begins to take its toll on Twilight, the alicorn slowly sinking to her knees under the pressure of maintaining the shield, a small trickle of red running from her nose.
  1003. >Then just as it seems she can go no longer a wall of ebon crystal erupts from the ground before the dome, shielding you yet further from the blast.
  1004. >Suddenly the shade of Sombra materializes beside Twilight, glaring down at her in contempt.
  1005. >”You die when I say, not before,” he hisses.
  1006. >Regardless of where it came from, you can’t help but feel grateful for the aid.
  1007. >The next few moments pass like hours as you stare at the wall of crystal, silently praying for it to hold.
  1008. >Then all at once it ends. The magic fades from the air and everything calms.
  1009. >Twilight lowers her shield at last, sighing with relief as it dissipates.
  1010. >You glance up at the smoking crystals that saved you as they glow bright red, the energy of the blast having reduced much of them to slag.
  1011. >A glance around reveals that what little remained standing after Tirek’s other attacks is now scorched bare, nothing within sight save the crystals before you standing any higher than the odd twig.
  1012. >With a deep breath you stride out from behind the black pillars, anxious to see how Tirek fared under the twin guards’ death throes.
  1013. >The sight you behold leaves you feeling utterly dismayed. In a crater of cracked glass Tirek, battered but still standing strong, slowly raises himself to his hooves, a look of stoney defiance set on his face as he stares out at the hill you occupy.
  1014. >One by one your companions join you, gazes locked firmly upon the demon lord.
  1015.  
  1016. >After a tense moment Tirek breaks the silence.
  1017. >”I am Tirek, lord of the Midnight Castle and all my gaze falls upon. I am as a god before such as you and I shall not be undone. Fight if you like, but you will fall. Your struggles are in vain.”
  1018. >For a moment you lock eyes with Twilight, an unspoken understanding passing between the two of you. You then turn your attention to the villains.
  1019. >”Well?” you demand. “Are you not the most evil beings to walk this land? Will you allow him to defy you so brazenly?”
  1020. >Chrysalis’ lips pull back in a furious snarl and Sombra growls deep in his throat, his burning gaze locked upon Tirek.
  1021. >”I’d say dis’d be as good a time as any ta let the dogs out, eh?” the Dogfather remarks.
  1022. >Twilight nods. “It’s all or nothing now. We’ll hit him with everything we have, we must hold nothing back.”
  1023. >”Vengeance,” Chrysalis snarls, emerald fires blazing to life in her eyes.
  1024. >”Let’s put this mook down for good,” the Dogfather agrees as his fur begins to smolder, tongues of fire beginning to leap from his skin.
  1025. >“He shall beg for death,” comes the haunting whisper of Sombra as his form becomes ethereal once more, drifting away as a formless cloud of black smog.
  1026. >You extend one arm and shoot them back an almost angry glare. “I told you to hold him until I say, do NOT fire early. Go.”
  1027. >Needing no further prompting your companions spring into action, charging once more unto the breach and leave you there twiddling your thumbs impatiently.
  1028. >Come on, come on…
  1029. >Twilight and Chrysalis take wing, darting for Tirek in all haste while the Dogfather takes off on all fours, pawprints of fire trailing his passage.
  1030. >Sombra reaches Tirek first manifesting as an oppressive wall of fog, dwarfing the titanic centaur with his immeinsity. Two emerald eyes leaking twin streams of violet fire appear in the mist gazing ominously down.
  1031. >Tirek stands resolute before Sombra, meeting the malevolent gaze defiantly.
  1032.  
  1033. >Suddenly the black fog surges forward. “Weaken!” he demands. “It is my will!”
  1034. >The cloud engulfs Tirek fully, the choking mist bearing down on him like a furious thunderhead come to life.
  1035. >Tirek breathes a torrent of fire into the darkness, but the fog merely parts before it as it passes uselessly through.
  1036. >With terrifying swiftness black tendrils creep up Tirek’s two right legs, crystals growing and spreading wherever they touch.
  1037. >Soon the crystals cover both legs, severely limiting Tirek’s movement.
  1038. >The two eyes in the fog narrow in triumph. “Bend, demon. BREAK!”
  1039. >At Sombra’s command crystal spikes erupt from both legs, shattering bone and tearing through flesh.
  1040. >With a grunt Tirek sinks to his knees, his right side rendered useless by the crystals that even now sizzle and melt under the unleashed torrents of burning blood.
  1041. “He’s wounded, bring him down!” you shout.
  1042. >Your companions waste no time and take full advantage of the momentary weakness.
  1043. >The Dogfather skids to a halt, kicking up a cloud of ash. Swiftly he rights himself and sticks a fresh cigar in his mouth, lighting it with a flick of his thumb.
  1044. >He then draws hard, the cigar igniting with a whoosh and burning down to a stump within seconds.
  1045. >As he inhales his body is lit from within as flames of Tartarus writhe and churn within him, his skeleton appearing dark and wicked through his illuminated skin.
  1046. >With a flick he discards the butt of his cigar.
  1047. >Then with a great howl the infernal hellhound unleashes a torrent of hellfire at the injured Tirek, the unholy flames hungering for what passes for the demon’s soul.
  1048. >Above the battlefield Twilight’s eyes flash white as the might of the heavens fills her.
  1049. >Then when at last she can hold no more she unleashes every spark of destructive might she’s capable of, a lance of pure might descending upon Tirek as a furious sword cast from heaven.
  1050. >At the same time Chrysalis bears down on Tirek, the fire in her eyes spreading across the whole of her body.
  1051.  
  1052. >A corona of emerald flames fueled by grief and vengeance grows and flares about her until she shines as bright as the sun above.
  1053. >Then with one last shriek of grief-stricken fury she barrels towards her target on wings of Armageddon fire.
  1054. >You stand watching the battle unfold as little more than an observer, eyes glued to the scene as the attacks converge on Tirek.
  1055. >As focused you are on the events unfolding before you you nearly miss something off in the distance, a sound so faint yet bringing with it so much hope.
  1056. >A train whistle.
  1057. >The instant before the attacks impact Tirek you allow a relieved grin to grow on your face.
  1058. “Showtime.”
  1059.  
  1060. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwDyjDuGCO4
  1061.  
  1062. >The train whistle blares again, louder this time and getting the attention of your compatriots.
  1063. >And Tirek.
  1064. “Now! Pour it on! Don’t let him get an inch!”
  1065. >They turn and hammer Tirek again, forcing his attention away from the noise.
  1066. >You however, run up the hill and look over the horizon, trying to get view of it. And atop the mound, you are not disappointed.
  1067. >It races over the rails at breakneck speed, the tracks underneath shaking and straining to contain its power as it races towards you.
  1068. >The crystal that makes up its body reflects the sunlight, turning it into a blinding missile.
  1069. >It’s also got red paint splashed on the front, covered in pony skulls, and has “THOMAS THE DANK ENGINE” carved into the side.
  1070. “Haha!” you exclaim. “Guys! The last storm cloud is here!”
  1071. >”What in Tartarus does THAT mean, human!?” Sombra shouts.
  1072. “It means pour it on! Everything you got! Don’t give him a bloody centimeter! And it wouldn’t kill you to work together!”
  1073. >Sombra stomps his hoof and raises jagged spikes from the ground in front of Tirek, warding him back while Chrysalis harries his back.
  1074. >You begin to jump up and down on the hilltop towards the train as it nears Ponyville. He was seriously hauling ass, but in the wrong ass direction.
  1075. >He toots his horn. “ALL ABOARD THE MAGICAL MURDER EXPRESS!” he shouts over the intercom on it.
  1076. >And then he goes off the tracks.
  1077. >Mous and his engine of destruction shoot into Ponyville station lightning fast but don’t stop there. The barricade meant to stop runaway trains explodes into fragments of steel and wood as the high speed crystal train stops for no one.
  1078. >After that, the train still eats up distance, albeit chaotically as Mous somehow directs the engine with no tracks as it speeds towards you.
  1079. >Right at you.
  1080. “Whoop.”
  1081.  
  1082. >You about face and run down the hill. Twilight, Chrysalis, Sombra, and Dogfather continue to throw their all at Tirek.
  1083. “GO GO GO! GET HIM RIGHT IN FRONT OF THIS HILL! NOW!”
  1084. >The ground underneath you rumbles and makes you trip.
  1085. >Twilight pauses in the air and looks at the scene while you roll down the hill. “Anon what the BUCK!?”
  1086. “PUSH HIM, TWI! IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS!”
  1087. >Twilight flies around in front of Tirek and summons a purple aura around herself, slamming into the centaur with a thundercrack and pushing.
  1088. >Sombra launches crystals the size of SUV’s up from the ground at Tirek, battering his knees.
  1089. >Dogfather holds his hands together shooting gouts of angry red fire out between them, screaming like a madman, while Chrysalis buzzes Tirek’s head like a terrible moth, zapping him with her magic.
  1090. >The rumbling from behind the hill and the hellish noise of machine eating dirt behind you grows and grows. You dive to the ground just in time.
  1091. >The world and everyone in it freezes at the sight as Mous hits the hill with the train, angling into the air and launching the entire thing into the sky up straight at Tirek all while screaming bloody murder over the intercom.
  1092.  
  1093. >It all comes crashing down when Mous and his train slam into Tirek at full force. The front of the engine buckles and coughs as it still tries to push itself forward, the moment of the cars behind slamming into it one after the other.
  1094. >Tirek staggers with each train car that coils against his chest and screams in agony.
  1095. >By your guess, that train had been going about two hundred miles an hour, and that train all together probably weight about 4,000 tons…
  1096. >You’re too busy right now to do the exact math, but it amounts to a hell of a lot of “fuck you” hitting Tirek at once.
  1097. “POUR IT ON!”
  1098. >As Tirek files backwards, your allies give no quarter. Dogfather summons hellish meteors which strike at Tirek while Sombra makes crystal spikes erupt from the ground and explode underneath him. Twilight fires a sustained beam of magic with supporting fire by Chrysalis.
  1099. >And finally, all at once and with a great WHAM, Tirek falls to the ground.
  1100. “KEEP GOING! WE HAVE HIM!”
  1101. >Twilight magics up a glowing purple ball and chain which wraps around Tirek’s legs while Sombra sprouts up more crystalline totems to trap his arms. The crashed train, now torn to pieces by the impact, rests on his torso as a pressing weight.
  1102. >And for the first time in a while you let out the breath you had been holding.
  1103.  
  1104. >You wave the others over and break into a jog towards Tirek’s head.
  1105. >The area had been obliterated in the fight. Large swaths of land had holes and trenches blasted out of them, trees were bent and pulled up from the ground by the explosions or the train. Tirek’s massive hooves left deep indentations in the earth and you can see even from here that his collapse to the ground will make a new quarry sized hole for Ponyville.
  1106. >The land had suffered but it was a good bit better than the alternative…
  1107. >You get to Tirek’s head as it bleeds blood onto the ground so hot that it lights the grass on fire. Tirek wasn’t moving but…
  1108. “Will that hold him long enough?”
  1109. >Sombra looks over the battered and blasted body of Tirek who, while down, was still breathing. “The beast will not be moving soon…”
  1110. >Good…
  1111. >You put your hands in your coat pocket and stroll down the hill towards Tirek’s head.
  1112. “Stay here.” You tell your allies.
  1113. >You walk down the hill, Tirek’s head lays sideways amidst burning wreckage on the ground after the train-haymaker he took.
  1114.  
  1115. >When you approach, his golden trimmed eyes crack open. Where before you felt under the gaze of a monster of old, now you feel like you’re looking at a bear in a trap.
  1116. “Tirek. Do you know why you failed?”
  1117. >His brow furrows and knits closer as he struggles under the weight of a train and a couple thousand tons of rock.
  1118. >”Failure…is beneath…me, worm.”
  1119. “Well you’re the authority on being beneath stuff now. Answer the question.”
  1120. >Tirek struggles a bit under the rubble in a bid to squash you or something.
  1121. >Fine, not like you needed him to answer.
  1122. “You failed because you thought you were something else than what you are. You cast aside your other half, your brother Skorpanok or whatever, because you didn’t see what he gave you…”
  1123. >You dare to reach out and flick Tirek’s nose.
  1124. “Perspective, and the assistance you so desperately needed. Perhaps if you had trusted your brother, he could have pointed out the flaws in your plan. Perhaps if you had listened to your brother, you wouldn’t be here in the first place.”
  1125. >Tirek struggles and shifts some stones off him.
  1126. “Don’t embarrass yourself, Tirek. It’s over.”
  1127. >”NOT YET! WE’RE NOT DONE!” comes a shout as the door to the train engine wreckage was thrown open.
  1128.  
  1129. >A hand slams down on the edge of the engine frame and hauls a body out, the owner of which you knew well enough to know he’d be here.
  1130. >Mous glares down at you and Tirek. “Not yet…we’re not done yet…” he seethes. Mous pulls himself out of the train car and climbs to his feet.
  1131. >He is battered and bruised, his clothes torn and stained with blood in too high a quantity to be entirely his. His bloodshot eyes have deep dark circles around them and you can see him dragging his ankle.
  1132. >However when you run over to help him, he weakly pushes past you.
  1133. >”We’re not done…not until he gives back everything he took.” Mous growls.
  1134. >Tirek growls at Mous himself pinned under the rock and metal. “You will not take what I have made mine, insect.” He says before clamping his mouth shut.
  1135. >Mous doesn’t fire off his usual quip, instead just going for his knife. “Then I’ll cut you open bit by bit until I find where you keep it!” he shouts, half starting to lunge.
  1136. “Whoa whoa whoa!” you shout, grabbing him. “Easy Rambo…”
  1137. >You pull Mous back, watching that knife after what happened in the town hall, and get close to his ear.
  1138. “I have a spell, but you need to not fuck this up and help me.” You whisper.
  1139. >As not to let Tirek catch on and possibly counter-act you, you break away.
  1140. “So, think you can get his mouth open for me?” you ask.
  1141. >Mous blinks at you, possibly weighing his options between what you ask and his slicing idea, but you aren’t surprised when he takes a third option.
  1142.  
  1143. >Mous rushes forward to Tirek’s face and jams his knife into the centaur’s eye.
  1144. >The earth shakes under the combined force of Tirek thrashing at the steel in his eye and the scream that he produces.
  1145. “Good enough!” you shout, tossing your crystal into his agape mouth.
  1146. >The crystal breaks against one of Tirek’s fangs and releases the spell kept inside which rushes down Tirek’s throat.
  1147. >Near Tirek’s broken stomach, under the skin, comes a cacophony of lights that shine through the thick skin.
  1148. “Come on buddy, down!” you shout as you grab Mous from his place twisting the knife into Tirek’s eye some more and duck down to the ground.
  1149. >Tirek hacks once, spitting up the same lights that hid under his skin.
  1150. >Twice release a bit more which floats into the air.
  1151. >On the throaty cough, the spell takes effect and rips the magic Tirek had absorbed from his body, shooting it out from his mouth and into the sky.
  1152.  
  1153. >You feel the magic sear a bit of your clothes as Tirek vomits the combined cutie marks of the entire kingdom out of himself.
  1154. >The arc of energy flies up into the sky before spreading out to all corners of Equestria, blessing the denizens of it with the return of their livelihood while looking pretty wicked at the same time.
  1155. >Once it dies down, you push yourself up and look around, Mous stays on his knees catching his breath.
  1156. >Tirek lays emaciated and small in the middle of the crater he once occupied, moaning slightly with the errant twitch.
  1157. >You let out another sigh, this one you didn’t know you’d been holding.
  1158. “Done…”
  1159. >”Anon! You did it!” you hear behind you.
  1160. >Twilight comes rushing up with Sombra, Chrysalis, and Dogfather close behind her and smiles up at you. “The spell worked! Harmony is returning to Eque-“
  1161. >Twilight is interrupted by the groaning man next to you pushing himself to his feet even when he shouldn’t be conscious.
  1162. >Mous stares at the villains who, to your somewhat surprise, back away a step with a hemorrhaged eye and grabs his knife again. “What…are they…doing here?” he gets out.
  1163.  
  1164. >You put your hand on his shoulder.
  1165. “Mous…they helped us, they helped fight against Tirek.”
  1166. >”And…now?”
  1167. >You look them over.
  1168. “Now…I know you talked, all of you…are you going to uphold our deals or are we going to have a problem?”
  1169. >Sombra and Chrysalis share a quick glance, Dogfather just paws at the dirt. None of them take their eyes off you.
  1170. >Mous raises himself up a bit higher but you can see his legs shaking. “Get…out…of my…SIGHT.” He shouts.
  1171. >A long silence passes with Dogfather first to speak. “…Yeah…okay, sure. I can be a’ professional.” He says backing away.
  1172. “Twilight, can you take care of our other two friends while I take care of this one?”
  1173. >Twilight nods. “I’ll alert the hospital too…come on you three!” she says taking to the air.
  1174. >Chrysalis follows her, Sombra glares and fades into the shadows, while Dogfather runs on all fours behind them.
  1175.  
  1176. >The second they’re out of sight, Mous collapses back to his knees, gasping in short steady breaths.
  1177. >You kneel down to Mous.
  1178. “Hell of a stunt you pulled…”
  1179. >”Worth it all…everyone’s safe…” he gets out.
  1180. >You pat his back.
  1181. “Yeah…you and I look a bit worse for ware, though.”
  1182. >Mous looks up at your broken nose. “Sorry…” he gets out.
  1183. >You shrug.
  1184. “I’ll get you back later.”
  1185. >The two of you look into the sky as the last trails of light head off to their bearers.
  1186. “Think they’ll all know where to go?”
  1187. >”We’ll deal with it if they don’t…”
  1188. “I wonder if Discord’s magic is in there…”
  1189. >”Deal with that…after my ribs are fixed.”
  1190. >You chuckle.
  1191. “That’s pretty much all there is to it, then…except…”
  1192. >”…Except?” Mous says, raising an eyebrow.
  1193. >Always keep the element of surprise.
  1194. “It’s later.”
  1195. >His senses dulled from whatever ordeal he went through, your fist flies out and connects with Mous.
  1196. >Right between his legs.
  1197. >He gasps and grunts, falling flat onto the ground and bringing his hands over himself.
  1198. >“Fuuuuuck…you…” he coughs out.
  1199. “You deserved it, dingus.”
  1200. >You sit down next to your friend, patting his back as he works off your revenge and let another crisis solved slide off your back.
  1201. >Lord knew it wouldn’t be the last.
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