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Prose Equus 9: Miracle Duty.

Mandroid Feb 20th, 2019 (edited) 93 Never
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  1. Prose Equus 9
  2.  
  3. >”KILL IT! KILL IT! WHY AREN’T YOU KILLING IT!”
  4. “I heard you the first time, hold on!” you chide
  5. >You prop your foot upon a rock and lean your weight into pulling your war hammer free as another deafening roar echoes through the cave.
  6. >The hardened magma bursts around your hammers head as Loki lets out another yelp.
  7. >”HE IS BURNING MY CLOTHING!”
  8. “Then stop wearing such long robes!”
  9. >You hold your hammer tight in both hands and rush the magma-beast low. The first order of business was getting it away from the small cave Loki was hiding in that it was trying to cram its arm into.
  10. “Blow it back when I say so!”
  11. >”WHAT?!” Loki calls as you slide into action.
  12. >You plant your foot next to the monster’s sweltering leg as it slowly takes notice of you and swing your hammer from as far back as you can with as much force as you can. The silver head of the hammer impacts the molten flesh of the colossus and presses against the liquid rock held inside. The force of your blow depresses the creatures leg as it crumples beneath you and the hammer tears out the other side, obliterating the monster’s ankle.
  13. “Gooooo!”
  14. >You hear Loki scream in either fear or rage before a sub-zero wind quickly blasts from the mouth of the cave she secured herself inside and impacted the golem center mass.
  15. >The creature groans a surprised and frustrated dirge as its weight gets the better of it and sends it toppling to the ground where you’re reading for the second hit.
  16. >You lock eyes with the creature for a moment as you raise your hammer above your head and zero in.
  17. “Just needed your head a bit closer!”
  18. >The beast moves to stop you, but doesn’t get more than a few inches before you bring the hammer down on top of it and crush its head as easily as its ankle.
  19. >As the magma creature’s hand falls to its side, the cavern falls silent.
  20.  
  21. >”Is it dead?” Loki’s voice squeaks, breaking the silence.
  22. “Hrmm. Interesting question.”
  23. >You set your hammer head down on the ground and rest your foot on it, tapping your lips.
  24. “Flesh of stone, blood of lava, heart of fire. Was this creature ever truly “alive”?” you ponder.
  25. >Loki scrambles her back legs to climb out of her hiding spot, grunting from the rare physical effort. “I’m ignoring you now.”
  26. >The princess approaches the corpse of the Mag-man, a term you had just thought of and are incredibly proud of, with extreme caution that betrays her raw age.
  27. “I colored the floor with its head, highness. It won’t be getting back up, of that I assure you.”
  28. >”Yes, well, see to it that it does not, No-name.” she huffs out.
  29. >You choose to ignore her attitude and watch her do her thing.
  30. >Loki retrieves a pair of items from her saddlebags within her magical grip, a long narrow metal rod and a pair of tongs.
  31. “What in the world are those?”
  32. >”A magic chisel forged in the heart of Muspelheim that can endure the heat of a dying star.”
  33. “And those?”
  34. >”A pair of tongs that I borrowed from the blacksmith when he was not looking.”
  35. >Loki swings the chisel up high and strikes it deep into the chest of the Mag-man, it sinks in nearly to the hilt.
  36.  
  37. “A-huh. “Borrowed” is it?”
  38. >”With every intention of returning them once I’m done with it.” Loki grasps the chisel with the tongs and begins to pull for leverage, exerting herself with her magic in a way she’s not used to.
  39. >“What. Do I. Need. With. Tongs. Anyway?” she grunts.
  40. “Here.”
  41. >You approach her side and take one of the handles of the tongs.
  42. “Together.”
  43. >Loki silently puffs her cheeks a bit but doesn’t push you away.
  44. “Okay one, two, THREE!”
  45. >With your added muscle, the two of you pull and feel the insides of the golem shift around. The chisel lists slightly from the effort and deforms the torso of the Mag-man until the entire side of its body wrenches free and drops an orange-hot, glowing geode onto the floor in an oozing pool of burning blood.
  46. >Loki sighs in exertion and pulls the chisel out with her magic, picking up the stone with the tongs. “The heart of a magma elemental…just what the Griffons need.”
  47. >You wordlessly grab your hammer while she makes for the entrance to the cave, content, it seems to let whatever else lived in this cave have the Mag-man.
  48.  
  49. >A short while later Loki and you are wordlessly treading the peaks and ranges that make up most of the Griffin Kingdoms. The times you’d been in the kingdom made you recall how the structure of it all seemed to be vertical in its entirety. Keeps and fortresses built 500 years ago went straight up the side of the mountains, all while the ever-agile Griffons darted in and out of strategic entrances at all altitudes.
  50. >You pause your stride a moment and look behind you over a smaller crag, just spying the tips of the stone spires of Gryphus peeking through the clouds.
  51. >You sigh and shiver the chill out of your bones.
  52. “Damned birds have it easy.”
  53. >”Hurry UP no-name!” comes Loki’s impatient call ahead of you. “I am not in the mood to drag your frozen corpse along with this thing!”
  54. “Settle down, highness!”
  55. >You trudge closer to her, enjoying the ambient heat from the Heart she carries.
  56. “It will take more than that to be rid of me.”
  57. >”I’ll keep that in mind.” She says with a smug look before turning and continuing on.
  58. “I notice you haven’t told me why we’re out here, Loki.”
  59. >You’re a bit surprised Loki gives you a straight, if sardonic answer.
  60. >”Miracle duty.” She groans.
  61. “I’ll need a bit more than that.”
  62.  
  63. >The princess rolls her eyes and huffs but continues on.  “Has a thought ever crossed your mind wondering how all the godly miracles that make it into the tales you mortals tell came to pass?”
  64. “With the magic your Mother wields, I presume she simply speaks and things happen.”
  65. >”Tch. Hardly.” Loki answers. “One of Mother’s favorite things to say is how “power requires sacrifice”.” Loki says, imitating her mother’s tone of voice perfectly with her own magic. “However those who will take it to such an extreme as her are few and far between, mostly dead.”
  66. “I can’t say I disagree with her, though.”
  67. >Loki looks back at you, you flex your arm.
  68. “Everything in life worth having is something you work for. Think I could have crushed that beast before it ate you if I didn’t sacrifice my time and effort into honing myself?”
  69. >”You would if your fragile mortal body could handle the Apples of Iduun better than it is.”
  70. >The apples you and Loki ate have been affecting you much slower than they have her, but you did feel a bit of spring in your step lately.
  71. “And you’d not be rubbish with a sword if you picked up something heavier than your head, that hot air must weigh a stone!”
  72. >Loki gnashes her teeth at you and wings the heart of the Mag-man near your head, but she’s far too slow to hit you.
  73. “I’m kidding, relax!”
  74. >Loki grits her teeth and continues. “I do not have time for this.” She bites out through her teeth.
  75.  
  76. >You follow Loki along.
  77. “You were telling me about this miracle duty of yours?”
  78. >Loki keeps her eyes forward and mouth shut.
  79. “Come on, I’m sorry.”
  80. >Still nothing comes from her.
  81. “I could start singing to pass the time…”
  82. >Loki still doesn’t respond.
  83. >Alright, she asked for it. You take a deep breath of the mountain air.
  84. “THREE MONTHS OF WINTER COOLNESS, AND AWESOME HOLI-gah!”
  85. >You brush the snow thrown at you out of your mouth and spit. Loki stands before you looking livid. “Utter ONE more syllable and I promise that this mountain will be your grave!”
  86. >A silence passes between you two with only the wind to keep you company.
  87. “You ready to talk now?”
  88. >Loki hangs her head and seems to accept that you aren’t giving up. “You are more tiring than my sister…fine.”
  89. >The princess resumes her path along the ridge and down the side away from the wind on a hewn stone road with you in tow. “The source of miracles you suggest is only the result of those mighty enough to do so. More often than not, miracles for you mortals are the result of foresight on our part followed by a not-inconsiderate amount of walking, occasional killing, and using a big fire stone in some ritual or another.”
  90. “And you’re doing it because?”
  91. >”I am doing it because someone has to keep you mortals from dying so damned fast and my number came up.”
  92. “You’re trying to use this to get less grounded, aren’t you.”
  93. >Loki is silent for a moment. “That is a beneficial side effect.”
  94. “Of course. And I’m here?”
  95. >”In the event I needed something smashed? And would you look at that! I did! Congratulations minion, your purpose is fulfilled, and you may die happy now. For the rest of today, you must simply accompany me to the druidic shrine up ahead where the ritual may take place.”
  96. “So glad to be of service, your grace.”
  97.  
  98. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHk7qrBOORA
  99. >A short while later, Loki and you arrive at the destination she was seeking out with the magma heart intact.
  100. >”The druids who built this place died out some hundreds of years ago so no one should come knocking.” She says while approaching the trio of stones in the center of the room.
  101. “Just the same I want to look around to make sure…”
  102. >”Be my guest, just be silent so that I may work and we may go home.”
  103. >You let Loki be and look around the shrine. Like many things in the area, it was located in a cave carved out of the stone of the peak by either wind, time, or Griffon talon. The stones in the center of the shrine hum with a natural resonance you associated with magic and Loki fussed over, while the walls are adorned with detailed tapestries and paintings.
  104. >Your attention goes to the paintings. You see giant creatures and hordes of ghouls rampaging across the landscape towards brilliant light in the distance and lead by a horned beast of pure darkness. The field before the brilliant light is littered with illustrations of the bodies of the dead while nightmares rip the sun and moon above their heads from the sky. Behind it all a colossal red devil towers, wielding a sword of midnight and marching with the demonic host.
  105. “Not a pretty sight.”
  106. >”Ragnarok never is.”
  107.  
  108. >You turn to her as she performs her ritual.
  109. “That’s the most confident you’ve spoken about something all day.”
  110. >”It is one of our oldest and our most retold tale. I ought to.” Loki grumbles. “Father drilled it into all our heads many times…”
  111. “Tell it to me.”
  112. >Loki sighs and attempts to focus on her ritual, but you can see something behind her eyes that makes you believe that might be the last thing on her mind. The girl needed to talk to someone. “I do not have the time to recount for you a story you should already know.”
  113. “I will know it if you tell me.”
  114. >Loki chews over your logic for a minute but refocuses on the Heart. “There is not much to tell. The dead rise, giants descend on Asgard from all corners of the Nine Realms, there is a final battle and then everyone dies and the world returns to ash. There, that is the long and short of it.”
  115. “I’m told there are no Frost Giants…”
  116. >”There aren’t.” Loki states. “But there are more giants than simply them. The ones who live in the hills, for example or the fire giants from Muspleheim. There is also the dead from Helheim and Nifflehiem as well as the Nidhogg himself.”
  117. “Lots of names.”
  118. >”Every enemy old and new Asgard has ever known is said to rise during Ragnarok and pull the home of the Gods down before they spill out over Midgard and like a tide, and it all begins when one of them uses a sword to pull the heart of Asgard out.”
  119. >Loki’s face catches your glance. The girl is focusing on the ritual spell before her, but her eyes seem different. Not a spark of life exists behind those green windows and the bags under her eyes look like the kind of tired that sleep cannot fix. You think about what she said earlier, about her father telling her this story so much, and how much a teenager being forced to think of her own grisly demise would ruin them.
  120. >Can’t have that.
  121.  
  122. >You put your fists on your hips and puff your chest a bit.
  123. “Nothing to be done about any of that, then?”
  124. >”No. It’s fate.”
  125. “I’ll believe it when I see it. I haven’t met a fate I can’t fight yet.”
  126. >”It’s Mother who tells the tale most, do you think you can fight her?”
  127. >You let the silence sit for a bit.
  128. “…I can probably get a hit or two in.”
  129. >Loki lets a smile pull the corner of her mouth and lets out a single snort of a laugh. “I would like to see that.”
  130. “Then I promise you that before the world ends and we both die, I’ll let you watch me fight your mother. How’s the ritual going?”
  131. >”Nearly…done.” Loki announces as a warm wave of orange light erupts from the Heart and seeps into the floor. “The heat will find its way to the land and thaw the snow; the animals will return after and the Griffons will have their food back. We just need to return here in the summer to retrieve this.”
  132. “We can worry about that later. No point in concerning ourselves with summer or apocalypses today, neither of them are happening right now.”
  133.  
  134. >Another snort-laugh. “Keep thinking like that and you’ll live half as long as you normally would.”
  135. “Twice as bright though, I’d rather a bright life than a long one.”
  136. >You make a show of glancing from side to side and leaning down to Loki.
  137. “Does anyone REALLY want to be as old as your mother?”
  138. >Princess Loki does the unthinkable by going even further and laughing. It’s short and only a few chortles, but unmistakable. “You’re lucky you’re down here while she’s up there.”
  139. “I’m sure she’ll be there you glower at me once we return, which we ought to be doing by my clock. Are you ready?”
  140. >The shimmer in Loki’s eyes returns. “Aye, we can call Heimdall from outside.”
  141. >The two of you walk out of the druid’s cave and shout Heimdall’s name to the sky. The clouds above you swirl as the Bifrost opens and you prepare to return.
  142. “I bet we could float ourselves to Asgard if you filled your head with more hot air.”
  143. >The spark in Loki’s eyes becomes an inferno as she tries to scream at you, but the Bifrost scooping you both up silences all.
  144.  
  145.  
  146. -Elsewhere-
  147. >Shining Armor floats his breastplate up and over his head with a tired sigh, telekinesis going through the familiar motions of fastening the harnesses and belts that keep it in place. Normally, as a prince, he’d have aid doing this, but today his role was that of a guard captain and advisor.
  148. >A grim glance out the window of his room in the royal palace, at the dark skies and the whipping winds, makes him glad that he left Cadence and Flurry up north.
  149. >With a final check to make sure everything is in place, he steels himself and heads outside to his escort.
  150. “Smiles.”
  151. >”Armor.”
  152. >Sunshine Smiles pushes himself off the wall he’s leaning on with his leathery bat wing, already in his armor any waiting to go.
  153. >Shining could tell even when looking into Smile’s eyepatch that he was impatient, so he wastes no time in starting down the hall.
  154. “Any change?”
  155. >”Nothing. I’ve sent two flyers from the extreme weather unit into the skies, but they both came back with nothing more than “these clouds aren’t natural”.”
  156. “How did you get Valkyries all the way from Stalliongrad here so fast?”
  157. >Smiles keeps his head forward when crossing over the courtyard. “We are our master’s pupils. Just because you won’t lean into that for a favor here or there doesn’t mean I won’t.”
  158.  
  159. >Shining looks up to the clouds now that they’re out in the open; low and boiling, like the breath of a sleeping dragon, but with the faint air of decay and sinister intent in them.
  160. “Speaking of, will Tempestra be joining us?”
  161. >”No. Master is on far deployment and can’t be recalled.”
  162. >Shining nods.
  163. “That’s too bad, she might be able to scare the clouds away.”
  164. >”You’ll just have to manage with me.”
  165. >Shining Armor winces at his choice of words.
  166. “Sunny, I didn’t mean-“
  167. >”I know.”
  168. >He turns to Shining and gives a rare smile for a member of the Night Guard, let alone a captain. “How long have we known each other? I’ve got you figured out too well to think you’d want to offend me.”
  169. >Shining returns the smile and jostles Sunshine a bit in a shadow of the roughhousing play the two of them would do back in training.
  170. “Where’s Flash?”
  171. >Sunshine groans. ”Far away from your sister, I told you I’d take care of that so can you please stop pester-“
  172. “I mean NOW, Sunny.”
  173. >”Oh…I have him scouting the AO down south with a team.”
  174. “Is that safe?”
  175. >”It’ll have to be.”
  176. >The two guards enter a long hallway at the foot of the central palace, a private hallway lined with paintings and memorials to comrades lost.
  177. “I guess I’m worried…It’s just the three of us left now.”
  178. >”Anonymous was older than the both of us and twice as active, we can’t exactly say his decision was surprising in our line of work.”
  179. >The two continue their path.
  180. “Just…after Captain Gaeus…”
  181. >Sunshine Smiles nods. “That one, no one could see coming…Do you miss him?”
  182. “Every day.”
  183. >”Do you resent that he chose you as his successor?”
  184. >Shining Armor shrugs.
  185. “The job can keep you down sometimes, but I met my wife through it, so…”
  186. >”So two negatives?”
  187. >Another laugh shared by the friends while Shining pushes Smiles with his hoof, who smacks Shining with his wing.
  188.  
  189. >Below Canterlot Palace, surrounded by a womb of concrete, magical spells, and the stone of a mountain, sits a single room. The room is said to be able to withstand the attack of an Ursa Major and is only used during the direst of emergencies. Such as now.
  190. >The two guard captains descend from the secret entrance in the palace and usher themselves into the room. In attendance around a war table with a map of the region sits the Royal Sisters, Princess Twilight Sparkle, along with the High Jarl of the Griffon Kingdoms and the chief of the Buffalo.
  191. “Thank you all for coming.” Shining says.
  192. “I hope you can understand dropping the pleasantries and getting right to business?”
  193. >Everyone in attendance nods as the two approach the table.
  194. >”Any change?” asks Sunshine.
  195. >Princess Twilight steps forward and her older brother registers the concern in her face, she isn’t used to dealing with things of this magnitude. “The doors have opened another five degrees, the rate they’re spilling out is even faster now!”
  196. >”The preliminary forces we have sent are having great difficulty already, I fear they will not last long against this sudden surge.” Princess Luna adds.
  197. “What about the Elements bearers?”
  198.  
  199. >Twilight shakes her head. “The girls and I are ready to do whatever we need to do, but I’ve poured over every tome in both my library and the royal one here and I can’t find ANYTHING that could seal the gates back up short of a miracle!”
  200. >The two captains share the same grim expression.
  201. “What are the projections?”
  202. >Princess Celestia steps forward. “If the gates open fully, the southern settlements will be overrun within a week, and Canterlot will be in a month.”
  203. >Shining looks to one of his oldest friends and meets his single eye, the two brothers-in-arms share a nod in agreement of their non-verbal assessment.
  204. >”Then the situation couldn’t be clearer.” Sunshine says.
  205. >Shining Armor turns back to the gathered council and begins moving pieces on the map.
  206. “The Gates of Tartarus are open, and it’s the fate of Equestria on the line for us to close them. Tonight, we plan and at dawn, we march to drive the tide of whatever is behind them back.”
  207. >The sky above Canterlot rages with grief while a desperate plan is concocted beneath a mountain.
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