Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars

by Radiant Dawn

First published

Ancient beings of long since past are returning, but for good or ill?

Ancient beings of long since past are returning, but for good or ill? Where once the world made sense and peace flourished, will it all fall apart? Against the very tide of existence itself, who can stand against it? Perhaps when the powers that be assemble, peace will prevail...or it will fall forever.

A/N: A note to my readers: this is technically a harem fic, but there will be NO lemons in it. The story will instead focus on the connections the characters share, as well as some other things later that I will leave to you to discover.

Rated T for violence, language, use of alcohol, and some mild suggestive references.

Featured 04/26/2015!



A lone figure gazed out from a balcony across the small town of Ponyville in the distance, just as the sun began to rise. The quaint, happy town once brought joy to her heart, but now it was merely a sad reminder of a time gone by. The being closed her magenta eyes and let slip a single tear before combing a hoof through her faded mane. What once was a multicolored spectrum of vivid turquoise, violet, cyan, and magenta was now a gray mockery of the beauty it once was. The once brilliant alabaster coat was now a dingy gray as well, and the eyes that once twinkled with happiness and love were now sullen.

The being was none other than Celestia - Co-monarch of Equestria and princess of the sun and the day. While at one time not long ago she would often be found walking amongst her loyal subjects, she now confined herself to her bedroom and her study. She was rarely seen anywhere else in the palace anymore, and those close to her worried about her a great deal. All the care in the world would not change things, however.

It would not bring him back.

As the princess stood staring into the distance of her once second-home, another figure appeared from behind her.

"Sister," whispered the mare, "it is time to go."

The princess simply hung her head and sighed. "Luna...why do we do this? What's the point?"

The princess of the night stood beside her sister and nuzzled her neck softly. "Because dear sister, he deserves our reverence. You know this...it was your idea after all."

Another sigh escaped the cracked lips of the princess of the day before she responded, "Yes Luna, I know...but nothing has changed. Seven months - seven - and nothing has changed."

The lunar princess hugged her sister tightly and let loose her own sigh. She then smiled genuinely and looked into her eyes. "Perhaps you are interpreting this wrong, Tia. Perhaps you should think that perhaps because nothing has changed, there is hope."

"I think my hope died what seems like so long ago, Lulu. What hope is there now? It has been only a few months, but it seems like millennia have passed." said the solar princess with a grimace.

Luna released her sister and stood in front of her, forcing her to look back at her. She stomped her hoof in defiance and glared. "There is always hope, sister. What do you think he would feel right now if you gave up so easily?"

Celestia lowered her head in shame for a moment before standing tall and grinning. The small smile was pained and tinted with sadness, but it was genuine. "You are right, Luna. Very well, let us go."

And with that, the two princesses took flight off of the balcony towards the town in the distance.

The two monarchs landed in the main square of the town, to a gathering with fourteen others including two dragons and a bipedal wooden wolf. In the center of the forming semicircle of attendees was a massive block of opaque ice, which in the hottest days of summer had still remained completely unchanged. A monument had been built of stone around it, depicting the form of a horned and winged stallion in armor fighting countless gryphons.

The group all said a few words each before laying a two particular flowers at the base of the ice - a Nightshade and a violet Pasque flower. The group spoke to each other a few moments longer before breaking their weekly morning gathering, leaving only the two princesses beside the ice.

"What do we do now, sister? How do we go on?" the solar princess asked softly.

The midnight blue alicorn stood beside the elder, and nuzzled her lovingly. "We continue as we always have, Tia...with diligence and faith. Our ponies need us, and while this pains me as well, it will not stop me...and it will not stop you."

Princess Celestia leaned against the frozen block, letting a single tear fall. The tear froze instantly upon touching the ice, and the princess whispered softly, as if to the wind...

"Steel...please come back to us..."

With that, the two princesses looked longingly at the frozen object before taking flight to trudge through another day.

The last months have passed painfully slow for the denizens of Equestria. They suffered the loss of ponies through war, one of which was the beloved prince. It was as if a knife had been plunged into every pony's heart, and with each eye that fell upon the monument within Ponyville, that knife only twisted a little more.

Would things ever be the same?

As a certain pink pony returned to the location, it seemed not. A long straight mane mocked what was once a joyful, loving pony as she mourned the loss of one of the most important figures in her life...alone. It was a sad picture in itself, but what tore at the young mare's heart even more was her hope that somehow, someway this was all some elaborate prank. It was a rationalization that she had formed, as she simply could not accept the truth...

The mare looked up with glassy blue eyes and whispered, "Today I baked a cake just for you. It was lemon with cream cheese frosting...your favorite." The pony breathed in and let out a very pained breath before continuing with, "Dashie is doing okay, but that's because she's the toughest pony ever..." Tears began to fall from the puffy eyes. "I..." Sobs choked her speech from her throat, and it took a few minutes before she composed herself enough to say, "I miss you, Steelie...please come home...I love you."

Chapter 1: Return to Life

Chapter 1: Return to Life

"Steel...please come back to us..."

“...I love you...”

I nearly jumped out of my cot at the frighteningly short dream. My heart was beating so fast, I feared it might jump right out of my chest. Luckily after a minute or so, I had forced myself to calm down. As the fogginess from sleep drifted away, I began to recall the dream.

The dream only consisted of a crying ponies - who from watching My Little Pony awhile ago, I knew was the mane six, Princess Celestia, and Princess Luna. They were standing in front of this giant ice block with other characters from the show, as well as a few I didn't recognize...namely a black dragon, what looked like a timberwolf, a blue-coated gold-maned earth pony, and a red-coated purple-maned pegasus filly. All of them were crying and laying flowers down near the ice. The dream didn't make sense to me, but then again my dreams nowadays rarely did.

This hadn't been the first dream like this that I'd had, and I had a feeling it wouldn't be the last...but perhaps I should explain how I came to this point first.

About seven or so months ago, I woke up in the middle of a field near my home. At the time all I could think was that I must've been at one hell of a party, but this humor quickly turned to confusion and fear when I saw the state of my home. The house had been boarded up...and my key didn't work anymore. Not willing to give up without a fight, I kicked the door in and searched the home. It was exactly how I remembered it, except that a few choice things were missing...namely my guitars and my mp3 player. Those losses paled in comparison to what I then found to be missing next...

My family.

I frantically searched the newspapers, town records, everything...even the cemetery. Nothing...they had literally disappeared off the face of the Earth, it seemed. As I delved deeper into this strange occurrence, I called some acquaintances and found that I too had seemingly disappeared for over five months.

What the fuck happened to us?

I assumed the worst...and without my family I didn't really feel the need to be around people anymore, so I moved. Over the next month or so, I traveled steadily further north until I came to Alaska. To this day, I can't figure out what it was, but being so far away from the big cities of the stiflingly warmer areas calmed me. The moon and the unbidden sun did so further...but by far the most beautiful thing I saw was the aurora. I used to shack up in the city of Juneau, but I soon found myself getting bored of the people there. None were really friends, so I grabbed plenty of rations and survival supplies and headed into the wilderness.

I traveled for weeks until I came across a place known as Prospect Creek. The area apparently used to be a camp for miners, but it had been utterly deserted. I hiked up the mountain near it and found the view breathtaking. I would often find it odd during this traveling period that the cold didn't bother me at all. Quite the contrary...I liked it. That being the case, I set up camp in a cave on the mountain and decided to make it my home.

During the weeks after that, I steadily gathered wood and supplies from the surrounding forest and built a sort of cabin into the cave itself. I trapped for food what small animals roamed the areas and hunted with a homemade bow the few caribou or moose that would pass through, and whenever I found I needed more supplies I would travel to the town of Coldfoot some thirty miles away to gather supplies. Besides that, I rarely left the area. I would not be so proud as to say I wasn't lonely, but considering the people I'd met just in getting here, I was glad I was on my own.

I had become familiar with the wildlife in the area, and knew the hunting patterns and territories of the various bears and wolves that lived in the surrounding areas. Luckily they didn't bother me so long as I kept clear from them, but that's not to say my life wasn't without incident. Four giant claw scars down my back from a bear can attest to that. Still, I was happy with my life. The wilds gave me nearly everything I needed, and so long as I could make my way to and from Coldfoot, I would be fine.

Everything was fine until...it...started happening. My body had started changing, though I'm still not sure why or how. My hair over the months had changed to a stark white with a line of silvery gray down each side, and my skin was paling to an unnatural steely blue. This made making my way to the city to get supplies a pain, as now I had to wear full winter gear to keep myself hidden...which I hated. Something about me must have changed, because where normally I would be freezing I could now walk around the tundra in a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. The full winter gear I had to wear to cover myself in town had me sweating, needless to say.

The more and more I withdrew from human society, the more I found myself seeking companionship with the wildlife, namely the predators. For some reason a few of them found kinship with me. To them I was apparently just another denizen of the frozen land.

I came to be very familiar with a gray wolf pack that often would investigate my home, curious as to the new structure and how it got there. I remember the first time I presented myself, a large male - who I assumed was the alpha - attacked me on sight in surprise. He nearly caught my throat, but instead sunk his teeth into my shoulder. The pain was intense, but I bashed him on the head with a club I used for hunting. He fell and lunged again, but this time I let him catch the handle of the club in his mouth. I then flipped him on his back and straddled him, holding him down. He fought for the longest time while the rest of his pack watched from far away, but eventually he calmed down and just glared at me with those bright yellow eyes. After a few minutes of this stare contest, I got up off the wolf and he jumped back as if to attack. However this time, he simply stood his ground, eyeing me with what looked like confusion. I dropped the club and took off my shirt, tearing it and wrapping it around the bite wound until I could clean it out later. The wolf snorted at me before walking back to his pack, and they all left.

The wolf pack as a whole never bothered me again, but I would often be joined during my days out by one of the younger wolves who I'd affectionately named Venn, meaning "friend" in Norwegian. He must have gotten to the age to leave his pack, because eventually he started to stay with me. It didn't bother me in the slightest, as it was nice to have a friend who didn't judge, didn't hate, and didn't succumb to greed. He was by no means a pet, and made sure I knew that by not heeding me when I called to him or tried to get him to do something. I would often find myself having a deep feeling of familiarity about the situation, but I brushed it off. Haha...when had I ever befriended a wolf?

This brings us to the present day.

Anyhow, I'd been having dreams more and more often lately about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now I guess technically I'm a brony since I'm a dude and like the show, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen an episode like any of the dreams I'm having. Before the dream I had today, I'd had past dreams of some silver alicorn with a shield for a cutie mark...kinda like this weird tattoo I'd found on my shoulder. Only difference between the two is that my tattoo-thing makes it look like the shield is made of ice, and there's also a sword next to it. There's also a bunch of different cutie marks on it as well. From what I remember, I saw Twilight Sparkle's, Fluttershy's, Rainbow Dash's, Rarity's, Pinkie Pie's, Applejack's, Vinyl Scratch's, Lyra's, and both of the princesses'. 'Wow, I must've went on a brony rage or something when I was...gone for those five months.'

Kinda messed up for a guy roughing it in the wilds of Alaska to have a cutie-mark tattoo, but meh...not like anyone's going to find out.

Everything was fine until one day kinda changed everything for me. I was hunting for caribou in the forest around my mountain home with Venn, and it was about midday. It was what I considered a balmy summer day in the tundra, which meant the permafrost was melting a bit. This allowed some of the grasses and small shrubs of the tundra to grow, which meant migration for the larger herbivores that roamed the area. I had learned to follow Venn, as he had hunted these grounds with his pack until he left, and he knew exactly where to find food.

I had found it weird in the past few weeks that whenever I'd hunt, a little part of me hurt whenever I'd kill something. I didn't know why, but it was like a part of me felt it was...wrong somehow. Even with that being the case, I still had to eat and so did my newfound friend, so I kept surviving. One of the few things I'd kept from the civilized world was that I kept track of the days and months, as this helped me plan when and where to gather food. It was the beginning of July, and that meant there would be light nearly all of the time. This made hunting easier, but also made sleeping a bitch.

Thankfully on this day, Venn and I hit the jackpot: a bull moose easily the size of a small SUV. Rather than use my bow, I decided to trap it. The trap worked well and the large herbivore was basically waiting for me to put it out of its misery. As I raised the club to finish the job, I found myself looking in the eyes of the animal. A tear fell off my cheek, and I couldn't help but mutter an apology as I slammed the heavy blunt object repeatedly on the head until it stopped moving. With that out of the way, I lay the moose down on the skin-bed I brought and began the long arduous task of dragging the thousand-pound body all the way back home, which was about a mile away. To my surprise, Venn looped one of the straps around his neck and helped me. This wolf was a hell of a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, and I was glad to have him as a friend.

As we made our way up the mountain slopes, I made sure to urinate (as gross as that is) all the way up where blood from the moose had dripped. I had learned in survival training that providing I ate enough meat, this would overpower the scent of blood, and thus keep rival predators away. I could have swore Venn stared at me and shook his head as if to say "wtf", but it must have just been my imagination. As we continued pulling the body over the top of the cliff path, I came upon what I first thought was a hallucination. It looked like a spectral alicorn, but one I didn't recognize. It was bright blue with a flowing mane that looked like it was made of ice. It was wearing armor of some kind, and it's cutie mark...

I recognized that sword.

I looked at my left arm and compared. 'Holy fuck, it's the same!' Venn noticed the apparition as well and dropped the strap, growling. I took a similar response, pulling my knife and makeshift axe made from stone and caribou antler to defend myself. The pony just smiled at me and shook his head.

"Still as cautious as always, Steelbreaker." it said softly.

I froze...I knew that name. "W-what did you call me?"

He smiled again and sat down. "I called you Steelbreaker...or should I call you Drew?"

'Whoa...what the fuck is going on?' "Okay dude, talk. How do you know who I am, what the hell are you, and what do you want?" I asked, cautiously pulling the moose the rest of the way up and brandishing my weapons again.

"Oh come now, don't you think if I could or wanted to hurt you that I would have done it already? Smooth out rocky road, it's all groovy on the flipside." he said with a smirk.

Okay now this was getting weird...only my brother said that. That must mean... "I only know one person who says that, man. Where's my brother? I know you know where he is. There's no other way possible you could have ever come up with that."

The alicorn stood tall and grinned again. "Your brother is alive, and safe. I promise you that...as is your sister and mother."

I was stunned. After over half a year of thinking my entire family was dead, I was just told they were alive and well. "W-well where are they? Why doesn't anyone here know where they are or what happened to them? Explain that, mister ghost-pony-dude."

The pony chuckled and walked right up to me. Venn was still growling, but I waved him off with a hand and he stopped. The alicorn then looked me right in the eye and smiled, replying in a level voice, "I know you know about the multiverse, Drew. I'm here to tell you it definitely exists...and that your family is in an entirely different universe - as were you until you came back here."

"Wait, wait, wait a minute. Cool the jets, shift into neutral, and have a swig of slurpee; did you just say came back? Was I somewhere else? Is that why like five months are missing from my memory?" I said, getting oddly excited for some reason.

The alicorn simply nodded. "Take a good look at me...where do you think I'm from?"

I couldn't believe it, but there was no denying it at this point. "Equestria...you're from Equestria."

"Now, Drew...I have some things I need to explain to you." he said with a wide grin.

As I skinned and butchered the moose (much to the alicorn's dismay), he filled me in on all kinds of things. I honestly didn't know what to believe. It made sense, but at the same time it didn't. By what he said, the silver stallion I'd been seeing in my dreams was really...me; and he was a being that was harbored inside of me. An elemental avatar, as he called it. He told me that my brother, sister, and mother were waiting for me back in Equestria...as were all my marefriends. I had to stop him there...

"Wait a minute, you said marefriends...as in more than one? Is that even legal?" I asked with no small amount of skepticism.

He simply nodded and smiled again. "Yes. You have six I believe, and yes it is perfectly legal."

A few questions were still gnawing at me though... "Okay let's say I believe the ramblings from a ghost alicorn. Why don't I remember any of this and why am I not there anymore?"

For the first time he frowned. Even in this short time I've been talking to him, it felt weird to see him frown. "Well, you died. There was a war about to happen and you were in the first and only battle fought. Your troops were being overrun, so you sacrificed yourself so they could get away. Very noble indeed, Steelbreaker. As far as why you don't remember, it is because of your death. Somehow your sacrifice gave me life, and with it your memories. Your memories did not follow you back here, to Earth."

Okay, that was unexpected but yep...that sounded like something I would do. "Alright fine, but why are you all ghostie-like then? That's kind of the opposite of life."

The frown now turned into a smile again on the blue alicorn's face. "I am no longer living, because I returned your sacrifice to you." He stepped forward and placed a hoof on my shoulder, and I felt a tingling sensation. "Steel...come home. Your family and friends are mourning your death. Please...please give them this great gift. Don't let my sacrifice be in vain."

Now I felt like kind of a dick, because I had been honestly thinking of turning him down...but for some reason I believed him. Of course if what he said is really true, he's me in a way. Makes sense he'd know just what to say. "Will I get my memories back? I really don't want to have to get to know everyone all over again. I don't think I'll be as lucky a second time around."

He just smiled and nodded. "By accepting my invitation back home, all will be made right. They need you, Steel."

I stood tall and looked over at my newfound wolf-friend. "But what about him? I'm the only friend he's got now. A lone wolf is a dead wolf in the tundra."

The alicorn's face dropped and he sighed. "Being as I am, I am not sure it is possible...but I will try. You will be safe on the return trip...but for him I cannot say for sure. I will give it all of my being that I have left."

I nodded and stood up. "Well if my family's waiting for me, let's not waste any time. Let's go, I'm ready now."

He nodded and stood as well, wrapping his spectral wings around me and Venn. The next thing I knew, I saw nothing but black.

I woke up in a massive puddle of water in the dark of night underneath some kind of huge statue. I stepped out just as confused as ever on wobbly legs, but I recognized the area. I was indeed in Ponyville. Before I could take another step, however, I fell to the ground clutching my head as memories started passing through my mind so fast I had to fight not to scream. The pain was so intense had I not already relieved myself, I would have urinated everywhere. As far as trying not to scream, I failed as the pain got worse. I wished I could just black out again so that the pain would go away, but I couldn't.

And then, as suddenly as the pain started, it was gone. I was gasping for breath as I felt something soft and wet nuzzle my face. I turned my head to see Venn had made it, and he was luckily better off than I was. As I tried to clear my mind I realized something.

I remembered everything.

I was about to take off in flight only to find that my body felt different. I trotted over to the puddle of water to check out my reflection, and I gasped at what I saw. My coat was no longer the silver color I remembered...instead it was the same steel-blue my skin had become back on Earth. My mane and tail were the same, but I was at least a foot taller than I used to be. Also, where once my body was slender and lean, I was now well-defined and muscular. I was built more like an actual horse than a pony from Equestria, which of course was fine by me. Sure I wouldn't be as fast, but now I was pretty sure I could give my brother or Big Mac a run for his money.

Wait...my brother.

'Ah shit. Drew, prepare thyself for beatings.'

There was no getting around it, everyone was going to beat on me for putting them through what I did for the past seven months. 'By Celestia...has it really been that long?' Not wanting to postpone this any longer, I prepared to fly. I realized there was a problem with that plan, however...

"Umm, I don't know if you can understand me Venn, but we need to go see friends of mine to let them know I'm alive and well. Follow me?" I pleadingly asked the wolf. To my utter shock, he nodded and we both set about walking toward the palace.

We arrived a little over six hours later at the palace gates. The guard was asleep, to which I snorted. 'Sorry excuse for a guard...' I stomped my foot and he shook his head a bit, waking up.

The guard stared at me a moment before taking the typical stern guard's look. "What are you doing here this time of night? Princess Luna is not seeing anypony."

I chuckled and bowed. "Presenting Prince Steelbreaker, sir."

The guard held a confused look on his face for a moment before responding.,"What are you speaking of? The prince is no longer living. In fact, he gave his life to protect us. You would do well to remember that."

'Okay...obviously this guy isn't going to be letting me in, and I'd rather not cause a scene.'

It was then that I had an idea. I focused magic into my horn, praying I had enough after "waking up" after months. Thankfully I did, and I fired the multicolored bolt of magic into the sky above us. The sky burst into bright ribbons of color, and the guard just stared at me.

"How and why did you do that?" he asked in utter shock.

I chuckled. "Oh, just wait...you'll see."

A few minutes passed and nothing...but then just as I was about to walk away I heard the furious clopping of hooves against the marble floors leading to the gate. It was Luna. She thrust open the gate and stood frozen in place once she lay eyes on me. She looked at me with confusion as well, which didn't surprise me. I had grown apparently, and I honestly didn't look like myself anymore.

I then leaned forward ever so slightly and whispered the one thing I hoped would remove all doubt. "There's always hope...Lulu."

She gasped so forcefully I was afraid she was going to turn into a vacuum. She instantly started crying and leapt at me, holding me in a vice grip embrace. I returned it wholeheartedly and I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. "Well...someone missed me."

For a few moments I enjoyed her warm embrace...until she pulled back and slammed a hoof into my chest, glaring at me. "You asshole!"

I couldn't help but let a gasp of my own out. I'd never heard Luna curse before. "I'm...I'm sorry?"

"Oh, you're not sorry. Not yet. Wait until Tia sees you...you'll see just how sorry you are." she said with a malicious grin.

I was reasonably afraid at this, but I needed to face the music. Something told me that Celly wouldn't have taken what happened to me so well. Luna walked towards the palace again, beckoning me to follow her. We then set about navigating the winding halls of the Celestial Palace, Venn in tow.

After a few minutes I found myself standing in front of a very familiar set of golden double doors - Celestia's room. Luna grinned at me and knocked loudly, no doubt waking the sleeping princess.

"Ugh...who's there? I said I wished not to be disturbed!" a voice shouted angrily from the other side.

Luna giggled and responded, "Tia, there's someone here to see you. It's someone I'm pretty sure you want to meet."

We heard shuffling from behind the door and it cracked open to reveal a very broken-looking princess. I expected it, but wow...I didn't know she'd look this unlike herself. She looked up and eyed me with surprise, then turned to Luna. "Luna, who is this? I don't recognize him at all."

I bowed my head to look at her in the eyes and winked. "Hello Celly. Sorry I'm late."

I could tell right away she recognized my voice, because she nearly knocked the doors down trying to squeeze through them. "Steel? Steel is it really you?"

I nodded and embraced her in a tight hug. "I'm so sorry, love...I never meant to do this to you."

I heard her giggling and felt tears on my chest at the same time. She was crying tears of joy, and I could see color returning to her grayed, disheveled mane, and her coat brightened up as well. She then stood back and tapped me hard in the chest, right where Luna had hit me. 'Ugh...barely back an hour and already I'm getting bruised.' "You still owe me for bringing Gilda back here."

"Really? I'm back after seven months and that's the first thing you can think of?" I asked with mock annoyance.

She giggled and nodded. "I always keep up on debts owed to me."

I smiled and nodded. "Fine, but can we address this tomorrow? I'm beat. Being reborn in a new body and traveling the multiverse takes a lot out of ya."

She nodded and smiled. "Yes Steel. I need my rest, no matter how glad I am to have you back in my life. We will address all this," she yawned, "tomorrow."

I nodded and planted a soft kiss on her nose, which she giggled at. She returned the gesture and closed her door with a wide smile on her face.

As I walked the halls of the palace towards my room (which I hoped was still available), Luna told me of everything that had happened since I had been gone. As far as the "war" - if you could even call it that - the gryphons chickened out after seeing what I did to their ranks. Apparently it wasn't even so much the fact I single-handedly killed over eight-hundred of their elite soldiers...it was the fact that I didn't even leave anything left to bury. There were also no survivors to say that I wasn't still alive and could do that again, so the gryphon king of Highmount signed a peace treaty with Luna a week later. Other than that though, things had been rather bleak. I was surprised at just how many ponies were glum without me there, besides my personal friends and family of course. Pinkie hadn't laughed even once since my death, and Vinyl had stopped performing until further notice.

As we reached my doors, Luna looked at me and smiled. She then drew me into as tight a hug as she could muster. "Steel, I missed you so much. Please don't ever leave us again."

I couldn't help but chuckle at this, as shitty as that sounds. "I did say only death would make me leave you...and I did kind of die."

She pulled back and stared at me with a deadpan expression, which just made me laugh more. She rolled her eyes and kissed me on the cheek before leaving down the hallway. "Well Steel, I have court tonight, so I cannot join you. Get some rest...for tomorrow we reintroduce the Prince of Equestria."

I nodded and opened my doors, letting Venn in and shutting the doors behind me. My room had been left exactly as it was the last time I used it, except the bed had been made. I was tired so I didn't really have the energy to do much else except sleep at this point. I quickly made a small bed for the gray wolf out of the comforter and blanket of my bed (which Venn seemed very thankful for), and I plopped down on the comfy bed. For the first time in over half a year, I was happy as sleep took me.

Today was a good day.

Chapter 2: Return of the Prince

Chapter 2: Return of the Prince

I woke up to a stifling heat that threatened to permeate my very being. I threw the blankets off of myself and grumbled in annoyance.

Summer was going to blow here.

It wouldn't be anything like my beautiful tundra home back on Earth, but I could make due for another few months until winter came. Such is the life of an avatar of winter, I suppose. This would take some getting used to.

I sighed and quickly took a cold shower and brushed my teeth before taking flight towards Ponyville.

As I flew through the highest reaches of the sky - where it was still nice and cool - I looked down with happiness at my home. It may not be as cold as I'd like, but I loved it here. It was about time to reveal to everyone that I was alive and well - again - so I decided to have a little fun with it. Focusing on Frostre...my power over winter, I began to summon dark whispy storm clouds...

Perspective change - Twilight Sparkle

It had been three months and not a tear fell. Last night, however, I had a dream about him. I felt the way he used to kiss me, the way he hugged me tight when I felt bad...even his laugh. It opened up the floodgates and I cried like a filly.

So there I was, sitting on my bed as Applejack, Rarity, and Spike hugged me tight. Even with their care and love, I could only think one thing...one wonderfully horrible thing.

It just wasn't the same.

As the minutes ticked by, I finally opened my eyes only to find Spike had gotten up, and was now staring out the window at something.

"Um, girls? I really think you should all come take a look at this." he said with obvious nervousness.

Grudgingly, I stood up off of the bed and walked to the window. My friends gathered around me, and we all gasped at what we saw.

Hanging over Ponyville was a massive swirling dark cloud, and out of it was falling...snow?

"It's tha middle of summer! What tha hay's goin' on?" Applejack nearly screamed.

The four of us bolted outside to stare at the strange storm cloud. We weren't the only ones, as we saw most of Ponyville staring up at the sky as well. As I was looking I spotted Pinkie, Lyra, and Vinyl walking over to us with equally confused expressions.

Pinkie shook her long straight mane out of her eyes and asked with an uncharacteristically soft tone, "Twilight, any idea what's going on?"

I just shook my head, my tears of sadness thankfully being replaced by awe and intense thought. "I have no idea, Pinkie. Wait, where's Rainbow?"

"Here!" yelled the aforementioned pegasus as she landed gracefully. "I know what you're going to ask, Twilight...but it's not us. We'd never schedule a snow during the middle of summer."

Our deliberation as to the cause of this freak occurrence was cut short by the sound of massive wing beats and howling wind. That's when we saw it - a tall muscular alicorn with a steel-blue coat and a flowing mane that looked just like Steel's used to.

'Wait just a minute.'

I looked at my friends to see them apparently thinking the same thing. The stallion landed in front of us gracefully and smiled.

"Hi girls, it's been a long time." he said in a deep, calming voice.

I froze. I'd know that voice anywhere. "S-Steel?" I barely choked out.

The clouds dissipated into nothing and the alicorn pulled me in close, holding me in a tight embrace. "I'm here, Twi. I'm home."

I started to doubt this was really happening. This must have been a delusion brought on my my loneliness and intense feelings of loss. These thoughts were shattered when he kissed me, full and passionately. After a minute or so, we broke away from each other and I couldn't help but smile.

He came back to us.

Perspective change - Rainbow Dash

I was frozen and speechless for the first time in a long time. Steel was back, and just after I had accepted the fact that he was gone. The gods must have a really messed up sense of humor.

He released Twilight and looked over at me, and I realized just how much he'd changed. He wasn't the same delicate-looking pony he used to be, now he looked like he could really do some damage. Also, he seemed to have grown taller, and I was pretty sure he was taller than Princess Celestia now. Lastly, his eyes weren't the solid gold color they used to be. Instead, only an eight-pointed star shape near his pupil was still gold, while the rest was a pale, icy blue. He looked a lot like...


This must be what Lux meant when she told us "the ritual" made two become one. He wasn't just Steel anymore, he was also Frostrender. Even with how much his looks had changed, he still had the same warm smile, same hearty laugh, and same loving gaze.


"Huh, what?" I said in a daze. Apparently during my thoughts I had gone off into my own little world, and now Steel was standing in front of me with a smirk.

"I know I'm hot, Dashie, but you don't need to gawk." he said with a wide grin.

'Wow, he sounds like me now.' I shoved him playfully and tried to tackle him to the ground with a hug. Instead, I slammed into what felt like a steel tower. I was dazed, but I felt a gust of wind and two hooves cradling me.

"I love you too, my Dashie." he said while standing up tall, holding me in his front legs. He leaned his head down and kissed me softly and slowly. Word's can't express how much I missed his touch.

Perspective change - Vinyl

The next hour or so Steel spent getting reacquainted with us all. We listened to his story of what he did back on Earth for the past six or seven months and we all shared what had been going on in Equestria. I have to admit, I got a bit squeamish when he told me he had to hunt and eat animals, but I got over it pretty quickly. It's not like he did it here, and it's not like he would be doing it as a pony anyway.

I hadn't realized how much I missed him when he was gone until he was back. It was like starving for a long time and then somepony giving you the most succulent gourmet meal in all of Equestria. Well...something like that anyway.

I hated to admit it - I mean I really did - but Steel was my inspiration for my music nowadays. I never had problems getting a show together or filling up the venue. However, before Steel came to Terra, I'd been having trouble coming up with anything new. And so, when he left, so did my inspiration. That of course wasn't the only reason I was glad he was back, but it was a significant part.

In my business I didn't usually have time for a relationship, but Steel wasn't my first...and I'm pretty sure he could tell that. I don't know what it was, but it seemed my past marefriends and coltfriends always would get too needy. Maybe they were afraid I was going to leave them or cheat on them or something...I don't know. I might be the party DJ of Ponyville, but I'm still every bit a loyal as any good pony should be. That was the reason that Steel and I gelled together so well, I guess. I was a part of his life, but not the whole thing.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy my alone time with him...

"Hey Vinyl, you alright babe?" he said softly, breaking me from my thoughts.

Besides Lyra, he's the only pony I don't mind - even like - calling me those "pet names". I did miss it though, so I smiled. "Yeah I'm fine, Steel. Just thinking about you, I guess."

He chuckled and stroked some of my mane out from in front of my glasses. "Well you don't have to just think about me anymore...you can touch me now." he said, putting extra emphasis on "touch".

That made me blush. I never blush. I swear in that time he was away, his personality changed. Not in a bad way at all, but still. He seemed more...playful, and laid back. I guess living alone in the wilderness with no one but a wolf to keep you company will do that do you.

I was giggling like a schoolfilly. Yep, it's all downhill from here.

"Well girls," he started, "I need to find my brother. Any of you know where he is?"

Twilight smiled and nodded. "Yeah, he's up at the training grounds in Canterlot. Are you leaving already Steel?"

He smiled that warm smile that I loved and nodded. "Yeah, I'm leaving. I promise I'll be back before nightfall though, okay? What say you all stay here at the library like old times? You too, Rarity and AJ. It'll be like a co-ed sleepover! Um, PG rated, though. We're not having an orgy or anything."

Applejack blushed but looked confused. "Uh Steel? Whaddaya mean by 'PG'?"

He chuckled and placed a hoof on her shoulder. "By that I mean don't do anything you wouldn't feel comfortable doing in front of Granny Smith."

Ah horseapples...he didn't...

AJ's face fell and all of us couldn't help but look sad as well. Steel's face became stunned and saddened realization.

"...she's gone, isn't she?" he said softly.

AJ nodded and let a few tears slip free. Steel pulled her into a tight hug without a second thought and cried with her. It was a good thing my glasses were still on, because I couldn't hold back from letting a few tears go as well, and all the others followed. Granny Smith was one of the last living memories of the founding of Ponyville, as well as the matriarch of the Apple family. That was a sad day, but we didn't blame Steel. He didn't know, after all. Steel pulled away from Applejack after a few minutes of hugging and kissed her on her forehead like a loving big brother would do. It must have worked, because she smiled.

Steel stood tall and flared his wings, which were now easily twice their original size. "Alright girls, sorry about that downer but I really do have to talk to my brother and then find the rest of my family."

Perspective change - Steelbreaker

I took off after saying goodbye and giving hugs and kisses - respectively - to all my marefriends and friends. My assumptions about my new body were right - I was slower than I used to be. The difference is that I could feel the extra power in my wings, and where usually the flight to Canterlot would tire me out, I felt like I could fly forever now. Well, if I was going too slow, that's what spells are for. I focused on the wing speed spell I'd used before and activated it. I felt a large drain on my magic, which confused me. Oh well, I'd ask Celly and Luna about it later.

After about a minute of flying, I arrived at the training grounds with a loud *BOOM* as I went subsonic again. A couple of the guards were training with Shining Armor and Ditzy, and I could see my brother off in the distance training with a few more of them with wooden swords.

Before I could go any further I felt myself stop, and I noticed a bright magenta aura around me. I looked down to see Shining Armor's horn glowing. He pulled me down to him and glared at me.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" he growled.

I threw up my hooves. "Shining it's me, Steel, put me down!" His eyes widened and he dropped me on my back, knocking the breath out of me.

The guard captain stepped over to me with his mouth hanging open. "By Celestia, Steel? You're alive?"

I grunted and stood up. "I am now. Sorry if I startled you all."

I was nearly tackled to the ground by a gray blur with a blonde mane. "Steel! I'm so glad you're okay!" Ditzy hugged me tight and let slip a few tears before she realized all her guards were staring at her. She jumped off of me and cleared her throat. "Um, I mean it's good to see you are well, colonel."

I raised an eyebrow. "Wait...colonel? When did this happen?"

Shining Armor laughed and patted me on the shoulder. "You were given the rank of colonel posthumously. At my recommendation, of course."

"Oh...well thanks, captain. All the same, I'd rather you not salute me. Feels weird in peacetime." I said with a smirk. "Alright guys, well I need to see Darkflight. Things might get a little...heated. No pun intended. Keep your distance." They all laughed and I took to the skies.

As I landed near my brother, I decided to have some fun with him. Seeing as how he didn't know who I was yet, I thought I'd see just how hard he'd fight against a surprise attack. I activated a freezing aura around my body, making cold fog drift off of me constantly in the hot, humid summer day. I then created a full-body armor made completely of ice. Lastly I added a blue smoky energy effect to my eyes (eat your heart out, Lich King) to give myself an even more ominous appearance.

The two guards that he was fighting spotted me with wide eyes and stepped back. My brother turned around and shared a similar shocked expression before I charged him. He was caught completely off-guard and I broadsided him, knocking him to the hard ground. As he started to get to his hands and knees to stand up, I stomped my hooves, freezing him to the ground in a very vulnerable position.

I chuckled and dissipated my armor. "You know, you're lucky I'm straight because I could totally make you my man-bitch right now."

He stopped struggling and looked up. "Drew?" I released my hold on the ice and he broke it easily. He stood up and was shocked to find that I was now as tall as him standing normally. "Dude, what the fuck? Where have you been?" he said before launching a right hook at my jaw. I ate it...I kinda did deserve it after all.

I rubbed my jaw with a hoof and chuckled when he noticed a thick layer of frost on his hand. I dispelled my frost aura and smiled. "Still got those cement fists, I see. Nice to see you too, Mace."

He surprised me with a tight hug. "Dude...we all thought you were dead."

I returned the hug and patted his back. "Well technically, I was...at least here. On Earth, I was living on my own in the wilds of Alaska."

He released me and looked at me confused. "Alaska? You could have gone anywhere, and you went to fucking Alaska? It's cold as balls there!"

"That's exactly why I went there. Nice cool climate, not many people...it was perfect for me. Without you all on Earth, I didn't really have reason to stay around other people anymore. You all know I detest most humans." I said with a grimace.

"Okay that I can understand, but what's with all the cold and such? What happened to you?" he asked with increasing confusion.

I shrugged. "It seems that when Frostrender sacrificed himself to bring me back, we merged to be one person. I have his memories, as well as his power over winter. I'm thinking about changing my name to honor him, actually. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be back here."

He nodded and jerked his head towards Ponyville. "Mom and Jen are at Sweet Apple Acres right now. You should really go and see them next. Prepare for a long lecture, man. I don't envy you at this moment."

My happy demeanor deflated into one of loathing. "Yeah...I know. Not looking forward to that at all, but they both deserve to know I'm back. How have they been holding up?"

"Well ma lost her oldest son...how the fuck do you think she took it? As far as Jen, she wasn't much better off...but at least she had friends to distract her. I mean mom had Mac, but he's not the most talkative guy." he said with a sigh. I nodded to him and headed to the palace to grab Venn. He'd been left alone in my room for long enough.

When I arrived back to my room, I found a very frightened wolf dodging around the bed trying to avoid a guard.

"Stop! Leave him be, he's a friend." I yelled at the guard.

I recognized the guard as Brightwing. "And who are you exactly?" he asked with a tint of hostility.

I stood tall and glared at him. "I'm the recently returned Prince Steelbreaker."

He was unconvinced. "I don't believe you, stranger."

I chuckled. "Okay then...remember when we were training before the war and you thought you could take on Corporal Ditzy Doo? If I remember correctly she said, 'if your dick was as big as your ego, you'd be able to please a full grown white dragon.'"

His cheeks became red with embarrassment before he stepped forward. "Prince Steelbreaker? Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't know." He immediately dropped to a knee.

I rolled my eyes and gestured for him to stand. "Come on, Brightwing. You know how I feel about bowing. No harm done, you didn't know it was me." He stood and smiled. "Anyhow, I have to go and see some friends to let them know I'm okay. I'd appreciate it if you could tell all the guards and palace staff that I'm back and such, so that they don't have the reaction you do." He nodded and left the room.

I looked down at Venn and sat down in front of him. "Venn I'm curious...can you understand everything I say?" He nodded and let out a small bark. "Really now? Any idea how? I could be wrong, but normal wolves where we come from don't understand human speech." He shrugged and stood up. "Alright then, that's good enough for me. Anyway, we're going to go see some friends of mine. They're ponies too, and I'd appreciate it if you could be civil with them. Also, I know you're probably hungry by now, but I have a proposition for you." He looked at me with an interested gaze and seemed to be smiling. "Well, I have the power to change your body to something more...fitting for civilized living. As well as the fact that you will be able to eat and process vegetables for nourishment, since eating meat is frowned upon in this society. Would you like me to do that for you?" He seemed to have a nonchalant look and shrugged. "Oh, right...not like you have anything to compare it to. Well, I'll have you meet a friend of mine then. His name is Moonfang, and I did the same thing to him. He's a wolf of sorts as well, but he looks quite a bit different than you. I have a feeling that you two will understand each other better than I could." He seemed to smile and nodded. I stood up and started the long walk to Ponyville, with Venn following me.

We arrived in the small town about two hours later, and I was thankful it was not even midday yet. We walked to Fluttershy's house and I motioned for Venn to wait while I went and spoke to my friends. I strode up to the door and knocked on it, hoping that Fluttershy and Moonfang would be home. A minute or so passed before the butter-colored pegasus answered shyly.

"Umm...h-hello. C-can I help you?" she said in a cute voice that made me want to "dawww".

I smiled and bowed. "Hello Fluttershy. I’m home."

Her eyes widened to the size of dinner plates and she launched herself at me, hugging me tight. "Oh Steel! I'm so happy you're back! I just knew you couldn't be gone, I just knew it!"

It felt weird that Fluttershy was showing such affection to me, but then again it was Fluttershy. You can't tell me that you wouldn't want to hug somepony so soft and loveable...and if you do, you're a heartless bastard of a donkey.

I returned her hug with fervor and nuzzled into her soft pink mane, causing her to giggle and blush. "I'm glad to be back, Fluttershy. I'm so sorry I scared you and everypony else." She nodded and nuzzled back against me before releasing me and floating to the ground. "Hey 'Shy, is Moonfang home?"

She smiled and nodded. "Yes, he is. I'll go get him for you! Please come in, and bring your friend too." she said while motioning to Venn.

I raised an eyebrow. "You're not bothered by my friend here?"

She shook her head. "I don't judge any animals anymore. Moonfang used to be a timberwolf, and look what he's become now. He's one of the most gentle beings I've ever met." she then scampered off upstairs.

I heard whispering from upstairs, and then an exclaimed "WHAT?" before she came back downstairs, Moonfang following close behind. As soon as Venn saw him, he started growling. Moonfang saw the wolf and growled right back, albeit deeper and louder.

"Hey, HEY! Behave, the both of you. You're both my friends, and I'd appreciate it if at the very least you could be civil with each other." I said, nearly shouting. Both wolves looked at me and relaxed, although they held a bit of a glare contest for a moment before Moonfang turned to me with a wide smile.

"Steel...it has been far too long. I've missed you, friend...we all have." he said with a shaky voice.

I smiled and stepped forward to hug him. He returned the gesture and we broke a second later with smiles. "Well Moonfang," I started, pointing to Venn, "this is Venn. He's a wolf from my world. I asked him if he wanted to become like you are, and he's not really sure about it."

Moonfang seemed genuinely interested. "Oh, is that right?" He then turned to the young wolf sitting next to me. "Well young Venn, I can tell you it is not only an honor, but a gift. I can tell you, I do not miss living the wolf lifestyle. Here there is no need to fight for survival, and there are always those who will help you if you are kind and willing to receive help."

Venn seemed to be mulling the thought over for a few minutes before turning to me and nodding. "Well," I said while gesturing to him, "I think that's an answer. Venn, I'll contact Princess Luna and have your change set about later today." The wolf nodded and looked towards Fluttershy, as did I. "Hey 'Shy, I have to go see my mother and sister. Think you can watch out for Venn until I get back?" The mare nodded and smiled, so I quickly turned and left the home, taking flight as soon as I got outside.

I landed outside of Sweet Apple Acres soon afterwards and saw Big Mac plowing the north fields. He spotted me and trotted up with a smile. "Well howdy, Steel. Been a long time, pardner." he said while patting me on the shoulder.

I smiled and returned the gesture. "I take it AJ already explained everything?"

He nodded and chewed a bit on the piece of hay he had sticking out of his mouth. "Eeyup. If yer here lookin' fer yer ma and sis, check inside tha house. They're waitin' fer ya."

I rolled my eyes. "Oh boy, I can't wait. Well Mac, it was nice knowing you." He chuckled and went back to plowing.

I entered the house after knocking only to be met with a fierce glare from my mother. She pointed towards the couch with a rigid leg. "Sit...now."

I complied without any argument and started to feel nervous. 'To think after fighting an army of gryphons, my mother still scares me.' Jen was already on the couch waiting for me. She didn't look mad at all. Instead my sister looked as happy as could be, and hugged me tight when I sat down. I hugged her back, enjoying the fact that only one of them was mad at me. After I released the hug, I was surprised by a hoof to the jaw. 'Ugh...that's gonna swell. That makes twice in the same place.'

"Now then, care to explain just where the hell you've been all this time?" asked the golden-maned mare, glaring at me.

I kept trying to make up some sort of excuse in my head before I sighed and just decided to tell the full truth. "Well, after I died - yes, I actually died - I somehow got sent back to Earth. I've been living there for the past seven months. Before you ask, no...I'm not really sure how I got sent back to Earth. I lived and survived in the wilderness of Alaska until Frostrender came to get me. Along the way, I made friends with a wolf I call Venn, and now here I am."

She stared at me confused before responding. "Okay, why were you in Alaska? And why didn't you just live in Virginia, where our house was?"

I chuckled and smiled. "Because for one, I hate Virginia. I grew up in Kansas...Virginia is a shithole by comparison. Also the fact that I could not keep up a house payment along with all the other bills on my own. Besides, something about me has changed. From what I can gather from Frostrender's memories, he made me the new avatar of winter. Heat has always bothered me, but now it's unbearable. Notice how much I'm sweating right now?" I asked, gesturing to the glistening sweat on my coat.

She eyed me with uncertainty, but then shrugged. "Okay then, why don't you just make yourself cold or something?"

"Well because if I do that, anything or anyone I touch would be frozen." I explained. I then stood up and smiled. "Well mom, I am honestly sorry for what I put all of you through, but I had to make a choice. No one should have to die simply because I was too chickenshit to do what I did."

She stepped forward and hugged me with a smile. "I forgive you, son, I'm just glad you're okay. Please try and keep from getting into that type of situation again, will you?"

I nodded and returned the hug for a moment before releasing and stepping back. "Well, I've got one more thing I have to take care of before the ceremony in the middle of town around three o'clock. I'll meet you all there, okay?" With that, I stepped out of the house and flew towards the mountains to the northeast of Canterlot.

I landed on a mountain peak overlooking a large lake in a valley and scanned the area, looking for Gilda. 'I hope she's still here.' I took to the sky again and flew around, looking for the young gryphon before spotting a brown and white feathered figure resting in a tree next to the water. She was sound asleep, and I smirked before bucking the tree hard, causing her to tumble out of it with surprise.

She screamed before landing on the ground with a thud. After shaking her head she looked up at me with fear. "Wh-who are you?"

I smiled and extended a hoof to help her up. "Is that any way to greet the stallion that's going to help you make things right with Dash and her friends? Sorry I'm late by the way. Some things...came up."

Her eyes widened in surprise before she smiled. "Prince Steelbreaker? I thought you were dead!" she said, her voice cracking a bit.

I chuckled and nodded. "Well yeah, I was dead. Thanks to Frostrender, I've got this new body and I've been able to come home. I know it's been a long time, but I hope things didn't go badly with my...disappearance."

She sighed and shook her head. "Well I mean since I wouldn't fight in the war, Highmount labeled me a deserter, so I've been stuck here. The princesses made sure I wasn't lonely, but I haven't really been able to go anywhere."

I smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, I'm sorry about that Gilda. Anyway, I think we should get this over with right about now, since the longer we wait, the longer you have to stay here. That and the fact that I have a ceremony I have to attend in a few hours. You ready for this?"

She sighed and nodded. "Yeah. This is gonna be really awkward, but I gotta make this right. If not for myself, then for Dash."

We nodded at each other and took flight towards Ponyville.

We flew through the sky high enough so that anypony below would only see two dots in the sky, indistinguishable from a bird unless you were looking for us. After about twenty minutes or so, we arrived in Ponyville and landed on a cloud high above a field near Sweet Apple Acres. I then ordered Gilda to wait while I went to go get Dashie.

Perspective change - Rainbow Dash

Today was a pretty chilled out day, so I was napping on a cloud near the library when Steel landed on my cloud softly, waking me up.

"Hey Dashie," he said, leaning down for a kiss before continuing, "I got someone who needs to talk to you. Can you follow me please?"

I could feel the urgency in his voice, so I nodded and we flew off towards Sweet Apple Acres.
We arrived a few minutes later, and I stopped as soon as I saw who was waiting for us.

I eyed Steel with confusion and just a little anger. "What is she doing here?"

He sighed and shook his head. "She's not here to make trouble, Dashie. As a matter of fact, she's been spending the past seven months under the care of Celestia waiting for this moment. She wants to apologize and get rid of this bad blood between the two of you."

I was utterly shocked at this point. Apologizing was something Gilda had never done in all the years I'd known her...but to wait seven months for it? Had I not been so dumbfounded, I might have been flattered. I guess if she was willing to wait for Steel this long just to say sorry, I owed her the chance to explain herself. Reluctantly, I nodded and we flew over to the lone cloud, landing on it.

As soon as she saw me, I noticed her eyes light up with happiness, but that quickly faded as sadness overtook her. Spending so much time with AJ, I could tell when somepony was faking...but she was actually sad. My emotions were everywhere at this point - one part of me wanted to knock her off that cloud and beat her senseless...while another part wanted to hug her tight like I used to and tell her it was alright. With that in mind, I decided it would be best to let her speak first.

She held her head low for the longest time before finally looking at me, with tears in her eyes. Yet another thing I'd never seen Gilda do - cry...but she was crying. I couldn't control myself anymore at this point, and I stepped over to her to give her a big hug...but she stopped me. "No Dash...let me speak first." I nodded and sat down on the cloud in front of her. She took a few shaky breaths before speaking. "Dash, I know I haven't been the best friend to you, and I did make a fool of myself when I came to visit last time I came here. I just want you to know that I'm sorry, and I'm going to fix this. It's just that after I saw how you'd moved on so easily, I freaked out a little. I felt like you abandoned me. Still, I know that's not excuse for how I acted." She let a few more tears fall down her feathered face before continuing. "I know I might have lost you for myself, but I'm okay with that. Really...I am. I miss you though, Dash. My life feels empty without you in it, and I'm going to make sure that I become the kind of gryphon you'd want in your life so that I can have you back in mine. You were my best friend - my only friend, really - and I want that back. I just want to stress that I'm not just doing it for you, I'm doing this for me. Being a bitch isn't good no matter where I live, so I have to change that. You deserve a better friend, and I'm going to make sure I can be one." She smiled and nodded. "I'll be staying in the mountains around Canterlot. I hope someday you'll visit. Bye Dash...it's great to see you again." She then flapped her powerful wings and flew off towards Canterlot, soon disappearing in the wispy clouds of early afternoon.

Perspective chance - Steelbreaker

I smiled and hugged Dash close and kissed her forehead. "That was really big of you, Dashie. I'm proud of you."

She smiled and nuzzled into my chest. "Thanks for this, Steel. I hate to admit it, but I really did miss her a lot."

I nodded and smiled. "Well I'm glad I could help you out, Dashie. Anyways, we have a ceremony to get to, so let's get to the town square, okay?" Dash nodded and we took off towards the center of town.

We arrived a few minutes later to a large gathering of ponies, almost as many as were at my coronation ceremony in Canterlot. This made me a little nervous, but then again I was never good with huge crowds. We landed behind a building so that nopony would see us and stepped up behind the stage, meeting Celestia and Luna. I smiled and gave each of them both a big hug, which they happily returned.

"So Steel, are you ready for your ceremony?" Celly asked with a hint of a smile.

I nodded. "As ready as I'm going to be. Just let me get my regal-wear on while you speak to them."

She nodded and headed up with Luna to the stage to say a few words before I'd come on. I spent this time creating a royal regalia of hoof caps and a chest piece out of ice, as well as a small crown. Around this time I heard Luna announce me, and so I walked up to the stage. All the ponies in the audience gasped when they saw me, but I smiled at them all.

"Ponies, don't be afraid...I am the same prince you remember, though I may look different. I wish to make an announcement, however. Because of Frostrender's sacrifice to bring me back to all of you, we are now one and the same. To honor him, I will be changing my name to Frostbreaker from this day forth. Furthermore as the new avatar of winter, I will be sure that every winter from this day forward is one of beauty for all of you. I ask that nothing change between us, and that you look upon me as simply another friend to you all. Thank you for your time and devotion to the princesses, and may you all live a long and happy life."

The ponies stared for a moment before cheering and stomping their hooves in applause. 'Well, that went better than I expected.' I stepped off of the stage again to meet all my friends and family behind it. They were all talking about my new name, while Venn - whom Fluttershy had brought with her - followed close to me, not leaving my side for even a moment. Everypony seemed fine with him, so I assumed one of the princesses or Fluttershy had already explained everything.

As the day wore on, it became time for Venn's big transformation. Because my powers had apparently been severely drained the past seven months, Celestia and Luna set about changing him the same they had my brother. After the change was over, we all marveled at the new being standing before us. He looked a lot like one would imagine a werewolf looks, except that he easily stood tall and had a gentle expression, as opposed to one of feral aggression.

Venn stood on shaky legs before smiling at me. I stepped forward and smiled back. "Alright, Venn, what I'm going to do now is the same thing I did for Moonfang. I'm going to be transferring to you all the knowledge I have about common social etiquette as well as the knowledge of how to speak in our tongue. I warn you, this might hurt a bit...but the pain won't last long."

The wolf looked a little apprehensive, but nodded and braced himself. I let the magic flow through my mind and touched my horn to his forehead, passing the knowledge on to him. I had to lower my head to keep in contact as he dropped onto all fours, writhing in pain. Only a few minutes passed before it was over, and Venn panted for a bit before standing up on two legs again.

"Hello? Oh wow, this is great!" said the young wolf, a large smile on his face. I could hear Celestia giggling from behind me and I smiled at the wolf.

"Alright Venn, you'll be staying with me in the palace as my personal guest, if that's alright with you. What do you think?" I asked with a grin.

Venn smiled and nodded. "Sounds good to me. Umm...guards aren't going to be chasing me like that one this morning, are they?"

I shook my head and chuckled. "No, I'll explain everything to them when we get there. So long as you behave, there'll be no problem. Something else I want to mention is that you won't need to eat meat anymore in this form, so you can live just fine eating most of the same foods that we do."

He nodded and smiled. "Thanks. Yeah that's a good idea, because some of these ponies were looking really tasty up until a few minutes ago. I'm still hungry, though. Can we get something to eat?"

I chuckled and nodded, and we all began the long trek back to the palace.

It took us about an hour and a half to walk all the way back to Canterlot, so by the time we got there the twilight of early evening was upon us. The guard at the gate looked a little scared when he laid eyes on Venn until I explained the situation. He nodded and told me he'd pass the word on. We all then proceeded to the dining hall where meals were already prepared for us. I sat down to Celestia's right, and Venn sat beside me.

"Umm, Frost? What exactly is that?" he asked while pointing at some mushroom and carrot soup.

I smiled and gestured to the soup. "That is a mushroom and carrot broth of my own recipe that the kitchen staff make now. It's pretty good. Moonfang liked it, so I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it too. The mushrooms in it contain a large amount of proteins to account for there not being any meat. Dig in, I know you're hungry."

Venn nodded and clumsily grabbed a spoon, taking a spoonful of the soup to his mouth. He smacked his lips a couple of times before smiling and nodding, eating the rest of the soup.

After dinner, we all parted ways for awhile while myself and Venn made our way back to my room. When we arrived, I gestured to the room and looked at Venn. "Okay Venn, this room is now yours. I stay in Ponyville most of the time, so I rarely use it. Washroom is around the corner and has everything you could need in it, including a bath, which I recommend you use."

He smiled sheepishly and nodded. "Yeah...it's been awhile since I've been able to bathe properly. Not much running water in the tundra."

I nodded and chuckled. "Well now you have all the modern amenities to use in civilized society. Anyhow, I'm heading to Ponyville now. Do you need anything or are you good?"

He shook his head. "No, I think I'm good for now, thanks Frost. I'll meet you in town tomorrow then." I smiled and left the room, taking flight out of the palace and heading towards the library of Ponyville.

After another twenty minutes of flying, I landed outside the front door and walked in, only to be knocked to the ground by four mares of varying colors. After a few minutes of hugging and kissing, they let me up and I smiled at all of them.

It was good to be home.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, save for meeting Spike. He had grown a lot since I last saw him. He was now almost as tall as me, and had the same muscular build that my brother did. His spines and cheek ridges were now sharp, and he had two pointy canines sticking out of his mouth at all times. He had a large pair of horns growing out of the top of his head, facing back, and his claws were longer and sharper than before. He then challenged me to a hoof-wrestling match...and won. I now held a newfound apprehension towards the young dragon.

After things settled down, we all headed up to the observation deck, where I proceeded to make drinks for everyone. Rarity and Spike might as well have been connected at the hip, as they never left each other's side the entire night. My brother and Applejack were much the same, except they spent most of the time out on the balcony making out. Luna and Celestia both arrived a short while later, and all the ponies in the room welcomed them with hugs and smiles. After fixing a drink each for the princesses, I set about asking about my changes in magic. Apparently while my power with ice and winter-related magic was powerful, anything else would leave me feeling very weakened until or unless I built up my skill with them...which was why I felt so drained after using a simple wing enhancement spell. I'd have to keep that in mind for the future.

As the night wound down, Spike, Rarity, AJ, and Dark all retreated to their respective rooms within the house while the rest of us lay on the large bed on the deck. I closed my eyes for a moment until I noticed no one was talking. I opened my eyes to see six sets of eyes filled with what could only be lust and/or longing.

Oh boy...

Two hours...two hours! Walking thirty miles in the snows of Alaska didn't leave me this tired. I need to find some sort of exercise to do or something, otherwise these girls are going to kill me. Luckily all of them were tired out as well, as they each started to close their eyes and fall off into slumber. The last mare awake was Celestia, and she had the biggest smile on her face I'd ever seen.

"What?" I asked with a smile.

She smiled back and sighed contentedly before nuzzling into my neck. "Nothing Frost...I'm just glad you’re back. I was utterly broken when I lost you...and now it's as if the greatest gift I could ever be given has been bestowed upon me."

I chuckled and held her close. "Well I feel the same about all of you, Celly. You all mean the world to me, and I'd do anything to make sure you're all alive and happy. I promise I'll try and refrain from such drastic actions in the future. I don't want you to cry ever again, if I can help it."

She smiled and held me tight as I felt sleep begin to overcome me. She leaned close and kissed my cheek. "I love you, Drew."

I smiled and equally large smile with my eyes closed and held her tight as well. "I love you too, Celly. Goodnight, love."

A few minutes later I fell into the most restful sleep I'd had in months.

Chapter 3: The Stars of Midnight

Chapter 3: The Stars of Midnight

Perspective change - Twilight Sparkle

I woke up from a very restful sleep in Luna's hooves. I couldn't help but smile, remembering Steel's welcome home "present". To think that only a year ago, I hadn't even had my first kiss...and now here I was waking up in a bed with my mentor, her sister, three of my friends, and a stallion from another world. The universe has a funny way of evening things out, I guess.

Usually not knowing why something was happening would be driving me crazy, but in this case it wasn't. It didn't make sense as to why this had all happened, but I honestly didn't care. I was happy, and I was going to make sure I enjoyed it. Losing Steel...er, I mean Frost, was a sobering experience. It taught me how something or somepony I cared about so much could suddenly be snatched away from me. I made it a point after that to make every second worth it, and I haven't looked back. It was something Granny Smith taught us that I didn't take to heart until after Frost left us.

True wealth in any world comes not from material possessions, but in the bonds we hold to those most dear to us. True strength comes not from body, mind, or magic...but from the love of our friends and family.

Life isn't just about how long you live, but what you do with that life.

Frost has the ability to live forever, and yet he tried to give it all away for us...for me. I had a new respect and understanding for who he was and what he lived for. It was an odd relationship sometimes. Without a doubt he was my coltfriend, and a wonderful one at that. Still...he had the ability to comfort me like Shining Armor would. The very thought made me feel weird - comparing him to my older brother. Still, I guess this is what Rarity meant when she said those years ago that I'd know when I found "him".

Wrenching myself from my thoughts, I looked over at Frost hugging Celestia tightly. He had the smallest of smiles on his face that made me giggle. I gently wriggled out of Luna's grasp and stepped over to Frost's face, shaking him a bit.

"Frost, it's time to get up." I whispered softly, trying not to wake anypony else.

He swatted at me and grumbled. "Mmm...no. Sleeping...go away."

I couldn't help but giggle, but he was probably very tired. I guess technically that was partially my fault, and I couldn't help but blush again remembering last night. And so, I left him alone and went downstairs to help Spike make breakfast for all of us.

Spike was already in the kitchen with Rarity talking about something or other as I entered, and they both looked over at me with smiles. I was hit by a bit of nostalgia as I realized how much my once-assistant had grown. Spike still lived in the library at the moment, but I knew sooner or later he was going to want to get his own place. Sometimes if I was alone at night, I would cry when I thought about this. I supposed that's what a mother feels like when she has to say goodbye to her foals. For the moment however, I pushed the thoughts aside and made a large breakfast for everypony.

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

I was roused from my sleep by the heavenly smell of pancakes and eggs. Apparently I was the last one to wake up, as when I opened my eyes, I was the only one in the room besides Dash, who was already on her way out. I grumbled as I stood up and popped all the kinks out of my back. As I started to walk, I felt my muscles groan in pain at me with every step I took.

'Hmph...never thought I'd have to stretch out before having a little "fun".'

I could feel already that the next dozen hours or so were not going to be fun.

I hobbled down the stairs to be met with the smiles of my friends, as well as a smirk from Vinyl and Dash. I had a feeling that they somehow had something to do with my current...predicament, since I couldn't remember most of the night before.

Twilight came out of the kitchen with a plate of food, and I uncharacteristically tore into it with reckless abandon...as if I hadn't eaten in days. I couldn't help but let my mind wander to scenes of ravenous eating in Dragonball Z. I chuckled in between bites and continued eating. Celestia had apparently left, but Luna was still around to stare at me with mouth agape. I stopped and lifted my head from my plate.

"What?" I mumbled, mouth full of blueberries and pancake.

This caused a torrent of laughter to explode from everyone in the room, especially my brother in the corner. I shrugged and finished the plate and downed my bottle of apple juice. As I got up to clean my plate, Pinkie followed me into the kitchen with a huge smile on her face.

"What's up Pinks?" I asked while washing my plate off.

She sauntered over to me, swaying her hips a bit with a grin. "I had fun last night, Frostie. Did you have fun?"

I smiled sheepishly and scratched my head. "Well to be honest, I only remember bits and pieces. I do definitely remember enjoying myself though."

She giggled and hugged me. "Yeah, you had a little too much to drink I think. After you finished your drink, you also finished both of the princesses', Twilight's, and Applejack's."

I shook my head and sighed. "Jesus. Why didn't you stop me?"

She giggled and leaned up to kiss my neck, sending shivers down my spine. "Because Frostie, you were so happy and giggling the whole time. You were fun, well more fun. We danced, you sang to me, and you threw snowballs at everypony!"

I chuckled. "Yeah, apparently rum is my friend. Well I'm happy you enjoyed yourself, love."
She released me and nodded. "I did! It was like a party just for us!" She then jumped onto my back and hugged around my neck tight. "I'm so happy you're back. I missed you, Frostie."


I grinned as I walked back into the main room, Pinkie riding me like...well, like a horse. Her happiness put a bit of a spring in my step, though my muscles were still sore. Dashie stood up and gave me a hug before smiling.

"Well Frost, I have to go. I've got something I need to do...something important." she said, looking away from me.

I knew exactly where she was going and what she was doing - she was going to talk to Gilda. I know she knew I saw right through it too, but I decided not to say anything. If she wanted to keep it under wraps for now, I'd allow her to do that. So instead, I simply gave her a kiss on the forehead and hugged her before nudging her out the door. She smiled and muttered a thank you before flying off.

"What was that all about?" I could hear Twi saying from behind me.

I simply smiled and shook my head. "Nothing important at the moment. Dash will let you know when she's ready...I promise."

Twilight arched an eyebrow at me before shrugging and returning her attention to a book she was studying, her quill scribbling furiously on the parchment beside her. I yawned and stretched before heading out the door, as I had to get back to work myself. And so, with nothing else to do for the day, I spread my wings and took off towards Canterlot.

Perspective change - Luna

As Steel - or Frostbreaker as he was now called - left along with everypony else, I decided to spend time with Twilight. I had noticed over the past week or so that she was becoming increasingly stressed with Spike growing as he was. I felt that she was beginning to realize he was not going to be living in her library much longer, and it showed, though she tried desperately to hide it. I cared about her as much as I did Frost, and her and I shared a bond that I'd shared with no other in close to two thousand years. She had helped me when I needed her most, and I would do the same for her.

I walked over to the lavender unicorn and stood beside her, not saying anything for a moment. I then draped a wing around her as Frost would do to us when we were not feeling well. She looked at me for a moment in confusion before I spoke. "You've been thinking of Spike, haven't you?"

She looked a little offended at first before slumping and closing her eyes. "Am I really that transparent Luna?"

I giggled but held her close. "No Twilight...you hide it well. I have just learned to be more observant than most ponies. You can speak to me about anything, so please...tell me how this is troubling you."

She hopped out of her chair and sat on the couch in the reading room. I sat beside her and she instantly leaned against me, crying. "I'm so sorry, Luna. It's just that I know Spike is growing up and won't be living here much longer. I just feel like I'm never going to see him again when he leaves."

I pulled her close and stroked her mane softly while she cried. "Twilight, Spike will leave one day. I cannot say whether that day will be tomorrow or in months, but it is going to happen. I can promise you that you will never lose him though. The two of you are as family, and I know for a fact that he could not bear to be far from you. Though he may not show it, he will miss you every bit as much as you do him. As I said though, you will never lose him. Spike will always be close by in case you need him, as you would be for him."

She lay her head on my lap and ceased crying, letting only silent tears fall. "I...I know you're right, Luna. Still...it will be such a big change not being able to simply call his name and he be there for me. For the longest time, Spike was the only one I could talk to when I would be sad, or worried...or anything else for that matter."

I understood her pain...for I felt it myself when my older sister first took up her duties as controller of the sun those many centuries ago. Where once she was by my side every minute of the day, she suddenly spent most of her time working, and the rest sleeping. Until recently it had been that way for many moons. "Twilight, you are no longer alone though. While none of us will ever try to replace Spike, - and nor would we ever think to try - you are not alone anymore with only Spike to lean on. You have a great many friends now, and a stallion that loves you. I love you also, dear Twilight. We would never abandon you and will always be there for you when you need to be comforted, or simply to know that you are not alone in the world. I know what it is like to be utterly alone, and I know how painful and damaging it can be. That is something you never have to feel though...we will make sure of that." In a moment of impulse, I leaned down and kissed her softly on the cheek, which she sighed at and nuzzled into my thigh. Considering where she was, this also caused me to blush a bit, but now was not the time for such thoughts, so I pushed them aside.

She looked up at me and smiled. "Thank you so much Luna. I know it's going to be painful...but I think with all of you to support me, I'll be okay."

I nodded and continued to softly stroke her mane. "Yes Twilight, you will be. We all care about you greatly, and will be here whenever you need us. That is a promise I intend to keep for your entire life."

She looked up at me with apprehension. "You and Celestia won't leave me?"

I shook my head and placed another light kiss on her forehead. "Never, Twilight. You will forever have myself, Frost, and Tia to watch over you, love you, and be there for you."

She finally smiled and I felt her relax against me. "Thank you Luna. I'll miss Spike, but it's wonderful to know I won't be alone. I love you all as well, Luna, and I'm so happy to have you."

It was times like this that made me want to simply embrace the young unicorn mare and never let go. Her naivete and innocence was endearing, and in many ways I saw a younger version of myself in her. She was innocent, yet wise beyond her years; powerful, yet gentle.

She could make a great princess one day.

I was not sure however if she would be ready for such a sacrifice. When a pegasus or unicorn enters into marriage with an alicorn, they themselves become an alicorn. While this would mean she would never have to taste death, she would also outlive all her friends and family. Tia and I had learned eons ago that the life of an immortal was very difficult and lonely, which is why alicorns rarely engaged in personal relationships with non-alicorns.

We were lucky in finding Frost, as not just any human could be an alicorn. Normally the mental and emotional strain would kill a human, but something different about him allowed him to live the life with relative ease. I still did not understand it, but then again the "how" did not matter much to me. As I looked down at the beautiful mare in my lap, however, I began to worry more and more about the future consequences of either decision for her. Did I truly wish to allow the gift and curse of immortality to be bestowed upon her? Or did I want to forgo my own comfort and allow her to live a normal life? I would have to ask her want she wanted after some time. It was her choice after all.

"I love you, Luna." said a soft voice from below.

I was torn from my thoughts by the remark, and looked down with a warm smile. To think that so much love would be given to me by an unassuming unicorn and a stallion from worlds away.

I leaned down and nuzzled her cheek with a smile. "I love you as well Twilight, very much."

t felt so nice to be able to say those words to somepony, and I felt the same way with Frost. I began to understand how it felt to be my sister, and I understood why it was so easy for her to wear a smile on her face. Adoration brings warmth to your heart, and you can't help but smile. My sister would always love me, and I her. Still...it was a nice feeling to be loved by somepony other than her. To know that somepony I did not grow up with and did not share the bond of family could feel love for me, and I for them. The feeling was intoxicating in many ways, namely the warm feeling it gave me that was unknown to me until Frost fell for me, and I for him...as well as our beloved Twilight Sparkle.

It was not often until lately that I had the time to simply sit with a loved one as I was at this moment and simply let my mind wander. It was a liberating feeling, and I began to understand more of what Frost meant when he told us to "slow down and enjoy life". There were quite a few values and morals he held dear that made living life so much more enjoyable and fulfilling, namely his self-proclaimed philosophy that happiness was a choice.

"Happiness is always there for those who seek it. Even during the darkest of days and the coldest of nights, there is always a light and warmth if you want it bad enough. Be not of the world and its sadness, anger, and hate. Be of your heart and of your loved ones...pursue happiness." I said out loud, thinking verbally to myself.

I felt Twilight nuzzle into my stomach and smile. "I remember when Frost told us that. It was right before he went to the battle at the northern border. It's almost as if he knew what was going to happen."

I nodded. "Yes, it does seem that way. The strife and hardship of Earth has given him values that we do not have in Equestria because of the relative peace and harmony. Life on Earth sounds like..." I stopped searching for the word.

"Hell." Twilight stated softly.

I nodded blankly. "Yes, I think that is the word to best describe it." I fell silent as my mind suddenly drifted to a nagging, dark thought. "Twilight...did I make the right choice?"

She opened her eyes and placed a hoof on my chest gently. "Luna, what do you mean? What choice?"

I sighed and closed my eyes with tension. "The choice to bring Frost here. I love him, as you do...and I know he has done well for us here. However, he has stated on numerous occasions that there were humans that were far worse off than him. Should I have been the benevolent ruler and chosen a human who needed it more? Did I choose wrong?"

"No, Luna...you chose correctly. Frost may not have been the most downtrodden human on his planet, but it is not your responsibility to save his world. His world has its own gods, and they allowed you to take him for a reason. As a matter of fact, I remember you told me that when you and Celestia told them what you were looking for, they directed you to him to watch and decide. There was a reason for that, Luna. I don't know what it is, but then again I'm not a god. The greater gods see more than you or I or even your sister can see, and it's not our job to sort through all that. All I know is that Frost saved us with his sacrifice, and he loves us so dearly and gives us that happiness every day of our lives. What's to say a different human would not have done things differently? He or she might have been a coward, or even worse...evil. If you want to validate your decision, then look at the good that's come of it." she stated with a warm, knowing smile.

'Wise beyond her years...'

She was right, of course. In actuality, Tia and I did not choose to watch over Frost from all the humans...instead he was given to us. Twilight was right about that as well...there was a reason for that. It was always nice to have a different intelligent perspective to hear from at times like this, when I was at odds with myself. Though Nightmare Moon and I had made our peace with each other, I still doubted myself more often than not. In all honesty, it wasn't something new or something that came about because of Nightmare Moon. I had always second-guessed myself, and this time was no different. It was another reason I was so happy to have friends and ponies who cared about me, as it allowed me to look at myself objectively, and realize how foalish my thoughts or actions were.

I had decided by this time that today would be a good day to completely relax and just do nothing, so I closed and locked the door to the reading room and repositioned myself to lay down on the large sofa, placing Twilight gently on top of my chest. I understood now why Frost preferred to lay this way with us. It offered a closeness and non-sexual intimacy that I had not felt before. I could feel every beat of Twilight's heart, every breath she took. I felt the tickle of my fur as her soft resting breaths flowed over my coat.

I then decided to liven the room up a bit and focused on my newfound power over darkness and bathed the entire room in utter blackness. I felt Twilight tense up at first until I began to place images of the night sky all around the room. As I finished, it was as if we were in the night sky, and it was a beauty I had not witnessed since my exile...except that now I had somepony to share it with. Life on the moon was cold, and lonely...but also offered a view of the night sky unavailable on Terra.

The unicorn that lay against me sighed happily and I felt her heart slow again. "It's so beautiful, Luna. You're very talented."

It still caused my breath to hitch in my throat when I would receive a compliment on my work. "Th-thank you, Twilight...that means so much to me."

As I felt myself drift off to sleep again, I could still feel the smile tugging at the sides of my mouth, brought about by the lovely mare that lay with me.

Chapter 4: Icy Death

Chapter 4: Icy Death

Perspective change - Twilight Sparkle

I woke up again hours later after a very restful nap with Luna, and after speaking to her about my fears, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted off of me. I scanned the room and noticed her illusion spell on the room had dissipated as she slept, and I honestly missed it. I looked down at the slumbering princess and smiled.

She was cute when she was sleeping.

She must have felt me wake up because she began to stir a bit and her eyes fluttered open. She looked up and smiled at me, stroking my coat softly. I returned the smile and rolled off onto the ground, shaking the last vestiges of sleep from my mind. I walked out of the reading room with Luna following me to the kitchen, my stomach aching for a snack.

As I quickly fixed a small bowl of apples for myself and Luna, and then walked with her out to the front step of the library, sitting down with her in the warm summer air. As we sat, ate, and basked in the balmy atmosphere, I noticed the looks the ponies gave Luna...and smiled at it. Where once they were looks of confusion, apprehension, and even fear...now they were smiles. The ponies - of Ponyville and Canterlot at least - were very forgiving it seems, and were more than happy to have the princess back on this world. Luna still held some misgivings about herself, but over the past year they have started to fade, and this in turn made me happy.

As we finished our quick meal, I went back inside to study some more while Luna advised me she would be going to spend time with Princess Celestia. I gave her a hug goodbye and went to my books, suddenly wishing Spike was there.

Perspective change - Vinyl Scratch

With Frost back, I had shows going again. Tonight, for example, would be my return show at a club in the "fun" district of Ponyville. Not that kind of fun mind you, just more...animated.

Anyway, I was now running shows again, but I made sure to only run them on the weekends now, giving myself more time to spend with Frost and my friends. Weekdays were dead anyway at a club, so it wasn't any sort of loss...and with the extra time, I'd spend some with Tavi. I felt bad about neglecting her for so long, and aimed to make it up to her tonight. Sure we disagreed on things, but Tavi was one of the only friends besides Lyra that stuck by me all these years, and I couldn't afford to lose somepony so loyal. Much to my surprise, she accepted my invitation to come to the club with me tonight. Sure Tavi might act all high-class in public normally, but get a few drinks or two in her and she tops Pinkie Pie for crazy.

I was whistling a tune while walking towards Sugarcube Corner when a loud *BOOM* from overhead caught my attention. I looked up to see a blur of steely blue wrapped up with a large black one screaming towards Canterlot, and I felt something drop on my fur. I looked to my shoulder to see a bright crimson drop of what could only be blood...and that means.

Oh Celestia...

Frost had told me that he and his brother would disagree, but I never thought he meant like this. Without a second thought I focused a large amount of magic into my horn and disappeared in a flash.

I reappeared exhausted near the Celestial Palace to see the blur still rocketing overhead, another *BOOM* being heard. What I assumed was Frost and Dark was luckily flying towards the guards' training grounds, so I galloped as fast I could to get there. When I arrived, I could see both figures had landed in a crater, and were pounding the hay out of each other. As I got closer, I could hear shouting.

"I told you, dude...NOTHING HAPPENED! It was just a hug between fr-" Frost was saying, before being cut off by a knee to his ribs.

Darkflight pummeled away at his face with a fierce glare. "You're a fucking liar! I'm not an idiot! I've seen the way you two look at each other, and it PISSES ME THE FUCK OFF!"

I could understand not wanting to hurt his brother, but Frost was being ridiculous. However, as he took a few more punches to the face, I saw a glint of something in his eyes and he let loose a growl before throwing Dark off of him with a mighty buck. The dragon was stunned and lay on the ground, recovering his bearings. That's when I saw something happening to Frost. As time seemed to slow down, a heavy fog started to drift off of him and armor of solid ice formed around him. A smoky energy then started to seep out of the ice-helmet where his eyes were, and then I started to get scared. He no longer even looked like himself, and I could feel something in the air change. Frost started slowly walking towards Dark as the dragon started to get to his feet. Dark prepared to charge Frost again, but suddenly his legs froze. Not just frozen to the ground, his legs were actually now made of ice instead of flesh. He dropped to the ground with a new look upon his face: fear. Even in just the short time I'd known him, fear was not something I'd ever seen in his eyes, least of all because of his older brother.

"So," Frost said calmly, "you feel like beating on me simply because you're so insecure that I can't even talk to Applejack without you taking it the wrong way? Well fine...I have a way to fix that. I'll just make sure you aren't here to witness it anymore."

Something was wrong...that wasn't Frost. He loved his family, he'd never hurt them...and the way it sounded, he was going to kill him. Before any of us could do anything, a bright flash disrupted Frost and a blast sent him to the ground with a scream of pain. It was Princess Celestia, and she had a saddened look in her eyes. Frost was no longer moving, and the armor and fog around him dissipated. Celestia looked down at the frightened dragon and closed her eyes. A magenta aura covered his legs and they began to change back to flesh. As the spell finished, he gave his toes an experimental wiggle and smiled.

"Thanks, Celestia. I'm sorry about this...this is all my fault." said the dragon sadly.

The solar princess shook her head and looked at the downed alicorn with a solemn look. "No Darkflight, something is happening to Frost. You and I both know he would never harm you like this." She sighed and closed her eyes. "No...that was not the Frost I know. Something is very wrong, and I intend to find out what." She then turned to the captain, who had rushed in during all the commotion. "Captain, I want you to throw him in the maximum security unicorn holding cell, and get an inhibitor ring on him."

The captain blinked in disbelief. "Princess...are you sure? This is Frost-"

She stopped him with a stern glare. "I know who it is, captain. Please, do as I say." I saw a tear slip down her face as they carried Frost away.

I walked over to her and did something uncharacteristic for me: I nuzzled her leg softly. "Princess, what's wrong? Besides the obvious, I mean. What's happening to Frost?"

She shook her head and sighed deeply...painfully. "He made a mistake calling forth Winter, Day, and Night." She looked at me with a broken look on her face. "We must gather everypony in the throne room. The avatars of Day and Night know what is happening."

I nodded and left to go gather all my friends.

Perspective change - Darkflight

I was so confused and scared right now...and about my own brother no less. Granted I probably shouldn't have lost my temper so bad, but he was ready to kill me...I saw it in his eyes. My hands were bruised from the fight and pained me as I flew towards Sweet Apple Acres, and as I cooled off I began to think of the damage I had done to Drew. I was honestly surprised he was still conscious up until the princess came and broke it up, but that aside I felt like a shithead now. I had tried to beat my own brother to a pulp simply because he hugged my marefriend and smiled at her. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that I had been a huge dick - not at all in a good way.

I landed at AJ's farm about twenty minutes later to find her, Pinkie Pie, Twilight Sparkle, and Rarity all having lunch together near the barn. AJ stopped talking when she saw my face and galloped over.

"Dark...what happened? Y'all look like ya seen a monster or somethin'." she said with panic in her voice.

I shook my head and tried to calm my breathing before speaking. "No AJ, it's my brother. Gather the girls, we need to get to the palace right now! Something's wrong with him!"

AJ didn't ask anymore questions. She simply nodded and galloped towards town without another word. I love that mare.

After gathering up the rest of the "gang", including Vinyl and Lyra, we all headed to the palace as fast as we could. When we arrived, we found two very upset princesses, as well as a gray pegasus with a blonde mane that I didn't recognize.

Princess Celestia walked towards me and frowned. "Come...all of you. He's in the dungeons."

Twilight looked like she was about to say something, but I just shook my head to silence her. She sighed, but followed us down into the deeper reaches of the palace.

Contrary to what I thought a dungeon would look like, this one was clean, and was colored white. Personally I thought it looked more like a hospital than a jail, but whatever. We walked for awhile going down multiple flights of stairs until we came upon a massive titanium door...but there was a problem. We could all see the door was covered in frost, which it obviously shouldn't have been. I noticed the two princesses and Twilight Sparkle all charged spells in their horns as I opened the door.

What awaited us caused us all to gasp in surprise. Where once there was a massive room with a cell on a platform in the middle, there was now a room that seemed to be completely made of ice. Before any of us could react, a broken blue chain-like object was thrown on the ground in front of us.

"The inhibitor ring!" cried Twilight. "But how? How could he get it off?"

Twilight was stopped as we all heard the sound of wingbeats above us. I looked up and saw my brother with a sad look on his face. Twilight took a defensive stance, as did the rest of us. Drew gently landed in front of us and sighed.

"Whatever you use to make that inhibitor ring, you need to make the metal able to withstand the cold without breaking, and you need to use whatever enchantment is on it everywhere in here, so I can't get out." he said with a frown.

Luna stepped forward and frowned as well. "You...you do not want to come out?"

He shook his head and sighed. "No Luna, I don't. I almost killed my brother, and had Celly not stopped me, I would have succeeded. Until any of you or I figure out what's wrong with me, I'm staying right here."

Princess Celestia stepped forward and let a tear fall. She took a deep breath before speaking in soft tone, "Frost...I will use all of my power to find out a way to fix this. I swear it."

He placed a hoof on her cheek and smiled, letting a tear fall before it froze on his cheek. "I know you will, love. I have faith in you. Now, you all should go. It isn't safe for any of you to be here for too long. I don't know what triggered my change of personality, but I'd prefer to keep you out of harms way until I figure it out."

"Frost...no. I'm not going to leave you." said the strangely soft voice of Rainbow Dash.

He just let another frozen tear fall and smiled sadly at her. "It's only for a little while Dashie, I promise. Besides, you have someone else who needs you more." He then spread his large wings and embraced us all in a wing-hug, before forcing us out of the door and shutting it.
As we all watched, a thick layer of ice covered the entire wall, and the ice progressively got thicker and thicker until the wall and door couldn't even be seen anymore. There was condensed fog coming off of the ice, kind of like a meat freezer.

I experimentally touched the ice, only to whip my hand back in pain, and I looked upon the ice to see scales and blood upon the ice. I looked at my hand to see that a few patches of scales and skin had been ripped away. Luna was luckily nice enough to heal it for me rather quickly, leaving only a slight burning sensation afterwards and a few scars.

The night princess then looked over at the ice. "I don't understand why he would do this. He needs our help and he knows it."

I shook my head. "I've known my brother for longer than you have, princess. He's doing this because he's afraid...and for good reason. He almost killed me in a blind rage, and he doesn't know why. Until one of us figure this out or he does, he's going to make sure he stays in there."

Twilight finally spoke up. "Well come on then! We need to find out what's going on and how to fix it!"

Perspective change - Celestia

I looked at my sister and nodded...now was the time to reveal what we knew. "All of you...please stop. I already know what has happened."

Twilight turned to me with a confused expression. "You do? Well, please explain."

I sighed and grimaced as I began to explain, "It has to do with the avatars. You see, my student, there were once a total of eight avatars, though until recently we only knew of six of them: four for the seasons, as well as one for night and one for day. Myself and Luna's avatars have informed us that there were indeed two others, however...the avatars of life and death. The two avatars of life and death were sealed away by their brethren on account of them at constant war with each other, but in doing so these avatars sealed themselves away as well. They were the key to their imprisonment, and in releasing Day, Night, and Winter, the avatars Death and Life have been released as well upon the world."

Twilight stared at me in confusion for a moment before responding. "Well okay, I guess that makes sense...but why is Frost affected like this then? What's his connection to these two avatars?"

Luna took the lead from there. "Twilight, has Frost ever told you about his father?"

My student shook her head. "No. He told me he never met his father."

"Yes, well there's a reason for that, dear Twilight. Frost's mother never met his father either. She simply woke one day and was pregnant. I fear she's never told him this, but I think it is a secret that must be known." she stated sadly. Luna swallowed hard before continuing. "Frost's father is Death."

A large collective gasp was taken by the ponies and dragon in front of us.

Darkflight stepped forward and eyed me with incredulity. "So you mean to tell me that my brother is the avatar of winter and is the son of Death?"

I nodded. "Yes, Darkflight. I understand this is all a shock, but it's true."

His demeanor changed to one of amusement. "Wow...if it weren't for the fact that he's now a danger to everyone around him, I'd say that's awesome."

Applejack rolled her eyes at her friend. "Figures y'all would say that. We still need to fix this though." She then turned to me. "Any ideas princess?"

I nodded. "I have a few, but they will take awhile to come to fruition. Luckily Death and Life are of no danger to anypony so long as they lack a physical body. I fear that is what is happening to Frost. Through his connection as father, Death is attempting to take control of Frost's mind and soul."

"Well, we all want to help, princess. If there's anything we can do to assist you or speed the process along, we're at your disposal." Twilight stated with gusto.

I smiled softly and nodded. "I thank you all for that. For the moment, however, I will need to research the problem. Twilight, I believe you would be most useful in this."

Perspective change - Lyra

After the princesses explained to us all what was going on, they told the rest of us to just go about our lives normally. This was going to be weird for me now, because most of my "normal life" was spent with Frost. Vinyl must have noticed this because she pulled me into a hug.

"It's gonna be alright, Lyra...I promise. We'll figure this out and Frost will be back to normal." she said softly.

I smiled and nodded. "I know Vi, I just miss him is all. I mean, I spend so much time with him usually that I don't really know what to do now."

She nudged me and smiled. "C'mon Lyra, we had stuff to do before he came here. It's not like we're never going to see him again. I want you to come out with me tonight, we're going to the club."

I raised an eyebrow. "The club? I haven't gone clubbing since I was sixteen."

She giggled at me and nudged me again. "Oh come on now, Lyra. You're only twenty-two. I'm older than you and I love to go. You'll have fun, I promise."

I sighed and shrugged. "I guess it couldn't hurt."

Perspective change - Fluttershy

I said goodbye to the rest of the girls and headed home to Moonfang. Over the past few weeks, I'd gotten really attached to him, and he to me. I had always loved my house and the animals I took care of, but somehow it felt more like home with him there. I thought it was strange at first that a wolf could be so gentle as he was, but I got over it when I realized that I didn't care. I had never had much of an interest in stallions, mostly because they were so "crude", as Rarity put it.

Moonfang was perfect though.

He was gentle, loving, kind, and noble. He was my knight in shining armor, and I even told him once. Well, at least he was in armor. Something has been happening to him over the past few months, as his wooden skin had been falling away to reveal sandy blonde fur and soft skin underneath. At first we were afraid he was dying, but after talking to Zecora, we knew he was going to be okay. The wood never bothered me, but I have to admit that I liked him better this way.

Moonfang greeted me at the door with a smile. "Well hello, my lovely Fluttershy." I blushed and he chuckled at me. "How are things in Canterlot?"

I couldn't help but feel a little sad when he said that. "You might want to sit down." He nodded and sat on the floor, looking up at me. "Something's happened to Frost."

His eyes widened in fear. "Oh no...what's happened? Is he okay?"

I took a breath before continuing in a gentle voice, "He's not hurt, but he's not okay. He almost killed his brother because of something that's trying to control him. He locked himself away until we can find a way to fix him."

He was visibly saddened, and he lay down on the ground. "There's not anything I can do, is there?"

I shook my head in defeat. "I don't know, Fang. The princesses will let us know if they need help. Right now Twilight is helping Princess Celestia research." I lay down next to him and nuzzled against the soft skin of his neck. "I promise if there's anything we can do, I'll let you know. For now, all we can do is hope for the best and live life normally."

Perspective change - Moonfang

"Live life normally..." I said as I pulled her close to me, causing her to release a little squeak of surprise. "I think I can do that."

The cute yellow pegasus smiled at me and lay her head upon my half-exposed chest, my wooden skin still covering one side. She then started to draw little circles in the new fur with her hoof, and I couldn't help but let out an hum in pleasure. Wooden skin didn't have much sensation when it came to touch, so the feel of her body against mine was an entirely new sensation, and I'd be lying if I claimed I didn't like it.

We were interrupted by a knock at the door, so I stood up to answer. Luckily thanks to Fluttershy and Twilight's efforts, there was no large ceremony to announce me to the town, as there was for the dragon, Darkflight. While some ponies were still afraid of me, most had come to accept me as a part of their town, and so I no longer was afraid to answer the door. As I pulled the door open, I was met by a panting Venn.

He stepped inside and sat down on the floor, catching his breath. After a few moments he looked up at me with a panicked expression. "What's happened to Frost? Is he okay? What's going to happen to him? What's going to happen to me?"

I stopped his rambling with a hand to his shoulder. "Venn...calm down. It's going to be okay. Getting all worked up like this isn't going to solve anything, okay?" He nodded and took a deep breath before standing again. "Okay then, to answer your question, Frost is unwell. I assure you however that the princesses as well as everypony else is working diligently to get him back to normal as soon as possible. As far as you, there is always a home for you in Canterlot. You are a good friend of his, and that will never change. Luna-forbid something happen to him, but even if he were no longer around, the princesses would make sure you were taken care of."

He nodded and let out a long, stressed breath. "Okay...thanks for that. I get a little worked up sometimes, so sorry about that."

Fluttershy stepped forward and smiled at Venn. "It's okay, Venn. We're all worried about Frost. You're not alone; we'll all get through this together."

I just hope she's right...

Chapter 5: Frost's Saviors

Chapter 5: Frost's Saviors

Perspective change - Ditzy Doo

It had been a little over a month since Frostbreaker had confined himself to the dungeons, and because of that it was a long, depressing month. Twilight Sparkle and the two princesses would often be seen studying in the Royal Library of Canterlot, doing little else during the day.

I couldn't really blame them...we all missed Frost.

Granted I didn't know him quite as well as the rest of his friends, but fighting with him in that one battle had made me feel closer to him somehow. And while I wasn't a part of his "group", I still felt lonely without him around.

Lately though, I'd been hanging around a pony I'd met in a field near the northern border. His name was Enigma Flare, and the first time I met him he was training with some weird weapons I hadn't seen before. I didn't really feel for him the way I did Frost, but he was a cool guy and was a lot of fun to train with. I remember the first time I met him I kinda snuck up on him and he almost set me on fire in surprise, but he quickly apologized and we spent the rest of the day training together.

He had made it very clear he held no love for the guard or the military in general, but I was still very impressed with his skill in both fire magic and martial arts. I wouldn't be surprised if he could give Dark or Frost a run for their bits, and that was saying something. Still, contrary to his skill, he was actually pretty calm otherwise. In a lot of ways he reminded me of the colonel, which was probably why I found it so easy to be around him.

The date was Wednesday, August 20th, 1203, and like most days recently, I was meeting up with Flare at the training grounds. The captain was at first reluctant to allow a civilian into the grounds, but I vouched for him and so Captain Shining Armor said it was okay, and so, I was walking from home towards the barracks when I saw the multi-hued gold-maned unicorn napping near the gate that led to the training grounds. I giggled when I saw him and walked towards the sleeping colt with a smile on my face.

I stopped right in front of him and spread my wings before throwing a strong gust of wind and dust at him. He stirred and I giggled. "You know Flare, you have few hobbies, it seems. They seem to only consist of training, eating, and sleeping."

He grumbled and stood up before opening his eyes. "This one is a bit aggravated you chose that exact moment to interrupt my nap. I was having a good dream. And for your information, I have plenty of hobbies. You're just not around when I'm participating in them."

I snorted a laugh. "To think you couldn't find a nice enough mare to do that for you..."

He looked at me confused for a moment. "Oro? Hey! Wait a minute, that's not it and you know it."

I giggled and turned on the feminine charm (thanks to Rarity). "Oh...do I?"

He just rolled his eyes and walked towards the gate. "Alright, we've played around long enough. If you want to play, show me what you got in a fight."

One of the things I learned really quickly about my companion was how much he hated violence. Training seemed to be a different situation altogether though, since we made sure we were in no real danger with each other. He sparred fiercely, and in doing so with him, I had gained quite a bit more skill in fighting in Frost's absence. I had made a promise to myself to be ready to fight valiantly should the threat of war ever come to Equestria again, and this new friend offered me a way to easily temper my skill and resolve.

And so, we were walking for awhile towards the far end of the training "arena" - which was really just a massive crater where Dark and Frost had fought - talking about, of all things, the Gryphon Encroachment battle.

"I'm telling you, Ditzy, I could do it. I swear, I'm just an inch away from being able to cast that spell." Flare said, with annoyance in his voice.

I shook my head. "For your own safety, Flare, don't do it. It killed the prince when he did it. How do you think it's going to affect a normal unicorn?"

He snorted and laughed. "Well he just wasn't ready, that's all. He needed more practice."

I stepped in front of him and glared at him. "Hey, I mean it. If you try and cast that spell, I'll snap off your horn with my own two hooves."

He held up a hoof and rolled his eyes. "Alright alright, geez. No need to get all threatening on This One." He then pointed over at the weapon rack. "You should grab a weapon if you want to last more than twenty seconds this time."

I rolled my eyes right back and instead grabbed steel rear hoofcaps and foreleg bracers. Before he had forced himself into exile below the palace, Frost had taught me all he knew about hoof-to-hoof combat, as did Dark, and so I felt much more comfortable just using my hooves.

Almost as soon as I turned around, my sparring partner was sailing through the air with a staff in his magic's grip. He brought the weapon down on me with great force, so I rolled to the side as it hit the ground where I had been. He then whipped it to the side, leaving a strong stinging sensation in my ribs.

He chuckled and readied the staff again. "Come on, you gotta be faster!"

I growled and lunged at him. He flicked the staff again and brought my hooves out from under me, leaving me spread-eagle (as Dark called it) and completely vulnerable to attack. He then jumped in the air again to bring the staff down on me, but this time using his hooves for extra leverage. I had been waiting for this, and I placed my right hoof over my chest. Right before the staff hit, I whipped my hoof across, knocking both the staff and him into the ground beside me. His nose slammed into the ground, dazing him for a second, giving me just enough time to roll over on top of his back. This was his vulnerable position, as he knew I was much stronger than him, and he wasn't willing to use his magic to permanently hurt me. As mean as it was, I used this to my advantage and caught him in what Dark had called a "rear naked choke".

The unicorn started to struggle as he fell forward, completely helpless. Because using magic required focus - unless you had trained to make it completely second nature as Frost had - cutting off oxygen to the brain made most unicorns incapacitated. This fighting style had already been integrated into the guard's training program as means for non-lethal fighting, and as the unicorn "tapped out", I could see why. I let go of him and he started gasping for air, glaring at me.

"That wasn't fair! You know I can't focus when you do that." he stated in frustration.

I chuckled and smiled. "Frost taught me that in a fight, no holds are barred. That means in a situation like that, your job is to find a way to keep it from happening, or find a way to counter it."

He snorted in annoyance, but nodded. The young colt was very talented, but still had a lot to learn. That's not to say I didn't as well, - as the battle for the north border had taught me - but I still had more experience than him. Still, it was too bad he held such resistance to joining the guard or the military, as he'd make a hay of a EUS (Elite Unicorn Specialist) with his natural ability in fire magic. My thoughts were interrupted, however, by hoofsteps behind us.

I turned to see the two princesses approaching, along with the gifted unicorn mare, Twilight Sparkle. Flare and I both stood until they were standing in front of us, then bowed in reverence.

"Arise, my ponies." the sun princess said gently.

We did as we were told and I stepped forward. "It's good to see all of you. What brings the three of you here?"

The lunar princess then stepped forward with a warm smile. "Straight to business, hm? Very well, my faithful subject. We have found a way to possibly purge the darkness that currently plagues the prince...but we will need the help of this unicorn." she stated, pointing to Enigma Flare.

He raised an eyebrow. "Me? Why do you need my help? I'm just a normal unicorn."

Twilight Sparkle giggled and smiled warmly. "You may not be a royal alicorn like the two princesses, but you are far from average, Enigma Flare. Your strong affinity for fire magic is required to breach the prison that Prince Frostbreaker has made for himself. We have tried to break the defenses for days now, but to no avail. We need the raw, scorching power of fire to get past, and you are far more gifted in it than me."

For the first time since I've known him, Flare blushed and stared in disbelief. "What? N-no, that can't be true. You're the Element of Magic and the student of Princess Celestia herself. I know for a fact that I couldn't have taken care of an Ursa Minor like you did. I can't even teleport!"

Twilight placed a hoof on his shoulder, still smiling. "It is true, my abilities in most forms of magic far surpasses yours. However, you seem to specialize in the elemental magic of fire. While your other forms of magic are lacking, your skill with fire far exceeds anything I've ever seen before, or ever dreamed of accomplishing."

Before he could come up with another retort, I just elbowed him in the ribs. "Flare, just accept the compliments and offer your help. They wouldn't have chosen you if they didn't have faith in you."

He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. Suddenly, he opened his eyes again and smiled at the princesses. "Alright then, if you think I can do it, I'll do all I can."

Princess Celestia nodded and turned around. "Thank you. Come this way please. Corporal, you may come as well if you wish."

Perspective change - Twilight Sparkle

As we walked down the winding steps leading to the deepest part of the palace dungeons, I couldn't help but think about Frost. I was well aware of the effect one day without us had on him...what would an entire month be like? The closer we got to the end of the hallway that led to his "cell", the more worried I became. The wall of ice was virtually unchanged as we reached it, and the young blonde-coated unicorn stepped up fearlessly.

He smirked and planted his hooves. "Alright...everypony stand back please."

We obliged and his horn began to glow not with normal magic like mine would, but with flames. He charged the spell for a moment before letting it go, and a large fireball slammed into the wall of ice, causing a large amount of steam. When the steam cleared, however, the wall was completely undamaged.

"This is the new avatar of winter and ice you're dealing with, Flare. You're going to have to kick it up a few notches." the gray pegasus mare said.

The chromatic gold-maned unicorn looked back at us and nodded. "Okay...for this spell, you all might want to just get all the way around the corner. Things are going to get really hot."

We nodded and stepped back to the edge of the corridor, stepping behind the corner of it. I couldn't help but peek around the wall to see what he was doing, however. As I watched, flames began to form around his horn again, but this time they slowly spread over his head and down his back. The flames continued to lick along the fur of his coat until he was covered head to hooves and tail in orange flames. I was worried at first until I noticed his coat was not burning whatsoever. Even so, I could feel the blast of hot air as the heat finally radiated down the hallway. The flames along his body - as well as his body as a whole - began to slowly pulse with a reddish color, the pulses increasing in frequency as he continued to charge the spell.

Eventually it became too hot to continue to look at him, so I hid my head around the corner. The next moment, a large blast was heard and steam rushed around the corner to us, covering the princesses and myself in a warm mist. I stepped back around the corner to see the stonework around the unicorn glowing a very dull red color, and as I stepped closer, I noticed the stone was warped and had actually started to melt. The wall of ice was gone, however, leaving only the titanium door barring way to Frost.

Perspective change - Celestia

As we stepped forward and opened the door we were hit by a blast of freezing air, so cold it actually left a thin layer of frost along my coat. I cast a modified barrier spell around us, so as to protect us from the cold, but what I beheld when I looked up at the room defied all my expectations. The room had been completely transformed into a place of howling winter wind, snow, and ice. As we walked forward, I could still feel just how abnormally cold the ground was to my hooves, and they actually began to ache from the permeating chill. Suddenly, the wind stopped, leaving the room clear to our vision. Upon a small hill of snow sat Frost, facing away from us. He looked vastly different from what I remember. His coat was still the same color, as was his mane and tail. Head to hoof, though, he was covered in strange markings that were glowing a bright cyan. Before we could reach him, he disappeared from sight. There was no flash of light, so I knew he had not teleported, but neither did I feel the ambient magic in the air of an invisibility spell being cast. It was then that I heard the sound of hooves in the snow behind us, and we all turned to see Frost standing there, a blank look on his face.

"What are you doing here, Princess? I believe I made myself clear that it was too dangerous for you to be here." he said to me, his emotion impossible to decipher.

This caught me completely off guard. Ever since we had become friends nearly a year ago, he had never referred to me by my title. Even with that being the case, I had to make known what we had found out.

"Frost," I started sternly, "we have found a way to purge the shadow that covers you from your essence."

He raised an eyebrow, but otherwise seemed unaffected. "Oh? Please explain, I'm listening."

'The sooner we do this the better.'

Where once I felt love in his words - in his very aura - there was now nothing. The feeling was very unsettling, but I forced myself to push the emotions away and I trudged on. "As I am sure you know by now, the shadow that hangs over your mind and soul is none other than the avatar of death...your father."

He nodded. "Yes...the being has made itself very well known to me. It is hard to ignore being by myself for over a month." he nearly growled. The same markings that had covered his illusionary self also covered him, and as his frustration heightened, so did the light they gave off.

Twilight stepped forward with a scowl and stomped her hoof. "Hey, don't blame this on us, Frost! You chose to lock yourself in here. We worked every day for the past month researching, testing, and deliberating over this. You should be thankful, because we didn't have to do this."

He now audibly growled and stood tall, his imposing figure for the first time actually intimidating me a bit. "Well you should have worked faster." He stated coldly. "And what do you mean you didn't have to do this? Were you going to leave me here forever? That's it, isn't it?"

It appeared the month he spent in solitude had done more damage than I initially thought to his psyche. This was not the Frost I remembered and loved. This was a hurt, damaged being driven insane by no contact with anyone but the dark entity within him.

We could only hope the damage was reversible.

Luna then strode forth and braved the stallion's glare. "This will get us nowhere, Frost, so let us get straight to business. There is a magical ritual we are able to perform that will purge Death from you. However..."

He raised his eyebrow again. "However?"

Luna took a deep breath before continuing. "However, the spell will give Death his own physical body. It is the only way to be sure he will not influence you again."

Frost still seemed apprehensive. "But wait, if he can influence me anytime he's in an energy state, won't he just kill himself to revert to that state?"

I shook my head with a smile. "No, my dear. If an avatar in physical existence is killed, it is banished to the elemental plane for thousands of years, until it has gained enough strength to break free. Death knows this, and so he would not risk it. Whatever he wishes to do that involves you, he wishes to do it now...in this time."

Frost finally let loose a soft smile and closed his eyes. "Thank the gods." He then opened his eyes and I could see excitement within them. "Okay, so what are we waiting for? Let's do this!"

I nodded and motioned for Luna and Twilight to take places around Frost, while Enigma Flare and Ditzy Doo stood far away.

Before we started I looked right into his eyes and advised, "Frost...I warn you...this is going to hurt more than anything you've ever experienced. I am sorry...but this is the only way.”

He nodded and I could see his muscles and jaw tense. "Very well, Celestia. I trust you."

For the ritual, we all had a part to play, and seeing as how I held the powers of the avatar of light, I was given the most important duty: to protect his living essence. Twilight readied her barrier spell to hold the soon-to-be two beings in this world, while Luna was to find the invading essence within Frost and disconnect it from him. As the ritual started, I could feel the large amount of magic in the room swirling about us.

I watched in horror as Frost fell to the ground in silence, writhing in pain so great that he couldn't even scream. It tore me apart to have to see him this way, but I reminded myself it was for his and our safety. As the ritual continued, I could feel the two entities within Frost's body start to weaken. I focused my magic - my very being - and acted as a tether to this world, holding Frost's being in the waking world. Sweat began to pour out of my forehead as the spell began to take its toll on me, but as I looked at Luna I noticed a rope of her magic pulling a dark, swirling mass of shadow out of Frost's body.

It was at that moment the entity decided to fight back.

We all felt it, as the entity in Luna's magical grip began to magically thrash about, causing Twilight's spell to falter for but a moment, but that moment was just enough for it to break through. Just as the mass of Death began to take shape into a pony, it exploded in a wave of energy, throwing all six of us to the ground, and shaking the walls of the room we were in.

We woke what must have been hours later, as I could feel the sensation of the sun wishing to retreat to the horizon. And so, Luna and I did our nightly ritual of lowering the sun and raising the moon, and then quickly rushed to see the fallen body of Frost. I was near a panic until I saw that he was breathing...but where was the avatar of death? I noticed Luna looking around the room, and realized she must be thinking the same thing. I did a quick "scan" of his essence, only to find that he was indeed alone. The avatar of death was nowhere to be found within him, but that still meant that somehow, Death had escaped.

We would worry about that later, however, as now we needed to tend to the prince. And so, pulling forth some magic from my exhausted body, I levitated Frost outside the room and teleported him to his bedroom in the palace.

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

I woke up in a soft bed for the first time in what seemed like forever...and I was warm, almost uncomfortably so. I was about to activate a bit of a cold aura around myself to cool down, but I noticed I was being cuddled to death by a white alicorn and a violet unicorn.

Okay, some things are worth putting up with warmth.

I thought I must be dreaming again, so I bit the alicorn's neck, causing her to moan softly and open her eyes. There, staring back at me was a beautiful, albeit groggy, pair of lovely magenta eyes.

"Dear Frost, I'm too tired to play right now. I'm sorry...tomorrow night, please." she said, a little annoyed.

I simply wrapped my hooves around her tightly. "I'm sorry, love. I just had to make sure you were real. I thought I was dreaming again."

She smiled softly and nodded. "I understand. Please, go back to sleep though. We will speak of everything in the morning at breakfast."

I nodded and settled back into the warm embrace of two of the most beautiful beings in the world right now, and before I knew it, I was falling back to sleep, my mind being untroubled for the first time in what felt like eons. I fell asleep that night with a genuine smile on my face.

Author's Notes:

Fan OC added, so everyone say hello to Enigma Flare, courtesy of AstralElebit.

Chapter 6: A Shattered Mind and Innocence Lost

Chapter 6: A Shattered Mind and Innocence Lost

The last week had been hard to say the least…for all of us, but because of me.

Being utterly alone for over a month – even though it was my own choice – had changed me. I was now terrified to be alone for some intangible reason, having panic attacks if a friend wasn't near me nearly every minute of the day. It wasn't a difficult issue to deal with at first, as I had six marefriends as well as other close friends that were more than happy to spend time with me, but this soon ended when I began to become a burden on them all. They had their own lives to attend to, and I was cutting into them all with my insecurity. Twilight had fallen behind in her studies, Rainbow Dash was slacking at work and at training, and even Pinkie Pie eventually told me she had to work to help her family at Sugarcube Corner.

Luckily the panic passed, but it instead gave way to depression. I knew they would never turn me away, but I began to feel guilty that I was keeping all my friends from living their lives normally. And so, I instead chose to limit most of my days to studying and practicing magic in the solitude of Everfree Forest – where my spell "experiments" would not endanger anyone – or training with the guard in Canterlot. My friends all noticed this change and withdrawal from them, which brings us to today…my "intervention".

We were all seated at the library that Rainbow Dash had practically dragged me to, and all my friends were gathered there as well. This in turn caused me to feel very nervous under their gaze, and I squirmed a bit as silence filled the air. Everyone was there: Applejack, Twilight, Lyra, Pinkie, Dash, Vinyl, Luna, Moonfang, Venn, my family…even Rarity, Spike, Ditzy, and Fluttershy were there. I knew I should have felt warm and cared for in their midst, but I just felt very uncomfortable. Not a word had been said yet, but I could feel their eyes upon me, and it made me even more nervous as the permeating silence enveloped me further.

Thankfully, the silence was broken by Luna clearing her throat and looking at me in earnest. "Well, I am sure you know why we have brought you here, Frost. We have all noticed you becoming increasingly distanced and reserved towards all of us…and it has everypony worried about you."

Twilight took it from there. "We're concerned, Frost. We all love and care about you a great deal…and we're worried that there's something you're hiding from all of us." She walked over and placed a hoof on my shoulder. "Frost…whatever this is that's eating away at you, you don't need to shoulder the stress of it alone. We're all here for you, so please…tell us what's wrong."

I continued to simply stare at the violet unicorn in front of me for a few moments before closing my eyes and sighing. "Well Twi, I'm afraid…I'm afraid for no reason, really. I don't know how to beat it though."

Pinkie scooted closer to me and wrapped a foreleg around my waist, nuzzling into my side. "Frostie…what are you afraid of?"

I chuckled a little half-heartedly before replying. "What I'm afraid of is easy to identify – I'm afraid of being alone. Why is something I can't identify, though."

Luna stood in front of me now, her soft cyan eyes filled with concern and love. "Frost, why if you fear being alone have you chosen to, in essence, exile yourself from us all?"

"Because dear Luna, I am allowing myself to become a burden on all of you because of my own insecurities. My will to keep myself from knowingly burdening you with my own insignificant problems far outweighs my own fear. A petty fear such as mine is unbecoming of a prince, let alone a Guardian." I finished solemnly.

My brother then stood up and growled at me, showing his razor-sharp teeth. "Dude, drop the whole martyr act, it's getting real effing old." Applejack glared at him and he shrugged. "What? I didn't curse." He then turned back to me, wearing a snarl again. "Seriously though, what's your deal? You did the same thing when that girl Ashley broke up with-"

I couldn't help but let loose a not-so-nice growl that made even the two wolves in the room shudder. I then continued with a voice that was dangerously calm and serene, like a powder keg next to a spark. "Don't you dare mention her. That topic is off limits and you damn well know it."

Perspective change – Vinyl Scratch

The growl that Frost let out was really scary, and completely unlike him. I mean I've never seen Frost actually angry before, but still. That wasn't what scared me the most though. No, what scared me the most was the amount of magic that was radiating off of him, creating a charge in the air that made the horn of every unicorn in the room spark a little, including the princess. The only way I could describe the feeling was that it felt like somepony was massaging every inch of me – inside and out – all at once. With how afraid I was, though, I made sure to hold in an almost involuntary moan from it, but Princess Luna wasn't so lucky, as she let out a small whimper and started panting lightly. The room became very warm all of the sudden and as I continued to notice the princess of the night struggling to control herself, I noticed little arcs of what looked like electricity dancing all over her coat. I looked at Twilight, Lyra, Rarity, and then myself to notice that the same was happening to all of us. Even though every pleasure receptor on my body being prodded very gently, I still kept my eyes focused on Frost, and I noticed some weird markings on his skin start to glow. With a bright flash he suddenly collapsed on the floor, the charge leaving the air and the temperature in the room returning to normal.

"Frost!" we all yelled in unison, save for the princess.

Princess Luna stood and walked over to Frost and stood silently for a moment before sighing. "I was afraid of this." She then turned and looked at all of us before continuing. "The markings that you all have no doubt seen on Frost's body are enchantments of his own creation, designed to incapacitate him should his anger begin to cloud his mind. The reason why he has done this is because of the "trigger" he found for when Death had control over him – rage. It appears even with Death being purged from his body, he still did not trust himself enough to remove the enchantments. While I do not think he would have hurt any of us, it is clear that his month in solitude has caused far more damage than I had imagined." She sighed again before continuing. "Death is not simply the avatar of his name, but he also rules fear. Fear can do drastic things to even the strongest pony, shaping him or her into somepony we wouldn't recognize…a monster even." She looked sadly at my fallen love (ugh…never thought I'd think that) and frowned. "It appears the corruption Death wrought on dear Frostrender has left wounds that will take time to heal."

What I heard shook me to my core. What if he never got better? I couldn't lie to myself…I loved Frost a lot. I didn't know how I'd react to losing that…to losing him, to himself least of all.

Perspective change - Rainbow Dash

It's always something. Just when we get Frost back, he loses his temper and basically shuts himself down without knowing. With work becoming more and more intense and Frost first being clingy, and then completely aloof, things with him and I were strained to say the least. Out of everything, one thought had started to dominate my mind in the past few months with all that's happened.

Is it worth it? Is he worth it?

I hated myself for even thinking like this, but the thought was always there. Certainly there were more stable stallions out there to be with, stallions that I wouldn't have to worry about what crazy thing was going to happen from one week to the next. I may not be the Element of Honesty, but I couldn't lie to myself. I did love Frost...but the stress from just being with him and caring about him was becoming too much. It was coming to the point where I was seriously thinking about "downgrading" our relationship to a "just friends" level, no matter how selfish it seemed. I had thought hard about it for a long time, and even tried sometimes to believe that there wasn't anything keeping me from doing that.

That was a lie though.

Frost had reunited me with Gilda, one of my oldest and best friends in my entire life. It was a selfless act on his part. He had nothing to gain from me or Gilda, simply stating to me that he did it only because he knew it would make me happy. I remember looking into his eyes that day trying to find the smallest hint of a hidden agenda...anything that would say he had something he wanted to get out of this. Instead, I saw only love and concern for my own well being.

That was part of the reason I hated myself for thinking these things about him. I mean, he was just so great, and a part of me knew without a doubt that there would never be another stallion like him again, no matter how long I lived. Maybe that's the reason why when he put himself in harm's way or was hurt, my heart would break a little.

It bothered me that I had fallen completely head-over-hooves in love with this guy in under a year. I never fell that hard for anypony before, and the fact that it happened had me wondering if he was using a spell on me. We once got in an argument about it and he surprised me by grabbing his horn with his hooves, preparing to break it off just to prove a point. Yeah, just to prove a point, no other reason. Luckily I stopped him, but the sincerity in his eyes told me everything. He was ready to do anything to prove to me that I meant more to him than his magic - the thing that made him so special in this world. It was remembering things of that sort that kept the dilemma going. I knew for a fact after some soul-searching that I wasn't going to be happy with anypony else, but at the same time I hated worrying about him all the time. It was different for Twi and the princesses, because worrying was what they did. Luna and Celestia were rulers, and Twi was just your average worrywart. Maybe that's why they had such an easier time than me, but I never worried about anything. The reason being was because I knew that no matter what happened, I would either come out of it with flying colors or I'd die. Either way, it'd be awesome and I would be remembered for it. It wasn't the same with Frost. Most times, there wasn't anything I could do to help.

I hated feeling helpless.

Once I was honest with myself, that's what really bothered me about this constant trouble with Frost. It wasn't so much that he was constantly under attack by something or other, it was the fact that I haven't been able to do anything about it. Was it really fair for me to want to leave simply because of a problem I had with myself? More truth...no, it wasn't. It wouldn't be fair to him, and in all honesty not to me either.

Even with therapy to help me get over the murder of my parents and...some other things, I was still not good with showing or wanting to feel emotions. I was not as bad as I once was, at least with certain ponies, but as a whole I hated feeling. Emotions could cloud your mind and make you lose focus, make you sloppy...make you weak.

But, at the same time...they could give me a strength I never knew I had.

The drive to do anything that needed doing if the situation called for it. There was no doubt in my mind that like Frost, I would be ready to put my own life on the line to protect him, or anypony else I cared about.

Even with this torrent of different feelings, I knew one thing above all else once I really thought about it with a clear, calm head (which was a rare thing):

He was worth it.

Perspective change - Princess Celestia

I sighed as I sat next to the sleeping form of Frost, focusing to try and decipher from his thoughts what has changed. As our minds connected, I picked up a few of his mannerisms and phrases from Earth, and the best way I could explain how it was trying to sift through his mind was dismantling a hydrogen bomb while skydiving with an angry monkey on your back and a self-righteous bureaucrat screaming in your ear.

I had time to study humans before bringing Frost to our world, but I never understood until this moment exactly how infinitely complex and vast the human mind was. However, I was unsure of whether it was all humans that were like this or simply him, but nonetheless I was intrigued greatly.

What I found was nothing like I expected at all.

Beneath the calm and often playful exterior of Frost was a battlefield within his own psyche, where the very best and the very worst parts of him were vying for control. I realized at that moment that this is what Death must have changed before we purged him from Frost. Where once these negative and dangerous emotions could be suppressed and controlled, they were now completely out of control, as they would be with myself or Luna. The damage was extensive, but with time and some luck I could repair it.

I only hoped my tampering would not cause further damage. 'Father, watch over me...'

As I began to touch his mind again, I was forced to link mine with his...in essence becoming one being in a way. The repair of his damaged mind was like a minefield. Every time I would come upon a painful memory or experience, I felt it...as if I was the pony it happened to. As I went further and further into his mind, I began to get an even better sense of who he was, and even though most of it was painful, I felt infinitely closer with him because of it. Frost had never hidden anything from us, so most of these experiences I already knew of, but it was an entirely different feeling to actually feel what he felt, and see what he saw.

As I repaired the last of the damage I had found, I left his mind and opened my eyes. It must have been hours later, as my sun was already heading towards the western horizon, and in a few hours it would need to be lowered. I was, however, very thankful that none of the guards or even Luna was present at the moment. Feeling all of those emotions and memories of Frost's firsthoof had left a lasting impression on me, and for the longest time all I could do was cry.

Fate, it seems, decided to introduce Luna at the moment my sobs were at their most intense.

The door opened slightly and then closed quickly, the sound of hooves hurrying towards me. Before I could look up, I was wrapped in the warm and strong embrace of my younger sister. It irked me to no end that the younger was having to comfort the elder, but at the moment I pushed the thoughts aside and simply lay my head against her chest, listening to the soothing and strong beating of her heart. As much as I hated to admit it, the very act of surrendering myself to being taken care of felt very good. It was a pleasure I rarely allowed myself to indulge in, mostly because of personal pride and the lack of somepony who would not judge their ruler in her time of weakness. Family and friends were different, it seems. They understood that while a deity of sorts, I still became stressed, became sad, and became angry. I would tire, I would worry, and I would sometimes utterly break under the pressure. My sister, however, would never judge, and even after my moments of weakness she would still admire me as an awestruck filly for my strength and conviction. Even though the both of us were some of the oldest living beings on Terra, things were exactly the same for us, even after all these years. I knew that no matter what, Luna "had my back", as Frost put it.

The very thought on its own could put a smile on my face on my worst days.

It still amazed me that even after having banished her to the moon for a thousand years, Luna forgave me without hesitation. When I once asked her why she was so quick to forgive, she simply stated, "It is in the past. What is done is done and neither of us are able to change it. The fact remains unchanged that you are Our sister, and We love you more than the moon and stars. Nothing will ever change that."

'Father...you would be so proud of her.'

Perspective change - Applejack

It was another hard-working day on the farm, but with Dark helping me on his off days - like today - the whole thing went a lot faster and was more fun. Even during work, he would crack jokes and have me laughing the whole time. Normally after work, I would want nothing more than to just take a shower, eat supper, and then head off to bed, but somehow having Dark around didn't leave me with the same exhausted feeling, and I knew it wasn't just because he was doing the heavy lifting for me.

He was a little rough around the edges when I first met him, and it was pretty clear to me that he knew how to talk to a mare, which meant he had a lot of practice. Still, something about him changed after his brother died. Dark became a lot more gentle, kind, and loving than I ever thought possible. I guess that's when I really noticed that I loved him as more than just a passing fancy. Unlike Frost though, Dark was perfectly happy with just me as his only marefriend. When I asked him why, he - being the sweet-talker that he is - told me that I was worth twenty of any other mare around Ponyville...even the princesses. I knew it was a lie, but I could see in his eyes that he believed it with all of his heart, and that made me fall for him even harder. I remember RD used to make fun of me for how attached I was to the black dragon, but she coincidentally shut up once I started talking about Frost.


Still, I loved having Dark around. I'd never had a colt in my life before, because I'd always focused on the farm. However, after Granny Smith passed on, Dark had taken the spot that Frost would usually fill, making sure I was okay and that I didn't feel too alone.

But then that's what confused me.

Recently while getting to know Frost even better, I began to wonder what it was like to be with him...to be loved by him in that way, the way that my rainbow-maned friend was. I knew in my heart that I would never be unfaithful to Dark, but I still wondered. Even so, with me being the Element of Honesty I had guilt in my heart just from the wondering. Somehow it felt like cheating, and it bothered me. Of course with my honesty, I was a lousy liar and an even worse pony for hiding when something bothered me. Needless to say, Dark noticed right away and reluctantly, I told him everything and feared the worst. However, instead of yelling or complete silence, he simply wrapped me in a warm hug and kissed me like he always did.

"AJ, I don't care about any of that. You think my mind doesn't wander? It does...a lot. But what counts is that no matter where my mind goes, it always finds its way back to you." he had said.

It was corny, but I could tell he meant it. It was all I needed to hear to put my mind at ease. He still loved me...and that's all that mattered between us. Lately though, I was worrying about Frost a lot. He'd been through a whole lot, and in all honesty I didn't know how much more he could take before he just...broke. That and the fact nopony knew what happened to that Death guy, which scared me. Even with my recent thoughts about him, Frost was more like what Dark called "the gay friend" to me (which didn't really make sense to me since he was clearly not, but I guess it meant something different on Earth). I cared about him a lot, which is why I worried so much...but I was with Dark, so it stopped at "close friend". Still, my mind wouldn't let me stop worrying about the alicorn prince.

Something told me he wasn't as strong as he pretended to be.

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

"Ugh...why does my head always hurt?" I said, sick of waking up with headaches recently. My thoughts to anything else were immediately drowned out by the sound of crying close by, as well as a soft voice I recognized reciting "it's okay" over and over again.


I opened my eyes and looked around the room, noticing I was in my room in Canterlot. Venn was sitting in the corner reading a book, merely nodding to me before going back to reading...but I then noticed Luna holding Celestia in a loving embrace as the older sister sobbed against the dark blue coat of her younger sister. Neither of them noticed me walking over to them, so I simply spread my massive wings and draped them over the two in a light hug. Celestia immediately shot up in surprise, nearly gouging me with her horn, but settled down when she saw it was me.

She was silent for a long time before she spoke with tears in her eyes. "I know everything, Frost. I'm so sorry..."

I cocked my head in confusion. "I don't follow, what do you mean you know everything?"

"Your mind was damaged by Death, which is why you reacted as you did. I had to repair all the damage, but in doing so I felt everything and experienced everything you ever have. Everything..." the alabaster alicorn explained softly.

I now completely understood why she was in the state she was. I never wanted her to know any of what happened back on Earth...it wouldn't be right. But instead she lived it, which was ten times worse. Not only that but instead of it being spread out over twenty-five years, she experienced it all at once. I could only imagine how she was going to cope.

She must have sensed what I was thinking because she kissed me softly, smiling when she pulled back. "Frost, I am not some delicate flower who is going to break. I will admit, it is very surprising and in all honesty I still do not understand how you lived through it sometimes...but I will be fine with time." She then kissed me on my nose with a concerned look. "Just please promise me that you will not hold so much pain inside of you...it isn't healthy."

I chuckled. "Yeah...says you and every shrink I've ever spoken to. I'll be okay, love...I promise."

She seemed a little discontented, but nodded. "I can't make you do anything you don't want to do, Frost. Just please promise me that you will talk to us if you need to, then."

I kissed her back on the nose affectionately, and she blushed. "I will. I promise, Celly."

"Hey, I am here too!" said Luna with a pout.

I surprised the midnight-blue alicorn with a strong kiss and a brush of the tongue, making her shiver. "Better?"

She nodded and giggled. "Much."

Celestia was exhausted from the work she had to do to fix me, so she simply lay on my bed and instantly fell asleep after lowering the sun. Luna raised the moon and stood with me as I gazed at the late summer sky.

She nuzzled my neck affectionately with a concerned whimper. "What troubles you, dear Frost?"

"It's just," I started, my voice catching for a moment, "I feel like this is all too much…for any of you. I mean things were calm before I came here…but now all of you have experienced my breakdown, my death, and now my fury. I just feel like it's not fair to you all…like I'm holding you back or putting you all under unnecessary stress." I explained sadly.

She interrupted me from continuing with a kiss on my neck, making me shiver. "Frost, do not blame yourself for any of this. It was not your doing, nor did you ask for it. I know better than anypony that things happen that we simply cannot control. Whether it involves you or not, it is not your fault." She then stretched a wing over my back, warming me. "Do not blame yourself…I do not, and neither do any of the others."

Her care warmed my heart, but I still felt guilty. "I know you don't, Lulu. Still…I just feel like me being here has become more of a burden than a pleasure lately."

She sighed in annoyance and used a hoof to pull my face to look at her. "Do you know what was thinking the whole time you were back on Earth?" I shook my head. "I was thinking about how much I missed you. I knew without a doubt that you were coming back to us, and so I did not worry about that...but it hurt to be away from you, Frost." She took a deep breath before continuing. "Whatever happens, I will not leave your side…ever. When I told you I would always be here for you, I meant it. I do not intend to take back that vow." She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment before gazing at me again with those beautiful blue eyes of hers. "I cannot say how the rest of them will feel or what they will do, but I will always be here. You will never be alone, and no amount of little problems like this will change my mind."

In truth I still felt guilty about the whole thing, but knowing that this beautiful mare beside me loved me this much was very comforting. Maybe it was because she had never loved before or maybe it was because I just really was that great. Call me negative, but I believed the former. Still, I enjoyed knowing that someone cared about me that much, and it gave me hope for the future again.

The night was beautiful under Luna's crescent moon, but the stress of the day was taking its toll, and I was finding it harder and harder to keep my eyes open. Luna noticed this and nudged me towards the bed, giggling softly the whole way. As soon as I lay down, two radiant white hooves wrapped around me, holding me in a tight embrace while the lovely sun princess buried her muzzle into my neck while mumbling my name.

'If this were any sweeter, I'd have diabetes.'

Luna then proceeded to kiss me on my cheek softly and stroked it with her wingtip, tickling me. "I am going to night court, and so I cannot join you Frost. However, I will return before you wake." I nodded and she left without another word.

No matter how much I fought it, sleep soon began to take over, but thankfully for the first time in a week, I fell asleep at peace.

Chapter 7: The New Enemy

Chapter 7: The New Enemy

You know when you get startled awake you sometimes scream random things or even literally jump out of bed? Well this morning, Celestia found out the hard way that it's not a good idea to do that with me.

So there I was, enjoying my dream when Celly decides that with it being mid-morning, it's time for me to get up...which is understandable. Of course with how tired the previous day's activities left me, I was more than a little resistant to rouse myself from the world of dreams.

"Frost..." she whispered softly, attempting to be gentle at first. I didn't move, and so again she called my name, but louder this time.

No answer...

Finally she must have gotten upset, because the next thing I know, I feel a massive shock to my horn which scares me awake.

Bad move on Celly's part.

By reflex, I cast a spell I've come to call Absolute Zero, which instantly freezes everything around me - and by everything, I mean that molten steel would probably freeze solid instantly as well. Now normally I'm able to easily control the radius of the spell, but being frightened, I instead freeze the entire room, washroom, and part of the corridor outside.

After I calm my heart from beating out of my chest, I notice that the sun princess is frozen in front of me, everything but her eyes and her tail being frozen. 'Fuck, FUCK!' I start to panic for a moment before dispelling the spell on her, thawing her out but leaving her shivering and her teeth chattering.

"F-F-Frost," she started, her shivering making her stutter badly, "w-w-w-what d-d-did you d-do t-t-t-to m-me?"

I quickly grabbed my now-thawed bedspread and wrapped it around her, then wrapped my wings around her to further insulate her. With my natural heat radiating from my core, she starts to warm up quickly. "Sorry love, you scared me. I didn't mean to, I swear."

She nodded, having nearly stopped shivering. "L-lesson l-l-learned." she said with a warm smile.

After a few kisses that made her feel better, I walked with Celestia to join her for lunch in the dining hall, along with Shining Armor, another alicorn I didn't recognize, Luna, and a dark blonde-colored unicorn with a wicked gold mane color. I took my seat across from Celestia and next to Luna, while the other three guests nodded and smiled in acknowledgment. Luna couldn't help but lean against me and nuzzle me softly, which I chuckled at. I missed it.

Unfortunately before I could tear into the wonderfully smelling meal before me, Celestia stopped me. "Frost, I want you to meet somepony, well two someponies actually."

I sighed and stood. "Yes Celestia?"

First she nodded to the unicorn I didn't recognize. "Frost, this is Enigma Flare. It was because of him that we were able to breach the ice you had sealed yourself with.

The unicorn did a short bow and smiled. "It's an honor, Prince Frostbreaker."

"Oh please, the honor's mine. Only someone truly powerful could have broken through that. In all honesty I'm surprised neither of the princesses or Twilight Sparkle could do it." I said with a smirk.

Luna rolled her eyes and looked rather frustrated. "We all tried, Frost...believe me. In the end, we heard of this young pony here." She pointed at Enigma Flare. "It was his natural - and dare I say very powerful - ability with fire magic that allowed us to get to you."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise and turned to the now grinning blonde unicorn. "Really? Well, I'm curious as to just how powerful you are. You'll have to show me someday, yes?"

He nodded. "It would be a pleasure, prince."

I looked back at Celestia and she then gestured to the petite pink alicorn next to Shining Armor. "And this is my niece, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza."

Wanting to make a good first impression, I stood and bowed my head in reverence. "My lady."

She giggled and waved a hoof at me. "Please, there's no need for you to bow to me. You're a prince, after all."

I shrugged. "Maybe, but you were a princess long before I was ever a prince. Besides, it's nice to finally get to meet Shining Armor's lovely wife."

I could almost feel Shining Armor smirking at me, so I made contact with him mentally.

So, you're married to the Princess of Love?”


Nice work.”

I know, right?”

To the others in the room, we were simply grinning like idiots while nodding, but Luna was grinning too, so I have a feeling she knew what we were doing.

We finished lunch rather quickly and Celestia set about her duties of going through royal paperwork and whatnot, while I took flight with Luna, just soaring through the air with no particular destination in mind. It was a good feeling not to have anything of real importance to address that day, as it felt like I had worked myself to the bone for the past month (which of course wasn't really that far from the truth).

Luna and I flew around aimlessly for awhile until we decided to go visit Pinkie and get a cupcake or two, so we veered towards Sugarcube Corner and floated through the air all the way there.

Because we took our time, we arrived about fifteen minutes or so later, to find that the lunch rush was still on. When I entered, every pony turned and gasped before bowing. I rolled my eyes and simply sat at an empty booth with Luna, waiting for things to die down. Mr. and Mrs. Cake were manning (pony-ing?) the front counter, which more than likely meant Pinkie was baking up a storm in the kitchen. Mrs. Cake noticed me and waved with a big smile before continuing to keep the line moving. I was amazed at just how efficient they all were, noticing that while Mr. Cake kept the place clean, Mrs. Cake was serving orders, while Pinkie was making all the food. It was a flawless system, where a customer was only waiting up to maybe thirty seconds before their food was served after paying.

It's like they were all born to do this.

The lunch rush was cleared out by about 14:00, and Mr. Cake was cleaning up the store again while Mrs. Cake was writing something down and counting money. Pinkie walked out of the kitchen with a cute little pink apron on that had all her friends' cutie marks embroidered on the front. She smiled when she saw myself and Luna, but I found it odd that she was walking on her hind legs, as easily as if she'd always walked that way. Then again, I figured in order to do things as fast as she did, she had to have her two front hooves free.

She arrived at our table and Luna and I both ambushed her with a kiss to each cheek, which she giggled at.

She recovered quickly and hugged us both before smiling again. "Hi Frostie and Luna, it's so great to see the two of you!" She then looked at me and surprised me with a deep kiss before hugging me tightly. I heard her sniffle a bit and when she pulled away she had tears in her eyes, though she was smiling. "Frostie...I missed you so much." She leaned in and hugged me again, and this time I returned it happily. "I'm so glad you're back."

I rubbed my cheek against hers and hummed happily. "I'm glad to be back too, Pinks. I missed my little bundle of fun."

She giggled and started hopping around with pure happiness in typical Pinkie Pie fashion, and I couldn't help but chuckle at her, Luna doing the same. I guess she's not just the Element of Laughter because she laughs, but because she causes you to laugh as well. I still don't know what it is, but this quirky little pink pony always makes me smile, and I love to smile.

My thoughts were interrupted when Pinkie gasped and raced over to me, looking me in the eye with her own vivid blues. "Oh, I almost forgot! Twilight says that her, Fluttershy, and Moonfang are all gonna be at the library today. You should go see them! I know they'll be so happy to see you're back and okay."

I nodded and pulled the party pony into another hug before standing. "That's a good idea Pinkie. I'll head over there next. I'm going to be staying at the library tonight and having a small get together, because I miss everypony. Will you be able to make it?"

The happy mare smiled and nodded furiously. "Of course, Frostie! I can always make time to be with my friends. I'll come by after work today, so I guess I'll see you around 18:00 then?"

I nodded and nuzzled her again affectionately. "It's a date. I'll see you there." With that said, I headed with Luna towards the library.

As we walked through town towards Twilight's library, I couldn't help but notice how happy all the townsponies looked to see me back. It warmed my heart to feel so accepted even after everything that happened. As we were passing by the central park, I couldn't help but hear a conversation between young ponies as they got progressively closer.

"...I'm telling you, that's him!"

"No it's not, there's no way. He died, remember?"

"Nuh uh, he came back! Ms. Cherilee told me so!"

I turned around when I felt a small hoof tap my rear leg, finding myself looking at a group of five fillies and a young colt, five of which I recognized. The ones I already knew were Applebloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, my sister (who'd taken to being called Crimson Comet), and Pipsqueak. The other one was a young grayish lavender unicorn with a bright blonde mane and tail.

Pipsqueak was the one that was tapping me and I smiled down at him. "Why hello there, young one. What can I do for you?"

He looked down and shuffled his hooves nervously. "Ummm...we were just wondering, mister..."

I raised an eyebrow, but continued to smile. "Yes?"

Pipsqueak looked up at me and smiled nervously. "Umm...is your name Frostbreaker?"

I nodded and smiled. "Yes, I'm Prince Frostbreaker."

Pip looked back at his friends and smirked. "See? I told you it was him!"

I chuckled and looked over at my sister. "I take it you didn't tell them?"

"Tell us what?" Scootaloo responded, looking very confused.

Comet simply shrugged and grinned. "Nah, I figured this'd be more fun."

Scootaloo snorted and stomped her hoof. "Tell us what?"

"That Comet's my younger sister." I explained, getting a gasp from the other five ponies.

They all stared at her, but Applebloom was the only one to speak. "Y'all are his lil' sis?"

Comet nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I thought I'd let him tell you. I figured you wouldn't believe me."

Sweetie Belle eyed me suspiciously and fearlessly walked right up to me. "You know...you look really familiar."

"Well my name used to be Steelbreaker, does that help?" I asked, grinning.

The small white filly gasped and smiled, then started hopping in place. "I knew it! I knew I recognized you!" She then turned to her friends with a wide grin. "This is the stallion I told you about! This is Rarity's friend that got her and Spike together!"

Scootaloo gasped and her mouth dropped open in shock. "S-so you're the guy that Rainbow's always talking about?"

I shrugged. "Unless she's talking about Soarin from the Wonderbolts, I hope so...otherwise I'm going to have a very strong-worded talk with her."

The young ponies talked amongst themselves for a moment and I leaned in to whisper to Luna, "Since when did I become a celebrity?"

"Since you protected Equestria from the gryphons and bolted overhead fighting your brother." she giggled out.

I shrugged. "Yeah, I guess that would do it."

I felt a tugging on my mane and looked down to see the young lavender unicorn smiling. "Um, um mister? Can you do a really cool trick for us?"

I turned to Luna and she shrugged, and so I looked back at the young ponies and nodded. "Yeah, I guess I can do something cool for you." I then stepped away from the group, far enough that the spell I was about to cast would be of no danger to them. For effect, I cast my frost aura, donned my ice armor, and let my eyes glow blue. I then began to summon my snow clouds above us, letting our area of the park get drizzled in a light snow. I could tell the young pegasus filly was about to say something, but I just shook my head as I charged the spell.

Perspective change – Luna

As I watched, I oddly felt nothing as I saw Frost charging his spell. Normally I would feel magic flowing through his horn when he was casting any spell. His ice spells were different, as he could cast them directly from his body (which was why the inhibitor ring did not work on him). As we all watched, his hooves changed from their normal grey to a bright, glowing blue – the same as his eyes. He then jumped high in the air before forcefully slamming all four hooves on the ground. The ground appeared to erupt with large spikes of ice all around him, large and sharp enough to skewer anypony that would be around him.

His power was frightening sometimes.

Just as quickly as they appeared the ice spikes melted away, revealing Frostbreaker with a change to his armor. There was now not a place on him that was not covered in a layer of thick ice. The armor itself was wrought with jagged spikes, and his helmet was now covering all but his eyes. The clouds above us then dissipated, and his armor melted against his coat, leaving a damp steely-blue stallion smiling at all of us.

The pale lavender filly was the first to approach him, nearly bounding with each step in excitement. "That was so cool! How did you do that?"

He simply smirked, responding with, "Magic, my dear."

She giggled and smiled at him. "My auntie Ditzy was right, you're fun!"

"Oh, so you're Dinky Doo! Well, it's a pleasure to finally meet you, young lady." he said with a warm smile.

His way of dealing with the young colts and fillies of Ponyville had convinced me that he would be a great father one day, and while I was certainly warming up to the idea, I was still apprehensive for some reason. An odd feeling whenever I would think of it seemed to tell me that now was not the time. Such a feeling warned me of Phobos' attack on us all, as well as what would happen with Frost during his battle with the gryphons. The feeling was never exact – it was no sort of future-sight – but it did offer a sort of foresight in the sense that I would know that something would happen, though I knew not what. I had learned to trust the feeling, and so for the moment I pressed the idea of foals to the back of my mind for the time being.

My thoughts to myself were interrupted by a gentle tugging on my mane, and I looked down to see young Pipsqueak with a smile on his face. "Umm…Princess Luna? Will we all get to see you again for Nightmare Night?"

I smiled and nodded at him. "Of course, Pip. I would not miss the night for the world, especially if you will be there." I couldn't help but lean down and nuzzle him softly. "I always love to see my favorite little colt."

He hugged my foreleg and smiled. "I can't wait! You're my favorite princess ever!"

Even with so many of the ponies nowadays accepting and even loving me again as their princess, Pip was special to me. It was during my first Nightmare Night that he showed a great amount of love for the holiday dedicated to me, and this in turn caused me to favor him over others. I was worried at first that choosing favorites over my subjects would be counterproductive to my "rehabilitation", but Tia advised me that she too had her favorite ponies. While she loved all her subjects, she told me that certain ones were held in higher regard than others, namely Twilight Sparkle and Spike. And so, I did not feel bad in the least that among the ponies, I too had a few I cared for more than others.

Pip soon scampered off to his friends and Frost returned to my side with a smile on his face as we continued to the library. "You know, I never realized just how popular I am around here. They act like I'm some kind of superhero or something." He then frowned a bit. "I'm not sure I really like that though. I just want to be a normal pony, really. I mean I've made my peace with my status as royalty, but I don't want to be considered some kind of super-special pony."

I flashed a smile and nodded before responding, "Yes Frost, I understand how you feel. However, the young ponies of Equestria will always need a role model of sorts. While their parents should be the predominant figure for a good pony in their lives, another one cannot hurt. You have many qualities that we all find very noble and valuable, namely your kindness and care for all around you. You are brave, loyal, humble, honest, kind, generous, and forgiving of those who have wronged you or those you care for. These are all qualities we as beings who hold the ideal of harmony in high regard should strive for. I understand your humility, but let me be perfectly clear: you are in many ways the best of what this world is, as well as the best of what Earth could be."

He smiled sheepishly and blushed a bit. "All this praise is going to give me a fat head, Luna. I don't want to turn into some overconfident prick."

Perspective change – Darkflight

Today was a normal workday in the forge, which in all honesty I enjoyed. Because I got to experiment and make new weapons and armor all the time – as well as advance the forging technologies with dragon's fire – it was less work for me and more passion. The fact that AJ said she'd be stopping by today made it even better.

I was never the kind of guy to get tied down before, but I couldn't deny it…I loved her. As shitty as it sounds, I used to break up with a girl because she wouldn't put out. Now here I was, completely in love with a girl who I hadn't even done more than make out with.

I guess this world is rubbing off on me.

What I found the most odd was that my brother – who was one of the pickiest guys I'd ever known – was jammin' with six of the most attractive and desirable mares in all of Equestria. Had I been the same guy I was back on Earth, I'd be jealous. Instead, I didn't really care. I had AJ, and she was more than enough for me…more than I deserved, really. When I thought about it, it was pretty weird how much I'd changed since I first arrived here. I couldn't deny that Drew's death had nearly everything to do with that. I remember at the funeral I made a silent promise to myself to be someone my brother would be proud to know, and feel privileged to have as a younger brother. I still had things to work on, but I was worlds better than I once was.

Mason was a previous life…I was Darkflight now.

With my new name and body, I had another chance at life…and a second chance to be a better person. It was a liberating feeling to actually be able to be proud of myself for something other than being the biggest player in town, and I liked the feeling a lot. I chuckled as I thought that save for the fact that Drew hadn't changed at all concerning personality, our lives as a whole had basically swapped. Now he was the one all the females wanted and he was the one all the stallions and colts wanted to be. It was a change – a big one – but it didn't bother me. For the first time in my life, it didn't bother me at all to admit to myself – or anyone else for that matter – that I was completely in love and completely happy with just one girl. The rest didn't matter. My family loved me, as did AJ…and that was enough.

As I was breathing my new black flame on a sword I was making for Captain Shining Armor, I heard the door open and a very familiar chuckle from behind me.

"Ya know y'all look downraht sexy when yer workin', Dark." the voice said in a familiar southern drawl.

I turned around with a wide grin to see the blonde-maned orange mare wearing a cowboy hat. "Well howdy there, cowgirl, it's always a pleasure when you're here. Come here and give your dragon a kiss."

She blushed and chuckled again before trotting over and planting a strong kiss on my own lips. I couldn't help but run my hands over her body, and as usual, I found myself admiring her figure. From what I could compare to the other mares, she was definitely feminine in form. However, upon feeling her body, I could tell she was solid muscle. Back on Earth I was put off by women like her. I could finally admit to myself now that my past self had a lot of female enemies, so I made it a point to avoid getting into relationships with women who could kick my ass. This cowmare that I held in my arms was different though. Her strength and her no-nonsense attitude was what I found so attractive. I mean sure, she knew how to play and have fun, but when it came to work she worked harder than anyone I'd ever seen before.

I released AJ from the kiss and she smiled dreamily at me. "Whooey, Dark. Ya'll know how ta treat a mare. Ah'm feelin like Ah jus' ran a race with RD."

"Yeah, I have that effect. Of course, I know other things that would leave you breathless..." I said with a smirk.

She blushed and sighed. "Ah know what yer gettin' at Dark, but Ah'm sorry…Ah'm just not ready fer that yet."

I dismissed her with a wave of my hand. "AJ I already told you, I don't mind…really. I just like teasing ya."

She nodded but still looked a little forlorn. "Are ya sure ya really don't care about that? Ah mean from what Frost told me, ya'll have left girls fer that."

"AJ, that was the past. I'm a different person now, well…a different dragon. I'm going to make sure I'm a better dragon for myself…and for you. We both deserve better, and I'm going to make sure I am better." I explained sternly. I then grinned seductively at her as I massaged her neck muscles lightly. "I mean I'm not going to lie, AJ…if you told me right now that you were ready, I'd take you in a hot second. I love you and I'm sure you can tell I am quite attracted to you. Still, it's because I love you that I can and will wait for as long as you need to. I've made the mistake of pushing a girl to do something she wasn't ready for before, and I won't make that same mistake with you. I care about you too much."

She let out the laugh I loved so much to hear and stood up to embrace me with a smirk. "Yer a big ol' softy, you know that?"

"Yeah yeah, don't tell anyone." I remarked with a grin of my own.

She dropped to the floor again and looked over at the forge, noticing the sword I was working on. "So, what's the sword for?"

I picked up the blacksteel straight sword and held it in a firm grasp. "This sword is something Celestia commissioned me to make for Captain Shining Armor. This is a very special sword for a few reasons. First of all, it's sharp enough to cut through even stone with ease." I then demonstrated by cleaving through the ceiling with blinding speed in four strokes, making a near-perfect cube of stone fall to the floor in front of me, leaving a gaping hole in the roof. "Secondly, if I've got the forging process correct, it'll never break or dull." I then handed the sword over to her and she sat down, holding it in her hooves.

Her mouth dropped open in awe and her eyes shined as she looked up at me. "It's so light. It's like Ah'm holdin' a feather."

I nodded with a grin. "That might have something to do with how strong you are, but yes, this sword is a lot lighter than normal swords, but every bit as dangerous."

She hoofed the sword back to me and eyed me with confusion. "Why did ya make somethin' like this? We don't need nothin' like this in Equestria…least not anymore."

I shrugged. "I don't know, babe, I just did what the princess asked me to." In all honesty, the fact that Princess Celestia asked me to make a weapon like this was unnerving, but it wasn't my place to question. Drew was the prince, after all, not me. Without a doubt if there was something going on, the princesses would tell him about it, and if he thought I needed to know, he'd tell me. So for the time being, I just let it go.

I then grabbed the scabbard – which I'd decorated with a dragon's head at the base breathing fire that formed into the sun on one side, and a crescent moon on the other – and AJ and I headed to the throne room next to deliver the sword.

When we got there the two celestial princesses were waiting with the Celestial Guard – personal bodyguards of the two princesses…like secret service – as well as Captain Shining Armor and his wife, Princess Cadence. AJ and I walked in to the throne room and stood in front of the two rulers of Equestria. While AJ bowed all the way to the ground, I placed a fist on my chest and bowed my head in a salute. I could feel some of the Celestial Guard glaring at me, but their looks of distaste quickly disappeared when the sun princess stepped off of her throne to me and pulled me into a hug.

"Ah, thank you so much for coming, Darkflight. I assume everything went as planned?" she asked while releasing me.

I nodded and took a knee, presenting the sword. "The sword is called Blackfang. This is the finest weapon I've ever made."

The sword was removed from my hands by a dark magenta aura as Celestia levitated it in front of her, removing it from the scabbard. She marveled at the black-as-night sword and then held it out to me. "Care to give a demonstration?"

I nodded. "With pleasure, princess." I then stood and took the sword in my hand before heading past her and into the garden, where a target range had been erected for this occasion. Logs were standing vertically in front of a stone wall, and I took a stance with the sword sheathed in my left hand and my right on the pommel. Quick as lightning, I drew the sword and whipped it horizontally to the log closest to me. The log fell over with a perfectly clean cut and I sheathed the sword.

"Very good, Darkflight. You've outdone yourself again." Celestia said with a smile.

I grinned back before responding. "You haven't seen anything yet. Shining Armor, come here please."

The mentioned captain stepped over to me and smiled. "What's up Dark?"

"Well Shining Armor, this type of sword is special. It reacts to magic, and you'll notice some rather large differences when someone such as you uses it. So please, I ask you to do a quick horizontal slice through the air from standing here." I explained.

He raised an eyebrow. "From here? I won't be able to reach the logs from here."

"Just trust me." I coaxed.

The captain shrugged before taking a stance and grabbing the sword with his magic. He held the sword against his body before quickly slicing the air from left to right horizontally. However, his jaw dropped when he noticed what happened. Instead of a normal swing through the air, a wave of energy flashed out of the blade traveling at a speed that made it difficult to see. The wave dissipated once it passed the wall, and everyone stood in awe of what happened. Then, the other two logs fell over, split in half…and so did the stone wall. I turned around to see all the guards and all the princesses staring slack-jawed in awe, and I just laughed.

"What the hay was that?" one of the guards asked.

I chuckled again and pointed at Shining Armor. "The sword he's holding is made of blacksteel. It's basically just steel heated a certain way to make it thinner and thus lighter than ever before. What made it do that, though, was a new magic flame I discovered. My black flame has the ability to absorb, store, and release magic. I used it instead of normal fire when forging the sword, and so imbued the sword with a permanent ability. When he used his magic to hold it, the sword absorbed some of it. Then when he swung the sword, he released the energy as a blade of pure energy."

Luna then stepped forward and smiled. "Amazing, Darkflight. You have truly outdone yourself."

I nodded. "I mean my black flame doesn't need to be used only for weapons. Imagine a shield or armor made that could absorb a spell, and then turn it back on the attacker. So you see, the applications are endless."

The solar princess nodded and smiled before turning to the guards. "Very well, you are all dismissed. Thank you." The guards nodded and dispersed. Once the guards left, Celestia turned to me. "I take it you wish to know why I would need such a weapon, yes?"

I nodded. "Yeah. I mean from what I understand, Equestria's pretty peaceful. That and Lux doesn't really like killing. So to answer your question, yes…I'm curious as to why you'd need a weapon this dangerous."

She nodded to me and sighed. "We have trouble in Terra, Darkflight."

"Gryphons again?" I asked.

She shook her head with a solemn expression. "No, something far worse. The enemies we face now fear nothing, and are as numerous as the stars in the sky."

I couldn't help but chuckle. "What are they, zombies?" The princesses just stared at me for a moment. "No…come on, you have got to be joking."

The princess of the night shook her head with a frown. "This is no laughing matter, Darkflight."

"How?" I asked, in utter confusion.

Perspective change – Celestia

I could put it off no longer…he had to be told, as Luna had told Frost already. With a heavy heart I sighed before continuing. "Death has power over his element and the now-lifeless bodies of beings that once lived. The life essence of these beings is no longer for this world, but the bodies have been reanimated with powerful magic and now march against the world of the living. These enemies are more dangerous than anything we have ever faced, as they do not negotiate, they do not even think…they simply kill. We are also not the only ones who will be under attack either. I have received word from the zebra tribes across the sea and even from some friendly gryphons that these undead armies are massing in numerous areas. This defilement of the corpses of beings laid to rest has thoroughly angered Lux, and so she gives her blessing to strike down and destroy these abominations. That, dear Darkflight, is why we need weapons such as this sword." I finished, pointing to the sword in his grasp.

"I swear, if Death looks like the Lich King, I'm going to flip…something. Insert vulgar word for feces there." the dragon mumbled.

Luna sighed before continuing where I left off. "I understand your apprehension, Darkflight. However, the living world will fall to Death unless we contain or kill him, banishing him to the elemental plane."

He eyed us both suspiciously. "I thought you said destroying him would cause a universal cataclysm, yada yada yada..."

I nodded. "Destroying him, yes...simply killing his mortal body, no. You have to remember, when an avatar's mortal body is destroyed, he or she is banished to the elemental plane until he or she has recovered enough strength to break through the Celestial Veil into our world, which can take several thousand years. This is why Death is massing this army. He knows we will attempt to destroy his body, and so he intends to destroy all of us instead."

He nodded. "Okay, I get it. What do we have to use against him though? I mean if what you say is true, that means we are massively outnumbered here. And if he can really resurrect any dead body like this, that means we could be fighting undead dragons by the thousands. We need something that's going to be able to defend against that."

Luna couldn't help but smirk at this. "Against an enemy such as this, the purifying blast from the Elements of Harmony is all but useless. However, we have our own weapons. You for one are one of the legendary black dragons of the unexplored northern continent."

"Wait wait wait...black dragon is kind of obvious, but legendary? Why did you make me some legendary entity of lore? And what does that even mean, exactly?" the mentioned dragon asked.

I smiled and shook my head. "We didn't. When we change the form of a being as we did you, we only choose the genus, not the exact species. Either the High Gods or even Terra herself chose to make you what you are. As far as what it means, you already know most of it. Like a gem dragon - like Spike - you can use many different types of fire breath, all having its own unique abilities. Unlike Spike, however, you can also fly. Before the first alicorns came to this world, black dragons were worshiped as gods. Last of all, black dragons are well respected in the draconic community. I cannot say if they would answer a call for aid from us, but you would be the only one who could approach them unafraid and receive instant respect, simply because of what you are."

He stared at me with a shocked expression, silent for the longest time. He swallowed hard and responded with a simple, "Wow...that's a lot to take in."

I nodded in agreement. "I apologize for springing this on you at such short notice, but I thought you should know. In addition to you, we also have your brother, the avatar of winter. Along with him, we have the avatars of night, day...and life." He looked at me confused until I pointed to Cadence, at which his eyes widened and I simply nodded. "Yes, my niece - the last pure alicorn - is the avatar of life and love."

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

What Luna told me about the undead armies and my brother had me thinking of war strategies now. Thankfully for this upcoming conflict, I could pull out all the stops because I wouldn't have to worry about casualties on the enemy's side, as they were already dead. That meant that Death, along with all my other potential enemies, was going to see just how lethal a pissed-off avatar of winter could be.

Oh...this was going to be fun.

I had been spending the day after my talk with Luna planning war tactics, as well as learning and teaching of them from Twilight. Surprisingly, Twi was very knowledgeable on the subject, which when I think about it makes sense with how many war strategy books she has. While I was honestly excited about the prospect of actually unleashing myself on an enemy that would do my loved ones harm, I held no illusions about Death. He was the avatar of death itself, and my father. His specialty is death, murder...anything having to do with killing. It was quite possible that he was far more experienced in war than I was, as well as in combat, and so I planned accordingly by hopefully overestimating my opponent.

By the looks of things, we still had plenty of time to plan, as while Death was clearly massing forces, he hadn't made any movement towards any of the populated areas of the world. This meant one of many things. He might not be as intelligent as I thought and may simply be foolhardy and arrogant. Or, perhaps he will attack all areas at once after massing enough forces, effectively overrunning our defenses. Or perhaps even scarier, he could be planning some sort of surprise attack that we would never see coming. Twilight and I had both decided that we would need to take preemptive action against the undead masses, so as to keep numbers down. That was the obvious. What I was worried about was that he was perhaps using this tactic to draw us out into the open. Still, we had to do something or many innocent ponies would die. Still, for today we were done with strategy, as both myself and Twilight had gotten headaches, and so we simply settled for cleaning up in preparation for our friends coming over.

Shortly after we had cleaned up, Rainbow Dash arrived with a full case of hard apple cider, although she completely forgot about it when she saw me. She nearly tackled me to the ground as she slammed into me, embracing me in a bone-crushing hug.

"Ugh...Frost...I missed you so much. Please don't leave us anymore, I can't take it." she sobbed into my neck. She then flung herself over my back, laying against me while still holding me tight.

I smiled and chuckled. "I love you too, my Dashie. I'm sorry I put you through so much."
I felt her shake her head while still nuzzling against the back of my neck, and she mumbled something that I couldn't hear, but she kissed the back of my neck and sighed happily. Somehow I knew that she wasn't going to be leaving my side the whole night, but in all honesty I was perfectly fine with that.

The next ones to arrive were Fluttershy, Venn, and Moonfang. All three of them embraced me at once, Fluttershy crying a bit in happiness that I was okay, and the two wolves smiling broadly. I noticed that Moonfang was now nearly completely a normal wolf, save for a last piece of his wooden skin that covered his left eye. Still, his personality was the exact same, and I noticed that he and Fluttershy were now very close. This made me happy, as I always thought they'd be perfect together. 'Now I just have to get Venn a girl and we'll be set!' Rarity and Spike walked in next, bringing even more cider...oh boy, tonight was going to be very drunkenly intense.

We all started drinking and talking while we waited for the rest to arrive, and luckily everyone arrived by about 19:00, even Ditzy, who I was happy to see. Outside of the training grounds, Ditzy and I hadn't spent a lot of time together, but she was cool and I admired her for a lot of reasons. She was a powerful and smart fighter, born to be in the military...and yet outside of the barracks, she was fun, playful, and had a good sense of humor. She about tied with Dashie as far as being a tomcolt, but it suited her well. Like my rainbow daredevil, she was every bit feminine, but was also not going to let a male best her in anything if she had a say in it.

We spent most of the night getting thoroughly drunk, while Vinyl and Pinkie pumped out some tunes for us all. In essence this was no longer a simple get together, but a party. It was all good though, because I was able to catch up with all my friends. At around 21:00, Celly and Lulu finally arrived with great big smiles on their faces. Everyone greeted them as friends, even Ditzy, and the party continued.

By the time it reached 23:00, we were all tired and either laying in bed or winding down. For the first time I wasn't joining my girls in bed just yet, as I was out on the balcony talking to Ditzy. We had a long conversation about the coming conflict before getting to more personal issues.

She was clearly intoxicated as I was having to hold her up to keep her from falling. She smiled at me and nuzzled into my mane. "Mmm...you're sho shoft, Frosht. I could just shleep with you all the time..." Suddenly she blushed at the realization that what she said could be interpreted the wrong way.

I shook my head before she could respond. "I know what you meant, Ditzy. It's okay."

She nodded and smiled, but was obviously still nervous. "Y-you know Frosht, I wish shometimes I could be your mare."

She was either completely oblivious she'd said that out loud or didn't care, but I figured just to be safe and cover all the bases, I'd contact my group and see what they all thought about her.

“Girls? What do you think of Ditzy? Would she be cool or not?”

I gained positive responses from all of them, especially Twi, which probably meant she had too much to drink. All the same, I was glad that was cleared up, so I focused on Ditzy again with a smile. "Well you know Ditzy, I would be perfectly fine having you as my mare."

She looked at me with her bright yellow eyes and smiled. "Really?"

I then leaned in and planted a soft kiss on her lips, causing her to moan a bit. She opened her eyes and looked at me with a dreamy expression before I responded, "Really."

After "inviting" Ditzy, we headed to the bed and lay down next to all my other girls. Ditzy decided to sleep right next to me while Celestia was on my right and Dash was - of course - right on my chest. I could honestly say I missed this a lot, and it gave me a warm feeling of love that I hadn't gotten anywhere else. As everypony settled in, I received a chorus of "I love you" from nearly all of them, save for Ditzy and of course Lyra, who had passed out. I relaxed quickly and smiled a large smile as sleep overtook me.

Chapter 8: A Spectrum of Changes

Chapter 8: A Spectrum of Changes

The next month passed very quickly, but there were quite a few things that happened. First and foremost, my mother and Big Mac got married. After two divorces, I was unsure if she was ever going to marry again, but apparently it took a guy from a different world to make her fall in love again. Good for her.

On a more serious note, the undead horde was growing. Though we did not see nor hear of them, cemeteries across the continents were being found dug up, with the bodies missing. Needless to say it was more than a little unnerving for the ponies of Equestria, so we started building up the military immediately. Ponies from everywhere began to join, most from right in Ponyville. The only friends of mine who didn't join were Fluttershy and Rarity. Because of this, we now had a formidable defense force, which was in the process of being trained by myself, Shining Armor, my brother, and others who I trusted.

Today however, something most important is happening for me and a special somepony.

Rainbow Dash and Luna somehow talked me into marriage...and today was the date that had been set. Needless to say with this being only the second marriage of an alicorn that most of the ponies in Equestria could remember, it was a momentous occasion. Thousands had poured into Ponyville, and in doing so even more joined the Equestrian Royal Military. While the gesture meant a lot to me, right now I was being dressed in my tux with one very excited Rarity.

"Oh darling, this is just so exciting! I've always dreamed of creating garments for my friends, and for royalty. I never ever thought I would be doing both at once!" she rambled.

Spike was sitting in the corner with a huge grin while Rarity did her thing. The young dragon had surpassed all expectations as far as growth was concerned. At seven feet tall, he was now taller than both myself and my brother. Being a magical ground dragon, he had become very muscular, and there was no doubt in my mind that he could easily beat any one of us when it came to strength. His spines on his back had changed as well, now becoming clear like emerald, with his eyes to match. Lucky for himself and Rarity, he was near full-grown, if not already so. I was so happy when he chose to join the military with us all, as we would have great use for his protective instinct, magic, and physical strength. With training, he could easily become one of our elite warriors on the battlefield, with very few that could match him.

I smiled as Rarity was finishing up some last-minute changes to my suit, thinking about how much things had changed in only a month. Marriage...that was not something I'd expected at first, but now that I thought about it...I was glad. I was marrying Rainbow Dash today, and once I actually thought about how much I cared about her, I was surprised I hadn't done it sooner. I only hope she was less stressed about it than I was though.

Perspective change - Rainbow Dash


It wasn't something I felt often in my life. Usually, I was one of the most confident ponies around, and for good reason.

This was different though.

I was getting married...married. Married to the stallion I loved more than anypony else, and I was ecstatic. At the same time though, I was unbelievably nervous. I mean, what if I get up there and he decides he doesn't want to do this? What if I decide I didn't want to do this? So many things could happen, and the fact that I was worrying about it this much just worried me even more. It was weird to me that one thing could change the way I act so much.

My nerves were put on edge again when I heard the door to my dressing room open, revealing Luna. I had Luna to thank for all this. After all, she was the one that helped me talk Frost into it. While he definitely wanted to marry me, he wasn't the most active when it came to bringing it up. As Luna walked over to me, I felt my nerves start to dissolve, and somehow, she filled me with confidence and a feeling of calm.

She smiled warmly at me and sat on her haunches in front of me. "Dear Rainbow Dash, you look stunning. Rarity has done fine work, as always."

I nodded. "Yeah, Rare's always been great at making dresses."

She nodded in agreement before her face changed to a more serious look. "I take it you accept then what this means, right? Marriage with an alicorn, I mean."

Luna had explained to me just how much was riding on this. Marrying Frost would make me an alicorn...and in doing so would make me immortal. I remember when she spoke to me about it, she almost seemed like she was trying to talk me out of it. But no, I wanted this more than I'd ever wanted anything...even more than being a Wonderbolt. I had taken a few days to think about it of course though. I mean...living forever is a big deal after all, and I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into. One of the things most ponies would have thought about was how they'd have to watch their family and friends grow old and die while they just kept living. I was so afraid at first of what that meant, but Luna promised me that they'd always be there with me, and that I'd never have to be alone. That was all I'd needed to hear. As much as I made it a point to be all independent and whatnot, that didn't mean I wanted to be alone. The fact that I knew that I'd never be alone again made me sure I was making the right choice.

Snapping myself out of my little reverie, I just nodded and smiled. "Yep, I've thought all about it, Luna. I'm sure about this."

She pulled me close in a hug for a moment before pulling away with a smile. "I had to be sure. Remember what I told you...you will never be alone."

I nodded and continued fitting my dress and accessories on.

Perspective change - Darkflight

My older brother...getting married.

What. The. Fuck.

I remember the day he told all of us it seemed to come out of nowhere. I mean, I know they were together and all, but it's only been a year. Then again on Earth, some people don't even last that long. I guess a year makes sense then, but still. If I were in a jealous mood - which I'm totally not - I'd be shitting myself right now. I mean not only is he getting married to the Element of Loyalty, but he's also now the envy of nearly every stallion in town...no, in Equestria.

But not that I'm jealous or anything.

I really had been wanting to pop the question to AJ, but now it seems like I need to wait. Too soon and she'll think I wouldn't have thought of the idea myself, so for now I'd just grin and bear it. I just hope she'll say yes.

Lately, I'd been training Spike in combat and such. He couldn't fly like I could, but he was a hell of a lot stronger than me, which was weird considering he didn't look it. Because of that, I'd been training him on the different types of magic fire I'd learned, as well as hand-to-hand combat. Once he got the basics down, he easily overpowered me, so instead I switched to judo, where his power would mean next to nothing. Twilight Sparkle and his marefriend Rarity had been a little apprehensive about him joining the military, but they warmed up to it eventually. Spike's pretty much grown after all, and he deserves to be able to make his own choices.

Right now, however, I had more important things to worry about. It was my job to make sure the new royal necklace, hoof caps, and crown were ready for Rainbow Dash. I decided to make it Greek-style, because something about her just screamed Greek goddess.

Maybe it was her house...

Anyway, I set about making the hoof caps first. The metal itself would be an alloy of gold and platinum, making a bright, shiny gold color. I would temper the metal with my pink flame to add strength so it wouldn't bend or melt. Lastly, I added little lightning bolts swept back on all the caps, to give it some flair.

The necklace was going to be harder. It would be completely different from the other alicorns' wear, but I still had to make sure it held a royal quality to it. From what Frost told me, she had a fighter's personality at heart, so I made the necklace into a sort of breastplate. Because it wouldn't be worn when she was actually trying to fly fast, I could make it as royal and gaudy as I wanted. I made the piece itself into a basic shape not unlike Princess Luna's, but that was where the similarities ended. I had magesteel settings put in the chest, and added a different dragon's flame for every color of the rainbow. I had to reinforce the blue to make sure it didn't melt, but after that I was done.

Lastly was the crown. I was told she wasn't much for something huge and regal, so instead I settled for a golden olive branch design with a simple sapphire on the back. As I was putting the finishing touches on the necklace, I heard the door open behind me. I turned to see Princess Celestia and immediately saluted her.

She giggled and waved me off. "At rest, sergeant." I complied and relaxed, stepping back so she could look over my work. She stepped over to the table I had set the finished pieces on and looked over them, a grin on her face. Once she came across the necklace, however, she gasped. "Darkflight, this is amazing. How did you manage this?"

I chuckled and stepped forwards. "Well, it wasn't easy princess. The blue flame is hotter than most, so I had to reinforce the setting to make sure the heat was contained. The violet was the hardest, though. The violet flame has the power to be picked up and thrown like a hardened projectile, but only affects non-living substances. This means that while it's perfectly harmless to us, it could do massive damage to a building. With that being the case, I had to imbue the setting with a white flame to create a barrier that would keep it in place."

She nodded and smiled. "You've done well again, Darkflight. I wish I could make you a prince."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Nah, I'm good, believe me. If the dragons wanted to make me royalty, that's different. Among ponies though, I'm good just being a regular old dragon."

"You are far from average, Darkflight. You have shown this in many ways." she stated with a smile.

Oh...if only she knew.

Perspective change - Luna

There was little to do for the few hours before the ceremony began, and so I simply sat with Rainbow Dash and a few of our friends as we waited. There was stress because of the danger looming on the horizon, but today was a happy day...and not even what was to come could ruin the joyous atmosphere. The only one who had not seemed pleased was Fluttershy. She had smiled and nodded when the marriage was announced, but I could tell it was forced. Luckily I did not have to go all the way to her cottage to get her, as she was sitting right beside me at the moment.

She had not lifted her gaze from her hooves the entire time we had been sitting, and I had to find out why. I stood and looked down at her, a smile on my face. "Dear Fluttershy, would you mind coming with me for a moment? There is something I would like to speak to you about." All her friends eyed her with curiosity, but I ignored the looks.

She seemed visibly nervous now, which was to be expected. "Um...o-okay Princess Luna." She stood and followed me down the corridor to the gardens, where I sat near a tree in the shade. Almost immediately, birds began to land around Fluttershy as she sat down in front of me. I had always found her way with animals a form of magic on its own, and it excited me to actually come across something I did not fully understand.

We sat in silence for a few tense moments before I spoke, trying to sound as gentle and inviting as possible. "Fluttershy, I know this is all making you tense." She flinched at this, but I continued. "I admit, I do not know why. Could you please tell me why this is all making you so uneasy?"

She lowered her head a bit, hiding behind her silky pink mane. "Um...I-I'm sorry...it's just..." She fell silent again.

"Just what, my little pony?" I coaxed, getting a feel for the warming tone of voice Tia was skilled with.

She closed her eyes and sighed before continuing. "I feel like once this happens, I'm never going to see Rainbow Dash again. She..." She started to tear up a bit as she swallowed hard. "She's my best friend...and I don't want to lose her. She just means so much to me, and I feel like..."

I stood up and walked over to her, wrapping her in my wing as Frost would me when if I were feeling sad. "Dear Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash is getting married to Frost. However both of them think the world of you, and neither one would ever hurt you in such a way, that much I can assure you." She looked up at me with her ocean-blue eyes and I smiled at her. "Until the day you leave this world to the great beyond, Rainbow Dash will always be your friend. That will never change."

She looked hopeful, which was better than sad. "A-are you sure?"

I nodded and smiled again at her. "I am positive. Both of them care a great deal for you...you will never be left alone."

She sighed happily and pressed herself against me, reveling in the gentle embrace of my wing. "Thank you, Princess Luna. I feel so much better now."

"You are a friend, Fluttershy. I would have you simply call me Luna, if you wish." I stated with a smile.

She nodded. "Okay Luna. Well our friends are probably wondering where we are, so we should get back."

I nodded and released the small pegasus, watching her as she walked away. It was strange that one so small could hold such love for her friends. Her kindness and care is something we all could learn from.

Perspective change - Twilight Sparkle

Everything was going wrong, and I couldn't figure out why. It was just a simple spell I was supposed to cast, but for some reason I couldn't get it right. The spell was supposed to be like a firework show, but made of magic instead of blasting powder. For some reason, whenever I'd get it to the part where it was to break into the seven colors of the rainbow, it would end up backwards, with violet first instead of red. It was a simple issue, but with everything going on it was stressing me out. It shouldn't have, but it was. I mean, it was a marriage between one of my closest friends and Frost, so I had to make sure everything was perfect.

Perfect just wasn't in the cards today it seemed.

Lucky for me, before I could stress myself out anymore, Spike walked in my room. It had been weeks since I'd seen Spike for more than a few minutes, and I missed him a lot. He was like a brother to me...and having him gone most of the time now was a big change. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that maybe that was why I was getting stressed out so easily. There was just something about him that calmed me down. A feeling of security, and love.

I missed it so much.

"Hey Twi, how's it going?" he asked nonchalantly.

I could tell he knew I was stressed and he was just trying to make conversation, but for the moment I just let it go. I sighed and sat down, rubbing my temples with my hooves. "It's going just fantastic, Spike. The wedding is in a few hours and I just can't get this spell right."

He shrugged. "Well, maybe you're trying too hard."

I raised an eyebrow at him in a mixture of confusion and frustration. "Trying too hard? Is there such a thing?"

He nodded and walked over, sitting himself next to me. He was no longer the small little dragonling I raised from an egg. Now, he was a big powerful dragon that looked...regal. His changes to his body had given him a regal appearance...one that should be both revered, and feared. Still, to me he was my closest friend in the world, and a brother that wasn't a pony.

He smiled at me and nodded again. "Yes, there is such a thing as trying too hard. It's true that you have to focus when you're casting a spell, but if you focus too hard, you won't be able to feel it as well."

"Feel it? What are you talking about?" I asked in utter confusion.

Perspective change - Spike

I loved Twilight to death, but when she was being like this was when I would start to lose my patience. To think that a pony so smart could forget the most basic things sometimes.

I just stood behind her and massaged her shoulders lightly. "You need to relax, Twi...you're too stressed out. You're not going to be casting any spell right if you don't relax."

She huffed in frustration and lowered her head. "I'm sorry Spike...I've just got a lot on my mind is all."

Contrary to what Twilight thought about me, I was every bit as smart as she was, though it was a little against my will. When I was younger, she made it a point to have me study with her, reading, testing, and writing all sorts of things. Now that I had awakened most of my dragon abilities, I have to admit that the extra intelligence came in handy. All the same, I could now tell exactly what was wrong with her, and it was as obvious as if she had a giant sign glued to her horn.

"It's about me, isn't it?" I asked softly. She flinched a bit and I removed my hands from her, moving around to kneel in front of her. "Isn't it?"

She was silent for a long time before nodding. "I'm sorry Spike...I just miss you is all. Even with all my friends coming by all the time the library just seems so...empty. It's felt like that ever since you started sleeping over at Rarity's. I mean do you realize this is the longest time we've spent together in almost two weeks?"

She was right of course, and while I did have a good reason, it was still my fault. "Sorry Twi...the training's been keeping me pretty busy, and afterwards I want to make sure I see Rarity. I mean, you can always come visit us." It was at that moment I realized I'd made a mistake.

"Well why don't you visit me? It's like you don't even care about me anymore!" she shouted.

The fact that she felt this way just made me feel worse. I mean now that I thought about it, even Rarity had suggested I visit Twilight. Maybe I had been neglecting her more than I thought. "Look Twi, I'm sorry. Things have just been really crazy is all. I still care about you the same I always have though. Just because I'm not around as much doesn't mean I'm not still your friend."

Her expression instantly changed to one of embarrassment, and she shifted a bit before replying. "I…I'm sorry Spike. You don't deserve this...I just miss you so much. I mean, we've lived together for five years. It's just so strange not having you around anymore, and it hurts sometimes. I can't just call for you when I'm feeling sad or stressed…" she trailed off, tears beginning to form in the corner of her eyes.

I stepped forward and hugged her tight, stroking her mane in a comforting way. "Twilight, I have no reason to ever leave. I'll follow you wherever you go, and that's a promise. I love Rarity a lot, but you…you're family. You're like my sister, and you come first. Just like Sweetie Belle comes first for Rarity, you come first for me. It's always going to be that way, and that's never going to change." Finally being tall enough to do so, I kissed her on her forehead and smiled as she looked up at me. "I'm going to be moving out soon, as I've begun building my own home near the forest, but you'll always know where to find me. I'd never just leave you, and now you know that."

She finally smiled, albeit through tears, and rubbed her cheek against my chest. It was weird with Twilight technically being older than me that I was the one to comfort her like this, but I just ignored the feeling. She was obviously missing me, and I realized that it was mostly my fault. She needed me, and I was going to be the best dragon I could for her.

After a few minutes of hugging, she spoke, though softly. "Spike?"

"Hmm?" I hummed in acknowledgement.

She pulled away and smiled at me. "I'm so proud of you. You've turned out to be a strong, caring dragon. I couldn't have asked for a better friend."

I chuckled and ran my fingers through her mane. "Well you could ask, but you wouldn't find one."

She rolled her eyes and giggled. "Okay Rainbow Dash."

Perspective change – Vinyl Scratch

A year…have they been together that long already? I mean it seems like yesterday that Frost came to Terra, and already he was getting married, to Rainbow Dash no less. I mean don't get me wrong, I loved the mare to death, because she was every bit as plucky as I was and was fun to boot. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little jealous. Yeah I know it's weird to know that Vinyl Scratch of all ponies was thinking about marriage, but still…the idea of it being with Frost made it seem a lot more awesome than normal. It's okay though, I'd have my turn with time. Besides, I was in no hurry really. I knew Frost loved me and I loved him back, and for the time being that's all that mattered.

At everypony's request, I was going to be taking care of the music at the wedding, save for the Wedding March song...that would be Tavi's responsibility. I'd already let both of the princesses listen to the music I had planned, and they were pleasantly surprised. I'd chosen a lot of ambient music for most of the wedding – which was a change for me. What really excited me was the reception though. It was going to be one hay of a party...me and Pinkie Pie were going to make sure of that.

Who knows, maybe we'd get to see the princesses dance.

The thing that was in the back of my mind was the reason why we were doing this. I mean, everypony had already heard about the monsters that were gathering all over Terra, so it wasn't like it was a secret. That's the reason I had to make sure this party went well. This party was meant to raise the spirits of everypony to make sure that whatever was to come, they'd be able to push through it. I was never one for fighting, so I instead chose to use my skills to keep up the morale of everypony in the coming days.

What worried me the most was that most of my friends were going to be going to war. Lyra had decided to stay, but most everypony else was going. Applejack, Twilight, Rainbow Dash…even Pinkie Pie had joined the military. Needless to say the two wolves and two dragons had joined as well, and while at first everypony was afraid of them, they now felt pride and courage well up within them. We thought of it this way: sure, they looked scary…but just imagine how much damage they'll do to the enemy. Lastly but certainly not least, nearly every royal was going to be fighting, with the exception of Prince Blueblood. It was going to be strange having the three princesses going to war, but they assured us that it was for us that they were doing it. Everything was coming together now, so I had to make sure I did my part too.

I was busy setting up the last of my equipment when Pinkie Pie walked over with a bright smile. "Hiya Vivi!"

The pet name was her own creation, and while it bothered me a little at first, I couldn't help but love it now. It made me feel special that my friend would come up with a unique nickname just for me, and I liked it.

I smiled and nodded back, pushing my glasses up to rest on my horn, revealing my bright crimson eyes. "Hey Pinkie, it's good to see ya girl. What are you up to?"

"Oh you know, just checking to make sure everything's going okay. I want this party to be just perfect for Dashie and Frostie, so I have to make sure that Equestria's best DJ is doing okay." she answered with a wide smile.

I grinned and raised an eyebrow at her. "You know Pinkie, any other mare might think you're flirting when you say something like that."

She smiled mischievously and hopped up on the stage beside me. "Who says I'm not?"

My mouth dropped open in shock, and I stuttered as I tried to find a response. "Um…w-wow…was not expecting that at all."

She stared at me for the longest time before bursting out laughing. Oh…oh Vivi, you should have seen your face!"

I rolled my eyes and smiled. "Nice one Pinkie, good joke."

"I said your face was funny, I never said I was joking." she explained with a grin.

Yet again, I was shocked. I couldn't honestly say I didn't find the pink mare attractive on a number of levels. I mean, she was just so fun. She loved music, she was playful, and she was just all around happy. I mean who wouldn't love that? That doesn't mean I was any less surprised though that my secret crush for a number of years was actually flirting with me, and I started blushing like mad.

Having a white coat sucks sometimes.

When she saw me blushing, she started to giggle that wonderful, bubbly giggle that always made me smile. Even with my embarrassment, I couldn't help but grin as her laughs tickled my eardrums.

She placed a hoof around my neck and pulled me against her side. "Oh Vivi, you're so cute when you blush."

"N-no I'm not!" I retorted. It was weird that she could get this behavior out of me after knowing her for so many years. I mean I couldn't help but act the same way around Frost, but I'd only known him for about a year now. Pinkie was different. Everypony knew her, knew who she was, knew what she was like…but only her closest friends knew what she was really like. On the outside, she was always happy about everything and lived for the party, but recently I'd found out that inside she was just as damaged and cynical as I was. I guess her dad hanging himself would do that to her.

The day she told me that story was the day I felt a warmth and strength I'd only felt a few times before in my life. It was a sad story, but the fact that she trusted me with something so personal and so painful…it changed our relationship from that moment. I was trusted and cared for, and this was reinforced when Frost told me that only he and a few others had ever been told the story. Only a few other times in my life had I felt so special…so trusted. I mean sure, Frost told all of us everything, so there weren't any secrets with him, but somehow a pony having a secret and then trusting me enough to tell it just felt much more special. I mean I didn't have as dark a past as Pinkie did, but I have my own share of secrets…some of which not even Lyra or Tavi knew.

I bumped my rump against the fluffy-maned pony with a grin. "Well I'd be lying if I said you weren't cute too. I mean that mane…those eyes…mmm…" She blushed furiously now, the red of her cheeks showing through the pink of her coat. I did a hoof pump and giggled. "Aw yeah! Vinyl's still got it, baby!"

Pinkie giggled and bumped back against me. "Oh Vivi, you're silly!"

The next hour was pretty uneventful. Pinkie went back to making sure the wedding and reception would go off without a hitch, and Lyra had arrived shortly thereafter. We all sat on the stage just talking as the hundreds – no, thousands - of ponies started pouring in the open field. Everyone was calm until Frost's guests arrived.

Then all Tartarus broke loose.

Here in Ponyville, we had all become very comfortable and even friendly with the two dragons and two wolves, but apparently the rest of Equestria was not so open-minded. Mares and fillies were screaming, and even some colts and stallions were running as well. All of the ponies of Ponyville simply stared at the rest of them in annoyance, while I just grinned.

Perspective change – Luna

I was now galloping along with Twilight towards the field that was to be the place for the wedding, but things were taking a turn for the worse. As Moonfang, Venn, Darkflight, and Spike arrived, most of the ponies not from Ponyville were in an uproar.

When I arrived upon the scene, the four that were inadvertently causing the panic were sitting quietly away from the ponies, while Twilight and Rarity were attempting to restore order. Unfortunately, they lacked both the numbers and the presence to evoke such peace in the panicking masses.

I stood tall on the stage and cleared my throat before amplifying my voice. "SILENCE!"

Immediately all the ponies turned their eyes to me and I stepped off of the stage towards Darkflight and the other three. When I arrived, the black dragon smiled weakly at me and stood tall.

He saluted me, placing a fist on his chest and bowing slightly before standing again. "Good afternoon, Princess. I'm sorry that this happened. I was really hoping the ponies here would be more understanding."

I nodded and turned to the others. "All of you come with me please." We all headed towards the stage and stepped upon it, the group taking place around me. I looked out over the crowd as they chatted quietly amongst themselves. I amplified my voice again, albeit at a lower volume so that everypony would hear me without being afraid. "Dear ponies of Equestria, do not fret. These four pose no danger to any of you. They are personal friends of myself, Princess Celestia, and Prince Frostbreaker."

A pale brown stallion that I recognized as Filthy Rich stepped forward with a near-snarl on his face. "Princess Luna, you cannot truly expect us to believe that these four…miscreants…are friends of yours. Two ravenous dragons and two mangy wolves? It's preposterous."

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't call my best dragon and three friends mangy or ravenous, thank you." said a booming baritone voice from above.

Myself and everypony else looked above to see Frostbreaker in his ice armor with a menacing aura radiating off of him. He descended and landed directly in front of the pompous foal of a stallion, causing the entire crowd to drop to a knee.

Frost rolled his eyes and sighed. "You may all stand, please." Everypony then stood again and stared in awe at the battle-ready prince. Filthy Rich stood as well, though he was now trembling in place.

"Prince Frostbreaker, I did not kn-" he attempted to explain before he was cut off by the angry alicorn.

"I don't care what you know or didn't know. The fact that you blatantly insulted three of my best friends and my brother is more than enough information, thank you." He deadpanned. The crowd gasped and he nodded. "I know you've all heard rumors about it, and so I will put the rumors to rest right now." He pointed at Darkflight with a hoof. "That dragon is my younger brother," he then gestured to Venn, "and that wolf is a friend from my world." The crowd collectively gasped again and he nodded. "Yes, you heard right, I'm not of this world. I could explain to you what I was and where I came from, but it would only frighten you. This is meant to be a day of celebration, so does anypony else have any more questions?" The crowd was silent. "Good, then on we go." The crowd calmed down and sat on the lawn in front of the stage, but Frost wasn't done yet; he pointed a hoof at Filthy Rich. "You, Mr. Rich, can leave. You aren't welcome here anymore."

The stallion in question gasped in surprise. "Y-you can't do that!"

Frost sneered at him and stood tall before him, using his very presence to intimidate the smaller stallion. "Excuse me good sir, but do you actually presume to tell me what I can and cannot do at my own bucking wedding? Now I'll say it again, leave. If you do not comply this time, I will have the guards forcibly remove you."

Defeated and humiliated, the pony gathered his family and left. A white unicorn with a stunningly styled blue mane and suit then approached Frostbreaker with a smile. "Well done, boy, well done. I'd been waiting for somepony to tell that stick-in-the-mud what was what."

"Umm, thank you sir. And you are?" Frost said with a small smile.

The pony then looked embarrassed. "Ah, forgive my lack of manners. I am Fancy Pants, father to Silver Spoon and husband to Onyx. It's a pleasure to meet you, Prince Frostbreaker."

Frost smiled wide and took the unicorn's hoof and shook it. "Likewise. It's always nice to find that the rich aren't all pompous windbags."

The unicorn stallion smiled and shook his head. "Unlike Filthy Rich, I wasn't always well-to-do. I worked hard for what I have now, so that may be why I am less like that horrendous foal."

Frost nodded and continued smiling. "Well then, it will be a pleasure to have you here on one of the most important days of my life. Contrary to Filthy Rich, you are more than welcome to stay and enjoy yourself. Thank you for coming, sir." Steel then spotted me and trotted over with a smile. "Well hello, my lovely lunar goddess. How does this day find you?"

I blushed at the compliment and nuzzled him affectionately. "I am well, Frost, thank you. And how are you? That was some display you just made."

He shrugged. "I mean he was already making the whole thing a tense atmosphere, so I had to get rid of him. I'm nervous as hay right now, and you know how Dash is. She doesn't do too well with things like this as it is, so she's probably a nervous wreck at this point."

Perspective change - Celestia

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh..." rambled the nervous cyan pegasus.

Call it my innate mischievousness, but I couldn't help but grin at first when she was doing this. By now, however, it had not abated, and she had been doing it for over an hour. In another twenty minutes, she would need to be ready to walk down the aisle...so I had to put a stop to it. Coaxing hadn't worked, yelling wouldn't work...so that really only left me one option besides sealing her mouth shut.

I mean if Luna could do it, surely I could.

As Rainbow Dash turned around to walk towards me again, I grabbed her face in my hooves and kissed her the same I would Frost, full and on the lips. Her eyes shot open in surprise and I released her.

Well, she was no longer rambling at least.

"W-w-what w-was that f-for?" she asked, her voice shaky and utterly confused.

I sighed. "To get you to calm down." I then sat next to her and rubbed her back softly with a hoof, taking care to avoid her wings. "Rainbow Dash, you are ready for this...I promise you. Do you love Frostbreaker?" She nodded. "And do you want to spend your life with him?" She nodded again and I smiled warmly at her. "Then you're ready."

She looked up at me curiously. "A-are you sure?"

"Rainbow Dash, you have made it through his coma, his death, and his corruption. You have been able to handle those with relative ease. All a marriage says is that even through all that, you still love him and want to spend your life with him." I finished with a gentle brush of her mane.

She smiled softly and nodded, heading towards the tent that would "hide" her until she was to walk up the aisle. Before she left the doors, however, she looked back at me with a grin. "Thanks, Celestia."

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

It was finally time, so I stood up on the stage with my brother, Venn, and Moonfang, waiting for Dash. I marveled at the tux Rarity had made me, quite pleased that she had it so perfect with both my tastes and the color...but then again, she was Rarity after all. I could see my mother in the front row leaning against Big Mac, bawling by now. My sister however felt the need to make stupid faces in an attempt to get me to laugh, and she almost succeeded.

I was thankful that luckily a marriage here seemed to be pretty much the same as the ones on Earth, save that apparently there were no need for vows, as they were to be done in private after the reception. I was thankful of this, because I wouldn't be able to say my vow in front of thousands of ponies, most of whom I didn't even know.

I must have been zoning off, as I felt my brother jab my side with a spiked elbow. I glared at him before he nodded towards the small tent set at the other end of the aisle. The music had already been playing and I wasn't sure how I'd missed it, but I looked to the tent just in time to see Dash step out of it.

By every god everywhere in every dimension...she was beautiful.

The gown she wore was made of the brightest white fabric, and I could swear it was glowing. However, the end that was supposed to trail must have been enchanted or something, because it swayed softly in the wind, like Celly's tail and mane did. When she walked, the fabric shimmered as if it were imbued with rainbows, and the dress itself draped over her figure perfectly. I'd have to remember to thank Rarity for such a beautiful dress.

I couldn't see through the veil over my bride-to-be's face, but I could tell she was smiling. I felt a surge of energy behind me, and I could tell Celestia had teleported there, but I kept my gaze focused on Dash. After what felt like an eternity, she was now standing on the stage in front of me. We smiled at each other and then turned to the sun princess, who smiled back at us.

The princess cleared her throat and stood tall, amplifying her voice so that all could hear. "Dear ponies, we come here to celebrate the union of two lives becoming one. This union was wrought from struggle, some pain, but most of all...from love. May we all strive for the connection these two have found, and may we all find it." She then turned to Dash and smiled. "Rainbow Dash, Element of Loyalty...do you solemnly swear to love and protect dear Frostbreaker, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"

Dash nodded without hesitation. "I do, princess."

Celestia nodded and turned to me, her grin getting even wider. "Prince Frostbreaker; Element of the Guardian, avatar of winter...do you solemnly swear to love and protect Rainbow Dash, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"

I nodded as well. "I do, Celestia."

She then closed her eyes and raised her wings, Luna taking place beside her and doing the same. Both of their horns began to glow and their power encompassed both myself and Dash. The feeling was warm, comforting, and tingly. I could swear I heard Dash giggling (she's very ticklish). The light became so intense, but not so intense I had to shield my eyes. After the light began to die down, I looked over at Dash, to notice that she was now a giant ball of light with a cyan and gold beam connecting the two of us. Before my eyes, the light began to take shape. As the shape began to become more defined, I saw that it was as tall as Luna, with a long flowing mane and tail like the rest of us. The figure spread its wings, immediately dissipating the light.

Standing in front of me was Rainbow Dash. Save for being taller and more muscular, she was every bit the same she always was, save for her longer tail and mane...and the new magic horn sticking out of her forehead. Through some sort of spell that Luna had used, she was wearing her royal necklace and such, and so was I.

Celestia then raised her wings and smiled at the both of us before looking out over the crowd. "Citizens of Equestria, I present to you Prince Frostbreaker and Princess Rainbow Dash!"

The cloud roared with applause, and that's when I saw a slew of magical rockets shoot into the sky, and I could spot Twilight with a strained face, her horn glowing brightly. Looking up at the sky, the rockets burst into the usual firework displays. One of a starburst, one of a palm tree effect, and another of the "sparkling" effect. The last one, however, was different. The last rocket was a massive multi-colored ball of energy that was spectacular to watch, but all my awe increased tenfold when it exploded. The design was my cutie mark with Dashie's inside of a heart, and lastly backed by a massive magic rainbow.

I heard a gasp beside me and looked to see Dash with her mouth hanging open. "Sh-she made a rainbow with magic? H-how is that even possible?"

I kissed her on the cheek and wrapped a wing around my new bride. "It's Twilight, Dashie. If it's magic and it's physically possible to do, she'll find a way."

She smiled and planted a kiss on my lips, lingering for a moment before pulling away and looking deep into my eyes. I noticed a new power within her, and with her ability to use magic now, I was sure she was going to be quite the fighter in the war to come. She smiled at me and nuzzled my neck, giggling a bit. "I love you, Frost."

I leaned against her a bit, enjoying the feel of her coat against mine. "I love you too, my princess."

Chapter 9: Reception Reunion

Chapter 9: Reception Reunion

Perspective change - Rainbow Dash

This is going to take some getting used to...

Not the princess part, as I'd already made my peace with that. No...the 'new body' part. I mean, going from four feet tall up to six and a half...it's a pain. Let's just say that I'd be looking rather stupid tripping all over myself were it not for Frost standing right next to me during this reception. A good thing is that I don't have to stand on my rear legs just to hug Frost anymore, so that's a plus.

The good news is that I can fly just as easy, if not easier. I couldn't help but show off a bit, feeling awesome with my new long mane and tail flowing in the wind behind me. Maybe I can't walk all that great yet, but I was born for flying, no matter what body I have. I noticed that now I leave a soft rainbow contrail in my wake, even if I'm not performing a Sonic Rainboom.

Oh yeah...I'm still awesome.

After a few minutes of letting Frost entertain the guests, I landed next to him, stumbling a bit as I did so. He pressed up against me to offer support, and I nodded in thanks.

"Ugh...how do you get around so easily? I mean, these legs are so long...it's like I'm walking on tree trunks!" I said out loud.

He chuckled and smiled at me. "Remember Dashie, you're talking to a guy that used to use only two legs for walking...and used to have hands. It took about a whole week of practice before I was comfortable with it. Luckily for you, you already know how to walk on four legs, so all you have to account for is the change in stature. Take your time with it, and I'm sure you'll have it down by the end of the day." He then grinned and motioned to a gathering a ways away. "On a lighter note, Spitfire, Soarin, and Fleetfoot are here. Want to go say hi?"

I tried to act cool, but I couldn't help but let out a little fanmare squeal quietly. "Would I ever! Come on, Frost, let's go!" He chuckled and walked slowly with me through the crowd towards where the Wonderbolts were.

As we wormed our way around the many ponies, greeting and smiling to them as we passed, Spitfire noticed us right away. I mean I was double the size of the average pony, and Frost was even taller than me.

"Oh! Your highnesses!" she greeted with excitement. I have to admit, it was a little weird getting such a response out of my long-time idol, but I played it cool and soon we were standing in front of her. As I expected, she bowed and I just nodded politely as she did so. Once she stood, I saw probably the biggest smile I've ever seen on her face. She looked at me and gasped. "Hey, you're the same pony that saved us a few years ago during the Best Young Fliers' Competition, aren't you?"

I nodded and grinned warmly. "Yep, that's me."

"And now you're a princess? Wow...that's intense. Well, it's a pleasure." she said politely, though I could tell she was a little nervous. This was also weird for me. You see, I had always seen Spitfire as the most confident pegasus I'd ever seen. I spent most of my life learning to fly like her...wanting to be her, so this was odd to see her acting so nervously.

I decided I was going to find out what this was all about, so I nodded to Frost before turning back to Spitfire. "Hey Spitfire, do you mind if we talk in private for a moment?"

She was a little surprised, but nodded all the same. "Um...sure." She turned to the other two ponies in her group and smiled. "Hey guys, I'll be back in just a sec, okay?" They nodded and I led Spitfire off behind the building, where it was just the two of us.

When we got there, I could swear I saw sweat beading on her forehead. "Umm...I have to ask, Spitfire...why so nervous?"

She cringed a little when I asked her this, but she took a few breaths and settled herself into a sitting position. "Let me guess, you're going to try and use your royal push now to try and weasel your way into the Wonderbolts, right? Well that's why I'm nervous, because I have to tell you no. You see, we can't just let anypon-"

I cut her off with a gasp. "Wait a minute, you think that's what me wanting to hang around you is about? I have to be honest, I'm a little offended you think I'd pull something like that."

She looked embarrassed now, and afraid. "Oh, by Celestia, I swear I didn't mean it to come out that way. Please forgive me, princess..."

She was shaking now in fear, so I softly placed a hoof on one of hers, and she instantly stopped. She looked up at me and I tried to copy the same warm smile Celestia would always give us when we were sad or worried. It must have worked, because she calmed down. "Look Spitfire, I'm not all 'wrath and anger' here...I'm just not that kind of pony, and I'm not going to be that kind of princess either. First of all, you don't need to be nervous around me at all. I mean," I let out a small sigh before continuing, "do you even know how much I trained to be able to fly the way you do? I mean, you're my bucking idol! Princess or not, that hasn't changed at all. I still look up to you a lot, and you'll always be what I shoot for." She blushed a bit at this, so I smiled again before continuing. "Something you need to know about me is that I have a lot of pride in my abilities, but only because I've worked so darn hard to get to where I am. Simply being given a spot on the Wonderbolts just because I'm royalty would make me feel cheated. No...if I get into the Wonderbolts with you someday, I want it to be fair and square, just like every other pony."

She finally relaxed and let out a breath she'd been holding. "Whew...that's a big load off of my chest. I'm so happy you're not like most of the nobles, all wanting things given to them simply because they're upper class."

I shook my head and smiled. "No, I'm not...and Frost is the same way. Both of us grew up having to work for what we have, and I prefer it that way. If I get something handed to me for free, I feel like I don't deserve it."

Spitfire smirked at me and stood, flapping her wings to float so she could look at me eye-level. "Well after this whole thing with Death is over, I think you've earned a shot to try out and put your skills to the test. I mean, you are known as the fastest thing in the air, and you did save our lives at the Best Young Fliers' Competition. Whaddaya say?"

I couldn't help but feel giddy and giggle a bit, but quickly composed myself and nodded furiously. "That would be great, Spitfire. I don't want you to go easy on me though. When I finish, win or lose, I want to know that I was judged fairly, and that I gave it my all to get through it. Deal?"

She nodded and grabbed my hoof, shaking it firmly. "Deal." She then smirked again, nodding towards the crowd that surrounded Frost. "So...what's he like?"

I raised an eyebrow, confused. "What do you mean by 'what's he like'?" She raised her eyebrows twice suggestively, and I blushed in realization. "O-oh, umm...wow. I wasn't expecting that question at all."

She giggled and nudged me with her shoulder as we sat side-by-side. "S-sorry, I was just curious is all. I mean he is from another world, and I've heard quite a few rumors about him."

I looked at her, confused. "What kind of rumors?"

"I'm sorry...you don't have to answer if you don't want to." she added quickly.

I shook my head and smiled. "Nah, we're both grown mares here. No harm in a little question like that. So what rumors did you hear? I'll confirm or refute them for ya."

"Well...one says that he uses his horn to..." she trailed off bashfully.

I giggled and shook my head. "Untrue...although he does use a lot of magic."

She nodded. "How about orally? I've heard he's about as gifted with that as he is with ice magic."

The question set off a little pleasurable twinge in me as memories surged forth. I smiled dreamily and nodded, blushing a bit. "Oh yeah, that's true."

"What about that he can please six mares all at once?" Spitfire asked, blushing herself now.
I giggled at the memory and shrugged. "Well, that was only one time, and he was pretty drained from it. I mean he's a hay of a stallion all right, but he's not all-powerful." I then looked at her in curiosity. "Why all the questions, if I might ask? Aren't you and Soarin..."

She gasped and looked nervous again. "You know about that?"

I rolled my eyes and nodded. "Of course I know about that. I mean I only saw you two kiss once, and that was in private. Still...friends - drunk or sober - do not kiss like that." She looked nervous still, so I placed a hoof on her shoulder and smiled at her. "Don't worry Spitfire, my lips are sealed. I don’t know why you want to keep it a secret, but I'm not going to tell anypony about it either."

She breathed a sigh of relief and stood up, motioning back to the party. "Well thanks for that, Rainbow Dash. What do you say we get back to the party, eh?"

I nodded and flew back with her to the reception.

Perspective change - Luna

I could not help but smile non-stop at the reception party for Frostbreaker and Rainbow Dash. Part of it was because of the joyous occasion in itself, while the other part was because of the bride's awkwardness with ponies bowing to her, as well as the obvious awkwardness with her new body. Tia, myself, and Twilight all stayed seated on three makeshift thrones, Twilight between Tia and I. Thankfully even with all the ponies that attended, only the ones not from Ponyville or Canterlot made it a point to attempt to flatter Tia or myself, so most of the party was rather quiet for the three of us, which was just how I liked it.

Suddenly, during the gift-giving portion of the party, I felt something was off for some reason. I couldn't explain it, but something just felt...wrong somehow. Like a foreboding feeling that something was going to happen, though I knew not what. I had always had a good sense of things like this, so I chose to follow the feeling and made contact with Tia.

Sister...something is amiss.”

What do you speak of Luna? The party is going wonderfully.”

Yes, it is...but that is not what I speak of. Or perhaps it is...I do not know.”

“Luna? What's wrong?”

I do not know, sister...but I feel like something is going to happen. I know not what, but the feeling is strong and all around me.”

...Very well, Luna...I trust your instincts. Gather the guard. I will make contact with all the Elements and advise them of this. Meet me back here in a few minutes.”

Understood, sister. Be careful.”

You as well, Luna.”

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

I noticed an uneasy expression on both Luna and Celly's faces as they got up to do something, but my answer was given to me as Celestia made contact with me.

Frost...Luna feels there is something amiss here. I need you to fly with Rainbow Dash overhead and try and spot if anything is coming this way, or if you see anything out of the ordinary.”

Understood, Celestia. Will do.”

Rainbow Dash had just returned with Spitfire, and I could tell she knew something was wrong as soon as she looked at me. I spoke first, so as to avoid any questions.

"Hey Dash, care to take a short flight with me?" I asked, faking a smile.

The smile fooled the ponies around us, but Dash knew me too well for it to fool her. She faked a smile as well, then nodded. "Alright Frost. Let's go!" With a strong flap of our wings, we were soon high above everypony. We both landed on a small cloud floating overhead, and when Dash saw we were alone, she looked at me worried. "Okay Frost, what's up?"

I sighed and shook my head. "I'm not sure, Dashie. Celly just told me that Luna feels something is going to happen here, but we don't know what. Celestia asked me to take you and scout the skies, looking for anything out of the ordinary on the ground."

She gasped, obviously thinking the same thing I was. "Do you think..."

I nodded. "Think about it for a second: large open space with a whole lot of ponies all in one place, along with both princesses, me, and all the Elements of Harmony...it's a definite possibility."

"How do you figure?" she asked, now worried even more.

I sighed and hung my head low for a moment in realization. "Because it's what I would do." I stood up again and traded my worried look for a stern one. "Dash, I need you to get the other girls to help and get everypony out of here. Move them to the Whitetail Wood, and have Fluttershy look after them. I'll make contact with the rest and tell them to meet us all back here. now go!" She nodded and sped off, using her superior speed to quickly round everypony up and start herding them off to the forest.

I looked towards the Everfree Forest, noticing a great number of birds flying away from the treetops as something disturbed them from their roosts. I clenched my jaw and summoned my ice armor.

So it begins...

Perspective change - Twilight Sparkle

Thanks to the training I'd done in military tactics, I'd already planned for just such an attack, so I had all the guards as well as my friends don their armor and weapons that I'd made sure was brought with us. Yes...with the coming conflict, Darkflight had created armor and arms for all of us who would be fighting in it, including myself.

My 'armor' was actually a scaled robe, made of what Darkflight called pseudo-dragon skin. Oddly enough, the robe actually did look like dragon scales, but was made of an alloy of magesteel and titanium that was very light, so as not to impede my movement. It was colored black with silver trim, and it seemed to glow with an ominous energy.

Applejack wore full plated armor, suited for her head-on attack tactics. She looked downright frightening, but she was every bit the kind friend we knew her as. Her armor was bright red with bronze trim, and an imprint of her cutie mark was on either side of the flank.

Lyra wore a robe like mine, except hers was colored silver, with turquoise trim. I was surprised that she had chosen to join, but brushed the thought off. We were going to need all the help we could get.

Pinkie was the biggest surprise so far. First of all, I had never expected her to even be in this conflict as a fighter. The largest surprise was her armor and arms, however. Pinkie had trained to fight on two legs instead of four, and was incredibly talented at it. She wore leggings and a shirt made of something akin to leather, but then I saw her mane. Her mane was straight, and a determined and serious look was in her eyes. On her back she wore a very large mace, spiked with a long chain attached to it, anchoring it to her at her wrist by a steel bracer. I had never been downright scared of Pinkie Pie before...but there's a first for everything.

My brother and all the guards had already arrived dressed in their best armor, but the last to arrive was the five royals. I had never seen either of the princesses or Cadence in battle armor before, but the sight was breathtaking.

Celestia was in full golden armor that covered every inch of her, with a pair of axes on her back. Her mane and tail had been braided tightly so as to keep them from impeding her during battle, and her entire form was glowing with a golden fiery aura.

Luna was a completely different story altogether. She wore nothing but a solid black cloak and bracers as far as armor went, but when she shifted I could see a wide array of throwing knives, daggers, and two small swords tucked in a belt around her waist. Her mane and tail had somehow been magically shortened, and they held tight against her body. Had the situation not been dire, I would have told her she looked downright amazing.

Last of the princesses was Cadence, and she wore bright silver armor. Her armor was separated into several plates, and although it was clearly strong, it seemed to be somewhat lacking as far as protection went. I assumed that she would be outfitted for something other than direct fighting, so I let the thought go for now.

The next to arrive was Rainbow Dash and Frost, who came from the palace. Frost was wearing the icy armor he preferred to anything else, as well as two black swords labeled "Void" and "Abyss". Rainbow Dash's armor had been reforged and refitted to accommodate her new body size. She looked absolutely incredible in it, as the sunlight of midday made the armor shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. She had been fitted with two forearm blades, as well as blades on her wing tips.

With all of us gathered, we waited for the enemy to arrive. It didn't take long, as we could start to see movement from within the trees of Everfree Forest, as well as several animals and even a manticore come scampering out in fear.

"Get ready!" Frost yelled to us all, and I noted that two familiar wolves - now clad in full armor with a sword and shield each - stood next to him at the front.

We all readied ourselves for attack, but then the area became unnervingly quiet. The only sound was each other's breathing, and it started to scare me. Suddenly, however, I saw Frost tense up as a lone figure stepped out from the treeline.

It was a tall alicorn stallion, pure black with pale silver eyes. His mane and tail were a very dark red - the color of blood.

Frost stepped forward towards the stallion, meeting him midfield, and the two began to speak, being only a few paces away from each other.

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

I stood a few paces away from the stallion, restraining myself from lunging at him and killing him right there and then. Something told me that would be very stupid, so I followed my instincts and stayed put.

"Ah Drew, it's been so long since I've seen you. What has it been, a month? My, how time flies." he stated smugly. "By the way, wonderful wedding. So sorry I had to crash it, but duty calls. You know how it is."

I wasn't sure what kind of mind game he was trying to play, so I just kept my mind cool and my expression unreadable. "What do you want, Death?"

He snorted in a short laugh, then smirked again. "Well I think it's obvious, don't you? I want Terra, my dear boy."

"Why? What do you gain from ruling over this planet?" I asked, still holding a stoic face.

He shook his head and grinned. "Why, what anyone gains by ruling...power. Surely that bitch of a mother taught you that much."

I had to restrain from flinching at his remark, but instead grinned as well. "Well, I hope you don't mind being banished to the elemental plane for a few thousand years then. You've overstepped your bounds, Death...and you're going to be punished for it if you don't back down."

He frowned in mock offense. "Now, is that any way to talk to your father?"

I growled and glared at him. "You're not my father. I don't give a shit if you planted me in my mother's womb...that doesn't make you my father."

"You forget, boy...I need you." he said before grinning menacingly and looking at the ponies behind me. "I don't, however, need them."

He blinked, and before any of us could react, seven skeletal gryphons leapt from the ground and tore into the nearest guard, nearly instantly killing each one. My friends got a hold of the situation quickly, however, and dispatched the undead horrors.

"DEATH! YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR TRESPASSES!" shouted a loud voice from behind me.
I turned to see a tall pink alicorn with a long flowing mane of crimson. I was confused at first until I recognized the armor it was wearing.

It was Cadence's armor.

"Life? No, this is not possible. How?" Death responded, with just a bit of fear in his voice. He turned back to me and growled, "You got lucky, boy. I will return, however...and next time I'll make you wish you were dead." He disappeared in a flash of light, and the area was suddenly teeming with the sound and feeling of life again.

I turned to look at the damage, noticing that five guards - four stallions and one mare - had been killed by the undead before we could react, but luckily other than some scrapes and a bruise, the rest were unharmed. I did recognize one of the guards, however...

"Brightwing...no..." I mouthed in a whisper.

I could see Twilight looking a little green before running off, Lyra with a similar expression right behind her. I walked up to the avatar of life and nodded.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Life. I do wish it were under other circumstances, however." I stated solemnly.

The glowing avatar nodded and let loose a tear as she looked at the five dead ponies. "I agree. I wish it did not have to come to this, but Death was always the greedy one of the two of us." She sighed and lowered her head in shame. "I am sorry all of you have been drawn into this."

I shook my head and tentatively placed a hoof around her shoulder in an effort to comfort her. "Life, it's not your fault. Your brother would have escaped his imprisonment eventually, and because he controls one of the elements of nature, we can't simply destroy him. We're all in this together, and we're all going to get out of it together."

Life looked at me and smiled, nodding. "You are right, thank you for that, Winter." She stood proudly again and smiled. "Well so long as Death knows I am around, he will not attack Equestria. It is safe to assume until he figures out a way around me, he's going to stay quiet for awhile." She then motioned to Celestia, Luna, and me. "The three of you will need to make contact and keep in contact with all of the other territories and provinces throughout Terra, so that we can track Death's movements. Though they are not a part of Equestria, the rulers will need assistance if Death decides to attack them to get to us. We must be ready for that."

I nodded and sighed, the adrenaline of the near-battle wearing off. "Understood. Well, we should all rest and recuperate then...as well as prepare a memorial for these five that have sacrificed themselves. We must be sure that it was not in vain, though."

Life nodded. "If it is no trouble, I would prefer if I were to be the one to do it. I wish to imbue the bodies so that they cannot be raised against us."

I nodded again and smiled. "Good idea. The rest of us are going to get some rest. Life, you know how to get ahold of us should you need us. Don't have Cadence back home to Shining Armor too late, now." I then gasped and facehooved. "Ah crap, I just remembered that Cadence is about to enter a coma because of your awakening." Life seemed worried at first, but I waved a hoof off. "Don't worry, Death won't know that. I placed a hold on my memories when I first felt myself invaded by him in my mind, so thankfully he'll be none the wiser. All the same, we are still vulnerable, so make sure to tell Cadence everything you know while she's out, okay?"

Life nodded and smiled back at me. "Yes, I will. Thank you, Winter."

Ugh...what a day.

Chapter 10: Lost, but not Gone

Chapter 10: Lost, but not Gone

What a way to ruin what was supposed to be a great day. I mean, my righteous tool of a father just had to come and fuck shit up. You know when you're watching a good movie and they always have that bad guy you just love to hate?

Yeah...well that's him.

Now that the guests and the rest of our friends and family had been herded out of the Whitetail Wood, the reception began again. No pony save for family were told what had happened, so the party continued as if nothing had happened. I knew though...and although I tried my best to keep up a brave face for everyone, I found my resolve slipping slowly but surely. Eventually, I had to excuse myself.

I was resting on some icy cirrus clouds some twenty or thirty-thousand feet above everyone, using the relaxing chill to ease my mind. It was working up until I heard powerful wingbeats from below, which could only be Dash, Celly, or Lulu...none of which I wanted to see right now. As unlike me as it was, I would rather wallow in self pity at the moment. I mean, I was right there in front of that knob-jockey...but I didn't even do anything. I don't even know why...I just stood there.

"Frost? Frost, what's going on?" she said. It was Rainbow Dash. I mean, of course it was her...I did just leave her alone at our own reception...which just made me feel more shitty.

I hung my head in shame and sighed. "I'm really sorry about just leaving you, Dashie. Really...I am."

She shook her head and sighed. "It does bother me a little, but I'm more worried about you. I mean, for you to just bail and go off by yourself...it's not like you. So I'm going to ask you again: what's going on?"

I fixed a stern gaze off into the open air and took a shaky breath. "They're dead, Dash. Those five ponies are dead...and I just stood there." I dug deep inside myself and let the powerful black armor cover me...feeling the power that came with it. I sighed and turned to look at my beautiful Dash. "I mean look at this...I don't deserve it. It would have been different if I'd been fighting Death and they died in the crossfire...but I just stood there, and didn't do a damn thing. What the hell kind of Guardian does that?" I dissipated the armor in a flash, and felt with it a slight weariness.

Dash stepped forward and kissed my forehead softly as she sat beside me and slung a foreleg around my shoulder. "The kind of Guardian that does that is one that knows what he's doing, and knows that it would have been stupid to just attack the force of death on a whim." She then used her free hoof to turn my face to look at her. "You want to make sure they didn't die for no reason? Then you're going to train and get stronger, like we all are. You're going to make sure that whoever dies in this war doesn't do it for no reason." She let a silent tear fall as she gazed into my eyes. "Brightwing believed in you, Frost. If you want to honor his memory, fight for what he believed in. Fight for Equestria...and for yourself." She then smiled and kissed me softly. "We'll all be behind you the whole way, Frost. Until the day we die, we'll stand behind you."

It was then that I had a second wind of sorts, and saw things for what they really were. Dash was right...about everything. She was right about me, and about what I need to do. I don't know whether it was becoming an alicorn or something else, but she seemed wiser...and more experienced. It just made me love her all the more.

I placed a hoof on her cheek and kissed her deeply, looking into my bride's beautiful rosy eyes. "Thanks, Dashie. I love you so much."

She giggled and shoved me lightly. "I love you too, you big softy. Now come on, we have ponies to dazzle!"

I nodded and we took flight, each going into a steep dive.

Perspective change - Venn

I was worried about Frost...a lot. I mean, from what I've heard and what I know about him, he probably doesn't take death too well. He wasn't as close to Brightwing as he is with his mares, but the stallion was still a close friend to both of us, and I'm gonna miss him.

I'd always found it strange that I had such a unique mind, even back on Earth. For example, while the rest of my pack wanted to just hunt and live simply, I always wanted more than that. Looking back, it doesn't make sense. Wolves are supposed to be just animals of instinct...but I thought like a human did. I guess that's why when I found this weird human named Drew out in the middle of the frozen tundra, I was drawn to him.

For Moonfang, it had been different. I mean the guy is awesome and all, but I still don't understand why Frost did for him what he did. Moonfang has told me a few times already about how simple his mind was before Frost changed him, but I couldn't say I had that same experience.

As a wolf that had the intelligence of a human, but couldn't talk, I was destined to sit around and wonder if there was more to life than just hunting and surviving.

And then I met Drew.

I guess that's why I was worried so much about him. Frost gave me a new life in a place that I didn't have to just survive...I could live. And so, he wasn't just a friend to me...he was like a father almost. I mean, I knew that was far from the case, but that's often what it felt like when I thought about what he's done for me. More than that, though, he was a brother to me.

I don't know what this war coming up was going to do to Equestria or where it was going to take me, but I knew for sure that I was going to fight for everyone's safety, and the continuation of this world that I've come to love.

I looked up at the clouds in time to see two blurs hurtling towards the ground. I was about to cry out in panic when a tremendous noise caused me to duck in fear.

Perspective change - Ditzy Doo

A burst of color...that's all that I was staring at now. One dazzling white, the other a rainbow. The entire crowd was staring up at the sky as two glowing forms danced through the sky around each other, putting on an amazing display of color and skill.

I of course knew it was Rainbow Dash and Frost, but that didn't stop me from staring with my mouth wide open. It was the first time I'd ever seen Frost perform...whatever it was he called that boom-thing, but to see both of them flying at supersonic speed around each other...it was breathtaking. I mean, I'm not the most sappy mare out there, but it was really beautiful to see.

A familiar colt made his way to me, also looking up at the sky with a smirk. He shook out his multi-hued gold mane and looked at me with a smile. "Just figures they both had to show off to everypony, huh?"

I giggled and nodded. "Yeah. I mean come on, the Wonderbolts are here. I knew that Rainbow Dash wouldn't be able to help herself...and of course Frost is always more than happy to have fun too." I then turned to the colt and raised an eyebrow. "So, have you decided yet?"

He shrugged. "I mean I can't say my opinion is all that great, but it's getting better with time. I'm always more than happy to train with you though."
I nodded softly and smiled. "Always happy to have your help, Flare." I then smirked. "So...when are you going to get hooked up with a filly?"

He flinched a bit. "Umm...I'm not really interested at the moment..."

"Ah come on, Flare. I know you're not into colts, so there's got to be some special filly you have your eye on." I said with a grin.

He shuffled his feet a bit. "Well...there is one pony..."

I clapped my front hooves together in excitement. "Ooh, tell me, tell me!"

He looked even more nervous now. "Well, it's T..." he said, trailing off.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear that, Flare. Speak up a bit."

He sighed and closed his eyes. "It's Trixie, okay?"

I gasped by accident, instantly regretting it as I saw him glare at me. "Oh...I-I'm sorry, Flare. It's just that...well...you know what happened here with her, and no one's seen her in over a year."

He nodded, but still held his glare. "Yeah, I know that...but don't you think all the ponies were a little hard on her? I mean sure, she was pretty arrogant...but running her out of town and ruining her livelihood was messed up." He dropped the glare and actually looked a little sad now. "It wasn't fair to her. I just wish we could find her and make sure she was okay and all."

I grinned. "Well...you know I am a guard, as well as a corporal in the military. That means that I have connections that might be able to help with that."

The colt smiled wide at me. "Really? You could do that?"

I nodded. "Look Flare, in all honesty, I agree with you. What was done to her was not fair at all...and if you want to find her, I'll help you out." His smile got even wider and he lunged at me. Luckily I caught him with a hoof before he could touch me. "Easy there, cowcolt. Ixnay on the ughay."

He smiled sheepishly. "Heh, sorry about that. I just got really excited is all. So, um...when do we start?"

"How about tomorrow? I'm not doing anything." I said with a shrug.

He nodded furiously. "Sounds great! I'll meet you at the barracks at 8:00!"

As the colt walked away, I couldn't help but regret my decision.

What had I gotten myself into?

Perspective change - Lyra

Way too much fun was what I was having. I mean come on, Vinyl and Pinkie put this party together, so I knew it would be fun...but still...this tops all my expectations. I mean, great music, alcohol, and awesome snacks. It's like going to the club with Vinyl, but even better! And I don't have to feel bad about thinking that either, since Vinyl is the one playing the music. I danced with Pinkie (who, by the way, is an amazing dancer), I got hit on by a bunch of stallions (what? I may be taken, but an ego boost is always nice), and I got to hang out with Bon Bon after so long.

It had been months since I'd seen her for more than a few minutes, and in all honesty I missed her a lot. But, I got to meet her new coltfriend, and she got to meet Frost. The young pegasus colt was getting pretty jealous over just how much Bon Bon was gushing over Frost, but I couldn't help but giggle. I mean come on, it's the first time I've known what it feels like to have your best friend fawning over your coltfriend...and I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel really good.

Am I evil? Yes I am.

Perspective change - Celestia

I sat next to the slumbering body of a certain pink alicorn, as I pondered the cost of this war already. The true battle had not even begun, and yet it had cost me four of my most trusted guards, and a close friend.


As I thought of my fallen friend and advisor, I couldn't help but let slip a few tears. I could not allow myself to break character in front of my ponies, but here - hidden away from the prying eyes looking for guidance - I could finally allow myself to mourn.

To be an alicorn means loneliness, and pain...and yet forcing yourself to overcome it. And yet, this one young stallion was different. Seeing him grow up through the years, I had grown closer to him than I had allowed myself any other guard, and because of this, it made saying goodbye that much harder.

In the silence and security of the hospital room, I covered myself in my wings and wept.

He is not truly gone, Celestia. You know this.”

I recognized the voice from within me as the soft comforting voice of Lux. Awakening the avatar within me was in many ways the best thing that could ever happen to me. She knew me, often times better than I knew myself, and was aged even more than I was, which gave her the wisdom to speak words of comfort.

Yes Lux...I know. He lives on through all of us.”

He does indeed, Celestia. To mourn is to say goodbye...and so it is natural. However, his strength and teachings still live within you.”

Yes...I know this. Many a time has his words given me, the elder, wisdom and have shown me a different view that was previously unseen or ignored. I...I will miss him greatly.”

“f course. However, if you wish to truly show your fallen friend honor, live by his example of service to the people...and do not forget that he did it for you. His life was lost so that you might live. Be sure that his sacrifice was made for a better future for the land he loved.”

As always, there was wisdom in the words of the much older, and much wiser avatar within me.

I had realized at the beginning of the coming conflict that ponies were going to be lost...but it would be for a new dawn for Equestria...for the continuation of our world. The brave souls who had chosen to take up arms against this new enemy - an enemy that did not know fear, nor hunger, nor love - would know that in life or death, they would be fighting for not me, but for their home. This very thought was what had prompted me to participate in the war as well, as a princess is nothing without her ponies. If they were to fight, I would as well. My life would be their life, and their pain, my pain.

Only a coward would sit in a secure throne room while she sends young stallions and mares to their possible deaths...and that was not me.

Perspective change - Rarity


It was not something I was accustomed to or acquainted with.

And yet, my friends were going to be putting their lives on the line to fight for the survival of ponies everywhere. I am no fighter...and everypony knows this.

And yet...

I feel as if I am cheating somehow. I feel as though by not actively participating in such a brutish thing, I am somehow failing my friends. Even my beloved Spike would be taking up arms for Equestria, even with me imploring him to reconsider. Spike - ever the gallant knight of my heart - had gently shot down all requests from me to avoid the conflict, simply stating that he was every bit a pony as Fluttershy or myself, and that he would fight to protect his home...and me.

The very concept of what it all meant became frighteningly real to me with each passing day, and though the marriage between Rainbow Dash and Frostbreaker was to be a time of celebration, I could not help but feel as though it were a sad day. It was, in fact, a sad day for the whole of Equestria. Ponies would die against such a despicable enemy, and I felt utterly helpless to stop it.

"Rarity..." called a voice from above.

I shook my head to clear the ghastly thoughts swimming within my head and looked up. There, in all her newfound glory was our friend, Rainbow Dash. She looked absolutely stunning, with a long flowing mane that sparkled ever so slightly, and yet still held the choppy, unkempt look that showed her unique style.

I cleared my throat and stood with a smile. "Yes dear?"

She rolled her eyes and landed before me, now dwarfing me in size. "Rarity, drop the act. I know something's got you down. Now tell me what it is so I don't have to do something mean...like mess up your mane."

I gasped at the prospect. "You wouldn't dare!"

"Try me, Rare. Tell me what's up. Now." she stated with conviction.

I glared at the imposing pony before me for a moment before sighing in defeat and sitting back down. I looked up to see two light violet eyes staring back at me. "Rainbow Dash, dear...it is simply this dreadful war that is upon us. I..." I had to swallow to keep from sobbing openly, even as tears slid down my face, starting to run my mascara. "I do not wish to lose any of you...and yet most of you will be in the path of danger. I just feel like I am an absolutely horrible friend for not joining all of you."

As I buried my face in my hooves to stifle the sobs, I felt a hoof pull me close as the larger pony embraced me in a half-hug. "Rare no offense, but we all know you suck at fighting. Because of that, we actually prefer that you don't join, because you'd just get yourself killed. Do you think Spike would want to worry about you all the time?" As I looked up at my beautiful friend, she smiled softly with a warm expression. "No Rare...you need to stay here and do what good you can. You're going to have probably the most important job of all: watching over the ponies who have had to say goodbye - possibly forever - to sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, or wives. You've always been the best one at dealing with the mushy-feely stuff, Rare, so we need you and Fluttershy to keep ponies' hopes alive until we come back. Can you do that?"

The fact that such a powerful and loyal friend was putting her trust in me for such a thing was awe-inspiring in itself. Rainbow Dash and I had never been as close as, say, her and Fluttershy...but still, she was now trusting me with what she deemed an important task...and I resolved to myself at that moment, I would not let her down. I turned back to look into the amethyst eyes and nodded curtly. "I can, Rainbow. I swear I will not let you down."

Now wearing her usual smirk, Rainbow Dash nodded. "I know you won't, Rare. I know you won't."

Why did this feel like goodbye?

Perspective change - Luna

I was a lie incarnate.

On the outside, I was smiling and happily greeting ponies as they mingled. Within, I was a sobbing mess. Brightwing had been killed, and Nightwing had lost a brother...and I had lost a friend. My sister's heart was broken at the loss of one of her oldest friends in Equestria, and worrying about Tia had also put me on edge.

I did not want to be here, but sister was always the one to be strong and put on the brave face, so I forced her to leave and check on young Cadence. I knew of course that was not what she would be doing - not in full, at least - but I knew it would give her at least some time to grieve in private, not having to worry about appearing weak in front of our subjects and friends.

It was one of the things I admired about my sister, even after all these years. I was always the one to wear my emotions on my hooves, and was never afraid to weep or show anger...or fear. In contrast, Tia was always the iconic stoic leader. Perhaps this had something to do with her being the eldest or that she was forced to rule alone for the thousand years I was banished...but even I knew it was unhealthy to retain all emotions within. Still, I understood her reasoning for being as she was. It was after all much more useful to be diplomatic as opposed to a ravenous beast, even when seething with hatred and anger.

I remember she once asked me why I forgave her so easily for what she was forced to do when Nightmare Moon took over, and I couldn't help but smile and hug her tight. Once I was calm enough to look objectively, I realized had become a monster that could destroy Equestria as it were. Nightmare Moon was unleashed, and so I was no longer myself.

We do not envy thee, dear sister, for the decision you were forced to make. It was not one We would have made correctly, if We were in your position.”

That was what I had said to her when she asked about what she had done to me, and though she did not understand how that allowed me to accept what she did, I like to believe she trusted me when I advised her that all was forgiven. We are family, after all...and I will only have one sister in all my life. Eternity is too long a time to hold a grudge against those bonded to us in blood.

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

The reception had finally ended hours ago, and I was exhausted. Contrary to normal dancing, Dash and I instead chose to dance in the cool air, using our skills in flight to put on a memorable display for all watching below. We shared a customary kiss thousands of feet in the air before falling faster and faster towards the ground, pulling up at the last second to glide hoof-in-hoof just inches above the ground at break-neck speed. Dash later told me that what we did was a display of utmost trust and intimacy between two pegasi...and I couldn't have agreed more. To trust somepony with your very life for those few seconds as you hurtle lip-locked towards the ground - it was a feeling beyond anything I've ever felt before.

Still...all that flying had tired me out, and now as we flew back to the library I felt more than ready to simply drink the rest of the night away with my friends and my lovely wife.

Celestia had opted to watch over her niece, Cadence, and Luna had chosen to do the same, so that just left myself, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight in the library after everypony else had left. I made sure to kiss my marefriends all goodbye as they left, but was more than happy to spend time with just two of them right now.

"So Dashie, what did you think of it all? Besides that little skirmish at the beginning of the reception, of course." I asked with a smile.

Dash smiled as she lazily lay with her head in my lap, nursing a bottle of hard cider. "It was great, Frost. I'll have to remember to thank Pinkie and Vinyl for putting on such a great party too."

Twi, who was sitting beside me, nodded with a rosy-cheeked grin. "Yeah...it was amazing, Frost. I -hic- think we should go to parties more often."

I grabbed the bottle of hard cider she was holding and gulped it down, before turning to Twi with a smirk. "No more alcohol for you, young lady."

She whimpered and pouted. "W-hic- well fine then...you're no fun."

I rolled my eyes and leaned down, trailing the tip of my tongue along her neck. She shivered and looked at me as I smirked. "Okay, you wanna say that again?"

"I didn't say stop, Frost." Twi deadpanned.

The mare laying in my lap giggled and nudged me. "Twi's fun with a few drinks in her, huh?"

I looked down and nodded. "Yeah. I just don't want her to start puking is all. I do not feel like cleaning up vomit tonight."

The named violet unicorn stood up and shoved me. "Hey, I can hold my alcohol just fine!" She then stumbled up the stairs to the bedroom, and Dash giggled the entire time.

"Yeah...she's a lightweight." the rainbow alicorn said with a smirk.

I nudged her to stand and I stood myself before motioning to the stairs. "Well, I'm beat. What do you say we head up to bed then?"

She shrugged. "Well Twi's probably sleeping in the bedroom, so what say you and me go up to the observation deck and have a bed to ourselves?"

I nodded. "I was thinking the exact same."

We both headed upstairs, snickering and bumping into each other the whole time, arriving a few minutes later at the utterly empty observation deck. I opened the shield and lit a fire before joining Dash on the bed.

Before I could do anything, she rolled over on top of me and grinned mischievously. "So, what do you have in mind for your wife, handsome?" She then ran her tongue along my neck, and breathed a warm breath on it. I shivered so hard it could almost be called a convulsion.

I grinned and kissed her with fervor. "You have learned well, Dashie. A little too well, perhaps."

She straddled me and sat up straight, spreading her magnificent wings and letting her mane fall back behind her...

She looked like an angel.

The cyan pony grinned with half-lidded eyes and rubbed my chest. I lay back and enjoyed the rubdown, letting out a little groan or moan of pleasure every now and then until she stopped, causing me to open my eyes and look at her.

"I'm glad it's you Frost." she said simply.

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "What do you mean?"

She grinned softly again and blushed. "I'm glad it's you that has me and not somepony else. I mean, I could've ended up with somepony who was mean or neglectful...or that didn't really get me."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Nah, I'm pretty sure you'd beat them to a pulp for something like that, and if you didn't, AJ would. I'm the lucky one here. I mean, do you even know how many stallions want you? Geez...that's all I hear about when I'm up at the barracks. I can always hear the guards talking about how hot you are or how awesome you are...and I know it's only going to get more intense now."

She shared a confused look with me for a moment. "It doesn't bother you?"

"Why...should it?" I responded quickly.

She shrugged. "I guess. I mean, there's a bunch of other stallions-"

"And mares." I added.

She continued. "Oh...um, well there's a bunch of ponies who are talking about me like that. I mean that doesn't bother you at all? Celestia knows it would bother me."

I shrugged lightly and smiled. "Why should it? I mean, it's not like you're an ex that I'm pining over and everypony's talking about you like that." I rubbed her cutie mark with a hoof and she let out a soft moan, looking at me with intensity. "You're mine, and so I don't see it as offensive...I see it as a form of praise. Not that I have anything to be proud of, I mean you could have chosen any other pony...but you chose me. Like I said...I'm the lucky one, here."

She let out a breath, now a little heated. "You sure know how to talk to a mare."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Believe me, I used to be awkward as hell. You have my brother to thank for this kind of talk. He tutored me so that I don't sound like a complete jackass." She stared at me for a minute before bursting out in hysterical laughter. I just rolled my eyes and nodded. "Yeah yeah, the great Frostbreaker was awkward as hell at one time. Laugh it up and get it out of your system."

As requested, she did laugh it up...for another ten minutes straight.

I had finally gotten sick of just being laughed at, so I pushed her off of me and got up, making my way to the balcony and closing the door behind me.

A few minutes passed as the house grew quiet, and then came a knock on the door behind me. "Frost? Come on, open the door. I was just joking around."

I'm not sure if it was just to spite her or if the fact that she laughed at me really had that much effect, but I instead tapped my hoof on the door, covering it in a thick sheet of ice. "No, I think I'll stay out here, thanks. At least no one's laughing at me for something that's actually a sensitive subject, Dash."

There was silence, but then I heard a window opening. 'Yes, Frost...the library does have windows...' Dash landed next to me looking a little ashamed and frowned.

"Look Frost, I'm sorry I laughed at you. I just didn't think it was possible that you weren't always this way is all." she said with a sigh.

I shook my head. "Nope, in school I was like Twi used to be - all work and no fun. I mean, I didn't even get my first date until I was seventeen, and no first kiss until eighteen." I then turned to look at her, noticing the hurt in her eyes. "I mean, do you even know how many times I've been laughed at, or ridiculed by women for being weird, or awkward? Too many to count." I sighed and closed my eyes. "I'm sorry, love. I don't mean to take it out on you. It's just that when you laughed at me like that, it brought back a lot of painful memories. I'm not going to hold it against you though...you didn't know."

She stepped next to me and leaned on my shoulder. I enjoyed the warmth that emanated from her as she spoke. "I didn't mean to upset you, Frost. I'm really sorry."

I turned to her and stroked her mane with a smile. "Nothing to be sorry about, beautiful. I love you and you love me back. You're ten times the girl any of the ones in my past ever were, so you're nothing like them."

We made our way back inside and closed the shield before laying in the large circular bed. After doing so, Dash grinned and took the same seductive facial expression she had earlier, again mounting and straddling me.

"Now...where were we?" she asked with a lick of her lips.

I grinned right back. "I think you were about to try and outlast me."

A competitive streak flashed on her face and I couldn't help but chuckle. "Oh...it's on, Frost."

As she leaned down, I turned out the last light, draping the area in darkness, save for the soft glow of both of our horns.

Chapter 11: Meeting with the Ancient

Chapter 11: Meeting with the Ancient

A woke up a certain morning after to a certain princess's sunlight decided to start shining in my eyes, and I groaned without meaning to. As I sat up, I shivered as multiple vertebrae popped into place, and I sighed when finished. I looked down at my bedmate and smiled. Rainbow Dash was always cute when she was sleeping, though I'd never tell her that. Her long and messy sparkling mane seemed to glow in the morning sunlight, and I couldn't help but grin as she twitched a few times in her sleep.

Not wanting to wake her, I stood up gently and closed the door on my way out. I then did my morning grooming and cleaning, taking extra time to brush out my mane, tail, and coat. As I stepped down the stairs, I saw that Twilight was already up with a cup of coffee, reading a book in the main room of the library. Oddly enough, there had lately been an influx of patrons to check out books, and this morning was no different. There were several ponies in the main room looking through the books, as well as a few others reading.

Twilight noticed me finally and smiled. "Good morning, Frost. Sleep well?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Oh yeah. I mean it was only a few hours, but it was a great few hours."

Surprisingly, the lavender unicorn didn't blush, but just giggled in return. "So I heard. Did you enjoy the reception yesterday?"

I shrugged. "I mean the day as a whole was kind of a downer after what happened, but the reception was awesome. It livened me up quite a bit, and all in all it was a great day." I looked down at the floor now in disappointment. "Brightwing and the others didn't deserve this, though. We need to make sure that they didn't give their lives in vain."

As I sat down next to her, she nodded and took a sip of coffee. "We will, Frost. For now though, we need to train the recruits and ourselves. You have to remember that the ponies of Equestria aren't used to this kind of violence or killing. Granted we can't really kill something that's already dead…but the violence is something you're going to have to train out of them. And the threat of death…" She lowered her head in fear. "I'm scared, Frost."

I leaned in and hugged her close, causing the patrons of the library to eye us curiously. I ignored the looks and kissed her on the cheek with a smile. "Twi, I get scared too…but that's what courage is for. The reason I overcome my fear is because I'm not just doing any of this for me…I'm doing it for thousands of ponies everywhere. I also know that until we handle this ourselves, it's never going to stop." I pointed to the ponies in the room with us, some of them not much older than the Cutie Mark Crusaders. "We're doing this for them…and for each other."

The lavender unicorn nodded and looked up at me. "How bad is it going to get, Frost?"

"Well do you want to be comforted or do you want the truth?" I asked.

"The truth, Frost. I don't want to be under any illusions about the situation." She responded resolutely.

I nodded and frowned a little, letting a deep sigh out. "It's going to get bad, Twi…really bad. Even a war with the gryphons wouldn't be this bad. Sure, they're stronger and faster than us, but they still have that little bit of reverence for life." I then looked out the window into the distance…knowing that our enemy was out there somewhere, watching us. "What we're going to be defending ourselves from is annihilation, Twi. These things aren't going to take prisoners, and they'll never stop on their own. I'm not going to lie to any of you about this Twi, because if you're joining me, you need to know what you're getting into. Ponies are going to die…probably lots of them. I'm going to make it clear to everyone we train that they might not make it back home from this war. Those of us on the front lines are going to be in the most danger…but if I die, I want the ponies that remember me to know that I was fighting side-by-side with my soldiers." She was now more fearful, but I pressed on. "This is one of those times when the ends justify the means, Twi. A sacrifice by one pony can save thousands…and it may very well come to that."

To avoid the stares, we went to the kitchen and closed the door. Twilight looked up at me with teary, yet stern eyes. "I don't want to just be in the intelligence committee…I want to fight, Frost."

I had never thought that Twilight would willingly request such a thing, so I couldn't help but gasp. "R-really? I mean, are you sure? You do know what that means, right?"

She nodded curtly. "I do. Nearly all of our friends are going to be putting their lives on the line. I will not be the one that sits back in safety while my best friends risk their lives for my safety. No…that isn't what a good friend would do. Besides, the princesses have told me all the time that I'm probably the most magically gifted unicorn in all of Terra. You all are going to need my help."

"Very well, Twilight. You're going to be training with the rest of us, then. If you're going to do this, I want to make sure you're in top shape both physically and magically. It's going to be difficult and downright painful sometimes…and it's quite likely you're going to be cursing at me some days. However, I'll only do it because I want to give you the best chance to come out of this. Live or die, I want to make sure that every pony gave everything possible for their world. If we can do that, Terra will survive. Are you ready for that kind of commitment?" I asked with an impassable expression.

I saw a fire in her eyes, one of determination and unbreakable spirit…an expression I'd never seen in her before. She smiled and nodded gently, yet powerfully. "I am, Frost. With all of us together in this, we can do anything. I truly believe that."

I smiled and pulled her into a hug. "So do I, Twi. So do I."

Perspective change – Darkflight


These decaying, horrid monstrosities had started being sighted across the continents…and the numbers they were appearing in was disheartening to say the least.

I was sitting in my study in the palace, looking over scout reports from across the entire planet. Slowly, all territories were being surrounded, and it looked like we had maybe another few months at the most before Death had enough forces to overrun us by sheer numbers. Gryphons and ponies I had prepared for, but dragons? This wasn't something even my weaponry and armor could handle on their own.

We needed help…lots of it.

I sighed in frustration and stood, donning my armor and weaponry as I prepared to depart for a certain meeting with some very powerful beings. I was to meet with the dragonkin of Drakkhenmyst, a fog-shrouded continent to the extreme northwest of Equestria. The high temperature of the continent was caused by multiple active volcanoes, and this made it the perfect place for the majority of the dragons of Terra to call home. Ponies didn't dare get close to it, but even with me being as nervous as I was, I didn't have a choice. I just hoped the respect being a black dragon was supposed to enact would come, otherwise this would be a waste of time for me.

As I donned my blood-red armor, I heard the door open from behind me, and I turned to see Princess Celestia standing there with a hopeful expression, wearing full armor.

"I appreciate this, Darkflight. You have no idea how much this means to Equestria." She remarked.

I shook my head with a toothy grin. "You act as if what I'm doing isn't something I'd do on my own. Equestria is my home now as well, and I'm going to do whatever I can to assure she's safe." I chuckled heartily at the irony of it all. "You know, this'll be the first time in my life that my skin color will have positive results. Let's just hope we get the help we need."

She nodded and smiled. "We will, Darkflight. Have faith." She then walked around me once my armor was on, checking to make sure it was snug and in proper alignment before smiling. "It seems we are ready. The flight will take a few hours, but we will have a good tailwind, so it will be a long, but easy flight."

"Why can't you just teleport us there, princess?" I asked in confusion.

She sighed and shook her head slightly. "I have to be able to picture my destination in mind to do so. I have never been to the island, so I can't do that. Luckily, I will be able to send us back here magically once we finish our business there, so fear not."

I nodded in agreement before gathering Force Edge and Yamato, putting them in their scabbards along my back and waist. I checked to make sure they were secured before walking with the princess to the landing bay and taking flight into the sky.

The flight to the draconic continent was uneventful, just endless waves with a few uncharted islands here and there. Mostly it was boring, but I was thankful that the tailwind allowed me to simply soar on the high-altitude jet stream the whole way there. This allowed me to nearly fall asleep as I just held my wings open and relaxed.

I must have actually dozed off, because the next thing I know I'm being nudged by the princess as a shrouded landmass appeared before us. We landed on a beach, and I could already see a few dragons flying through the foggy sky with curious expressions on their faces.

Before I could go further, however, the princess stopped me with a stern look. "There are a few things you need to know about how you need to behave here, Darkflight. First of all it is true that as a black dragon, you instantly command a great deal of respect here. However, age is just as important. Many of the dragonkin on this island are decades or centuries older than you. A safe course of action for you is to bow to any we meet if they do not bow to you first, or if you see me bow, follow suit. Strength is valued in dragon society, but arrogance will get you killed. So be careful, be humble, and don't do or say anything stupid." She then sighed and shook her head. "I apologize for how that sounds, but we may only have one chance at this. Do you understand?"

I nodded. "I do, princess. I may be the more playful one out of my family, but I can be serious when I need to. Don't worry, I got this."

She nodded. "Very well, let's go. Follow me closely and do not speak unless spoken to."

As we walked through the rocky area of the beach, we soon entered a dense undergrowth of forest. I noticed dragonkin of all sizes, shapes, and colors. None of them approached us thankfully and I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, until we exited the forest towards a cavern and were approached by a massive bronze dragon. The princess immediately bowed, so I followed suit, kneeling and bowing my head.

The dragon chuckled and stepped forward. "Arise, Princess of Equestria. You are a friend here." I felt a tap on my shoulder. "And you as well, young one. Any friend of Celestia's is a welcome guest here." I stood as he asked and removed my helmet, bowing my head with a fist against my chest in a salute. The dragon's hearty laugh echoed through the cavern behind him again. "I like this one, princess. Where did you find him? I do not recognize him."

The princess smiled at who was obviously an old friend of hers and nodded towards me. "He is Frostbreaker's brother."

The dragon looked at me with his piercing silver eyes and smiled. "Ah, so this is the soon-to-be legendary dragon of Equestria. What is your name, young one?"

I was fighting hard not to tremble in the shadow of the imposing dragon, but smiled and looked into his eyes. "My name is Darkflight, sir."

"A name chosen for yourself, no doubt." He remarked, to which I nodded. He eyed my armor curiously. "That is very interesting armor you have there. Where did you acquire it?"

I shrugged. "I made it, actually."

The bronze behemoth looked surprised for the first time. "A metalworking dragon? There has not been one to work the ancient craft since before I was hatched. But does it stand up to dragon specifications?"

I allowed myself a smirk and extended the hand that held my helmet out to him. "Go ahead. I bet that no matter what you do, you can't crush it."

Without hesitation, the large bronze dragon took my helmet, placed it on the ground, and stepped on it with a mighty stomp of his foot, causing the ground to shake. When he lifted his foot, however, there was a hole in the ground…in which lay my helmet, completely unscathed.

The much older dragon looked very impressed now. "I must say, I did not expect this. It appears you have mastered your craft, Darkflight. Well done…you have earned my respect." The dragon's gaze then went back to the princess and he took a stoic expression. "I know why the two of you are here, Celestia. Come with me and I will lead you to the high council. You need to speak with them about this."

As we walked, the princess eyed him in confusion. "I thought you were on the council, Tilak."

He chuckled as we continued walking, the air slowly getting warmer and warmer. "I was Celestia, however, I tired of the politics. I am a warrior at heart, not a diplomat."

I followed in silence, tuning out the conversation as I followed the two of them through the cavernous depths of the mountain. Before I knew it, however, we had arrived at a large natural cave within the mountain, lighted by a plethora of torches burning with cyan, smokeless flames. I had come across the magic flame a month or two ago, but had passed it off as useless because it didn't create heat and didn't spread like normal fire. I was now mentally kicking myself, realizing the applications of this were literally endless. Smokeless lanterns that never burn out, for example…I mean come on, why didn't I think of that?

My thoughts were interrupted when I noticed Celestia and the bronze dragon bowing as they entered the chamber, so I did the same.

A deep, rumbling voice caught me by surprise, almost causing me to jump in fear. "Greetings, Princess of Equestria. Long has it been since you have last graced us with your presence. Please rise." She did as the dragon asked, but because I had not been addressed directly, I stayed in a bow. Thankfully, my instinct seemed to prove correct, as the dragon then addressed me. "And this must be the Obsidian of Equestria. Rise, young one."

I did so and removed my helmet in respect of the chamber and the ten or so other dragons in it. The voice that had spoken was an obviously very old dragon with a scaled body of blue and one broken horn. He had scars covering much of his face and chest, and it was obvious to me he had seen combat many times in his life.

Another dragon, who I assumed was the blue one's mate, sat next to him. She was a brilliant white, and her scales sparkled as if made of diamonds. She giggled as she looked at me and smiled, leaning to the elder blue dragon. "He's cute, father. Why don't we have dragons like him around here?" Okay, not mate…daughter. And she thinks I'm cute…awesome

I raised my hand as if I were in school and the elder blue nodded to me, giving me permission to speak. "Umm, I might as well just tell you now that I'm happily in a relationship."

The diamond-esque female pouted her lips. "What a shame…I could have made you very happy. Who's the lucky dragoness?"

I fidgeted nervously and cleared my throat. "Umm…she's not a dragon…she's a pony."

This took the entire chamber by surprise, as a collection of gasps sounded. The elder blue was the only one to speak, thankfully. "A dragon and a pony, hmm? Well…this is most unexpected. I…I cannot say I approve of this, young one."

This instantly put me on edge. Who the hell did he think he was? I now glared at him and couldn't help but set my jaw as I responded, "With all due respect, elder one, I am not asking for your approval. I was simply advising you."

Perspective change – Celestia

At Darkflight's response, a large red dragon stood and flared his wings while baring his teeth. "You will show respect to an ancient, you sad excuse for kin!"

This was one of the things that made dragons so feared…their "diplomacy". Heated arguments were settled in duels, and I was not sure Darkflight was ready for that.

To Darkflight's surprise, the elder blue was the one that settled the tension in the air. "Silence, Trezera. You would do well to remember respect when addressing an Obsidian. Sit down and be silent, or you will be forced to settle this with him."

The obstinate red growled and glared at Darkflight. "I think I'll take my chances. Outside…now."

The black dragon now looked at me curiously as the entire chamber began to file out. "Umm…what's going on?"

I laughed haltingly with a false grin. "I may have forgotten to mention that disagreements are settled by force in dragon society."

"Great…it's like high school all over again. Wait…I don't have to kill him, do I?" he asked.

I shrugged with a look at the red. "That's up to him." I then gazed back at Darkflight with a look of caution. "Do not stop unless he gives in or cannot fight any longer."

He grinned and nodded. "I think I can do this. I don't even need my swords for this one." He followed the rest of the dragons outside and I did the same.

We arrived outside in a clearing of bare dirt, the dragons all gathering around anxiously. The red was now standing on his hind legs, easily being taller than Darkflight by at three times his size. Darkflight, however, looked oddly unconcerned. He simply stepped into the makeshift "ring" and stretched out his arms, wings, and legs.

He then smirked at the red and motioned to him. "So are you just going to stand there or are you going to try and attack me? I don't have all day, and I'm getting a little hungry."

The larger red dragon growled. "Your arrogance will be your undoing, fool." He then took a deep breath and released a massive gout of orange fire at Darkflight.

The smaller black dragon stood completely still, simply raising a gloved palm towards the flame. As soon as the flame hit him, it engulfed him completely. However, as I watched, the flame slowly receded to one point – the place where he was holding his palm up. As the fire receded into the glove, I noticed that the rest of the armor was covered in black scorch marks, but was otherwise unscathed. The glove that had absorbed the flames, however, was glowing a bright orange.

Darkflight formed a fist and smiled. "My turn." He gave a strong flap of his wings, and before the opponent could react, he planted a strong punch right on his nose. As soon as his fist connected, an explosion happened at the point of impact, knocking the larger dragon to the ground in a heap. The dragon shook his head before getting to his knees, while Darkflight smirked. "Had enough, or do you want some more? I have plenty more to give."

The dragon called Trezera stood again, a scowl on his face. "I'll kill you for your insolence, you ignorant son of a pony."

"Hey man, uncalled for!" Darkflight retorted. "You wanna fight, let's fight…but leave my mother out of this."

Trezera grinned and chuckled. "Oh, have I hit a soft spot? Don't worry…I'll be sure to bring your broken body to her. And then maybe, just for fun, I'll let her join you." The dragon then lunged forward and grabbed the smaller dragon in a bone-crushing embrace, and I did actually hear a loud snap of a bone breaking.

Every instinct in me screamed to save him, but I knew I could not interfere…so against my better judgment, I stayed where I was.

I shouldn't have worried.

Darkflight screamed in pain once, then feigned unconsciousness, forcing himself to go limp in the arms of Trezera. The overconfident dragon released his grip for just a second, which was enough time for Darkflight to scramble up and bite down on the soft scales of his neck. The red dragon roared in pain and was about to grab Darkflight, but then the black dragon pulled back with all his might, ripping a large bloody chunk of flesh out of the dragon's neck. A howl of pain was heard from the larger dragon before he fell to the ground, beginning to bleed out. The sight was almost enough to make me ill, but I stood fast and watched what happened next.

Darkflight hopped off the dragon and took a deep breath, blowing orange flames on the wound. The downed dragon howled again in pain, but the wound was cauterized nearly instantly. He then put his foot on the dragon's head and growled. "Submit, or I'm going to fry you."

Even in the position he was, Darkflight's opponent was still obstinate. "Hah, do you believe this would stop me?"

Darkflight smiled maniacally and laughed. "No, I didn't...but I know this will." He then breathed a flame I'd never seen him use before…one of the deepest red onto the neck of the dragon. It flowed around it like a liquid.

I was confused as to what he was doing, as Trezera did not flinch or show any sign of pain. Darkflight then breathed the same flame on his hand, and slowly started to close it into a fist. As he did so, a force started to physically crush his opponent's throat. Trezera began to furiously claw at his throat as his breathing was constricted, causing some scales to drop off and drops of blood to flow.

The obviously superior black dragon smirked as his writhing victim eyed him pleadingly. "I can make it all stop, just tap the ground three times to signify you submit, and you'll be free. You might want to do it quickly, because if I squeeze much harder, your neck will snap…and I'm feeling a muscle spasm coming on…"

Trezera's eyes widened and he immediately pounded the ground three times. Darkflight immediately opened his hand, which caused the red dragon to gasp wildly for air. Darkflight shook his hand, as if shaking off water, and the flames dissipated off of his hand and the other dragon's neck.

Darkflight was wincing in pain with each breath, but stepped forward and extended a hand to his defeated opponent. Trezera eyed the hand warily, expecting a trick, but Darkflight smiled warmly and pulled the dragon up off the ground.

The blue ancient chuckled deeply and smiled. "When I warned of you having to settle this with him, Trezera, it was for your safety, not his. Never underestimate the power of an Obsidian." He then gestured to Darkflight with a grin. "Had this been an immoral one, you would have lost your life here today."

Darkflight nodded towards his previous opponent. "I never wanted to fight you, man...but if you start a fight, I'm certainly going to finish it." He then offered his hand as a gesture of goodwill. "Can we put this behind us?"

Trezera stared at the extended hand for a moment before taking it firmly and shaking it with a smile. "Of course. You have proven yourself here today. I apologize it came to that in the first place, but it appears some good has come of it. Thank you for humbling me, Darkflight."

We all then headed back into the meeting chamber, where we all took our places again. The blue ancient cleared his throat before speaking, "Well, now that we have that out of the way, we can get to the reason why you both have come here. Please explain, young Darkflight."

It was a first for me to have one so young respected more than I was, but then again Darkflight was a dragon, where I was not. And so, I simply stayed silent as he spoke. Darkflight nodded solemnly and stepped up to the central stone table, standing upon it. He looked around the room at all the dragonkin present and sighed. "I'll not mince words with all of you, as I'm sure your time is valuable. I'll get straight to the point: a powerful and malevolent force is threatening Equestria as well as the rest of Terra. To put it simply, we need your help...any and all of you."

An aged female golden dracoknight cleared her throat. "And how exactly does this affect us, hmm? We have seen none of this creeping darkness of which you speak."

Darkflight sighed and shook his head. "The avatar of death is what I speak of. He is planning for conquest over the entire planet, effectively destroying the world of the living." The Obsidian then took a deep breath before continuing. "He's resurrecting dragon corpses as well, by the dozens."

The gold female still remained stoic. "That is all well and good, but how does this affect us?"

"Well after he destroys Equestria, where do you think he'll set his sights on next? As long as you all live, you're a threat that will need to be dealt with. The only reason you haven't been targeted yet is because the ponies of Equestria are a greater threat." he explained.

The gold laughed loudly. "Ponies? A threat? This is nonsense."

"You would do well not to underestimate them. You all believe I'm powerful? You should see my brother, Frostbreaker. He single-handedly decimated the entire gryphon army during the Gryphon Encroachment, and by decimated, I mean that the gryphons couldn't even bury their dead because there was nothing to bury. He has now been reborn as the avatar of winter. We also have Night, Day, and Life." he explained with a bit of a growl.

The ancient blue spoke again. "Four elemental avatars? Hmm...it has been so long since I have seen Life."

Darkflight nodded. "I also have a feeling we may very soon have Spring as well. However, even with that being the case, we will still need help. This is your world as well, after all. What say you...will you help fight for your world, or will you let it fall to the looming threat that will plague us?"

I held my breath for the answer, as a yes or no could change everything...

Chapter 12: Powder Keg

Chapter 12: Powder Keg

Perspective change - Celestia

"They'll deliberate? Are they serious? I just got three broken ribs and almost killed another dragon so that they can think about it? For all their age and strength, apparently giving a straight answer isn't one of their strong points."

The Obsidian beside me was ranting loudly as we walked through the halls of the palace, drawing a great many odd looks from the guards, especially with the fresh coat of blood that was caked to his armor and skin. After meeting with the Draconic Council, our answer from the ancient was less than satisfactory, but I understood his reasoning. As I did, he had to think of his people and what war would mean for them. Equestria's enemy was bearing down on her, and so we did not have a choice. I can only hope that with time the dragonkin will see that in truth, neither do they. War will come to all the races of Terra, even Equestria's enemies.

Perhaps in the chaos, alliances can be formed, even among mortal enemies.

"Sister!" called a familiar voice from in front of us. I looked up to see my younger sister galloping towards the two of us. She stopped and caught her breath before speaking again. "Sister, grave news has arrived from Zebrica - the Zebra nation from across the sea. Whoazambique has been completely obliterated!"

'No...not now.'

I was in utter shock, as this was much sooner than we had expected for an attack. I quickly composed myself and set my mind to wartime matters now. "Luna, contact Corporal Nightwing and tell him to prep his H.O.S. team for transport to Zebrica. They leave at oh-six-hundred hours tomorrow." Luna nodded and dashed back down the hallway towards the barracks.

Darkflight tapped my shoulder, causing me to turn to him, and when I did so he was smiling. "Tell the team to meet me at the steelworks today, actually. I've got a new weapon for them."

I couldn't help but feel more confident now, as I knew what he had been working on. I just smiled and looked at him for a moment before speaking. "Is it ready?"

He nodded. "It is...and our H.O.S. team is going to love it."

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

What was supposed to be a chilled-out day was instead hectic, as the news that Luna had passed on to me about Whoazambique put me into training overdrive. In all honesty, I had slacking on training both myself and the other recruits, but now all of us were there...including all my friends that would be fighting with me in this war. Things progressed slowly, to say the least. Right now was not fun for me, though it was necessary.

"I can't do it, Frost!" the violet unicorn screamed at me, tears in her eyes.

I grit my teeth and growled. "You better not give up, Private Sparkle! If you do, you'll be doing laps for the rest of the day, now MOVE!"

Twilight was currently dragging a five-hundred pound weight attached to a harness, while also levitating a quill, inkwell, and scroll and writing her name over and over again. She truly was gifted when it came to magic, but I knew for a fact that when it came to physical strength, she was the weakest out of all of us. That was something I was going to force her to overcome, whether she liked it or not...for both her safety, and ours.

I did warn her about committing, after all.

Luckily for her, fear of running laps for the rest of the day caused her to find extra strength, dragging the weight the last fifty feet to me, promptly dropping her levitated items and collapsing in a heap.

I leaned down to her and smiled, even though she was sweating profusely and even crying a bit. "What was that you were saying about how you can't?" I hooked the harness up to myself and proceeded to run, dragging the weight behind me. I stopped in front of her after taking a lap around the track, still smiling. "If you do what I say, how I say, and when I say it, by the time you're done training with me, you'll be strong enough to do that."

She shook her head and sat up, albeit a little sloppily. "I don't see why I have to do this anyway. My skill is with magic, not physical combat."

I promptly cast a magic inhibitor spell directly on her horn, then rushed at her, pinning her to the ground below me. "Well now you've got no magic. With a weak body, you're completely helpless...and you can't stop me from killing you." I then backed off of her and let her up. "That's why you need to train your body. Should something happen to your magic, you need to be able to still defend yourself. You're always going to be stronger in magic than you are in physical combat...but that doesn't mean you can't close that gap between the two." I then motioned towards the bench, where the rest of our friends were watching. "Go have a seat and get some water. Private Dash, you're up." The unicorn took a place next to Applejack while the new cyan alicorn stepped up next, in full armor. I donned my ice armor as well and took a fighting stance. "Alright Dash, you don't need to work on your strength or anything, because you've been training basically your whole life with that. As far as magic, we'll cover that later. For now, you're going to fight me one-on-one. I'm not going to use magic except to maintain my armor, so we'll be on even terms. Your job is to get me to give up or knock me out...got it?"

She nodded and smirked. "Yep, I got it Frost. I'm not gonna go easy on you just because we're married, you know."

I smirked. "You better not, because the same rule applies for you. Ready?" She nodded and charged at me faster than I ever thought possible.

I guess they don't call her Dash for nothing.

Before I could even react, she slammed both hooves in a hammer motion at my head, instantly shattering my helmet and dazing me. I attempted to recover, but felt two rear hooves connect with my face, knocking me back a few feet and downing me. It was clear that she was much faster than I was...but then again, I was stronger and more experienced. I quickly got to my hooves just in time to dodge another hoof to the head, but I was then caught by another hoof to the face, followed by another one that swept out my front legs. This battle was clearly not going my way, and I was starting to fear I had vastly underestimated her.

I had to do something quick, or I was going to lose really fast.

I pulled back just in time to see both of her front hooves smash the ground where my head had been, but she was wide open for an uppercut, which I gladly delivered. She used the momentum and backflipped, kicking me square in the chin with both rear hooves, and knocking the lights out.

"You killed him, Rainbow!"

"I didn't kill him, Twi. He's still breathing, see?"

"Whooee, RD, Ah never thought you'd beat 'im on yer first try. Tha' was some mighty fine hoofwork there."

"Yeah yeah, I'm awesome. Umm...do you think he's gonna be mad at me?"

I opened my eyes to the blurry sight of AJ, Dash, Twilight, and Pinkie. My head hurt like I'd been hit by a truck, and I could taste blood in my mouth. I sat up and spit a mouthful of blood out, coughing a bit.

I then looked over at Dash and smiled. "No Dash, I'm not mad at you. That was a hell of a good fight. It's good to know that you've already got hoof-to-hoof fighting down, because that's one less thing I have to train you in." I quickly cast a minor heal spell to stop the bleeding, though my head was still in a massive amount of pain. I just stood up and smiled at the group. "Okay, it is now official that whenever I'm not around, you are to train with Private Dash, as it's clear that her hoof-to-hoof combat skills rival or exceed my own. That means that you, Private Dash, need to be every bit as intense on them as I am." I then patted the rainbow-maned alicorn on the shoulder. "In addition, you're being promoted to Private First Class Dash now, so you're going to lead the training with Captain Armor and Corporal Doo whenever me or Dark aren't around. Is that understood?"

Dash nodded and saluted. "Yes sir, thank you sir."

"Good. Now the rest of you start going through the obstacle course while Private Applejack and Private Pie spar. Get started and don't stop until you can't stand anymore, got it?" I bellowed.

"Yes sir!" they all responded unanimously before heading off to their respective areas.

Pinkie was a big surprise when it came to physical activity, as she was easily as strong as AJ…but then again with all the bouncing she did and how fast she could be, I guess she'd have to be. I had always noticed that she had a playful and youthful bounce in her step, which I always attributed to her personality. Now, however, it appeared that it was because of her hidden physical strength and ability.

The fun-loving Pinkie hated to fight, so in her mind she created an alternate persona that she dubbed "Pinkamena" – using her birth name. Contrary to the bubbly, giggling, fun-loving Pinkie Pie, this "Pinkamena" was highly focused, had a straight mane and tail, and could be downright scary. Using Pinkie's natural ability to stand and move about comfortably on only two legs, Pinkamena was able to learn martial arts from my brother, making her a much more capable fighter. During the few training sessions I'd had with her, Pinkamena's unnatural aptitude for combat – as well as her ferocious behavior when sparring – earned her the title "The Beast of Equestria" from the recruits. However, after training was over and she removed her armor, her mane poofed up and she became the lovable Pinkie Pie again.

While this transition was unnerving to say the least, I understood that it was her way of coping with her past. Pinkamena might be dangerous, but she was also completely in control. She never put in more force than was needed to knock out a sparring opponent, and never intentionally hurt anyone. What I found odd with this skill, however, was the fact that she actually preferred to take orders as opposed to thinking on her own, causing me to assume she didn't trust herself. I only hoped that after this war we could all help Pinkie finally come to terms with what had happened those many years ago, but for now we had to focus on staying alive and making sure we would at some point have the luxury to get her the help she needed.

"Darn it Pinkamena, y'all are just too fast fer me…but thanks fer not goin' easy on me." AJ remarked with a smile, a small trickle of blood running down her face from a cut above her left eye.

The normally serious Pinkamena smiled as she dabbed gauze on her friend's cut. "Of course I'm not going to go easy on you, Applejack. I want you to be as strong as you possibly can. I do it because I want to make sure we all make it back from this thing...and if that means I have to give you some bruises or cuts, I'm going to do it."

I just watched as the two friends spoke softly, noticing the odd similarities between the pink mare's two personalities. Though she was different in nearly every way from Pinkie Pie, Pinkamena still shared her deep compassion for friends. What I found disheartening about it was that while Pinkie Pie loved me deeply, Pinkamena saw me only as her superior…nothing more.

I was just glad that somewhere in that body right now, my Pinkie Pie still existed.

My thoughts on the lovable mare were interrupted by a loud boom, one that sounded a lot like lightning, even though there were no clouds in the sky. This was followed shortly thereafter by the sound of rocks falling. I flapped my wings and shot up into the sky to see an entire mountain crumbling in on itself…along with an Obsidian standing next to it.

God dammit Mason…

"Dude, what the fuck are you doing?" I yelled from overhead, catching the attention of the two dragons, along with the twenty or so unicorns standing nearby.

The black dragon simply smiled up at me and beckoned me down. "It's a new weapon I've developed with Celestia. Come down here and check it out."

I did as he asked and landed, only to be shown a large device that looked like a gun of some sort. I eyed him suspiciously and asked, "What the hell is it?"

He smirked and mounted the device on my horn, then began clipping the multiple harnesses to my body. "This, my good sir, is a railgun." I gasped and he just nodded, chuckling. "Yes…I said railgun. The design has been modified for magic to be used as a power source, of course." He then finished strapping the device up to me, and I was surprised at just how heavy it was. The dragon pointed at the rubble that was previously a mountain. "What I want you to do is charge a projectile spell in your horn, releasing it at its apex…and then watch the carnage."

In all honesty, I wasn't as strong as I'd like to be with magic other than ice spells, but I did as he said and charged an arcane mortar shot in my horn. I lowered my head and aimed towards the target, and let the spell continue to charge. When I felt it was at its most powerful, I released the spell…and was surprised by a massive kickback and a loud crack of what sounded like thunder. I was forced to close my eyes as a great amount of dust was blown into my eyes by the force of the explosion…but when I was able to look again my mouth dropped open in awe of what I saw.

The rubble was no more…obliterated by the blast.

"H-how?" was all I could squeak out.

My brother chuckled and started unstrapping the railgun from my head and body. "Lots of experimentation, magesteel, and a lot of failed attempts." Once he took the device off, he started pointing to the multiple ridges inside of the twin open-face barrel. "The way I've set it up is so these ridges here amplify the power and speed of the shot. The downsides of this weapon are the massive kickback, as well as the danger of fracturing your horn if you charge the shot for too long. It also goes without saying that whoever's wearing one of these isn't going to be very mobile. Even with that being the case, this thing is going to come in handy for this war coming up, especially with what's going on in Zebrica right now." He then motioned to the other unicorns and a few pegasi that were watching. "These guys are part of the Heavy Ordnance Specialist team, or H.O.S. for short. It's formed of some of our elite unicorn guards, as well as a few choice pegasi for support. Corporal Nightwing is the leader of the unit."


The black pegasus was brother to the late Celestial Guard, Brightwing. I was honestly surprised to see him again so soon, but I knew why he was doing this. Both him and his brother held great love for their home, and even though Brightwing was gone, the charcoal-colored brother was going to make sure his brother's death was not in vain. I could see the pain in his neon green eyes, but I could also see a drive to overcome it.

Selfish as it is, I hope I never have that look in my eyes.

Perspective change – Luna

The progress of the day thus far has been rather exciting, which is putting it mildly. This would be the first time I would be side-by-side with my sister during a war, and I could not put into words how wonderful it felt that the enemy was not me. All the same, however, I was afraid.

The last time I was in a war, I was the aggressor…and I could not remember it because of Nightmare Moon. With that being the case, this would be my first real conflict to be a part of.

'Fear not, Luna. I will be with you, as will our sisters. I will atone for my past transgressions…that is a vow I will not break to you, or myself.'

It was still unusual for me for what was once the bane of my sanity was now my greatest ally…and a lost part of myself. Even after the months that have gone by, I still found myself becoming accustomed to the very idea…but it was nice to have another that knew me so well. In many ways, Night knew me better than I knew myself, and I appreciated her guidance and confidence in me. It took some getting used to in order to not look at her as a nemesis, but the ancient being took it all in stride, which I was thankful for.

Something about her had been bothering me lately, however. More and more I had begun to notice that whenever the subject of Frost came up in any way, a small pang of longing and guilt could be felt coming from the avatar housed within me. I knew without a doubt that she had loved Winter deeply…and the loss of him had wounded her, much as how the loss of Veroxzhar had wounded my sister. The longing, however, came from the change that she and Day enacted upon Frostrender and Steel. The "ritual" fused the two beings into one, effectively making their two spirits into one. This meant that while Frost was still the young human man I met over a year ago, he was now also the timeless avatar of winter…and with it, he inherited Winter's memories, experiences…and love.

Being a timeless being myself, I was well aware of just how important relationships were between the immortals. Among billions of sentient beings on the planet, there were only a hooffull of immortals, and so each connection – of friendship or otherwise – was treasured. With that in mind, I was often confused as to why Night kept her emotions silent from Frost. I would not be so foalish as to say it would not feel somewhat awkward for me at first…but she loved Winter long before I was even born into this world…and she deserved a chance to feel the love that I felt.

'Night…why do you not simply tell Winter how you feel about him?'

'I cannot, Luna. Winter no longer exists for me. He is Frostbreaker now.'

Her stubbornness was a trait we both shared, and I couldn't help but grin at the thought.
'Frostbreaker and Winter are one and the same, Night. The Winter you love is still there…and I am sure that if you make your feelings known to him, he will respond. In fact, I am curious as to why he has not asked about you yet.'

The avatar was silent, and I began to get impatient.

'Night, I will not simply stand by and watch you forsake your happiness because of some misguided belief. If you will not tell him, I will.'

'Luna no, you cannot! Please, stay silent! I…'

'Night, why do you do this to yourself? I know for a fact that you loved Winter…what has changed?'

The avatar of night was silent for a moment, and I could feel her apprehension grow.
'Nothing has changed…and that is the problem.'

'I do not understand, Night. How could nothing changing cause you to be so reticent towards the one you love?'

'Because he no longer belongs to me…he is yours now.'

This confused me, as I had never thought the once Nightmare Moon could be so…self-sacrificing.


'No Luna…I will not. I have robbed you of a millennium of your life…I will not rob you of your mate as well.'

This was yet another emotion of Night's that I was unfamiliar with – regret. She regretted what she had done to me…and since I felt what she felt, I could tell it was sincere. The very fact that I could now actually feel sympathy for this being attested to just how much our relationship had changed. Without saying any more, I began to charge a spell of Frost's into my horn…one that he used on Frostrender once.

I needed to speak with Night face-to-face.

I charged the spell in my horn, letting it get stronger and stronger. I then focused on Night's essence within me, and used the magic to bring her out of my body. A black orb of energy settled on the ground in front of me before growing and forming the tall body of an alicorn. The coat was solid black, and her mane was as mine, save for a violet tinge to it. Her eyes were a piercing blue, and she had the most confused expression on her face.

"L-Luna, what is the meaning of this?" the avatar of night asked, a panic evident in her eyes.

I smiled at what was once my worst enemy, instead feeling worry and compassion for her. "I simply wished to speak to you face-to-face, Night. You can thank Frost for this spell."

Quickly regaining her composure, Night's face became impassable. "Very well, what do you need?"

Skating around the issue…I was more like Night than I originally thought. I stepped forward with a look of concern, looking into the blue eyes of my avatar with care. As I closed the distance between us, her expression became one of confusion at first, until I reached up and pulled the taller pony against me in a hug. She instantly tensed up and her breathing increased in a panic.

"L-Luna? Wh-what…" she stuttered out.

I simply held her tighter and smiled. "Night…I have forgiven you. We all succumb to greed, fear…and even hatred. Please…please forgive yourself."

The larger figure held tense against me for a few more seconds before extending her large black wings around me as well as her forelegs. Her shaky voice was barely a whisper when she responded, "Thank you, Luna…"

We held the embrace for a few more moments before breaking away, but when we did so she was smiling. I smiled back and nodded. "The ponies of Equestria all forgave me before I could forgive myself. I believe that in atonement for our sins, we seek the forgiveness of those we have wronged. Well Night, you have wronged me…but I forgive you. So please, forgive yourself and move on."

A single tear dropped from her icy blue eyes, but she smiled. "Thank you, Luna. I…I needed that."

I nodded and was silent for a moment before continuing. "You must speak with Frost at some point soon."

"But Luna-" she attempted to respond, but I cut her off and continued.

"You are not robbing me of my mate, Night. Winter was yours far longer than Drew was mine. With that being said, we are in many ways the same pony, as Frost is also the Winter you love. So you see, no pony is robbing anypony…he belongs with both of us. It is only fair that you have a chance to feel the love that I feel. Frost is the first stallion I have ever cared for this way, and I am aware of just how powerful the feeling is." I explained. I then placed a hoof on her shoulder with a smile. "To allow you to keep yourself from this wonderful feeling, I would be robbing you. As your host, it is my responsibility to make sure you are taken care of. You do not require food or sleep as I do, but every entity with emotions requires love."

The elemental avatar smiled softly and nodded gently. "You are far wiser than I ever thought possible, Luna. It appears I have vastly underestimated you."

I nodded in return. "Just as I used to believe you were my inner evil, waiting to pounce and take control at every turn. It appears both of our impressions of each other were inaccurate."

"I…I will speak to him tonight, if you would allow it." the black pony whispered, looking away with a slight blush.

I couldn't help but smile warmly, realizing her shyness was exactly the same way as I had felt about Frost when I first met him. It seems we are more alike than I ever knew.

Perspective change – Spike

Training with Darkflight had yielded pretty impressive results. His hand-to-hand combat was incredible, and with my strength and agility, I became the most deadly fighter on the ground. My body's maturity had caused my once-flimsy claws to become harder than diamonds, and this allowed me to tunnel through the ground at great speed with ease. My heightened dragon senses also allowed me to feel and pinpoint where enemies were while underground, and my magical fire training with Dark had allowed me to adapt to any situation. By what Dark had told me about our enemy, I was going to need to be as dangerous as possible…and had to be ready to destroy anything around me to keep from getting myself killed. I was afraid at first, but over the last two months I had that fear trained out of me. With Rarity or my friends, I was Spike – the lovable dragon that loved to joke around.

On the battlefield, I was a monster.

Dark had also forged me a brand new set of armor that looked just like his, except mine was green to match my spines and eyes. Mine also had bladed shoulders and a helmet that was made to allow me to more efficiently dig through the ground, as we quickly found this ability would be really useful for a surprise attack.

It actually bothered me a bit that no one wanted to fight me save for Venn or Moonfang, but that was only because a normal pony was too physically weak to hold up against me. Moonfang – while no longer the wooden behemoth he once was – was every bit a ferocious wolf in a fight. Venn and Moonfang had originally opted for a sword-and-shield armor set, but then changed their tastes due to Darkflight's training. As opposed to a block-and-strike battle style, he instead chose to train them in a dodge-and-counter style, using their superior reflexes and agility to wreak havoc on anyone they fought. They had full armor much like me, but with claw enhancements on their hands and feet. I knew immediately that this worked better for them when Darkflight sparred with Venn and didn't land a single strike, while Venn ended up putting Dark in the infirmary for a day.

Rarity worried about me of course, but Venn, Darkflight, Moonfang, and Frost all assured her that we would all look out for each other. This put her more at ease, but it didn't stop her from holding on to me for dear life, like she was today as we relaxed in the park after she finished her orders from Canterlot. Not that I minded, of course. After all, I'd waited almost six years for her. Besides the obvious of wanting to be close to my marefriend, it was always fun to see the few stallions in Ponyville giving me the stink-eye for landing one of the most desirable mares in all of Equestria.

Well they can suck it…I was here first.

The ivory unicorn in my lap looked up at me lovingly and smiled, sighing happily. "I do wish every day could be this lovely, Spike." She then pouted. "But of course, winter will be here soon…"

I chuckled as I ran my hands through the styled violet mane. "Don't let Frost hear you talking about winter like that. He'll drop a blizzard on top of the boutique or something." She then looked up at me in shock and I shook my head with a grin. "I'm kidding, dear, that was a joke. We both know Frost isn't that petty…not with us, anyway."

She raised an eyebrow and smiled mischievously. "Sibling rivalry, hm?"

I nodded. "Yeah. I remember Dark thought it'd be funny to put liquid rainbow in Frost's morning coffee. He woke up the next day with bright pink skin, complete with an hourglass figure. Frost turned him into a dragoness for a day. Imagine my surprise when the new dragon that I can't help but stare at is actually Dark."

Rarity giggled softly and smiled. "So, Darkflight made quite the attractive dragoness, did he? Well now, I have some ammunition should I feel like having a laugh with him."

This was one of the things I loved about Rarity. In public, she was prim, proper, and well-mannered. When we were alone, however, she was every bit as mischievous and devious as I was. She had a youthfulness and playfulness that defied her years, and I enjoyed it a lot…which would make this next question so much more important for me.

"Rarity, I have a question I'd like to ask…and it's kind of important." I breathed out in a smooth voice. She looked up at me as I reached into my satchel and pulled out an item. I then got on a knee, forcing her to stand up and gasp…as I'm sure she already figured out what this was about. I then looked into her eyes and smiled warmly. 'No going back now, Spike.' "Rarity, I love you more than I could ever express. You mean the world to me, and so much more. You are my sun, my moon, and my shining stars of the night. Would you do this humble dragon the great honor of becoming my wife?" When I finished, I revealed what was behind my back – a golden horn ring. It was the first and only thing I'd forged that I actually kept…and only because I wanted it to be perfect. Dark guided me of course, but the work was mine…and as Rarity's eyes started to well up with tears of joy, I knew I had made the right choice in doing it myself.

"Spike…" she whispered, as if saying my name too loud would break her out of a dream. She then looked up at me and tackled me in a hug, kissing my face repeatedly. "Yes, yes, yes…a thousand times yes!"

Physical attraction became a crush, and then a crush became love. A friendship evolved into romance…and now I was getting married to the mare of my dreams. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could make this day any better.

"Spike…you know, Sweetie Belle is staying the night at Applejack's tonight…" my fiancée seductively breathed into my ear.

I stand corrected.

Chapter 13: Preparation

Chapter 13: Preparation

The day was going pretty well so far, and I was happy to see that Twilight had gotten over the initial shock of such vigorous physical activity for such a long period of time. I knew it was going to be hard on her simply because of the fact that she relied on her magic so much in her day-to-day life. She was by no means fat or anything, but she was definitely out of shape. Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash were the exact opposite. All three of them were very strong and had a good amount of stamina and endurance, so for them at least, I just focused on combat training.

After my visit with my brother to learn about his new weapons, I had been spending the rest of the day training myself and everyone else, along with Shining Armor and Ditzy. Now, however, was time for some lunch, so we were all in the mess hall outside the guard barracks.

Ditzy was sitting next to me talking with Rainbow Dash while Twilight was on my right. It went without saying that the violet unicorn looked very tired, but was also very determined. Hoping to add some comfort, I leaned down and nuzzled her softly with a smile.

"You did really good today, Twi. I'm proud of you." I said softly.

She looked up at me and smiled as well, albeit a little weakly. "Thanks Frost. I just can't help but think about how hard this is going to be, though. I mean, I use magic for almost everything I do every day. I wish I'd known this war was coming so I could have prepared a little better."

I nodded and took a bite of a spinach salad with tomatoes, chewing quickly and swallowing. "Well, we all wish we'd had more warning. I mean, I thought we'd have another few months at least."

She then looked at me with nervous eyes. "We're not going to Zebrica, are we?"

I shook my head. "No. Nightwing and the H.O.S. unit will be providing support there. We need to stay here to protect Canterlot and Ponyville. We all still have more training to do anyway. I want you to be in peak condition before we ever go onto the battlefield, so we're going to be training hard and fast. Thankfully because of your magical nature, your body will grow and adapt much faster than a human's body would. Whereas it would take me months to go from where you are now to peak condition back on Earth, it's only going to take you another few weeks if you work hard. I promise Twi, if you do as I say, you'll be ready."

"I'm not going to be on the front lines, am I?" she asked nervously.

I shook my head and smiled. "No, you won't. You're going to be assigned a platoon of your own to provide magical support and guidance to. More than anything though, you're going to be working with myself and the two princesses to plan and execute different strategies. You may not have been in an actual battle before, but with all those books you read on war and battle tactics, you're officially one of the most educated military intelligence officers in Equestria right now…and we're going to need your organizational skills to keep all the troops in line and working efficiently."

She smiled. "Organizing and tactics I can do." She then raised an eyebrow in confusion. "But you also said I'd be providing magical support. What did you mean by that?"

"Well Twi, you'll be providing support with defensive spells such as barriers, as well as physical enhancement spells to give your troops an extra edge in battle." I explained. Before she could question, I shook my head. "Don't worry, I'll teach those spells to you." I then sighed and closed my eyes. "There is something you need to know though, Twilight. You're going to have a lot of lives in your hooves. Like me, you have the ability to single-hoofedly turn the tide of a battle if you do your job right. Still…a lot of ponies' lives are going to depend on you. Are you ready for that kind of responsibility? If you're not, I need you to tell me now."

She looked down, obviously a little apprehensive of the idea. "Well I don't know if I'd be ready for that, Frost. I mean, I can barely handle myself."

I chuckled shook my head. "If confidence is the problem, you'll be getting a lot of that as you train and become stronger. With physical strength and fighting prowess comes confidence once you see exactly how skilled you are. What I'm asking you is that if I get you to the point where you have the capability physically and magically, would you be able to do it?"

She nodded softly. "I-I think so."

I shook my head. "An 'I think so' isn't good enough, Twi…I need to know if you can do this. I've already told you how ugly this war is going to get, so if I put you out there and you're not ready, you're going to get hundreds of ponies and possibly yourself killed. If even with my training and support you still don't think you could do it, I have to know."

She was silent for a moment before looking up at me, utterly ashamed. "I can't, Frost…I'm sorry."

I smiled softly and pulled her in close to kiss her forehead. "It's okay, Twilight. It's better to be honest than to tell me something you think I want to hear and getting a lot of ponies killed. You can still offer support with your organizational skills and tactics. That I know you can do."

"I'm sorry Frost…I really am. I wish I were braver…" she muttered.

I pulled her in close again and she nuzzled her head against my chest. "Not everyone in a war has the moxie to be able to stare death in the face…literally. That doesn't mean you're useless, Twi. I love you and trust you, and I know you'll make me proud no matter what. And who knows, perhaps later on you'll change your mind. When the need arises, we all have the ability to change in order to adapt, be that in body, mind, or soul. You're stronger than you could ever imagine, love…and one day soon, you'll be able to see that."

She finally smiled as she moved away from me. "Thanks Frost."

I nodded. "Alright, so what we're going to be doing after lunch is magical training, which you're going to be handling. That I know you can do as well. You're going to be overseeing the training of the new unicorn recruits along with Rainbow Dash. Like me, Dash's magic is going to be her own unlike Celestia's and Luna's. This means that she's going to need a lot of training to get stronger with it and become more proficient. As of now she doesn't know any spells, so I want you to start at the beginning…but once she gets a feel for it, I want you to transition to battle spells, mostly offensive. She's going to be on the front lines with me, so I need you to make sure she's able to control and channel her magic well. You'll be doing this every day with her and the rest of the unicorn recruits after lunch, save for the weekends. Are you up to it?"

She nodded as she swallowed a mouthful of carrots. "Yeah, I can do that. Rainbow Dash always used to make fun of me for being so obsessed with magic, but now it looks like I'll be the teacher and she'll be the student." She then bounced a little in place. "Oh, this is going to be fun!"

I chuckled and turned away to see Shining Armor talking with Nightwing, and I instantly felt a little sad. I hadn't spoken to Nightwing ever since his brother died, so I made my mind up to do so now.

I stood up and walked over to the pair, noticing the solemn yet determined expression in both of their eyes. They both looked up when they saw me and smiled, Shining Armor stepping forward first.

"Frost! By Celestia, it's good to see you. How are things going in training?" he asked.

I shrugged and smiled. "Pretty well, all things considered." I then glanced at the black pegasus before looking back to the captain. "Hey Shining, can I speak with Nightwing alone for a moment?"

He nodded. "Sure. I'll be talking to Twily if you guys need me."

I smiled at the captain as he left, then looked back to Nightwing. "So…how you holdin' up? I didn't get to talk to you after-"

"Don't, prince…just don't. I'm trying to distract myself the best I can, because if I think about it…I'm going to lose my nerve." he explained sadly.

I shook my head with a frown. "Ignoring what happened is only going to make it worse, Nightwing. Trust me…I know. I've lost two sisters and a fiancée…I know what it's like to lose love ones and family. From experience I can tell you that if you don't let yourself grieve, you're just going to do more damage than good."

He shook his head. "I…I didn't know prince…I'm sorry."

I smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "It did hurt a lot…but look at me now. I've found my smile again and even laughter. No one will ever expect you to forget about your brother, Nightwing…but you have to let yourself mourn his loss. Your brother is dead – killed by the very enemy we face now. You need to let yourself come to terms with that. If you don't, your nightmares and inner conflict is going to consume you. Trust me on this. Like I said…I know." I then sighed as I looked out on the gardens in front of us. "Dark never told you about our world, but I think there's something you should know, because it pertains to what you're feeling and going through right now. After our sisters died, I held it all in. The way I saw it, crying or mourning the loss was a waste of time, as it didn't solve anything. Besides, I was working a full-time job and going to college at the same time, so I didn't have time for touchy-feely stuff like that. A real man never cries." I sat down and breathed deeply before continuing. "The pain and depression started to build up inside me. I had night terrors and hallucinations that got so bad that I couldn't take it anymore. I…" I swallowed hard. "I tried to kill myself…twice." He gasped, but I continued. "Now I know what you're thinking, Nightwing. You're thinking that you'd never do something like that. Well, neither did I. You don't know what it's like until you've forced yourself into that position, where your heart and soul is aching, but you won't allow yourself to cry and grieve that pain away." I then looked back down at him with a sad smile. "Get together with someone you trust and care about…and let it out. Let yourself come to terms with what has happened. It will hurt at first…it'll hurt a hay of a lot, but I promise you'll feel better afterward. You'll never forget Brightwing, but that doesn't mean you have to forever feel the pain from losing him."

The pegasus' bright green eyes were shining a little now with unwept tears, but he smiled. "Thanks prince. I needed to hear that."

I nodded and smiled back at him. "Anything I can do to help, Corporal. You should know that I'm more than just a Colonel or prince, I'm also just a pony like the rest of you. I feel pain, I feel fear, and I feel grief. I know what you're going through, and I know that you need to take time to get through it. Take the rest of the day off and rest up to prepare for tomorrow. Find time to let yourself mourn your brother, so that you can step into Zebrica tomorrow with a clear mind."

He nodded and turned away, stopping for a moment. "Thank you, Prince Frosbreaker."
I watched him go as he flew away, only to be startled by a voice within my head.


“Celestia? Jeez, couldn't you be a little gentler with the mind-speech? I just about jumped out of my skin.”

“I apologize, Frost. We have a situation, and I do not wish to cause a panic. Please come to the throne room immediately.”

“Will do, Celestia. I'm on my way.”

Feeling confident that I was close enough to teleport, I focused on the throne room and disappeared in a flash.

When I reappeared, it was to find Celestia and six guards surrounding a cage…that held a bone-gryphon.

"Celestia, how did you all catch this thing?" I asked in confusion.

She smiled. "Please, you do not truly believe that I am without my tricks, do you? I believed that we could learn from and study it so that we could better understand it. The cage is merely a secondary measure. I am at the moment holding it in place with magic."

I nodded as the four unicorn guards lifted the cage. "Alright, well first we need to know how they track us. I need you to make sure your hold on it is strong, because I'm going to connect with its essence to find out what senses it has. I trust you not to lose focus here, Celestia." She nodded and I lowered my horn to the creature's head, noticing its burning yellow orbs that were eyes were staring directly at me. As soon as I connected my mind with it, my vision changed. I saw myself, though something was different. Normal colors were gone; instead the world was shown in shades of red, with me showing up as a very dark red, and Celestia showing as bright red, almost orange. I could see her horn glowing white-hot, but other than these things, details were left out.

I disconnected from the creature and cast a strong dispel on it, causing it to drop to the ground in a heap of bones. I then looked at Celestia with a frown. "It seems to have a sort of thermal vision, which means it's going to be able to see very well at all times, even at night. Secondly, it appears that any magical spell shows up very well in its vision. I couldn't hear you or smell you, however, so I assume those senses are dulled or nonexistent. Still, we've seen how strong these things are, so we know just how dangerous they can be. With winter on the way, that means that these things are going to be able to track us easily if we're not careful. I recommend well-insulated clothes for all in the field, so that our heat signatures will be lower."

She nodded. "I understand. I'll give Rarity orders for these bits of clothing immediately." She then sighed. "Also, we need to speak about the unicorn known as Enigma Flare. It is obvious that he will be a great help to the war, but he is highly susceptible to the winter cold…so much so that it can kill him much easier than normal ponies."

I nodded. "Well on his insulation clothes we'll need to be sure they're much more insulated than the rest. I wish we could just leave him out of this, but we need him. I think I could help with some enchantments for warmth and fire-proofing, but I'll need to talk to him about it. I think he's still reluctant to join."

"Do you have an idea as to why he is so distrusting of the guard?" she asked.

I shook my head. "Not really. I mean my best guess is politics, or maybe something happened with a family member having to do with the guard. I don't really know, but I'll make sure to ask him tomorrow to find out. In the meantime, I'm thinking we need to awaken Dashie's avatar."

Celestia eyed me suspiciously. "Rainbow Dash houses an avatar? How do you know this?"

I shrugged. "Just a feeling I have. We need all the power we can get, so I'm going to get started right away. You have to remember that it takes two weeks for the adjustment, so the sooner we do this, the better."

She nodded in understanding. "Very well, I will contact the others and advise them of what you plan to do. Please do so immediately, as every moment wasted is a moment we can spend preparing for this conflict."

"Understood, Celestia. I'll be back in a little bit." I responded before disappearing again in another flash of light.

I appeared back in the mess hall to the surprise of a young unicorn private, who I had appeared right in front of.

I looked down at him and smiled sheepishly. "Uh, sorry about that."

He smiled and shook his head. "All's well, Prince Frostbreaker. Good day." And with that he walked away.

I walked over to Dash quickly and nudged her with my muzzle, causing her to look up at me. "Oh hey, Frost. What's up?"

I motioned for her to follow me. "Well, it's time to awaken your avatar, love. Come with me."

She looked at me in confusion before following, not speaking until we were out of earshot of everypony else. "My avatar? Do I even have one? I mean, I didn't start out as an alicorn like the rest of you did."

I shrugged. "I could be wrong, but it's just a feeling I have. My hunches have never steered me wrong before, and if I'm wrong, then we can just go about training as usual. But if I'm right, we need to get this out of the way as soon as possible. You have to remember that it takes about two weeks to complete the process."

"Will you visit me when I'm out? Luna said she could hear us…so I'd like for you to visit and talk to me. You know, so I can keep from going crazy and whatnot." she mumbled.

I chuckled and nodded. "Of course I will, Dashie. Luckily for you, the time will pass really fast. For me, it seemed like I was out for only a few hours. All the same, yes, I will come and visit and talk to you."

She nodded and bumped her shoulder against me as we walked. "Thanks Frost."

We arrived at the training grounds a few minutes later, finding that it was mercifully empty. I then led Dash to the center of the crater that was now an arena and stood a bit away from her. "Okay Dash, so this is what's gotta happen. The releasing of your avatar can only happen through a powerful emotion. For Luna and me, it's anger and hatred. For Celestia, it's happiness. For you, I have a feeling it's going to be your will to protect your friends and love for them. So I need you to focus on that. Let it flow through you…consume you." I looked up at the sky in thought before smiling. "Try this out; imagine that we're in the war right now. Ponies are fighting all around us with monsters, and it's your job to watch over them. Then you look over and see Fluttershy…"

"Shy…" she mumbled.

I nodded. "One of those bone-gryphons is bearing down on her, about to tear her apart. You're the only thing standing between her and death, Dash…the only thing."

Her eyes were closed while she envisioned the scenario in her mind. Her face twisted into agony a few times and pure rage before she grit her teeth and growled. Her words were barely a whisper, but they held a power and devotion that I'd only heard once before. "No…you won't touch her…" I could feel strong energy crackling in the air as her horn started glowing a bright blue. Storm clouds began to gather overhead as lightning cracked through them, and her entire body began glowing bright white. Rain began to fall heavily, and the late afternoon sun from behind me caused a rainbow to appear in the distance behind her.

It took a few minutes, but the light began to die down even though the storm did not abate. As my vision began to clear, I looked upon a tall alicorn that looked almost nothing like Dash. It was a dark grey with piercing green eyes and green tiger-like stripes running the length of its body, looking more like lightning bolts than normal stripes. The mane and tail had become intangible, instead resembling billowing clouds rather than a normal mane and tail. Grey armor with green trim covered the head, neck, and body, with large rear-facing protrusions that gave it the illusion of speed and ferocity.

The figured looked upon me in shock, and I immediately knew who it was. As the Winter memories stirred within me, I smiled and nodded at the powerful avatar. "Spring? Is it really you?"

The tall pony looked at me in confusion. "Winter?" She then jumped a bit in shock. "W-what happened? Why am I a mare? Why are you a stallion?"

"Umm…that's probably because your host is a mare, Spring, and mine was a stallion." I responded. I then chuckled and raised an eyebrow suggestively. "You make a cute mare, if I do say so myself."

Spring looked at me with annoyance and rolled her eyes. "Don't make fun of me, Winter, or I'll strike you with a bolt of lightning."

I laughed and nodded. "Fine fine, I've had my fun."

"Yes, I believe you have." she remarked smugly. "Well then, why have I been called here?"

I took a serious expression and looked off into the distance, where our enemy was no doubt hiding somewhere. "War has come to Equestria, Spring. To be specific…Death."

Her eyes widened in shock. "Death? He has returned? H-how, I mean…why?"

I shook my head in frustration. "I don't know why, but I do know how. It is because of me. I'm his son, Spring."

She gasped and stepped forward. "N-no, you can't be."

I nodded. "As Winter, I am not…but as Drew or Frostbreaker, I am. I am two beings in one, Spring…and the side of me that is not from Terra is related to Death as a son, as much as it pains me to say so."

"Wait…you're not from Terra? Where are you from, then?" she asked in confusion.

I sighed and frowned. "A place called Earth, where murder, theft, and evil in general runs rampant. A place where there is far more bare, dead ground than green fields. A world where care for another is rare and trust is even rarer."

Her mouth dropped open in awe, and she stayed that way for a few moments before remembering herself. "Wow…I was not expecting that at all. I am sorry for that, Winter…truly I am."

I shook my head. "It is all as well, anyway. The point is that we need your help, and so I have called you forth to help fight for Equestria, so that it does not become a wasteland overrun by Death and his power. Will you help?"

She smiled and nodded, patting me on the shoulder. "Of course I will, Winter. I made a promise to you once that I would always be there when you needed me. Millennia have passed and I was not able to live up to that promise…but I am able to now. Of course I will help you, my dear friend."

I smiled and shook her hoof. "Thanks, Spring. I knew you'd come through for me. You should know that we also have found Night, Day, and Life. I will introduce them to you after the adaptation phase is over with."

She facehooved with a grimace. "Ugh…this thing lasts for two weeks, right?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Connect minds with Rainbow Dash and get to know her. She's a good mare and I trust her deeply." I then shifted a little nervously. "Umm…there's something you should know, Spring. Rainbow Dash and I are…married."

"Oh..." she responded. "Well…this is awkward. Have you two…"

I nodded with a smirk. "Oh yeah…quite a few times."

She nodded. "I see. Well I'm certainly not going to ask you to stop simply because I'm aware now. Besides, seems these female instincts make me feel a lot less wrong about it. I'll get over it. After all, I've got two weeks to come to terms with it." She then smirked. "Besides, I've always wondered what it would be like as a mare to do…that."

I shook my head and chuckled. "Three-thousand years and you're still weird."

She giggled and nudged me, then groaned. "Ugh…I just giggled like a school filly, didn't I?"

I nodded. "Why yes, you did."

"This is going to take some getting used to. Still, you know better than any of us that time doesn't change who you are…not in any way that matters, anyway." she responded.

I rolled my eyes. "Thanks for making me feel even older." I then looked out over the horizon, noticing the sun was sinking towards it. "You probably don't have much longer, so let's get you to the hospital so that they can take care of Rainbow Dash while her body adjusts to you."

We arrived at the hospital not a moment too soon, because as soon as we walked through the door, the avatar's hold was broken and Rainbow Dash collapsed to the ground.

"F-Frost? Where are you?" the downed alicorn mumbled.

I kneeled and nuzzled her mane softly. "Right here, love. I promise I'll visit every day, okay? Now…rest." She nodded and immediately closed her eyes, her breathing regulating at a very slow rate. I looked up and nodded to Nurse Redheart. "Got another one, nurse. Can you get her a room with Cadence?"

The earth pony nodded and smiled. "Of course. You can leave her; we'll take it from here."

I nodded and leaned down to kiss the cyan alicorn's cheek before she was wheeled away to her room. I then focused and teleported myself back to the throne room.

Perspective change – Twilight Sparkle

So…now Rainbow Dash would be out of commission for two whole weeks. This put a damper on my spirits, as I was really looking forward to practicing magic with her. Still, I understood the reason for it. We would need all the help we could get, and another avatar available would always help. I would be telling a lie, however, if I said I wasn't excited about teaching a group of unicorns about magic.

It was no secret that as the Element of Magic, I commanded the single greatest magic power in Equestria, save for the princesses. I preferred humility, though, as I didn't really like all the attention. I didn't want to be known as "The Great and Powerful" Twilight Sparkle…that was Trixie's title, and we all saw how that turned out.

Speaking of Trixie, I'd heard that Enigma Flare and Ditzy had been looking for her, for whatever reason. While I did wonder about the intention behind finding her, it did offer a great opportunity for me. For a long time, I'd felt very guilty about the entire incident with the Ursa Minor. The only reason I'd taken care of it was because I was the only pony who could. I didn't want to ruin Trixie's career, and I felt guilt every time I even thought about her.

Hopefully they'd find her…so I could apologize.

At the moment, however, I had more pressing matters to attend to.

A loud clattering caused me to stare at a young unicorn mare, just a year or so younger than me. She was a cyan unicorn with sea-blue eyes. Her mane was two-toned white and blue, and she had an hourglass for a cutie mark…the exact same as Doctor Whooves', which I found odd. Maybe they were related? I couldn't think of any ponies that had the exact same cutie mark, even in family. Whatever…thoughts for another time.

"Colgate," I said softly as I stepped forward to the mare, "that's the third time you've dropped your staff. Are you sure you're ready for this?"

She snorted and smirked. "I'm a unicorn, Miss Sparkle. Magic is in my blood."

I shook my head. "Not magic, the war." The staff dropped again. "I thought so. Go sit down, Private Colgate."

She attempted to retort, "But I-"

I snapped a glare at her. "I said sit down, private. I'll be over in a moment." The mare instantly complied and sat down a ways away from the other recruits. I then turned back to the group. "Alright colts and fillies, you are to rotate your staves on two planes at once. If you drop it, you have to pick it up and start all over again. I'll be tracking all of your progress, so don't stop until you've reached two-hundred cycles, got it?" They all nodded and got started, so I headed over to the mare I'd sent away. She was sitting near a window looking pitiful while staring out at the city of Canterlot. I sat next to her, causing her to look at me. I smiled softly and nudged her. "Tell me why you're here…really. It's pretty obvious that the very idea of war scares the hay out of you."

She sighed and deflated a bit. "Because I want to do something to help…to be something." She looked up at me with fire in her eyes. "Do you know what I do for a living? What 'Colgate' does? I'm the Doctor's assistant…nothing else. No pony cares what I do, because they never hear about me. Well this is my home now too, and I want to do something – anything – to help it. Is that so wrong?"

I sighed and shook my head in frustration. "No, that's not wrong…but maybe you're going about this the wrong way." I heard a staff drop on the floor, and immediately knew who it was. "Start over, Private Shine."

A gasp was heard from behind me, since I hadn't even turned around. "How did you know it was me?"

"I know a lot of things. Now start over." I retorted.

Colgate looked at me in confusion. "How do you do that? It's like you have eyes in the back of your head."

I smirked and pointed to my horn. "I've been using a spell to track them the whole time, feeling the movements through the air. With practice, I can kind of get a sort of vision with my spell, 'seeing' even without my eyes."

She smiled at me and nodded. "That's very interesting. Could you teach me?"

"Maybe…but first you need to make a decision, Colgate. Is fighting in this war what you really want to do?" I asked in a serious voice.

She immediately shook her head. "No…I don't. I don't want to feel useless either, though."

I giggled and shook my head softly in response. "There are more than enough things you can do to help with a war without actually fighting. Fluttershy, for example, will be tending to any wounded that may come our way. Rarity is helping with winter clothing for the soldiers, and Lyra Heartstrings and Vinyl Scratch will help keep morale up here in Canterlot and Ponyville. You see, just because you aren't actually fighting in a war doesn't mean you're useless. No pony is useless…ever." I glanced at the mark on her flank, then back up to her eyes. "So, what are you passionate about? I'm not really sure what your cutie mark means."

She suddenly looked a little nervous. "Umm…I don't know what it means either. I was…um…born with it."

I couldn't help but gasp in shock. "Born with a cutie mark?"

She nodded softly. "Y-yes. Can we please not talk about it?"

I composed myself and nodded as well. "O-okay. But anyway, what do you like to do? I mean, there has to be something that you love to do that is useful. Cutie mark or not, everypony is good at something."

She thought for a moment before responding. "W-well I'm pretty good at freeze-drying food with magic."

"Freeze-drying? What's that?" I asked, utterly confused.

She facehooved. "Right, I forgot most ponies don't know what that is. Well, it's a way of preserving food. Take hay fries, for example. Basically what freeze-drying does is force most or all of the moisture out of the food. While it's true that it doesn't necessarily taste all that great compared to the fresh food, it lasts a lot longer than normal and is lighter, and thus easier to carry. Most of the nutrients are left in it, so it's just as healthy as it always was."

It took less than a second for me to come up with an idea. "Rations!"

"What?" she questioned.

I giggled and smiled. "Sorry. What I meant was it could be used to make military rations. Part of the problem with rations is that they're heavy and don't last very long, so we usually end up having to use a lot of magic to preserve them. If we were to freeze-dry them, we could cut down on the amount of weight each soldier would be forced to carry, as well as allow platoons to safely travel for weeks on their own as opposed to days. Colgate, you're a genius!"

She blushed a bit. "I-I am? I mean, I am! Of course I am!"

I giggled and patted her softly on the back. "See? I told you there was something you could do to help. Come by the palace tomorrow and I'll set up a meeting with the princesses. They'll want to get started on this technology immediately, as it'll help with the war and so many other things."

She stared at me and smiled. "Really? Wow…I thought it was a rather useless spell, actually."

Perspective change – Frostbreaker

I'd finished preparations for everything in case some other surprise attack should come up. I was greatly fearing that the next message that would come in would be that Ponyville was under attack, so I had my weapons and battle enchantments on standby just in case. Still, I had promised Dash I would be by her side, so I was currently sitting next to her bed in the hospital. I knew that she would be just fine, of course, but I hated simply sitting there, feeling helpless.

Hours must have passed, as by the time I'd realized that there was even a clock in the room, the moon was ascending into the sky. Just as I was about to get up to leave, the door opened…to reveal a familiar gryphon.

"Gilda…" I breathed softly.

The young gryphon smiled softly and placed a vase of flowers on a table near Dash, then sat down next to me on the floor. She was silent for the longest time before speaking.

She looked at me with tired, frightened eyes. "Will she be alright?"

I smiled and nodded. "She'll be fine Gilda, I promise." I then motioned to the small pink alicorn next to her. "Princess Cadence will be as well. We all went through this little coma-thing and came out just fine."

She sighed and looked at her friend upon the bed. "Okay…if you say so."

I grinned at her. "I do. You have nothing to worry about…this much I promise you."

She let a tear slip before glaring at me. "You better not tell Dash I was crying."

I shook my head and ran my hoof across my lips. "Not a word."

"I just," she started, before swallowing a lump in her throat, "I worry about her a lot, prince. She's not as strong as she acts."

I looked at the gryphon and smiled softly. "I'm married to her, Gilda. Believe me, I know. Dash has always been trying to prove herself…to herself, and to everypony else." I then looked back at the cyan figure on the bed, the moonlight dancing off of her sparkling mane. "She's a lot stronger than you give her credit for, though. She may not be as strong as you or I physically, but stronger in heart than any of us. She has the heart of a giant…and at the same time, it is a heart of gold."

Gilda sighed dreamily and nodded. "Yeah…she does."

I held a blank face as I looked at the two slumbering alicorns. "You still love her, don't you?"

"Yeah," she gryphon answered sadly, "I do…but she doesn't love me back. Not anymore. I'll always love her, I think."

I nodded in agreement and sighed. "You know, I was in love about seven years ago, back on Earth. I almost got married too…until an accident took her away from me." I focused hard, hoping the spell I was casting would work…and it did. Floating in front of us was a yellowed picture that was left behind on Earth. The spell had taken a lot out of me – and in all honesty I was a little dizzy – but it had been worth it.

I levitated the photo over to Gilda and she gently took it with a claw, staring at it in confusion. "What are these?"

I nodded towards the photo. "Those are what're known as humans, and they're from Earth. That's a picture of me…and her." Gilda gasped and I nodded. "That's her on the left…and me on the right. Her name was Natalie Reese." I swallowed hard before continuing. "On Earth we have something called cars. They are basically carriages that run on machinery and fuel…they aren't pulled by ponies. Well, the car she was driving hit a patch of ice on the road during winter." I felt a tear start to slide down my cheek, but I continued. "Her car slammed into a tree, and she died instantly upon impact…at least I hope she did. I can't bear to think if she suffered." I leaned over and looked at the picture, and I noticed that Gilda was crying too. Remembering the happy memories I'd had with her, I smiled at the picture. "I'll always love her, Gilda. Even coming to a different world and falling in love again hasn't changed that…but that's the great thing about love. You see, when you fall in love, your heart grows to make room for that person. Just because you still love someone doesn't mean you can't love someone else." I then placed a hoof softly on Gilda's shoulder and motioned to the picture. "You keep that. Keep it as a reminder of what I told you."

She sniffled a bit before leaning against me. "I'm glad, prince…" She breathed a sigh of relief and smiled, still looking at the picture as another tear dropped out of her eye. "I'm glad it's you and not somepony else. I know you'll always take good care of her."

"Always, Gilda. Forever and ever until my dying breath, if and when that should come." I responded. I then looked outside, noting that the moon was high in the sky, which meant it was at least midnight, if not later. I stood up and motioned towards the door. "Come on, we should get going before someone finds that we're still here. Visiting hours ended a long time ago."

Gilda nodded and stepped over to the door with me, but paused. She then turned around and approached her friend's bed. Placing her claws on it, she pulled herself up to stand on her hind legs, looking down at the sleeping pony beneath her. She then leaned down hugged her tightly, burying her face into the cyan alicorn’s chest. I just watched as she did this, knowing that it was not my place to interfere, husband or not. Gilda had lost a love…to me no less. Though it was Dashie's choice, Gilda deserved her own form of closure…and I'd like to think that what I said helped her.

After a few minutes, Gilda pulled away from her best friend and smiled, whispering a simple "I love you".

With her final word of closure said, she left with me into the night, not noticing a small smile now gracing the lips of her lost love.

After escorting Gilda home for the night, I was on my way back to the library for some much-needed rest. Today had been intense, to say the least, and my mind and body were both fried. And while that beating from Dash had been healed with magic, the soreness was still there. With all that being the case, I was looking forward to sleep. It would just be Twilight Vinyl and myself tonight, as everypony else was busy with different things. I was fine with this, as so long as I had at least one bedmate, I was a happy camper…or sleeper, or something.
When I arrived at the library, I just teleported to the top floor, enjoying the fresh air that flowed throughout the observation deck. The shield was already open, and when I looked around I saw why.

"Vi, Twi. Good to see the two of you got started without me." I said with a smirk.

The two giggling and slightly inebriated mares put down their glasses and smiled. Vinyl attacked me with a tackle-hug and giggled. "Frost! Ah, it's great to see you. Feels like forever since I've been able to be with you."

I hugged the unicorn tightly and smiled. "I missed you too, Vinyl." I then released her and stood up, leaning down briefly to kiss the cheek of the violet unicorn. "Good evening, Twilight. Miss me?"

She giggled and nodded. "Always, Frost. How was Rainbow?"

I shrugged. "Napping."

She giggled madly and hopped up, walking over to the bed. "Come on, Frost. We were waiting for you."

I raised an eyebrow as I followed the blushing violet mare. "And why is that?"

I was answered with a tackle from behind, causing me to fall down onto the bed. As soon as I rolled over onto my side, I was ambushed with hugs from the both of them, which I gladly returned.

Vinyl released me and grinned. "I have to make sure to make every time I spend with you worth it, because I don't know when I'll get another chance. My career's picking up, and with this pain-in-the-flank war coming on, you're going to be training." She then snuggled herself right against my chest and smiled. "Besides…you make the best pillow, and I haven't slept in two days." I looked at her confused and she just rolled her eyes. "Tavi. Don't ask."

I shrugged and turned to Twilight, who was right near my head. She didn't say anything, but just kissed my cheek as she lay down, to which I followed suit. I then focused to close the shield to close out the cold night air before shutting down the lights. Sleep was coming quickly for me, but for some reason I could have sworn I heard Rainbow Dash's voice whisper an "I love you."

Not wanting to disappoint if it was indeed her, I returned the favor with Spellspeech…and settled into my comfortable bed of two mares.

Chapter 14: Test of Fire

Chapter 14: Test of Fire

"Frost…" whispered a soft voice from the balcony.

I blinked my eyes a few times and looked over, seeing the coat of Luna in the bright moonlight. I smiled at her and gently maneuvered myself out of the bed, not waking the two sleeping mares in it and walking over to the balcony to greet the moon princess. "Good evening, fair Luna." I leaned in and gave her a kiss, causing her to blush slightly and smile. "I missed you, love."

She giggled and inclined her head to the open air outside. "Fly with me, Frost."

She hopped over the railing of the balcony and I followed her, enjoying the cool night air as it caressed the sensitive feathers of my wings. We didn't fly very far, but it was very fast, and I noticed that we were soon high above Ponyville, resting on the few cirrus clouds that were high above.

I raised an eyebrow to Luna in confusion. "Lulu, what are we doing all the way out here? I mean you know I love spending time with you, but I thought you hated the cold."

She looked at me coyly with a grin. "It is not for me, dear Frost…it is for another that wishes to speak with you." At that response, a dark cloud immediately covered her…and when it dissipated, Night stood before me.

The once-imposing figure of Nightmare Moon was without her helmet, letting the beautiful embodiment of open space that was her mane flow gently in the cool air. She stepped forward and without warning embraced me…which I returned immediately. My memories of her screamed for her touch…for her love, and I relished it. Her coat was soft and smooth, and the warmth she gave off was relaxing any and all cares away. As I held the slightly smaller form against me, I couldn't help but wonder how anypony could fear such a beautiful creature.

She pushed herself back slightly so that she could look at me, before I pressed our faces together in a kiss. She was no doubt surprised, but I knew it was a good kind of surprise when she melted into it. I had to keep from laughing into the kiss when I realized that she had wanted to talk…and yet not a word had been spoken yet.

After a few minutes, we pulled away both smiling. Night nuzzled me softly and sighed happily. "I was worried you didn't love me anymore…I was worried that you'd changed too much."

"No, Night…I'll always love you." I responded, rubbing my cheek softly against hers. "Simply because I am more than I once was does not mean that I'm different. I swore that I would always love you and watch out for you, and I meant it."

It was times like this when I would somehow find it strange to have become two beings merged into one. I was still Drew, but I also had the eons of ancient knowledge, wisdom, and memories of Winter. The way I've taken to handling it is to just go with the flow…so I follow my instincts and my heart, and they've yet to lead me astray.

I grinned at the smiling avatar of night, nuzzling her face softly. "I take it that Luna agrees with this, since she's not fighting for control or anything."

The black alicorn nodded. "Yes. It was in fact Princess Luna who pushed me to see you again." She then looked down in sadness. "I have missed you so much, Winter."

I pulled her into a full embrace, wrapping my large wings around her as tight as I could. "I missed you too, Night. I am so sorry for what I have put you though."

She shook her head, not breaking the embrace. "All is well, Winter. You are here now, and that's what matters."

I nodded softly in the embrace and just stayed in the cold reaches of the atmosphere with her.

Perspective change – Darkflight

02:27 and I'm wide awake. That's great…because I don't need sleep or anything. Still, I would be lying if I said it was a complete dick move on my brain's part, as I got to look at the beautiful orange mare that lay snuggled up against me.

I was worried about her. Not because of being in the fight – because she had proved she'd be fine as far as actual combat. No…it was about the killing. Granted we can't kill what's already dead, but she wasn't going to see it that way. The reaction that a body made when the life left it – whether real or magical – was unmistakable. The light leaving the eyes, and the body collapsing in a heap…I don't know if she's ready for that. I want her to live through this war, and since it's obvious she's adamant about fighting, I'm going to make sure that she's as prepared as possible. Still…I don't want it all to be at the cost of her sanity.

I had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. These armors and weapons were all of my design, and most forged and tempered by my own hands and my own fire. That just made all of what happened after Drew's wedding all the worse. Those guards that had been slaughtered were wearing my armor. Granted, it wasn't the best I had to offer, but that armor was made by my hands. The guilt was eating me up inside lately.

Could I have worked harder on it?

I felt utterly helpless for the first time in my life. I just couldn't come to terms with the fact that ponies were going to die in this war. It was unavoidable…lives would be lost.

I'd seen the Vietnam War Memorial back on Earth, and even though I didn't personally know any of those soldiers, it had brought tears gushing out of my eyes. All those names - those were fathers and sons…brothers, cousins, friends. There were just so many of them. I was confident that we would have to build our own wall after this war…and it scared me more than anything that I might see the names of my friends upon it - or worse, my brother or Applejack. Maybe it was the magic of Equestria or maybe it was just me, but a change had happened within me. The very thought of losing any of them was unacceptable. I couldn't let it happen…I wouldn't let it happen. If those shitty-ass dragons were too damn scared to help us, I'd show the entire world exactly how dangerous a pissed-off Obsidian could be. I wanted to be the one that saw fear in Death's eyes as I stood in front of him…and I was going to make sure that happened. He'd already killed hundreds…and that was far too many.

"Dark?" whispered an angelic voice from beside me.

I turned my head slightly and smiled at the vivid emerald eyes. "Hey there, beautiful. What are you doing up?"

She rolled eyed me with concern and hugged me tight. "Ah could ask ya tha same question, sugarcube. Y'all know ya can't hide an'thing from me. What's eatin' ya?"

I sighed in resignation. She was right, she could easily read me like a book. "It's just the upcoming war, AJ." I looked over to her and hugged her tight against me, feeling her heartbeat against my scales. "Many are going to die in this thing. I can't help but feel like I'm making a mistake for letting the rest of you and your friends join in on this."

She raised an eyebrow with skepticism and sat up a bit. "What makes y'all think that yer lettin' me do an'thing?"

I rolled my eyes and sat up as well. "I'm pretty sure we both know that if I wanted to stop you, there's nothing you can do about it." She looked really crestfallen, so I placed a hand on her cheek. "But I'd never do that, AJ. We both also know that if I did that and something happened to me, you'd blame yourself forever. This world has been your home a hell of a lot longer than it's been mine…you deserve to fight for it." I sighed and looked sadly at her. "One of the deadliest wars in history on Earth was known as the Vietnam War, where the country we lived in basically decided it would be a good idea to invade another country they knew nothing about. The war was before my time by about thirty years, but the wounds it left on our nation are probably still healing." I looked off into the distance as I closed my eyes and imagined "The Wall". "We have a memorial in our nation's capital that's dedicated to all of the soldiers that lost their lives in that war. When you walk there, all you can see are headstones as far as the eye can see. In front of it though is a long black wall with all the names of the people that were lost in the war." I could feel a sob threatening to break free, but I swallowed it down and continued. "There's tens of thousands of names on that wall, AJ…and that's only of the names we know. There were thousands more soldiers that are still missing, meaning we never found the bodies. I worry so much that by the time this war is over, we're going to have our own memorial wall…and I'm terrified that I'm going to have to one day pay my respects to a friend's name upon it." I sighed and shook my head in anger, snarling a bit. "The thing that pisses me off is that I know that we don't have a choice in the matter. If we don't fight, even more are going to die…and that wall will just get bigger."

She sat in my lap and rubbed her face against the soft scales of my chest. "But tha's why we're trainin', Dark. We gotta make sure tha' we're as ready as we can be so tha' we can protect as many as we can." She then shuddered a bit. "Ah still don' know if Ah'm ready fer it, but Ah don' have a choice. Mac 'n me are doin' it fer Applebloom…and all our friends. It's gonna be scary and sad…but if me doin' this saves Applebloom from havin' ta be hurt, Ah'll do it."

AJ was one of the only people I'd ever admired…and it was because of times like this. Like me, she wasn't doing this because she wanted to…she was doing it because she had to. And yet, she was still determined.

We lay there in my bed for a few more hours before I got up and prepared breakfast for the both of us, slapping together some pancakes and maple syrup with toast for me and a haycake for her. After we finished though, we were both startled by a loud roar coming from the distance…and even though it was far away, we could feel the deep rumbles caused by it.

We both exclaimed at the same time, "What the hay/hell was that?!"

I grabbed AJ and took off into the air, following the roars towards the guard's training grounds, and stopped dead in the air at what I saw when I arrived. It was a ridiculously massive three-headed wolf made of ice, and it was staring down a small blonde-coated unicorn. The princesses and a few hundred soldiers were standing several-hundred feet away, just watching.

What in the actual fuck.

Perspective change – Celestia: earlier that day

I was quite pleased with the way things were progressing as far as our military. Darkflight had kept surprising me with new innovations while Twilight had easily surpassed me in military strategies.

Still, I was not without my own tricks.

Today however, was Enigma Flare's final exam for induction into Luna's Night Guard…and it was to be overseen by me, Luna, and Frost. I was pleased to find that the young colt was very excited, and had been rambling off to his friend Ditzy Doo about random things as we all awaited Frost and Luna's arrival.

We did not have to wait long, as Frost and Night gracefully landed beside me not a moment later. The form of Nightmare Moon dissipated in a flash, leaving Luna winded and stumbling.

I smirked. "Will you be alright, dear sister?"

She smiled softly and nodded. "Yes, I believe so. Are we ready?"

I turned to Enigma Flare, who was wearing blacksteel armor personally made for him by Darkflight, as well as a custom-made titanium staff, which he called a bo-staff. I was well aware of the young unicorn's amazing fighting prowess…but today would push him to his limits, of that I was sure.

"Candidate Enigma Flare," I started with a soft smile, "you are here today for your final test to be inducted into the Royal Night Guard – personal bodyguards of Princess Luna herself. Only the most skilled and trusted of ponies are allowed to be a part of our personal guard. You have already proven that you are to be trusted, and you have shown talent…however, today your skill will be tested more than ever before." A duet of deep growls sounded from behind me as two wolves stepped forward, clad in full body armor and weaponry…as well as Frost himself in full magesteel armor. I looked around at the three of them, and then back at the young colt. "Your final test, is to best these three in combat…at the same time." I could see a flash of fear enter his eyes before it immediately disappeared, a look of fierce determination taking hold. "Princess Luna and I will be channeling a healing spell on you anytime you are injured, so you will not be in danger of dying. Still…you will feel pain. I recommend keeping your focus at all times, Enigma Flare…for they will not go easy on you." The four fighters stepped far away from all of us and readied themselves, checking their armor and weaponry.

Luna leaned in close with a hint of fear in her voice. "Sister, they will tear him to shreds! Are you mad?"

I shook my head. "Do not underestimate that colt, Luna. He is far more powerful and skilled than his age or personality would suggest."

"Yes, but he is fighting three of Equestria's most dangerous and skilled beings all at once. Are you-" she whispered.

I interrupted her with a smile. "Luna, please trust me. I would not put him in a situation I knew he could not handle."

My doubting sister sighed and nodded. "Very well, Tia…I trust you know what you are doing. If he is maimed, his scars are your fault."

"I agree, princess." remarked a voice from behind me.

I turned my head to see Shining Armor approaching. "Ah, I was worried you would not make it! Welcome, captain."

He sighed and nodded. "Thank you, Princess Celestia. Wasn't Princess Rainbow Dash supposed to be here too?"

I nodded. "Originally yes, but she is currently resting in the Royal Canterlot Hospital with Cadence. It seems Frost thought it would be a good idea to do the awakening on Rainbow Dash as soon as possible."

He nodded as he looked towards the arena, then gasped. "He's fighting all of them at once? Are you crazy?" He then cleared his throat. "Erm, sorry for that outburst, princess."

I giggled and nudged the stallion softly. "Captain, we are family. You do not always need to refer to me as 'Princess Celestia', or even 'princess'. I had believed we were past that."

He chuckled and shrugged. "Force of habit."

I nodded with a smile before turning my attention back to the combatants a few hundred yards away. I amplified my voice and asked, "Combatants, are you ready?" All four of them nodded, so I did the same with a smile. "Very well…begin!"

The battle started very quickly, with the three advancing all at once, surrounding the small colt and attempting to overwhelm him. From the few times I had watched the elemental unicorn, I had seen that he had trained for this very situation, so I smiled at the thought of just how surprised Venn, Moonfang, and Frost were about to be.

The bo-staff launched around the group in a flurry of blows along with hooves, quickly knocking all three off balance or on the ground. Venn's nose was already bleeding, as was Moonfang's forehead, but Frost had been knocked on the ground. Apparently deciding to take the biggest threat out first, Enigma Flare targeted the downed alicorn first, slamming the staff onto his armored chest with a loud *CRACK* as the inner weight cylinder was forced to the end of the pole. The force knocked the wind out of Frost, leaving him temporarily gasping as he quickly got to his feet. Not wishing to give him the chance to counterattack, Enigma Flare advanced quickly, attempting to sweep the alicorn's hooves out from under him, but he failed when the large gray wolf grabbed the colt by the neck and flung him several feet back.

As the chromatically gold-maned unicorn rolled from his back to his hooves, he was met with a claw to his left leg from Venn. I focused on my spell and quickly sealed the wound to prevent scarring, but it was clear he definitely felt the pain. The staff raised against the wolf and blocked his next strike, then forced him back as it was spun around to hit him in the temple. Moonfang then sent himself into a flying pounce, pinning the small unicorn to the ground. This however was short lived, as Enigma Flare channeled his fire to surround his body, quickly causing the surprised wolf to jump off and away of what was once his worst fear in the world.

The battle progressed, though neither side gained much ground. Both were tiring quickly, however, as it was clear the three had clearly underestimated the unicorn colt. Still, three against one was taxing on both the unicorn's strength and stamina, and it was beginning to show as his movements became less refined and more sluggish. Once again he was underestimated, however, and his three adversaries were rewarded with strong strikes to the face for each.

"Enough!" shouted Frost. He turned to Venn and Moonfang and nodded, the two wolves doing the same as they jumped back to stand side-by-side with him. Frost then smirked. "Did you honestly think that was the best we had? Now the battle really begins for you. I hope you're not tired." It was at that moment that Frost began charging a spell, one that quickly overcame his entire body with a bright silvery-white glow. Icy winds began to whip around him and the two wolves, and soon the three were engulfed by a blizzard.

A minute or so passed before a trio of deep, rumbling growls were heard from the heart of the blizzard. A large icy paw stepped out from the storm, and the snow instantly dissipated as a burst of force radiated out as the beast roared. What I beheld was something that shook me to my core, and I was not the only one.

I looked to see Luna staring in shock and fear, and she was clearly fighting not to flee from the terrible sight before us. "C-C-Cerberus?"

It was true…the three-headed beast of lore had returned with the help of Frost, Venn, and Moonfang.

“Don't worry, Celly…it's just us.”

Hearing Frost's voice comforted me, so I nodded. I then looked at the captain beside me and nudged him, pointing towards the battleground. "Captain, we need a containment barrier around them. This fight is going to get very intense very quick." He nodded and placed his signature barrier spell around the entire arena, bathing the area in a soft magenta glow.

"What the hell is that?" shouted who could only be Darkflight from behind me.

I turned to see the Obsidian carrying a very shocked Applejack, so I smiled. "It is simply Enigma Flare's initiation. It is all under control, I assure you."

He pointed wildly and glared at me. "That's an initiation? He's going to get killed! Call it off! Whoever summoned that thing, get it out of here now before it kills us!"

I stood on my hind legs and shook the tall dragon with my forelegs. "Darkflight, calm yourself!" He looked at me in the eyes and nodded, so I released him and stood on all fours again. "It is simply your brother, Venn, and Moonfang. That is not the ravenous beast of lore. It is simply made to look that way."

The dragon nodded and followed my eyes as we watched what happened next. As we all viewed the battle, it now seemed much more one-sided, as Enigma Flare's staff could not penetrate or damage the thick armor that covered the beast, nor could he stop to catch his breath as shards of razor-sharp ice were constantly being thrown at him, along with swipes from the beast's massive icy claws. It appears luck was not on the colt's side, however, as he was then swatted to the ground with a grunt of pain, and he did not stand. To the outside observer, it would appear the battle was over…however, I had noticed he was charging a very powerful spell the entire time…and it was now at its apex.

In a panic, I looked at Shining Armor and pointed to the magical barrier. "Captain, you must strengthen it as much as you can! Now!" He nodded and unquestioningly poured a large amount of magic into his spell to bolster the effect, making the barrier near-impenetrable.

And not a moment too soon.

The entire area was bathed in blinding light as an explosion rocked the ground beneath us, as well as the bubble of containment. As the smoke cleared from within it, we beheld a tall unicorn's form of swirling fire. The being was twice the size of Enigma Flare and besides having the vague shape of a unicorn stallion, was completely unrecognizable. I felt another spell charging, this one even more powerful, so I lent my own magic to the barrier to bolster it further. Not a second later, a small orb of orange energy formed above the ice behemoth's head along with strange runes and markings skittering across the surface of it.

We all knew that even without visible eyes, the infernal stallion was staring directly at Cerberus. It stepped forward once and braced itself in preparation for release of power.

It then became deadly quiet, and we only heard the ragged breathing of the stallion as it stood up and pointed its horn towards the glowing ball. The being of fire then yelled, "INFERNUS!"

The entire shield wavered as the inside was completely engulfed in white-hot flames that obscured all vision. As soon as it had happened, however…it was gone. As the steam cleared from the inside, only the fiery stallion stood while three motionless figures lay on the ground in a large pool of water. The elemental then reverted to the form of Enigma Flare before collapsing as well.

The barrier was immediately dropped as everypony clambered over to the four exhausted combatants to check if they were still alive. To my relief they were all completely unharmed, save for some singed fur on the wolves and Frost.

Darkflight tended to the barely conscious unicorn, nudging him gently. "Hey, wake up man. Tell me one thing: what the hell was that?"

Enigma Flare chuckled weakly. "It's a spell I've been working on for a long time."

"Yeah...it looked like Firaja from Final Fantasy." the dragon remarked with a smirk.

The unicorn had enough energy to look utterly confused. "Final Fantasy? What's that?"

Dark smiled sheepishly and shook his head. "Nevermind...c'mon, let's get you to the hospital."

Perspective change - Frostbreaker

I woke up with a hurt everything...even my hooves hurt. All I remembered was a shitton of heat, and then blackness. The entire room smelled of burned hair (which is quite possibly the worst smell in the world), so I coughed a few times to try and clear the taste of the smell from my throat.

"Frost? Frost, are you okay?" I heard Celestia ask me.

I groaned and sat up, coughing a few more times and shaking my head quickly to try and wake myself up a bit more. "Yeah...yeah, I'm fine. What about Venn and Moonfang? Are they okay?"

"Right here, Frost." said the young and raspy voice of Venn.

I looked to see the smiling faces of the two wolves, and I sighed in relief. "Wow...that was a hell of a fight. What about Enigma Flare? First of all, is he okay? Second...did he pass the test?"

Celestia nodded and giggled. "He is perfectly fine, and yes...he definitely passed." She then looked at me quizzically. "I must ask, Frost...what was that spell you used to create the Cerberus? I've never seen anything like it...I don't think anypony has."

I chuckled and stood up, albeit a bit unsteadily at first. "You liked that, did you? I call it the 'Call of Fenrir'. Fenrir is the name of a monstrous wolf in the Norse mythology of my world, so I thought it's a fitting title. Anyway, it basically draws upon the inherent magic within me, as well as the life energy of Venn and Moonfang to create the beast you saw. They were controlling its movement, while I was hurling those shards of ice. So long as my magic holds out, I can keep channeling the spell. As you can guess, it's pretty much invincible...unless of course I'm facing somepony like Enigma Flare. Damn...that was a hell of a spell he cast."

The solar princess pursed her lips and furrowed her brow in thought, and I couldn't help but think the look was cute. "Yes, I have been wondering about that myself. During that spell he...changed somehow. It was as if he became one with the elemental plane of fire for a moment."

I raised an eyebrow curiously. "Like an avatar? Only an alicorn can house an avatar, right?"

She nodded. "Yes, only the alicorn body can safely house an elemental avatar. No...this was different. For a moment it was as if he became the element of fire. I...I cannot explain it. Suffice to say that our unicorn friend is very unique. I've never heard of something like him before."

"Well," I said with a smirk, "I'm glad he's on our side then." I then stood up and stretched, popping a few kinks out of my back and neck. "Well...I don't know about the rest of you, but I need a shower. The whole smelling like burnt hair and bacon thing doesn't really work for me." I then leaned forward and kissed Celestia and Luna both on the cheek. "I'd love it if the two of you could join me at the library tonight. I miss the two of you and it seems like I never get to see you anymore with this war getting ready to take off."

Celestia looked a little disappointed. "Well, I have too much work to take care of unfortunately...but Lulu is free tonight."

Luna smiled wide and nodded. "That I am, Frost. Would you have me?"

I nodded and nuzzled the dark blue alicorn lovingly. "Of course, my dear. We'll be with Pinkie, Twilight, and Lyra tonight. I'll make us some drinks and dinner at around 18:30, so we'll be ready for you."

Luna giggled and hopped a bit in excitement. "Oh joy, this will be wonderful."

I nodded before looking at the beautiful white alicorn. I brought her into a hug and sighed. "I miss you, Celly...but I understand. Don't work yourself too hard, love."

She nodded and smiled gently. "I will not, and I miss you as well. Do not forget training with the recruits tomorrow at noon. It will be the tenth of October, so do prepare them well so you can take time off this coming Friday for Lyra."

I nodded. "That's right...Lyra's birthday is this Friday. Sucks that I wasn't able to give her the birthday gift until now, but it just wouldn't have meant as much if I hadn't given it in person."

We signed me out of the hospital and I headed home to the library, quickly showering before even saying hi to anyone. When I walked back downstairs, Twilight was studying (big surprise there) and Pinkie was bouncing all around in excitement.

"Frostie! Gosh, I missed you! It's like I never get to see you anymore unless you're training." she exclaimed.

I pulled the fluffy pink pony up into a strong embrace and kissed her relentlessly, causing her to blush and giggle like a lunatic (haha...Lunatic). "I missed you too my itty-bitty-teeny-weenie-twinkie-Pinkie Pie!"

"Really?" I heard Twilight deadpan.

I looked at her and nodded with a bit of a pout. "Yes, really. Don't hate on my Pinkie-talk."

Twilight rolled her eyes with a giggle. "I'll let it go because you're cute."

I let Pinkie down and headed towards the kitchen. "Well, Luna's coming by tonight to be with us, so I'm going to start dinner so that it's ready by the time she gets here. Pinkie, can you make us some drinks ple-" No sooner had the words left my mouth then a bottle of whiskey was shoved in my face by a pink hoof. I held the bottle up and shrugged, taking a swig and shivering a bit. "Ah, that's good. You know, I don't know if it's scary or awesome that you know exactly what I want, Pinkie...but I love you for it. In fact...I could make a good sauce out of this. Thanks for the idea Pinkie, you're awesome."

The mentioned pink pony giggled and pulled out a tray of her famous cupcakes from Celestia-knows-where. "Thank you, Frostie! I even brought some cupcakes for an appetizer...or dessert! OR BOTH!"

I levitated one of the awesome baked treats over and ate it before starting what was to be dinner.

Luna arrived promptly at 18:15 with Lyra, which gave me time to finish dinner and talk to the two of them. Lyra had apparently taken up work as Vinyl's manager, handling the DJ's finances and the more boring bits of business. Still, this meant she got in free to Vinyl's shows, so she didn't mind in the least. I was glad she was doing something she enjoyed, and I couldn't help but smile when I thought of how much she was going to love her birthday gift.

Dinner was loud and fun, as it was had with good food and a few sweet drinks for the girls. In all honesty I'd been feeling a little gay drinking the mixed drinks, so I stuck to straight whiskey this time...but it was all good. As always, Twi was the first one to loosen up, which made the night just that much more fun. After dinner was cleaned up, I sat on the couch with my four girls and just talked with them about a multitude of things. Twilight was of course taking her place snuggling with Luna, while I held Lyra and Pinkie in my lap.

"So humans just do that plain, right? No lubricant or anything?" Lyra asked.

I shook my head. "Nope. If you do it right, none is needed."

Pinkie shook her head. "I don't get how that would work. I mean, how does it get all slick then?"

I chuckled and kissed the pink pony's forehead. "That's what the liquid's for, love."

Twilight still looked skeptical. "Hmm...I don't know if ponies can do it like that though. Things are different here."

I shook my head. "I'm telling you, a Slip 'n' Slide would work the same on any world...and it's quite possibly one of the best things ever. It's one of the few things I can honestly say that you aren't allowed to hate until you've tried it."

Luna giggled and shook her head. "The things humans come up with…"

I shrugged and grinned. "If only you knew, Lulu."

Luna was silent for a moment before she spoke again softly. "I would like to see Earth someday. I mean really see it."

"Well, I'd be glad to guide you. Earth's actually not such a bad place if you don't have to live there." I responded to her with a smile.

Even in her intoxicated state this caught Twilight's attention, and she quickly waved a hoof to get my attention. "Could I go too?"

I shrugged. "I mean technically, I could take all of you if I wanted to. So long as you do as I say and we're in human forms, there wouldn't really be any danger. Besides, I could handle any trouble that might come along." I grinned and motioned to Luna. "I have a feeling you'd love the Independence Day fireworks display in a place called Atlanta." I then gestured to the violet unicorn. "And you, Twi, would love the NASA museum. I'll set up some time to go after this war is over, okay? Something tells me we'll need some rest and relaxation after it's done."

Twilight smiled and cocked her head in curiosity. "What's a 'NASA'?"

"It stands for the 'National Aeronautics and Space Administration'." I explained. "You see, humans can't fly on their own, they have to build machines to do it. Aeronautics is the science of flight and its mechanics. Not only do humans fly with machines all over the world, but they've even been into space and on the moon."

Luna was shocked. "Humans have been on the moon? My moon?"

I shook my head softly. "Different moon, Luna. Somehow I have a feeling that you still have power over the moon of Earth to a degree, but it's a different moon than Terra's. No human has been on your moon."

The lunar princess smiled sheepishly. "Forgive me for my panic. Still, this visit sounds like it would be quite enjoyable."

I nodded. "It is if you have someone like me who knows where to go. There are many parts of the world that are really dangerous, so if and when we go, you all have to listen to what I say and do as I say to stay safe and have fun. Understood?" All four mares nodded excitedly. "Good. Wow…never thought I'd be going back to Earth for fun…but then again there are things that you can only see and do on Earth. Just to let all of you know, however, that if we visit Earth the first thing I'm having is a giant t-bone steak."

Pinkie gasped and looked at me in horror. "Y-you eat meat?"

I shook my head. "Not now, no…but as a human I do." I lifted up my top lip and pointed to the oddly sharp canines that for some reason I still had, even in my equine form – which I now considered my "normal" body. "Don't ask me why I still have them, but all predators have teeth like these. They're made for tearing through flesh. They're not much use as a pony, but as a human they come with the desire to eat meat. Trust me…if you change to human form, you'll feel it too."

Lyra grimaced and looked away, disgusted. "I don't care how hungry I am, I don't think I could ever eat an animal."

I shrugged. "Well, there's a large group of people on Earth called vegetarians. Basically, they're humans that abstain from eating meat. I'm sure you'll get along with them just fine, Lyra."

The mint-green unicorn smiled and nodded. "Good to know that not all humans are barbaric flesh-eaters."

"Yep, that's me…Mister Carnivore." I remarked with a smirk. "In fact, I'm feeling a little hungry right now…" I proceeded to nip a few times at Lyra's throat, causing her to giggle.

She pushed me away with a grin. "You're a dork."

"Yeah, but you love it." I said with a smirk.

Luna analyzed me carefully. "Yes, and it is something I still do not quite understand. The complexities of your personality still baffle me, I must admit."

I stared at her with a blank expression. "Well there's a few explanations for that. First of all, I recently became Winter, and with that came all the avatar's memories and feelings Don't forget the fact that I died either. Also, being influenced by Death didn't help." I then smirked. "Lastly and most importantly though, I'm just weird. Always have been, always will be. I've said it once and I'll say it again – 'normal' is overrated."

For once, Pinkie actually looked confused. "But you used to be a hue-man too, right?"

I chuckled and shook my head. "That actually has nothing to do with it. I'm considered odd among humans too, and when we visit Earth, you'll see why. The way most people act, talk, look…even think – I'm nothing like them. In a lot of ways, I'm truly unique. I was unsure until recently if that was a good or bad thing, though."

"And your verdict is?" asked Twilight, slightly giggling.

I smiled and rubbed her cheek softly. "It got me here, didn't it? It's definitely a good thing. If I hadn't been as different as I am, I would never have met any of you girls…and my brother would never have met AJ. I can't remember if I've told any of you the way he used to be, but suffice to say he was a jerk…a big one. I don't know how much stronger I can put that without cursing."

"What was he like, Frost?" Luna asked in a hushed voice.

I sighed. "Not sure if you'll believe me, but I'll tell you. Let me put it this way, he was a user. He would use anyone and everyone to get what he wanted…and that included women. Oftentimes he would actually break up with a girl simply because she wouldn't have sex with him." They all gasped and I chuckled. "That's not to say I didn't have my own issues as well. I'm a far cry from how I used to be as well."

Pinkie hugged me tight with a concerned expression. "What do you mean, Frostie?"

I sighed and looked at Luna. "Luna already knows a little of it. I was bullied a lot in school when I was younger due to my eccentricities and differences." I smiled and nodded softly to myself. "That's why I feel for that little filly Scootaloo, Dashie's friend. I know what it's like to be made fun of and bothered simply because you're different." I then levitated the half-empty bottle of whiskey to my lips and took a drink before continuing. "When I was about fourteen, I started to get really violent. Basically the pressure and taunting became too much, and with the hormones that came with puberty assaulting me as well, I couldn't control it anymore. One day I snapped and ended up beating another person unconscious and bloody with his own book bag and a door." I then looked around at the shocked faces and sighed. "Are you all really sure you want to hear this? I can tell it's scaring you."

At the same time they all placed at least one hoof on me, and I found myself looking at the bright teal eyes of Luna. "Frost, we all care about and love you. We are afraid for you…not of you. Please tell us…it is not good to hold this in. We want to know everything." This was followed by a chorus of agreement from the other four mares.

I took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay…if you all insist." I took another drink of the tart whiskey and cleared my throat. "Anyway, after that day I assaulted a student, I was suspended for two weeks from school, as well as sent to counseling for my 'issues'. I joined a martial arts program known as taekwondo to give myself an outlet for my anger issues. While this worked for awhile, all of it crumbled down when my fiancée died."

Lyra gasped in surprise. "Y-you were married before?"

I shook my head. "Engaged. She died in an accident about two months from the day we had set for the wedding." I took one last swig of the bottle of alcohol before levitating the empty bottle to the waste bin and dropping it. "After that, I got really heavy into drugs and general self-destruction." I then quickly looked up at all of them. "My mother doesn't know about this, and I'd prefer it if you all didn't tell her. It'd break her heart…and she's suffered enough heartache without knowing this." They all nodded in assent, so I continued. "It got bad…real bad for me. It got to the point where I was missing entire years from my memory because I was high more often than not. I was homeless for over a year and a half because of it." I then looked out the window, imagining the tall black dragon standing there, watching over me. "My brother found me…and he brought me back. It was one of the few decent things he'd done before coming here. After that, I got clean and moved in with my mother again, becoming a full-time college student." I chuckled a bit as I looked at Luna. "It's kind of funny actually, Lulu. I was about two months away from completing my fourth year and getting my degree that night you came to get me. It doesn't matter though…I prefer my life here by far. On Earth I was simply going to be a hospital administrator. Here in Equestria, I'm a prince, a warrior, a husband, and perhaps one day, a father. Here I'm not just some weird guy from Kansas…I'm special. On Earth there's a saying that 'everyone is special…everyone is unique'. That's not true, however. Perhaps in the genetic sense we all are unique…but in truth I just blended in with everyone else." I then looked lovingly at the four mares. "Here though, I truly am unique…and you all noticed. Right now Dash would probably be making fun of me for being sappy or something, but I don't care. It's nice to know that I'm not like every other stallion…and that me previously being a human isn't the reason why."

Luna had a face of shock, and it took a minute before she could find her words. "W-well, Frost…I had no idea just how complex your life was."

I rolled my eyes and tickled her with a wingtip. "Please, Luna…I'm only twenty-six. You've got just a few years on me as far as life, so I'm sure you have a lot more stories to tell than I do."

She shook her head with a sad smile. "The most interesting things to happen to me before you arrived were the incident with Nightmare Moon, my banishment, my return, and my first Nightmare Night."

Twilight giggled and nodded. "I remember that night…Pinkie was dressed as a chicken!"

All the mares laughed loudly as Pinkie squawked like a chicken, bobbing her head. Luna then looked lovingly at the unicorn in her forelegs and smiled. "Yes, but that night turned out to be lovely. You were my first friend, Twilight. If not for you, I may not be the mare I am today."

The two continued to stare into each other's eyes until Lyra started making kissing noises. "Come on, just kiss already! The suspense is killing me!"

This of course caused Pinkie to burst into giggles, while the princess and her cuddle-buddy blushed a deep crimson. I just chuckled and shook my head before gazing at the two blushing mares. "You could always just kiss and say it was the alcohol. Alcohol makes you do crazy things, you know."

The alicorn princess and unicorn stared at each other for a moment before tentatively leaning in and touching their lips together. Immediately, both of them closed their eyes and sighed before slowly embracing tighter and continuing the kiss.

"It's about time. Those two have been dancing around it for months." Lyra whispered. She then looked up at me. "Isn't this a little weird for you?"

I chuckled and smirked at the green unicorn. "I caught you and Dash in the shower together, remember?" She blushed, so I kissed her on the forehead. "Pony society seems pretty open about things compared to Earth, so unless it causes problems, I'm not going to stop them." I gestured to the two kissing mares. "I know they both love me and I love both of them back…but they were friends long before I ever came to Earth…and during my time back there after I died, they were often the only comfort each other had. I'm certainly not going to be a jackass and be like 'no, I'm not comfortable with this'. I mean, do you even realize how many guys on Earth dream about something like this?" I then grinned evilly. "Going back to that place with you girls is gonna be fun…I can tell already. I have a few people I want to introduce you all to that are going to be jealous as hell."

The giggling pink mare in my right foreleg stopped giggling, and looked a little concerned. "Wait Frostie, I thought you said a stallion can only have one mare on Earth."

I laughed before responding. "What are they gonna do, arrest me? Technically it's only illegal in that country to be married to more than one girl. There is no law saying that I can't have as many girlfriends as I want. I mean sure, it's frowned upon, but only because it usually ends in trouble because of jealousy and such. You all don't get jealous, do you?" Lyra and Pinkie both shook their heads. "Well, that's why there's not a problem. That and the fact that I don't really care what they think…it's not like I live on Earth anymore…I'll just be visiting." I then smirked. "You know, I'm actually curious as to how you girls look as humans." I then grinned madly. "Dude! We could go to Bronycon!"

I then heard Luna's voice beside me. "What is ‘Bronycon’?"

I chuckled and nudged her softly. "Finally decided to take a breath, eh?" She blushed and I just snorted a laugh. "Well, Bronycon is basically a convention that centers around you girls…all of you. You remember how I told all of you that Equestria is just a TV show on Earth?" They all nodded. "Well…your fanbase is huge. You wouldn't believe how many people find you the coolest things in the world."

Twilight was panting a bit from her recent activity, but recovered enough to join the conversation. "But wouldn't we all stick out a little?"

I rolled my eyes and shook my head. "No…not at all. Adults and children dress up as you girls all the time, so you'll all fit right in. It's called cosplay or 'costume-play', and basically people dress up as their favorite characters. It goes without saying that all of you would easily be the best looking ones there, though. Luna for example is going to get a ton of compliments on her hair. We'll have to find a way to keep it from floating around though. Human hair doesn't do that." I then smiled at a thought. "Character interviews are going to be fun too, because the people who voice you on Earth are going to be surprised to hear their made-up voice actually come from a real person…and do it better than them. Do you all think Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rarity would want to go too?"

Luna shook her head. "It may not be a good idea to remove so many of the Element bearers from Equestria. After all, the only thing keeping Discord imprisoned is the Elements' power."

"Well," I started with a smile, "I actually wanted to talk to you about that, Lulu. I've been thinking of enlisting Discord's support in the war."

"Absolutely not!" Luna suddenly shouted. She quickly composed herself and sighed. "This is the God of Chaos you are speaking about, Frost. You cannot simply release him on a whim and hope that he will see things our way."

I caressed her softly with a hoof and smiled. "Do you trust me, Luna?" After a moment of thought, she nodded. "Then please, trust me now. I can get his support."

Luna sighed in defeat and nodded. "Very well, Frost. Against my better judgment, I will trust you. If Equestria descends into chaos, however…I blame you. If anyone could do this though, it would be you. Because of the chaotic and dangerous world you come from, it is likely you understand him much better than any of us."

I nodded. "Exactly. And if by some outlandishly small chance I fail, you can simply use the Elements' power to imprison him again. I mean the only reason he caused so much trouble the last time was because he caught you all by surprise. If we purposefully release him, we all know that he's coming and can be prepared."

Luna sighed again in resignation. "I find no fault in your logic so far, Frost. Very well, I will speak with Tia about this tomorrow and see what she thinks. I warn you, you may have to convince her yourself, however."

"That's fine. If it comes to that, I'll present my case to her the same way. I'm pretty sure if I need to do any convincing, I can do it." I responded.

The rest of the night was great, and now I was excited about showing my girls just how popular they were sometime in the future…and I'd be lying if I claimed I didn't want to meet Discord.
Eventually we all made our way upstairs to the bedroom, for the first time in a long time choosing not to sleep on the observation deck. Pinkie of course was just as excited as I was about the concept of Ponycon, and I spent time unwinding by talking to her. Before I knew it, however, I had fallen asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night again to see that all but Luna were asleep, so I rose out of bed gently and she followed me. I stood by the window, admiring Luna's beautiful celestial form that lit up the night sky, and I smiled.

"I always did love the night, Lulu…and even more so now that I get to personally thank the moon princess herself." I whispered as she stood beside me.

I felt a form at my side and wrapped my wing around it. She sighed and leaned against me. "Luna says thank you, Winter."

I looked to see Night standing next to me instead of Luna. I smirked and kissed the black alicorn with fervor. "Ah, my beautiful Night. As always, it is good to have you at my side."

Contrary to Luna's sweet, innocent, and easily embarrassed personality, Night was strong, confident, and bold. The self-proclaimed Queen of the Night kissed me forcefully, letting the naturally long canines of her smile show, which for some reason turned me on. "Would you have me make an appearance when you visit Earth?"

I smiled and nodded. "If you want to. You wouldn't believe how many people love you, Night. It's amazing really…especially since you're often portrayed as a major antagonist."

For the first time since I'd known her, Night actually looked a little worried. "You don't think that will be held against me, do you?"

I shook my head with a smile, leaning against her and enjoying the feeling of her soft coat against mine. "Not at all. You're beautiful, intelligent, and very wise. Just be yourself. I can guarantee that you're going to be very popular, so be prepared for a lot of people wanting to talk to you."

"I don't know if I'd be comfortable with that." she responded with a nervous frown.

I leaned my cheek against hers, and our horns just barely touched, sending a shock of pleasurable energy through both of our bodies. "Night, I will be right beside you the entire time. You will be in no danger, and I will always be there if you start to panic or anything. On Earth, you will simply be seen as a beautiful woman with a really awesome humanoid Nightmare Moon costume."

The night avatar nodded and smiled. "That makes me feel better."

I then made my way back to the bed and Night followed me…but then she surprised me by embracing the violet unicorn in her hooves as Luna would before dissipating her form, leaving a sleeping Luna in her place. I scooted over and lay my head on top of hers as I draped my wings over all four and fell asleep.

Chapter 15: Light in the Shadows

Chapter 15: Light in the Shadows

Perspective change – Darkflight

Jesus...three months have flown by already.

After that "test" for that Enigma Flare guy, things escalated really fast. Not a month after, Appleloosa was attacked by deathdragons, likely the same squad that attacked Whoazambique. Needless to say, we were all deployed that very day.

Luckily for us, my armor and weapons held out well for the military...and for the first month, we didn't even have one casualty. It seemed that until that point, Death had been holding back...but now he was apparently done. Massive magic barrier generators were erected around Ponyville and Canterlot...but the rest of Equestria was left for the military to handle.

The first casualty of the war was a young unicorn named Shadowsight. Through training from Life and Day, a spell had been taught to all active duty unicorns that allowed them to consecrate the ground, preventing any undead monstrosities from surprising our forces from underground. Still, they were very stealthy. Without needing to breathe and without feathers, the undead gryphons were very adept at sneak attacks. That and they were a bitch to take down. I remember the day Shadowsight fell in battle was a sad day in Equestria...and it was the first of many names that would find their way to a war memorial.

After that, Five-Star General Twilight Sparkle worked with the two princesses on tactics and new weaponry along with me, and our forces ended up being better trained and far more deadly. This however also resulted in our forces being spread far and wide across most of Terra...and I hadn't seen or heard from my brother in months.

Drew's unit was by far the most elite unit, as it was composed of himself, Rainbow Dash, Ditzy Doo, Moonfang, and Venn, as well as twenty or so other elite pegasus and unicorn units. His unit was on the forefront of the war, cutting an icy scar through the enemy's ranks. Still...they numbered well into the hundreds of millions, and so progress was slow.

Today, the casualties on our side have reached into twenty-thousand across the Great Alliance – which consisted of Equestria, the Gryphon Kingdoms, Zebrica, Vaporia, and Cervidas. Where once we were enemies, we were now allies fighting for mutual survival. Where once a gryphon entering my tent would have caused me to take a fighting stance, I didn't think twice of it.

My unit – known simply as the Fireguard – consisted of myself, a few choice gryphons, and a load of powerful unicorns adept in illusion and arcane magic. We were stationed at the edge of Boardor, which bordered a massive volcanic area known simply as "The Scorched Lands". Our scouts had reported that this place was heavily guarded, more so than any other area we'd come across as of yet. It would be obvious that this was where Death was hiding, issuing his orders and commands from afar. Still, he had proven on numerous occasions just how intelligent he was, so I was under no circumstances positive that we would find him here.

A young gryphon warrior entered, and I looked up from my desk and smiled. "Sergeant Gilda, it's good to see you. What's the news from the border?"

She quickly saluted and then looked behind her into the distance. "It's quiet, sir...arguably too quiet. It's been almost a week and no attacks have been made upon our scouting teams again." She closed her eyes and let out a soft grumble. "They're up to something, sir. I just know it."

We had found through study that most of the lower-level enemies didn't have a consciousness of their own, but what controlled them was very intelligent. Some of Death's higher-level officers were capable of free thought, and while they still answered to him, this allowed them to work independently and make their own decisions. So I knew immediately that this momentary peace was not a good thing.

I turned my attention back to the gryphon and nodded. "I agree, sergeant. Gather the troops tonight. If we get blind-sided, I want to be as prepared as possible. Have Lightrunner and Dusk Horn prepare their team. I need detection fields up all around us in case the enemy decides to try and catch us off guard." She nodded and began to leave, but then I felt the need to call out to her. "Gilda!" She stopped and turned to face me. "...stay safe."

She nodded with an uncharacteristically warm smile. "You too, Dark."

As she left, I looked out my tent towards the large volcanoes in the distance. "Your move."

Perspective change – Frostbreaker

"Frost! Leave her, we have to move!" shouted Dash as she cut a swathe through the advancing undead ponies.

I looked down at the bleeding mare, and she smiled at me. "Get out of here, colonel. I've still got enough fight in me to hold them off for you to escape."

I sighed and touched my horn to her head, allowing the memory of a certain spell flow through to her mind. I then backed off and smiled. "You will never be forgotten, Rain Dancer. Your sister and niece will know what you've done for us today."

She let a few tears slip by and smiled. "Thank you, Frost." She then shoved me away with a weak foreleg. "Go...get out of here."

I nodded and fled. "Troops, full retreat! Clear the area!" The unicorns left standing all nodded and activated their enchantments, speeding off in blurs of color towards the mountains. I then followed Dash and the pegasi troops towards the mountains as well, and not a moment too soon.

A blinding flash and a large amount of heat could be felt and seen, and then the noise of what sounded like static. It was a sound I knew well...after all, it had been the sound of my final sacrifice once.

We all stopped at the foot of the mountains, just past the treeline in time to see the crackling vivid blue energy of Rain Dancer saving us one last time, disintegrating all our enemies into a cloud of ash and dust. Once the dust began to settle, I stepped forward and took flight again, along with Rainbow Dash and Nightwing.

We landed at the now-desolate site of the battle, seeing only one body left – that of a beautiful white unicorn with a vivid blue and green mane. The very sight was bringing tears to my eyes, but I pressed on anyway until I was standing right in front of the fallen warrior.

I sat down on my haunches and let my tears freely flow. "She didn't deserve this...none of them deserved this." I took a few shaky breaths and calmed myself a bit. "Dash, Nightwing...why are we doing this? I mean, what's the point? We've already lost so many, and I'm starting to think that maybe I should have just let Death take me last month. Maybe it would have-"

I was interrupted by a hoof across my muzzle, and Dash's rose-colored eyes burning with both fury and sorrow. "Stop that right now, Frost. You know exactly what will happen if we just give up...and we all know exactly what would have happened if you'd surrendered to that monster. He would have used you to destroy everything and everyone on Terra. You may have lost sight of why we're doing this, but I haven't. If I have to beat some sense into you to remember, I'll do it." She then slugged me in the shoulder and growled at me. "We're doing this for all of those that have lost their lives so far, as well as all of those who will continue to die until we finish this. We're doing this so that foals can be born into a world where they're safe. We're doing this because it's right."

I couldn't hide my emotions about the war since last month. It was no secret anymore that Death was my father, and he was doing this because he wanted me. Everyone always told me that it wasn't my fault...even Life, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't help but constantly think to myself that if I hadn't ever come to Equestria, none of this would have happened. Still...for the time being, my soldiers and my wife needed me. I'd work out what to do about myself after the war.

For now, there were more dead monsters to slay.

That night was sleepless. Where once laying next to Dash and Ditzy would lull me to sleep, it just reminded me of just how fucked up my mere presence had made their lives. Before I came, the worst thing they'd had to deal with was Night and Discord...but now there was real danger.

As I lay there in bed with my two loves laying against me, the night dragged by. In all honesty, I was glad they were able to sleep soundly...because they'd need it. During the past week or so, I'd been getting less and less sleep as the days wore on...and it was starting to show. Where once my eyes were bright and brimming with power, they were now sullen and dim. My mane and tail had turned darker and more menacing, and my hooves had taken on a dingy yellow tinge. No amount of bathing or good nutrition seemed to help, so I eventually just resigned myself to it.

I mean, I don't know what I thought a war was going to be like. Somewhere in my mind I was thinking, 'It's Equestria...how bad could it be?' Well...that thought was a bust. Here it was only a quarter of a year later and already twenty-thousand lives had been wiped off the face of Terra...gone forever. Those lives had been brothers and sisters...sons and daughters. Every one of them would be missed, and every one of them had been important. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that maybe I didn't belong on Terra. My being here was causing untold-of death and destruction upon its inhabitants.

Still...a large part of me kept me in check, reminding me that it was more than likely these wars and deaths would likely have happened even without my presence here, and while I was having to experience it, it was not my fault.

I thanked Dash for that little piece of conscience.

Yes...my girls. I had come to rely on Dash and Ditzy through the months as things heated up. While it was clear that the stress of this war was taking its toll on me, they made sure I never broke. They were the scaffolding that supported me...the glue that held me together, and I thanked them continuously for it. I heard from Twilight and the other girls from time to time, but without being able to see their faces or being able to touch them, it just wasn't the same.

Today however, was going to be a great surprise for me.

As I levitated myself out of bed so as not to wake my two bedmates as the sun broke over the horizon, I remembered who was visiting today, and it brought a large smile to my face. With how calm things were on my front, Celestia, Luna, and Twilight were coming to visit me. You see, my troops – which had respectfully named themselves "The Icewing Raiders" – were the most feared and destructive force in Equestria. Dashie had picked up magic as if it were second nature, and Ditzy had become a more adept physical fighter than I was. Because of this, Death had steered his forces away from us. We still held strong and had only two casualties to the group...while we had slaughtered tens of thousands.

Death quickly changed his tactics to avoid us.

Still, today would be a good day. Both of the princesses were visiting as was the Element of Magic, so I made sure to clean myself up and brush my teeth, coat, mane, and tail because while we were all romantically involved, I wanted to make a good impression after two months. I would be lying if I said I wasn't prancing around in happiness like an idiot, but at this point I didn't care. I missed all of them...but I knew we all had jobs to do. That being the case, I was going to make sure this visit was worth every second.

As I reentered the camp I was greeted by the two wolves, Venn and Moonfang. The two powerful warriors had become very useful in the war, their ferocity and agility going unmatched, even among the elite units of Equestria. Still, they were only two wolves, so I had to make sure they were protected.

"Frost, where have you been? We've been looking everywhere for you." Venn growled out in annoyance.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Guys, I'm fine. I've got an ice shield covering the entire area, so if anything tries to get through, we'll know." Then gestured behind me. "Besides, there's hot springs over there."

Moonfang raised his eyebrow in confusion. "What's a hot spring?"

Venn chuckled and shook his head, grabbing the tan wolf. "It's probably the greatest gift that could be given to a cold and weary body. Come on, follow me and I'll show you."

I chuckled as the once-timberwolf was dragged away by the gray wolf, and just shook my head. I walked back to my hut to find both Ditzy and Rainbow Dash already in full armor, save for helmets.

Ditzy no longer wore the Celestial Guard armor she once had, instead having traded it for a special set of armor created by my own brother. It was made of blacksteel, and was riddled with enchantments by me. Enchantments for reduced weight, armor strength, and resistance to magic were all in place. In addition, there were executable enchantments for flight speed, temporary strength, and camouflage. She had become known as the deadliest fighter in the sky, and so her armor looked the part. It was black, as per the metal color, but had multiple insignias and war-paints that marked her as a warrior to any race.

Dash of course still kept her enchanted magesteel armor, but also painted it and added etchings for a bit of flair. The basic armor was unchanged, but had been given multiple etchings – courtesy of Spike – that showed all of our closest friends in a picture on the front, as well as the Celestial Royal Insignia on the back and shoulderplates...forever marking her as a chosen guardian of Equestria.

Through training, I'd learned to work better with my Element. I had found that it drained my magic at a constant rate, no matter the abilities I used. While this was helpful to know, the rate was very fast and I wouldn't feel the effects until the armor was dissipated. At the moment, I was able to safely wear the armor for two hours before danger set in – but that was at full magical capacity. With the way the war had been going, I often could only safely use it for a few minutes at most during a fight.

Still, because we were seeing loved ones after so long, I donned my Element's armor to look my best and stood outside the icy barrier, waiting for our guests.

Dash nudged me with a smile. "I take it you miss them as much as I do, huh?"

I nodded and smiled in return. "I do, Dashie. It's been two months since I've last seen them, so I'm going to make sure we make a good impression."

"You don't have to make that great of an impression, Frost. You act like you're meeting them for the first time or something." Ditzy remarked with a smirk.

I sighed and shook my head. "I know, but I mean it's been months since we've seen them. What if..." I swallowed hard as my fear threatened to consume me, "what if they moved on since we've been gone?"

Dash sighed and punched me in my arm, hard. "Do you even listen to yourself? Quit being such a worry wart. Everypony knows that they care about you more than anything." She then sighed and shook her head. "Look, I don't know the specifics of whoever your fiancée was or any past girlfriends you might have had. What I can tell you is that Twilight is every bit as loyal as me. Just because she isn't the Element of Loyalty doesn't mean she isn't faithful. As far as the princesses, you're the first one I've ever known of who they've taken a serious interest in. So don't sell yourself short, Frost."

I let out a breath and nodded. "Sorry about that, Dashie. Forgive that momentary weakness of mine."

"No sweat. Just don't do it again or I'll have to sock you in the face." she remarked with a grin.

I rolled my eyes. "So your plan would be to beat my self-consciousness out of me?"

She nodded with a bright smile. "Yep! Hasn't failed me so far."

I sighed and shook my head. "Awesome...I'm married to a sadist."

She tickled my exposed chin with the tips of her wing and giggled. "Only with you, Frost. I gotta keep you in line somehow."

It was then that we all felt the familiar coolness and crackling of energy around us, and in a flash, three certain ponies appeared in a flash in front of us.

Twilight looked beautiful...until she stumbled over to a frozen bush and emptied her stomach of what I assumed was lunch. I stepped over and patted her back softly while holding her mane back. After she was finished, I nuzzled her gently and smiled. "Next time, empty your lungs before going such a long distance, okay?"

She nodded and rolled her eyes. "Yeah yeah, I forgot." She then smiled and hugged me tight. "I missed you, Frost."

I returned the gesture with a smile of my own. "I missed you too, love." I released her and then walked back over to Celestia and Luna, who were dressed in full battle armor...just in case. "So, what's going on?"

Both normally-reserved princesses jumped forward and embraced me in a bone-crushing hug, effectively vacating my lungs of breath. Before I could turn any more blue, they released me and Luna nuzzled me affectionately. "Frost...it is so good to see you. How are things?"

I shrugged and smiled as I released her. "Eh, it's pretty quiet. Seems like Death is pretty afraid of the Icewing, which I honestly didn't expect."
As we walked towards the opening to my "base", Celestia draped a wing over me. "Yes, it seems you're making quite a name for yourself across all of Terra. Even the dragons are starting to take notice of you." She followed me to my hut and sat down on a pillow, as Luna and Twilight did the same. "In fact, Veruuthas wishes to meet with you tomorrow, if you're available."

"Veruuthas...that name sounds familiar." I remarked, holding a hoof to my chin in thought.

Luna smiled and nodded. "Yes...he is leader of the draconic community. He is the same elder Blue that your brother met once."

I cocked my head in surprise and pointed a hoof at my chest. "So wait, one of the oldest and most powerful living beings of Terra wants to meet me? Why?"

Twilight then spoke up with a smile. "It's probably best not to question it. If the dragons wanted you dead, they would have come and done it themselves instead of asking you to meet with them. They just want to talk is all."

I shrugged and levitated a bottle of rum over and took a swig (don't judge me). "Well if they want to meet, who am I to say no?"

"The first prince of Equestria and the avatar of winter." Twilight remarked with a smirk.

I facehooved. "It was a rhetorical question, love."

The violet mare giggled and nodded. "I know. I just like messing with you is all."

I then looked at Celestia pensively. "Alright fine, tell the Blue to meet me here. I'll be waiting for him around noon." I then took another swig of rum and smiled. "So...how is Spike?"

"Spike is very well, Frost." she responded with a smile. "Captain Armor was recalled to Canterlot because of a public cry for national safety, so Spike was given control of the unit and was promoted to colonel."

I pursed my lips and nodded. "Nice, very nice. And how's my brother's unit?"

"The Fireguard is doing very well. Few casualties and they are holding the Boardor border without much trouble." Celestia answered with a grin.

I smiled for a moment before looking off into space in thought. "You know, I can't help but think that The Scorched Lands are a decoy."

Twilight nodded. "Dark said the same thing. We're keeping an eye on things, but for the time being at least, that seems to be the most likely spot for Death to be waiting for us. It's secluded, difficult to traverse, dangerous because of the volcanic activity, and because of the volcanoes, it's inaccessible by air." Twilight then looked at Dash and grinned warmly. "Well Rainbow, it looks like you've settled in pretty well. How's things for you?"

As Twi and Dash conversed, I sat back against my bed and nursed the rest of my bottle of rum, enjoying the spicy-smooth liquor. Luna approached with her sister and sat down on the edge of the bed, so I scooted over to give the two of them room.

I heard the lunar princess sigh as she lay back against me, her wings tickling my stomach. "We are sorry you have to be out here alone, Frost. Believe me, if Tia and I could visit every day, we would."

"I know, Lulu." I answered, running my hoof along her exposed neck. "I certainly don't blame the two of you, you both have a nation to run. If things go down and we need you, we'll send for you. For now, the two of you need to make sure that Equestria knows that their princesses are proceeding with life as usual. Panic is the enemy, so we need our subjects to feel safe and secure at all times." I then sighed sadly and shook my head. "It's just that Death is so hard to find. I mean he acts like he's all-powerful and whatnot, but as soon as he saw Life, he ran and hid. Now nopony knows where he is. He could be in Tartarus for all we know."

Celestia shook her head, her multi-hued mane tousling softly. "Do not worry, Frost. We are closing in on him, I can feel it. There are not many more places for him to hide. If things go according to plan, we could have this war over in another..." she then trailed off.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" I asked, my eyebrows furrowing.

The sun princess sighed and closed her eyes. "I said another year or so..."

I groaned and fell back onto the pillow of my cot. "Yeah...that's what I figured you said." I then sat up quickly in realization. "What about the changelings? You told me a week ago that ponies around Trottingham reported seeing them moving around."

Celly nodded. "Yes...it was a strange thing, actually. I was contacted by Queen Chrysalis through a messenger drone."

"Wait...you were contacted by the very being that tried to take over? What did she have to say?" I asked with concern.

She shrugged. "It was the strangest thing, Frost. She was asking for an alliance."

I stood up and growled. "I don't know...I don't trust her. I mean we all saw how my meeting with Discord went. We ended up having to imprison him again."

She nodded in response. "Yes, but the changelings are not the same. Different though they may be from normal ponies, they are not driven by the need to create disorder and chaos. In fact, they benefit more from peace. Her attack upon Canterlot was an effort to permanently solve her race's nourishment problems. As you know, changelings feed off of emotions. However, what most ponies do not know is that love is not the only emotion they can feed off of. Any positive emotion is nourishment to them, and so they benefit more from peace and harmony than Discord would."

"Why did she attack then? Living under the rule of a tyrannical changeling queen wouldn't exactly make the ponies of Equestria think happy thoughts." I remarked coldly.

"She and her hive were starving to death, Frost. The threat of death can put even the most moral of ponies into a state of desperation." Luna answered solemnly. "That is not to say that changelings are the same as regular ponies, but perhaps it is time to put the past behind us."

I then lay back down and crossed my forelegs behind my head. "Well okay...why are you telling me though?"

Celly giggled. "Well for one, you asked for news. Second," she took a breath and ran a hoof through her mane, "Chrysalis asked specifically to speak to you."

I groaned and sat back up again. "Argh...why does everyone want to meet with me?"
Celly shrugged and eyed me lovingly. "Because you're different, Frost. You understand things that most ponies don't. That and our last meeting was less than cordial. But, if she proves to you that she is trustworthy – at least as a temporary ally – I will trust your judgment as to whether you'll accept her proposal or not."

I nodded and lay back down again, enjoying the feeling of warmth that the two princesses' bodies gave me. "Well, if you believe it's worth meeting with her, I'll do it. Send a message that I'll meet her in two days in Noveria."

"Noveria? That's frightfully close to the dracoknight settlement to the north." Luna responded, unable to conceal her concern.

I nodded. "Yeah, but the Grimmnjor ponies are pretty hospitable so long as we don't cause trouble. They haven't been attacked, so it's safe to say that there's a sort of mutual territory line protecting them. You might want to ask the Queen to meet me in the form of a normal pony...a blue one with green eyes, so I'll know it's her. She has to come alone, or else the undead horde will see her as a threat and attack. They only seem to attack large groups of ponies, at least so far. I'll meet her there at around 14:00."

Celly nodded and smiled. "I'll send the message as soon as we get back to Canterlot. Thank you for doing this, Frost."

I waved a hoof at her with a grin. "Don't worry about it, Celly. I'm a servant of Equestria first before anything else. If this is what would be best for her, I'll do it." I then finished off the bottle of liquor and dropped it in a small wastebin in the corner. "So...how are the rest of the girls doing?"

Luna looked a little sad all of the sudden, and in a second I would know why. "Vinyl is well, as is Lyra...but Pinkie has changed."

"What do you mean?" I asked, now more than a little worried.

Luna sighed and lowered her gaze to the floor. "Pinkie always goes by the name Pinkamena now, and is so unlike herself. I understand that this is her way of dealing with all of this, but it worries me. I fear that if this goes on for much longer, she may forget how to be Pinkie Pie."

I nodded my head wearily, fully understanding this fear. "I know...I'm afraid of the same thing. That just means we need to hurry up and end this before permanent damage is done. Spike will watch out for her in my stead though, so at least I know she'll be physically safe."

Luna then stood, and I realized all that this visit had come to an end all too soon. She embraced me softly and smiled. "Apologies Frost, but we cannot tarry longer. Equestria needs us, and so we must answer the call. Do not forget to contact us through letter or Spellspeech."

I facehooved and grumbled. "I had completely forgotten about that spell. Thanks for reminding me. I'll contact you both every day from now on."

Celly stood and poked me in the chest, her hoof cap denting my skin. "You better, or we'll find you."

I then wrapped my wings around the two of them, and gave both a kiss on the cheek. "I love you both. Watch over my mother while I'm gone, please."

"We shall look after her as if she were our own." Luna replied with a warm smile.

I then walked over to Twi, who was just finishing up giving Dash a goodbye hug, and hugged the two of them from behind, causing the violet unicorn to jump a bit. "I love you, Twi. You take care of yourself."

She melted into me and smiled. "You too, Frost. Watch out for Rainbow Dash and Ditzy Doo for us."

"Always." I responded, releasing the embrace. "Oh before I forget, thank Miss Colgate for those rations. They're loads better than what we came up with."

The violet unicorn giggled and nodded. "And here she was thinking that she'd be useless in this war." She then walked outside the barrier and smiled, taking her place next to the two princesses. "Keep them safe, colonel."

I nodded and saluted her with a smile. "Will do, General Sparkle." And in a flash, she and her two companions were gone...but leaving me feeling quite a bit better than before they arrived.

Maybe things would work out okay after all.

Perspective change – Spike

The war was a lot easier on me than I thought, even considering all the fighting we'd been doing.
See, my unit – which used to be under the command of Captain Armor – was built for stealth missions, gathering intel and assassinating high-priority targets. It consisted of myself, Pinkamena, Trailblazer, and Moon Dancer (no relation to Rain Dancer), making it the most sparsely-staffed unit in the entire war. Still, more troops means more visibility, and that went against what we were shooting for.

All four of us had been trained to be shadows upon the battlefield, striking without being spotted, or disappearing if we were. Thanks to a spell provided by Frost to Trailblazer and Moon Dancer, we had a way for Pinkamena and I to easily hide our body heat...but this meant that the two unicorns had to stay well out of the way to avoid being seen. Most times this worked well enough, but last week we had a slip up that almost cost Pinkamena her life.

I remember it was supposed to be a regular old intelligence-gathering mission, but the day had already been anything but ordinary. First of all, we were on the western border of Boardor – the place where Dark was currently stationed – and had been told that the area was heavily guarded. That compiled with the fact that the area was already hard enough to traverse made it very risky. After all, I was impervious to the lava of the area. Pinkamena however, was not. That being the case, it took a lot of trial and error to find an area I could burrow through that didn't lead to a magma or volcanic gas chamber.

A volcanic eruption would have been more than a little counterproductive.

After I had found a clean tunnel to the cave that we were targeting, the two unicorns shrouded us in magic and the pink mare and I traversed the tunnel to said cave. When we arrived in the heart of it, we were surprised to find it abandoned. It was at that moment I realized there was something very wrong, so we began to travel back through my tunnel to the two other members of my team.

Then it happened.

The enemy knew what we'd do, and so had sprung a trap that caused tons of molten rock to spill into my tunnel after us. The ground insulated the magma, causing it to gain both heat and speed. I wasn't worried about it, as I was perfectly safe from the red-hot fluid...Pinkamena however, was not. I remember shouting at her the whole time to run faster than she ever had before, the magma still rushing forwards as I ran twenty or so feet behind her, attempting to use my body as a way to slow the deadly liquid down at the same time.

It almost wasn't enough, though.

She jumped out of the entrance just in time to get her tail singed from the heat alone, while she and the two others galloped away as fast as pony-ly possible. As I expected, the pressure caused the magma to erupt out of the end of the tunnel, throwing me some hundred or so feet into the air as well, making me a deadly projectile. I wasn't worried about myself, as I know that while it would hurt, I wouldn't be breaking any bones upon impact with the ground...but pony bones were flimsy compared to mine, and I was easily two to three-times as heavy as each of them. Couple that with the fact that I was still covered in molten rock, and that made for a very bad scenario.

Thankfully, the aim of the volcano was off, so I ended up landing in front of them by about a hundred yards, and I grunted in pain as I stood up and shook the hardening lava off of me.

After that, we sent a letter to Celestia and she shipped us off towards The Fringe, to the southeast of Camelu and Zebrica. This area bothered me a bit, as we were literally on the edge of the known world, leading to an area simply known as "The Lost World", a place that we knew nothing about. Still, Twilight believed that because of how little was known about The Fringe – as well as the close proximity to a dragon settlement – it would be a likely place for Death to set up shop. This meant that we were now officially further than any pony from Equestria had ever been. The good news was that with how close we were to the Eastern Ley Line, the unicorns never seemed to run out of magic for their spells.

The bad news was that I was thousands of miles away from home...and I missed Rarity.

Even with how fast my body had matured, my mind was still that of a teenager...and I missed home. I missed having home-cooked meals, I missed being able to sleep in a soft bed, and I missed my friends most of all. Pinkamena was mediocre company, as she rarely spoke of anything that didn't have something to do with our missions...and sometimes, late at night when she thought everyone was asleep, I could hear her crying.

Just like tonight.

After weeks of this, I've finally decided to confront her about it. I wasn't as close with the pink pony as say, Frost, but she was still a friend, and I knew that all this had to be hard on her, no matter how much she denied it. So, following my heart again, I quietly stepped towards her burrow.

As I stepped inside, it was very dark. This wasn't a problem for my eyes though, as they quickly adjusted and I found myself staring at an annoyed-looking Pinkamena. I had always wondered how she could be so quick and silent, but I just passed it off as one of her many quirks that I'd never fully understand.

"What do you need, colonel?" she mumbled, not making any attempt to hide her annoyance.

I sighed and shook my head. "Pinkamena, you can drop the act. I heard you crying. I've always heard you crying. Tell me what's wrong so I don't have to beat it out of you." To anypony else, this would have sounded like a serious threat, but Pinkamena and I both knew it was a joke and a strong – albeit a little dysfunctional – way that we related to each other.

"Pfft...you're too slow to ever catch me, and we both know that." she replied with a wry grin.

I rolled my eyes and sat down on the cold floor. "All kidding aside specialist, what's wrong?" She was silent, so I scooted closer to her and placed a clawed hand on her shoulder. "Pinkamena, I'm not your superior right now, I'm your friend. Don't shut me out...please."

She looked at my hand for a moment, then back to me. When she did, I could see that her eyes had that glassy look of tears begging to fall...and once I pulled her into a hug, they did. The floodgates opened and she sobbed against me as I ran my fingers through her silky mane. There were many incoherent things I heard, but the three things I got out of it were that she missed Frost, missed Dash, and missed home.

I had been afraid of this the whole time. Many of the recruits had said for the longest time that she was schizophrenic, but I knew that if she was, it wasn't because of trauma. Pinkie had created Pinkamena as a way to distance herself from the violence, so as to keep the core personality pure and innocent.

Even separate personalities get stressed though.

After about twenty minutes or so, she finally calmed down enough to speak, so I let her do so. "Spike...I just miss the way things used to be before this dumb war." She looked up at me with those gorgeous cyan eyes that even rivaled Rarity's deep blues. "Why can't everyone just be happy? Why do they want to fight and hurt each other?"

"Because Pinks," I started, running my claw along her neck comfortingly, "Terra isn't a nice place right now...but that's why we're fighting. We're fighting to make sure that one day, it can be nice again. We're fighting so that the only tears that need to fall will be tears of joy." I then gulped and closed my eyes. "We're fighting so that one day, our foals will know that it wasn't always peaceful. They'll know that Equestria was fought and died for by ponies that believed in that peace."

She then bit her lip and stared at me again. "Do you think we're going to die Spike?"

"One day Pinks...one day." I responded as I stood up tall, still holding her hoof in mine. "But that day's not going to be today. When you or I pass on, it's going to be after we've had foals of our own and we're old geezers. But not now...we have too much to live for to die."

The older ponies always say that having fear and doubt can defeat you before the battle ever comes...and so I make it a point to fight through that. She would survive this...we all would. That was a promise I made to myself and whatever gods ruled over Equestria. Too many ponies had already died for us not to survive. I was not going to lose my friends to this war...and that was a solemn vow.

A vow is stronger than a promise in that it has the ability to change the very fabric of destiny to suit it, if the one who makes the vow fights for it hard enough. Well, my vow was to protect Equestria, Terra...but most of all, my friends.

Gods give me strength.

Chapter 16: The Fires of War

Chapter 16: The Fires of War

It's amazing how fast time flies when you're having "fun", because yet again, months seemed to get away from me.

The seasons changed, and I was glad that I had Spring beside me. In her seasonal domain, she seemed more powerful and more uplifting, which meant Rainbow Dash was as well. The Icewing Raiders gained both morale and spirit from the two of them, and we were near unstoppable in the campaign.

As the Great Alliance's armies cleared each area, a "safe zone" was set up with the purifying spell of unicorns. This in turn began to drastically reduce the number of places left for Death or his armies to congregate, which meant that somepony somewhere was closing in on him without knowing it. Lately, the hordes had taken to digging in their few strongholds that remained, and that was where my brother's "railgun" came in handy. The magical siege weapon turned out to be infinitely useful in breaking down the defenses of even the most heavily armored targets, and the only accidents were among those who weren't properly trained in their use or ignored safety measures. For the first time since the war began, things started to look up.

Fate it seems, has a way of dashing any and all hopes in a war, however.

The casualties came few and far in between, more often soldiers were injured instead of killed...but last month tested my resolve. I received word from Celestia herself that my brother had been gravely wounded when his unit was ambushed when they made their move into The Scorched Lands. He survived – barely – but was out of action until his wounds healed. That seemed like enough, right?


Spike's unit was the next to be targeted, and he and Pinkie were very close to losing their lives. The young dragon had been wounded, leaving the other three of his team to fight off a seemingly unending horde of shamblers (fleshy undead). Pinkie slaughtered them with ease, but was stopped dead in her tracks at the sight she saw that day. Among the remains of the horrors that had besieged them, she saw her entire family...sisters included. Yes...the avatar of death had been so low as to make her strike down her own family. I knew for a fact that it wasn't just coincidence, as the damage it did to her body and psyche were the perfect attack that only a genius could have thought up. After her wounds were treated, Pinkie was recalled to Equestria, with Applejack taking her place. The once-bubbly and giggly pink pony had been reduced to a shell of her former self, and she was now on near-constant suicide watch at the palace, with both princesses and Twilight watching over her.

Okay okay, that's enough, right? Nope...wrong yet again.

It seemed that Death had changed his tactics with startling efficiency, and began attacking Equestria where she was weakest...her heart. Soldiers were no longer mindlessly killed, instead they were maimed. Death had apparently figured Equestria's spirit would break when that of her denizens did...and he was correct. Deaths became a rare occurrence, but injuries were startlingly high. Nowadays, pegasi would return home with terminally damaged or removed wings...unicorns, with broken horns. Ponies were left alive, only to have their lives as a whole and their livelihoods ruined for the rest of their lives; for unicorns, that was a long time.

As the number of active-duty soldiers started to wear thin in Equestria, it became my job to carry her as the campaign continued. My face and that of my compatriots became the banner of freedom and victory for Equestria, and while it was a large burden, I was glad that Equestria had not broken. My recently good mood was increased further by the fact that Veruuthas had advised me that the dragons would be assisting us in the campaign across Terra if we sent unicorns to consecrate the ground of his home and that of his people. I of course agreed without hesitation, happy that we had such a powerful force backing us now.

It was now not uncommon for a dragon or two to be incorporated into the mobile units of the military, and looking around the varied faces of my unit brought a smile to my face. Pony, gryphon, dragon, deer, zebra, and wolf...I hoped with all of my being that perhaps even after the war was over, our newfound alliances might hold beyond it. It's a fool's dream, but it's my dream.

Does that make me a fool? Yes...yes it does.

Two dragons had been incorporated into my unit, both highly recommended by Veruuthas himself. The first was his daughter, who went by the new age name of Zita. She was a small brilliant white dragon – about the same size as my brother – with scales that seemed to sparkle like diamonds. Like me, she was much more comfortable during the cooler months of autumn and winter, though she was capable of fighting in any. The other dragonkin was a dracoknight – a flightless type of dragon with four legs and two arms. He was called Savourras, which meant "judgment" in his tongue. He was a dark violet color with irises of silver, and he nearly topped me in height. At my word, both were welcomed with open arms, legs, and wings into my ranks. Both of them proved their worth numerous times already as both attackers and protectors during our missions, and I was pleased to have them on my team.

Today was going to be a good day however, as I was relinquishing control of the unit to Dash and Ditzy for a little bit, going home to see my family and friends...as well as to check up on the wounded.

"Dashie for the last time, I'll be fine. I've flown much farther than that before. You know this." I grumbled as the mare verbally prodded me with questions.

"But Frost, you'll be all alone." the rainbow-maned alicorn whined.

I rolled my eyes with a grin. "I appreciate the concern, Dash, but I'll be fine. I've worked up my magic reserves enough to where I can teleport all the way there safely. I'll be okay, I promise."

The gray pegasus mare looked a little down, but managed a smile. "Well that's good. When are you going to be back?"

"I'll be back in about two or three days, Ditzy. You two can handle things here until then. Of that I'm sure." I responded, getting the last of my things together in a saddlebag. I quickly did one last check of my tent before nodding. "Looks like that's everything." I then looked to my two lovely mares and gave each a sweet kiss. "I love the both of you. Keep alert and stay safe until I return."

Dash hugged me tight and smiled as Ditzy joined her. "We love you Frost. Tell Pinkie that we love her and miss her."

I nodded solemnly, but offered a small smile. "I will." I then stepped back and focused my magic for a few minutes before disappearing in a flash.

I reappeared at the "gate" leading inside the barrier that protected Canterlot. The guards that were watching it immediately opened a path through the magical barrier for me once they saw who it was, so I trotted through as the magical shield closed behind me.

As I walked through the streets of Canterlot, I noticed that they were rather unchanged during this wartime. Prissy ponies still walked with their snooty friends to Celestia-knows-where, while I was treated like...well, like royalty. In all honesty it was still odd having ponies I didn't even know bowing to me, but by now I had learned to simply politely nod back with a smile and be on my way.

As the palace came into view, I felt a small bit of nostalgia of what I once considered home. Nowadays my home was the battlefield, and my bed was little more than metal and a few layers of cloth. Still, the happiness that flowed through me wasn't from the sight of the palace, it was from the thought of who dwelt within. My beloved princesses and Twilight Sparkle, as well as Lyra, Vinyl Scratch, and Pinkie...they all were waiting for me for one reason or another. The thing that they all shared in common however, was that all of them held love for me and all wished to be with me after so long, and I was more than happy to oblige.

I trotted up to the main gate of the palace to be greeted by none other than Shining Armor himself. The unicorn stallion was smiling wide, and he opened the gate himself to escort me. "Welcome home, Frost."

I nudged him with a smile and followed him through the corridors of the palace. "Thanks, Shining. So, how has everything been lately?"

The captain nodded a few times. "Good, good. I mean besides Pinkie Pie of course." At this, his head lowered a bit in sadness. "It's a shame, really. She used to be such a lovable mare."

"She still is." I responded. "And if I have anything to say about it, she'll be the Pinkie we all know and love again one day. I'll make sure of that."

He sighed as we approached the throne room. "I hope so. I never knew the mare as well as Twily did, but it's sad seeing her in such a state." As he pressed his hoof to the throne room door, he smiled. "Somehow, I know that seeing you will do wonders for her though. She needs you, Frost."

I nodded as the door opened to reveal all those waiting for me – all my marefriends not in the field, as well as my mother, my sister, and even my brother, who looked like a mummy with all the bandages that were on him.

I pointed to the dragon and smirked. "That's a nice outfit, bro. Does it come in a 'mens'?"

He growled at me and rolled his eyes. "Shut up and give me a hug, cock-juggler."

I grinned as I embraced the Obsidian, patting him on the back. "It's good to see you're coming along good, man. I was worried about you when I heard."

The dragon released me and smirked, tapping his injured chest. "Please. You think a few measly scratches are enough to take me down? Come on, you know me better than that."

I chuckled and nodded. "That's what I like to hear." I then looked to my mother and sister, opening my wings for the two of them in a hug, which they happily received. "Hi mom...hi Jen. I'm so happy to see the two of you."

The gold-maned mare nuzzled against the underside of my wing with a smile. "I'm so glad you're okay, son."

I hugged my mother and sister one more time before turning to the four mares with a grin. I opened my wings again as wide as I could and motioned my head. "Come here, girls."

At this, I was nearly knocked over as the four ponies all squeezed into my embrace, and it was the happiest I'd been in a while. The warmth from their presence melted the hard ice that had built up around my soul, and for the first time in a long time, everything felt like it was going to be okay.

After saying my hellos to all those present though, there was still one more I had to see above all else...

Pinkie Pie.

Luna led me to a guest room within the palace where Twilight and Pinkie were, and she explained to me the entire way what had happened since the pink pony's return. Apparently she didn't speak much, except to herself, and all she did was draw pictures all day. She barely ate or slept, and more often than not she wouldn't respond to anyone who was with her. While she hadn't actually tried to hurt herself at all yet, all her friends were very worried for her, and so had made sure that she was watched at all times...even at night.

As we neared the door, Luna stopped me with a stern look. "Frost, I warn you that what you will see will likely shock you. Please...don't frighten her." I nodded and the princess of the night opened the door.

She had been right to warn me, and I had to fight to keep from bursting into tears.

Seated on the bed was my special violet unicorn watching over Pinkie Pie, who was currently sleeping. The earth pony mare was very skinny, her straight mane was frizzy and frazzled, and she had large bags under her eyes from weeks without adequate sleep. Pinkie had always been a little more "curvy" than the rest of the girls, so to see her so bone-thin...it was heartbreaking.

I walked into the room with Luna by my side as quietly as I could, and met with the eyes of Twilight. On her cheeks were tear trails, no doubt for her friend in the bed she sat upon. I quickly made my way over to the bed silently and embraced the sorrowful mare in my forelegs, letting a few of my own tears fall.

"Twi...I'm so sorry this happened." I whispered with a kiss to her forehead.

Twilight held me tightly as well for a moment before kissing my cheek softly. "It's not your fault, Frost. Nopony could have expected this would happen. Nothing is sacred with this enemy, it seems."

I nodded and gestured to the door. "Go with Luna please, Twi. I want to be alone with Pinks."
Without argument the unicorn nodded and silently trotted out of the room next to the princess, quietly shutting the door behind her.

I looked down at the sleeping mare for a moment before gently laying myself next to her, face to face. The sight up close just broke my spirit further. Pinkie Pie's expression was the very face of what the war had wrought upon Terra. It was an expression of misery, brokenness, and pain. I extended my wing to cover her, and she unconsciously moved closer to me. With no words to speak, I simply closed my eyes and started to hum softly. As I did so, a song came to mind and I started to softly sing to her as she slept.

"Hush my love now don't you cry
Everything will be alright
Close your eyes and drift in dream
Rest in peaceful sleep

If there's one thing I hope I showed you
If there's one thing I hope I showed you
Hope I showed you

Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Just give love to all

Oh my love, in my arms tight
Every day you give me life
As I drift off to your world
Rest in peaceful sleep

I know there's one thing that you showed me
I know there's one thing that you showed me
That you showed me

Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Let's give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all
Just give love to all
Let's give love to all..."

As I finished I slowly and gently wrapped my foreleg around the sleeping pony, holding her against my body. At this, she sported a very small smile across her face as she nuzzled deeper into my chest.

"Mmm...Frostie." she moaned in her sleep. She frowned and shuffled around a bit before her eyes fluttered open and she looked up at me. "Frost?"

I nodded. "I'm here, Pinkie."

Her blue eyes brimmed with tears and her face wrenched up with sobs as she cried against my chest. I held her against me and let her do so for as long as she needed, hoping that perhaps in time, this could start the healing process for her.

She cried for nearly two hours straight, and I was honestly worried that she would dehydrate herself by the end of it, but eventually she looked up at me, determined to surprise me yet again.

"Frostie...we have to stop him." she stated with determination.

"Who, Death?" I asked. She nodded back and I shook my head. "We aren't stopping anyone, Pinkie. Look at what this war has done to you already. I'm not going to allow y-"

"Stop it, Frost." she cut me off sternly. This shut me up right away, and I listened intently to her. "The worst thing that could have ever been done to me has already been done." Her face dropped as she spoke in a near whisper. "I saw my sisters after years only to have to cut them down." She then looked up at me with fire in her eyes, but the fire of the real Pinkie Pie, not Pinkamena. "He's evil, Frost...and we all need to stop him. The only thing left he could take from me would be the Cakes, or any of my friends...and I'm not just going to stand by and let that happen." She then let a very Rainbow Dash-like smirk cross her face. "Besides, I need to make sure that my parties have a world to take place in, and that all my friends can be there."

The pony that I now saw before me was bittersweet to behold. Pinkie Pie was a casualty of war, her innocence ripped away from her by a cunning enemy that knew not of remorse, and nothing was sacred. And yet, Pinkie had now become like I was. She had become powerful and steadfast at the cost of this innocence. While she would never be the same, perhaps that didn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Our party mare had "grown up"...her eyes had been opened to the true evils of the world that she once turned a blind eye to. A part of me was happy that she was going to be okay...but at the same time another part of me wished that this change within her hadn't had to happen. It was for casualties like Pinkie that this war had to end soon. I couldn't allow this to happen to anypony else...Celestia-forbid a foal or young pony like the CMC group. It was because of greedy and downright evil people like Death that I had wanted to leave Earth in the first place...and it seemed that evil had followed me here.

"Frostie?" whispered Pinkie from beside me. I looked at her in the eyes and she smiled nervously. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Can we make something to eat?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Sounds great, Pinks. I'll make the main course, and you grab the dessert. I could really use a cupcake right about now."

She rolled out the bed slowly and nodded. "That sounds good, Frostie." She then walked over slowly and hugged me tight. "I missed you, Frost. I'm so glad you came to see me."

"I always make sure to be there when my friends need me." I responded with a smile as I walked outside the room with the mare beside me.

Perspective change – Luna

Frost...ever the enigma.

When nopony else was able to bring our pink friend back, one visit from the prince revived her. It made sense when I thought about it...her response to seeing Frost. It had been months since they had seen each other, so I understood how he had such a large impact on Pinkie Pie. Also taking into account the pink pony's personality, it was also understandable. She was always very close to her friends, and not seeing them put undue stress on her heart and mind – this was proven by how she reacted when she believed her friends no longer wanted her in Ponyville.

All things considered though, I had missed her skills at creating lovely baked goods.

Save for missing Princess Dash and a few others, it was as old times for all present, and we drank in the familiar feeling with fervor. In the time we now found ourselves in, every bit of happiness was to be treasured...and even my sister – ever the strong leader – allowed herself to relax again and giggle like she did when we were young. It was a heavenly sound to hear from the pony I held closest to my heart, and I reveled in the resounding laughter that surrounded us.

I had made sure I was awake all day today to take place in the wonderful frivolity of our informal gathering. Pinkie, though still thinner than usual, was acting like her old self again, making jokes and giggling near constantly. Beloved Twilight was smiling wide at the sight of her friends being so happy, and when we locked eyes I passed a meaningful gaze her way and nodded softly. In a few days we would be soldiers again. We would be rulers, generals, and warriors...but right now, in this ever-so-short moment, we were simply ponies basking in the warm glow of the love and friendship that surrounded us.

Would the world ever the the same? Could we ever come back to this when it was all over?

I hoped with all of my being that the answer was yes to these questions, but a part of me knew that was not the case. This war and the loss of so many lives was going to leave a scar in the memory of all the races of Terra...one that would never fully heal. While this meant that the emotional anguish of this generation would be at an all-time high, it also meant that Terra's next generation would know just how bad things could get...and would thus treasure the peace all the more. I held this in my heart in hopes that it would keep the mortal races from fighting amongst themselves. True, it was unlikely such a dream would come true.

But even a princess is allowed to hope.

Perspective change – Vinyl Scratch

The party animal was back.

It was true, she wasn't quite 100%, but it was a huge improvement to how she'd been the past few weeks. Before she had left with Spike to the western front, the pink pony and I had become thick as thieves. I mean come on, I was a DJ and she was a partier...it was a match made in heaven.

As I sat next to her in the banquet hall of the palace, I had to fight to keep from laughing too hard. I don't know what it was, but there was just something about her laugh that was contagious. No matter what mood I was in or what was going in, that laugh would have me holding my sides as I laughed loudly along with her. At least for the moment, it felt like everything was going to be okay.
I looked around the room to see smiles on everypony's face. The princesses and everypony else were all happy and laughing as we all swapped stories and had a good old time. For a minute, I almost forgot that there even was a war going on. In my daydream, everything was good. We were just friends having a nice lunch together and enjoying the day.

In the back of my mind though, I knew this wasn't the case.

The truth was that there was an evil out there that wanted to destroy us and everything we loved and cherished. That's why we all needed this. We needed to be reminded what our hardworking mares and stallions were fighting for...and what was at stake. Those poor ponies who lost their lives and the ones that would follow...there weren't going to be any happy days for them or the families they left behind. That was why Frost and the others had to fight...to make sure that tragedy stayed with the few, instead of becoming the norm.

Perspective change – Twilight Sparkle

Having Frost home was beyond amazing and while I knew it wouldn't last, that didn't matter to me. What mattered was the here and now, and now was a great place to be. For three days, he was ours again...and I was going to milk those days for all they were worth. This started with a large banquet between all of us. Fluttershy regretfully couldn't attend because of trouble with a manticore in the Everfree (no idea how she deals with those), and Rarity was busy with a large order from some businesspony in Manehattan, but both assured me they'd see us all tomorrow at the library.

Besides, Luna and I had a little "surprise" planned for Frost tonight since the rest of our friends would be busy...which just left the three of us in the library tonight.

Lunch proceeded amazingly, and I was so happy that things were so uplifting. Even though the princesses and I put on brave faces for the military and the citizens of Equestria, the truth was that we were stressed to the breaking point. Beyond the sheer number of casualties from the war, we also had to deal with the morale of the ponies dropping considerably. It probably wouldn't have been as bad normally, but most ponies alive today couldn't even remember the last time Equestria was at war, so to not only be alive during wartime but also to see its effects...it must have been heartbreaking for the ponies of Equestria. I know it was painful for me just to see Pinkie in the state she returned in...I didn't even want to think about how I would have reacted if I received word that one of my friends had died in battle.

Regardless, I chose instead to focus on the good things for now. Pinkie was doing much better, Frost was back, and we were all laughing like old times...when things were so much simpler.

Normally the mere thought would be causing a little mini-depression for me, but I chose to ignore it. Stress and depression could come later, right now was a time for happiness and love. I had gone too long without it, and I was going to make sure I enjoyed it the best I could.

Celestia had officially released me from her tutelage almost two months ago, stating that as far as magic was concerned, she had nothing left to teach me. I don't know why, but for some reason this caused a little freakout on my part. I had asked her repeatedly why she wasn't happy with me, or what I had done wrong. Celestia of course, being as infinitely wise as she was, told me that I had done more than she could have imagined in record time...and now it was time to grow on my own. She told me that she literally had nothing left to teach me, that I knew everything she knew and more. I didn't believe her at first until she actually asked me to teach her a few of the spells I knew...spells she told me she had never heard of or never took the time to learn, namely most of Frost's battle spells he taught me. I will admit, it was a very empowering to be teaching my mentor, and I was smiling near-constantly. After a particular lesson I had with her covering mastery of matter manipulation and restructuring, I was pleased to hear her refer to me not as her student, but as her friend. With that proclamation, I now no longer had a problem simply referring to her by her name, even in front of other ponies or guards. I was secure in my place within her heart, and I knew how important we were to each other.

While I was happy Frost had been able to give us gifts for the birthdays he'd missed while he was away, I was extremely happy he would be here for Fluttershy's. After all, she'd never had a real party on her birthday, and something told me that without her wolf around, she could use the company. I still don't know whether it was simply her growing up over the years or whether it was Moonfang's doing, but she seemed to come out of her shell quite a bit more. Fluttershy still wasn't the fastest pegasus in the sky, but her fears had dwindled to a mere few things in the world instead of...well, everything.

Rainbow Dash would be proud.

Perspective change – Spike

"Come on AJ, you can't tell me you're not as strong as Pinkie Pie." I remarked with a chuckle.

The farm mare snarled and continued pulling the unconscious unicorn back to our "camp". "Y'all coulda' told me this was gonna happen, Spike."

I shrugged. "Had to find a way to make sure you were alert."

The past week for me had been a good one, as we had found the base of operations for one of the last of Death's "generals", along the ley line leading to The Lost World. The problem with this was that any spells used in this area reacted with the unicorns in such a way that they usually lost consciousness after casting their spells, so that left AJ and I to carry our two companions back to my burrow.

When we had finally arrived back at camp and placed our two still unconscious friends inside, I followed the farm mare in before sealing the entrance, leaving only a small vent to give us fresh air. AJ went about removing her armor and then sat down, opening her pack in the corner of the space and pulling out some dinner for us.

She handed me my portion and sat down. "Well Spike, y'all were raht. Guess Ah owe ya a few pies when we get back home."

I shrugged. "It's no biggie. We'll get that guy taken care of tomorrow, and then hopefully we'll be able to go back home. The last stronghold that we know about is in The Scorched Lands, and The Fireguard has that covered so I'll contact the princesses and Twi when we're finished."

"Ah hope so, Spike." she responded before looking down at her food. "Ah miss him."

I scooted over to my friend and rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. "I miss Rarity too, AJ...but we'll see them again soon. We're almost done here and then we can go home."

The orange mare nodded and took a few more bites of her MRE. "Good. Ah can' wait ta get home an' sleep in a real bed again."

I chuckled and shook my head. "You know AJ, I thought you'd be okay with 'roughing it'. Turns out you're just a big old softie."

"Hey, jus' because Ah work in tha fields all day don' mean Ah don' like ta have a hot bath and a soft bed ta sleep in." she retorted as she finished off the rest of her meal.

I chuckled again and finished my meal again as well, taking a swig from the canteen and then passing it to her. "Work hard, play hard, sleep hard...sounds like a good motto."

"Durn tootin'." the orange cowmare answered with a grin. "Well Ah'm bushed. Le's get some sleep, Spike."

I nodded. "You go ahead and sleep, AJ. I'll keep an eye on these two slackers here and take first watch."

She nodded and lay down against me. "Alraht Spike. Wake me if an'thing happens."

I leaned back against the wall of the cave and started running my claws through her mane. "Night AJ. Sleep well." She grunted in response and almost immediately fell asleep. As my friend rested, I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed a bit, glad that she finally allowed herself to sleep. I mean Celestia-love the mare, but she has a habit of working herself too hard, and I didn't want to be on the short-end of the stick when Dark asks me why his marefriend looks like she hadn't slept in weeks.

The only thing I didn't like about being on watch was the loneliness. Not because I was actually alone, but rather that I missed Twi, Rarity, and Dark. The difference tonight was that I was actually a little excited. If things went off without a hitch tomorrow, AJ, me, and the other two would be heading home for the first time in months. I then looked down at my body, noticing the many scars I had along my chest and arms now.

Rarity was going to have a fit.

Still, I would deal with it. To see the mare I loved and my family, it would be worth every second. To hear her voice, to feel her coat...the thought alone was raising my spirits.

"I'll be home soon, Rarity."

Perspective change – Frostbreaker

When Twi told me she had a surprise planned, I had no idea just how devious she and Luna could be.

I was nearly jumped when I arrived at the library by the two mares, and only by the grace of the gods had I not been injured. Still, as I lay in bed with the two smiling mares at my sides, I decided it had been worth it. I had missed this quite a lot, and I was going to make sure I enjoyed it to the fullest.

At least until a knock sounded at the door.

The two mares looked at me and I rolled my eyes with a sigh. "Wait here girls, I'll take care of this." I hopped out of the bed and shook my mane and tail out, allowing them to take their normal "flowing cloud" appearance, then I trotted down the stairs.

I arrived at the front door and opened it, surprised to see a blue unicorn mare with green eyes. I immediately let her inside and stared at her. "Well...I wasn't expecting to see you this soon."

Green fire started at the pony's hooves and crawled up before engulfing the entire figure. It only took a second or so for the form of the changeling queen to be standing before me. She smirked and shrugged. "I'll take that as a compliment coming from you, handsome."

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "What do you have to report, Queen Chrysalis?"

The tall changeling grinned for a moment before responding with a simple, "We've found him."

My eyes widened and I gasped. "Already? Wow...I knew you were good, but this I was not expecting. Where is he?"

She trotted over to the map that was hanging on the wall and pointed to an area above the Ibex Empire. "There are mountains here that are unexplored, but we've noticed quite a bit of movement happening around there. I've sent some of my better teams to infiltrate their ranks. I'm not sure what it is, but apparently they can't sense changeling magic. I assume we were one of the last races the enemy thought would be against them." She then pointed to a group of mountains between Canida and the Ibex Empire. "We've had confirmed sightings of him in this area. It seems that because of the close proximity to Ib'xian he assumed it would be the last place anypony would look."

I nodded. "He was right. I would never have thought to look there."

"So, what would you like to do?" the changeling asked.

I sighed and closed my eyes. "As much as I'd like to, we can't just attack him head-on. I've dealt with this guy before when we had him in this situation, and he'd be expecting that." I drew my hoof in a circle around the area. "We need to gather all allies and close in on him from all sides so that he can't escape. The execution needs to be perfect. Enough lives have been lost already, so I'd like to end this safely and efficiently." I then looked at the changeling queen with a grin. "If we can pull this off, you and your people will have earned your place in Equestria...of that I can promise you." I then nodded curtly. "Keep an eye on things and gather all the information you safely can. I want troop placements, fortifications...anything you can safely get your hooves on. I'll report your information to the princesses tomorrow and I'll contact you once I get back into the field in a few days." I then got close to her and eyed her with concern. "Please Chrysalis, your job is to only observe. Do not engage under any circumstances and don't take any unnecessary risks."

She eyed me coyly and grinned. "Please prince, my people know how to be invisible. Contrary to what ponies may think, I am not the heartless ruler of Tartarus everypony makes me out to be." She then winked at me. "Besides, I wouldn't want to worry such a handsome stallion."

"Just be safe...please." I pleaded with her.

She nodded and smiled. "I will...I promise. I'll meet you again at your camp in the Forbidden Forest in one week's time." I nodded and focused my magic for a moment, allowing my strongest feelings for my family and friends to surface. My body glowed pink for a moment and the changeling queen sighed as the pink flowed into her horn. "Wow...that's a lot of love. I'll be able to feed the entire hive with this."

"That's the idea, queen. Regardless of the past, your people are a part of this world as well...and you need to live just like the rest of us." I answered with a warm smile. "Well, it was good to see you again. You take care of yourself and your hive until we meet again."

She smiled and bowed her head slightly before moving towards the door. "Thank you, Prince Frostbreaker." As the door opened she changed her form back to that of a unicorn, then she stepped through. She stopped midway, however and looked back at me. "For what it's worth, I am honestly very sorry for what I've done to Equestria."

I shrugged. "Desperation makes us do crazy things, highness. You help us pull this off and I can promise you'll get your chance to formally apologize and I'll make sure all of Terra knows that it was because of you and your hive that we were able to finish this."

She nodded and closed the door, so I turned off the lights and headed upstairs.

When I arrived, it was to find Luna and Twi talking about marriage of all things. Whose I didn't know, but both of them blushed when I entered the room.

Luna then scooted over on the bed to make room for me and I lay down next to her. "So, who was that?"

"Queen Chrysalis." I responded as I closed my eyes.

Twilight sighed and lay down as well. "I know she's an ally, but I still don't like her."

I smirked before turning on my side to look at the two mares. "Well you might change your mind after I tell you what she told me." The two looked at me in interest, so I smiled. "Well, she told me she found him."

Luna gasped and placed her hoof on my shoulder. "Him? You mean, him him?"

I chuckled and nodded. "I don't know how many other 'hims' there are that we would be talking about. Yes, she claims she found Death...and considering the source, I'm more than inclined to believe her." I smiled as I closed my eyes and lay against Luna. "We're closing in on him, girls...and now we know exactly where to strike. Soon, this will all be over and we can rebuild and heal Terra."

The moon princess nodded slowly with a soft smile. "Finally." She then planted a hoof on either side of me and giggled when I looked up at her in confusion. "Oh come now Frost, the night is still young...and Twilight and I have plenty more energy to expend."

Gods watch over me...

Author's Notes:

Song mentioned: "Lullaby" by Creed on the album Weathered.

Chapter 17: Home Sweet Home

Chapter 17: Home Sweet Home

For the first time in a long time, I woke up like the world was right...the way things used to be. I almost forgot there even was a war, but as I woke up more the reality hit me again. Still, I wasn't going to allow it to ruin the next few days. I had to make sure that my spirits were high so that when I returned to the camp, most of the group would be able to return home for some furlough...Dash, Ditzy, Moonfang, and Venn included. After all, a happy military was a strong military.

For today however, I was going to make sure it was everything we needed as far as a vacation. Last night had been nice, as we simply ended up laying in bed talking instead of anything else. I had missed it – just talking...sometimes about nothing important. It seemed that lately all any of us ever talked about was the war, so it was nice to be able to just ask how they were, or what they'd eaten or seen lately...anything to take our minds off of work for just a few days. It wasn't a childish desire either...this was something I knew we all needed. We all needed to remember why we were doing this, as I knew I wasn't the only one who had begun to question the reason for all this death. We all had to be reminded of why we had to fight, and win.

It was for ponies like Pinkie that we had to do this.

Twilight had decided last night that we were going to spend time with Pinkie and the others today, making sure they knew I loved them and cared about them. Luna had business to attend to and so for today it would just be me, Twilight, Pinkie, Vinyl, and Lyra. I didn't mind in the least of course, as I was going to enjoy seeing the DJ and lyre-player to catch up on what they were up to. It was obvious to me that they'd both been busy, as during the past six months they had been the ones I'd heard from the least...but I knew them well enough to know it had to be for a good reason. After all, Vinyl's business had picked up considerably since the war began, and with Lyra working with her, this meant the two of them probably were busy nearly all the time. Needless to say I felt a little special when they told me they could take a few days off with me.

During all these thoughts though, another one started to surface as I gazed lovingly at the violet unicorn over breakfast. Twilight had been amazing both before and during the war...and her skills and drive to help Equestria just made me love her all the more. I was amazed when I truly thought of her now, noticing that she'd grown from a filly with low self-confidence and an obsessive drive to please the princess, all the way to a grown mare that had her own dreams, morals, and goals in life. When I saw the princesses and Twilight together, it was clear that she still respected and revered the both of them...but she now had her own path to walk in life.

I felt that now was the time.

"Twi..." I said softly.

The violet mare looked up at me with a smile as she swallowed a slice of apple. "Yes Frost?"

I stood up from the table as Luna and Twilight looked at me expectantly. "There's something I want to ask you. I've wanted to ask you for awhile now, but I wanted to also make sure you were ready." I then started to focus on a new spell I'd been practicing, combining ice, arcane, and cosmic magic. As my brow started to sweat, I looked at Twilight with a strained smile. "I made a spell just for you, Twi..." The spell continued to charge, and I could feel my magic reserves rapidly draining as more and more of it poured into the spell. The light in the room shifted from bright white, to blue, to darkness, and then back again as the co-mingling spells continued to build. When I felt the spell was at its apex, I released it at the ground. The built up magic kept flowing from my horn, and with it, my strength. Finally, the spell finished and left a bright glowing object in the middle of the floor...and I collapsed.

"Frost!" both of the mares shouted and ran over to me, warily staring at the bright obscure object.

I panted a few times before shaking my head slowly. "I'm okay, I promise." I then gestured to the glowing spell. "It needs some of your magic to finish, Twi."

The unicorn eyed the result of my spell hesitantly before looking back to me. "I-I'm not so sure..."

"Trust me, Twi...please." I responded softly.

She still looked apprehensive, but nodded and turned to the object. Her horn began to glow with her violet aura as it fluidly moved to encompass the unknown object. A faint hum in the air accompanied this along with arcs of energy in the air, but as soon as it started it finished. The glowing of the object changed from white to a dark violet, and as we all watched, the light died down. As the object's shape became visible finally, Luna and Twilight both gasped at what they saw.

Lying there unassumingly on the floor was a beautiful braided chain necklace that looked to be made of frosty ice. The pendant that was attached to it was what caused the mares to gasp. It was a depiction of my cutie mark in its true colors and texture...with Twilight's cutie mark adorning the shield in its natural colors as well.

I slowly stood and picked it up before kneeling so that I could look the unicorn in the eye. "Twi, you are amazing. You're by far the smartest being I've ever met, you're funny, witty, loving, and beautiful. You're kind to strangers, accepting of my differences, and altogether amazing." I then breathed slowly before smiling. "Would you do me the honor of giving me your hoof in marriage?"

"YES!" Twilight squealed immediately, nearly causing my eardrums to burst. She then began to hop around like a little filly who had just gotten her cutie mark, excitedly reciting the word "yes" over and over again.

I caught her in the air and chuckled. "Whoa there Twi, you still have to put on the necklace."
I put her down on the ground and she flashed a smile brighter than the sun. I slipped the necklace over her head, and it tightened until it fit snugly around her. Twilight then held it up to her face with a hoof. "This is so beautiful...what is this made out of?"

"Frost-steel and frost-gems. It's the same kind of magic I use for my armor." I responded with a smile.

Twilight looked up at me curiously. "Why was it so hard for you to make then? I mean you cover yourself with this stuff without so much as sweating."

"Well," I started as I stood, "I had to make it permanent and able to withstand heat without melting." I placed my own hoof on the necklace. "This is just as strong as normal steel, and the gems are harder than diamonds. It took your magic to solidify it and add the color though, so it's just as much your accomplishment as mine."

The unicorn looked up at me with tears in her eyes. "Frost, this is the most amazing thing you could have possibly given me...and the fact that you asked me to marry you just makes it even more special." She then hugged me tightly. "I love you so much." She then hopped away with a large grin. "I have to go tell my parents...and Rarity! Oh, so much to do..." She dashed off to the bedroom and returned a moment later with a saddlebag, using near-Pinkie speed as she did so. Then, she dashed out the door with a quick, "Bye Luna, bye Frost!"

I just stood there in shock for a moment next to Luna. "Wow...she's really excited."

Luna stood beside me with a smile. "You just asked dear Twilight to marry you...were you expecting otherwise?"

I shrugged. "Not sure." I then looked to the alicorn beside me. "Are you going to act like that when I ask you?"

"When?" Luna whispered.

"Well yeah. I was planning on it eventually." I responded. I then extended a wing over her as I held her close against me. "You didn't honestly think I'd forgotten about you and Tia, did you? I mean, that is of course unless you didn't want to..."

"N-no, I do...ever so much. I just never believed..." Luna mumbled.

"Never believed what...that you would get married?" I responded with a warm smile.

The night princess nodded. "Marriage for the longest time was a dream I had allowed to die. No pony understood me for who I am, save for dear Twilight and Tia...until you of course. They were for the longest span either fearful of me or wished to use courting me for social status and whatnot." Luna lowered her head in sadness. "Things are better now, but for the longest time I was alone in that respect, with only sister and Twilight to care for and love me."

I chuckled. "Luna, I believe you are appreciated far more than you realize. With you having a much more open correspondence with your subjects, they are getting to know you as a pony again...not just royalty. While most royals on Earth set themselves apart from their subjects – above them – you and your sister take an active part in their lives."

"Any royalty worth their weight in salt would do the same. Ponies such as Prince Blueblood are an exception." Luna responded with a thoughtful expression.

I nodded. "Perhaps that's true here but on Earth, royals are seen as superior to their people. On Earth, the bloodline means far more than personality or noble intentions."

Luna's head dropped low in shame. "Before my exile, it was that way on Terra. It is something that took practice for me to expunge from myself, but I am glad it was. Who we are as ponies is more important than what family we come from, I believe."

"It is more important, Lulu...I just wish the nobility of Earth thought the same way." I whispered as I nuzzled her lovingly. "That value is one of the things I love most about you."

The alicorn blushed and looked away shyly. "No matter how many times you tell me, sometimes I still find myself thinking I'm dreaming."

I chuckled. "Well it's a good thing Dash isn't here right now, or she'd haze you for being sappy."

"Perhaps...but I miss Rainbow Dash all the same. She adds something to Equestria that no other can duplicate." the moon princess responded with a smile. She then pulled away from me and kissed my cheek softly. "Well, duty calls Frost. I must return to Canterlot and work with sister so that we can handle things and have time for tonight."

I smiled and nuzzled her softly. "Good...I'll be waiting for the two of you here later tonight." I then opened the door and watched as Luna flew out into the sky of early morning.
After Luna and Twilight had left, I headed over to the northern district of Ponyville, towards Vinyl's house.

After multiple meetings with fan-mares, I finally arrived at the DJ's large house. As I expected, her and her roommate Octavia were arguing about something or other as I walked up to the door, so I politely knocked to avoid literally walking into the middle of it.

The fighting stopped for a moment and I heard the distinct clopping of hooves approaching the door, and simply by the rhythm, I could tell it was Vinyl (is it weird that I know her walk?). The door opened and I found myself looking down at a familiar brilliant white unicorn with an electric two-toned blue mane and tail.

"Ohmygosh, Frost!" she yelled just before jumping at me. Knowing her like I did, I was prepared for it and caught her in a tight hug as I rubbed my cheek against hers. Her crimson eyes were sparkling with happiness and I couldn't help but smile.

I then turned to the gray earth pony once I released Vinyl, and bowed slightly. "Lady Octavia, it's a pleasure to meet you again. It's been too long."

The black-maned mare stuttered a few times before her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted.

Vinyl walked over to her friend and tapped her a few times before sighing and levitating her over to the couch to sleep. "Always the drama queen..." Vi then turned to me with a wide smile before gently rubbing her cheek against my chest. "It's awesome that you're back, Frost. We missed you a hay of a lot."

I lowered my head and embraced her. "It's only for a few days Vi, but I'm going to make sure it's worth every second." I then released her and motioned to the unconscious pony on the red sofa. "Is she gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, she'll be fine. She's had a schoolfilly crush on you for awhile, so I guess seeing you face-to-face gave her a bad case of 'star-strickeness'...or something." the unicorn remarked. I started laughing and she shoved me with a smirk. "You know what I meant, Frost."

I nodded. "I do. So, do you still have my guitars over here?"

"Sure do! They're in the studio. Why, you feeling like a jam session?" Vinyl asked with her signature grin.

I nodded again. "I am. It's been awhile since I've held my guitar. I gotta get the Led out." This prompted a very confused look from her and I facehooved as we walked. "Ah that's right, I forgot you don't have Led Zepplin here. That's okay, I'll show you the magic of Jimmy Page."

"Ooh, like that stallion Golden Page?" she responded.

I shook my head. "Different Page, dear. Just follow me and I'll show you."

We arrived in Vinyl's extensive and advanced studio, and I quickly found and hooked up my SG to the "wah wah" pedal, then the amp. I looked at Vi in the soundproof booth and shrugged. "I'm not sure if you'll like this type of music, but it's where my soul is. This is what we call rock & roll on Earth."

I focused my magic to let the opening of Led Zepplin's "Trampled Under Foot" play via synthesizer, then started to sing.

"Greased and slicked down fine, groovy leather trim
I like the way you hold the road, mama, it ain't no sin

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Trouble-free transmission, helps your oil's flow
Mama, let me pump your gas, mama, let me do it all

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Dig that heavy metal underneath your hood
Baby, I could work all night, believe I've got the perfect tools

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

A model built for comfort, really built with style
Specialist tradition, mama, let me feast my eyes

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Factory air-conditioned, heat begins to rise
Guaranteed to run for hours, mama it's a perfect size

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Groovin' on the freeway, gauge is on the red
Gun down on my gasoline, I believe I'm gonna crack a head.

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

I can't stop talkin' about
I can't stop talkin' about...

Come to me for service every hundred miles
Baby, let me check your points, fix your overdrive

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Fully automatic, comes in any size
Makes me wonder what I did, before we synchronized

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Feather-light suspension, Koni's couldn't hold
I'm so glad I took a look inside your showroom doors

Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout love
Talkin' 'bout...

Oh, I can't stop talkin' about love
Oh, I can't stop talkin' about love
Oh, I can't stop talkin' about love
Oh, I can't stop talkin' about love..."

When I finished, I let out a breath and opened my eyes...only to see Vinyl standing in front of me. She wasn't moving, and her eyes were completely focused on me as her mouth hung open. I raised an eyebrow and said, "Vi, you're creepin' me out, girl."

"Frost..." she whispered.

I eyed her suspiciously. "Um...yeah?"

Vinyl then threw herself at me as she squealed in a very un-Vinyl-ly way. "Oh my gosh, that was amazing! I listened to that kind of music back in school when I was just a teenage filly! Wow, that takes me back." She then looked up at me with a bright grin. "That just made you infinitely cooler."

I smirked as I stood up and grabbed my metallic black Vanguard. "You haven't seen anything yet. For this song, you might want to get inside the booth, close the windows, and lock the doors...then cover your ears and hope the sound doesn't get in and tear you apart." At Vinyl's suddenly frightened expression, I smirked evilly. "This, my dear Vinyl, is known as metal."

I focused my magic and created the illusion of a storm instead of a ceiling...then added the sound of thunder and illusion of crimson rain. I then strummed my guitar with the first chord of "Raining Blood". The drums kicked in to follow with my magic, and the song began in earnest. I let the eerie "moaning" of the guitar add to the atmosphere until the intro riff started, and then put all of my passion into it.

"Trapped in purgatory
A lifeless object, alive
Awaiting reprisal
Death will be their acquisition

The sky is turning red
Return to power draws near
Fall into me, the sky's crimson tears
Abolish the rules made of stone

Pierced from below, souls of my treacherous past
Betrayed by many, now ornaments dripping above
Awaiting the hour of reprisal
Your time slips away"

During the instrumental break, I couldn't help but bang my head, and even though my mane looked to be a cloud, it still bounced up and down like real hair should. I then whipped my head back in time to see Vinyl staring at me in awe from the soundbooth.

"Raining blood!
From a lacerated sky
Bleeding it's horror
Creating my structure
Now I shall reign in blood!"

I put all I had into the last solo, and once I was finished I was sweating a little from the exertion. I breathed a sigh of happiness and stood, now feeling even more energized than before. I opened my eyes and looked up to see that Vinyl had not moved from the booth, and actually looked a little surprised about something.

"What?" I asked, though I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.

The ivory unicorn stepped away from the window and the door opened, only to reveal her utterly confused face. "W-what in the world was that?"

I smirked. "A historical cornerstone of metal. It's passionate and loud, which is why I love the genre so much. So...what did you think?"

"It was," she began, seeming to reach for the word, "different...but so intense. It sounded angry, almost."

I shrugged. "Passion can be angry sometimes, but that doesn't mean all metal is angry. There are love songs in metal, hate songs, songs about the world, songs about friends...and songs about those we've lost. It's strong and passionate, and often misunderstood. It takes somepony with an open mind to learn to enjoy it."

"What in the name of Celestia was that?" shouted an accented voice from behind me.

I turned towards the door out of the studio to see Octavia standing there with an awestruck expression. "Umm...metal?"

"My...I've never heard music so..." the gray mare mused.

Vinyl stood next to her friend and offered, "Loud?"

Octavia shook her head. "No...powerful. That was by far the most powerful music I've ever heard produced by a string instrument!"

My eyes widened in shock. "Okay Lady Octavia, no offense but you are honestly the last pony I'd ever think would like that."

Vinyl leaned in close and asked, "Why do you keep calling her 'lady'?"

I chuckled. "Because a mare of class should have such a title."

"Hey, I have class too!" the unicorn retorted.

I shrugged. "Very well, Lady Scratch."

The white unicorn scrunched her face up and shook her head. "Doesn't sound near as cool as I thought it would. I guess I can do without it."

"Thought so." I retorted, then turned to the earth pony. "So, you enjoyed it then?"

Octavia nodded furiously. "A thousand times, yes! It was incredible...the single most inspiring music I've heard in years."

"Well," I started while pointing to my guitar, "I don't know how the other ponies of Equestria would take it, but I could teach you to play if you wanted. You already know how to play different chords on a string instrument anyway, so it should be rather easy for you to pick up. Would you like that?" The gray mare nodded with a bright smile of excitement. "Alright then...grab that white guitar over there and let's get started."

"So what was that composition called?" Octavia asked with a wide smile on her face as the three of us walked out of the house.

I smiled as well as I said, "That, Lady Octavia, was called 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'."

"Did you write that?" she asked curiously.

I laughed. "I wish. If I did, I'd be famous on Earth. No, it's done by a group that calls themselves Metallica. I do have songs of my own that I've written, but they're all instrumental. I suck at writing lyrics." I then nudged the mare gently. "By the way, you did incredible for a first-timer. Maybe it is your inborn musical ability, but you picked it up far quicker than I'd ever dreamed. In all honesty, I'd expected it to take a lot longer to teach you. That song is not easy to play."

Vinyl decided to speak up finally as she nudged me to get my attention. "That song sounded like it had a message behind it."

I nodded. "Yep, it does. The song was actually inspired by a writer on Earth who wrote a book that went by the same name, decades before the song was written. It's about the dishonor of modern warfare and the protagonist's eminent doom during the bloody Spanish Civil War. If you know what to listen for, all music with lyrics has a message behind it."

"My word..." Octavia breathed out, "I had no idea that humans were so...complex."

I shrugged. "Complex is as good a word as any. Humans have a great amount of potential for either good or evil, but greed more often than not controls the world. Like I told the others, it's a nice place to see so long as you don't have to stay there." I then turned to Octavia as we exited the house. "Well it was great to see you again, Lady Octavia. You better keep practicing."

"Oh, I will Prince Frostbreaker. Thank you ever so much for opening my eyes to this wonderful new music." she responded before bobbing her head a few times to an inaudible rhythm.

Vinyl leaned to me and said, "Great...you've made her start bobbing her head to a song that isn't actually there. You might have just created a monster Frost, you know that?" I raised an eyebrow at her and she shook her head. "Don't give me that look Frost, my music is different."

"Really? How exactly?" I remarked. "Both types of music have passion, both have a strong rhythm that drives it, and both are extremely complex. The instruments used to produce the sounds aren't what makes them different, it's the intent behind the song."

"That...actually makes a lot of sense." the unicorn answered back. Vinyl shrugged and looked back at her friend. "Well Tavi, me and Frost are going to head out. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

The gray mare shook herself out of her daydream and nodded with a smile. "Very well Vinyl, you enjoy yourself." They embraced briefly and the earth pony walked back inside.

Along the way back to the library, we met up with Lyra, who was in the park playing the enchanted lyre I got her for her birthday. She joined us after briefly catching up with me, and we were now on our way back to the Twilight's library.

"So yeah, that's pretty much it." Lyra commented with a smirk.

I shook my head. "I don't believe that. We're going to have to test your flexibility tonight."

"Ooh, I like the sound of that." Vinyl commented. I eyed the white unicorn with a smirk and she sighed. "Give me a break Frost, it's been almost a year since I've gotten any...and that is way too long for me."

"Blame Death, because it's his fault. What a knobjockey." I responded angrily. This caused both mares to eye me in confusion and I shrugged. "It's a British human thing...don't ask." As we arrived at the library, I had a bit of nostalgia fill me again with the two mares beside me. It now felt like home again, and I was happy. "Well girls, it's good to be back. Let's go inside and-"

"SURPRISE!" shouted a certain pink pony as soon as I opened the door.

The shock caused me to fall on my ass with a very stupid look of horror on my face, which caused everypony present to laugh at me. I rolled my eyes and stood with a smile, embracing the pink pony. "Hiya Pinks...it's great to have you back." I surprised her with a kiss, which prompted a chorus of "aww" from the five or so ponies already there. I released her and looked around. "Well...seems like you're throwing a party."

"Wow...you're so attentive." retorted my brother's deep voice from beside me.

I shoved him lightly, "Dick."

Tonight was going to be fun.

Author's Notes:

Songs mentioned: "Trampled Under Foot" by Led Zeppelin on the album Physical Graffiti and "Raining Blood" by Slayer on the album Reign in Blood.

Chapter 18: Together at Last

Chapter 18: Together at Last

Perspective change – Spike

"Alright AJ, here's what's going to happen:" I started sternly, "there's a group of five guarding this guy, so as soon as we surface, we're going to be under attack." I pointed right above us. "They're breaker-class bone gryphons, along with Celestia-knows-how-many fleshies. There's no way we're going to be able to take them all out, so I'm going to handle them while you take out the leader. Once we do that, you start the gem bomb and we get the hay out of there as fast as we can. I'll collapse the passage behind us so that we can escape. Understood?"

The orange mare nodded curtly. "Ah got it, Corporal. Ya can count on me."

I smiled and patted her armored shoulder. "I know I can, AJ. Now, things are going to get hot up there pretty quick, so we need to do this really fast." I braced my legs and placed my sharp claws above me. "Alright AJ, wait until I call you." She nodded, so I uncoiled my legs and shot through the stone floor.

As I had predicted, I was completely surrounded and was attacked immediately. Thankfully because of my armor and thick hide, I barely got more than scratches before I was able to take the group of twenty-or-so out. "Alright AJ, come up."

The earth pony hopped out of the hole and looked at me with a frown. "Yer hurt."

I shook my head. "Worry about it later AJ, the clock's ticking. We got maybe another ten minutes before the entire fortress is on us. Move!"

At my words, the two of us bolted through the cavern, heading towards the room that would contain our target. We only ran across one or two patrols along the way, and before we knew it, we were overlooking our target. The intelligence that Queen Chrysalis had gathered was accurate, and he was heavily guarded by bone gryphons that were easily as large as I was, and probably just as strong too.

I turned to Applejack and nodded before jumping down and taking out two of the group at once.

"So, the pest finally shows himself." growled a deep and gravelly voice from behind me. "Well, I shall dispose of you here and Lord Death will-"

He was cut off – literally – by AJ slamming her sword onto the crown of the undead dracoknight's head, ending his prolonged life immediately. She spit on the rancid corpse and planted her sword into the dirt, then broke the gem on the end which armed the bomb. "Spike, we got maybe a minute! Le's go!"

I shoved the two remaining bone gryphons off of me and breathed fire all around us before grabbing my partner and scaling the wall again as fast as possible. I didn't pause to see if we were being followed, but I could hear the sound of their claws scratching along the ground as we ran...which just pushed me to run even faster.

"We're not gunna make it!" I heard AJ yell.

I looked back briefly and saw nearly a hundred or more dead things chasing us, some no more than five feet behind us. I looked at the path ahead, and then to AJ. "Yes...you are going to make it AJ."

We reached our exit burrow and I shoved her inside. "Run, I'll be right behind you!" She looked scared, but nodded her head and took off down my tunnel. I then stomped my foot as hard as I could, collapsing the passage on this end. I breathed a red and green flame on myself and turned to our pursuers. "Bring it!"

Perspective change – Applejack

"Spike? Spike?! Goshdarnit, don't do this ta me!" I yelled in vain. Just then, the tunnel began to collapse, which forced me to run away towards the exit. The whole way, my mind was running wild with thoughts that were making tears come to my eyes. The most painful one was what I was going to have to tell all our friends about what happened to him. What would Twi say? What would Rarity say? Would they hate me? The tunnel continued to collapse behind me, and I ended up sobbing the whole way.

I jumped out of the ground just as the last of the tunnel collapsed, leaving me facing a very confused and concerned duo of unicorns.

Trailblazer stared at me for a moment before looking to the collapsed tunnel. "Applejack, what happened to the commander?" At this point my mouth refused to work properly, so I just shook my head sadly.

Moondancer was silently staring at the mountain that had held our target. She then turned to me with a stern look. "Is the mission complete?" I nodded, at which point she turned and walked away. "Pack your things. We're going home now."

"W-wait!" the young unicorn stallion shouted. "What about the commander? We can't just leave him!"

Moondancer stopped and turned with tears in her eyes. "I've seen enough death for a lifetime, and I'm not going to just sit around until we get attacked. Now, pack up and lets go. We've done our job, so it's time to head home."

I stood firm and stomped my foot in defiance. "No...Ah'm gunna go look for 'im."

Trailblazer was silent for a moment before uttering, "I'm going with her."

"Will you two wake up? He's gone! What's the point in waiting around for something that's not going to happen?" Moondancer nearly screamed, tears now freely flowing down her face.

I set my jaw and turned towards the mountain. "No one's askin' ya ta stay, sugarcube. Go on home ta yer daughter." She started to respond, but I turned toward her with a growl. "Go, Moondancer. We don' need ya, and y'all have a little filly tha's waitin' for ya."

The unicorn mare nodded softly and turned away. "I'm sorry...I just can't do this anymore."

Her fellow unicorn patted her on the side with a sad smile. "It's okay, go on home. We'll be back shortly too." The mare nodded back at us before charging her horn and disappearing in a flash of light.

"So," the stallion beside me started, "how do we start?"

"We walk straight in tha front. Ah know Spike well enough ta know tha' we don' have ta worry 'bout any enemies on tha way there. They'll be focusin' on him." I responded as we started to walk forward.

Trailblazer shook his mane out before following. "Do you think he's still alive?"

Without hesitation, I nodded. "He is. Spike's too tough ta go down that easily."

At my statement, the entire mountain collapsed in on itself, multicolored fire spewing out of the rubble that fell. My partner looked at me nervously. "H-he's fine, right?"

I sighed and continued walking. "Only one way ta find out."

We arrived at the rubble of the mountain about five minutes later, only to find it was now seeping molten lava from two vents on either side of the main foundation. I knew Spike was safe from fire and lava, but several thousand tons of rock...I wasn't sure of. It had been clear on quite a few occasions that Spike could take a hay of a lot of punishment, but let's just say I didn't want to test that...but this incident had done so for us.

I just hoped that plucky dragon didn't let us down now.

My thoughts were stopped dead when I heard a deep rumble from the mountain, followed by what sounded like explosions. I grabbed my companion and dodged behind a large boulder, just as the mountain was torn apart by a massive blowout of lava and volcanic gases. Small droplets of molten rock fell on my armor, and I watched as it hardened into stone before my eyes. The heat was intense, and I started sweating, even with the locale being as cold as it was. Fire and flaming boulders rained down around us, so I covered the smaller unicorn with my own body to protect him. After all, my armor covered my entire body...his did not. I felt my armor heat up as multiple droplets fell upon it, but I held firm and protected my teammate.

"If you two are done cuddling, I'd like to go home now." grumbled a voice from behind me.

I turned around to see the dragon we were looking for with glowing red armor.

Perspective change – Spike

"Isn't your armor usually green?" Trailblazer asked with confusion.

I nodded. "Three-thousand degree lava will do that to it...which means no hugs until we get back home."

The unicorn specialist rolled his eyes, then turned around and began casting a portal spell to take us home...but Applejack didn't take her eyes off of me. She walked closer and removed her helmet, and I could see that she had been crying. "Yer bleedin' Spike...from everywhere."

I looked down at myself and nodded. "Yeah, those bastards got me really well before I could get away." I pointed to the top of my head, which was missing a horn now. "And they made me a little uneven now too, which pisses me off." I then smiled weakly. "I'd also appreciate it if you didn't tell Twi I used such language."

"But Spike, yer bleedin' so much..." AJ stated with much concern.

I shook my head. "Dragons are a lot hardier than ponies are. They're just surface scratches...I'll be fine, I promise."

"Portal's ready you two...let's get out of here and go home." said Trailblazer from behind me.

"Thank Celestia, I'm so sick of this place." I remarked. I then reached out a cooled-down claw to the mare at my side. "Come on AJ, I'm sure Dark misses you."

Perspective change – Celestia

"...and furthermore, I believe that an increase in funds for the school would be beneficial for all the ponies of Ponyville. I truthfully believe that the young are our future, and must be provided for." the magenta schoolteacher stated.

I nodded with a practiced warm smile, effectively hiding my boredom. "I agree, Miss Cherilee. I also feel that to provide for our foals is to provide for our future. Increase in funding for the Ponyville school is granted."

The mare smiled and bowed in reverence. "Thank you so much, your highness."

I waved a hoof at her and smiled a genuinely. "It is no problem at all, dear. Thank you for bringing this to my attention." The mare nodded in thanks and vacated the chamber. I then turned to my left and asked, "So what do you think of the 'royal duties'?"

The Obsidian by my side sighed and shook his head as he leaned against my throne. "It's boring me to tears. In honesty, I don't know how you do this day in and day out."

"One gets used to it, dear Darkflight. Soon enough, your brother will be doing his part in said duties." I responded with a coy smile.

He snorted a laugh and shook his head. "With Drew's short attention span, you better have a new toy or something for him to mess around with, or he'll end up embarrassing you."

I was about to deny it, but upon thinking truthfully, I realized Frost's brother was correct. "Perhaps I should look into that."

At that moment, the air in the center of the throne room began to crackle with energy, and a bright shimmering portal appeared. Out of it stepped no other than the rest of Spike's team, returning from a victory over yet another...

My word...Spike.

He was bleeding profusely from multiple wounds, and he was also missing a horn. And yet, his emerald eyes still shone with strength and determination. The young dragon had proven yet again to be far more powerful than I had believed. Seeing him grow from a hatchling into a mature dragon...it was inspiring.

"Dark!" shouted the earth pony mare, just before galloping into the waiting arms of Darkflight.

The unicorn stallion approached and bowed respectfully before standing tall with a smile. "The operation was a success, your majesty."

I nodded with a smile of my own. "Well done...all of you. Go home and rest, Trailblazer. Your family is sure to have missed you."

He smiled wide and nodded. "Thank you, Princess Celestia. I shall do so immediately." With that last word, the stallion galloped out of the throne room and presumably, home.

I then turned my attention back to Spike and gestured to him with my forelegs outstretched. "Come here for a hug, dear."

He raised his eyeridge at me. "I'm covered in soot and blood, princess. I'd hate to-"

"I can bathe, Spike. Now get over here or I'll come and get you." I said firmly.

Even in the state he was, the young dragon still made his way to me with strong, proud strides...the gait of a warrior. He embraced me strongly, and I honestly did not care that he was marring my coat. He was as a son to me in many ways, and I loved him as one. I had missed and worried about him far too much, and I was beyond happy that he was back.

After a few moments, I pulled back and held him at a short distance with a frown. "You've been injured."

He shrugged with a smile. "I'll be fine, I just really would like a bath right about now."

I nodded and gestured to the corridor. "Use my room down the hall. You know which one it is." He released me and started to walk away before I stopped him by calling his name. He turned to me and I smiled brightly. "It is good to see you home."

"It's good to be back, princess." he responded.

I nodded again. "Clean up well. Rarity is with Frostbreaker and all your friends at the library. You and Applejack can arrive as a surprise...one I am sure they will not soon forget."

The young dragon smirked and nodded. "Great idea, princess. Thanks." He then headed down the winding hallways to his room.

I turned my attention to Darkflight and his marefriend, who were currently engaged in a kiss-war. I cleared my throat with a smirk, causing the both of them to look at me. "It is all well and good that you miss each other, but perhaps you should get yourself cleaned, Applejack. Your friends are all waiting for you at the library in Ponyville." She was about to speak, but I just pointed down the hallway. "Use the guest quarters, down the corridor with the oaken doors." She nodded with a smile before extracting herself from the dragon's grasp and trotting away.

Darkflight then looked at me with a smirk. "You just love to embarrass her, don't you?"

I looked away mischievously with a coy smile. "Whatever do you mean, Darkflight?"

He simply leaned against my throne again with a grin. "I see now why you and Drew get along so well. Both of you have the same false-innocence." He then looked at me and nudged me. "Don't have too much fun here. I'm going to go ahead and head back to the library. Meet us there whenever you're done."

"I will arrive when the sun has touched the horizon. Do not tell everypony about Spike and Applejack's return. I wish for it to be a surprise to all." I responded.

The Obsidian smiled back at me with a thumbs-up. "Understood, princess." I then watched as the black dragon flew away at a speed that rivaled Rainbow Dash, and smiled.

Luna will be most pleased.

Perspective change – Frostbreaker

Did I ever say just how good of a dancer Pinkie was? Well I'll say it now: Pinkie's a great dancer.

That wasn't the highlight of the day so far though. I got to meet Twilight's parents, Night Shine and Dreamsinger. Needless to say Twilight's mother was gushing over not only her daughter getting married, but to a prince...while Night Shine just shared a drink with me and smiled. Rarity was gushing too of course, but more so because of the opportunity to make yet another wedding dress for a friend.

Twilight was getting swarmed with questions by all her friends, as well as a few ponies that I didn't recognize at first. One turned out to be Colgate, and another was Berry Punch (how Twilight met her, I'm not sure I want to know).

The last pony I did recognize, but had never met...it was Derpy Hooves.

The mare was happily chatting away with Fluttershy, who was oddly not the least bit shy with the googly-eyed pegasus. Her daughter Dinky Doo was playing with my sister and her friends somewhere while everyone else talked.

I on the other hoof was sitting against the wall, enjoying a drink with Night Shiner and Big Macintosh.

"Eeyup." the crimson stallion remarked.

I took a swig of the hard cider and nodded. "Yep."

"Mmhmm." Night Shine added from beside me.

"Are you colts going to dance or do we have to make you?" Twilight's voice rang from in front of me.

I looked up to see Dreamsinger, Twilight, and my mother standing in front of me. I downed the
last of my cider and shrugged. "Sure, why not? It's been awhile since I've had a good dance with my lady."

Twilight blushed and extended her hoof, as the other two mares did the same to their partners. "Might I have this dance, prince?"

I chuckled and nodded. "You may, my soon-to-be princess."

Twilight blushed again, but took my hoof in her own and pulled me to the dance floor. I followed and was pleased that Vinyl had apparently anticipated this, changing the music to something slower and easier for me to dance to. After all, I wasn't going to be dancing to any rave music with nine drinks in me.

A large circle was created for the six of us as we approached, and we all went about embracing our partner and enjoying the slow, sensual dance. Twilight leaned her head against my chest and sighed deeply.

"You know, my mother fainted when I told her." the violet unicorn whispered with a grin.

I grinned right back as I held her against me. "In all honesty Twi, I'm actually surprised you didn't."

She nuzzled into me and sighed. "I almost did. That's why I got out of here so fast this morning." I then felt her head turn to the left, and followed her gaze to a lonely-looking Rarity. "She really misses him...and I do too."

"Truth be told, I miss the guy t-" I started to say, before I was cut off by the front door opening again.

"Started a party without us, huh? Some ponies..." said a very familiar voice.

"Ah know. We're workin' our tails off and they're jus' havin' a good ol' time" remarked an unmistakable accented voice.

I turned around and saw a battle-worn Spike and Applejack standing by the front door, smirking.

"SPIIIIIKE!" screamed not only the mare in my grasp, but also the alabaster unicorn the two of us had been talking about.

Both tackled said dragon in a dual hug, and he just chuckled as he stroked their manes with his fingers. "Hey Twi and Rarity. Miss be a bit, did you?"

The heartfelt reunion was broke up when Rarity gasped loudly. "Spike...dear, you are injured! And by Celestia, your horn!"

"Spike, what happened to you?" Twilight asked with a very concerned expression.

He embraced the two mares and smiled. "Just a little fighting and whatnot. My horn and scales will grow back." He stood up while still embracing the two ponies. "And before you say anything, I'm not stopping until this war is over with. We're almost done, and I want to see this through to the end."

Twilight and Rarity both looked at me and I nodded. "He'll be safe. Spike's A/O was the last one before the end, so now I'll be able to watch over him personally. We'll all be together this time, and Rainbow Dash and the rest will be returning after I go back the day after tomorrow."

"You're letting the rest of them come home?" Spike asked worriedly.

I nodded. "There's just a few more things to clean up in the Forbidden Forest, and it's something I can handle on my own. Besides, I can't use most of my spells right now for fear of hurting my troops. If I'm on my own, I can really loose myself. After I go back, you can expect to see me about a week later, if that. I know Dash, Ditzy, and the others all want to come home, and they deserve to."

They all seemed to accept this and nodded before Vinyl spoke up. "Well now that we're all here, let's get this party jumpin' again!" At that, she turned the volume on the speakers up and started pounding out the beats, to which everypony started dancing.

I watched the party progress on my own, sitting on a chair in the corner of the room. My brother was catching up with Spike while Rarity stood diligently by his side. I could tell she was very happy he had come home, but was not pleased by the cosmetic cost. I honestly couldn't help but look at the bright side – that he was alive. Still, I knew how the unicorn could be, so I let it go.

As I sat and observed while continuing to drink, I noticed when Pinkie sat next to me and hugged me tightly. With all the noise, I decided to use magic to speak to her, as otherwise I wouldn't be able to hear her.

“Hey Pinks, how are you?”

“Wow, I forgot you knew this spell! I'm doing just super-duperriffic, Frostie!”

“I'm glad you are. In a few days here, you're going to get to see Rainbo-”

“Dashie! Gosh, it's been forever since I've seen her. I miss her so much.”

"Excuse me Prince Frostbreaker." stated a voice in front of me. I looked up to see Twilight's parents standing in front of me. The father looked to me with concern and motioned his head to the back door. "Can we have a word outside?"

I kissed the pink mare beside me on the forehead and nodded. "Sure. Let's go."

The three of us arrived outside, where it was relatively quiet save for the sound of the bass that could be heard through the library's walls. I looked to the couple and raised an eyebrow. "So what's this about?"

"You seem like a no-nonsense kind of stallion, so I'll get right to the point." Night Shine stated. He then stepped closer to me with an inquisitive eye. "Our Twilight tells us that you're very different from the other stallions, and not because you're a royal." He cleared his throat and tried to look as intimidating as possible. "What exactly does she mean by that?"

I sighed and shrugged. "Well I guess I'd have to tell you all sooner or later. I'm not of this world...that's about as simple as I can put it. Do you need me to elaborate?" Both nodded, so I sat down and sighed again. "The two of you might want to take a seat, this is going to take awhile."

At the end of my explanation, the two of them sat completely silent for the longest time. Night Shine's left eye was twitching a bit, and Dreamsinger's mouth was hanging open as she struggled to compose herself and speak.

The mare finally gained some semblance of control and asked, "And how do we know that you're being truthful? That is after all, a very tall tale."

I shrugged. "You can always ask either one of the princesses. They're the ones that brought me and my family here."

"Frost, are you speaking of us again? You know how flattering that is..." sang a powerful and loving voice from above us.

I raised my head to see Luna and Celestia floating in slowly, with wide smiles on their faces. Luna landed beside me and nuzzled my face affectionately. "Apologies for arriving late, Frost. We had a few things to take care of before we could allow time away from the palace."

"P-princesses!" Night Shine squeaked out, just before bowing low as his wife followed suit.

Celestia stepped forward with her brilliant smile and bowed her head softly. "It is so good to see the two of you again. Please rise." As the two unicorns stood again, Celestia looked to me. "What were the three of you speaking about?"

"I just told them about what I am and where I come from. As I assumed, they didn't believe me." I responded as I nuzzled Luna in return.

Celestia knew my story well by now, so she simply stated, "Everything he's told you is true. We brought him here from another world, and he was not always a pony."

I looked at the two rulers and smiled. "Well I've actually been practicing the spell I'll need for when we visit Earth. I can show them if you think it would help."

"Show us what?" Night Shine asked in confusion.

I grinned and stepped away from everypony. "I sure hope I got this spell right, or else things are about to get really awkward." I then focused on the spell I had created and let the change take place. I had to close my eyes as a glow encompassed my entire body, and then I felt a tingling feeling as the magic took effect. I felt my limbs changing, and I could feel fingers and toes again, along with the loss of my tail and wings (which felt really weird to be without). After a few minutes, I heard gasps and I opened my eyes and looked down to see that I had indeed reverted to my human body...but luckily with clothing on.

I looked at the group and smiled. "So, how do I look?"

Luna stepped over to me with a grin. "Still handsome. It has been quite some time since I have seen this body."

I was now shorter than her, so I was just barely able to kiss her cheek as she stood next to me. I looked at Twilight's parents and nodded. "Well, this is what I used to look like before coming here. I hope this clears up any questions you might have."

"It's cleared up some...but brought up an entire load of new ones." Dreamsinger responded. The mare then shrugged. "I suppose those can wait until tomorrow though."

I sighed and nodded. "Cool. I'm sorry that I had all of you so worried. Anyway, we should head back inside." I then turned to Luna and Celestia. "I need the two of you to go inside and get my brother to bring me in, as no one else besides the two of you have seen me like this besides my family. I figure it'll be a lot easier to explain if he escorts me."

Luna nodded and followed her sister inside. "Very well, Frost. Wait here."

I sat down on the ground as the other four ponies walked inside, only to be joined by my brother a minute later. He looked down at me and smirked. "Hey there little white man." I chuckled and he looked me over with confusion. "Why don't you change back?"

"Because the only one who can reverse the spell is me...and I need time for my magic to build back up. It's going to take a few hours before I'm ready to cast again." I responded with a sigh.

"That sucks." the Obsidian said with a grin.

I nodded. "Tell me about it. It feels so weird to not have wings or a tail anymore." I then sighed. "Come on, let's go back inside and enjoy this party. Besides, I want everyone to see what I look like so that when we go back to Earth, they don't freak out as much."

He grinned and nodded. "This is going to be fun."

As we walked back inside, the entire library was completely silent as I entered. I turned to all of them and rolled my eyes. "Yes I look different, but it's still me." I then donned my ice armor. "See? I'm still Prince Frostbreaker...just in a different body." I then dissipated the armor, and was left with wet clothes. I grumbled, "That probably wasn't one of my smarter ideas."

"Frost?" I heard Twilght's voice call from the crowd, and I looked into her eyes as she held a very confused look. "Frost, what's happened to you?"

I shrugged. "Your parents didn't believe me when I told them my story...so I had to show them." I then pointed to my clothes. "Could you lend me a hoof Twi? I'd really appreciate it."

"Oh, sure. One second, Frost." she responded as her horn began to glow. I felt her magic encompass me, and felt as the dampness from my skin and clothes began to disappear, until I was completely dry. "There...that should do it." She then looked at me with a smirk. "You know, you're still pretty handsome as a human. A little scrawny by comparison though."

I shrugged. "Well I weigh about four hundred pounds less, so that's probably why." I then looked around the room nervously, as all eyes were upon me. "Well come on, let's keep this party going!" Vinyl got the music going again, and everypony soon began dancing and enjoying the atmosphere, effectively forgetting about what had happened, thankfully.

I sat down on the sofa in my old/new body and sighed heavily as both Pinkie and Twilight sat next to me on either side. Pinkie poked me with a grin and snuggled closer to me. "Am I going to look like you when I change?"

I looked at the pink mare and shook my head. "Males and females look very different as far as humans are concerned. After I change back to my pony form, I'll show you what I mean if you want."

"How long are you going to be like this?" Twilight asked.

I sighed. "Well unfortunately, I have to be the one to undo the spell, so I have to wait for my magic to regenerate. That's going to take a few hours at least." I held up my hands and let my magic flow over my fingers in little wisps. "I can feel already that this body generates magic at a much slower rate than an alicorn does. Thankfully for Celestia and Luna, they won't have to worry about that on Earth, as they draw their power directly from Terra."

"They can do that all the way from Earth though?" Pinkie asked with a dazed expression at all the information.

I shrugged. "When we went to Earth to pick up your present, Luna didn't have any problem at all."

The pink mare giggled. "This is going to be so much fun when we go!"

"Yes...yes I think it will be." I responded as I wrapped my arm around her and hugged her tight against me. I then gestured to Rarity and Spike as he held the white unicorn's hoof in his hand. "Come on, let's grab the two of them. I have something I want to show all of you outside." They looked confused, but complied with my request.

My brother then came up beside me with Applejack. "So, you're going to show them then?"

I nodded with a maniacal grin. "Oh yeah, and it's gonna be fun."

Chapter 19: Fishing for Sanity

Chapter 19: Fishing for Sanity

"One more! One more!" cheered the crowd of twenty or so ponies, so I grinned and nodded as I sat back down on the bench.

I took a deep breath and looked to Luna and Celestia, who were standing beside Twilight and her parents. "Alright, this one is for my mother, the strongest person I've ever known." I looked to the golden-maned blue earth pony with a smile. "Thanks mom...without you, I wouldn't be who I am today."

As my fingers touched the piano keys, I lost myself in the reverberating sound of the music. It was a song I'd written when I was seventeen, back when I still had a sliver of my innocence left...and just like when I'd created this piece, I put everything I had into it. It was a musical testament to the strength of our spirit. After losing two sisters, nearly all relatives, and going through homelessness...we never gave up. My brother, sister, mother, and I were all we had. No one helped us or even offered to, but we survived anyway. It was that time that forced us all to grow closer as a family. Alone, we would surely have fallen, but together we were invincible. The strong, passionate song told a story of this, note by note, chord by chord...and even though no words were sung, the music itself told the story and conveyed the emotions. Vinyl and Lyra were affected the most by the music, but as I opened my eyes upon finishing, I could tell that all enjoyed and appreciated it.

"Andrew...when did you learn that?" my mother asked.

I chuckled heartily and responded, "You remember that time after we moved to Virginia and our neighbor had that piano?" She nodded. "Well, it was then."

"I thought you were just smoking every time you went over there." she retorted skeptically.

I laughed louder. "I didn't just go there to blaze, I also did some constructive things too."

"I wonder if weed is legal here..." my brother mused under his breath, which earned him a hoof to the foot from our mother. She glared at him and he sighed. "Alright alright fine, I won't smoke anything."

"Dark, what're y'all talkin' about?" Applejack asked in confusion.

Before I could respond, my mother responded with, "Drugs...he's talking about drugs."

At this, everypony gasped, and I just sighed. I looked to all of them and nodded. "Yes, yes...we've done drugs before. You can't tell me that no pony's gotten high before on something."

Celestia leaned towards me and whispered, "I may have destroyed all those plants so as to prevent it."

I looked to the ivory alicorn with a nod. "Good idea, because with how happy and fun this place can be, it would have taken over. Good call."

Luna then leaned into my other ear and asked, "You truly partook of those substances?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Let's just say that I've laughed so hard my butt started to hurt, I've been so hyped that I sprinted everywhere I went, and I've danced with pink elephants on the moon with Eddie Izzard singing Kumbaya."

"That...that is quite the experience." the princess of night responded with a surprised expression.

I placed my hand against her cheek and smiled. "That life's behind me, Luna. I have everything I could ever want now, so what's the point in getting high anyway? I have you and all my other friends in a wonderful world of awesome. What more could I ask for?"

"How about a kiss?" she said with a grin.

I shrugged. "I'm still me and you're still you, so why not?" I then leaned in and kissed her softly, causing the princess to sigh happily, her wings twitching ever so slightly.

She looked at me with a happy expression when we broke apart. "I'd missed that."

"You just got plenty of it last night though." I said with a smile.

This caused Luna to pout and look at me pitifully. "But it's been hours..."

I smiled and kissed her cheek. "You'll get all you want tonight, I promise."

"But what about meee?" whined the sun princess from my other side.

I leveled an unamused stare at Celestia and answered, "You both are way too good at that."

Celly giggled and nodded. "We had parents too, Frost."

"So, can you change back yet Frost?" asked Vinyl curiously.

I shrugged. "It's been awhile now, but I'm pretty sure I don't have enough magic available at the moment. I can give it a try though. One sec." I focused on my magic and found that I couldn't even begin to cast the spell, and I quickly let the beginnings of the spell dissipate. "Nope...I got awhile yet I think."

"I pray you'll be back to normal before tonight..." Celestia added, giving me a wink.

"Princess or not, I'd prefer if you didn't do that in front of me. I don't want to imagine my son...oh God, it's too late!" my mother groaned.

I laughed and shook my head. "Please. I've walked in on you a few times. No kid wants to see their parent getting' down either." I then looked to her large crimson husband. "Especially not now."

"Let us please retreat from this subject so as to not traumatize anypony." Luna suggested.

My brother nodded with a smirk. "Agreed. I need my libido, thank you." He then glanced at Applejack. "Well...I'll need it one day."

"De-pressing." I remarked before turning to Twilight's parents. "So, how did you two like it?"

Night Shine sighed. "I suddenly find myself longing for fingers of my own."

I held my hand up and flexed my digits a few times. "I have to admit, I do miss having hands and fingers from time to time. Still...I find it much more advantageous to be what I am now."

"Could you teach me that spell?" asked Lyra, which I should have expected.

I nodded with a smile. "I will. You'll have to know it for when we go to Earth."

"Who all is going?" my brother asked, suddenly interested.

I placed my hand on my chin (which frankly, needed a good shave) and rubbed it as I thought. "Well, I think it's going to be all six Elements, both princesses, Ditzy, Vinyl, you, Moonfang, Venn, and Spike."

"Well we wouldn't want to take everyone, now would we?" the black dragon remarked smugly.

Twilight looked worried though. "I don't think it would be safe to remove all the Elements from Equestria, as the Elements' power is all that's keeping Discord from breaking free."

Celestia nodded with a smile. "This is true dear Twilight, but so long as the Element bearers continue to exist, so too do the Elements. Their power transcends time and space, and so this means that so long as all of you are alive and well, Discord's prison will remain strong."

"How do you know so much about the Elements, princess?" Twilight asked her mentor.

The solar princess smiled that familiar warm smile before responding in a kind tone. "My sister and I were the wielders of the Elements for nearly four centuries, Twilight. I held Magic, Loyalty, and Kindness, while Luna held Honesty, Generosity, and Laughter."

"Luna held laughter?" I asked, which prompted a nod from the mentioned dark alicorn. I chuckled and shook my head. "I'm sorry Luna, but I can't picture you acting like Pinkie Pie."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" the pink mare asked, slightly offended.

I stroked her mane softly with a smile. "Nothing bad, dear. Just imagine Luna acting like you."

Pinkie Pie thought for a moment before nodding with a look of realization. "You're right, I can't picture that. I know I don't make sense sometimes, but that really doesn't make sense. It's all crazy-wayzie like that time I tried to make rainbow cupcakes with real rainbows. Now those were some baked bads!"

I chuckled at the pink mare's rambling and looked to Luna. "I guess you don't have to be Pinkie Pie to be the Element of Laughter."

"Age has calmed me, Frostbreaker. In my filly years, I was quite the giggly pony." Luna answered. The guests gasped in surprise, causing Luna to scoff. "I am not always serious, my ponies. I can have fun too."

"I can vouch for that." I added.

The conversation lulled, and Dreamsinger stepped forward and eyed me with concern. "Please look after our daughter when you make your journey to this 'Earth'."

My brother stepped up beside me with a smile. "We both know how the planet works, as well as all the dangers, both obvious and hidden. Your daughter and all the others will be fine, of that I can promise you."

"Mah hunky dragon. Mmm..." Applejack whispered seductively into the Obsidian's ear canal.

I watched as my brother shivered a bit, then I looked to the group. "Well, I've got one more thing I want to show you that only humans can do, and this is going to be fun."

My brother leaned in as I looked up at the roof and asked, "You aren't going to do what I think you are, are you?"

I whispered, "If you mean some freerunning with your girlfriend chasing me, yes...I am."

"You do realize it has in fact been four years since you've last done this, right?" he asked with just a hint of concern.

I nodded with a grin. "Which means I should be just fine against Applejack."

"That makes literally no sense, you know that right?" the dragon responded, still whispering. He pointed at the orange mare and said, "She's at least twice as fast as you, and stronger."

"Then this should be pretty fun to watch then." I retorted with a smirk. I then turned my attention to the cowmare. "Alright AJ, here's what I want you to do. I want you to catch me."

Applejack took a step forward and raised an eyebrow. "Tha's all?"

"That's all." I answered.

The farm mare smirked and nodded. "Alraht then, le's git goin' then!"

I smirked right back and took off running.

Perspective change – Venn

"Ugh...it's so boring!" I groaned.

My companion wolf nudged me as we sat in the hot springs and smiled. "Come now Venn, some peace and quiet is a good thing. You can't tell me you'd rather be risking your life on the battlefield all of the time."

I sighed and slumped against the side of the rock behind me. "Maybe for you old guy, but I need something to do or I get bored."

"What do you mean 'old'? I am only a year older than you!" the tan wolf responded with a growl.

I laughed and shoved him lightly. "I'm just joking, Moonfang." I then sighed. "Not about the bored part though."

"You two are always just lounging around. Must be nice." said a voice from behind us.

I turned to see Princess Rainbow Dash and Corporal Ditzy Doo standing there, smirking. I looked at the both of them and shrugged, answering, "Well if you've got something more fun or more relaxing to do, I'm all ears."

"Not really. We were just wondering if we could join you two." the corporal asked.

I rolled my eyes. "No, this is our hot spring." I then gestured to the spring with a grin. "Of course you can join us. Like I'm going to say no to a princess anyway."

The alicorn chuckled before rounding the pool. "You guys both know I'm not the 'high-and-mighty' type. I wouldn't use my status as a push for anything."

I chuckled back and nodded. "I know, I'm just busting your chops."

I couldn't help but stare as the two mares walked around the pool to where it was shallow. Both of them were extraordinarily beautiful. The very thought was something I never thought I'd think about a pony. I mean, ponies would normally be food for me...but here I was ogling them. Forget the fact I was originally a hunter, trained and raised to track, kill, and eat things like them. No...this went even deeper than that. Originally there was nothing deeper than simple instincts – hunt, eat, survive...that was it.

Now, I had and understood true feelings and emotions.

I could think rationally before, but things changed upon being able to know anger, sadness, and fear. It opened a whole new world to me that I never knew existed...and lately this world was a lonely one. I had friends and family, but not a mate. As a wolf, having a mate is simply a way to make more wolves. It's an instinctual drive as strong and as old as time itself...never-ending and relentless. Now, I longed for the connection of having a female by my side. A companion I could truly confide in...someone to love.

Love...this was also a new concept for me. I understood it well already, but actually feeling it put a whole new perspective on the connection. There were a lot of times when I would notice myself being jealous of Frost or his brother...even my fellow wolf. I was jealous of the connection they shared with these amazing females.

I mean, where was mine?

"Yoo-hoo, you alright there Venn?" Rainbow Dash's voice cut through my thoughts.

I looked at the cyan alicorn and nodded quickly. "Yeah...yeah, I'm fine."

The gray pegasus giggled and shook her head. "Spill it, Venn. We all know something's bothering you."

I realized it would be pointless to try and argue that fact, as both the mares were masters at seeing through any falsehood. I just sighed and looked to both of them pleadingly. "Promise you won't laugh?"

"Only if it isn't funny." Rainbow Dash remarked with a grin.

I shrugged. "Fair enough." I then took a deep breath in nervousness and looked to Moonfang before turning my gaze back to the two mares sitting in front of me. "Well...I'm kinda lonely."

"What do you mean you're lonely?" Ditzy asked. Rainbow Dash then whispered in her ear and the gray mare looked back to me, inclining her head slightly. "Oh...I see."

I nodded. "Yeah."

"Well," Moonfang started with a smile, "I recommend speaking with Frost when this is all over. He could help you out, I'm sure."

"Who all is left though? I mean is there anypony that's not already accounted for?" I asked desperately.

"Hmmm..." the cyan alicorn hummed in thought, "well there's Aloe and Lotus, the spa twins. There's also Berry Punch, Colgate, Carrot Top, and Crimson Comet, among others."

I furrowed my brow at the princess. "Okay the rest I can see, but Crimson Comet is Frost's little sister."

"So...?" Rainbow Dash asked.

I sighed. "Do you even remember how protective he is? I'd never get within twenty feet of her."

"That might be true for a stranger Venn," Ditzy assured with a smile, "but you are no stranger. You are one of Frost's closest friends."

"I don't know..." I mumbled. "I'd prefer to try the others first."

"Oh wait, what about Octavia?" Moonfang asked with excitement.

The pegasus nodded. "Yeah! She's a good friend of Vinyl Scratch and Frost. She's kind, if a little uppity at times...but she's a good mare. She's single."

I nodded a few times slowly before smiling. "She sounds pretty nice too, from what Frost has told me. I guess I'll go see her when we get back."

"Good boy." Rainbow Dash responded with a smirk.

I growled, "Watch it."

Perspective change – Rainbow Dash

As I lay down to bed that night, I couldn't help but think about Frost and the coming end to this war. He'd told me through Spellspeech tonight that he'd be sending all of us home while he finished up here in the Forsaken Forest. While I was glad I'd get to see all my friends again, I was worried about what was going to happen next.

After all, a cornered beast is at its most dangerous.

What was going to be the final body count? How much damage had been done that we didn't know about? Most of all, what was going to happen after it was all over? Those of us that were a part of the war couldn't just turn a blind eye to what we'd seen and experienced and pretend it didn't happen. All the death and violence...it was something that was going to be with all of us for the rest of our lives. For ponies like Frost and I, that meant possibly forever.

How do you deal with that?

I didn't usually think this much. Maybe it was just the fact that I missed my friends and missed Frost. Yeah...tomorrow when Frost came back and we got to go home, everything would be better...

Wouldn't it?

Chapter 20: Black Dawn

Chapter 20: Black Dawn

The days of fun had passed and I was preparing to leave to return to the Forsaken Forest, ready to relieve my soldiers. I was happy though, as I'd gotten to see and spend time with everypony, including Vinyl and Lyra. Emotions ran high for all of us as I stood (still in my human form) before everypony gathered, as I was going to be gone for at least another week...alone. Even with my attempts at trying to assure everyone that I was going to be fine, I was still on the receiving end of a great many hugs of care and worry, mostly from my mother and sister. The filly and mare were both extremely worried about me because of what was to come.

Back on Earth, I never in a thousand years imagined I'd fight in a war, and definitely did not imagine being not only an equine, but a prince. I had the love of ten amazing mares, all of which were unique in their own right. But the most unlikely thing I ever imagined, was that I would find my true calling in life. To be given the honor of watching over an entire world...it was beyond what I could have ever hoped for. Sure it was stressful and demanding, but to know that because of me ponies would live where they would have otherwise died...it was inspiring.

And yet, this war had cost us the lives of 120,000.

By Earth's standards it's a drop in the bucket, but in a place like Terra – where such a scale of death hasn't even been heard of before – it's soul-crushing. Until we all ended this war and restored this world to peace...the bodies were just going to keep piling up. It was a sad reality, but one I had become accustomed with.

I'm still not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

"Now you better tear it up out there man, because when we meet at the final A/O, I want to have to really try to keep up with you." my brother said with a smirk.

I chuckled and nodded as I embraced him tightly. "Sure thing, Mace. I got this."

I then looked to my mother and she trotted up and hugged me tight for probably the millionth time. "You better be safe, Andrew."

I wrapped my arms around the mare's neck and hugged her tightly as well. "I will...I promise." I then released her and began to focus my vast stores of magic, willing myself to change back to an alicorn. As soon as the spell faded, I felt as eleven pairs of hooves embraced me...and I just smiled as my friends and family gave me one last hug before my departure, and I extended my large wings to hug them all just as tightly. I then took one last loving look at them all before charging my teleportation spell and disappearing in a flash.

I reappeared in my tent, right next to a very surprised Rainbow Dash and Ditzy. Both were apparently preparing to leave as well, and so had not been expecting me to arrive as I did.

Both quickly came to their senses though and nearly bowled me over with a group hug, and I enjoyed every second of it. Dash then looked up to me and smiled as she released me. "So how was it?"

I grinned with a faraway expression. "It was wonderful. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed everypony until I got to see them. They miss you two as well, so we should head out to the camp so I can let the soldiers know what's up."

Ditzy released me next and went to grab her saddlebag. "I've already told them what's going to happen, but it's probably best if they hear it from you as well." She then gestured to the open flap of the tent. "They're awaiting your orders, Colonel."

I smiled. "Cool. Alright, let's do this. I'm sure they'll all be happy to go home." I then looked to my two companions with a serious expression. "Get all you can out of this when you're home, because shortly after I return, we'll all be gathering for the final operation. Understood?"

Both mares saluted me sternly with a, "Yes sir!"

I then stepped outside the tent, seeing that the entire battalion had gathered. I stepped before them and they all silenced themselves. "Alright troops, this is your reward for your faithful service to our home. Whether you be pony," I looked to Zita, the white dragon, "dragon," I then looked to a male gryphon, "gryphon," I gazed at a tall deer warrior, "deer," lastly, I looked to my two close friends, Venn and Moonfang, "or wolf...all of you are fighting for the safety and continued existence of this world and her people, and so you all deserve to see your loved ones in return for your service. Go home, rest, and prepare for the final battle that is to come. Troops...dismissed!"

As soon as I finished my words, multiple unicorns began casting teleportation spells and dragons, pegasi, and gryphons flew away. Rainbow Dash and I sent the deer-people of Cervidas home with spells, and then looked to the two wolves.

I smiled at them both and said, "You two have proven to be far more formidable than I ever thought possible, and have made wonderful friends and citizens to Equestria. Equestria appreciates your service...but most of all, so do I. Thanks a lot guys."

Both wolves placed a hand on my chest in a gesture of respect and friendship, then Moonfang responded, "I believe I speak for both of us when I say that we should be thanking you. You befriended us when you had no reason to, and believed we were more than our form would suggest. Thank you for doing that...we are eternally in your debt." The two wolves took a step back, and Dash and I pooled our remaining magic to send the two wolves home.

I then turned to the cyan alicorn and gray pegasus with a smile. "Well girls, when you see me in a week, it'll be to the gathering of the largest single force the world has ever seen. So enjoy yourselves and see all your loved ones...because soon we're going to end this." I leaned over and kissed the both of them softly before saying, "Fly safe, and I'll see you both soon." Both mares then took flight, heading towards home. I then looked around the camp, noting just how empty it looked with only my tent left standing. I sighed and dissipated my ice shield. After doing so, I amplified my voice and said, "Alright...I'm alone. We both know you've been wanting to get me by myself for whatever reason. Show yourself."

Not a second after saying this, a black alicorn phased into existence in front of me, its illusionary spell dropped. He smiled and said, "Hello, son."

"Enough with the pleasantries, father." I spat in anger. "What do you want?"

"Straight to business, eh? Alright then." he answered with no small amount of arrogance. "It has come to my attention that you've found a way to stave off my reinforcements, and have found and destroyed all of my generals."

I smirked. "We have...and you're next."

Death growled at this and shouted, "Do you honestly think that your ragtag band of fighters can best me? All of them will die...and when I am through with you, so shall you."

I chuckled smugly as I sat down lazily on the soft grass. "If you're so confident, then why not take them out now? Play that 'ace-in-the-hole' you think you have and let's see what happens."

The alicorn's anger was replaced with his own smug grin and he responded, "I would rather wait until I have all of my enemies gathered in one place, and then wipe them out in one fell swoop. Why do you not attack me now when I am alone if you're so confident?"

I shrugged. "Possibly because I know I couldn't take you down by myself. I'm not so arrogant as to think I can take down the very personification of death by myself...but make no mistake, you will fall. You've ended the lives of more than enough living things to warrant your death...but don't worry, we won't kill you. We have a far more interesting way to end you in store."

"And what makes you think these friends of yours will be any more successful in ending me?" he asked, now a little nervous...an expression I relished every second of.

I smirked and looked to the beautiful springtime sky. "Because they fight for balance, not power. The victory we achieve is for all of Terra...not just one race of people."

"Can't you see what I'm trying to do here?" he questioned angrily. "I am trying to establish complete control over the world. Imagine, a place where there would be no disease, no death, no more pain and suffering."

"Freedom is not an equal trade for that. For an eternal being, you seem to have overlooked that snippet of information." I retorted, my grin getting bigger. I sighed and stood again, looking the black pony in the eyes. "Look, I know that you haven't shown yourself to me just to talk, there's a reason you're here...so just get it over with so I can finish off the abominations that plague this land and go home."

He stared at me for a moment before shrugging. "Very well. I have a proposition for you."

"Big surprise there..." I added.

He glared at me for a moment before continuing with, "It's quite simple: call off this little 'crusade' of yours and I will spare your friends and family. I will even give them a position of power in the world that is to come." He then smiled at me and nodded. "A fair offer, if ever there was one."

I tapped my hoof on my chin, as if contemplating the prospect before replying with, "No deal. First of all, you have a horrible poker face. The only reason you're trying to make a deal is because you know we're closing in on you and you have nowhere else to go. That and your 'terms' don't really work for us. The world was fine before you started this shit, and it's going to go back to that when this is over. Saying you're going to eliminate the need to die doesn't really convince me. I can tell you right away that immortality is only a blessing if you get to spend it with those you love...otherwise it's a curse. That means in essence, you'd be cursing those left alive, because you've already killed so many. Children have lost mothers and fathers. Brothers and sisters have been split apart or killed. You have no moral standing to lean against here, and do not think this flimsy 'proposition' of yours is at all enticing. So go back to whatever hole you're hiding in. Make no mistake, we will find you...and this will end. Goodbye, father." I then turned around and walked away. I heard a growl from the avatar behind me before a flash of light issued forth, and I could no longer feel his magical essence in the air. I then focused my magic and made contact with Celestia.

Hey Celly, it's Frost. I have news that might be of interest to everypony.”

"Very well. What have you to report?"

"Death just made an appearance after my company left, and he spoke to me."

"Oh...are you injured?"

"No...he actually didn't even attack me whatsoever. He just talked."

"I see...what did he have to say?"

"He demanded a surrender. I think he's starting to get desperate."

"You don't think..."

"I do. Tighten defenses around Canterlot and Ponyville, as well as any of the outlying territories. Let our allies know as well, as they could find themselves under attack. Have Twilight contact Chrysalis and ask her and her hive to keep an eye on things. I don't think Death realizes we know where he is yet, and I don't want to lose that advantage. Don't call in the soldiers on furlough though unless something happens. They deserve a rest."

"Understood, Frost. We will contact you if something changes. I love you...be safe."

"I love you as well, Celly. I'll be home soon."

I closed connection with the solar princess and sighed as I looked towards the mountains that bordered the valley the forest was contained in. I could sense a lot of Death's magic in use there, which meant my quarry would be hiding along the foot of the mountains. I sighed as I donned my ice armor and grabbed my two blackflame-forged swords.

Today was going to be long and boring.

Perspective change – Darkflight

"Tell me again why ya gotta go find that mare. She ain't nothin' but a pain in the flank!" shouted Applejack as I pulled the straps of my armor tight.

I sighed and clasped my cloak around my body. "Because Ditzy asked me to do her a favor, and I kinda owe her. More than that though, I think Trixie deserves a second chance."

"Ah still say it's a waste of tahm." she responded in annoyance.

I stood up and pulled the straps of my legplates and shoulderplates tight before looking at the orange farm pony. "AJ, I'm trying to turn over a new leaf in my life, and one of those things I'm trying to do is forgive. When I heard about this Trixie chick, I thought she was a bitch too...but she lost her entire career because of it. I think she's paid enough for her screw-up." I did one last check of my armor to make sure it was snug and then grabbed my helmet. "Ditzy's contacts say she's in Manehattan, so it should only take me a few hours to get there. Once I arrive, I just gotta find her and then I just have to convince her to come back."

AJ looked at me with a grin and chuckled. "And how d'ya think that's gonna go?"

"Not well." I responded quickly as I grabbed Yamato. "She got ran out of here for being a pompous showoff, so it's unlikely she's going to want to come back at first. It might take some creative speech, but if I can find her, I'm pretty confident I can convince her to come back with me."

"Or you could ponynap her..." the orange mare mused, seemingly to herself.

"Not helping." I responded with a sigh. "I seriously considered that for awhile. It would be easier and I know the princesses would cover for me, but I'd prefer to not break any laws while I do this." I then did put my helmet on and did a quick turnaround, my black cloak flowing gently in the air. "How do I look?"

Applejack smirked and sauntered over to me sensually. "Y'all look like a dangerous dragon now."

I chuckled and kneeled down to embrace the mare in a tight hug. "Thanks, AJ. I'll miss you."

"Ah'll miss ya too, Dark. Be safe." she responded before planting a kiss on my mouth.

I returned it and then released her, standing and grabbing my pack. "I will. I'll be back soon." I held onto her hoof for a moment before letting go and diving off the balcony of the steelworks and taking flight, veering west towards Manehattan.

Contrary to how it had been before the war, the skies between towns and cities were no longer vacant. Pegasi, gryphons, and even dragons could be seen crowding the skies, and I had to be careful not to run into anyone. Luckily most of them made room for me, as I was not only an Obsidian, but was decked-out in some of the most intimidating armor any of them had ever seen.

Chuck Norris ain't got nothin' on me.

A few of the dragons I recognized from the island I'd visited with Celestia, and they waved at me when they realized who I was. I simply waved back and ignored them for the most part. Not because I felt like being an asshole, but I didn't really have time to engage any of them in small talk or anything. I had things to do and I wanted to get it done as soon as possible.

"Hi!" shouted a piercingly loud voice from beside me, which caused me to stumble in the air and nearly fall on top of a large red dragon.

I flipped my hood down and looked around for the source of the voice, only to see a bright white pegasus hovering right in front of my face. Her hair was almost exactly the same style as Pinkie Pie's, except it was bright yellow. I glared at her for a minute before asking, "Can I help you little pony?"

She giggled and shrugged. "I don't know, can you?"

I rolled my eyes and took off flying again, weaving in and out of the traffic that surrounded me.

"So, where are you going?" the pony asked me.

I grit my teeth and responded with, "Manehattan."

I heard a gasp and once again, she flew right in front of me. "That's where I'm going! Ohmygosh, we can go together! Like a road trip! Or is it a sky trip...?"

I didn't feel like wearing myself out by outflying her and I didn't want to hurt her...which meant I was going to have to put up with her.

This was going to be a long flight.

Perspective change – Twilight Sparkle

"So then what happened?" I asked, eager to hear the next part of Rainbow Dash's story.

The mentioned alicorn mare was reclining in the library, where myself and all the others were gathered upon our friends' return. Everypony was there, even the rulers of Equestria, eager to welcome back their friends.

"Well," Dash started, taking a sip of her sarsaparilla, "we were cleaning up the last bit of resistance last winter as we left Stalliongrad. I know I said a little bit, but there were thousands of them. Considering how many there were before though, it wasn't too many...not with all of us there anyway." She took another sip of her drink and grinned, just barely holding back laughter. "So anyway, the rest of the regiment was providing air and magical support, but me, Moonfang, Venn, and Frost were holding the front line. All of the sudden, I see an armored gray wolf come tearing across the field with some rancid-looking fleshy on his back, trying to chew through his armor. He's flailing around like an idiot while screaming, 'Get it off me!'" She giggled softly before continuing with, "So then Moonfang bolts across to Venn and grabs the thing off of him, and rips it wide open with his bare hands. The only problem with that is everything sprayed all over his face." At this we all cringed, and she nodded. "Yeah...imagine the worst smell in the world. Because of how strong Moonfang's nose is though, multiply that by about five-hundred." She then looked to the beige wolf with a grin. "So after the thing sprays its guts all over him, he up and pukes right there during a battle." At this, the entire room erupts into laughter as we all glanced at the poor wolf.

He raised his hand high and said, "For the record, it was the most terrible experience of my entire life. I had nightmares about the smell for three days." I watched as Fluttershy nuzzled him softly, and immediately the disgusted look left his face...replaced with a loving smile.

I then turned my attention to Ditzy, who was sitting quietly next to her twin sister, Derpy. "What about you, Ditzy? See any crazy things out there?"

The gray-coated mare chuckled and sighed. "Twilight, you have no idea." She then sat up straight and grinned. "Okay, check this out: about a month into our deployment, we were sitting around a campfire as we tried to pass the time. Supplies hadn't arrived yet from Canterlot, so we were all hungry...so we spent the time doing anything we could to pass the time. So, as cliché as it sounds, we ended up telling stories around the fire. Not necessarily scary stories, just stories in general." Ditzy lifted a mug of cider to her lips and took a drink, letting an audible "ahh" out as she swallowed. "Anyway, it eventually was Frost's turn to tell a story about something. Now mind you I've already come to terms with what he his, who he used to be, and where he comes from. All that I can handle...but then he told us all about something called 'fan-fictions' from Earth."

"Oh yeah, he mentioned those once I think. Didn't sound all that interesting." Vinyl said as she exited the room and headed for the kitchen.

Ditzy Doo rolled her eyes and shook her head. "I thought the same thing at first, but then he told me about some of them. Basically fan-fictions are made-up stories about characters from movies, TV shows, video games...anything. One of the most popular sections of fan-fictions are about us."

"Really?" Pinkie Pie asked as she munched slowly on a cupcake. "Humans write stories about us?"

The gray pegasus mare nodded with a smile. "Yeah. We're really popular. We're practically worshiped by a large number of humans."

"That's awesome!" Vinyl yelled from the other room.

"Wait wait wait, why don't I remember any of this?" Rainbow asked in confusion.

The slate-colored pegasus shrugged. "Probably because you were sleeping. The whole time we were in the field, I've yet to see you out of your tent after the sun goes down."

The rainbow-maned pony smiled sheepishly as she rubbed her mane. "Y-yeah, I guess I get tired easily."

Ditzy smiled and nodded. "Yep. Anyway, he told me about the different types of stories that were written. You know, adventure, comedy, action...that sort of thing. When he gets to the genre of romance though, that's when things get a little weird."

I quirked my eyebrow up and asked, "How so?"

"Well," she started, taking another gulp of AJ's cider, "it's pretty self explanatory what a romance entails. People write stories about us falling in love with other ponies." She then grinned mischievously. "Anyone care to guess who the arguably most popular pony to write those about is?" We all shrugged, and then Ditzy looked to Rainbow Dash.

The cyan alicorn nearly choked on her drink and she squeaked out, "What?"

Ditzy giggled and nodded. "Yep...you're one of the favorites, Rainbow Dash." She then took another drink of cider and sat back against the soft chair.

The room was silent for a long time before I heard Applejack say, "Well don't leave us hangin', sugarcube. Who's she put with?"

Ditzy took a very serious expression next and looked to Celestia and Luna. "Are you all sure you want to hear this? I warn you, it can get pretty weird and some of you might end up really uncomfortable."

The princesses of sun and moon nodded, and Rainbow Dash said, "Pfft, we're tough. We can handle it. Fire away!"

The gray mare shrugged and grinned. "Aaalright, I warned you. Usually it's pretty straightforward. A lot of times, you get put with Soarin the Wonderbolt." At this Rainbow Dash smiled dreamily. "But," she said, getting everypony's attention, "sometimes it's a bit stranger. For example..." she then pointed at Fluttershy.

It took a moment for all of us to understand.

"Wait, what?" Dash nearly screamed. She looked over at her best friend before looking back to Ditzy. "That's...I mean EWW! That would be like dating my sister!" She then turned to the canary-yellow mare and chuckled nervously. "Umm...no offense, Fluttershy...but you're like totally not my type."

To my utter surprise (as well as everypony else's), Fluttershy didn't react at all. She just smiled warmly and nodded. "Oh, it's okay Rainbow Dash. I don't like mares like that anyway, and it's just a story."

"That's not all..." Ditzy continued. "The second choice is Applejack..."

"Say what now?!" the farm mare yelled loudly. "Ah ain't no filly-fooler, yah know. Ah get a li'l tipsy and kiss a mare one tahm and all tha sudden humans think-"

"Actually," the gray pegasus interrupted, "that specific incident was never shown in the TV show on Earth. It's just something humans thought up." She then turned to the rest of us and pointed a hoof at the everypony. "I just want to stress to all of you so that you don't react like Applejack, that these are fiction...which means it's made up. It doesn't mean anything unless you want it to."

"What about me?" Fluttershy asked timidly.

"Mostly Big Macintosh." Ditzy responded, which gained her a look of shock from the large crimson stallion.

Fluttershy blushed a color that matched Big Mac's coat perfectly, and she squeaked out, "Oh my..."

"Oh please," Rainbow Dash answered back, "we all know you used to have a crush on Big Mac. It's not like it's a secret."

"Ooh, ooh, do me next! Do me!" Pinkie requested excitedly, bouncing a bit in her seat.

"Well," Ditzy said, placing a hoof on her chin as she thought, "usually you're paired with a human from Earth, but you've also been paired with all the other Elements of Harmony too...and even Princess Celestia."

"Wait a minute," Venn spoke loudly, "she's been paired with all of her friends?"

"Yep. I mean come on, who doesn't love Pinkie Pie?" Ditzy quipped with a manic grin.

"I'd hit that." we all heard Vinyl say loudly as she reentered the room, levitating a bottle of apple juice. She took a sip as she sat down and looked up to see all of us staring at her. "What? I know I'm not the only pony thinking that. I'm just the one who said it."

"What about me?" I finally asked.

Ditzy leveled her gaze with me and smiled. "You've also been paired with all your friends at some point...but mostly Princess Luna." I stole a glance at Luna, and she winked in return. Ditzy said, "Yeah...not far off base on that one."

"What about you, Ditzy Doo?" the gray pegasus mare's twin sister asked.

She sighed and shook her head. "See, that's where things get a little skewed. Apparently on Earth, a lot of times we're the same pony. There's no difference between us...and that's kinda sad."

"Well, who do I get to be with then?" the wall-eyed mare asked with excitement.

Her sister grinned and replied, "Usually Doctor Whooves."

"That weird stallion with the hourglass cutie mark?" Rainbow Dash asked.

Ditzy nodded and downed the rest of her drink. "Yep, that's him."

"But I am the Doctor's marefriend!" Derpy responded in confusion.

"I know, but humans don't. Apparently they just don't have any imagination in that respect. Although, I will give them props for being able to spot a good match like that." Ditzy answered.

"What about me?" Spike asked eagerly. "Do I get to be with Rarity?"

"Sometimes." Ditzy answered. "But you've also been paired with Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, Scootaloo, Queen Chrysalis...and Twilight."

Spike and I both gasped in shock, and he said, "You mean to tell me I get to be with a changeling and my bucking mentor?" Spike looked at me with a grimace and turned back to Ditzy. "Twi's like my mom...and my sister! That's just...ugh."

"I warned all of you, but nooo...you all got way too curious." the gray mare quipped with a smirk. "Anyway, let's get off of this subject before I scar too many of you."

"You know an awful lot for never having been to Earth before." I stated to her.

Ditzy shrugged. "We weren't in battle all of the time. When we were settling down and relaxing at night, there wasn't much to do. If we couldn't sleep, we sat up and told stories to each other. Gotta find some way to keep from going crazy."

I nodded in understanding. "So are you excited to be going?"

"To Earth?" she asked, and I nodded. "Well, I guess so. I mean it's not like there's something specific I can look forward to, because I've never been there before. It will be pretty interesting to see where Frost came from though. He told me he's taking us somewhere called Hollywood. Supposedly it's where all the famous people of the country he lived in were congregated."

"I think it's gonna be awesome!" Dash added. "He told me something about a squadron of fighter pilots called the 'Blue Angels'. They're supposed to be some of the best stunt fliers around. I mean nothing compared to me of course, but they're about the best that humans can do. Still, I think it's going to be pretty cool to see."

"He told me we would be visiting someplace called 'France'." Rarity sang. "The way he explained it made it sound wonderful. So much fashion...so much culture! Oh, I can't wait!"

Leave it to Rarity to get excited about clothes.

I smiled and nodded in response to all this. "Yep. Frost told me we'd be staying for a few months, so we'll have time to do all sorts of things."

"And how does Frostbreaker expect to pay for all this?" Luna asked curiously.

I smiled and walked over to my saddlebag, grabbing one bit out. I then showed it to the whole room. "Our bits are made of nearly solid gold, with platinum mixed in to keep it from warping because of our own body heat, since gold is such a soft metal. This coin weighs about an ounce...and Frost tells me that an ounce of pure gold is worth over one-and-a-half thousand dollars in his world, with platinum being worth almost the same amount. To put that into perspective for you, a bag of a dozen apples in his world costs about five dollars."

"Ah charge two bits fer a bag here...wow, tha's still a lot of money." Applejack voiced.

I nodded. "What Earth considers 'precious metals', we use every day for currency, clothing, jewelry, and other common things. We have a lot more of it here on Terra than Earth does...which is why it's so much more valuable there. So to answer the main question, we can just trade in bits for currency on that planet...which means we'll have no problem when it comes to money."

Luna tilted her head back and forth a few times before nodding. "That appears to make sense. It seems we will be funded to do nearly anything we wish then."

I nodded. "Yep, we're going to have lots of fun." I then looked at the clock, noticing it was well past four. "Anyway, we should all clean things up and head home. I've got reports to go through tomorrow in preparation for the final offensive, and I want to make sure everything's in order."

Everypony nodded and began to clean things up as they headed towards the exits. Thankfully, the library had been preserved, and my guests all did their part in helping pick things up, so after about twenty minutes, the library was clean and empty, save for me, Luna, and Celestia.

Both princesses gave me a hug, and Celestia said, "It was so wonderful to see everpony again." They both released me and the sun princess looked to her sister. "Coming Luna?"

The moon princess shook her head as she glanced at me. "I will stay with Twilight tonight, sister."

My mentor nodded with a smile as she nuzzled her sister. "Very well. I will see the two of you tomorrow." She then walked over to me and embraced me in a hug. "I have missed you, Twilight. Seeing you today has made the wait worth it though. I am so proud of you."

I didn't even have to ask what she was referring to. I mean, going from a unicorn that specifically studied spells and the magic of friendship to planning and coordinating nearly the entire military of Equestria was a feat in itself, but to do it so well was something else. I'd come to terms with the fact that lives were going to be lost – and in all honesty, it was something I still cried about every now and then – but with my tactics and the princess' guidance, I had saved more than we lost. Some days it didn't feel that way, but luckily I had my friends to remind me of just how close we were to ending this.

Which was why Princess Celestia's words had such power over me.

With tears flowing down my cheeks, I looked at my teacher and friend with a bright smile. "Thank you so much, Princess Celestia...that means a lot to me."

The solar princess released me and kissed my forehead softly with a smile. "I will contact the two of you tomorrow with any updates I have. In the meantime, relax and enjoy this momentary lull in the action...as you will need the energy and presence of mind for what is to come." She turned around towards the door and opened it, stopping in the doorway. "Protect each other, and stay safe. I will return with the morning's first light." Without another word, she took flight towards Canterlot, just as the sun was beginning to set.

I then looked to Luna and smiled. "Tea and a book?"

"That sounds wonderful, Twilight." she responded with a warm smile.

As the two of us sat next to each other on the loveseat a few hours later, I couldn't help but glance at my reading partner every now and then. It had been a long time since the two of us could simply enjoy each other's company without work coming in the middle of it. It was one of the many things I missed about my 'old' life, and one of the many things I was striving to restore. Life might never be the same again after the war, but then again maybe I didn't want it to be. There had been pain, suffering, and tears shed...but with those also came wisdom beyond anything I ever thought possible. Though war was a terrible thing, it allowed me to put into perspective what was truly important in my life. I still loved to learn new things, but it was decidedly less important now than it once had been. My friends and family now occupied the spot in my heart for what was most important in my life, and I was forever going to make sure that going forward, they knew it.

Looking back, I realized I'd neglected a lot of those relationships in the past. I mean, other than the occasional letter, I hadn't spoken to my parents very much at all over the years. True, I was living on my own now and was independent, but I still shouldn't have been as neglectful as I had been with them. It was rather rude of me to invite them to my home after nearly two years, only for them to find out I was getting married. Even with that being the case though, they didn't berate me for it or even say anything about that. They were happy to see me, and proud of me for all I'd accomplished already. Even as a filly, they were always there for me – encouraging, guiding, and loving. Where once this realization would cause me to have an emotional breakdown, I instead vowed to myself that I would be a better daughter to them, as they'd been the best mother and father I ever could have asked for.

And then there was my other friends.

Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Luna...and even Spike. All of them were far more than I deserved. When I first came to Ponyville, I didn't even want to make friends. I was foolishly caught up in my studies, when I should have realized that the personal connection between two ponies was far more important. After all, the happiness I gained from my friends was far more than studying had ever brought me. It took Luna to show me that, to show me how much more important other ponies were when compared to books. Books couldn't love me, tell me that they cared, and they couldn't keep me safe. They couldn't comfort me when I woke up from a bad dream, or hold me close and kiss me on a cold winter night. I had Celestia-knows how much life ahead of me, and yet I felt that I'd robbed myself of those years in the beginning.
I chose not to dwell on the negative though, as I looked to the moon princess beside me. Her tongue was sticking out of her mouth cutely as she read the novel in her magical grasp. It was the little things like this that made me smile, reminding me that while an ancient and powerful being, she was every bit a pony as the rest of us in some ways. More so, she desired to be seen that way by her subjects. It was a difficult balance to be loved by ponies and still be seen as a respected ruler however, but Luna seemed to have nailed it. Since being re-assimilated into modern society, she had become a benevolent ruler, just like her sister. She was kind and loving to all, and yet firm and powerful when it was needed. It was the little things like this that I found so endearing...and Celestia-willing, it was what I hoped to be someday.

I continued to spend time with Luna for the rest of the day, and before I knew it, she was raising the moon into the sky to bring forth the night. I was still awed by the amount of power she must have had to control to be able to do it, but she explained to me that she the moon was simply an extension of her own consciousness...and to control it was as easy as blinking her eyes. Still, what was normal for her was still amazing to me, and I made sure to tell her so.

"But you move such a large celestial body through the sky not just once, but twice every day! How is that not amazing?" I asked fervently.

Luna blushed at this and grinned. "I thank you Twilight, but it is nothing special."

I rolled my eyes with a warm smile of my own. "Luna, you help the passing of days, possibly one of the most important responsibilities that could ever be. Your nights are always beautiful, and I know I'm not the only pony that thinks so." I then placed a hoof on her side and gazed at her with great care. "Which is why we are bringing back an ancient holiday, known as the Lunar Festival."

The Lunar Festival was a holiday held on the day of the winter solstice since ancient times. Unfortunately it was a forgotten holiday, long since abandoned since the rise of Nightmare Moon. I had already spoken with Princess Celestia about this, and as Luna gasped in shock, I could tell I'd made the right choice. Celestia had the Summer Sun Celebration...but Luna's holiday was forgotten.

That was something I wouldn't allow...not now, or ever again.

After my declaration, Luna was flabbergasted. Her mouth hung open and her eyes were distant, and I could tell she had literally been shocked beyond belief. Not only at the fact that I even knew what the Lunar Festival was, but also the fact that I had pushed to get it reinstated as an Equestrian holiday. Luna and I were a lot alike when it came to self-esteem: we had little to none. Yet, that was why we were such a great pair. Both of us knew how the other felt about herself, and uplifted the other when she was feeling bad about herself. It was because of this knowledge that I knew she needed this. For so long, she had lived in her sister's shadow, at no fault of Celestia's...but now we had a chance to correct that. For the first time in nearly two-thousand years, the Celestial Twins would truly be equals in Equestria again. It was what I believed was an injustice that had gone uncorrected for far too long.

But now I could change that.

Finally, the lunar princess composed herself and found her voice. "T-Twilight, I..."

Before she could go further, I simply embraced her in a hug. "I've already worked out the details with Princess Celestia...and she agrees with me completely. You've done more than anypony could ask for to deserve equality again, so this was something I wanted to do."

"Twilight...I have no words to express how I feel right now." she stated, on the verge of tears.

I just smiled and nuzzled her cheek as I continued the embrace. "You don't need to thank me, Luna...we all love you and want you to be as happy as can be."

Luna released me and her horn began to glow as her eyes closed. For a few seconds, her face was a canvas of intense concentration, but then the aura of her horn changed from blue to solid black. The black aura seeped off of her horn and onto the floor like smoke, slowly congealing into a shape that I had never thought to see again, and especially not separate from Luna...

Nightmare Moon, the avatar of night.

The Queen of Night opened her slitted eyes and gazed around the room before settling on me. Instead of anger, loathing, or sadness towards me, I saw gratitude and happiness. She was taller than Luna by almost a foot, and her wings were much larger. Where once this form would instill fear in me and anger, I was now ready for anything she could throw at me.

"Dear Twilight Sparkle...we thank you for your wonderful gift to us. Without you, our sacred holiday might have never come about again." the black alicorn praised.

Okay...maybe I wasn't ready for anything.

Luna then added. "I agree. Thank you so much, Twilight. We are forever in your debt for this."

I was frozen in awe. Not only had I received such a heartfelt thanks from one of the ponies I was closest to, but also from the very embodiment of night and darkness...a being I once considered a mortal enemy.

Tears began to well up in my eyes at the thanks I was receiving, and I simply grabbed both larger mares and pulled them into a tight embrace. Much to my surprise, Night did not resist whatsoever. Instead, her foreleg wrapped around my back along with Luna's before a large wing from each alicorn enveloped me in a tight hug.

It appears today is hug day.

As the evening hit the hour of midnight, I felt it was time to finally go to bed, as I had things to do tomorrow. Night was still with Luna and I, and during the hours that had passed, I learned a great deal about her. From this knowledge came understanding of why she did what she had so many years ago. She in fact was simply taking more aggressive action when ponies no longer appreciated the night. As it had Luna, she was angered...but unlike Luna, she took action. I explained to her that while I condemned her actions, I empathized with her feelings on the matter. I understood well what it felt like to have your hard work overlooked, and so perhaps I could be a friend to this ancient being.

Yes...yes I could.

It made sense that Luna was Night's host. Beyond simply being the steward of the night and its denizens, both were very much alike. Both were in fact kind and intelligent, and both were very emotionally fragile. It was something I'd learned just in the short time I'd been speaking to both of them together. Night was the brace that gave Luna strength where she was weak, and Luna was the gentleness that balanced Night when she was too harsh. Two sides to the same coin, as Frost would say. I began to understand that Night was simply misunderstood, as Luna was. She deserves our respect, but also our adoration.

Even a sweet puppy can become mean if it's neglected.

For the longest time, the three of us simply lay on my bed, talking about a bunch of things. It was the first time I'd spoken to anypony where my new job as a general wasn't brought up, or even the war itself. I learned a lot about Luna and Night's past, and was pleased with what I found. I had been right...Night was simply misunderstood. As Frost had taught me, we all had the potential for good and evil within us. Which we choose to follow is what makes us the pony we are.

But we all make mistakes...even an eternal being like Night can be wrong.

Finally, the day began to catch up to me and Luna, and so we lay down and I switched off the light with a flick of magic...but this left Night looking at the two of us with discontent. I could tell she had enjoyed being included in a positive social atmosphere, and that warmed my heart.

I turned to Luna and inclined my head to the black alicorn. "How much longer is the spell active?"

"Approximately nine hours, so long as I do not actively dispel it before then." she answered with a smile, understanding my motive.

I turned to the avatar of darkness with a smile, patting the space next to me. "Come on. You don't have to be alone again."

"I-I don't..." she stuttered nervously.

I rolled my eyes and levitated her over to me, laying my head against her side gently once she stopped flailing. "I forgive you, Night. Whatever happened is in the past. Look to the future and be happy."

As I curled up next to the black pony, I felt Luna shift closer to me and kiss me on the forehead. I then watched as one large black wing encompassed all of us, and warmth spread throughout me. Night smiled happily down at me when I gazed at her, and I lay my head against her soft obsidian fur. The midnight blue alicorn to my right then rested her head on my forehooves, and I closed my eyes...pleased with myself for making a new friend and causing her to smile, all in one night.

Night. The mare was once known as the dreaded Nightmare Moon, bent on bringing about eternal night, and thus likely ending all life in Equestria. Now, she was Night – a friend.

I suppose that one never knows what the day will bring.

As my eyes closed and I began to fall asleep, I felt as Night lay her head over mine as she sighed happily...and therein lie the perfect end to a great day.

Chapter 21: A Strike at Pride

Chapter 21: A Strike at Pride

Rest was a rarity for me now, in and of itself, and yet I still couldn't seem to get it when the chance presented itself.

The war and what it was building to was taking its toll on my sanity and nerves, but I knew that it was either this or annihilation. For all of my friends and family, I would put myself in this position willingly. They needed it, and I needed it all to end.

The sooner this bullshit conflict is over with, the better.

I woke up in my lone tent to the first light of day, a subtle reminder that no matter how far away I was, Celly was doing what she could to make sure I knew she was there and was thinking of me, just as Luna looked after the night that would comfort me.

It had only been maybe three days since I'd come back to the forest, but already things had picked up considerably. After my little chat with Death, he seemed to be throwing everything he had at me in an attempt to break me. Lately, he'd been sending undead fillies and colts after me, and I was honestly glad that the others weren't here. Having to strike down these once-innocent souls was heartbreaking, and I honestly wasn't sure how much damage it was doing to my psyche. As I stepped out to the bright morning though, I could already tell now wasn't the time to think about that. I could sense the corrupting magic nearby that Death employed to animate these abominations of his, which meant that yet again, my day was going to be full and busy. So once more, I donned my faithful armor and levitated my swords in front of me before dashing towards the enemy that awaited me.

May the powers that be watch over me.

Perspective change – Darkflight

"Are we there yet?"


"Are we there yet?"

"Still no..."

"Are we there yet?"

"Yet again, no."

"How about now?"






The bubbly white pegasus I'd met a few days ago was still following me, as if she didn't have any place better to go. I'd tried shooing her away, I'd tried scaring her, I'd tried ignoring her...but nothing worked. She reminds me a lot of Pinkie Pie, but a lot more annoying and a lot less fun.

I mean fuck, how does Drew put up with this shit?

I mean I guess if I really took the time to get to know her, I might like her. She's pretty in a girly sort of way, and I guess she's not really that bad. However, the fact that I was already upset it's taken me more than a day to find this Trixie bitch probably has me on edge as it is, so maybe that's why my patience is at an all-time low.

At the moment me and my unwanted companion were on our way to probably the thirtieth place I've been to on this wild goose chase of a job, but here's hoping this is the last of it. From asking around and some creative detective work, I'd tracked Trixie – or Beatrix Starshine – to a club in the red light district of Manehattan. Coming from Ponyville, this place was just like New York by comparison, hence the name I guess. It was a cosmopolitan paradise, where the buildings were big, the crime was plentiful, and things were weird. I mean, I didn't even know Terra would have something like a red light district...but apparently I was wrong.

God or Celestia-willing I'll not find what I think I will when I get there.

My companion – who I'd learned was named "Surprise" – was flitting along behind me, seemingly undeterred by the strange looks I received or even the occasional growl of annoyance and frustration I let out. Luckily for me, the many ponies and gryphons that lived in this booming city gave me a wide berth, but were confused as to why some crazy pegasus was following me while spouting off nonsense at a million miles a second. When I truly thought about it, she'd helped a bit here and there. She was great with directions and it was apparent that she did live here, but her hyperactive personality was bringing me to a boiling point. I'd tried to be nice the whole time and I'd yet to yell at her for threaten her in any way, but damn was she pushing it.

Another few minutes of this and I was going to start tearing my scales out.

After walking for about an hour in this godforsaken city, we finally arrived at the front of a decidedly seedy-looking strip club named "Pink". For a goody-two-shoes type of world, I never imagined such a place would even exist, but there it was, right in front of me.

"Hey, I've been here before!" the mare beside me squealed.

For the first time, I felt something other than loathing for this pegasus, and I whipped my head around to look at her. "You have been here?"

She looked at me with bright eyes and nodded furiously. "Yep! A friend of mine used to work here when it was just a normal club! Her name's Vinyl Scratch, and she's a DJ!"

"Wait a second, did you just say Vinyl Scratch? As in DJ P0N-3? Little white unicorn with awesome glasses and two-toned blue hair?" I asked in shock.

The mare landed in front of me and gasped. "You know her?"

I chuckled for the first time since this pegasus met me and nodded. "Yeah, she's a good friend of mine, actually. My brother's her coltfriend."

She eyed me in confusion for a moment before asking, "Vi's with a dragon? Never saw that coming..."

I shook my head with a smile. "No, he's not a dragon. His name's Frostbreaker an-"

"Prince Frostbreaker?" the mare squeaked out.

I removed my helmet and nodded. "Yeah, that's him; big-ass blue-gray alicorn that controls the winter."

"Wait a minute," she started as her face crumpled up in confusion, "if you're a dragon, how is he your brother?"

"It's a long story, and I'd rather not explain it right now." I said sternly. With that I started to walk towards the building, only to be stopped by the pegasus flying in front of me.

"Wait, you don't think you're going to get in there, do you?" she asked.

I raised an eyeridge in suspicion and sighed. "What is it now? Do I have to get a membership card or something?"

She giggled and shook her head, the bouncy yellow hair of her mane tousling softly. "No, but it's not open for another hour."

I looked at the hours posted by the door and realized she was right, so I turned away and shrugged. "Alright then, I guess I'll come back in about an hour or so."

"How about you come have lunch with me?" the white pony asked, and I turned to her with utter confusion. She then added, "My treat!"

To be honest, I was hungry, and I sure as hell wasn't going to turn down a free meal. So, I shrugged and answered, "Sure...sounds good."

To my utter surprise (and delight), the place that Surprise led me to served meat – something I'd regretfully resigned to never having again. As we walked to our seats at the outside café-style restaurant, I saw a gryphon enjoying a large steak...and the ponies not paying it any mind whatsoever. This was entirely new for me, as when I mentioned my craving for meat to Applejack, she always frowned in disgust.

But damn, I could get used to this place.

"Welcome to the Bearded Dragon." said a voice from beside me, and I looked up to see a young male gryphon setting menus before the two of us and then napkins and silverware. "My name is Benny and I'll be your waiter today. Can I start you off with some drinks?"

"Sure! I'll have a strawberry smoothie please." Surprise answered.

The waiter took out a pad and pencil from the vest he wore and quickly jotted the order down before turning to me. "And you-" he then dropped the pad and pencil in shock when he got a good look at me. For a few minutes he was completely silent before running away.

I raised my eyeridge as I stared at the doors to the building he had disappeared to. "Well, that was rude. Didn't even take my order."

A second later I heard a very familiar, "Darkflight?"

I turned my head to look at the source of the voice, only to see a good friend. "Gilda?"

The young gryphon female screeched and flew over to me, embracing me in a tight hug. "It is you!"

I returned the hug a little surprised, but otherwise happy. After a few seconds she let me go and I asked, "What are you doing here?"

She gestured to the building with a smile. "My cousin Benny works here, so I dropped by to see him while I wait for more orders from you and Frost."

I let a wide smile grace my face as I caressed the young gryphon's cheek softly. "God, it's great to see you again."

Gilda leaned into my hand and closed her eyes with a smile before stepping forward and sitting on the ground next to me. "So what are you doing here?"

I shrugged. "Well, I'm here to find someone." I noticed that Gilda was staring at Surprise, so I shook my head with a chuckle. "No, not her. Someone else." I figured since the pegasus was treating me to lunch, I might as well be nice and introduce her, so I pointed to the white mare and said, "Gilda, this is Surprise. Surprise, this is Corporal Gilda Gryphon."

The white pony smiled and stuck a hoof out, which Gilda took and shook. "Hi, it's nice to meet you!" the pegasus said with a smile.

"Likewise." the gryphon responded. She then looked towards the restaurant. "I should probably go get Benny so that you can eat. I'll be right back, okay?"

"Tell him I want a kiwi and coconut smoothie, please." I said as she walked away. Gilda just nodded as she walked back inside. I let out a sigh and smiled, then looked back to my food-buddy to notice she was staring at me with a smile. I leaned back a little defensively and said, "Okay, you're creeping me out a little, girl."

"You're Colonel Darkflight of the Fireguard, aren't you?" she asked, still holding the same slightly-creepy smile.

I nodded slowly. "Yeah, I am."

Ever so slowly, the mare pushed away from the table and stood up, trotting over to me. When she stood right beside me she then leapt up and hugged me tightly, and I became the recipient of a very awkward hug. My question as to why was answered when she whispered, "Fillydelphia."

My eyes widened in realization of what she said, and I gently scooped her up in my own embrace.

Fillydelphia was one of the recent hotzones of the conflict, and even now we were having trouble cleaning it up and out. Thousands of ponies that lived there had been caught by utter surprise by the war. Most of the city's population died, and was subsequently risen for Death's twisted army. As one of the Fireguard's first assignments, we swept through the entire area and took control, saving as many as we could. Tens of thousands had died, but thousands more made it out alive. That single word Surprise spoke meant either she was there, or knew someone who was.

"Was it you?" I asked curiously.

She nodded softly as she looked up at me with a teary smile. "I lived off of 3rd and Gate, a block away from the courthouse."

I smiled down at her and nodded towards the two gryphons that were approaching us. "Corporal Gilda was there as well. She personally helped deal with the monsters that plagued that area you lived in. If not for her, we would have never gotten to you." The pegasus bolted away from me and hugged Gilda next, and the gryphon shot me a questioning gaze. I mouthed the word "Fillydelphia" to her, and she nodded in understanding. The gryphon smiled and hugged the mare back as Benny set our drinks on the table.

"You guys are famous around here, do you know that?" the waiter said with a smile. When I looked at him, he motioned to the many patrons that were now eying us. "Most of the ponies that live here had family in Fillydelphia. If not for you and your troops, they would be lost."

It appeared at this moment, all the ponies and gryphons gathered to eat finally realized who I was, as they began whispering to each other while pointing at me. Gilda and Surprise took their places beside me just before claps and hoof-stomps erupted from the crowd, along with cheers and praise. This would mark the first time in my entire life that I actually felt embarrassed by attention, as I just smiled in response and waved a few times before sitting back down.

After a few seconds, the claps and cheers stopped as everyone went back to what they were doing, and Gilda took a seat to my left. "Well...that was interesting."

I nodded with a chuckle. "That was probably the last thing I expected when I came here, right next to a rock 'n' roll clown sniffing cocaine off of this table."

"You can never be sure with this city, so keep your guard up." Gilda responded with a grin.

"So, have you all decided what you would like?" Benny finally asked.

As much as I hate to admit it, nothing quite satisfies me like a perfectly-seared bloody steak. AJ always likes to say something like "veggies make you strong", but damn...I missed meat sometimes.

"Careful. If you don't eat it fast enough, it might get away from you." Gilda cracked.

"I still find it funny how you ordered it." Surprise said as she took a bite of salad.

I chuckled as I set down the steak and cut off another piece. "Yep, rare's the best way to have it."

"No, I mean what you said." the pegasus responded as she grinned and finished her food.

I laughed. "Yeah, it's from a movie where I'm from, I just never thought I'd get to use it."

"'Cut off the horns, wipe its nasty ass, and stick it on my plate.'" Gilda elaborated as she bit into her fish sandwich.

I chuckled. "I just wanted to make sure he understood how rare I wanted it. Had I wanted to be really gross, I could have said I wanted it to still have a pulse."

"See, that would probably make one of your friends back home faint. That white one, what's her name..." the gryphon said as she pushed her empty plate away.

"Rarity." I answered, finishing off the last bite of steak. "Yeah, she's pretty prissy, even for a mare. She's pretty cool though once you get to know her, and she's downright scary if you piss her off." I then looked up in the sky and sighed. "Well, it's about six now, so we should get going, Surprise."

"You mind if I come with?" the female gryphon asked.

I shook my head with a smile. "Not really, but we're going to a strip club."

"Does AJ know you're staring at flanks when she's not around?" she asked cautiously.

"Why, are you gonna tell on me?" I asked with a grin. I then shook my head. "Nah, we're not going for that reason, I promise. Apparently the pony I'm looking for is in there, so I've gotta check it out."

"What's her name?" Gilda asked.

I took a large gulp of my drink and cleared my throat before answering with, "Trixie."

Gilda tapped a claw on her chin as she sat back and thought. "What does she look like?"

"Blue unicorn with a silver and baby-blue mane. She's also got violet eyes." I answered as I stretched my wings.

Gilda's golden eyes widened as she gasped. "I know exactly who you're talking about!"

I threw up my hands and yelled, "Finally!" I then looked to the shocked gryphon and asked, "How do you know her?"

"Well I don't know her." she responded, a soft pink dusting her cheeks. "I've just...seen her a few times."

I raised an eyeridge and asked, "Do I even want to know what that means?"

Gilda grinned. "Oh, you'll 'see' her as well, soon enough."

"I suddenly feel really bad about this." I said softly.

The three of us – me, Surprise, and Gilda – entered the club just as a show was starting, so we quickly took a seat and waited for the performer to arrive. I'd been to a strip club with friends back on Earth, and I have to say that the similarities between this one and the previous were uncanny. Both had that one patron who actually ate food there, both had that one guy that had probably been coming there for as long as the place had been in business, and both had the cheesy pleather booths that you were supposed to sit in.

Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait too long in this dump, as I heard the microphone of the joint turn on. A voice then announced, "Mares and gentlecolts: Pink is proud to present, the great, the powerful, Trrrrrrixie!"

I leaned over to Gilda and whispered, "She didn't think to change her name?"

I heard her laugh and she replied, "Cutie marks are unique. It's not like they wouldn't know it's her."

I nodded and stood up. "Guess you got a point there." I then set my helmet down on the table and turned to my two companions. "Alright, I'm going to go up there and see if I can get her attention. You two stay here."

I then turned away and made my way through the growing crowd of ponies and gryphons to the stage, lucky that most of them moved out of my way. As I arrived at the perfect vantage point right up against some bars that blocked me from getting any closer, some cheesy music began playing as the curtains parted to reveal...nothing. My momentary confusion changed to surprise when a burst of smoke and sparks exploded in front of me, revealing a unicorn in a skintight black bodysuit. The crowd erupted into cheers and wolf-whistles, while I just stood there with a relieved grin. Finally, I found her...

Now I just had to find a way to get her to come back to Ponyville with me.

I figured that the best way to get her attention was to be a big spender, and I thought that this would be pretty easy considering that each patron was throwing maybe one or two bits on stage at a time. With that in mind, I pulled out a fifty-bit coin and held it out to her. Contrary to the normal coins, this specific coin was nearly solid platinum – easily recognizable, even in dim light.

Trixie's eyes widened as a sultry smile was plastered on her face, and she sauntered over to me with a seductive gait. "That earns you a private show, handsome." She then took the bit in her teeth and swished her tail gently across my face. "Meet me in room three. The bouncer will let you in."

I nodded and walked back to the booth my two partners were waiting at. I sat down and said, "Well, that was easy."

"What?" Surprise asked curiously.

"I got her to give me a private dance in one of the back rooms. From there, I'll be able to explain what's going on." I responded with a grin.

"Ooh, a private show from her..." Gilda remarked as she stared at the dancing mare.

I rolled my eyes and elbowed her gently. "Stay focused, Gilda. You can ogle her all you want once we get back to Ponyville."

"Can I come with you?" Surprise asked softly, just barely loud enough to be heard over the music.

Since the mare and I had found out who each other was, she had calmed down quite a bit and actually become pretty...nice to be around. So, I nodded with a smile. "If you want to, you can." I then stood again and made my way out of the booth. "Well, her show's almost over, so I better head back there. I'll meet you two out here in a little bit, okay?" I then threw down a hundred bits and said, "Get yourselves something to drink and I'll be back as soon as I can." I then walked away towards the private rooms.

"Alright sir, take a seat and Miss Trixie will be with you shortly." the burly gryphon male ordered as he gestured to a room with a curtain and a large sofa. He then looked to my sword and said, "I'm not sure how you got that inside, but I'm going to need to keep that until you leave."

I sighed as I unstrapped Yamato and handed it to him. "If I get that back any different than I gave it, I'm taking it out of your hide, understand?"

The bouncer didn't flinch at all, but nodded as he assured, "It'll be in good hands, just don't cause any trouble. You can pick it up at the door after you're done." He then began to leave but stopped at the doorway. "If Miss Trixie turns up with any marks on her, I'll personally tear your throat out."

"Fair enough." I responded. The bouncer then nodded curtly and walked out the doorway and closed the curtain.

I took off my cloak and hung it over the nearby chair before unstrapping and removing the rest of my armor. In all honesty I felt safer with it on, but until I could get Trixie to come with me, I had to play the part of a regular patron. So, for the time being at least, I would lay low and fake it.

I leaned back and closed my eyes for a moment to relax and wait for my performer, while my mind drifted to AJ. God, if she knew what I was doing, she'd kill me. Still, I knew this was for the greater good, so what she don't know, won't hurt her.

"Commander Darkflight." stated a very high-class sounding voice.

I opened my eyes and tilted my head down to see the blue unicorn looking at me expectantly. I pointed a claw at my chest and asked, "You know me?"

She smirked and nodded. "Everyone knows who you are."

"So I've seen." I responded with a roll of my eyes.

She nodded before raising her eyebrow skeptically. "So what is it you want exactly? I've done private shows for far less than fifty bits, so that means you're here for something else." She then glared at me. "Just so you know this is a gentlecolt's club, not a brothel."

I chuckled and sat up straight. "I'm not here for that. I can assure you."

"Then what?" she asked, becoming more suspicious.

I sighed and rested my arms on my knees. "Well, do you want the short version or the long version?"

"Short please, as I don't know exactly how long the long version is." she responded impatiently.

I nodded. "Fair enough. Basically, I've been asked by a friend to find you and bring you back to Ponyville."

The unicorn frowned and hopped up onto the sofa beside me so that she could look me in the eye. "Why on Terra would anyone want me to go there?"

"Well," I started, scratching the back of my head, "it was a favor from a friend of mine. Long story short, a lot of ponies realize how unfair they were to you." I then gestured to the building around us. "I mean, look what you've had to do since that."

"Since Twilight Sparkle..." she spat in anger.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Twilight Sparkle didn't make you be a bragging bitch...that was all you. She just revealed it to everyone else."

The unicorn glared at me for a moment before saying, "If you're honestly trying to convince me to return to that town, you're not doing very well by calling me a bitch."

I shrugged. "I'm not good at this negotiating stuff, what can I say?" I then smiled at her. "What if I told you that Twilight wants to not only apologize to you, but also wants to welcome you back there as a citizen?"

"You act as if she has the powers of a princess." Trixie grumbled defiantly.

I chuckled and shook my head. "She's not a princess yet, but-"

"What do you mean 'yet'?" the mare asked in confusion.

"She's getting married to my brother, Prince Frostbreaker." I answered with a large smile.

"P-P-Prince..." she stuttered out in shock.

"Frostbreaker." I finished for her. "And yes, he's really my brother. To explain quickly, the two of us are from a different dimension. He's a pony, and I'm a dragon...go figure." I then stood up and smiled. "Anyway, I was tasked with bringing you back, and I never fail a mission. So please make it easy and just come of your own free will so I don't have to drag you back...don't think for a second that I won't."

It took a few seconds to compose herself, but Trixie finally gulped and looked at me. "Does Twilight Sparkle really want to apologize to me?"

"So long as you're not still a pompous bitch, I'm pretty sure they'd all apologize to you. Running you out of town I can see. Ruining your career though...that's just wrong." I responded as I began to strap my armor back on.

"I don't need your pity." she retorted angrily.

"No...it's clear you don't. You're doing so well here." I responded with a smirk.

"I did what I had to in order to survive!" she growled out.

I nodded as I pulled the straps for my armor snug around me. "I understand completely, believe me. I know what it's like to spend your whole life working towards one thing, only for it to be taken away from you. I've been there, Trixie." I finished strapping the armor up before turning back to the mare. "As a matter of fact, I'm probably the only one of my friends that knows what that's like. You want to know what kept me from fixing things for five years because of that?"

"What?" she asked sourly.

I leaned in close to her with a grin. "My pride." I then clipped my cloak around my neck and said, "It was because of how proud of myself I was that I wouldn't let anyone help me, because I believed that if I couldn't do it myself, it was meaningless...that I was meaningless. Well I had to learn the hard way that pride can be your worst enemy. For me, it took away my home, my career, my girlfriend, and even my health. I spent almost two years homeless, sleeping on a friend's couch and bumming a ride wherever I needed to go to find work." I then backed away and walked towards the doorway. "So the choice is yours, Trixie. You can either swallow your pride and accept forgiveness and help, or I can drag you back to Ponyville by your hooves and you can figure out what to do when you get there. Choose."

The unicorn sat for a moment with her eyes on the floor, pondering her best options. For a moment, I thought she might turn me down, but then she looked up at me and said, "If I do this, I will not grovel for forgiveness."

"You are going to apologize for the way you acted." I responded sternly. "But no, you won't be expected to 'grovel'. Even someone in the wrong is allowed to keep their dignity in Ponyville."

Trixie nodded a few times before saying, "Alright fine, you've convinced me. Let me finish work here and I'll meet you outside at around three in the morning. That's when my shift ends."

I shrugged. "I understand. Gotta have some money for yourself. I haven't got much else to do, so it's likely I'll just chill out inside."

She nodded and strutted away, but then stopped and looked back at me. "Whoever your friend is...tell them 'thank you'." She then trotted down the hallway to the dressing rooms.

I arrived back at my table to see Surprise passed out next to two tall glasses that smelled strongly of alcohol. I looked to Gilda questioningly and she just said, "Kickin' Peach Tea."

I chuckled and patted the gryphon on the back softly. "Glad you found her 'off' button for me. You're a lifesaver, Gilda."

She smiled and nudged me before asking, "So how did it go?"

I picked up Gilda's drink and took a swig before setting it back down and leaning against the seat. "It took some doing, but she's coming willingly."

The young female slammed her fist down on the table and said, "Damn...I was really hoping she'd fight it. I was looking forward to a good brawl."

"She's a braggart, not a street-fighter." I responded with a sigh. "Anyway, she said she'd meet us after her shift here is done, so we've just got to wait it out." I then waved to a server mare and said, "Can I get a bottle of hard cider and shot glasses?"

I stared at the clock as time ticked away, noticing that thankfully, it was already 02:34. I wasn't sure how places like this worked in Equestria, but if they were anything like Earth, this one would be closing soon.

Surprise was still passed out, but had moved to lean up against me, while Gilda was also asleep after helping me polish off the bottle of Apple's Hard Cider (AJ's gonna shit herself when she finds out they drink it here). As the three of us waited for Trixie's last performance to finish, I sat with Gilda's head in my lap and stroked her head and neck feathers as she snoozed, just trying to pass the time until it ended.

Thankfully, I didn't have to wait too long, as I heard the music from her show end and then the lights went dim as the next dancer took the stage.

I nudged the gryphon awake and picked up the pony before putting on my helmet and heading to the door with the two inebriated females. The bouncer near the door passed me my sword as we exited, and I stepped outside to see Trixie waiting patiently with only a single bag with her.

"Packing light, I see." I quipped.

She shrugged. "When you live alone and in the city, you can't afford a lot of possessions. Besides, it's not as if I wear clothes when I'm not at work."

"True." I responded with a grin. I then turned to Gilda. "Think you can carry Surprise on our way back?"

Gilda looked a little groggy, but nodded. "Yeah, I'll be fine. The sooner we get back and I can sleep, the better."

I grinned and looked to Trixie. "Guess that means you're riding me, Trixie."

The mare grinned seductively at this and said, "In any other context, I might think you meant something else by that."

"Maybe if you weren't actually going to ride me, it might mean something else...but in this case, you're actually going to have to ride on me to keep from falling." I said before dropping to all fours. "Climb on."

She walked over to me and hoofed the suitcase to me before asking, "Is this a saddle built into your armor?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Yeah. One of my positions in the military is carrying around a soldier with me that can't fly. Usually it's an Earth pony. I figured it would be useful."

"Well I'm impressed. Very intuitive." she remarked. I felt as the small pony hopped onto my back and settled herself.

"There's straps that you can buckle around your thighs to make sure you don't fall out. They're in-between the two flaps of the cloak." I said, and I waited until I felt both clasps pulled tight. "Alright then, hang on as best you can. I'm going to try and make this fast and comfortable, but Celestia help us if we hit any bad weather." I then looked to Gilda. "Alright corporal, let's fly."

Gilda's eyes opened wide at attention and she nodded, now in soldier-mode. "Understood sir."

The four of us then took to the skies before the first light of dawn even arrived, heading home to our loved ones, and for one of us, forgiveness.

Chapter 22: Meet, Greet, and Metal

Chapter 22: Meet, Greet, and Metal

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

It took about six hours to fly back even at the speed Gilda and I cruised at, but as we passed through the cloudbank over the mountains, I could see Ponyville in the distance. Once again I began to see gryphons, dragons, and pegasi all flying about, going one place or another, and even though it was crowded, I was glad to be home.

“It really is a beautiful town.” whispered a soft voice from my back.

I chuckled and nodded. “Well good morning, sleepy-head. Get a good rest?”

“I never thought sleeping on the back of a dragon could be so relaxing.” Trixie commented.

“Depends on the dragon.” I replied with a grin. “It’s true that a lot of dragons have wings, but Obsidians like me are designed for flying. We’re agile, graceful, and powerful...and it doesn’t hurt that I’m just awesome anyway.”

“You’re just like how I imagined you, Darkflight.” she replied from my back. “Call it foalish, but ever since hearing about how you saved the survivors in Fillydelphia, I have begun to see you as a celebrity of sorts. It was only after you took off your armor that I recognized you, however.”

I chuckled again and said, “Which I find odd, because usually it’s my armor that is the most recognizable thing about me. Without it, I’m just a black dragon.”

“Perhaps,” she began with a thoughtful tone, “but it is not as if a black dragon is something ponies see every day, even in a place such as Manehattan in a time like now.”

I bobbed my head in thought before nodding. “I guess you have a point there.”

As we flew over the small town, Trixie asked, “We are not going to Ponyville?”

“Canterlot.” I responded quickly. “The pony that tasked me to find you is a soldier there, and the princesses will want to meet you as well...all of them.”

“Umm...how many is that exactly?” Trixie asked in worry.

I ran through the numbers in my head really quick before responding, “Four. And Twilight will be there too.” I then smirked. “I don’t know if you know it, but she’s actually the general of the entire military.”

“I had heard that actually, though I was unsure if it was true.” she responded. “I am actually curious as to how she attained such a high rank.”

I shrugged a bit. “Being personal friends with the princesses helps, but most of it was her organizational skills and her knowledge she got from both my brother and the like twenty-thousand books she reads. Other than my brother, she understands war even better than the princesses.” I then noticed we were fast approaching the palace, so I began to slow down and angled myself towards the landing zone. “We’re here.”

Finally!” said Gilda’s voice from beside me. “That flight always take forever.”

I chuckled as we landed. “Yeah, but being back home, I’ll say it’s worth it.”

“Why don’t you just fly directly to the throne room?” Trixie asked curiously as she unstrapped herself.

I handed her the bag I was carrying and pointed to the large glowing crystals surrounding the mountain city. “Those are barrier generators. We made and put them up after Appleloosa was attacked. They pretty much keep anything from getting in or out, without help from a spell that only a few know of, and even fewer can use effectively.” I pointed to a certain royal guard captain that was waiting for us. “He’s one of them.” I then walked with my company over to the stallion and smiled. “Hey Shining. How’s it hangin?”

“Long and proud.” he said with a chuckle. He then motioned to the group. “Who’re your friends?”

I pointed to each one and said, “Well this is Gilda...you already know her. This pegasus here is Surprise...she’s one of the survivors of the battle for Fillydelphia. And this here is my charge for the job Corporal Ditzy gave me ‒ Beatrix Starshine, known by her stage name as the Great and Powerful Trixie.”

The captain went about shaking the two others’ hand and hoof before coming upon Trixie. “So you’re the unicorn my sister told me so much about. Not gonna bring an ursa here, are you?”

She looked really uncomfortable, so I stepped in and said, “That’s a tender subject for her man, ease up. And for the record, it wasn’t her fault. Those two colts...umm Snips and Snails I think was their names...yeah, it was their fault.”

“Alright,” the captain started, “I’ll give you that one.” He then shot a spell at the large barrier and pointed inside. “The princesses are waiting.”

I nodded and followed, my company close behind.

After a few minutes of walking, the five of us arrived at the large doors that led to the throne room.

The guard captain turned around and said, “Alright, I don’t think I have to tell you, but I’ll say it anyway: bow respectfully, speak respectfully, and don’t speak unless spoken to...okay?” The group nodded and he pushed on the door. “Alright then, come on.”

The five of us walked into the large throne room, and I noticed that all four royals had been assembled in full royal garb, along with Twilight Sparkle, who was wearing her necklace and a ceremonial sword that I’d made for her.

As usual when we met the princesses formally, I bowed at the foot of the stairs, with everyone else following suit.

“Arise.” I heard Celestia request, so I did so and found myself looking at the radiant white alicorn as she smiled. “Welcome to Canterlot, and more specifically, the Celestial Palace. As I’m sure you know, I am Princess Celestia.” She then pointed to the other four who were assembled. “This is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess Luna, Princess Rainbow Dash, and General Twilight Sparkle.” She then motioned to me. “Colonel, if you would.”

I smiled and nodded. “Of course, princess.” I then pointed to the blue unicorn “I present Miss Beatrix Starshine. As I’m sure you know, I was charged with bringing her back for different reasons, so I would appreciate it if we all treated her with respect and dignity.”

“That won’t be a problem.” Twilight said, and I heard Trixie let out a sigh of relief.

“Right.” I responded warmly, gesturing to the pegasus. “Well this is Miss Surprise. She is a survivor from the incident in Fillydelphia, and upon finding out who I was and what my soldiers had done for her, she asked to return to Ponyville with me, which I accepted.” I then pointed to Gilda. “And this is Corporal Gilda Gryphon. She is one of my most trusted soldiers and friend.” At the mention of Gilda, I noticed as Rainbow Dash smiled warmly, and I smiled inwardly as well.

Luna stepped forward and said, “Well I would like to welcome all of you.” She then looked directly at Trixie. “Corporal Ditzy Doo will wish to speak with you, so I will take you to her.” She then looked to Gilda. “And after so long, I am sure you and Rainbow Dash have much to discuss. You are all dismissed.”

The group then spread out among themselves, so I walked directly up toTwilight and Celestia and asked, “So how’ve things been since I was away?”

“Pretty quiet.” the violet unicorn answered. “With Frost taking care of the last bastion before Death’s fortress, things haven’t been very exciting around here, which is actually a good thing. It gives us some time to rest before we wrap this up, because I have a feeling we’re going to need the time to get our spirits and strength up.”

I nodded with a smile. “I agree. My brother’ll be back within about a week, so I hope we can rest for a few days and then get to ending this war once and for all before that slimy avatar slips through our grasp again.”

“I concur, but our troops need rest and I want to make sure I’ve got everything set. I don’t want to go rushing in without having a plan and at least ten backup plans.” Twilight explained.

I nodded again. “That’s a good idea, actually. If he gets away again, I’m gonna rage out.”

Twilight giggled and shook her head as she placed a hoof on my knee. “We’re gonna handle this, Dark. Just relax a bit now while we wait for Frost to get back.”

I sighed and took my helmet off. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m gonna go see AJ then, unless you all have something you need me to do.”

Celestia smiled warmly and shook her head. “Not at the moment, Darkflight. We have a surplus of armor and weaponry, and Captain Shining Armor has the training of the soldiers handled. Go and enjoy yourself.”

“Right. Thanks a lot. I’ll see all of you later then I guess.” I responded happily before dashing out of the throne room.

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

“So what have you been up to, Dash?” Gilda asked me with a smile.

I shrugged. “Not much. Getting used to the whole princess thing for the most part. It’s weird having everypony bow to me, and even weirder that I like it a little.”

Gilda chuckled as she nudged me with her elbow. “You always did like being the center of attention.”

I giggled and shrugged. “Well when you’re as awesome as me, it comes with the territory.” I halted my laughter and smiled warmly. “I missed this, Gilda.”

“Me too Dash, me too.” she replied happily.

“You know,” I started, taking a deep breath, “I never thanked you for coming back. I mean I know you didn’t have to...so thank you. I really missed you.”

She nodded. “I did have to come back actually.” She then nudged me and added, “You’re my best friend, Dash...and whether we never spoke again after that day I came back, I couldn’t leave things as they were. It had been tearing me up inside since that day I yelled at all your friends.”

I sighed sadly, remembering that day. “Yeah...you don’t know how hard it was to tell you to leave.”

“I could tell.” the gryphon responded. “It just made it hurt more because I could tell that some part of you didn’t want me to leave, which just made me confused as to why you told me to.”

I sighed and leaned against my friend. “Because a part of me knew that you could be a better gryphon, Gilda...and I wanted you to be. Even before I came to Ponyville, you had never acted downright mean before. Maybe a little full of yourself, but never mean.” I smiled as I felt Gilda’s claw wrap around my shoulder. “I mean, when you yelled at Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, I had to choose a side...and because you had changed so much from how I remembered you, I had to choose them.”

I looked to see her shaking her head with a smile. “I would have done the same thing, Dash. I freaked out, and I shouldn’t have acted that way. I know I said it before, but I’m sorry.”

I leaned into her feathers and sighed happily, enjoying the warm soft feeling. “I forgive you, Gilda.” I then smiled and said, “So, what’s up with you and Darkflight?”

I’ve never seen a blush on anypony’s face come up as fast as the one that Gilda now had.

“W-what do you mean? Nothing!” the gryphon answered in denial.

I snorted and said, “You just answered my question. You like him, don’t you?”

“I...er that is...” she stuttered, unable to make a complete sentence.

I grinned and nudged her gently. “It’s okay Gilda. He’s a good guy, and honestly if Frost didn’t exist, I’d probably get a crush on him too.”

“Really?” the gryphon asked in an uncharacteristically soft voice.

I nodded. “Yeah. He’s a cool guy, and the fact he’s Frost’s brother makes him even cooler.” I then turned my head to look at her and asked, “Have you told him yet?” She shook her head slowly with a sigh. “Why not?”

“Because you know how he is.” Gilda responded sadly. “He loves your friend Applejack, and he’s more of a one-pony type of dragon.”

I brought myself away from my friend and looked at her sternly. “Have you talked to him about it? I mean, I’ve seen how he is around you...and he doesn’t act that way with just anyone. You mean a lot to him.”

“You think so?” she asked with a curious expression on her face.

I nodded and placed my hoof on her chest. “I know so. He’s proud of you, he respects you, and you make him laugh. That’s a lot of care right there if you ask me.” She still seemed unsure, so I added, “Just think about it, Gilda.” She looked at me with a smile and nodded, so I smiled back before removing my hoof and standing back. “Anyway, I’m free for the day, so I thought we could go and race like we used to.” I then leaned in close with a smirk and added, “Think you can keep up with me or are you too slow now?”

The gryphon stood and smirked right back. “Well I don’t know, do you feel like-”

And then she bolted off into the air towards the landing platform.

I grinned before giving chase, happy to have my friend back.

Perspective change ‒ Twilight Sparkle

I was waiting in the “war room” with a young servant, just talking and drinking some tea while I went through scout reports. The young mare was Nightwing’s little sister, and went by the name Quickquill. She was an off-white pegasus with a soft curly brown mane, and her talent was writing...fast. By fast I mean that she could write faster with one quill than I could with three, and with a margin of error at only 3%. Not only was she a fast writer, but come to find out she was also a talented one. Many of the novels I had in the library had been written by her under the alias “Fleetwrite”.

While I enjoyed the company I had, it was more or less to keep me calm, because in a few minutes I was going to have to speak with Trixie...and it was going to be tense. In fact, I’d already had to cast a spell to make myself relax...but the fact that my nervousness was overcoming it only made me worry more.

I wasn’t worried so much about the way Trixie would act...I was instead worried about my behavior.

I had no idea how I was going to respond to being confronted with her, or how I would go about apologizing for what I’d indirectly done to her. I mean, I hadn’t purposefully ruined her career in showponyship, but then again some of the worst things imaginable have been accidents. I had to apologize...I had to make this right. I owed it to her, and to myself.

I would fix this.

It was then that I felt the approach of both Luna and Trixie from the corridors of the palace. I was as ready as I was going to be, so I respectfully dismissed Quickquill before tidying up my workspace and waiting for my company to arrive.

I don’t know why, but I felt like I should be doing something to give to some atmosphere to the meeting, so I settled upon looking out the window over the city, hoping I looked stern and mysterious. Instead, the sun caused me to have to squint, and I ended up tripping on a rug, landing on my face with my flank in the air.

“Oh...hello Twilight.” I heard Luna’s voice say with a hint of a giggle.

By Celestia, please just give me a break.

I pushed off of the stone floor and rubbed my nose before smiling sheepishly. “Um, hi Luna.”

The princess’ face screwed up as she tried to hold in the giggles, but a second later she lost the battle, and leaned against the doorframe as she laughed loudly. I tried to be mad at her, but my heart and face betrayed me as I felt the corners of my mouth start to curl up into a smile, as well as the onset of soft giggles that started to wrack my body, and before I knew it, I fell on the floor again...in laughter.

Luna had sufficiently removed all of my nervousness and tension, so much so that when Trixie stuck her head in the room to see what was happening, I didn’t feel the least bit stressed about it.

“Umm, am I interrupting something?” the blue unicorn asked...and I can’t explain how much I was happy she was referring to herself in first-person.

I composed myself and stood, shaking my head. “Not at all, Trixie. Come in.” I then turned to Luna and said, “Thanks Princess Luna. I’ve got it from here.” The night princess smiled before leaving, closing the door behind her. I turned my attention to Trixie and my smile dropped. “So...”

“So...” she responded in kind.

My gaze faltered for a moment, but then I stepped forward towards the mare. “Trixie I’m sorry for what I did to you. I didn’t mean to mess everything up for you, I just wanted to protect the town.”

For awhile she was quiet before whispering, “I know...”

“Can you forgive me?” I asked gently.

Again silence prevailed, but after a minute she nodded with a smile. “I can...if you can forgive me for being...well, like I was.”

I smiled and nodded vigorously. “I can.”

The silver-maned unicorn let out a sigh of satisfaction as she slumped a bit. “Phew...I was so worried things were going to go horribly.”

I shrugged. “I don’t hold grudges Trixie, and neither do my friends. I can’t speak for the rest of Ponyville or Canterlot, but if you’re really different from the way you used to be, I’d be more than happy to stand behind you all the way.”

Trixie closed her eyes and smiled. “You don’t know how happy that makes me, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Just Twilight is fine.” I responded with a smile. “Using my second name just makes it sound like I’m more important than I am.”

“But you are important.” she insisted, which caught me completely off-guard. “You’re friends with both of the princesses, you’re marrying a prince, and you’re the general of the entire Equestrian MIlitary! You don’t need to be arrogant like the ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie was, but you’re allowed to feel important...because you are.”

For some reason her words touched me. Not only because it was said, but because it was her that said it. To meet after so long, having left on bad terms, and then hear that from her...it was something, and it carried a weight with it that not many words did.

“That...that means a hay of a lot to me, Trixie. Thank you.” I gratefully replied.

The unicorn mare smiled and nodded. “The Great and Powerful Trixie welcomes you.”

The two of us giggled at the little joke before I asked, “So I was thinking...”

“Yes?” she asked in inquiry.

I sighed. “Well, with you being here, I’d like to offer you a job.”

Trixie gasped as her mouth hung open. “W-what?”

I nodded. “Yes...we could use your skills, Trixie.”

My skills?” she asked curiously. “But what about your-”

I shook my head, interrupting her. “I might be really powerful Trixie, and I think we both know I’m more powerful than you, but you have a talent for illusionary spells the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Invisibility, smoke...things like that.” I placed my hoof on her shoulder and added, “Trixie, I’ve tried to do some of the spells you used, and I just can’t get it. You have a talent, and we need it for our soldiers.”

This got the mare interested and she asked, “Hmm...what exactly were you thinking?”

I shrugged. “Well I don’t know if it’s even possible, but a few things, actually. The biggest problem we have with our troops is stealth. Most of our enemy’s forces see with a sort of thermal vision, meaning that no matter how well we blend in visually, they can still see us. We’ve tried insulation clothing, and even have spells that can counter it as well...but therein lies another problem. These enemies are drawn to magic like a moth to a flame, so any unicorn using magic is going to be a prime target. What I’m saying is that we’re looking for a way to enchant clothing to mask the body heat of the soldier wearing it.”

Trixie giggled and waved a hoof at me. “Oh, that’s easy.”

My eyes widened in shock from her response. “R-really?”

The showmare giggled again and nodded. “Sure. I’ve been working on enchantments most of my life. For example, making a cloak that doesn’t tear or fade, or making a hat that won’t fall off. Enchantments as a whole are easy to do, it’s just that depending on the spell you’re using, it could take a lot more magic to embed it.”

“And you could come up with something like we need?” I asked with growing excitement.

Trixie smiled with pride and nodded. “You have to remember, I’m ‘Great and Powerful’ after all.” She giggled a bit at her joke and continued with, “It’ll just take a little trial and error for me to get it right, as well as a piece of armor to try it on and see if it works.”

I thought for a moment before answering, “Well if we go to the steelworks, I’m sure Darkflight will let us borrow a helmet or something to experiment on. I can come up with a spell to change our vision so we can see in infrared while you work on your spell, and we’ll give it a try tomorrow. How does that sound?”

“It sounds great, Twilight. Thank you.” Trixie replied happily.

I nodded with a satisfied smile. “Great. Well I’ll walk you to your guest room and we’ll give it a try tomorrow morning, say at around 10:00. I’m sure you could use a good sleep after that long flight.”

“I slept a little on the way, but let it just be said that the back of a dragon is not my bed of choice.” she responded with a bit of a grin.

I giggled softly and nodded. “I assume so. Well your bag has already been put there, so let’s go.”

Perspective change ‒ Vinyl Scratch

Today was an off-day for me, so Lyra, Tavi, and I were chilling out at my place, listening to some tunes from Frost’s iPod thing and talking.

It was something I’d been neglecting...just relaxing and spending time with friends and enjoying the good times. Besides, I’d neglected Tavi a bit in the past week, so I made sure she knew I still cared about her.

She was one of my best friends, after all.

“So Vinyl, what about this trip to Frost’s homeworld that you’ve been telling me about?” Tavi asked, breaking me out of my thoughts.

I looked up at her lavender eyes and grinned. “Well I don’t know much about it, really. I only know for sure that we’re going to a few definite places, namely Germany, France, England, the United States, and Alaska. There might be more places too, but I don’t know what they are and frankly, I don’t even know what we’re going to be doing, except for watching a fireworks show in a place called Atlanta.”

“Sounds mysterious.” Lyra quipped.

I shrugged. “Frost is fun already, and Dark’s going too, so I’m sure we’re gonna have a blast. Besides, I’m more interested in learning how to be a human.”

“Well Frost said that he’ll teach us the spell once this war is over, and then he’ll give us about a week to get used to the changes before we actually go.” Lyra stated with a grin.

I chuckled softly. “I bet I look hot!”

The mint-green unicorn scooted over to me before laying down against my flank. “Who says you’re not already, Vi?”

I just laughed louder before saying, “I knew it, you want me.”

“I’ll never understand the way you two act when you’re together.” Tavi responded with a soft smile.

I hopped over to my earth pony friend and hugged her tight. “Aww, you know I love you too, Tavi.”

She smiled before embracing me too and saying, “You’re lucky you’re my best friend.”

Lyra just giggled before adding, “Aww! It’s so cute!”

“Hnnngg!” said a voice from the doorway, and I looked to see a tall dragon standing there. “Too many feels!”

I rolled my eyes as I released Tavi and hopped off the couch. “Dork. Get over here and give me a hug.”

The dragon closed the door and walked to meet me, and picked me up in a tight hug. “It’s great to see ya, Vi.” He then set me down with a smile. “Make any good music lately?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I have...but I think Tavi has something cooler she’d like to show you.”

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

“Really now?” I asked with a raised eyeridge. I then looked to the earth pony and smiled. “Well then, let’s see it.”

“Follow me to the studio, please.” Octavia responded with a smile.

I followed the three ponies to Vinyl’s studio, which was probably one of my favorite places in all of Equestria. I mean, she had more equipment than I’d ever seen before, and even better, she actually liked it when I played around on it.

Can you say awesome?

Anyway, when we arrived, I saw Drew’s Flying V in the corner, and was surprised when Octavia walked over and picked it up.

“No...” I whispered.

Vinyl nodded as she walked towards the soundbooth. “Oh yeah. C’mon.”

I followed Vi and Lyra into the soundbooth and watched as she did a quick soundcheck, with the earth pony playing a few chords on the guitar, using the tip of her right hoof to strum the strings.

“How does she do that?” I asked curiously.

The white unicorn shrugged. “String instruments seem to be her specialty. I have no idea, honestly, but I can’t deny that it’s awesome.” She then leaned forward and pressed the button on the mic. “Alright Tavi, we’re all set. You gonna play a song or you just gonna jam?”

“I believe I will improvise, Vinyl. I wish for full distortion.” Octavia responded with a grin.

“Oh boy...this is gonna be bad.” I said under my breath.

”Never in my life have I been so glad to be wrong!” I exclaimed, praising the mare in front of me.

Octavia blushed but nodded gracefully. “Well I thank you, Darkflight.”

I sighed and closed my eyes. “How...just how? You shredded like nothing I’ve ever seen before...and with hooves! How did you even do that? You shouldn’t be able to!” I opened my eyes and grinned maniacally. “You are an incredible, awesome, amazing freak of nature, do you know that?”

Thankfully the earth pony understood what I meant and smiled gratefully. “Thank you again, Darkflight. It was nothing, really. Your brother is a better player than I am.”

I shrugged. “Maybe, but he also uses magic. I know for a fact there is no way he could play that good with just hooves.”

The gray mare’s smile got bigger and she nodded. “Perhaps you are right. I am a strings master, after all.”

I chuckled and nodded. “Yeah you are.” I then stood and stretched a bit. “Well it was really great to see you all, but I’ve gotta head back to see AJ. I promised I’d take her out tonight, since it’s been like five months.”

The DJ chuckled and nudged me playfully. “Get ‘er, Dark!”

I smirked before waving goodbye and taking flight.

Perspective change ‒ Luna

The night was brought forth once more, and as Tia stood beside me, I felt the waning crescent with the stars of late spring would be a good end to the day.

“Beautiful as always, Luna.” sister commented from beside me.

I leaned into the warm body of my elder sibling and smiled. “Thank you, Tia. It always means so much to hear that, especially from you.”

“Perhaps you will not believe this, but I’ve always enjoyed your nights.” she responded firmly. “It is one of the things that always helped me sleep, knowing that your beautiful moon and stars were watching over me...protecting me.” At this declaration, her head lowered a bit. “For a thousand years I slept uneasily...” she then raised her head and looked at me lovingly, “but with you returned, and your night yours again, I sleep peacefully.”

I looked up at the taller princess with a pleading expression and asked, “Tia? Twilight is away tonight. Might I slumber in your quarters...like I used to?”

It was a thing that we had not shared since before I was banished. Just the two of us, talking to each other softly until we both fell asleep...it was something I had missed ever so much. With Frost and the others it was different somehow, though no less special.

Before I could think on the matter longer, Tia responded, “Of course, Luna.”

As the two of us lay down on the large circular bed that was my sister’s, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic in the sensation. In the past, I would rush to Tia’s room whenever I had a nightmare, or was lonely, or was scared for any other reason...or if I just missed her. Perhaps I was needy, but it was part of who I was as a pony. I craved that interaction between us...needed it. The bond I shared with my sister was something I shared with no other. It went without saying that she was the most important pony in my life to me...and I had a feeling she felt the same way.

The two of us lay in the bed on our stomachs, simply enjoying the feeling of each other being close after such a long time.

“Luna?” sister’s voice came from the darkness.

I rolled my head to the side to meet her eyes and answered, “Yes Tia?”

Even in the dark of night, I could see my elder sibling’s magenta eyes scanning me worriedly. “What do you think is going to happen...when this is all over?”

“We will move on.” I said simply.

Her eyes closed and she sighed. “How?”

I extended my wing to cover her larger body as I scooted closer. “It will be difficult for a number of years, but we can and will prevail, sister. You and I both have powerful and determined friends...and with their help, we can do anything.”

I felt as she nestled her head atop mine and said, “Thank you, Luna...thank you for being strong.” She let out a soft breath and looped her foreleg around mine. “Goodnight, dear sister.”

I smiled warmly as her words of praise and love washed over me. “Goodnight, Tia.”

Chapter 23: The Way Home

Chapter 23: The Way Home

“Home sweet home.” I mouthed as I approached the distant town.

Ten days had passed a lot faster than I thought they would, and what was once a corrupted and dangerous forest was now a permanent icy wasteland...which in truth was not much of a change because of the fact nothing lived there anyway.

At least now it was pretty.

Joking aside though, I was glad that I was able to wrap things up, because I had been pushed to my mental breaking point with what I had to do out there. Let it simply be said that there were some things no living thing should ever have to deal with, and leave it at that. Still, it seemed that along with the realization that things were nearing the end came the dropoff of all that stress. The eternal experience of Winter helped me cope, as did my Element’s push to do what’s right to protect my loved ones.

I’m gonna need a lot of therapy after this shit.

Still, even the realization that I was likely going to suffer from PTSD didn’t dampen my spirits. I wouldn’t let it, because I owed it to both myself and those I cared about, friends and family alike. Besides, summer was fast approaching, and so I had to make sure to keep my spirits up so I didn’t get all edgy because of the heat. Granted I’d modified a frost spell so that I could keep myself cool without freezing everyone around me, but that didn’t help the fact that summer as a whole just bothered me.

No offense to Celly, but I never liked it, and probably never will.

My return was heralded as a great victory by everypony gathered in Ponyville...which was a lot of ponies. Both civilians and soldiers alike were gathered to greet me as I landed, and both were equally happy that I had made it back, and that this conflict was nearing its end. For the first time, I saw things looking up, and while I knew there was still danger around the corner, it was a danger I knew we could overcome together.

My thoughts were interrupted as I was kissed on the cheek by a random mare as the crowd started to close in around me, and I became the unwilling recipient of hugs, praise, and even a few smooches to the cheek. Not that I didn’t enjoy the adoration my ponies felt for me, but at the moment, there was only one person I wanted to see above all else...

“Drew!” shouted a loud voice from the back of the crowd.

And there he was.

I pushed my way through the crowd to the Obsidian and immediately gave him a bear hug of epic proportions. “Mace...damn, it’s great to see ya.”

The tall dragon chuckled as he returned the hug. “Good to see you too, man.”

I released my brother and looked around, scanning the crowd. “Where is everyone?”

“At the library, waiting for you.” he answered. “C’mon, I’ll walk ya there.” As I began to follow him away from the ponies (that were thankfully dispersing), he asked, “So how did it go?”

I sighed as I fell into step beside him. “Shitty. The bastard was using little fillies and colts against me.”

“That’s fucked up, man.” he responded angrily. “Sending dead ponies against us is one thing, but killing and then raising young ones against us? That’s just dirty on a level that shouldn’t even be explored. It’s a line that should never be crossed.”

“He knows we think like that,” I started, trotting a little quicker to get out of the heat, “and that’s why he did it. He knew it would fuck with me.”

“And is it?” the dragon asked curiously.

I sighed and nodded. “Yeah...”

“You wanna talk about it?” he asked with concern.

I shook my head. “This isn’t the kind of thing that talking about is going to fix. I need to take time to assimilate into my mind that this had to be done and that it wasn’t my fault that they died in the first place.”

“And how’s that going for you?” was my response.

I sighed as we arrived at the library. “It’s going.”

My brother patted my neck and said, “Well cheer up, because everyone’s waiting for you...and I’m sure you can guess what’s going to happen when I open this door.”

I smirked and charged a spell in my horn. “Ready.” He opened the door and I stepped in, and I barely had time to shoot off my spell and levitate six ponies in the air in front of me. I stepped in, closed the door behind us, and then stepped forward to embrace them all tightly with a smile. “Hey girls.” All the ponies that attended greeted me in kind, but I looked around and asked, “Where’s Lulu and Celly?”

Dash released me and said, “They said they’d be by later. They’re handling a bit of a problem happening in Trottingham right now with a bad case of Feather Flu sweeping through the area.”

“Drag.” I responded with a hint of concern. “Are they gonna be alright?”

“Trottingham will be fine,” Twilight explained with a smile, “it’s just something that happens around this time of year, which means we all need to make sure and stay healthy so that we don’t catch it...and as far as the princesses, alicorns as a whole are near-immune to disease. It would have to be a brand new illness for any of you to get it.”

I shrugged. “Good to know. What time are they gonna be here?”

Twilight smiled and said, “Around sunset.”

I closed my eyes and linked with the sun and the moon, feeling the slight tug of Luna and Celestia’s counterparts, and then a moment later I determined the time. I opened my eyes with a smile. “Cool...we have about another four hours, so here’s what I want to do.” I pointed to Twilight first. “Twi, they’re going to be really tired when they get back, so I need you and Rarity to go borrow Aloe and Lotus’ massage beds...just tell them I requested it.” I then turned to Pinkie. “Pinks, you and Spike are on food. Something light, but tasty.” Next, I focused my gaze on Vinyl. “Vi, we need some chilled music going over some small speakers to give a little ambiance.” Lastly, I leveled my eyes with Lyra. “I need you to see if you can find some Chateau La Roux Wine...it’s their favorite. Berry punch sells some, I think.”

The named mares nodded before darting off in different directions.

“What about me and the rest?” my brother asked.

I grinned evilly and said, “You’re on flower duty, good sir.”

“Really dude? Really?” he asked with a frown.

I rolled my eyes. “Do this for me and I’ll give you a free enchanted tattoo.”

My brother’s face instantly lit up and he asked, “Perfected it, did you?”

I nodded with a smile. “I did, and if you and the others help me out, you’ll be the first one to get one.”

The dragon smirked and nodded. “Deal. What do you need?”

“I need three-dozen roses ‒ a dozen each of red, white, and black. Then I need four nightshades, and six lilies.” I explained.

The Obsidian nodded. “That all?”

I nodded. “Yep. Take Ditzy and AJ to get those for me please. Come back as soon as you can.”

“Understood.” he responded before grabbing Ditzy and the cowmare and leaving the room.

I stood there for a moment before a voice asked, “Um...what do you want me to do?”

I turned around to Fluttershy and just smiled. “I’d appreciate it if you could go get Moonfang and Venn, if you would.”

The butter-colored pegasus smiled and nodded. “Okay.”

I then sighed and turned my attention to the large library and began cleaning.

Four hours came and went much faster than I had anticipated, and by the time everything was set up the way I wanted it, the sun set beyond the horizon, giving way to the moon...so all we had to do now is wait.

As we did so, I was talking with Vi about what we were going to do when we went to Earth. We’d end up being there for quite some time (at least six months), so I was going to make sure we had a hell of a lot of fun. It went without saying that July fourth would be the best day to arrive, as we could watch the fireworks in Atlanta, but from there it was anyone’s guess. I’d iron out the details more as things got closer to that time, but for the time being I made sure to tell everyone that was going that we were going to have a hell of a lot of fun, and they were going to see things they’d never imagined.

“So what exactly do you have planned after this fireworks thing?” Vinyl asked curiously.

I shrugged. “Well, I was thinking of taking everypony to Six Flags. It’s a huge amusement park there, and I know you all will have tons of fun.”

“And an amusement park is...?” the white unicorn asked in confusion.

“Exactly what it sounds like.” I answered. “It’s a place with rides, games, and food where you go to have a hay of a time.”

Vinyl nodded and smiled. “Oh cool, so like a fair then?”

I shook my head. “You’ll see when we get there, babe. You’ll love it, I promise.”

Vinyl then led me over to a large cushion on the floor and the two of us lay down on it as we waited. For a long few minutes she was silent before whispering, “Hey Frost?”

“Yeah?” I responded gently.

“What’s wrong?” the white unicorn asked with concern.

I looked down at the blue-maned pony by my side and asked, “What do you mean? I’m fine.”

Vinyl’s face turned into a glare as she replied, “Frost, I know you well enough to be able to tell when something’s bothering you, and I know from personal experience that it’s not good to hold that stuff in. Don’t shut me out.”

I sighed and lowered my chin to rest on top of her head. “For the past week and a half, I was having to strike down little fillies and colts.” I heard a gasp and added, “They were already dead, but still...it messes with me. Pardon the language, but it’s a really fucked up thing to do, and because of how cool I am right now, I think I might actually still be in shock about it.”

“I’d consider you heartless if it didn’t affect you, Frost.” Vinyl responded lovingly. “It’s why I didn’t join the war, Frost...because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it...but even if you can, it doesn’t mean you can expect to feel okay about it.”

I nodded a few times. “That’s actually pretty deep of you, Vi.”

The unicorn rolled her crimson eyes and shoved me lightly. “Just because I’m a DJ doesn’t make me stupid.”

I chuckled and said, “I never said you were stupid, love...I just don’t usually expect to hear something like that from you is all.”

The white unicorn smirked as she leaned her head against my side. “Well maybe you should. There’s a lot more to me than just music, Frost.”

“I know babe, I know.” I answered affectionately. My ears then flicked and I felt a tingle in my horn as a familiar pair of essences approached. I cleared my throat and announced, “Alright, they’re here. Everypony, make sure it’s ready for them. I’ll greet them and walk them inside. Now we’re all going to have fun tonight and chill out, but I just want to stress that this night is focusing on them, okay?” All in attendance nodded, so I smiled as I looked down at the unicorn by my side. “Vi, start the music as soon as I walk in.” I then rolled to my hooves and stood before exiting the library.

I waited outside for about five or so minutes until I was able to hear the flaps of two pairs of wings, and I squinted my eyes in the failing light of sunset to see two familiar beloved princesses approaching. Both of them landed in front of me and embraced me without hesitation.

“Frost...we have missed you very much.” Celly whispered softly.

I wrapped my own forelegs around the two princesses and smiled. “I’ve missed the two of you as well.” I then released them and dropped to all four hooves again. “Come...let’s go inside.”

As soon as the door opened, Vinyl started the soft music playing as planned, which caused both princesses to stop in their tracks at the sights and sounds before them.

“Frost what...?” Luna asked in surprise.

I walked and stood with all our friends and family and said, “We all heard about what’s going on in Trottingham, so we knew you’d be pretty stressed out. This is our way of saying thanks for being so great. This is a day of relaxation for you, so grab a seat at the table...supper will be served momentarily.”

Both princesses were still awestruck, but complied and found places around the large table that had been brought out from the basement. Rarity and my brother went about serving drinks, while I went to the kitchen to check up on the food.

I stepped behind the dragon and pink mare and asked, “How’s everything coming along?”

“Great.” Spike answered. “The main course is just about ready,” he then pointed to a large platter that held multiple small bowls as well as a large one with salad in it, “so I want you to take the salad in so we can start off with that. Crack open the drinks too, and I’ll have dinner out when everypony’s finished with their salad.”

“Rockin’.” I replied happily before levitating the large platter out of the kitchen.

Dinner was relaxing with the music going, and everyone in attendance really enjoyed the meal, and the drinks.

About a half-hour later, my brother and I were giving Celestia and Luna a massage. It was a tad strange to have my younger brother handling Luna like he was, but I also trusted him...and he made sure to avoid groping any areas that were considered even remotely intimate, instead mostly focusing on her flight muscles, shoulders, neck, back, and hooves (yes, hooves get sore). Groans and moans of approval were our thanks as we gave both princesses a rubdown, and after almost two hours, they were both prematurely asleep. Since I was unwilling to wake either of them after such a trying day, I levitated them both upstairs to the bed before returning back downstairs for the night.

When I settled myself within the circle of dragons, wolves, and mares, we set about drinking some more and messing about for awhile. Somehow, Fluttershy ended up tickling Moonfang, and he laughed like a hyena.

Oh yeah...I’m never letting him live this down.

Speaking of Fluttershy ‒ as well as the rest ‒ I’d noticed some very peculiar changes in character when compared with when I first came here. The Element of Kindness for example, was now rather outgoing, for her at least. The pegasus was still timid of course, but she no longer hid from new ponies or friends. She had even been so bold as to meet with Queen Chrysalis once, which was an utter surprise to me.

Dash had become very intelligent. Where once she was more of an athlete than anything else, it was now not uncommon to see her just reading a book or listening to music. I guess that had something to do with the fact she’d been fighting for her life for the past year, but it was a change I definitely noticed...and didn’t disapprove of at all. Not that I ever thought that she was stupid, but let it simply be said that she never dreamed of being a college professor.

Lastly was Twilight.

Twilight...beloved Twilight. The young unicorn had surpassed all expectations of her. She rose from being the protégé of Celly all the way to being the general of the entire Equestrian Military. Where once she was unsure of herself and bookish, she was now confident and focused on the world around her. It was no secret that her tactics and organizational skills had made Equestria as a whole a much better place to live, and also made the military’s job much easier. Already her name was well-known throughout most of Equestria, so much so that she now was nearly as high-visibility as I was. And yet, even with this fame and power came modesty. On quite a few occasions she turned down awards and celebrations in her name, simply stating she was doing this for our soldiers...and that she wished for them to be praised before her.

Earth could use a few people like her.

Night had fallen, but I didn’t wish for Luna and Celly to have to wake up, and so with the two spells that they had taught me, I focused on the two celestial bodies in the sky. It was so strange being able to feel the moon and sun within me, as if they were old friends that I knew well...which since they were in fact Luna and Celestia, it was rather accurate that way. It was by no means easy to lower the sun and raise the moon ‒ and neither would the stars be ‒ but I felt that for tonight at least, the two hard-working princesses deserved a break...so I could afford to feel exhausted for them.

Once the moon was on its course and the stars winked into existence, I released my hold on the two bodies and felt both dizzy and a tired, but I didn’t care. As I thought about the two loves of mine that were sleeping upstairs, I thought that it was worth it.

“Did you just...?” I heard Twilight ask as she looked outside the window.

I shakily stood up and nodded. “Yeah. Luna and Celestia taught me the spells to do it, just in case something were to happen to them...and they said that when you become a princess, they’ll teach you as well. It’s always good to have more than two ponies know how to do it, in case gods-forbid something happen to either of them.”

“To be prepared.” Twilight mumbled.

I nodded. “Mmhmm. The moon and sun will always be theirs, but should something happen to them, the entire world shouldn’t suffer because of it.”

Twilight’s frowned at this and said, “That’s a bad thought, Frost.”

“But no less possible, love.” I responded as I hugged her tight. “Unfathomable...but still possible.” I then turned her face to look at me and I kissed her forehead. “But with the gods as my witness, I would go to Tartarus itself to keep that from ever happening.”

The lavender unicorn smiled softly and nodded. “I know Frost.”

“It’s almost done.” said a voice from behind us, and I watched as two large cyan wings enclosed around us. I turned my head to see Rainbow Dash, and she smiled. “Soon, this war will be a thing of the past...and we can work on making Equestria happy and beautiful again.”

The mood overall had taken a rather somber tone, and so I began to think of a way to calm the tempest that seemed to have taken hold...and suddenly, I thought of a song from my childhood. Simple, elegant, and relaxing...and it was the first song I heard in my life...

“I've had enough of danger
And people on the streets
I'm looking out for angels
Just trying to find some peace
Now I think it's time
That you let me know
So if you love me
Say you love me
But if you don't just let me go...

'Cause teacher
There are things that I don't want to learn
And the last one I had
Made me cry
So I don't want to learn to
Hold you, touch you
Think that you're mine
Because it ain't no joy
For an uptown boy
Whose teacher has told him goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

When you were just a stranger
And I was at your feet
I didn't feel the danger
Now I feel the heat
That look in your eyes
Telling me no
So you think that you love me
Know that you need me
I wrote the song, I know it's wrong
Just let me go...

And teacher
There are things
That I don't want to learn
Oh the last one I had
Made me cry
So I don't want to learn to
Hold you, touch you
Think that you're mine
Because it ain't no joy
For an uptown boy
Whose teacher has told him goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

So when you say that you need me
That you'll never leave me
I know you're wrong, you're not that strong
Let me go

And teacher
There are things
That I still have to learn
But the one thing I have is my pride
Oh so I don't want to
Hold you, touch you
Think that you're mine
Because there ain't no joy
For an uptown boy
Who just isn't willing to try

I'm so cold

Maybe just one more try...”

When the beautiful song finished, I found myself uplifted and smiling, and the entire room seemed brighter and warmer, and when I looked at everyone else gathered, I knew they felt the same.

“Darling...that was beautiful.” Rarity commented.

I smiled warmly as I looked at the moon outside the window. “Thank you, Rarity...it’s one of my favorite songs.”

“Um...do you have any more Frost?” I heard Fluttershy’s soft voice ask.

I smiled and nodded as I turned my head to look at my brother. “Mace...get Stella.” My brother nodded before hopping up from the couch and dashing downstairs to the basement...and then returning a few minutes later with a beautiful Gibson SG, with a custom finish depicting an undefined alien planetary system with binary stars (yes, I’m a space geek), and silver stars on the fretboard. He handed it to me and I thanked him before plugging it into the amp he brought, and then quickly tuning it. I then cleared my throat and said, “Alright everypony, this is a ridiculously famous song from Earth, and I only hope I can do it right.” I then looked to Dash with a smile. “I want you to sing it, Dashie.”

“What? Me? B-but I can’t sing, I mean I don’t-” she stuttered.

I grinned as I looked at the rainbow-maned beauty and replied, “Dash, you have the voice for it...and I’ve heard you sing before. Please?”

She stared at me for a second before sighing with a soft smile. “Alright Frost...I got it.”

I nodded with a grin. “Alright then...just feel the music, and the words will come to you.”

She nodded in return and closed her eyes as I began to play the first notes of the song. As I did so, I quickly cast a soundproof “bubble” around us, and with each note played, I could Dashie’s wings twitch ever so slightly, as if each tone was filled with power, and I was giving it to her. Soft flutes could be heard from seemingly nowhere, and a few seconds later, she began to sing...

“There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.

Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.

In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.

And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know,
The piper's calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.”

As the solo began, Rainbow Dash’s horn began to blow, and we were treated to a light show that her passion brought on, giving us our own little concert right in the lobby of the library. I had to refrain from yelling out, “Ah got blistahs on mah hooves!”

“And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.”

When the song ended, I was happy I had put the soundproofing around our group, as everyone was clapping loudly, even the two wolves.

“Wow Frostie! That was amazing!” Pinkie squealed in happiness. She then looked to Dash and embraced the alicorn in a tight hug. “And Dashie, your singing was so pretty!”

The cyan mare blushed a bit at the praise of her voice, but returned her friend’s hug and muttered a thank you.

I stretched a bit and handed my guitar to the Obsidian with a smile. “Alright, it’s about that time to go to sleep now. I’ve got surprise plans tomorrow for us, so-”

“What kinds of plans, Frost?” Ditzy asked curiously.

I shrugged. “Whatever I can think of that I won’t tell you anyway. Hence why I said ‘surprise’.”

The mare slumped a little. “Fine...be like that.” I stuck out my wing and tickled her a bit, which caused her to giggle a bit and smirk. “Alright, alright fine, you got me...I’m not really mad. I know you’ll make it fun.”

“Darn right.” I responded with a smile. I then turned to Rarity and Spike as they walked towards the front door. “Will you two be able to make it to the central park at around noon?”

The couple looked at each other before Rarity nodded. “I believe so, dear.”

I then focused my gaze on Fluttershy and the two wolves. “What about you all?”

Fluttershy nodded meekly with a smile “Umm, yes I think so. Do you mind if I bring Angel?”

“Not at all.” I said with a shake of my head.

“Ah can’t make it.” AJ voiced a little sadly.

I looked to see a pink pony standing next to her that also sighed. “I can’t make it either, Frostie. There’s a big order for the Cakes, and I don’t wanna miss it.”

I smiled at the two earth ponies and nodded. “It’s cool.” I then hugged the both of them tightly. “You two take care of yourselves until we meet again.” I then looked to everypony else and asked, “I take it the rest of you can be there?”

Vinyl and Lyra walked up to me as the white unicorn said, “I can make it, but we’re not gonna be able to stay tonight, Frost. I have a show tonight starting at 22:00, so I gotta get going...which means I need Lyra to come with.”

I leaned down and gave each unicorn a soft kiss before smiling. “It’s all good. I’ll see you two tomorrow then.”

Dash and Ditzy stepped up next with frowns, and the alicorn stated, "I got work to do tomorrow. I'm still lead weather manager, after all, and these lazies have been slacking without me. I'll be by later tomorrow though, around suppertime."

"And I have something back in Canterlot I need to take care of, so I'll be busy for the next few days." Ditzy replied sadly.

I shrugged. "It's alright girls. I'll miss you, but I know work is important." I then hugged the both of them and kissed each on the nose gently. "Fly safely, and I'll see you both soon." Both speedy fliers nodded before bolting out the door and into the sky.

The three of us that were left cleaned up the bottom floor before locking down the building and saying goodnight, and I soon found myself wrapped up in the hooves of a sleeping Celestia as she buried her nose in my mane, and Luna of course had her hooves wrapped around Twilight from behind, playing the role of “big spoon” as the two mares lay on their sides.

As usual, Luna fell asleep pretty quickly, which just left Twilight and I to look into each other’s eyes deeply with love and affection. Her vivid violet irises seemed to twinkle in the moonlight that was flooding the room, and I couldn't help but lean forward and give her a soft kiss goodnight.

We pulled away and I simply gazed at her for a few more moments before murmuring, “I love you, Twilight.”

The lavender unicorn smiled happily and responded, “I love you too, Frost.”

Not another word was said, and within seconds, my eyes slid shut as Twilight snuggled up beside me.

Author's Notes:

Songs mentioned: "One More Try" by George Michael on the album Faith, and "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin on the album Led Zeppelin IV.

Chapter 24: Foresight

Chapter 24: Foresight

For the first time since I’ve known her, I woke up before Celestia did.

As my eyes slowly crept open, I was aware that I was being hugged tightly by two sets of hooves ‒ one bleach-white and the other midnight-blue. Luckily for me my magic runes that I’d placed on the house seemed to be working, keeping most of the summer’s heat out.

I should go into business in magic air conditioners.

Even though I was pleasantly comfortable in the grasp of the two princesses, I knew that we needed to get up. Celly and Lulu would have to bring forth the day soon, and besides, I wanted to make us all blueberry waffles.

I gently extracted myself from the two sleeping mares, leaving Luna laying her head over her older sister’s neck in a very cute fashion...and I couldn’t help but smile warmly at the picture of adorable.

“Cute, aren’t they?” said the voice of Rainbow Dash from beside me.

I looked at my lovely wife and nodded. “Yeah. Wow, you’re back early. What happened to not being home until suppertime?”

Dash nodded with a grin. “Ditzy and I had to head to the barracks to check in with Shining Armor and Enigma Flare, but things were handled a lot quicker than I thought they would be. Seems that little colt wants to join us on the final front.”

I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Really? What does Ditzy think? After all, she’s the only one that trains one-on-one with him.”

As we left the room, Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Ditzy thinks he’s ready. Enigma Flare says he’s got a few choice spells that could be a lot of use to us.”

The sound of my hooves on the stairs echoed a bit up the stairwell as I asked, “And what do you think? Do you think he will be able to hold his own?”

The cyan alicorn rolled her eyes. “Frost, you saw what kind of power he has...and Enigma Flare told Ditzy that he has spells that are even stronger than that.”

My eyes widened at this, and the memories of the avatar stirred within me. “He must be an elemental!”

Dash nodded as we reached the bottom floor. “Yeah...Spring thinks the same.”

I tapped a hoof to my chin for a moment. “That means that somewhere in the world, there are three others. I wonder who they could be.”

“I’m not sure,” Dash began as she walked past me, “but I know that I can’t think on an empty stomach. Make breakfast first, Frost...then we’ll talk about it.”

“Rather forceful, aren’t we?” I replied with a sly grin.

Rainbow Dash’s tail slapped my face, leaving a stinging sensation as she grinned back at me. “You love it. Besides, Shining Armor asked for either me or you to come this morning...so you owe me for not waking you up instead.”

“Hey, I would have gone if you’d asked!” I explained loudly.

The rainbow-maned pony rolled her eyes. “I know you would have, but that’s what a good wife does for her husband, Frost.”

I entered the kitchen and asked, “Are you sure you’re really Rainbow Dash? What happened to the non-sappy pony that would-”

“Make me waffles or I’ll kick your flank.” she interrupted with a smirk.

I chuckled. “Welcome back, Dashie.”

Dash and I sat at the table as I sipped coffee and she tore into cinnamon apple waffles, and my brother sat reading a book next to me. It was a good, quiet morning that I savored, simply because I didn’t know when we’d have another one. It was a fact that was becoming increasingly obvious with the state of affairs in the world at the moment.

“So Frost,” Dash started sloppily, swallowing a syrup-soaked bite of waffle, “are you ready to put an end to all this, once and for all?”

For the first time since it all began, I felt very optimistic about the war...and I nodded with a smile. “Yes...I can honestly say I am. It’s almost over, and then we can rebuild and make Equestria even greater than she was before. Happier, grander...safer.”

Dash swallowed the last bite of her breakfast and smiled happily. “That sounds great, Frost. I know you’ll be a great help for all of that.”

I leaned over and nuzzled her gently with a smile. “And you will too, love.”

“Gag.” remarked a certain Obsidian from beside me.

“You’re just mad because your woman had to head home.” I remarked with a smirk.

Mace rolled his eyes and stood up, reshelving the book. “You talk about me like I’m whipped or something.”

“You are.” Dash remarked with a smirk that rivaled my own.

The dragon growled, “I am not!”

I pursed my lips and nodded. “Right. You know, I notice you don’t curse very much at all anymore.”

“Because AJ doesn’t like it.” he responded without thinking.

I snorted a soft laugh and replied, “I rest my case.”

“Douche-nozzle.” my brother grumbled before walking outside, presumably to see his mare.

A second later, I noticed the first rays of dawn cresting the horizon, so I smiled gently. “Looks like Celly and Luna are up.” I finished off what was left of my coffee before standing and levitating the cup and Dashie’s empty plate to the kitchen before placing them both into the sink and grabbing a plate and glass bowl. I placed a tall stack of waffles with strawberries upon the plate, then placed blueberries and bananas with a dollop of whipped cream in the bowl, and then set about levitating both meals to the table...just in time to meet the two princesses.

Luna yawned and smiled gently. “Good morning you two. Ooh, waffles!” The night princess then quickly sat down and greedily consumed the fresh meal before her.

“Good morning as well, my friends.” the sun princess added, taking her seat next to her sister and levitating a single berry out to eat. “Mmm...blueberries.”

I chuckled and sat down next to Dash with another cup of coffee. “Breakfast of champions, that is.” I then looked to the younger sister with a smirk. “How’s the slaughter of the waffle-people going, Lulu?”

“They are fighting valiantly, but I will defeat them!” the lunar goddess remarked with a playful giggle.

“Drown them in syrup and then eat them. That always works.” I added jovially. I then turned my gaze to the sun princess. “So what’s on your agenda for today, Celly?”

The mentioned alicorn sighed softly and answered, “I must oversee the production of antivirus and vaccines for Trottingham.”

I raised my eyebrow. “Twi said that this kind of thing happens regularly. Wouldn’t you have already had medication on standby for this thing?”

Celestia shook her head with a frown. “This is a new strain, and while no fatalities have been reported, ponies have little to no resistance to it.”

I placed a hoof on my chin in thought for a moment before growling under my breath. “Ah shit...”

“Language, Frost.” Rainbow Dash warned.

I looked up and nodded apologetically. “Sorry.” I then looked to the three alicorns with a frown. “Trottingham was where I was treated for my wounds during my time in the Forsaken Forest. One of the things I noticed from the doctor there was how lax he was with bodily fluid safety procedures. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember smelling any alcohol in there.”

“What are you trying to say?” Dash asked worriedly.

I sighed again and leaned back in my chair. “It’s likely that the flu running around there came from me.” I looked to Celestia, whose eyes had widened in shock. “Celly, I have to go with you. If I’m right, your medical team is going to need cultures of my blood. Let it simply be said that there's a lot more dangerous things in my bloodstream than just Influenza.”

Luna looked up after finishing her plate and asked, “Why are you not ill then?”

I focused my gaze gravely with the night princess. “Because my immune system is very strong, even by human standards, and just because common human illnesses don’t affect me doesn't mean I’m not still a carrier.” I then stood and motioned to the door. “Come on, we have to go right now. I’m guessing that with how different our bodies are that most of the illnesses are incompatible, since none of you are sick, but I don’t want to take any chances. I’d rather not be the cause of a pandemic in Equestria.”

“The natural magic within all ponies should protect them somewhat, but I agree, it would be smart to ‘cover all bases’, as you would say.” Celestia answered.

I nodded in assent before departing with the solar princess.

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

I sighed as Frost left before looking to Luna. “So, just you and me for today then, I guess.”

“What of Twilight?” she asked curiously.

I shrugged. “She was talking about studying something or other. You know how she is.” I then jerked my head toward the front door with a smile. “Anyway, you and me haven’t really hung out that much since the war started, so I figured that unless you have something in particular that you have to do, we could have a ‘Luna and Dash’ day. What do you think?”

Luna’s face scrunched up a bit as she thought. “Well...I must attend night court tonight, but no, there is nothing else I am obligated to do. What did you have in mind?”

I shrugged again. “I don’t know. Let’s start out with a relaxing flight over Ponyville and see where that takes us.”

“Relaxing for you or relaxing for me?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

I chuckled a bit and answered, “For you. I’m not going to just race off or anything, because I know you can’t keep up.”

The night princess grinned. “Is that what you think?”

I smirked with confidence. “Best Young Flier here, remember?”

Luna’s eyes narrowed as she smirked as well. “Very well...I propose a race. To the Everfree Forest, twice around the Apple lands, ten times around your cloud abode, and then meet back here. Last one to arrive must publicly admit defeat to the entire town in the main square.”

My smirk just grew at her challenge, and I nodded. “ You've got a deal, Luna.”

“Rules:” she began sternly, “no magic and no interfering with the other in any way. Also, touching the ground other than the finish results in disqualification.”

I nodded and crouched with my wings spread. “Sounds good. Ready?”

“Set?” she added.

“GO!” we both shouted...and we shot into the sky.

It was at that point that I realized I may have underestimated Luna...a lot.

We weren't even two seconds into the race yet, and already she was six or seven body-lengths ahead of me, so I began to beat my wings furiously in an effort to catch up. Inch by inch, I began to gain on her, and even though the wind was stinging my eyes, I could see enough to know that in just a few more seconds I would overtake her. She may have had me beat as far as dead-stop acceleration, but I was still the fastest thing in the air.

Or so I thought.

I had reached the limit that the air resistance would allow, and so I recognized the cone of energy as it started to gather in front of me, and I knew that with just another second or two...


A loud crack of what sounded like close thunder was heard, and a huge ripple of what looked like the night sky tore through the air around us...and Luna was no longer beside me. Instead, she was leaps and bounds ahead of me, so much so that I knew if I didn’t break the barrier soon, this was going to be a very one-sided race. Even as I thought this though, I couldn't help but smile. To think that of all ponies, Luna would be the greatest challenge I’d had yet...it was awesome.

I flapped my wings like crazy until I also broke through the barrier, and though Luna was also supersonic, I was again gaining on her. Faster than I thought we would, the two of us arrived at the Ponyville/Everfree border, and while Luna reverted to subsonic speeds to make a tight turn, I opted for a much wider turn, but still kept my speed. I was at this point way ahead of her, but I wasn’t going to give her any leeway. With her at least, I knew I couldn't afford to...she was too fast.

As we approached Applejack’s house I again turned in a wide arc, luckily just wide enough to be on the outside edge of the property. On my second pass, I could see Luna gaining, so I shot off towards my house next.

By the time I could see my cloud home, my wings and eyes were burning for rest, but I wasn't going to just hand over the win to Luna, not after the bet we made. So, in order to not mess up my house, I slowed down to subsonic speed and began to circle it, but on only my fifth pass I was startled by another sonic boom, and I tried to keep up with the night princess as she circled my home at supersonic speed...something I didn't even think was possible.

It was at that point I actually started to worry I would lose this race...to Luna no less.

Even though I rocketed out of my last turn, I could already see the dark blue alicorn landing in front of the library in the distance, so I slowed my pace and glided gently towards the finish.

As I landed I stomped my hoof in frustration. “You’re supposed to be a princess that does royal princess stuff all day. How the hay did you get that good at flying?”

The lunar princess leaned close and responded, “Who do you think won the first ever Best Flier’s competition?”

My mouth dropped open in shock of what she had just implied. “Wait, that was over two-thousand years ago...that means...”

Luna nodded with a grin. “Yes, I was not much older than you are when I won. It was Tia’s idea, actually. It was before her and I took up our mantles of rulers of the sun and moon, so communication between us and our subjects was much more open...much like it is now, in fact.”

I smiled and patted my fellow alicorn on her side. “Well I guess if anyone had to beat me, I’m glad it was you.”

Luna then smirked and said, “Do not think you’re getting out of our bet by flattering me, Rainbow Dash.”

I groaned and the two of us took flight towards the center of town.

Perspective change ‒ Lyra

“Lyra...Lyra, wake up girl.”

I opened my eyes slowly, hissing a bit at the bright light streaming in a window from across the room. It was a room I was intimately familiar with, having spent quite a few mornings waking up in it after partying. I rubbed my eyes a bit with my hoof and pushed myself up on my hind end, freeing my bedmate from her duties as a soft and warm pillow.

I looked to the white unicorn with a smile. “Hey Vi. What time is it?”

“Almost 11:00. Last night was crazy, huh?” she stated with a grin.

I giggled a bit as I shook out my mane and tail. “You’re telling me. That poor colt was hitting on you all night. He must have bought you at least ten drinks.”

She shrugged. “It’s not like it’s a secret that I’m with Frost, so if the guy wants to sink his bits into a fruitless endeavor, that just means free drinks for me.”

“You’re evil.” I commented with a smirk.

Vinyl shrugged as she hopped off the bed. “Eh, I blame Dark for that. Anyway, you got shower first. You smell like a gym got flooded by a brewery.”

Thanks Vi.” I grumbled. I then quickly made my way to the shower and began scrubbing the night off of me.

I passed Vinyl on my way downstairs and noted that she too smelled of the night, so I silently thanked her for forcing me to wash.

For now, however, I had to prepare myself for this little surprise of Frost’s, whatever that is.

I wasn't at all sure what was going to go on. After all, he didn't say “big” surprise, but neither did he say “small” surprise...so I just did what I normally do during a situation such as this: I improvised. I grabbed my saddle bag and packed the magic lyre that Frost got me (love that thing), a few apples, a small blanket, and a rope...just because.

Just as I finished packing, Vinyl descended the far staircase with her own saddlebag already packed...and I could swear I saw a few of what looked like amp cables sticking out of it.

“You set?” she asked as she donned her shades.

I nodded with a grin. “Yeah, let’s get going so we can arrive early. Celestia only knows what Frost has planned...although knowing him, she probably doesn't know either.” Vinyl chuckled a bit before following me out of the large manor.

Perspective change ‒ Frostbreaker

I grimaced a bit with every step, feeling as the swollen wounds on my arms screamed at me. “Have I ever told you that I hate needles? Well if I haven’t, I’m telling you now...I hate needles. They’re so sharp, and pointy, and needle-y...”

“Come now, Frost...it can’t have been as bad as you’re making it out to be.” Celestia commented with a smile. “Besides, it’s for a good cause, remember? The protection of ponies everywhere from you.”

I rolled my eyes with a growl. “This was not how I wanted to find out about connections between the human and pony races.”

She then giggled and bumped her shoulder against mine. “Royal duties are rarely fun, dear Frost. As you have just found out, they can be downright painful sometimes.”

“Have either you or Luna ever had to do what I just did?” I asked defensively.

“Star’s fever, year 625.” Celestia responded with a nod.

I rolled my eyes with a small smile. “Alright, so maybe you do know what I went through. Doesn't make the pain go away though.” She quickly stole a kiss from me, and left me stumbling a bit with a dumb grin on my face. “Okay...that helped.”

The sun princess tittered lightly from behind her hoof. “You are so easily sated.”

“I can’t help it if you have magic lips, Celly.” I responded with a smirk. “I don’t want to help it. I’m perfectly fine with it, in fact.”

“Good.” she responded with a triumphant smile. “So, what is this surprise you have planned for us?”

I chuckled. “It’s a surprise that’s going to be a surprise to you, surprisingly.”

Celestia rolled her eyes as she shoulder-checked me. “Funny guy.”

I chuckled again and spread my wings to take flight. “I try. Anyway, let’s get to the park in Ponyville. You’ll understand more when you get there.”

She nodded and the two of us took flight.

When we both arrived at the park in the center of Ponyville, it was to see all the girls gathered there, including the two wolves and a rather nervous-looking white rabbit.

I chuckled as we landed and quickly greeted everyone there, including the small fluffy guest. I then cleared my throat and spoke, “Alright, well I’m sure you’re wondering just what I have planned exactly. Well, a few things in fact. My brother knows the last one, but first, I’d like to start with something a little more suited for daytime.” I focused my magic for a few moments before releasing the spell, and we were all surrounded by a dense fog that they could see within, but not out of. “Alright, I didn’t want anypony to hear this, so this is what’s going on. Right now, we need a display of power in the town. I’ve got Ditzy taking care of it in the other cities across Equestria, but our ponies’ moods have dropped considerably. They need to know that things are wrapping up and that the military is doing all they can to wrap this up quickly and efficiently...and having their rulers do so personally will greatly help morale.” I turned to Fluttershy first. “‘Shy, we’re going to pay a visit to Ponyville General first. I want you to go and let all the patients know what we’re doing so that they won’t be scared or anything.” She nodded, so I turned next to Lyra and Vinyl. “You two know most of the younger crowd and the party crowd of Ponyville and Canterlot, so I need you all to let them know that I’ll personally be playing a show with my brother at your club in about a week.” The two mares nodded, so I turned to the rest. “The rest of you, organize the guards that are about to arrive. Tell them what we’re doing and why, and I’ll take care of the rest. We’ll do a march around the entire town, and then we’ll meet back here for speeches. Cool?” Everyone nodded, so I dissipated the fog and fluttered into the air. “Alright, you all know what you have to do. Let’s get this done for our ponies.”

After nearly three hours of doing what I’d asked and doing a march around the entire town (in full armor...damn, was it hot out), we all arrived back at the central park, with quite a large crowd of ponies following us.

When we finally organized ourselves, I was standing in front of an entire battalion of troops, along with every militarized friend of mine in full armor, with Twilight wearing a simple officer’s uniform.

The effect was staggering.

Most ponies had never even seen their princesses in armor before, and with the two sisters that had ruled them all these years dressed for war, I could already see confidence and even happiness returning to the ponies gathered. They knew now that we were going to war for them...and their own princesses were going to be putting their lives on the line for them.

I flew into the air a bit so that all could see me before amplifying my voice and saying, “Good afternoon everypony. As you all know, I am Prince Frostbreaker.” All the ponies greeted as one, and I smiled lightly as I dissipated my helmet, allowing them to see me. “As you all know, I and many of your kin have been fighting to secure a safe future for all of us. Well, I wish to let you know personally that this conflict is nearly at an end...and peace is just on the horizon.”

I watched as a young pegasus filly, who I recognized as Scootaloo, stepped forward. “But why do you and the princesses have to go, Prince Frostbreaker?”

I smiled warmly at her and replied, “It is not right that we would send our subjects into the line of fire while we sit safe and comfortable. It is not what a good friend would do...and so it is not something that a good ruler would do either.” I then smirked. “And, although I don’t like to have to bring this up, we are generally far more powerful than the average pony. With the odds we’ve been pitted against, we’ll be needed to finish this without so many more perishing.”

This seemed to sate the filly’s interest, but another mare stepped forward, one I recognized as Bon Bon, Lyra’s friend. “What about those that have already fallen? Are we just supposed to forget about them?”

I sighed and shook my head. “No...that will never be the case. We will be building a memorial to their sacrifice in Canterlot, where all can see those that fought and died for your freedom. They will never be forgotten...I swear it.”

“T’is a pity your words are for naught.” growled a voice I was very familiar with by now. I whipped my head to the right, only to see Death shimmering into existence. He quickly grabbed Twilight by the throat, but before I could move, he held a hoof up. “Ah ah ah, nothing hasty, my boy. Move, and she dies.”

I growled. “What do you-”

“Want?” he interrupted coldly. He then chuckled a deep, resounding laugh. “Well I believe you should know that after me telling you five times. I want you. I’m through playing games with you, so I’ll make this quite clear for you.” He punctuated his statement with a tightening of his grip on Twilight. “You will come with me and submit, or she dies. You will do so of your own free will, or she dies. If anyone follows me, she dies.” I was just barely containing myself, while he grinned in triumph. “Once we have arrived at our destination, I will send her home.”

“Don’t do it Frost!” shouted the lavender unicorn, only to be nearly choked as the grip was tightened again.

The cold silver eyes stared back at me, and I sighed. “Do you swear she will be unharmed and be sent home?”

He grinned, knowing he’d won...and I had to fight from grinding my teeth. “Of course. Once I have you, I have no use for her...and simply destroying her myself wouldn’t be any fun.” He then leveled his gaze with all the rest of my friends. “She can fight for her life with the rest of her friends.”

Perspective change ‒ Celestia

Of all the most cowardly, underhanded, dirty tactics.

At one point, I respected Death as a worthy enemy, one that had pushed me and my sister to our limits of stress...but now that respect was gone. There were certain understood rules that you simply did not break, but he had done so. In the place of that sick respect was a searing hatred the likes of which I’d never felt before, and I could feel Lux wishing to be free...so I just barely fought it down.

“Very well,” the avatar of death began with a smug grin, “let us be off. Your dearest Twilight Sparkle will be sent home very soon.” And with that they disappeared.

A few very tense moments followed, but oddly true to his word, Twilight appeared, unharmed save for the coughing fit she was now stricken with in an attempt to gather her breath. Without thinking, I rushed over and embraced her, checking the mare over for any injuries. Much to my relief, there were none...but the fact still remained that Death was doing something to Frost, for he had not returned. I quickly contacted our “spy” on the front lines, hoping she’d have some information for us.

“Queen Chrysalis, has anything ch-”

“Princess Celestia! Something’s happening! The entire mountain just became a glacier!”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I mean that where once there was a relatively dry mountain, there’s now just ice! What’s happening?”

“Frost is in there...Queen Chrysalis, your orders have changed. I need you to continue to keep an eye on things, but if you see Frost at all, I want you to contact me directly. I don’t care what time of day it is or what you think I may be doing...I wish to know immediately.”

“Very well, princess. You can count on me.”

I opened my eyes and looked to Luna with fear. “Luna...Queen Chrysalis reports that the entire fortress is now covered in ice, making it impenetrable to all but the most powerful spells.”

My sister nodded sadly and set about dispersing the crowd before a riot could break out.

“Celestia...what’s going on?” I heard the familiar voice of Rainbow Dash ask with worry.

I sighed and shook my head. “Nothing good, my dear. I don’t wish to jump to conclusions, but it appears that Frost is assisting Death now. The entire fortress was just covered in a thick sheet of ice.” I then looked up at the cyan mare and motioned to the guards. “Lead them back to the barracks. Our break is over...we have work to do.”

Rainbow Dash frowned and bowed her head sadly before nodding with a determined expression. “I got it. I’ll be in Canterlot training the troops. Contact me if you need me.”

I nodded and watched as she flew with an entire battalion of guards, nearly blotting out the sun with their numbers, but then turned my attention to the now crying mare in my embrace. “Twilight dear, it will be okay. We cannot let fear and sadness cloud our judgement...we must end this now. If Frost really is assisting Death, we will have a much more furious fight upon our hooves than we initially thought.”

“We will be facing the unbridled wrath of the avatar of winter.” Twilight added with a choked sob.

I nodded sadly. “Yes...it appears that is true.”

She then looked up at me in fear. “Will we have to...?”

I understood her implied question and shook my head. “Not if I have a say in it. Pardon the language, but I will be damned if I will be forced to kill the stallion I care so deeply for. As Darkflight would say, the gloves are off now...Death has vastly overstepped his bounds, and now he will contend with the full force of Equestria, Drakkhenmyst Isle, and the most dangerous of all...me.” I set my jaw and stood, gently levitating Twilight to my back. “Come...we have the destruction of Death to plan.”

“I’m with you all the way, Celestia.” Twilight offered from atop me.

I smiled and took flight towards Canterlot.

Death had taken the lives of my ponies, the peace of my kingdom, and now the stallion of my heart.

He will suffer.

Chapter 25: The Seventh Circle

Chapter 25: The Seventh Circle

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

It’s time’s like this that I almost wish we were dealing with people from Earth. Sure, the “bad” people there were dickheads, but never in my life had I thought something this bad could happen in a world this pure. It’s like the laws of nature themselves are just backwards somehow.

In fact, a lot of things had changed since Drew was taken away.

Nearly a month had passed since that day, and I was the one who stepped up to take his place as the commander. Everyone trusted me as much as him and had faith in me...so when it came right down to it, there wasn’t anyone else that could fill his shoes but me. Honestly though, it felt wrong. I knew I had to do it, because someone had to keep things organized and moving forward, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Much as I hated to admit it, I had become perfectly comfortable with my brother handling all these things, because I knew he could. He was always the calm and level-headed one between the two of us, while I was the one who could fight like no other ‒ practically speaking, he was the commander and I was the warrior, even on Earth.

Now though, I had been forced to take his place.

It was one of the rare and more recent moments in my life where I had adapted to be responsible and clear-minded. After all, the commander of the Icewing Raiders doesn’t lose his head in battle. No one trusted any other to do it but me, so where once my brother had trained the troops and kept up morale, it was now my job, in addition to forging and repairing the armor and arms of our military. It became one hell of a job for me, and honestly, I don’t think I’d ever worked that hard.

In addition to all this, I became the official go-between dragon for Drakkhenmyst Isle and Equestria, making sure political relations were strong and positive, which in honesty, wasn’t that hard. The dragonkin as a whole were simply misunderstood. Ponies had only ever seen dragons of a malicious or mischievous nature before me, so it was a great surprise to all of them to find that most of what I now referred to as “my people” were in fact very intelligent, polite, and kind. True that their pride sometimes made working with them difficult, but then again ponies could be difficult too, often allowing their prey instincts to rule them.

Gryphons as well came to feel a sort of kinship with me, and since Gilda had become such a trusted friend and advisor of mine, they were more than happy to know that a fellow predator was in charge instead of a “prissy pony”. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the way they saw ponies, even after the failed invasion from Highmount. Then again, the majority of ponies thought that Gryphons were brutish, unintelligent, and overall mean...so I guess racial stereotypes went both ways. I simply brushed it off, having become more than accustomed to such things from living on Earth.

Today was a little under a month after that day, and I was doing as I had been doing the past week or so, training all the new recruits.

I had always wondered just what would cause these ponies to say “enough is enough”...well it seemed that the loss of their prince was it. This time, they were not broken...they were angry. Our forces increased tenfold in a matter of days, and so nearly anyone and everyone that was of sergeant rank or above became a drill sergeant, training and honing the skills of all the fresh meat that had come in. Unfortunately, some we had to turn away, either because they were too young, too old, or simply were not coordinated enough to participate without being a liability. These were luckily less than 4% of what came in, meaning that along with the people of Zebrica, Cervidas, The Gryphon Kingdoms, and Drakkhenmyst Isle, we were massing an army the likes of which this world had never seen...nearly six million strong. Our humble facilities at Canterlot could no longer hold the massive (and still growing) army, so we all had moved to a field base within the Tramplevanian Alps, only about twenty miles to the west of our target. With Spike’s help and those of other gem dragons, and even a few friendly diamond dogs, we were able to quickly build an entire complex within the mountains themselves, effectively cloaking us both visually, thermally, and magically. It allowed us to be close and in direct contact with Queen Chrysalis’ spy forces, and it also gave us a great natural bunker, in case we were attacked.

Anyhow, a few trusted nobles and Shining Armor had stayed in Canterlot to keep things running smoothly, but everyone else had made their way to our forward base on the summit of a mountain the neutral Ib’xian people called the “Mountain of Eternal Bloom”. It was a fitting name in fact, because there were beautiful magical cherry blossoms that were in bloom year round, even in the dead of winter. It was considered a holy place by the non-violent Ib’xian people, but after the princesses had spoken to them about what was at stake, they willingly allowed us to use it as a base, along with their blessing to purge Terra of the darkness that had laid claim to it.

As I soared around the base and looked over the restless troops, I couldn’t help but smile warmly. Finally...we were ready to end this, and no amount of tricks from Death was going to help him this time.

After making one last pass, I landed atop the summit to see my personal team of shock troops ‒ a specialized group that was designed to disrupt the enemy with powerful and agile attacks, or utterly destroy them with sheer magical power. My group consisted of six elite gryphon warriors, Zita (Veruuthas’ daughter), Gilda, Enigma Flare, Philomena (Celestia’s pet phoenix), Applejack, and Big Macintosh (who’d been nicknamed “Rolling Thunder” by the troops). Joining them were all four princesses, along with Twilight.

I removed my helmet with respect and sat down at the head of the war table, looking over the reports for a moment before focusing my gaze on those joined. “Alright you all, this is it...this is the moment we’ve been fighting for. We have the numbers, the skill, and the will to win this...so now all we need to do is get out there and do it.” I looked to the cyan alicorn first with a smile. “Captain Rainbow Dash, you’re going to lead the initial charge along with Captains Ditzy Doo, Moonfang, and Venn. We’re calling in a draconic airstrike first to thin their numbers and disorient them, but it’s going to take a lot out of them, so don’t expect those dragons to be much help for at least a little bit...they’ll have to rest. After I give the signal, they’ll blanket the area with fire along with Philomena here.” I patted the tall mythical bird on her chest as she sat on her master’s shoulder, and she cawed happily. “After that, I want you and your troops to flank to the west, while Ditzy will flank the east. Venn and Moonfang will lead the charge up the middle, with the rest of the troops approaching from the north of the mountain...they’re already in place.” I then looked to the two ruling princesses. “Princesses Luna and Celestia...you two and your units will establish full air superiority. You have the most elite pegasus units the world has ever seen, with the Wonderbolts themselves being in them. Your jobs will be the easiest to do, but also the most vital. We can expect to see deathdragons again as well as a hay of a lot of bone gryphons, which means that if your units don’t have the sky under control, the units on the ground will be completely vulnerable.”

Celestia nodded with a determined expression. “We’ll take care of it, commander.”

I nodded with a smile. “Good. Alright, should things get too hairy, activate your avatars and unleash hell...I mean the full force of the powers you command...we cannot afford to lose this battle, or we might be fighting this war for another five years.” I slammed my fist down on the table with a growl. “It ends here. This is the day when Death is going to see just how big of a mistake he made in attacking this world as he did.”

“What if we come across Frost?” Twilight asked nervously.

I sighed and bowed my head a bit. “You leave that to me and Spike...we’re the only ones with magic-proof armor on. Trust me, it’s not a matter of if we’ll have to face him, but when. Keep the scouts on standby, and if you spot him, send his location to me and then clear the area around him. Anything or anyone in the vicinity will likely be killed. What most of you don’t know is that even now, he’s yet to unleash his full power of the magic of ice and winter, mostly because he’s afraid of what it could do. Well...I have a feeling that with whatever’s happened to him now, that won’t be the case. Like I said, if you see him, notify me and Spike. Do not, I repeat, do not engage. Are we clear?”

“Yes sir!” affirmed all present, and I allowed myself another smile.

I nodded and stood. “Alright, you all know what you need to do. Stay in formation and watch each other’s backs. You’re all dismissed...go and prepare your troops and get them in formation. Good luck, and I’ll see you on the field.” I watched as the phoenix hopped off of Celestia and onto my shoulder, and I ran a claw through the feathers on her chest. “Are you ready for this, girl?” The phoenix trilled happily and nodded. “Good. You’ve got the best vision out of all of us, so the dragons will be following you.” I then clenched my jaw and growled, “Burn everything.” The phoenix’ bright orange eyes narrowed as she nodded and flew away to the north, going to meet the airstrike team of some two or three hundred dragons waiting among the mountains.

“What would you have us do, commander?” I heard Gilda ask from behind me.

I turned to my troops and grinned evilly. “We’re going to provide support to whoever needs it as we break through, and then we’re going to seek out and take down the field officers. Keep each other safe and do it quickly and efficiently.” I then looked to Big Mac. “You’re going to see a lot of action today, Mac. Those big hooves of yours are going to come in handy for crushing those bones. Don’t hold back...put everything you’ve got into it.” I then turned to Enigma Flare. “Enigma, you’re going to be riding on top of Gilda on our approach. We’re going to need your power to breach the mountain, but until then you need to support us with barriers so that we can make it there.”

For once, the unicorn colt’s face was serious, and he nodded. “I gotcha. Nothing’s going to get through if I have anything to say about it.”

“One more for backup couldn’t hurt.” said a voice from behind me.

I turned to see a certain lavender unicorn dressed in her dragonscale robe, looking rather determined. I raised my eyebrow and replied, “Um, Twi? Not sure that would be a great idea. I mean, you’ve yet to fight in this conflict, and I think you’d just be a liability.”

Twilight frowned and shook her head. “No offense to Enigma Flare, but you know darn well that no one can cast arcane magic stronger than I can, not even the princesses. If you want good barriers and a teleport to fall back on, you need me. Take me with you, and I guarantee all your troops will make it there alive and well.” She then looked away. “Besides...Frost needs me.” She tapped the short robe she was wearing and said, “It’s enchanted with the same wards yours are, by Trixie herself...along with a few other things.”

I considered her words carefully for a moment before sighing. “I can’t really argue with you there, and it wouldn’t be fair to tell you no. My condition is that you don’t leave my side though, clear?” She nodded, and I did as well before turning to the rest of my troops. “Alright...let’s do this. After I signal Philomena, she’ll lead the airstrike raid with the dragons. After that, we’ll do mop up with all the other units. Hopefully the initial strike will take out enough of them that we can finish establishing a perimeter quickly.” I then dropped to all fours, allowing Twilight to sit upon my back and buckle herself in. When she was secure, I nodded and took flight into the air.

I flew some few hundred feet into the air before taking a deep breath and releasing a bright white flame into the sky, which took the shape of a ball and fell slowly through the air. The next thing I noticed was Philomena screeching loudly before she came out from behind a mountain...followed by hundreds of dragons.

So it begins.

As the rest of the gathered military arrived at the A/O, we looked up to see the phoenix leading the charge ahead of the countless dragons. She then swept low to the ground over the many wandering sentries, and left fire in her wake as she swept fast at a pace that would make Rainbow Dash jealous. Followed behind her in a massive line were my kin by form, and with draconic screams of rage and war, they began to breathe massive gouts of orange-red flames upon the masses of dead, sweeping all across the battlefield, leaving it a smoldering ruin when they were gone. Just to be sure, they made another pass, and when they had retreated from the area, there was nothing left but bones, charred earth, and embers.

I then watched as a bright cyan flare flew up into the air after mine, exploding in a shimmering drizzle of sparks, signaling the beginning of the charge. I watched as a wave of soldiers of all kinds descended the hills around us from multiple angles, one large column up the middle, with two smaller groups heading to either side. From a good distance away, I saw the glowing golden figure of Celestia, and I caught eyes with her for a moment. I just nodded, and watched as she took to the air with her many troops, ready to end this once and for all. Luna took flight right behind her along with her own pegasus, dragon, and gryphon troops, which just left my group.

I turned to my troops and grinned. “Alright you all, this is what we’ve been training for! Stay close and in formation, and you will survive.” I then watched as a huge swell of dead gryphons began to claw their way through the soil in front of Moonfang and Venn’s charge, and I pointed to it. “There’s our first objective. MOVE!”

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

“Raindrop, give me fire on that hill! Nightwing, cover her!” I shouted to my troops, and the young unicorn mare began firing concentrated magical mortars at the hill we were approaching, taking out the monsters on top of it, giving us a clear line to the base of the mountain. I then looked to my right at Rock Crusher and nodded. “Alright bud, now’s the time!”

The older earth pony was known for his unusually dense hooves, along with his stupid amount of strength that, just as his name suggested, allowed him to punch straight through rock as if it were nothing. He stood up on his hind legs as we approached the cliffside and began making his way through it, opening up a pathway through the hills that would keep my unit safe from any enemy attacks.

“Looks like you could use some help!” shouted a deep gravelly voice.

I looked ahead of me to see Spike heading into the tunnel after Rock Crusher, and I just nodded. “Good timing, Spike. We need a tunnel straight through this hill to give us cover. If anything is approaching through the ground, let us know.” The gem dragon nodded with a grin and began using his sharp tunneling claws to dig into the hill, making a tunnel at a speed that was unreal.

As the tunnel was made, my company made their way inside, but somewhere during our movement, Spike stopped and held up his hand. He then pointed to his ears and then to the walls of the tunnel, so I signaled my troops to prepare for an ambush. They all went silent, listening to the subtle sound of digging within the walls, and a moment later, the dirt around us began to crumble. Unicorns readied their spells and the earth ponies braced for the attack, and a moment later, razor sharp bony claws erupted from the walls around us.

Contrary to the rest of the times we’d fought these things, Spike’s senses had let us know they were coming ahead of time, so we were all ready. The soldiers responded very quickly, blasting or crushing the bony horrors before any real damage could be done, and the ambush was destroyed before any real damage could be done. There were a few cuts and scrapes and I’d had my wing dislocated during the struggle, but Blue Cross, our unicorn field medic, quickly patched us all up, and while I was sore now, my wing was still usable.

Spike continued digging with Rock Crusher, and I turned to my company. “Alright troops, we’re about to break through. Intel says that on the other side of this hill are siege machines that could be a lot of trouble if they get up and running. Disable or destroy them...you know what to do.” I looked to Spike and he gave a thumbs-up, so I nodded and turned back to the soldiers behind me. “Alright, we’re about to breach!”

Perspective change ‒ Luna

The battle had been raging for nearly an hour now, and while Tia’s unit and my own were easily keeping control of the skies, I was still wary for any surprises. Frost had always warned me that when you least expected something to go wrong was when something usually did go wrong.

So I expected it constantly.

“Princess! Deathdragons inbound!” shouted one of my personal guards.

I sighed...I should have expected that.

I whipped my head around to look at the guard and shouted, “Advise my sister and then lead the attack. Stay above it if you can, so as to avoid its attacks. Go!” He nodded and sped off towards the glowing form of Tia in the distance, so I turned to the rest of my soldiers and amplified my voice. “Troops, we have deathdragons on the way! Prepare for contact!”

After I announced this, I watched as my company dispatched the remaining bone gryphons before forming ranks behind me, with Tia’s group to my far left. There were nearly five-hundred of us in the air, a mixture of ponies, gryphons, and dragons.

We were unprepared for what we saw next.

Breaking through the cloud front in the distance was a massive wall of deathdragons, in all their decaying horrid glory. Where we had expected there to be no more than possibly fifty (due to scout reports), there were in fact hundreds. I realized at that moment that we were in fact not prepared for this, and not even the power of Night would be able to overcome that many

“Need a hand?” shouted a deep growl of a voice from underneath me, and a moment later I beheld Darkflight arriving with Twilight Sparkle upon his back, with Gilda next to him, carrying Enigma Flare. The next moment, the rest of his small group arrived, and all showed little to no signs of injury whatsoever.

I looked to the two unicorns being carried and asked, “And how exactly do you propose to be of assistance?”

The two young unicorns looked to each other for a moment before grinning and nodding. As I watched, Enigma Flare began to glow a dull red color as a spell began to charge, and Twilight’s horn began to glow with a powerful spell as well. The sheer magical runoff from the two of them was enough to cause my hooves to tingle, but before I could ask what was happening, Enigma Flare suddenly burst into flame. The fire consuming him changed from red, to orange, and then to bright yellow. The light given off became too bright to look at, and I was forced to shield my eyes in order to keep from being blinded.

After a few moments of waiting, the light died down enough to see not Enigma Flare, but the fire elemental stallion from that first day he battled for the right to guard me. There was no Enigma Flare, there was only the pure element of fire in the shape of a tall, powerful unicorn on the back of Gilda. Oddly enough, the flames did not give off heat, nor did they burn the gryphon he was perched upon, but the show was far from over.

Twilight fired a large globular spell that moved slowly forward, and next, the fire elemental shot forth a glowing yellow runed sphere of energy towards Twilight’s spell. The moment they merged, a massive shockwave of molten energy shot in a wide arc towards the deathdragons, faster than I thought possible. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately, for us), many of the deathdragons could not avoid the shot, and were blasted into charred remnants of what they once were before falling to the ground.

I eyed the Obsidian with a look of shock before he saluted and flew away, his group following.

I turned my attention back to the remaining four or five dozen deathdragons that remained and cleared my throat. “Alright troops, the playing field has been leveled. Tear them apart!”

Perspective change ‒ Celestia

“Tear them apart!” I just barely heard my sister order before her entire company flew towards the approaching line.

I unsheathed the axes that Darkflight had made for me out of magesteel and black flames, then turned to my own troops and spoke just loud enough for them to hear me. “Destroy them all.”

As I flew towards the monsters that approached, I readied myself for the first strike by raising both axes high above my head with magic. As the first one attacked me, I dodged and swung both axes down on top of its head, which was followed by a powerful wave of golden energy that split the slimy, decaying skull in half. I followed this up by making crisscrossing cuts as I flew over its back, and as I passed the tail, I looked behind me in time to see the monster fall out of the air in multiple pieces...defeated.

I didn’t even flinch at the sight, and in disgust I spit at where the corpse was headed. I then turned my gaze to the others and allowed myself a manic grin, imagining that these were Death.

Perspective change ‒ Ditzy Doo

Rainbow Dash and I sat below at the establish perimeter, watching the mayhem caused by the princesses. The battle on the ground had gone wonderfully, with only a few casualties, and an acceptable amount of wounded.

“Remind me never to make Celestia mad...ever.” Rainbow Dash commented as we both watched the sun princess hack up yet another deathdragon.

I chuckled lightly and nodded as a medic splinted my wing and finished wrapping gauze around a large cut on my left shoulder. “Yeah...a pissed-off princess is not something I’d ever want to experience. I’m glad she’s on our side.”

“Ow! Watch it, doc!” shouted the cyan alicorn in pain. The field medic tending to her apologized before he finished suturing her wound closed, then dabbed it with alcohol and wrapped a bandage around it. As he finished, Dash looked at her tattered wings in frustration. “It’s going to take hours to get all this blood out of my feathers, and even longer to grow my primaries back.”

I chuckled darkly and nudged her. “Should have watched out for that bone gryphon instead of trying to kick down that siege catapult. It was already on fire, so it wasn’t going to be any good anyway.”

Dash rolled her eyes and nudged me back. “And you should have paid more attention to your surroundings. I mean, a tree? Seriously? You wrecked the fleshies like they were nothing...but a bucking tree takes you out. Nice.”

“Aww, don’t be so hard on her, Dashie.” commented a muck-stained Pinkie Pie. She removed the greatsword from her back before sitting down beside me with a smile. “Ditzy doesn’t know how to sneak around trees, after all. They pop up out of nowhere!”

All three of us shared a good-natured laugh before halting and just smiling for a few moments. It’s true, we were dirty, sweaty, tired, and banged-up, but we were all alive...and that’s all I could hope for.

Darkflight, Twilight, and the rest of the group then landed a few paces away as they all went about getting treated for injuries, getting food and water, and then resting after such an intense first battle. The tall dragon embraced and kissed a certain orange mare before heading over to us with a smile.

“Heya girls, how’s it going?” he asked curiously.

I shrugged and pointed to my wing. “Sore and bruised, but otherwise okay.”

The Obsidian nodded and sat down beside his second in command, Gilda. “Well good. That’s much better than dead, and that’s the best I could ask for.” He then jerked his head towards a sleeping unicorn colt and added, “After Enigma Flare gets some rest, we’re going to breach the mountain. It’s going to be a few hours though, so I would recommend getting a few winks of sleep if you can.” Pointed to another unicorn behind me, and I turned to see it casting some sort of spell on the ground. “I’ve got teams consecrating the ground in a two mile radius of the mountain, so there’s no way we’re going to be ambushed or anything, and I’ve got my people scouting the skies, in case Death tries to beat a hasty retreat.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “What if he just escapes by digging underneath the mountain and out with those bone gryphons?”

Darkflight shook his head as his claws began to slowly trace through a sleeping Gilda’s feathers. “This mountain is bedded by ferrite, which is a crystallized form of iron. It means that he can’t dig out, but we also can’t dig in. What this also means is that if I’m correct, it’s going to force us into a bottleneck when we try to enter the mountain after breaching, so instead we’re going to try and lure them out. Going in blindly is just going to get a lot of us killed, and that’s not something I want to have happen since I can avoid it.” Darkflight stopped speaking when the two princess sisters landed, and as they approached, he smiled. “Hey princesses. Get cleaned up, get some food, and then get some rest. When Enigma Flare wakes up, we’ll breach the mountain and get this over with.” As the princesses nodded and limped away, he looked back to me. “Well girls, things went very well. We only had forty casualties, and other than some minor injuries, the rest of us are going to be okay.” He then stood, waking up the sleeping gryphon in his lap. “Alright, I’m going to get some shuteye. I’ll wake the rest of you up when it’s time.” He then walked away, with Gilda following close behind.

Dash and I lay awake in the tent we shared, both just starting to come down off of the adrenaline high from the battle, but enough to sleep yet. No doubt both of us were thinking the same thing...about what it was going to be like after we woke up. For the longest time, the end of this war was some abstract thing that we all worked for, but it always seemed out of reach. Finally though, it was within grasp...and with the gods as my witness, we were going to bring peace back to Equestria.

“So what do you think’s gonna happen?” Rainbow Dash asked nervously.

I turned my head to look at the alicorn beside me with a sigh. “When that place is breached, all Tartarus is going to break loose. I’ve been thinking about it, and I have no doubt that Frost is waiting for us to do just that.”

Dash growled at this and replied, “What the hay is his problem? Why would he be helping Death?”

I shook my head with a small smile. “Dash, you and I both know he would never betray us. It’s safe to assume that whatever is going on with him, it’s taken his free will. He’s not doing this because he wants to, he’s doing it because for some reason, he’s got no choice.”

“Like a mind-control spell or something?” she asked curiously.

I shrugged. “Well Death was trying to take control of Frost before he even had his own body, remember? It wouldn’t be too far out there for him to be able to do that.”

Dash laid her head across her forehooves as she lay down on her stomach. “I hope you’re right, Ditzy.”

I shifted a bit and laid a hoof on one of Dash’s, causing her to look at me. “You married him, Dash...have a little more faith in him.”

For a moment the cyan alicorn just stared at me before she smiled. “You’re right...thanks, Ditzy.”

As sleep began to weigh down my eyelids, I smiled warmly once more. “No problem, Dash.”

Chapter 26: Roar of Ages

Chapter 26: Roar of Ages

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

“Dashie...” whispered a soft voice beside me, and even though I normally would just grumble and roll over to go back to sleep, I knew that now wasn’t the time for that, so I opened my eyes and smiled when I saw Pinkie’s bright blue eyes looking down at me.

“Heya Pinks.” I replied happily, yawning before sitting up. I rubbed my eyes with my hooves before asking, “Are we all set?”

Pinkie Pie shook her head with a smile. “Not just yet. Enigma Flare is awake now, but Frostie’s brother is still getting things ready. He wants everything to be perfect before Flare breaks the ice. Hehe...break the ice.”

I giggled and stood, nuzzling my friend affectionately. “Funny girl, Pinks.” I looked around my tent briefly before asking, “Where’s Ditzy?”

“She’s already up, making us breakfast in the commons tent. She said to tell you to suit up before you get there, to make sure we’re ready.” she replied with a smile.

I raised my eyebrow. “Ready for what? Was the perimeter breached?”

Pinkie shook her head. “No. There were a couple of attacks, but the ponies on watch fended them off just fine. No one was hurt, but Ditzy just wants to be safe.”

I turned to my custom armor and nodded. “Yeah...that’d be a good idea. Thanks for waking me up, Pinks. I’ll meet you there.”

After about twenty minutes of fitting, tightening, and adjusting, I was in full armor, headed to get some food. The many soldiers I passed on the way looked pretty much the same as I did: tired, ragged, but determined to get this done. At this I was happy, because even though we were all tired, we were all still united and ready to finish this...and that was going to be more than enough to end this bucking war.

And I was going to take personal pleasure in wiping that confident smirk right off of Death’s face.

When I finally arrived at the tent, it was to see all nine of the different commanders gathered, and I was the last to arrive to a thankfully hot and tasty-smelling meal.

Darkflight smirked at me and said, “Good to see you’re still alive, Dash. I was worried you might have died in your sleep from lack of rest.”

I rolled my eyes at his dry sense of humor. “Please, it’ll take more than sleep deprivation to take me down...a lot more.”

The Obsidian grinned and nodded. “Glad to hear it.” He then turned to the rest of the group and pointed to a large map that was in the middle of the large circular table. “Alright, so here’s the plan: Sergeant Enigma Flare is going to breach the ice shield around the mountain, and then we’re going to bombard it with artillery shots from our H.O.S. team, led by Captain Nightwing. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have already advised our undercover changeling friends to evacuate, so if all goes as is planned, there should be no friendlies inside when we breach.”

“What about Frostie?” Pinkie asked curiously. “He’ll still be inside, won’t he?”

Darkflight shook his head. “He won’t be in danger. First of all, Death has proven on quite a few occasions just how cunning he is, and after working so hard and for so long to get Drew on his ‘team’, he’s not going to let him come into harm’s way like that. In fact, I can guarantee that Death is banking on us not doing something like this because we’re afraid Drew will get hurt in the crossfire. Well, we’ll use that against him. Terra’s avatar of death might have all of you figured out, but he’s never had to deal with humans like me before. Deception and bluffing is something that humans are very good at, so I can tell a bluff when I see one. We’re going to call him on it, and then we’re going to use that overconfidence to bury him.” He then pointed to six different spots on the map. “All of you already know what to do, but I’m going to cover it again just to be sure. Ground forces under the command of Captain Dash, Captain Doo, and Colonel Spike will lock down the perimeter. Air forces under the command of Princesses Luna and Celestia will maintain full air superiority, and will collaborate with the auxiliary dragonkin for air support. Auxiliary air units under the command of Praetor Stone and Overlord Seivar will assist the evacuation of wounded from the front lines. The remaining three units under the command of Captain Venn, Major Moonfang, and myself will storm the mountain after artillery bombardment has ceased. Any questions?” No one spoke up, and I simply dug into my meal ravenously as I watched. Darkflight smiled and nodded. “Good. We move out in one hour. Get suited up and prepare your troops.”

I watched as the group broke up, leaving only Ditzy sitting next to me. She grinned and commented, “Almost done...almost done.”

I swallowed the hot roasted carrots and nodded. “Yep. Soon we can put this all behind us. Maybe then the Wonderbolts-”

Ditzy shoved me with a smirk. “Shut up, Dash.”

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

I arrived back at my camp to find that luckily everyone was already suited up, which meant that other than some quick checks, we were set to go.

This gave me some time to chill out in my tent.

As AJ and I relaxed on my cot, I just let my mind go blank as I closed my eyes to rest a bit. Even though the talk with the officers in the grub shack had gone very well, I was still stressed out. Badass or not, I was still nervous about all of this...this would be the second time I would likely have to fight my brother, with him trying to kill me. We’d had our share of disagreements in the past, as all brothers do, but this was different. I didn’t know what I would find when I found him...

I just prayed that I was right, and that he wasn’t doing this of his own free will.

However, regardless of what I found, I had to keep in mind that this fight wasn’t about me...it was about the people who lived on this planet. No matter what I found, I had to remember that this had to end. Too many had died already for my personal feelings to get in the way.

“Dark?” whispered AJ from beside me.

I looked down at the orange mare and smiled. “What’s up, sexy?”

Contrary to normal, she didn’t blush at the pet name. “Wha’s wrong?”

She always was good at seeing how I really felt...and now was no different. I sighed and replied, “Imagine that instead of Frost, it was Big Mac in there working for Death.”

AJ’s eyes looked down at my chest for a moment before looking back up at my face. “Ah reckon Ah’d be mighty sad...’n scared.”

I nodded. “And that’s exactly how I feel right now. I know that I said that there’s no way Drew would be doing this willingly...but what if I’m wrong?”

The farmpony tapped my chest with an armored hoof and shook her head. “Don’ go second-guessin’ yer brother, Dark. Y’all know he loves us all, and he’d never do somethin’ like this on his own. Ah know it, RD knows it, the princesses know it...ev’rybody knows it. Don’ doubt ‘im, sugarcube...he wouldn’t doubt you.”

I chuckled and ran my claws through AJ’s mane. “Man...what’d I do to deserve a girl like you?”

She smirked and replied, “Y’all just got real lucky, tha’s what.”

I sighed with a smile and held her closer. “I love you, AJ.”

“Ah love ya too, Dark.” she replied before leaning forward, and connecting her lips with mine. After a few minutes of kissing, caressing, and nibbling her lips with my own mouth, she pulled back with a half-lidded gaze and a seductive grin. “Ya know...we still got an hour b’fore we head out.”

I raised my eyeridge in confusion, though also in silent hope. “Are you suggesting what I think you are? Because if you’re not, I have to tell you that you really need to work on your body language and suggestive talk.” At this statement, she ran her rough tongue up the side of my neck scales, making me shiver and growl as I looked back at her. “AJ, you know that I said I’d try and keep from cursing around you, but right now you better not be fucking with me.”

She grinned and shook her head. “It’s okay, Dark...and nah, Ah ain’t pullin’ yer leg.” She then looked directly into my eyes and added, “All this time Ah made ya wait...Ah wanted ta be sure ya weren’t jus’ lookin’ fer a roll in tha hay. Ah’m sorry fer makin ya wait so long.”

“Well if we’re confessing,” I began, taking a hard swallow, “I have to say that at first, yes...that’s what I was interested in.”

She nodded, still smiling. “Ah know. Y’all changed after yer brother died.”

I nodded as I hugged her tight against me. “Yeah...I realized that I should treat those I care about better...starting with you.”

“Dark,” she started, undoing the straps of my chest armor, “Ah’ve wanted this fer a long time...Ah jus’ wanted ta be sure ya really cared.”

I helped her and removed the heavy plated armor before cupping her face in my hands. “AJ, when I told you that I’d wait for as long as it takes, I meant it.”

She nodded with a loving smile. “Ah know...and thanks. Ah’m through waitin’ though...and Ah might not get another chance.” I started to try and reassure her, but she placed a hoof on my mouth and shook her head. “Ah know what yer gonna say Dark, but Ah know yer no future-teller. No matter how this whole thing turns out, Ah won’t regret this moment...not with you...never with you.”

I smiled and unclasped my greaves, tail armor, and shoulders before letting all the pieces fall to the ground around the cot, and then quickly and efficiently helped my beautiful mare out of her own gear as well. After the both of us were undressed, AJ walked over to the flaps of the tent and zipped it closed before trotting back over to me and hopping up on my chest.

“Now...where were we?” she rhetorically asked before again running her tongue along the sensitive scales of my throat. Again, I let out a growl without meaning to, and responded by running my own tongue along her exposed throat, the forked ends dancing along her fur. This caused her to shiver and moan out, “Ah...D-Dark, th-that feels good...”

I chuckled under my breath and replaced my tongue with my mouth, leaving small little nips wherever I would go, all the while running my hands over AJ’s firm, curvy body. This elicited more moans from her, progressively getting louder as she surrendered herself to my touch, clearly having wanted this for quite some time...and truth be told, I was right there with her on that.

I then moved my hands to the one place (besides the obvious) that AJ had never let me touch: her cutie marks.

I was well aware of just how sensitive the magical emblems were, and my touch was followed by a loud moan and a curse, along with a subsequent bucking of her hips into my lower abdomen. As I continued to stroke and knead the sensitive area, I silenced her with a kiss, which only caused her to moan louder into my mouth. Her scent of arousal began to fill the area, and her pheromones just spurred me on further, and I ended up squeezing her flanks tightly with both hands.

The mare on top of me gasped and moaned again loudly as she disconnected from my mouth. She closed her eyes as her back arched and she purred, “More...Ah want more.”

I was more than happy to oblige as I rolled her over so that she was on her back underneath me, and I was towering over her. Never before had she looked so beautiful to me, and never before had I wanted her more than I did now. I began kissing down her throat and to her chest, still massaging her flanks with my hands as I did so. This in turn caused her to begin panting as she continued to moan my name in broken sentences that I wasn’t really listening to, but the sounds of me being pleaded to by such a beautiful, needy girl just made me step up my game.

I continued running my mouth down her body as I moved my hands slowly to caressing the insides of her thighs, making her squirm and squeak cutely a few times before continuing panting and moaning softly.

Finally, I arrived at my destination, and as I looked at the moist treasure between her hind legs, I could tell she was more than ready for this. I kissed just above it a few times before lowering and-


“Commander, I bring a report from...oh...” announced a voice from behind me.

I growled in frustration and flared my wings, covering AJ as I turned around angrily. “Tent flap open means come in! Tent flap closed means stay the fuck out! If you interrupted me and somebody’s not dead, I WILL END YOU! SPEAK!”

The young unicorn sergeant looked down at his clipboard before smiling sheepishly and backing out of the tent. “You know what, I can take care of this. I’ll just...um...”

“GET THE FUCK OUT!” I bellowed, orange flames shooting from my mouth. The pony used his magic to zip the tent closed before galloping away, leaving me very upset...but a hoof on my lower abdomen made me look back at AJ, who was grinning like an imp.

“Y’all aren’t gonna let a li’l thing like that stop ya, are ya?” she questioned with a coy grin.

And just like that, my frustration was gone. I pushed her down on the mattress and kissed her hungrily before pulling back and smirking. “Not a chance.”

Perspective change ‒ Spike

“GET THE FUCK OUT!” I heard a voice shout in the distance, and by the sheer volume and growl quality of it, I knew it had to be a very upset Darkflight.

Gee...I wonder why.

A few seconds later, I saw a young gray unicorn come galloping through the camp, a very frightened look on his face, followed by a smirking Rainbow Dash.

I looked at Dash and asked, “What was that all about?”

She giggled and sat down beside me. “Darkflight and AJ were interrupted.”

“Interrupted? What do you...?” I began, only to realize what she meant, and I just chuckled. “Oh...yeah, well that would do it. Call me weird if you want, but I had a feeling that’s what it was. I know that tone.”

It didn’t take the cyan princess long to connect the dots, and she smirked again. “Who did it to you?”

“Sweetie Belle.” I replied with a roll of my eyes. “I mean, Celestia bless the filly because she’s still one of my best friends, but she’s one of those fillies that don’t realize that if a door’s closed, there’s probably a reason why. Rarity installed locks on her bedroom and washroom doors the next day.”

Rainbow Dash giggled again and leaned against me, wrapping her wing around my back. “Call me dirty if you want, but I wish I could have been there to see that. I would have died laughing.”

I chuckled a bit and nodded. “I was pretty frustrated at the time, but come to think of it, it was pretty darn funny. Sweetie Belle wouldn’t make eye contact with me for the next week.” When I stopped laughing, I raised my eyeridge at my friend and asked, “Hasn’t that ever happened to you?”

Rainbow Dash nodded with a small blush. “Twice, actually. The first time was Frost walking in on me and Lyra in the shower, which I didn’t really mind.”

I nodded with a grin. “Yeah, I heard about that.”

“The other time,” she began, blushing a bit more, “was with Frost’s sister. It was weird though, because she just opened the door, saw Frost and I connected at the hips, and just said, ‘dinner’s ready,’ with a straight face before closing the door and leaving. And then, the next time I saw her later that night, she acted as if nothing happened.”

I chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, all of Frost’s family is like that. They’re all pretty open about that stuff.” I then asked, “Do you think all humans are like that?”

Dash shook her head with a smile. “Nope. Frost actually told me that most humans are pretty private about anything and everything. He’s, and I quote, ‘a freak of nature’.”

I laughed out loud and nodded. “Yeah, that explains it.”

“What do you mean?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

I smirked and replied, “Your husband’s a freak of nature.”

Dash shrugged. “Maybe, but he’s our freak of nature.” The rainbow-maned alicorn then sighed as she leaned her head against my shoulder. “I hope he’s alright, Spike.”

I wrapped my arm under Rainbow Dash’s wing and pulled her closer as I leaned my head against hers. “The guy came back from being dead Dash. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

She was silent for a moment before nodding happily. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sure we just need to knock some sense into him and he’ll be fine.”

“Exactly.” I confirmed strongly. “We’re going to kick Death’s flank and put this whole thing to rest once and for all...and then we can build our home back up and make it stronger, so that something like this doesn’t catch us by surprise again.”

Rainbow Dash leaned more heavily on me as she nuzzled into my neck. “Rarity’s a lucky girl, Spike...you’re an awesome guy. Not as awesome of Frost, but you’re up there.”

I smirked and patted her side gently. “I try.”

Perspective change ‒ Princess Celestia

The time for the final attack was nearing, and so I took it upon myself to be sure that our allies were ready. After all, I was well aware that none of them had any obligation to be here, and so I felt it was needed to personally let them know how much their assistance was appreciated...and those left to see were the dragonkin of Drakkhenmyst Isle.

As I floated to the mountains that harbored our powerful friends from the extreme northwest, I smiled at the sight of my old bronze friend gathered among the many dragon warlords.

I landed beside the large Bronze and bowed my head in respect before standing and looking into his eyes. “Hello, Tilak. I am so happy to have you here.”

The elder Bronze chuckled before waving his claw dismissively. “My old friend is in need of aid against an enemy that wishes to destroy all we hold dear. It is not only a pleasure, but a privilege to be here, Celestia.”

I smiled at the veteran warrior and nodded. “And it is an honor to see you on the field of battle again, my friend. Are your people prepared for the final advance?”

Tilak craned his long neck to look out over the mountains, seeing all of his kin getting restless. He then turned back to me and nodded. “They’re getting rather anxious to bathe this enemy in flame again. Worry not, we are beside you the entire way.” I then noticed him turning to mountain in the distance and nodding, clearly at one of his comrades that only his sharp sight could see. He then looked back to me and said, “Celestia, there is someone I would like you to meet.” I watched as a large silver dragon approached, his scales covered in dragon tribal tattoos and war paint. Tilak motioned to the slightly smaller drake and stated, “Celestia, this is Antares. Antares, this is Princess Celestia of Equestria.”

I bowed my head once again in respect and replied with, “Greetings, Antares. It is a pleasure.”

The Silver simply stared at me for a moment before smiling and responding in a strong feminine voice, “You know, dad used to talk about you a lot before he died.”

It took me a moment to understand the significance of of this meeting and what she said, and when I had, I nearly fainted.

Tilak nodded with a smile. “Yes...this is Antares, daughter of the late Veroxzhar.”

It was then that I noticed piercings in the fins along the side of her head, where her ears would be...and I recognized a certain gold band that brought tears to my eyes. The female must have realized what I was staring at, because she brushed her head fin lightly, causing the jewelry to jingle. “Dad left it to me in his will. He said it was his most precious possession...and he wanted the daughter that reminded him so much of you to have it.” Antares then smiled and, “I can see why now.” She pointed to me with a smile as she motioned with her other arm to the mountains that surrounded us. “I’m as important to my people as you are to yours, though I am not royalty. Still, like you, I choose to fight for and with my people instead of hiding behind walls. It is what any decent person would do...and I can see now why he loved you so much.”

Her words broke my heart...but in the best way possible.

I fell forward onto my face and wept at the flood of emotions that overcame me. Regret over the lost love of Veroxzhar, respect and pride from the words of praise spoken to me by his daughter, and fear and sadness over the state of the war, the situation with Frost, and fear for my ponies.

I was nearly startled right out of my skin when I felt two large arms pick me up into the air, and I was then held against the chest of a silver-scaled body. I looked up at the face above mine and beheld a very gentle expression. One of understanding and respect, tempered from a common person in our lives that taught us so much. After a few moments of a comfortable embrace, she released me and stated, “The kin of Drakkhenmyst will always be friends to you, Celestia. You have proven that you are worthy of our respect and honor...just as you have done for your own people. No matter the enemy, we will stand beside you as brothers and sisters in arms.”

Her words made the future of Terra look so much brighter, and my confidence soared as I turned towards the icy mountain that we were preparing to breach. “Today, with the help of your people and so many others, this ends. Today, our greatest enemy yet will find that we will never give in, we will never surrender, and we will never forget these crimes. Today, Terra is unleashed.”

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

The soldiers were gathered, the armor and arms readied, and my mood was at an all-time high.

We were ready to end this.

I watched from a distance as a small platoon of troops followed Enigma Flare as he drew a large circle of magical fire around the base of the mountain, which stayed lit as if it were slow-burn napalm. Gilda then took it upon herself to carry him to the summit of the icy mountain, where she dropped him and then quickly flew away. The massive force that was gathered around the mountain allowed for a distance of nearly a mile away from the circle that was drawn, so as to avoid the heat from the blast, but we still hid behind hills, mountains, or anything else we could think of...just to be safe.

Even from such a distance, I could spot as Enigma Flare’s body erupted into flame, changing him into his “true” form...a fiery elemental. The skies began to take on an orangish tinge as opposed to its normal blue, and I watched as the fiery aura around the young colt burned even brighter and larger, becoming a raging inferno. He shot a small beam of magic directly into the sky, followed by what looked like a small floating ring of fire. The ring grew and grew until it was a large shadow within the sky, and then suddenly it appeared as if a portal to hell itself opened.

Fire...lots of fire.

The ring in the air and the one on the ground connected with a massive cylinder of orange fire, and even from the distance we were at, I could feel the heat...and even began to sweat a bit as the temperature of the air rose probably fifteen degrees. The thing most ominous about this all was there was no sound to accompany all of this, and when it was over, all that was left was a normal mountain that was glowing red-hot. The heat began to die down, as did the glowing of the mountain, so Gilda quickly swooped in and picked the collapsed unicorn colt up, flying him to safety.

I was still in awe over the sheer destructive power that a single unicorn just unleashed, but had to focus for the battle. I turned to Nightwing and nodded, at which he nodded in return before shouting, “ALL GUNS READY!” I saw six railgun specialist unicorns stand, aiming their weapons at the mountain. “CHARGE!” As Nightwing said this, a faint hum filled the air as the team charged their powerful magic cannons, and a small orb of light began to build on the front of the cannons. “PREPARE FOR RELEASE!” Six large stallions, including Big Mac, braced against the unicorns, to keep the kickback from knocking them down. And then...


A deafening roar cracked through the landscape as the six of the most powerful weapons ever made in this world fired their destructive energies directly at the mountain, and when it hit, an entire face of the stone behemoth fell away, revealing...

“Oh shit...” I muttered. I then raised Yamato high in the air and shouted, “ALL FORCES, PREPARE FOR CONTACT!”

Chapter 27: Shattered Ice

Chapter 27: Shattered Ice

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

For some reason, what was happening reminded me of my childhood.

I remember when I was four or five, I once stepped on an anthill of fire ants, and had to be taken to the hospital because of the dozens of bites I received from them. What I found was similar between now and then, however, was the fact that as soon as the H.O.S. team broke down the mountain face, the enemies inside reacted the same way as the ants did. For a few moments there was silence except for the sound of falling rock and boulders...but then they swarmed.

Thousands of monsters poured out of the breach we had made, and I could only watch in horror as they began to approach the front line. I quickly righted myself though, and pressed the armor around my throat with my thumb, activating the voice enchantment that Trixie had placed on it. The magic flowed into my vocal chords and greatly amplified my voice.

With a deep growl of a voice, I shouted, “ALL FORCES, REPEL THESE BEASTS!”

With my order, the front lines that included Ditzy and Dash’s forces fell upon the approaching tide, while Luna and Celestia took control of the air again. They all tore into the creatures that were lumbering, flying, or crawling towards us, and cut them up and down without mercy.

As this happened, I motioned to Venn and Moonfang’s groups to follow me, and we began to descend the hills to the battlefield, taking out whatever enemies were in our way. The two wolves had no problem in ripping apart anything in their path, and their trained troops were more than capable of backing them up.

We were caught unawares, but things were going alright.

Nearly an hour later, the initial rush had been cleared out, and we had laid siege against the mountain, establishing a “dead-zone” between the troops and the mountain itself while we tended to wounded and prepared for the next push. I met up again with all the officers for status reports, and was pleased to find that our planning had paid off, and we didn’t actually lose anyone in the advance, though we did have quite a few wounded.

“Commander Darkflight!” shouted a young pegasus stallion, who I recognized as Keeneye, a highly-trained scout officer from Vaporia.

I nodded to the red-coated stallion. “Report, sergeant.”

“We’ve spotted Prince Frostbreaker.” he stated gravely.

My eyes widened, and I frowned. “And are there casualties?”

He shook his head. “None, sir. As per your orders, none have approached him. He seems to be waiting for something, but he is guarding the entrance to the mountain. He hasn’t moved since we spotted him, and made no move to advance on us.”

“Consider us lucky then, because he’d wipe out an entire unit faster than you could blink.” I replied with a grimace. I then looked to Spike and nodded, at which point he made his way over to me. “Spike, we found him. It’s time to go to work.”

The lavender gem dragon nodded with narrowed eyes. “Let’s get this done, Dark.”

I turned my gaze to Rainbow Dash and gestured to the perimeter line. “They’re under your command now, Dash. Don’t approach us under any circumstances, and keep everyone else out of the way.”

The cyan alicorn looked really worried, but nodded slowly. “I will, Dark. Stay safe.”

“Commander, there is one more thing you should know...someone you need to see before you leave.” Keeneye notified. I nodded and followed him to the medic tent about a half-mile away, and was taken aback by the sheer number of injured that were here. The scout nodded sadly. “This is just one of fifty tents...so imagine how many wounded we have. Nonetheless, I brought you here to meet personally with somepony...he was asking specifically for you.”

We moved through the many cots that were set up for the injured until we came upon a solid black pegasus with green eyes.


He was greatly injured, and the sight almost made me start to tear up. He was missing his left wing, and one of his sides was covered in a large bloody bandage, from shoulder to cutie mark. But lastly was the fact he was missing his left hind leg...all that remained was a bloody stump.

I took a deep shaky breath and kneeled next to his bed, causing one of his emerald-green eyes to look up at me, and he smiled. “Hey commander. Sorry you gotta see me like this, but well, this is war after all.”

I looked over him briefly before swallowing hard and shaking my head. “Nightwing...I’m so sorry this happened.”

The proud pegasus still smiled and just shook his head. “It’s alright, commander...I’ll be with my brother soon.” My eyes widened at his comment, but he just shrugged. “Something about one of my arteries being nicked and they can’t stop it, blah, blah, blah.”

I had to take a deep, shaky breath to keep from letting out a very undignified sob. “Still...I’m so sorry all of this happened. You...none of you should have had to go through this.”

The black pony shrugged softly as he whispered, “We can’t control where life takes us, only what we do on the way.” His eyes sparkled as he thought for a moment. “And I have to say, I think I did pretty darn good.”

“You did the best, Nightwing.” I assured strongly. “You lost Brightwing so long ago, and still you fought for your home with a determination I’ve seen in few others. You’re an inspiration to us all.” I sighed sadly as a tear dropped down my face. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you, man...I really mean that.”

He chuckled weakly as his foreleg touched my shoulder. “I know. Celestia knows you need at least somepony who knows what they’re doing.”

Again I had to take another breath, as the sadness building in me started to make me nauseous. “Nightwing...we’re going to finish this once and for all. I’m not going to let what you gave for us be in vain.”

He nodded slowly as the monitor next to him began to beep loudly, and I looked up to see the heart rate monitor showed 70bpm, and it was slowly dropping. “Don’t worry about me, commander...I’ll be alright now. My story’s almost over here, but you can make sure that the ponies that are still alive and the foals that will be born can live in a world free from shit like this. Your story is going to be filled with moments like these, where you have to watch a pony like me pass on...but that doesn’t mean you give up.” Again he placed a hoof on my shoulder, though it was trembling now. “You better not give up on them...especially after all this. We’ve all worked so hard and lost too much for you to not come out of this better off.” He then weakly jerked his head to a saddlebag next to me, and I reached inside and pulled out a letter. He whispered, “That’s to my mom. I want you to give it to her for me, okay?”

More tears slid down my scaled cheeks as I nodded with a sniffle, folding the envelope and placing it in my belt pouch. “Sure thing, bud.” I then grabbed his hoof and squeezed tightly. “We’ll never forget about you, Nightwing...any of you. You and all the others will be remembered forever.”

The pegasus’ eyes began to droop a bit as he nodded. “I know. You take care of yourself, commander...and thanks for the chance to do some real good in the world.”

I nearly choked on a sob that rose in my throat, but didn’t allow myself to break in front of him...he deserved more than that. As the monitor began to beep slower and slower until a long sustained whine was all there was.

A medic unicorn looked up at the monitor sadly before moving next to the bed and turning off the different pieces of equipment. He then levitated a white sheet and placed it over Nightwing with a sad sigh before looking up at the clock. “Time of death, 16:27.” The unicorn looked up at me sadly. “I’m sorry commander, but we need to move him to the burial yard. We need the bed.”

I shook my head. “No...he’s getting a dragon warrior’s burial. I’ll take him.” And without waiting for a response, I gently picked up the fallen soldier and carried him out of the tent with me.

Around twenty minutes later, me, Applejack, the princesses, Twilight, Veruuthas, and Ditzy were all gathered out in an open field to the south, near our base camp in the mountain.

I had struggled to keep my composure the entire time, but as the body burned with red, yellow, blue, white, and green fire, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. As AJ and Celestia held me, I cried, heavily and without restraint. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I could hear Veruuthas chanting in an ancient dragon tongue, wishing Nightwing’s soul a pleasant journey to the afterlife, but I couldn’t process it right now. Having to watch Nightwing pass away brought back the memory of my grandmother so many years ago, who I had never really allowed myself to mourn. Like Nightwing, I was by her side as she slipped away, and so it was like an avalanche of pure anguish that tore through me, and I became a sobbing heap of tears.

Nightwing was a good friend, and an excellent soldier. I hadn’t been lying to him when I said I couldn’t have done any of this without him. Many times when I was feeling hopeless or depressed, he would reassure me and give me strength. He was one of the ponies who stood by my side as I mourned the loss of Drew...

And now he was gone.

Determination flooded me as the tears stopped, and I reached down on the ground and clasped my helmet on my head before strapping it down and lowering my visor. I then stood and looked to the many gathered there before nodding firmly. “Alright, we can’t put this off any longer. All of you keep the troops in high spirits and keep clear of our A/O. Once the area is clear and the threat is neutralized, we’ll prepare to move in on the mountain.”

Applejack stopped me before I could walk away, and planted a kiss on me, long and strong. After she broke away she smiled sadly and nodded. “Be safe, Dark. Ah love ya.”

I nodded as well with a smile of determination. “I love you too, AJ. Keep your friends safe, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.” With that last piece said, I flew away towards the mountain.

I landed with a loud thud in front of a napping Spike, startling him awake and making him flare his razor-sharp claws in defense, but once he saw it was me, he relaxed and stood up straight. “Are you ready, Dark?”

I shrugged as I looked to the icy-armored form of my brother, standing a few hundred yards away. “About as ready as I’m going to be. Stay on the move, Spike. Just because he can’t hurt us with magic doesn’t mean his ice can’s still do damage. He can still spear us with it and trip us up with it, so stay mobile and keep your eyes open. Use your blue fire to get that ice off of him and try and knock his ass out.”

My fellow dragon nodded before adjusting his green armor, making sure it was snug. “Alright, I’m ready when you are.”

The two of us calmly walked towards my brother, and when we had arrived some hundred feet away, I stopped, with Spike flanking me. I cleared my throat and asked, “What the fuck are you doing, man? Why are you fighting against us?”

The helmet he was wearing completely covered his face, so I couldn’t see him react at all, but neither did he speak. The only sound I heard was as the ground started to rumble, and suddenly huge crystal formations of razor-sharp ice shot out of the ground all around us, nearly skewering both me and Spike. The crystals covered an area the size of four football fields, and the entire area was encased in a dome of clear ice as well...meaning we were trapped and our movement was restricted.

“I got this.” growled Spike, and he set about breathing a blue flame over the crystals, causing them to melt...but this only lasted a few seconds before they reformed, more jagged than before, and further reducing the amount of space we had to move.

I placed my hand on the gem dragon’s shoulder and shook my head. “It’s pretty clear that’s not going to work, so stay close and keep your eyes and ears open.” Spike nodded and followed me as I started to carefully make my way through the sparkling ice field, my head swiveling all around in an attempt to find Drew.

For a tense twenty or so minutes, Spike and I carefully made our way through the frozen deathtrap, until I heard the crunch of ice from beside me. On instinct, I slashed Yamato horizontally to the left, cutting away the crystals and revealing our quarry, who then rushed me and knocked me down. I caught an ice lance in my hand just as it prepared to plunge into my chest, at which point Spike breathed blue fire over the icy stallion. He roared in pain and flew away before creating a blizzard around us, reducing our visibility to little more than a few feet in front of us. Save for the howling winds, all was quiet around us, and I started to feel even more nervous with my vision being impaired.

“This game of cat-and-mouse is really starting to piss me off.” I grumbled.

“I have an idea.” Spike said quickly. “But I need you to stay away from me while I do it, because I don’t want to fry you.”

I raised an eyebrow and asked, “What the hell are you using, red flames?”

He smirked. “In part. Have you tried combining different color fires yet?”

I shrugged. “I didn’t want to mess with it and blow myself up or something.”

The dragon just took a deep breath and blew a violet fire into the air, which immediately dropped to the ground. He picked it up and threw it into the air above us, then followed with a red flame, which I commonly call the “radiant flame” because of its ability to burn for a long time without any additional fuel and generate a lot of heat in the process.

What happened when the two different colors met, though, I’ll never understand.

When the red flame met the violet, the red flame burst into a blanket of fire that floated in the air above us...and then didn’t move. It burned, suspended in the air, neither rising nor falling at all. As the air began to warm, the blizzard began to become simple rain instead, and as this happened, our field of vision returned...

Just in time for Spike to take an ice lance to the back.

Because of his armor and strong scales, it didn’t penetrate very far, but I knew for a fact that it hurt like a motherfucker, so I rushed towards where the lance came from and tackled Drew to the ground, breathing a hot blue flame all over him. Again, he yelled out in pain, but his armor melted away, leaving him vulnerable. I wasted no time in rolling him over and grabbing him in a rear naked choke, cutting off his air supply and hopefully causing him to eventually faint.

For a few minutes, he thrashed around, gouging my face more than a few times with his horn, but he finally did stop thrashing as he went still, unconscious.

“As if you weren’t ugly enough already.” Spike quipped with a grin.

I chuckled as I picked up the limp body over my shoulders and stood up. “Come on, we need to keep him restrained, and the princesses and Trixie made a magic dampener device that will negate all his magic...even his ice magic. Until we figure out how to give him his own mind back, it’s the only choice we’ve got.” I watched as the icy field and dome around us melted into normal water, so I secured my brother tightly with my arm before taking flight towards the camp.

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

As the icy cage fell away, I felt some stress crawl through me. I hoped that Frost had been subdued, instead of Spike and Dark getting killed, because I didn’t know how we’d deal with that.

Thankfully as I spotted a flying red and black figure in the distance, I let out a sigh of relief in knowing that they were all alive.

A few minutes later Darkflight arrived with Frost over his shoulder, and he dropped him on the ground in front of Celestia and Luna. “Get that dampener device on him right away, because I’m not sure how much longer he’s going to be out.”

Luna nodded before levitating a weird crystal out of a saddlebag behind her. She then crushed the crystal with her magic, and blew the dust over Frost. “It is done. He can do no harm until the particles are removed with an herbal remedy that we have locked safely away.” She then looked at Darkflight and added, “Bind his legs and wings.”

The Obsidian nodded before one of the troops handed him a few coils of rope, and he went about tying Frost’s legs together, and tying his wings down at his sides. With all of that done, he stepped back and removed his helmet with a sigh...and I noticed he was bleeding from a lot of stab wounds on his face. “Medic!” Nurse Redheart appeared from seemingly nowhere and set about treating his wounds while he spoke. “He acted like he didn’t even know who we were, and he almost killed both me and Spike...twice.”

“He was using a derivative of what humans call ‘black magic’.” Luna explained sadly. “For the spell to work correctly, Frost had to submit himself to it. I should be able to nullify it with Night’s help, but it will take awhile. In the meantime, you must get medical attention before we begin the charge. No doubt that with his defender neutralized, Death will be attempting to escape again, so we must lock down the entire area...nothing leaves the area.”

I nodded. “Good idea, Luna. I’ll fly around and let all the troops know. You get working on Frost, and I’ll come back when I’m done.”

Perspective change ‒ Twilight Sparkle

As Night appeared and started on dismantling the complex spell that was set upon Frost, I spent my time going over the different pieces of information available to me, namely the troop positions available for overwatch of the coming advance, as well as the number of usable units we had left. I was glad that Frost had been brought back, but at the same time I was afraid.

I mean, what if he never was normal again?

By Celestia, he tried to kill his own brother, and Spike. Gods know I loved him, but I was constantly having to remind myself that it wasn’t his fault, and that he probably didn’t even realize what he was doing. So, in order to keep myself from having a breakdown, I focused on practicing the battle-worthy spells that I knew.

As I went through the rather mindless exercises to further hone my skills, I let my thoughts wander. Many things came to mind, most often about Frost and Luna, but one thought that I found curious was our little vacation to Earth. I began to realize it sounded rather like a dream instead of a true possibility. I mean, we couldn’t very well just leave Equestria on its own, could we?

I’d have to ask Frost about it later on...he must have something in mind.

A knocking at the support pole of my tent caught my attention, and I smiled when I saw Celestia standing there with a smile on her face. “Hi Celestia.”

The princess smiled and stepped forward, nuzzling me affectionately, which made me giggle. “Good afternoon, Twilight. How are you?”

I couldn’t help but smile warmly at my mentor and friend. “I’m pretty good, all things considered. How about you?”

The princess sighed and shrugged. “The same.” She then motioned to the stack of books and paperwork upon the desk behind me. “Going over the field commands again?”

I giggled and nodded. “I can never be too prepared, you know.”

The white alicorn giggled in return and sighed happily. “I am pleased you are keeping a level head, Twilight. I can always count on you to inject logic into an otherwise illogical situation.”

I pointed at myself and commented, “Hello? Equestria’s biggest bookworm, here.”

Celestia giggled and nodded. “Very true, my dear....but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your intelligence is only overshadowed by the love of your friends...and I know that is why you are doing this.”

I felt a warmth within me at her praise, and I felt a small blush on my cheeks from the words of my mentor. “Of course...I’m doing it for all of you.”

She made her way over to me and wrapped her large white wing around me, holding me close to her. “And it is that kind of devotion that I love about you, Twilight. I hope that if I have a foal one day, it will have that same devotion to its people and its loved ones.”

I nodded as I looked out the tent flap and over the field that held our forces. “It’s that devotion that’s going to make sure we come out of this alive...it’s that devotion that’s going to make sure harmony reigns true on Terra.” As the memories of the pony we just put to rest surfaced, I felt a tear slide down my cheek. “Ponies like Nightwing had that kind of devotion...and I hope that I can live up to that and make sure him and the many others like him didn’t die in vain.”

I felt as the soft, warm wing tightened around me, and I looked up to see Celestia smiling down at me. “It is that empathy and leadership that will ensure you are a great princess one day, Twilight. I’m so proud of you.”

As the two of us looked out at the battered mountain, I leaned into the comforting embrace of my princess and smiled.

If she believed in me, I could do anything.

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

After getting my face cleaned up and bandaged, I graduated to listening to a lot of soldiers basically tell me they were glad my brother hadn’t killed me, which for some reason made me chuckle repeatedly like an idiot.

Honestly though, I was in a good mood. Night was working to restore my brother’s free will, and from what we could tell, Death had decided not to risk and escape, which meant he was likely fortifying the inside of the mountain. It was during our incursion into the natural fortress that we were going to need Spike’s digging skills, because if we followed the tunnels that were already present, there was no doubt in my mind that we’d be walking into multiple ambushes...and the loss of life would be extraordinarily high.

That was something I just couldn’t allow.

And so for the past two hours, I spent time ironing out the details in our advance. My unit was going to act as a decoy, while the main force was going to follow Spike in through the top of the mountain, straight down. With Spike’s ability to sense vibrations through the earth, he would have a much better chance at pinpointing Death’s location, thus allowing us to corner him, and if we were lucky, avoid a bloody fight. Applejack of course was upset that we were only going to have three units heading into the mountain, and that mine would be the bait, but I assured her that it was only because I didn’t trust any of the others to do it right...and I had faith that her and her brother could pull this off flawlessly.

She blushed and kept silent after that.

It had been almost six hours since I had brought back Drew, and night was fast approaching. The time of day wouldn’t matter much inside the mountain, of course, as either way we would end up having to create our own light...so I didn’t worry too much about the time.

As I sat outside of the war council tent, I noticed as an exhausted Night walked next to Celestia, and I quickly stood to address them.

“How is he?” I asked.

Night frowned a bit. “I have done all I can...the rest is up to him. I have been greatly weakened, however...I do not believe I will be much help in the final advance. I apologize.”

I shook my head and surprised the mare with a tight hug. “Don’t worry about that. Your job is taking care of Drew...I’ll handle Death.”

The black alicorn trudged away to a tent, leaving Celestia in front of me. The sun princess frowned a bit before saying, “He his fighting the rest of the magic off, right now. I am firm in the belief that he will be perfectly fine, but it is likely he will be emotionally frail for quite some time.” She then stepped closer to me with sad eyes. “He will need you, Darkflight.”

I nodded as I placed my hand on the princess’ shoulder. “And I’ll be there...we all will.”

Celestia nodded once more before trotting off after her sister.

I looked to the early evening sky and sighed, knowing that this was going to be hard for all of us. Still, knowing that my brother was eventually going to be fine put a spring in my step as I headed off to the field, ready to address the gathered soldiers for the final charge.

Chapter 28: Blooming Shadows

Chapter 28: Blooming Shadows

Perspective change ‒ Darkflight

“For the love of cake, what the hell’s taking so long?” I voiced to no one as I paced in my tent.

By now it had been almost half a day since Night originally started her work on my brother, and while I had been more than ready to just charge in and slay anything in our path, I had changed my tactics after learning the sheer complexity of the spell that had been cast on my brother. I wanted to make sure he was alright before we did anything, even if he couldn’t help us.

By what Night had told me, there was such a thing as “black magic” on this world, though it was more commonly referred to as “forbidden magic” (for obvious prejudice reasons). The spell that had been cast on Drew was a powerful version of an ancient spell, once used to transform Discord from the avatar of chaos into what he is now. It was a deeply corrupting spell that had practically laced its magical tendrils within his entire body.

This posed a problem for two reasons. First of all, if Night were to simply dispel it as she would any other spell, the shock would likely kill him...and would trap his essence in the void between planes, where none have ever returned from. Secondly, forbidden spells as a whole were labeled as they were because of the fact they demanded some sort of sacrifice to be cast, usually in the form of blood or flesh. A little fucked up when you think about it, but then again Voodoo and Santeria on Earth was pretty much the same...and from what I’d heard, even on Earth, there was some crazy shit that happened there. Curses for one, sometimes upon an entire family line.

Meanwhile, while Night was working her anti-forbidden magic magic (ugh, what a mouthful), I was stressed to the limit. At the moment, I just wanted to break something...but I had to keep calm. If not for myself, then for the soldiers that followed me. After all, whether I liked it or not, I was the commander of this offensive...so I had to keep a level head...

At least until I had my claws around Death’s throat.

“Commander?” called Gilda’s voice from behind me.

I turned and relaxed a bit, happy to have a friend near. “Hey Gilda. What’s up?”

The young gryphon saluted me and stood at attention. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”

I rolled my eyes. “You should know by now that I’m not all about military discipline between friends, Gilda. You have permanent permission to speak to me as a friend, except when I give you an order.”

The armored gryphon nodded and relaxed as she made her way over to me. “Okay, cool. So...how are you doing?”

“I’ve been better.” I muttered as I placed my palms on the table in front of me, looking over the terrain map. “My brother almost killed me...again. That’s not to even mention the fact that I’ve got the lives of over a million people in my hands.” I then looked over to the gryphon and sighed. “Gilda, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing...this isn’t me, it’s never been me. I’m not the planner, and I’m definitely not the level-headed one here. What the hell made me think that this was a good idea?”

“We’ve all been pushed into a situation that sucks, Dark.” she replied dryly. “None of us want to do this...we’re doing it because we have to. Unfortunately, you’re the only one other than your brother that has actual experience with wars. Not even the princesses have experienced a real war before this one.”

I rolled my eyes with a sigh. “Twilight has organized everything before now. Why can’t she be the supreme commander?”

“Because not everyone trusts her outside of Equestria.” she replied blandly. “You on the other hand are trusted by your own kind, my people, and even the people of Cervidas. I don’t care how capable she may be, the fact stands that a force this big isn’t going to follow someone they don’t trust.”

I cast a sidelong glance at my beaked friend and asked, “And you trust me to do this correctly? I don’t know what all of you believe, but I’ve never done this before.”

“I trust you. I trust you with my life.” she responded without hesitation.

Her statement caught me a little off-guard. I mean, having someone’s trust was one thing, but Gilda had just confirmed to me that she was ready to place her life in my hands.

I’d never felt more humbled than at that moment.

All of the sudden I was bombarded by my darker thoughts. What if it came to that? What if I would be forced to make a decision that would cause the death of Gilda...or any of my other friends? No...I couldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t let that happen. I had finally found where I really belonged in life and I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers. Gods be damned...I was going to make sure this all ended with my friends and family surviving. Maybe it was a bit selfish to play favorites over who I cared about, but that didn’t mean I was going to throw the people I didn’t know into the battle as a meat shield. No...we needed to plan.

“Gilda,” I began, straightening my posture and cracking my neck, “get Twilight and Celestia. We’ve got to go over our tactics.”

My friend nodded before quickly leaving my tent, a subtle happy gleam in her eye.

Perspective change ‒ Pinkie Pie

I had a little spring in my step as I walked next to Dashie as we made our way through the camp. I mean, I couldn’t help it. Frostie was back, and while he was still under that spell-thing that made him do those mean things, I knew that Night could handle it. She told all of us that it wasn’t his fault, and it was likely he didn’t even know what he was doing. I was sad that it had happened this way, but Rainbow Dash told me that Death wasn’t going to play fair. He was cornered, and so he was going to “fight dirty” to win.

It just meant we had to be smarter than him.

I knew it was going to be okay though, because we had Twilight and Celestia working really really hard to come up with a good plan, and probably like a million backup plans. I didn’t worry about it though. My job, as Dashie had put it, was to chop up the monsters and keep my friends safe.

Easy-peasy (I wonder who came up with that...I never liked peas).

“So how are you coping, Pinks?” my friend asked from beside me.

Maybe in the past, I might have just smiled and made a joke about it to make her laugh...but Frost told me I needed to be honest about what I felt. “I’m a little scared Dashie, but I’m also excited it’s almost over.”

“Glad I’m not the only one.” she said with a nervous grin.

For some reason, this made me a little nervous too. I didn’t see Dashie nervous very much, so when it did happen, I knew it was serious. As we kept walking through the camp, I noticed that we weren’t the only ones that felt nervous and anxious. I could tell just by looking in the eyes of the ponies that we passed that they were also nervous, and some of them were scared. I didn’t blame them, really. This was really dangerous...we could die. As much as I hated it, I had to admit to myself that this wasn’t like most other things I was scared of. I couldn’t just laugh the fears away...I had to face them.

“Do you think we’re gonna be okay, Dashie?” I asked my friend, the gravity of the situation hitting me really hard all of the sudden.

I felt as her big blue wing laid across my back, and she smiled and nodded at me as we kept walking. “Yeah...we’re going to be fine. I promise. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

She didn’t do the motions for the promise, but it didn’t matter. Her confidence seemed to bleed off into me, and it made me feel better. She really was such a great and loyal friend...

I hope I don’t have to find out what it’s like to be without her.

Perspective change ‒ Ditzy Doo

I methodically went through a checkup of all of my armor and arms, making sure it was all well-secured, maintained, and ready to go at a moment’s notice. It was necessary, but it was also something to distract me from what was going on with Frost.

Almost an hour ago, Night had ordered everypony within a half-mile radius to get away, telling us that picking apart the spell that was on Frost could be really dangerous for anyone else but her ‒ apparently being the avatar of night and darkness gave her an immunity to spells like that. All the same, she still seemed worried, though she didn’t say so...but I wasn’t stupid. I could tell she was really nervous about what she was doing. Twilight told me that it was the equivalent of trying to unravel a flag bit by bit with only my teeth, and without tearing any of the threads. The “threads” of course were Frost’s mind and soul, and referring to using only one’s teeth was a play off of the fact that Night had to do it painstakingly slow and carefully. One slip-up could kill the prince, and one second of lost concentration could curse everypony around him.

It’s probably why she had us all clear out.

Now I had always been a “better safe than sorry” type of pony, and I guess that’s why I made such a good soldier. Still, I knew that the reason Night ordered us all away was not because of that...not entirely anyway. I could see it in her eyes as we all left; she wasn’t sure if she could pull it off. I hadn’t known the black alicorn very long, but I had gotten enough of a fix on her personality to know that she had a lot of confidence in her abilities. So for her to be unsure, it must have been one hay of a spell she was trying to take apart.

I tried to keep from thinking too much about it though. Pretty soon here, we were going to be storming the mountain fortress that Death had constructed, and there was no telling what would be waiting for us on the inside. I had to stay focused, or else I’d end up making a stupid mistake and getting myself and others killed. We’d already lost Nightwing, one of my closer friends and one of the best soldiers I’d ever seen. We couldn’t afford to lose any more to careless mistakes.

Some time later, I found myself taking stock of the camp. Darkflight had given me the job of making sure everyone on the southern front was ready to go, as the time was fast approaching, and we needed to be prepared. Preparation and planning was going to ensure that this was the last front we had to fight on, and we couldn’t afford to slip up now. From what I could tell, everyone was readying themselves for the coming confrontation, clearly jittery, but still more than ready to put an end to this.

“Y’all ready, sugarcube?” sounded Applejack’s voice from behind me.

As I continued trotting, I turned my head to nod at my sister-in-arms, and smiled. “Born that way.” I then smirked as I turned my attention forward and said, “So...finally ‘did the deed’, huh?”

“Did tha deed?” she asked in confusion. I turned my head to look at her and waggled my eyebrows at her, and she blushed a bright crimson. “Ah...Ah don’t know what yer talkin’ about.”

I rolled my eyes and grinned mischievously. “Please, half of the camp heard you. I never thought anypony could sound good screaming that loud until now.”

No longer were her cheeks orange...they were scarlet.

“W-well...” she began, only to trail off as her nerves took hold and she pushed her hat down over her face, grabbing my tail in her teeth so I could lead her through the camp.

I just chuckled to myself as I continued my rounds.

Perspective change ‒ Venn

It was too quiet.

Even though I had been fighting in this gods-forsaken war for who-knows how long now, the quiet still bothered me. Not of my fellow soldiers, but the quiet of the land itself. This place used to be a vast forest of life, with thousands of living things calling it home. Now, it was a desolate wasteland. Death had taken the earth itself and twisted it, turning into something corrupted...something dirty. The stink of it was everywhere, and no matter where I went, I couldn’t get away from it.

I just hoped that when this was all over, life would return to this place one day.

More than anything though, I was worried about Drew. I still was pretty ignorant when it came to magic and how it worked, but I knew enough to know that for a spell to take control of someone’s mind, it had to be stupid-strong...especially to make someone like Drew act the way he had. He’d tried to kill Spike and his own brother, so something was really wrong.

Here’s to hoping Nighty can fix him.

“Venn, front and center!” called Ditzy’s stern voice from my right.

I quickly stood up off of the log I was sitting on and grabbed my helmet, holding it under my left arm while I saluted her with my right. “Yes ma’am!”

The grey pegasus that stood in front of me with Princess Rainbow Dash was one of the only non-royal ponies I really respected as far as fighting was concerned. By leaps and bounds I overpowered her in sheer strength, but in agility, instinct, reflexes, and intuitive insight, she outclassed me at every turn. Not that I was afraid of her, but I definitely respected her.

Thank the gods she was on my side.

Her gold eyes looked over me for a few moments before she stepped forward and pulled at my armor in a couple places, making sure it was snug and fitted well. After she did so, she grinned at me. “You and Moonfang are going to be Spike’s number one and number two as he creates another entrance from the north. It’s just going to be the three of you this time, so stay together.” I nodded in response, but then she frowned. “However, if you encounter the target, do not engage. Spike is the only one immune to magic, and we have no idea what sort of spells Death has at his disposal. It’s likely he could kill you with a single spell. Keep your wits about you, and wait for the main force to break through before springing the trap. Spike will brief you further before you three begin. Understood?”

I nodded with another salute. “Yes ma’am.”

She nodded again. “Good. Get some food and sleep. We’ll be leaving in another two hours, when night falls.”

I raised my eyebrow in confusion at this. “Umm, ma’am? Do you think that’s the best idea? Ponies can’t see all that well at night.”

She grinned confidently. “Don’t worry about it...we have it worked out.”

My skepticism didn’t really go away, but I had to trust her. Drew had taught her everything she knew about tactics, and she had a lot more experience in the military than I did. That and the fact that even I could admit that planning wasn’t my strong suit. I was the knife...she was the hand that guided me and made sure I didn’t lop off any fingers in the process.

With that in mind, I just nodded. “Understood. I’ll get some dinner before tucking in for a few hours.”

The gray pegasus smiled before nodding and trotting away, leaving me to my own devices.

I allowed myself a moment to gather my wits before clearing my throat and shouting, “Earthwardens, form up!”

From seemingly nowhere, thirty ponies and gryphons gathered to stand at attention in front of me, and I allowed myself a smile. I walked up and down the line, inspecting my troops. All of them had been chosen for a specific purpose, and were outfitted accordingly. They were all the largest and strongest of their races, and wore the heaviest armor available, turning them into a veritable battering ram to smash through enemy defenses. They were as strong and unyielding as the earth itself, hence their chosen title.

After inspecting their armor and formation, I stood in front of all of them and nodded. “Good, you all are ready. Alright, our orders are to assist Colonel Spike’s mission, which means we will be his rear guard as he breaks through the mountain. He’ll brief us further as we go, but for now, that’s our only job. Is that understood?”

“SIR, YES SIR!” answered the entire group, and I grinned again.


“Alright then,” I began, absentmindedly pacing back and forth, “go and get some rest for a few hours...we move out at 21:00. Dismissed!”

Perspective change ‒ Night

With the final arcane threads of the spell being unraveled, and buckets of sweat pouring from my forehead from the magical strain, I was glad that things were coming to an end. Much to my relief, I had been able to safely pick apart the spell that had beset Frost, and with only a few more moments...

“Thank the stars.” I groaned, sitting back and wiping a hoof across my forehead as my eyes stung from the sweat that had fallen into them. “Done, at long last.”

I knew for a fact that Celestia had been watching me intently from a distance, for as soon as I slumped on the ground upon the completion of the counterspell, I could hear her strong wingbeats approaching. It was the late afternoon as I finished, which meant that the day was cooling down, and my wonderful night was on its way, so I drank in the cool breeze that chose that perfect moment to ruffle through my mane.

A subdued thud upon the ground sounded as Celestia approached, and without turning around to look at her, I smiled gently. “It is done, Celestia.”

Her arm snaked around the back of my neck as she extended her large wing to cover me. “Thank you, Night. You’ve done very well.”

Her praise warmed my heart, as did my triumph over a spell I had never encountered before, but I was still worried. “There was so much to pick apart, Celestia. We won’t know if permanent damage was done until he wakes. Luckily that should be soon, but...” My voice trailed off as fear began to grip me.

Celestia’s hold on me tightened a bit, and I felt her body press against mine. “Winter, Frost ‒ it matters not what you wish to call him. I know you care as deeply for him as I do, and truth be told, I too am frightened. We have all been through so much together in such a short time. Lives have been lost, the face of our world has changed forever, and we are struggling to survive against Death himself.” She then pointed the wingtip of her free wing to Winter, who was still slumbering peacefully. “He is the first I’ve loved in longer than I care to think of, and the fear of losing him is a very real terror to me.” She then used her hoof to grasp my chin and turn it so that I was gazing into her soft magenta eyes. “So I know your fear, Night. I feel it every moment he’s in danger, and it eats away at me. I just want this all to be over so we can rebuild and live our lives together.”

Her mention of our “lives together” sparked a familiar sensation within me, and I once again felt a question pass through my lips before I could stop myself. “Are you positive you are fine with...me?”

Celestia rolled her eyes as she nodded. “For the possibly thousandth time Night, yes. Frost trusts you, Twilight trusts you, and Luna trusts you. Therefore, I trust you. The past is past...let it stay there. You have shown that you are not only capable, but willing to atone for your past sins in whatever way possible. You have proven yourself valuable time and time again not only as a warrior, but as a friend as well. So to put it in as simple and direct terms as possible, I will speak one more statement so that you have no chance at misunderstanding.” With that, she leaned back slightly and balanced on her haunches as she grabbed my cheeks in her hooves, looking directly into my eyes. “I would be honored to call you a herdsister, Night. I find you worthy of the love and acceptance you are given, and I forgive you for your past wrongdoings. So for the love of the gods, please forgive yourself and let us move past this.” She then released me and brought me cheek-to-cheek in a warm hug.

I had come so far in my long life. I was born of the night itself, given sentience and sapience by the High Gods of Terra, and charged with protecting the night. I had become selfish and angry by all the ponies that chose to sleep at night, rather than revel in it, and was pleased to find a kindred heart and spirit in Luna, the young princess of the night. I know not whether it was fate or destiny that brought us together, but with the pain in each other’s hearts, we chose to do something about our sadness. From there, the infamous Nightmare Moon was born, and so my mark on the world was made...as a selfish, jealous monster.

And then, he came back.

Winter summoned me back into the world from the depths of Luna’s soul and mind. I had been ready to further my previous wishes to bring about night eternal, but the sight of my beloved Winter had stilled my heart and mind. Within the first few seconds of seeing him again, it seemed that his mere presence had cleansed my mind and heart. I realized just how foolish I was acting as a whole, and before he even asked me to, I had already decided to abandon such a ridiculous ambition. Like so long ago, before Equestria had even been a nation, he saved me.

And now, after all that, I was being embraced by the very mare who I had blamed for the lack of night-revelers. I had spat words of venom at her, cursed her, tried to kill her...and now she was holding me as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She had forgiven me, and even more, cared for me as a dear friend. It was a novel, yet wonderful sensation.

And her coat is so soft.

After a few moments of simply enjoying her embrace, I mumbled, “Thank you.”

Celestia smiled against my cheek as she nuzzled me gently. “Don’t mention it.” As she continued holding me, she pointed a hoof towards the downed blue alicorn in front of us. “How long do you think he’ll be out?”

I shrugged lightly. “Not too much longer. Possibly another few minutes at the most. I tried my best to keep from damaging too much of his essence, but some of the spell tendrils were buried so deep, I had to ‘clip’ some of them and replace them with my own magic.”

“And how is that going to affect him?” she asked, worry clear in her tone.

I shook my head in a negative. “I am unsure. It may completely change some things about his personality, or he might not be affected at all. We just have to wait until he wakes.” I cleared my throat nervously. “With that being the case, I wish to apologize in advance, should something terrible have happened.”

A groan from in front of us interrupted our conversation, and Winter began to twitch a few times before pressing himself up off the ground, holding a hoof to his head. “Ugh, what happened? It feels like I died...again.”

Well, so far so good.

Celestia rushed over to him and offered her hoof to him to help him stand. “Death placed a spell on you that allowed him to control you. He used you to fight against Spike and your brother.”

Winter’s eyes shot open as he looked at Celestia worriedly. “Are they okay? Are they alive?”

She nodded with a smile. “They’re fine, Frost.”

He sighed and slumped onto his rump, his wings quivering a bit in worry. “I saw flashes of them...like I was in a dream. I saw fire, and ice. And...” He closed his eyes in deep thought for a few moments before his head shot up with a start. “I was inside the mountain. I know what the inside looks like, and I know where Death is going to be.”

I stood on shaky hooves and smiled. “Good, because our forces could use the insight.”

Seemingly just realizing I was there, Winter’s eyes shot to me and he smiled warmly. “Night.” He gently pulled away from Celestia and stumbled over to me, wrapping me into a tight embrace as he lovingly nuzzled my cheek with his own. “I heard you...you were calling to me.”

I nodded as I returned the gesture. “I wove the counterspell to set you free.” I then pulled him away and held him at arm’s length, inspecting him. “How do you feel?”

He looked directly back into my eyes, and I noticed a few splotches of what looked like black ink dropped into the whites of his eyes. “I feel fine Night, just a little tired is all.” The blackness seemed to crawl about his eyes like small shadows. It was unnerving to see my magic in such an outwardly appearance in him, but he didn’t seem to be any different, so I simply filed the observation away for now.

I finished looking him over and nodded. “Good, because the soldiers need their commander back. Your brother has done well in leading them thus far, but I can tell it wears on him. Seeing you at the helm once again will raise their spirits and give everyone the drive to end this in victory.”

His tired eyes hardened into a determined expression as he pulled away from me and stood tall and proud on his own. He nodded and motioned in the distance towards the camp. “Well then we better get going. We’ve got a war to win.”

The prince had returned to Equestria, and once again, the full force of Winter himself was turned upon Death. I could see it in his eyes: there would be no compromise, and there would be no acceptance of anything but victory for the free people of Terra. For but a moment, my vision flickered to see the beautiful female warrior Winter once was, every bit as terrible as she was loving.

Winter, my Winter, had returned at last, and Death would rue the day he chose to take up arms against us all.

Chapter 29: Back in the Action

Chapter 29: Back in the Action

It was nice to be back with my loved ones, even if it was on the field of battle. After breaking free from a gods-damned curse Death had put on me (with no small amount of help from Night), it seemed that my empathy was heightened for some reason. I felt the anxiousness and joy from my soldiers as I passed them, and felt the longing and love from Night, Twilight, and Celestia. However, I also felt the worry coming from Ditzy.

The truth was I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. Honestly, I’m surprised that Celestia and Night hadn’t been the ones to notice, but as soon as I passed by Ditzy and saw the concern in her golden eyes, I knew she knew. In her eyes was also an unspoken question that said, “We’re going to talk about this later.” I wasn’t looking forward to it.

I tried to put on a brave and determined aura for everyone, but in actuality I would have been perfectly happy wrapping myself in a warm blanket and sleeping for the next few days...or years. Maybe it was the curse itself that had been cast upon me, or maybe the stress and heartache from the war was finally catching up with me. Whatever the reason, I knew for the first time I actually had doubts about everything. I doubted whether we could pull this off alive. I doubted whether a rule under Death would be such a bad thing. Lastly, I doubted whether I was worthy to be called a prince of Equestria when I’d let so many of her people die.

Celestia and Luna both had told me numerous times that war would have come to Equestria even without me, but I doubted that as well. Perhaps if I had never been chosen to come here, Death would have not wished to conquer it. Anyway I looked at it, my migration to Terra seemed to have been the catalyst for a lot of things. I had found love again, with not one, but nine amazing people, but it had come at the cost of war upon everything that lived. Was it truly worth it then? Beyond simply trying to think as royalty, I was never one to think selfishly about things. So what would my loneliness be in the wake of everyone having lived instead?

I put the thought away for later; I had more important things to think about at the moment.

A mere hour after I woke, I found myself in the commons tent with the other commanders, Varuuthas, King Razorbeak, and my brother. We were going over the plans they had come up with on how to take the mountain and finish this once and for all. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with how well my brother had led the charge without me, but it was clear to me that he was more than happy to be able to drop back and stop giving orders to everyone. Luckily for me, every branch of the coalition had been more or less kept in line in my absence, and I could tell that morale had improved with my return.

“So that’s what we’ve got so far.” my brother finished for them all.

I looked over the plans and took in mind what they had told me, mentally going over my own knowledge on the matter from what I remembered during my enslavement. I nodded a few times as I looked over the breach point. “It’s a good plan. Where is the rest of the force going to enter though?”

My brother pointed to the map again. “Here, here, and here. We’re planning to make a trap for him, so that he can’t slip through our fingers again.”

“What about teleportation?” I asked, hoping they’d thought of something. “Teleportation is kinda made to ignore walls and such.”

“Well,” Dash began, seeming a little unsure, “we came up with one idea, but it’s risky.”

I raised my eyebrow. “How risky?”

Spike stepped forward and said, “A composite flame that disables all conventional magic.”

I nodded, taking this new information in. “All ‘conventional’ magic...what does that mean?”

“It means that anything that isn’t avatar magic or celestial magic would be disabled, and would likely cause intense magical feedback upon the user.” Twilight explained. “That means no levitation, teleportation, or telepathy, for example. Your ice spells would still work, however.”

I brought a hoof up and scratched my chin. “Hmm...that limits us to a very small number of offensive and defensive spells then, so we’ll have to get creative.” I scrunched my face up in thought as I said, “Without levitation, I’m limited to close-quarters combat, but my ice can be used as cover for our troops. What else do we have to work with?”

“Dragon’s flame isn’t a conventional spell, so we would still have that.” Varuuthas answered.

I nodded. “Well, counting me, we also have five avatars available. What about that?”

Night stepped forward to stand next to Celestia. “My spells are mainly used for misdirection and subtlety, and those that are specifically offensive are far too dangerous to use in close quarters to friendlies.”

Celestia nodded. “Lux’s spells are much the same.”

I looked to Rainbow Dash. “Spring?”

She shook her head. “She has to be outside.”

Finally I looked to Cadance, who had flown in at Celestia’s behest. “What of Life?”

She shrugged. “Life cannot battle with Death directly, as her magic would merely be cancelled out by his own. She can, however, work as a healer for our allies, bolstering their health and healing their wounds.” Cadence then looked directly at me. “She does, however, have a way to end this once he has been subdued.”

I raised an eyebrow again. “Do I want to know what it is?”

Cadence shrugged. “Probably not. Just know that it will work, but Death has to be completely subdued first. Unconscious would be best.”

I nodded. “If that’s what it takes, we’ll make it happen. Now,” I swung my gaze over to Celestia and Night, “how soon until the assault starts?”

“One hour.” Celestia answered with grim determination.

I looked around the room and nodded to everyone. “Alright, then get your troops ready. Spike, Venn, and Moonfang will breach first, and then the rest of us will go in after them.” I then pointed to the map in front of us. “Now, there is something I need to mention though. The mountain interior is much larger than you anticipated.” I brought my hoof to the mountain itself and explained, “Death has been having his bone gryphons hollow the entire thing out...I’m honestly not sure how it’s still standing, but it’s a lot roomier inside than you might think. There’s two very large hollowed-out portions of the interior that I was unable to get a good look at, but whatever is going on there is big...really big.”

My brother just stared at me. “So how do you want to handle it?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know what’s inside, so I’m not sure. We’ll just have to wing it, I guess. All I can recommend is that we stay on our toes, because there’s no telling what’s going on in there.” I then squinted my eyes at the maps and different diagrams that we had on the mountain structure. “Also, we can’t expect this to be a battle of attrition. Death knows that if he tries to hunker down, we’ll get in a lot faster than he would like, so he’s going to be trying to escape to rally his forces. That means that when we breach, we need scouts watching all angles for an escape attempt, as well as auxiliary units ready to take him down if he tries.”

Celestia nodded sternly. “My aerial guard will take care of that.”

I clopped my hooves together and smiled to the group. “Alright, then we’re set. Everyone take your positions, and wait on Spike’s signal to breach.”

With that said, the group began to break apart, so we all retreated to our respective camps across the large battlefield, and I trotted away to meet with some very special ponies.

As I trotted towards my personal tent with Night, Celestia, and Rainbow Dash, I masked my exhaustion and worry on the matter by leaning against Celestia in a very affectionate way, with Night extending her large ebony wing to cover the both of us. It allowed my mind to ease and not think about just what this exhaustion meant. I shouldn’t have been this tired, even after being broken out of a curse such as the one Death had placed upon me. Still, because of the closeness I was experiencing, I allowed myself to not think about it.

The many ponies, zebras, and gryphons we passed waved with happy smiles as we passed them, and I gave each a nod of respect as I made my way to my tent. It was nice to see their spirits raised at the mere sight of me, though I didn’t believe I deserved it. Nonetheless, it allowed me to relax a bit, content that they had the will to go on and finish this.

When the four of us finally arrived back at my tent, it was to find Ditzy waiting for me with a very stern expression on her face. The room seemed to chill more than I could have allowed for, simply by her glare alone, and I wasn’t the only one that noticed.

“Commander Ditzy, what’s wrong?” Celestia asked in confusion.

The mentioned gray pegasus sighed in annoyance and thrust her hoof at me. “I can’t be the only pony to notice something’s wrong. Look at him! He can barely stand!”

I winced at her accusation, as it was pretty much spot-on. Rainbow Dash rounded me and looked into my eyes before shaking her head with a frown. “You’re right, Ditzy.”

Night removed her wing from me and nudged me with a glare. “Talk, Winter.”

I let out a sigh as I dropped my rump to the ground, allowing my legs to rest as I looked over them. “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I didn’t want to worry any of you.”

“Well that plan failed, because we’re worried now.” Rainbow Dash spat angrily.

I nodded. “I know, and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t think of anything else at the time.”

As I hung my head, I felt as Ditzy prodded me with her hoof, asking, “So talk. What’s wrong?”

I shrugged as I kept my gaze on the ground. “I’m just so tired. I feel like if I lay down, I might not be able to get back up...ever.”

I heard a frustrated huff from where Celestia was, followed by, “Well it’s clear what we must do. You are staying here.”

I shook my head and raised it, looking over the four mares in the tent. “I can’t, and you know that. After just seeing me returned to you all, how do you think the soldiers would react to knowing I’m too weak to lead the charge?”

“Frost,” Dash began in a pleading tone, “you can’t fight like this. You’ll get yourself killed, and there’s no way to bring you back this time.”

I shook my head again, feeling a little dizzy just from the simple action. “I have to, Dash. I can rest after all this is over with, but right now everyone out there needs to see me.” I offered the four ponies a gentle smile as I added, “I promise I’ll stay off the front lines, but I have to be there. The coalition can’t fight without its leader.”

“But how-” Ditzy began, only to be interrupted as I cast a spell.

The spell flowed over me, revitalizing my body and making it feel as if I just had some really strong coffee. I stood and shook out my mane and tail before looking to the others present. “See? I’m fine.”

Night stepped forward and looked me over before snorting and shaking her head. “The spell will not last forever, Winter. And when it expires…”

I shrugged. “I’ll have to think of something else, but I can recast it after a few minutes. For now, we have a war to end and allies to rally.” I then stood rigid and narrowed my eyes. “Now, all of you report to your respective A/O’s and suit up. That’s an order!”

For a moment they all looked like they wanted to protest, but a stern glare from me got them moving. As much as it pained me to do, I had to force them to prepare. Right now, it wasn’t just about me and them. This time was reserved for all of Terra, and I couldn’t afford to let them play favorites, or a lot of people could die. Their worry and/or wrath for making them worry could come later. For now, we had a war to win.

Armor and weapons as far as the eye can see.

Zebras, ponies, gryphons, dragons, deer, and even a minotaur or two were all gathered for the final rush. The sky was brimming with thousands of flying soldiers of different races, and the ground itself shook as the ground forces marched forward. In the distance, I could hear war cries from a group on the other side of the mountain, and it just served to further bolster morale. This was the largest single army the world had ever seen, and it was united in a cause to protect life. It was awe-inspiring, to say the least.

As I stood upon a rocky outcropping, overlooking the field, I allowed myself a grin at the righteous vengeance we were about to rain down on Death. He had gone too far already, and taking Twilight prisoner to get to me was just the last straw. No longer did I think I would be able to restrain myself when it came time to subdue him.

Hopefully I wouldn’t kill him...that would be too easy.

My eye caught sight of a small group approaching the mountain through the main force, and they began climbing the rocky surface itself once they arrived.

“That’ll be Spike, Moonfang, and Venn’s group.” I mused aloud to myself.

I watched as the small group of soldiers arrived at the top of the mountain itself, and then saw chunks of rock and dirt rolling down the mountain as Spike began to dig.

I quickly checked over the different wards and spells I had placed upon myself, pleased that they were still in place and running strong. Unfortunately, I found that I only had maybe another twenty minutes before the revitalization spell would expire, which would leave me as little more than a dead-weight heap on the ground. I grit my teeth and steeled myself. ‘Well, I guess we’ll just have to end this quickly then.’

I waited patiently for a few minutes, fidgeting on my hooves, before seeing a bright spark of yellow shoot up into the sky and explode.

I cast a spell to project my voice to everyone present before shouting, “Advance!”

The ocean of steel that was the coalition surged forward at once, falling upon the mountain like a swarm of destruction. I closed my eyes and charged a teleportation spell for a few moments before picturing my brother and casting, causing the world to shift around me as I vanished in a flash.

I reappeared right beside my brother on the interior of the mountain, just in time to watch him use his sword to slice a decaying minotaur in half, from head to hoof. He then rounded on me and stopped his blade at my throat before grinning and turning away to rush into the fray again.

I took my place behind the soldiers present, and immediately began using my ice to protect them by creating walls to stop or deflect blows. The soldiers that saw this turned to give me a smile and a nod before turning back to the task at hand. I focused my efforts on unicorns, as without their magic, they seemed to be having the largest handicap to work with. The glowing gold and silver fire that was licking at my armor and exposed fur was proof of the dragonsfire that Spike had breathed throughout the whole mountain, so I did what I could to protect our soldiers.

Then, I saw one fall.

Probably not the first ‒ but the first that I had seen ‒ of many. I pushed the dark thoughts that urged me to mourn him out of mind, promising to do so when we had the time and space to do so. For now, we had slaying to do.

The next thing I saw was Venn rushing forward and grabbing the shambling dead that had downed the soldier. He then grabbed both its front legs and pulled apart, causing it to tear right down the middle. Venn grasped one of the fallen halves and proceeded to use the decaying body as a bludgeon for the bone gryphon behind him, promptly dropping it to the ground where he proceeded to dismantle it bone by bone until it fell apart.

I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye, and reacted just fast enough to put an icy barrier between myself and an attacking alpha bone gryphon, which was much larger than its common kin. Before I could stand however, it rolled me onto my back and pinned me, raising its head high and preparing to tear into me. I prepared to blast it with frost in an attempt to escape, but my retaliation was not needed. Spike appeared from the left, crashing into my attacker and throwing it off of me. He then took a deep breath and exhaled a gout of red fire upon it, leaving it to be little more than a smoldering pile of bones. Spike looked back at me and offered a curt salute before dashing off once again, eager to continue the fight.

I chuckled and rolled to my hooves, standing and continuing my support of our forces.

The outer tunnels had been cleared by our combined might in a matter of an hour, but this also meant that my spell failed halfway through. I had been little more than dead weight until I recuperated enough to recast the spell, which meant that my brother was forced to help me trudge to rally our forces for the next charge.

What awaited me was the sight of eager soldiers, clearly weary, but also ready for more. It appeared that their confidence had grown as they fought, and they began to believe that it was indeed possible to finish this today. The image allowed me to find my own second wind, enough so that when we rounded the corner to where they could all see me, I pushed off of my brother and walked in slowly on my own hooves. The eyes of my mares were upon me with worry as I entered, but they kept their distance to allow me to raise the spirits of the soldiers.

I turned to Ditzy, who was waiting nearby, and asked, “What’s the situation?”

She looked me over with a worried gaze, but saw fit to let it slide as she replied, “We’re here. This is the first of the two chambers you told us about. From what we can tell, it’s empty, but that alone has made us wary. It doesn’t make sense to have an area this big be unoccupied or trap-free.”

I looked to the stone hallway that led to the large chamber and sighed. “Well, we’ll just have to be very careful then. Our enemy knows we’re here, so it’s only a matter of time before he springs a trap. The problem is, we won’t know where it’s coming from, so we’ll just have to be ready to adapt as the situation as it unfolds.” I then turned and looked around the corridor. “Where are the rest of the troops?”

“Just like you predicted,” Celestia spoke up, “Death attempted to escape as soon as we breached. The majority of our forces are outside, keeping the area locked-down and making sure nothing and no-one gets through until we give the ‘all-clear’ signal. That means that we’re on our own, and it is unlikely any reinforcements are going to be able to help us.”

I nodded. “That’s fine, I expected this.” I took a few deep breaths before looking over the soldiers gathered and ordering, “Take a reprieve. Rest a bit, mend any armor or weapons you need to, and be prepared to move again in ten minutes.” When I finished speaking, the ponies, zebras, and gryphons gathered began to do as I said, leaving me to unceremoniously slump against the wall in an attempt to keep from falling over.

I could see from Celestia and Night’s expression that both were just barely restraining themselves from galloping over to me, but thankfully they kept themselves composed and simply trotted over before sitting next to me, subtly allowing me to lean against them as we took a break. Night busied herself with gently preening my frazzled wings as Celestia simply nuzzled me lovingly as we waited.

We were interrupted as an orange dracoknight rounded the corner, bowing his head reverently before approaching my brother.

“What’s the situation?” the Obsidian asked worriedly.

Thankfully, the slightly smaller dragon smiled as he replied, “The situation is good, sir. Losses are at a minimum, and the line is holding steady and strong. Unfortunately, we cannot spare any of our numbers at the moment.”

My brother nodded, allowing a subtle grin to cross his face as he shifted on his feet. “And what of the soldiers? How are they doing?”

The dracoknight happily replied, “Fine, sir. Morale is high and they are ready for more.”

He nodded and gestured to the tunnel. “Good. Tell them all is well in here, and we’re preparing to enter the first chamber.”

The dracoknight saluted before quickly galloping away down the tunnel.

I allowed myself to relax and closed my eyes to rest.

A frighteningly short amount of time later, I was being gently shaken awake. I opened my eyes and blearily scanned the room, seeing that all the soldiers were standing and prepared to go, leaving just me to do the same.

I stood with Celestia’s help and reactivated the revitalization spell, feeling its effects take hold. I then donned my armor and looked over the group with a smile. “Alright troops, keep your heads on a swivel. We have no idea what’s in there, so be prepared for anything.” I then sighed and narrowed my eyes. “Move out.”

As Celestia had ordered me, I stayed towards the rear of the column, but still kept wary of any ambushes that we were almost positive to be walking into. I scanned the entire dark, dank chamber, including the ceiling and every nook and cranny. From what I could tell, it actually was empty, but that just wouldn’t make sense.

I looked to the group of a few hundred soldiers and announced, “Something’s wrong. Fan out in groups of three and comb the entire chamber. I want to find out why this is here.”

My orders were immediately executed, and I made my way over to my brother as we continued inspecting the area.

“So what do you think?” I asked anxiously.

He shook his head with a huff, removing his helmet. “It doesn’t make sense. These walls are bare, and from what I can tell there’s no ambush waiting for us.” He wiped his free hand along the wall, causing a bit of loose rock to come off. “I mean, it was clearly just finished, but there aren’t even any supports up or anything.”

I squinted my eyes in scrutiny as I thought of exactly what would be the point of this area being empty, when suddenly it came to me.

“It’s a trap…” I nearly whispered.

“What?” I heard my brother ask in confusion.

I looked to him with growing panic and then turned my attention to our soldiers. “Everyone get out now! Head for the far doorway!”

My announcement caught the attention of everyone present, but unfortunately they all simply looked up at me in confusion. That was, of course, until we heard a rumbling of the earth as bits of rock began to drop off of the ceiling.

I noticed Celestia’s eyes widen before she amplified her voice and shouted, “RUN!

With the sun princess issuing such a panicked order, all of the soldiers began fleeing to the far doorway, just before boulders the size of cars began falling off of the ceiling. I watched in horror as some of our soldiers were flattened by a large slab of stone, and I realized that I detected the trap too late.

I had resigned myself to my careless mistake...but apparently, Night had other plans.

“Shadows, I call upon you!” she shouted, and the darkness itself began to writhe as if alive. Before I could say anything about it, darkness itself overtook me, and I shut my eyes in fear.

When I could see again, I realized I had been holding my breath, and gasped to fill my lungs with the lifegiving air. As I composed myself, I looked around to see that we were safe in another stone corridor, and that most of the soldiers were fine. We had only lost maybe four or five before we were saved.

I raised my eyebrow and scanned the room until I found Night tending to the head wound of one of our ponies, and I trotted over to her with a grin.

“Nice trick you pulled there, Night.” I commented happily.

Without turning around, she smiled and nodded. “The darkness has never failed to come to my aid. It was a stretch for the shadows to save all of us, but I made it happen.”

“What uh…” I began, confused beyond belief, “what happened exactly?”

She giggled softly before turning to face me. “The shadows saved us. We could not use magic, so I asked the shadows themselves to save us. They allowed us to step through the darkness itself, just before the entire chamber collapsed.”

I turned my head and looked behind me, noticing the opening at the end of the corridor was blocked by rubble. I then sighed and shook my head. “Well, nowhere to go but forward now, I guess.”

“Indeed.” Celestia replied from behind me. “No doubt that trap was meant to kill or maim us, so we should press our advantage while we have it. Death would likely not expect so many of us to survive, if any of us.”

I swung my head around towards Celestia’s voice, but frowned. “No, I don’t think so. He always has a backup plan, which is why there’s two chambers instead of one. The only advantage we have is that we know he likes to shake things up quite a bit, which means we can expect him to keep from using the same trick twice.” I turned to face the group gathered as they began to pick themselves up, and said, “I don’t know whether it’s going to be harder or easier from here on out, but what I do know is that we can’t stop now. We need to keep moving and stay alert. Let’s go, people.”

Some of the group groaned a bit, but still complied with my order as we began walking through the winding stone corridors.

An inordinate amount of time later, we found ourselves at the precipice of another large chamber, and we were far more careful this time. Heads and ears alike darted around nervously as we looked and listened for anything out of place, but oddly we found nothing noticeable as we searched the large chamber. This one was different somehow though. It felt warmer and even a bit stifling, though not because of the fact we were underground. I couldn’t quite put my hoof on it, but something was wrong.

Suddenly, a deep growl caused us all to stop in our tracks and look around.

I looked back at my brother and pleaded, “Please tell me that was you.” He shook his head before looking up, and his features told me everything I needed to know. I quickly turned and bolted to Celestia as I shouted, “Hostile on the ceiling! Prepare for battle!”

All heads in the room shot up to the ceiling, just in time to react and dodge the strike of what looked like a long, bony, club-like tail. Another growl issued forth, and all of us gathered at the far wall as something began to climb down the other side of the room from the ceiling. It was only when I saw the familiar body structure that I felt more worried than ever.

“Fuck...deathdragon.” I muttered under my breath.

My brother nodded and gulped. “Yeah, and a big one. The biggest I’ve ever seen.”

I huffed as I steeled myself for the impending battle. “Guess this is Death’s ace-in-the-hole.” I looked behind the dragon and growled a bit. “And it’s guarding our way out. Fuck me sideways…”

“Y’know, I’ve never actually see you fight in a real battle before.” my brother commented from beside me. When I looked over, it was to see him grinning in a bit of a crazy manner. “Time to see what you’ve got.”

I returned the grin as I locked my gaze on the monstrosity in front of us, its half-rotted body stinking something horrible. It glared directly back at me with soulless glowing yellow eyes, and then it lunged.

We scattered, all of us avoiding its charge as it smashed into the wall where we had been. The missed charge dazed it for a few seconds before it rounded on us and whipped its tail around, trying to bludgeon us to death. Its swings were wild, but I had no doubt in my mind that anyone caught by one of the blows would be killed by the force, so we opted to dodge until we thought of a plan.

Well, from what I could tell, these dead things didn’t get tired, so we couldn’t just wait for it to tire. Also, they didn’t feel pain, so we couldn’t use that either. With those out, I only had one usable plan of action:

“Use hit-and-run tactics! Try and aim for tendons and ligaments!” I shouted to the group.

As soon as I issued the order, the first attack happened. Celestia dashed in with her mouth holding one of her axes, and she swiped at the back of one of its front legs. Her aim was true, and there was a loud snapping sound as the dragon’s equivalent of an achilles tendon was cut, and it stumbled a bit as a result. Seeing this, the other soldiers began to rush in and do the same, dodging and weaving until their window of opportunity presented itself.

The deathdragon seemed to possess enough mental capacity to realize what was going on, as it began luring us in before swiping at us. The first time it did this, two unlucky ponies were caught by its claws, one of them losing their head in the process. I grimaced at the sight, but pushed on anyway.

“Everyone back off!” my brother shouted loudly. I looked up to see him darting from the ceiling as he took a deep breath, and we all retreated as he breathed a blazing blue flame all over the dragon.

The rotting flesh caught fire, but it was clear that no pain was felt by the monster. My brother’s attack did, however, blind our target while its face burned. This gave us a window of opportunity to attack its limbs, though we had to be careful to avoid the inferno that had overtaken the beast.

I helped as I could, using ice here and there to block a blind swipe from the deathdragon, or using patches of ice to keep its stance uneven and unstable, giving it no time to right itself.

It looked like we had the upper hand, until I noticed the deathdragon taking a deep breath.

“TO ME!” I shouted to the soldiers present, and luckily this time, they obliged without question.

Just before the monster exhaled its deadly breath onto us, I erected a massive wedge in front of us, that would hopefully divert the flow of fire away and spare us any casualties. With each second longer, I poured more of myself into the structure, thickening it so that it would hopefully withstand the blast that was to come.

All too short of a time later, the room heated up exponentially as fire was shot directly at us. I continued feeding the wedge more of my power as we all cowered behind it to keep from getting roasted. My eyes widened as I watched the edges of the wedge rapidly pinching in, reducing the amount of safe space we had. Within less than a second, the fire began to burn the fur on the outlying ponies, but thankfully for me, an undead dragon’s lung capacity was still finite. With a sputter and a hacking cough, the flames dissipated, and I slumped to the ground as the ponies, zebras, and alicorns rushed out to deal a “killing” blow to the monster, and seconds later, I heard and felt as the deathdragon fell to the ground.

My vision was blurry as I recuperated, but I saw as the soldiers fell upon the downed beast and used their weapons to break and cut wherever they thought it would do the most damage.

After only a few seconds of this, the bones moved no more, and the room erupted in a thunderous cry of victory. I smiled weakly as I pushed myself to a standing position and slowly trudged over to where my brother was standing next to the now-lifeless bones.

I grinned and patted him on the back. “Great job, man. We did it.”

He turned to gaze at me, and returned the smile. “We did indeed.” He then motioned with his head towards the now-unobstructed doorway and said, “Come on, we need to keep moving.”

I nodded and announced, “All troops, move out! Get in that tunnel before something bad happens!”

They all complied without argument, leaving me to stand alone with my brother, Night, Celestia, Spike, Moonfang, and Venn as we all looked over the fallen corpse.

“What do you think is next?” my brother asked gravely.

I shrugged, tossing my head a bit in an attempt to wake myself up a little more. “I think this might be it. We just barely got through this bout with our lives. I don’t think Death was even planning for us to make it past this point, which means we have the upper hand.” I then growled and added, “But I don’t think he’s just going to come in here to check what’s going on. He’s going to keep hiding if he can’t escape, so we’re going to have to go and get him.”

My brother pounded his fist into his palm and nodded tensely. “Good. That fucker has a lot of pain coming his way.”

I caught his eyes and offered a tired smile before motioning to the corridor our troops had disappeared into. “Come on, we need to take a few minutes to rest before this is over. I don’t want anyone screwing up because they’re too tired to stand.”

The dragon beside me nodded before the seven of us slowly made our way out of the chamber, more than ready to put an end to this gods-damned war.

Chapter 30: "It's not Goodbye."

Chapter 30: “It’s not Goodbye.”

It was quiet, but not too quiet. The only way I could truly portray the mass of soldiers gathered around me was a calm before the storm. They were subdued enough for me to know they were resting, but alert enough that I knew they were as anxious as I was. They weren’t just anxious, they were ready ‒ ready to end all this, once and for all.

Once again, I found myself resting at Night and Celestia’s sides, with my brother looking over the soldiers. I was pleased with how readily he’d taken to leading, and while it was clear he preferred not to, it was also obvious that he could do so when the occasion called for it. I would have to keep that in mind for the future.

Venn and Moonfang were speaking excitedly to one another, and while I couldn’t hear their words, their expressions spoke of excitement instead of fear. This made me smile, knowing that it was determination that drove them instead of worry. The soldiers near them also held smiles as they watched the two wolves converse, and it just further raised my spirits.

Suddenly, a loud explosion rocked the mountain, and bits of rock and dirt chipped off of the ceiling of the small chamber. I tapped my hoof on the nearby wall and allowed ice to reinforce the area so that we would hopefully not be crushed, but that still left me to question exactly what had just happened.

My answer was provided to me as the blocked passage behind us was blasted open by another explosion, and when the smoke cleared, Spike was standing with Applejack, Big Macintosh, and an entire legion of troops as reinforcement.

My brother bounded over to the fellow dragon and greeted him with a smile, asking, “What took you?”

Spike grinned and tapped the wall. “I had to find a way to get us here without the mountain collapsing. Everything outside seems to be stable enough for us to come here,” he then gestured toward the chamber he had just come from, which held the bones of the undead monstrosity we had fought, “and it seems like you guys have been busy as well. So what’s next?”

“Final chamber.” I answered loudly, making sure that all present heard me as I stood. “We just have to find Death now, and we can end this.”

“I know exactly where he is.” Spike answered smugly. He tapped his foot on the ground and said, “He’s about a hundred feet underneath us, surrounded by a small army, and he’s probably trying to figure out how he’s going to get out of this.”

Night shook her head. “A cornered beast will resort to anything it can to get away. I don’t think he would be above bringing the entire mountain down on top of us if he feels he has no other choice. I recommend we find a way to draw him out.”

I thought on Night’s prediction before nodding. “That makes sense. The only problem is if he gets outside, he can fly.” I hummed in thought to myself before looking to Celestia. “Do we have any magic dampeners at camp?”

Celestia tilted her head curiously at me. “I believe so, but how would you get it on his horn before he casts a spell?”

Spike pointed his claw at me. “The fire that I breathed to keep conventional magic from being cast is ‘sticky’. Only a white flame can remove it immediately, otherwise he’ll have to fly away. The trick will be to separate him from his forces without killing him. Cadence said she wants him alive.”

I nodded, mulling over our options. “Hmm. Well, what worries me the most is his avatar magic. We know he can raise the dead to fight for him, but what else can it do? None of us really knows. I mean, for all we know, he could have the power to instantly kill anyone he wants.”

Celestia shook her head. “No, I don’t believe so. Even for his cunning, it would make no sense to allow himself to be forced into a siege if he had that kind of power at his disposal.”

“Unless he wants to draw us in to do it all at once.” I mused darkly. Pushing the negative thoughts away, I grumbled and straightened my posture. “Either way, sitting here worrying about everything isn’t going to get this over and done with. We need to end this as soon as possible, and taking him out is the easiest way to do that. Without someone to feed them magic, the undead will cease to be. The world will once again be at peace, and we can then focus on rebuilding.” The troops that surrounded me nodded resolutely in agreement as I stood, fluttering my wings. “Alright then, let’s get ready. We move out in ten minutes. Take the wounded out of the mountain, and form ranks.” I then pointed to my brother. “Mace, you’re the fastest flier we’ve got down here. I need you to head to camp and get me one of those magic dampeners. When you get back, get in here as fast as you can and join up with the main unit. Find Dash if you can, and let her know how things are going.”

“I gotcha, Drew.” my brother replied before dashing off down the passageway, gently running his hand along Applejack’s side as he passed.

“Frost,” Night whispered into my ear, “how do you want to handle this?”

I worked my jaw for a few moments as I thought. “Normally I’d say that I was going alone, but I know you both wouldn’t be having that. So instead, it’s just going to be the three of us and Spike going in. I want to minimize our forces to keep our movement unrestricted, and three alicorns and a gem dragon should be more than enough to handle whatever he has down there. The rest of the troops are going to cover these tunnels, and everyone outside is going to keep the surface of the mountain on lockdown.”

“Most of Equestria’s royalty into the fray…” Celestia mumbled under her breath. She then shot a glance to me and asked, “What if anything should happen to us? There will be no pony to raise the sun or moon, and no pony to govern our people.”

As if a voice was telling me it was so, I knew we would be fine. I couldn’t explain how I knew, but I did. With that in mind, I shook my head with a smile. “We’ll be fine. We’ve come too far to fail, and it’s up to us to see this through.”

Night shook her head. “Winter, I don’t-”

I placed a hoof on the night guardian’s lips and smiled lovingly. “Trust me, Night. We’ll be fine.”

Her catlike cyan eyes locked onto my own, and she nodded as she pushed my hoof away. “I do trust you. Together we will end this.”

I nodded before standing, shaking off the numbness in my flanks. With a clear of the throat I announced, “Alright troops, here’s the plan: we three alicorns are going with Spike to engage the target. The rest of you are-”

“Oh HAY no!” Applejack shouted as she stomped over to me, a scowl on her face. She poked me in the chest with a hoof as she growled, “You ain’t doin’ this ‘go it alone’ nonsense. We came in here together, and we’re leavin’ together. No pony gets left behind!”

I shook my head and smiled gently at the furious farmpony. “AJ, this isn’t something the rest of you can do. We need a smaller force to be able to reduce or eliminate friendly fire, so the rest of you will just be in the way.” I then smirked. “Besides, you and my brother have to take field command and lock down these tunnels. We need somepony to cover our rear so we can focus on Death and whatever is waiting for us.”

Applejack grit her teeth and looked away, her lip quivering. “And what happens if y’all can’t do it, huh?” Her voice broke as she muttered, “It’ll be me explainin’ to yer family and tha rest of Equestria why Ah let tha four of ya go in alone.” Applejack’s eyes shot back to me as she glared. “Ya can’t ask me ta do that...ya can’t!”

I stretched my neck down to nuzzle the side of Applejack’s face as I whispered, “Which is why I’m not. Instead, I’m asking you to hold things together until we get back.”

I felt a single drop of moisture sink into the fur on my face as she sniffed and asked, “B-but what if-”

I pulled back and shook my head. “We’re coming back alive, AJ. That’s a promise.” I then pushed my forehead against hers and challenged, “Tell me I’m lying.”

For a few tense moments she held my gaze before looking away, taking a few breaths to compose herself. After doing so, Applejack backed away and nodded to me with a determined glint in her eyes. “Alright then. Seems that y’all are aimin’ ta earn a mighty special Apple family dinner.”

I nodded with a smile. “If nothing else, I can look forward to some great food after this.” I turned to the rest of the troops and shouted, “As of now, Corporal Applejack is receiving a field promotion to lieutenant for services rendered and valiance on the battlefield. All those present are now under her command, along with that of Commander Darkflight when he returns. Your orders are to establish a secure area, and let no enemies through. You are now our rear guard, and your job is to protect our flanks so we can focus on ending this. Is that understood?”

With a chorus of “YES SIR” the order was immediately implemented, which left me to prepare with Night, Celestia and Spike for the battle to come.

As the violet and green dragon sidled up beside me, he whispered, “Twi’s gonna kill you for making her worry. You know that, right?” I nodded with a chuckle, which just caused him to sigh. “Well, I’m with you all the way. You haven’t let me down yet, and I have no reason not to trust you.”

“And as always, we are by your side.” Night chimed in, taking her place beside Spike as Celestia leaned against my shoulder.

With a hopeful smile, I nodded to them before glancing once more to our troops. Sparing one last smile to them all I said, “Wish us luck. When we meet again, it’ll be in a world of peace.”

Without another word, the four of us made our way further into the mountain, toward whatever hell awaited us.

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

“I don’t like this, Ditz.” I grumbled as we wheeled in the sky above the mountain, making sure the skies were clear and under our control.

The gray pegasus by my side shook her head. “I don’t either, but we have our orders. In case that coward tries to make a run for it, we need to be ready to take him down. That’s our job, and we have to stay sharp if we want to do it right.”

I sighed and nodded. “I know, but what about-” I trailed off and narrowed my eyes as a large dark shape blasted out of the mountain, taking flight toward the main camp. “Hold on...is that Darkflight? What’s he doing outside?”

Ditzy turned her gaze toward the dragon and chewed on her cheek nervously. “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. Hold down the fort until I get back.” She didn’t wait as she began a shallow dive, speeding away to assess the situation.

I sighed to myself as I continued patrolling the air, but was glad things on the outside had calmed down. The area was finally secure, though it took quite a few lives to do so. Some of the ponies in Ditzy’s unit had fallen to our enemy, as had a few of mine. While I wanted to just collapse and mourn them, I knew I couldn’t afford to at the moment. Death could be waiting for a moment of weakness in us, so I had to remain strong.

“Chin up, Rainbow Dash.” said an unfamiliar voice from beside me.

I looked to my left to see a two-toned blue and green pegasus flying beside me, her orange mane whipping about in the breeze. I raised my eyebrow and asked, “And who are you, soldier?” The mare’s eyes flashed green for just a second, and I rolled my eyes. “Hi, Queen Chrysalis. Something to report?”

She shook her head and smiled. “Not at the moment. Can’t a comrade simply say hello to a friend?”

I snorted in annoyance. “We’re hardly friends, Queen.” I shot a glare her way and added, “We’re allies, but that doesn’t make me forget about how you tried to take over my home.”

“We all make mistakes, Rainbow Dash.” she shot back, her smile melding into a half-frown. “Mine was to attempt to take what I needed instead of asking for it. It wasn’t the first mistake I have made in such a long lifetime, and it certainly won’t be the last; your husband trusts me, so why can’t you?”

I hardened my glare and replied, “I do trust you from a military standpoint. You have proven your worth and trustworthiness on the battlefield, so I know without a doubt that you will work toward our mutual benefit here, but I can’t trust you personally. If you want my trust beyond that of an ally, you’ll have to earn it.”

The queen’s usual playful demeanor fell away, leaving a very determined expression. With a firm nod she said, “I understand. If it allows my people to live in peace with your own, I will earn your trust and perhaps friendship.” She gently tapped me on the shoulder with a hoof and added, “Perhaps with time, you will come to understand that anything can be condoned if it allows your people to live. Farewell for now, Rainbow Dash. May your eyes be sharp, and your mind sharper.”

I cocked my head to the side as the disguised changeling queen flew away, curious as to her strange farewell. Instead of thinking too long on it, I decided to just chalk it up to one of the strange things changelings said and did, along with so many other things. I mean, there was no getting around it: changelings were weird. That being said though, they had proven more than useful on quite a few occasions. If I was honest with myself, I knew we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we had without their help.

That didn’t mean I would want a changeling staying the night at my place anytime soon, though.

A few seconds later, I caught sight of Ditzy speeding back toward me, her bright armor glinting in the sun as she raced through the crowded sky. Seeing as how she was one of the only pegasi that could keep up with me, it only took her a few seconds to arrive at my spot in the air.

She panted for a few moments before shouting, “Frost ordered the rest of the troops to hold position in the caves! He’s going in with only Night, Celestia, and Spike!”

While I was happy he wasn’t going after Death alone, I couldn’t help but be confused as to why he chose to keep the rest of the soldiers out of the fight. After all, more ponies meant more power, right?

“Look beyond the obvious, Rainbow Dash.” Spring’s voice spoke from within.

I squinted as I thought and voiced, “Less ponies means less of a target. Spike’s immune to magic, and the might of an alert alicorn can resist all but the most potent of spells.” I sighed and looked to Ditzy with a slump of defeat. “I hate to admit it, but they’re our best chance. Any more ponies in there will just restrict their abilities, and bring the body count higher.”

Ditzy looked like she wanted to argue for a moment, but then dipped her head and groaned. “I don’t like this, Dash. Why does Frost always have to do stuff like this?”

I smiled gently, looking to the mountain underneath us. “Because that’s who he is. He’ll take a hundred cuts to his own body before he willingly allows a death he could have prevented. He can be a little reckless sometimes, but that’s what Celestia is there for. They’ll take good care of him, and when this is all over, you can yell at him.” I then hardened my gaze and said, “But for now, we need to make sure that this area is secure. It’s no use to Frost and the others to battle it out inside if the outside is in chaos. Fly to the Cervidas and minotaur camps to the north and get a set of sitreps; I’ll do the same for our other allies. Meet me back in the main command tent in twenty minutes and we’ll compare notes.”

Ditzy nodded once before speeding away, and with a grin I turned my own heading toward the dragon camp and took off.

Perspective change ‒ Twilight Sparkle

A few hours had passed since Frost had entered the mountain, and while Luna’s moon was shining its bright light upon the battlefield, things still looked dark and dreary. Regardless of what I had been told or where I was stationed on the field, Frost’s plan had me worried.

I once again glanced down to the stack of documents at my hooves, and furrowed my brow. Upon the first page was a large bold title that read “Operation Blizzard”, and the rest outlined exactly what that entailed. The plan was fairly straightforward for all the units involved, but Rainbow Dash, Celestia and I were singled out on the last page.

Under our names was a simple message that read, “Combined multi-tiered barrier; be ready.”

With such an ominous message, I predicted that the time to execute the orders given would be rather obvious, but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine when that would be or how I would know. All I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to mess things up, or else a lot of ponies could die. Frost had confidence in my abilities, but I wasn’t so sure if I did. Regardless, I promised myself that I would be ready.

I pushed myself away from the table and rubbed my eyes, yawning as I did so. While I was glad I wasn’t on the battlefield with the rest of the girls, administrative work in the military was mind-numbingly boring. It didn’t help that I hadn’t slept in almost an entire day, and the nervous jitters of my stomach had prevented me from keeping down any decent amount of food.

I hopped out of the suddenly-uncomfortable chair I sat in and headed toward the entrance of the tent, stepping through the tent flap and taking a deep breath of the cool night air. Here, so far away from the action, it almost seemed like a regular night in Equestria. However, in order to shatter that illusion, all I had to do was look over the cliff that was a few feet away, and see the roiling sea of soldiers on the battlefield. Their armor glinted in the moonlight, and they moved as one massive beast of war. In the sky, thousands of gryphons, dragons, and pegasi wheeled in the air, ready to defend their ground-bound comrades if needed. It was a symphony of war, and it was as beautiful as it was terrifying.

My observations were stopped when a flare shot into the air, bursting into five cyan sparks.

“Oh no...five sparks.” I mumbled to myself.

It was Rainbow Dash’s job to use her flare spell to advise me when something was happening, and we had developed a scale from one to five sparks that detailed the urgency and importance of her flare. Five sparks was either very good or very, very bad. Without another thought on the matter, I levitated my scaled robe and shimmied into it before lighting my horn and teleporting to the base of the mountain.

I reappeared with an electric pop at Equestria’s FOB (Forward Operating Base), and began to scan the skies for the cyan princess.

“Twilight!” Rainbow Dash called from the sky, and I spotted her diving toward me, flaring her wings at the last second to kill her speed and safely land. After gulping down a few breaths of air she said, “Frost is going in with Night, Celestia and Spike to lure Death out. We need to get ready!”

I sputtered. “W-wait, what? What happened to the rest of the troops in the mountain’s interior?”

Rainbow Dash shook her head, leading me to the front of the camp. “They’re fine; Frost just has them securing the inside of the mountain while he and the other three go in to handle the big baddie.” She then snorted in frustration. “I don’t like this though.”

I sighed and glared at her from the corner of my eye. “What’s to like? The stallion we love, the sun, the moon, and my younger brother are all going in to battle it out with Death himself, alone. I downright despise the situation, but we still have jobs to do. Don’t fall apart on me, Rainbow.”

Contrary to my expectations, Rainbow Dash didn’t retort with a snappy remark. Instead, she took a few deep breaths and nodded. “I’m okay. I’m just…”

“Scared.” I finished for her with a nod. “I am too, but we need to be strong for our friends. If we do our jobs right, this can be over, today. Then, we can finally focus on fixing Equestria and helping its ponies; we can make our home safe and happy again.”

Rainbow Dash sighed wistfully, looking up at the sky. “I’m not sure I even remember what a normal life is like, Twi. How do we go back after all this?”

“Carefully, and with the love and support of our friends and family. From what I understand, that’s why Frost planned for us to go to Earth together.” I answered brightly. “We need to get away from all this after we finish this thing and clean up, so a vacation is in order.”

I noticed Rainbow Dash biting her lip nervously. “I’m still not sure how that’s gonna work out, Twi. I mean, Celestia and Luna still need to raise the moon and sun, so how can we all go? That’s besides the fact that someone needs to rule for the six months we’re supposedly going to be gone.”

I shook my head with a small smile. “Already taken care of. Celestia’s cabinet is filled with ponies she trusts, and most don’t know this, but they’re actually the ones that do the day-to-day ruling of the kingdom. Also, Celestia and Luna are directly connected to the sphere of reality that is Terra. What this means is that they can raise and lower the sun and moon no matter where they are, regardless of distance or even unconsciousness. It’s a subconscious action on their parts; they only make a big deal out of it when they’re trying to impress somepony.”

Rainbow Dash nodded slowly. “Okay, so that takes care of two of the issues. Still, it’s six months, and right after this whole thing is over. Won’t ponies be a little upset if the Elements of Harmony, the Equestrian royals and three of the military’s greatest weapons decide to all leave at the same time?”

Again I shook my head, my smile growing. “We’re not leaving right away, Rainbow. We’re going to spend time getting Equestria and our allies up and running again, which is going to take a few months at least. Then, Celestia and Luna will be writing new policies and laws that will allow them to leave Equestria in the hooves of the royal cabinet; I’ve met them all, and they can be trusted to do their job fairly.” I then turned my head and smirked at Rainbow Dash. “And in case you haven’t heard, word of our little planned vacation has leaked out somehow.”

Rainbow Dash nearly tripped over her legs as she stumbled, and coughed nervously. “A-and?”

I smiled warmly to comfort my friend. “They’re actually all for it. They think that by taking active roles in this conflict ‒ with most of us fighting side by side with the ‘common’ soldiers ‒ we’ve earned a reprieve. Honestly, with how much steam the idea’s gaining throughout the civilians of Equestria, I think they’d be offended if we didn’t go. You have to remember that even though you’re trying your best to blend in with the ponies, you’re still royalty by marriage, and are looked up to by every pony around you.” Rainbow Dash’s face twisted into a frown. “They feel that if their prince and princesses love them so much as to fight with them ‒ on the front line, no less ‒ on the field of battle, those royals deserve to enjoy themselves when it’s all over.”

Rainbow Dash grumbled with uncertainty. “And what about the ‘regular’ ponies, hm? Don’t they deserve to enjoy themselves?”

I nodded. “They will. This is something you’ll have to get used to being a princess, Rainbow: ponies will want to please you and make you smile as much as possible, whatever the cost. By being happy, you make them happy. Beyond that, even though you don’t think about it, it’s a phenomenal honor for a pony to be able to fight side-by-side with the rulers of the realm.” I then shrugged. “Ponies know you’ll outlive them, so they want to do whatever they can to make you happy while they’re here. Eternity has its perks, or so Celestia would say.”

Rainbow Dash sighed through her nose, shaking her head. “I’m not used to being ‘Princess Rainbow Dash’. This just feels weird.”

Leaned in close to her as I whispered conspiratorially, “Celestia’s told me even she feels weird about it sometimes. She doesn’t particularly like it when ponies bow to her in public, but puts on a smile anyway.” I then bumped my flank against her hind leg and smiled. “So you’re not the only one, Rainbow.”

After a moment of surprised silence, Rainbow Dash smiled warmly and tapped my side with her wing. “That actually does make me feel better, Twi. Thanks. Now,” she began, pointing a wingtip toward the towering mountain in front of us, “how are we gonna do this?”

I stared at her blankly for a minute before gasping and smiling sheepishly. “O-oh, right. Well, first of all to get the best magic resonation while we’re casting, we need to be within a mile of each other. Frost told me that he taught you some rudimentary barrier spells.”

Rainbow Dash nodded firmly. “Yeah. He taught me a strong one, a weak one, and one made specifically to protect against magic.”

I felt my jaw drop open in surprised. “Wow. That’s...actually just about it, really. Can you expand and shrink your barriers yet?” She shook her head. “Alright, we’ll leave that for later, but for now, I’ll teach you the proper way to build a lasting barrier.” I cleared my throat and assumed what Spike referred to as my “lecture tone”. “When it comes to barrier spells, they are as complex as they are old, seeing as how they were some of the first spells to be created. Most ponies think that to form a barrier that will stand up to repeated hits, you need to pour as much magic into the spell as you can. This is untrue, and has caused hundreds of misinformed ponies to lose their lives.” As Rainbow Dash waited patiently for me to teach, I took a seat in front of her. “The best barriers are malleable, meaning that they can bend and move easily without breaking. For example:” I began, charging a powerful spell in my horn, “bring up the strongest barrier you can.”

Rainbow Dash nodded, and I watched as her horn began to glow with a bright cyan aura. A moment later, a rigid cyan barrier formed around her, and she nodded to me. I fired the spell off at the barrier, instantly shattering it with a sound like breaking glass. Her face was one of surprise before realizing this was what was supposed to happen, so she waited for me to explain.

“Barriers like the one you just erected are good for a quick defense.” I lectured. “It’s quick to deploy and doesn’t cost you much magic to make, but it’s fragile. One good hit will take it out, and then you’re defenseless. Don’t make the mistake of simply trying to overpower your opponent by pouring massive amounts of magic into your barrier; on the off-chance that they overpower it and burst your barrier, you’ll be left defenseless and weakened because of all the magic you put into it.” Rainbow Dash nodded, waiting for me to continue. “As you’ve likely found, weaker barriers tend to be more flexible, and bend with an impact until they pop like a balloon.”

Rainbow Dash nodded as her mind began to work out where I was headed. “So I should just use a whole bunch of weak barriers woven together, right?”

I nodded with a smile. “Very good, Rainbow Dash. That’s exactly what you do, and at your current expertise, you could easily bring a dozen of them into form in only a few seconds. Give it a try.”

Rainbow Dash nodded and lit her horn with magic once more. Slowly, a faint outline of a cyan barrier began to form around her, rounded instead of polygonal. As I watched, the opacity of the barrier began to increase until Rainbow Dash’s mane could only be discerned as shades of blue. She then opened her eyes and nodded at me, and I fired the same spell as before at her barrier. Unlike previously, the barrier wobbled a bit in a way that reminded me of a soap bubble disturbed by a breeze, but it held firm. Rainbow Dash smirked triumphantly at me before dropping the barrier and trotting over to me.

“How was that?” she asked with a wide grin.

I nodded. “Very good. As you can see it takes a little longer to create a barrier that way, but it increases its durability. While more durable, you have to take into account the amount of time it will take you to weave the layered spells together. The more you practice, the more natural the spell will become, and the faster you’ll be able to cast it.” I then closed my eyes and released a breath through my nose. “Now, the reason I taught you to create a barrier that way is because of Frost’s plan. You, me and Celestia will need to combine our magic and create a massive barrier with thousands of layers, all within a few seconds.”

Rainbow Dash’s mouth dropped open. “Th-thousands?”

I nodded gravely. “Thousands. It’s why we need all three of us, as Night is going to be too tired and Frost is going to be holding Death’s attention.” I sat down next to my friend and she followed shortly after, while we both gazed blankly over the dreary battlefield. “I have faith in you Rainbow, and so does Frost; you can do this. He wouldn’t have included you in the plan if he didn’t think you could do it.” It was odd seeing Rainbow Dash unsure of herself, but I had to remind myself that our recent experiences had changed us all by varying degrees. Her arrogance had bled away to simple confidence, and her longing for adventure had been traded for a strong desire for peace and quiet. I could understand the latter sentiment, as could the rest of Equestria, I’d wager.

Rainbow Dash nodded firmly after a few seconds, straightening her posture. “I won’t let you down, Twi.”

I nodded with a supportive smile. “I know you won’t. So,” I continued, snapping back to my explanation, “when we have the primary barrier ready, I’ll cast a nullifying sheet over the entire thing to keep whatever magic is cast inside from getting out. That will prevent Death from teleporting away, even after Spike’s flame dies off.”

Rainbow Dash nodded dumbly, looking rather impressed. “Wow. Frost really has thought of everything.”

I nodded. “Don’t give him all the credit though. This idea was created by both him and Celestia; it’s clear both of them want this to end today, and I have to agree with that sentiment. No more foul-ups and no more oversights: we’re finishing this.”

I felt a wing wrap around me, and looked to see Rainbow Dash smiling at me. “You know, you turned out a lot cooler than I thought you would, Twilight.” I smiled in response and nodded gratefully as we sat together. “You’re still an egghead though.”

We burst into a fit of giggles, and for a few moments, we were no longer soldiers in the midst of a deadly war; we were best friends, enjoying each other’s company as we forgot about the troubles around us.

For the first time in a long time, I truly believed we would be alright.

Chapter 31: Shadows of the Titans

Chapter 31: Shadows of the Titans

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS, BITCH!” I roared as I grew an icy wall from the floor up, flattening and crushing the bones of a group of enemies that was preparing to attack Celly and Night. Both alicorns threw questioning glances my way, but I simply shrugged and answered, “I’ll explain later; I’m in the zone! BOOM, HEADSHOT!” With my latter statement, I brought an icy spike out of the wall, impaling four fleshy dead, with the last in line having the icy construct erupt from its skull.

What waited for us as we approached Death was a series of winding passages, with multiple chambers in which groups of Death’s forces were waiting for us in ambush. I nearly lost my head when the first group surprised us, but the four of us quickly counterattacked and fended the attackers off. From then on, we looked to Spike to warn us of any enemies lying in wait. With us making such good time and our wounds minor, we kept moving as our spirits rose.

For the first time since this whole war had begun, I was actually having fun.

I sensed hostile presences behind me, and on instinct kicked out my legs in a mighty buck. In such close quarters, my attackers couldn’t get away, and with a satisfying crunch, I looked back to see the skulls of two bone gryphons shatter into pieces.

Celestia and Luna were doing much the same as I was, though each were limited to physical attacks, as their magic could not be used. Still, as I watched the beauty that was Night fight, I couldn’t help but be in awe at the finesse and skill she showed. It almost seemed as if she danced around the field ‒ a deadly goddess of destruction.

Spike, on the other hand, forsook all subtlety and fell upon any near him like an unstoppable juggernaut. Wreathed in fire of swirling red and blue, he delivered punches that shattered bone upon impact, and breathed black flames that caused any caught within them to drop to the ground as Death’s magic was sucked out of them, halting their attacks. From there, he used his fists to ground the lifeless bones into dust.

With our optimism at an all time high, we battled valiantly against the horde of bones and rotting flesh.

Suddenly, with a collapse of my knees, the spell I had cast on myself expired, and crushing exhaustion overtook me. Through sheer force of will I kept my eyes open, and watched as Night rushed to my aid and slew the remaining enemies that surrounded me.

With a final crunch from Spike’s fist crushing a skull into powder, the ambush had been thwarted.

“Winter,” Night called from beside me, “will you be alright?”

I took deep, panting breaths as I struggled to calm my exhausted body, and only managed a shaky nod. “Y-yeah, I’ll be alright.” I then calmed my breathing and pried my eyes open, frowning. “I’m far more tired than I was any time previous though. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay conscious the next time the spell wears off.”

Celestia sat back on her haunches and lifted her helmet off her head, taking a deep shuddering breath before looking to me. “So what do we do?”

I closed my eyes for a moment to rest them, and spent a moment thinking over the options. After running through multiple ideas in my head, I answered, “If the two of you lend me some magic when I cast the spell, I can overcharge it and increase the duration to maybe thirty minutes.”

“But we can’t cast spells to give you any, Frost.” Celestia stated in confusion.

I chuckled and shook my head. “The spell I cast on myself isn’t a normal spell; it’s avatar magic. I’m just using my own internal magic to supercharge my body for a short time. Obviously, the more magic involved when I activate the ability, the longer it should last.” I then sighed and fully slumped my body upon the ground, unable to move any more. “I need a few minutes to rest until I can use it again, so we need to sit tight for a bit. Spike, crush all the bones around us to be sure we’re safe. Celly and Night, please keep me company for a little bit while I rest.”

Without another word, the two alicorns huddled around me and extended their wings over me, concealing me in a warm, feathery barrier. Within seconds, I was asleep.

I was awakened what felt like only seconds later by a gentle nudging at my face, and I opened my eyes to see Celestia’s bright magenta eyes looking down at me with concern. Wordlessly, I nodded and pushed myself to stand with her help. From across the small chamber, Spike and Night made their way over to me, and offered me additional help to stand.

After a moment of allowing me to get my bearings, Celestia spoke, her voice laced with concern. “Frost...you don’t have to do this.”

I grunted and nodded solemnly. “Yeah, I do. I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to any of you because I wasn’t there.”

Neither of the alicorns spoke, but offered me reluctant nods. Night then asked, “Alright, what do we do, Winter?”

I took a few deep breaths in through my nose before pointing to my horn. “Touch your horns to my own, and look into my eyes.” Each alicorn did as they were instructed, and I felt their power rush up against my own, as if they were a raging river, and I was the dam. With a bit of focus, I lowered the barrier that separated us, and felt raw power flow into me from both of them.

The infusion of the two alicorns’ magic felt like liquid fire within me, and I grit my teeth to keep from screaming in pain. Once I felt I could handle no more, I activated the latent ability once again, feeling renewed vigor flow throughout my entire body and mind.

As we finished, the alicorns of night and day slumped a little, clearly feeling drained.

Night licked her dry lips and asked, “How do you feel?”

I nodded gratefully. “Much better. The amount of power I’m feeling within me is at least double in strength, maybe more. I should have maybe twenty, twenty-five minutes.”

Celestia straightened herself and glanced toward the far corridor, which we were about to head through. “What if it takes longer than that?”

I shrugged. “I have one other idea, but I don’t know if it will help: I’ll use my Element. I’ve used hardly any magic power since I can’t cast regular spells, so it would give me almost an hour of fighting time. The only problem is, I don’t know if it will counteract my exhaustion.”

Spike shook his head wearily, running his claw over his brow to wipe away dirt. “Well, it’s all we’ve got. I’ll open up a passageway to the outside once we’re there, and hopefully Death will follow me to try and escape while pretending to pursue me. Once he’s outside, Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Celestia will cast the barrier, which will give you a safe place to end this.”

I nodded again, a small smile gracing my face. “Home stretch here, people. If we do this right, we’re done.” I then yawned and shook my head to wake myself up. “I tell you, I’m going to sleep for a year straight after this is over.”

Spike chuckled, slapping my shoulder. “You and me both, Frost.”

I rolled my shoulders and stretched my back as I stood, then motioned to the passage ahead of us. “Alright, let’s go.”

As we traversed the winding passage leading down, I was thankful that Spike’s combined fire had the secondary effect of still providing light like normal fire did. Not that I was afraid of the dark or anything, but my cool confidence would have been shattered if I face-planted into a wall.

Night, Celestia and Spike followed me from behind, the latter keeping a sharp eye and ear out for any burrowing enemies that might be trying to ambush us.

Finally, after a few minutes of travel, Spike reached forward and stopped me with a glare, pointing to the bend in front of us. I raised my eyebrow in a silent question, and he nodded grimly. I released a relieved sigh that our quarry was just around the corner, and nodded to my three companions before rushing into the final chamber.

There was no army waiting for us; only a single black alicorn stallion with an unreadable expression on his face. We took a quick look around the area before Spike nodded to me and began digging up, securing our exit passage. To our dismay though, Death did not follow. In fact, he didn’t seem the least bit worried at all.

Something was definitely up.

“It took all of you long enough to arrive.” he snarked, the corners of his mouth rising in a disturbingly normal-looking smile. “After everything you have all overcome together, I thought a few remaining gryphons wouldn’t have put up much of a resistance to the four of you.”

I mentally growled at him. ‘What’s his angle?’

Forgoing pretense, Celestia stepped forward a single hoofstep and glared at him. “It is over, Death. Your army is defeated and scattered, your magic nullified, and you have no allies to rely on. Surrender, and we may show you mercy.”

Death was silent for a moment before smiling toothily. “Ah, I see you are laboring under the delusion that I am going to ‒ what’s the term? ‒ come quietly. Well, I am sorry to inform you that I have no intention of coming quietly at all, dear princess.”

With a shifting of earth around us, a great rumble tore through the mountain, and I watched as bones of the recently slain dead began to shoot through the ceiling and walls as they began to assemble around Death. Turning to dust, they began to swirl around the avatar of death, and I struggled to back away, lest I be swallowed by the storm of death in front of us.

“We have to get out of here!” Night screeched over the roar of the mountain and the howling of wind.

“I agree!” Celestia added in a panicked tone, beginning to retreat to the tunnel that Spike had created.

With a simple nod, I followed the two alicorns to our escape passage, glad to see moonlight at the end of it.

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

For a long time, the outside was silent save for the murmur of resting soldiers, but suddenly, the bones of the monsters we downed started flying toward the mountain of their own accord. Shouts of surprise and fear began to tear through our ranks, and all the soldiers began to retreat from the secure area, which no longer seemed so secure. Not wanting to be the idiot that stuck around and got killed, I yelled loudly to all in the sky to back off as we all retreated to a safe distance.

From my new rally point a mile away, I saw an armored dragon erupt from the mountain and begin rapidly fleeing the area, followed by three familiar alicorns at breakneck speed.

“EVERYONE GET BACK!” Frost’s amplified voice boomed across the field, and nopony saw fit to defy the order. Frost then spotted me in the air and pointed, then he flew down and picked up Spike as the four of them flew toward me.

I watched as the troops that were inside the mountain cleared the border of the FOB, with Applejack and her brother out front, just before all Tartarus broke loose.

With a tearing of earth that sounded like the roar of hundreds of dragons, the mountain exploded.

I worked with Twilight at a split-second’s notice to cast barriers to shelter the troops that hadn’t gotten far enough away from getting flattened by huge chunks of what was once a mountain. Needless to say after making sure all our ponies were safe, I was more than a little tired, but it was what I saw next that brought me back to full awareness.

Bones and what could only be bonemeal was swirling around the previous site of the mountain in a huge vortex, the mere size of which I’d never even imagined before. It was at least the size of the mountain itself.

My attention was diverted from the sight in front of us by the arrival of Frost, Night, Celestia, and Spike. Night collapsed on the ground and reverted back to Luna, while Celestia and Spike collapsed on the ground in exhaustion from such a frantic retreat. Frost was the only one out of the four of them left standing, so I made my way over to him.

I swallowed thickly and asked, “What the hay is going on, Frost? Are we suppose to cast that barrier now?”

He stared at the swirling bone-nado before shaking his head with narrowed eyes. “Not yet. We don’t know what we’re dealing with, and I don’t want you all to waste your strength on something that-” He trailed off as the bones began to take shape into something...something big.

I felt my mouth drop open as I stared in shock, unable to make sense of what I was seeing. “F-Frost...what…?”

He shook his head, still unwilling to look away from the horror in front of us. “If I wasn’t so flabbergasted, I’d be fuming at how he stole a damn video game character from Earth and is using it against us.” He looked to me with a grim expression on his face. “I don’t know where he got the idea from, but it’s known as Night Terror.”

I looked back to the monstrosity before us to see a bony titan with flightless bone wings, two oversized arms and legs each, and one massive sword carved from bone, which it wielded in one hand. Burning orange eyes in the head flanked each side of a great bony horn in the forehead, and the wings began to emanate a smoky, dark energy. The hands themselves looked like they were made from the mouths of giant monsters, and the tail that whipped around behind it leveled what was left of the mountain. The thing stood taller than the mountain had, which put its head above the lower cloud level.

With a shudder of terror I asked Frost, “What the hay do we do? We can’t fight that thing!”

Frost offered me nothing more than a glance before replying, “We have to.” He looked to me and grinned in an oddly confident way. “Change of plans, Dash. It’s time to see just how far my magic can go.” He walked over to Spike and poked him, causing the panting drake to open his eyes. “Spike, I need a white flame breathed on all three of us, please; I need my magic back.”

Spike nodded and stood, taking a deep breath and breathing a stark white fire on Frost, Night and Celestia. After he did so, Frost worked the kinks out of his neck and back before looking around.

“Where’s my brother? I need him.” he asked urgently. He looked to me and motioned with his head. “Find him as fast as you can, and bring him here; tell him he’s about to become a war hero.”

I was more than a little unnerved by Frost’s oddly calm tone, but nodded before flying off.

Perspective change ‒ Frostbreaker

As I watched Dash fly away, I turned my attention back to the behemoth I was about to go head-to-head against. Oddly enough, even with the threat of death and the fall of all life on the planet, I felt very optimistic; I was looking forward to this. Maybe it was the adrenaline and knowledge that this damnable war was almost over, but I was excited to get in there and tear Death a new asshole.

Metaphorically of course...maybe.

“What do we do, Frost?” Spike asked from behind me.

Without turning around, I just chuckled. “We’re gonna get in there and beat the ever-living shit out of him. It’ll be a little more complicated than that, but that’s the bottom line.” I then motioned to Celestia. “After we get him out of that thing, Dash, Twilight and Celestia will cast the barrier, and then I’ll beat him into submission. Once that’s done, Cadence can have him to do whatever she has planned.”

Spike seemed unconvinced as he said, “That’s a great plan and all, but that’s assuming we actually last more than a few seconds.”

Sensing Dash approaching with my brother, I smiled and turned to Spike with a nod. “We will. Have faith in me, Spike; I know what I’m doing.”

Dash and my brother landed on either side of me, and my brother couldn’t help but gasp in awe. “Shit man…”

I chuckled and nodded. “That would be form number two for him.”

My brother chuckled as well and tilted his head side to side, popping his neck as he grinned at me. “Is this guy going to run with the last boss cliche?”

I shrugged. “It’s possible, but if he is, so are we. Just like the protagonists in the games do, we’re about to pull something out of our asses that no one’s seen before, and I need you for that.” I then glanced to Spike. “And you too, dude.” I then looked to my brother and said, “We need two more, though. Go and find Antares and Tilak with the dragons; bring them back here as quick as you can.” My brother nodded before launching into the sky, speeding away at a velocity that made me a little jealous of him.

“Um, Frost?” Dash asked in confusion, which was a step up from downright terror. “What exactly are you planning?”

I smirked and motioned to the monster that was now heading toward the north end of the battlefield, straight for the dragon auxiliary units and minotaurs.

“We’re going to level the playing field. I’d explain more, but I want it to be a surprise.” I replied with a growing smile.

Dash seemed unconvinced as she placed a hoof on my shoulder. “Frost, you’re freaking me out a little bit here.”

I just winked at her and leaned in for a quick kiss, nuzzling her softly as I pulled away. “Trust me, Dash. I got this.”

“Drew!” my brother boomed from above, just before landing ahead of us with the two required dragons in tow. “I got ‘em.”

I nodded before motioning for Spike to follow me, and I stepped out onto the desolate battle field a ways before stopping and turning to face the group of dragons.

“You all are about to be a part of one of the coolest things any of you will ever experience, and it’ll live on in legends for thousands of years after we’re all dead and gone.” I chewed on my lip for a bit before amending with, “Well, those of us that will die of age, anyway.”

Antares, which from what I knew was the late Veroxzhar’s daughter, looked to me curiously. “What do you have in mind, Prince Frostbreaker?”

I tossed my head as I said, “Form up around me. When I cast the spell, you all are going to feel weird for a few seconds. I promise though, you’ll know what to do after that. Give in to the power, and we’ll all keep each other safe.” The four of them nodded, and I began to cast my spell, charging it as quickly as I could. When the spell was at its apex, I released it into the air, and it broke into five separate blobs of silvery-blue magic, each one finding a home in the chest of all present. As the magic began to overtake me, I closed my eyes with a triumphant grin.

‘If Death wants to go all out, he’s going to find he’s not ready for what we have in store.’

Perspective change ‒ Rainbow Dash

Death became a monster when we cornered him. Rather than surrender when we had him dead-to-rights, he chose to cast some crazy spell and turn himself into some behemoth of bone and magic. Before us lumbered some undead terror that strode about the field on two legs, dragging a sword the length of Ponyville as if it were nothing.

But, as I watched what Frost was doing, I began to see that we had a monster too.

The five bodies began to lose their definite shape, and came together as they merged into one form. From there, the form grew larger and more menacing by the second, at the same time that a blizzard began to coat the form. Within the smoky confines of the frosty storm, I could see five long serpentine necks take shape off of the main body, and each of these five split...and then split again. The shape still continued to grow until it grew to rival the size of its intended target. It was when the blizzard began to fall away that I identified the shape, but on a scale I’d never imagined before:

A hydra.

Fifteen heads in all, a six-limbed gray body of scales and claws, and from what I could make out, three heads for each of the five beings that went into it ‒ three were obsidian, three violet, three bronze, three silver, and three looked to be made completely of ice. For a moment all was silent, but then fifteen pairs of eyes lit up with an eerie golden glow, and a deafening screech of a roar tore across the land.

A flap of scales seemed to part from the main body, and I watched as yet another head pulled out of it, this one larger than the rest with sixteen eyes in all and dwarfing the others in size. Its obsidian color made it clear who it took after though, and I watched its eyes focus on the camp for a moment before looking across the battlefield.

With a deep breath the main head bellowed, “HEY UGLY!” The voice reminded me of what an earthquake sounded like, similar to rocks grinding together instead of a normal voice. It made the insulting taunt sound even funnier, for some reason.

From across the battlefield, I watched as the bone monster ‒ or Night Terror, to be more accurate ‒ turned its head until its gaze settled on the huge hydra that challenged it, and with a grunt of acknowledgement, it turned away from the fleeing soldiers and headed toward its new enemy. Perhaps it was my imagination, but its eyes seemed to widen in surprise before it began taking larger, quicker steps to bring it to the hydra on the field.

The hydra reared up so that its front legs were free, and balled the claws of the appendages into fists as it challenged, “BRING IT!”

The Night Terror hefted its paddle-like sword higher as it prepared to strike, but just as it stepped forward to begin its swing, its clawed foot froze to the ground and it fell with a mighty crash that shook the ground underneath us.

With a deep breath of air, all sixteen heads covered their enemy in bright orange fire, and the heat from the exhalation was enough to cause me to sweat, even from nearly a mile away.

“Wow.” a voice from beside me breathed out, as if speaking too loud would cause the sight to become false.

I looked to see Twilight, Celestia and Luna standing beside me, and I just nodded with wide eyes. “Yeah. This is crazy.”

“How?” Celestia asked in utter shock and confusion.

I shrugged, turning my eyes back to the battle of magic titans. “I have absolutely no clue, but it’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in...well, it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“So um…” Twilight began, seemingly unable to form a coherent thought, “w-what do we do? I mean, they seem to have it handled-”

Just as Twilight spoke, all sixteen hydra heads grasped the Night Terror and proceeded to bash it repeatedly on the ground, each hit causing the ground under our hooves to jump a bit. Even so, the Night Terror seemed unfazed or even damaged, as it simply stood and slapped the flat of its weapon against the hydra, throwing it through the air and to the ground only a few hundred feet away from us, displacing the earth and causing a lot of us to fall over just from the force alone.

I pushed myself back to my hooves and shook a little dirt from my coat as I reached and helped Twilight stand, then looked to see the hydra already standing again. With a grunt and growl, it found its stance once again and broke into a dead sprint toward the Night Terror, dodging a slice from the weapon before giving it a full-body tackle and pummeling it with fists and burning with fire. Ice crept up from the ground to immobilize its limbs, leaving it at the mercy of the giant reptile on its chest. Blow after blow struck the bony head of the Night Terror, each more punishing than the last, but it seemed that not even those did any damage.

The hydra began to glow with a silver-blue light, and I watched as a green-armored figure with purple scales jumped straight out of the hydra, and ran along one of the long necks until it landed on the face of the downed bone monster.

“I-is that Spike?!” Twilight shrieked in fear.

I nodded, watching as the small figure jumped directly into one of the eye sockets. “Yep, that’s him. No idea what he’s doing, though.” Suddenly, I saw Twilight gallop forward and was forced to restrain her with magic and my hooves as she began thrashing wildly.

“N-NO! LET ME GO! I HAVE TO MAKE SURE HE’S ALRIGHT!” she screamed hysterically, squirming in my grip as I held her back.

Sighing for what I was about to do, I turned Twilight to face me before slapping her with a hoof, causing her to look up at me with wide eyes and tears streaming down her face. After giving her a moment to realize what just happened, I released my hold on her and sat down on my haunches in front of her. “Twilight, you have to calm down; Spike's a smart dragon, and I know he’s not gonna do anything stupid with no reason behind it. Besides that, I’m pretty sure he values his own life quite a bit, so he’s not trying to be a martyr or anything.” As I released my friend and brought my wing around her, I turned her back to the field with me, and pointed with my hoof. “Let’s just watch and see what happens, Twilight.”

Perspective change ‒ Spike

As I made my way through the inside of the bone monster-thing, I found that digging through bone took quite a bit longer than digging through earth, but my claws were still up to the challenge nonetheless. It had been Darkflight’s idea to attack from the inside, seeing as how attacks from the outside weren’t doing much good, but Frost had told me that he didn’t know how much longer he could hold Death down, so I had to hurry.

Just as I was about to lose my temper at not being able to find anything worthwhile, I sensed a large empty chamber in front of me, so I continued tunneling until I broke through. When I tumbled down the side of the hollowed-out portion of the monster, I noticed that there was a large glowing sphere of white energy in the center, and I could only think of the sphere as being this thing’s “heart” or something just as important.

I grinned mischievously. “Well then, let’s cause a little mayhem.” With a deep breath, I breathed blue flames all over the room, taking care to leave no surface untouched as I did so. Then, as I closed my eyes, I breathed a green flame.

Perspective change ‒ Princess Celestia

We all waited patiently for anything to change, but all was quiet save for the taunting and roaring of the hydra as it loomed over the “Night Terror” beast.

Suddenly, we all saw the hydra retreat quickly, and heard a series of explosions followed by a crack forming in the bony armor of the beast. The monster flailed against its icy bonds, breaking them, and began clawing at its chest as gouts of green and blue fire began to spill out until…


With an earth-shattering blast and a similar shockwave of force, the monster blew apart and fell to the ground, defeated. Before we could think though, the hydra’s icy heads sent up three balls of light, each one bursting into a different shape in the sky.

It only took me a moment to realize they were cutie marks ‒ mine, Twilight’s and Rainbow Dash’s, to be precise ‒ and I recognized that this was the signal Frost had referred to. Without any word, I grasped Twilight and took flight, with Rainbow Dash quickly overtaking me and speeding to the area.

It took us only a few seconds to reach the site of the titanic battle, but as I dropped off Twilight at her predetermined spot, we three began layering barriers together at a speed that would had left me dizzy, had I stopped to think about it. Before five seconds had passed, a massive barrier of shimmering cyan, gold, and lavender had been erected, trapping the remains of the bony monster inside.

A loud noise that sounded similar to a lightning bolt issued forth, and I watched as Frost, Darkflight, Antares and Tilak calmly walked up next to me, and was infinitely relieved to see a blackened and bruised Spike make his way to stand beside Twilight, many feet away.

With a wordless nod, Frost’s horn began to glow softly, and he stepped right past the barrier as if it were nothing.

“Just the two of them, now.” Darkflight muttered, placing his clawed hand on my shoulder.

I kept my focus on holding the barrier strong, but cast a glance to the Obsidian as I asked, “Why not all of you? Surely that would increase the odds of success.”

He shook his head solemnly, locking his gaze on the icy blue alicorn within the barrier. “He told us that he can’t cast that spell on anyone else, so he’s the only one that could get inside.” He then shrugged. “I don’t know if he was telling the truth or not, but I know that he’s not in the state of mind to do something stupid like sacrifice himself again; if it’s true that we could have all gone in with him, then that means this is personal for him.” Darkflight then smirked at me. “If that’s what it is, you can get ready to see Death himself have the everloving tar beat out of him.” He turned his eyes back to the interior of the barrier, and we all saw a stumbling black alicorn climb out of the remains of his monster.

“It’s on now.” Darkflight quipped with a grin.

Author's Notes:

Kudos if you get the references.

Chapter 32: The End isn't the End

Author's Notes:

Wow, the last time I updated this was February. Just to let you know this isn't the last chapter, but I will tell you ahead of time that the next chapter (or two, I'm unsure how many just yet) is going to be very emotional, so be ready to cry.

That said, enjoy the last of two or three chapters of this installment.

Chapter 32: The End isn’t the End

“You had to know this was coming.” I stated loudly, trotting over toward Death as he stumbled away from the mass of bones. “You could have ended this before it even started, but for some reason I’ll never fathom, you seem to think you know better than everyone else.”

He growled as he stood, flaring his wings angrily. “I’m a visionary. I only wish to offer a world of no more needless death, no pain, and no illness. Why do you all fight such a wonderful thing so much?!”

I sighed and shook my head. “These are free people here, Death. They have fought and died for that freedom, and they will not give it up to anyone. They follow me and the others because we fight for their freedom and right to live, not against it. I will never understand how you thought this would ever be a good idea, as you have caused more needless pain than even Discord.” I stopped a few dozen paces away and asked, “What makes you think these ponies want to live forever? Such short, precious years are what make life so wonderful for them to live, and watching them grow and love makes an eternity worth living. A life of eternity is meant to be the exception, not the rule. Honestly, I had thought the avatar of death would be the last one to want a world where no one dies.” Just before he spoke, I interrupted him sharply. “Don’t bother; I don’t care what your explanation is. All you need to know is that I will stop you from spreading your influence over this world, and I think it’s clear by now just how far I will go to do so. Your massive armies are defeated, your ace-in-the-hole beast is crushed, and you have nowhere left to run.” I then threw my head from side to side to crack my neck, then grinned maliciously. “It’s just you and me now, ‘dad’.” He lifted his gaze from the ground and…

He was smiling...why was he smiling?

“Well then, I suppose I will need to stop playing around then.” he smugly replied, just before closing his eyes and summoning a set of bladed glowing burgundy armor upon his body. It seemed to drip a red energy that made it look as if he was bleeding, and the multiple blades all over the armor made his entire body a weapon.

Somewhere in my eternal memory, I immediately recognize the armor. “Element of the Berserker.”

He nodded with a sadistic smile. “Indeed.”

I choked on my breath of air, but composed myself enough to sputter, “B-but it was supposed to be-”

“Destroyed?” he interrupted with a grin. “Yes, it was. However, it seems mortals vastly underestimate what desperation can do when it comes to reforging the shards of magic that made it. All I needed to do was offer it a few thousand souls and voilà, the Element was renewed.”

I had never directly done battle with either of the other two Elements of War, but I was smart enough to know that only another Element could match their power. So, with a sigh I reached inside myself and pulled my own Element to the surface, feeling the familiar rush of power that came with it. I knew that as the Guardian, my Element was made not to destroy an enemy with overwhelming power, but rather to outlast them with bolstered stamina and endurance. However this was a problem, as I knew that unlike me, Death’s magic was still connected directly to the planet. This meant that while my magic would eventually run out, his would not. As the defender in this battle, I was going to need to find a way to quickly end the fight.

With a growl that made it sound as if he was in pain, Death lunged at high speed.

Perspective change ‒ Luna

“...una, wake UP!”

The exclamation was followed by a firm slap to my rump, startling me awake from both the surprise alone and from stinging pain in my flank. I shot to my hooves to see a familiar Obsidian standing next to me.

I shot a glare his way. “There are gentler and less-invasive ways of waking a mare, Darkflight.” He said nothing in response, only nodding toward my right.

What I saw when I turned toward the sounds of heated battle set my blood on ice.

For the first time in nearly three-thousand years, two of the Elements of War were in the same place at the same time, and battling furiously against each other.

“This...isn’t possible…” I breathed unbelievingly. “The Element of the Guardian was the only remaining of the three!”

“Keyword being ‘was’.” Darkflight grunted. “I don’t know how or where, but Death found and restored one of the others.”

I glanced around the battlefield to see Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Celestia channeling a shared barrier spell to keep the battle contained. Suffice to say it would be foolish to ask any of them to lower the barrier to allow another inside to aid Frost, as that would give Death the opening he needed to escape, and with the power of an Element of War on his side, he would cut wide swathes through the innocent ponies on the battlefield behind us.

No matter the reason, that was not something I could allow.

“He can’t keep this up for long.” Darkflight said gravely, causing me to snap my gaze back to him as he pointed to the ferocious battle in front of us. “Drew was already tired when he started this fight, and it’s only going to get worse. We need to start preparing for when he loses.”

All exhaustion chased away by the words, I shook my head with a growl. “No, he is not going to-”

“WAKE UP!” the black drake roared sorrowfully, gesturing to the two battling alicorns. “He can’t win this fight, and he knows it; a guardian isn’t meant to attack, he’s meant to defend. He might be the only one that can stand toe-to-toe with Death right now, but it won’t be long before he’s cut down.” For only the second time since I’ve known him, I saw tears glistening in Darkflight’s eyes. “Yet again, he’s sacrificing for us all. We can’t let it be in vain.”

I stared at the Obsidian, awestruck. “You...y-you would just give up on him?”

Darkflight turned his face away again, staring at the enclosed battle before us. “If you can think of something that will save my brother without letting Death escape, I’m all ears.”

For a few moments, silence between us reigned, the only sound being wind and the clashing of metal not thirty feet away.

“You have matured.” I observed, the statement leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. “However, I am not ready to surrender...not yet.” As the drake’s eyes turned to me, I flashed him a confident smile. “Give me some time to consult with an old friend.”

Without another word, I kicked off from the ground and rocketed into the sky.

For the first time in my life, I landed heavily in the presence of hundreds of dragons, without intent to destroy them. While it was clear to me by their expressions that they did not hold a grudge for my destructive past with them, wariness was still clear in their eyes.

“Princess Luna, you honor us.” sneered a familiar voice.

Well...most of them did not hold a grudge.

“Trezera.” I growled, turning toward the hulking red dragon.

He towered over me, using his size in an attempt to intimidate. “Perhaps this is not the right place for you to be, princess.”

After taking a few moments to stare at him unflinchingly, I breathed deep and let my annoyance leave my heart and mind. “I will make amends to you personally another time Trezera, but for now, I must speak with your elder, Veruuthas.”

Trezera growled and took a step forward, but was stopped by a massive claw to his shoulder as the ancient blue stepped out of the crowd. Veruuthas, a creature with a longer history than my own, lumbered over to me, dropping to all fours and craning his neck down to look me eye to eye.

After a short inspection, he smiled toothily and greeted, “Hello old friend. What can this aged drake do for you today?”

His ever-jovial attitude toward me had never changed, and for that I was thankful. However, for the moment, I had more important things on mind than reminiscing.

“How can a Guardian defeat a Berserker?” I asked cryptically, though still direct for one such as the ancient Blue.

Knowing immediately what I was asking, Veruuthas lay down on his stomach in front of me and crossed his arms in front of him to support his upper body. “I see you’ve noticed the disparity of power between the Elements of War.”

I nodded with a grimace. “Yes, and it doesn’t make sense to me. From what father told me as a filly, the three were created for different purposes, but with an equal amount of power.”

“Base power.” he rumbled.

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Excuse me?”

Veruuthas quirked a grin. “Ah, so you do not know. It seems that yet again, I am privileged to teach something to the younger generations. You see, much like the Elements of Harmony, the Elements of War choose their own bearers. In a theoretical situation where one were able to wield all three, an observer would find that the amount of power at the bearer’s command would change depending on which Element was equipped. Contrary to what you seem to believe though, no one Element is more powerful than the other on its own.”

“On its own.” I repeated, sensing where the explanation was going.

He nodded. “Indeed. Instead, the amount of power available to the wielder is comparable to whatever they most represent. For the Berserker, it is unbridled wrath and a narrow, focused perception on things. For the Assassin, it is deception, cunning, and an affinity for subtlety.”

“And the Guardian?” I urged, slightly annoyed that he chose to pause at that moment.

He smiled broadly as he asked, “What is a Guardian with nothing to protect?” Without waiting for me to reply, he continued. “The answer is: nothing. The essence of the Guardian that lives within that Element is fueled by an innate desire to protect, and so if there is nothing to protect, there is no fuel for the Element to use.” He smirked. “What then, would happen, if a Guardian has everything to protect? What would happen, however foolishly, if the bearer would take the fate of the world upon his shoulders?” As if sensing my next question, Veruuthas nodded sagely. “Remind him of what is at stake; remind our protector just what he is fighting for. It seems that as the war has raged on, he has lost touch with it.”

As he pushed himself to his feet, I raised an eyebrow at him. “What are you doing?”

The ancient Blue chuckled deeply. “You don’t honestly believe I would refuse the chance to see the full power of the Guardian brought to bear for the first time, do you?” He stood on his hind legs and gaze out across the battlefield toward the shimmering dome that held the battle within. “It will be a privilege to see such an incredible sight before I pass on from this world.”

The latter statement brought the reality of his age to mind, and I nearly choked on a surprised sob that bubbled its way to the surface.

Veruuthas smiled fondly at me and shook his head. “Nothing but an alicorn can last forever, moon princess. I knew when I joined this war that it would be my final conflict, and I have no regrets.” He sighed heavily as he gazed at the dragonkin gathered around us. “I have lived long and seen more than most have any right to. I have sired two whelps that I could not be more proud of, and I have given all that I am to ensure that my legacy -- not of a dragon, but as a living being on this planet -- is assured.” He shrugged helplessly. “It is time for me to go, and time for the younger generations to take over.”

Dragons did not age the same way that other creatures on Terra did, so I knew that even though he looked healthy, if he felt his time was coming, it likely was. Age had no effect on a dragon’s ability to fight and they were often the only ones who knew when their time of death was near. Unlike the rest of the mortals on the planet, they did not weaken over time and silently pass away. Instead, I knew that Veruuthas would erupt into a column of flame, leaving ashes where there was once a dragon...a friend.

Tears sprang to my eyes, but I knew that no matter how powerful I was, I could not stop the flow of time. Besides, neither would I want to; to be able to look back on one’s life and have no regrets was something I could not even say for myself, so I would not want to take that from a friend.

Instead of disrespecting myself or Veruuthas by erupting into sobs, I instead smiled sadly at him and nodded. “I understand. Let us spend this last great moment by each other’s side then.”

He gestured with one battleworn claw toward the barrier in the distance. “After you, Lady Moon.”

Perspective change -- Frostbreaker

It seemed that something about Death’s Element sapped away his rationale, replacing it with bloodlust and a desire to destroy. I imagined that must be the case, since other than grunts, growls, and roars, he hadn’t communicated to me at all, and his eyes were crazed. This wouldn’t have been a problem normally, since a stupid enemy is an easy enemy, but the Element he wielded appeared to have vastly increased all of his abilities, and while he seemed unable to use his magic for more than primordial blasts of magic, it was clear I was outclassed in terms of raw strength and power.

I’d never so thoroughly been overwhelmed by a single opponent before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

As I rolled out of the way of another molten stream of deadly magic, I grunted as Death fell upon me once again, pressing the bladed ridges of his forehooves toward my face in an effort to carve my cheeks away. If there was one thing this version of Death was, it was predictable, but his sheer overwhelming strength and speed made up for his simple attack combinations. It was all I could do to just hold on and hope that something, somewhere would give me a break.

No such luck, it seems.

“RRRAAAAAGH!” the crazed avatar of death roared once again, pressing down on me with his full weight as his hoofguards began to cut into my frost-caked helmet.

Glancing around at the many faces of friends and family from the outside, I grit my teeth and kicked both of my hind legs out in a mighty buck, throwing Death into the shimmering wall of magic that held us within. Crackles of energy and ripples surged across the surface of the barrier, but the shield held. I flapped my wings to right myself on my hooves to prepare for another attack from Death, but it was at that moment that time seemed to almost slow down as a voice spoke to me -- a voice both soothing and powerful.

“Remember them, my love. Remember why you fight; remember who you fight for. Remember what you are protecting, and what you fight to prevent.”

Time seemed to stop as a ghostly apparition appeared before me, and the smoky face of Luna smiled lovingly at me.

“Remember why you took up arms in the first place, and remember all those who love you and have faith in you.” she whispered with heavy affection. A brief pause stretched on before, “Remember what you promised me.”

Like a bolt of lightning, the memory hit me…

It was only shortly after arriving home that I found myself in bed, sweaty and unkempt, with a very satisfied Luna laying half on top of me. It seemed that she missed me nearly as much as I her, and she was quite happy showing said affection to me. While the others were sleeping or resting around us, my eyes were locked on hers as we shared a rare private moment just between the two of us.

“I still do not understand why you fight, Frost.” she said, the half-question coming seemingly out of nowhere. “You were not a soldier or warrior on Earth, and neither were you particularly drawn to conflict.”

I shrugged helplessly. “I fight because I must, Luna. I fight because if I run away, the courage that just barely holds the alliance together will crumble. They need to see me out there fighting for them, or they’ll run.” I then sighed, turning to look her directly in the eyes. “But more than that, I fight because I have something worth protecting. Beyond just the safety of those I love, I have a life where I don’t just feel like ‘the weird guy’. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt like I fit in somewhere just being me, and it’s a feeling beyond what I’ve imagined.” I shrugged again, this time with a grin. “Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I think that with all the selflessness I usually put out, I’m allowed to be a little selfish here and there.”

Luna shook her head with a smile. “Wanting to be with those you care for is not a bad thing, Frost. If it is, then I am quite possibly the worst one could imagine.” She then placed one hoof on my chest and kissed my cheek. “When things are grim and there seems to be no hope, remember that; remember why you fight.”

I nodded. “I will.”

“Promise me.” she urged. “Promise me that you will not forget. Promise me that you will…” her voice broke, and with it, my heart nearly snapped in two, “promise me that you will come back to us -- to me.”

Taking her hoof in my own and offering a reassuring squeeze, I nodded slowly. “I promise, love.”

The memory and realization of my true cause -- why I took up arms in the first place -- came back to me, and with it, my resolve was strengthened. I would not give up, even when oblivion threatened to swallow me up. It wasn’t just me that I was fighting for, it was for all those I loved, and all those who believed in me...who needed me.

My Element seemed to react to what I felt, and I felt an explosion of power build up from within.

Perspective change -- Spike

As I watched, Frost froze for a second that seemed to last an eternity, but then, a huge column of golden energy seemed to explode from where he stood, shooting into the sky as the entire battlefield was lit up with light. Turning my eyes toward the sky, I saw the cloudcover part around the pillar of golden power, and noticed the sun beginning to peek over the horizon to the east.

“The dawn comes,” Luna’s voice said from beside me, “and with it, hope for a better day.”

“That hope is well-placed, I think.” rumbled a familiar voice from behind me.

I turned and nearly jumped out of my scales at who was there. “E-elder!”

The Blue simply waved a claw with a grin. “No formalities, youngling; I’m just here to watch the show.”

I nodded hesitantly before looking back to the towering pillar of power in front of us. “What’s happening to Frost?”

“What you all have seen up until now when he dons his Element is a dormant state for it.” the ancient explained. “Its true power slept, kept unawakened since there was no dire need of it. Power like that cannot simply be called upon whenever one wishes.”

I nodded. “I can understand that. I guess it’s the importance of the moment that allows him to call on it or something?”

Luna bobbed her head a few times before answering, “In a sense. It is more of an emotional issue than magical, as Frost’s Element reacts to his desire to protect. As the situation for us becomes worse, Frost’s desire to protect us becomes stronger. It was not until he donned his Element and I reminded him of something important that he was able to utilize those emotions, though. He needed to truly believe that everything rested on his shoulders, but with a desire to live as well.”

I smirked despite the situation. “Made him promise to stay alive, did you? Good thinkin’, Luna.”

She smiled back and nodded. “One of us has to have some forethought.” Her eyes turned once more to the column of light, and she frowned. “So long has Frost’s life been meaningless to him if he could protect the lives of those he held dear. While I am confident he would still lay down his life for a loved one or friend, he now has a life he values, and one he does not wish to let go of. He has come to understand that he would be sorely missed, and for the good of those across the planet, he must survive.”

The pitch of the roaring energy began to increase, and the column of power began to recede to the ground again. Faster and faster the energy seemed to be sucked into the area where a blood-crazed Death seethed in rage as he repeatedly tried and failed to break through the golden energy to his prey. As soon as the column fell to the ground, a great gold-armored boot smashed into the face of the insane black alicorn, throwing him heavily against the shield.

Perspective change -- Darkflight

What stepped away from the residual circle of energy was at least as tall as me, and built like a tank. It was bipedal, heavily armored in glowing, golden armor, and wore a crested close helm. A huge kite shield was held in its left hand, while a studded mace was held in the right. A long spiraled horn glittered into being on the forehead of the helmet, and two large golden wings unfurled from the back, seemingly from nowhere. A mist condensed around the figure as ice grew to cover the armor, just before it thrust the shield down in the ground.

Everyone get back.” commanded a multilayered voice, the low tones of which were loud enough to cause the ground to rumble. I extended my arms, motioning everyone to fall back a bit to allow for whatever was about to happen, but the whole time I could only think one thing:

Final boss fight (yeah, I’m a dork).

For too long I have held back, hoping against hope that you would come to see reason and abandon this foolish crusade of yours.” the figure -- who could only be my brother -- growled deeply. “That time has passed, I think. You have shown no mercy to innocents, and have thrown this world into turmoil and chaos.” He gestured with a hand to all those that surrounded the shield -- at least a thousand people of all races -- and shook his head. “Look to the faces of all those that gather to witness your downfall; these are the faces of those that are willing to fight to the last breath to protect this world and this life that they hold dear. They would rather die than lose their freedom.” Death, while seemingly a ravenous creature at this point, had the good sense to look around at what was happening before focusing back on Drew as he picked up his shield. The air around them began to condense further, and frost began creeping along the ground from where they stood as my brother boomed, “STAND IN AWE OF THE REMORSELESS WINTER YOU HAVE UNLEASHED! KNOW THAT I AM YOUR END!

With that, a howling maelstrom of icy wind surrounded the two of them, obscuring all sight of the battle. Moments after visual confirmation was lost, the sound of an intense battle could be heard -- the clashing of metal against metal along with grunts and guttural roars was unmistakable, I think. While a part of me was happy to know the battle was on more even ground now, a much smaller but no less important part of me wished I could see what was going on. The sound of intense battle continued, so I could only wait until my brother’s desire for theatrics wore out.

My wish was answered a few moments later as loud and repeated thuds against the shield, followed by a corresponding warping of the barrier, preceded the giant shield bursting like a balloon. Shocked gasps erupted from everyone watching just before the equine form of Death was thrown out of the howling blizzard, skidding a few times along the dusty earth before coming to a stop not ten yards from me. Before I could react though, Drew materialized with only a soft displacing of air, one armored boot upon Death’s head and the mace held high above. The weapon began to glow with swirling gold energy before he swung it down at his foe, aiming not for the head itself, but rather-


The sound caused all the ponies -- and even a few of the dragons -- present to wince in sympathetic pain. I craned my neck to get a better angle in order to see what had happened, only to feel strangely nauseous at what I saw: the black, spiraled horn of Death had been snapped in two, with blood slowly leaking out of it.

All of us had been informed on the biology of ponies, so I knew the strength of the horn of a unicorn, and knew it was nearly impossible to break one. This was a secure feeling for unicorns and alicorns, since the fracturing of a horn alone could leave them unable to cast spells properly for weeks until it healed, and a full separation could take months to completely recover from. A horn break was not a career-ending injury thankfully, but it was very painful and often left the pony affected feeling rather lost and useless until it healed, since unicorns and alicorns tended to use magic quite a bit in their day-to-day lives.

Drew simply looked at the downed alicorn, the helmet he wore keeping any emotions he felt a secret. “Try teleporting now, coward.

To my surprise -- and likely all those present -- Death began laughing. It was at that point that I couldn’t help but think to myself, ‘Could he be anymore cliche?’

A few sputtered coughs and some drops of blood followed before Death slowly ground out, “Kill...me. I’ll...come...back. Cannot...escape...death.” He seemed to have trouble forming the words, though it was unclear whether it was because of his Element, or battle fatigue.

Drew just gazed silently down at the alicorn for a few moments before answering, “I know that we can’t simply lock you away, because you could still use your power over death against us, and that isn’t something I can allow.” He tossed the shield and mace away before reaching down and grasping Death by the throat, causing the injured alicorn to weakly flap his wings. Bringing him to eye level, Drew spoke slowly and quietly, though his tone was no less powerful as he did so. “But I think I finally understand what Life has in mind.

Perspective change -- Rainbow Dash

I was completely exhausted. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure how I was still awake; it was probably because I didn’t want to rest until I was sure this whole thing was over, so I followed Frost and the others to the main camp, where Death was brought before the avatar of life.

To see Death in such a vulnerable and weak state was...not as satisfying as I thought it would be. Honestly, I was a little disappointed that someone who had caused so much trouble and so much death around the world was, when isolated, not that great of a threat. I guess what made Death so dangerous overall was the forces he commanded rather than his raw power itself, and Terra’s recovery was going to take a long time -- if it ever fully recovered, that is. Still, even with all that being the case, I will admit it was a huge relief to see that the enemy we all had thrown ourselves at was now defeated.

The only question now was what was going to be done with him, since Frost had kept pretty tight-lipped about it.

I had seen Frost in his human form before, but seeing him all decked out in awesome armor was...wow. I don’t count myself as visually stimulated as, say, somepony like Rarity, but seeing the stallion you love looking all awesome and stuff...it does something to a mare, ya know? That’s not to say I wasn’t focused on the situation at hoof, but I was going to be sure to show Frost just how how proud of him I was for everything he had gone through for all of us. Maybe it was the fact that the light at the end of the tunnel was much brighter now, but let’s just say my mind was slowly floating away from fighting and surviving, and more toward a celebration of relief the likes of which Equestria probably has never seen before.

My attention was drawn out of my thoughts by Life alighting next to Frost a few feet away, looking down pitifully at Death. She looked honestly saddened by what had been wrought upon her brother, and I kinda wished I knew what was going through her head at that moment.

“Death,” she began softly, her voice sorrowful, “brother...I am sorry it has come to this.” With a wordless glance at Frost and Night -- who I’m sure was about to drop from exhaustion -- the three took places around Death, who was restrained by ropes.

For a few moments confusion filled his face, but his eyes then widened in horror as he understood what was happening. “W-wait, what are you doing? You can’t do this!”

Life shook her head sadly, her flowing mane wafting in the gentle breeze. “You have truly left us with no other choice, brother. You were asked to stop, but to no avail. Instead, you killed thousands without any sign of stopping.” She sighed as her horn and those of the two other avatars began glowing with power. “Goodbye, brother.”

The magic trickled forth from the horns of all three toward the struggling black alicorn, surrounding him in a multi-hued orb of power. For a few moments nothing further happened, but then Life began to glow brightly as motes of magic seemed to drift off of her form. My own eyes widened as I realized what she was doing, and before Spring could mentally shout at me to stop her, a flash of magical light blinded me.

I had to close my eyes with a wince from the bright light, but I could feel the amount of raw magical power in the air as the ritual ended. After a few moments of fluttering my eyes to bring back my sight, the first thing I saw was three gathered around a now-empty space, with Cadence quietly sobbing with her head held low. Above her, a glowing orb of energy ascended into the sky, humming with power before it simply disappeared.

“S-she’s gone…” Cadence cried quietly. “I n-never knew just what it would b-be like. She was there m-my whole l-l-life and I didn’t even know it.”

Frost slowly walked over to Cadence and pulled her against his armored chest, slowly stroking her mane as he did so. “She was there from the moment you were born. This isn’t the end, though.” Cadence stopped her weeping temporarily as she looked up at the helmeted face of Frost, sniffing once for good measure. He simply shook his head, and I couldn’t help but imagine him smiling as he explained, “It will be a long time, but she will be back. I know that right now it feels like there is a piece of you missing, but until she returns you have friends and family to remind you of who you are should you ever lose sight.

Cadence shook her head, tears still falling like rivers from her eyes. “She won’t be the same though. They’re fused now, so she won’t even be the same pony anymore.” She hiccuped once, burying her face in the crook of Frost’s neck as she whimpered, “Why does it hurt so much?”

You’ve sacrificed a piece of who you are for the good of the ponies you look after.” Frost explained plainly, but not unkindly. “It’s going to hurt for a long time, but I promise you that when she returns to you, you will recognize her.” He then turned his gaze to me. “I’m about to crash really hard, so I’m leaving things in you and my brother’s hands. Take care of them, love.

I only had a second to mouth a “what” before the armor on Frost faded away, revealing his human form for just a moment before a flash of magic revealed the steely-blue alicorn we all recognized. He then collapsed without warning, completely out cold. Cadence caught him in her hooves to keep his head from hitting the ground, but the sudden loss of Frost’s presence left me shocked for a few moments before I mentally shook myself and looked to Darkflight, who was standing beside me.

“Alright,” I began, quickly glancing over the sprawling battlefield that stretched for miles, “we need to establish a perimeter for cleanup and security. I want rotating shifts and changing assignments every two weeks -- I want them to all get to go home, even if we still have things to do.” I then looked to Dark again. “I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you want to break it up, but we need to get Twilight and all the royals back to Canterlot. We’re going to have a lot of work to do, so I need your support on this; are you with me?”

Dark nodded with a grin. “I got your back, Dash. Leave it to me. Ditzy,” he called to the gray pegasus off to the side, “with me. Let’s establish some order here so we can all get some well-deserved rest.”

I watched the two jet away before looking back to Frost, who was now laying in a much more comfortable position next to Luna and Celestia, who were both laying beside them. As much as I wanted to do the same, I knew that the day was far from over, and Equestria was going to need a lot of work before things could get anywhere near normal again. Besides all that, Celestia and Luna worked harder than any of us did both before and during this whole thing, so they deserved to rest more than anypony else. A good cloud and a good nap sounded good to me, but knowing Celestia and Luna as well as I did (wow, never thought I’d get to say that), I had a feeling they had slept very little if at all during the past few days.

With a sigh I shook my head; the next few days were going to be pretty intense to say the least, but I was more than up to the challenge. Frost and the others needed me to show I could hold things together if they were unavailable to do so, and I was going to prove them right for trusting me.

I took one last look at the three alicorns on the ground behind me before flapping my wings and taking to the skies, intent on giving them and all the others present a new, positive direction.

Chapter 33: The End is just a New Beginning

Chapter 33: The End is but a New Beginning

Perspective change -- Rainbow Dash

The war was officially over, but that didn’t mean my job was anywhere near done. Along with a few dozen others, I oversaw battlefield cleanup and tallying the dead and injured. It wasn’t a glamorous job and I’ll admit it was a little depressing for the most part, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel: after this was done, we could go home once and for all.

I missed home even more now, knowing that Fluttershy, Rarity, and my other friends and herdmates who hadn’t been on the battlefield would be waiting for me, and of course I’d get to see Scootaloo again. There were a lot of ponies who were worried about me and the others the whole time we were gone, but stars-willing we’d be going home to see them soon. For now though, I had to focus as me and twenty others went through battlefield reports one-by-one to get an accurate count on just what we were dealing with in terms of casualties and combat wounded. Having been the weather manager for Ponyville most of my life meant I was no stranger to paperwork, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t bored out of my mind.

“You alright over there, Dash?” Gilda called from beside me, nudging me with her shoulder.

I sighed and rubbed the space between my eyes with a hoof. “Yeah, just tired. I swear, I’m sleeping for a year when this is over.”

Gilda’s clawed hand patted my shoulder as she muttered, “Almost done Dash, almost done.”

I nodded and got back to work, though I thought it better to help pass the time with some small talk to keep me focused without nodding off. “So, what are you doing after this is all over?”

Gilda grunted and scratched out a few words and numbers on her tally sheet before shrugging. “I don’t know. I can’t really go back home because I’m labeled as a deserter, but-”

“Equestria thinks you’re a hero,” I interjected with a smile, “and so do I. You’ve done more than your fair share in this war, so if your own kind doesn’t want to take their heads out of their flanks to let a little desertion slide, it’s their loss.” I nudged her back and softly added, “You’re more than welcome to stay here, G. Even in Ponyville, you’re not just ‘Meanie-pants Gilda’ anymore: you’re a veteran of a war that was volunteer-only for all of Equestria, and you fought for us instead of against us.”

Gilda snorted, shaking her head. “Not like I really had a choice. Who else was I gonna fight for, Death?”

My smile grew as I extended my wing around her back. “All ponies see is the fact that you willingly risked your life so they didn’t have to. You’re a war hero now, and you know darn well that me and everypony else would vouch for you.” I then shrugged, clearing my throat nervously. “Besides, it would be nice to have another one of my best buds living close by.”

Gilda nodded, and I removed my wing. “I’ll need some time to think about it. I’ll admit it’s a pretty attractive offer, but even the threat of being brought to the courts of Highmount for desertion isn’t enough to make me never want to go home again.” She then shrugged and glanced at me. “What about you? Still gonna join the Wonderbolts someday?”

At that moment something interesting happened: instead of answering with an immediate and strong “yes”, I found myself having to actually think about my answer. Truth be told I hadn’t even thought about the Wonderbolts since a little after my wedding (“my wedding”...never thought I’d say that). Just a little over a year ago they were all I could talk about, but now...I don’t know, it just didn’t seem as important.

What had I wanted out of the Wonderbolts in the first place?

Well, my foalhood was pretty sheltered until I went to flight school, so I knew part of it was that I wanted to get out and see the world. Also, I’d had confidence issues for a long time, so praise from others was a big thing to me too. Not a lot of ponies could tell at a glance, but it wasn’t any secret among my friends that a lot of my bravado was an act I put on to get noticed. It made sense then that with my special talent being flight itself, I would want to join a group that specialized in being the best at flying. Now though…

“I never thought I’d say it, but I don’t think so.” I muttered, half-surprised by my own answer.

Gilda just stared at me while I started going through reports again.

I figured she wouldn’t let me go without explaining, so I elaborated a bit (geeze, all these big words lately; Twilight’s never going to let me live it down). “Look at what we’re doing right now, Gilda. We’re counting up how many have died or been maimed in a war we both fought in, and we’ve traveled all over the world for it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough adventure to last a lifetime from this; I wouldn’t turn down a fight by any means, but I’m not going to go out and look for fame and excitement. I have ponies that would miss me if I left now, and I value one of them more than I do thousands of screaming fans.”

Gilda snorted as she returned to her own work. “Who are you and where did you hide Rainbow Dash?”

“I’m what Rainbow Dash should be, Gilda.” I returned with a smile that filled my face. “All those years of big talk and boasting -- only worrying about being awesome -- and I was just wanting ponies to love and accept me for who I really am.” I sighed. “But I was terrified to let them in. For a long time I thought that they wouldn’t like who was underneath it all, but Frost showed me that ponies who didn’t like the real me weren’t the type of ponies I should have in my life.”

For the first time in my life, I could say I was proud of who I had become and what I had done, because while my loyalty would always be something I would be praised for, I could now say I willingly risked my life for ponies and other races I didn’t even know. When I put myself on the front lines, I wasn’t thinking about the abstract idea of doing it for the entirety of Equestria -- I was thinking about the individual ponies that made up the kingdom. I didn’t care that I would likely be praised for what I did -- and already was practically worshiped, being an alicorn and all. Instead, I did what needed to be done to try and save as many lives as I could.

As we continued the tally, I thought forced its way to my lips before I could stop it. “How do we know if we did enough, G?” I motioned with a hoof to the thick stacks of reports each of us had to go through. “I mean look at this; there must be thousands of names in here.”

“Hey, keep it together.” Gilda chastised with a glare. “We’ve only been out of open combat for like six hours, so don’t fall apart on us now. You can mourn the dead after we’re done; for now, we have work to do.”

I didn’t like it, but I nodded anyway because she was right. For now, I needed to focus; the soldiers of all races were looking to its leaders -- like me and the other princesses -- to lead them through this. Like a huge worldwide adrenaline crash, everyone wanted to just sleep now and forget all about this...but our work wasn’t done yet.

I only hoped that the others were doing alright as well.

Perspective change -- Celestia

At long last, it was finally over.

Though our duties were not done yet, there was now an end in sight to the entirety of the dreaded conflict -- which included cleanup and things of that nature -- at which point we would finally be able to mourn those lost and rebuild our homes. Other than the physical danger involved, I found the actual fighting to be much easier to handle than what was to come, but knew that my ponies and our new allies were depending on me to stay strong and guide them in this time of need.

Twilight was of great help of course, and made sure to delegate things that needed to be done to ponies that could handle it, so as to spread the jobs out among many ponies and expedite the entire process in an attempt to finish in no more than a few days at most. I smiled lovingly at my close friend and herdsister, silently thanking her for her assistance.

“Princess Celestia?” the voice of my current battlefield assistant called, bringing me back to reality.

I glanced down at him, smiling at the grizzled azure-coated pony. “Apologies my dear, my mind was elsewhere.”

He smiled crookedly and nodded. “We’re almost finished, princess -- just a few more hours and we can rest for the night while Princess Luna and the night shift takes over.”

I physically shook myself and focused. “Right; so what is on the agenda next?”

“Well,” he mumbled before looking down at the clipboard floating in his magical grip, “we need to meet with the gryphon battlefield leader, Commander Highwind, and then the changeling queen is requesting our presence in the command tent. After that I’ve scheduled a meeting with High Executor Verus of the Cervidae people, and following that your presence has been requested by the great dragon elder, Varuuthas. After those meetings, your day is free to do as you wish -- the rest is being taken care of by the overwhelming number of ponies at work.”

Never before had I come across so many of my subjects willingly taking on burdens so that I didn’t have to.

“Why do they work so tirelessly, Glitz? Surely it cannot be because they feel invigorated at the end of a battle.” I questioned, and although I directed the question to my assistant, it was just as much rhetorical as anything.

He was silent for a few moments as he joined me in looking out over the living field, which writhed with so many different races all at work. “Well, my opinion is because your ponies have come to know a bit of you as Celestia, instead of just their princess. They’ve come to understand just what you go through, day in and day out, and they want to show their appreciation by giving you a reprieve. Unlike military commanders of old, you fought with your ponies instead of standing off to the side and issuing orders to be followed. While you already have their respect as a wise and competent leader of an entire kingdom, you’ve now proven to them your worth as a mere pony as well, and they want to honor you.”

I giggled good-naturedly. “That’s quite the opinion, Glitz.”

He chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “I may have been wondering the exact same thing as I was putting together your schedule, and might have asked around a bit. It seems that while it is true everyone is tired, they are also invigorated by the end they all sought after, and knowing that soon it will be time to go home and spend time with their loved ones. Take it from an old soldier: the promise of going home after a long time away is more motivating than anything else in the world.”

I looked down to Glitz, noting the wooden rear leg that replaced one of flesh and bone. “Do you have any regrets?”

He shook his head, and cracked a tired yet genuine smile. “Only that I was forced out of the fight before it became really interesting; what I wouldn’t give to have been out on that field with you and the others these past few days.”

I took a deep breath, but returned his smile. “Then let’s get on with it, shall we? No sense dragging this all out longer than it needs to be.”

Glitz nodded and levitated his clipboard to the bags that sat just forward of his hips. “Well, let’s get going then. Interestingly enough, the gryphon commander seems very excited to meet you.”

I kept my smile, though now it turned into more of a smirk. “We start out our long-slumbering military with a one-battle conflict with the gryphons, only to ally with them later on. Strange how the world works sometimes.”

“The enemy of my enemy.” he muttered off-hoofedly, only to glance at me and grin. “This time however, I think we may have made some new friends in the world -- quite a few, actually. It seems your stallion and his brother have helped us greatly impress many of the other races of Terra, and I find the situation to be very lucrative.” He sighed almost wistfully. “Imagine: dragonforged armor and weapons, produce and medicines from the Cervidae, and industry from the gryphons. We face a time of unparalleled change ahead of us -- we need only reach out and take it.”

Looking over the churning masses, I nodded. “It seems it is indeed time for a change for Equestria, and we could use more friends across the world. Very well, let’s be off to meet the gryphon commander.”

Without another word, Glitz trotted ahead to lead me through the many races of soldiers milling about, toward the command hill where the gryphon leadership was perched. It still sometimes felt strange to me that we were now allied with the entirety of the gryphon kingdoms, where once Highmount had thought it a good idea to start a war with us. I didn’t fault them for it of course, since many of the worst ideas in history seemed good at the time, but in the same moment I also felt a small bit of contempt for their sad attempt at conquest. I have an entire race I was sworn to protect after all.

As we approached the cluster of command tents (which were rather crude, since gryphons generally did not build structures that tethered them to the ground) I noticed a fair few of the half-feline people eyeing me curiously. They were not looks of hostility or even uneasiness; they were simply expressions that said they were unsure why I was in their camp. Their armor was generally not as flashy or intimidating as dragonkin or even Equestrian protective gear, but it had proven very functional and practical in its use, protecting key areas while still allowing full range of movement. From fighting beside them, I had learned not to underestimate their ferocity.

The commander himself was talking with a small group of guards animatedly, likely reliving their battlefield exploits with stories of glory, and glanced up at me with a hawkish smile as I approached. “Ah, the prestigious Princess of Equestria has arrived. You honor us.”

I nodded to him, hiding a smile of my own. “After that battle, I think the honor is mine. The way you and yours fell upon those deathdragons was awe-inspiring just to watch.”

He smirked in return. “A true gryphon warrior runs from no one, princess. Terror unto our enemies, and glory to our honored dead!” The commander’s shout was greeted with hundreds of voices answering around us. A part of me wished I could feel as triumphant about my own kind perishing in battle, but I simply could not muster more than a polite smile in return.

“Yes indeed; well fought, commander.” I returned politely, but genuinely.

He shook his head, running a claw through the feathers above his eyes. “Just Highwind is fine, princess. I think you and yours have proven you aren’t the soft, squishy little prey most gryphons thought you all were.”

I ignored the half-veiled barb and returned one of my own. “And it appears gryphons are far more honorable and skilled than the brutish fools most ponies think they are. It seems we both have much to learn about each other.”

“It seems so.” Highwind replied neutrally before reaching into the satchel at his side and pulling out a stack of folded documents. “These are trade agreements straight from High King Keeneye, requesting a reopening of the borders between our nations. He requests a response as soon as you are able, as well as any changes you deem reasonable.”

The straightforward jump into alliance caught me off-guard momentarily, and I likely looked rather foolish staring blankly for a few seconds before grasping the documents in my magic and levitating them to Glitz, who filed them away in his saddlebag. With a nod and a much brighter smile, I offered my hoof to the commander. “Pass on word to the high king that I will respond with haste after I have returned all of my ponies to their families within the next month or so. I thank him for this opportunity for a new friendship to form between our two lands.”

Highwind nodded as he shook my hoof, but then cleared his throat. “And...he shamefully extends his apologies for the actions of Highmount. He declares he had no hand in that event, and hopes you can overlook the actions of one rogue kingdom in light of such a generous proposal.”

I knew that the Gryphon Kingdoms were called such because the gryphon lands were in fact dozens of separate states ruled by separate kings, though they all answered to the elected high king. It appeared that some internal turmoil had come about recently for them, and though a part of me wanted to lash out at the entire race for the actions of a small group, I knew I could not for the greater good of this war’s survivors.

I nodded slowly instead. “To hold every gryphon responsible for the actions of a select few is not only ignorant, but blind. Tell your high king that I accept his apologies, and that what has happened will not affect my dealings with him or the entirety of your people.”

Highwind smiled and shook my hoof once again. “Then with that, I will refocus on restoring the battlefield to some semblance of order before we leave. Thank you for your time, Princess Celestia.”

I returned a smile of my own, opting to send him off with a gryphon saying: “May the wind beneath your wings always guide you home, or to glory.” From the slight widening of his eyes, I could see the commander was surprised I was familiar enough with his culture to understand the saying.

With a much more subdued smile he answered with a surprise of his own. “I pray the sun warms your face on the coldest day, and the moon lights your path on the darkest night.”

I nodded silently to the gryphon commander before leaving him and those under his command to celebrate such a great victory. While I wanted to join them in their revelry, I knew that my position as a princess of Equestria demanded my day be filled with important tasks to accomplish. Oh, how I was going to enjoy taking a breath of relief once Equestria was rebuilt and her people on the mend.

Without a word or preamble, I followed Glitz to the main command tent and entered, zipping it closed behind me before turning to an unassuming white pegasus mare with green eyes. After a brief glance around the interior of the tent, the mare erupted into vivid green flames for a few moments, revealing the queen of the changelings standing in front of me.

“Greetings Chrysalis. It appears congratulations are in order.” I greeted warmly, an act I never imagined I would be doing to this enemy-turned ally.

She nodded, smiling a fang-filled grin. “It is indeed. With your many allies and more than a little luck, it appears you’ve overcome death itself to save this world. Honestly, I’m impressed -- more survived than were killed, which is a victory in itself.”

I stood silently for a moment, mulling over what she had said before answering, “The ancient pact was that no princess of Equestria would fight in a war between our nations, but when Death himself declared war on all that lived, that pact was null and void. I could not -- would not -- sit idly by while my ponies fought and died alone.”

“And it is for that reason alone that I underestimated your ponies, because we both know they would have fought alone if it came right down to it.” Chrysalis replied, idly rubbing a thick scar in the carapace across her chest.

I nodded an affirmative. “But because of you, they did not go into this blind, and had unseen allies the whole time. Equestria owes you a great debt, it seems.”

Finally the reason for our conversation had been brought about, but oddly enough I could see only shame and nervousness cross the face of Queen Chrysalis as she averted her eyes. For a few moments she was completely silent before muttering, “...it was never personal, you know.” At my questioning glance, she elaborated. “My attempted takeover of your land wasn’t because I was angry at being an outcast or anything so childish. To put it simply, my people were starving, and have been for many years now. I could only take hearing their pained cries for so many years before I sought to end their suffering with a more permanent solution.”

“Chrysalis…” I murmured, my empathy allowing me to feel the pain she held in her heart for her people.

She waved a hoof at me dismissively. “I don’t need your apologies, princess; it’s appreciated, but it isn’t going to help my people.” I felt and heard my mouth click shut after her stern words, and for a few moments we simply sat in awkward silence. “My people were never meant to be parasites, you know.”

I raised my brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“A completely different species, and yet changelings hold an equine form; more than that, why would a race that is known as great shapeshifters only be able to change into ponies?” Chrysalis explained, though she seemed to almost be talking to herself. “No one ever asks themselves those questions. They just pass off my entire race as monsters -- pests to be disposed of, and nothing more.”

“They’re wrong.” I blurted without thinking, though I still meant it. “You’ve proven just how unique and helpful your people can be.”

“And yet, rather than allow a mutually beneficial symbiosis between us, ponies shun changelings simply because they look different.” Chrysalis growled, and I might have imagined a single, crystalline tear falling from one of her eyes. “But I will not allow my people to starve and die simply because we are looked down upon; if what we need will be kept from us because we aren’t pretty like your blasted ponies, we will take it to survive.”

I always knew there had to be more to Chrysalis and her kind than I thought, but her demeanor and words at that moment confirmed it. Her posture, her tone and even her eyes screamed of pain for her people. She loved her own people as much as I did mine, but unlike ponies, her kind was shunned because they looked intimidating or even downright scary and weird. It wasn’t fair that changelings were looked down upon simply because they looked different, and I could now understand why Chrysalis had done what she did. Truth be told, had I been in a similar situation, I can’t say I would not have let my anger and frustration cause more damage than she ever could have.

“Ponies will demand justice, Chrysalis.” I stated plainly, though the truth of the words still hurt.

She nodded, defeated. “I know. To ignore the voice of the people is to walk the path of the tyrant, and you are no tyrant.”

I approached her and raised a hoof, briefly stopping in my reach before placing it on the shoulder of the slumped queen before me. She glanced up tearfully at me as I asked, “Are you prepared to answer for what you’ve done?”

“Can you assure my people will be provided for?” she countered, her eyes hard yet hopeful.

After a moment’s thought, I nodded. “I can. Starvation will be a distant memory for changelings if I have any say in it -- and I do. Arrive with your subjects outside the main Canterlot gate -- in disguise, please -- two weeks from today, and I will take care of everything.”

Chrysalis eyed me skeptically for a moment. “I have your word?”

I smiled gently. “If I were to go back on my promise to you, I would anger not only my stallion and his brother, but my sister as well. All three of them will be alive too long for me to risk that. Besides that, I am not the type of pony to forsake a promise I made.” The few deep, nervous breaths Chrysalis took made it clear to me that she was struggling to accept the near future, so I gently rubbed her shoulder with my hoof. “Hey, it’s going to be fine. I will assure you are treated fairly, and your people provided for. After your debt is paid, you will be free to go.”

Chrysalis smiled softly in a way I had not seen before, and nodded as she brushed a hoof over her eyes and stood. “Very well, then I will depart and prepare. Thank you for your time, princess.”

I offered a single nod as well. “Safe travels, and I hope to see you again shortly.” Without another word, Queen Chrysalis shrouded herself in another disguise and unzipped the tent flaps, leaving with only single glance back.

Glitz stepped into the command tent after she left, looking back as he did so. “Well, that seemed to go well enough. Alright, next is a meeting with High Executor Verus, and then we will end the day with an audience with the elder Blue.”

I nodded and began trotting after my assistant, smiling gently at how things were going thus far.

Perspective change -- Luna

I kept silent watch as Frost slumbered, hoping that he would wake up sometime soon. Ashamedly, I had jumped at the opportunity to watch over Frost as he rested, leaving the more tedious work to my sister and the others. It was not that I thought I would be unable to handle the administrative tasks that required tending to -- quite the opposite, actually -- but the diagnosis of our medical team worried me more than I cared to admit.

It appeared that Frost’s physical exhaustion was a symptom of the internal magical damage done to him as a result of the enthralling spell placed upon him by Death. I was assured his magical pathways would regenerate quickly upon actual rest, but was told the damage was extensive. To think he had been fighting against this the entire time he was returned to us…

It had only been a mere few hours since the end of the battle and of