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Twilight slammed her hoof against the door holding her back, feeling her magic seeping away into the giant stone barrier in front of her. Through the little window, an aged white alicorn with pink hair looked ashamed, her shaky legs hardly able to keep her standing, let alone help Twilight free her. Only her sun cutie mark, a symbol for so many within the empire, would even hint to the casual pony that this feeble creature had once been the princess of the sun.

Twilight had thrown every spell she had at the door after she had recognized her teacher, and the magic hadn't even dimmed. She had even started to draw out a glyph on the floor, hoping to power her magic with another ancient discipline, but the very magical ink had been sucked into the glowing symbols that barred her from her goal. She had even teamed up with Rarity, seeing if the two of them could do anything where one could not. All that had left were two panting, magically drained ponies staring at the dark bulwark.

After a few more minutes wracking her brain, she came up with only two courses of action, and she picked the faster one. “Stay here, I'm getting Luna,” she barked as she ran out of the dungeons, heading for the princess of the night. If anypony would know ancient alicorn magic, it would be the only other ancient alicorn… Twilight just hoped whatever had happened to her mentor wasn't permanent.

*     *     *     *     *    

Viper walked down from her throne slowly, her magic glowing red as a sheath hovered from the side of the room, stopping just outside of her reach. “Do you recognize this, Ink Well?” She slid the sword free, the long, curved blade shining in the pale moonlight and the glow of her magic. “This sword… I had to do a lot of work to get it back. When I was sentenced to life, they actually auctioned it off. It was a travesty of justice!” She smirked. “I had so wanted its first drink to be you, but that old collector was quite insistent about the duel for his honor.”

“Unfortunately for him, you don't have any,” Ink Well said, walking carefully around the room, trying to find an angle on her first attack. He had no weapons on him except his own four hooves, his wings, and his wits. But, then, those had been enough the last time.

Viper pointed the sword directly at him, letting it float there in her magic, apparently having grown out of the need to feel the cut with her own hooves. “Precisely! He was no match once the daggers came out… it really was a shame. And then any time somepony found out about my plans, or recognized me… well, once the blade was out, it'd be a waste not to use it. But this sword has always hungered for a certain pegasus… it's been quite a lot of work actually getting you here right now.”

Ink Well snorted as he circled around her, checking the vantage points around the room. Once, wings and the tall ceilings would have been enough, but depending on how naturally those new growths came to Viper, flight could be a blessing or a curse. “It's not like I haven't been here before. Seven years ago I came all on my lonesome. You could've struck then without a second thought.”

Viper smirked, testing the weight of her blade in the air, until she had it balanced on a single point of magic. “But I wasn't ready then, Ink Well. Who could I have pinned the blame on for all of this without Equestria's Most Wanted Stallion? Though, really, it wouldn't have been possible without your reappearance at the last Gala. The Princess had been growing wise to her General, and soon she might have even found me. But then you arrive, with the perfect reason to put our ruler into protective lockdown...” She smiled brightly. “I owe this all to you, really.”

“The army at your door? The crumbling of your plan around you while you decide to settle petty squabbles?” He stopped where he was, readying his muscles for that first rush. Viper didn't look a day older than she'd been when she'd fought him last, while all twenty seven showed clearly on Ink Well's lined face. His age had more than doubled since their last encounter… this one wouldn't be nearly as pretty.

Viper laughed loudly, grasping the hilt of the sword in her magic once more. “No! Don't you remember my plan? I had one goal: Overthrow the god-queen! I thought the tabloids would start a revolution, but who would have ever guessed the pony that foiled that plot would give me the perfect ammunition to start a real war? The Weather Factory? That reveal was beautiful, almost more so than the sight of it tumbling to the ground. And the drought afterward? The paranoia Celestia started to show? Even at your greatest moment, you couldn't pen a better play! I hardly even had to nudge her general and she was decreeing my laws left and right. And all it took was manipulating a few key numbers, stopping the right messengers… The whole nation fell in half.”

“All of these lives, all of this time, all so you could live out some sick power fantasy?” Ink Well's eyes glowed with anger as he stared into Viper's uncaring ones.

Viper's wings flapped majestically, going to their full glory as she smiled at him. “You act like you wouldn't do the same, in my position. And now look! One simple ritual and I have immortality, flight, magic power beyond belief, and my nemesis standing there glowering at me.”

Ink Well's eyes narrowed. “You're a monster.”

“Thank you for noticing.” Viper shot forward with one strong flap of her wings, the sword slashing at Ink Well's neck, which he nimbly ducked under. What he didn't expect was her catching the sword in her mouth, swinging it back at his lowered form. All he could do was put up his left forehoof, the blade sinking into his arm.

Viper smiled cruelly, but it soon disappeared when his right swung around, forcing her to jump back to avoid the hit. Ink Well shook his arm, the cloak on his back moving aside to reveal a woven grass armor, the nick from the sword hardly a scratch on the strangely made armor. She glared at him, and he glared back, settling into a fighting pose again. “Don't you know how a monster attack can bring together nations?”

Viper snorted, grabbing the sword in her magic once more. “So you're prepared… no matter. It would've been disappointing if it was over so quickly.” She smirked, then shot forward again, her sword slashing the air as Ink Well put up his best defense.

*     *     *     *     *    

Applejack swung back her hoof, her armor ringing as it connected with a wizard's face, the poor unicorn crumpling under the weight of her attack. Unfortunately for her, the mage's tower was not filled by just one unicorn, and the dozen others that barred the door redoubled their attacks, lightning and fire flying through the small portal while she jammed herself against the wall.

Rainbow jammed herself on the other side, occasionally peeking out to see what they were up against. “Okay… I think it's half a dozen, and if nothing else, at least they've stopped firing on the troops below.”

Bits of the archway exploded away from AJ, pinging off her armor and leaving a dent. “That don't really help us right now, RD, ya got somethin' better?”

Rainbow sighed. “I really wish I'd brought a gun, even though I'd promised myself to try not to kill anypony.”

Applejack shook her head, looking into the top chamber of the tower. There wasn't even any cover to dive into, no matter how fast a pony was. The only way they'd be getting in would be dodging like a mad mare or taking all of the hits. Both of those were suicide operations.

After a few more seconds, Rainbow sighed, the wall beside her turning black as fire spilled out of the doorway. “I'm really going to regret this in a moment.”

“What are you—?” Applejack asked, but Rainbow was already flying down the stairs of the tower, her wings barely fitting in the tight hallway, making her flight clumsy. After about a minute, Applejack began to wonder if maybe Rainbow had finally gotten a bit of cowardice in her veins from somewhere.

That was when she heard the battlecry echoing up the stairs. Less than a second later it was followed by Rainbow Dash, hooves forward, wing skimming just above the stairs as she spiraled up the tower, a corona of air forming in front of her outstretched hooves. “FOR LUNA!” she yelled as she passed through the door in the blink of an eye, fast enough to catch the mages off guard before she broke through the cone of force in front of her.

There was a crash of sound, everypony being knocked to their feet as rainbow light exploded from the tower, blinding the mages that had been in there. Applejack had, luckily, not been able to turn around the door enough to see the explosion, but she saw the aftermath and knew it was her chance. “For Equestria!” She cried as she leaped into the room, landing hard on a fallen mage and keeping him down. She didn't have too much time before they got up and started slinging spells again… every moment had to count.

*     *     *     *     *    

Viper's attacks were relentless, pushing Ink Well back slowly as he dodged and blocked, infinitely glad for the wisdom of the zebras as it caught the blade once more, keeping his leg safe from damage with the sound of dry grass rustling.

Ink Well's apparent invincibility was really starting to infuriate Viper, though, who snarled at him as she hacked and slashed her way around the throne room. “Just hold still! You may think it's funny to waste my time, old stallion, hoping age takes you before my sword does, but some of us have empires to build on your bloody corpse!”

She thrust forward, aiming right for his heart as the sonic rainboom happened, throwing off her focus and causing her to only succeed in hitting the air as he leaped over her, kicking off of her sword and heading in the direction of the exit hall. Stained glass vibrated in the windows around him as he galloped down the hall to the large double doors, the poor remains of the diamond dog still laying there. If he could just stall her long enough, then maybe he'd have an army at his back… He definitely wasn't confident in taking on an alicorn on his own.

Before he was even halfway down the hall, though, the knife in his body guard shifted, pulling out and flinging at him from the front, while two more swords seemed to lunge from the tapestries, barring his escape paths.

Ink Well was forced to drop to the ground, holding his hooves above his head as the dual swords fell at him, his quick motions barely keeping himself from losing half his limbs. He swung his forehooves down, pinning the swords beneath him as he took a quick look around.

The whole throne room glowed with red, dozens of daggers and blades seeming to find their way out of the very stonework, floating around Viper in a shell of steel and death. “Where do you think you're going, Ink Well?” Viper said as he turned around, only to be faced with a whirling wall of death as a dozen daggers danced to Viper's magic. “This fight is between us. This entire war is between us, if you want to get dramatic about it. You aren't leaving until you see it through.” Slowly the wall of blades moved towards him, the shield around her approaching him as well as she walked forward, death in her eyes.

Just when Ink Well was able to see the whites of her eyes, wondering what the best decision was for an escape route, the answer was given to him as one of the stained glass windows shattered, the scene it depicted utterly destroyed by a cream colored mare with shiny brass wings.

Rose looked around and, seeing she was behind a horrifyingly familiar alicorn and a spinning wall of blades, looked past Viper to Ink Well, signaling for him to meet her outside the window she'd just crashed through.

Viper's attention went to her for just a moment, growling at the intruder in her duel, and while her gaze was drawn away, Ink Well burst through the window nearest to him, leaving a hole in the priceless work of art. Viper let out an angry growl as she saw her prey escape, refusing to let it be that easy.

Ink Well and Rose met outside the wall, hovering in the air. Ink Well hugged her quickly, speaking as he did. “What are you doing here? It's much too dangerous, particularly with Viper here, and I never could have imagined—”

Rose glared at him, pulling back from the hug as the mechanical wings worked behind her. “Why do you keep leaving me out of your most important decisions? True, this one you at least tried to talk me into, but you always run off, get yourself in danger… what would you do without me?”

Ink Well sighed happily, just glad to have somepony he trusted completely on his side. “I don't know how I would've lived my life without you. I almost died of heartache every night these last few years...”

Rose smiled warmly, then shook her head, her face going serious as she looked back at the throne room. “We can be corny later. What is Viper doing back? And how do we stop her?”

“She doesn't want to fight us, she wants to fight me.”

Rose glared at him for a moment. “We are in this together, Ink Well. This thing more than most. We defeated her together all those years ago, and even if we weren't bonded by marriage, in this, we are bonded by blood. So, how do we beat her?”

From within the throne room came an echoing, vengeful scream, followed by a bright red glow that seemed to pierce the sky with its intensity. Moments later the wall they had both been looking at crumbled to dust, revealing a large skeletal beast, slithering and swaying through the air, each of its bones created by a blade Viper had hidden in the room, should the fight have gotten out of hoof. Now, with her eyes glowing red as she flew in the center of her creation, it was clear to Ink Well that things had gotten out of hoof.

“We don't beat her. We run,” Ink Well said, turning tail and booking it for the sky, grabbing his wife at the last moment and pulling her along, knowing how much the mechanical wings could slow down a flying partner. With the magical monstrosity on their tails, though, there was very little that could actually make Rose fly faster, barely able to comprehend the situation as she stuck to Ink Well's side, just trying to survive.

*     *     *     *     *    

President Luna's Army pressed against the defending forces, their actions bolstered by the rainboom in the mage tower stopping the magic that had been raining down on them. But try as they might, they were simply being repelled, outnumbered even with the technological edge. Those loyal knights that still defended the castle did so fiercely, not willing to give up an inch of ground, ensuring every last one of them tried to take one with them. Were it not for Fluttershy and the other combat medics flying around the field, Luna was worried that nopony would come out of this fight alive.

Just as she was debating the merits of retreating for a new strategy, the mage's tower exploded into flames, shifting as ancient, heavy stones dislodged themselves from the castle masonry. Two forms flew out of the wreckage in a weak spiral, trailing smoke behind them as they made their way to the courtyard battlefield. They landed hard, tumbling heavily across the ground, but it was unmistakable: Rainbow and Applejack had succeeded in their mission.

The knights still defending the castle began to waver, realizing that perhaps it was they who were on the losing side as the generals of both armies took their positions, standing tall despite limps, burns, and bruises both carried. As Applejack made her way to the front lines once more, her armored form lowering the loyalist's moral even more, Rainbow went to Luna's side, giving a frightened glance up at the shaky tower. “We won't want to be under here for long, ma'am. We'll need to get into the safety of the main hall.”

Luna nodded, then turned to her army, calling out to each and every one of them. “TO THE CASTLE! WE FIGHT FOR EQUESTRIA, WE SHALL TAKE IT WHILE IT'S USURPERS ARE WEAKENED!” At once the battered remains of the combined forces led a change against the knights, chasing them to the castle doors, where Scootaloo still stood, squeezing the knights between the two parts of the army. Eventually the knights found leadership, running away from both forces, an act Luna didn't care about as she got her troops inside the walls.

Just as the last ones were crossing the threshold, there was a terrific crash that rent the air asunder. Luna looked up to see something she'd never expected: two small ponies outlined by her moon, followed by a massive skeletal beast that brushed aside the mage's tower as though it were paper. Stone bits fell quickly, while the body of the building teetered, tipped, then toppled, casting a shadow over the entire courtyard, and all of the medics working out there.

Luna's horn began to glow, her deep blue magic beginning to make a barrier over the medics, when her magic was blocked by a purple dome being created in the exact same space. She had no time to question it as she reeled, the impact of the tower shattering and splintering on her shield nearly enough to stun her. Just behind her, Twilight Sparkle let out a pained grunt, falling to the ground as her magic gave out from the crash.

The purple half of the dome disappeared, rocks and heavy wooden beams falling the last distance, most of their energy lost from where the barrier had taken it. A few ponies were under its shadow, but Fluttershy and her medics worked quickly to evacuate Luna's half of the barrier. It took less than a minute, and when it was done, Luna dropped her rubble as well, watching it seal off the entrance to the castle, leaving her on the wrong side to help Ink Well's plight.

Behind her, Twilight slowly came to, immediately stumbling towards Luna and speaking urgently. “We've found your sister, but she's behind a barrier… I can't break it. I need you for this.”

Luna looked at the rubble, imagining the glowing red monster flying through the sky, then looked at Twilight, letting out a deep sigh. “Let us go, then. And messengers: We want constant updates on this fight, if possible.” She closed her eyes. “Our friends, our happiness… our very future depends on it.” With that she turned, following Twilight as they made their way back to the dungeons.

*     *     *     *     *    

Ink Well and Rose flew as fast as they could, the Ready Wings moving clumsily, but adrenaline seemed to help make up the difference, keeping Rose just out of reach from the giant bladed python. Viper, still new to her wings, hovered just inside the snake's head, her eyes glowing red as she flew after them, not caring about the wave of destruction she cut through the castle towers.

Seeing Rose was struggling, Ink Well flew off in a different direction, diving and juking between clouds. Viper chased after him, much more interested in getting her revenge on the one who had knocked her out and imprisoned her. This let Rose land on a cloud, her hooves wearing Steam's cloud walking shoes, as she tried to get her bearings and think of a plan. She watched Viper, along with all her weapons, spiraling around the crumbling mage tower and sighed. This was too much for just the two of them… they needed support. They needed the others, but they seemed to be trapped inside.

It was then the lightbulb clicked on, Rose taking to the skies and joining up with Ink Well in his flight for survival. “We have to convince her to stop. Let her know her only way of survival is to surrender before the army kills her.”

Ink Well shook his head, veering through the arch beneath one of the tower pathways. Seconds later it burst into dust, Viper continuing towards them, unstoppable. “It's no use. She won't stop until we're dead.”

“Just follow me and try talking… it can't hurt.” Rose powered skyward, followed by Ink Well, who flew backwards, looking down as Viper struggled to change directions and follow them towards the full moon.

“Viper! We don't have to fight!” Ink Well called beneath him, never pausing his ascent. “This can all end peacefully if you stop this now!”

Viper just scoffed at his words. “Peacefully? Come now. I'll be executed if I surrender, and they'll try to kill me if I don't. Why quit now? If enough dissenters die here, nopony will be left to stop me!”

“I am giving you this chance. Surrender yourself to President Luna and you will be spared. I will make sure not a hair in your mane is hurt and you receive a fair trial.” He continued upwards, looking at Rose, who just urged him to keep speaking, while her eyes told him she'd be with him to the end. He smiled at that, looking down at Viper's lone form. “Besides… it's much better when you have somepony on your side.”

Viper rolled her eyes, pushing forward and trying to fly faster to catch the pegasus and his wife, but the weight of her weaponry was dragging her down. “Oh please! Don't tell me you've fallen for that Friendship schtick too!”

“Why not? You saw how powerful it was. An army created of rivals turned friends, able out power the most powerful troops you could create on your own. They beat you not because of a lack of fortification. They won because they were united: an entire nation united in stopping you. How do you think you can defeat that?”

Viper laughed loudly, her face looking incredulous. “How can I defeat that? How can't I? The countries combined may have numbers, Ink Well, and they might have an idealistic banner to wave before they charge, but only I have true power. I never trusted anypony else, and look at me! I have power beyond your wildest dreams, control over a nation, and, once I figure it out, the very sun to use as a weapon for me! And Equestria isn't the end, Ink Well… no, this is merely the beginning. Dominating the planet is so much easier when you're the Queen of it, Ink Well, and I won't let anypony get in the way of me!” She flapped her wings harder, picking up speed as the back sections of her sword skeleton fell away, leaving her with just the head surrounding her: more than enough to kill her targets. “Not you, not Luna, not even an army! I am a God and nothing can stop an immortal!”

Rose looked down at the ranting Viper as her snake began to disappear, then looked at Ink Well. “Do you trust me?”

Ink Well looked at her like she was insane. “What?”

Rose's metal wings flapped behind her as she looked him in the eyes, their death getting ever closer. “Do you trust me, Ink Well.”

Ink Well returned her gaze, his face softening. “Rose, my love, my wife… I'm the one who should me asking that question, as I have always trusted you completely. Even when I left, it was because I thought you’d live better without me.”

Rose shook her head of all the things she wanted to say to that. They'd have the rest of their lives to come to terms with those seven years… but they had to make it through this first. “Then Ink Well… it is no longer time to run. It is time to plant your roots and do what you think is right.” She offered him her hoof, slowing down as the wall of steel grew ever closer.

Ink Well grabbed her hoof back, slowing down as well, until the two of them were hovering, their death rapidly approaching from below. He smiled. “I love you Rosy.”

Rose smiled back. “I love you too, Inky.” She then pulled him into a kiss, pressing her body to his as she flapped once up towards the moon, wrapping her wings around them as they fell to the earth. Ink Well's forehooves wrapped around her, his wings enclosing them in a smaller shell as they approached the maw of blades.

Viper grinned wickedly as sword after sword pierced through the leather and brass shell, daggers and knives slicing and tearing, aiming for the ponies within. However, caught up as she was in her revenge, she didn't think about how hard it would be for her to get out of the way. Despite the swords sticking out of the ball of brass and fur that was Rose and Ink Well, it continued to plummet with an alarming weight, which crashed into Viper at full speed, knocking her weapons out of her magic and pinning her between the blades stuck in it.

Viper screamed and yelled and kicked in dazed agony, flapping her wings against the weight pressing down on her, but there was nothing to stop the ball from taking her with it. She couldn't focus enough to grip the slippery metal in her magic, but she had just enough left to pull a dagger from it, slashing and stabbing blindly into the leather as it all tumbled to the ground. She drew blood, though whether that which trailed behind the mess of wings was fresh or had just escaped the maze was hard to tell, those within the shell dead still on their fall.

They crashed like a meteor in the courtyard of the castle, Viper screaming and cursing all the way. The impact broke rubble and kicked up a cloud of dust, but also silenced the angered alicorn, the slam hard enough to even knock out an immortal. Soon, the only sounds were the clinks of broken bricks settling back into place and the gentle plips of blood falling from the sky like rain, signaling that, finally, this battle was over.

*     *     *     *     *    

Luna ran to the castle courtyard, leaving Twilight to finish breaking the seal on the panic room when she had heard the news of the battle's climax. By the time she had reached the doors of the castle, the loyalist knights were either scattered or captured, surrendering peacefully to the allied armies. A ring of soldiers had formed around the impact site of Ink Well, Rose, and Viper, all of them looking at the tangled mess below.

Everypony looked on, wishing to see the fate of the one who had brought them all together, as the medical team that wasn't busy tending to the other wounded peeled away the mess of swords, leather, and bent and twisted brass. There was no movement coming from inside the shell, but outside it – or, more precisely, beneath it – there was a loud moaning as a dark green form pulled itself free.

Immediately it was wrapped up in Luna's magic, stars twinkling in the dark blue field of it as Luna picked up the monster that had caused all of this. Her eyes began to glow bright blue, her armored form lighting up angrily as she stared the wrongful alicorn in the eyes. In return, Viper had just two words to say. “I surrender!”

Luna placed the injured green 'princess' on the ground, pinning her there with her magic while she stepped forward. “What did you say to us, knave?”

“I said I surrender! I surrender to you and your forces, for treatment as a prisoner of war.” Viper tried to wipe some blood from her face, but she was stopped instantly by the president's magic. “I want a fair trial, nothing more, nothing less.”

Luna's magic pushed her down as the president continued to glare at her. “And what makes you think we will accept your surrender? You sit there, showing off wings you did not earn, parading around with our sister's magic coursing through your veins! What is to stop us from taking it out again?”

Viper's eyes widened in fear. “No! Please! Ink Well promised me you would spare me! If you remove the magic, it could kill me. I am just a mortal pony! Ink Well wouldn't have wanted any more blood to be shed today! The last thing he'd want is for me to die without a trial.”

Luna's glare softened slightly as she leaned down, putting her face just inches from Viper's, close enough to completely bathe the bloody mare's face in her magic's glow. “You're right. Ink Well would want you to go to a trial. He would want you kept completely unharmed until you were found guilty and the magic was safely drained from your body.” Her face then went stoic, her glowing eyes filled with malice. “Unfortunately for you, we are not Ink Well.” Luna then leaned her head forward, tapping her glowing horn against Viper's.

It took only a moment for a wave of brilliantly bright magic to wash over the onlookers, nearly blinding them with its sheer energy. It did nothing, however, to cover the sound of one mare's pleas slowly turning into one long scream of agony.

*     *     *     *     *    

In the destroyed rubble of Canterlot Castle's throne room, a withered white alicorn sat upon the throne, a husk of her former self. She looked slowly over the remains of the stained glass hall, the great vaulted ceilings… all that had once brought visiting dignitaries to their knees laying in ruins around her. She sighed, wishing she hadn't spent all of those centuries training herself not to cry. The tears would be most fitting now.

As she surveyed what remained of her nation, the door at the other end swung open, a single alicorn walking in. Powerful, dignified, moving in her cobalt armor as though it were the finest silk. She walked proudly down the ruined halls, coming to a halt before Celestia's throne and looking her sister in the eyes, her face a mask, hiding her emotions. “Sister, we are glad to see thee free of thy cage.”

Celestia sighed, a wheezing sound from an ancient mare. “I miss your flowing mane, Selene. It was much more regal than this cropped cut you wear now.”

Luna cracked a smile, looking Celestia right in her eyes. “Tia, your look right now would not strike any stallion's heart beating, but we weren't going to mention it.”

Celestia's face slowly formed into a smile as well, before it faded away, thoughts of the current matters much more pressing. “I suppose you've come to banish me from the nation. Or do you have a need to execute me to solidify your rule? Equestria is now yours… I'm sure you're well aware.”

“It has been bathed in our moonlight for nearly twenty four hours now… Longer than even our time as Nightmare Moon. From this, 'twould be a trifle to wipe thee away, claim you fell to the castle or your usurper, and continue on my path. With the power flowing through us, 'twould be simple to take thy duty from you, and while there would be resistance, there are also many ponies that would be welcoming of news of your death.” Luna slowly walked towards her sister, towering over the frail white mare, looking like she could just reach out a hoof and turn Celestia to dust.

Celestia closed her eyes, holding her head up proudly as she accepted her coming fate. It only caused a look of shock when she was met with not a blow, but a kiss placed lightly upon her cheek. “Selene...”

Luna smiled warmly, looking her fragile sister in the eyes. “Many would welcome news of your demise, but we… no, I, would never be able to forgive myself.” She picked up Celestia's hoof, holding it gently between her own. “We were always meant to rule together, dear sister. And though you've made mistakes… who would I be to judge a pony harshly for one dire mistake in her life? My time as leader of a nation has taught me that even the most troubled past is not without redemption.”

Slowly, Luna tapped her horn against Celestia's, and magic began to flow from one alicorn to the other, shimmering bright yellow, like the glow of the sun, as all that was Celestia's returned to her. Her body grew strong and youthful once more, her eyes bright and sharp, her wings light and agile… Even her mane took on its ethereal appearance, taking on two more tones as it waved in a wind that wasn't there. When it was done, the two restored sisters looked each other in the eyes, tears beginning to form at finally being together once again. “Selene… I am so sorry…”

Luna stopped her with a gentle hoof, smiling despite the tears on her face. “It is not enough to be sorry. One must learn from their mistakes if they wish to truly make them right.” She then stood, standing next to Celestia, looking her now-taller sister in the eye. “Come. We were destined to rule together. So raise the sun, Tia, and let us finally begin these peace talks we have so craved.”

Celestia nodded, her horn glowing as the two sisters exited the room together. Just as the door to the ruins closed shut, the sun finally rose, ending the darkness of the night and shining its light brightly on a new era of peace.
Where Night Meets Day 25: War pt.2
And the second half... Again, sorry for the delay.
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A soft clink could be heard from the wall of the ancient, abandoned Canterlot gem mines, though the being lounging within knew it wasn't his doing. Well, not directly, at least, though he did know this was where his visitor would arrive. A little prescience on the matter ensured that he'd be here to greet her right as she—

The wall crumbled away to dust, the gems around the waiting presence lighting up brilliantly, even in the dim red glow cast by the horn of the interloper. Dust clung to her fur and sweaty face, and she gasped with exhaustion as she stepped from her cramped, boiling escape tunnel and into the cool dank mine. As she fell forward, though, she was caught by the waiting being's tail, a surprisingly fluffy cushion considering the scaled length that ran up to the fur of his body. “Now, now, we can't have you passing out just yet. You must be awake to meet your savior.”

“Nopony is my savior,” the tired mare spat venomously, glaring up at the creature playing with her. “Least of all you, Discord. I broke out on my own.”

Discord's yellow eyes narrowed as he brought his face closer to hers. “Oh, really? And I suppose enchanted spoons just find their
own way to dungeon inmates being fed bread and water.” He smiled at her intrigued look as he took the tiny digging tool from her. “Really, the options are either me or somepony very connected to the guard… Though I suppose, by the end of today, you'll have to wonder.” His body snaked through the air, pointing to a small table with two chairs on it. “While we wait, however, would you like to play a game? I've got all of them.”

The mare stood herself up off of his tail, letting him fly over to his spot as she walked over with trepidation. She knew, if he wanted to, Discord could send her back to her jail in a snap. He'd spent at least a few minutes doing just that before he'd left for Ponyville when he was first released… my, how long ago had that been?

“Just six years and three days. It would've been the anniversary of our meeting, but you took too long to dig,” Discord said with a giggle, motioning to the board before him. It was a simple game of checkers, though the pieces were green and beige. “Checkers? Or would you prefer cards,” as he spoke, the board flashed to a deck of cards, “backgammon? Darts? Parcheesi?” The game flickered three more times, before settling on one very similar to the original, though all of the pieces were different, and very much out of place. “Or perhaps you prefer chess? Honestly, it seems most your game.”

The mare snorted at the board, one lone green pawn sitting on her side, a beige one on Discord's, and an entire army in multiple colors sitting off to the left… or, really, two full sets somehow all fitting on the board at once. “My tactical mind may have landed me in jail, but even I see no way to win. Technically, I think both of us have lost.”

Discord sighed dramatically. “Oh, woe is me. I seem to have this game all mixed up again. Though, really, I think you'll enjoy this version more. Set up for a one-on-one revenge match, winner takes Equestria. Surely you'd like a second chance after all
he did to stop your first one.”

The mare growled at the piece across from her, recognizing who it stood for and remembering all those years of hard work thrown into the flames by that stupid nosy pegasus. It was enough to make her blood boil, but she had to keep it cool, particularly when she heard the last bit. “How did you hear about that? You were still a statue at the time.”

Discord's voice sounded in her ear, soon followed by his mouth, then the rest of the draconequus as he pulled himself from there. “Just because I was stone doesn't mean I couldn't hear. These walls would have many stories to tell, if you gave them the chance.” He snapped his claws, and the sounds of a bride singing as she tried a daring escape rang for a moment before fading into nothingness. “But this isn't about them, is it? This is all about you...” Discord tapped the pawn, a little brown fedora appearing on its rounded head. “… and him.”

She looked at the piece, then at Discord, a fire in her eyes, and not just from her red magic flaring around them. “What are the rules? When do I get my chance?”

Discord chuckled heartily, a sound that reverberated tenfold in the small, gem filled chamber. “The rules are simple: there are none. You know your situation, he knows his. Find out his, figure out how best to do to it what you want to, and—Oh! Silly me—try not to get caught. Something tells me you won't get out of the dungeons a second time. As for your chance… It's on its way.”

He snapped his talons this time, and suddenly he was as smoke, dissipating into the air, along with his game, table, and chairs. The dirt-covered mare wanted to run through the caves yelling after him, but stopped herself, knowing better than to attract attention to herself, even in this abandoned cave.

Or so she thought. Just as she set out to leave, hoof steps clopped across the hard stone, coming into the narrow opening before her. Standing there was an aging grey unicorn with a strong jaw line, clearly looking out of place in his 'inconspicuous' civilian clothes. As he spotted her and her exit tunnel in the dim light of the cave, he grew grim, stepping forward dominantly. “I see you managed your escape. Good. I have a proposition for you.”

The mare smiled deviously, standing completely calmly, yet still giving off the air of a snake ready to strike. “Of course, General. Glad to be of service.” Internally, the mare laughed maniacally. Hardly able to believe the chance she'd been given.
An army? And they thought a few magazines were dangerous…

*     *     *     *     *    

A banner flew in the wind on the long road to Canterlot, the New Lunar Republic crest shining beneath Luna's full moon. However, the banner was not alone, each of the other armies had their own, flying them alongside, showing the unity of the ponies on this mission despite their differences. Sure, tensions were high between some of the factions, but everypony knew where the true danger hid.

Particularly Ink Well, walking alone a few steps behind President Luna and Princess Twilight, once more alone, just like he’d been for all of those years… Many ponies had decided to stay behind, to fix up Ponyville and tend to the wounded, and it was only with a herculean effort that he'd managed to convince Rose to do the same. Not because she couldn't handle herself, not because Wind and Steam and Flora were a little shaken up and in need of comfort, not even because he didn't want her there, standing at his side and giving him the strength to go on. No… he asked her to remain behind because there was a strong chance that ponies weren't coming home from this battle, and he refused to let her be among their number.

They were a fraction of both armies, marching towards an attacker who likely knew they were coming, with a force much larger than theirs, and they didn't even know who they were trying to stop. To say the odds were against them would've been the greatest understatement of the century, and some of the ponies around him knew it. Twilight, Luna, Applejack, Rainbow, Fluttershy, Rarity… The grim looks of determination, the stoic, proud stance they took as they marched… it was the look of ponies proud to find their final rest, and willing to do everything they could before it claimed them. And that was just on the ones who seemed immortal.

And they, too, had left their loved ones behind. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Spike, Jazz, Silver… All of them were back in Ponyville, with the wounded soldiers and the doctors tending to them. Fluttershy, too, had left somepony dear to her behind, trusting his care to the doctors she'd been leading. All of them wanted to know that they were safe… Very little truly mattered after that.

But whatever happened here, Ink Well could tell this was the end of the line. Whether their army fell, the other army surrendered, full scale war broke out again, or everyone finally saw peace, this was where it would be decided, and this was, truly, his last adventure. As he came up to the gate of Canterlot Castle once more, looking up at the portal that had changed his life so many times in the past, he could feel that nothing would ever be the same.

*     *     *     *     *    

“In the name of Princess Celestia I demand you open this door!” Twilight yelled to the gatehouse of Canterlot Castle. She had tried a few times, as had President Luna, but neither of them had managed so much as a response from the guards beyond. They could fly over, it was true, but that would leave more than half the army behind. They wanted to get that drawbridge open.

“Why aren't they firing at us?” Rainbow Dash whispered to Applejack, wondering how the army had gotten this far unharassed.

“I don't know. Mosta th' army's with us or campin' on the front line… So I guess the mages must 'a ran outta power after firin' on Ponyville.”

“But there's usually arrows or spears or something when the enemy gets near.” Rainbow rolled her eyes. “I've dodged my fair share.”

“Well, yer the side the gryphons keep tradin' with. We've only got a half dozen guns, an' Apple Bloom ripped most 'a them apart fer research.” Applejack shifted awkwardly in her armor. She was getting antsy in the moonlight this late in the day… it wasn't right, and she missed her sun and her princess.

“I, Princess Twilight demand at least one of you talk to me! You will all be court martialed for this treason!” Twilight was getting angry now, her mane starting to get out of place. She, too, was agitated for her missing mentor and friend, and every second wasted was one too many.

As Twilight yelled at the door, Pinkie Pie happily bounced over to her side, tapping her on the shoulder. “Let me handle this, Twilight.” She then grabbed Gummy, the still baby alligator despite him being nearly three decades old, and tossed him high into the air.

Twilight watched with annoyed curiosity as Gummy suddenly stopped in midair, his mouth snapping down and making him look like he was hanging on something. A moment later the sky itself seemed to ripple, and as Gummy fell, he pulled with him a fabric that perfectly matched the sky, as well as the ponies standing behind it. Suddenly, where there had been nothing, a massive pink cannon stood, it's humongous barrel pointed directly at the gatehouse.

Twilight's eye twitched as she looked up at both Pinkie and Gummy who, despite their positions a moment ago, were standing on top of the siege weapon. “How…?” was as much of the question Twilight could ask, though it was a sentiment shared by the ponies all around the cannon, not sure how they hadn't noticed the huge thing before it had appeared.

Pinkie just giggled. “I never go anywherewithout my Party Cannon!” She wrapped the firing cord around her hoof. “This one's for raiding parties! Stay clear!” She pulled the cord. The ground shook from the force of the weapon going off, the gatehouse and drawbridge completely disappearing in a shower of confetti. When the air cleared of the colored strips of paper, a balloon bridge spanned over Canterlot's moat, attached to a giant cannonball embedded deeply in the middle of the courtyard beyond, the air around it choked with dust from the wreckage.

Nearly every member of the combined army attacking the castle stared in disbelief, their jaws hanging open, hardly able to comprehend anything they had just seen. Pinkie just giggled, hopping off the cannon and bouncing onto the bridge. Soon her laugh was drowned out by another, much deeper laugh, seeming to come from all around them. It was instantly recognizable, putting everypony on guard, particularly the Elements, who had dealt with his tricks enough before.

Discord walked calmly out of the dust beyond the cannonball, laughing wildly at the entrance the army had made. “Oh, my, this is too precious! You should see the looks on your faces!”

Pinkie turned to look at the army, snorting as she held back a laugh at the silly look most of them had, while Luna stepped forward, her voice clear and commanding, her eyes bright as fire. “What have you done with our sister, Discord? Let her go!”

Discord looked shocked, placing a claw to his chest. “Moi? Why, how could you think I have anything to do with this? I'm truly hurt.” He began to sniffle, pulling a handkerchief from thin air.

Twilight wasn't having any of his games. “I should've known you were behind this! Who else would have the power to make a pony act so strangely? Who else could make the sun disappear?”

Discord's face went flat. “Perhaps you should look at your ally for that…” Twilight looked a little confused for a moment, while Luna seemed to shrink in embarrassment, still ashamed of her actions all those centuries ago. However, before Twilight could inquire, Discord continued. “No matter. I've hardly done anything. I merely placed one piece on the board, and the rest of you were all too eager to play these war games. It would be shameful if it weren't so exciting.”

He disappeared, only to reappear hovering over the bridge with a bucket of popcorn and cheap 3-D glasses. “Who will win? The ponies all working together, fighting for peace? Or the ponies much more loyal to their cause?” Just then the dust around the cannonball slowly dissipated, revealing a large number of knights and burly ponies in dark black armor, all of them glowering, itching for a fight. Discord laughed again. “Oh, I can't wait to see it!”

The allied army, seeing their foe, started to ready themselves, steeling themselves for the battle and starting to stare the opposite members down. Discord looked upon this with glee before suddenly locking on to Ink Well, his eyes lighting happily as he saw the writer among the allied forces. “She's waiting for you in the throne room, you know,” Discord said with a sly smile. “She's been rather enjoying your game. It'd be a shame if you fell now.” With his message delivered, Discord disappeared, leaving behind only tension as the two armies stared each other down.

Suddenly the army inside the castle charged, dark and armored ponies yelling out a battle cry as they rushed at Princess Twilight and the rest of the allied forces. The allies charged as well, making their way over the balloon bridge to crash into the defenders of the castle, officially beginning the final battle of this civil war.

*     *     *     *     *    

The leaders of the allied army did well to corral the amassed forces, Luna, Cadance, and Grandis managing to keep the knights, soldiers, and gryphons in line as they crashed against the army in the castle courtyard. Lightning bolts and fireballs fired from a tower on high, crashing against the combatants and launching streaks of color across the moonlit battlefield. Following behind the fray, Fluttershy did her best to keep casualties as low as she could, while Pinkie, with very little effort, did an amazing job at keeping them quite high for the enemies.

The entire attacking army almost seemed like a distraction as a small strike force, led by Applejack, Rainbow, and Scootaloo charged the front door, the few in heavy armor keeping damage away from those inside their shell, who dished out damage quickly, clearing a path to the front door of the palace. Within minutes they were inside, focusing on the enemy within the walls while the main army took care of those outside.

However, while the fighting was of course important, some ponies had another task they had to accomplish. Soon after the front door was breached, a small panel slid open in one of the kitchen pantries, out of which slid a few diamond dogs, followed by their leader, who shook her mane to get rid of some of the dust that had collected. “To think, the palace has been around for centuries and they don't even close their secret doors in an emergency.” She reached back, offering a hoof to the two important ponies who had followed her: Twilight and Ink Well.

While the pantry was cramped with all of the dogs that had filed into it, they soon spilled out into the spacious kitchen, these 'impossible to reach' areas not even defended with such a struggle outside. Rarity smirked as report after report of clear halls came back from the dogs. “Twilight, where do you think the Princess is being held, if you had to guess?”

“The dungeons, definitely. There were even talks of a panic room in there, in case something big were to threaten the castle.”

Rarity nodded. “My thoughts exactly. And they did finish that project, you know. Though, if one studies the plans, one sees a rather large flaw in the design: all of the locks are on the outside.” She raised an eyebrow at Twilight, who seemed surprised at the news, before she turned to Ink Well. “And what of you, darling? I suspect you are curious as to what Discord was prattling on about?”

Ink Well nodded. “I'm going to find out who is doing this, or if Discord has just been playing tricks on us this whole time. And I am going alone.”

“But it's obviously a trap! Whoever's waiting for you in there, if they are waiting for you, obviously has a plan! It'd be suicide to go alone!” Twilight practically pinned him to the pantry wall as she yelled out her observation, her wings flared with excitement and to give her points emphasis.

Ink Well just sighed. “If it's somepony who is actually waiting for me, then they're theatrical. They'd be more likely to listen if I did what their script wanted, and it would only put a companion in danger.” He looked into Twilight's eyes, knowing full well what he was saying. “And if I've been reading all of this wrong and Celestia is behind those doors, the last thing she'll want to see is her 'faithful student' coming to stop her. She doesn't seem the type to foalnap herself, and I trust she was true with her intentions of peace, but...”

Ink Well was given the space to make his way to the hallway door. “You will know just as quickly as I how all of us were deceived, whether it was by a friend or something none of us could foresee.” Immediately he left the room, leaving Twilight, Rarity, and the dogs all around to go off on his own.

Twilight went to another door, knowing her way to the dungeons quite well, unfortunately. “Let's get moving. If we can free Celestia, we can end the battle now. Nopony else will have to be hurt today.”

“I agree, lead the way,” said Rarity, watching Twilight gallop down the hall. Before she moved, though, she turned to one of her dogs. “Follow Ink Well. Keep him free from harm, and return the instant you know who he is meeting.” The dog saluted, then shot off after Ink Well, blending into the shadows as he tailed the troubled stallion.

*     *     *     *     *    

As soon as it was dug in Applejack and Rainbow Dash left Scootaloo and the rest of the strike force. They headed towards the mage's tower, knowing that stopping the magical onslaught would do wonders for the force outside, and knowledgeable enough to know that the stairs in there weren't built wide enough for more than two, just in case an invading force tried to assault it.

They weren't quite invading, but the two Elements of Harmony certainly hoped they'd be a good enough distraction, and maybe even be able to beat down the bookworms that lived at the top of the spire. In fact, as they started up the stairs, Rainbow was confident, taking them five at a time with small flaps of her confined wings. “We've got this! This is going to be a snap! Whoever heard of a mage winning in hoof to hoof with real fighters?”

Applejack also seemed to have a spring in her armored step, bounding up the stairs just as quickly as Rainbow did. “Now, I ain't one ta test their mettle, an' I never doubted Equestria's military, but I think we've got the easiest part a' this whole attack.”

Rainbow laughed for a minute, turning to face Applejack and sticking out her tongue playfully. “Look at you! Normally you're a huge party pooper, all defensive and trying to take it slow. You sure you're feeling alright?”

AJ waved it off, chuckling at Rainbow's cheeky gesture. How had she been enemies with one of her best friends for so long? “I'm feelin' fine, RD. Better'n fine, really! Why, I bet I could take on these foals naked as a blue bird!” She was feeling so confident that that seemed like a fantastic idea, actually, and she stopped in the hall, starting to work on unbuckling her armor.

That was when Rainbow's hoof landed on her own, stopping it from undoing the clasp, though she had a cocky smile on her face. “Okay, you're not you if you're saying that. You were the one with the bee suits for the competition, you were the one who always kept your hat on, always had rope on you… Always prepared. You wouldn't take a risk with so much family on the line. I'm supposed to be the stupid one here.” Her look became serious, only for a second, as though it were fighting to be so. “Something isn't right.”

AJ couldn't imagine something being anything less than right when she felt this confident, this… hopeful! Nothing could possibly go wrong, and she'd be back outside in ten minutes, tops, hugging Big Mac an' Apple Bloom an' workin' her farm without a care in the world! Or, at least, that's what her thoughts were telling her. But as she looked into that single moment of worry from Rainbow, she remembered herself, remembered the two graves in the corner of the acres, all the years without her parents, and the promise she made to herself the minute she was drafted. Not a pony alive could make her take the armor off until she was safe at home… So why did it seem like such a good idea?

She had to fight with her hoof to get it to lower back to the ground, wrestling with her own mind to focus on the negatives of such a dumb decision as removing her armor, but they just kept floating away, washed by this feeling like she could do anything right now, tingling at the base of her neck like… like a spell. She tried to shake it off, but it was much too late for that. “Rainbow… get behind me. There's magic in the halls, n' it's gettin' to us.”

Rainbow laughed it off. “How could there be something like that? We'd feel it or be acting weird, and I feel as awesome as always!”

Applejack could hardly argue with that, she felt awesome too, but she knew better, and that growing tingle was getting worse. “Rainbow, listen ta me. Do ya feel that on yer shoulders? Right at the base 'a yer neck, like the wind's blowin' past?”

Rainbow nodded. “Yep! It's like I'm racing through the skies! If this tower were a little wider I'd shoot up to the top, see what a Rainboom does to those magic casters!”

“There ain't any wind in the tower. Ain't any windows neither.” Rainbow looked around, at first confused, sure that AJ was messing with her, but as she did, she found it to be the truth. “I almost took off my armor, yer tryin' ta run up the stairs without thinkin', an' with the tactics your troops pulled on mine? No… Somethin's messin' with us.”

Rainbow hesitated, looking at the worry on AJ's face, and slowly she came to feel the tingle at the base of her spine too, recognizing it as more than just the wind across her fur. It made her shudder, looking up the tower to see if she could spot the source of it. It's a good thing she turned when she did, or she never would've caught the unicorn sneaking up on her, horn burning as the tip readied a fire spell. She ducked at the last moment, the spell rushing past to smash on the stonework behind her, showering Applejack's armor in sparks.

The unicorn, thinking he'd had the perfect opportunity, stood in shock as RD rushed up the steps, a swift hoof connecting with his face, knocking him out cold as his body slid down a few stairs before coming to a rest. Rainbow shook off her hoof, looking at Applejack with a bit of worry on her face. “You still feeling super hopeful about kicking their flanks?”

Applejack nodded, her eyes wide inside her helmet. “Yep. You?” Rainbow nodded as well, making Applejack sigh. “Well, at least we know what we're up against. I guess we'll try ta keep a level head.”

Rainbow just looked even more worried. “Us? Not rush in?” She scoffed, then jumped backwards over Applejack, putting the armored mare higher up the steps. “No way. I'm keeping you in front. At least your heavy flank'll keep me from charging on ahead.”

“I'd like ta see ya step lightly in as much metal as I'm wearin'. I bet ya wouldn't be makin' fun 'a me then, would ya?”

Rainbow smirked. “Nope, but I wouldn't've singed my hat either, now get moving. We gotta take those mages out before they really hurt somepony.” Applejack nodded, and together, cautiously, the two made their way, fighting to restrain the constant feeling of hope. It was too late in the war to dream of being heroes.

*     *     *     *     *    

Twilight and Rarity crept through the halls of Canterlot Castle slowly, and though they were constantly ready for attack, they met no resistance whatsoever. The ponies loyal to whoever sat upon the throne were doing her bidding out front fighting the army: they had no reason to be in the halls. That was, of course, until they came to the dungeon entrance.

Two unicorns and two earth ponies stood guard.  None were dressed in golden royal armor, but instead all wrapped in lightly built black pieces made for movement. The moment they saw the two Elements approaching they were in motion, the earth ponies charging forward while the unicorns prepared spells behind them. However, Twilight had been prepared from the start, and in an instant she had a shield between them and her, completely impenetrable except for one little hole, out of which she fired a magical beam.

The earth pony she aimed at dodged, while behind him the second earth pony drew something from his shoulder, throwing it in a smooth motion. Twilight was preparing a spell, confident in her shield's abilities, when suddenly her vision was blocked by a blue glow. At her side, Rarity's horn glowed as well, surrounding the small needle that had shot through the hole. “Twilight, you really should be more careful. We don't want the arch mage to be taken down by any old rapscallion.” A moment later the needle shot through the barrier backwards, skimming through the mane of the pony that had thrown it as he barely got out of the way.

Twilight was shocked for a second that she'd been caught off guard so easily, but she quickly recovered, releasing her spell in a wave of energy down the hall. “Thanks for the catch, Rarity. I can honestly say I wasn't expecting it.” The earth ponies were caught in the wave of purple energy, floating off of the floor with panicked voices calling out, while the unicorns were able to stop the attack with their own magic. Before they could launch a counter attack, however, heavy forms dropped on them from above, Rarity's own diamond dogs doing wonderfully at their job as bodyguard.

Rarity walked forward confidently after that, stepping through a hole Twilight made in her barrier calmly and walking right up to one of the floating earth ponies. “Would you be a dear and tell us where you're keeping Princess Celestia?”

“Over my dead body!” the mare yelled, glaring Rarity right in the eyes. There was also a sound of her spitting, but the mask covering her mouth made that more embarrassing than she'd probably intended.

Rarity sighed. “As you wish. Cooper...” Rarity walked past the floating mare as Cooper stepped out of the shadows, a sadistic glint in her eyes. A moment later the diamond dog blocked the struggling mare from sight, and with a strangled yelp and the steady drip of red on the stone, the deed was done. Twilight watched on in horror as Rarity walked over to the next suspended earth pony, another mare that had seemed so tough a moment ago. “So, now, would you—”

“She's in the panic room at the end of the hall! There's an iron door leading to an empty room. Press the third stone in from the right on the second row down and the fourth from the left on fifth row up on the back wall,” the mare rattled off quickly, sweat dripping from her brow as she hung in the air, otherwise motionless.

Rarity smiled warmly. “Wonderful! See? Isn't it easier if you help? Cooper, take care of her.”

The suspended mare's eyes shrunk to pinpricks and she tried to shake her head frantically, begging to be released as Cooper slowly turned around, lifting a red stained paw and stalking towards her victim with deadly delight in her eyes. As she got closer, however, her other paw was revealed to have a small bottle ketchup from the kitchen. The deadly look gave way to a playful one before she swiftly struck the mare on the back of the head, knocking her out cold with another strangled yelp.

Twilight's gaze panned between Rarity, Cooper, and the two knocked out mares, a look of horror on her face. “Where did you learn to do things like that? If I hadn't seen it from this angle...” She shuddered at what the mare must have thought.

Rarity just laughed. “Oh, Twilight, still so naive sometimes. This is war, dear. It is won both with bodies and minds, and sometimes you do what you must.” She then turned, walking down the hallway. “Now, we have a princess to save, or have you forgotten?”

The two Elements walked down the hall together, finding the room the mare had described and pushing in the two seemingly-normal stones. Immediately the back wall swung open, revealing a giant arcane rune carved into a completely smooth stone, with more symbols and circles spiraling out from it, all of it glowing and humming with magical energy.

Twilight stepped forward, her mouth agape in wonder. “This… This is ancient alicorn magic of the highest degree! I don't even know if I can get this open… But… if Celestia's in there, then who could've done this?” As she looked at the door in front of her, more impressive than even any bank vault, she saw a window set into it… a curious choice for a 'panic room.' She walked up to it, looking through, and gasped, unable to fully comprehend what she saw.

*     *     *     *     *    

Ink Well's trip to the throne room was entirely unopposed, the sounds of battle far outside barely echoing through the halls to let him know other ponies were still alive. But he moved on anyway, his curiosity as strong as his desire to finish all of this and finally, maybe, have a peaceful life at home. As he reached the ornate doors of the throne room, he only hesitated for a moment, wondering what would be inside before pushing them open.

The room was just as vast and grand as it had ever been, the stained glass windows on the wall chronicling the past works of the Elements of Harmony just as impressive as they had always been. He was hardly able to appreciate them as he heard the voice calling out to him from the shadowy throne. “It's about time you got here, Ink Well. Do you know how long I've been waiting? I was almost worried all of this was going to be for nothing.”

Ink Well couldn't quite place the voice, but it was familiar, sparking a memory deep in the back of his mind. “Who are you and what do you want with me? If you were going to call off the troops, you would have done so, so—”

“Really? You don't remember me? I know it's been a long time, but I don't think you'd be where you are today if you hadn't spent so much time foiling my plans.” The mare's voice sighed, the figure on the throne shifting slightly in her seat. “I've been planning this for years, and you almost missed it completely… For a while there, I was actually worried you'd died, but I'm glad you knew better than that.”

Ink Well took a heated step forward, infuriated by the condescending tone being used on him. “Who do you think you are to usurp a throne? To start a war? To get countless lives thrown away just for whatever sick 'plan' you had in mind? Show yourself!”

A flash of red magic sparked in the dark for just a moment, making Ink Well dive to the side instinctively, dodging the knife by the fringe of his cloak. However, when he looked behind him, he saw the knife plunged deep into his unseen guard's neck, blood seeping from the diamond dog's wound as the bodyguard gurgled, weakly reaching out before collapsing to the ground.

The voice let out a short laugh. “There! Now that we're alone, I don't feel quite so shy.” The glow of red formed around a horn, dimly illuminating the voice as it spoke, the smirk barely visible in the light. “I think you're going to love the new me.”

Two large, green fires roared to life on either side of the throne, lighting up the banners that hung above them. No longer were they the symbol of the Solar Empire, but something more sinister. Deep forest green with black trim, a bright green serpent in the center of each wrapped around the blade of a dagger dripping blood.

And at the rush of light, the figure on the chair was shown brightly, though Ink Well had to blink to make sure it wasn't some trick of the light. But no, there she was: dark green fur, emerald mane, a gold streak across the bottom, and bright red eyes filled with hatred, excitement, and just a hint of mania. Her smile grew wider as she saw the recognition on his face, his voice growing low as his eyes narrowed. “Viper…”

“Aha!” Viper pointed at him, sitting up in her throne. “Nailed it in one! But I'm afraid you're a little too late. After all...” behind her, two majestic wings unfolded, melding into her back, framing the alicorn's head as she revealed what she truly was with a malevolent laugh, “I've already won!”

*     *     *     *     *
Where Night Meets Day 25: War pt.1
The first half of the second to last chapter of Where Night Meets Day. Sorry for the delay... life was busy for both me and the editor.
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Watch the sky, Pinkie Pie! by Medicshy
Watch the sky, Pinkie Pie!
Pinkie Pie posing in front of the Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna Kea. Also for the Ponies around the world contest, but I just wanted something to remember my time there.
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Gemipie by Medicshy
Gemipie
Pinkie Pie posing inside the Gemini Telescope. Look at that big guy! Have you hugged your 8m today? Cus she has!
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Okay, so I tentatively promised to have the next chapter for my story up before my birthday on Tuesday?

Big lie. All sorts of things happening, chapter is longer than expected... I'm hoping it comes out before I go in to my final run at work on the 2nd (before I am replaced by a robot... CURSE YOU PROGRESS!!!). That and I ended up getting all depressed when someone commented on Newsworthy about how they didn't like it and somehow I was a psycho for putting in cartoon violence on-par with the show's, so that crushed my writing motivation...

Either way, I am sorry that this story has taken so long, and I sincerely hope the last... 3 or so chapters will be worth the wait.
  • Mood: Eager

deviantID

Medicshy
To heal with love!
United States
I'm just here to help everypony, and solve what I can with as little violence as possible. And when that isn't possible, I am here to make sure my team lives.
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:iconwinternachts:
Winternachts Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the watch. Hug 
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:iconmedicshy:
Medicshy Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2015
Eeeeeyup. Figured you deserved it after all the time we've spent chatting, since I found out you were here too.
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:iconwinternachts:
Winternachts Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Still thanks. I am always glad to get some reaction. :happybounce: 
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:iconmedicshy:
Medicshy Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2015
huzzah
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:iconshimmycocopuffssx1:
ShimmyCocoPuffssX1 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks for the fave  n_n
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:icongodzillabadger:
godzillabadger Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanx for the fave! :)
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:iconuseraccount:
useraccount Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014
BAPPY HIRTHDAY! 

Haha, yeah, I saw my post from [I]last[/I] year, and I decided to change it up a bit.
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:iconmedicshy:
Medicshy Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014
lol, thanks dude!
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:iconanightlypony:
aNIGHTLYpony Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2014  Student General Artist
:iconthankuplz:
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:iconuseraccount:
useraccount Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
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