Fall of the Titan
If Twilight Sparkle had not literally been through Hell, the sound of the alicorn's laughter would have disturbed her deeply, for it was her own laughter echoing back, only tainted with madness and malevolence.. She could not seem to make up her mind between light titters or full-blown belly laughs. But no matter the tone or pitch, her cries of mirth carried the same tinge of darkness and malice to them, making hairs on the unicorn's back stand on end.
She had expected insanity, yes, but she had also expected more composure from her doppelganger than that of a giggling maniac. There was a crazed look in the one eye she could see, the other blocked by her mane whipping about in the solar breeze. Her alternate self had become a horrible mockery of Twilight's beloved teacher.
"Oh," Eos finally spoke, as if just noticing the unicorn. "Well, look who it is... It's ME!" she giggled, putting a hoof to her mouth to try and stop her laughter from boiling over again. Twilight blinked and backed up a little bit, not quite sure what her counterpart would do now that all her marbles had been scattered to the winds.
"And just why are YOU laughing?" the purple unicorn asked when she found her courage. "Don't you know this is the part of the story where the terrible tyrant meets her sticky and well-deserved end?"
More giggles filled the air as Eos lounged on the arms of her throne, making a glass of chocolate milk appear in front of her before drinking it in greedy gulps. "Oh, Twilight. Twi, Twi, Twi-twi... Twi," she spoke in sing-song. "Twitty Twi, did you forget the difference between fiction and nonfiction again, Twi?" A smirk came across her face as her visible eye rolled around in its socket.
It had to be a game; a mental showdown to freak her out and prevent her from attacking so she could catch her unawares and pounce! And she nearly fell for it too. "History and fantasy can follow the same literary devices and lead to the same conclusions, Eos. In this case, the end of the story comes with your head divorced from your body."
"Tee-hee-hee-hee," the alicorn sniggered. "Like this?" Placing her front hooves to her chin, she grunted in effort as she pulled against her head with all of her might. At first, Twilight had no idea just what she was doing, or hoped to accomplish until a loud 'pop' sounded from her neck. The alicorn's head rested comfortably in her hoof, giggling at the look on her opposite's face. "Alas, poor Twilight! I knew her, Sir Discord: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. She hath borne me on her neck a thousand times. And now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises---"
"What the HELL!?" Twilight shouted, interrupting her warped recitation of Hamlet.
"Funny thing about our universe," she replied with a giggle. Thrusting her hoof upward, she began to juggle and play with her head as if it were some kind of ball. All the while, she kept her eyes on the unicorn in front of her, smiling all the while. "If you represent a fundamental aspect of reality, such as Chaos, Evil, or Potatoes, you CAN'T die!"
If there was any doubt left in her mind about the state of the alicorn's mind, it had now been completely washed away. Queen Eos was truly and utterly insane and about half way to the funny farm, if she were not a goddess. "We both know that there is a way to change that, Eos," Twilight said coldly.
"Oh please," she giggled as she spun her head like a top. "We both know that you don't have the STONES to drain someone of their power! Not after last time. Besides, it's not like you could HANDLE the raw power of CHAOS!" She cackled, adding lightning behind her for theatrical effect. "I'm bored now, so it's time for you to DIE!"
In a flash, Eos let go of her head and kicked it towards the unicorn with her hoof, her maw filled with razor sharp teeth as it lunged. Twilight reacted quickly, taking her magical sword and pointing it at the vile demon so she would impale herself upon it. A satisfying squish filled the air as the disembodied head did just that, but instead of looking pained, she happily chomped on the blade, breaking it in two. "Mmm! Tastes like chicken!" the queen smirked as the spell failed.
Before she could get a chance to do anything more, the lavender unicorn quickly turned and bucked her between the eyes with her back hooves as hard as she could. The queen's head soared through the air, landing before the throne as it let loose another torrent of giggles, literally rolling on the floor laughing. "That MIGHT have hurt, if I were not a living god! ...dess!"
Boy, does she love the sound of her own voice, Twilight thought acidly as she reformed her sword made of pure magic. The tyrannical mare picked her head back up with her hooves and reaffixed it to her neck, flexing it a little bit to test it was on properly before a downright EVIL smirk came upon her features, teeth still sharp as cold winds. Taking on Eos was always going to be difficult, being herself and all, but this was getting really creepy really quickly.
Her muscles tensed as the queen's horn flared in magic; a twisted mix of indigo, blue, yellow, orange and green, all twirling and dancing with each other. A disappointed frown flashed across her royal face as she looked at the armoured mare before her. "Aww. So serious. I'm just trying to have a bit of FUN with you; before I kill you, of course. Perhaps I'll use necromancy on your corpse and make it the captain of MY guard?"
A bright light flashed beside her, drawing her attention away on instinct as one of the pillars keeping the heavy ceiling aloft turned into a giant slinky. Words failed her as she stared at the spectacle before her. In what universe would turning a pillar into a giant coil of metal serve any tactical value whatsoever? Twilight, no! her inner Eos shouted. She's trying to distract you so she ca- LOOK OUT!
Twilight jumped back in the nick of time as a pair of purple magic swords impaled the marble floor right where her head would have been. Without thinking, she swung, the spark of conflicting magic splashing in her eyes as she quickly snapped out of her revery. Queen Eos KNEW she could be distracted by such a move and capitalized on it. It infuriated her that she had done something so underhoofed and sinister, though she was angrier with herself for falling for it.
"I guess you're not as stupid as I thought," the queen sneered as she jumped back, holding her twin swords in a defensive position.
"I hope you just realized that you called YOURSELF stupid too," Twilight smirked as they slowly began to round each other in a large circle.
The queen growled and bared her still-pointy teeth as a fire burned in her visible eye. Obviously, she had touched a nerve, which was good since, according to her experiences with Celestia, half of the battle was psychological. Of course, it was also dangerous since she knew better than anypony what she was capable of when enraged. Twilight cried out and charged towards her, firing off the strongest flaming missile spell that she knew.
But instead of doing something sensible like knocking the spell away, or back towards her, the errant alicorn opened her mouth and INHALED the fireball. Smoke hissed softly out of her ears before she let out a royal belch of flame, amplified by her magical might to equal the volume and ferocity of a fully-grown dragon! In fact, for a split second, the torrent of fire almost looked like a serpentine dragon, but it had to be a trick of the light.
Twilight sprung aside and rolled upon the floor of the room in an effort to dodge the flames, only partially successful judging from the smell of burned hair wafting from her backside. Okay, Twilight, she thought to herself, you're against a mad version of yourself with the power of three gods at her disposal. She easily outstrips you magically. How can you win?
As the alicorn advanced on her, the purple unicorn slammed her magically charged hoof into the floor. Yes, she had the Shoes of Rocinate, but she did not want to activate them quite yet, mostly out of fear of the consequences. Eos was met by a jagged wall of marble to the face, making her cry out in surprise and hold her face from the strike as she stumbled back. That was when it struck Twilight, not unlike the stone that just nailed her counterpart. She could use the environment to her advantage, much as Vinyl Scratch had before!
But aside from the marble in the floor, there was precious little that she could actually work with in the room. And what there was would not be very helpful, since she had trouble thinking creatively on the fly like this. Sure, with an hour's notice she could have come up with SOMETHING, but not immed- She stopped herself mid panic as a glint of light on the floor attracted her eye.
The delicate carvings on the floor glowed softly in the light of the setting sun, a large glyph surrounded by hundreds of runes to create the basis of a complex, yet equally powerful spell. When she was a filly, she had first noticed the designs. "Princess Celestia," she recalled herself asking at the tender age of twelve, "What do those symbols mean?"
"What a keen eye you possess, Twilight Sparkle," she praised. "In times of yore, guests to my throne could not be guaranteed to behave themselves. So, I carved this trap into the floor to hold them in place until they gained hold of their senses once more. Of course, we live in times of peace now, so it is very rarely used. I think the last time I did was, oh, about a hundred and fifty years ago."
Twilight sprinted to the other end of the room, placing the large spell between herself and the raving, reeling queen. "Can you teach me how to use it?" she had asked.
"I'm afraid not, Twilight. But do not think that I don't trust you. The simple fact is that no unicorn has the magical ability to utilize it."
But she was no unicorn. "Hey, Eos!" she called out. "What happened to not being able to feel my attacks?" She smiled smugly as the alicorn shook her head out of her daze, eyes glinting with burning light. The alicorn growled and gave her a glare that would probably kill a mortal pony before she reared and charged her. Please, don't teleport. Please, don't teleport. Please, don't teleport, she pleaded as she charged her horn with as much magic as she felt she could spare.
Twilight screwed her eyes shut and put her all concentration onto the runes of the floor, sensing the spell still lingering to the ancient marble, even as the sound of galloping filled her ears. Suddenly, in her mind's eye, she could see the spell in its entirety. Wasting no time, since the queen had to be within the circle, she cast the spell, her eyelids becoming a tinge of red and violet from the light.
A loud, crackling crash echoed through the hall as the body of the alicorn impacted the magical walls surrounding the outside of the spell. The unicorn opened her eyes to see the infuriated beast hammering her hooves and horn against the violet wall of magic in desperation to impale the caster. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief and sat on her haunches with a clang, forgetting the armour that was on her flank.
Sure, containing Eos like that was a feat, but it would only last so long before the old spell either gave way to her pounding, or the queen used her trickery to get past it. At least she had afforded herself some breathing room and time to ponder her next steps. However, she had forgotten she had allowed her perverted reflection the same opportunity.
The queen raged behind the barrier of the spell, seething in an inferno of uncontrolled anger. How DARE the little cretin not curl up and die, or even better, see her point of view and join her? Two heads were obviously better than one, as she found. Ah, but why don't we MAKE her see our point of view? a voice in her head spoke.
A wide grin crept upon the queen's face; a dark gleam sparkling in her eyes as she watched her counterpart pace and try to plan. Everything would be better if she had a little quality time with her. Maybe they'd even save Equestria together... before she killed her, of course. There could only be one of them, after all: and it might not matter which of them it was. She charged her horn and let the magic of the spell snake out through the barrier, purple wisps of smokey magic covertly congregating around her head.
Twilight never knew what hit her. One second, she was pacing the floor of the throne room, desperately trying to pull together a plan out of thin air to help her in her struggle with the queen. The next moment, she was in a void of darkness, unable to feel anything but her own body and the same mind-numbing cold she felt in the heart of the Hells themselves. Confused, she looked around quickly, expecting an attack to come out of nowhere and blindside her. Yet nothing came.
A soft giggle echoed loudly, bouncing against the hard, unseen walls all around the lavender unicorn. The sound seemed to come from everywhere, yet nowhere at the same time. The hairs on her back stood up once more, her finely crafted armour nowhere to be seen. Yet her brain could not quite make the connection that it was all an illusion quite yet as primal fear of the unknown made itself present on the very fringes of her waking mind.
Suddenly, a curtain of light appeared and ripped the inky darkness asunder, bathing the purple alicorn she hated most in the warm, comforting light. She stood without regalia, but retained her expression of twisted mirth and hatred. Another soft giggle parted from her lips as she opened her eyes, the one still hidden by a bang of hair, just like Celestia. Twilight had to work very hard to suppress the urge to growl at the imposter.
"You look cold, Twilight Sparkle," the demon spoke before she could voice her anger. "Why don't you come into the light and know us better?"
'Us'? Was she really using the 'Royal We' like that? That doesn't matter, she spoke to herself, her thoughts reverberating off the walls as if she had spoke them. Her eyes went wide before narrowing to glare death towards her reflection.
"You are correct. It does not matter if you come into the light, or not. We are just as content if you prefer to stay in the dark. In fact, it suits us better. For you see, we have come to a decis-"
"I get it," Twilight interrupted, "you're scared that I actually have a chance at beating you, so you are coming up with some psychological hallucination to attempt to get me to join your side. Well, let's skip the formalities and get straight to the point: I will never join you!" A smug look drifted across her face as her final words sunk into the alicorn's head, though they did not echo through the room like her thoughts.
"We both know that we are smarter than that, Sparkles. No such offer was on the table, nor will there ever be. I am not giving you a choice. You WILL join us. Even if you die, you will join us! Necromancy is one Hell of a thing, Twilight!" A large, toothy grin came across her face, flaring her wings and front legs much like their mentor did during the Summer Sun Celebration when she spoke those last words.
A glint of light above the deranged alicorn caught her attention, taking her gaze off of the queen and onto what looked like a very fine piece of string holding up her front-right leg. In fact, there seemed to be a whole bunch of the fine strings coming off of her body, easier to see now that she had noticed the first one. She could sense a mess of magic in each string: subtle, but chaotic and uncontrollable.
Now that she was looking for it, Twilight could see the outline of a ghostly control bar for a marionette hanging from above the halo of light. It shimmered in the same magic of the strings, twisting and twitching to make the alicorn below it move and speak. Not only was Eos insane, but she was being controlled, likely by the very force she claimed to master!
Her heart began to race from the implications as the tyrant mare sank back down into a sitting position on her haunches. Of all the things this realization brought to her mind, the thought that disturbed her most had to be this: if something was controlling her, what were THEY planning? "Whatever you are, I refuse to submit to you JUST because you have control over a goddess!" she shouted, knowing she could not play dumb.
"Did you not hear us before?" the puppet frowned as her head tilted. "We said that you WILL be joining us, like it or not. But it is so much more pleasant if you let us. We can have tea on the ceiling, or bring to life a pack of cards, enlarge them, and set them loose. It's already starting."
Looking to the ceiling once more, Twilight could see dozens of strings descending and snaking into the darkness towards her. She gasped and tried to back away as she figured out what was happening: it was trying to infect HER as well! However, tiny pricks pinched her shoulders and haunches, not allowing her to move. She could feel the ethereal strings begin to burrow into her body, taking control of her legs.
"No!" she cried out as she felt her body lift from the ground and get pulled closer to the bar. She hung from her hooves, pointed up in a 'v' formation, making her struggles all the more painful. More of the strings dug into her back, lighting it on fire with pain as her spine became interwoven with the parasites of magic. The puppet queen sat and snickered as she quickly began to lose control of her mental body.
"I'm not going to let you win!"
"It is too late. From the moment the first string wove its way into your nervous system, you became ours. Just accept it like the good little puppet you are now. It's so relaxing to not think about your actions and just DO AS YOU FEEL. Ah, but you will realize that soon enough. By all means, keep struggling. It will only make the pain even worse."
Twilight could feel fire dance in her body as the strings wove into her nerves, leaving her no control over anything but her magic. But that too would soon yield as a final string descended: the one that would seal the deal and make her a willing puppet to the force that controlled her nemesis. That fire burned in her heart as much as her veins, tears of agony slipping from her eyes from the hopelessness she faced. She gritted her teeth and brought all of her magic to bear: if she were to go down, she would give it her all first.
"I... will... NOT... be... your... PUPPET!" she screamed. A blast of golden flames shot from her horn and radiated around her in an intense fireball the likes of which she had never conjured before. The fire burned in her body and soul, evaporating the magical strings that invaded her mind like the kindling it was. Racing up the strings, the control bar itself burned and writhed in agony, making Eos do an amusing little dance where she flailed her body around like a rag doll.
Burning out of control, the fire spread down the other set of strings and into the body of the alicorn. She screamed and kicked in agony and pain, for the fires did not discriminate who or what they burned. Soon, she too was enveloped before the unicorn fell, since the last string holding her up had burned away. The darkness enveloped her, the screams becoming distant before the feeling of something cold and hard pressed itself against her face.
Twilight awoke with a groan, the shouts and cries of the queen distant as she stood on shaky hooves. Though her body was not enveloped by flames, the unicorn could still feel the cleansing warmth removing the remnants of the chaos inside her mind and body. Cold sweat ran down her face and soaked into the armour that remained wrapped around her as a blanket, making her shiver as it had trapped the perspiration.
The queen, meanwhile, lay rolling upon the floor, shouting and groaning in agony of the invisible force that now burned through her mind, shaking out the cobwebs that clouded her judgement. Suddenly, the events since her destruction of Discord came back to her in a chilling and haunting light. She had done so many terrible things; things she had never dreamed of doing... and it was all TWILIGHT SPARKLE'S FAULT!!! If she had not have shown up, Discord would never had make her break down!
Her eyes snapped open and narrowed dangerously as she remembered that meddlesome little FREAK was in the room with her. Well, this time the boots would be coming off! Eos stood to her full height and regarded the holding spell around her with contempt. Charging magic into her hooves, she shattered the runes like she did the meteor, cracking the floor, terminating the spell for good.
Twilight could see the clear and focused anger burning in her eyes. Every step the alicorn took was measured with shockwaves of red magic radiating out a few hooves before dispersing, cracking with electric magic. She may have destroyed her chaos powers, but now she had awoken a clear and focused killer instead of an aloof and crazy mare. Her royal regalia shimmered and glowed, becoming sharper and providing more coverage. The crown had molded into a helmet like that of Nightmare Moon, though her mane retained the look of a flowing river of sunset.
"Twilight Sparkle," she spoke coldly before stopping only a few pony lengths away. "You stand accused of High Treason. Its penalty is death by hanging, or by my sword slicing open your belly; whichever comes first. How do you plead?"
"You are a cancer that is killing our nation of Equestria, Eos," the unicorn replied. "But now that you are sane, the only thing I PLEAD is for you to stop this! I know there is still a bit of me inside of you, as there is a bit of you inside me. Listen to her, and we can end this war; we can end the death and destruction. I don't WANT to kill you... but if you leave me no choice... I WILL do my civic duty. Even if it kills ME as well."
"Very well: I see you plead... GUILTY!" She charged with a cry.
Chaos and confusion reigned supreme as the ponies stampeded through the gates and into the castle of Canterlot itself. Flashes of magic and the sparks of clashing swords complimented the grunts, battle cries and occasional blast of cannon fire from the battlements. The mass of ponies fanned out as soon as the first ones made it through the portcullis to spread out and conquer the castle.
Trixie, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie and Spike, however, had a special job to do while the others went hoof to hoof with the royal guard. As Twilight ran forward into the castle, they took a left and followed a group of militia ponies into the inner public gardens near the grand ballroom. Guards were caught by surprise and soon overwhelmed by the torrent of angered mares and stallions, falling like flies to their blades.
The once fragrant beauty of the gardens was tarnished in a split second by the marauding horde and resulting skirmishes; delicately trimmed bushes of rose and other flowers uprooted or crushed by careless hooves, but they did not dare stop in their flight. The sooner they could break into the castle, the sooner they could do their job and help their friend, since she would need all the help she could get.
A simple door in the side of the castle wall beckoned to them from behind a clump of fighting ponies that were in a standoff against one another. Using her magic, Trixie blew the enemy fighters out of the way with a strong grip of telekinesis. She was no Twilight, but the years spent honing her magical abilities in the dragon lands had paid off. Combined with the efforts of the other ponies fighting around them, the way into the castle was soon clear.
Applejack kicked down the door with a smart buck to the knob, sending it flying into the wall with a mighty smash. Torches or fairy lights were few and far between as they galloped through the narrow hall and down a flight of stairs into the basement. But considering it was an access passage for the kitchen staff to reach the grand ballroom, they were not surprised by how dark and Spartan it was in comparison to the rest of the castle.
"Right, so where did she say we go from here?" the farmer spoke from the back of the pack, the hall only wide enough to fit two ponies side-by-side.
"Through the door, down the hall to the stairs, hang a left, then a right, straight, left, right, left, straight twice, right, straight and the door will be on the right," Pinkie Pie chirped with her ever-present grin, bouncing in front of the orange mare despite the weight of the silver coloured armour on her back.
"If you know it so well," Spike huffed as he tried to keep up with the mares, "how come you're not in the lead!?"
"I dunno," she shrugged as he ran. "I just felt like being back here! Not that there is much we can do to change it now though. Oh look, here comes that third right!" The group tore around the bend to find themselves face to face with about five guards, who looked equally surprised to see them. Before they could react, two of them fell to the floor, bathed in the light of stun spells fired from Rarity and Trixie.
Suddenly, the other three snapped out of their shock and charged the mares as quickly as they could in the slightly wider passage, drawing their weapons just in time to meet a wall of green flames bursting from the baby dragon. "No pony tries to hurt my Rarity!" he cried while defending his longtime crush. Stopped in their tracks by the fire, a blur of pink jumped from beyond, brandishing a pastel-coloured cannon and pulled the string, unleashing a tightly-wound ball of streamers that exploded in their chests and tossed them into the walls and furniture.
"I love non-lethal weaponry!" the party pony giggled as she bounced over the traces of green flame that lingered on the stone floor. She took her trusty Party Cannon and stuffed it into her fluffy tail, but that was impossible. All the others could do was to shake their heads while repeating the age-old Ponyville expression of 'It's Pinkie Pie,' in their heads. If they thought about it too much during their journey deep into the basements of Canterlot, they could endanger their mission (and sanity to boot!)
Finally, they came to the door they sought: at the very end of a long and fairly wide corridor. It was a single wooden door with metal braces, meant to be nearly indistinguishable from the others to hide what it contained. With a smart kick to the middle of the door, it flew off its hinges and clattered down the stairs to the floor below. "What the Hells was that!?" cried a pony from down the stairs.
A grey unicorn guard gingerly made his way around the fallen door and up the stairs, only to pale at the sight of the mares in front of him. Obviously, he was not a very brave pony, as he promptly fell over in a faint, his armour clattering on the rough stone. The ponies and dragon quickly stepped over him and down into the dank dungeons. "Stop right there!" cried out another guard before a smartly placed stun spell from Rarity had him collapse onto the floor in a heap and down the jagged stairs.
"If we didn't stop for the gate guards, what makes you think that we'd stop for you?" the alabaster unicorn asked.
"Why do you insist on stunning them?" Trixie asked in annoyance as they continued down. "They're just going to get back up and kill one of our friends."
"I stun them because a proper LADY doesn't kill her opponents! At least not by her own hooves: a servant or other pony can do the dirty work. Do you KNOW how badly blood clashes with my mane?"
"RARITY!?" a voice cried out from around the corner.
"Sweetie Belle!?" she called back with hope surging through her, hopping down the remaining stairs to see her sister in a cell around the corner. Tears welled up in her sapphire eyes as they met with her sister's for the first time in years. "Sweetie," she gasped before running to the bars, reaching her hooves through to embrace her, the water coming forth to stain her cheeks as the younger unicorn's dirtied scent wafted to her muzzle. Her mane smelled like a spring rainstorm: just as she remembered it (even if it was a little grimy).
"I was... I was so worried... all the time... but especially when we heard about the cakes and... and Applebloom," she spoke through her tears. "I'm so sorry! I... I can never apologize enough! I don't deserve a mare like you to call my sister!"
Surprised by her sudden warmth, the younger white unicorn returned her elder sister's hug and gently stroked her back to calm her down, beginning to cry a little herself. "It's okay, sis. I forgive you because... well, because I missed you too. I was afraid that I'd never see you again. Please, just promise me that you'll never leave me alone like that ever again... and that you'll always be there for me. Please." They did not hear the sound of the cage door opening, too focused on one another to notice or care.
"You have my word, Sweetie Belle. I shall never leave you like that ever again and I am so sorry if I mistreated you in the past. I do not think I can apologize enough!"
Applejack looked at the ground, reminded that she had been denied such a reunion with her own sister. Just as she was about to selfishly let out the torrent of tears that were building, she felt a nuzzle to the nape of her neck and a pair of legs close around her in a hug. "I know I'm not Applebloom," Scootaloo spoke, "but I do know that she missed you and worried about you almost every single day."
"Thanks Scoots," the farmer sighed and hugged the stand-in back. "Ah miss her too... and ah feel AWFUL fer all the things ah said. Ah was afraid that she never forgave me... but she was really worried all along?" A nod from the Pegasus broke her resolve, causing gentle tears to slip down her cheeks as she buried her face into the other mare's side and silently wept.
"... Dinky is in the chamber at the end. Perhaps we should get her while they have their moments?" Jade suggested quietly. The others nodded their heads in reply and moved down the hall. Twilight was a resourceful mare; she could stand to wait just a couple of minutes, right?
Dust rose into the air as the clash of swords and cries of injured ponies filled her ears while she and dozens around her flooded in past the coveted gates of Canterlot Castle. As one of the last ones inside, most of the guards in the front were already dead, along with a few members of the attacking army. By now, those that were still alive would probably be on high alert, but that was how she wanted it.
Vinyl Scratch trotted through the gates at a leisurely pace. Ponies around her gave a wide berth, and for good reason too. The unmarked saddle bags dug into her back, as if a pony were riding on her. When Twilight and the other commanders gave out special assignments, there was one that nopony dared to take, due to its extreme danger.
So why did the mostly blind former disk jockey take a job that the others refused? Well, to put it quite simply, she had nothing left to lose, so she did not give a damn. Trotting through the passages and halls of the castle, the grunts and cries of battle bounced off of the stone walls, confusing and disorienting her occasionally between subtle quakes in the building from the battle in the throne room.
Trusting her instincts, the white unicorn pressed on, shaking out dust in her mane from the ancient, falling debris that was once held captive upon the tops of ledges and rafters. "They're gonna have a hell of a time cleaning this place up," she smirked to herself, especially if her mission were successful. As she was traveling through the building blind, both metaphorically and literally, it was very easy for her to get lost, but a quick glance out of a nearby window would give her a clue.
Getting back on track for the third time, a loud shout echoed in her ears, almost like screaming, but not from any mare she knew. It was not exactly close either, which only raised more questions. Vinyl shook her head and continued onward to her goal, her heart beginning to pound in her chest with every step she took, knowing full well that each beat could be its last.
As if on cue, a younger and more brazen Pegasus guard stumbled out of a nearby hall and almost ran into her in his eagerness, armour clanking loosely as he hurried to fit it. His face twisted into a blurry smile that spoke volumes for his confidence and skill: or rather, lack thereof. Before he could utter a single word about how he was going to be some big, bad stallion for killing a rebel mare, the DJ lowered her horn and shot a blast of music straight to his head.
The colt staggered and yelled as loud as he could, hooves up to his head as his ears began to bleed from the sudden increase in volume. While he was distracted by his blown eardrums, the mare took advantage and gored him in the belly with her horn, dripping crimson onto her muzzle. Her strike having hit the centre of his heart, the stallion quickly succumbed and lay dead upon the floor as she pulled out. "No offence, colt," she spoke to the corpse, "but I'm sick of playing with squares."
It was a shame she neglected to bring along a cloth or something to wipe the blood off of her face and horn, but she did not plan that far ahead this time. But then, she reminded herself, it was not really going to matter anyway at the end of the day. She hefted her saddlebags, which had become loosened in the skirmish and soon found herself outside the door of the Celestial Tower: the very wing where Eos herself crashed every night.
Inside the tower, just a couple of floors below the royal suits, was the magical heartbeat of Canterlot Castle. The Cor Magi was responsible for, among other things, keeping the stones of the castle from sagging, though they could get damaged. If it were to go offline, or be destroyed, then it would cause the structure to crumble. Destroying it was a contingency plan in case Eos refused to fall, but she did not care. Vinyl proceeded to the heavy platinum doors anyway.
The beautiful designs and gentle gleam of the highly polished metal meant nothing to her as a glow of red surrounded the two large doors. Only a specific spell could be cast on them to make them open without alerting the guards, but she did not care, breaking the gears and tumblers inside the vault-like doors before shoving them open forcefully. The room on the other side was plain and cold with only a single small window to the outside and a set of stairs leading up wrapped around the wall of the circular room.
Standing on the other side had to be half a dozen guards, so it was not like she could have been stealthy anyway. A smirk came across her face as they shuddered at the epiphany of who stood before them. "So who wants to go first?" the white mare grinned as she stepped through the threshold. "I've got nothing to lose and two saddlebags stuffed with TNT. Give me your best shot!"
A collective gasp filled the air right before the lights dimmed and became red. A long beeping noise played in alarm to the presence of the intruder, summoning other guards to assist. "Intruder Alert in the Cor Magi," a magical recording cried out and repeated through the entirety of the castle. Yet, the mare's smile did not even falter, for she knew most of them would be too busy with the army for any great number to come after her.
"Well, looks like we're going to have company. Let's get this party STARTED!" A wall of sound erupted from her horn, shattering the single window and throwing the guards clear across the room, one hanging off the bannister of the stairs. They groaned collectively and struggled to get back onto their hooves, but before they could, a unicorn guard yelped as he felt the pull of magic on his leg before being hurled out the window.
Shouts and the patter of hooves upon the fine stone echoed in her ears from somewhere rather close to her. Deciding she had wasted enough time, Vinyl galloped up the stairs and into the chamber for the Cor. Yellow light permeated every surface, making them glow in reflection as the moon did the sun's light. If she were not mostly blind already, she would be unable to see in the light of the mystical object.
Wrapped in a round blanket of thick glass suspended from the ceiling, the magical heartbeat of Canterlot was simply contained raw magical energy that slowly leaked out of a stone buffer at the top and spread through the castle to keep the stones from falling apart and powered other magical items. Various devices were scattered along the edge of the room, connected to the glass phial in order to activate any of the castle's other magical needs. If she were a scholar, or better sighted, she would have been in awe.
"You! Halt, in the name of the queen!" a guard shouted as he and a squad of others ran up the stairs towards her. Vinyl rolled her eyes behind her shades in contempt for the cannon fodder troops. She stood her ground, knowing she was trapped, but kept that smile on her face, even as they surrounded her. "Normally, we would place you under arrest," that same loud colt snapped. "However, due to the circumstances, we're just going to kill you outright, traitor!"
Vinyl giggled as she opened her saddle bag and drew out a candle, seeing the horrified looks on their faces from the explosives contained therein. "You know that thing where a great song ends on a power chord? They call that a 'big rock ending' and they ALWAYS go out with a bang." With very little exertion she lit the candle. "It's been a hell of a ride, but this is MY big rock ending: DJ P0n-3, signing out." She tapped the short fuse with the flaming wick of the candle. The last thing that went through her mind was a memory of her and Octavia, together again.
The ground shook and ponies on both sides of the conflict fell to the ground as a massive magic-fueled explosion ripped apart the tallest tower of Canterlot. A ball of red, orange and black spread out and up, like the claws of a great fiery dragon. The top of the tower soared a couple of dozen feet into the air before falling at an angle towards the crowds below.
Ponies screamed and ran for their lives, but a few of the unlucky ones were crushed by the tower and other falling debris, slamming into the gardens below. The tower twisted and groaned as its remains dangled over the edge before it succumbed to gravity once more and fell to the valley below. The only thing left of it was the burning stump where it once connected to the castle, and a trail of debris and crushed bodies in its wake.
Twilight yelped like a filly as the large alicorn broke into a gallop not more than a few hooves away from her while brandishing her pair of magical swords. Frozen by fear, she had to rely on instinct, which screamed at her to teleport away from the enraged mare. Flashing to a point behind her, she breathed a quick sigh of relief from the narrow miss. However, her victory was short-lived as she was sent careening into a pillar from a powerful strike to her side.
She cried out in pain, able to hear vertebrae snapping clearly in her ears along with the sensation of blood draining out of her. Twilight was outmatched in almost every possible way by the battle-hardened alicorn who slowly walked towards her, cloaked in a confidence she found herself envying. Another snap in her back told her that the golem magic had fixed her back, pushing herself onto her hooves again.
It seemed like every move she made, the queen could counter just as quickly and return the damage to her. While she might have depowered her a little bit by removing her connection to chaos, that only gave her clarity of thought and made her far more dangerous. She was going to regret doing it, but remembered that had she not, she would be a servant forced to do her bidding.
The idea of using some of the spells used during her fight with Princess Celestia came to mind, but she could counter those as well and probably had the experience to know she might try that. So, with very little other options, she went back to the basics. Charging her horn, she let out a small yet powerful burst right at her face, making the prowling alicorn back off and bat it away. In that moment, the small unicorn ran up to her and swung her sword.
Eos had seen the diversion coming and quickly swung her sword back, blocking the other mare with the loud crackle of mana against mana. Another quick strike and block turned their mages' duel into a sword fight as they parried, swung and blocked each other's movements. Quickly growing bored of it, the queen took a swipe at the occupied unicorn's head with her hoof, sending her tumbling upon the marble floors.
Twilight rolled back onto her hooves with a pounding headache from where the mix of gold and obsidian had connected with her helmet. She had never expected her to fight back in such a dirty manner, but this was not a spar or a civilized match, as she reminded herself. The kingdom and possibly their very lives were on the table, and Eos was going to do any and everything to keep it.
A tongue of flame erupted from the alicorn's horn the instant the unicorn had righted herself, forcing her to hit the ground hard and roll out of the path as she did before. Yet this time, Eos had anticipated it and stomped her hoof. Twilight cried out as a sharp spear of rock sprung from the floor on an angle, past the protection of her armour, and impaled herself on her right side when she rolled onto her back.
This isn't good, Twilight thought as she pulled out of the stone with another cry of pain. She has already got in some very good hits and I have yet to even touch her. At this rate, she will win and she KNOWS it. Just look at that swagger! I guess I'll have to use the shoes after all. The dread queen smirked, marshalling her magic for a final blow when her opponent managed to get onto her hooves again.
"You just don't know when to accept your fate, do you?" she spoke as if addressing an insect. "Face it, Twilight Sparkle, you have failed and Equestria remains MINE!" For some unfathomable reason, her doppelganger's face cracked into a smile, followed by tiny titters of mirthful giggling. She was either cracking under the pressure, or worse, she could still have a plan, a trap that she just walked into.
"Eos, I know we have ten years of divergence of experience between us, but did you HONESTLY think I would go down that easily? You almost shame me with your jumping to conclusions like that," she chuckled softly as her horn sparkled with an aura unfamiliar to the queen. Using her mind, the unicorn probed into the shoes and activated them, a field of black energy coursing through them before shooting into her hooves.
Twilight gasped as she made eye contact with the queen of Equestria, feeling the devilish footwear fill her up with power and energy, but it was not exactly a pleasant sensation. It felt almost as if some cold, metallic force had entered her body and taken root at the base of her horn, chilling the rest of her being. With the exception of the intense pressure and utter blackness, she could have sworn she had been dipped into the Pool of Midnight once more.
Before she even had time to contemplate what had happened, the queen felt the ground leave her feet as a small blur of lavender collided with her head-first, sending her flying back and into the doors of the throne room. The massive wood portals echoed with a bang and gave way slightly to the force of her weight hitting them, but did not break. She shook her head slightly to rid herself of the ringing sensation in her skull to find the purple menace standing over her.
A growl of frustration left her throat as she struggled to right herself, still winded from the shockingly powerful blow. So she had shoes that somehow increased her power. What did that really mean? She could just destroy those shoes, or cut off her legs if she wanted to rob her of that power. But she knew she could not underestimate her, since, for better or worse, she was a different version of her illustrious being. Illustrious being? You ARE mad, the sane voice in her head chided.
Testing the abilities granted to her by the shoes, Twilight channeled some magic into her shadow, forcing it off the ground and into a three dimensional shape. It was a strange feeling to have her shadow disassociate from her and made her a little light-headed, but she could not describe it beyond that. The shadow ran up to the queen, who was taken by surprise and bucked her in the face while her caster moved out of her sight to manipulate it.
"Neat trick," the queen grunted as she delivered a heavy blow to the shadow, making it evaporate. "However, it is one I have mastered years ago, you ignorant foal!" Twilight flew out from behind the pillar she hid behind, taken surprise by the queen manifesting her own shadow behind her. The unicorn got back to her hooves as the monarch nickered. "You seem to have an affinity for lying upon the floor," she jeered.
A yelp sounded from the queen as she felt the floor suddenly give way under her, trapping her up to her withers in marble when her shadow turned against her and swallowed her up. Grunts filled the hall over the stamping of hooves upon cold, hard stone as she struggled to free herself from the unexpected trap. "You were saying something about me and floors, Eos?" Twilight asked.
With a great burst of magic, the queen roared, causing the floor and ground beneath to explode in a violent and dangerous shower of rock and other debris. The ruby red carpet that once lined the floor was torn and aflame in a few places. A small personal bubble spell protected Twilight from the hard rocks, ripples appearing in her shield where they connected.
Before she had a chance to fire a counter spell, a jet of darkness impacted her shield, shattering it and allowing the magic to pierce right through her. The unicorn screamed in pain as black, magical flames wreathed her body, but it refused to abate no matter how hard she rolled upon the floor. Allowing her instincts reign for a short time, she dug into herself and manifested another shield as black as the flames, pushing them off of her and ending the pain.
In a quick flash, she teleported underneath the towering alicorn and rammed her horn into her belly, causing Eos to cry out in surprise and pain as she was delivered her first real injury. Twilight then vanished in a flash, standing on the edge of the throne as blood trickled onto her face. Where Celestia always managed to dodge it, she noticed Eos had not anticipated such a brazen and barbarian tactic. The socks were officially off now.
A loud blast, almost like cannon fire, echoed through the castle, the shockwave shattering the skylight overhead, raining down glass upon the injured alicorn. The massive stained glass windows rattled in their frames and the unicorn lost her balance perched on the throne as the tremors rocked the building. "What the Sorrel Hells was that!?" Eos barked as she tried to shake the glass out of her mane.
Given the volume and intensity of the blast, Twilight knew immediately what, or rather who, had done it. Damn it, Vinyl! You were supposed to wait for my signal! What is that mare up to? Just as she finished her thought, the queen fired off a blast of magic towards her, dodged in an instant by teleportation. The throne exploded from the force of the spell, raining gold, obsidian and other materials down upon that side of the room.
Another equally powerful blast came towards her, Eos having correctly guessed where she would teleport to. Going out on another limb to test the shoes, she let her body sink into her shadow as she had done to the alicorn before, except this time she sunk fully, evading just in time. While under the floor, everything had turned to translucent shadow, letting her see that beyond the doors to see that a dozen or so guards were chipping at her transmuted door stop.
However, before she could get a good look, she felt a tug of magic on the scruff of her neck, pulling her out of the shadowy world and back into the light. That was when she found herself face-to-face with the terrible tyrant, the dancing flames of anger almost visible in her dark lavender pools. Her only reaction was to spit in her eye, making her drop the unicorn as she stumbled backwards to clean the saliva out.
"You DISGUSTING little foal!" she raged, obviously having never dealt with such a thing. "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!" Twilight yelped in surprise as she felt her strong telekinetic magic grip her by the leg and swing her around the queen's head like a flail. She spun for what seemed like an eternity before she was sent flying at terminal velocity.
The mare screamed through the air, smashing into the stained glass flanking the throne room and out into the inner courtyard before flying through another set of windows. Her back broke for the second time that evening when she connected with a pillar, her hard armour dented and cracked itself when it pulverized a generous portion of the column. Twilight fell to the floor with a thud, groaning and coughing up a little blood.
Queen Eos was now officially pissed off.
By the time the queen had flown to her, she was standing shakily upon her front hooves, moaning from the internal trauma that still echoed in her back. But Eos was done playing games: she grabbed the mare by her mane and threw her clean across the long passage and into a suit of armour set on display. The clattering of metal on metal rang in the unicorn's ears, dings and dents in her protective casing turning into tears and holes.
Although dazed by the sudden, brutal offensive, she was not quite licked yet. If they were down to fighting dirty, then she could play that game as well. Suits of armour along the hall sprang to life at the unicorn's call, pointing their varied weapons at the queen who simply looked bored. But it had done its job: allowing Twilight to use the shadows to slip behind her and exert great magical force upon the vaulted ceiling, which came crashing down upon the alicorn when she least expected it.
In a burst of raging magic, the queen broke free of her makeshift tomb, sporting a rather nasty cut that drained her own blood onto her face. Even if she was angry and had the power of two gods, it relieved Twilight to know that at least she could still do damage, even if it was temporary. They bore holes into each other with loathing stares of hatred and malice, each plotting what to do to the other next.
"Oh you two are SO entertaining," spoke an echoing, bone-chilling voice. If she did not know any better, she would have thought Eos looked terrified at the sound. "But, alas, I cannot forget what I have come here for." One of the suits of armour that Twilight had awakened shook and melted away in darkness, revealing the figure of a... well, it looked like a wolf, but with burning green eyes and matted black fur with shark-like teeth. It was the Bargheist she had met in Edophious. It was Nightmare.
"What's the matter?" he spoke as he looked between one and the other. "Can't you two fight while I reclaim MY SHOES!?" The growl in his voice sent shivers up both of their spines. "Oh, right, you must be wondering why I, Nightmare, the physical embodiment of evil, malice and all those other FUN and DARK emotions care so much for a petty set of footwear. Well, that is a tale for another time, kiddies."
The beast evaporated in a puff of smoke, suddenly appearing beside Twilight, pressing his deathly cold body against her, making her shiver uncontrollably despite the armour. "No. Right now, I have come to take what is MINE," he spoke as a clawed paw drew a narrow line of blood across the bottom of her jaw, his stinking breath making her weak in the knees. The Shoes of Rocinante vanished in a similar puff of smoke to the Nightmare itself before he chuckled.
"No need to worry about making up for your THEFT, Twilight Sparkle. Your death will do quite nicely. Goodbye," he smirked before vanishing as well, taking with him the deathly cold, but leaving raw terror in his wake. Both the queen and the scholar sat in silence for the longest time, frozen in place from the unwelcomed visitor. Not even the distant sounds of the conflict raging around them could snap them out of it.
However, Eos was the first to gather her wits and capitalized on it by firing a massive and concussive shockwave of magic hurtling through the passage, picking up armour and pony alike before throwing them towards the wall. The shock of the blast was just enough to break Twilight out of her trance, but by the time she could react, it was too late. She slammed into the wall, knocking the wind out of her breath before the suits of armour bashed into her like a runaway train!
Come on, Twilight, her own Eos urged. You have to get up and fight back! You have to for your friends! For your family! For Equestria! Yet she lay unmoving under the pile of rubble, the tyrant closing in for the kill. Without the shoes it was all hopeless. At best, she could do what Rainbow had: go out and cause a little damage along the way. But she would heal and become more angry and bitter... if her end did not kill the queen too.
PLEASE, Twilight! She might have the power of two gods, but she is in just as much conflict with herself as you are with her! If we work together, if you TRUST ME, then we can gain the advantage. Celestia always said 'two heads are better than one' whenever you asked for help with a problem. She WILL kill you if we don't put aside our differences, so the choice is up to you. Do we live, or do we die?
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she knew that she was not lying and that the phantom had as much riding on this as she did herself. "Okay," she hesitated, "I'll... I'll trust you, Eos." The clattering of metal filled the passage as she found the energy to stand upon her hooves once more. It would be the last time she would be thrown around by that twisted pony if she could help it!
"So, I see you're finally ready to die, Twilight Sparkle," the queen spoke as she drew another sword made of lavender magic out of thin air. "That is very mature of you. I am impressed enough to make it quick and painless. Then, you shall be my most loyal and powerful soldier once I reanimate your body and change your memories, golem."
Twilight closed her eyes, as if accepting her fate. In a way, she was, as she let Eos fully into her mind for the first time since that terrible fight. A feeling of warmth surged through her, numbing her pain and healing her minor wounds under the cover of her armour. She felt lighter than air, and more powerful than thunder; she could see the magic radiating out of every living thing for a quick second before it faded to let her see the queen. The unicorn smirked at her doppelganger. If you betray me, you are out of here so fast... her thoughts trailed, allowing her to fill in the blanks.
Queen Eos jumped back in fright as the unicorn in front of her was suddenly engulfed in golden flames, melting the heavy iron armour around her like solder on a hot plate. When the flames receded, it was almost as if she were looking into a mirror, minus her missing royal regalia, of course. Before she had time to react to the sudden development, a blast of fiery magic as intense as the sun itself hit her right on the head, blinding her in light and pain.
Light dazzled in front of Twilight's eyes as the spell faded, but it was not left over from the spell; at least, not directly. She stood in a puddle of molten metal that burned the bottoms of her hooves slightly, but it did not register at the disaster before her. Whatever could have melted did just that, and anything not vaporized and flammable was on fire. A hole shot clean through the castle and all of its courtyards, a half of a burning pony here or there. Sorry, guess I overdid it, her inner Eos meekly apologized.
The queen lay stunned in the middle of the river that ran under the castle before coming back to her senses. Sure, the unicorn had surprised her with the attack, but the thought of a pathetic pony like that doing this to her? Intolerable! She righted herself and took off like a bullet back towards the castle, still slightly on fire from the attack that sent her reeling. Ponies scattered as they saw her draw near, but she could not be bothered with those petty little cretins. Only Twilight Sparkle burned in her mind!
"YOU SHALL PAY DEARLY FOR THAT!" she screamed as she collided with the other alicorn through the stone wall itself, too angry to even bother with flying in through the (melted) window. They tumbled down the stairs into the entrance hall, bowling over the guards who still laboured to enter the throne room like the white pins that they were. Lost in the tangle of feathers and limbs, many of them fell unconscious.
But Eos did not care, using her sword to stab at anything she could in the brawl, yielding masculine cries and grunts as she stabbed her own guards in her struggle to get to her vexing opponent. Twilight, meanwhile, was not blinded by such rage, so, when the opportunity came, she rolled onto her back and then bucked the queen (and the guard she was impaling) behind her and out the window with a shattering crash.
One way or another, Equestria was to be rid of Queen Eos this night.