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Thaumaturgy With Anon [7/?]

By HK-FortySeven
Created: 2nd November 2020 02:27:19 PM

  1. @@@@@@@@
  2. @ Thaumaturgy with Anon, Pt. 7
  3. @ Originally posted to Pastebin on Jul 2, 2019
  4. @@@@@@@@
  5. @ Stumble upon this part out of order?
  6. @ You can read the last part here:
  7. @@@@@@@@
  8.  
  9. ++++ Continuing cut from Part 6: ++++
  10.  
  11. >"Why do I do this, you ask?"
  12. >Veldheer just offers one of those smiles, those absolutely enraging smug smiles.
  13. >"Because I am the mortal enemy of the Wyse Kunstenaars, of course. And by extension, your enemy."
  14. "That's nice. But it's not the real reason, is it?"
  15. >"Neither is it any concern of yours, human."
  16. >Fucker.
  17. "I'll bet it's got a lot to do with your favourite red asshole, huh?"
  18. >If that smile vanishing was any indicator, he definitely hated the mere mention of the guy.
  19. >Funny, that's almost exactly how you feel about the motherfucker, too.
  20. "You obviously hate the guy's fucking guts. And you don't look the type to just go along with his plans, either. So what's your angle here?"
  21. >"Oh, I'm afraid you have it all wrong, human. I do not hate your counterpart."
  22. >Whatever kernel of confusion that came up was quickly crushed as his expression collapsed into a scowl.
  23. >"I despise him."
  24. "Yeah, join the fucking club."
  25. >When did your hands stop shaking?
  26. >"You misunderstand, human. My hatred is not like your own. You crave vengeance for his slights against you, while he dares to steal my very tribe from under my muzzle."
  27. >Doesn't that just sound so fucking familiar?
  28. >"I readily accept partial blame for it. From the moment I first met him, I knew he would bring us nothing but problems."
  29. "But you went along with him anyways."
  30. >It takes a split second for you to realize you said that out loud.
  31. >"Bold of you to say. But yes, you're quite right. Alas, his gifts to me stalled my hoof."
  32. "His gifts?"
  33. >"He needed to earn my trust before I would even entertain working with him."
  34. >He allows himself a small sideways smile.
  35. >"Something you've become very well apprised of, no?"
  36. >Oh fuck this guy.
  37. >As soon as his line is delivered, he slowly reverts to frowning.
  38.  
  39. >"But unlike the delusional fools you've allied yourself with, I only entertain shows of bloodshed, and the return of our tribe's lost relics. Indeed, this blade of mine was the second of his gifts."
  40. "Did he tell you he stole that from Canterlot?"
  41. >"He told me it was taken from the vaults of Equestria's rulers. He did not tell me of how he took it, however."
  42. "I was there when he took it."
  43. >And for all the other things he took.
  44. >Even when he...
  45. >Fffffuck!
  46. >"A painful memory, I take it?"
  47. "There a point to all this?" you snap.
  48. >"Of course," he smiles. "Oh, you'll have to forgive my... divergences. It's just so refreshing to speak to one who shares my distaste for that detestable human."
  49. "I'd prefer caving his skull in to talking about him."
  50. >"Hah!" he booms, smiling even wider. "Then we can agree on that much, at least!"
  51. "Then what stopped you, huh? After everything you just did here, I'm sure you could've taken him."
  52. >"Had I been quicker to act, and realized his plans before it was too late, I would have done so with pleasure. But killing him now would split my tribe beyond repair."
  53. "Let me guess. He talked them into worshipping him."
  54. >"Yes," he hisses. "He is so very skilled at such manipulations. Indeed, he sowed the seeds of such duplicity with his first gift to me."
  55. >You're not sure you want to know.
  56. >"The head of one of my tribesmares, fleeing to the Kunstenaars for protection in exchange for vital information."
  57. >God damn it.
  58. "I hope that's a figure of speech."
  59. >"It is nothing of the sort, and I would accept nothing less. He certainly oversold the point of her being my daughter, however."
  60. >Whoa, what?!
  61.  
  62. "He killed one of your kids?"
  63. >"It was rather insulting, I will admit. He believed her relation to me would somehow improve my opinion of his efforts. In truth, it was always meant to endear himself to my tribe--"
  64. "No, hold the fucking phone! He killed one of your kids!"
  65. >"Yes," he asks, slightly confused. "Is there some issue with this?"
  66. "Is there an issue with--? What do you think the issue is?!"
  67. >He tilts his head, lost for a few moments.
  68. >Before you can speak again, his eyes widen with realization.
  69. >"Aaaah, I understand your objection now."
  70. >Just now?!
  71. >"I suppose I should have expected such a reaction from one so mired in romantic Equestrian nonsense."
  72. >It was the slightly bored delivery of that line that really took you aback.
  73. >"You would do well not to project your foalish delusions of morality upon me and my tribe, human."
  74. "But she was--!"
  75. >"Let me make this perfectly clear to you, human," he says, cutting you off. "Lineage is meaningless to the Bloedige Plaag."
  76. >No reply comes, despite your mouth making the motions.
  77. >"A zebra I have sired is no more meaningful to me than one who has no blood relation, just as it is with all other zebras of my tribe. They follow me, fight with me, betray me, and fall before me the same as all other zebras."
  78. >Fall before him...?!
  79. >You find your voice right as anger of a different variety shoots through you.
  80. "So you kill your own kids, is that what you're telling me?" you hiss.
  81. >"When they oppose me."
  82. >It's the simple, direct delivery.
  83. >It robs you of a response once again, amplified by how completely unconcerned he looks.
  84. >"Were you even listening, human? You project your foul Equestrian morality upon me at your own peril."
  85.  
  86. >There's about a thousand and one questions and accusations going through your mind, and right now you can't vocalize even one of them.
  87. >"I have sired hundreds of foals in my lifetime, human. Common broodmares battle among each other to ensure I will sire hundreds more. Her life meant no more to me than the rest of my tribe, and was forfeit the moment she betrayed me."
  88. >Hundreds.
  89. "And what if they kill you instead, huh?"
  90. >"Then they will have proven themselves stronger than I, and will lead the tribe as per our customs. Despite their sometimes enthusiastic efforts, none have succeeded in doing so."
  91. >Right as you open your mouth, your words are cut off by Razor's leg holding you back.
  92. >His look, while also plenty angry, had a very clear meaning behind it.
  93. >'Let it go.'
  94. >"And I assure you, human: your filthy, scheming counterpart will never succeed in his underhooved efforts to depose me."
  95. >Take a deep breath.
  96. >Jesus fuck, man!
  97. >You figured their leader would be a real piece of work, but holy shit!
  98. >"Oh, he has certainly come close at times, particularly before his departure many weeks ago. My alchemists all but worship him and his cowardly magic, and many of my warriors were quite taken by his bizarre faith. The image he had crafted for himself, of a great holy warrior, was a very successful one indeed."
  99. >He regains a ghost of a smile.
  100. >"That is, until the illusion was broken. Imagine my surprise when his return from Equestria was marked not by success and fanfare, but with him bloodied and beaten, on the verge of death. He was bedridden for a week, as I recall."
  101. >His smile, happier than it has any fucking right to be, is pointed your direction.
  102. >"I believe I have you to thank for that, Insurgent Anonymous?"
  103. >Your scowl doesn't change.
  104.  
  105. "I didn't do that for you."
  106. >"It was a significant aid to my efforts all the same. And I believe we can both agree that he deserved nothing less, no?"
  107. >This is the very last fucking person you want to sympathize with on the merits of Nito being a titanic piece of shit.
  108. >"Though our reasons for seeing his fall may differ, I cannot let your efforts go unthanked, Insurgent Anonymous."
  109. "I don't need your fucking thanks."
  110. >"I do not care about your feelings on the matter."
  111. >You want nothing more than to deck this motherfucker right now.
  112. >"Although, I do have some serious concerns about you, Insurgent Anonymous. Despite all my expectations, all the stories of your abilities and motives, I find myself... disappointed."
  113. >The fucking way he just said that.
  114. >"Your precious 'friends' are in danger. Your efforts to gain the trust of the Kunstenaars risk being for naught in the face of their potential destruction today. And yet, it is the death of one of my children that causes you upset? You are angered by our goals coinciding?"
  115. >He shakes his head, almost like he's taking pity on you.
  116. >"You are certainly more pleasant to speak with than that despicable counterpart of yours. But I must admit, I am so very disappointed by how... juvenile you are. Especially in the face of all that has been said about you."
  117. "What?"
  118. >"You are a warrior at heart, that much was easy to determine. A very respectable disposition to hold. Unfortunately, you are every bit as arrogant as he is. Confusing your true strength for that of the tools of magic you wield. Truthfully, when stripped of such tools, the two of you are simply not very threatening."
  119. "Look who's talking," you fire back, eyes on his sword.
  120.  
  121. >"I hold no illusions about my abilities, human. Zabraxas's blade is not indicative of my true strength. But then, the Kunstenaar's Ancients are not indicative of their true strength, either. The blade simply levels the playing field. And they fall easily before me, as I would expect of them.
  122. >"Now, take away your precious counterpart's magic gauntlet, strip away his weapons and armour, and what remains? Nothing but a toothless schemer. And with your weapons stripped away? You are nothing but a naive foal, coddled by both victory and Equestrian 'friendship'."
  123. >His eyes turn towards Razor.
  124. >"Tell me, Equestrian. You've experienced suffering before, I can see it in your eyes. How long did you believe you could shield him from facing true suffering, from true loss, as you have?"
  125. >Razor doesn't answer him, and Veldheer doesn't wait long for an answer, looking back to you.
  126. >"I can see it in your eyes too, human. You think you can save everyzebra from suffering, if only you apply yourself enough," he frowns, shaking his head in disapproval. "Only juveniles and the coddled would delude themselves so completely. Your eyes betray how little you have truly paid in your quest for vengeance."
  127. "You don't know the first thing about what I've paid, or what I've done."
  128. >"Not enough, to be sure."
  129. >You've half a mind to fire Riafalt off right now, just to see if it'll melt this motherfucker.
  130. >"Tell me, human. What will you do, what price will you pay, to see your vengeance done?"
  131. >His smile gets several shades darker.
  132. >"Will the blood of your companions be payment enough?"
  133. >In that moment, a good chunk of your anger evaporates, replaced with tension.
  134.  
  135. >"No, not just their blood. Their very lives," he says, taking a step closer with an even bigger smile. "Is that an exchange you are able to make, if it means bringing an end to your enemy?"
  136. "You think this is some kind of game I'm playing?!"
  137. >"Isn't it? You imply they are not pieces in a game, yet you put them into play all the same, did you not? Shall I show you just how easily they are removed from play as well?"
  138. >Oh, no.
  139. "I'm not letting you--!"
  140. >"Letting me?" he laughs. "As if to say that your consent has any weight in the matter! You truly are as juvenile as I feared, human."
  141. >The sword on his back floats up on it's own, and he kicks it towards you two in a lightning fast motion.
  142. >SCHTHUNK
  143. >You two just barely jump back and out of the way, weapons at the ready, as the sword buries itself in the ground between the two of you.
  144. >"Tell me, will you simply 'not let me' take the life of your companion, human?"
  145. >His smile hasn't shifted, all while a cold sweat starts to blanket your skin.
  146. >"Ahh, and there it is, the true depths of your foalishness, of your inexperience," he smirks your way. "Your companion is a soldier, fully ready to die for you, his charge. And believe me when I say that I have no intention of stopping him, human."
  147. >He walks up towards where he'd thrown his sword, barely concerned about either one of you as his hoof brushes along it's handle.
  148. >In fact, concern is the furthest thing from his current expression: murderous glee would be a more accurate term for it.
  149. >"If you did not want to pay such a price, human, you should not have brought him here."
  150. >His eyes flick off into the distance for a brief moment, his withers tensing for a split second.
  151.  
  152. >The sword pulls out of the ground, resting on his back again.
  153. >"The omens have made themselves clear on this matter. Blood will be spilt this day, the blood of one of your precious companions. And there is nothing you can do to stop it, human. Nothing."
  154. >This can't be fucking real.
  155. >Who the fuck is this guy?
  156. >"My only regret," he says, bowing his head, "Is that I will not be the one to spill that blood today."
  157. >Huh?
  158. >"A shame, as I've never battled with a thestral before. Perhaps I will have a chance to do so later, should fate deem it so."
  159. >Hoofsteps could be heard behind you.
  160. >"I am glad we had this chance to talk, Insurgent Anonymous. Should you survive this day, and learn from it's harsh lessons, I look forward to our next encounter."
  161. >He readies his sword.
  162. >"Farewell."
  163. >He leaps back.
  164. >Barely a second after he leaves the ground, an all-too-familiar zebra with a lightning axe lands right where Veldheer was standing before, a shockwave of lightning detonating from where said axe bit into the ground.
  165. >Another all-too-familiar zebra landed right beside him as he pulled the axe out of the ground.
  166. >The pair was none other than a dust covered Vegter, axe crackling and trembling in his teeth, and a similarly dusty Heerser with his trident held in his hoof.
  167. >Vegter looked absolutely livid, and Heerser's cold, furious glare was giving you chills from here.
  168. >Veldheer, on the other hand, looked as happy as a kid in a candy store.
  169. >`Ahh, it is so good to see you two again!` he chirps, as if greeting some old friends. `I had hoped to face the two of you this day!`
  170. >Vegter's response was a low, animalistic growl.
  171.  
  172. >`I see you've become stronger since last we fought, Reckless Vegter. I take it you still wish to avenge Vigilant Schreeuwer?`
  173. >Vegter, as angry as you'd ever seen him, nearly charged the guy right then and there, but Heerser was quick to hold him back.
  174. >`And I see you remain as steadfast as ever, Travelled Heerser. Still trying to protect everyzebra you can?`
  175. >Heerser's only response was to have his trident light up with that same green lightning that his hidden chain swords had going on.
  176. >"This battle is ours alone, Otherworldly Anonymous," Heerser says, his tone as serious and commanding as it got. "Your companion requires assistance. Go, now!"
  177. >Other companion...?
  178. >Wait, Exact?!
  179. >"Otherworldly...?" Veldheer mutters, eyes practically glimmering. "Why, how intriguing!"
  180. >"Do not dawdle!" Heerser calls again. "Go, now!"
  181. >He doesn't have to tell you twice!
  182. >"You had best do what he says, Insurg-- ahem, Otherworldly Anonymous," Veldheer says, happy as can be. "She's been waiting for this moment for a long time."
  183. >She?
  184. >No, nevermind that right now, Exact needs your help!
  185. >With only a brief nod shared between you and Razor, you take off in the direction of the smoke columns, the voices of the three still audible behind you.
  186. >`Before we start, I wish to apologize, Travelled Heerser.`
  187. >`You, apologize? For what?`
  188. >`For the things I said of Loving Zecala.`
  189. >`Do not speak of her!` Vegter all but screams back.
  190. >`What?` Heerser asks, clearly confused. `After all your animosity towards her?`
  191. >`I always believed your love of one another to be nothing but a sardonic farce. But recent events have had me reconsider such sentiments. Perhaps...`
  192.  
  193. >They get too far out of earshot for you to hear the rest of their exchange.
  194. >You pass by a destroyed building on your way over, slowing only a little when you see the amount of injured zebras in it's shadow, being tended to by some alchemists.
  195. >What nearly stops you dead in your tracks is the sight of that masked alchemist, being tended to by some other zebras.
  196. >She was hurt badly, a huge burn mark on her stomach.
  197. >Your course changes over towards her, where you find her still conscious despite her wounds.
  198. >"Y-you have come...?" she wheezes, not a rhyme to be found.
  199. "Jesus, what happened?!"
  200. >"There is no time...! Sh-she is contained, but not for much longer!"
  201. "What? Who's contained?"
  202. >"A-a changeling, unlike any other...! A smouldering hatred, and a thirst for blood unlike anything I have seen...!"
  203. >A changeling?
  204. "A... a changeling did all this?"
  205. >"You must stop her! They will not hold her for much longer! Go now, before their efforts are for nothing!"
  206. >A changeling.
  207. >Her.
  208. >What Veldheer said, about 'her' waiting for this moment.
  209. >Oh my fucking God.
  210. >No.
  211. >No fucking way.
  212. >No, not her.
  213. >Not her, of all the fucking people it could be...!
  214. >"Anon!" Razor calls out, giving you a shake to snap you out of it. "We've gotta go, come on!"
  215. >He's only partly successful, but it's enough to get you moving.
  216. >Your hands shake as you check your staff, making sure the Riafalt focus was good and ready.
  217. >Oh fucking hell, man!
  218. >Why her?!
  219. >It's hard to miss the glowing golden sphere, and much harder to miss the huge flashes of dark purple magic flaring from inside of it.
  220. >An all-too-familiar pony runs over to you from beside the sphere.
  221.  
  222. >Oh thank God that Exact was still okay!
  223. >"Quickly," he calls out, "Use your staff!"
  224. >You're already on the task, pointing it towards the sphere and charging up the big light ray attac--
  225. >FWMPH-KRACK
  226. >Before the staff could charge even halfway, the sphere detonated in a loud, blinding burst of light.
  227. >Your head whips away, your ears ringing as you blink out the spot it left in your vision.
  228. >Even amidst your ears ringing and Razor's cry of pain, you could hear a piercing screech of pure anger from off in the distance, one that persisted for seconds after the sphere detonated.
  229. >No, not an angry screech.
  230. >A downright wrathful screech.
  231. >And an all-too-familiar one at that.
  232. >No, come on, stay focused!
  233. >No way in hell you're letting this distract you!
  234. >You hadn't let your staff dip while the blast happened, so you let your staff continue to charge up, intent of levelling it against what you continue to hope is not that fucking bug.
  235. >The staff gives it's little cue, and you waste no time in letting loose the initial little orb towards where--
  236. >She isn't there.
  237. >Right as you realize this, the little orb that plinked out of the staff hits it's destination, Riafalt blasting the empty area with it's signature KA-VRIIIIIIIIM.
  238. >Oh for fuck's sake, man!
  239. >This is not the time to fucking choke!
  240. >Where did she go?!
  241. >Eyes darting around, you try and find where--
  242. >"There," Exact calls out, pointing towards a ruined building.
  243. >Thank fucking God he's here to spot for you!
  244. >Your staff starts charging again, pointed right at the ruin.
  245. >Come on, Anon!
  246. >You can't fuck this up, not now!
  247. <...
  248.  
  249. @@@@@@@@
  250.  
  251. >It's him.
  252. >The sphere finally detonates after all of your efforts.
  253. >The anguish and deaths of the surrounding alchemists are drowned out almost immediately by the awful prickling sensation washing over your chitin.
  254. >The teleportation spell activates a scant second after the sphere's destruction.
  255. >POOF
  256. >You land in a small heap behind the ruin, the impact doing nothing for the horrible sensation all over your body.
  257. >A sensation that intensifies after hearing a loud KA-VRIIIIIIIIM, forcing you to bite back a scream.
  258. >It's him.
  259. >In a flash, you stand back up and press yourself flat against the wall.
  260. >It's him.
  261. >The dull ache in your horn fades quickly while you try your best to control your breathing.
  262. >It's him.
  263. >You knew something was wrong when that unicorn up and ran like that.
  264. >Ran off towards him.
  265. >What choice did you have other than to escape?
  266. >Escape that...
  267. >That horrible, awful magic.
  268. >The same magic he used back at Canterlot.
  269. >The same magic responsible for this awful feeling across your chitin.
  270. >The same magic you can feel lurking from behind this wall.
  271. >That unnatural, emotionless, bleach-like magic...
  272. >"There," you hear a stallion's voice call out from behind the wall.
  273. >The unicorn.
  274. >Moments after the voice rang out, you could feel that magic beginning to charge up.
  275. >There was no mistaking where it was aiming.
  276. >It's him.
  277. >He's here.
  278. >He's trying to kill you.
  279. >("You and your friends are fucking DEAD!")
  280.  
  281. >He's...
  282. >No.
  283. >No!
  284. >No, no, no, NO!
  285. >Like Tartarus he will!
  286. >You didn't come her to play hide-and-seek with him, you came to end his life!
  287. >And one way or another, he's going to die!
  288. >Not you, him!
  289. >He and his friends are bucking DEAD!
  290. >Fresh fury floods through your veins, halting your shaking and making the stinging sensation worse as a low snarl escapes between your teeth.
  291. >No more mistakes, Athalia!
  292. >Focus!
  293. >First, you need to see what you're dealing with, not just sense it!
  294. >The ring of flame erupts underneath your hooves again, it's destination a fair distance behind Anonymous.
  295. >Your senses zero into Anonymous and his friends, even as you sink down into the portal.
  296. >He still has no presence, but his horrible magic certainly does.
  297. >But outside of strange zebra items and potions, it felt like...
  298. >C-could Veldheer be right?
  299. >Does he actually not have any of his...?
  300. >No, stop speculating and just find out!
  301. >You emerge from the other side, a long distance away.
  302. >There, in the distance.
  303. >You can see him.
  304. >Him and his little bucking friends...!
  305. >A thestral, Night Guard, along with that damned unicorn.
  306. >And Anonymous--
  307. >KA-VRIIIIIIIIM
  308. >Gaaaah!
  309. >Th-that attack...!
  310. >The same sensation, b-but...
  311. >So far away, and it still hurts this badly?!
  312. >From the tip of his staff, some kind of giant pillar of white magic raked across the ruin where you were before.
  313. >Is it some kind of charged attack?
  314. >Is it...?
  315. >It...
  316. >Wait.
  317. >Oh.
  318.  
  319. >Oh Foremothers above.
  320. >Veldheer was right.
  321. >H-he...!
  322. >He's completely unarmoured!
  323. >The only thing he has with him is that staff!
  324. >Wait, he's got something slung across his shoulder!
  325. >I-is that the super-weapon Veldheer said he might have?
  326. >Whatever building glee you had was quickly replaced with alarm when you sensed the unicorn's all-too-familiar intent levelled your way.
  327. >All eyes were now on you.
  328. >Alarm changed to determination, notes of joy blended in.
  329. >He has no defence.
  330. >The armour, the weapons he had when he fought Incognito...
  331. >He has none of them, save for only one weapon.
  332. >Heh.
  333. >Heheheh.
  334. >Ohh, if only he knew.
  335. >If only he knew what was in store for him!
  336. >Your snarl has to pass through your smile this time around.
  337. >Fully focused, you quickly assess his little companions as the entire group closes in.
  338. >The unicorn, the same as before, only with zebra potions.
  339. >That thestral's intent gave him away as the commander, and his plentiful desire to protect Anonymous was only rivalled by his measured fear of you.
  340. >Wait.
  341. >Does this thestral seem familiar, somehow?
  342. >No, no time for that.
  343. >They're coming.
  344. >The thestral takes to the skies, a triple-shot crossbow in his hooves.
  345. >He's well equipped for a Night Guard, on top of also having a zebra construct and some potions.
  346. >Horn aglow, you thread some scanning magic in along with a large magical charge, prepared to shunt it to whatever you may need.
  347. >Hmm, seems like the ponies have got zebra magic in their systems, mostly in the eyes, mind, and spine.
  348. >Must be because of alchemy, some kind of enhancement.
  349. >You also immediately pick up the same scanning spell coming from the unicorn, and his intent changes quickly to reflect his mutual awareness of your own.
  350.  
  351. >"She is scanning us," he calls out in a strange halfhearted monotone, "Be careful!"
  352. >First he counters all of your magic with stupid precision, and now he's playing the spotter for Anonymous?
  353. >He might be the most dangerous one here.
  354. >More awful magic flares up from Anonymous, and you hear a series of VROOSH noises for each of the white magic bolts that come flying out of his staff.
  355. >Your charge of magic is shunted into teleportation.
  356. >"She is teleporting," the unicorn calls out again.
  357. >Oh that little bastard...!
  358. >The spell still goes through before the bolts can hit you, and you teleport opposite to him, near the ruin.
  359. >"Shit!"
  360. >You start running the rest of the way there.
  361. >"Hold your fire!" the thestral commands from up high.
  362. >You dive behind the ruin again, this time charging some dark magic.
  363. >It's so soothing, compared to your regular magic...
  364. >Okay, Athalia.
  365. >Take a deep breath and focus.
  366. >"She is preparing dark magic," the unicorn calls out again.
  367. >"Damn it, she's feeling us out!" the thestral says. "We can't give her a chance to come up with a plan!"
  368. >Damn, that thestral is smart.
  369. >"Well what the fuck are we supposed to do?!" Anonymous says, fear in his voice.
  370. >Fear in his voice.
  371. >He's afraid.
  372. >He doesn't know what to do.
  373. >You...
  374. >You were afraid of this man.
  375. >You were actually afraid of this man!
  376. >"We've got to keep her on her hooves. Anon, no flashy giant lasers, just bolts! Sergeant, can you flush her out of there?"
  377. >Keep you on your hooves, huh?
  378. >Well, maybe you should take their advice, if they're going to be so open about it!
  379. >Your power goes to dark orbs of magic, and you fire them above the wall where they arc towards their group.
  380. >"Dark orbs, above!" the unicorn announces.
  381. >All but Anonymous scatters.
  382.  
  383. >You loose another volley towards both ponies as you open yet another portal beneath your hooves, pondering a destination.
  384. >You need to kill one of those ponies.
  385. >Anonymous is clearly leaning on them here.
  386. >Bucking coward.
  387. >You're hesitant to go against the thestral, knowing so little about him.
  388. >But you know what to expect with that damned unicorn.
  389. >You've beaten him before.
  390. >That's right...
  391. >He'll be the first one to go.
  392. >Decision made, you sink into the portal, quickly appearing behind the unicorn.
  393. >His intent barely changed, like he couldn't sense your portal spell at all.
  394. >How interesting.
  395. >The moment the portal closed, he instantly picked up on your presence behind him.
  396. >How interesting, indeed.
  397. >"Behind me," he announces.
  398. >By the time his head turned to face you, you were already running straight towards him, horn nearly dripping with dark magic.
  399. >"Look out!" Anonymous called out.
  400. >Remembering to use spells at the last possible moment with this unicorn, you unleash a large wave of the magic directly at him.
  401. >Two shields make themselves known: one threaded from his horn and nowhere near powerful enough, and a much stronger one coming from the gem in his armour, using a very Equestrian style of bleach-like magic.
  402. >The barriers block the attack, but shatter in the process and leave him reeling.
  403. >There's no way he can stop your next move.
  404. >Your foreleg winds back and strikes out.
  405. >CRACK
  406. >A large dent was visible in his armour as he flew back through the air, surprise and pain shooting through him throughout his flight.
  407. >His consciousness, already spinning out of control during his flight, fizzles out completely the moment he hits the ground with a loud THUD.
  408. >Damn.
  409. >If only you'd hit hard enough for a kill.
  410. >"No!" Anonymous nearly wails.
  411. >Butterflies.
  412.  
  413. >"Sergeant!" the thestral yells.
  414. >He's next.
  415. >You take flight straight towards the thestral, normal magic charging your horn and ready to shunt as needed.
  416. >The thestral brings up his crossbow, intent alight with scrutiny and plans of how to best attack you.
  417. >More of Anonymous's magic flares up from the side.
  418. >Senses towards him, eyes on the thestral.
  419. >You can't keep teleporting forever.
  420. >And besides, it'd be a shame to waste this momentum of yours.
  421. >The thestral fires his crossbow, and you almost erect another shield until you realize that they're ordinary bolts.
  422. >PLINK-PLINK-whoosh
  423. >Your chitin is well past the point of being able to be harmed by that.
  424. >Unfortunately for him.
  425. >Alarmed, the thestral puts his crossbow away to--
  426. >VROOSH
  427. >The first of a volley of three magic bolts rockets out of Anonymous's staff weapon.
  428. >You drop into a dive to avoid them, and make an attempt at shielding against one of the bolts.
  429. >FWBANG
  430. >Holy...!
  431. >That bolt reacted way more violently then you expected!
  432. >Tore the barrier apart from within, like it was attacking something in the magic itself--
  433. >The thestral!
  434. >You shift your eyes towards him, seeing the pony swoop down in a far faster dive than yours, aimed straight at you.
  435. >Your horn only has the time to ignite before he collides with you in a full-body tackle.
  436. >All semblance of balance and direction lost, all you feel besides the sting of his collision is him grappling your neck and--
  437. >CRASH
  438. >Not even a second later, you hit the ground at a steep angle, the thestral stood atop your body, pinning your head into the ground the whole time you skidded to a painful halt.
  439. >And the moment you came to that halt, he leaped off and back into the air.
  440. >That little bastard.
  441. >When your head comes back up and your eyes shoot open, red is all that you see.
  442.  
  443. >Where is he?
  444. >Thinks he can just get away with that, does he?!
  445. >Where is he?!
  446. >Your senses quickly pick him up again, circling around in the air above you.
  447. >But the damned pony leaves your mind for a moment.
  448. >You spot Anonymous a small distance away, hovering over the downed unicorn with some kind of strange healing magic filtering out of his staff.
  449. >Trying to bring him back, is he?
  450. >Oh, you don't think so.
  451. >A portal springs to life underneath you, and your horn ignites with dark magic.
  452. >The thestral's attempt at diving down at you was stopped by a volley of dark orbs, forcing him to dodge.
  453. >He's very good in the air, maybe even better than the best gryphons.
  454. >Best to take care of him with magic.
  455. >But first.
  456. >He can't stop you from sinking down into the portal again, where you emerge a few yards behind Anonymous.
  457. >He's right there.
  458. >So focused on his little friend.
  459. >Too busy to notice you.
  460. >Keeping your magical charge ready, you break into a gallop towards him.
  461. >His head whips back around to catch you.
  462. >His face...
  463. >It started so sad.
  464. >Like somepony he loved was hurt.
  465. >It shifted so quickly to fear.
  466. >Fear of you.
  467. >The smile on your face is impossible to suppress.
  468. >His staff comes around, ready to fire more bolts.
  469. >That's the opening you were looking for.
  470. >A ray of dark magic is loosed from your horn, towards him.
  471. >He can't be hurt much by your magic, you knew that much.
  472. >But his precious staff certainly can be.
  473. >Just like when you fought him at Ponyville.
  474. >The ray lances across his hand and up along his staff.
  475. >He cries out in pain and releases the staff, which falls into two singed halves with some kind of bizarre liquefied magic substance spilling out of it's core.
  476. >Wait a minute.
  477. >You hurt him with that?
  478. >You didn't think the spell was that powerful--
  479.  
  480. >The thestral!
  481. >Oh no, not again!
  482. >You spin in place mid-run, skidding to a halt and facing the diving thestral head-on.
  483. >No time for a spell, but plenty of time to reach out and stop him--
  484. >WHOOSH
  485. >He flew overhead, changing course at the last possible second--
  486. >plink-plink-plink
  487. >Wait, he just threw something out from under his wings.
  488. >Six small knives, three on either side of you.
  489. >You can sense magic inside of them--
  490. >FZZZZZT
  491. >A yelp of pain leaves you as the knives ignite with lightning magic, arcing between each knife and you.
  492. >Argh!
  493. >Annoying little bastard!
  494. >Snarling, you look up and take aim with another ray of magic.
  495. >You...
  496. >You said, you're using another ray of magic!
  497. >What the...?
  498. >Your horn isn't responding!
  499. >What did he do?
  500. >What the buck was in that lightning magic?!
  501. >Gaaaaah!
  502. >Bastard bucking thestral!
  503. >He's dead!
  504. >You'll rip him apart!
  505. >He won't keep you from killing Anonymous!
  506. >Nothing will!
  507. >Vision freshly tinted with red, your glare sets onto that damned pony.
  508. >He starts for another dive, but you're ready this time.
  509. >Your wings buzz to life as he comes in close.
  510. >He banks slightly upwards in response, going for another dodge.
  511. >Your response is to rear up and jump, forelegs outstretched.
  512. >Even a flier like him can't change course that quickly.
  513. >THUNK
  514. "Gah!"
  515. >The speed and force of his impact on your forelegs sent you crashing to the ground onto your back.
  516. >But you also hear him rolling out onto the ground himself, off behind you.
  517. >Quickly getting your bearings, you lock onto him.
  518.  
  519. >You can sense his pain.
  520. >He's well and truly scared of you now.
  521. >Yet amazingly, he's still determined to stop you.
  522. >Thestrals are like that, so annoyingly brave.
  523. >You'll see just how long that lasts.
  524. >By the time you get back onto your hooves, he does the same thing and takes flight once again, despite the pain he's in.
  525. >You follow him into the air.
  526. >Does your magic still work?
  527. >Damn it, not yet.
  528. >"Razor, no!" you hear Anonymous cry out. "Get out of there!"
  529. >Razor...?
  530. >Is that the thestral's name?
  531. >Razor.
  532. >Razor, Razor, Razor...
  533. >You swear, you've heard that name before!
  534. >Where have you--
  535. >He's coming right for you!
  536. >Damn it, focus--!
  537. >THWACK
  538. >Once again you get tackled in the air, but even the resistance you give with your wings this time can't stop him from punting you to the ground with another painful CRASH.
  539. >"Take him and book it!" the thestral calls back. "That's an order!"
  540. >His voice...
  541. >There's no doubt, you've heard that voice before!
  542. >Agh, no!
  543. >Focus, focus, FOCUS!
  544. >You leap back to your hooves and take flight again, a furious hiss escaping between your teeth.
  545. >"What about you?!"
  546. >"Now!"
  547. >Definitely quite a commanding voice, either way.
  548. >Your horn begins to obey you, but still can't do much more than spark.
  549. >Fine.
  550. >Guess you'll have to fight with your bare hooves.
  551. >You see the thestral unsling his glaive from his back, brandishing it as he makes another dive at you.
  552. >That glaive is enchanted, but hay if you know what with.
  553. >Doubt it would do much to you either way.
  554. >Still, better avoid it.
  555.  
  556. >You just need to fend him off long enough for your magic to come back.
  557. >To that end, you decide to drop into a dive of your own, aimed squarely at the thestral.
  558. >He'll have to change course.
  559. >You can take more punishment than he can, and there's no way he'll last through a head-on collision.
  560. >His intent shift gives away the expected course correction, but he also switches to holding the glaive in his mouth, blade end hung towards you.
  561. >A last second swerve makes the blade narrowly avoid hitting you.
  562. >But you could see the blade fizzle lightly with blue lightning as it passed you by.
  563. >That same exact blue lightning from before.
  564. >So that's his plan.
  565. >He's going to keep you from using your magic!
  566. >You reflexively test your horn, finding that it still only sparks, just with more intensity now.
  567. >It occurs to you that you haven't tried dark magic yet.
  568. >Banking around to face the thestral again, you try to channel the dark--
  569. "Aaagh...!"
  570. >You nearly lose focus at the dull pain that lances through your horn.
  571. >Nearly lose track of the thestral, coming in for another swipe.
  572. >You nearly bank to the side again, but his intent to correct for you stops that.
  573. >Instead, you point down and freefall.
  574. >He misses, but stays in pursuit with a fall of his own.
  575. >Your horn...
  576. >It didn't feel like nothing that time.
  577. >Instead it felt like it was in a vice.
  578. >A spiky, painful vice.
  579. >And yet, it didn't feel completely solid.
  580. >More like a tough membrane than a solid material.
  581.  
  582. >The thestral is gaining on you.
  583. >You wait until the ground comes close, then begin straightening out--
  584. >Wait, he straightened out already?
  585. >And--
  586. >CRASH
  587. >Before you even knew what was happening, you felt his hooves collide with your back and send you crashing to the ground again.
  588. >Bastard...!
  589. >You get up immediately to take flight--
  590. >He's standing in front of you!
  591. >CLANG-FZZZZT
  592. >The glaive slashes across your muzzle, the pain of the impact amplified by the lightning in the weapon as your head is whipped to the side.
  593. >No follow-up comes: he just flies again.
  594. >Your horn fails to even spark again.
  595. >That...
  596. >That little...!
  597. >Bastard!
  598. >Bucking bastard!
  599. >Your teeth grit.
  600. >Half in fury, half in pain.
  601. >Your horn feels like it's about to split apart under the pressure.
  602. >You're done with him.
  603. >Done playing his little game!
  604. >No more of this game of tag!
  605. >He's dead.
  606. >He's coming in for another dive.
  607. >Dead!
  608. >The pain in your horn reaches new levels.
  609. >DEAD!
  610. >The pressure snaps.
  611. >FWBANG
  612. >Your vision is eclipsed by a wall of black flame, exploding from your horn.
  613. >The very next thing you feel is a different kind of pain.
  614.  
  615. >Everything becomes dark.
  616. >You can't feel anything.
  617. >>`Neophyte...?`
  618. >Not the cool night air, not the sands under your hooves.
  619. >>`Neophyte, what in the world are you doing?!`
  620. >>`Getting some sweet, sweet revenge? Well, trying to anyways. Failing, more like. We mean, weren't you watching too?`
  621. >Wait.
  622. >Did you just hear something...?
  623. >>`Neophyte, listen! Cease this at once!`
  624. >>`This one ain't gonna tell you to stop, bug. But we'll have to ask you to, y'know, stand up.`
  625. >No, not hearing...
  626. >This wasn't like hearing at all.
  627. >>`Are you insane? Have you forgotten about the plan?!`
  628. >>`Very, thanks for asking. And no, we haven't forgotten the plan. We just don't care about your shitty plan that's more or less doomed to fail.`
  629. >Oh.
  630. >Now you remember.
  631. >The voices.
  632. >Of course.
  633. >You should have known.
  634. >What do they want now?
  635. >>`It is our only chance of seeing the black day come!`
  636. >>`Aww, have a little pride! Weren't you talking all that good shit about your way of seeing that black ol' day come?`
  637. >That annoying four armed ghost, and the unicorn one too.
  638. >You can't see them, but you remember their voices.
  639. >>`Enough! Neophyte, wake yourself and flee, now!`
  640. >Flee?
  641. >>`We'll second the motion to wake up, bug. But why run?`
  642. >Flee?
  643. >>`Damn it, are you trying to sabotage--?!`
  644. >>`Annihilative Athalia.`
  645. >A third voice, silencing all the others, makes itself known.
  646. >A form manifests in front of you.
  647. >The robed figure of that strange mare's ghost.
  648. >>`We did not take the heir to the Shattered's line to be such a coward.`
  649. >Wh--
  650. >What did she say?
  651.  
  652. >>`Only a coward would abandon her prospects of victory now.`
  653. >Her voice was harsh and pointed, almost dripping with judgment.
  654. >That annoying ape tries to interject.
  655. >>`What are you--?`
  656. >>`Silence, mon'keigh. Matters of vengeance are beyond creatures like you.`
  657. >Her voice was loud and angry, brooking absolutely no argument.
  658. >>`Now listen well, emissary. Do you plan to let your prey simply escape you?`
  659. >What kind of...?
  660. >>`Do you plan on letting the Failure elude you again, changeling?`
  661. >No.
  662. >>`Do you intend to simply cry your defeat away, as you did once before?`
  663. "No..."
  664. >Red seeps back into your field of vision.
  665. >>`Do you plan to live in fear of the Failure, as you did once before?`
  666. "No...!"
  667. >The red swirls like clouds, engulfing the darkness.
  668. >Feeling begins to return to you.
  669. >>`Don't you? Then what will you do, changeling?`
  670. "Kill..."
  671. >Pain reigns supreme among the feeling that floods back in.
  672. >There's almost no darkness remaining now.
  673. >>`Who is it that you intend to kill?`
  674. "Kill him...!"
  675. >>`Speak his name.`
  676. "Anonymous!"
  677. >>`Do not lose sight of your goal, Annihilative Athalia. Now go.`
  678. >Your eyes open.
  679. "I'll kill him!"
  680. >Dull pain throbbed through your entire body, like a drum being beaten.
  681. >Your eyes dart around instead of your heavy head.
  682. >What met you wasn't the desert, and wasn't the charging thestral.
  683. >Instead, you were met with an entirely different sight.
  684. >Black glass greeted you, with a thick, indescribable scent hanging in the air.
  685. >Your foreleg was stretched in front of you, your head close to the ground.
  686. >When did you fall down?
  687.  
  688. >Your body was heavy, your limbs painful to move.
  689. >Yet you pulled yourself up all the same, deep ragged breaths escaping you all the while.
  690. >It took a moment to realize you were in a crater.
  691. >Moonlight glinted off of the black glass surfaces, with small lightless black flames pockmarked around, melting the glass like candlewax and absorbing all of the reflected moonlight from the surrounding glass a short distance.
  692. >Unnatural inky black smoke billowed from the flames, the source of that awful smell.
  693. >No, it almost felt wrong to call it a smell.
  694. >Your limbs are shivering, and you can taste blood.
  695. >You need to move.
  696. >Almost like in a trance, your wings spring to life, lifting you with much more effort than normal.
  697. >You clear the crater and collapse to the sandy ground outside of it, fresh air flooding into your lungs through the gasps and coughing.
  698. >You can't breathe through your snout.
  699. >You wipe it with your foreleg to try and clear it, and it comes back with a fresh smear of green.
  700. >Blood.
  701. >Blood...?
  702. >What...
  703. >What happened?
  704. >A painful cough was heard far away.
  705. >Your eyes shoot over towards--
  706. >The thestral.
  707. >Limping, singed, sickly.
  708. >The thestral.
  709. >Your eyes widen, your shaking stops.
  710. >The thestral.
  711. >You don't remember standing back up.
  712. >A fresh tint of red colours your vision.
  713. >It's the thestral.
  714. >The one who did all this to you!
  715. >Cold, dark magic involuntarily floods your horn, and you could not care less.
  716. >He's dead.
  717. >Step by step, you march towards him.
  718. >Dead.
  719. >He hears you hiss.
  720. >It's only when you sense his disbelief, his fear, that you remember that you can sense his emotions.
  721.  
  722. >That isn't all you sense from him.
  723. >There was dark magic.
  724. >Inside of him, flowing through his veins like a poison.
  725. >He just barely manages to bring his glaive to bear, his legs shaking through his pain.
  726. >That's incredible, really.
  727. >He shouldn't even be standing.
  728. >Despite his brave face, he was afraid.
  729. >You just noticed one of his wings was badly burned.
  730. >He can't fly.
  731. >Anger now ran parallel with your glee.
  732. >Dark magic no longer drips from your horn, but now actively leaks down your forehead and down your muzzle, stinging your bloodied snout.
  733. >He'll pay for everything he's done.
  734. >Helping Anonymous, ruining your plans at Ponyville, causing all of this...
  735. >This...
  736. >Wait.
  737. >Ponyville?
  738. >Your breathing hitches and your pace stops dead as the memories come back to you.
  739. >He was at Ponyville.
  740. >Your plan to trick Celestia into arresting Anonymous.
  741. >A pony argued with one of Celestia's guards.
  742. >A thestral.
  743. "Razor Wind..."
  744. >That was him.
  745. >His eyes widen slightly.
  746. "You..."
  747. >Your eyes narrow.
  748. "You ruined my plans at Ponyville."
  749. >He doesn't respond, but you know he knows what you're talking about.
  750. >There's far less glee now, and far more anger.
  751. >He'll pay for everything he's done.
  752. >The liquefied dark magic sizzles as it touches the ground, tinted green from the blood.
  753. >Your horn is slow to react to your commands, taking a moment to begin charging.
  754. >He braces himself, and gets ready to attack--
  755. >"Razor!"
  756. >Anonymous's voice, off to the side.
  757. >So full of worry.
  758. >So full of fear.
  759. >And hearing it injected an all new emotion into the thestral.
  760. >Dread.
  761.  
  762. @@@@@@@@
  763.  
  764. >"Razor, where are you?!"
  765. >He's looking for his friend.
  766. >He's concerned for his well-being.
  767. >Exactly like...
  768. >Like that zebra, Heerser.
  769. >An idea forms.
  770. >Glee once again displaces the anger.
  771. >Composing yourself, you smile at the thestral.
  772. "I've just thought of a way for you to make this all up to me, Mr. Razor Wind."
  773. >Just thinking about your new plan seems to banish the shaking in your limbs, replacing it with cold, tingly delight.
  774. >It's funny, watching him so afraid, yet so determined to try and stop you.
  775. >With great pain, he runs towards you at a slight angle, no doubt to try and circle you.
  776. >Restraining the power of your magic is so, so difficult.
  777. >FWBONG
  778. >The weakened dark orb collides with his side, sending him crashing to the ground with a cry of pain.
  779. >You want to kill him so badly.
  780. >It would be so, so easy.
  781. >So easy to just tear him apart.
  782. >But you want to hurt his precious little charge even more.
  783. >He tries so hard to right himself, but you catch up to him before he can finish, your legs free of shaking but not free of the pain.
  784. >Your foreleg comes up, and you stomp down on his back.
  785. >His pain spikes, in sync with the delightful cry of pain that escapes him.
  786. >"Razor? Come on man, don't leave me hanging here!"
  787. >Your eyes meet with the thestral's, and you can tell he knows what you're planning.
  788. >"You listen here-- Aaaaagh!"
  789. >Your hoof presses harder into his back, cutting him off.
  790. >With a smile, your head turns towards Anonymous's voice.
  791. >"Razor?"
  792. "Are you looking for your friend?" you call out to him.
  793. >Silence.
  794. >Beautiful, deafening silence.
  795. >Until that thestral broke it with his quiet pleading.
  796. >"S-stop..."
  797. "Not a chance," you smirk.
  798. >The despair leaking from his emotions is nothing short of delicious.
  799.  
  800. >You turn back to the source of Anonymous's previous yelling.
  801. "He's right here, Anonymous!" you call out again. "You should see how he's doing!"
  802. >The pony's head flops down, but you know he's still alive and awake.
  803. >The anticipation is almost palpable.
  804. >You start shaking again, and not from pain.
  805. >After a few moments of downright titillating waiting, you can see his figure in the distance running towards you.
  806. >He's holding something like that staff of his, but it isn't magical.
  807. >He comes close enough to see who you're standing on, skidding to a halt when he finally recognizes him.
  808. >Said pony stays stock still under your hoof.
  809. >Anonymous, for his part, looks...
  810. >How do you describe it?
  811. >Shocked?
  812. >Dismayed?
  813. >Devastated?
  814. >Oh, it hardly matters.
  815. >It's exactly the look you were hoping to see.
  816. >Oh, he's holding one of those zebra pole weapons.
  817. >Cute.
  818. >Anonymous stand there for a few moments, as if not believing what he's seeing.
  819. >Then, as if remembering something, his face twists into a furious scowl, and he reaches back towards that thing he has slung behind him.
  820. >If Veldheer was right, and that is some kind of indiscriminate super-weapon, then that's a problem with a very easy solution.
  821. >A solution that starts with a smile.
  822. "Hello, Anonymous."
  823. >He looks shocked to even hear you speaking to him.
  824. >You're shocked you haven't broken out into laughter yet.
  825. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
  826. >That only seems to infuriate him more.
  827. >Whatever he pulls free, looks like some kind of crank.
  828. >Best to stop him now.
  829. >You stomp down onto Razor Wind's back, drawing another cry out of him.
  830. >Anonymous freezes.
  831. "And it's been even longer since I've seen your good friend here, too!"
  832.  
  833. >And to think, he was playing dead right underneath your hoof.
  834. >Hoping Anonymous would take you both down.
  835. >What a character.
  836. "What did you stop for?" you taunt in the sweetest voice you can. "Weren't you about to try and kill me with that funny weapon of yours?"
  837. >It doesn't matter how many times you see those looks on his face, it never fails to delight.
  838. "Aww, but you can't, can you?"
  839. >Your hoof twists into the pony's back, his strangled cry adding so much more discomfort to Anonymous's already amazing expression.
  840. "Not without killing your little friend too."
  841. >The deafening silence was just an extra cue: his face told you everything you needed to know.
  842. >So Veldheer was right all along.
  843. >You really didn't give him enough credit after all.
  844. >Now you feel kind of bad.
  845. >He's still such an utter...!
  846. >No, enough!
  847. >Don't you dare lose focus, Athalia!
  848. >Not now, not again!
  849. >Not when you're so close!
  850. >Anonymous's mouth makes the motions to say something, yet no words come out.
  851. >He looks so torn, so conflicted.
  852. >If only you could sense it, savour it to it's fullest.
  853. "Well, what's the matter?" you sneer. "You're not as talkative as usual."
  854. >This kind of pleasure is equal parts foreign and delightful, tingles shooting down your spine.
  855. >"I-I--"
  856. "Don't tell me you've run out of clever things to say?"
  857. >Another idea.
  858. >The thestral's glaive rests nearby.
  859. >The liquefied dark magic reaches out in little strands through the air, wrapping around the weapon.
  860. "That's okay. You don't have to be clever for my sake."
  861. >The tiny tendrils hoist the weapon over to you, where you then press the tip against the thestral's back.
  862. "You just have to listen."
  863.  
  864. >"Wait!"
  865. >He's scared.
  866. >He's well and truly scared, well and truly frightened.
  867. >He looks about ready to cry.
  868. >"Don't...!"
  869. >You give him your sweetest smile.
  870. "What?" you reply just as sweetly. "Don't what?"
  871. >The thestral groans.
  872. >"Don't hurt him!"
  873. >A little late for that.
  874. >"I-it's me you want, right? Just let him go!"
  875. >Never in a million years did you think he could sound so...
  876. >So...
  877. >Pathetic.
  878. >Your eyes shoot towards the most pressing threat: his strange crank weapon.
  879. "Throw it."
  880. >"Wh-what--?"
  881. "I don't like that little crank you have. Throw it."
  882. >You'll have to find some way to thank Veldheer after all this is done.
  883. >Well, after you're done kicking him for making that move on you.
  884. >Hm.
  885. >He's hesitant.
  886. >You don't like how long Anonymous is taking to decide.
  887. >You take the glaive in your hoof and jab the point into Razor Wind's back.
  888. >His pained grunt worked wonders in shattering that hesitance.
  889. >"No!"
  890. "Now."
  891. >He's trembling, on the verge of tears.
  892. >Tears.
  893. >He looks down at the crank, back to you, then back to the crank.
  894. >He swallows dry, hands trembling.
  895. >Then, he tries to put it down.
  896. "No. I said, throw it."
  897. >He just looks at you, so sad and defeated.
  898. >Whatever he's looking for in your eyes, he clearly doesn't find.
  899. >Screwing his eyes shut, he throws the crank to the side.
  900. >Your magic fires before it even hits the ground.
  901.  
  902. >FWBANG
  903. >He cries out as the explosive orb of dark magic hits the crank.
  904. >To your surprise, the crank is completely unaffected by the attack.
  905. >The same can't be said for Anonymous, who was thrown onto his back by the shockwave, sand raining down on him from the blast.
  906. >You give him a moment to look at you again.
  907. "There," you coo, "That wasn't so hard, now was it?"
  908. >He tries so hard to scramble back upright.
  909. >You also try really hard to keep yourself from laughing, but a small chuckle escapes despite your efforts.
  910. >"Th-there, I-I threw it, now just--"
  911. "And I appreciate that. Really, I do. It's probably the nicest thing you've ever done for me."
  912. >"Just leave him alone, for fuck's sake! Please!"
  913. >He said please.
  914. >He actually begged for his life.
  915. "Fine," you smile. "After all, you're right. It is you that I want."
  916. >There it is.
  917. >That telltale glimmer in his eyes.
  918. "I'll leave him right here for you."
  919. >SCHLICK
  920. >It's hard to tell who screamed the loudest: Anonymous or Razor Wind.
  921. >But seeing Anonymous's hope so utterly crushed?
  922. >There's no contest over which was more beautiful.
  923. "Now that we've gotten that out of the way..."
  924. >You walk past the thestral's writhing form, the glaive impaled through his back and into the ground, and walk towards Anonymous in such a way that you block the path to his little crank weapon.
  925. >He'd fallen to his knees at some point on your way over.
  926. "I thought we could just take a few moments, just the two of us. You know, to talk. We really need it."
  927. >He's too frozen up to vocalize his crying, but his tears were well ahead of the curve.
  928. "I'm not even sure where to begin, to be honest with you."
  929.  
  930. >Slowly, bit by bit, you can see the denial melt into anger.
  931. >It won't stay as anger once you're through with him.
  932. "It's just... well, I want to say we got off on the wrong hoof, but that wouldn't really be true, would it?"
  933. >His teeth are gritting now.
  934. "Oh sorry," you giggle, "I'm a little all over the place, this is all just so overwhelming! Ohh, let's see..."
  935. >The picture frame is still there, despite everything.
  936. "Ah! I know what we can start with!" you smile. "Do you remember the day we first met? Back at Canterlot? You threw that light gem at me, right in the middle of your chat with Chrysalis."
  937. >It's impossible to keep the venom from your voice at her damned name.
  938. "That was the first time you cheated death with me, wasn't it? Saved by..."
  939. >Him!
  940. "Ahh, that's right! Your little friend back there saved you!"
  941. >It's only after his mention that you see hatred in Anonymous's eyes for the first time.
  942. "Well, it wouldn't be the first time. You remember Ponyville, right? Remember how he also ratted out my plan to your little royal marefriends?"
  943. >Mentioning them next drew out a low, furious growl.
  944. >It'd be far more threatening if he were able to make good on it.
  945. "You know, I didn't want to take them captive. Really, I didn't. But you just made things so hard. I still don't know how you got the Crystal Empire to show up like that, but that's okay. That's not really important right now.
  946. "Oh, and how could I ever forget about how you survived for a second time?"
  947. >If he hadn't ruined his image already, you might have been a little scared of his furious charge with that dainty little zebra pole weapon.
  948. >You're kind of furious, too.
  949. >In fact, furious is a mild way of putting it.
  950. "How could I ever forget how it was you who put me in chains at Canterlot?"
  951. >CLANG
  952.  
  953. >He strikes you so hard with the weapon that the head actually breaks off after bouncing off your chitin.
  954. "How could I ever forget how you were the one who left Celestia to torture me?!"
  955. >He realizes too late his mistake in charging you.
  956. >Despite your condition, all it takes is a light shove in the stomach to send him sprawling back, like you'd just kicked him outright.
  957. "How you left me in that cell, alone with those damned voices!"
  958. >He tries to get up, but you're having none of it.
  959. >He only makes it to his knees before you bat him across the chest, drawing another cry out of him as he's sent back with a meaty, satisfying CRACK.
  960. "And I never, ever forgot," you hiss, "How it was you who almost killed Incognito!"
  961. >He makes it to his knees even slower this time, and once again you reach out.
  962. >He collapses in a fit of coughing before you can touch him, droplets of red escaping his mouth with every hack.
  963. "Do you have any idea..."
  964. >Your hoof reaches beneath him, cups his chin, and forces him to look at you.
  965. "Any idea at all," you shout, "How long I've been waiting for this moment?!"
  966. >Even as weakened as you are, it's so easy to push him up and back, flipping him onto his back.
  967. >Sounds like he's having trouble breathing.
  968. "I..."
  969. >Trembling, you make your way towards his writhing body.
  970. >THUMP
  971. "I hate you."
  972. >He curls inwards when you stomp onto his stomach, coughing interrupting his cry of pain.
  973. "I hate you so much, Anonymous."
  974. >Dark magic begins to boil off of your horn, in wisps of inky unnatural smoke.
  975. >Funny, you thought you'd stopped using your magic.
  976. "There isn't a single word in the Equestrian language that can express just... just how much I truly hate you."
  977.  
  978. >He's been trying to escape from under your hoof this whole time, writhing and punching your leg to no avail.
  979. >The fury in his eyes is so...
  980. >Pitiful.
  981. >He doesn't know what fury is.
  982. >Not like you do.
  983. >Yet here he is, acting like his is somehow stronger than yours.
  984. >It's really, really pissing you off.
  985. >Your hoof presses harder against his gut, causing him to stop resisting for just a split second out of the pain.
  986. >That same split second, the hoof comes back up for a second stomp.
  987. >THUMP
  988. >He screams.
  989. >He's in so much pain.
  990. >You want to see so much more of it.
  991. >If only he weren't so...
  992. >So...
  993. "Weak."
  994. >You can't land another hit like that, not without killing him.
  995. "I still can't believe it."
  996. >Your hoof moves from his gut to his chest, pressing slowly against it and drawing a fresh cry out of him.
  997. >He's trying so hard to push your hoof aside, wheezing all the way.
  998. "I was actually afraid of you all this time."
  999. >There it was.
  1000. >Terror.
  1001. >Terror, eclipsing his anger.
  1002.  
  1003. >You take a deep breath and lean in towards him, levelling a glare his way that you are absolutely certain could reduce a pony to ashes.
  1004. "Well now it's your turn."
  1005. >You apply more pressure.
  1006. >He paws weakly at your foreleg, desperate to make you stop.
  1007. "Do you feel that, Anonymous?"
  1008. >He can't even talk back, only capable of coughing and wheezing now.
  1009. >It feels like your last strike may have broken some of his ribs.
  1010. "That's what dying feels like. Do you like it?"
  1011. >The liquefied dark magic drips off of your muzzle, sizzling out of existence against his skin after eating patches of his clothes like an acid.
  1012. "Because I certainly didn't."
  1013. >It's time.
  1014. >You'd planned something better, something with more words, something more grand and beautiful.
  1015. >But none of the words come to you, none of the plans feel right anymore.
  1016. >And none of that matters at this moment, not anymore.
  1017. >Finally, after all this time, the picture frame floats into his view, held up by tendrils of inky black magic.
  1018. "Well, I do have some good news for you at least, Anonymous. You're not going to die."
  1019. >You will not be denied.
  1020. >Not now, not ever.
  1021. >The hooks of the soul trapping spell phase out of your horn, dark gray and barbed with ethereal white strings attached to the frame.
  1022. "But you're going to wish you were dead by the time I'm through with you."
  1023. <...
  1024.  
  1025. @@@@@@@@
  1026.  
  1027. >"Agent of Celestia?" (unknown source)
  1028. >Pain, indeterminate source; low-intensity light, indeterminate source.
  1029. >"Please, you must wake up!"
  1030. >Muted shaking sensation in a back-and-forth motion across your body's longitude.
  1031. >Senses returning, estimated to be at 50.2% capacity.
  1032. >Eyes opening, acquiring focus.
  1033. >Source of shaking sensation found: masked zebra mare; voice and appearance match previously encountered masked zebra mare, 90.0% probability of match.
  1034. >"Are you hurt, agent?" (masked zebra mare)
  1035. >Subject appears upset: speech has characteristics common to stress and pain.
  1036. >Verifying masked zebra mare's claim, attempting movement.
  1037. >Movement causes no pain, proceeding to stand; pain felt localized in chest area, source likely to be from strike delivered by enemy Athalia during skirmish with--
  1038. >Subject of battle triggering alert status.
  1039. >Senses return to 78.2% capacity; observing surroundings reveals no trace of friend Anon, information required.
  1040. "Where is Anonymous?"
  1041. >"I had hoped you would know, agent!"
  1042. >Evaluating self: armour no longer present on body: 82.5% probability of armour being removed during unconsciousness to facilitate treatment of previously described strike injury.
  1043. "Are you responsible for healing me?"
  1044. >"Yes, I-I discovered you in a heap here! I thought I witnessed Anon in the distance, but he fled in the direction of that blast! I discovered you on my path!"
  1045. >Discrepancy: subject is not practising traditional Zebrican rhyme speech in the Equestrian language, speech patterns indicate prior familiarity with friend Anon, subject is not using friend Anon's full name or conferred title of 'Otherworldly'.
  1046. >Clarification required: subject of 'blast'.
  1047.  
  1048. "There was a blast?"
  1049. >Evaluating self: magical capacity currently resting at 44.3% (40.8/92.2 hSw) capacity, ambient recovery rate of 0.23%/s (0.2 hSw/s), no dark magic poisoning present in system.
  1050. >"In the distance! Unlike any blast I have seen; like it drained the light from the area instead of creating light!"
  1051. >Description matches dark magic ability "Seance Release", activating passive scanning spell.
  1052. >Enormous dark magic presence located 185m±5m east-south-east, secondary dark magic presence sensed 98m±4m north-north-west.
  1053. >Main presence bears 94.3% match for one effect of ability "Seance Release", "Seance Release" was utilized by enemy Athalia during previous incident in Ponyville, Equestria; 87.4% likelihood of current "Seance Release" being utilized by enemy Athalia.
  1054. >New objective: investigate site of "Seance Release" ability, find friend Anon and sergeant Razor Wind.
  1055. >Evaluating masked zebra mare: bears signs of previously sustained severe magical injury, clear signs of rapid alchemic treatment present at injury site, subject likely in pain.
  1056. "Are you able to fight?"
  1057. >"Yes, why?"
  1058. "I must investigate the blast and discover Anonymous's location. Are you able to aid me?"
  1059. >"Of course I am able!"
  1060. "Then follow me."
  1061. >Embarking towards site of "Seance Release" blast, movement speed of 2.5m/s; masked zebra mare following you at 0.8m distance west-south-west of current position.
  1062. >Sensory spell alert: incoming Zebrican magic presence south-south-west of current position, distance 68m±2m at speed of 3.8m/s.
  1063. "Something is approaching from behind us."
  1064. >Masked zebra mare looks back, exclaims the phrase "Vegter" with surprised tone.
  1065.  
  1066. >Phrase "Vegter" matches zebra warrior named Vegter; sensory spell reveals hybridization of Zebrican magic with Faber Mystico Thaumaturgical magic, 99.2% probability of magic signature being zebra warrior Vegter's weapon.
  1067. >Pace slowed to 1.0m/s to allow looking back: zebra warrior Vegter verified to be approaching current position, stopping to facilitate communication.
  1068. >Evaluation: subject Vegter appears injured; signs of magical damage, physical wounds, and general exhaustion, likely from prolonged battle; indeterminate dark magic poisoning present in system of subject Vegter.
  1069. >Reminder: subject Vegter does not speak Equestrian, activating translation spell.
  1070. >`Lucky I found you! Need healing! Quickly!` (Vegter)
  1071. >Unrelated: subject Vegter's grasp of Zebrikaans language poor by standard of average native Zebrikaans speakers.
  1072. >Evaluation: subject Vegter inflicted with low-intensity dark magic poisoning (600mDm±200mDm), movement still possible due to lower magical requirements in zebra physiology; still capable of battle despite poisoning with 18.5%±2% reduction in combat efficiency.
  1073. >Masked zebra mare giving potions to subject Vegter: appears to be Zebrican 'Stryd-kuur' rapid healing potions.
  1074. >`Be more careful, Vegter! You cannot keep taking potions at this rate!` (masked zebra mare)
  1075. >Subject Vegter consumes potions; exhibits signs of intense yet brief pain, injuries on his body closing at a rapid rate.
  1076. >`Can not be helped. Enemy is tough.` (Vegter, clear signs of anger)
  1077. >Subject Vegter notices you, briefly scans surrounding area.
  1078. >`Agent? Where is Otherworldly Anonymous? You supposed to be with him!` (Vegter, concerned)
  1079. >Unrelated: translation spell for speaking is painful.
  1080. `We are searching.`
  1081. >`Searching? Why? What happened--`
  1082.  
  1083. >Subject Vegter interrupted by loud screech, originating from site of "Seance Release" ability.
  1084. >Voice strained and angry; probability of voice matching enemy Athalia at 86.8%.
  1085. >Personal: body becoming tense, heart rate increasing; source not magical. Fear response?
  1086. >`Her...!` (masked zebra mare, alarmed)
  1087. >`Her? What is going on?` (Vegter, confused)
  1088. `We must go. Anonymous is in danger.`
  1089. >`Danger?!` (Vegter, alarmed)
  1090. >Pursuit restarted, speed of 2.5m/s attained; masked zebra mare following at 0.8m distance west-south-west of your position.
  1091. >Addendum: subject Vegter overtaking group at speed of 3.7m/s.
  1092. >`Otherworldly Anonymous! Where are you?` (Vegter)
  1093. >Stealth options considered: actions of subject Vegter compromises approach; enemy Athalia possesses powerful sensory abilities, negating most stealth options; stealth approach deemed impossible.
  1094. >Allowing ally Vegter to proceed forward, but with warning.
  1095. `Do not act alone. We must be ready to react quickly.`
  1096. >Subject Vegter ignores advice, maintains speed.
  1097. >Low-light vision insufficient at current distance: ingesting Zebrican 'Cat's Eye' potion to compensate.
  1098. >Effects immediate, greater visual performance with no additional colour detail; unnecessary for current task.
  1099. >Voice audible from distance: matches vocal profile of enemy Athalia.
  1100. >"--is your idea of playing hard-to-get, is it?!" (Athalia, very angry)
  1101. >Visual range reached: enemy subject Athalia seen over prone figure of--
  1102. >C-control.
  1103. >C-continuation: enemy subject Athalia s-seen over prone figure o-of friend Anonymous; situation unknown.
  1104. >Beginning scan of enemy Athalia and surrounding position.
  1105. >Personal: must be fast, your friend is in danger; must be fast, your friend is in danger.
  1106.  
  1107. >"If you think, for one bucking second, that I'm leaving this place empty-hooved, you've got another thing coming!" (Athalia, very angry)
  1108. >Subject Vegter sprints at speed of 4.4m/s towards enemy target Athalia.
  1109. >`Get off of my friend!` (Vegter, angry)
  1110. >Evaluation: enemy Athalia suffering lethal levels of dark magic poisoning (13.2Dm±1.2Dm), subject should not be conscious.
  1111. >Enemy Athalia turns to face ally Vegter: facial features denote surprise, quickly morph to anger.
  1112. >Personal: enemy Athalia's facial expression terrifying.
  1113. >"You have got to be joking!" (Athalia, screaming)
  1114. >Ally Vegter attacks with axe: uses magical lightning projectile attack, enemy Athalia forced to evade.
  1115. >Discrepancy: Dark magic poisoning causes complete incapacitation at only 8.0Dm±0.6Dm for Equestrian subjects, yet enemy subject retains mobility and consciousness at this high of a level; unclear as to how this is possible, as changeling tolerance for dark magic poisoning is lower than Equestrian tolerances, implications disturbing.
  1116. >Enemy Athalia retaliates with "Dark Orb", ally Vegter avoids attack; projectile appears unstable, detonates against ground with higher splash damage than anticipated: likely cause is enemy subject Athalia's emotional state being highly unstable.
  1117. >Evaluation: Equestrian presence located 6.2m from location of friend Anon: a pole appears to be stuck into the body of a pony, low life signs detected; coloration of target pony matches that of sergeant Razor Wind.
  1118. >Personal: control self; rash action raises failure rate by 54.2% (average): must deduce way to save both.
  1119. >Stopping pursuit to form plan: masked zebra mare notices and stops as well.
  1120.  
  1121. >"Why do you stop, agent of Celestia?" (masked zebra mare)
  1122. "We need a plan of action."
  1123. >Personal: control tenor of voice, personal anxiety audible in tone.
  1124. >Masked zebra mare raises no objection, likely understands situation.
  1125. >"What must be done, agent?"
  1126. "Both Anonymous and the lieutenant must be rescued, and Athalia must be defeated if possible."
  1127. >Evaluating options...
  1128. >"How can we defeat an opponent like this?"
  1129. >Evaluation: small crater 5.5m from friend Anon contains magical void: 85.2% probability of crater containing friend Anon's magnetic device.
  1130. >Evaluation complete, 7.2s taken.
  1131. "Anonymous's weapon can defeat her, and it rests in that crater."
  1132. >Pointing to target crater.
  1133. "I need you to acquire his weapon and administer healing to Anonymous so he can use it."
  1134. >"And what of the other pony?"
  1135. "I will evacuate the lieutenant and administer healing, and ensure Vegter is informed of the weapon's use."
  1136. >"Very well, let us make haste!"
  1137. >Nods exchanged with masked zebra alchemist as sign of agreement; targets acquired.
  1138. >Masked zebra alchemist on target to crater, arrival in 3.4 seconds.
  1139. >On target to lieutenant Razor Wind, arrival in 4.9 seconds.
  1140. >Evaluation: lieutenant Razor Wind sustaining high magical damage, his glaive weapon is impaled through his back, likely through his spinal column; suffering dangerously high dark magic poisoning (5.3Dm±0.7Dm).
  1141. >Immediate treatment required to ensure survival of lieutenant Razor Wind.
  1142. >Arrived at body of lieutenant Razor Wind; friend already unconscious, prognosis for dark magic poisoning bad.
  1143. >Glaive removed from body and stored across back: potion of Zebrican 'Stryd-kuur' potion poured onto open wound.
  1144.  
  1145. >Pain visible on expression of friend Razor Wind, wakefulness not induced from pain: prognosis for dark magic poisoning worsened.
  1146. >Potion working despite suboptimal application; cannot wait for complete healing, must move friend Razor Wind immediately.
  1147. >Magic used to assist in draping the body of friend Razor Wind across back: blood loss on ground indicates 2-3 minutes since stab wound first occurred.
  1148. >Mobility now at 82.2%; vulnerable without armour, must be cautious.
  1149. >Observing battle between ally Vegter and enemy Athalia, searching for opening to divulge plan to ally Vegter.
  1150. >Mobility of enemy Athalia compromised, but continues to defend self with high amounts of unfocused dark magic attacks: dark magic poisoning of target now measured at 15.1Dm±2.0Dm without signs of adverse effect.
  1151. >Ally Vegter sustaining magical injuries, dark magic poisoning now approaching moderate levels, estimated at 3.8Dm±0.6Dm, accounted for higher zebra dark magic tolerances.
  1152. >Opportune moment located, announcement commencing.
  1153. `Be ready to run! Anonymous's weapon will be ready soon!`
  1154. >Reaction of subject Vegter one of realization, then understanding: meaning successfully conveyed.
  1155. >Exigency: enemy Athalia has taken notice of you, beginning retreat.
  1156. >Now beginning to run in reverse: movement speed limited to 79.2% (2m/s) of maximum forward speed, acceptable tradeoff for self-defence with spellcasting.
  1157. >Enemy Athalia begins to scream at a high volume: anger of subject reaching a very heightened state, 90.7% probability of enemy Athalia pursuing you.
  1158. >Personal: remain composed, the lives of your allies and friends depend on your actions being successful.
  1159. >"I'll kill you! I'll kill every last one of you!" (Athalia, barely intelligible screaming)
  1160.  
  1161. >Enemy Athalia begins pursuit, sprinting at speed of 5.3m/s: ally Vegter attempts pursuit, dark magic poisoning limits effectiveness: uses the lightning bolt ability of his axe to compensate, forcing enemy Athalia to divert attention and progress towards evading; advantageous.
  1162. >Enemy Athalia will reach you in 10.8s±3.8s, begin assault: must divert attention from masked zebra mare and friend Anon as much as possible for success.
  1163. >Probability of success at--
  1164. >Personal: do not consider success rates now; focus on defeating enemy Athalia.
  1165. >Enemy Athalia begins magical assault: volley of 5 unstable "Dark Orb" projectiles in space of 0.4s.
  1166. >Trajectory calculated for interception projectiles in 0.2 seconds: 5 "Solar Dart" projectiles released.
  1167. >100% collision rate, holy magic within projectiles causes violent detonation of "Dark Orb" projectiles, further slowing advance of enemy Athalia: target will reach you in 9.7s±2.5s.
  1168. >Enemy Athalia reacting badly to interception of prior attack, begins to scream unintelligibly, phrases such as "kill" and "blood" discerned from speech; distraction working as intended.
  1169. >Dark magic poisoning of enemy Athalia reaches 18.4Dm±2.2Dm, horn of target actively leaking void flux at estimated rate of 8mm/s; levels of poisoning this high have never been reported, extreme caution must be taken.
  1170. >Constant stream of "Dark Orb" attacks released from horn of enemy Athalia: orbs generated at rate of 0.3/s±0.1/s.
  1171. >Magical counterattack commencing: "Solar Dart" interception begins, trajectories calculating at average rate of 0.2s±0.05s, casting sustainable at the same rate.
  1172.  
  1173. >Visual of target enemy Athalia lost due to multiple consecutive detonations of "Dark Orb" projectiles: visual tracking unnecessary due to active scanning spell; average rate of initial projectile interception at 98.4%, sufficient spellcasting periods present to intercept missed shots, currently maintaining 100% interception rate.
  1174. >Enemy Athalia sustains barrage of "Dark Orb" projectiles for 8.2 seconds, generating 30 projectiles: unclear where target is obtaining the necessary mana to use such powerful spells with this degree of frequency; target continues to scream intelligibly, will reach you in 3.2s±0.4s.
  1175. >Personal: do not panic, must trust plan to succeed.
  1176. >"Stun Bolt" projectiles launched at enemy target Athalia's joints to attempt disruption of movement and induce tripping: attacks make contact but fail to have an effect, likely due to nervous system effects of dark magic poisoning.
  1177. >Magical capacity currently at 8.3% (7.7hSw), cannot sustain defensive magic any longer.
  1178. >Glaive of friend Razor Wind telekinetically manipulated to attempt self-defence: success rate estimated at 8.6%.
  1179. >Development: wooden pole belonging to masked zebra alchemist is seen impacting the side of enemy Athalia's head: impact causes surprise and results in enemy Athalia falling down and rolling out.
  1180. >Pole appears to have been projectile: following source shows masked zebra alchemist by kneeling form of friend Anon.
  1181. >"Your opponent is me, vile creature!" (masked zebra mare, taunting)
  1182. >Development: previously detected secondary dark magic presence approaching from south, current distance at 93.6m±7.0m; implications uncertain.
  1183. >Enemy Athalia takes 2.3s to stand up, enabling your retreat: enemy Athalia resumes her unintelligible screaming, charges towards masked zebra alchemist.
  1184.  
  1185. >Masked zebra mare flees immediately; friend Anon is in the path of enemy Athalia's pursuit.
  1186. >Realization: speed of masked zebra mare will ensure enemy Athalia will be the only magic-bearing creature in the radius of friend Anon's magnetic weapon; unexpected lateral thinking on part of masked zebra mare, chance of plan success now at 97.2%.
  1187. >Personal: hopeful of success; it must be a success.
  1188. >Stopping your run, diverting attention to friend Anon.
  1189. >Expression of friend Anon indicates large degree of pain, significant degree of anger: justifiable given situation.
  1190. >Friend Anon waits until enemy Athalia approaches close enough.
  1191. >Pace of enemy Athalia grinds to a halt: enemy Athalia has noticed her situation, an audible gasp is heard from her.
  1192. >Probability of enemy Athalia escaping situation too low; categorizing as impossible.
  1193. >Development: previously detected secondary dark magic presence maintaining approach, now at 55.8m±4.7m distance.
  1194. >Friend Anon yells: magnetic device is energized.
  1195. >Friend Anon begins to actuate the magnetic device.
  1196. >Effects instantaneous: magical void generated at site of magnetic device with a radius of 7.4m±0.3m.
  1197. >Enemy Athalia recoils as if physically batted back: mane of target swept back as if caught in a wind, generated void flux from horn evaporating in similar wind-like force as streams of black void fog, itself contrailing for only 0.6m.
  1198. >Enemy Athalia screaming, exhibiting symptoms of pain expected of magnetic attack.
  1199. >Cannot determine magical levels of enemy Athalia from within magnetic field: estimating time before death occurs to be 17s±2s.
  1200.  
  1201. >Development: previously detected secondary dark magic presence on rapid approach: now at 30.4m±3.0m distance, and speed of 5.1m/s.
  1202. >Focus shifted to secondary presence: evaluating threat.
  1203. >Subject is unknown zebra warrior, wearing armour consisting of bones and splint mail, carrying large curved greatsword upon back matching description of missing Class-4 dark artifact "Blade of Zabraxas"; 92.7% probability of unknown zebra warrior belonging to hostile Zebrican tribe "Bloedige Plaag".
  1204. >Unknown zebra warrior drops artifact "Blade of Zabraxas" on the ground, enters magnetic field.
  1205. >Realization: unknown zebra warrior is charging at friend Anon, will intercept him very shortly.
  1206. >Ally Vegter seen entering the magnetic field 0.8s after unknown zebra warrior from opposite side; subject likely saw the approach and is attempting to intercept.
  1207. >Unknown zebra warrior expresses pain, but maintains speed: unknown zebra warrior tackles friend Anon upon reaching him; magnetic field is disrupted and collapses, lasting for a total of 12.9s.
  1208. >Unknown zebra warrior is tackled in turn by ally Vegter; unknown zebra warrior overpowers ally Vegter, throws ally Vegter to the side.
  1209. >Development: artifact "Blade of Zabraxas" autonomously levitates towards unknown zebra warrior; unknown zebra warrior uses flat side of the weapon to lift the body of enemy Athalia.
  1210. >Enemy Athalia has sustained heavy damage common to magnetic exposure and has been rendered unconscious by the attack; heavy bleeding visible from mouth and nose, internal damage very likely.
  1211. >Anomaly: dark magic poisoning in enemy Athalia has been reduced to 3.8Dm±0.1Dm, also reduced in ally Vegter to 2.2Dm±0.1Dm; noting for later.
  1212.  
  1213. >Development: zebra magic presence belonging to ally Heerser arrives on the scene of the battle, and is charging towards unknown zebra warrior at a speed of 4.9m/s.
  1214. >Unknown zebra warrior places enemy Athalia across his back; artifact "Blade of Zabraxas" subsequently activates an unknown array of runes across the surface, followed by unknown zebra warrior plunging the blade into the ground.
  1215. >Large detonation of Zebrican dark magic is emitted from the blade; ally Heerser corrects course quickly enough to avoid significant damage, but ally Vegter is pushed 4.8m away from detonation.
  1216. >`Stop him!` (Heerser, furious)
  1217. >Unknown zebra warrior endures assault from unknown chain weapon possessed by ally Heerser; artifact "Blade of Zabraxas" autonomously levitates into possession of unknown zebra warrior.
  1218. >Ally Vegter, ally Heerser, and masked zebra mare give chase to unknown zebra warrior; direction of unknown zebra warrior not determined, chance of pursuit being successful not determined.
  1219. >Analysis: current condition will not result in benefit to pursuing party; vulnerable to artifact "Blade of Zabraxas" without armour, time required to place friend Razor Wind onto the ground to give chase negates usefulness during pursuit, magical capacity too low to offer tangible magical assistance.
  1220. >New objective: investigate condition of friend Anon.
  1221. >Setting body of friend Razor Wind onto the ground; condition of subject unchanged, prognosis unchanged.
  1222. >Approaching body of friend Anon; subject appears to have been rendered unconscious by the attack, magnetic weapon appears undamaged.
  1223. >Examination: friend Anon suffering blunt trauma injury across upper and lower body regions, prominently in stomach and chest regions; indeterminate number of subject's ribs have been broken.
  1224.  
  1225. >Development: vomiting seen in subject, immediately attempting moving body of friend Anon into recovery position to avoid possible complications; breathing laboured, likely result of broken ribs and other trauma to the chest.
  1226. >Friend Anon appears to be in stable condition; maintaining watch over body of subject to ensure no complications from vomiting.
  1227. >New objective: administer care to friend Anon and friend Razor Wind until assistance arrives.
  1228. >Insufficient means at disposal to facilitate healing of friend Anon and friend Razor Wind: must wait for local zebras to offer assistance, cannot leave subjects unattended.
  1229. >Magical capacity recovered to 28.6% (26.4hSw), examining damage to friend Razor Wind using standard-issue analysis spells.
  1230. >Subject suffering high magical damage across body, major magical injury sustained across right side, consistent with effects of "Seance Release" blast and a "Dark Orb" spell; single stab wound through back of subject and through to the other side, spinal column heavily damaged at point of impact.
  1231. >Dark magic poisoning at 5.638Dm, subject's state of unconsciousness not resolvable without suitable medical intervention: current spells at disposal not capable of curing current condition of friend Razor Wind.
  1232. >Personal: unknown if you are at fault for current situation; unpleasant emotional sensations beginning to form.
  1233. >Must trust that both will recover.
  1234. >Feelings of guilt manifesting.
  1235. >Unable to detect presence of enemy Athalia during initial skirmish; cause of detection spell being circumvented to allow a surprise attack unknown, should not have been possible.
  1236. >Should have been more attentive.
  1237.  
  1238. >Development: local zebra warriors seen coming towards position; some fleeing to seek assistance, remainder expressing concern for well-being of friend Anon.
  1239. >Offers to help rejected: alchemists cited as being more beneficial to situation.
  1240. >Local zebra alchemists arrive, express grave concern for well-being of friend Anon; immediately conduct local zebra warriors to aid in recovery efforts.
  1241. >Sand sleds brought over, friend Anon and friend Razor Wind carefully lifted onto sleds.
  1242. >Attempt to escort sand sleds made; refused by local zebra alchemists, citing your injuries.
  1243. >Further attempts to escort sand sleds refused, local zebra alchemists insist on transporting you on a sled.
  1244. >Unlikely to convince local zebra alchemists to relent; no choice but to accept offer.
  1245. >Alchemists attending to you, friend Anon, and friend Razor Wind during transit; arrival at group of tents takes 1m44s.
  1246. >Local zebras show looks of concern as friend Anon is transported off of sled, murmuring of crowds on subject of his well-being.
  1247. >Development: local zebra head alchemist Zaalma appears from a large tent, examines friend Anon.
  1248. >Behaviour of head alchemist Zaalma different, more accomodating; ushers both friend Anon and friend Razor Wind into same tent she had emerged from, moves over towards you next.
  1249. >"We will do all we can for your companions, agent of Celestia." (Zaalma, sympathetic)
  1250. >Head alchemist Zaalma takes you into the large tent containing your friends, brings you to nearby bed.
  1251. >"They are safe here with us. Rest."
  1252. >Unable to comply: must maintain vigil over friend Anon and friend Razor Wind.
  1253. >Head alchemist Zaalma does not object, moves to administer treatment for both your friends.
  1254. >Indeterminate amount of time passes.
  1255. >Exhaustion beginning to set in: no signs of enemy counterattack, must remain vigilant.
  1256. >Daylight beginning to become visible through cloth of tent.
  1257. >Eyes do not reopen after blinking; observation ends.
  1258. <...
  1259.  
  1260. ++++ End of Part 6, Part 7 begins now: ++++
  1261.  
  1262. >(You, Red, and Orange scale the stone steps as quietly as you possibly can.)
  1263. >(This is it.)
  1264. >(Today was the day you three were finally getting out of this hellhole.)
  1265. >(Away from the fucking monkey demons for good.)
  1266. >(The stairwell ends, and greeting you is a pitch black chamber.)
  1267. >("Just a moment," Red mutters, keeping the candle in his grasp from spluttering out.)
  1268. ("It's gotta be here somewhere," you say as quietly as you can.)
  1269. >Huh?
  1270. >(Poor Orange is such a mess, so desperate for a way out.)
  1271. >(Well, you don't aim to disappoint him.)
  1272. >(You promised him and Red that you'd get out of here, and by God, you're going to do it.)
  1273. >What's going on...?
  1274. >(Red doesn't take very long to find something, but...)
  1275. ("What the hell is that?")
  1276. >("If I had to guess, I would say it was a door of some description.")
  1277. >(That's a door?)
  1278. >(It's a fucking wall of creepy black oil, with a stone tablet in the middle!)
  1279. >The door from the temple...?
  1280. >Wh-what the hell?
  1281. >(That's like some SCP shit right there!)
  1282. >("Green, I may need your help with this.")
  1283. ("My help? Jesus, where the fuck do we even start?")
  1284. >("I need you to pull me back, should anything happen.")
  1285. ("Pull you back? What are you--?")
  1286. >(It dawns on you what Red is thinking.)
  1287. ("Ohh no, you're not serious, are you?")
  1288. >(Red turns to you, his hardened expression even more pronounced under the faint, flickering candlelight.)
  1289. >Wait a minute.
  1290. >That's...!
  1291. >("We don't have any choice, Green. If we don't take this risk, none of us will get out of here alive.")
  1292. >Incognito?!
  1293. >("Orange, I need you to hold the candle for me. Keep your hand around the flame like this, make sure it doesn't go out, understood?")
  1294. >(Orange, bless his heart, stumbles his way over and takes the candle.)
  1295. >("Green, get ready.")
  1296. ("Right...")
  1297. >No, not right!
  1298. >Don't listen to this fucker, dude!
  1299.  
  1300. >(Red clasps his hands in a quick, silent prayer, before his hand reaches towards the oily surface of whatever the hell was on the wall.)
  1301. >(His hand makes contact, having a reaction you weren't quite expecting.)
  1302. >(The oil was repelled away from his hand, sizzling slightly wherever it made contact with his skin.)
  1303. >(Taking a breath, he--)
  1304. >(Faceplants into the fucking oil?!)
  1305. ("What are you doing?!" you whisper-shout.")
  1306. >(His head comes back out just as quickly.)
  1307. >("There's an opening on the other side!")
  1308. >(He walks straight through the oil, and his face pops out of the other side a few moments later.)
  1309. >("It's safe! Come quickly, before our captors realize what is going on!")
  1310. >(No way.)
  1311. >(You're going to get out of here.)
  1312. >No Anon, stop!
  1313. >Don't trust this motherfucker!
  1314. >(Swallowing dry, your hand presses against the oil.)
  1315. >(It's cold, freezing in fact, but it gets repelled from your hands so quickly that all you feel is the chill from the air between it and your hand.)
  1316. >(You look back to the still-shivering Orange, and extend your hand.)
  1317. ("Come on, buddy. We're getting out of here.")
  1318. >(The poor guy's almost in tears, but doesn't go for your hand, instead choosing to rush through the oil barrier.)
  1319. >(You follow suit, a shiver running through you as your body passes through the oil, going to the other side.)
  1320. >(Weird, dark purple flames shooting out of some nearby torches light up the surrounding area.)
  1321. >(What greets you is the sight of your party of three being sat right on top of some kind of creepy Aztec-looking temple, the steep stone steps just a little bit away from where you were all standing now.)
  1322. >(Nothing but pitch fucking blackness all the way, the air almost as thick as the darkness itself.)
  1323. >(But it sure beats the hell out of getting tortured by those fucking four-armed hellspawn!)
  1324.  
  1325. >(Poor Orange is a trembling mess, barely able to believe his eyes.)
  1326. >("All right," Red intones, "Let's get going.")
  1327. >(No argument here, even if he is super calm about it all!)
  1328. ("You heard the guy Orange, let's go!")
  1329. >("Go where, may I ask?")
  1330. >Your blood turns to ice.
  1331. >(Your blood turns to ice.)
  1332. >(The unmistakable voice of Maar makes itself known from behind you.)
  1333. >("How very, very disappointing...")
  1334. >(Orange screams, and tears off down the temple.)
  1335. >(Without even looking back, you bolt towards the stair--)
  1336. >(THUMP)
  1337. >(Something hits you in the back of the head, sending your whole world into a tailspin.)
  1338. >(Before you even knew what was happening, you were laid on your stomach, a foot pressed against your back.)
  1339. >(The screams of Orange bring you back into reality.)
  1340. >(You thrash to try and--)
  1341. >("Oh give it a rest already, Green.")
  1342. >(R-Red?)
  1343. >(There he is, off to the side, calm as can be with his arms folded.)
  1344. >(SCHLICK-CRASH)
  1345. >(Orange's screaming was cut off by the loud noise, coming from down the temple walls.)
  1346. ("Orange!")
  1347. >(H-he's...!)
  1348. >("It's insulting, honestly. Insulting that you can't see the great opportunity before us right now, Green.")
  1349. >("Good show, human," Maar intones, resting his lower hand on Red's shoulder. "And wisely said.")
  1350. >(No.)
  1351. >(No, no, no.)
  1352. >(This can't be happening.)
  1353. >That fucking snake.
  1354. >("Ohh, I am so very disappointed in you, human," Maar smirks your way. "All that potential, still wasted on such pointless hopes.")
  1355. >(Red rolls his eyes, walking into the temple with a confident stride.)
  1356. >("Let us see how long those hopes last now, hmm?")
  1357. >(You're pulled up by your arms.)
  1358. >(It's then that you start to thrash and scream.)
  1359. >(Maar, with a sickly sweet smile, approaches.)
  1360. >("You really let that useless orange human down, almost as much as you've let me down.")
  1361. >(His upper hand grasps your neck.)
  1362. >("But unlike him, I can at least make something of you yet.")
  1363. >(His other upper hand winds back to punch you.)
  1364. >(THUMP)
  1365. <...
  1366.  
  1367. >"Aaaaaaagh!"
  1368. >Alert: friend Anon heard screaming, investigating immediately.
  1369. >Entering tent: observation of surrounding area reveals no enemy forces.
  1370. >Now focusing on condition of friend Anon; subject appears to be in a state of fear, 87.7% probability of the source being a nightmare, based on previous precedent.
  1371. >Friend Anon attempts to get his breathing back under control, intervening to further assist in calming him.
  1372. "I am glad to see you are awake."
  1373. >Friend Anon focuses on you, immediate reduction in visible stress notable on his expression.
  1374. >"E-Exact...?"
  1375. >Possible concern: facial features of friend Anon contort in pain, also begins to clutch his chest; likely feeling pain due to his ribs not being fully healed.
  1376. "Please try to calm down. You still need to heal."
  1377. >Personal: relieved to see friend Anon is doing so well, began to fear in spite of the available data after he slept for 31 consecutive hours.
  1378. >"H-heal? Wh-what happened...?"
  1379. >Considering delivering an explanation of the events of the last two days.
  1380. >Development: friend Anon's features change again, reflecting a recollection of events; explanation likely no longer necessary.
  1381. >"Jesus, a-are you okay?!"
  1382. >Unrelated: must obtain clarification on friend Anon's constant reference to "Jesus", still uncertain if reference is to an individual, deity, and/or concept.
  1383. "I am well."
  1384. >Physical condition has recovered to 98.2% of maximum thanks to a combination of rest and Zebrican alchemy; magical condition has also recovered to 100.8% of maximum due to the same factors.
  1385. >"What happened? D-did we win?"
  1386. >Altering details to reduce inducement of negative feelings.
  1387. "There were no fatalities among us and the zebra leadership, and the enemy was forced to retreat."
  1388.  
  1389. >Note: must obtain debriefing from zebra leader Heerser on what transpired during unknown zebra warrior's escape attempt with enemy Athalia; have not been able to establish contact with him since the battle.
  1390. >"R-retreat? You mean, I didn't even...?!"
  1391. "You were rendered unconscious by an unforseen enemy encounter before you could induce a lethal amount of magnetic damage. However, it is highly unlikely that our enemies will be in any condition to fight for the forseeable future."
  1392. >Precedent already set for magnetic damage recovery with zebra warrior Vegter, but zebra physiology has much less magic within it than changeling physiology does; uncertain as to the duration and extent of her injuries.
  1393. >"She got away."
  1394. >Development, unwanted: friend Anon expressing regrets, negativity; attempt to mitigate such feelings has failed.
  1395. >"No..."
  1396. >Friend Anon grips the sheets of his cot tightly, eyes closing in likely display of regret.
  1397. >"No, God damn it, no!"
  1398. "Please do not dwell on it. The appearance of the unforseen enemy could not have been predicted."
  1399. >"But I had her! I-I could have fucking ended--!"
  1400. >Friend Anon becomes highly agitated, mannerisms bordering on panic.
  1401. >"Razor! Where's Razor?!"
  1402. "He was brought in with you, and is recovering separately."
  1403. >"Where?!"
  1404. "I have not been made aware of--"
  1405. >"I-I have to see him! H-he needs me to-- Agh!"
  1406. >Development: friend Anon attempting to leave his cot; only manages to sit up before clutching his ribcage.
  1407. "Please calm down."
  1408. >Personal: friend Anon's reaction not unreasonable.
  1409. >"Calm down?! No way! Not until I see him!"
  1410. >Friend Anon continues to try and leave his cot; injuries likely to be further agitated if he continues.
  1411. "You need to rest. I will see him when I am able, and will inform you of his condition as soon as possible."
  1412.  
  1413. >Development: tent flap heard opening behind you, observation reveals source to be that masked zebra alchemist from before.
  1414. >"What is going on--?" (masked zebra alchemist, concerned)
  1415. >Both friend Anon and masked zebra alchemist become quiet for 1.2 seconds upon seeing one another; masked zebra alchemist is the first to break the silence.
  1416. >"Anon, my good friend, you're finally awake! I never once doubted that you would not break!" (masked zebra alchemist, elated)
  1417. >Friend Anon appears to be remembering something, likely related to the masked zebra alchemist.
  1418. >"You're alive...?" (Anon)
  1419. >"Both I and yourself, and no worse for wear! We drove those vile fiends back into their lair!"
  1420. >"I..."
  1421. >Friend Anon appears to have calmed, but panic has been replaced with sadness.
  1422. >"Wh-what about Razor? I-is he--?" (Anon, sad)
  1423. >"He lives." (masked zebra alchemist, curt)
  1424. >Concern: masked zebra alchemist does not deviate from traditional Zebrican rhyme speech unless urgent circumstances have arisen; now questioning what friend Razor Wind's condition is.
  1425. >"H-he's...?"
  1426. >"He has not awakened yet, but he lives. I and Zaalma have been seeing to his health."
  1427. >"I-I have to--!"
  1428. >"I promise you this, my friend. His life is safe, and it shall remain that way. But I am not prepared to discuss the details, nor has Zaalma allowed anyzebra but myself to see him."
  1429. >"A-at least let me see him!"
  1430. >"I cannot. But know this: when you are permitted to see him, I shall lead you to his tent myself."
  1431. >Note: masked zebra alchemist possesses greater persuasive skill than previously anticipated; friend Anon is calming down in response to her answers.
  1432. >"A-are you sure I can't see him?"
  1433. >"Not for now, I am sorry. It is beyond my control."
  1434.  
  1435. >Friend Anon stops speaking, now clutching chest and exhibiting signs of pain.
  1436. >Masked zebra alchemist notices development, quickly makes her way towards a small table in the tent containing alchemical equipment and ingredients, begins to create a potion.
  1437. >"And regardless, you still have not healed. I doubt you could see him right now, even if you had Zaalma's permission."
  1438. >Masked zebra alchemist creates potion incredibly quickly, taking 7.2s; 300% faster than the average rate given a standard set of ingredients and controlled equipment.
  1439. >"You are very fortunate to be alive, my friend. Here, this will help you heal, and ease your pain."
  1440. >Masked zebra alchemist offers friend Anon the potion, friend Anon takes it after a pause of 1.7s, imbibes it immediately.
  1441. >"C-can I... ask you something?"
  1442. >"Of course."
  1443. >"I... I feel like I've... I've heard your voice before..."
  1444. >Note: friend Anon becoming very tired, effects consistent with sleep inducement; likely caused by potion contents.
  1445. >"F-from... way back at... at..."
  1446. >Friend Anon loses consciousness, falls back onto bed; masked zebra alchemist adjusts his position and covering for comfort.
  1447. >"I missed you too, my friend."
  1448. >Masked zebra alchemist lingers over friend Anon for 2s, leaves his bedside afterwards and faces you.
  1449. >"Come with me, agent of Celestia."
  1450. >Friend Anon appears safe, tent is well guarded; no reason to decline masked zebra alchemist's request.
  1451. >Masked zebra alchemist is followed for 9.2m before she stops to speak, without looking towards you.
  1452.  
  1453. >"Just so that we are clear, agent of Celestia, I still do not trust you, your intentions, or your organization."
  1454. >Masked zebra alchemist now looks back towards you.
  1455. >"But I do trust in your friendship with Otherworldly Anonymous, and you helped us save both his life and the life of your companion."
  1456. >Masked zebra alchemist turns around to face you.
  1457. >"I pray you do not squander that trust."
  1458. "Giving you my word is not going to convince you. I will cite only my actions taken here to date."
  1459. >Masked zebra alchemist looks at you for 3s before turning back; appeared to be searching for something.
  1460. >"Strangely put, yet well said. Now come."
  1461. >Continuing to follow masked zebra alchemist for another 62.7m; destination identified as zebra leader Heerser's command tent.
  1462. >Zebra leader Heerser seen inside of tent, looking over parchment on a tabletop; looks over towards you and masked zebra mare 0.3s after tent is entered.
  1463. >"I'm glad to see you are well, agent of Celestia. And you as well."
  1464. >Note: facial expression of zebra leader Heerser lightened noticeably during his acknowledgement of masked zebra alchemist.
  1465. >Both zebras exchanging words in native Zebrikaans language; translation spell usage would be visible, likely to be considered a faux pas, deciding against it.
  1466. >Conversation lasts for 9.3s; expression of zebra leader Heerser lightens throughout, returns to a more serious expression after the conversation ends and his focus shifts towards you.
  1467. >"I apologize for my lack of communication with you these last few days, agent of Celestia. My presence was, and still is needed around all of Vesting, repairing and fortifying what we can."
  1468.  
  1469. "I understand. I made an attempt to contact you previously with the item you provided, but it appeared to possess insufficient energy."
  1470. >"Ah yes, the echo gem is unfortunately only a temporary construction of our alchemy. Regardless, it served it's purpose well. You were of indispensable aid to us during the defence."
  1471. >Zebra leader Heerser adopts a new expression; nearest approximate description is 'melancholy'.
  1472. >"I only wish that we had not lost so many zebras. And..."
  1473. >Expression of zebra leader Heerser adopts more pronounced features associated with sadness.
  1474. >"I can only offer my condolences for your fellow Equestrian companion."
  1475. >Alarm: implications of his statement are of friend Razor Wind being in critical condition.
  1476. "I have not been made aware of his condition."
  1477. >"Ah, I see. Would you mind if...?"
  1478. >Zebra leader Heerser shifts focus to masked zebra alchemist, indicates for her to proceed.
  1479. >"Your friend lives, agent of Celestia, but only by a thread. Me and Zaalma toil day and night to keep the faint flame of his life burning."
  1480. >Significant concern: prognosis of friend Razor Wind was bad, but could be stabilized if treated immediately; statement of masked zebra alchemist implies Zebrican treatment for dark magic poisoning inferior to Equestrian treatments.
  1481. >Masked zebra alchemist shakes her head.
  1482. >"Whatever was done to him, it impedes our efforts at every turn. The vile, poisonous power infecting his body is of great enough intensity that it weakens our alchemic craft to the point of near uselessness. It is almost as if his affliction is determined to see him dead, and blocks our efforts at every turn."
  1483.  
  1484. >Symptoms match that of severe dark magic poisoning with additional void flux presence; without proper antioneiric medication, the void flux causes the dark magic poisoning to become sentient, and actively acts to hasten the death of the victim.
  1485. >Personal: you must take whatever measures possible to ensure he lives.
  1486. >Personal, vow: you will not allow him to die.
  1487. "He is suffering from severe dark magic poisoning. He requires non-magical, non-alchemic antioneiric medicine, followed by an emergency dialysis procedure to eliminate the presence of sentient void flux within his system."
  1488. >"Excuse me, did you say 'sentient'?" (Heerser, alarmed)
  1489. "External dark magic poisoning of sufficient severity will act to fight treatment to the best of it's ability. The mechanism by which it achieves sentience is by subverting the dreams of the victim, placing them in a perpetual nightmare."
  1490. >Omission: actual source of sentience and nightmares is not void flux itself, but remote manipulation of void flux by Void Lord entities attempting to claim the soul of the victim; unnecessary to explain concept of Void Lord entities now.
  1491. >"Blessed ancestors...!"
  1492. >"No," (masked zebra alchemist, muttering) "The Ideal Masters vie for his soul...?!"
  1493. >Note: phrase 'Ideal Masters' is an 89.9% match for Zebrican dark alchemist term for Void Lord entities, additional mention of 'claiming his soul' implies knowledge of dark magic and/or intentions of Void Lord entities; questions raised as to masked zebra alchemist's knowledge of respective subjects.
  1494. >"Do we have the means by which to heal him?" (Heerser, asking of masked zebra alchemist)
  1495.  
  1496. >"I-I do not believe so. Alchemy to block dreams is simple enough to brew, but I-I do not know how to craft such a medicine without alchemy!"
  1497. "It is necessary for the antioneiric medication to be exclusively chemical in operation; magical attempts to stop dreaming by any means are seen as an attack upon the sentient poison, and it will prioritize repelling such attempts with a 98.9% success rate."
  1498. >"Agent of Celestia, do you know how to create such a medicine?" (Heerser)
  1499. "No, but even with that knowledge, synthesizing the medication requires highly controlled conditions and 4-9 days of time. Untreated severe dark magic poisoning has a mortality rate of 99% after only four days."
  1500. >Concern: is it possible to save the life of friend Razor Wind?
  1501. >Saving his life would require immediate transportation to the Canterlot medical facility, but transporting him there is not a tenable option.
  1502. >"Damn it, is there nothing we can do for him?"
  1503. >Determination: friend Anon does not give up so easily; you must follow his example.
  1504. >Subject of friend Anon causing recollection of various instances of lateral thinking on his part, attempting analysis of various options.
  1505. >"There must be something we can do, agent of Celestia! Anything!" (masked zebra alchemist)
  1506. >Recalling items in friend Anon's possession during transit from Canterlot to Zebrica, possibility of solution in--
  1507. >Realization: solution exists for rapid transportation to Canterlot!
  1508. >Solution tenable, complications acceptable; divulging solution.
  1509. "Are you still keeping track of the items confiscated from Anon?"
  1510. >"His items? Yes, why? Is there something there that can aid us?"
  1511.  
  1512. "One of the items confiscated was an unactivated magical construct of his creation. It is a magical portal device that enables instantaneous transport between two distant points. He brought it with him to remove the need to travel back across the Zebrican expanses."
  1513. >"A magical gateway?" (Heerser, suspicious) "Where does this gateway lead to, agent of Celestia?"
  1514. "A secure exit point located within Canterlot castle."
  1515. >Masked zebra alchemist appears to relax at the mention of the exit point; zebra leader Heerser tenses in response.
  1516. >"You would have me open a gateway through which the Solar Keeper herself could simply walk through?" (Heerser, confrontational)
  1517. >Expected resistance to the proposal, attempting to ameliorate.
  1518. "I am aware of the implications of my request. However, the facilities available at Canterlot are the only tenable method through which we can save the life of the lieutenant."
  1519. >Zebra leader Heerser attempts to interject, interrupted by masked zebra alchemist in native language; continuing to abstain from invoking translation spell, conversation lasts for 18.7s with 40.1% of the time spent in silence on the part of zebra leader Heerser due to contemplation.
  1520. >"If... I am to accept this, agent of Celestia, I must make some requests of you."
  1521. >Expected bargaining as a resolution path, evaluating.
  1522. >"Only you and your companion may use the gateway. You will take him through it yourself, alone. None but yourself may return from the portal. I do not believe I need to elaborate on what should happen if this is reneged upon."
  1523. >An affirmative nod is given; terms considered acceptable.
  1524.  
  1525. >"I do not know how the treatment of Anonymous will progress, or how long it will take for him to recover. However, I will allow him to use his gateway, provided he speaks to me first."
  1526. >Second affirmative nod given; terms considered acceptable.
  1527. >"I would have one of you inform him of this, when he next awakens."
  1528. >Masked zebra alchemist offers affirmative nod in response, zebra leader Heerser looks off to side 1.2s after acknowledgement.
  1529. >"If you must spend time to... report on your activities here, then so be it. And while I do not expect complete transparency from you in a matter like this, I would also ask that you inform me of anypony who wishes to use the gateway to come here."
  1530. >Third affirmative nod given; terms accepted, noting defensive tendencies of zebra leader Heerser in regards to foreign visitors, consistent with Zebrican distrust of outsiders.
  1531. >"Is Uncouth Razor Wind able to be moved safely?" (Heerser, asking of masked zebra alchemist)
  1532. >"I will make sure of it." (Masked zebra alchemist)
  1533. >"Then it is decided. Agent of Celestia, what does this device of Anonymous's creation look like?"
  1534. >Discrepancy: this is the second noted instance of zebra leader Heerser omitting the 'Otherworldly' title from friend Anon's name, likely cause is friend Anon attaining sufficient levels of trust with zebra leader Heerser.
  1535. >Commencing description of 'Slipgate Keystone' device; the metal container it resides in, and the method of activation.
  1536. >Activating the device is possible with your own power, as demonstrated to you by friend Anon during the train portion of your journey into Zebrica.
  1537.  
  1538. >"I will bring it to a secure location, and ensure it is secured to my satisfaction prior to its activation. Alchemist, take the agent of Celestia to his companion, and bring the two of them to the location I speak of."
  1539. >"Very well."
  1540. >"Now make haste! Every second we delay makes all the difference to his survival!"
  1541. >Action taken immediately; zebra leader Heerser rushes out of command tent, while you are escorted by the masked zebra alchemist towards the presumed location of friend Razor Wind.
  1542. >Feelings of apprehension emerging: foreknowledge of severe dark magic poisoning victims implies 97.9% likehihood of the condition of friend Razor Wind being highly degraded.
  1543. >Apprehension will not stop your determination to see him recover.
  1544. >A distance of 72.2m is travelled before you are led to a tent guarded by alchemists; a brief conversation with the guarding alchemists causes them to stand down and allow you passage.
  1545. >Interior of tent contains head alchemist Zaalma, and a cot containing--
  1546. >C-control.
  1547. >Friend Razor Wind lying within cot, extremely poor physical condition consistent with severe dark magic poisoning.
  1548. >Eyes sunken with dark rings underneath, rapid loss of weight as well as shallow breathing and shivering observed, consistent with symptoms.
  1549. >Blood seen staining a bandage covering his spinal injury, colour of blood a small shade darker than normal; evidence of difficulty stopping bleeding at the wound site visible in the form of bloodied bandages and clothes in a nearby basket.
  1550. >Discarded bottles and messy alchemy tables nearby indicate multiple attempts to administer alchemy to friend Razor Wind; unusual mechanical foreleg of head alchemist Zaalma currently deployed as a portable alchemy station, in the process of creating another potion.
  1551.  
  1552. >Head alchemist Zaalma ceases activity upon noting your entry, begins questioning masked zebra alchemist; your observation remains on friend Razor Wind, checking for any additional complications and symptoms.
  1553. >Tone of head alchemist Zaalma changes, reflecting understanding; both alchemists call outside of the tent, quickly receive a mobile cot in the style of a wheelbarrow.
  1554. >Instructed to attach cot to self to facilitate transport, compliance immediate; observing status of friend Razor Wind during transfer.
  1555. >Both alchemists suspend friend Razor Wind within his current sheets, lowering both them and him into mobile cot; transfer finishes in 9.2s with very minimal disturbance of your friend.
  1556. >Instructed by masked zebra alchemist to follow, compliance immediate; head alchemist Zaalma heard offering a farewell as you depart.
  1557. >Regulating transportation speed and route carefully to ensure minimal disturbance of friend Razor Wind, travel distance of 103.1m takes 33.2% longer as a direct result.
  1558. >Arrived at alluded secured area: zebra warriors and alchemists taking cover behind ring of hastily built barricade structures.
  1559. >Zebra leader Heerser seen at center of barricade ring, inactive 'Slipgate Keystone' of friend Anon already placed within the centre.
  1560. >Unexpected development: zebra warrior Vegter also within centre of ring, currently arguing with zebra leader Heerser; activating translation spell.
  1561. >`--erstand your concerns, but I will absolutely not permit it!` (Heerser)
  1562. >`I was there with Uncouth Razor Wind! Should be there for him here too!` (Vegter)
  1563. >`You will not accompany the agent of Celestia, Vegter, and that is all there is to it!`
  1564. >`Then I will go with Anonymous! He will want to see him!`
  1565. >`Enough! Now is not the time to discuss a matter such as this!`
  1566.  
  1567. >Both zebras made aware of your presence; zebra warrior Vegter attempts to touch mobile cot, batted away by masked zebra mare.
  1568. >`Everyzebra, back away and be ready!` (Heerser)
  1569. >Masked zebra mare and zebra warrior Vegter leave centre, join other warriors and alchemists behind cover of barricades.
  1570. >"Now, do what you must, agent of Celestia." (Heerser, said during departure)
  1571. >Modified activation spell utilized once zebra leader Heerser is behind cover of barricade: activation element of 'Slipgate Keystone' targeted with spell.
  1572. >Activation appears successful; discrepancy noted in establishment of actual portal, taking 487% longer to open than observed 'Slipgate Keystone' activations, possible result of dramatically increased distance between points.
  1573. >Travel through portal begins immediately after full formation of gateway; preparing for shakedown by heavy guard detail upon other side of portal.
  1574. >Discrepancy: entry into portal has led you into a short tunnel of magical energy instead of an immediate exit into the predetermined location, exit seen on other end of tunnel: assuming to be an effect of very long distance transportation, proceeding.
  1575. >Portal successfully exited into predetermined location deep within Canterlot Crystal Caverns, consistent with heavily fortified 'kill zone' as per established protocols.
  1576. >Fellow Sol Invictus soldiers come out from behind cover positions to inspect and scan your person, medics called immediately upon seeing friend Razor Wind.
  1577. >Informing fellow Sol Invictus soldiers of passage through the portal being forbidden on penalty of open warfare and the survival of friend Anon being placed into jeopardy; acknowledgement received, guards heightening alert and standing down from standard investigative formation.
  1578.  
  1579. >Medics arrived in 6.3s, take possession of mobile cot.
  1580. >Relief: friend Razor Wind is going to survive.
  1581. >Escorted by fellow Sol Invictus guards into the cavern tunnels, subsequently transported by elevator to Sol Invictus compound within Canterlot castle.
  1582. >Lieutenant Light is not present within the compound currently, and cannot debrief you or receive your report; nature of current situation implies the involvement of Princess Celestia with or without the presence of lieutenant Light.
  1583. >Escort paused while Princess Celestia is informed of your arrival, as per standard operating procedure.
  1584. >Apprehension developing as to the condition of friend Razor Wind, in spite of available data on efficacy of medical personnel.
  1585. >Concerns developing as to the condition of friend Anon; his mental condition in particular occupies 83.3% of present concerns.
  1586. >Temporarily dismissing present concerns as side effect of silent waiting conditions, will explore more fully at later time.
  1587. >Expected development: Princess Celestia enters, concern visible on facial expression.
  1588. >"Sergeant Measure, please come with me immediately."
  1589. >Complying with order: led by Princess Celestia into war room.
  1590. >Princess Luna noted as only additional occupant, bears appearance of significantly greater outward concern.
  1591. >"What has happened, sergeant?" (Princess Luna, agitated) "Where is Anon?!"
  1592. >"Please be seated." (Princess Celestia)
  1593. >Complying with order: Princess Celestia makes nonverbal attempt to calm Princess Luna, attempt is not successful.
  1594. >"Let us hear your report, sergeant."
  1595.  
  1596. @@@@@@@@
  1597.  
  1598. >Commencing brief summary report on events within Zebrica.
  1599. >Events covered by report include initial vehicular transportation and combat, incapacitation and capture by Wyse Kunstenaar forces, attempts by friend Anon to curry favour that have not resulted in success, events of patrol with zebra leader Heerser, discovery of stealth construct utilized by enemy Incognito, attack by 15 runic constructs of enemy Incognito, attack made on city of Vesting by 20 upgraded runic constructs and both unknown enemy zebra and enemy Athalia, and the conditions of both friend Anon and friend Razor Wind.
  1600. >Total time taken to complete report, 11m53s; omitted details such as mechanics of stealth construct, interpersonal disputes, and other details unnecessary for an initial report.
  1601. >Gauging reactions observed during report revealed Princess Luna to be shocked for 32.1% of the report and angry for 48.9% of report, remainder filled by other expected reactions; Princess Celestia retained a calm demeanour for 89% of report, but was observed reacting strongly to certain events, including the runic constructs, enemy Athalia, and the conditions of your friends.
  1602. >"Is dearest Anon all right?!" (Princess Luna, agitated)
  1603. "His physical recovery was proceeding well when I saw him 31 minutes ago. I expect him to recover fully within the next 36 hours."
  1604. >"And the lieutenant?"
  1605. >Trepidation returns.
  1606. "I would need to wait for the medical report."
  1607. >"Sister, is he...?!"
  1608. >"I ensured he was transported to emergency care the moment I received word of his return. I am confident he will survive."
  1609.  
  1610. >"Then all that leaves is Anon! I must see him, now!"
  1611. "The tribal leader has issued a warning that anypony beside myself who enters the gateway to his territory would be treated as hostile, and the act itself considered a declaration of war."
  1612. >"I feared that would be the case." (Princess Celestia)
  1613. >"What?! For what possible reason?" (Princess Luna, angered)
  1614. "He has advised me to inform him of the identities of anypony who wishes to pass through the gateway. Should I tell him you seek passage, your majesty?"
  1615. >"Of course you shall! Both me and Twilight!"
  1616. >"Luna, please. I do not believe this to be a sound--"
  1617. >"I will not hear it, sister! He needs our aid, and I will be damned if he does not receive it! Sergeant, you will tell this leader of theirs that I and princess Twilight demand to see Anon this instant!"
  1618. >Princess Celestia does not attempt dissuasion, likely recognizes attempt to be futile.
  1619. "I will."
  1620. >"It is unfortunate that zebrakind is still so unwilling to trust us." (Princess Celestia)
  1621. "The tribal leader cited significant mistrust of both yourself and our organization as the main contributing factors of his hostility, princess."
  1622. >"I feared as much."
  1623. >"Mistrust of...? Sister, what have you done with the zebras?"
  1624. >"Only what I told you I formed the order of Sol Invictus for: removing any and all traces of the dark arts from the world."
  1625. >"Without their participation, I take it? Much less their consent?"
  1626. >"Enough. I'm not going to discuss this at the moment. Sergeant, I must ask you to return to Zebrica to keep an eye on Anonymous. While you do this, please write a full report on the events that have occurred, and submit it through the gateway at your earliest convenience."
  1627. "Yes, Princess Celestia."
  1628.  
  1629. >Princess Luna snorts, remaining angry; pushes herself away from the table.
  1630. >"I, meanwhile, will get dearest Twilight up to speed on these events! One way or another, we will see him!"
  1631. >Princess Luna storms out of war room.
  1632. >"You are dismissed for the time being, sergeant. I am authorizing you to use any restricted equipment within the Sol Invictus compound; equip yourself as you see fit, and ensure Anonymous comes to no further harm."
  1633. "I must first inform you of another important factor, your majesty."
  1634. >"What is it?"
  1635. "During the engagement with enemy Athalia, she was heavily utilizing dark magic. I measured an estimated dark magic poisoning level of 18.4 duskmael within her system, with a variance of 2.2 duskmael."
  1636. >Princess Celestia adopts expression of shock.
  1637. >"E-eighteen and a half?! You're certain?"
  1638. "That was at it's peak, yet even at lower, still lethal levels, she retained full consciousness and suffered none of the adverse effects associated with dark magic poisoning. In fact, she only appeared to gain strength the more severe the poisoning became."
  1639. >"That can't be right. She should have died from that!"
  1640. "My observations have revealed nothing indicating such a fate. I do not have an explanation for this discrepancy."
  1641. >"Did you notice any evidence of a soul removal being performed upon her beforehoof?"
  1642. "No, I observed no evidence of spiritual tampering."
  1643. >"That makes no sense...!" (Princess Celestia, muttering) "It does for those two, but her...?"
  1644. >Princess Celestia takes a moment to shake her head rapidly for 0.7 seconds at 6.5Hz.
  1645. >"Th-thank you for the information, sergeant Measure. I know I need not worry about details with you, but please note anything you believe is important in your full report. You are dismissed."
  1646. "Yes, Princess Celestia."
  1647.  
  1648. >Bow offered, excusing self from war room.
  1649. >Returning to Canterlot Sol Invictus compound, equipment area; personal armour and equipment removed during engagement with enemy Athalia was never recovered, caused significant personal discomfort post-engagement.
  1650. >Heavier armament deemed necessary due to observed extent of enemy power; equipping self as necessary.
  1651. >Heavy SI-6-2 personal armour selected and equipped: weight increase of 287% over previously issued SI-6-7 armour due to durium-gold composite construction and high-intensity semi-sentient reactive shielding enchantments, weight differential deemed acceptable due to strength of opposition, no present long-distance travel requirements, and easy procurement of alchemic supplementation to offset speed impact.
  1652. >SI-6-2 sets very difficult to forge, only 5 exist presently due to material and craftsmareship constraints; present circumstances allow for SI-6-2 suit to be used.
  1653. >SI-6-2 mana transfusion injectors tested for functionality; functionality verified, equipping armour with extended transfusion cartridges.
  1654. >Personal: SI-6-5 suit would have been preferred during initial travel to Zebrica due to inclusion of mana transfusion injectors that SI-6-7 suit lacks; extranational operational procedure prohibits such equipment from being used during contact with unknown/unverified forces due to capture and reverse engineering concerns.
  1655. >Additional standard equipment secured, current complement deemed satisfactory; equipping helmet and departing for gateway.
  1656.  
  1657. >Gateway reached without incident, entering; exit occurs without incident, mild alarm noted in surrounding zebra guards.
  1658. >Masked zebra mare first to approach and initiate conversation.
  1659. >"Did it go well? Is he safe?"
  1660. "The lieutenant was reached in time, and is expected to survive. However, I will have to wait for a medical report to estimate the length of his recovery time."
  1661. >Prognosis not positive: full recovery highly unlikely, recovery to walking state without spinal injury as a factor has possibility to take years, awakening from sleep state would take a minimum of 8 weeks; 93% probability of friend Razor Wind being subject to honourable discharge after his awakening.
  1662. >Concern: friend Anon will not take the news well.
  1663. >"It is enough that he will live. Others in his place seldom do. Now return to your friend's side, I will inform the others of your return."
  1664. >Nod exchanged, returning to tent of friend Anon.
  1665. >Tent entered, head alchemist Zaalma seen inside, spreading an unidentified alchemic gel over exposed chest of friend Anon.
  1666. >Head alchemist Zaalma sees you, quickly finishes task and proceeds towards tent exit.
  1667. >"Call for me when he wakes, agent of Celestia."
  1668. >Head alchemist Zaalma leaves tent, questions raised as to her intentions.
  1669. >Dismissing concerns for the moment, examining friend Anon.
  1670. >Friend Anon still asleep, alchemic gel substance appears to be slowly healing the heavy bruising on chest of friend Anon.
  1671. >Condition deemed acceptable, proceeding to seat self and initiate creation of written report.
  1672.  
  1673. >Tent flap heard opening at 11.9% of report completion, ceasing report creation to observe visitor: zebra leader Heerser seen entering tent.
  1674. >"You've returned sooner than I thought," (Heerser, curious) "And it seems you've decided to bring heavier armaments."
  1675. "I deemed it necessary given recent events."
  1676. >"Perfectly reasonable. I take it that there were parties on the other side interested in seeing your friend?"
  1677. "Princess Luna demanded to see Anon along with Princess Twilight."
  1678. >"His mates?" (Heerser, surprised)
  1679. >Discrepancy: neither Princess Luna or Princess Twilight are friend Anon's mates, zebra leader Heerser may instead be referring to unverified possibility of an amorous connection between them.
  1680. >"Agent of Celestia, what connections do they share to your organization?"
  1681. "They are not connected. For what reason are you asking?"
  1682. >Zebra leader Heerser appears to be considering something, remains silent for 8.8s; calls out to zebras guarding tent and issues orders, then turns to you.
  1683. >"Agent of Celestia, I would like for you to inform those two that I would be more than happy to have them as my guests."
  1684. >Surprise: was not expecting a decision like this from him, given established history of mistrust with Equestria.
  1685. "You want them to visit?"
  1686. >Not able to completely remove surprise from voice.
  1687. >"Well, I do intend on keeping the visitation more private, but I see no reason to freeze them out on Celestia's account, let alone deny them access to their mate."
  1688. "They are not mates."
  1689. >"Yes, your friend said something much to the same effect." (Heerser, amused)
  1690. >Confusion: you were serious, why does he consider your response humorous?
  1691.  
  1692. >Zebra alchemist enters tent, converses briefly with zebra leader Heerser; alchemist appears concerned, while he appears pleased, and gives a presumed reassurance to the alchemist, who promptly leaves.
  1693. >"I am having a second tent erected just outside of this one to greet those two within. Anonymous's curious portal will be moved there shortly. From there, you can return and inform them of my desire to meet with them."
  1694. "Princess Celestia will not simply permit them to come here on a whim."
  1695. >"Of course she wouldn't, and I would be very concerned about her judgment if she thought any different. You may offer your oversight and protection for the duration of our meeting, if it pleases your ruler."
  1696. >Zebra leader Heerser adopts more serious tone and expression.
  1697. >"Naturally, my conditions on other visitors besides them and yourself still applies. And the Solar Keeper joining us is simply out of the question."
  1698. "I do not understand this move. I was under the impression that you distrusted Equestria."
  1699. >"I distrust your order, and the princess that holds dominion over it, both for good reason. But neither her sister nor her protégé have done me any wrong. I see no reason to disavow them, unless they invite it upon themselves."
  1700. "I do not believe that is your entire motivation."
  1701. >"Of course it isn't. Your friend is in pain, and needs their presence like a flower needs sunlight. It would be cruel of me to deny them this, given the chance to make it a reality."
  1702. >Same zebra alchemist emerges from exit, communicates briefly with zebra leader Heerser; he appears very pleased, sends alchemist off.
  1703.  
  1704. >"Everything is ready. Would you do me the honour of bringing them here, agent of Celestia?"
  1705. >Intentions of zebra leader Heerser not in doubt, but unexpected nature of his move still raises concerns.
  1706. "I will see if it is possible."
  1707. >"You have my thanks."
  1708. >Leaving tent, exterior of tent no longer outdoor environment, but replaced with a tent hallway; entering through other tent flap reveals new tent interior.
  1709. >New tent interior much larger than previous tent, a quickly built and lit hearth lies in the centre, surrounded by padded benches; portal seen emitting light from behind a set of privacy screens.
  1710. >Entering portal occurs without incident, emerging from other side reveals presence of Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Twilight.
  1711. >"Luna, please! Think about what you're doing!" (Princess Celestia, concerned)
  1712. >"I will not stand idly by for this, sister! Nor will you keep me from seeing dearest Anon!" (Princess Luna, incensed)
  1713. >Princess Luna equipped with armour and glaive, likely expecting battle.
  1714. >Princess Celestia notices your presence, changes focus accordingly.
  1715. >"Sergeant, you've returned already?"
  1716. "The leader of the Wyse Kunstenaars wishes to meet with both Princess Luna and Princess Twilight."
  1717. >Development, expected: all three princesses adopt looks of surprise at the news.
  1718. >"He does?! Why?" (Princess Celestia)
  1719. >"Does he now? Well, that simplifies matters greatly!" (Princess Luna, challenging) "I will give that savage a piece of my mind!"
  1720. "He believes their presence will be of benefit to Anon. Additionally, he cites their lack of connection to our organization as a positive aspect."
  1721.  
  1722. >Princess Luna becomes more surprised by the information, Princess Celestia remains concerned.
  1723. "He has allowed me to oversee the meeting as a conciliatory gesture towards you, Princess Celestia."
  1724. >"I... I see. And you agree to this, sergeant?"
  1725. "Yes. Their leader is trustworthy in my view, though the sudden nature of the move does leave me concerned."
  1726. >"W-well, what are we waiting for?" (Princess Twilight, nervous) "N-not like there's any other choice..."
  1727. >Princess Twilight appears upset, saddened; not unexpected given close personal connection to friend Anon in combination with recent news of his condition.
  1728. >"Indeed, there is not. Dearest Twilight, let us proceed. Remain close to me. Sergeant, you may proceed first." (Princess Luna, protective)
  1729. >Princess Luna and Princess Twilight move close to one another; you nod acknowledgement and--
  1730. >"Wait!" (Princess Celestia, worried)
  1731. >"Sister, you know you cannot stop me."
  1732. >"I'm not trying to stop you. Just... please be careful. Sergeant, you will keep them safe, yes?"
  1733. "To the best of my ability, your majesty."
  1734. >Reply appears to cause small reduction in concern on expression of Princess Celestia; proceeding to return through portal.
  1735. >Zebra leader Heerser seen on opposite side of portal, preparing a large pot of tea on top of the hearth; he remains equipped with his standard armour set, strange concealed chained weapon likely still equipped as well.
  1736. "They will arrive shortly."
  1737. >"Marvellous, marvellous! You have my gratitude, agent of Celestia. Please, be seated."
  1738. "I would prefer to stand."
  1739. >"Suit yourself."
  1740.  
  1741. >Taking position in viewing distance of portal: Princess Luna and Princess Twilight emerge from portal 10.1s after conversation with zebra leader Heerser ceases.
  1742. >Princess Luna enters angrily, appears to be seeking a confrontation.
  1743. >"Listen well, knave! You dare to--?!"
  1744. >Speech stops upon seeing zebra leader Heerser in such a non-confrontational position.
  1745. >"Aah, how lovely it is to finally meet you, princess! And just in time for the tea, too!"
  1746. >Princess Luna appears to be surprised to the point of silence, Princess Twilight seen taking position beside her.
  1747. >"And my warmest greetings to you as well, young majesty."
  1748. >"Wh-what is the meaning of this?!" (Princess Luna, flustered)
  1749. >"Whatever do you mean? I simply wish to speak with the two of you."
  1750. >Princess Twilight extends a foreleg towards Princess Luna in a nonverbal request to calm down; attempt appears to succeed.
  1751. >"Who are you?" (Princess Twilight)
  1752. >"I am Heerser, young majesty. Leader of the Wyse Kunstenaars, steward of the lost and fractured tribes. And who might you two be?"
  1753. >"T-Twilight Sparkle."
  1754. >"Hm? Forgive me, but is that all, miss Sparkle? I was expecting, well, a title."
  1755. >"I-I don't really like titles. A-and just Twilight is fine."
  1756. >"Well, if you insist, miss Twilight."
  1757. >"I am princess Luna, keeper of the night. You shall address me as princess, zebra!" (Princess Luna, confrontational)
  1758. >"I'd be happy to, princess. But as the keeper of my tribe, I must insist that you put that weapon away first, before we can proceed."
  1759. >"Do you take me for a fool, zebra?"
  1760.  
  1761. >"Of course not, princess. However, I am only asking for a simple show of reciprocity. I am not armed, and neither is the young majesty. Levelling the field is quite important for our people to hold peaceful talks, you see."
  1762. >Princess Luna attempts to speak again, attempt stopped by outstretched foreleg of Princess Twilight in nonverbal gesture to calm down and comply; attempt succeeds, withers of Princess Luna seen slumping as weapon is put away, though suspicious expression remains on her face.
  1763. >"This is your only chance, zebra."
  1764. >"And one chance is all I will need, princess."
  1765. >"And just where is this confidence of yours coming from, zebra?"
  1766. >"Well, I have made alliances on shakier grounds before. Perhaps you would like to hear the tale of how I was beaten within an inch of my life, just to secure an alliance with one of our neighbour tribes?"
  1767. >Small gasp heard from Princess Twilight, Princess Luna remains suspicious.
  1768. >"Oh, but listen to me ramble on! Now please, have a seat, both of you! There is so much for us to discuss!" (Heerser, jovial)
  1769.  
  1770. @@@@@@@@
  1771.  
  1772. >"Not yet," (Princess Twilight)
  1773. >"Not yet? Why, miss Twilight? Is something amiss?"
  1774. >"I need to see him first, Mr. Heerser. I need to make sure he's okay."
  1775. >Princess Twilight becoming increasingly emotional, zebra leader Heerser adopts understanding expression.
  1776. >"Ah, of course, I understand. Forgive my insensitivity, young majesty."
  1777. >"D-do you know where he is?"
  1778. >"Just beyond that point, miss Twilight," (Heerser, gesturing to tent flap) "He is sleeping at the moment, however. I must ask that you not wake him."
  1779. >Princess Twilight immediately runs towards exit, Princess Luna fails attempt to stop her, pursues her instead.
  1780. >Pursuing princesses, both followed into friend Anon's tent; Princess Twilight seen holding hand of friend Anon with both hooves in clear state of distress, Princess Luna seen placing hoof upon withers of Princess Twilight while adopting a sombre expression.
  1781. >Zebra leader Heerser seen walking past your position towards the princesses.
  1782. >"He's a strong one, you know. He single-hoovedly saved my entire tribe from certain destruction. We owe him quite a bit."
  1783. >Princess Luna looks back towards zebra leader Heerser for a brief moment.
  1784. >"I-is he going t-to be okay?" (Princess Twilight, sniffling)
  1785. >"Without a doubt, miss Twilight. The alchemists caring for him number among the best."
  1786. >Zebra leader Heerser approaches Princess Twilight, procures hoofkerchief for her; hoofkerchief promptly taken and used.
  1787. >"Come, dearest Twilight. There is nothing to do but wait for him to awaken." (Princess Luna)
  1788. >Princess Luna escorts Princess Twilight from side of friend Anon, expression of Princess Luna still indicates distrust of zebra leader Heerser.
  1789. >Everypony returned to first tent, seats themselves around hearth; Princess Luna and Princess Twilight share the same bench.
  1790. >Zebra leader Heerser proceeds to distribute tea; olfactory profile both herbal and fruity, though exact kind of tea used is unknown.
  1791.  
  1792. >"So," (Heerser, mischievous) "How long have the two of you been in love with him?"
  1793. >Princess Luna and Princess Twilight were sipping tea when zebra leader Heerser made remark; both spit their tea out within 0.08s of one another.
  1794. >Princess Twilight highly embarrassed, stammering constantly while failing to form coherent sentences in likely attempt to deny claim of zebra leader Heerser; Princess Luna becomes aggravated with clear signs of embarrassment.
  1795. >"S-savage! Knave! Y-you dare?!"
  1796. >"Oh dear, please forgive me," (Heerser, laughing) "Even your Anonymous did not react this strongly!"
  1797. >Now questioning judgment of zebra leader Heerser.
  1798. >"B-blackguard! Perisher! I should strike you down this instant!"
  1799. >"Perhaps you should," (Heerser, chuckling) "Though you should know my tribe won't take very kindly to that, to say nothing of my alchemists being more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
  1800. >Princess Luna grumbles something inaudible, Princess Twilight regains small measure of composure.
  1801. >"Wh-why would you s-say s-something like that?!" (Princess Twilight, flustered)
  1802. >"Well, it's the truth, isn't it?"
  1803. >Princess Twilight flushes, her ears folding; proceeds to hide her face with a wing while avoiding eyes of zebra leader Heerser.
  1804. >"He missed the two of you dearly during his time here, you know."
  1805. >Zebra leader Heerser takes moment to sip tea of his own; Princess Twilight resumes eye contact, ears straightening.
  1806. >"He did?" (Princess Twilight, whispering)
  1807. >"Very much so, miss Twilight. He'll be beyond happy to see you here," (Heerser, changing focus to Princess Luna) "And you as well, princess. I take it you are the head mare of this lovely herd of yours?"
  1808. >"No!" (Princess Luna, exclaiming)
  1809. >"No!" (Princess Twilight, exclaiming)
  1810.  
  1811. >"No? I'm afraid I'm rather confused now. Do you have some other arrangement with him, then?"
  1812. >"Enough! Speak no further of this matter, zebra!" (Princess Luna, flustered)
  1813. >"I-it's... complicated." (Princess Twilight, nervous)
  1814. >"Hmm. He said much the same thing when I pressed him for details. Are you certain things are as complicated as you make it out to be--?"
  1815. >"We don't want to talk about it!" (Princess Twilight)
  1816. >"We don't want to talk about it!" (Princess Luna)
  1817. >"Dear oh dear, what is this all about? You can't expect a healthy romance to bloom if you do not communicate with one another!"
  1818. >"Just drop it!" (Princess Twilight)
  1819. >"Just drop it!" (Princess Luna)
  1820. >"Very well, very well," (Heerser, disappointed, becoming coy) "Now, I trust you both are more at ease now?"
  1821. >Princesses share glance towards one another, appear to have come to a realization.
  1822. >"A-a bit..." (Princess Twilight)
  1823. >"B-blackguard..." (Princess Luna)
  1824. >"Wonderful, wonderful! Please, do continue to indulge in the tea! I'm afraid it gets rather unpalatable when cool."
  1825. >Confusion: topic chosen by zebra leader Heerser should have escalated tensions, why has it instead lessened tensions?
  1826. >Making note to research subject later.
  1827. >Princess Twilight and zebra leader Heerser continue to consume tea, while Princess Luna does not.
  1828. >"We did not come here to indulge in your officious queries, zebra."
  1829. >"No, I imagine you did not. You came here to tend to your mate, and to ask questions of me."
  1830. >"We are not--!"
  1831. >"H-how did this all happen? I-I thought he came here with all kinds of weapons, didn't he?" (Princess Twilight)
  1832.  
  1833. >"Indeed he did. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding during his first encounter with one of my warbands, and his items were confiscated."
  1834. >"What?! Why?"
  1835. >"An oversight in my orders, I'm afraid. My warbands were on the lookout for the Destroyer, but not knowing more than one human existed here, I did not think to have them search for only the red one."
  1836. >"H-how do you mix the two up?!"
  1837. >"Destroyer? You are referring to that damnable Incognito, are you not?" (Princess Luna)
  1838. >"The same. I am told he assaulted your kingdom on two occasions."
  1839. >"I take it he has wrought unimaginable destruction in these lands, too?"
  1840. >"The tribes roaming the Zebrican expanses numbered in the hundreds, spread all across the land. Now, they are reduced to only a hooffull, and the tribe in his employ rules two-thirds of the land." (Heerser, saddened) "A cruel irony, that our tribes would become more unified only in the face of such evil."
  1841. >"Even so, he should have been able to be of better aid! He came here just for such a purpose!"
  1842. >"And I would have been happy to accept the full measure of his aid, had he not chosen to act like a petulant foal robbed of his toys, to say nothing of lying on numerous occasions about critical information." (Heerser, annoyed)
  1843. >"Wh-- you dare?!" (Princess Luna, angered)
  1844. >"There is nothing daring about relaying the truth, princess. Our people value trust above all else, and he saw fit to abuse it in his first few days with us."
  1845. >"No, h-he wouldn't do that! He's not like that!" (Princess Twilight, agitated)
  1846. >"Perhaps not now. But that does not alter what happened. He is fortunate his companions were there to chastise him for his... impulsive behaviour."
  1847.  
  1848. >Zebra leader Heerser refills his cup.
  1849. >"It matters little at this juncture. He's proven himself beyond a reasonable doubt to all of my people, and his items will be returned in full once he awakens."
  1850. >"This could have all been avoided, had you not--!" (Princess Luna, angered)
  1851. >"I have already explained my reasoning, and like I have said, it matters little at this juncture. I do not expect you to agree, princess, only to understand."
  1852. >"The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and you would jeopardize it for your traditions?!"
  1853. >Zebra leader Heerser does not respond for 5.2s, continues drinking tea before setting the cup down and meeting the glare of Princess Luna with an even look and tone.
  1854. >"Princess, I understand your frustrations. But I must ask you to control yourself."
  1855. >Both parties continue glaring in silence for 8.7s.
  1856. >"Enough! Luna, please, this isn't getting us anywhere!" (Princess Twilight)
  1857. >Interjection of Princess Twilight calms and distracts Princess Luna, but fails to cause her anger to cease.
  1858. >"In the end, he saved all of us from certain destruction despite his limited arsenal. I expect no further troubles from both the Destroyer and the Bloedige Plaag for quite some time."
  1859. >"Wh-what do you mean?"
  1860. >"They brought an entire army with them, miss Twilight. They intended to destroy us to the last, and had they attacked as they no doubt had initially planned, we would not be having this conversation."
  1861. >"An army?!"
  1862. >"An army...? You mean to tell me he stopped an entire army?!" (Princess Luna)
  1863.  
  1864. >"Not directly, but yes. He still had access to his curious 'magnet' during his time in our custody, and I suspect they were quite fearful that he would turn it against them. A good thing then, that they did not realize he had been wounded too grievously to use it."
  1865. >"Wait, he what?! He brought one of those things with him?!" (Princess Twilight)
  1866. >"He didn't tell you?"
  1867. >"No!"
  1868. >"Hmm. Perhaps his trust issues run deeper than I thought..."
  1869. >"Anon, why didn't you...?! Why do you always do this?!"
  1870. >"I-I do not understand, Heerser. Why would he have halted his assault?" (Princess Luna)
  1871. >"The Destroyer is a very careful individual, a trait not shared by his subordinates. Were I to speculate, he no doubt came to realize that Anonymous possessed a weapon of great and terrible power when he saw how easily it slew his numerous cursed abominations."
  1872. >"Abominations? Those damned, rune-clad abominations?"
  1873. >"Yes, the very same. The speed at which they all died to his device was nothing short of terrifying, nor will I ever forget the sensation it creates. The Destroyer must have noticed this, and played far more conservatively as a result. No doubt it was the sight of his bloodied, defeated champion that prompted him to begin a full retreat."
  1874. >"Champion?"
  1875. >"Yes, she couldn't be anything but that."
  1876. >"She? Wait...! You refer to that accursed changeling...?!"
  1877. >"Daemoniacal Athalia, yes."
  1878. >Zebra leader Heerser pauses for 3.1s to drink tea.
  1879. >"So that creature has indeed returned to his service!"
  1880.  
  1881. >"Creature, princess?"
  1882. >Zebra leader Heerser pauses for 3.6s to drink tea.
  1883. >"'Creature' is not the word I would choose to describe her. 'Daemon' would be more appropriate."
  1884. >"Wh-what do you mean? Wh-what did she do?" (Princess Twilight, apprehensive)
  1885. >"She came here the night of the army's assembly. Well, her and another... enemy of mine," (Heerser, restraining anger)
  1886. >Zebra leader Heerser pauses for 1.1s to attempt drinking tea, realizes his cup his empty; moves to refill it for 2.9s and takes 3.4s to drink from it.
  1887. >"I did battle with her, as did the agent of Celestia. You can confirm this, yes?"
  1888. "You are correct."
  1889. >"I have also done battle with that damnable insect. She was more proficient with the dark arts than I ever expected, in spite of her imprisonment!" (Princess Luna)
  1890. >"It took all I had to simply immobilize Daemoniacal Athalia. Her thin form and near-mesmerizing beauty belie her ferocious strength and frightening power. But I don't believe I will ever forget her words, or her gaze."
  1891. >Zebra leader Heerser sets tea cup down, appears uncomfortable discussing subject of enemy Athalia.
  1892. >"She spoke only of butchering your Anonymous. She slaughtered numerous zebras and destroyed many Ancients in service to that singular task, calling my people mere obstacles in the path of her pursuit. She laughed during my interrogation. And those eyes..."
  1893. >Zebra leader Heerser appears more uncomfortable with subject.
  1894. >"There was such a madness in those eyes..."
  1895. >Expression of Princess Twilight consistent with horror, covering mouth with hooves; expression of Princess Luna consistent with significant personal disturbance.
  1896.  
  1897. >"She... laughed, you say?" (Princess Luna)
  1898. >Single chain extends from foreleg armour of zebra leader Heerser, consistent with previously observed chain weapon but with a notable lack of blades.
  1899. >"My weapon is powerful, princess. It's electric sting has reduced maulwurfs to tears before, on more than one occasion. I poured all of it's power into a single strike, and only then did she so much as scream."
  1900. >Chain ignites with previously observed unidentified magical lightning: both princesses recoil at the display, likely sensing the power of the magic instinctively in accordance with reports of alicorn magical sensitivity.
  1901. >"She laughed the rest of the pain off."
  1902. >"A-are we referring to the same Athalia, Heerser?"
  1903. >"I'm afraid it does not end there. The agent of Celestia and my alchemists did their best to contain her, but ultimately failed. I do not know the details of their battle; for that, you will have to ask the good agent yourself."
  1904. >Princess Luna looks towards you, implicit order to speak of events received and obeyed.
  1905. >Personal: you have no desire to recall the events of the battle.
  1906. "He is correct. She broke her containment, but Anon and lieutenant Razor Wind arrived in time, and we engaged Athalia. She employed dark magic attacks, and at one point used a strange teleportation spell that circumvented my detection magic. I was rendered unconscious by her surprise attack.
  1907. "I awakened in time to aid in stopping her. She had destroyed a large portion of the landscape with a dark magic attack, and was suffering more than three times the lethal level of dark magic poisoning with no ill effect. She..."
  1908. >C-composure.
  1909.  
  1910. "She appears to be directly responsible for the harm inflicted on Anon and lieutenant Razor Wind. I found her stood over Anon, striking and berating him. Her tone and mannerisms matched that of Heerser's descriptions."
  1911. >Zebra leader Heerser adopts sombre expression; Princess Twilight was heard gasping during your mention of striking and berating Anon, currently covering mouth with hooves with a horrified expression; Princess Luna shocked initially, but becomes very angry soon afterwards.
  1912. "You will have to ask Anon about what happened during their battle."
  1913. >Personal: friend Anon will not want to recall the details of the event; you cannot fault him for his expected reluctance.
  1914. >"Th-that... that fiend!" (Princess Luna, furious) "She will suffer immeasurably for what she has done! Where is she, zebra? Where did she go?!"
  1915. >"Princess, you've every right in the world to be angry. Believe me, I know all too well what you are feeling," (Heerser, conciliatory) "But I must ask you to please calm yourself."
  1916. >"Calm myself?! Th-that monster nearly killed dearest Anon--!"
  1917. >"And if you chase after them, you will share his fate. Is that something you wish to put your herdmates through, princess?"
  1918. >"You will tell me where--!"
  1919. >"Enough! Please!" (Princess Twilight)
  1920. >Princess Luna once again restrains outburst at the behest of Princess Twilight.
  1921. >"M-Mr. Heerser?"
  1922. >"Yes, miss Twilight?"
  1923. >"I-isn't there something I can do to help?"
  1924. >"Excuse me? Help?" (Heerser, surprised)
  1925. >"What? D-did I say something wrong?" (Princess Twilight, nervous)
  1926. >"No, not at all. I just can't say I expected an offer of help from a pony, is all."
  1927.  
  1928. >"Wh-- huh?"
  1929. >"And what is that supposed to mean?" (Princess Luna, confrontational)
  1930. >"It's been my experience that ponies have helped none but themselves. Not even their Saddle Arabian or thestral cousins get much in the way of aid from them."
  1931. >Princess Luna makes motions to speak, but stops herself: appears to be in thought, both confused and perturbed.
  1932. >"Well I'm not most ponies, Mr. Heerser. And besides, you don't look like you're going to turn me down."
  1933. >Zebra leader Heerser pauses for 2.8s, proceeds to start laughing to himself.
  1934. >"So you're saying I'm not like most zebras then?"
  1935. >"Yeah, so you--" (Princess Twilight, becoming panicked) "W-waitnothat'snotwhatImeantohgosh--!"
  1936. >"Hah! Touché, miss Twilight. I can see why they call you the princess of friendship!"
  1937. >Zebra leader Heerser stands up, walks towards Princess Twilight.
  1938. >"I won't stop you, that's true. In fact, I'd be more than happy to have you! But you will have an uphill battle on your hooves, you know. My zebras don't trust ponies, especially not my alchemists!"
  1939. >"I-I know that. A-and I'd like to, well, p-prove them wrong."
  1940. >"And keep an eye on your beloved, no doubt?"
  1941. >Princess Twilight recoils, looking surprised.
  1942. >"H-howthehaydoyou--?!"
  1943. >"Miss Twilight," (Heerser, laughing) "You're not the only one here who's been in love! Even if that were your only reason, it would be reason enough for me to allow you to stay!"
  1944. >"T-Twilight, you aren't seriously going to remain here, are you?!" (Princess Luna, flustered)
  1945. >"I-I have to do something, Luna! I-I can't just sit around and wait for Anon to wake up!"
  1946. >"I-I realize that, truly I do, but this?"
  1947.  
  1948. >"It's not like I'm gonna be alone or anything! I-I mean, it is your job to keep me safe, r-right?"
  1949. >Realization of Princess Twilight querying you took 0.8s.
  1950. "That is in line with my duties."
  1951. >"Right! S-so there's no problem!"
  1952. >"But Twilight--!"
  1953. >"I'm staying. And you can't talk me out of it." (Princess Twilight, becoming angry) "A-and when he wakes up, I'm going to slap him."
  1954. >"Hah!" (Heerser, jovial, looking towards Princess Luna) "Well then, if miss Twilight is set on this, all that is left is for you to approve it all, princess!"
  1955. >Princess Luna at a loss for words.
  1956. >"I can assure you that I have no intention of mistreating her. And should anyzebra think differently, well, I'll set them aside for you to visit your wrath upon! Would that make you happy?"
  1957. >Princess Luna takes 9.4s to begin speaking.
  1958. >"If... if anything happens to them, it is you I will hold to account, zebra. Not your subordinates."
  1959. >"Ahh, so that is your stipulation? Very well, then! I accept!"
  1960. >"B-but she could stay, too! You'd be fine with that, r-right?" (Princess Twilight)
  1961. >"Oh, without a doubt. But alas, I suspect that circumstances beyond her control prevent such an arrangement, no?"
  1962. >"You speak truly, zebra." (Princess Luna, resigned) "My thestrals would have half a mind to charge in after me should I be gone too long, to say nothing of what my sister would do."
  1963. >Zebra leader Heerser adopts contemplative expression at mention of thestrals by Princess Luna.
  1964. >"Princess, when your beloved awakens, there is another matter I would like to discuss with you."
  1965.  
  1966. >"Another matter? What other matter?"
  1967. >"Oh, I won't say what just yet. It's still quite tentative, you see. And goodness knows you've enough on your mind already."
  1968. >"That does not fill me with confidence."
  1969. >"Then let's just say that it's... a potential step towards the fall of the Destroyer."
  1970. >Expression of Princess Luna consistent with curiosity, appears to be calming down.
  1971. >"I believe it is my turn to be surprised, Heerser. You distrust my kind, do you not?"
  1972. >"Oh, my people distrust ponykind, true enough. I for one only distrust Celestia and her organization. No offence of course, agent of Celestia."
  1973. "You have not offended me."
  1974. >"I-I see. I... I feel I must apologize for her--"
  1975. >"You will do no such thing. Apologize only for that which you have done, princess."
  1976. >Zebra leader Heerser appears to be genuinely happy.
  1977. >"Now then, do you have anything else to ask of me, you two?"
  1978. >Princess Luna takes 2.6s to respond.
  1979. >"Not of you, Heerser. Dearest Twilight, you are not staying in Zebrica."
  1980. >"Luna, I already--!" (Princess Twilight, frustrated)
  1981. >"Not without proper equipment. You are absolutely not remaining with warriors without the armaments of warriors."
  1982. >"W-wait, what?"
  1983. >"Ahh, a wise play, princess." (Heerser, pleased) "Miss Twilight, I would suggest taking her up on that."
  1984. >"B-but I can't fight! I-I don't even know--!"
  1985. >"Then I'll take it upon myself to teach you a thing or two, then! It's only fair, don't you think?"
  1986. >"N-now hold on just a--!"
  1987. >"It is decided then!" (Princess Luna, forceful) "Come, dearest Twilight!"
  1988.  
  1989. >Princess Luna telekinetically lifts Princess Twilight against her will, proceeds towards gateway.
  1990. >"H-hey! Put me down!"
  1991. >"Excuse us for a moment, Heerser!"
  1992. >"Take your time," (Heerser, suppressing laughter)
  1993. >Princesses not followed as they pass through the gateway.
  1994. >Zebra leader Heerser breaks into laughter 1.1s after princesses were no longer audible.
  1995. >"Oh ancestors above, what characters! They really are good for one another, aren't they?"
  1996. >Realization of zebra leader Heerser querying you took 1.2s.
  1997. "I have no opinion on the subject."
  1998. >"Oh, I doubt that very much."
  1999. "I am unwilling to opine about my princesses."
  2000. >"Fine, fine, retain your sense of propriety," (Heerser, disappointed, becoming happy) "Really though, the three of them really do make such a lovely herd. I can't help but wonder what exactly is holding the three back from just embracing it. Still, all that aside, the two of them... far exceeded my expectations.
  2001. >"Decorous Luna is certainly an imposing one, befitting of her crown. She most certainly is not one you want to cross. And I have never seen a pony with the disposition of Amicable Twilight before. It was like... like witnessing the times change, like seeing a vision of things to come for Equestria as a whole."
  2002. >Zebra leader Heerser appears contented.
  2003. >"Perhaps I've spent too many years removed from ponykind to notice such a change. I suppose I will have to gauge the true measure of that change for myself when she returns."
  2004. >Personal: relived that things appear to be progressing in a favourable direction.
  2005. >2m33s elapse after end of conversation before Princess Twilight emerges through the gateway: Princess Twilight wearing standardized EUP pegasus armour with standardized EUP unicorn helmet and standardized EUP spear, noticeably uncomfortable with equipment.
  2006.  
  2007. >Princess Luna emerges temporarily, glaring at zebra leader Heerser.
  2008. >"Remember, Heerser. It will not be Incognito you will come to fear, should anything happen to her!"
  2009. >"Oh, we won't have any problems, princess. I always keep my word!"
  2010. >"See to it that you do."
  2011. >"Now now, have a little faith in me!"
  2012. >Unsure of how zebra leader Heerser can remain so composed during his talks with Princess Luna.
  2013. >Princess Luna lingers for 5.1s before returning through gateway; Princess Twilight becoming increasingly nervous, zebra leader Heerser approaches her.
  2014. >"You look well, Amicable Twilight!"
  2015. >"C-can I just take this--? Wait, 'amicable'?"
  2016. >Princess Twilight interrupted by zebra leader Heerser throwing a foreleg around her withers; Princess Twilight heard making a sound consistent with a squeak, while zebra leader Heerser begins laughing.
  2017. >"Come, Amicable Twilight!" (Heerser, jovial) "Let's not waste any time introducing you to everyzebra!"
  2018. >"W-wait a minute! Can't we--?"
  2019. >"Introductions wait for nozebra, let alone anypony!"
  2020. >"But--"
  2021. >"Just follow my lead and you'll do just fine!"
  2022. >"Listen to--!"
  2023. >"And after the introductions are taken care of, I'll get you up to speed on how to move in all that armour!"
  2024. >Concerns about judgment of zebra leader Heerser reemerging.
  2025. >"A-Anon, I swear, when you wake up, I'll...!" (Princess Twilight, muttering)
  2026. <...
  2027.  
  2028. @@@@@@@@
  2029.  
  2030. >(`Your nation was glorious once, the envy of all societies.`)
  2031. >(`Your nation was glorious once, the envy of all societies.`)
  2032. (`Your nation was glorious once, the envy of all societies.`)
  2033. >(`It even had the potential, the might, to rival Equestria itself.`)
  2034. >(`It even had the potential, the might, to rival Equestria itself.`)
  2035. (`It even had the potential, the might, to rival Equestria itself.`)
  2036. >(`Now, it is a shadow of it's former self.`)
  2037. >(`Now, it is a shadow of its former self.`)
  2038. (`Now, it is a shadow of it's former self.`)
  2039. >(`Nothing but squabbling tribes, fighting over pockets of sand.`)
  2040. >(`Nothing but scrabbling tribes, fighting over patches of sand.`)
  2041. (`Nothing but squabbling tribes, fighting over pockets of sand.`)
  2042. >(`You could be so much more than this, zebra.`)
  2043. >(`You could be much more than this, zebra.`)
  2044. (`You could be so much more than this, zebra.`)
  2045. >(`Join me, and your tribe will be restored to it's former glory.`)
  2046. >(`Join me, and your tribe will be returned to its former glory.`)
  2047. (`Join me, and your tribe will be restored to it's former glory.`)
  2048. >(CRACK)
  2049. >("Agh!")
  2050. >("This tongue is not difficult, human!")
  2051. >("You speak it too--")
  2052. >(CRACK)
  2053. >("Gaah!")
  2054. >(`Speak only this tongue!`)
  2055. (`Speak only this tongue.`)
  2056. >(`I-I cannot--`)
  2057. >(CRACK)
  2058. >("Aagh!")
  2059. >(`Repeat only after me!`)
  2060. (`Repeat only after me.`)
  2061. >(CRACK)
  2062. >(`I will master this language if I wish to lead!`)
  2063. (`I will master this language if I wish to lead.`)
  2064. >(`I-I will master this l-language if I w-wish to--`)
  2065. >(CRACK)
  2066. >(`I will not stutter!`)
  2067. (`I will not stutter.`)
  2068. >(`I will n-no--`)
  2069. >(CRACK)
  2070. >(`Pathetic!`)
  2071. (`Pathetic.`)
  2072. >(CRACK)
  2073. >(`Worthless!`)
  2074. (`Worthless.`)
  2075. >(CRACK)
  2076. <...
  2077.  
  2078. >"Wake up!"
  2079. `Huwhat?!`
  2080. >The world all around you jolts forward in a rush of panic.
  2081. >The first thing you do is close your eyes to the entirely too bright world around you.
  2082. >That all too familiar cold sweat is the first thing to greet your senses, followed by the shivering, then the realization of just how fast your breathing was.
  2083. >The sheets were so rough, but you pulled them tight around yourself all the same, trying to absorb whatever leftover warmth they'd soaked up from before.
  2084. >Another dream.
  2085. >Just focus on your breathing.
  2086. >Get it together.
  2087. >Come on, Anon.
  2088. >Breathe.
  2089. >Through the nose, out the mouth.
  2090. >Through the nose, out the mouth.
  2091. >"Calm yourself. It was but a nightmare."
  2092. >Wait, that voice...
  2093. >Your eyes crack open, taking in your still entirely too well lit surroundings.
  2094. >You're in a cot, in some kind of tent.
  2095. >Yeah, the same tent that...
  2096. >You woke up in before.
  2097. >With Exact.
  2098. >And the alchemist.
  2099. >Who told you about...
  2100. >About...
  2101. >Razor.
  2102. >Your grip on your sheets grows tighter for an entirely different reason.
  2103. >Razor.
  2104. >("Hello, Anonymous," she says with a smile.)
  2105. >Razor!
  2106. >("It's been a while, hasn't it?")
  2107. >You push yourself up from--
  2108. >Aagh, your fucking chest...!
  2109. >("And it's been even longer since I've seen your good friend here, too!")
  2110. >Teeth gritted tight, you soldier through the pain and sit up--
  2111. >Oww holy shit there's a fucking metal hoof pushing you back onto the bed and it fucking hurts so badly--
  2112. >"I believe my words were to calm yourself, Anonymous!"
  2113. >The voice!
  2114. >It takes less than a second to follow the hoof towards it's very aged owner.
  2115. `Zaalma...?`
  2116. >Your voice was way slower and more drawn-out than normal, just shy of full-on slurring.
  2117. >"Yes, it is just me. Now lie still."
  2118. >Something's different here.
  2119. >No, she's different.
  2120. >Nevermind that right now...!
  2121. `Wh-where's Razor?`
  2122. >"Back in Equestria, being treated by his people."
  2123. >Huh?
  2124. >Back in Equestria?
  2125. >How?
  2126.  
  2127. >The hoof on your chest changes over to her real one, where she starts feeling around and drawing a wince from you.
  2128. >"Your bones are still sensitive where they were broken. They will hold firm, but moving will cause you pain until they become whole again."
  2129. `My bones...?`
  2130. >For some reason, she looks confused.
  2131. >"Why do you...?"
  2132. >Her eyes harden slightly, like she's studying you.
  2133. >`Yes, from blows dealt by that monstrous changeling. You have been healing here, kept asleep for three days now.`
  2134. >Jesus, you forgot how she never pulls her punches when--
  2135. >Wait, what?!
  2136. `Th-three days?!`
  2137. >`Yes. Bones are a simple affair to heal, but require you to remain still--`
  2138. `I was in bed for three fucking days?!`
  2139. >Your voice is coming back.
  2140. >`Yes, and I am responsible for keeping you asleep during that time.`
  2141. `Wh--`
  2142. >What?
  2143. `You kept me here?!`
  2144. >`And I would again. Colts like yourself never think to sit still and heal. If you were listening, healing bones requires you to do just that. And you would have tossed and fidgeted all the way through.`
  2145. >Your mouth opens, but no objection forms.
  2146. >`You and Vegter alike just don't know when to fight and when to rest. Your mates would no doubt have also preferred to see you heal faster.`
  2147. `Don't go over my head like that again.`
  2148. >`I will do what is necessary, Anonymous. Comfort is secondary to one's needs. Never forget that.`
  2149. >God damn it.
  2150. >Whatever, not like you're going to get anywhere arguing with this bag.
  2151. >Even if she is being uncharacteristically nice.
  2152. >But... wait a minute.
  2153. >You need more answers.
  2154. >Answers about...
  2155. `Razor.`
  2156. >`What about him?`
  2157. `Is he...?`
  2158. >`Faring well? No.`
  2159. >Sh-she didn't even try to soften that one...
  2160. >`In fact, your friend has been the most difficult colt to keep alive that I have tended to in my long years of healing. He is beyond fortunate that I and the exile are the very best at our craft.`
  2161. `What did she...?`
  2162.  
  2163. >`Daemoniacal Athalia poisoned him with whatever unspeakable magic she wielded. As your other companion told it, the poison was very much alive, and battled with us at every turn. I only hope he was correct about his people knowing the cure for such a terrible disease.`
  2164. >("What did you stop for?" she taunts in the most sugar-sweet customer service voice. "Weren't you about to--")
  2165. >SLAP
  2166. "Ow, what the--?!"
  2167. >Right after that slap across the face, thankfully with her real hoof, she cups it under your chin and forces you to look her way.
  2168. >`Don't.`
  2169. "The fuck did--?!"
  2170. >`That monster has done enough, Anonymous.`
  2171. >There's some kind of quality to her gaze, like ice, that keeps you from responding.
  2172. >`She nearly claimed the life of your friend. Do not do her the courtesy of claiming your thoughts, as well.`
  2173. >Your mouth opens, but words don't come out.
  2174. >`You can stand, can you not?`
  2175. >She lets you go, and it's only when shit starts to hurt that it dawns on you that you're trying to stand up.
  2176. >Slowly, you rise to your full height, gritting your way through all the aching and even stabbing pain.
  2177. >Zaalma has a long pole between her teeth, which she offers to you.
  2178. >It's just long enough to make a good walking stick.
  2179. >Already things feel better with this in your hands.
  2180. >`You see? After what you did, there is no way she could do even this much.`
  2181. >(She screams as the magnet activates, the force slamming into her like a brick wall.)
  2182. >`Nor will she for some time. The likes of the Bloedige Plaag, the likes of that Destroyer, will never restore her like we can.`
  2183. >(She flails and convulses, flinging sand everywhere, screaming her lungs out.)
  2184. "I..."
  2185. >(Gurgling is audible within her hoarse voice as blood begins leaking from her mouth and nose.)
  2186.  
  2187. "I guess so."
  2188. >`If nothing else, there is solace to be found there. Now--`
  2189. >(A massive hit from the side sends your world into a tailspin.)
  2190. "Wait."
  2191. >(You only register hitting the ground before everything goes dark.)
  2192. "Something hit me, stopped me from finishing her. What was it?"
  2193. >Zaalma's expression darkens, and for the first time, she looks legitimately upset.
  2194. >`That is for Heerser to say, not I.`
  2195. >Then you know exactly who you need to talk to next.
  2196. >You take a few painful steps towards the tent's exit--
  2197. >`Be still. If it is Heerser you seek, simply say so.`
  2198. >Oh, she's one of those fucking nurses, right.
  2199. "You brought him up first."
  2200. >She snorts, then calls out for an alchemist.
  2201. >And man alive, one comes in literally half a second later.
  2202. >`Summon Heerser for us. Anonymous wishes to see him.`
  2203. >That alchemist looks super stoked to see you kicking. And sure enough, she nods and takes off.
  2204. >`I suggest that you seat yourself, Anonymous.`
  2205. >Y'know, something about the way she's been talking to you just feels... off.
  2206. >Wait.
  2207. "What're you speaking zebrikaans for?"
  2208. >Now she looks kinda suspicious about, uh, something or another.
  2209. >"To test if you are fully awake."
  2210. "Wha...?"
  2211. >"Now be seated."
  2212. >Whatever, she must be going senile or some shit.
  2213. "I'm not gonna just sit around here doing nothing!"
  2214. >"Healing is hardly 'doing nothing', Anonymous. Now sit before you break something and undo our work."
  2215. "Look, I need to--"
  2216. >"Sit. Now."
  2217. >Jeez, nobody stands up to this old bag, do they?
  2218. >No, Anon, that's not your cue to do as she says and--
  2219. >You sit back down onto the bed.
  2220. >God damn it.
  2221.  
  2222. >The outside of the tent is eerily quiet, but soon enough, you can hear the galloping of hooves.
  2223. >Or two sets of hooves?
  2224. >Probably Vegter tagging along with the guy, if you had to guess--
  2225. >"Slow down, Amicable Tw--!"
  2226. >Heerser's distant call is cut off by the tent flaps glowing purple and getting flung aside.
  2227. >Twilight gallops inside and slides to a stop.
  2228. >All right, now when is Heerser going to...
  2229. >Uhh.
  2230. >"Anon?"
  2231. >What?
  2232. >No, obviously that can't be right.
  2233. >All right, the tried and true head shake will resolve this little...
  2234. >Uhh, nope. She's still there.
  2235. >And in guard armour, funnily enough.
  2236. >Well, uh--
  2237. >"Anon!"
  2238. >Okay, so the illusion of Twilight just called out and jumped towards--
  2239. "Whoa!"
  2240. >The scent hits you before the bed does.
  2241. >The warmth hits you before the pain does.
  2242. >"You're okay!"
  2243. >Things kind of stop computing for a moment there.
  2244. >Your brain hangs completely, stuck processing the obviously impossible situation that is currently squeezing and nuzzling you.
  2245. >Obviously impossible, of course.
  2246. >Clearly, Twilight can't be here, giving you the mother of all hugs.
  2247. >Twilight can be here, giving you the mother of all hugs.
  2248. >Twilight is here, giving you the mother of all hugs.
  2249. >Twilight's here.
  2250. >"You don't seem to believe your eyes, Anonymous."
  2251. >Oh, there's Heerser.
  2252. >Yeah, just standing there next to a stone-faced Zaalma, looking as smug as can be.
  2253. >Smug about the dumb fucking look on your face because of Twilight hugging you and holy fucking shit Twilight is fucking hugging you what the fuck--
  2254. >SLAP
  2255. "Ow, what--?!"
  2256. >"You IDIOT!"
  2257. >SLAP
  2258. >"What's wrong with you?!"
  2259. >She looked about ready to burst into tears, despite the angry glare she was fixing you with.
  2260. >"How many times are you going to do this to me, Anon?! To us?"
  2261.  
  2262. >`Leave them be for now Heerser,` Zaalma mutters. `Something strange has occurred with him...`
  2263. >"You could have been...!"
  2264. >The two zebras filter out of the tent.
  2265. >Twilight's glare slowly weakens, tears starting to well up in it's place.
  2266. >"You could've...!"
  2267. >Her face buries into your chest right as the tears start falling, and you don't even make a sound from the wave of pain that ricochets through you.
  2268. >It's really her.
  2269. >And she's...
  2270. >An entire tidal wave of emotions decide to hit you at that moment, and hell if you're in any state to put names to even half of them at this point.
  2271. >But you're definitely in a state to say that it's a healthy three-fifths good emotions.
  2272. >And by the time you figure that much out, you soon find yourself in the middle of giving this amazing and wonderful purple pony a huge, massive hug.
  2273. >One that she soon retuuuuurns--!
  2274. >Okay okay you just remembered that your chest is several kinds of fucked up and in pain and holy shit you might have just wheezed there a little
  2275. >Yeah you're both gonna need to tap the brakes there a bit and ease up on the hug intensity
  2276. >"You..."
  2277. >She pulls her head back with a little sniffle, and somehow manages to give you a big, teary-eyed smile.
  2278. >"You're all right."
  2279. >You're all right.
  2280. >When did your hand move up to her cheek?
  2281. >The wet streak down her face is wiped off to the side by your thumb, as if still testing that she's actually still there.
  2282. >There's no mistaking it.
  2283. >Huh.
  2284. >Funny, w-were things always this blurry before?
  2285. >A-and what the hell are you smiling about, you dumbshit?
  2286. >You must look like the biggest idiot on the face of the planet--
  2287.  
  2288. >THWACK-CRASH
  2289. >"Aah!"
  2290. "Whoa!"
  2291. >Both of your heads whip toward the tent's entrance, where you catch sight of a stool clattering along the ground--
  2292. >`Anonymous!`
  2293. >Oh fuck it's Vegter.
  2294. >What does this fucking guy want wait holy shit Vegter?!
  2295. `Vegter?!`
  2296. >`Hahahah! You pretty tough for something so squishy!`
  2297. `But-- Are you okay?!`
  2298. >`Hahahah! That is my line!`
  2299. `B-but you were fighting her!`
  2300. >`Her? Which her? You mean your mate?`
  2301. `No, not-- Hey! We're not--`
  2302. >Wait wait wait wait wait WAIT.
  2303. >The situation finally dawns upon you once your head darts back and forth between Vegter and Twilight, who is still clinging on to you from the jumpscare.
  2304. `Hold that thought.`
  2305. "Twilight, what the hell are you doing here?! Why the hell are you doing here? How the hell are you doing here?!"
  2306. >Uhh, she just flipped over to looking mighty done with your shit--
  2307. >SLAP
  2308. "Aah! Stop hitting me!"
  2309. >"I'm here," she starts, just barely containing her anger, "Because YOU nearly got yourself killed again!"
  2310. "But--"
  2311. >"Even thought I kept telling you over and over and over again to take better care of yourself and to not do this to me again!"
  2312. "You know I--"
  2313. >"Never listen to me?! Yes, I do know you never listen! You could even say that you don't listen to me on a daily basis!"
  2314. >You know, Vegter can't even understand this exchange, and even he's cringing back over there.
  2315. >"And it isn't just me! Or Luna! No, then there Mr. Heerser!"
  2316. >Aw, shit.
  2317. >You know that sinking feeling in your gut when you know you're about to get exposed?
  2318. >"He's been nothing but nice and understanding and helpful, and then you decided it would be a great idea to just...!"
  2319. >You're feeling real exposed right about now.
  2320. >She groaned a very, very frustrated groan, while you tried in vain to shrink on back.
  2321.  
  2322. >"Aaaaaagh, what the hay were you thinking?! I get being nervous after they first jumped you, but why?! Why did you treat Mr. Heerser so horribly?! He didn't do anything to you!"
  2323. >A quiet, eyeball only plead of 'help me' is fired towards the zebra who first jumped you.
  2324. >"He was trying to make things better for you! He even threw you a big party, tried to make up for that bad start! But no!"
  2325. >It only occurs to you that your plea might have been a bad idea when you see Vegter sprouting one of his fucking grins.
  2326. >"No seriously, I want to know! I want to know what the hay was going through your mind when you decided to lie to him so much!"
  2327. >`Your mate really cares about you!`
  2328. >Okay he's being loud on purpose.
  2329. >Loud enough that Twilight stopped for a moment and looked back to see what the deal was.
  2330. >`Kind of jealous! She is very nice! Flies! Does magic! Great mare!`
  2331. >Okay what is he getting at--?
  2332. >`And her flank is just amazing!`
  2333. >Motherfucker.
  2334. >`Seriously! Looks great even in armour!`
  2335. >Amusement levels at an all time low.
  2336. `I suggest you shut your fucking mouth.`
  2337. >`Hey! Not my fault you messed up! Probably will be days before you can enjoy it again!`
  2338. >Your limited tolerance for this shit exhausted itself the moment his eyebrows started waggling at the word 'enjoy'.
  2339. `Get out of my tent this fucking instant.`
  2340. >Okay, maybe you're sitting up after all.
  2341. >`Hahahah! See? I am right!`
  2342. `She's right here, you asshole!`
  2343. >`Hahahah! Do not know what that means!`
  2344. `When I get out of this bed, I've got a knuckle sandwich with your name on it.`
  2345. >What's he laughing about? You're serious!
  2346. >"Uhh, do you know this zebra, Anon?"
  2347. "Kinda wishing I didn't right about now."
  2348.  
  2349. >Another Heerser shaped zebra decides to walk into the tent, his face the picture of not amused.
  2350. >Oh, Heerser!
  2351. >Right, he was here a minute ago, and you needed to--!
  2352. >`Ahem.`
  2353. >`Oh! Here to see Anonymous?`
  2354. >`No, just wondering if you've had your fill.`
  2355. >`Hahahah! Think so!`
  2356. >`Good.`
  2357. >CRACK
  2358. >`Yaaagh!`
  2359. >Whoooahkay, he just casually headbutts Vegter like a stone cold fucking animal!
  2360. >Had Twilight gasping a little and everything!
  2361. >`You will treat our guest with the dignity and respect owed to her, Vegter.`
  2362. >`Oww...`
  2363. >`If you've nothing else to say, go and wait at the gateway.`
  2364. >`F-fine... See you later Anonymous...`
  2365. >Sheesh, you had no idea Vegter of all zebras could pull off the 'sad puppy' look.
  2366. >But there he was, walk of shaming his way out of the tent, nursing his head trauma along the way.
  2367. >Then, quick as a whip, Heerser puts on a winning smile and looks over towards both you and Twilight.
  2368. >"Well, I for one am happy to see you doing well, Anonymous!"
  2369. "Uhh, th-thanks?"
  2370. >"What was that all about, Mr. Heerser?!"
  2371. >"Just some Zebrican discipline in play, Amicable Twilight. No need to concern yourself!"
  2372. >"No need? But you just--!"
  2373. "Just let it go, Twilight."
  2374. >He kind of deserved it.
  2375. >"But he--!"
  2376. "Just let it go."
  2377. >Even if he did kind of pull your ass out of the fire.
  2378. >She only relented when your hand made it's way to her ear, and began it's almost forgotten itching ritual.
  2379. >"We're not finished, mister..."
  2380. >Ooooor not.
  2381. >Fucking shit she was doing the scrunchy face thing.
  2382. >You're in trouble.
  2383. >God damn it.
  2384. >"You had us worried there, Anonymous!" Heerser booms. "How are you feeling?"
  2385. "Body or soul?"
  2386. >"Figuratively speaking?"
  2387. "Figuratively speaking."
  2388. >"Both, then! Let's start with body!"
  2389. "Like there's five hundred pounds of fatass on my chest, and the only thing making it better is zebra drugs and my little pony here."
  2390. >Twilight squeaked a little right as you realize what just came out of your pie hole.
  2391. "Uhh, that came out wrong--"
  2392.  
  2393. >"Good grief! You won't even watch your language for her sake?!"
  2394. "Hey, she--"
  2395. >"Like you're one to talk, Mr. Heerser!"
  2396. >"Oh?"
  2397. >"You don't have any problem making me and Luna super uncomfortable with all that 'mate' stuff, but a curse word is where you draw the line?"
  2398. >Yeah, she kinda has a point--
  2399. >Wait, Luna?!
  2400. >"Ah, but I'm telling the truth when I speak of your romance!"
  2401. >Synchronized splutter with Twilight, activate.
  2402. >"Foul language, on the other hoof? It's always unnecessary. And an indictment of one's upbringing!"
  2403. >This fucking zebra, holy fucking shit.
  2404. >She's literally right fucking here, and he just spouts off about this fucking 'mate' shit like it's no big deal!
  2405. >"Oh, don't give me that look! I don't see what the point of all this secrecy and repression is!"
  2406. >Vegter was an improvement.
  2407. "Enough!"
  2408. >"Enough!"
  2409. >"I mean really, it's clear to anyzebra with eyes that you're meant for one another, and here you are, the only ones in denial about the whole thing!"
  2410. "Shut up!"
  2411. >"Shut up!"
  2412. >"What is the issue, really? Nothing as silly as some cultural gap, I hope!"
  2413. >About a femtosecond later, Heerser starts glowing purple and gets flipped upside down, getting shaken a few times for good measure.
  2414. >"What part of 'shut up' did you not understand?!"
  2415. >And there he is, cool as a cucumber and as smug as a cartoon frog, even dangling upside down.
  2416. >"Ahh, I never tire of seeing young love," he chuckles, "I truly don't."
  2417. "Nothing fucking fazes you, huh?"
  2418. >"Only your horrid language, Anonymous. I've had plenty of maulwurf encounters to help put things into perspective."
  2419. >Okay, now he's just pulling shit out of his ass.
  2420. >"Swearing is worse than maulwurfs now?" Twilight deadpans oh-so-perfectly.
  2421. >"Maulwurfs never swear, now do they?"
  2422. >You can physically feel how done Twilight is.
  2423. >Twilight cuts off her magic, and he lightning reflexes the landing on one hoof before dropping to all fours, landing like a goddamn cat.
  2424.  
  2425. >Of fucking course he doesn't just land in a heap.
  2426. >Smug ass piece of shit.
  2427. >"And how is your soul faring?" he chirps.
  2428. "Screw you."
  2429. >"Well, I'm not sure Amicable Twilight would approve of that."
  2430. >Said pony splutters, while you just roll your eyes.
  2431. >Wait a minute, that fucking reminds you!
  2432. "Hold up, how is she even here? Twilight, how are you even here?"
  2433. >"Well, we used your portal."
  2434. >Your portal? As in, slipgate?
  2435. >"That she did! Perhaps we could discuss that and other matters elsewhere? Perhaps over some tea?"
  2436. >Tea sounds like a godsend right about now.
  2437. "Yeah, sure. Need my stick, though."
  2438. >Pretty sure you dropped it--
  2439. >Oh, there it is, courtesy of Twilight.
  2440. "Thanks."
  2441. >You get a little smile in response before she steps off the bed to make room for you.
  2442. >Getting up fucking hurts, and your muscles are protesting after so long doing nothing, but you manage.
  2443. >Doesn't stop Twilight from hanging close, like she's ready to catch you if you fall.
  2444. >"Take your time, Anonymous! A little walking ought to get the cobwebs out of your limbs!"
  2445. "Yeah, I know. Where to?"
  2446. >"Just this way!"
  2447. >And off you all go.
  2448. >Well, your slower pace notwithstanding.
  2449. >You follow him to a big, fancy tent pretty close by, but you do catch sight of some zebras on the way over.
  2450. >Man, they look really happy to see you.
  2451. >Once you enter the tent, well...
  2452. >Man, it's pretty loaded by zeeb standards.
  2453. >There's even a hearth crammed in here--
  2454. >`There you are!`
  2455. >Oh, Vegter's already here--
  2456. >Neeext to your very much activated slipgate in the back!
  2457. >And the other warriors and alchemists guarding it all offer hellos your way.
  2458. >`You may leave us,` Heerser commands.
  2459. >All but Vegter clears out in short order.
  2460. >"The agent of Celestia is beyond the gateway right now. Something about delivering a report."
  2461. >Exact?
  2462. >Shit, you just realized he wasn't here!
  2463. >Is he doing all right?
  2464. >"He should be returning shortly. Now please, seat yourselves. There is much to discuss."
  2465.  
  2466. ++++++++++++++++++++
  2467.  
  2468. Hey there, (You). Thanks so much for reading my story up to this point!
  2469. Unfortunately, my motivation to finish this dried up in late 2019, with my files for this last edited September 9th of that year, so it's not very likely you'll see any further updates beyond this point.
  2470. That's not to say I'm never going to touch it again - I'm still floating a lot of ideas about it to this day - but it very likely will not be in it's current form, and will also likely take a couple of months (as of Nov 2020) for me to get back into the flow of things, thanks to circumstances beyond my control.
  2471.  
  2472. As cliché as it may sound, I'd like to thank (You) sincerely for bearing with me on this ride. I had an absolute blast making this, and I hope to start writefagging it up again in the near future, whenever my muse decides to return from it's very protracted trip to the store for some delicious homogenized milk.
  2473. Take good care of (You)rself out there,
  2474.         HK-47 !Meatbag40Y
  2475.  
  2476. P.S.: Drop by AiE and say hi sometime, I won't bite!
Anonymous Anon AiE Thaumaturgy OC

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