Chapter 11: Nightmare
In the underground ruins of the former Crystal Empire... "Magnus?" The flashback faded, but the illusion did not. The pain was too vivid for Magnus to identify that the one who was speaking to him was the pony he claimed to love. She was still upset, still displeased and was ready to tell him a thing or two about betrayal, but she didn't expect what he spoke next.
With his horn glowing dangerously bright and an evil yet vacant expression in his eyes, Magnus approached Luna. "Unicorn horns make the best weapons; their magical properties make them stronger than any blade and even any bullet or laser. Alicorns are not immortal; you can kill just about anything, by stabbing its heart with a unicorn's horn." Luna's eyes widened in horror. She had been furious at Magnus, she had seen him as a traitor for stealing her night and her ponies, but she never would have thought he wanted her dead. The sheer pain of the heartbreak paralyzed her as Magnus charged forward, his glowing horn aimed at her heart.
Luna remained paralyzed for what felt like an eternity, until she finally snapped awake from the pain and allowed it to become anger. She too was surrounded by darkness as she angled her head and stopped Magnus' horn with her own. They pushed against each other, their horns glowing as they scraped against each other. With a massive burst of magic, an explosion erupted between them, throwing them in opposite directions. They didn't stop their rampage, they charged at each other again with powerful magic at the ready. When their horns collided once more, the blast of magic bounced upward in two spiraling beams of energy and exploded in the surface like deadly fireworks.
The sunlight seeped through the now disintegrated cave ceiling as snow poured into the crater where the unicorn and alicorn stood. With a fast flap of her wings, Luna took the higher ground, holding the advantage. Her horn glowed eerily as the darkness gripped her more firmly. Shockwaves surrounded her and the snow on the surface started to fall rapidly, filling the crater and burring Magnus in endless layers of frozen white. Seconds passed, then minutes and it didn't look like he was coming out. For a split second, guilt flickered in Luna's eyes as she briefly regained her consciousness. Was he dead? Had she killed him?
Luna didn't have long to contemplate her thoughts, as a pillar of fire erupted from beneath her hooves. The melted snow became steam that hid the moon princess in its veil. She hastily flapped her wings wildly, sending several dark burning feathers raining down upon the landscape, which she crashed into, the snow putting out her singed fur. She saw Magnus, cuts from stray rocks caught in the previous avalanche all over. Yet he didn't look like he was about to stand down, he was furious and ready for a fight, his horn glowing in a color changing light. Luna wasn't about to let him attack again, she forced herself to fly and swooped down speedily, her horn at the ready.
Magnus leapt to the side at the last minute and released the spell he had been casting. Luna backed away in the air to give herself more space to counterattack, but the expected offensive move never came. Instead, Magnus had casted an illusionary spell that created mirror images of himself, which were identical to the original. Luna would have none of it. She took to the skies despite the pain on her wings and the many missing feathers, and dove down, her horn going straight through one of the doubles and causing the illusion to disappear. She repeated the process with another fake Magnus, then another. But when she thought only the real one was left, she collided with another copy and felt a sharp pain on her wing as she tried to gain altitude.
Luna lost her balance and momentum, crashing into the snowy ground a few feet away. Magnus stepped forward, his eyes glowing in a strange light, his body almost translucent. Luna realized then that while she was busy with the false copies, her eyes focused on one illusion at the time as she swooped down to destroy them; the real Magnus had made himself invisible. The spell was very short term, but he used it just when he needed it. Luna shook off the pain from her wing and tried to cast a healing spell on herself, but it backfired as her darkness was too much for the casting of a spell that relied on positive energy. The pain made her recoil her injured wing and give up on the healing magic. She folded her raggedy, nearly bare wings close to her body, knowing the appendages would serve her no purpose in this battle anymore, but she was far from giving up.
Without another second to waste, Luna charged in agonized anger and the horns of the two combatants collided once more. Suddenly, a loud roar shook the land as an ursa major approached in a wild rage and attacked them both. The waves of darkness they were giving off were strong enough to drive the creature to madness. The ursa bared its fangs and claws at the alicorn and unicorn, ready to shred them to pieces. "Be gone, beast, do not interrupt my battle!" Luna commanded. She produced a deep and mystical sound that resembled a distant hypnotic cry. The melody was both painful and soothing and it put the ursa into a deep troubles sleep. The large beast fell on the snow, twitching in its slumber, expression pained, as the nightmares tortured it.
Magnus almost felt himself fall victim to the dark lullaby as well, but his thirst for revenge was so strong that he resisted it. He once again saw the most tragic events of his life replay in his mind and with renewed determination, challenged Luna once more. His horn glowed brightly as he released a beam of light towards Mechatropolis. It seemed to do nothing at first and their battle continued, their horns colliding once more. Being a powerful alicorn, Luna began to show the advantage, as Magnus' magical reserves were nearly completely consumed. The glow of his horn faded as she pushed him back, then suddenly a robotic alicorn tackled her away.
Magnus commanded the metal soldiers, using a newly developed digital spell to give them the command to attack. Exhausted, he let his creations do the work. They were supposed to help improve pony society, to protect, to defend Mechatropolis in case the ursa or some other beast showed up. They could not be directly influenced by darkness, as they were machines that could only follow commands. Yet Magnus was giving he commands and his mind had been shadowed by a deep darkness. Several more robotic alicorns arrived, trying to restrain luna, while Magnus retreated to activate Mechatropolis' full defense systems.
The unicorns that had agreed to work with him behind Celestia's back were worried at first when he returned. Yet their rebellion had already been tempted and the promise of power sealed the deal. Every machine was changed into a weapon as they became animated by the unicorns who stood by Magnus' side.
Injured and furious, Luna tried to charge into the secured laboratory, but a compartment opened and a beam of light, a laser, was shot towards her. Glowing with a magical shield, another alicorn intersected the shot. Celestia was thrown back by the force of the blast, being unused to fighting technological weaponry. She could see them, but knowing nothing about the newly developed digital magic, she couldn't sense them as she could sense a magical foe. "Luna!" The sun princess cried out.
"Stay away from me Celestia, this is my fight!" Luna's voice echoed furiously.
"Luna, this darkness, this terrible darkness..." Celestia was horrified by the state of her sister.
"What's so bad about darkness? The night is darkness and I am the night!" Luna angrily declared. "If you don't stand aside, I will strike you down myself!"
"Traitor!" Victorious Strong joined the argument, leaving his soldiers to fight Mechatropolis' advanced defenses without direction. He should have been focused on leading his ponies, but he couldn't stand by and ignore this. "Tainted goddess of the moon, you dare to betray our sun goddess, our ultimate ruler? Stand down, princess Luna, before your crimes become unforgivable!"
"Stop it, Victorious!" Celestia exclaimed. "You're only upsetting her more!"
"But your highness!" Victorious Strong was taken aback. He was showing his loyalty to his beloved sun princess and she was scolding him, that wasn't fair! "Princess Celestia... You're the only one that can subdue this tainted moon; I will slay the traitorous Magnus Mecha in your name!" Desperate to prove himself to Celestia, Victorious wielded his signature spell that turned his horn into a long blade of light. He cut down robots and rebel unicorns alike and forced a path open into Mechatropolis, where he would go on to take out the main laser cannon from within, though he wasn't exactly sure about what it was.
"Victorious! Come back!" Celestia's voice was lost to the unicorn captain as he disappeared into the enemy base.
Magnus emerged from Mechatropolis wearing high tech armor. He had not planned a full scale assault as much as having a means of defense, though he was certainly tempted by it. Plus he always integrated a security system to all his inventions, probably as a habit gained from his time helping his father craft the weapons of vengeance that ended up destroying the city he was trying to save in the past. "Cursed alicorns! Creatures such as you should not exist!"
"Luna! We need to work together!" Celestia urged. She summoned the elements of harmony, and three glowing gems shot out of the castle tower in the distance, floating around Celestia. "Luna, call for your elements!"
"Quiet! I know what I'm doing!" Yet the elements did not respond to Luna at all. "The elements of harmony don't matter, I don't need them!" Luna went all out with her dark magic, her terrifying voice echoed for several miles, filling the minds of all those who heard it with terrible nightmarish visions.
"We must retreat! Retreat!" The unicorns left as Magnus' followers urged him to take cover inside Mechatropolis and regroup.
"Nightmares do not frighten me, rejected princess of nothing. I have lived my nightmares and still yet live. This ends now!" The armor Magnus wore to gain more power sparkled with abundant electricity as his and Luna's dark beams of energy collided against each other.
'Rejected princess of nothing...' the cruel words echoed in Luna's mind. As she met Magnus' horn with her own, jumping back, forward and sideways and slashing in all directions, she saw Celestia from the corner of her eyes. The sun princess forcefully called the missing three gems that represented Luna's elements of harmony to her. Luna didn't realize that it was Celestia's desperate effort to heal Luna of her torment. Luna's darkness had betrayed harmony and now, by taking hold of the elements that were not her own and trying to force out their magic, Celestia was branded a traitor to harmony too.
The sun princess knew the terrible risk that it was for both she and Luna to become disconnected from the elements of harmony, forever banned from using them again. She knew that she was putting every pony in danger if the elements of harmony were ever needed in the future. She didn't know when some other pony capable of using the elements would appear. After this, the elements would surely be left in a dormant state and it could be hundreds or even a thousand years before they reawakened. Yet Celestia couldn't give up on her choice, she needed to save Luna, even at the cost of harmony itself.
'She took them from me; she took the elements of harmony!' Luna thought miserably. 'I said I didn't need them, but that didn't mean she could steal them! No pony cares for my night, no pony cares for me!' A terrible sadness overtook Luna beyond anything else she ever felt. There was no doubt in her troubled mind that she was the most miserable pony that ever existed. Betrayed by her sister, betrayed by her coltfriend, betrayed by every pony. She really and truly felt like the rejected princess of nothing and she wanted to become nothing...
Luna's defenses failed for a critical moment as sadness overtook her. "No!" Celestia dropped the elements of harmony and tried to rush towards Luna to protect her from Magnus attack. Yet the elements shone with a sudden flash of light as if they were short circuiting because Celestia tried to force them to work on her own, both actions went against harmony itself, as the magic within the elements had to complied to be used and would not answer to a pony using them alone. The jewels that represented the elements let out a blast of electricity that caught Celestia and knocked her down. The jewels lost their glitter and turned to gray stones, shooting off into the distance in the vague direction of the Everfree Forest.
Everything happened in a split second, Celestia fell and there was no pony to stop Magnus' irrational attack. His horn connected with the area where Luna's heart would have been, but there was nothing there. The solid form of Luna had dissolved into a shadowy mist filled with sorrow, anger and dark emotions. She had become the incarnation of nightmares. Magnus stepped back, looking every which way in an angry daze. The darkness took hold of him and lifted him off the ground, surrounding him and making it so that he couldn't breathe. The world began to black out as he struggled for his life.
"Luna, don't do it!" Celestia pleaded, rising weakly to her hooves. "Please Luna, if you kill him, you'll always regret it!" The darkness did not let go of Magnus. Instead it stretched and batted Celestia away. She felt painfully a few feet from the darkness that used to be Luna, she was injured, but most of all her heart was broken and that hurt the most. A sudden flash of light dissipated the darkness momentarily. Another beam of light came from the same source and collided with Magnus. Celestia looked at the new arrival, who was panting out of breath. "Starswirl!"
Starswirl smiled weakly. "That should push the darkness back for a moment, but it must still be overcome." He stumbled slightly and Celestia rushed to his side with worry.
"You shouldn't push yourself," she cautioned. Starswirl leaned against her, unable to do as much as support his own weight fully after running all the way there despite being advised to stay at Canterlot. Teleportation helped shorten the trip, but it still drained his energy. The sun princess was shocked and disturbed at how fragile Starswirl felt; he was weak, breakable, mortal...
Magnus slowly lifted his head as his high tech armor fell away from him in pieces. "What have I done?" It was all too confusing, too painful, he only wanted to forget. He wanted to forget everything like he did with his past. Yet that past resurfaced and he knew his recent actions couldn't be forgotten. He didn't know if he wanted to go through with this or not. Take over Equestria or try to make up for his misdeeds, was that even possible? Had he fallen into a dark madness like his father had? He slowly stood as the darkness once again began to gather in one place, the black mist carrying a hint of silver glitter like a starry sky, as if the night itself, had melted into smoke. Luna, that was Luna.
"Magnus, it's too much! Retreat now!" One of the unicorns who was allied to him called out from the laboratory. "We've managed to drive them out, I heard you had an emergency system on this thing, but you're the only one who knows how to use it!"
Yes, the emergency escape system, it was the only answer. Magnus hurried away. Celestia tried to stop him, but that dark mist of the night wrapped itself around one of her legs and stopped her. Celestia shook it off, but it was too late. Magnus locked the door to Mechatropolis.
Unknown to Celestia, she was being watched. Victorious Strong had fought his way through Mechatropolis, but he was vastly outnumbered and overpowered. It was a testament to his power that he even managed to survive that long where most of the guards had not. The deep blue unicorn had retreated into the balcony at the top of the dome and the scene from below caught his attention. The elements of harmony had forsaken Celestia? She had fallen helplessly? She had been saved by Starswirl? Seeing her in that state drove him to madness. His so called goddess was no such thing! Victorious went downstairs, rushing off to get out of the dome to vocalize his displeasure to his so called princess. Yet before he could reach the exit, Mechatropolis disappeared.
Magnus studied that land; he studied every scrap of magic left behind by Sombra. If his theory was correct, the Crystal Empire and its citizens were still alive, frozen in suspended animation just outside their plane of existence in an alternate dimension. If his calculations were correct, Mechatropolis would emerge in a similar place, but on the inside, it would remain active. He would discover the secret of the age spells and gain the longevity that the alicorns had, he would develop the most advance technology and then, approximately a thousand years later, he would return to his original plane of existence. By the time that happened he would have figured out what to do.
Meanwhile, Celestia and Starswirl along with the few surviving members of the guard were left behind in confusion. Mechatropolis was gone in a similar way to how the Crystal Empire had disappeared. The misty darkness had taken up a solid form. Luna's once dark purple fur was now pitch black, she was fully healed and her eyes glowed as her mane flowed in an ethereal breeze. She was no longer Luna at all, she was Nightmare Moon.
"Princess Luna, you must recover yourself!" Starswirl strained himself to dissipate her darkness. His help was only temporary and she would have to conquer it herself, but if he could at least point her in the right direction, give her the push she needed, then maybe she would recover her sanity.
"Enough!" Nightmare Moon shouted in a deafening voice, flapping her strong wings in anger. A gust of wind and a magical shockwave threw Starswirl to the ground.
Celestia gasped and hurried to his side, picking him up as gently as she could and holding him protectively under her wing. "No more, Starswirl, do not strain yourself, please."
Nightmare Moon looked at Celestia coldly as if challenging her. Her horn glowed as she roughly pulled the sun down from the skies and set the moon on high. "Your reign is over Celestia. My night shall last forever! Do you dare challenge me?"
"Luna, please! Please stop this, I won't fight you, I can't!" Celestia begged with abundant tears of agony rolling down her face.
"Of course you can't, behind all the undeserved praise and adoration, you're nothing but a cowardly weakling! Oh but you do have a reason to be afraid of the dark, now you do. Live in fear and shame Celestia, or die trying to oppose me!" Nightmare Moon laughed with mocking evil cruelty and took to the dark skies, disappearing in the general direction of the Everfree Forest.
"Luna..." Celestia sobbed bitterly.
"Celestia..." Starswirl spoke with a grave, serious and sorrowful tone, Celestia was fully supporting him, his strength completely gone. "The sister you once knew is no more, she is a nightmare now. You must stop her, even if it breaks your heart..." His body went still as his last words were spoken, "stop the nightmare..."
"Starswirl!" Celestia cried. He was gone, he was really gone. He was old and the strain was too much. Every day for years she wished that the next day, or the day after that, he would master rejuvenation magic; she knew she couldn't do it for him. He certainly had the power to use it, but the emotion needed to activate the power had not developed enough, he didn't share a bond deep enough with another pony to make it happen, he didn't fully understand friendship. Now there would be no tomorrow, no second chance. Starswirl would never be able to join her in eternity. Her dream of telling him about the thoughts and feelings she locked away in her heart when he was young, even if it took her a thousand years to muster up the courage to do so, that dream was forever broken, it was a nightmare.
The few surviving members of the guard approached Celestia sadly. She gently set Starswirl down and addressed them. "Please take Starswirl to Canterlot, he shall have a funeral worthy of such a great pony and he shall be honored and remembered." She took a few steps away, as the guards dared not speak. "I will do what I must..." Celestia took off into the dark skies towards the Everfree Forest to face her sister. Even if it broke her heart, Luna... Nightmare Moon, would be punished.
Magnus, the unicorns and Victorious Strong remained trapped for a thousand years unable to exit from Mechatropolis. The place was sealed tightly for fear of some pony falling out and becoming permanently lost, forever frozen. During that time, seeing as he had no choice, Victorious made peace with Magnus. The unicorns of Mechatropolis slowly died out, but they left behind descendants that would be known as the tech ponies years later. Of the original group, only Magnus and Victorious were able to master the magic to restore and retain their youth before death claimed them.
Though it was unnecessary, as Victorious would often say, Magnus built himself wings. With the power the two now ancient unicorns had gained over time, Victorious thought that it was enough to be able to fly by the power of levitating himself and held no intentions of following Magnus' example. In truth Victorious just didn't like alicorns anymore, nor this mockery of them as he called it. Yet to Magnus, the silvery metal wings on his back were not simply a means to fly without using up too much magic. Those wings meant he had come to terms with his past and put to rest the memories of the alicorns in it, not with ignorance or denial, but with understanding.
As the years went by, Magnus found peace seeing the ponies around him live and grow, watching each generation go by. He grew to care for them, his ponies, and he understood Luna's pain at being unable to show her ponies that she cared for them. He finally came to terms with his past instead of running from it and living in denial. The darkness could no longer take over Magnus mind, yet unknown to him, it held firmly onto Victorious. While the former captain appeared to be as noble as ever, his plot for vengeance was ready to unfold as soon as Mechatropolis entered its former plane of existence.
Magnus guessed, correctly, that his machines might have been seen with disfavor and disposed of, given the reputation that he left with. By the present time, the technology he had managed to salvage and introduce into Canterlot would be lost. Surely the terror of the attacking machines would discourage future research and the land's dependence of magic would continue. Yet how much the world might have change wasn't what he thought of most. What was always on his mind was Luna.
Magnus wished for nothing more than to apologize to Luna and would do anything to make peace. He would understand if she hated him, he would understand if she never forgave him, he wouldn't even protest if she wanted to execute him, but he had to tell her, he needed to apologize. Of course, if he did get the death sentence, he would make sure his ponies were taken care of first. Celestia wasn't as bad as his younger self might had made her out to be. Surely she wouldn't blame the innocent descendants of his followers for the crimes of their ancestors.
Yet none of that would matter if Luna and Celestia were no longer around. The sun and moon princesses were ancient by the time he was born and he couldn't imagine Equestria without them, but what if in their final conflict they killed each other? He knew they must have fought and he didn't know what to think of the possible outcome. Above all else, he wished with all his heart to see Luna one last time, the real Luna who was pure and innocent, free from that terrible darkness that had overtaken her. He hoped that just as he had, she too had been able to find peace.
Unicorn sword (horn) fight! That's something I always wanted to see. I thought Celestia would fight the changeling queen like that, but it didn't last long. I hope you enjoyed this installment of my little story. :) Reviews are welcomed and appreciated. The sequel was posted before this: Star-crossed, (it has Sparity!).
So this ends my story for now... You already know from the sequel and the show what's going to happen next. Who knows, maybe one day I'll write my version of Celestia and Nightmare Moon's epic battle, maybe... because unicorn fights are cool. Or if anyone else wants to give it a try, it would be awesome to see your take on their fight!
For those who have visited my site (link in my profile), I'll be making some redesigns soon. :) Then after that I'll be able to post those drawings and pixels I mentioned before into the art sites. Gotta find a way to make time for everything, even if it is little by little.