History Goes In Circles: Broken Heart
Assassination attempts tend to shake a griffon. Come to think of it, they tend to shake anyone, especially those caught in them.
The look on princess Luna's face when half of her room turned to green goo around her was terrifying - the confusion at someone being able to get so close to her mixed with growing rage at the audacity and also a bit of fear at the realization that her protective magic failed and without a certain ex-Royal Guard she might not have been there anymore.
She tried to use magic to stabilize Valiant but with most of his body missing and the remaining parts damaged beyond repair he died before any spell could take effect. Luna was in shock but Darky was the one who looked positively catatonic, not saying a single word throughout Luna's entire questioning. The princess didn't pressure her as I think she knew what was going on. After all, according to Mistake, she was the one who interrogated him after he got attacked by Valiant and almost killed him, resulting in his banishment.
The other thing that hit me while I was explaining what happened was that out of the three ponies I could talk with about him two would say good riddance. I wish I had someone to talk to. Well, I do but I know what he will say.
I killed griffons who attacked me, I caused the death of a pony who tried to cut my head off for bounty and pleasure. All that was okay yet somehow I find it hard to cope with passing of someone I didn't really think of as a friend but who still played an important role in me getting this far.
When I was told Mistake died it was just too much. Too much to handle and too much to think about so everything shut down and tried to focus on anything else. Now, I am 'lucky' I get to analyze the feeling firsthand. When this thought comes while I'm taking off my clothes back at the apartment I realize how fragile the life of a guard is.
Looking at Mistake sleeping quietly in the bed, I'm hoping to wake up and see Valiant's ruthless grin once again during tomorrow practice.
"Buddy?" I poke him gently.
"I need to talk."
A pink eye opens and Mistake stretches his legs.
"Eeerm," suddenly, it's not that easy to begin.
Expecting a snarky remark or some sort of a joke, I'm surprised at him just waiting silently.
"Erm... have you ever lost someone important to you?"
He raises an eyebrow.
"You DID read my journal, right?"
"Yeah but paper just isn't what I need right now."
"What makes you ask this?"
I bite the bullet.
"Valiant Charge died two hours ago while saving Darky from an assassination attempt presumably aimed at Luna. I know it means little to you but without him I might have not gotten to Equestria in the first place."
Mistake's expression is unreadable but a part of it is relief. For the first time I feel like punching him out of anger. The desire disappears as soon as he rubs his temples.
"You... are not right, at least not completely. I understand what motivated Valiant. Heck, I did a similar thing he did. Not long after he got sent out of Canterlot Chokey started dating a shopkeeper and they were quite happy together for few weeks."
"I happened. I threatened the stallion that I would use my Nightguard connections to get him thrown down from Canterlot city walls without anypony investigating. The poor guy was so scared he agreed but he told Chokey what I did. I might despise Valiant for what he did but I understand completely why he did it. Love and insecurity make ponies go insane."
"Wow. How did you two end up together?"
"Well, the same day I went back and apologized to the shopkeeper, told him I would leave the two of them alone forever if he gave the relationship a second chance. Chokey didn't talk to me for months after that but I didn't mind and kept out of their way. I remember, correction - don't remember, drinking a lot. Unfortunately, he eventually dumped her thanks to her 'problem' and she took pity on a poor, drunk, and smelly animal that was me. Friends, friends, dimensional nonsense, Sombra, Sombra, brief attempt at living together, Sombra, memory loss, no hope of ever achieving anything again, today."
"You are taking it rather well."
"I've had enough time to think about it."
Now that's a direction I don't like going in. I'm pretty sure I know how Mistake's head gets when he has time to think about something.
"Have you ever lost anyone?" I ask, despite knowing the answer well enough.
"Family, friends,.. everypony was my fault. Mirror world Chokey, my mom from my reality, Betty. I could go on."
"How do you deal with it when it happens?"
"You don't," he shakes his head, "it stays with you and changes you. Sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. Let me tell you about the time I killed my mother."
His voice grows detached and his working eye stares blankly at the ceiling.
"I thought Void was somehow threatening Chokey so she would help him in whatever he wanted so I tried to get my hooves on a weapon capable of harming a demonic creature. At that time I believed Void was some sort of a Tartarus demon. Days long gone, right? I knew one such weapon was back at my parents' house so I went back to Manehattan to get it. I fought my father and mom got in the way of the killing blow. The weapon was crucial in getting to Sombra in my reality and the entire world would have fallen if I didn't do it. Yet, I tried to do the entire thing again without the sword in this reality, putting every pony, griffon, minotaur in danger just to clear my conscience. Even now, when Sombra is finally gone half a year later I'm not sure I did the right thing."
"Hey, we're not his slaves, right?"
"Slaves?" Mistake chuckles, "Sombra didn't want slaves, Cro. Scream's original plan was to slowly kill every single living being in this world in front of Celestia to make her go insane. I knew what would happen and I WILLINGLY put a successful way of ending things aside to try not to kill my mom, threatening everypony. I was-"
"Selfish? No, you weren't. You were normal which is apparently pretty rare for you. Thanks for putting my problem in perspective tough."
"I shouldn't have done that, no matter what you say. My intention with the story was a bit different though. The determination I got after killing her-"
"Death wish," I correct him.
"-was what I needed not to chicken out when I realized there was a good chance of me not surviving meeting Sombra. The lesson here is that even if you might not realize what you're feeling about Valiant's death it will affect you in some way. One day you might need a push to save somepony despite danger posed to you and the memory might be it. That or maybe something completely different. Just go with it and don't feel bad about pitying somepony whom others knew as a total bastard. After all, Valiant might have changed during the years away from Canterlot."
"How old are you?" I grin.
"Twenty-four, twenty-five? Something around that. I stopped counting after I left home and I think I spent most of my birthdays in this apartment drinking myself to oblivion."
"I thought you said you lived in this building."
"And the apartment is flying in outer space, right?" he snorts at my stupid comment.
"You are way to cynical for your age."
"At least I'm not calling you kid."
"Thanks. Both for the talk and for not calling me kid."
"No problem. Everypony needs help from time to time. My involvement usually doesn't make things better though."
"Oh shut up! Now roll over, I'm going to bed."
I pounce at him as he tries to get out of the bed into his sleeping bag.
Yep, everyone needs help from time to time. Sometimes they just need help realizing they need help.
"You're choking me!" Mistake groans when I draw the blanket over him and push him against my chest. Totally for cuddles, not to rub myself against his soft butt again.
The dream about soft pony-griffon sandwiches gets interrupted by the thuds of armored horseshoes outside of our apartment. The dim light outside of the window tells me that the sounds aren't from some pissed off sargeant about to yell at us for missing a training session.
*knock knock knock*
Surprisingly, the knocking is polite and quiet. When I open a squad of Royal Guards pushes me aside and takes place around the bed. The butt of a spear prods the sleeping unicorn who mumbles incoherently and unglues his eyes.
"What now?" he groans in absolute certainty that the nonsense in his life will continue for another day.
"Mistake, formerly known as Blazing Light?" says a leading Royal Guard in stern voice.
"Yeeees?" he says slowly, the mention of the name he prefers avoiding putting him on edge.
"You are hereby under arrest for suspicion of involvement in a plot to assassinate princess Luna."
Mistake just facehoofs.
"Fine. Let me put something on and we'll sort that crap out."
His voice isn't full of dread or shock as everyone would expect but just the slight annoyance of a parent of a small griffon finding yet another pair of his boots full of ketchup.
Never before has a prisoner led a group of guards directly to the castle and sat down into the interrogation chair while quietly chanting 'why me, why me, why me?'.
Princess Luna arrives shortly after, followed by Darky, and signals the guards to leave us alone.
"Before you begin, your Highness," Mistake puts his hoof up, "Let me remind you I've been in this room far more times than a pony should and not a single one of those times was my fault. You could finally take a hint, lady."
Darky's mouth falls open and I can see the little fangs native to batponies. Well, I can't blame her because Mistake's cheekiness froze even me to my paws. Princess Luna just smiles though.
"I must admit the score isn't in my favor. This time I believe you, or ponies around you, might be in real trouble."
"What's going on, princess?"
"Do the words 'Dawn has arrived' mean anything to you?"
Despite it not being physically possible, Mistake's black coat pales.
"Buck me," he buries his head into his hooves.
"I would try but the other two in this room might want to bite my head off," princess Luna ruffles his mane.
"Huh? Sooooo I'm not gonna have to run away, clear my name, and return as an infamous legend?"
"Not this time. I trust you after all you've done even if I can't detect your lies due to your ability. I'm asking for your help directly because I think past events might be connected to you in some way. A pony tried to kill me last night. Can you guess the pony's species?"
"Unicorn. You don't have to play games, princess, I can guess the unicorn's coat color - white - and yes, I know what 'Dawn has arrived' means. I can also guess you didn't know about it until Chokey told you."
This time it's the two mares in the room who open their eyes wide at Mistake's smug grin.
"Good," Luna recovers, "then you can fill in the details."
"Dawn has arrived is the motto of the Order of the Silver Sun which is run by my father. It used to be a group of devoted followers of princess Celestia, at least according to his words. Light family name, right? I've always seen them as a unicorn supremacy group. They especially hate batponies and consider you a traitor who tried to usurp your sister's throne. Why they would strike at this precise moment I have no freaking clue. I thought they got over the Nightmare Moon thing already."
"Apparently not. Do you wish to involve yourself? They seem to have elected a new leader who isn't as peaceful as your father Blinding Light."
"Blinding and peaceful? Pfff, right. He just isn't an idiot and direct attack at you seems retarded. Who could fight you head on anyway, princess?"
"You, as the case might be."
Mistake freezes. His mouth opens and closes.
"Got you!" princess Luna smiles, "I've thought about few tricks to make your magic stealing ability a bit less overpowering. Still, you are a prime suspect."
"Okay, how would somepony else go about it?"
"The spell melted a rather large part of the area including my protection spells. That of course included the caster himself."
"Sacrificing his lifeforce to fuel a spell outside of his capabilities?"
"No," Luna shakes her head, "Necromancy of that sort leaves a trail and nothing like that was present. It was more like my protective wards ran out of power and-"
"Got drained to empower the spell. An enemy who can steal magic as well? Do you still trust me, your Highness?"
"Yes," Luna nods, "and I task you to find out what is going on before the Royal Guard attacks the Order headquarters in Manehattan and either all die to the same magic or kill everypony inside who tries to resist."
"How much time do I have?"
"If nothing more happens - enough, otherwise things might get iffy. My sister was furious when she found out what happened."
Mistake sits at the table in silence, thinking. After a while he scowls and raises his head.
"Where is Void, princess?"
"What does he have to do with this?"
"No matter what happens in Manehattan, I need information about the pony who attacked me in the mirror world and since neither you or princess Celestia have a clue I have to turn to somepony older. I visited Scream's dimension before I left and he wasn't there so I need to find him. Plus," Mistake turns to Darky, "I want to hear his version of why he did what he did."
"I'm coming as well!"
Darky and me exchange looks.
"I could send you to the underworld, a place peaceful souls pass through before entering Tartarus. Void might not be there but your presence might alert his attention."
"Good," Mistake nods grimly.
"Just don't forget that time moves differently there. Don't stay for too long or you might not like where and when you return."
"I just want to talk," Mistake draws a deep breath, "Princess, I haven't had the chance to apologize for killing Sharp. He was like an older brother to me. Without him I wouldn't have survived a month in the castle."
The tension in the room fades with Luna's sigh.
"Now that I know what Sombra did to you I can't hold you responsible for Sharp's death. I can only regret needlessly torturing you in the way I did."
"You may forgive me, princess, but I won't forgive myself," he mutters and adds in a normal tone, "Let's go listen to what Void has to say."
Whatever you say, buddy. I'll be there to hold you back before you piss off the alicorn of Death too much.
Princess Luna's horn glows with dim, blue light and I feel as if the floor under my paws disappeared. The sensation of falling doesn't last long and suddenly I'm standing on something resembling sand.
"Aaaaaah!" I shake as I realize what the heck is wrong.
The grey sand of the desert isn't the problem. The obsidian temple with simple black pillars all around carrying the weight of the roof isn't the problem, although it's creepy. The feeling of not feeling warm or cold is the problem. I know I'm standing on the sand but my paws and talons feel no discomfort that should be associated with it. Everything is mildly mild and carefully unobtrusive, making me long for burning of the desert sun or at least the frost of winter hailstorm just so I could feel something.
Darky looks weirded out as well, stomping on all fours carefully, and Mistake...
...is breathing heavily as if he's just finished a marathon, groaning and shivering all over.
"What's wrong?" I run over and steady him. He almost screams when I touch him but regains control quickly.
"I-I... this place... too close," he says between ragged breaths.
Zombie in the underworld, right.
"How can I help?" I lower myself to sling him over my back but he pushes me away.
"I... am," he grits his teeth and pushes himself towards the steps leading to the temple, "FINE!"
With each steps he seems more in control and when he's halfway to the black gate serving as entrance he smiles back at us.
"You okay now?" I ask when we reach him.
"Yeah. It was just a bit of a shock, the weird feeling. For me it was a memory of when I finally died in my reality and accepted Void's offer."
The inside of the temple is just a wide, hollow hall with a black throne on the other end. There's a strange blue light illuminating the area but aside from it there's nothing.
That changes when we get closer to the throne.
In a burst of black, purple-tipped flames that look like Darky's wing a huge black alicorn appears in front of us. I remember the alicorn from Zeph's but now, standing in front of us, he looks terrifying rather than peaceful. Glowing golden eyes measure each one of us and stop on Mistake.
"Blazing Light," a deep, self-assured voice rings through the temple, "I have expected to see you, eventually. Your company does not alleviate my worry though."
"Expected to see me? Why? Because you took the only pony that has ever mattered away from me?" Mistake says, his breath turning into black ice crystals as the words leave his mouth.
"For that I apologize. I made a mistake."
"That. You. Did."
Phoenix wings burst out of Mistake's back and light the entire temple with golden-red radiance. Pondering the significance of his magical wings, Void's alicorn ones, and Darky having one of each, I realize the show isn't over.
With a deep growl resonating inside the obsidian blocks of the temple, the fire of Mistake's wings grows darker and darker until the fire is pitch black and purple flames lick the tips. In the end something new happens - the wings change from black flames into shards of ice.
"So you are here to take revenge on me as an equal?" Void bows politely and takes what seems to be a combat stance.
Mistake moves like lightning and when his hoof strikes Void, I notice the alicorn hasn't moved an inch to defend himself. With Void being almost three times Mistake's size, the sheer weight difference prevents Mistake's punches from moving the stoic alicorn.
"WHY? WHY ARE YOU JUST TAKING IT?" the blackfrost blizzard engulf Mistake and a shattering noise follows his next punch which sends Void into the air.
"WHY WON'T YOU STRIKE BACK?" for the first time Mistake's wings give him lift towards the knocked up alicorn and he kicks Void back to the floor.
"Why did you do it?" Mistake lands on the ground next to the coughing alicorn, punching the floor weakly as his tears clink on the floor, freezing when getting close to the black ice, "Why won't you kill me?"
"Enough, young one," Void's wings wrap around Mistake and thaw his ones, leaving only the sobbing black unicorn with black mist coming from him, "I cannot defend myself. I deserve your anger as I did something unforgivable both to you and your lady. I am willing to make amends in any way you deem fit."
Mistake silently sits there, staring at the floor.
"What can I do to you anyway? What use is doing anything to you?" he whispers eventually, "What good would me feeling vindicated bring? Why bother ruining your life to make myself feel better?"
"Why did you do it?" asks Darky, interrupting Mistake's whispering to himself.
"Mistake," I interrupt Void.
"Hm?" he raises an eyebrow.
"His name is Mistake," I resist the urge to look away from those focused, golden eyes, "He chose it so you can at least respect it!"
My voice is high-pitched and shaking by the end but the words come out successfully.
Void nods and continues as if nothing happened.
"When Mistake faced Nightmare Moon in Ponyville he stole a bit of her power, corrupting Scream's magic of life and turning it into true death," Void's blackfire wings burn brighter at the words, "my power. A mortal like him could not sustain it for long but it lasted long enough to burn through the god's defenses. As expected though, when the magic of life burned away the true death took Mistake with it. No mortal should survive the uncontrolled flames and he did not. However, his soul should have burned away completely as well but THAT did not happen. Thus, it was possible for Discord to resurrect him to play his cruel joke, one possible only with my unknowing help."
Void levitates Mistake in front of him and makes him look up.
"I am sorry, young- Mistake. I had never expected anypony to survive what you had in any shape or form and when I saw how badly miss Darkness took losing you I wanted to ease the pain in the only way I knew how. I am so sorry."
"Why didn't you stop Nightmare Moon then? Why was she allowed to get so far?"
"Luna visited me and Scream to gain information on how to destroy the Tree of Harmony to prevent another mirror invasion from happening. Scream felt the presence of the Nightmare growing within her and, knowing the only way to destroy the Tree was for Discord and Nightmare to work together, she tasked me to prevent Discord from acting. It turned out the only way to do that was to honor a promise to Discord and not involve myself as well. In the end," Void sighs, "it worked."
"But you stopped Guiding Light from killing defenseless Luna in the end," Darky interjects.
"Yes, thus breaking my promise and allowing Discord to involve himself for fun and torture your loved one later for one final time."
For once I realize I'm in the company of legends. They might be unknown, they might not be much older than me, they might be just ponies with flaws and faults of their own, but they are legends, especially the small, black unicorn.
"Chin up, Mistake!" I grin, "You're so badass even the power of the alicorn of Death didn't kill you."
The sheer nonsense makes all three of them stare at me. At least until Void breaks the silence upon which all of us look at him.
"Do you want to know why?" he asks.
Curiosity winning, Mistake nods.
"It is nothing too mysterious. Well, it is, but since Celestia already messed things up with Twilight Sparkle I may as well tell you. Alicorns are born when a natural or mental force gets strong enough. For Celestia it is pony belief in the sun - a mental force combined with an actual physical manifestation. For Cadance and Scream those are Love and Lust - mental forces. For me, Zephyr, Kronos, and others there are unavoidable natural flows of Death, Wind, and Time. That is not the entire story though. When individuals achieve certain mental or physical thresholds they can, with enough help, ascend to take over the connection of a fallen alicorn. There were many ponies close to it but Twilight Sparkle was the first one who, after Magnus decided to leave this world to weaken his link enough, ascended with Celestia's help. I think you, if you so desired, could eventually take my place."
"Me? Immortal? No way, I barely know what to do with free evening."
"That was a rather quick answer."
"This isn't the first offer of that sort I got. Remember, I used to be a changeling who can live forever with enough love due to Scream and Chrysalis' magic."
"As you wish. If you change your mind you know where to find me."
"I doubt that will happen, Void. Sorry for lashing out at you."
"I deserved it."
"No, you didn't. Mistakes happen. The important thing was that your heart was in the right place."
"I find it amusing you do not appreciate the irony of that statement coming from you."
Mistake gives me and Darky a hurt look when both of us start snickering uncontrollably.
"What?" he scowls.
"Fortunately, you have friends willing to show you."
"Yeah, yeah. I have a more important question. Is there an alicorn of Fate?"
"Not that I am aware of. Why do you ask?" Void tilts his head.
"I got attacked in the mirror world Crystal Empire by somepony looking like I used to. He was able to destroy Betty and took the sight in my eye that I originally lost to you from my reality. That and my leg," Mistake makes a fist on his mechanical arm.
"Nothing comes to mind," Void shrugs, "But since you told me you tried to kill me you must have had a plan to deal with alicorn immortality."
"Yeah, I did."
"Then I can assure you that no foe aside from gods themselves is stronger than alicorns. If your plan was effective against me then it should work against your assailant as well."
"Thank you," Mistake bows, "How is Scream? Luna told me what she did."
"She is getting better and as long as I am around she will recover fully sooner or later."
"Then I shouldn't bother you anymore," says Mistake and adds in a whisper, "at least one of us deserves love."
Void just shakes his head and in a blink of an eye we're back in the castle dungeons.