Frozen Heart: Dark Prophet
The air inside the yet-to-be-named minotaur mountain city chilled its inhabitants to the bone. To the minotaurs and ponies sitting around or doing their jobs it felt like, well, nothing. None of them noticed because time had stopped for them as soon as the black unicorn walked through the main entrance.
It had taken Void over three days to find the entrance despite his ability to sense the Nightmare's power but he was finally here. The second gateway threatening Equestria's future was somewhere around. Following his senses, he walked through the main crevice where the city was located and then through a mine shaft leading to the area where minotaurs were currently mining. He wasn't sure his sealed form could fight somepony with so much divine power on his side but he knew he had to. If he could take care of the northern threat right here and now that would leave the sisters free to focus on Holy Light's army.
As soon as he exited the mine shaft and walked into another cavern he found himself facing three minotaurs, armed and not frozen. The most noticeable detail about the trio were their ashen grey breastplates that, to Void's unnatural senses, seemed to distort space around them.
So, someone or something taught them how to craft magic nullifying armor. It wasn't unheard of materials partially capable of weakening magic around them but the ability felt much stronger than anything Void had ever seen before.
Wait... not anything.
As soon as Void heard the command aimed at minotaurs and recognized the voice a lot of things suddenly made sense. He knew who was behind this. It became clear the pony wrapped in purple clothes of eastern origin knew who he was dealing with as well.
"I must admit I was not expecting you here," the purple hood got drawn back, revealing a blonde mane with several strands of grey and a well-known bronze colored coat.
Void recalled the days after Blazing Light's presumed death of him trying to find his departing soul to give him some final words of assurance. There had been no soul to be found at the time.
"Same goes, Blazing," Void was trying to regain his bearings. The situation didn't make sense, "I have heard half of you got eaten and the other half thrown down from the sky."
"Let me tell you something about life, Void. Not life in any metaphorical sense but the nature of life, something alicorns have hard time understanding. Life is change. Immortality, your unchanging nature, is its direct opposite. You die, you get back up, you die, you get back up, you die, you get back up, you die, yougetbackupyoudieyougetbackup..."
Blaze's words became garbled as his voice went quieter and he continued to mutter to himself.
"Blazing?" Void asked softly, "Are you all right?"
"Of course I am NOT!" Blaze hissed, "When Scream resurrected me in my reality using the alicorn of Life's magic my body stole the divine power for myself. When I got sent into this reality I died again but now I know I would have came back even if Scream did not do it again. After that I had so much Life in me I would die over and over and over but I couldn't pass on. My every choice ended with me alone and my life slipping away after being crushed, stabbed, devoured, burned. I AM DONE WITH IT!"
"I know most of the alicorns who are still around, we can help you."
"What do you immortals know about death?" raging flames burst out of Blazing's back and his phoenix wings lit the cave, "You can only lose your physical body but you still stay around. You do not feel the cold, you know you will come back no matter what, and you know you will be able to continue what you started a century ago. PONIES DON'T HAVE THAT LUXURY! Can you imagine the fear I felt every time I thought I wouldn't have a chance to come back? I doubt it."
"Life is a struggle-"
"SHUT! UP!" Blaze cut the avatar of Death off, "Do you know the funny thing? Both Luna and you thought I was supposed to become an alicorn. What a load of crap! The divine power both of you felt was just the remains of the gift of Life which allowed me to steal the Nightmare's power while fighting Luna in Ponyville."
"I felt power similar to mine in you. The power you stole and the power which you still hold in yourself. You are the second gateway and if you get rid of it the Nightmare's hold over this world will be much weaker. Possibly weak enough for Equestrian army to defeat Holy Light."
"Why would I want to get rid of it?" Blaze grinned.
"What? You cannot be serious."
"How a loser like me percieves victory is different, Void. If I cannot win on my own I just have to put myself in position where every result is at least positive. The way I see it, Holy Light will reach the Tree of Harmony, the Elements will be used against him, and I will steal their power just like I did with Nightmare and just like I did when Discord tried to resurrect me in the desert. I will gain the power of all three gods and then the pain will finally stop."
"You are broken beyond repair..."
Ignoring Void's remark, Blaze continued.
"And if I fail? Simple! Holy Light will just destroy all life on Equus. There will be nothing and nopony to hurt me anymore. Sweet victory."
"If you see it that way then I have to stop you."
"Stop me?" Blaze's eyes focused again and Void found himself a victim of a calm smile, "You think death scares me? I have the power that gave BIRTH to you. Your small form cannot even touch me."
"What are you talking about?"
"I guess it is too far for you to remember clearly. The gods are beings of energy and power. Their physical form is just something they use to interact with the world more directly. When you steal a part of their power, you gain everything they are - personality, nature, memories. It took everything I had to suppress the first two but the knowledge I gained from the last one was quite something."
"Mortals do not have the ability to handle eons of memories."
"They do when they have no other choice. Let me refresh you then. In the beginning there were the forces of creation, destruction, and existence in between. Chaos, order, and will. Life, death, magic. Discord, Nightmare, Harmony, as they have been given names. Eventually Discord got bored with creating empty rocks, balls of plasma, and other celestial mess which existed just to be destroyed in a large explosion. He tried to create something imitating him and poured a lot of his divine power into it. To keep it safe from the devouring nature of Nightmare he sheltered it on a lifeless rock. That 'something' was the alicorn of Life and Discord was happy to just observe her attempts at creating smaller things, serving greatly to kill his boredom. The Nightmare tried to destroy her but you cannot destroy divine power, you can just transform it, and Discord found out. The original pact thus became that the gods would not fight each other but rather compete. The Nightmare, not being a force of creation, had only one choice and that was to imitate Discord's project and fill it with its power to do its bidding. The alicorn of... care to finish the phrase?"
"Death," Void breathed out. His memory was hazy but there were moments returning to him.
"Bingo! One thing went wrong though. In the same way Nightmare was jealous of Discord's ability to weave life in new patters and create, the little black alicorn was jealous of the pure white creation of Discord and did not want to destroy her but learn to do things she did. That was when Harmony saw an opportunity and created her own experiment, the alicorn of Will, Fate, and Magic. With him as a friend you understood the nature of change, stopped being a mindless natural force, and the three of you built places and eventually some other living things. Discord got bored with just you because you were too divine though, too untouchable, and created some smaller versions of you. Even that was not enough to amuse the god and, thinking he had made a mistake, he tried to wipe the slate clean. Nightmare, considering that the sign of the original pact being over, gladly helped."
Void's memores were rushing as Blazing spoke.
"You three fought and fought and the more power the gods threw at you the more you gained but it was not enough. Discord knew he could recreate anything but his attention span was akin to an ADHD filly so he did not notice Harmony protecting all of you and, on the verge of losing, sacrificing herself to lock the other gods' power away. Discord lost his absolute control but Harmony considered the power of creation too precious to limit too much. Nightmare became able only to control creatures which stumbled too close to its nature, the broken, the sad, the insane, and remains a power only manifesting in the natural end of life of most beings. The price for it was the Harmony's inability to interact with the world in any way anymore. It broke into shards of massive divine power and, true to it being the manifestation of will, these Elements became usable by the small creatures when they gathered enough courage to stand against forces of other gods or their creations."
Void looked sadly at the unicorn in front of him. Too much knowledge, too much power, too much pain, too much responsibility.
"There was enough divine power left in the world and it surfaced when a belief became strong enough," Void muttered to himself, "The belief in the sun, the moon, love, wind, desires."
"Perhaps YOU should have been writing a journal," Blaze snickered.
"That does not matter," Void shook his head and a sharp purple aura surrounded his horn, "Your course of action threatens all of that. You must be stopped."
"I was lying in the desert for weeks in a decomposing and regenerating body. I have had time to think about things. I must get to the Tree of Harmony and destroy Holy Light to become the only gateway to Nightmare's power. I will BECOME a god! No more suffering, no more... anything."
One of Blaze's wings solidified and turned to black ice. A sphere of swirling darkness appeared above it and Void felt his entire body tingle. The broken unicorn before him was on par with him but Void knew he had more experience. Strenghtening his resolve, Void promised himself to end Blaze's pain quickly and forever.
Black aura appeared around Blaze's body and burned away instantly. Above Blaze's phoenix wing there remained a sphere of shifting bright colours dissolving Void's divine power.
"I have control over both Life and Death, Void," Blaze smiled, "You cannot stop me."
Void felt the power in his body being forcefully torn away. Every tendon snapped, every hair in his coat burned, and everything that made him him disintegrated in the colourful flames of his counter aspect.
"Perhaps knowing how death feels will make you a better reaper one day," Blaze said just before Void's sealed form turned to ash.
When Void's sight returned and his mind stopped screaming in bodyless pain he was breathing heavily and sitting in his alicorn form back in Scream's mountaintop dimension. Sweat was trickling through his coat and the black fire burning in his mane and wings was much weaker than usual. He needed to go back but going in his alicorn form would kill all innocents along the way and he was willing to do it only if there was no other choice.
"Creamy, can you make me a temporary body? You know it takes me forever to do it myself," Void turned to the golden alicorn watching him thoughtfully.
"No, you eat magic like dragons eat gems. Nothing I can make will hold your power long enough to even get out of here."
"Then I need you to summon Celestia and Luna here. We are in deep trouble."
"Can't I just blast whoever is bothering you into oblivion? I hate cooperating with Celestia."
"I doubt it is in your power, honey."
Scream puffed her cheeks.
Darkhorn walked over to the trembling bronze unicorn.
"Are you okay, Prophet?"
Blaze whimpered when Darkhorn's hand patted him on the back.
"That was quite the story."
"All true. Well, most of it," Blaze shook his head, "You have no idea how terrified I was."
"You were hiding it well."
"I'm surprised you don't just cut my head off now and brand me a coward."
Darkhorn nodded at the other two minotaurs who'd been present during Void's 'visit' to check if noone got hurt.
"You stood up to the grim reaper himself, Prophet, and didn't falter. Having to wash yourself afterwards is not a shame. A coward is not one who is afraid, it is the one who lets his fear take over. In the same way a brave minotaur is not one who is fearless, that one is stupid. The truly courageous acknowledge their fear and march through the darkness anyway."
"I wish I could believe it but I can still barely move my legs. If I was a little bit better none of this had to happen- HEY!"
Darkhorn picked the unicorn half his size up in both arms and watched his magical wings flop weakly.
"Your worst enemy is not the avatar of death or the doombringer in the south," Darkhorn left Blaze hanging in his single arm and poked Blaze's chest with one finger, "It is right here. Conquer it and you can defeat anyone."
"Could you, eehm, put me down? I hate heights."
"You have wings and yet you are afraid to soar," Darkhorn shook his head and put Blaze back down.
"Shut up," Blazing mumbled, "You are a warlord, not a shaman."
"Wisdom comes in many forms."
"So it does and it keeps telling me our time is running out. Void will tell the princesses about my involvement. How many suits of anti-magic armor have we got?"
"Just that? Damn, I should have tried harded and summoned more crystals. Damn! Damn! Damn-"
Darkhorn put a finger to Blaze's mouth.
"We have enough raw material. Our blacksmiths just can't craft the items fast enough. Your power breaks the will of non-warriors rather fast and they need to rest often. It is our fault, not yours."
"Damn it! It will be more dangerous then. How are we with the siege machines and equipment?"
"I have all the numbers written down. Let's talk about it after you rest."
"No. Resting after defending myself from Void will take few days and I need to make sure things will be ready in time. Your warriors who can wear the armor will go down south with me. We can hire a caravan that will take us to the Everfree within a week. You will stay here and lead the army stopping Shining Armor's forces from moving, they would only serve as something for Nightmare to corrupt and to impede my progress."
"Good, then- wait, what?"
"I will be coming with you. My son will remain in charge of the northern tribes while I'm gone. He is smart, wise, and educated. All he lacks is practical experience."
"Do you not trust my flesh and blood?"
Blaze sighed. This was going to give him even more grey hair.
"I was really hoping that even if I failed down there and things worked out somehow anyway the minotaurs would have an experienced leader capable of dealing with the rest of the world."
"Then you better make sure things work out the right way," Darkhorn said simply and watched Blaze squirm with a smile. The Prophet was weird but had good ideas sometimes.
"Well, Void's appearance is a mixed bag considering that."
"Did you not listen to the story?"
"I did, but I do not see any positives in his visit. Your old friend is now your enemy and our intentions will be known to the side opposing us."
"True, true. The thing is that Void presumed there were only two gateways of Nightmare's power. Quite stupid of HIM, was it not?"
"Oh," Darkhorn smiled.
"Exactly, now that his sealed form is gone from this world the truly biggest gateway is gone as well. Holy Light should feel his power waning soon enough. Once Holy Light is dead and Nightmare's pressure is gone Void might be able to walk on Equus in his real form again."
"How about you?"
"If things go my way I will either be a god or dead. As I said, a win-win situation."
"Then it's up to us to keep you safe, Prophet," Darkhorn bowed.