Heart Of Black Ice

Trinity's End: Discord's Effort

I watch the flying screen showing an eagle-eye view of hundreds of ships crossing the ocean. Princess Luna's horn is glowing and controlling the vision as I stare at the failure that happened while I was organizing the movement of five thousand Imperial Legion soldiers sent to our aid from Vargaz as a bonus to the Black Ops spies. Seemingly, I missed the entire march of Holy Light's army during my visit to the east coast.

"Wait, your Highness, I thought you couldn't scry on them," I recall one very important detail.

Princess Luna lets the vision continue and looks around her tent. I recieved her message to lead the soldiers not to Canterlot but right here to the barricaded encampment near the Everfree forest where all the forces from Equestria were relocating. If I count out almost getting attacked by scouting groups on the way back there were no real problems and now our force is much larger than before.

As I keep watching the amount of soldiers under Holy Light's command I realize we actually have a good chance to win... if our every soldier can kill about fifty of theirs... and the dark magic doesn't wipe us out... and the mere presence of the Nightmare doesn't break our morale completely... and a lot more things.

"I wasn't able to up until about week and a half ago. Something happened that stopped the scrying protection, I have no idea what," Luna shrugs, "We took it as a sign to attempt tactical spell strikes against the enemy. It didn't work out as planned."

The image blurs and now shows beams of light that, according to how small the ships are from this vantage point, must be gigantic. Each of them hits an invisible dome spreading above the entire fleet. Bolts of lightning, meteors, and various other beams have exactly the same effect. The fleet, bothered only by waves slightly higher than normal, continues its progress.

"Are they immune to magic then?" I ponder the worst case scenario. After all, the princesses and the orders of wizardry are our greatest asset. No matter how good our soldiers are the number advantage seems insurmountable.

"No, thankfully. The protection only works against spells of certain scale," Luna shakes her head and moves the vision again.

It now shows the army marching through Equestria. With all cities and towns evacuated nothing is hindering the soldiers and they are moving quickly towards us. Out of the blue, the ranks walking in the front explode, causing the march to slow down for a while. The explosions are followed by smaller lightning strikes that connect this time and scatter the soldiers around the point of contact.

Luna explains:

"Your Black Ops colleagues planted mines along the projected path which took out several hundred enemies. When our unicorns limited themselves to using small scale destruction magic it worked but it was like trying to empty an ocean with a spoon."

"So, how many?" I ask, dreading the answer.

"Close to a million of them and about fifty thousand of us."

"That's bad but not THAT bad. If we use our defender's advantage correctly then the raw numbers might not be ehough."

"That is what we are hoping for. We have spent over a month making this battleground a deathtrap and they will pay for every step they take but there are three things bothering me more."

"More than a million soldiers protected by divine power?"

"Yes. I told this to miss Darkness but I haven't yet had the chance to talk to you. Void tried to end the northern upising by himself and challenged the minotaur leader to battle."

I've been to the underworld only once but I saw and felt Void's power.

"So, no trouble from there anymore?" I ask hopefully.

Luna sighs and bites her lip.

"I don't know how to tell you, Cromach."

"Moving lips helps," I try to lighten the mood since the issue obviously bothers the princess.

"First of all, I cannot find Holy Light. I believe he's not with his army. The second thing which we've been trying to keep secret is that the Element bearers disappeared without a trace, only princess Twilight remains and she's currently in our old castle in the Everfree being protected by the heads of mages from the entire country and my elite Nightguards. The two seem connected logically but nothing we found supports the claim."

"That's terrible but what does any of that have to do with me personally?"

"The northern uprising and as such the minotaur army is led by Blazing Light who has apparently gone insane and is trying to become a god."

The sheer nonsense stops my brain from forming any coherent followup. The first and only thing I do is touch the mechanical arm strapped on my back for good luck.

"What...?"

"Void summoned me and Celestia to his marefriend's pocket dimension and told us he lost his physical body during the encounter which means he's not able to walk on Equus without his power ruining parts of it forever."

"Blaze beat Void," is all I can croak.

"His sealed form, to be exact. It appears that Discord tried to resurrect him when half of him fell from the sky after your first run-in with Holy Light. We talked to Discord but he said his magic failed and I believe he wasn't lying. Your 'friend' somehow made the chaos magic a part of him and upon calling on it it teleported him to a different part of Equus. At least that was Discord's guess."

"The polar cap," I breathe out.

"Yes. The minotaurs patched him up and he took over their village, became their warlord, united the clans, forced them to build a city in a hollow mountain, made an army equipped with armor COMPLETELY nullifying magic, and is currently mounting a siege on the Crystal Empire."

"W-why?"

Luna looks sadly at me.

"As I said, he is trying to become a god in order to rule the world. Before Void attacked him he said it's either that or that he'll help Holy Light destroy everything."

LIAR! I don't need to think clearly to know it's utter bullshit. Blaze would never do that. Impossible. Not happening.

"Perhaps... perhaps it's somepony impersonating him?"

"No, his powers match what we know about the young unicorn. It definitely is him, at least something of him."

With just that the reality finally trickles into my head. I pull the steel arm from my back and stare at it.

"I'm sorry," I pull the arm to my beak, "I could have been there for you when you needed it the most. I wasn't."

Gone insane. I could have told Icy Gaze to land and look for Blaze's body but I was terrified at the time. I was scared Holy Light would come back if we did that. I was scared of seeing him dead... for real this time.

No, what I was scared the most was him being alive, him telling me what my failure led to. Deep down I wanted him to be dead because I knew I couldn't look him in the eye ever again.

"Cromach!" Luna's sharp tone drags me from my well of memories.

"Can... can you look at him? With your magic."

"Of course not," Luna shakes her head and flicks her horn. The image shifts and is now showing a tiny group, in comparison to what Holy Light leads, "I can see the army just fine but-"

Luna stops.

"Your Highness?" I ask the princess staring blankly.

"Even after I was able to scry on Holy Light's army the north was closed to me. I had to rely on spy reports and Cadance's messages sent via phoenix fire. A while ago the minotaurs broke the only way for Shining Armor's army to get here in time to help and we supposed it was because they didn't want SHINING to get help."

"Eeerm?"

"I can SEE up there. The minotaur army isn't moving or trying to break through the Crystal Empire shield. All the time they just wanted US to be cut off. There will be no attack on Shining's army. In fact, I think-"

The earth trembles and the walls of Luna's tent wobble. My ears pop.

"-Blazing Light is nowhere around there," she finishes, lights her horn up, and I'm magically dragged out of the tent by the princess running outside.

I spot princess Celestia, her tall form towering above the soldiers, looking with a deadpan expression towards Everfree forest. Smoke is spreading from the treetops and there are small pieces of rubble still falling to the ground. I'm dragged by Luna who, seemingly completely forgetting about me, runs to her sister.

"Twilight?" princess Celestia whispers when Luna's touch breaks her shock.

"Cromach!" Luna drops me on the ground, "Fly to our old castle immediately, or what is left of it. I'll send miss Darkness as soon as she returns. She will lead a squad of soldiers there."

"Yes, your Highness!" I salute.

The cloud of smoke above what presumably was the old castle moves upwards. I recognize it.

"That's Holy Light's shadow dragon," I say and both princesses turn towards me, "His army was just stalling so he could attack the wizards."

Celestia facehoofs.

"We were so concerned with watching the huge army we forgot what the real threat was."

Horns roar and screams penetrate the air. Different kind of shaking passes through the ground. Holy Light's army which was waiting and watching us for over a day without moving starts approaching.

"UNICORNS! ARCHERS!" Celestia's royal voice booms over the ranks of defenders and everypony hastily gets in position.

First barrage is fired and the front lines of the first wave break. Luna conjures an image of eagle-eye view of the battlefield to look at the caused damage. Miniscule, like blowing against a tornado. Explosions fill the air and the smell of gunpowder proves it's not magic this time but good old-fashioned mines of my kin.

The air above the army wobbles. An enormous charge of magic makes my feathers and hair stand up. I stare intently at the shifting image of Luna's view of the marching army. Suddenly, everything turns white. I blink.

"Whaaa?" princess Celestia's jaw drops as the image zooms in just to see that every enemy soldier now looks like a pony-sized version of her.

"A trick to confuse our soldiers, no doubt," Luna scowls.

"I'm not sure," I look closely at the enemy soldiers milling around, obviously as confused as we are, "I don't think Holy Light needs a trick like this and-"

I have to turn away as the vision turns fiery red. Perhaps it would be a good idea to take a direct look at the army.

A small dot is flying above and leaving scorched scars filled with melted armor and ash where enemies used to be.

"A dragon?" I ask, narrowing my eyes to see.

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, CELESTIA! DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE! HAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

"Uh oh," says princess Celestia. As I look at her she has trouble stopping the giggling coming from her mouth. Luna just looks indignantly at the flying dot setting fire to the marching transformed zebras trying pointlessly to dodge.

The first wave doesn't even get halfway to us before the few remaining soldiers turn tails and run. The killer dot gets closer and closer and soon I can recognize a pony shape.

A golden alicorn touches the ground and blows out few sparks of fire swarming around her platinum mane. Every cell in my body tells me I need to bow before her, that I should become her property and give her all control. The reward would be my every desire fulfilled to the maximum. I would mount her and she'd give me her power to satisfy her lust. It would never end, an alicorn and a griffon locked in a mating dance for all eternity.

"Calm down, horny griffon," princess Luna's voice inside my head clears my thoughts.

I look around and see all surrounding soldiers slowly slip out of their trance as well.

"Stop arousing my army, Scream," princess Celestia grimaces.

"Prude," Scream grins.

"How did you get past my mental protection?" Luna asks, fascinated, "Not even Nightmare can do more than cause shivers going down our soldiers' spines."

"Oh," Scream just waves her hoof dismissively, "I know what they want. I know what everypony wants. Even you."

"Well, erm," Luna blushes like a fangirl seeing her idol, "Nice to see you got better, Scream. Sorry for breaking you in the first place."

Scream's stare turns cold as Luna reminds her of the past. In a moment she laughs again.

"HAH! You, little Luna? Nightmare Moon did all that. You still have a lot to learn before you can go even with me."

"Not to look the gift pony in the mouth but what are you doing here?" Celestia asks, still looking at Scream with suspicion.

"Your friend Discord helped cure me. I'm not in the best shape ever but I'm willing to repay him for that. Well, I wouldn't really care if it was only him but Voidie insisted and you know I can't say no to his puppy eyes."

"It is good to know Discord is on our side even if he will not help us directly. One less thing to worry about," Luna breathes out, "Why the transformation spell though? Why not a tornado or something?"

Scream looks into the sky and takes a deep breath, the lecturing voice comes soon after.

"You should know, miss 'I am the best mage on the face of Equus', that the army is protected only from big spells with negative effects. The Nightmare is powerful but its efforts are not very complex. As for why I did that," Scream looks at Celestia and her evil smile makes the solar princess take a step back, "Motivation."

The loud sound of horns announces the second wave coming.

"Aaand there's my cue to have a bit more fun. Can't blow them up all at once but hey, Luna!"

"Yeeees?"

"Wanna see you sister's head melt from the inside?"

"NO!"

"Too bad, I do!" she flies back up to the sky, "MELT, CELESTIA, MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELT! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHHAAAAA!"

"Is she an ally or?" I have to ask.

"Probably," Celestia shakes her head and facehoofs again, "I know Void thinks he's doing us a favor but..."

Luna's magical image shows the heads of small Celestias bubble one by one into green mess and bodies fall on the ground.

"She's doing a good job though even when she has to limit herself. Holy Light doesn't seem to care much about his army although we haven't even made a dent in their numbers yet."

A heavily breathing pegasus crashes from the sky and gets up quickly.

"Y-your Highness, the mirror portal, no contact, magic barrier, castle gone, rubble."

"Calm down, soldier," Celestia says softly and wraps her wings around the pegasus who, few seconds later, emerges much more composed, "Now explain."

"The castle with unicorns has been levelled completely. There are no signs of princess Sparkle. The dreamling queen arrived about two hours ago with the ambassador to help us with the defense but it wasn't enough. I was just returning with your answer to her message when I saw the dragon land on the roof, break the barriers, and... and then the alicorn riding him blew the entire castle up as if he was ripping a sheet of paper."

"Alicorn?"

"Rusty coat with black stuff all over."

The princesses exchange glances but both of them shrug and shake their heads.

"We need more information, sister," says Luna, "I'm sending Cromach first to investigate. My scrying isn't working on the area again."

"Blaze might be there then," I comment, "The Tree is underneath the castle. What happens if he or Holy Light reach it?"

"Nothing as such. The power of Harmony isn't in the Tree itself but in the Bearers. If-if they die then the Tree will regain it. Oh Twilight..."

Celestia closes her eyes and continues.

"I have to go there as well. Luna, can you help Scream thin the enemy numbers in addition to protecting the sanity of our army?"

"No problem, sister, just be-"

Shadows appear on the horizon, closing rapidly.

"-safe..."

Big shadows. Luna's observation spell shifts focus again.

Dozens of dragons flying our way. Several of them split and start chasing Scream through the sky. A green beam splits on of them in half. Black blood bursts out of the body which keeps flying as the darkness knits it back together. The unpleasant memory of Golden Sands comes back.

"Yeah, that's why Holy doesn't care about his zebra army. He's got a better one," I mumble.

The main force of dragons comes closer and is greeted by a hail of arrows which bounce mostly harmlessly off their scales.

"We had to cut their heads off and dismember them before they finally fell," I explain.

The head of one of the dragons falls down from the sky. Somepony evidently knows about that. More shadows descend from the clouds hovering above the battlefield but these are larger and triangular. I count nineteen of them.

"I was hoping he would honor his part of the deal," Luna breathes a sigh of relief.

"Who?" asks Celestia.

The spell blurs again and all of us recognize the pegasus on the deck of the largest of the ships.

"GET YOUR FILTHY CLAWS OFFA MY SKY, YOU DAMN DIRTY DRAGONS!" yells Icy Gaze and shoots from his hoof gun into the air. As a response a flurry of saw-bladed discs from each ship targets one of the dragons, ripping it to shreds mid-air.

"Griffons, Icy Gaze, Scream," Celestia smiles, "That's a lot of frienemies helping us here. Good job, sister."

"Aside from the pirate all that is the result of Discord's involvement. Now you can go and search for Twilight while we hold-"

Two of Icy's ships are already gone as the dragons swarm them.

"It's fine, your Highness," I grit my beak, "I can investigate alone while you hold them off. Perhaps... maybe... if Blaze is there I can get him to... see again."

"Cromach," Celestia looks directly at me, "You have responsibility towards Equestria and the Empire now. You cannot let yourself be blinded by your emotions. If it works it works but if talking to him won't bring your friend back... just remember the weight on your shoulders."

I touch the two-handed battleaxe on my back and salute. I'm painfully aware both sisters are staring at the mechanical arm strapped right next to it.

"I'll see what I can do," I take to the air and fly towards the black smoke where the castle of two sisters and our main magical protection used to be.

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