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Antipodes



Chapter 20



By PK



The silvery orb hung, silent and mysterious, in the center of the room. It's surface was perfectly smooth and glassy, and it rotated slowly, sending off wisps of shadowy mist.

"So... what happens now?" Incendia asked, her voice low and hushed.

In response, Jigsaw began to walk slowly towards where the sphere hung, his head bowed low as if in reverence. He felt a strange, pulsating buzz begin in his horn, as though it were anxious to make contact. Cautiously, he raised his head until the very tip of his horn broke the silvery surface of the sphere. For a moment, a single ripple issued across its surface, causing the silvery light to shimmer. Then, Jigsaw was enveloped in a sheet of whirling silver mist. Incendia started forward towards him, but Tiptoe extended a hoof, catching her in the chest.

"I don't think we should interfere," she said in a near-whisper.

Shimmering intensely, the mist whirled faster and faster around the unicorn, until with a brilliant flash of white light, the mist zoomed up and into Jigsaw's horn. The flash was so bright that it momentarily blinded Tiptoe and Incendia.

When they blinked away the bright afterimage, they were surprised to see Jigsaw, standing where the sphere had been, his horn glowing sliver, tendrils of light seemed to reach up from the floor and flow into his horn.

"Jigsaw, what's going on?" asked Incendia, more than a little alarm in her voice.

"I don't know!" Jigsaw shouted in response, shaking his head violently to try and draw the tendrils away from his horn. Where the silvery substance left the smooth marble floor, large cracks began to appear. The surface lost its sheen, dulled, and became brittle.

Jigsaw galloped towards the other two ponies, away from the rapidly growing spiderweb of cracks. The tendrils were now licking up the walls, drawing some shimmering energy out from the walls and windows. it was as though whatever protection that had kept the place intact was being stripped away, and the ten thousand intervening years were beginning to take their toll. The moan and rumble of slipping stone was so loud that they couldn't even hear themselves shouting. Soon, the three were forced into the only untouched corner left in the room, pressed as close together as possible to stay away from the advancing wave of cracks and decay. Chunks of rock were beginning to rain down from above, some large enough to crash through the floor and beyond. Finally, the floor beneath them cracked and sagged, and the last of the silver light began to flow into Jigsaw's horn.

Several moments of tense silence followed the end of the strange light show. None of them dared to speak for fear that the sound of their voice might somehow cause the floor to give way. Gaping holes were present from where pieces of the ceiling had caved in and smashed through the floor, causing the room to resemble the pock-marked and crumbling surface of the moon above.

"Is everypony okay?" Incendia asked in a low whisper. Still, the sudden sound nearly caused Tiptoe to jump in surprise.

"I... I think so," Jigsaw answered shakily. He was panting heavily, and his horn still glowed silver, though it was fading in brilliance and intensity.

"I'm okay," Tiptoe murmured absentmindedly. She was starting at Jigsaw with concern.

Jigsaw, however, was staring at the floor. His eyes were darting quickly around the area, taking in every little detail. Eventually, he turned his eyes to Incendia.

"How good is your levitation?"

Incendia looked taken aback. "Same as any other unicorn, I suppose. I mean it's not my special talent, but I practice all the basic mag-" she cut herself off mid-sentence, her eyes widening with comprehension. "Jigsaw, you're not seriously considering..."

"I am," he said, simply.

"What is he considering?" Tiptoe said, looking back and forth between the two unicorns.

Jigsaw turned to face face her.

"We're going to carry ourselves down the mountain," he said, a faint gleam deep in his eyes.

~~~

Tantalus touched down at the base of the castle, tongues of green fire licking at the barren earth for a few moments before spinning away into nothingness. He clenched his enormous reptilian fists.

He knew he was too late. They had already collected the fragment, and the castle was beginning to crumble. Somehow they had managed to break through his wards and discover the mountain, but more pressingly, the fragment had already entered the vessel, and the castle had finally decayed.

Despite all this, he found himself grinning. He knew he was at an advantage. He was familiar with this particular castle. He had come here back before the Grand Cataclysm many times. he knew that he had them cornered.

He took in a great breath. He could feel the spell he was about to cast burning within him, wriggling and squirming, begging for release. With a mighty exhale, the spell left him in a torrent of green fire, whirling around the base of the castle, enveloping it, and burrowing into the faults and fissures of the foundation.

The mountain gave a mighty shake, and the already unstable castle began to crumble.

~~~

Jigsaw, Tiptoe, and Incendia screamed as huge chucks of marble, the heads of statues, and even- once or twice- the skeletons of some long dead ponies rained down from the ceiling above them.

"Now!" shouted Jigsaw, looking at Incendia. "We have to do it now!"

Incendia's horn glowed in response, enveloping the chuck of marble they stood on in a bright orange glow. Jigsaw joined in soon afterwards, the blue glow of his own magic mixing with the orange. With a lurching, jerking movement, the rock lifted from the floor and began to float to the remains of the large window that overlooked the waterfall. They were constantly forced to split their attention between keeping the chunk of marble floating and deflecting the chunks of debris that were raining down from above. Tiptoe hovered just above the rock, keeping her weight off it.

Suddenly, with a thunderous blast, an enormous and horribly tarnished bronze alicorn statue came crashing down from above, heading directly towards him.

Incendia's head snapped up and she braced herself against the surface of the floating marble.

"Jigsaw, get ready!" she shouted. Then, with a flash of orange light, she let go of the marble and focused on the statue.

Pain exploded in Jigsaw's head, and his feet slid several inches over the surface of the stone, coming dangerously close to the ragged, fractured edge. His horn shone intensely, magic radiating from it so intensely that even Tiptoe could feel it- like sort of a warm buzz heading down from the center of her forehead all the way to the tip of her tail. The marble dipped and bobbed dangerously, but stayed airborne.

The bronze statue was floating in the air directly above them. Incendia looked much the same as Jigsaw did- fluid magic flowed off her horn, the energy radiating away from her so powerfully that it was almost visible.

"I don't have the strength to move it!" Incendia said through gritted teeth.

Tiptoe didn't know what to do. The statue was so large that she didn't stand a chance of moving it on her own, and she didn't want it hanging over them all the way down the mountain. She didn't seem to have much of a choice, however.

Moments later they zoomed out the window and left the crumbling ruins of Canterlot Castle behind. They hovered in the air for a moment more before, with an earsplitting crack followed by a series of the loudest booms Jigsaw or Tiptoe had ever heard, the castle snapped off its foundations and began tumbling down the mountain. The waterfall shattered under the pressure of thousands of tons of rock and metal, and  and in several more minutes, the mammoth avalanche was over. A thousand feet below them lay a gargantuan pile of twisted wreckage.

Tiptoe nearly laughed in relief, until she remembered they still had to make it down to the ground below. Jigsaw and Incendia began to sweat under the punishing weight of keeping the marble aloft.

Abruptly, a huge burst of green fire licked at their backs, breaking their concentration. "Tantalus!" shouted Incendia. The sheen of magic around both objects vanished.  With that, Jigsaw, Incendia, the statue, and the platform all plummeted.

Tiptoe just barely managed to dart out of the way of the alicorn statue's outstretched wings, only half an inch away from hitting her. She folded her own wings dove down, towards where Jigsaw and Incendia where clinging to the platform, horns lit in a desperate attempt to slow their plummet. As she dove, she saw a vast dark figure shoot past her, green flames trailing behind it. Tantalus would be waiting for them.

Finally, with one monumental effort, Jigsaw and Incendia managed to coordinate their efforts enough to slow both themselves and the statue. When they hit the ground with a jarring, though mercifully non-fatal impact.

They didn't get a moment of rest, however. Incendia hadn't been able to stop the statue's decent entirely, and they had to roll off the platform to avoid getting impaled by the ancient horn. The statue cleaved the marble platform cleanly in half and clattered to the ground, seemingly undamaged. Jigsaw had the fleeting thought that it must be enchanted.

Tiptoe alighted next to them a moment later. "Oh, thank Luna's grace you're alright! We have to run! Tantalus beat us down here, he's waiting for us!"

Incendia and Jigsaw were breathing raggedly, but they still looked around in alarm. However, the moonlight was so dim that they couldn't see more than a few yards in any direction. They didn't detect any motion, however, and the only sounds were the clatter of small rocks as they came careening down the hillside to join the ruin of the castle, which was only a short distance to their left. They allowed themselves a sigh of relief.

"I don't know why but I think he's gone. Maybe he thought there would be no way we could stop the platform in time," Jigsaw said, his breathing slowing. "Incendia, do you think you could cast one of those flaming balls to follow us around?"

"Allow me," said a horrible, growling voice from somewhere directly ahead of the group, back towards the forest. A huge shape shrouded in green fire was illuminated some three hundred feet ahead and covered the distance in mere seconds. Jigsaw's horn began to glow anew, and orange flames erupted all along the length of Incendia's body.

Tantalus stood over them, staring down at the flaming unicorn in mild surprise. The veins on his face pulsed unpleasantly, almost seeming to glow with an internal light.

"Two has become three, I see," he said, sounding mildly amused. His voice was horrible, resonating with such a terrible power that actually made Tiptoe lower her head and retch. Fortunately, she hadn't eaten anything for almost three days and had nothing to throw up. Tantalus' very presence was noxious.

Tantalus ignored this, though his smile grew a hair wider. He stared intently at Incendia. "Where did you come from? A survivor of Stalliongrad? No matter, I-"

His words were cut off by Incendia's flaming whip, which lashed at his exposed stomach. As far as any of them could tell it had not had any measurable effect on him, but his smile dropped.

"You dare to interrupt me?" Tantalus snarled at her. "You will pay dearly for that."

"Why are you doing this? Jigsaw asked, desperate to stall for time. Tiptoe stood behind him, wings outstretched, but her quivering was unmistakable. She was petrified.

Tantalus turned his attention instead to Jigsaw. "You foal. You do not know what powers you interfere with."

"Then why don't you tell me!" Jigsaw shouted.

Tantalus sneered and, to Jigsaw's utter astonishment, said "Very well. You do deserve an explanation. You have gotten significantly farther than any before you, at any rate."

"Why did you let us go from the cave?" Jigsaw asked.

"Because I thought you might be able to get me into Stalliongrad. The story I told you then was essentially the truth, as you may have guessed. Rubidium was a royal guard that lusted after the power of the goddesses. He unleashed power beyond his control."

"What power?" Jigsaw asked. With a growing horror, Tiptoe noticed that the edge in Jigsaw's voice was beginning to fade, being replaces by his familiar inquiring tone. Incendia was still blazing, eyes locked on Tantalus as if waiting for him to act.

"It is... difficult to put into words. The sort-of antithesis to the goddesses. Evil itself, ones such as you might call it," he said. His tone was like that of a teacher speaking down to a foal it considered inferior. Tiptoe knew that tone all too well.

"But where did it come from? How did it get trapped in the book, and what does it have to do with you?" Jigsaw said.

"Where? Is it honestly relevant?" Tantalus said drolly. "Dredging up ancient history will not help you. Suffice it to say that the goddesses had it sealed away very near the beginning. Something about... ideological conflicts."

"As for what it has to do with me, I am amazed you have not guessed yet, Jigsaw. For all intents and purposes, it is me."

Jigsaw took a step back reflexively. "What? How is that possible?"

"It is difficult to speak of different parts of one's self. I was once two entities, before the fall. A dragon named Spike and the being which Rubidium had unleashed. Spike had hidden away in the chaos following the fall, and the being approached him, brokering a deal. Spike had... his own reasons for accepting. Such power the being had! For several years, we remained separate. Spike was weak. He fought the inevitable for so long. Eventually, however, he succumbed to my influence. Very little of him remains, now. For all intents and purposes, I am the being. I have had free reign over the world for the  for the last ten millenia."

To Jigsaw's utter astonishment, Tiptoe spoke up.

"That's not true! Back in your cave, I saw a gem on a pedestal. Who was Rarity?"

Tantalus froze. The smug smile dropped off his face.

"Do not speak of things you don't understand," he muttered, his voice deathly quiet. The terrible power behind his voice seemed a little less overwhelming. Jigsaw had a sneaking suspicion that more of this "Spike" remained than Tantalus cared to admit.

"What would she think of what you have done?" Tiptoe said. It was a total shot in the dark, but she hoped it might have some effect.

It did.

Tantalus let out a mighty roar and brought one claw slashing through the air, slamming into Jigsaw and knocking him away. Tiptoe was exposed now, and Tantalus wasted no time in extending his other claw, lifting Tiptoe right off the ground. With another roar, he brought her slamming down onto her side, pinned to the ground by one massive, black claw on her cutie mark.

Incendia let out a cry of horror, and her flames grew in size and intensity until they once again became blue. She braced herself against  one of the chunks of rubble and her horn began to glow even more brilliantly. The air near Tantalus' head shimmered for a moment before a huge, fiery explosion erupted into life near his hear. When the fire had cleared, Tantalus' head was smoking, but he didn't appear to have even noticed.

"Do not speak of things you don't understand!" he repeated with a mighty bellow. Jigsaw watched in horror as he began to slowly drive his claw into Tiptoe's cutie mark. She let out a horrible scream of pain, a sound unlike Jigsaw had ever heard her make. He stood there paralyzed for a moment, but only for a moment. Images of Antimony came flooding back into his mind. He couldn't let this happen. He wouldn't.

He took off at a gallop towards where she lay screaming. With a sickening crunch, Jigsaw heard what must have been her hip being crushed under Tantalus' cruel talon.

Then, to his own astonishment, his horn burst into life. Jigsaw could feel magic flowing from it, magic that was unfamiliar to him. With a shriek of anger and surprise, Tantalus withdrew his bloody claw from Tiptoe. A shimmering shield of silver light enveloped the three ponies.

Jigsaw didn't care about where the shield had come from at that moment, however. He leaned over Tiptoe, who was shaking on the ground in a pool of her own blood. Tantalus had severed an artery, and with each frantic pump of her heart, another spurt of blood flowed out of her flank.

Incendia stood staring, wide-eyed, at the scene before her. Jigsaw looked up at her, tears in his eyes.

"Incendia, please, help me, I've never been good at healing magic! There's blood everywhere, what do I do?"

Incendia didn't speak. Instead, she shot a glance at Tantalus, who was now slamming his fists furiously against the magical barrier, then over her shoulder. She took a few slow steps backward, then turned tail and ran out of the protective shield, which flashed brightly to allow her passage.

Jigsaw was shocked, but he shouted after her, "Fine! Run! Abandon us like you did in Stalliongrad!"

Tantalus stopped slamming onto the shield to watch her jump over a pile of rubble opposite where the platform had landed and out of sight.

"She has some sense," Tantalus said. "Perhaps she will make a valuable ally. Do you see how futile your quest is, now? You cannot trust your allies. All that awaits you is death. Give up and join me. I can heal her. Together we can rule this world."

Jigsaw looked up at Tantalus for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, but another voice, speaking from somewhere behind him, caught his attention.

"Hey, Tantalus!"

He whirled around to try and find the source of the voice, but it still took him several moments. Clambering, slowly and unsteadily, horn blazing so brilliantly it looked to be more plasma than solid, over the rubble was Incendia.

Tantalus smirked. "What new tactic is this? Have you not yet learned that fire cannot hurt me?"

Incendia was trembling, biting her lip so hard it was bleeding. Blood was flowing, fresh, from the cut on her flank. Her eyes darted above Tantalus' head in response.

Jigsaw and Tantalus both looked up at the same moment. Hovering directly over Tantalus' head was the bronze Alicorn statue, horn pointed down, encased in an orange shimmer of magic.

Incendia spoke, her voice quavering, as though each word cost her a monumental effort.

"Nobody fucks with my friends."

There was a flash of orange light and Incendia collapsed onto the pile of rubble, tumbling down to rest on the ground.

The bronze alicorn statue fell, the point of the horn driving itself directly into Tantalus' eye, so deeply it protruded out the back of his head.

Some part of Jigsaw's mind realized that he must have been right about the enchantment on the statue, for when it met Tantalus' head, white sparks shot out like a firework. Dark bile began to bubble out from the wounds in Tantalus' eye. He swayed on the spot, then, with a flash of green fire and a deafening bang, the statue exploded and Tantalus was gone.

The shield shimmered out of existence as suddenly as it had come. Tiptoe let out a weak moan of pain, bringing Jigsaw's attention back to her. His horn ignited, and he held it close to the gaping wound in Tiptoe's side. He could feel the injuries- each one sharp and clear to his sense, but he felt the familiar sense of fuzziness- like there was some kind of obstacle in his way that prevented him from figuring out how to fix it.

He focused all his energies, perhaps more than he ever had before. Silently, in desperation, he even said a prayer to the goddesses, willing them to lend their strength to him if they could.

Then it happened. The barrier was gone. Deep inside Tiptoe's flank, Jigsaw could see flesh knitting back together. Blood vessels snaked along muscle and sinew to rejoin. Her shattered hip shifted and cracked, fusing back together.

Jigsaw's entire body had gone numb and cold. He was shaking uncontrollably. He knew he had gone too far, this time- this magic could very well kill him. But he didn't care. It just strengthened his resolve.

Finally, after what felt like hours to Jigsaw, but could only have been a few minutes, the wound in Tiptoe's flank was sealed. With a happy musical tinkle and a flash, her cutie mark once again reasserted its rightful place.

Jigsaw lost consciousness just as Tiptoe regained hers.

~~~

Far away, in Tantalus' gloomy castle, the blue gem on a pedestal began to vibrate and shake. Yellow light shot out of the fissures on its surface. With a loud snapping sound, another crack snaked across the surface of the gem. Green smoke billowed out of the crack until the floor was covered in the thick fog several feet deep. The smoke began to float together, and with a flash of green light, Tantalus was lying on the cave floor, his scaly skin looking raw, red, and undeveloped. His eyes opened, whole and intact.

~~~

Incendia woke up first, to the gentle nuzzling of Tiptoe. She blushed intensely and stood shakily to her feet, attempting to hide her face from Tiptoe. She wasn't sure how successful she had been, but Tiptoe made no comment.

Jigsaw was still lying where he had fallen, horn fizzling weakly. His breathing was shallow and rapid. Tiptoe trotted over to him and Incendia followed.

"What happened?" Incendia asked.

"I don't know. The last thing I remember was blacking out from pain, and then... I think he healed me," Tiptoe said, staring at Jigsaw with a mixture of affection and concern.

As they spoke, Jigsaw stirred. His eyes fluttered open. Initially, they were unfocused, but as he stared at them, they sharpened. Tiptoe galloped over and put her head very close to Jigsaw, whispering as though she were afraid that her voice could injure him.

"Are you okay?"

Jigsaw smiled weakly and said, in an oddly raspy voice, "I'm just glad you are."

With that, he passed out again, but Tiptoe wasn't quite as worried. His breathing had steadied some.

"Come on," Incendia said, her horn glowing.  She turned towards the forest.  "We should find shelter".
Don't have the preview image because I'm uploading this from another computer, don't hate me forever :iconcsimadmax: ;-;

Also, you know how I said I would be doing longer chapters less often? Sorry about that. Hope you don't mind I wrote a longish chapter in under a week :D
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:iconkelazi5:
Kelazi5 Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011
This was awesome! Things are really heating up in a whole ton of ways. There was an awesome balance of action, character development, reveals, and plot movement. I'm looking forward to the next chapters and learning more about how the whole thing started.

Keep up the good work.
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:iconnaxts:
Naxts Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2011
Wow. Quite an intense follow up to your last chapter. You've confirmed our suspicions about Tantalus being Spike, though I can't exactly say I truly understand what he meant in his explanation about him being half-evil or something like that, We still don't really know who he is, but maybe it's better that way.
One thing I've noticed is how your characters can die at any time. Apparently, nobody is safe, which should have been apparent a while ago, but it really stands out on this one seeing how Tiptoe was so close to dying. Its terrifying, and its awesome.
Another awesome chapter. I love it.

On a side note, I've noticed that you've put Incindia's sexuality into play here, it's a small thing but I'd love to see what you'd do with it in the future.
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:iconsummerpwny:
SummerPwny Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2011
Woooo!
allways a blast to read!
keep it up <3
Reply
:icon8biteric:
8BitEric Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2011
If I had a nickel for everytime Jigsaw lost consciousness in this story, I would have like one whole dollar right now But it was a marvelous chapter to read. I can really visuallize everything I read. From the crumbling castle, to the Tantalus moment. This is such a thrilling story, keep it up!
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:iconpsuedo-prince:
Psuedo-Prince Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2011
Another brilliant chapter with brilliant imagery. I don't find it very hard at all to picture all of the happenings. For the majority of the story I thought Spike just went insane after losing Rarity but I see now that I was wrong. Certainly looking forward to future chapters, as always.
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:iconsuperninjamonkeys:
superninjamonkeys Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
wow, awesome job!

I like how you balance out Jigsaw's powers with him not withstanding it. If he could, he'd be too much of a Gary Stu C( :

Can't wait for the next chapter :D
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:iconmister-markers:
Mister-Markers Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Intense. Freaking intense. :D
And zomg, I didn't even have to wait long for this chapter. You've certainly improved in writing~
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