"The Song of Syhlex"
Written by The Descendant
Inspired by the Image "By Celestia's Might" by John Joseco
It was quiet enough in the library that Twilight could almost literally feel the cabin fever growing behind her eyes.
The winter had already set in firmly, wrapping the tree into which the library was set deep in darkness each day long before she was ready to accept it. Even as she went down the steps she could see reflections shimmering through the ice that wrapped the branches outside her windows.
Outside, the world lay still as the snow her pegasus kin had placed there coldly reflected the few lights from the adjoining buildings.
Inside, the resident unicorn paced anxiously and with mounting boredom as a lack of assignments from the princess and a deficit of new reading material frayed her nerves.
It wasn't even dinnertime yet and already she was wishing for the day to be over, just wishing to get through another day until she could once more be outside on her porch reading.
She smirked to herself, knew she was in a position she had simply begged for time after time, simply to be trapped in a quiet place surrounded by books. Yet, therein was found the problem it is one thing, she knew, to be sitting before a fireplace studying and reading as a warm cup of tea steams nearby if it is your choice and pleasure to do so.
It is another thing entirely, she now understood, if you are forced to do so because there is simply nothing else that can usefully be done.
Twilight found herself pacing once more. She frowned as she pondered trying once more undertaking a re-reading of a tome she'd found behind one of the bookcases, a minor work detailing the history of the plumbing in Canterlot. She wondered if her time wouldn't be better spent by simply skipping dinner and going straight to bed.
Random ideas began to splash through her mind. The sudden urge to simply use her magic to take random food items and splatter them against the icebox door almost startled her with how appealing it seemed.
Twilight began humming as she turned into the main living space, past the true library and within the doors that separated it from few small rooms she had begun to call home.
Her humming stopped as her eyes settled across a familiar form upon the thick braided rug that lay before the flickering fireplace.
She watched as Spike slowly flipped a page of a book back and forth. As he did he switched between laying with his head in his hand to sitting upright, one quick movement that ended with him rubbing the frills across his head in confusion. "Huh," he called, placing his hands on his hips, puzzlement almost hanging around him visibly.
Twilight almost jumped around in a happy circle as the chance to do something intellectually stimulating presented itself like the dawning of her sovereign's sun.
"Whattcha reading, Spike?" she asked, trotting up to him, looking over his shoulder.
"Oh, ummm I," he said, looking up to her with some small surprise and then back down into the tall pages of the tome, "I don't know "
Twilight's eyes began to adjust. As the light of the fireplace filtered over the book she could clearly see that it was old. It was perhaps hundreds of years old by the look of the paper.
"Oh. How are you enjoying it?"
"Ummm, I can't say "
"What's it about?"
"I have no idea."
Twilight felt her eye twitch.
"Spike," she said, her voice slightly chiding, "Let me take a look."
As Twilight looked the words over she recognized the work. It was old, a book of songs, a form of writing that had come and gone over the centuries. Ballads and psalms, each one written in a style that had once been common but which even she, studious as she was, had only skimmed in order to gain a general knowledge of what her library home contained.
"Oh, Spike," she said, looking to him, "This is a tough read are you sure you want to try this one? You don't know what it's about, you aren't enjoying it, and you haven't even been able to figure out what you're reading yet. Why did you choose this one?"
Spike looked up to her with some small doubt. At once though he reached back down and flipped the book back a page. As an illuminated image reached up to her it sparkled in the firelight. The scene painted there seemed to stream and ripple in the flickering flames.
It was no idealized scene. It was no happy image. It was
" the princess. Spike, is that Princess Celestia?"
Twilight laid herself down beside Spike, the dragon whelp crossing his legs and laying into her slightly as they stared over the illustration. Silently they peered over the image, the fine inks and gilded borders shimmering, the work of a pony now long dead for centuries reflecting the firelight proudly.
As the pigments danced in the light there rose up an image of powerful spells at work, the princess beset by dragons, and a horrible light in her eyes.
"Twi, what's it mean? What's going on? Did, did this happen?"
Twilight tilted her head back and forth, looked the image over. It was most definitely her mentor, younger by centuries in point of fact, yet still the radiant mare whom had sat smiling silently and had watched her practice spells as a dragon fingerling toddled nearby.
The light in her eyes, the grim look across her face, these caught in Twilight's thoughts, drove the boredom far from her as curiosity occupied that vacated space in her mind.
Twilight lifted the page, looked at the long stanzas. The words were archaic, the structure so different. It was a song, but one without structure, rhyme. It would be a tough read.
"Spike," said Twilight, "this isn't going to be easy. It's written like a song, but not like how we know songs. It's really old."
Spike looked at her with a smirk, rubbed his clawed hands together.
She smiled back.
"I'll take the first stanza, you take the second. Do your best with the words. If you don't understand one or can't pronounce one let me know," she stated as she nuzzled herself closer to him, balancing against him as he did the same.
With that she took a deep breath and they prepared to read. As the firelight fell over them the words of a song last sung centuries before their births came to life once more, spilling through their reading back into the living world on the wafts of their breath.
The Song of Syhlex
On the coming of the morrow
Shall I, Painted Post, see my eightieth year.
And as the dawning light of my sovereign catches in small places
I shall thank her for my long and happy days.
Yet I see not the same mare whose sun greets the foals of my foals.
For in grace and horror I had seen her long decades ago
And lingers her strength revealed across my memory as I go towards the Well.
Over the mountains lie many things.
Some great and grand and wonders that call to young fools,
And I, principal among such in my youth,
Did but stray over the paths through the Forest of the Ever Free.
Haughty and proud but soon to find
The warnings upon the ancient maps were but true:
"Here there be dragons".
Over the mountains lie many things.
Some unhappy, broken, and rife with strife and war.
Under the gaze of the dark tower beyond wherein lie the Witches
Trespass many things that would soon end the life of a colt.
To me came chief of such fates as the ground 'round me shook,
As whispers of wind grew great,
And around me the pines rocked.
Great was Syhlex of the world beyond the mountains.
Terrible was the dragon lord, great among his kind,
Rumors of whom even found purchase in Equestria fair.
How many walls had fallen in the lands over the hills,
Torn asunder at the shock of his tail?
How many creatures run through on his talons?
How many ripped asunder by the teeth tall and white?
As the dragon crested the pass I hid,
Sheltered shivering among the rocks, barely finding a place.
My hooves across my mouth to muffle my breath
Less the scent of my fear catch in his muzzle,
Less I scream aloud as his claws crushed the rocks around me.
Sat I in dread as he stood over me unknowingly,
Looking down from the high rocks to Equestria beyond.
Hissed like acid did his drool and spit,
The rocks foaming as his hungry maw opened above me.
Panned his vast greedy eyes, alight, over the lands beyond,
And shook I with fear as he laughed.
Yet even his greed was not the end of what I was made to witness,
For even as I pulled deeper within the rocks he lifted himself,
And with a deafening roar summoned more horrors.
Seven sons had Syhlex, and seven sons came at his call.
Up they came, sliding over the rocks like vast serpents.
Soon they enveloped my place of hiding,
And my fear was consuming, and I dared scarce to breath.
For though slight were they in stance under their sire,
Over each hung the same power,
And their eyes blazed with malice.
"My sons!" called the drake,
His voice like rumbling thunder far across distant hills,
"Tis' Equestria below us, fair for the taking!
The Mare of the Night has fallen,
And who fears the day?
Come, we go forth to take for our own
These fat lands, fit for the harvest."
New fears through me flew,
For I knew it t'was not fields of grain
Or apples shining in the summer sun,
Which they set their eyes upon as a harvest.
Nay, t'was not shining gem upon which they sought to slake their hunger
And shuddered I in fear for loved ones below,
And in horror at what awaited Equestria fair.
About me they pawed at the rocks,
Their talons clawing away the layers of slate and shale
As though it were just grass upon the earth,
As they pondered the feast before them
And laughed in horrible pleasure.
Round about me pooled the acid, powerful vapor,
That dripped from hungry lips.
Yet, even as I shuddered in terror,
As I felt faint from the vapor,
I saw them lift their heads
And sniff at the air as does a hound
At a scent that floats upon the breeze.
So it was that the sons of Syhlex turned to him
And his head lifted in wonder at it.
"What could be so scented?"
Pondered aloud the beast, pawing at the earth,
Making rubble of the mountainside.
"D'jac, eldest of my scion," called Syhlex
"Make down these paths
And find what it is that catches as scent
And what it is that drifts about on the breeze."
So went the eldest of the sons
And as they waited they sat sunning themselves,
Laid out across the vast tables of rock
Until D'jac returned.
As he returned to them
His eyes thereon sat uncertainty,
Puzzlement was there cast.
"Father" spoke the eldest,
"There lies in these woods not far away a castle,
One of stone, yet overgrown with vine,
The rocks cast asunder.
There upon the hewn stones caught I the scent of that which approaches.
Ancient it must be, for the castle was in ruin,
And as such it seemed since long before my birth!"
From where I laid hidden,
Wrapped in worry and doubt,
I saw the dragon lord tilt his head
And long ponder these words.
"Sivek," called the drake,
"Most powerful of my scion,
Lift yourself and seek."
With that up rose Sivek,
Shrouded in power and might.
Down the mountain he crashed
Throwing trees before him,
Birds and beasts of the wood
Fleeing before him in fear for their lives
And in terror at his passing.
The dragons rolled there, scratching themselves
Ruining the rocks, shattering them as they awaited
The return of their brother and son.
As I waited in fear I heard his coming,
And did the dragons as well, for he bellowed
His pain carried on the air, reaching high,
And he fell among them wounded and bleeding.
"Father!" called Sivek, thrashing about,
the diamond spears deep in his leg and side,
"What approaches, it rises to this place not alone!
An army marches with it, can you not see the dust
That grows in the western sky?
Though I trampled, bit, and thundered
Had that army stood, and what comes on us now
Leads it such that we cast it not to fear but resolution!"
Listened then did I as Sivek pulled the spears from his wounds,
As he simpered and spoke of the ponies with helms of gold.
Syhlek looked across his child unmoved,
"How is it you were undone by the Equestrians?
By those who eat hay and oat, those who sing and play?
"Jahken, most sly of my sons! Go now down this mountain,
Whisper until you find what rises against you kin!"
With that they sat and pulled at the spears,
Licked the wounds of their brother as he cursed
And promised that it was upon his teeth
That Equestria would be broken.
Yet not long could he invoke such wrath
For returned did Jahken, wailing in pain
For he was less an eye.
"Father!" called the dragon that crashed to the earth,
Body tearing at the mountain as he flailed,
"Sly and clever have you named me,
yet what comes for us now
Is devious beyond any doubt!
For a trap was laid where the river enters these woods,
And as a fool I was ensnared, and an eye it has cost me!"
Rage was growing within the drake,
Syhlex, his face raw and twisting.
"How has my line come to this?
Where are my strong sons?
What has reduced my scion to wurms?
What has vexed them,
And made them as whelps that mewl and cry?"
With this I shuddered anew
And darkness itself draped o'er the rocks wherein I hid.
"Father," spoke a voice as a chorus of ghosts,
"Rhesk, I, whom over darkness and evil hang,
Let my blanket of loss float over the Equestrians
And fear itself will fill them
And name that which vexes us."
With that he sent forth Rhesk
And as his sons licked their wounds
He paced, and watched I from my hidden place
As the old drake did crack the rocks in his talons
As though worry followed him.
Not long did the dragon lord go thusly
For a voice unfamiliar reached to him weakly.
"Father," called a voice small and beset,
And Syhlex let out a roar of disbelief.
His eyes stared over Rhesk,
The body trembling and shorn of darkness,
As forward came the broken form.
Aghast stood Syhlex, fighting to believe what he beheld,
His son thin and crushed.
"Cast I sheets of fear over them,"
Came the dragon's voice
As though spread thin over the stones of a river,
"Yet, no sooner had I done so than there was light
And in it was a presence
Of one devoted to the Equestrians
And I was undone, my darkness stolen on knives of light!"
Laughed then did Bomlas, arrogant and haughy.
Proud was this son of Syhlex, and he bowed to his brothers
And mockery was in it.
"Father, would my dear brothers consent to it,
I should be the one to end this menace.
For if fear, strength, and slyness shall not prevail
It is poisoned words that would make best the issue."
Off then went Bomlas, head held high,
And as the dragons awaited his return I looked on,
Watching in horror and awe as their slight motions shifted the river,
Even those wounded still wiping away with ease the ancient trees
As they rolled, moaned, and worked their wounds.
And there I saw rage tempered by concern and doubt
Living upon the face of the dragon lord.
With head held low came Bomlas
And the eyes of judgement were upon him.
"Father," came the dragon's voice, "I am beaten.
No sooner had I reached the edge of these woods
When I saw we were encircled
And though we can easily break an army
No force is there that could break that which assailed me."
"A voice echoed to me through the woods,
A million voices made of one,
And it spoke of giving its life
So Equestria would live.
It comes here, and before I could poison it with words
It laid me low, denounced me utterly in harsh speech.
It comes here, dreading not death if even one Equestrian to save."
"Return your craven tongue to within your disgraced head!"
Roared the father, crashing his claws across the face of his son.
"Lay here now your brothers, one less an eye,
One pierced through, another shorn and trembling.
Words beat you?
Are you not my son?
Lacon, my wise son, heed your sire and speak with me."
Now came another son of Syhlex,
One whom had sat quietly pondering.
Though terrible and vast, there was in this one
Something of a thoughtful grace.
"Lacon," called the drake, "Wisest of my scion.
Go you now down the mountain
And find what you will."
Not long did Syhlex wait, for as the day grew bright
Returned to them did Lacon, and upon his face sat doubt
As deep and as powerful as the sea.
"Father, know I what has befallen us.
Though scarce can I believe what I have seen.
It must be made real to another, lest I know it true.
Send forth my brother Hylon, that he may see it too.
Now came the smallest of the seven sons,
One not so imposing, and Lacon whispered to him,
Yet from my sheltered place I did hear.
"Sit quietly and speak not. Listen and soon you will know."
Softly and uncertainly from the mountain went Hylon
And his brothers did wonder at it.
Yet Lacon spoke not and Syhlex fumed and paced.
As the day moved on my body grew weak.
Cramped was I in my earthen shelter
And yet even though I sat high above them on the mountain,
Still did the vapors of the dragons reach me
And filled me with dread whenever one would cast his gaze over the pass.
I sat there in fear, and knowing no aid would find me.
Yet my deliverance drew near.
Returned then did Hylon, his eyes wide in amazement.
"Lacon," he asked his brother in awestruck tone,
"Was it a mare that revealed herself to you?
Was it a beautiful mare of white, one who walked in grace,
Her words sweet and her promise sincere?"
"This is what I saw," answered the wisest,
"And in her such magic flows that ne'er I have seen."
Nearly called out did I in joy, yet I stifled my hope
As harsh eyes drew up their ire.
Began then a rumbling laugh,
One that seemed born of thunder across young mountains.
Yet not long did it last,
For soon he was berating them,
Shaming his sons.
"One mare has done all of this to my scion?
One mare hath made them crawl as wurms?
And why should this be so?
I know of the Daybringer, and yet I know too what has been lost!
What is the day without the night?
Were you too enchanted by the colors and wave of her mane?
Did she bat her eyes, my sons, and draw you down?"
"Father," spoke Lacon, wisest of the sons,
"Doubt not that in the mare there still rests power.
The mare is the land, the sky, the sun.
She will suffer us not and we are already undone."
"We may go to the west!" called Hylon,
"This she promised me as I lay among the ferns,
let us make that our path, and peace here may lay."
"What has become of my sons?
Where are the dragons whom laid out kingdoms?
Where are my scion whom bathed continents in flame?
Come, rise! One mare shall not keep us from this land
And the ponies below will learn fear.
I am Syhlex! What can long stand against these teeth?
Who would try to stand before my scion and I?"
With that the light did draw down,
And as an orb it fell upon itself
Condensing and shattering to reveal a form of grace
And beauty in the very midst of the dragon and his kin.
Reeled did they the seven sons of Syhlex, yet stood he firm
And gazed did the dragon into the eyes of the one there revealed,
Her staring back at the dragon lord from beyond ages.
"I am Celestia, and this is Equestria over which I reign,"
Came the voice of my sovereign, beautiful and terrifying at once.
Not had I heard it so in my young life,
And I pulled myself deeper into my hidden place in fear of it.
"Your sons have one and all known my presence,
Syhlex of the land beyond the mountains,
And each has felt my judgment and promise."
"Speak not to me so proudly, Daybringer,"
Laughed the drake as he eyed her
"For I know many things.
Where is your sister?
Dare you face us alone?
How do you expect keep your realm
When seven sons have I to make my claim?"
"Seven sons have you Syhlex,"
Came the voice of the sovereign,
"Yet only five stand near.
And as many sons as you may have
It matters not in the reckoning.
For you may have fathered sons
Yet the sun itself am I."
"Father!" called Lacon and Hylon,
"Listen to the words she speaks,
There is a power in this mare,
One beyond us all to overcome!
She has made to us a promise,
To go to the west in peace,
Let us go now there and drop our claim!"
"Blood traitors!" called the drake,
His voice shaking the mountain,
"No sons of mine are you,
Who are so scared by a single mare!
Come, those of you who would still be my sons!
Rise, rise against the alicorn here standing!
Rise, rise, now is the time to cast her down!"
At that rose the five sons,
Each looking to avenge their loss upon the mare.
Darted they at her, slashed with claw,
Bit with tooth, whipped with tail.
Yet none could land a blow upon her.
Fire they spilled in long whipping cords,
Yet the sovereign slipped their wrath.
Syhlex, the great vast drake himself,
Nearly caught her, made her flash and slide,
His dark eyes coming alight at the thought of a kill,
Of divine meat across his lips.
Great was my fear for her as the drake spoke,
"Powerful are you Celestia,
Yet I know that the day is without the night."
With small smirk
And smile upon her face
Did the princess of the day
Flash among them,
Spoiling their motions.
With a laugh did she take to the air
And erupt as light.
"Do you think yourselves even half the might of Discord,
From whom my sister and I wrested back our people?
Do you think yourselves even half in power and magic
As the Witches, mother and daughters, whom now sleep in deathly sleep
In their tower over these mountains?
Dare you name yourself as deft in magic as Hydia
My Godmother, once dear yet now fallen, whom I slew?"
With that came a rumbling roar from Syhlex
One both horrible
Yet something less than what had been heard before.
"Gather to me, my sons!
The mare doubts our strength?
Shall we light now our own deep and powerful magic?
Let our fires coalesce, and let it flow forth and steal out her sly tongue!"
With that Celestia was surrounded
And they growled and sought her with fierce eyes.
At once their eyes alit with light of pale grey
And from within their gaping maws,
Where stood teeth tall and horrible as stands of swords,
Flowed dark fire that did wrap and twist
Until as orbs of unholy flame it sat waiting to steal her life.
Move did I to cry to her, beg her to flee.
Yet within a moment that which has sat in my eyes ever after was revealed.
It was then that Celestia dropped her pretense of flesh
And rose the Invictus in white torrent of flame.
A horrible light was in her eyes,
Magic streaming from the sovereign as ten thousand spears falling to the earth
Or erupting in crackling arcs high into the skies.
Wavered did the sons of Syhlex,
And turned they to his might.
Yet he brought forth the magic within,
And with that they joined him in his assault.
Set they the pale light upon the sovereign,
Seeking her destruction and death,
And I feared for her as it rose into the darkened skies.
Then erupted magic from the sovereign,
Great waves of it that shuddered and shook the mountain,
Threatened to collapse the sheltered place where I had but hidden.
Became she so brilliant that no longer could I look upon her,
And her voice filled the valley that the river had cut over ages,
Where the dragons looked up in amazement
And it was as though the voice radiated from her, unspoken.
"Oh, you fools!" came the voice of the sovereign,
Flying from within a second sun,
"Know you not from which my power flows,
That which gives me my very mark?
Know this now and despair,
And Death claim you in this moment,
For sons have you yet I am the Sun!"
With that did the magic of the Firstborn Alicorn flow forth
Cascading as a stream through rapids, pouring as a waterfall
Over the valley, mountain, and river below.
Reflected was the magic of the dragons,
Returning back to them, yet greater by multitudes
And fear was in their eyes as her magic crushed them,
As her light weighed down upon them.
Oh, that I should never see such a sight again!
As the sons of Syhlex were overwhelmed
Their jaws creaked and were pealed back.
The flesh of their faces torn away,
Their eyes made as water and streaming down their faces.
Not long enough did they live to scream,
Merciful in that regard was the judgement of the Invictus.
Yet still stood did Syhlex,
His magic greater than that of his sons.
Yet even he could not long stand in the face of the Daybringer.
And he wavered and was cast down in ruin
As the very mountainside began to become molten
As the rocks glowed red and my place of hiding
Became as an oven.
"Sovereign, Majesty!" called I, lifting my voice
From where I had hidden all of that long day.
"One of your children lies here,
Awash with fear and in hiding!
I beg you, withdraw your judgement,
Less I too should be killed,
Overcome by my sovereign's might!"
At once the magic lifted, and once again
Celestia of fair face and motherly countenance was there,
Looking to where I had beseeched her.
Yet at once did Syhlex call out to her,
Heaving in pain and wincing with each breath.
Defeated was the dragon lord, his flesh charred,
The scales flaking away, the limbs shriveled.
Slowly she lowered herself to the bowl of the mountain,
Where the river now hissed and steamed across the boiled rocks.
And as the earth hardened at the touch of her hooves
Came she before Syhlex, her enemy and that of her people,
And listened as he fought to speak.
"Do any of my sons live," asked the drake through stammers of grief,
"Do any of my scion still walk, do I still have a line?"
"The two whom you cast aside sit nearby," she spoke,
"Weeping for their father and brothers."
"Lacon! Hylon! Wisest and fairest of my sons!" called the drake,
Pain racing through him as his lips bled and he pawed at the earth,
"Go to the west! Wiser and humbler than your father are you,
For you knew what I would not hear, which I refused to believe,
You now are all that remains of my line, for your father dies here."
As I lifted myself from my shelter I watched
As the dragon lord lay dying,
As his charred flesh cracked and flowed from him his blood.
"Knew these things," he spoke softly as his eyes watered,
"From the lips of my ancestors, that the three witches,
And a draconiquis of guile and might, and more foes,
Had you felled in times now long passed."
"As a whelp I mocked them in silence,
How could a colorful pony, a princess in a castle with pretty mane,
Cause such fear in vast great dragon lords of old?
When word came over the mountains
That the Nightbringer had been banished
And we saw her as the Mare in the Moon
I thought you reduced by half, and Equestria mine for the taking."
"Here now I lay, a broken lord,
And before me a horror I'd spare any father,
Is before me laid bare and open.
My sons. My sons! Dead they are, and twisted in death,
Burnt by the sun itself!
Would you not tell me, I beg,
Celestia, how it is that you are still so strong?"
"Oh Syhlex," spoke my sovereign softly,
"Not you, your sons, or your ancestors of old,
Whom I cast out of these lands
When the War of the Witches reached an end,
In pain and loss are equal to the Witches or Discord.
In these long years much has changed,
Yet change is beyond me."
"You can not know what I have suffered,
What I would suffer still,
To give my little ponies whom are dear to me,
Even a day without fear and pain.
You can know not what I've been made to do,
Yet my strength is not lost, and flows my magic unvexed.
For 'tis only my heart torn in twain at my sister's fall."
"I am a fool," said he as the pain grew in him,
As his body trembled, rocked with the hurts that multiplied,
"The victory is yours, and I ask your favor,
Send me to be with my sons,
Sooner now than later, if that mercy you would grant.
For alicorn is named both your horn and your kind,
And the heart of a dragon lord easily can it pierce."
"This I will grant you," spoke she as he rolled to his side,
And as he wept, both from his pain and the loss of his scion,
Did Celestia Invictus lay one small kiss upon his head
And place her horn to his chest.
With one small step, one plant of her fair hooves
Did her horn slide betwixt scale and flesh and deep within
And there on the mountainside died the dragon lord.
No blood clung to her noble form
And turned she to Lacon and Hylon whom wept nearby.
Bowed they in fear of her might and caught in her beauty,
And with her blessing she dismissed them.
Promised they not to eat of speaking creatures,
And to their word they must have held true,
For not again in my life have I heard their names whispered.
Stood I on that high place,
Looking across the ruins of the mountain,
The great bowl carved there by dragon claw and dragon's fire.
Yet it was the one radiant mare that stood there among the liter
And ruin of her foes
That put the most fear in me, made me tremble,
As she lifted her hoof to me, calling me to her.
Laid her head across me did the Firstborn Alicorn,
Made soft sounds of reassurance as a mother would,
As her magic crashed around us, drove down the ruins.
Her magic and wings lifted me above the mountain, drew out my fear,
As the bodies of the dragon lord and his scion were entombed,
Laid beneath the crushed mountain, and the river flowed over the place,
And with a whisper of her magic did crash the waters o'er the graves.
There was a pause. Twilight looked up from the book and blinked. She waited a long moment and then spoke.
"Spike, it's your turn, this is your stanza to read," she said, nuzzling him. At first she thought that he may have fallen asleep, but as she looked at him she realized it was not drowsiness that had stolen the whelp's tongue.
"Twilight," he said, looking up to her, "Is, is this real? Did the princess really I mean, I've never seen her do anything like this. Have you?"
"No, no living pony ever has thank goodness."
Twilight stood, stretched, shook the stiffness from her legs. She tilted her head back and forth as the pins and needles of sleeping limbs subsided.
"Well," she said after a moment of thought, "I'd say maybe. We can research and see if Painted Post was a known writer of that era, and if he wrote tall tales. But, even if this is a myth, Spike, every one of them is wrapped around a nugget of truth."
Spike put his hand to his mouth, kneeled before the book as the words shimmered in the firelight.
"Though," she continued, "It seems awful real, huh? I've only ever heard her called 'Invictus' in my history books. Keep in mind Spike, the princess has had to do some very real, some very horrible things, to protect Equestria. She wears them behind her eyes. We've both seen her worried you know that."
Spike kneeled there, pondering the words. Twilight let her mind wander, pictured her mentor fighting Nightmare Moon, Discord. Was, was this what it looked like? Was this the image that she really wanted of the princess who giggled at her jokes, drank tea and sat patiently as she had tried again and again to learn spells?
How many blasted mountains, how many bleached plains marked where the sun had answered the call of an alicorn?
How many battlefields?
Twilight sucked in a deep breath, let it waft out in a resigned sigh. It was probably best not to know.
Spike kept one hand on the next stanza of the song. There weren't many left. With his claws resting gently on the ancient page he turned back to the illuminated image, the one where the five smaller dragons sat around a larger one, as though he was trying to place names to each.
"You go ahead and finish up the story," she said, turning towards the kitchen, "I'll get dinner on "
"Twi?" he called back, looking over his shoulder to her. She stopped, her hooves sliding slightly across the wooden floor.
"Twi," he repeated, "We, we've both known the princess since since I was hatched, from that day. And, you know, we all were together for so long when you were learning, when we were in the garden and playing, as I grew up "
Twilight smiled at her baby dragon. "Grew up" indeed.
" she even taught me how to send messages, how to summon them for you. But, I never really thought of her like this. Well, what I'm saying is, after reading this, do you think she's, well scary? This, this was a little, scary. Like the author said, she's strong."
Twilight crossed back over to the whelp, laid her head across his shoulders.
"Yes, yes she's very scary. She's strong, very strong. But," she said, lifting her head, "I trust her."
"Yeah," added the dragon after a moment of reflection, "I trust her too."
Twilight smiled as he sat back down, found the lost page.
"I'll call you when I need your help with dinner," she said as she trotted out of the living room, leaving him sitting before the fireplace.
"Okay," he answered, his eyes scanning to find the last few words Twilight had read. Finding the place where they'd left off he read the last few stanzas to himself, let them pass slowly so that he understood them each, sounding out each word. As the Song of Syhlex passed the lips of a dragon whelp the story came to a close and laid as silent and as still as the ancient bones of a dragon lord beneath a mountain far away.
To the home of my father I returned
And scarce would any of my family believe my words.
Yet I would not retract them,
And a great bowl filled as a clear lake in the mountains beyond
Prove these words true.
There I spoke this story to a beautiful mare
Who consented to be my wife.
Foals came in time, and the foals of my foals.
Live they in an Equestria that has only known peace
For The Wars are over those mountains
And they trouble us not, for brave are the soldiers of my sovereign.
So flew time, and the story has been forgotten to many
And I and my majesty alone on this side of the Well of Souls
Can claim to know in fullness what happened upon the mountain.
Aged not has my sovereign,
And around her is still the beauty I beheld that day,
And still soft is the voice that rose to calm me as I trembled.
On the morrow I, Painted Post, reach my eightieth year.
With her dawn I shall praise her as I ever have
And my thanks flow that these foals who sleep in my lap
Know her only as gentle and kind.
For I see her still, my sovereign, upon closing my eyes
Wrapped in rage, her power and might flowing in torrents,
Breaching rock, bone, and flesh alike with her will.
Am I the last mortal to have seen these things?
If so then pity I the next who shall in ignorance invoke her wrath.
For their fate is among the white flames and cascading light,
That comes to aide her children when rises in judgment the Invictus.