Cross stood in human form by a pool of water, calling Jace again. It had been a week since the party, and while he enjoyed himself, and Chandra's company, several things weighed heavily on his mind. Cross started to pace slowly as Jace didn't answer, thinking back to his friends and family. Having left Ravnica during a crucial time Cross was naturally thinking about the state of his home. Without Razia to lead them, the Legionaire knew the Boros would not be as strong as it had been, even if a new leader arose, and with Niv Mizzet's disappearance the Izzet League was also leaderless. And even the thickest headed Goblin in the Gruul Clans could tell an aimless Izzet mage was bad news.
"Damn it mind mage, answer me." Cross growled, his pacing accelerating as time passed. Eventually he gave up, transforming and bounding away in his wolf form. It was then that he smelled oil and brimstone, and without hesitation he turned towards Ponyville, running as fast as his four legged form would allow.
He heard no screams of horror and the smell faded as he ran, but that didn't stop or sway Cross, and he continued full pelt into town, racing to the library. He naturally headed for where there were fewer ponies to get in his way, and he sighed as they continued to shy away at the sight of him.
'Well, at least they're not trying to stop me.' The Planeswalker thought, as he dove and dodged between carts and groups of ponies until he reached the library. He saw an open window and drew mana from his Jwar Isle memories to him.
"Leap." He muttered, vaulting into the air and through the opening, landing inside the library. Spike and Twilight were nowhere to be seen, but Cross searched the building anyway before leaping back out the window, landing and sniffing the wind. Brimstone was on the wind, and the oil smell lay just beneath that.
"Need to see it…" The walker muttered, fur bristling as he called more blue mana to himself through his memories, before closing his eyes tightly. When he opened them again, they were glowing with a faint blue light.
"Preordain." Cross gained a moment's glance at what was out there in the woods, but it was enough. A large black form, with oil and fire in its blood and mouth, and claws that glowed like hot iron crossed his vision, and in less than an instant Cross was shuddering in horror. He had seen what a figure like that could do to, and to a defenseless town like Ponyville, which had built almost every home and shop out of wood and other highly flammable materials, that would be far worse than even Cross had yet seen.
"No time to lose then." Cross muttered, racing towards Rainbow Dash's home. He would not allow that thing near Ponyville, and he began pulling red mana from the mountainous forges of Ravnica into his body from memory.
"Surge of Zeal." Cross felt a wave of power pass over his body, flowing from his mind to his tail, and within moments he was at Rainbow Dash's home, far faster than if he hadn't cast his spell. Once more he summoned his leaping spell, and landed effortlessly on the clouds with disks of pure mana beneath his paws.
"Hey Cross, what's the hurry?" Dash looked over to him from one of the windows. Cross caught another whiff of the winds, and once more shuddered in horror.
"Bolas is sending a Moltensteel Dragon to burn Ponyville to the ground. I need you to find Twilight in case I can't stop it." He replied, trying not to think of what failure would mean. Rainbow Dash was down beside him in moments.
"Princess Celestia called Spike and Twilight to her in Canterlot yesterday, it'll take me too long to fly there and back." She said, "We'll have to take it on ourselves. I can round up Applejack and Fluttershy to give us back up." The Planeswalker shook his head.
"Of all the days to be called away, it had to be now. Go and get the others then, Rarity as well. We'll need to meet near the northern part of town in order to form a strategy, but we don't have much time." Cross turned and leaped back to the ground, casting his Surge of Zeal again to speed himself and Rainbow Dash. Within moments she was gone at twice her speed, and he was headed to the north to intercept the monster and turn it back. He couldn't defeat it outright, but he'd attempt to drive it away from Ponyville for a time.
Within the woods, the large figure of the dragon began to scent the air, hissing quietly. Two figures followed, Tormentor Exarchs of Urabrask's hordes, each carrying a staff in their right hands, the left one being bound into steel with a chained flail sticking out of ball of metal encasing their fist.
"Forward! To wreck and ruin we march!" The first shouted. The second chimed in with a flourish of its staff, smacking the dragon on its flank. The beast hissed again, spewing small flames from its nostrils as it continuing along the ground, its wings and maw bound with heavy chains.
"Why'd the master say we have to bind it up like this anyway? Would it not burn these fleshbags more eloquently if it were set loose?" The second Exarch asked, looking at the blackened metal form ahead of him. The first Exarch turned its monstrous face towards its partner, the red glow from its bestial mouth-like helmet intensifying.
"If it were set loose too early they'd mount a defensive. We're using a bit of what the master calls 'strategy.' Now don't ask stupid questions, or I'll make scrap out of you when we get home." The Exarch spat, "Whether or not we or it like the plan or not, the plan is to get it close, then set it free, unless we spot the white wolf or a human with a red fist. Once it's free, then we can enjoy watching the slaughter." The second Exarch nodded, thinking about it very little before looking around again. He didn't see any white wolves or red fisted men around, and turned to look at the black hulk before him. The first of the two Exarchs stopped after a moment, the red in its helm intensifying again.
"What are you gonna yell at me for this time?" The second replied, before the maul on the first Exarch slammed into the second's head. From that moment the two began to squabble, the dragon wandering aimlessly along, oblivious to the fight to the death behind it. Eventually the two Exarchs impaled one another, and Cross staggered out of the trees, panting heavily.
"Well, that was a lot of mana to use… But a little Blood Fued now and then can be useful… And now that the dragon's headed for Everfree Forest and not Ponyville, we've got a fighting chance." The wolf quickly banished the bodies before running back towards Ponyville, breathing heavily as he went. Another figure appeared out of the shadows, a human face with metal limbs that flowed and swooped, like elegant calligraphy that connected hand and body through interconnected smooth lines, distinctly opposed to the jagged points of the Exarchs. Without a word it drew a long blade, heading towards the long passed form of the Phyrexian dragon, drawing
"Lord Bolas's Will be done. The Vectis are at his command." The figure whispered, four more beings appearing behind it, made entirely of steel and appearing as mockeries of men. As it began to chase the dragon, running silently through the woods, these metal men followed, glowing blue eyes locked on their leader, ready to die to protect the dragon and their master's plans.
When Cross finally made it back to town his body appeared ragged and worn, and his haggard breathing alerted the others to his coming long before they could see him. The wolf-formed Planeswalker instantly saw the looks of concern on their faces, and knew he looked as bad as he felt right now.
"You alright partner?" Applejack asked, walking over with Fluttershy. Cross shook himself and nodded, fighting to control his breathing enough to speak.
"The Dragon is headed for Everfree Forest, we should be able to destroy it there, or let something in there destroy it." Cross at last managed to say, pausing for breath every few words. He shook himself again, looking towards the smoke trail in the air. It was consistent for now, but he wondered if the beast could smell anything besides the trees.
"That monster's gonna burn the whole forest down if we don't do something, just look at the smoke!" Rainbow Dash was gearing up to charge, but Cross shook his head.
"It's not breathing its fire; they've chained its mouth shut and its wings together. It can't fly, and it can't breathe flame. It's a sitting duck." The Legionaire was trying to deal with his exhaustion, letting his mind use the mana around him to heal his physical pain and replenish some of the mana he'd lost over the course of the day.
"Well, if it's so helpless right now, I say we smash it now. We can't let some critter start eating it and getting all oil-slicked if that make's 'em into another monster." Applejack stated, before noticing the confused looks from the other's, aside from Cross.
"Twilight was reading Cross's book and found the section on Phyrexia, and she let me know about it yesterday when she was picking up something for the Princess. The oil makes any critter it touches into a Phyrexian, and it makes more oil after that." The orange earth pony looked to Cross, who nodded.
"Jace and I have found a spell to destroy the oil, but Applejack is right. The more creatures we save from phyresis, the better. I'll try to recover my mana on the way, but we need to move now, while there's still time." With that Cross began to lead the way towards the dragon, the Legionaire's breathing getting stronger slowly but surely.