“You can’t possibly be serious?” Celestia quavered as uncertainty and fear tainted her voice. “You’d have to use the Elements to banish us, and we can sense that they’re nowhere near charged!”
“True, under normal circumstances,” Twilight smirked. Then, as Celestia and Luna bolted in a vain attempt to flee her, Twilight flicked her still-fiery tail (she would need to remain fiery until her little plan was over, even if the visage didn’t suit her—though she still needed the power of her rage, she wouldn’t let it control her. Twilight would remain cool and tactical throughout). In response, the magical barrier the Princesses had used to keep the ponies in the Royal Square extended to rise up and smack them. Effectively trapping them inside with their subjects, the barrier glimmered almost mockingly as Celestia and Luna tried to pierce it with their horns and batter it with their powerful—but not powerful enough—kicks. “But these aren’t normal circumstances, are they, Celestia and Luna? Normally teleportation involves slipping a pony through the threads that make up the fabric of the universe, regardless of whether the spell used to do so comes from a pony’s horn or the Elements. As you know, weaving a pony through the fabric of reality takes a lot of magical energy, and the farther one is teleported the more energy is needed to get her there.”
“Quick, Luna—the subjects!” Celestia called desperately to her sister, and the two alicorns rushed down to the crowd. “Make one move, Sparkle, and we’ll kill every last one of these ponies—wait!”
But in a flash, all of the subjects were gone as well. When Twilight saw the alicorn sisters’ horns glow, her own horn sparked twice as fast.
“Can’t have you using my own trick to escape me, now can I?” Twilight chuckled. “Though I suppose that is a bit hypocritical of me; after all, I just had to set up an anti-teleportation-barrier—and thanks for showing me how it’s done, by the way—inside the first barrier you enacted to prevent you from trying to run away.”
“What do you want, Sparkle?” Celestia hissed, turning on her former student but not daring to go any closer. Even when not fully charged, the Elements of Harmony were unpredictable, and the solar Princess didn’t want to risk any surprises in a full-out assault. “Vengeance? To kill us?”
“Yes and no,” Twilight said calmly. “First, I want justice served—but I don’t wish to repeat the vile acts you committed against my friends, even if those acts would be against you. That would make me just as much of a monster as you two are.”
“BUT THOUGH CANNOT BANISH US WITHOUT THE ELEMENTS,” Luna bellowed. Twilight saw that even if the Elements did give her the advantage here, Celestia and Luna’s body language told her that they’d be willing to risk facing the Elements’ lessened power if doing so before they were fully charged gave them a chance to incapacitate Twilight. Thankfully, though, that didn’t matter.
“But back to my favorite topic—lecturing on magic,” Twilight continued as the Princesses helplessly watched, unsure of what to do. “Even with my boosted alicorn magic, I couldn’t possibly hope to banish you two to a heavenly body without the Elements’ help, and as you’re so fond of repeating, Celestia, they won’t be charged again for quite some time. Even Discord here knows he doesn’t have enough magic to send a pony out of the atmosphere, though I know he’d be more than willing to if he could.”
Again, Discord nodded, grinning his toothy grin at the Princesses.
“So you can’t teleport us, we get that,” Celestia spat. “What ARE you going to do to us, then? Imprison us in the dungeon until the Elements are charged again? You know we’d find some way to escape.”
“True,” Twilight admitted. “Which is why I’m going to go ahead and banish you now.”
“But you just said you couldn’t—” Celestia tried to say.
“I just said I couldn’t teleport you,” Twilight cut her off. “But there’s an easier way of going about this. Teleportation requires shoving a pony through the fabric of the universe—portals require the mere folding of this fabric.”
“But portals are just magical theory!” Celestia protested, a panicked look in her eyes.
“Not anymore,” Twilight smiled.
There was a glimmer at first, a shimmer in the air between Celestia and Luna, almost like the nearly-invisible barriers that kept them from fleeing the Square. Then it grew into a haze, like the heat on a summer’s day. Then a watery transparency, then a subtle brilliance, then a glowing ring, and then a shining disk of light.
Celestia and Luna desperately tried to get away, flapping their wings hard enough to send up gale-force winds that whisked debris around the Square. But Twilight caught them in her telekinetic grip, forcing them to wait by the portal as it opened.
And when it did open, the world seemed to shift. It was as if the ground instantly lost its gravity, and a gravity far more powerful than anything ever felt by ponydom gulped down the air inside the barrier in great heaping breaths. Debris swirled and were pulled into the blinding light, which melted the stones in the Square and set fire to the woodwork just by its presence.
“No!” Celestia pleaded. “I only sent Luna to the Moon when she disagreed with me! Why are you sending us to the SUN?!”
“I figured the farther you were, the less the temptation would be to come up there and kill you,” Twilight said simply. “Goodbye.”
The portal opened wider, and despite all the thrashing Celestia and Luna did in the confines of Twilight’s magic, their vain attempts to flee were nothing compared to the gravitational pull of the Sun when Twilight flung them through the portal.
Though there was no longer any air—or really much of anything in the magically barricaded Square—as the Sun had sucked it all away, Discord and Twilight both heard it loud and clear when Celestia called out “I’ll get you for this, Sparkle! I’ll make you pay!”
And then, with a wink, the portal was closed.
“Well done, Twilight,” Discord smiled approvingly. “Never again shall any being, be they draconequus or pony or otherwise, suffer because of Celestia and Luna.”
Twilight smiled back, allowed her fiery mane and tail to cool off and return to their normal dark purple striped with pink as her coat also reverted from white to lavender and her eyes did likewise from their blood-red—and then cried out in pain. Twisting around, Twilight saw a cord of pure fire lashing out of the pinprick the portal had become when she attempted to close it, but it seemed as if something was forcing it back open before it had been able to close completely.
Twilight was able to glance only once at Discord before the fiery snare yanked her backwards through the portal, which closed after her, leaving a very distraught draconequus to stare fearfully at the sky.
Over ninety-two million miles away, Twilight watched Discord’s distraught face wink out of sight as the portal closed behind her and she was flung towards the fiery maelstrom that was the largest object in the Solar System, and the only reason there was a Solar System at all. Twilight spread her wings, beating furiously, barely catching herself before the molten solar surface roasted her alive.
Though there was no air in the space the terrified Twilight now found herself in, there were plenty of gases blasting off of the surface of the Sun for her wings to find purchase on, just barely carrying her to safety. It was a good thing Twilight was an alicorn who didn’t need to breathe, or the concentrated gases would’ve evaporated her lungs and melted her body into plasma.
“You made a mistake, Twilight Sparkle,” whispered a voice, and Twilight whisked around to face a thing that was not Celestia. Celestia was a beautiful creature—even if looks could be deceiving—and such was not the case with the thing that now spoke with Celestia’s voice. Then, the whisper rising to a roar that screamed across Twilight with all the force of the solar winds, it shouted “AND YOU SHALL PAY!”
The thing—with elongated limbs and a horn twice as sword-like as Celestia’s had been, bore a dark coat that contrasted heavily with the blinding brilliance of the Sun below. It’s wings were like miniature solar flares made of dark flames, while it wore armor that looked like molten gold constantly moving around its body. The monstrosity’s mane and tail burned with all the fierceness of the Sun’s fiery heart, but the worst part about it was the thing’s eyes—dark points that bore no light at all.
It was like Nightmare Moon all over again, only worse, because the Elements of Harmony were still weren’t fully charged, and Twilight was on this Nightmare’s home turf. Twilight could see it feeding off the power of the Sun, breathing it in like sweet air on a summer day. Whatever Celestia had become, it was either much more—or much less, depending on how one looked at—than an alicorn. Sure, it had all the powers of the Sun, something the old Celestia couldn’t have hoped to have, but it also had not the slightest trace of any emotion or understanding within it other than hate.
“I AM UMBRAE NOVA,” the thing screamed, and Twilight had to dodge to the side to avoid the breath of flame that came out as it did so. “I AM THE DARK SUN, AND YOU SHALL PAY FOR WHAT YOU DID TO ME, FOR WHAT YOU DID TO MY SISTER!”
Twilight realized that Luna’s powers must have been cancelled out by the Sun just as Celestia’s were only increased, and the Princess of the Night must have perished in the furnace below as a result. So Twilight was a killer after all.
But no! Twilight hadn’t meant to! Even if Twilight had been trying to be smart about this one, even the greatest geniuses in Equestrian history made mistakes. Even Starswirl the Bearded, Twilight’s hero, lost more than one assistant in his quest to cast the dangerously unstable amniomorphic spell, but he never gave up despite all his mistakes! Even if Twilight had been wrong about the banishment, it was only something to be learned from, not mourned over. No, she would never mourn for the death of a killer—perhaps this was the way justice was served, whether Twilight had a choice in the matter or not.
Another thing Twilight didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter of was her own survival.
Umbrae Nova rushed the lavender alicorn, screaming with all the fiery fury of the Sun, and Twilight fled. Twilight swooped low, hoping to lose the dark thing Celestia had become in the bubbling gases below, but had to roll to the side to just barely dodged what she realized those bubbling gases meant. The split second Twilight was free of the gases, they erupted in a blazing column of fire.
“That solar flare could’ve killed me,” Twilight thought. “Whether I’m an alicorn or not. Only Celestia could survive this place for long because it’s her element! But maybe that doesn’t mean she could survive ALL of it…”
Getting an idea, Twilight dashed back up and soared past Umbrae Nova, bucking her in the nose as she did so. It did little more than infuriate the thing, but the task did what it was meant to accomplish—the Dark Sun was now following Twilight. Was right on her tail, in fact…
Twilight did a short range teleportation just in time to avoid her tail being chomped on by the not-Celestia. The lavender alicorn knew she couldn’t teleport all the way back to Equestria, and another portal would take precious seconds to open that Umbrae Nova would surely use to tear her to flaming shreds, but a short hop, skip, and a jump was manageable.
Umbrae Nova roared with rage and turned to see Twilight beneath her before rocketing back down to continue the chase. Twilight led the Dark Sun in and out of solar flares, until she saw the beginnings of a new one. Darting down, Twilight paused above the bursting bubbles of the solar surface, teleporting away the instant Umbrae Nova caught up to her.
And then the solar flare erupted.
“Yes!” Twilight exclaimed victoriously. Even if the Sun was Celestia’s—and Umbrae Nova’s—element, they couldn’t possibly have survived that. And, even though she had just killed another living being, no matter how wretched it had been, Twilight calmed herself again with the knowledge that it had been in self-defense—and if she hadn’t done so, then the Elements of Harmony would be stuck out here on the Sun forever, never able to protect Equestria should the need arise. Now all Twilight had to do was open a portal up to get back home and—
A dark silhouette flared its glowing eyes through the column of flame, and Twilight yelped and tried to back up in midflight. The thing that was not Celestia latched out a spiked hoof and caught Twilight on the collar of her Elemental armor, the molten metal charged with all the heat of the Sun causing Twilight to scream out in pain as it connected with her flesh.
“YOU WILL BOTHER US NO MORE, TWILIGHT SPARKLE,” Umbrae Nova roared. “NOW, DIE!”
Umbrae Nova’s horn, if it was possible, glowed even brighter than the rest of her, and swooped down to slice Twilight down the middle.
Twilight, driven by the panicked desire to live, by the desire to not be killed by this monstrosity Celestia had become, and by the simple refusal to let somepony else command her destiny—or the end of it—caused her own horn to glow, and the moment Twilight and Celestia’s horns connected the two sparked into an ignition that temporarily outshone even the Sun.
Back in Equestria, Discord and the rest of those watching the sky where the sun was acting strangely saw the spark and hoped it was a good sign.
Twilight tentatively opened her eyes, and, seeing nothing but the barren, blazing surface of the Sun, breathed a sigh of relief.
Umbrae Nova might not have succumbed to the heat of the solar flare, but even it couldn’t withstand the heat of the place Twilight had teleported her to—a place farther than Twilight thought she could even send something. Even the not-Celestia couldn’t survive the fiery heart of the Sun itself.
Now, about that portal…
A rush of heat emanated from throughout the Sun, and flares began popping up all across its surface.
Twilight looked down, and saw that the Sun seemed to be expanding, rising up beneath her and growing redder even though Twilight made no movement herself. Flapping her wings furiously, Twilight rocketed away from the reaching, grasping solar flares that clawed like hands at Twilight’s hooves as the Sun grew beneath her.
How could Umbrae Nova have possibly survived THAT? Twilight’s mind raced, and then, just as suddenly, it stopped cold. Bringing Celestia to the Sun had indeed trapped her here, but it had also simply made her stronger. The solar flare had simply added kindling to that fire, and if that had been a mere spike of flame, then what had the heart of a star done to her…?
Twilight teleported as far as she possibly could, and appeared winded and weary halfway out in space between Equestria and the still expanding Sun, which had already consumed some of the inner planets. Equestria wouldn’t be too far behind, and already the seas must be boiling down there as the temperature spiked forest fires and atmospheric super-storms. Whatever nature Celestia had lost when she became Umbrae Nova, whatever it was that made her, however atrocious, at least on some level still a pony, what more had she lost when she became whatever the heart of the Sun turned her into? What was left of Celestia now but a raw hate for all life?
“What?” Twilight asked, whirling around, though she could see nopony.
“Discord?” Twilight called, recognizing the draconequus’ voice, however faint it may have been. “Is that you?”
“…Twilight…” Discord called from Equestria, still so very far away. “…I lost track of you for a moment there…but I can feel your presence again, though its faint…Equestria’s in turmoil down here! It’s like the world is catching fire!....what’s going on up there…?!”
“I made a mistake, Discord,” Twilight said in a near panic. All of Ponyville, all of Equestria, all of the world, was about to be burned alive by the expanding red giant the Sun was turning into—because of her. “I tried to kill Celestia using the Sun, but that only made her more powerful. Now she doesn’t just want to kill me, she wants to kill everything! I’ve never felt such hate…”
“…You pushed her into her element and she went mad, right…?” Discord asked. “…That’s exactly what happened to Luna when she became Nightmare Moon—she tried to increase her powers by merging with the Moon to overcome her sister, but she went mad at the revelation that lay behind the power…The same thing must have happened to Celestia, only much deeper this time…Twilight, you can still stop her, you have to use the powers of YOUR element…”
“But the Elements of Harmony still aren’t charged!” Twilight said, close to hopelessness. “And I can’t use the Element of Magic without using all of them at once!”
“…No, Twilight, not those Elements…YOUR element…” Discord called desperately. “…think, Twilight…where does magic come from…?”
“But…magic comes from the mystical energies interlocking throughout the fabric of this entire universe,” Twilight thought. “All magical beings us this force, but I can’t tap into it all at once!”
“…Yes, you can…!” called Discord. “…And hurry!”
Twilight tentatively stretched out her magical senses, felt around, and—there!
Twilight was almost knocked backwards, as if she had been hit in the face.
She had felt it! The entire magical matrix running throughout the course of this entire universe! It was amazing, it was more power than the Sun, more power than anything she’d ever felt.
But, that was just it.
The power, it was overwhelming! If Celestia had become Umbrae Nova just from touching the surface of the Sun, then what would Twilight become if she opened up the magical matrix? Wouldn’t she too go mad from the revelation that lay behind it all?
“I can’t do it!” Twilight called to Discord. “It’s too much! I won’t be able to control it! I’ll…I’ll just turn into another monster, something even worse than what Celestia has become!”
“…No, Twilight,” Discord said firmly. “…You won’t. I believe in you…And so would—no, and so DO—your friends…!”
Her friends. Yes, they would believe in her. They DID believe in her
And if Twilight’s friends believed in her, then so did she.
Twilight closed her eyes tightly, concentrated hard, her horn sparked, and she touched the Magic.
If the power Twilight had felt before was overwhelming, then the power she felt now squashed that into a billion pieces. It coursed through her with the pulsating beat of the rhythm of reality, like the heartbeat of the universe itself. Twilight saw the magic, once invisible, all around her, in luminescent strings, pulsing and dancing like the aurora borealis. It was beautiful, something so beautiful that no other living being had ever seen, or probably ever would see again. A tear came to Twilight’s eye.
And she had the power, now, to squeeze the Sun back into its proper shape. It was so simple, like biting down on a sweet, savory apple—just enough to make it give a little, but not enough to slice it in half. It took no more of Twilight’s new energy than it would to squeeze a sponge.
“…No…” came a voice that was not Discord’s. It was faint as his had been at such a distance, but it was unmistakably a different voice. It was Celestia, Umbrae Nova, Red Giant, or whatever the thing that used to be Equestria’s beloved ruler had become now. “…I will not let it end this way, not yet…”
“You have no choice,” Twilight called to it. “Your Sun is shrinking back to its original size. You cannot expand it any further to endanger Equestria.”
“…Then I shall shrink it further to endanger Equestria…” came the voice. “…And to endanger you…”
“What are you talking about?” Twilight wondered, not sure whether to be suspicious or disdainful towards what could either be the hollow threat of a pathetic dying creature or the most dangerous thing she had ever faced in her life.
It turned out to be the latter.
“I SHALL GIVE LIGHT NO MORE!” suddenly bellowed the voice with a shuddering intensity that seemed to almost make the universe itself crack. “INSTEAD, I SHALL TAKE IT! FEED ME, UNIVERSE! I SHALL CONSUME YOU! I SHALL CONSUME ALL!”
The Sun began to contract faster than Twilight was pushing it, and soon it zoomed in on itself and seemingly disappeared from sight.
The Sun had gone completely—imploded into the nothingness that lay beyond the universe. And, it seemed, the new horror Celestia had become—or rather, the new, hungry, gaping nothingness she had become—wanted to take the rest of the solar system with it.
“I AM AETERNA NOCTE,” the new not-Celestia bellowed. “I AM THE ETERNAL NIGHT!”
The Sun was now, Twilight realized, the opposite of what it was supposed to be.
It was a black hole.
“…Twilight!” Discord’s voice called out, though it was louder now that Twilight could see Equestria and the rest of the planets getting pulled into the hungry dark nothingness and thus closer to her, who was also caught in Aeterna Nocte’s grip. “Use the magic! You can still fix this! You can still close it…!”
“HOW?!” Twilight demanded. “All I’ve ever done is make things WORSE! It’s because of me my friends died, and it’s because of me that all of Equestria will do the same!”
“Use ALL the magic!” Discord ordered. “Go as far into your element as Celestia went into hers!”
“And go as mad as she has?” Twilight spat. “Make two monstrosities instead of one?!”
“YES!” Discord called. “But you’ll still be you! Never forget who you are, Twilight Sparkle—you, who stood up to Celestia! You, who stood up to Aeterna Nocte! You can do it, and you can still be you!”
“I don’t believe that!” Twilight roared. “I can’t believe it! ALL I’VE EVER DONE IS MAKE THINGS WORSE! I can’t make them better!”
“We believe you can,” whispered five voices all at once in Twilight’s ears. “We all do.”
Without a second thought, and with her heart about to burst with thanks, Twilight leapt into the Magic.
. . .