Her ears were ringing. Her heart was hammering unbearably loud in her chest. Every muscle in her body screamed for her to stop moving and let them rest, but a voice in the back of Fluttershy’s head told her to not stop. She twisted in the air, righting herself to put the clouds above her again and dove towards Twilight. The eight shadowed figured were diving in faster than she could hope to match but she was closer.
Tears spilled from her eyes as she shot downwards towards the figure, hooves extended to catch the unicorn, but something collided into her. Hard. Fluttershy let out a cry of pain, feeling a strong pair of arms lock around her waist and a snout hovering near her ear. She thrashed in the air, throwing the pony’s flight pattern around erratically, but a second pony slammed into her to knock the air out of her lungs. She gasped loudly, her body falling limp from pain as the two ponies began to dive for the ground. She stared upwards as the remaining six piled on top of Twilight and started to make off with her. Her heart began to hammer harder in panic as she watched her friend get taken away.
What little Fluttershy knew of aerial combat was put to use. The two figures clinging to her were strong, and her wings and front legs locked into place. Her back legs ,though, were free. She sucked in a deep breath as she prepared herself. “Sorry…” She whispered, and brought both knees between the spread legs of her two captors. One gave a hoarse shout and fell off her, cradling his bruised groin, the other just grit her teeth. Fluttershy reared her head back as the female was distracted, and when the bandit turned back to glare at the girl she was met with a skull to the nose. The grip loosened and Fluttershy pulled herself free of the legs around her and caught herself in mid-air. She extended her wings and flapped them rapidly, gaining distance from the ground as she shot towards the now distant figures of shadows.
She did everything she could to speed up, lower her wind resistance, but the figures were getting farther and farther away. She whimpered softly, turning her head to see one of her former captors recovering while the other struggled in mid-air, and she picked her speed up while going for the distant Pegasi. Despite their payload, the combined six of them picked up ground that Fluttershy felt she could never cover by herself.
“Twilight…” She whispered, hooves extended as she flapped her wings harder than she’d ever had before, a twisting knot in her gut as she realized, slowly, horribly, that she wasn’t going to be fast enough. Tears streamed down her cheeks as her wings flapped so hard they were starting to go numb, yet she couldn’t match the others’ speed. She could do nothing for her friend.
Before despair had a chance to clench her heart, she heard the noise again. Distant thunder, rolling towards her, making her glance back. The other two had fully recovered, and she watched as sparks ran from their wings into the clouds, forming jagged currents of lightning, and a bright spot appeared in the clouds moving erratically towards her. Fluttershy had just a second to drop, and she watched the bright spot pass over her. The other two began to shout to the six making off with Twilight but they were not heard. The six paused just long enough to see the glowing trail pause just above them, and immediately four of them fell from the sky to avoid it. The other two, still holding Twilight, weren’t so lucky.
Fluttershy only stared in horror and fascination as the bright spot shot a bolt of lightning as thick as a tree downwards, slashing through the air for less than a second, and the two Pegasi fell away, screaming in pain as flames wrapped around their broken bodies. Fluttershy gasped to herself as a third figure began to fall straight down. With a shriek of terror, Fluttershy dove at an angle for the falling unicorn, well aware she was not alone in her attempt. It didn’t matter, as long as she caught Twilight, as long as she could get her friend.
Twilight was falling fast, but Pegasi were much quicker. Fluttershy all but tackled Twilight to catch her in her forelegs. She grit her teeth and began to pull upwards, needing to slow down, and judging by the wind underneath her hooves barely avoiding an assailant. She had that to be thankful for as she rose upwards, finally pausing in midair. She needed to get to the ground, but a glance downwards told her that was a bad idea. There were shapes gathering beneath her, staring up at her. Expectantly. She turned her head in a slow circle, and noticed the six remaining figures were circling them slowly. They had every chance to dive in and grab them both, but they seemed hesitant.
If they were relying on her doing the same, they were about to be disappointed. Fluttershy began to flap her wings and rose rapidly, which grabbed the attention of the Pegasi. Fluttershy squeezed Twilight to her chest and aimed for the clouds.
A quick glance downwards told her she wasn’t going to make it. One of the Pegasi was closing in quickly, hooves extended to grab onto Twilight, and Fluttershy considered dropping beneath the attempt except one of the Pegasi was already a ways beneath her. She wished she knew all those aerial acrobatics Rainbow Dash was so good at, maybe then…
She glanced downwards quickly and saw the Pegasus was a few feet away, and she knew that, if he grabbed on, the rest would follow, and there’d be no chance of them getting away from this. Fluttershy wasn’t sure what else to do. Luckily, her passenger did.
The Pegasus, so intent on Fluttershy, never saw the Unicorn’s back hoof collide with his chin. The Pegasus fell away, spiraling away from the two as Twilight groaned. “Stupid… Bandits…” She hissed, obviously as sore as Fluttershy was.
“Don’t worry Twilight, we’re almost to the clouds, we might be able to escape them inside the clouds.” Fluttershy shouted over the roaring air around them.
“Not a chance Fluttershy, that lightning thing they did would smoke us out the instant they got up there. I have an idea, get through the cloud barrier and I might be able to help.” Fluttershy said nothing, but squeezed Twilight harder to her body. With renewed determination, she flew up, into the clouds.
Rainbow Dash was staring off into the distance again. A second roar of thunder, this one longer and louder than the last. From her balcony on her cloud-formed home she tried to puzzle it out. The small rain shower wasn’t supposed to happen for at least another few hours, and on top of that, small rain showers often did not feature thunder and lightning. It was suspicious, but mishaps had happened before.
Part of her considered diving in to take a look herself, see if any young fliers were causing a ruckus and bucking clouds they weren’t supposed to, but she also wondered if it was just theatrics for a traveling performance. It’s happened before, and was actually pretty neat.
She sat on her balcony and watched the night sky, wanting to hear the thunder again.
“Drop me.” Twilight ordered Fluttershy. The Pegasus looked down at her friend with a mixed look of shock and confusion, but Twilight gave her the pleading eyes. “Just trust me Fluttershy…” So Fluttershy did. Twilight landed on the clouds like they were solid, and Fluttershy joined her. Twilight laid on her stomach, prompting Fluttershy to do the same. “Hiding.” Twilight nodded as six figures burst from the fluff around them and flew outwards, scanning the skies.
The two ponies laid still, but Fluttershy began to whimper. The two blows she’d taken earlier while being captured intermingled all too well with her sore muscles from the lightning strike. She buried her face in the cloud and tried to ignore it, but her position wasn’t comfortable. She began to breath deeply, until a hoof touched her face. She opened her eyes to find Twilight’s worried stare on her, and Fluttershy slowly calmed herself down.
“No sign of them.” Twilight pushed her hoof into her mouth as her eyes widened in surprise. One of the Pegasus was right behind her, standing on her tail while he spoke to another of the Pegasus. “Think they’re in the clouds?” He asked. The other snorted in annoyance.
“Colland would had found them by now if they had. Search high, they might be using the shadows to blend into the sky.” The two shook their heads and they turned, and one of their hooves hit something solid.
“Found ‘em.” The first one growled cockily. What happened next, Fluttershy was unsure, all she knew was Twilight began to glow, and there was a flash of lightning, and the male had disappeared. The other leapt high into the air, avoiding another blast of lightning as Twilight stood, her horn glowing blue as electricity ran along her coat into the clouds below. There was an incredibly boom of thunder, and the second Pegasus whinnied in alarm. The four others turned and stared down at their companion before closing in using a circling pattern.
Fluttershy stayed low, whimpering as she stared up at Twilight who was crackling furiously with electricity. An orange glow slowly formed on the surface of her mane, and arcs of lightning sprang from the clouds and traveled along her body as the Pegasus, in turn, began to crackle back. The other four watched calmly, waiting for the slightest provocation.
“Twilight, what do we do?” Fluttershy whispered, getting to her hooves slowly, still staying low.
“We need to flee.” Twilight’s voice was deep, and flat. It almost didn’t sound like hers. It was so low and confident it came out as solid monotone. “Or we need to fight.” Fluttershy stared at her friend, who was beginning to crackle more. There was the sound of distant thunder, then another boom, then a third.
Fluttershy screamed as the world lit up with energy.
“All Pegasus ponies wake up!” Rainbow Dash shouted down towards Ponyville, flying as slow as she could bare as she repeated her line again and again. “All Pegasus ponies wake up! There is an emergency weather event! All Pegasus ponies get OUT OF BED NOW!”
She was joined lazily by other ponies, yawning and looking to Rainbow Dash curiously or in annoyance. “’Sup Dash?” One asked as he closed in. Dash pointed into the distance, where there were several flashes of light, followed by the loudest series of thunder claps they’d ever heard at this far out.
“Holy horse apples.” One of the Pegasus whispered, his eyes narrowing. “I saw the light, where’s the lightning?”
“Could be in the clouds.” One answered just above him.
“Or above them.” Dash also pointed out. “Either way, this is weird. Let’s go take a look, if some idiot thinks he’s being funny by keeping the whole kingdom awake, they need some sense bucked into them.”
There was another rolling of thunder, and this time they saw it. It was definitely above the clouds, and it was bright and vicious enough to set a few of the Pegasi on edge. “That ain’t natural. No pony in their right mind would make a bolt that strong! They could burn the whole field if that hit the ground.”
“And that’s why the weather ponies are reporting in!” Somepony laughed as they flew towards the area.
There were hooves all around her, all purple, all crackling with energy. Fluttershy raised her head, and saw Twilight carefully stepping around her to watch the circling bandits. “Twilight…”
“You’re alright?” Twilight asked, again in deep monotone. Fluttershy nodded slowly. “Then run. Run while you can. You can’t be here for this. They’ll hurt you.” She advised darkly, her body tensing. At least one of the Pegasi in the sky were missing, the other four watching the two ponies like hawks.
“Twilight I can’t just-
“Fluttershy!” An edge of command, of accusation entered her voice. Fluttershy realized this wasn’t Twilight, Twilight was never this short with her. Never this vicious sounding with her words. “Go now! I’ll fight them!”
“What about you!?” Fluttershy shouted desperately as she heard another loud clap, and she screamed as lightning flashed around them, only to get sucked straight into the odd orange aura surrounding Twilight. “I can’t leave you here Twilight! I won’t leave until you come with m-” She was cut short. Twilight’s legs had flashed, and Fluttershy felt numb. She realized she was rolling away from her friend. She’d been bolted by Twilight. Harmlessly, but the sting of rejection burned all the same.
“Go. Don’t make me do that again.” Twilight’s voice followed her. Fluttershy stood shakily, tears in her eyes as the four Pegasi circled in closer and closer, speaking to each other, planning while Twilight held the line. “I said go Fluttershy!”
“No.” Fluttershy grunted, pushing into Twilight’s side, feeling the energy along her. It was warm, it was powerful, and in her mind, it was unnatural around her friend.
“Fluttershy!” Twilight growled, twisting her head towards her friend. She was met with a look of quivering steel. Then she screamed as the four figures dove, slamming into the two ponies wordlessly, throwing them through the clouds. Fluttershy managed to right herself in mid-air just beneath the fluffy mass, despite the pains, despite the numbness, she caught herself. She spied Twilight standing on a free-floating cloud beneath the sea of white above them, sparkling with lightning while three of the Pegasi dove in, around her, keeping her attention and trying to hit her with a fresh bolt, but each shot failed as they struck her aura. Twilight returned each blast in kind, narrowly missing each time, but slowly gaining accuracy.
Fluttershy raced to join Twilight on the cloud, some strain of stubbornness telling her to be there. Maybe it was stupid. Maybe she should run. Twilight needed her though, whether she knew it or not.
She felt impact against her stomach and was knocked out of her flight path by one of the Pegasi. The Pegasus flew in, hooves straightened out and crashed into Fluttershy, sending her towards the ground as Fluttershy dazedly gagged for air, her chest burning with pain. She knew a rib or two was broken, but worse was the pounding headache from the second attack. She righted herself, just barely, still well above the ground. Above the swarming figures beneath her.
She stared with cloudy eyes as the figure swooped towards her, and she dropped suddenly, avoiding a third blow. The rational part of her mind told her that Twilight was right, they needed help, they needed Ponyville. Still, Twilight…
She turned her head from Twilight, a terrible sense of betrayal filling her stomach as she sped towards Ponyville. She didn’t want to leave Twilight, but she couldn’t do this on her own. She flew as fast as she could. Far above the clouds, she narrowly missed the help she so desperately sought.
“Give up!” One of the Pegasi shouted down towards the cloud-riding unicorn, diving below as a bolt of lightning nearly struck him out of place. The sound of thunder was constant now, echoing against the clouds and ground, a cauldron of booming noise and flashing lights. The rolling thunder got louder as electricity sprung from the clouds, missing their targets or getting sucked in by a quivering orange aura.
Twilight snorted at the words of “Advice” and shifted her stance to let a bolt surge from her cloud, striking just underneath the mouthy Pegasus. “Give up or we will be forced to hurt your little friend!” One of them shouted, dropping to avoid another bolt.
‘That foal.’ Twilight snorted in disgust. A part of her was screeching in anger at the thought but she quelled it. No time to dwell on the distractions, she could reprimand Fluttershy for this later. ‘If she survives.’ She winced, her head burning with pain as something rebelled against that very thought. A moment later she was airborne when a Pegasus tackled her off the cloud. The headache was gone, and she stared in fury at the mare giving her a wide-eyed look of shock.
In midair, Twilight exploded with electricity, turning the offending foal to ash before landing on a newly-formed cloud, letting the charred remains drop off of her to the ground. That annoying part of her recognized that she’d just ended a life, but the queasiness was short-lived. The other two seemed more hesitant to attack her now, and began to turn tail. “No.” Twilight whispered, willing the cloud forward. “You don’t get off easy.”
Rainbow Dash recognized the flashes were coming from beneath the clouds now. Her eyes had narrowed and she grit her teeth angrily at whatever idiot was now hitting the ground. The thunder never stopped now, and half of Ponyville and Canterlot must have been woken up. There was foolish and then there was just plain dangerous. “Below the clouds! Keep an eye out for whatever jerk is pulling this off!”
The entire troupe of forty lowered through the soft white, the flashes getting brighter and brighter as they got closer. Rainbow Dash picked up speed, leaving the rest behind before breaking through the clouds. She saw them, she saw the idiotic mule kicking up the ruckus, she saw…
“Twilight!?” Dash shouted, slowing down as she watched the cloud-riding unicorn speed away from her. Then the sound of thunder crashed around her, and from the cloud she rode a lightning bolt branched out, and as her eyes followed the electric trail she spied a Pegasus. Dash froze in midair, soon surrounded by her equally stunned group as the odd Pegasus jerked unnaturally from the hit, and exploded into flames before falling towards the Earth.
They floated there for a few long seconds while Twilight came to a stop, and turned. Dash stared into Twilight’s eyes. They were solid white, glowing as intensely as the orange around her, and there was a look of pure apathy on her face as she came to Rainbow Dash. The others backed away, frightened by the strangely glowing unicorn. “Rainbow Dash.” Twilight nodded in small greeting.
Dash’s eyes widened, and she grit her teeth. “What the hay is wrong with your voice!? What is going on!? Who was that!?” Dash demanded, landing on the cloud next to Twilight. The only thing keeping her from fleeing in fear was the deep attachment she felt towards the Unicorn. She couldn’t just leave her. Twilight must have had a good reason, right?
Twilight turned her head slowly, and stared at the burning heap on the ground fading from view. “An enemy. They chose to attack me and Fluttershy on our return. One is still after Fluttershy. Come.” The cloud began to speed up towards Ponyville, and the Pegasi reluctantly followed.
“Enemy? Attack!? Fluttershy!? Twilight what is going on!?” Rainbow Dash demanded, stomping her hoof dramatically. “Nopony just attacks another pony like that! You killed somepony Twilight, what’s wrong with you!?” She was shouting through blurry eyes now, still shocked from what she’d just witnessed.
Twilight turned her head slowly towards Dash, and the blue Pegasus took a step back, then held her ground firmly. She did not like those eyes. “They hurt Fluttershy. Would you have let them go?”
Dash stood on the cloud, stunned. There was no sincerity in Twilight’s voice, she was deliberately targeting a weak spot and didn’t even try to hide it. Despite this, Dash hung her head, her teeth hurting from how hard she clenched them. “Damnit Twilight… Let’s go save Fluttershy.” Twilight grunted the affirmative and began to crackle with electricity.
The citizens of Ponyville stared in the distance as the bright flashes of light and thunderclaps finally stopped. The mayor twisted her mouth from a frown into a hesitant smile. The weather ponies must have finally tended to the problem. A good thing too, there was so much activity in the past week it was spooking her citizens. First the librarian’s sick horn, then Celestia’s military appearance, and now this? At least things finally settled down.
“Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie shouted from next to the mayor, and the eyes turned to the sky. Pink mane and yellow coat, it was definitely Fluttershy flying overhead. “Maybe she knows what all the hubbub is about!” The pink pony smiled, until she spotted the Pegasus behind Fluttershy.
Fluttershy landed hard in front of Rarity’s boutique, a short distance away from the town square everypony was standing in. She barely caught herself on her hooves and it disturbed her cracked ribs, making her whimper in pain. Her hesitation cost her as the pursuing Pegasus smashed into her from behind, throwing her off her legs and onto the ground a short distance from the door. The Pegasus closed the gap quickly and stood over Fluttershy, raising his hooves to trample her where she lay.
Fluttershy tucked her back legs in, and kicked upwards, making the Pegasus grunt as he was tossed off her. Her stomach quivered from the crunching noise, but the Pegasus hardly seemed to notice as he closed in on the standing, shaking girl. Fluttershy turned rapidly and thrust her legs out, catching the bandit in the chest again and tossing him into the Boutique’s door right as the town came around the corner. The Pegasus stood, again, coughed up blood, and weakly charged Fluttershy.
The Pegasus girl stared in disbelief as her own body moved itself, and she head butted the pony in the chest, sending him back onto the ground. She raised herself up, and before she knew what she was doing, stomped.
The Pegasus beneath her wailed in pain as twice she struck his stomach and chest, before she was tugged backwards by her tail. Unable to take it anymore, she fell to her side and shook in agony and sorrow. She could hear voices, she could hear them calling her name but she just didn’t hear them. She wanted to weep. She did what she should have, she knew, but still, the thought of harming another…
“Fluttershy!” A new voice shouted. She stopped twitching so violently and turned her head upwards, staring into the deeply concerned eyes of Pinkie Pie. “Fluttershy, it’s okay, it’s okay! Stop shaking, please!” She begged her, until Fluttershy slowly shifted onto her knees.
“Fluttershy!?” The two ponies looked upwards as a cloud descended, and Rainbow Dash hopped off and ran to her wounded friend. “Did these… Did those guys do this to you!?” Dash demanded. Fluttershy, bit her lip, but nodded slowly.
“Then they must be reprimanded.” Came a frighteningly flat voice. Then everybody noticed that Twilight was standing on the cloud, passive, glowing. “I can make it quick.” She offered, but was nearly thrown off the cloud as Dash charged her, stomping the cloud and forcing her face into Twilight’s.
“Don’t you even dare suggest that Twilight! I don’t know what the hay is going on inside your head but you’re not killing a second pony!” She shouted into Twilight’s face. There was complete silence around them. Even Pinkie Pie stayed quiet as she stared.
“The numbers don’t matter. He would be my eighth anyways, and are you suggesting we let him go after what he did to-”
“Don’t go there! You…” Dash stomped the cloud again, her voice raising even higher. “You don’t even care about Fluttershy! You’re just trying to make me feel bad! Well I feel terrible but I don’t even want to kill him!”
Twilight’s eyes turned to narrow, glowing slits. “How noble.” She hissed, venom dripping off the last word.
“That’s not Twilight.” They turned to Fluttershy, who stood, shakily. “That’s not Twilight. Twilight’s in there but that’s not her. It can’t be her.” Fluttershy whispered, approaching slowly. Twilight was now glaring at Fluttershy.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” She snapped. Dash could finally see it. It was like Twilight was a whole different pony. There were inklings of her, but they were distilled into pure apathy, anger, and violence.
“Twilight.” Dash called, bringing the Unicorn’s furious attention to her, only to hesitate. Dash had a deeply sorrowful look on her face. “I know I call you an egghead and make fun of you sometimes, but I really do think you’re a good friend. If you’re in there, come out! I don’t like this you, she’s not cool. She’s just a bitch!” Everyone recoiled from the dark word, everyone but Twilight. Her face slowly fell into one of confusion, unsureness, and slowly, but surely…
“False… Power…” Came a weak voice. The Pegasus on the ground had risen to his front hooves, and was staring at Twilight with a mixture of hatred and pain. “A lie… Just a lie. An accident…” He coughed up more blood, and slowly crawled towards Twilight, his eyes glowering.
“What are you on about?” Twilight growled darkly, anger rising around her in the form of a swirling orange aura. Dash watched her work, her words, become meaningless in an instant.
“You were a mistake!” The Pegasus shouted. “You were never meant to happen! There was meant to be one, and by some divine prank there‘s you!” He spat out blood and more blood, his anger never wavering. “I am just one of many! You’ll be taken!” A crack of thunder, and the pony screamed as he was thrown off his feet against the wall again. He lifted his head weakly, grinning as if he’d won. “You can’t… Fight us all!” He rose again, but on willpower alone. One step and he’d topple. “Your false power…” He began to laugh painfully through broken ribs and lungs. “Will not be yours for much longer…”
Twilight crackled with energy again, and Dash threw herself in front of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy as the world around them roared when the next lightning bolt tossed the colt into the wall. He laid there, weak, agonized, but still smiling. “You’re not long for this world, witch! Go ahead! KILL ME!” The third bolt splattered him across the wall, leaving nothing but a dark imprint of something that used to be alive.
The whole of the town was silent, every eye on the imprint, then the powerfully glowing Twilight. She stood there in all her fury, horn glowing blue as electricity jumped to the ground. Everypony whimpered softly in fear and began to back away. Everypony but Fluttershy.
“No, don’t go near her!” Dash shouted urgently, but Fluttershy didn’t hear her. She limped to the cloud, nearly falling on her way. Twilight had turned to watch her, daring her to make even the smallest slight against her. Fluttershy lifted her torso onto the cloud, which began to crackle dangerously as Twilight willed power into her.
“You’re in there…” Fluttershy whispered as she pulled herself onto the cloud, ignoring the sparks beneath her feet. Twilight stared into the expression of sincerity and worry that Fluttershy held and backed away, the sparks turning into arcs of raw power that singed the fur and stung the flesh on Fluttershy’s legs. But she kept coming, until their cheeks touched. “Please Twilight… We love you so much, please come back out. Please come back out and stop this mare who thinks she’s you.”
Twilight hesitated, the lightning slowly stopping until all there were were two ponies. Her eyes still glowed, her aura boiling with intensity as her breathing deepened as something inside of her…
The cloud disappeared along with the orange, and Fluttershy fell to her hooves, just barely catching herself before she fell over. She sat to keep her balance, and stared down at the limp, unconscious form of her newest friend. “Twilight Sparkle…?” She whispered, reaching forward with one hoof to touch her cheek.
Fluttershy rubbed slowly, and whispered again. “Twilight, are you in there?”
Fluttershy’s lips quivered and her eyes grew misty, as she whispered one more time. “Twilight, you need to get up…”
Fluttershy hung her head.
“Jus’…” Fluttershy lifted her head and stared at the unicorn. “Few more min’u’s Spike…”
Her heart swelling, Fluttershy finally allowed herself to collapse.
The infirmary only had two patients the next day. In one bed laid Twilight Sparkle, still unconscious. She’d been given a quick physical and it was found there were no problems whatsoever. As far as anypony could tell, she was just out of it.
That was why Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie were spending their time next to Fluttershy’s bed. She was wrapped in bandages, holding her ribs back in place and restraining her legs. Her head had a bandage around it as well. All in all, Fluttershy looked very much liked the patients she watched over.
“It’s most certainly a terrifying development.” Rarity murmured, watching Twilight from the other side of Fluttershy’s bed, admiring her new horn with only slight envy. “Even for her this must be quite the shock. In and out of bed the past four days.”
“It wasn’t Twilight in control though. Well, some other Twilight maybe but not our Twilight. She spoke in a-” Pinkie lowered her voice to a deathly monotone, which was all too convincing for Fluttershy’s and Dash’s tastes, “deep scary voice.” It went back to normal quickly though. “And she didn’t even care about Fluttershy or Dashie until they started talking to Twilight instead of Meanie-Pants!”
“Even then, ya’ll reckon she’s safe? If anythin’ we should be contactin’ the Princess.” Applejack turned her firm eyes to Twilight. She didn’t like that new horn when it was coming out, now she was fairly certain it was pure evil. “I’m not sure we can even trust her at this point. What if she flips out on us again?”
“How can you say that?” Rainbow Dash glowered at her friend softly. “Sure she had one freaky moment since getting that thing but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen again! That’s still Twilight over there, she just has…” She chewed the words in her mouth and finally spoke again, “freak stuff inside of her!”
“Rainbow Dash is right.” Fluttershy piped up softly, unable to speak at full strength less she risk stressing her wounded chest. “She didn’t act like this until we got attacked. She didn’t even realize she had new magic until somepony told her.”
“Speaking of magic.” Rarity cleared her throat. “You did say that the Pegasi that attacked you summoned lightning bolts?” Fluttershy nodded meekly. “With their wings, in fact?” Another nod. “And you’re positively sure they weren’t unicorns?” Third nod. Rarity stared at her for the longest time. “You’ll excuse me if I’m having a moment of disbelief.”
“I don’t believe it none neither. How the hay did Twilight even start shooting lightning herself? She told me herself she ain’t got any spells to hurt ponies.” Applejack asked suspiciously, her eyes not leaving Twilight’s still form.
“She,” Fluttershy winced and hesitated, slowing her breathing until she felt well again, “she, well, the orange around her did absorb the lightning strikes they kept shooting at her. She may have learned from there, the doctor’s had mentioned she absorbs foreign magic.” She then buried her snout under the blanket and squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s probably why we survived and our escorts disappeared…”
Applejack frowned, finally turned towards Fluttershy to softly rub her forehead, “Aw shoot hon, I hadn’t meant to make ya feel bad. If it makes ya feel better they found the guards, they were just tangled up in some trees and got them to a hospital lickety-split.” Fluttershy’s expression did soften, and slowly she calmed down. “See, nothin’ wrong.”
“Well…” Pinkie Pie started, but was nudged sharply by Dash. “Right! Nothing wrong.” She smiled perkily, even as the memories of the screaming pony played in her mind. Mean Twilight would haunt her for a while, she knew.
“Visiting hours are coming to a close girls, say your goodbyes.” The doctor called from his office. The five ponies sadly looked to each other, but quietly said their goodbyes. They left, one by one, except Rainbow Dash.
Fluttershy watched the Pegasus approach the cot with Twilight on it, and not-so-gently tug the blanket up to her neck. “Be tough Twilight. If you let Bitch take you over again, I’m going to personally knock her out of you. I promise you, I’ll be so mad you can hit me with all the lightning you got and you’ll just make me a madder pony. Hear me? Stay you, stay strong.” Fluttershy hid her face so Dash wouldn’t know she watched as the Pegasus left the building and shut the door. She watched Dash walk into the sunset, and sighed quietly.
She opened her eyes only reluctantly. She’d been trying to get back to sleep for the past thirty seconds but even through her eyelids she could see the light. She let out a yawn, it didn’t feel like morning, yet it still glowed like morning. Her eyes fluttered open and she stared out the window into the darkness. It was definitely not morning. Yet there was still light, to her left. She turned her head, and saw Twilight standing next to her bed, the tip of her horn lit up with soft light.
Fluttershy tensed instinctively upon seeing Twilight, but let out her breath as she saw she was seeing her friend, not the angry one. Her eyes were purple again, not blank, and she began to shake as she saw how sad Twilight looked. The two watched the other for a long time, staring at each other in the eye before Twilight finally broke the silence. “Everything that happened this morning…” Her voice broke, filled with sorrow and disbelief. “Fluttershy I didn’t mean to do any of that. I don’t know what happened. It’s like I was watching through the eyes of another pony…” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and Fluttershy instinctively, this time with the right intentions, moved closer and wrapped a leg around Twilight’s neck, pulling her close so the unicorn could have a good cry in her side.
“I know Twilight, I know. I could tell it wasn’t you. Everything she did-”
“I killed somepony!” Twilight shouted suddenly, stopping Fluttershy. Fluttershy shifted, and despite the pains, held Twilight close with both arms. “I didn’t even want to, I didn’t try to, but I just watched myself kill them one by one! That last one…” She sniffled into Fluttershy’s chest and the Pegasus tugged. Twilight, understanding, got into the bed and pressed herself against Fluttershy. “Why did I have to keep attacking!? Why didn’t I realize-”
“Twilight.” Fluttershy’s voice was firm. Twilight looked into her eyes weepily, and Fluttershy squeezed quietly. “That wasn’t you. I don’t know you as well as I know the others, but I know you well enough. You’re a kind pony, you wouldn’t kill another one on purpose. There was something else there, controlling your body and your magic, but you’re stronger than them. You just needed some help.” Fluttershy tried to smile, but Twilight hid her snout against Fluttershy’s chest and sniffled.
“I’m so sorry Fluttershy. I’m going to make it up to you, however I can.” She squeezed, but not tightly. She knew the quiet pony was hurt, she knew it was her fault. She stopped Fluttershy from speaking again by talking first, “I don’t care what you say about why I shouldn’t. You took care of me and I hurt you. I’m going to take care of you, and make up for what I did to you.”
Fluttershy didn’t argue. They would talk in the morning when Twilight felt better. She wouldn’t hear a no until they were both completely awake. She was consoled, at the very least, by the thought that Twilight was okay. She was back. In a way, the snuggling made the day feel worth it.
He moved slowly. He hadn’t made a single sound as he walked from shadow to shadow, slipping in and out of sight of his escorts as he let out a low whisper, a song escaping between his bared teeth as he emerged from the dark hall, appearing for just a brief flash between two guards, driving them to back up against the walls in fear before he disappeared.
He appeared again, partway down the hallway between two guards waiting for the door guards to grant them passage. The guards quickly scrambled away, staring at him as waited for the door to crack open and he disappeared from sight again, appearing in the hallway just beyond the door. His giggle echoed up and down the new hallway as he slipped into the shadows again, making the ponies inside - from the guards to the scholars to the administrators - move as quick as they could to press against the walls as his voice carried up and down the brick passageway.
Nopony dared stay in the middle of the hall, even if Nopony could see him. It was not worth tangling with the jester as he stepped out into the light again just before the door that would lead him to the lord’s throne room. The two armored ponies that guarded it glanced quickly and fearfully to each other before quickly shoving the doors open and getting out of his way as fast as they could. He took a step and was gone.
He popped into view a few feet forwards, startling a unicorn into leaping out of the way. He did not even walk. Each step he took he teleported just a foot forward, slipping in and out of sight so quickly that several ponies dared to stare purely out of confusion. He stopped just shy of his two colleagues to stare up at the throne above, at the large golden pony that sat on his throne, eyes closed in thought.
His smile grew.
The news was well worth interrupting his hunt. His smile grew wider. With his solid black eyes, the black circles painted around them, and the rest of his face being bone white, it sent a shiver down more than a few spines as the skull-headed jester took his place among the two other commanders.
In an instant, the pony on his throne opened his eyes. “Cloppin.” He said in that lovely, deep voice. “You’re finally here.” Several dozen eyes turned to look straight at him, including his fellow commanders’. They both immediately took a step away as the jester gently tossed the stiletto hiding in the skin-tight black cloth body suit he wore, balancing it on his nose. It was stained with old blood.
“Is it not true that you called for me my lord? How could I possibly ignore an invitation from you, sir? Especially when you have such,” his voice dropped from its high, loving tone to a low, vicious hiss, “delightful news?” He flipped the stiletto on his nose from its handle onto the tip of its blade onto his nose. He held it there while grinning a cruel smile.
By his side, the sky-blue Pegasus bore his teeth, his wings flaring out dangerously in anger as he watched Cloppin tip his nose upwards to let the knife fall flat on his face, only to be tossed up again and caught on an extended hoof by the handle.
“Then you’d read the reports I sent my scouts with?” Galio asked, raising up his hind-quarters to stand before his subjects. “The false one has been found.” He stared over the jester. The little black boots of his outfit had fresh blood on them. The bells of his orange and black checkered foal’s cap he wore jingled as the pony laughed loudly.
“Details, lord, details! Who would think she would have been so strong!?” the jester turned his head to smile that skull’s grin at the Pegasus, “Eight Night Flashers blown apart by their own spell! The irony is,” he sucked in a deep breath and quivered in pleasure, “delicious.”
“If you don’t want to scrape that smile off the ground then I’d suggest you shut your mouth.” The Pegasus, Shallom, snarled. His angelic wings opened and closed rapidly behind him as he stared Cloppin in the eye. The jester’s smile did not leave for an instant as their faces slowly drew closer.
“Why Shallom, are you challenging me?” They locked eyes and glared at each other while, uncomfortably, the tall earth pony beside them shifted to glance up to the throne.
“Cloppin. Shallom. Enough.” Galio ordered sharply in annoyance. Shallom was the first to reluctantly turn away and stare up at his lord. Galio quietly descended the throne’s steps to come face to face with his three commanders, and calmly turned his head to face the massive earth pony first. “We have lost several valuable members of our forces, but their sacrifice netted us information that could have cost of hundreds more. Do not disrespect any of the soldiers under my command, Cloppin.” He spoke soft but deep. It was enough to make Cloppin pause.
“Of course my lord, I have nothing but absolute respect for our forces!” Cloppin assured him while giving him a mock salute and a twisted grin. “I shall honor their deaths with the respect such failures deserve!”
“Bastard!” Shallom roared, but Cloppin was already on the other side of their third commander, a massive earth pony.
“I said that is enough. From both of you!” Galio closed his eyes in frustration. Cloppin was headache he needed gone right now. “You have new orders as of this moment! Cloppin, our intel reports that there is a town in northern Equestria called Horshire that has all the information we are looking for. Go there. Retrieve it. Send it to Shallom. I want as few deaths as possible. Clear?”
The jester hummed in thought, then cracked a smile. “As cr~rystal!” He sang, and disappeared without a trace. Shallom let out a slow breath through his nose and twitched his jaw as he worked himself through his frustrations.
“Shallom.” The Pegasus glanced to the golden king with his ears cocked at full attention. “I mean no offense but I am moving your forces to scouting and seeking duties. I need as much information on Equestria and its history found as possible and I trust your forces’ speed and stealth to get it done. Gather your fliers and get going.”
Shallom bowed low with none of Cloppin’s sarcasm. “You have my word my lord.” The Pegasus turned to walk out of the room, nursing the humiliation of getting moved out of the pursuit for the false one’s way.
Galio finally turned his head and looked up to meet the eyes of his final commander. “Rukafelth, my general, I am entrusting you with the False One’s capture. Gather whomever you need and whatever resources you’d like to get the job done. Exercise caution, I don’t want any more casualties.” The golden king ordered gently, and the earth pony commander before him nodded his head.
“As you command my lord, I will go.” The armored earth pony bowed briefly, turned, then trotted off.
Galio closed his eyes in thought before climbing the stairs to his throne again to relax.