(Author's Note: I'm going on vacation on the 29th, and I really wanted to get this out there before then. If I can somehow focus long enough to get Chapter 13 out there before I leave, I'll do my best, and if not, I'll try to get it done over the vacation. Sorry for being so late with the updates!)
"Yer not seriously thinkin' of goin' after that thing, are ya Twi?"
"And why wouldn't I? I can't depend on Celestia to tell me what the buck's going on," Twilight said with an obvious frustration in her tone. She grumbled something to herself that none of them could hear her say while she had her mouth both full of stuff, and buried in her saddlebags. "She doesn't wanna tell me, I'll get that-that....THING to tell me herself!"
She exaggerated her words with a stomp of her forehoof against the floor, busying away with things up in the loft area of the library where she and Spike slept, books slipping out of their proper slots on the wall and floating up to where she was as time went on. Spike was ordered, not even asked but ordered to start bringing her some canned foods, a small pot and the magic-powered heating stand she bought a while back 'just in case of a power outage', her need for precaution and proper organization denying her the luxury of just being able to say 'nah, don't need it'.
Spike, however, refused to do as he was told. Much like Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, AJ and Pinkie Pie, he was feeling utterly against Twilight's plan. It had been a month since that whole fiasco, Rainbow Dash still feeling the waves of guilt from dumping Strider like she did, but she knew that it had to be done. Pinkie had been there for her through all of it, and had recently convinced the down-in-the-dumps pegasus to do some pranks with her. They had even managed to devise a prank to play on Fluttershy that wouldn't make her cry or anything! It was a total success, which managed to bring Rainbow Dash around to hanging with her friends more instead of just doing her job and going home.
Of course, Pinkie Pie wouldn't tell Rainbow Dash that Fluttershy was in on the prank, making it a secret double-cross prank of awesomeness that Rainbow Dash would never find out about. So technically, it was a prank played on Rainbow Dash that Pinkie pretended to play on Fluttershy WITH Fluttershy as well as with Rainbow Dash to get her out of her rut, but hey, whatever works! Pinkie certainly wasn't complaining, she finally had her best prank buddy back, and maybe she could even get Fluttershy to open up to the world of messing with ponies....nah. That'd never happen.
Now all of their attention was on Twilight, who had a look akin to a predator determined to catch its prey. Anypony that knew her well enough could tell that she wasn't thinking very clearly. Then again, anypony that was present when the Nightmare attacked would be able to tell the exact same thing if they knew what she planned on doing.
Applejack was broken away from the group though, sitting at the top of the staircase leading up to the loft, talking directly with Twilight while the others were waiting downstairs. Rarity's horn was aglow and locked in on Twilight's saddlebags, having already come up with, as she put it, the 'absolutely FABULOUS plan' of using her gift for honing in on things to keep track of Twilight's belongings, as a way of making sure she couldn't teleport away from them and escape as easily.
Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, figured she could just dart around Ponyville and find Twilight running for the Everfree Forest in ten seconds flat. As always.
AJ just shook her head at her friend's stubbornness on this issue, even more stubborn than she ever was herself. "Twi, y'all know darn good n' well that whatever that thing is, it ain't worth riskin' yer life goin' after it just 'cuz it says it has somethin' ya want!"
"But how do you know she's lying?"
"How do YOU know she's not?"
Twilight could only sigh in frustration. "I'll be fine! She could've killed me before if she really wanted to, but she didn't! Plus I have so many more questions than 'what's wrong with me'!" she said with a sense of urgency, stuffing some canned foods she'd levitated in from the kitchen while she was talking to Applejack. "When she was fighting with that jerk Wind Strider, she punched straight through every single barrier I put up to try to defend him, as if they were glass. Yet that dinky little shield he had attached to his foreleg held up like it was made of titanium!"
"HEY!" Rainbow Dash shouted suddenly, flying up to the loft, hovering next to the two of them. "Y'know all you've been able to do since you've been like this is talk bad about other ponies when you're outside, and sulk around when you're indoors. You're not exactly Mare of the Year!"
"Oh yeah, this coming from the mare that dumped a cripple the day after he regained consciousness," she stated flatly, eyeing the equally guilty and angry-looking pegasus with an irritated expression. "Don't you even try to give me a lecture on decency right now."
Rainbow Dash growled and ground her teeth a little, glaring at the lavender Unicorn. "Okay, I've heard enough about that. How many times is somepony gonna bring it up?!" she asked, throwing her forehooves up in the air while turning around, looking at all of them.
Rarity seemed especially shy of meeting Rainbow's gaze, the fashionista finding it near-impossible to stop herself from trying to get every juicy detail of the issues Rainbow Dash had with the whole affair out of her, much to the speedster's guilt and irritation. She was sick of everypony talking about it, heck, most of the female hospital staff were giving her dirty looks on the way out! As if they saw the whole picture or something....
Twilight just looked away and shook her head. It had been a month since that had gone down, and a small patrol of Pegasus and Unicorn Royal Guards were still in Ponyville. They patrolled the perimeter of the Everfree Forest day and night, the Night Guards sent for the nighttime shifts switching places with Celestia's Royal Guards every night and morning after. She silently prayed for them to leave, but clearly they weren't going anywhere, so she had to find a way around them on her own, since her friends were trying so very hard to stop her from going anywhere.
"Anypony else wanna bring it up too? Huh?! I mean why not, it's only the most annoying thing you can make me think of!" Rainbow Dash continued, glaring at her friend, who was just looking away from her the whole time. "Well Twilight? Got anything to say to me? I mean Strider was already a total jerk for not treating me like garbage while I dumped him. He could've been upset or mad or something, maybe yelled at me, but no! He had to patronize me and treat me like a little whiny fo-"
"I'm SORRY, Rainbow Dash. Damn it!" she said, shaking her head firmly. "I'm tired of this! Every time I try to talk with somepony it blows up in my face, I never used to be such a....a, uh-"
"YES! Thank you, Rainbow. Also screw you Rainbow."
With that, even Twilight couldn't help but laugh a little at their exchange, Rainbow Dash following suit as the lavender Unicorn began to laugh more and more heartily. Pinkie Pie was the next to join the two, followed by Rarity and Applejack. Soon, even the concerned and meek Fluttershy was laughing along with Spike, who was standing next to Twilight at this point, the library filled with the laughter of their friendship, despite being caused by a blatant insult.
None of them cared, however. It had been forever since the lot of them, Spike included, laughed as friends rather than individuals concerned about Twilight's condition. For the first time in quite some time, they were all smiling together rather than discussing who would be spending time at the library for the day.
All too soon, however, the laughter came to an end with stray giggles here and there between the lot of them, the silence blanketing the library for a moment as they looked between one another. Nopony in that library wanted to end this long overdue moment between them all, the laughter acting like an instant salve for a lot of growing problems they were all beginning to have just from having to orbit around Twilight out of deep concern for her well-being.
For each of them, it was nice to be reassured that they were all friends still, not obligations.
Applejack was the first to break the silence, the smiling farm pony throwing a foreleg around Twilight's neck after moving to sit next to her, giving the comparatively flimsy Unicorn a firm squeeze of a hug.
"Now THAT'S somethin' ah ain't seen in ages, a genuine first-class smile on ya!" she said, looking to Twilight.
Twilight heh'ed and shook her head, smiling more. She knew that Applejack was right, and this moment was the first time she'd actually laughed at such a thing rather than getting the urge to walk up and smack the living hell out of Rainbow Dash for calling her a bitch. It felt good, like taking a shower after months of going without, basking in her own stink, the stench of her imbalance and the anger and hate she couldn't do anything about. She felt clean, for that single moment and then some.
Somehow, she felt good in the company of her friends again, as if the unseen presence in her mind had relinquished its grip on her, allowing her to be herself once more. She relished the long-unfelt sensation deep down in her very soul.
"Thanks....all of you," Twilight said, looking to her packed things and picking them up with her magic, setting them in a pile off in the corner. "I guess I can't talk you all into letting me go, can I?"
They all just shook their heads.
"Alright then. I guess I'm just not going," she said, sighing a little. "We have to find out eventually, you know. With or without Princess Celestia's assistance."
"We know, Twilight," Fluttershy said suddenly, stepping towards her downtrodden friend. "We just don't think it's a good idea right now. We don't know what that thing is. Plus, she's really....scary," she said, frowning and shrinking back a little. "I know I'm not ready....!"
"Yeah!" Pinkie sounded off, hopping happily over to Fluttershy, standing next to her with a huge grin. "Nopony's ready to deal with the big scary dark thing unless they're goin' in there with big ol' smiles on their faces, and we've all been WAYYY too pouty lately!"
Pinkie glared at all of them for a moment, the pink pony dashing between them while grabbing the corners of their mouths and comedically forcing smiles to form on all of their faces. She returned to her spot next to Fluttershy with all of her friends grinning much like she did all the time. Almost painfully so, since none of them could ever willingly emulate Pinkie's gigantic grin, let alone having their mouths stretched in such a way.
Spike flapped his jaw open and closed a few times, rubbing at one side of his mouth with his hand, fingers pressing against his jaw muscle to try to directly massage the soreness out of it. "Nnh! W-well Pinkie, I don't think that'll be a problem anymore, do you? I mean it almost feels better in here. Kind of like the air's cleaner or something."
Pinkie gasped and went wide-eyed, looking to Rarity in disbelief, much akin to how she reacted to any big surprise that might end in some sort of party.
"Are you kidding?! Our smiley-muscles are all worn out and out of shape and stuff! We all need to start smiling more every single day, all day long!"
With that, Pinkie produced some pamphlets seemingly out of nowhere except from behind the air behind her, the rest of their visit at Twilight's library mostly all about 'learning how to smile like a professional', as Pinkie Pie put it. It all added up to the lot of them having another small laughing fit, which Pinkie oddly took seriously, slapping grades on all of their chests based on the quality of their laughs and smiles. Rarity was the only one genuinely bothered by this, since she had a big black 'A' on her chest now, in permanent marker.
Twilight saw them all off with a final promise that evening, the sun just setting as they all said their goodbyes and goodnights. Twilight promised them all that she wouldn't pursue that dark 'thing' that had attacked her and Pinkie in the forest, a solemn promise made in a moment of sincerity and loyalty to her concerned friends. Unfortunately, this didn't last for long.
Like an addict relapsing, Twilight soon fell back into her previous mindset after little more than a week, the simple fact of this alone enough to royally anger her far worse than any amount of lies or stubbornness ever could. On top of that, she felt a drive to find the creature, her words and her visage echoing in Twilight's mind. At night, her sleep would be akin to a pony being thrown about on their bed against their will, she thrashed so much. The simple images of the daytime turned into horrid, vivid images of herself being consumed, sometimes from her first-person perspective, and other times with her simply floating there and watching her struggling body be eaten alive and pulled into the darkness below.
The last straw had been reached when she heard her voice once more in the middle of the day. It had been three days since she'd allowed herself to actually lay down and rest, though this hadn't deterred Spike from sleeping in since Twilight didn't seem to care much about his sleeping habits as of late. As she sat there, eyelids heavy and her attention focused on yet another book she'd read probably a hundred times over with all the time she spent in her precious library, heavy-set hoofsteps were heard behind her. The moment she asked, she felt a cold breath on her ear and the husky whisper of the dark creature's voice.
She spun around and saw a shadow jump away from her, the unnatural ink-blot of a dark spot moving impossibly fast through the air and splattering itself soundlessly on a wall near a bookcase. What came out wasn't the massive creature that seemed so intent on her before, but instead it looked like a normal pony, a Unicorn, who was struggling with all of her might to get free. Her struggles were akin to a worm, twisting and writhing this way and that, the mare looking as if she were trying to get her hooves free of some unseen grip beyond the black veil she had sprouted from.
As Twilight approached, her features became unmistakable. The tri-colored mane, the almost pitch-black fur with a tinge of purple....she looked a lot like a much smaller Luna, but with Twilight's mane in a darker variation of shades of black and purple as well. Though thoroughly scared, this pony looked in distress, her sharp red-colored eyes darting this way and that, trying to look for anything that could possibly aid in her escape, but the more she struggled, the more it seemed to be futile. Twilight moved towards her, her eyes wide with fear and a silent hope that she might be able to rescue this pony from the consuming darkness half of her body seemed trapped in.
"D-don't worry, I'm....I'm here! I can try to m-maybe get you free! Just uh, just let me find something for you to grab on to!" Twilight said, scanning her library for anything that could be of use.
She looked to her plus-sized saddlebags, a recent purchase so that she could carry more books and various other things around with her, something with increased durability to maintain the heavier weight of excess things packed within them. She grabbed it quickly with her magic just as the other femme began to utter something under her breath as she squirmed, the darkness seeming to tug and pull at her the more she struggled.
Twilight's magic enveloped her new saddlebags, adrenaline driving her sleepiness away in favor of saving this unusual mare that had appeared from the tell-tale darkness of the creature that had been after her this whole time. She floated her saddlebags over in front of the mare's face, who had only grunted and struggled on her own thus far, seemingly unwilling or unable to call out for any help.
"G-grab on! Grab the bag, use your teeth!" she called out to the mare, floating one end of her bag over within the mare's reach.
Her eyes were clenched shut however, and she didn't seem to be listening to anything at all. She just kept squirming, wriggling and struggling about trying to wrench herself free of the vile grip imposed upon her. When Twilight called out a second time and she didn't answer, Twilight tossed the saddlebags aside and stepped closer, trying to use her magic directly on the mare instead.
Even her magic didn't seem to work, and her own panic was beginning to conflict with her desire to save whoever this pony was. The darkness trying to pull her back in was scary enough to her, let alone some kind of unknown mare breaking free within her library! Ultimately, however, her need to help other ponies overruled her fears.
As if pouncing on the wall itself, her forelegs pushed under the mare's arms and then lower, gripping her tight in a bear hug, or at least what Twilight could manage of a bear hug, while her hindlegs planted themselves on the wall and pushed with all their might. She pulled and tugged as hard as she possibly could, but the darkness wouldn't relent.
She didn't think there was reason to give up until she felt the mare's forelegs parting and her hooves gripping at the lavender Unicorn's face, cheeks being squished inward as she was yanked up into the air, dangling by the pain-inducing strength of the mare's impossibly strong grip. The unknown mare's eyes shot open only inches in front of Twilight's own, the pitch-black darkness beyond them enough to strike the fear of death into Twilight, but her voice was caught and frozen in her throat.
"SET US FREE, SISTER!"
Twilight trembled and shook her head as best she could, a frantic shaking in a feeble attempt to shake the mare's grip free. The mare's back arched in a way that would break the spine of any normal pony, lifting Twilight even higher into the air. Black blood oozed from her dark, endless eye sockets just as it spewed from her screaming lips, causing Twilight's struggling to become even more frenetic. Yet, she could not close her eyes, could not bring herself to look away, the mare's demonic gaze searing into her and pitting her in an internal struggle between being frozen in the icy grip of fear, and wanting to run in absolute horror.
"SET ME FREE SISTER! Such sights we wish to share with you....!"
Time felt as if it stopped for all of an instant. Within that moment, Twilight saw, smelled and felt some of the most horrifying things she had ever had the unfortunate chance of seeing in her lifetime thanks to this plague upon her mind. She saw a pony being sawed in half with barbed wire, another gutted with a kitchen knife, snake-like chains penetrating and eviscerating fleeing citizens, to recall of few. The smell of rotting flesh wafted over her nostrils as the twisted thing she thought was a struggling pony spoke to her, the mingling scent of burning flesh and fur adding to the stomach-churning menagerie of images and moving snippets of horror and death that assaulted her at her very core. Soon, it all overwhelmed the tired and worn-down Unicorn, drawing out the most intense feeling of panic she'd ever felt in her life, even worse than being chased by a Hydra. Her eyes snapped shut and her body recoiled with a firm jerk, trying to wrench herself out of the evil mare's grip as hard as she could.
Spike startled awake when a blood-curdling scream echoed through the library and around it, Twilight managing to push those hooves off of her to let her slump to the floor. The mild pain of impact did nothing to stop her adrenaline and her full-on panic from scraping and pushing at the floor to move her away and to get her back on her feet. Spike got up just in time to see Twilight running full-sprint out of the library, the little dragon rapidly waking up for fear of his closest friend being truly and completely terrified by something he couldn't see. He ran downstairs and out the door, calling out to her, unable to see or hear the entity still stuck to the wall.
Twilight kept running until she could no longer hear its screams, her heart pounding and her breathing borderline hyperventilation as she charged through the entrance to Rarity's Boutique. Rarity jumped while in the middle of putting together a new dress order. She spun around to find her friend, out of breath and with wild, wide and terror-stricken eyes, the currently panicked Unicorn looking this way and that, as if searching for something.
"Twilight, what in the world is-"
"Bathroom....!" Twilight whimpered out to her, holding a forehoof over her stomach.
Rarity didn't ask, instead she motioned for her to follow while rushing over to her bathroom in the back. Twilight rushed off after her and practically rammed her way inside, sitting down in front of the toilet while Rarity's magic grabbed hold of her mane to keep it out of the way.
Spike entered the boutique just in time to hear the familiar wretching sound of a vomiting pony, the wretching noise over and over almost making him sick to his stomach as well while he followed it to the source. When he saw Twilight and Rarity standing there, Rarity's consoling hoof gently rubbing up and down Twilight's back while the trembling and thoroughly shaken Unicorn coughed up what little she'd eaten over the course of the previous night and today.
Rarity looked back to Spike in silence, both of them exchanging silent words with motions of their lips, Rarity's brow furrowing just as Spike's did. Neither of them had a clue what was going on, and it was only when Twilight was finally done expelling her meal and dry-heaving afterwards that they realized she was also crying. Her body slumped against the rim of the toilet seat, laying flat with her head turned sideways, her sickness smeared over her lips, something that Rarity rapidly took care of with a wipe of magically-held tissue and a careful lift of her friend's head.
Twilight's legs felt like jelly and her entire body trembled under the exertion of forcing herself onto her hooves, exhausted for more than one reason, the most recent being heaving hard enough to be heard by Rarity's neighbors. Rarity braced Twilight on one side, letting her weakened friend lean on her as she guided her over to the dining table set up in the back room just next to her kitchen.
Twilight slumped down on the fancy cushion, one of several that Rarity liked to use as chairs for her dining room, they went well with the rest of the room, a sort of uniformity to it all that made it dazzle even without Rarity's preference for making things sparkle. Twilight was barely focused on anything of the sort however. Rather, Twilight's sobs had Spike crying as well, Rarity looking between both of them before pulling them both into a hug, the lavender Unicorn's wailing sobs only heightening.
She knew that Twilight hadn't been sleeping recently and it had her plenty concerned, but whatever had caused this, Twilight was going to need time to gather her strength. So all Rarity could do was quietly console both her and her extremely worried assistant, Spike. Her forehooves gently petted and caresses up and down their backs and sides, a soft touch from a familiar companion for both of them.
"Ssshh....you're okay now Twilight, you're with me," Rarity said in a soft, soothing tone, her gaze turning to Spike. "What in the name of all things fabulous in this world happened?!"
"I-I don't know! I was taking a nap 'cuz I'd been staying up with Twilight most of the night, an-and out of nuh-nowhere, she-sh-she-" Spike said, sniffling and hiccuping a little as he struggled against his own tears. "She just screamed the most horrible scream!"
Rarity just looked to him, frowning and hugging them both closer together, Twilight's trembling letting up a little from the warmth of being surrounded on both sides by her friends. One thing popped into her mind though, and she struggled to regain control of her vocal cords long enough between her sobs to get the question out.
"Suh-Spike, did you....see, anypony," she said, letting out a sudden sharp breath before taking a heavy one back in. "....C-coming out of-of the wall....?"
His eyes went wide and he cringed, shaking his head. "No. No, I-I didn't see anything, there was nopony else in there," he said, his own voice sounding shaky and on the verge of crying. "Twilight, wh-what's happening to you?"
She practically collapsed upon hearing that, her body slumping and her head thudding down onto the table. "I knew it!" she whimpered out, covering her face with her forelegs. "She's in my head!"
Rarity blinked a few times and leaned in, gently patting the back of her neck with her hoof. "Twilight, dear, what-"
"That THING is in my head! I-I can't stop thinking about her, she keeps popping into my head during the day," she said, sitting up a little, her trembling body shaking even more as she tried to speak through her sobs and tears. "And when I sleep, sh-she's there too, but it's worse, a-and-and-"
Twilight was rapidly becoming frantic. Her head lowered and she curled in on herself, hugging her head between her forelegs, as if the memory itself inflicted horrors upon her already fragile and utterly fragmented mind.
Spike jumped up and hugged around Twilight's neck, hopping up on her back to do so, a few quiet sobs coming from him as well. "T-Twilight, just calm down! I'm right here, we're right here for you, okay?!" he said, desperate to grab her attention.
Twilight was lost to her own mind though, her self-torture something her thought processes wouldn't let her escape on her own. It took Rarity shaking her from her rambling to herself as to what she'd been forced to witness to get her to snap to attention in the real world. She looked into Rarity's eyes, her own wide with fear while her friend's were big as saucers, filled with tears and concern for Twilight's well-being.
Spike was crying as well, he could barely handle seeing Twilight in the current state she was in. He'd seen her go on binges before, but staying up three nights in a row without any real reason? That was odd. Hearing her scream as if an axe murderer had just stormed into the library with her in his sights? That sent chills up his spine. He NEVER wanted to hear something like that in his life ever again, not by Twilight. Not by the pony he considered his family, it horrified him to see her so panicked, to be in such a blind run from her own home!
Soon, Rarity had heard of some of the horrid things Twilight had been through in her dreams, and in her mind in the middle of the day, and it only made her hold her crying friend closer. Rarity sent Spike to get the others to come over as quickly as he could, her magic flipping the sign on the front window of her store from Open to Closed. She didn't want any more customers today. Her creative mind had been soured by what she had just heard, like a balloon having the air forced out of it.
Twilight was a mess by the time the others showed up, all of them practically shattering the moment they saw Twilight's desperate eyes, a silent plea for help from them, any help they could possibly give her. Pinkie was the first to rush up and hug both her and Rarity nice and tight, unable to bear seeing Twilight in such a sorry state.
They all stood around her while she had a good, long cry with all of them embracing her, their presence slowly easing her mind and calming the already plenty exhausted pony down. As she began to slow her tears and silence her sobbing fit, she looked between all of them, the silence in the room filled with the tension of the very thing that they all knew they were all thinking about.
"I-I have to go and see her."
"We know, Twilight," Rarity said solemnly, hanging her head. "We just don't like it. At all."
"Which is why we're goin' with ya," Applejack said sternly but calmly. "Ain't no talkin' us outta it neither."
"B-but she could kill you, all of you!" Twilight said, her entire form trembling. "I-if she killed any of you, I w-would never forgive....!"
"Twilight, she won't lay a hoof on us," Rainbow Dash said with her usual confidence. "I can fly circles around that pansy, and you can get us outta there with your teleporting magic and stuff! It's no biggie," she said, suddenly pointing at the lavender Unicorn and furrowing her brow. "But quite frankly I don't care if it DOES kill me! You're not goin' in there without us!"
"Y-yes! I would never forgive myself if something happened to you because I was too afraid to go into the Everfree Forest with you. Even if it's so....dark...." Fluttershy said, her voice and her entire form trembling a little towards the end of her sentence.
"Psh! So we're goin' after that crazy demon pony thing! We're not goin' today, right?" Pinkie asked suddenly, pointing to Twilight. "Just look at her! She's more exhausted than me after a month-long sugar high!"
Pinkie wasn't very far off from the truth. As if the vomiting wasn't enough to put Twilight into a dampened state of spirit, she had been awake for three days straight, only daring to nod off for brief moments before the vile creature's voice would startle her back into the waking world. On top of all of that, all of the sitting around in the same position, not sleeping, it was making her physically exhausted. She needed to just lay down and relax, but she was so tense from fearing the possibility of accidentally falling asleep by laying down and relaxing that she just gritted her teeth and dealt with it. Well, she dealt with it with some help from some of Zecora's painkilling elixirs.
Zecora had been forced to move into a home within Ponyville along with all of her belongings courtesy of royal orders handed down from Luna's personal guards themselves, who were greeted with the same reaction that Wind Strider got: a whole lot of disdain. She could feel the residual sensation of Rune Magic on and in each of them, but when they spoke of the Nightmare dwelling within Everfree Forest, she reluctantly agreed to leave her precious home, full of healing herbs and salves, behind.
However, there was on one condition that Princess Celestia had to promise to Zecora face-to-face, on her honor: Princess Celestia would have to supply Zecora with the herbs that she used to make her potions and salves in lieu of the Everfree Forest being cut off for her until this problem was somehow resolved. With little other choice based on the morals of the matter, Celestia agreed. She didn't like the thought of forcing Zecora out of her home in the first place, but she was more worried about keeping her subjects, her ponies alive moreso than being politically or morally appropriate for the situation.
"We're really gonna g-go out there tomorrow....?" Twilight asked, lifting her head up and turning towards her friends, hanging her head.
"Yer darn tootin' we are! Ah got a right mind t'show 'er the flat o' mah hooves fer messin' with yer head like this!" Applejack said, walking over and patting Twilight on the back. "Nopony messes with a friend o' mine like this."
Twilight could only look at the lot of them, Spike currently standing beside her and looking up to her with a smile, his eyes still glossy with tears only recently shed for her plight. She pulled him into a one-forelegged hug, smiling a meek and tired smile while the others came closer as well.
"Thank you so much, everypony. Really....thank you," she said, looking down to Spike and nuzzling the top of his head. "Especially you, Spike."
"Well then, ah think ah'm gonna head back to Sweet Apple Acres. See y'all t'mor-"
The sudden outburst made them all jump, Spike included. Twilight's eyes were wide and a sudden look of terror overtook her. "Please, please don't go!" she said quickly, looking to all of them. "C-can't you all stay? I really, really don't want to be left alone right now!"
They all looked at one another, understanding filling each of them. Rarity was the first to speak up though, a moment of brilliance hatching the best plan for all parties involved, given the circumstances. Pinkie caught on almost immediately when she noticed the look on Rarity's face, the party pony jumping up with excitement.
With that, they all quickly made a point of getting all of their daily chores either set on the backburner or finished in record time. Applejack had to make a run back to Sweet Apple Acres to let Big Mac and Granny Smith know what was going on, and Fluttershy had to go and feed her animals for the day with some assistance on Rainbow Dash's part. When all was said and done, Pinkie came back from a lightning-fast trip to Sugarcube Corner to retrieve some snacks, candies and various baked goods from her 'secret stash', more than enough to hold them all over for the rest of the waning day and coming night.
A single explosion of confetti, random presents and glitter from Pinkie Pie's Party Cannon signaled the beginning of a party that Twilight slept almost completely through in Rarity's Boutique. She was far too exhausted to join in on the festivities, gossip and idle banter, nor did she have much to talk to any of them about, she'd been a shut-in for quite some time now, even more than usual. No, instead she opted to pass out like she'd just been shot with a tranquilizer, the comforting sensation of being surrounded by all of her most dear friends acting like a barrier that even that vile monstrosity couldn't get to her through.
From sunset into the morning, Twilight slept like a baby for the first time in three horrible, nightmare-ridden days.