“T-This is c-crazy! What have I done?!” I stumbled down the dark, abandoned corridor as my eyesight wavered. I couldn’t focus, my mind was cloudy.
“Focus! M-my name... my name is... Twi...? T-Twilight Sparkle.” I tripped over a stray table leg and fell to the ground, what was happening to me, my head spun, I clambered to my hooves again, bending down to pick up my fallen saddlebag, I halted the movement when I heard it, my ears twitching at the tiny scratching sounds that were following me.
“The scratching! I can hear it!” I stumbled down the corridor, leaving the saddlebag where it lay. I maneuvered over and around the moldy, thousand year old furniture and scattered rugs that littered the floor, my hooves creating a counterpoint to the scratching sounds I could hear in the walls.
“nnngh! Where am I? WHO’S THERE!” my screams and shouts echoed and bounced from the stone walls punctuating the silence, the walls were moving? Why were they moving?
“Where am I?”
‘Nothing to fear Twilight! We’ve got this!’
I stumbled down the corridor again, the moonlight barely piercing the thick, shrouding mist that had gathered outside the windows.
“Twilight Sparkle... Twilight Spark... Midnight Sparkle... Nightlight Twinkle... no, no that’s not right... Focus! I need to hold on to something! Anything!” the wooden floors shook, something was following me, its breathing was making the candlelight flicker!
‘Focus! Ignore the distractions. My name is Twilight Sparkle, Element of Magic, Celestia's personal Student... Who... Who’s Celestia?’
I came to a door and tried to push it open with my shaking hooves, looking back down the corridor, I could still hear the scratching in the walls and I could feel something breathing in the darkness at the other end of the corridor.
I watched the darkness warily, I could almost see something writhing in the black depths of shadow... I could hear it whispering to me.
“NO!” the thing in the shadows reacted to my denial and several torches blew out in a gust of wind, I screamed and hammered at the door with my hooves but the lock would not yield.
There were hoofsteps behind me, I needed to hide! I ran into a side corridor, sobbing and panting for breath, slamming the door shut behind me and using my magic to push a cabinet up against it. I backed away from the door slowly, hoping against hope that whatever was after me didn’t see me come in here.
I gave a yelp of fear and fell to the floor, covering my eyes with my hooves as the Hunter began beating the door, making the wood shudder and splinter beneath its blows.
The Hunter screamed in rage, I moved my hooves to my ears as the scream rose in decibel, almost deafening and causing the glass of the single window in the room to crack. A gust of wind flew from a nearby fireplace and snuffed out the lights, I sobbed and crawled over to the meager light that shone through the stained glass window and huddled against the wall, trying to drown out the sound of the Hunter’s screams and the shattering impacts it made against the oak door.
“My name is Twilight Sparkle. My name is Twilight Sparkle. My name is Twilight Sparkle!” I repeated my name over and over as the world became darker and the impacts became louder...
“Please...” I whimpered and curled into a tight ball as the darkness overcame me...
I awoke to a weak strand of sunlight that had found its way through the cloying mist, I’d been sleeping on the cold stone floor and my muscles felt stiff, I groaned as I sat up.
I looked around.
I didn’t recognize anything, where was I? I couldn’t see anything outside the window but the mist and the interior of the room was bare, but for a few scattered pieces of furniture and a stone hearth. The only door from the room had been barricaded with a heavy oak cabinet and it looked as though the door behind it had weathered some kind of assault.
Something in the back of my mind told me to fear the door, all was silent and the only thing I could hear was my heartbeat.
I planted my shoulder firmly against the side of the cabinet and shifted it off the door, wincing at the loud echoes made by the legs scraping the wooden floor. I now stood before the large wooden door, whatever had been attacking it had been tremendously strong, much of the door had been splintered inwards and there were even a few cracks. The only reason the door was largely intact and closed was because of the iron supports and the added weight of the cabinet.
I was wary of opening the door, who knew what lay on the other side.
I gathered my courage and placed my shaking hoof on the deadbolt and pushed it aside slowly, wincing again at the unusually loud sound it made in the utter silence. I pulled the door open a crack, doing my best not to make the hinges squeak too much, and peeked through the crack.
The part of the corridor I could see was empty and a few torches burned in their sconces. The door creaked loudly as I nudged it fully open and stood in the doorway. The shadows in the corridor flickered in the meager torchlight and the far end of the hall was completely bathed in shadow.
Warning bells sounded in my mind as I stared at the darkness and I averted my gaze as my heartbeat began to quicken. I made my way down the corridor, towards the darkness, carefully stepping over the furniture that had been strewn across the floor.
‘iT’s RudE tO igNoRe sOmEPoNy whEn ThEy’RE tALkiNg tO yOu , DoN’t iGnORe mE!’
The whisper had come from the darkness, I squinted, trying to pierce the veil of black, all I could see was the wall of shadow at the end of the corridor, I took a step towards it, “H-Hello? W-W-Who’s there?” nothing replied. I took another step and my hoof bumped something, I looked down and saw an abandoned saddlebag. I bent over and picked it up with my mouth, the cloth it was made from was relatively new and in good condition, the polished metal clips holding the dual bags closed reflected the firelight. It wasn’t too heavy and it felt like there were a few books in it.
I put it on my back and strapped it on, securing it to my flank, the contents shifting around slightly with the movement.
“Run Twilight! Get out of here!”
“Rainbow Dash! Don’t be stupid, I’m not leaving you behind!”
The voices were sounding from within my head and I put a hoof to my temple, I could feel a headache coming on and the walls appeared to shift and waver. I put one hoof in front of the other and pressed on towards the darkness, I ignored the whispering and looked at the floor as I walked.
“My... head... Why can’t I... Remember?” I stopped and stood stock still, something in the corridor had changed, something was missing, I felt the blood drain from my face when I realized that the constant scratching sound had ceased. I hadn’t even noticed the sound to begin with but now it was gone, my heartbeat rose and started breathing audibly, something was following me.
I yelped as a strong gust of wind blew from the darkness, snuffing out all the lights in the corridor and leaving me in total darkness. I sank to the ground in abject terror, my mind was screaming at me to get out of the darkness, to seek the light.
I reached a hoof behind me and fumbled with the saddlebag, trying to undo the clip in the darkness. I finally got it open and felt around inside the bag, my hooves shaking from fear, looking for something, anything, to bring forth some light.
I found a single candle inside and wrapped my hoof around it, drawing it out of the bag and into my lap. I rummaged through the bag again, if there was a candle in there it was only reasonable to suggest that some tinder would also be in there too.
I made out the familiar shape of a tinder box in the darkness and quickly drew it out, fumbling with the lid, it popped open and I withdrew the fire-steel and flint. I struck the fire-steel with the flint, desperately trying to light the candle, finally, one of the sparks caught and the candle lit. I let loose a sigh of relief as I watched the candlelight flicker, holding the oppressive shadows around me at bay.
I held the candle in one hoof and rummaged around in the saddlebag further, my hoof closed around a thick book and I drew it out.
The leather bound book looked like it had seen better days, the spine of it was cracked and worn as though it had been opened many times, and the edges additional pages stuck out at odd angles. I carefully opened it, giving a small start as two loose pages fell out, I quickly placed the candle on the ground and picked up the two pages. The first page turned out to be a map the many creases on the old parchment telling me it had been referred to many times.
“Old Canterlot Ruins? This must be where I am...” I looked over it, it had been marked in places, but I didn’t know what to make of the strange markings, there were notes in Equestrian but they were nonsensical and made little more sense than the symbols. I put the map back into the book and turned my attention to the second page, this one appeared to be a note...
I snapped my head over my shoulder, thinking I’d just heard something move in the shadows. I calmed myself down and turned back to the note, retrieving the candle from the floor and holding it close so I could read well.
September 21st year 7002 of Celestia's reign
I’m unsure how to begin this, so much doesn’t make sense, so many questions left unanswered. When you read this you won’t remember much, I can’t tell how strong I made the potion, I don’t know how much you’ll remember.
It’s trying to break the door down, to get to me... us... I can’t think clearly, all this darkness and horror, it’s making me think the walls are moving, I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing, I’ve tried not to but the fear is still real.
The Hunter has stopped for now, but it won’t be long until it tries again, the study’s doors are strong but they can only take so much punishment.
I need to drink the potion soon, I don’t have much time left, I know you’re scared, I’m scared too but you have to overcome that if you’re going to escape this castle alive. The first thing you need to know is that you are being hunted, you can’t fight it I’ve tried everything and I can’t stop it, the only thing you can do is run or hide.
The second thing you need to know about is the mist, STAY AWAY FROM THE MIST, I don’t know what is in there and nothing I’ve tried seems to disperse it-
tHe sHAdoWs wILl coME, THe SHaDoWS WilL ComE, thE shAdOWs WiLl cOMe.
-atever happens. The third thing, oh... I’m a monster, what kind of a pony am I?! How could I have left her behind? I know she told me to but Rainbow Dash can be such a hothead! I left her behind, I don’t know where she is but I pray to Celestia she was able to escape and go for help.
Please, tell her I’m sorry... I’m so, so sorry for leave-
eMOtiOn iS a wEakNeSS, EmOtIoN iS A WEaKneSs, EMoTiON iS a wEaKnEsS.
-xperimentation. Don’t try to stop him, just run, get out of here before it’s too late. I know you’re afraid, and alone, I can’t tell you everything it would just defeat the purpose of this potion, just know that I have a very good reason for wanting to forget.
Your memory will recover in time Twilight and then we can go back to Ponyville and forget this ever happened.
Your former self, Twilight Sparkle.
I finished reading the note, my heart was racing, amnesia? What was hunting me? What was in the mist? I read over it again, trying to make sense of the strange script that Twilight... I... had written in places. I shook my head and put my hooves over my eyes, letting the note fall to the ground.
I couldn’t remember anything, why would I do that to myself? Why would I nee-
My heart froze when I heard it, I retracted my hooves from my eyes and looked up slowly, something was on the floor above me, I squinted as I stared up at the wooden floorboards that made up the roof. A little cloud of dust fell...
I gave a small squeak when it moved again, another cloud of dust falling from the ceiling, a little further ahead from the last one. My legs were shaking and my breaths were coming out in ragged gasps, steaming in the ice cold castle.
I couldn’t move, I was paralyzed with fear, whatever it was, was big, and the impacts it made as it walked were solid and meaty and it made the ceiling shudder. I blew out the candle and sat still, afraid to alert it to my presence.
I hyperventilated, the combination of utter darkness and the presence of the Thing above me left me cowering on the floor. Still shivering in fear, I somehow managed to crawl along the floor, making my way to the end of the hall, away from the Thing.
I crawled along in the darkness, my shivering hooves dragging me forwards bit by bit, I was starting to hear whispering in the darkness and my head ached.
I couldn’t take it anymore, I curled into a ball, clutching my tail and let the darkness take me.
“Okay... okay I need, uhm, okay, I can’t teleport out of here and I can’t go by hoof... there has to be another way out of here!” I skimmed through the undamaged books in the archives, they had to have stored the layout of the castle here somewhere.
I opened my eyes, and I was greeted with nothing but darkness, if I couldn’t feel them I wouldn’t have been certain I’d opened my eyes at all.
I noticed a dim light outlining a door as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I got to my hooves and stumbled towards it slowly. The floor creaked beneath my hooves, and I winced at every step I took, I had to keep quiet or the Thing would come again.
I finally made it to the door and pushed it.
It didn’t budge; I pushed it again, harder this time and was rewarded with a loud echoing ‘clang’ as the door hit the door frame again. It was at this point I realized that it was a door I had to pull open.
I stuck my head through the crack as I pulled it open and was shocked to see that I wasn’t in the castle proper, but a secondary tower, several floors above the ground. Placing my hooves carefully, I made my way to the edge and looked down. It was impossible to tell how high I was because a thick blanket of fog shrouded the area a few floors down, hiding the ground beneath a veil of white mist all the way to the distant tree line.
Looking around, I quickly saw that there was no other way off this tower and into the main castle. Of course there would be an exit on the ground floor but the letter from my previous self had warned me away from the mist, and it covered the ground in a thick shroud as far as I could see.
The only method of transport from this tower seemed to be a wooden gondola; I made my way towards it ignoring the creaking floorboards as I went. The gondola would have been in excellent condition in its time, but centuries of disuse had rusted the metal and weakened the wood, making the entire contraption unstable.
I got in carefully and tugged on the crank, the iron mechanism grinded to a halt. I tried again, with no better result, I guessed that something was jamming the mechanism and I inspected it closely, the gears and pulley systems should have worked, despite the rust, and the cables were also made of solid iron, poorly kept but still serviceable.
I looked higher, following a series of gear and pulley systems towards a heavy wooden counter weight.
There appeared to be some gears missing and one of the heavy iron cables had come loose from a pulley, causing the whole system to back up and jam. The cable was easy enough to fix, in an almost dreamlike state, I focused on it and imagined it looping back around the pulley, words echoing in my mind as I did so.
‘Telekinesis is one of the most basic forms of magic a unicorn can perform, it is the method of projecting ones will on the world as magical energy, before you can do this, it is important to feel the object you wish to manipulate...’
The pulley might have been fixed but the gondola would not move with missing gears in the mechanism. There had to be replacements around here somewhere, I noticed a room set off to the side of the gondola mechanism. I walked over to the door and nudged it open; conveniently, there were several replacement parts to be found in here, from lengths of heavy iron cabling, to several gears of various sizes.
I needed to figure out which gears to replace, I dragged a few of them from the room, wincing at the sounds they made as they scraped along the wooden platform. There were two missing gears in the mechanism, it looked like one of the larger weight bearing gears and one of the smaller gears that transferred power to speed.
I used my telekinesis to replace the relevant gears, securing them to their spokes. I made my way over to the gondola and turned the crank, finding the previous resistance gone; I kept turning it, wincing at the screeching of metal on metal as the gondola slowly made its way across the gap.
It took some time for me to make progress, and the mechanism was stubborn as I wound the crank. I was breathing hard by the time I got to the midpoint; I stopped to catch my breath and looked back. I cried out audibly when I saw the platform behind me had become shrouded with mist.
I screamed something was beating at the door on the platform; I turned to the crank and frantically began to turn it, trying to get to the other side. I heard the door shatter and turned just as some stray splinters flew past me.
I could see a shadow in the mist, it was huge, and it squeezed through the door frame and roared at me, starting as a low rumble and rising in decibel forcing me to put my hooves over my ears as it reached deafening levels.
I turned back to the crank and tried shifting it, it was moving, barely. I heard the Thing moving around on the mist shrouded platform, I turned to look and saw its shadowy silhouette near the mechanism. It raised its forelimbs and began beating it savagely, making the gondola shudder and sway as the heavy iron cable began to buckle.
The cable snapped, causing the gondola to drop.
I clung to the crank as the part of cable the gondola was still attached to swung it towards the main castle, my lungs burned as I screamed. The gondola impacted the wall and part of a window, shattering it, the rotten wood of the gondola splintered and broke, forcing me to grab hold of the cable as the shattered remains fell into the mist below. I clung to the cold, rusted iron desperately, trying to ignore the high pitched roar of the Thing, still up on the mist shrouded platform.
I reached over to the nearby window ledge, avoiding the splintered shards of glass and pulled myself over to it, scrabbling into the dark hallway beyond.
The Thing roared again and I went headlong into the darkness at full gallop, my heart racing and mind reeling from what I had just experienced.
“See? There’s nothing here. Nightmare Moon is gone. We kicked her flank two years ago. You need to chillax and stop worrying about every little thing!”
“I know what I felt, Rainbow! I never said it was Nightmare Moon, but there is something here. I’ve been feeling an immense amount of magic being used here, and there have been reports of missing ponies around Dodge City and Appleoosa! I know there has to be a connection!”
“So some ponies got lost in the desert near Everfree Forest, what’s the big deal? Ponies get lost all the time in the desert; they’ll probably just turn up later!”
“But they haven’t, Rainbow! This has been happening for months! uugh, I still can’t believe I’ve only just noticed this recently!”
“Grrr, Fine! Let’s just get this over with already, all this silence and fog is starting to creep me out!”
I leaned against the wall, my face in my hooves.
Who was this ‘Rainbow’? What had I been investigating and what had I been so desperate to forget that I drank a potion that made me forget my entire life?
I strained my ears, trying to make out sounds in the dark hallway but there was nothing but silence. I breathed out a sigh of relief, and rubbed my face with my hooves. I couldn’t stay here, I didn’t know how long it would take for the Thing to find me again and I wasn’t sure I’d survive my next encounter with the monstrosity.
I walked down the hallway cautiously, my eyes having long since adjusted to the lack of light in this part of the castle. I had no idea where I was going but I knew I had to get as far away from the Thing as possible.
Even if it meant I had to walk in utter darkness.
Fear began to set in as my heart rate slowed making my legs shake as I walked in the darkness my head pounding from a headache, and every tiny sound caught my attention. I could hear faint whispering and I strained to make out what was being said.
‘I stopped and looked at Rainbow “There’s somepony here, I’m sure of it! I know what I saw, Rainbow, he might know something.” I continued down the darkened hall, searching for the Stallion I’d seen earlier.
Rainbow Dash walked beside me, staying close as she gazed about warily “I-I don’t know Twilight... why would he be hiding from us... I don’t like this... it’s too quiet, I think we should go...” I turned to Rainbow Dash, levitating the lantern higher so I could see her better.
She was visibly quaking for some reason and she kept looking back over her shoulder, muttering about ‘scratching sounds’ I put a hoof on her shoulder to calm her down.
She startled and jumped away from me, a look of abject terror in her magenta eyes “Gah! Oh, it’s you... for a moment there I thought...” I furrowed my brow in puzzlement, she looked absolutely terrified of something and I didn’t know what had her so shaken, “Thought what? That I was some kind of monster?”
A door burst open down the hall and I snapped my head over to it, seeing Rainbow Dash’s silhouette outlined by the torchlight, “Hey Twilight! I think I found something!” I stared at her stupidly for a moment.
“Hey! How...” I looked to my side to where I’d seen Rainbow earlier, only to find my hoof outstretched towards nothing...'
I shook my head, lowering my hoof to the floor again and looked at the door I’d seen in my memory.
The door was closed and flickering orange light shone from under the door and I approached it warily. My heart was racing and the sounds of my heartbeats were accompanied by the sounds of the floorboards beneath my hooves creaking.
I nudged the door open slowly, the rusty iron hinges creaking at the movement.
I stood in the doorway and gazed over the room’s contents, it was well lit because of several torch sconces and the furniture was relatively new and well cared for. I looked back over my shoulder, the fur on the back of my neck was raised and I felt horribly exposed with the long, dark hallway behind me.
I entered and shut the door, sliding the deadbolt into place with a loud, echoing thud.
I placed my flank against the door and once again looked over the room. It looked as though it had been searched before, and recently. Several tomes lay scattered about and there were sheaf's of parchment in disorganized stacks, I calmed my breathing and made my over to the nearest stack that rested on an ornate desk and picked up the first page.
Research Log, 6387.
I have finished setting up my laboratory here in these ruins and have continued my experiment. After the disaster in Manehattan I have concluded that I should avoid large population areas, this forest, is an adequate location in which I may continue my work.
The single test subject I was able to recover from my laboratory in Manehattan is deteriorating quickly, but that is not of concern as there are three low population districts in the area around these forests, ripe with viable replacements. My primary concern at the present time is bringing my store of alchemical ingredients back to full strength. Gathering herbs of potency should not be a problem here in these forests.
For now I must strengthen the bonds restraining my test subject, its mind has long since deteriorated into its primal state and it is prone to aggressive behavior, though that is easily controlled with regular dosages of oil harvested from Animus bane and careful pheromone manipulation.
I re read the note in horror, there was somepony here who was performing experiments on other ponies! What had I gotten myself into? I quickly picked up the next note and read it, occasionally looking at the door over my shoulder.
Research Log, 6392.
Subject A has deteriorated completely, but not before it was able to capture several suitable replacements. Two Pegasi, three Earth Ponies and five Unicorns. I have begun the process of lowering their resistance to make them susceptible to mind altering agents, I shall begin this initially on the earth ponies I have, as they represent the most basic template that I am used to experimenting on.
I have had to apply devices to prevent them from communicating with each other, as the two Pegasi have attempted to escape multiple times, I did not want to do it but secrecy must be preserved at all costs, so I have broken their wings in several key locations to cripple their ability to fly should they manage to escape restraint again.
The unicorns I must keep unconscious for now. I have some working theories I have never tested before and their biological structure is well suited for the implementation of said theories, and keeping them unconscious ensures they cannot use their magic to escape captivity.
The earth ponies are easy enough to manage as they have no special abilities to call upon to aid in an escape attempt. Regular leg restraints and sensory inhibitors keep them under control and I have begun experimentation on one, a Stallion, red coat and green mane, his talent marking depicts a wagon wheel.
Initial results are promising and the subject’s cellular structure holds minor mutations well, I believe the subject to be strong enough to handle a higher dosage of chemicals from the Mutare Flower.
Research Log, 6393.
I have succeeded in reducing the subject’s mental capacity and will, it now responds to my commands willingly and without question. I will soon begin the process of chemically altering its body. This series of changes may include improved eyesight, an increase in muscle elasticity and an advanced auditory system. However, the effects of the mutare flower are unpredictable at best and may cause one, if not several, undesirable side effects.
In addition to my usual experiments I have been performing research into a herb I have discovered growing around the castle here, minor testing reveals it to be an incredibly efficient mutagen and I believe it would be an excellent replacement for the mutare flower. The mutare flower is fairly common and easy to use and harvest, however, the effects take an incredibly tedious amount of time to have any real effect and require months of strong dosages. This new herb mutates a subject far faster and far more efficiently than any mutagen I have come across, I look forward to exploring the effects of this herb in full.
Research Log, 6394.
Success! The new mutagen, which I have named Nightstem, has exceeded all of my expectations. Upon application, the test subject almost mutated right before my eyes and I have recorded an increase in almost all expected areas of improvement, muscle elasticity has doubled, and the auditory system has improved by sixty percent.
The eyes are by far the best improvement, they now resemble those of a reptilian species, I hypothesize that the subject has improved vision. This is a breakthrough for my res-
I threw the note away; I couldn’t read any further, whoever had written this log was a monster! I had to get out of here, now more than ever. I was suddenly overcome with dread at what would happen to me if I were caught by this mad pony, and I said as I sank to my haunches.
“Oh, I just want to go home...”
‘I kNOw YoU aRe iN ThERe, tWIligHT...
I looked up, somepony was outside the door... whispering to me, I got up and slowly backed away from the door. My flank bumped the desk and the legs scraped against the floor noisily.
‘cOMe OuT! tWiLigHt!’
I yelped as something beat the door, the wood splintering inwards.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the door, the wood splintered and the deadbolt was beginning to buckle. It continued to beat the door and finally, it smashed inwards, revealing a wavering barrier of white mist. I screamed and covered my eyes with shaking hooves falling to the floor in terror.
I sat there, cowering for some time, before I managed to remove my hooves from my eyes. I looked up at the door only to see it still closed and completely undamaged. I sat and watched it as my thoughts unfolded and my heart rate and breathing returned to normal.
“I have to get out of here...” and with that I turned back towards the desk, and the writings of that... monster... he might have something here that I could use to escape. I began to skim through the possessions, ignoring his ‘Research logs’ and looking instead for anything that might tell me where exactly I was. I knew that I was in Old Canterlot in the Everfree forest, but what I didn’t know was where I had come from in the first place.
This mad pony might have a map of the surrounding area, listing the nearby ‘low population districts’ he’d mentioned. I pulled the drawers out and searched them quickly, I didn’t want to be here any longer than I had to be because there was no telling when he would show up.
After an exhaustive search of the room, I finally found a rolled up map, the parchment felt fairly old and I was unsure of its accuracy. I unrolled it and set it down on the desk, planting my hooves on either side to prevent the parchment from resuming its familiar shape.
Equestria, this is where I was. I quickly scanned the map, looking for Everfree Forest. I found it near the center of the map, nestled in between three towns, Dodge City, Appleoosa and Ponyville...
“Then... when will you make friends, like the Princess said?” I didn’t look at Spike as the carriage soared through the sky. I, instead, looked down at the drab little town that was hosting the summer sun celebration. A small farming town in the middle of nowhere, Nightmare Moon was returning and Princess Celestia had decided to send me here to make friends.
Didn’t she realize none of that would matter when Nightmare Moon escapes?
“She ‘said’ to check on preparations. I am her student, and I’ll do my royal duty, but the fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends!” I braced as the carriage touched down with a slight bump in the street.
I looked around at the gathered ponies briefly before getting out with a sigh.
“Ponyville... The Summer Sun celebration...” I desperately tried to grasp more from the memory, but the details were already fading. I let loose a defeated sigh and let the memory be for now so I could focus on the situation at hoof.
I rummaged through my saddlebags, looking for a compass, I found one tucked away in the corner and withdrew it. I flipped the lid open and my heart dropped when I saw that the needle was spinning crazily, incapable of resting on a single point for more than a second before some unknown force caused it to spin again.
I dropped the useless instrument to the floor, rolled up the map and left the room.
I stood in the doorway for a moment, the oppressive wall of darkness in front of me giving me pause. I went back into the room and took one of the candles from its holder, and I held it high as I moved into the shadows carefully, my eyes warily darting about the darkened hallway. The utter silence was beginning to make me tense and I had to force myself to calm down.
I kept getting the feeling there was something following me, I could feel its gaze boring into me from the darkness. The light from my candle picked out a set of stairs and I proceeded up them. I turned the corner and looked up at the second landing, there was a single torch lighting the top of the stairs and I made for it as I adjusted the grip on the candle.
I stopped when I heard something moving up there, and I quickly blew out the candle and backed away towards the corner as it came into view.
I couldn’t see it clearly because it stood between me and the torch, but what I could make out terrified me. It resembled a pony, but it was horribly disfigured, its mane and tail were mostly gone and it had no fur, revealing its pale flesh. Its jaw hung limply, revealing a row of razor sharp teeth jutting unevenly from its upper jaw, and its hooves were cracked and splintered. The monsters flesh was torn in places from where several ribs had pierced its flesh.
I remained paralyzed in the corner, shaking in fear and desperately trying to keep my breathing under control lest I reveal myself. The creature remained at the top of the stairs, breathing heavily, as though part of its throat had collapsed.
I dropped the candle.
The creature snapped its head towards the stairs with a grunt and shuffled down the steps slowly, its torn hooves leaving smears of blood on the stone steps. I remained where I was, heart thundering and legs quaking. I pressed myself firmly against the wall as it came closer and the odor of dried blood and rotting flesh assaulted my senses.
I suppressed my breathing and remained absolutely still as it came to a stop a few feet away from me. I felt the urge to scream when I saw the lengths of rope tied tightly around its midsection, the ropes seemed to be holding the creature’s torso together. It shifted slightly, causing a few of its ribs to slide out even further. The creature didn’t seem to notice its body was falling apart and I suppressed a whimper of horror.
After what seemed an eternity, the creature continued down the stairs, the shuffling of its broken hooves and sagging flesh echoing from the stairwell. As quietly as I could, I made my way up the stairs, not bothering to pick up the candle I’d dropped and avoiding the smears of blood the creature had left behind.
Who could inflict something so horrible on another pony?
My head throbbed and the walls looked like they were warped. I turned left and stumbled down the corridor, trying to keep myself upright as the corridor warped and shifted around me, the floor heaving and the walls bulging inwards. I focused on the door at the end of the hallway and made my way straight towards it, ignoring the other doors I passed. I unlatched the deadbolt and pushed the door open and found myself in an ornate antechamber.
soft blue light streamed in from the elaborate stained windows and the ceiling stretched high above me, sculptures of what I guessed was the lighter side of Equestrian history carved into it artfully. The center of the chamber was dominated by an immense fountain depicting an earth pony a unicorn and a Pegasus in harmony beneath the sun and moon.
A staircase wound upwards from behind the fountain, leading to the tower above in an artful spiral and the sound of water trickling from the fountain gave the chamber a calming air. The world stopped heaving and I calmed somewhat. The chamber was mostly undamaged and, apart from a few cracked flagstones and worn tapestries adorning the walls, everything was perfectly preserved.
I put aside my caution and continued toward the fountain and looked into the calm waters. A unicorn mare with purple fur, amethyst eyes and a violet mane with a streak of indigo and pink running through it stared back. I smiled and the mare in the water smiled back wearily and I placed a hoof to my face.
I stood by the fountain in the courtyard, the events of the past few days had left me drained and Pinkie Pies parties always took a lot out of me and the reception was no different. I had left the celebrations as soon as I decently could to enjoy some time to relax and take stock, “Why dost thou seeketh solitude on this most joyous of celebrations, Twilight Sparkle?” I looked up to see Princess Luna.
The Princess of the Night had shadows beneath her eyes and her manes enchantment had been removed, “Oh, I just needed some time to come to terms with everything that’s just happened, it’s not every day that changelings invade... what about you, Princess? You look like you haven’t slept for days.”
Princess Luna smiled at me and joined by the fountain, “Tis nothing to worry about, Twilight Sparkle. We hath been dealing with some disturbing revelations of late and they hath robbed us of our time of rest.” Despite her words, I knew Princess Luna would not want to talk about said ‘disturbing revelations’ and that if she had wished to discuss them, she would have informed me by now.
“Excitement all around then, huh?”
“We hath guessed this to be the current trend of this strange new time we find ourselves in. We only wish we had not rebelled against our sister so we could have watched thy world grow into its current state.” I put a hoof to Princess Luna’s shoulder as she stared into the waters of the pool, she flinched slightly at the contact and then turned, looking down at me.
“You were possessed by Nightmare Moon, it wasn’t your fault, Princess.” She grimaced slightly at my words and looked back into the pools depths, “If only thy words held truth in them, Twilight Sparkle...”
I removed my hoof from my face and sighed, looking around the chamber again, I felt relatively safe, but who knew how long that would last. I could, at the very least, satiate my sudden thirst, the fountains waters looked relatively clean and safe to drink. After taking one last look behind me, I lowered my head to drink, the water was cool and free of dirt and I drank to satiation.
I finally lifted my head and wiped my muzzle dry of a few stray drops and sank down beside the fountain and closed my eyes.