Luna rubbed the back of her sore head where Celestia had given her a "gentle tap" moments before. In her defense, she was more worried about the rubber-clad human fleeing than actually attacking anypony when she gave the order to seize him, but upon reflection (and her elder sister reminding her with a quick slap to the noggin), she now saw why this was not the best course of action one could have taken.
Pyro, despite his medium build, was strong. VERY strong. The fact that he had to haul those deceptively dense flamethrowers at the speeds he needed to catch Spies plus other gear he might be wearing made him incredibly fit over the years. It was these attributes that allowed him to perform mind-bending moves "normal" humans would have no chance of pulling off, like a double-suplex on two armor-wearing stallions.
After the shock wore off from watching such a display, the rest of the guards had moved in to try and capture the increasingly dangerous instigator. This resulted in two guards head-butting each other as Pyro vaulted over them and caught a third pegasi sentinel with a scissor lock as he and his captive corkscrewed onto the wooden platform.
Pyro usually didn't like to show off too much (taunting was a different story). He had found that keeping certain skills a secret gave him an advantage on the battlefield when his adversaries thought him otherwise defeated. Unlike Scout, who had needlessly showboated his new "triple jump" ability only a few moments after first receiving the Atomizer. It took Sniper all of six shots to adjust to the extra distance Scout could jump before blowing his walnut brain out of the back of his tiny little head.
Celestia sighed at the spectacle; her brightest and finest where getting their flanks handed to them by some crazed degenerate who didn't even appear to be putting up a fight, while her hoofpicked guards were doing their best and still ended up with a face full of grass as they went sailing off the makeshift wrestling ring. After watching this brutal beat-down go on for minute or so, Celestia calmed the crowd.
"EVERYPONY BE STILL!!!" her voice was so thunderous that it physically moved a couple of unfortunate unicorn guards a hoof forward.
As commanded, everypony (and Pyro) froze in place: One pegasi had his forelegs around Pyro's neck while Pyro himself had one pinned under his knee and another he was about ready to feed his herbivore teeth to if his raised fist was any indication.
Celestia waved them off, and Pyro returned the favor by releasing his captives who sputtered for air. "Forgive my sister, she only wanted you to stay so we could ask you a few questions about yourself." she said calmly. Pyro tapped his chin as he thought over her proposal, he nodded in agreement along with a thumbs-up.
The relived Sun Goddess smiled and closed her eyes, 'Phew, at least THAT'S taken care of…' Pyro took this opportunity to glance over at Luna, who herself had not stopped watching the human since his abrupt appearance moments before and who's eyes widened once she saw him looking in her direction. Pyro put two fingers to his shimmering goggles and then pointed to Luna as if to say "I'm watching you", before snapping back to Celestia before her eyelids reviled her beautiful magenta irises once more.
The dark blue Ruler of the Night gulped nervously, she had been getting better at making friends since she'd returned, but even she knew THAT relationship was going to require some patchwork.
"Now I must ask," said Celestia as she looked out over Ponyville, "where have you been staying all this time? Surly you didn't stay in Everfree until now, did you?"
Pyro cocked his head and looked past the alicorn Princess. He scanned the crowd of multicolored ponies in search for the one who had sheltered him for the past few days, not really thinking about what repercussions might befall her…or him. He spotted something moving towards the back; a mint-green and white tail with a lyre on either side attempting to file silently out of the crowd.
"Mrrrhr mho mrhr, Mrrira." muffled Pyro as he pointed in the direction of the fleeting flank.
"You there, halt!" said a unicorn guard that had teleported over to intercept the suspect with nothing more than a nod from Princess Celestia. Lyra felt a cold jolt rocket through her heart as it sank into her gut. She slowly turned to face the platform as everypony else (including Bon Bon and the CMC) parted to make a path directly from her to where the alicorns and the firebug stood pointing at her.
She walked nervously through the parted sea of technicolor Equestrians at a faster pace than she had wanted, but the two honor bound guards hurried her along. Lyra could feel everypony's gaze fall on her like judgmental daggers from every direction as the path began to close behind her while she walked. She nervously climbed up onto the wooden stage next to Pyro and Celestia as a second unicorn guard warped next to him and caused him to jump onto Lyra.
The sudden weight made her collapse and eveypony in the crowd began to either snicker quietly or laugh incessantly. Pyro, not quite as embarrassed as the unicorn he had just air-mounted, rubbed the back of his head as he stood up and tried his best to help Lyra to her hooves. She shot him a dirty look and then turned to face the Princess towering over her.
"Lyra Heartstrings; you have been found guilty of harboring a potentially dangerous suspect in the confines of your home…" said the Solar Goddess as she looked down upon the frightened harpist. A thousand thoughts battled for control within Lyra's mind: Would the Princess banish her? Lock her up? Lock her up in the place where she was banished? Send her to the moon? She started shaking, she didn't want to be separated from her friends. "…and you are to be commended."
Lyra's jaw once again fell open, this time closed by Pyro. "I-I'm sorry P-P-Princess, but isn't that a BAD thing to do?" she stammered.
"Normally, yes. But you saw this, admittedly strange, creature and took pity on him. For all you knew he could have been Discord in disguise." Lyra eyed the flamboyant maniac suspiciously, the more she thought about it, the more he reminded her of the embodiment chaos. Celestia picked up on Lyra's skepticism and giggled warmly, "Have no fear, Discord is still trapped from his defeat at the hooves of the Elements of Harmony." Twilight and the rest of the Mane Six that where present all bashfully looked at one another, those titles still sounded too legendary.
Well, except for Rainbow Dash. The cyan pegasus simply adored being referred to as a hero, and swooped around around next to Lyra, "Yeah, don't worry about a thing! If Discord ever shows his mug around here again, we'll send him packing just like last time, and that goes for anypony else who tries to hurt our friends!" The crowd cheered as she waved to them, Rainbow's voice was so chalked full of confidence that Lyra quickly abandoned her fears that Pyro might have some alternative motives about overtaking Equestria…and replaced them with what he might be planning to do to the pegasus mare hovering over her left shoulder.
Pyro expressed an emotion that Lyra hadn't seen in him before; genuine anger. He balled up his fists and began to shake as he gave Dash (who was busy waving to the crowd) a glare that was transferrable through his black headpiece. Even during his battle with the Timber Wolves, Pyro always had a sense of child-like glee and curiosity about him. Now, he seemed like that of what Lyra was originally afraid he'd turn out to be; a killer for hire with a hot temper. But what had set him off? She looked back and forth between furious fire-starter and the oblivious blue pega- BLUE! That's why Pyro must've attacked Colgate, because of her blue coat! As Lyra began to piece together what was happening, it dawned on her just how many blue ponies were present. The first cobalt Equestrian her bright golden eyes rested upon was the most pivotal. Princess Luna.
Not only was she a deep blue with lighten tones of it in her stardust mane, but she had also ordered the guards (with sapphire manes and tails) to attack him completely unprovoked. Lyra let off a sigh of relief, though, remembering that she had hidden his lethal Detonator back in her house. She nervously looked over at the human, who's body language now suggested deep thought.
Pyro's hardboiled brain was working overtime trying to plot it's next course of action…and trying not to burst. This errant FLYING pony was defiantly blue, but what's with her hair? Pyro scanned every inch of her mane and tail; a perfect rainbow containing his favorite color, red (with his secondary favorites of orange and yellow following close behind).
He thought back to some of the the more vibrant hats that could be seen around the dusty wastelands of Teufort (if only for a moment as the wearer's head goes flying by), recalling all manner of colors and patterns, no matter which team the owner of said article of clothing swore their allegiance to. She was still blue, a light sky blue, and all of Pyro's intensive training at Mann Co. had taught him that all BLUs are to be eliminated on the spot.
He wavered. He just couldn't bring himself to torch the pegasus, Lyra had shown him that there was room for friendship outside of mindlessly blasting each other apart for some pointless land-grab that had been going since before he was even born. But his fiery, murder-loving core told him to finish the mare and every other BLU pony he could find…and maybe that little pink one wearing a tiara, something about that one just irked him.
He gripped his head, trying in vain to quell the war raging within his already damaged mind when a pink hoof tapped him on the back of his leg. He turned to see a smiling Pinkie Pie beaming up at him with brilliant blue eyes, she patted him on the back in a calming way.
"There there, Mr. Pyro, I know what you're thinking; 'I should go grab my big scary flamethrower and go after those BLU meanies'..." she said as she stood on her hind legs and did an overly dramatic interpretation of Pyro. "…but the thing is, there aren't any BLUs here. The only blue things here are the sky and Dashie over there!" A large "A-hem" resounded throughout the crowd as various blue ponies in attendance pointed to themselves or rose above the sea of technicolor faces so she could clearly see them. "Oh, yeah, them too," Pinkie said embarrassed, "while it might be okay to look at a BLU person and make super-quick decisions, you can't judge blue ponies like that. Some blue ponies are awesome like Dash and Luna, but some blue ponies, like Trixie, are just big meanies. Make sense?"
Pyro looked out over the gathering of Equestrians, and then at those up on the stage. After what seemed like minutes, he slowly shifted his gaze down at the pink party pony sitting impatiently tapping a hoof waiting for his response. The guards wanted to hear his reply too, as they would undoubtedly have to go another round with the red menace if what Pinkie had said caused him to finally snap.
Pinkie suddenly found herself being scooped up by the bipedal phoenix-incarnate and was given one of the warmest hugs she thought she'd ever felt. He beside himself with joy, No BLUs! He could finally relax, were it not for the sharp pain that suddenly rocketed through his body.
Pyro released Pinkie and fell to his knees in pain. While he had been hugging the pink partygoer, she had jabbed something into his shoulder. Deep. He reached around with his good arm and dislodged the offending implement; a black butterfly knife dripping with his blood. He looked up at Pinkie in confusion before being hit with another five all across his chest from the pink assassin. He couldn't even stay on his knees, with a final "HUDDAH!" he collided with the stage as everypony began to panic.
"You mumbling maniac." said Pinkie in an all too familiar voice. Smoke coiled around the bright earth pony, and spiraled up until it produced a slender man in a blue suit wearing a white paper mask with Pinkie's face. He threw away the mask to reveal the BLU Spy, smiling down at the broken fire-starter. Pyro could only watch as Celestia, Luna, Lyra, Rainbow Dash, and even the guards began to back away from him and the french saboteur.
The foreign infiltrator that had been masquerading as Pinkie rolled the wounded RED over with a sharp kick to the side, the Spy knelt down and grabbed the fading Pyro by his collar, blowing a thick waft of smoke into his leathery face. Pyro tilted his head back and realized that it was night, but that was impossible, since it was only about two in the afternoon. He looked around at the horrified faces of all of the ponies present, before settling on the wicked smile of his nemesis. A cold autumn gust rolled through air, causing immediate shivers and puffs of steam with each exhale, and pushing the clouds across the starless sky.
The Spy's smile grew wider, allowing even more of his hot breath to mingle with the already noticeable smoke from his trademark cigarette. "Now, Pyro. Why don't we show our little friends here what you really are…" he sneered. He snapped his fingers, and as if on command, the clouds opened up to reveal a giant full moon for all to see.
As moonbeams bathed the inhabitants of Ponyville with a soft glow, Pyro writhed about like an insect beneath a magnifying glass. The pain, he couldn't have imagined that resisting something he usually wished for could be so agonizing…but he couldn't let them see him like this, he couldn't let them see-
"PYRO!" screamed Lyra. Pyro jerked awake and violently whacked his head on the roof of the sleeper car he so rudely found himself in. He grabbed his throbbing head and attempted to put a hand down on the floor so he could roll out of his bunk, but was only met with empty air and fell a good two feet before smacking his head in the exact same spot.
Lyra winced as she watched him groggily stagger back to his feet only to collapse on the bottom bunk behind him. She trotted over to the still dazed Pyro and patted him on the back, right where Pinkie had stabbed him in his dream.
"Oh, sorry, I don't know WHAT possessed those guards to put you on a top bunk. I guess they thought that maybe you wouldn't cause as much commotion if you were out of sight…"
"Muph hurrhumph?" he asked.
"What happened? Well, after Pinkie Pie said there weren't any blues here, you sorta…passed out." Her words began to register with RED Team's Spy-checker; he was no longer on the wooden stage, or in Ponyville for that matter. He heard a whistle, a train whistle, which pierced the air as the blurry scenery outside of the large glass windows began to slow and come into focus. "We're on the Canterlot Express," Lyra said bluntly, "this should be the last stop before we hit Canterlot, but we've still got a few hours."
Pyro rubbed his shoulder and found it un-punctured even though he thought he could still feel pain. Ponies from the Fillydelphia Station shuffled through the door, chattering amount themselves and carrying various saddlebags and duffles either on their backs or via magic.
They all stopped, whoever, once they saw the giant creature sitting on the bunk about midway into the sleeper car. They all gasped and took a few steps back, until a little unicorn filly (to the utter dismay of he parents and those she was traveling with) approached the human and a frantic Lyra.
"What's that?" she asked clinging her doll of what appeared to be a plush alicorn with a red mane and quill and ink Cutie Mark.
"Uh, it's a Nightmare Night decoration I brought with me from Ponyville…?" said Lyra with a poker face almost as bad as Applejack's. The filly squinted at Pyro, who was now perfectly still, rubbing her chin as she looked him over. Sweat the size of golf balls rolled down Lyra's mint-green coat intensifying the slight breeze that was coming in from the open door.
'Why aren't her parents trying to save her?' thought Lyra as she watched the little unicorn continue to examine the contract killer, she looked over at the cluster of stunned ponies and saw that the filly's parents where just as frozen as the rest of them.
The young pony finally spoke, "Oh neat!" and simply trotted back to the shocked gathering behind her. "What?" she said confused.
An hour had passed since the group of concerned Fillydelphians had been reassured by the guards that the "Nightmare Night Decoration" was not dangerous in anyway (even though most of the guards on board where the same unlucky combatants that had seen firsthoof just how tough Pyro was). While this had prevented mass panic, it also meant that poor Pyro was forced to stay in one position. Lyra decided to pretend to shift him into a sleeping potion so he could relax, and as the crowd filed out into other cars, he was able to move little by little.
"Can I get you anything? Water?" asked Lyra who was sitting at his feet. Pyro slowly tilted his head to either side. "Alright. *Sigh* I wish I at least had a costume for one of the biggest parties outside of the Grand Galloping Gala…"
She felt a tug on her tail, and saw Pyro's hand that was hidden behind his body pointing up at the bunk above them, Lyra got up and climbed to the top bunk where a familiar battered backpack sat waiting for her. She hefted it up with a magical bubble and placed on the ground before Pyro. He took advantage of a small bump on the tracks to tilt his head so he could see his beloved storage system.
Just then, a small bell chimed throughout the car, dinner was served. Everypony got up and shuffled out of the sleeper car and into the dining car located towards the back according to the attractive attendant's voice that crackled over the speaker.
Pyro wasted no time, bolting up but being carful not to give himself anymore brain damage than he already had, and dove into his backpack. Lyra heard metallic clangs, the sound chains, and keys rattling together as the highly animated 'Nightmare Night Decoration' tore though the brown bag in search of something to help Lyra's predicament. He finally resurfaced and presented Lyra with her very own cow skull sporting detailed designs, the Pyromancer's Mask.
Lyra reluctantly accepted the cow remains as Pyro hopped up to confront one of the guards. She held the skull in her hooves, it had been worn down in some areas from wear and tear, one one of it's horns was broken but it did have a beautiful paint job…BUT THAT DIDN'T CHANGE THE FACT THAT THIS WAS COW SKULL!
She tried not to think about exactly where he would have found something like this when Pyro returned with a black cloth. He gestured for her to put on the mask and try the cloth that turned out to be a hastily sown robe. She slowly placed the disgusting headgear over her face and cringed once she noticed just how snuggly it fit. Once she managed to stop the apples attempting a jailbreak from her queazy stomach, she dawned the black cloak and looked at her reflection in a nearby mirror.
She certainly looked terrifying...but she simply couldn't wear a real cow skull without feeling like she was defiling somepony's remains (especially since she actually knew a few cows back in Ponyville). She sighed and hoofed the mask back to Pyro, who was now very confused. He thought she wanted to look as frightening as she could.
"Thanks, but…I just don't feel comfortable wearing something like that."
"Hrrm? Mrr murph murr…"
"Oh, it's NOT real?"
"Murr murr, hmm?" He flipped the mask around and pointed to a serial number imbedded on the jaw.
"Oh, well in that case; GIMME!" she said with a renewed sense of accomplishment as she was once again able to wear her perfectly scary costume.
Just then, a second bell tone chimed over the intercom, signaling the end of dinner. Before Pyro could hop back into the safety of his bunk the now filled passengers stumbled in to see he him mid-dive into his sheets.
"Okay, uh, nopony panic…" started Lyra.
After another hour of explaining Pyro's predicament (with a little assistance from the guards) they finally reached Grand Central Station in Canterlot, which had been made up to look like a cave with an inflatable Ursa Major looming within. Hundreds of tired ponies trotted out of the doors as steam from the breaks hissed and enveloped the platform, making it all the more spooky. Most of the arriving ponies had changed into their Nightmare Night outfits on the ride over, especially Lyra, Pyro, Bon Bon (who had slept through most of the shenanigans on the ride over), and the Mane 6:
Lyra, with some assistance from Rarity, now had a torn black cloak with blood red designs all about it to match the ones on the Pyromancer's Mask. Bon Bon meanwhile was wearing a dress that the same side as the pink in mane, appeared to be normal, while having wild fringe and gnarls on the side with her dark blue.
Rarity herself (somewhat embarrassed that she hadn't been able to attend last Nightmare Night) was dressed as a vampiric mistress with a regal, purple, web-like dress and fake fangs. Sweetie Belle had worn her old vampire costume too to make Rarity feel a bit better.
Applejack was sporting a matching outfit with her sister; they dressed as each other. Applejack had dyed her mane amaranth and altered her Cutie Mark to match her yellow-cream coat, Apple Bloom on the other hoof had done the same but with AJ's color scheme and stenciled apples on her flank. They had simply traded headgear, a task that seemed trivial to everypony but Pyro, who nearly exploded when he witnessed the exchange.
Rainbow Dash soared overhead as nothing more than a golden yellow streak across the sky in her homemade Daring Do outfit. She too had altered her cloud/lightning bolt Cutie Mark into Daring's compass cross with amazing attention to detail and dulled her mane into shades of grey. Down below, a Wonderbolt by the name of Scootaloo ran alongside the other Crusaders in her authentic uniform she had received during a Junior Wonderbolts camp.
Fluttershy had reluctantly accompanied her friends only because they had ambushed her when she tried to escape back into her cottage. She had tried to wear other costumes, but only ended up scaring herself when she saw her reflection, so she settled on wearing a couple of bat bows in her mane and tail.
Pinkie Pie was as festive as ever, wearing what could only be described as "The Pumpkin Queen" with a Jack-O-Lantern for a helmet that actually lit up and shot candy from the top. Needless to say, she was very popular with all the fillies (and the occasional guard who hadn't had a chance to eat anything before their shift).
Twilight had gone a different route this year and decided to go as outback explorer; tinted sunglasses, a brown slouch hat, a multi-pocketed leather vest, and a red shirt underneath.
And last but not least, Pyro, who had adorned his Last Breath skull and a Waxy Wayfinder candle on top that had a fiery pumpkin floating around it.
All of the ponies made their ways up through the busy streets of the shimmering city as dusk fell over Equestria. Once everypony had made the short pilgrimage to the city center, they spread out to sample the local wears but stayed close enough so they wouldn't have to trot all the way back over.
The guards were having a field day trying to keep tabs on all of the masquerading Equestrians. The one day of the year that where somepony dressed like a lunatic was something that inspired praise. Not to say that the guards all hated the holiday, far from it. If anything, they were jealous that they weren't going to be able to change into costumes until their shifts ended. Most of the costumes were fairly impressive, it wasn't unusual to hear guards breaking their stoic character to openly admire a passerby with an impressive getup.
They were so infatuated with sightseeing in their own city square that they barely even registered a large statue covered by a tarp being pushed through the sea of ponies towards the castle by four surly stallions with matching pumpkin heads and leather jackets that read "Hill Yard Gang".
Luna paced her room nervously, the moment of truth would soon be upon her and everypony in Equestria would be witness to her reaction. As she made her four hundred and thirty-seventh lap around her sleeping chamber, her massive black door swung open and Celestia trotted in with two guards who stopped after setting hoof past the threshold only to bow and closed the door behind her.
"How goes the prep-" started Celestia. Her question was cut off by the manic look her sister gave her upon noticing that somepony else was also in her room. "-eration?"
"Dearest sister! We could not BEGIN to conjure ye terror we hath endured within this last hour's passing!" she said frantically as she continued to pace.
"Alright, alright. Calm yourself Luna, you're going to do fine!" said Celestia in a motherly tone.
"It's just that we, I mean 'I', want to make a good first impression." Luna pushed back her velvety curtains and gazed out over the town square where she would be making her grand entrance. Celestia had already set the sun to rest and now the vastly empty sky waited patiently for it's Princess to raise the all-important moon to officially begin Nightmare Night. "Most of those little ponies out there have only heard stories passed around by tabloids and word of mouth…I have no idea what they'll think of me."
Celestia was about to speak up when a rap on the door demanded her and Luna's attention. A member of Luna's Secret Service stepped in and quickly bowed, "Forgive the interruption, but it appears as if though Princess Luna has a package here for delivery."
"Oh!" Luna's mood lightened, she loved getting presents. "What is it?"
"A statue as far as I can tell." He beckoned for the four pumpkin heads to wheel the massive tarp-covered sculpture into the Lunar Goddess' private quarters. Celestia rose an eyebrow at the suspicious gathering of delinquents that had suddenly fouled up the air in Luna's room with some unknown stench, which the guard quickly picked up on. "Have no fear Princess, I checked it mysel-"
The guard and the four stallions went ridged before all falling to the ground with heavy thuds. Multiple colors of aura poured from their eyes and swiftly traveled up the tarp which fell as one of the carriers tugged on it when he collapsed, revealing the "statue".
"HELLO MY DEARS, HAVING A HAPPY HALLOWEEN? HAHAHA!!!"
Celestia, utterly shocked by what she saw before her, readied a spell but wasn't quick enough.
Celestia flinched, and didn't have time to recover before the Horseless Headless Horseman blasted her and Luna with a shockwave from the gruesome Headtaker. The two alicorns slammed into the far side of the room with a deafening crash that cracked the walls where they had struck. Her vision didn't return for a few moments, all she could see was a blurred image of the HHH and Luna shakily getting back on her hooves.
"L-Luna…it's not worth it…s-s-save yourself…" Celestia said through gritted teeth as she tried to stand as well.
"Don't call me that…" said Luna who turned to face her sister.
"Don't call me BY THAT FOALISH NAME." Luna's voice suddenly got deeper, more matured. A dark ether swarmed around her body from the shadow the Horseman cast upon the floor as the Headtaker glowed a bright purple while it hissed. She began to grow taller as her horseshoes rose up her legs and her crown folded back onto her head like a helmet. Her mane became wilder, her coat changed to a dark cerulean, and her pupils became piercing slits that stared daggers at the fallen Princess. She smiled, revealing flawless pointed teeth, "WHAT'S WRONG, SISTER? AREN'T YOU GLAD TO SEE ME?"
Celestia couldn't speak. Tears welled up in her eyes as she watched the same evil corrupt her sister once again, transformering her into the dreaded Nightmare Moon.
"SHE'S SPEECHLESS. BUT THAT'S ALRIGHT, SHE WON'T HAVE NEED FOR THAT SLENDER NECK MUCH LONGER."
Celestia closed her eyes, she knew it was over.