Memories. What are memories? I used to think that memories were the experiences we made in our life. Recollections of times both good and bad. But what happens when the memories you’ve experienced in your lifetime simply don’t belong to you? I’ve been pondering this for some time now, thanks to the memories of one Twilight Sparkle that have soared through my mind. What happens when you can’t trust your own memories? What is real and what isn’t?
Sometimes I wonder why the ponies of the past bothered to make their memories available via memory orbs. Was there some reason that these ponies wanted these memories to be seen? And what if… what if that reason was so that we wouldn’t repeat their mistakes? So that the next generation wouldn’t do more damage to the world than what has already taken place? I shudder at the thought of such a thing. If the ponies of the past didn’t want their mistakes to be repeated… why make them in the first place?
I wish I could trust my memories, but now… now I can’t trust my own mind. It is slowly becoming another’s, and I can’t even begin to wonder how or why I am going to make it through this. All I can wonder is why? Why me? Why am I so important?
And why am I all alone…?
I was falling, and not falling at the same time. A distinct feeling of weightlessness accompanied me as I descended, feeling nothing and everything all at once. A dark void stretched out beyond all I could see. What is going on here? I thought as I regarded the void, pondering its nonexistence. This doesn’t feel like a memory orb… My thoughts were wild and jumbled as I tried to process the events that transpired before this… nonexistence came into being. Diamond Night had tricked me. Violet had been right about the blue alicorn, which made me feel even more furious with myself. I had turned away the mare I loved for one who proved to be false. I wanted nothing more than to die right there. I knew I couldn’t though. If I did, I would never get the chance… never get to tell Violet how sorry I was. Never get to see those shiny green eyes of hers ever again.
No… I could not give up. Not for one second. If there was a chance I could see her again, I would take it.
As I was pondering the revelation behind Diamond Night and my loss of love, I became aware that my falling had slowed considerably and that I was touching down onto something solid. I looked down and saw nothingness, the black void. Yet, strangely it felt sturdy and almost like a floor. Before me, out of the void arose a road. The road was simple and winding, paved with purple brick. How odd, I thought as I looked down the road, which seemed to go on forever. Above me in the void a message painted out in gold lettering.
The Goddess of Twilight awaits. Delay and all is Lost.
I sighed. I was getting tired of these messages. Who was leaving them? How were they doing it? Was it the Twilight Society, or somepony else? Giving up on my thoughts once more, my eyes returned to the road. I stepped forward cautiously, resting a hoof on one of the purple bricks. The road seemed to shimmer with various colors of purple the instant I set down on it. I pushed forward once more and stood fully on the road. I looked back at where the golden message was, the letters now having dissipated back into the void. I stared back down the road and began to walk. If this was my only way out of this, I would have to press on.
I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked some more. Quite frankly the walking got tiresome after a while. Not tiring per se, as I never felt tired the entire time, but rather boring in a sense. Weren’t memory orbs supposed to be… you know… memories? Why was this one special? Why was I even in my own body? The mess of thoughts jumbled in my mind as they interspersed with Twilight’s memories. I thought of Spark and what she had told me in Manehattan. She was right of course. The memories, the emotions… they were getting more frequent and less scattered. I was beginning to remember whole periods of time during the war… memories that belonged to a pony who wasn’t me. I was terrified of it all. Terrified I was going to become somepony else that wasn’t even remotely like me.
The road began to wind more and more as I began to wonder why I was following it. Why couldn’t I just fly over the road to the end? Another thought struck me as I considered this option. What if the road had no end? Was I doomed to trot down it forever? No… there would be an end, I had decided. The end would be when I woke up, or when Pride finally decided to kill me. Maybe she had already and this was my penance… to walk an eternal road for all of time. Maybe there wasn’t such a thing as living with the Goddesses in the afterlife. Maybe we all were just like I was now… alone. Suddenly I felt so very alone for the first time since being here. I realized with great sadness that maybe I wouldn’t see anypony else ever again. I thought about Violet and how much I missed her and her fiery but tender nature. Steeljack and his gruffness. Patch and her free spirited individuality. I quickly realized how much I would miss my friends.
I also realized that internal monologues while walking along a road would lead inevitably into me walking into something. As I smacked my face into the wall before me, I also realized that even in your own head… walls hurt when ran into. A lot. I sat up, rubbing my forehead and checking my horn to make sure it was alright. No real harm it seemed, just a scuff. Still, my head was on fire. I looked up and saw a stone door, waiting for me to open it. Just a door at the end of the road and nothing else. The door was connected to nothing! I pushed myself off of my haunches and stared at the door, forcing it to try to open with telekinesis. The door complied, swinging inward into a room. I stepped in and my jaw dropped. The room inside the void was humongous. Scientific instruments of all kinds were everywhere, from simple measuring tools to grand telescopes that peeked out beyond the confines of the room. A massive globe sat in the middle of the room, glowing points emanating from various areas on it. Beyond that, a row of large wall computers took up one section of the room. This place looked like it was something out of a science fiction novel. Standing at the middle of it all, clad in a white lab coat and glasses was a very familiar purple unicorn. Her back was turned to me as she was perusing some equation on a chalkboard, humming a little tune to herself as she did. I stepped in further, my hooves making a loud clacking noise against the shiny flooring. The mare turned and her eyes widened as an expression of panic began to form on her face.
“What…?” She uttered. “Oh no no no this is bad. This is really bad.” She ran up to me and began looking me over before finally coming face to face with me. “You’re not supposed to be here yet!”
“Huh?” I said, clearly confused. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’re not supposed to have viewed this orb yet,” The lavender mare replied. My eyes widened just a bit as I took in the sight of the mare. She was no longer the younger pony that I was so accustomed to seeing in my mind. This unicorn was old, grey streaks blazing though her hair along with her purple and pink. Her eyes looked old and yet at the same time surprisingly bright. I realized this wasn’t a memory or an illusion. This was the real deal.
“You’re her aren’t you?” I asked finally after pausing a moment to take in this new information. The mare smiled, and nodded slightly.
“Yes,” She said softly. “I am Twilight Sparkle. Pleased to finally meet you Radiant Star.” I slumped to my haunches in front of the mare whose life I had been experiencing all this time and began to do what came naturally to me. I cried. Twilight’s eyes widened further as she sat down in front of me.
“What’s wrong?” She asked quietly. “Are you alright?”
“I-I-I just… I just don’t know what to say,” I choked out. “Here you are, and all this time I’ve been dealing with your memories and your emotions and I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be angry with you or what I’m supposed to feel!” Twilight’s eyes softened and she smiled.
“That’s because you’re not supposed to be here yet,” She replied. “This is the final step. The final place you are supposed to come before the transformation is complete.”
“Transformation?” I managed through the tears. “Into what?”
“I can’t tell you that yet. You are still far away from truly understanding it all. You need to come to it naturally. If you don’t… the results could be catastrophic,” Twilight said. I cleared away the last of my tears as I listened to the old mare and sighed.
“So this thing wasn’t a memory orb?” I asked. Twilight responded with a shake of her head.
“The device looks and functions like a memory orb to other unicorns and alicorns, but to you… it allows you access to this place,” The elder mare replied. “You were supposed to arrive here a long time from now, when you fully understood the ramifications of the transformation. It’s when you’re supposed to make your choice.”
“I’ll have a choice?” I asked, pondering what that could mean. The mare nodded.
“You will,” She responded. “But only when you are ready to make it. Now tell me… how did you arrive here? The orb was supposed to be locked to not allow you entry until you were ready.” I nodded, and explained what had been happening recently and how Pride had tricked me and forced the orb onto my horn. Twilight nodded and brought out her notepad for a moment, writing down some notes. When I finished, she smiled.
“Well, the good news is that I should be able to send you back, and hopefully relock the orb. I am guessing that your mental state at the time the orb was forced onto you was enough to forcefully break it,” She said after a moment.
“But what if I don’t want this Twilight? I’ve been dealing over and over with your emotions and your memories. I don’t know what is real anymore!” I exclaimed. Twilight sighed.
“You’re going to have to trust me alright? It will all work out in the end. Can you do that for me?” She said softly. I stopped for a moment and regarded the old mare. She looked hurt and tired. I sighed and finally nodded lightly. She smiled, a creaky old smile, but a smile nonetheless.
“What do I do until then?” I asked, drawing the gaze of the lavender unicorn. “I mean… I can’t just wander around aimlessly. Are we right in going back to Fort Knowledge? I’m not even sure where I’m going to be when I wake up… and what about the Twilight Society?” Twilight chuckled.
“The Twilight Society… heh,” She said. “Stuck up bunch of snobs they were. I remember them well.”
“You knew the Twilight Society? But I thought…” I replied. Twilight smiled.
“Their roots go back farther than the end of the world Star. Their humble beginnings began in the Ministry of Arcane Science. Fanatics they were, thinking I was some sort of Goddess to be worshiped. You’ve seen for yourself what they became in the Wasteland. They scrounged for every piece of arcano-tech that I developed and hoarded it for themselves,” Twilight said bitterly.
“And now they’re gone… why?” I said, trying to get some answers. I honestly didn’t know how long I had here with the ancient mare and I wanted to make the most of my stay. Twilight sighed.
“The one thing they did right… I can’t say Star. Not yet at least. However I can say that Fort Knowledge is a good place to begin that search. I can’t… I can’t keep you here any longer. The longer you stay the more you risk the transformation becoming complete. Right now, that would be bad. Very, very bad,” The purple mare said. “It’s time we sent you back out.”
“But I have more questions!” I said as the walls in the room began to dissolve. Twilight’s horn was glowing.
“When you wake up… you won’t remember me. You’ll only know that your next destination is certain. May Celestia walk beside you, and may Luna protect,” Twilight Sparkle said as the last thing I saw before darkness overtook me was the glow of her horn. I screamed my insistence at the mare, my words catching onto nothing as they refused to erupt from my mouth. Eventually silence took over completely and I melted away into the sea of black.
I heard muffled voices as my mind struggled to return to consciousness. Two voices… and they were arguing heatedly. My eyes fluttered open to reveal that I was in a dark grey room, filled with medical equipment. The familiar three butterflies belonging to the Ministry of Peace adorned one of the boxes in the room. Was I still in Glyphmark? No… that would be too stupid of Pride to stay there. My friends would have realized the duplicity of the night blue alicorn and would have came running back there immediately. I looked down to see that I was strapped to a table with metal bars. I tried to use my magic to rip off the bars but nothing happened. I tried to teleport, but nothing happened. Why is my magic not working? I thought as I tried once again to teleport away from the place. The muffled voices continued beyond the edge of the room. I couldn’t really make out what they were saying. Suddenly the voices silenced and I could hear hoof steps coming to the door. The door flung open, revealing the mare herself. Pride stepped through, grinning widely with her sharpened teeth. Her eyes were red with murder. Standing behind the alicorn, visibly nervous from being in her presence, was Lust of all ponies. She had an indignant look on her face that masked the fact that she was afraid of the mare in front of her. If Lust was afraid, then this pony was a force to be reckoned with.
“Ahh… you are awake. How interesting it is that I was unable to pierce your dream state. Even memory orbs count as dreaming,” She said, her voice silky smooth and yet sinister all at the same time.
“What the fuck are you?” I breathed out. “And what do you want from me?”
“Oh… such language. What a naughty filly. Somepony must be punished,” Pride replied. Lust grinned and started to speak.
“I’ll do it –“ She began to say before Pride cut her off.
“Silence… filthy ingrate. I don’t even know why you are here. Your job is finished now,” The alicorn said, snarling.
“She’s my mark, I should be the one that gets to kill her!” Lust said, pouting. If she wasn’t psychotic, I’d almost label the expression as sort of cute. “After a little… fun of course.” Ewww, I thought, disgusted by what the jet black pegasus would consider fun. I was lost in my disgust that I almost didn’t expect Pride to lash out and strike the mare. She did so with intense force, striking the pegasus on the face and knocking her against the wall. A small trickle of blood poured from the mare’s nose as she slumped against the wall, the blow having knocked her unconscious.
“Now then, no interruptions… where were we?” Pride said, grinning.
“Look, I have no idea what you want with me, but you’ve got the wrong mare. I’m nopony. I’m not important,” I stammered out, pleading with the mare. She cackled wildly.
“Please… I’ve seen your dreams Ministry Mare. I know exactly what you are. You are far from the wrong mare,” The blue alicorn responded. “Twilight Sparkle. Hmm… I wonder what that must be like… to carry all of those thoughts and memories around in your head like that.” I narrowed my gaze at the mare.
“How? How do you know so much about me?” I asked, earning myself another chuckle from the mare.
“My special talent is dream-gazing, or rather dream-walking. I can enter the mind of a pony through concentration and insert myself into their dreams,” The alicorn replied. Obviously this pony had never seen any of those old Pony Joe serials where the bad guy tells the good guy their plot and the good guy uses that information to get away. Then again, I’d never seen any of them either, only read about them in books. I groaned as I tried to figure out an escape plan. I had to keep her talking.
“How do you do that?” I asked trying to play this as coyly as I possibly could. Pride snarled.
“Like I have to explain myself to you, insolent fool. All you need to know now is that you are mine. I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that you can’t use any magic?” The alicorn said, grinning. Her spiny teeth were practically grinding together in enthusiasm. I nodded as it was about the only thing I could think of at the moment. “Excellent. Now that you are awake I can begin the second phase of my plan.”
“Why are you holding me if you just plan to kill me? Why not do it and get it over with?” I shouted angrily. I had had it by this point. I was quite frankly, a little pissed off. Pride sneered at me.
“Because you would do no good to me dead. Greed had it all wrong you see. Your power is special, but he didn’t know how special it truly was. I’ve seen your thoughts Ministry Mare… and I know exactly how powerful this spirit inside you is. I want that power,” The night blue alicorn said. I sighed. Was everypony like this going to be crazy and try to come after me? At that moment in time, I almost missed Discord. Almost. At least the draconequus was sporting about the whole thing, even if his plans for my power involved the chaotic reign of the Equestrian Wasteland. Who knew what this psychotic alicorn had in store with this supposed power I had. I found my mind wandering for a moment, attempting to figure out what was so damn attractive about this supposed power. If it was so great and all, why hadn’t it worked out for me? What had it done for me lately? Oh wait, that’s right… it got me cut open and made me lose my marefriend. Thanks a bunch Twilight! You’re a great friend!
I realized I must have been stuck in the back of my head again when I caught Pride just sort of staring at me blankly. I was doing that a lot lately it seemed. I looked up at the mare and smiled weakly.
“What…?” I asked. The mare groaned.
“You stopped paying attention didn’t you?” She asked flatly. I paused for a moment, and then nodded. Pride groaned angrily.
“Listen closely then. You are mine. Your friends, your silly little marefriend, they’re not coming for you. I’ve seen to that. As soon as I figure out how to tap that power inside of you, then… oh yes then I will kill you,” The alicorn said, grinning evilly.
“You’re wrong. My friends will come for me,” I said forcefully. Pride cackled venomously.
“Oh really? After what you did to your pathetic excuse for a marefriend? I saw the whole thing. It was quite lovely watching the daggers shoot from your mouth at her. I didn’t think that the famous Ministry Mare could say such a thing,” She said.
“You shut your mouth about her,” I snarled. The alicorn’s eyes widened.
“Or you’ll what? Hurt me? Please. I’m dampening your magic. As long as I’m conscious, you won’t be doing a thing to me,” She replied, turning to the prone form of Lust. She groaned and kicked at the pegasus, jolting her awake.
“Wha…?” Lust said, groaning as she stood. Her eyes rested on me and Pride and immediately went wide with fear. “I’m… I’m sorry!”
“It would do you well to remember your place in things you feather-brain. I am the stronger, the strongest of us all. Don’t you forget that,” Pride said, towering over the pegasus, who was now cowering before the night blue alicorn. My mind jumbled with thoughts of the two. Lust and Pride… and Greed? Some sort of strange coincidence possibly? Just who were these ponies? Lust bowed before Pride and sighed.
“As you wish Master,” She said, a hint of something hiding behind her voice. Was that sadness? It was strange to see the mare that had nearly cut me and my friends in half prostrating herself before the alicorn. It made me wonder again just how powerful Pride really was to hold such sway over the lascivious pegasus. I almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
“Get up. I have a job for you,” Pride finally said. Lust straightened herself up and stared at the other mare. “You are going to ensure her friends will not come for her. You have my leave to do whatever you want with them, including the green unicorn mare. Make it extra special for her.” Lust grinned wickedly.
“No!!” I shouted, tears forming in my eyes. “What do you want with me? I’ll do it… just don’t hurt her!” Pride laughed, ignoring my pleas.
“Go now Lust, show our little ponies that we mean business,” She said, grinning. Lust nodded and turned towards the door. Pride returned to her instruments along the wall when I noticed that Lust had turned back and looked at me. A wink, subtle and quiet came from the mare’s face. A small smile emerged from her mouth as she quickly resumed the wicked grin she had previously worn. What was that? I thought as the pegasus turned back to the door again and left, leaving me alone with Pride once more. The alicorn seemed to be engrossed in her instruments, tweaking knobs here and there and pressing a few buttons. I found my mind turning to the events that just transpired. What was the wink from Lust all about? It didn’t feel like it was malicious at all… in fact it felt rather… oh what’s the word? Friendly! Yes, that’s it. But why? What would Lust have to gain from helping me? Surely all she would do would earn the wrath of the alicorn in the room. I caught myself staring at Pride for a moment and decided to try my luck at figuring these ponies out. If I was going to die I was going to at least learn a little bit about my captors.
“So… what exactly are you?” I said nonchalantly. Pride hesitated a moment. It seemed my question had caught her off guard. After a few moments of silence, she spoke.
“I’m like you. An alicorn. One of the first actually,” She said quietly. I sensed that she was remembering her time with the Goddess. “But I am also different than you. A new kind of alicorn. I do not question it; this is simply how I am.”
“If you’re an alicorn like me, you really are my sister… so why do this? Why?” I asked pleadingly. The alicorn mare refused to look down at me and simply stared at the instruments before her.
“It’s not that easy. One day I looked up at the sky and realized what I was. I am Pride, vanity incarnate. What happened before is merely inconsequential. What happens now is all I care about,” She replied bitterly. “Your kind ceased being my sisters the day that I accepted my destiny as the one and true Pride. I do what I must, because I have to. It is my nature to grab for power.”
“But… how? How did this happen to you? Greed had told me that his abilities were a result of killing joke… was it the same for you?” I asked hesitantly. Pride turned her gaze at me coldly, her red eyes staring deep into my soul. Oh Celestia, if looks could kill this mare could set your heart on fire.
“Greed? Greed lied. As he was want to do. Greed lied about a good many things. Still, I am impressed you managed to kill him. The others… they were not so pleased that one of our numbers had been dwindled. I admit I am surprised I haven’t had to fend them off yet,” She said.
“The others? You mean there’s… more like you?” I said, swallowing hard. Great… a whole group of impossible to kill ponies after me? I thought. My day could just not get any better it seemed.
“There are. Seven of us to be exact. Well… six now,” Pride responded with a grin.
“Why tell me all of this?” I asked, wondering what the mare’s game was.
“Because I’m going to kill you anyways. I might as well take some… ahem… pride in my work so to speak. It is of my nature to boast,” The alicorn mare said. “Despite the fact that Greed was a fool, he did one important thing in his death. He gave us you. And now your power shall allow me to gain ultimate power over everything!” The mare cackled wildly. I could see what she meant about it being in her nature to boast. It seemed to be all she did. I felt rather sorry for her, having been pushed into a role of evil. Pride stepped towards the door and looked back. “I shall return. I have… matters that require attending.”
After she left I lay there on the table and pondered the alicorn’s words, trying to piece together the puzzle in my mind. I wished for a moment that I had a memory orb to sink into and that everything would be alright, but I knew it wouldn’t. Why bother trying to fight it? I thought. The sharp grey tones of the room around me did nothing to ease my mind as I thought about Violet and our final conversation. Was that really how her last memories of me would end up? Yelling at her for trying to warn me? Sure, I was angry at her… but for the wrong reasons. Violet was right and I had paid the price for it, ending up in this trap. I thought about the Twilight memory orb, wondering what I had seen there. I couldn’t remember any of it, which was strange. Usually I remembered the contents of a memory orb. I made a mental reminder to watch the orb as soon as possible to try and remember it.
Hours passed by as I watched the clock on my E.F.S. roll on. In the time nothing had happened, nothing had entered the room and no Pride coming yet to kill me. It was strange, lying there with nothing to do. At one point, I tried to contact Spark, but the spirit was deathly silent. I considered that whatever field or magic that Pride was using to dampen my magic was also dampening my connection to her. I realized a bit that this saddened me to an extent. I had grown used to the spirit’s presence by now, and at the very least she would have been somepony to talk to while waiting for whatever Pride had planned for me. After the few hours of waiting, I quickly decided that it didn’t seem like anything was going to happen for a while, so I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Smoke and the acrid stench of burning filled my nostrils. I opened my eyes, finding myself in the middle of a military base. Large vats of dark swirling liquid lined the room. I was no longer myself. A glorious anthem of voices arose in my mind as we spoke together with one voice. We were all connected because of the being contained in the vats. We were Unity, and we were one. Nothing could stop us. We would spread our message all across the Wasteland and everypony would join us.
We stood facing forward, watching with soulless eyes as the Great and Powerful Goddess spoke to her. We watched silently as the mare spoke in her mind, showing us things from the past. Then there was panic. The Goddess was afraid. In turn we were afraid. She told us to flee. The pegasi entered the room, trying to make an alliance. They picked the wrong time. The Goddess thrashed and screamed as we began to fly. We flew hard and fast, moving at the will of the Goddess. The Goddess cried out to us, her children, her final goodbyes. Her last act was to save her own.
In a flash of light so intense it burned your eyes even in peripheral vision, the Goddess disappeared. Hurt and pain and anger washed over Unity as the Goddess died. The screams of her agony were so intense that every one of her children felt them for miles. Then there was a serene calm as Unity fell away and my mind returned. Confusion cut in as I struggled to figure who I was, why I was flying away, and why I had wings in the first place. Even though Unity had fallen, I still felt the pain my sisters felt at the loss of our beloved creator. Memories fluttered in and out of my mind, but they were jumbled and blurry, preventing me from getting any real feel on what they were about.
I flew around, taking in the sights of the massive crater that now rested where Maripony once stood. I had the distinct feeling that there was something still down there. The sight of the now destroyed facility was heart-breaking. In my confusion I wanted nothing more than to desperately feel the Goddess again, to feel Unity with my sisters. I realized that this memory was my own. I truly never remembered much from my time immediately after the death of the Goddess. So why was I seeing it now? I set down on the lip of the crater, drinking in the radiation as I stared down into it, the weight of the situation crashing down all around me. A sense of despair formed around me as I tried to process what I had just lost.
The Goddess was dead. My entire reason for living had fallen apart in a matter of minutes.
I felt warmth, a sensation spreading throughout my entire body as I stared down at my hooves. A shimmering rolled up my legs as my coat began to change color. I was turning purple! A smooth voice emanated within me, begging me to be calm. I let the voice carry me away as the sensation filled me with peace and serenity. I felt confused, why hadn’t I witnessed this before? What was different about now? The sensation continued until I was completely transformed. I felt my body move of its own volition, flying through the air once more. It was headed into the heart of the destruction. A few moments later I appeared before a small grey unicorn mare that was still alive amidst the wreckage. My horn glowed and lifted her from the despair of the destruction, and deposited her onto a cart being flown by a glowing pegasus. The mare said some words that I couldn’t hear and then lifted her leg, showing me her PipBuck. My body stayed there, impassive as it watched the mare. The unicorn finally lowered her foreleg and my host nodded impassively once more. The warm sensation began to flee my body as fast as it had come, and I felt my body in flight once more, settling down on the far edge of the crater as the unicorn mare and glowing pegasus flew off into the distance. I stared down and felt my body returning to normal as my blue coat began to appear. The calming voice quietly thanked me as I felt its presence removed, leaving me staring at the crater once more.
It was a strange feeling not being in control of your own body. I wondered what it all meant. I picked up my hooves and began to flap my wings, taking to the air once more. There was nothing more here for me. I sighed as I flew, watching Maripony get farther and farther away. The world below me began to drift away, fading into darkest black as I woke up.
I awoke again to the stench of burning, this time a reality. I gazed across the room, seeing nothing but the drab grey tone I had been accustomed to for some time now. A muffled explosion sounded from beyond the darkened room. What’s going on out there? I thought as I tried to push myself up, meeting the metal restraints as I did. I remembered quickly what I was doing here and the dream I had just had. I had never before dreamed so vividly about my time in Unity or about the end of the Goddess. It was an event I wished to put behind me. I had refused to think of myself as a soulless killing machine any longer. But something about the dream felt very real. It felt like almost like it actually happened.
I looked down at the restraints and tried to feel with my magic. Amazingly enough, my horn began to glow… weakly at first but then stronger as the restraints fought against my telekinesis. Eventually the metal bars could not restrain me any further and they ripped off, flying across the room and smashing into the wall. I pushed myself off of the table and stood, my hooves shaking. I took a step forward and nearly fell over. My body was weak it seemed. Nevertheless, I pushed forward to the door. I put my ears against it, trying to hear if there was anypony coming and then silently pulled the door open. The hallway was dark and long, running perpendicular to the room I was in. Other doors lined the hallway as I crept along, but they all appeared to be locked. The hallway ended into a massive door that was just barely open enough for me to fit through. I stepped onto the other side and my eyes widened with fright.
I was standing on a catwalk high above the hangar, a large row of vats lining the floor. Shimmering liquid sat in each of the vats, reflecting the spotty lighting from the ceiling above. The foundation of the room was cracked in two pieces, as splashes of the liquid ran along the flooring. There were other catwalks lining the room, many of them hanging away from the wall. Several of them lay on the floor of the hangar in pieces. I nearly died at the sight of it all. My PipBuck was clicking a bit, indicating varying levels of radiation as I jumped from the catwalk and glided to the floor below.
No… not here. Not here, were my only thoughts as I stepped into the wreckage, stopping for a moment to look up at the vats. This can’t be… this place… this place should be completely gone… this shouldn’t even be here! My mind shouted. Another muffled explosion sounded in the distance, causing the hangar to shake a bit from the impact. I ignored it as I stepped up the catwalk leading to the vats. I stared down at the shimmering liquid, remembering a young unicorn that had been stuffed into the sickly looking stuff. I put my head down and tears flowed, remembering the one thing I never wanted to remember: my own transformation. I couldn’t remember much about my past life before I became what I am, but one memory always stuck out. I had cried for the pain to stop beforehand. I had cried that I didn’t want to go into the disgusting vat. And then… there was Unity. Unity had cared for me, but I had not cared for it. Not since she died. My tears flowed for the little unicorn in the back of my mind. Another one joined her as Rarity told me that I had to be unwavering. I tried to smile through the tears but found it hard to even formulate happiness in this place. This is where who I had been had died, and where who I was today was born.
I slumped down, sitting there for Celestia only knows how long, looking into the vats and thinking about just ending it and stepping into one. I was pretty sure that even for me, the amount of taint the vat contained would kill me. Another explosion rocked the hangar as I sat there; shaking stone and metal from the walls as one of the catwalks fell and hit the ground below it. I tried to process what had happened. Pride certainly had moved me after all, but she had moved me to the one place I never wanted to set foot in again. Maripony Research Center sprawled out before me, a living reminder of my horrific past. Why? I thought as the tears began to fade. Why is this place even here?
I almost didn’t even notice the blip on my E.F.S. coming up behind me. I turned and snarled, lashing out with a telekinetic strike intent on ripping apart whoever it was. The figure dropped to the ground as my strike went over their head. The figure stood and jumped at me. I growled, readying myself for an attack. Two forelegs wrapped around my neck, pulling me into a fast embrace. I looked down in surprise as my vision cleared enough that I could see who it was.
Violet. She had come for me.
The green unicorn had latched herself around my neck. Tears flowed freely from her eyes.
“Star… it’s me, it’s me. It’s okay, it’s me,” She said, sobbing. I sat there, surprised and unsure of what to do or say. Violet pulled back, her eyes watery and her smile bright as she looked me in the eyes. “It’s me… it’s okay. I’m here.”
“V-V-Violet?” I stammered. “Is it… is it really you?” She nodded. Another explosion rocked the distance, causing another shake to occur inside the hangar. “But… but I… why?” I put my head down and rested it against her shoulder, tears beginning to form once more.
“Star… shh… it’s alright. We have to go now though. You and I can talk later… right now you need to be strong for me. Can you do that?” She said. I pulled my head away and nodded slightly. A light chuckle interrupted me before I could say anything else.
“Well, it seems your little friend found you. How quaint,” The silky smooth voice of Pride emanated from the room. The night blue alicorn appeared at the far end of the catwalk. I stood and stared at her angrily.
“You,” I said, staring down the alicorn, who merely chuckled.
“Yes… me. Hard to believe your friends would go to such lengths. No matter. You will still be mine, regardless,” Pride said. Violet stared coldly at the mare. I felt my magic begin to wane again. I growled and ignited my horn, ripping one of the catwalks from the wall. The feeling left me and my horn continued to glow.
“No!” I shouted. “You do not get to do that again! If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right!” I leapt at the shadowy alicorn, who grinned and leaped back at the same time. I touched down on the catwalk in front of her.
“So forceful,” The midnight mare responded. “You are really something. It will be a lot of fun breaking your will.”
“Why did you bring me here? This place shouldn’t even exist!” I screamed at her, feeling power pour into me as I did. What’s happening to me? I thought as the blue alicorn chuckled again.
“I rebuilt this place from memory. I never wanted to leave Unity, don’t you see that? Unity was glorious! We were together, you and I sister. Now… with your power I can recreate it, and seat myself firmly at the top of the chain. I will become the new Goddess!” She shouted back, the first time I had really heard the mare raise her voice at me. She wanted to recreate Unity? That was why the… oh Goddess. She planned on using me to create new alicorns, to recreate glorious union.
“You’re insane!” I shouted back. “You have no idea what you’re talking about!”
“See for yourself. The process has already begun,” She said, pointing to the vats. The liquid inside swirled with color. I groaned… I have got to be seeing things, I swore to myself. I looked back at Pride and snarled.
“You’re making taint? How?” I asked. The midnight blue alicorn grinned profusely. I had no idea how she had done it, but if this stuff ever got out… it would be very bad for the rest of the world. A new Goddess would be very bad indeed, especially one that had the potential to be even more evil than Trixie had been.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Pride replied. That was it, I had decided. No more miss nice alicorn! I leapt through the air again, striking her in the side with a hoof. She didn’t move, didn’t even block. She took each blow as I kicked at her, just grinning wider each time. What the fuck is wrong with her? I thought as I laid another hit into her side, knocking her to the ground.
“You know…” She said, her mouth bloody and her eyes wild with fire. “You forgot somepony was here.” My eyes widened and I turned, seeing Violet standing there. Her eyes were cold and impassive. My eyes pleaded with her, that this was a pony that had hurt both of us, but her eyes kept staring straight at me. Then all of a sudden, they widened as something wrapped around her leg. A bluish tentacle emerged from one of the nearby vats, wrapping itself around Violet’s back leg. It began to pull and yank, dropping Violet to the catwalk with a massive clatter.
“Violet!!” I yelled as my marefriend’s eyes began to show fear.
“Star!!!” She shouted back as the tentacle pulled hard, lifting her high into the air above the vat. Violet struggled against the thing’s grip as another tentacle reached up out of the vat and grabbed her other back leg. Slowly the two tentacles descended. It was a scene I felt like I was watching in slow motion. I ran, and ran, and made it to the edge of the catwalk. The tentacles dropped faster as Violet outstretched a hoof to me. I put out my hoof as well, trying to catch her.
I never made it in time. Violet’s body fell into the swirling liquid, a sickening *splash* accompanying her descent into the taint. The liquid rippled with the force of her impact, splashing taint over the edge of the vat and onto the floor below. After a moment, the liquid went still. I turned to Pride, my eyes ablaze with fire.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!” I shouted, letting my magic amplify my voice as I moved towards the fallen alicorn. “WHY? WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!” The midnight mare laughed wickedly, an insane giggle creeping out of her mouth. I snarled and began to slam my hooves into the alicorn repeatedly. I didn’t care anymore. I was going to murder this mare, just like she had done my love. She had taken Violet away from me, and she deserved no quarter. I growled and bucked and bit as I slammed into her, drawing blood and breaking bone. All the while, the mare giggled insanely as if something inside of her had broken.
“SHUT UP!” I screamed, continuing to hit the broken alicorn. She giggled louder.
“SHUT UP!!!!” I said, igniting my horn and lifting Pride into the air. “YOU TOOK HER AWAY. NOW… YOU WILL DIE.” I brought her up above the vats and dropped her, a second *splash* filling my ears as she hit the taint filled vat. A sizzling sound accompanied the alicorn’s descent into the liquid. I moved over to the vat that Violet had fallen into and fell to my haunches. Rage filled my eyes and anger ruled my heart as I sat there, beating at the catwalk beneath me.
“Give her back! Luna damn you, give her back!” I snarled as I pounded away, not caring for anything but the thought of seeing my love one more time. The liquid began to ripple and I paused for a moment, wondering if my prayer had been heard. A green light emanated from the liquid as a pony rose out of the vat. Covered in writhing taint, the pony regarded me impassively. The green alicorn spread its taint-filled wings, and opened its mouth to speak. When it did, its voice sounded like a million others all at once. Green tentacles erupted from its sides, reaching towards me.
“You are going to LOVE ME,” The being said as the tentacles wrapped around my legs and dragged me into the vat beneath it.
“Wake up! Star… dammit wake up!” A voice emerged out of the void. It was somewhere above me. Am I dead? I thought as I regarded the blackness around me. The last thing I remember… My eyes widened. I remembered Pride, and Violet being dragged into that sickly vat of taint, and then her coming out of the vat and dragging me down into it. But if that was the case… why was I still thinking? I could feel myself still, I wasn’t dead. I was still alive.
“Star!! Wake up. Please, come on guys, help me get her off this thing,” The voice sounded again from above. The blackness felt quite like space in a sense, in that I was able to float freely in it. I pushed myself up towards the voice. It sounded concerned, and it kept calling my name. Why would it do that? Who would be concerned for me? I was alone… and nopony ever cared for somepony who was alone… right? Right?
“Star… please… please wake up… I need you…” The voice continued. I floated towards it some more, the voice getting louder as I did. I kept moving towards it, until it was deafening in my ears.
My eyes opened weakly as I tried to figure out where I was. Above me were two teary green eyes, attached to the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Violet stared down at me and smiled. Her eyes were red with tears. She had been crying for some time it seemed. I moved to push myself up but she stopped me.
“Whoa, easy there. You’re okay… you just woke up. I’m here now, it’s going to be alright,” She said, choking out the words.
“That… that’s what you said before…” I managed to say. Violet shook her head.
“It was a dream. All just a dream,” She replied, moving out of my way so I could see clearer. I was in the same similar drab grey room as before. Standing behind Violet were Steeljack and Patch. Behind them was another pony I had trouble making out. My eyes widened as I realized who it was. I didn’t recognize the mare outside of her armor, but her wings were the same, bladed all the way down to the base.
“What are you doing here?” I said coldly, past Violet and aimed right at the jet black pegasus. Her eyes turned immediately to the ground.
“I… I… I brought your friends here,” She said finally, soft and quiet.
“Why…?” I asked. “I thought you wanted to kill me.”
“Pride did a lot of mean things to me. I didn’t want her to gain that kind of power. She didn’t deserve it,” The mare responded coldly. “So I went and found your friends and brought them here. Plus… you are kind of cute.” Violet glared at the mare at that remark. I nearly giggled, but I couldn’t believe it. Lust actually helping us? What was in it for her? I wondered as I turned to my other friends.
“Where is here?” I asked aloud.
“We’re still in Glyphmark,” Steeljack grunted. “The MoP clinic had a back room that went down into a laboratory. That’s where we are now.”
“And Pride?” I said. Violet shook her head.
“Not here. But based on the state we found you in… she must have been really torturing you,” She replied. I sighed, and pushed myself up off of the table, ignoring Violet’s protests.
“I’m okay, really. I’m fine,” I said as I sat up, trying not to remember the events of the dream. I looked to the other three in the room. “If umm… if you don’t mind… I’d like some alone time with Violet please. If that’s okay with you…” Steeljack and Patch nodded, and Lust merely grunted as she exited the room. Patch walked up quickly and hugged me before leaving. Steeljack simply gave me one of his tips of his invisible hats and followed his marefriend out. Violet sat down next to me and looked up at me expectantly.
“So I –“
“So I –“
We both started at the same time, talking over each other as we began to speak. We stopped, and giggled for a moment.
“You go first,” I said. Violet blushed.
“No, you… you go,” She replied. I took a deep breath and sighed.
“Okay… I umm… I’m sorry Violet. I was wrong. I almost lost you because of it too. I wish I could take back the things I said, but I can’t… if you don’t want me anymore… I’ll understand,” I said, tears forming in my eyes. Her hoof touched my cheek and brought my gaze down to her face.
“I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have let my anger get the best of me. It nearly cost me you as well. I said some pretty mean things that I shouldn’t have. Forgive me?” She said, her tears flowing freely. I smiled, and I nodded. She reached in close and I felt her lips touch mine. Electric jolts shot up and down my body as we kissed. We held it for a brief moment, before pulling away. I grabbed her into a hug and smiled.
“I’m sorry,” We said at the same time. Realizing again what we had done, we laughed.
“Celestia look at us, we’re sitting here crying like two little silly fillies,” I said finally. Violet laughed brightly. I smiled. I missed that laugh so much. Our laughter must have broken enough of the tension that our friends felt safe enough to enter the room once more. Steeljack and Patch entered with Lust trailing behind. I turned my attention to the jet black mare.
“I don’t know why you did this really. But… thank you,” I said, drawing a surprised stare from the pegasus. I smiled.
“I… I don’t know what to say,” She stammered. “I half expected you to hit me or something. Your friends tried to shoot me several times before I could prove that I just wanted to talk.” Violet chuckled nervously.
“To be honest… that’s what I felt like doing, but you stood up to Pride. What will you do now?” I asked the mare. She shrugged.
“I don’t know to be honest. Maybe we’ll meet again, and you’ll have to kill me then,” She said, grinning. I scowled.
“Does this mean you’re still going to come after me at some point?” I said. The mare grinned widely before turning for the door.
“Maybe. But not for the reasons you think. You’re a lot of fun Ministry Mare. Pretty cute too,” Lust said. Violet scowled at her. “But when I do come… be ready for me, okay lover?” Her wings flared out and I could see her wings much closer. Her wings were encased in steel armor ending in vicious blades. Something about the way she moved them seemed to be completely natural to her. I grinned.
“That’s a promise,” I said. The door opened and the mare left. I turned back to see my friends, smiling at me. Violet had picked up my bags and floated Stargazer over into my loving grasp. While I missed my marefriend a bunch, I really missed my gun! The weight of the dream was slowly lifting off my shoulders as we prepared to leave the facility. A few moments later, we stepped back into the sun of Glyphmark. I felt amazed at the sun’s warmth spreading over my body as I emerged from the shadowy facility. Of course, there was no sign of where Lust had run off to. What a strange mare, I thought as we walked back to the center of town.
“So… what happened with Lust?” I asked as we made our way to the nearest inn where we had already procured a room. Okay so was out for definitely more than one day for that to happen. Why do I always end up on the short end of the stick there?
“Well umm… we were looking for you, and we couldn’t get in to the Ministry of Peace clinic. We were about to try and bust our way in when Lust showed up. She was right about the whole shooting part; we definitely tried to shoot her. I expended several clips just firing at her. Her wings really do repel gunfire did you know that?” Patch said animatedly, waving her arms for great effect. “After we realized she wasn’t trying to fire at us, we stopped firing at her. Then she just kind of started… talking I guess.”
“Well… I have a feeling it won’t be the last we’ll see of her or Pride. Furthermore, Pride told me that there were seven of them including her, Lust, and Greed,” I said, imparting what information I could about Pride’s boasting while she had me in captivity. “To top it off, Pride’s special abilities are dream-walking. So if anypony has any bad dreams… we’ll know she’s still following us.”
“What about you? What kind of dreams did she make you have?” Violet said quietly as we got ready for bedtime. I chuckled nervously as I slumped down onto my bedroll.
“I… I umm… yeah…” I stammered. “Sorry, I’m… I’m just not ready to talk about it yet.” Violet’s eyes softened as she realized she struck a nerve.
“Sorry. When you’re ready, I’m here alright?” She said, smiling. I nodded.
“Thanks…” I said, laying my head down next to her. I smiled as I realized how happy I was to be back in her presence. I’ve said before that Violet’s presence was extremely calming and this never rang truer than it did right now. The scent of my mare filled my nostrils as I placed my head right onto her. “Love you Violet.”
“Love you too Star. Good night,” She responded as I drifted off to sleep.
This was beginning to get old! I thought as I stood in the hallway once more. The hallway never ceased to end it seemed, lined with doors that held emotions and feelings and I just wanted to be rid of it!!! I sat down on my haunches, wondering what would happen if I didn’t go into the door for once. However, I knew in the long run that would never happen because I would always go into the door. My curiosity would always get the better of me it seemed. The same old *fwoosh* and *creak* met my ears and I turned to the next door and entered. A sprawling laboratory spread out before me. I recognized it as the laboratory from the memory orb that belonged to Fluttershy. It was Twilight’s basement lab in her parent’s mansion. Amidst the chaos of the lab was the same purple unicorn, running about from place to place, a terrifyingly stressed look upon her face.
“Oh no no, I’m going to be tardy! This experiment simply needs to get done five minutes ago!” She shouted, running over along the wall and pressing a few buttons on the computers lining it. She turned and saw me, her eyes widening.
“Oh no, I have no time for you. I’m going to be late. I can’t do this right now!” She said, rushing past me. I stared at her as she moved, confusion spreading across my face.
“Huh?” I asked. “Who are you?” I swear, these emotions got stranger and stranger with each new one. What would you even call this mare in the first place? The purple unicorn stopped at one of the tables, pushing a few beakers around and dumping some of their contents into a larger beaker. She cried out triumphantly as whatever solution she had mixed together turned a dark purple and green. She set down the beaker and looked back at me, her face still a bit… off. She looked crazed. Her mane was straggly and she looked like she hadn’t slept in days.
“I’m P-P-Panic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really need to get some of these things done! I’m going to be TARDEEE!!!” She said ending in a loud shout.
“Tar-what?” I asked, crossing my eyes for a moment.
“Tardy, you know… late? I’m going to be late! Oh so late. The Princess was expecting this report five minutes ago! If I don’t get it done, oooh I don’t know what she’ll do to me!” The crazed unicorn exclaimed as she resumed her rushing about the lab, stopping only occasionally at each station she had set up. I sighed, and placed myself directly in her path as she began to run back to the beakers.
“Panic. Stop for a moment. I know for a fact that you won’t be late. The Princess sent me to watch your experiment, so you can’t be late since I’m here already right?” I lied, hoping it would keep her attention for at least one moment. Wrong. Instead the mare’s head nearly imploded more.
“What?! She sent you? Oh no, but I’m not ready yet!! Please don’t banish me, or put me in a dungeon, or banish me then put me in a dungeon in the place you banished me to!” She cried out, dropping to the floor at my front hooves. I smiled for a moment.
“I’m not going to do any of those things,” I said softly, placing my head down near the panicky mare. “Now tell me… what’s really wrong?” The mare’s eyes remained widened as she began to speak. I guess that’s simply how she is, I thought as I listened.
“I was supposed to show the Princess my experiments I’ve been working on. It’s a new kind of magic, something that will let us cure ponies who get hurt on the battlefield… but it’s not ready yet. I’m still missing some important pieces!” The emotion spewed forth rapidly. I began to wonder how this mare got anything done with the babbling she was doing.
“Curing ponies? Isn’t that a function of the Ministry of Peace?” I said, continuing the lie and trying to sound official.
“Normally, but I figured something o-out. I-I f-f-figured out how to contain a pony’s spirit so that it can be brought back to their body,” The lavender mare said. I narrowed my eyes at this. Containing a pony’s spirit? This had to be the same spell. I had to play this smooth so that the mare didn’t realize who I was. If she did, I wouldn’t be able to get any answers.
“And how does this… containment function? Is there some sort of spell that’s cast?” I asked. The mare picked up a piece of chalk with her magic and pointed at the chalkboard. I followed her over to it and she began to spew forth about a gazillion equations onto the surface of the chalkboard, blinding me with science as she spoke about containment and spirit control. To be honest I had a hard time keeping up with it all.
“- and then the only thing I really need is that damn book that Rarity has, but she refuses to acknowledge its existence!” The mare finished in a huff, panting hard as she did.
“Book?” I asked casually, hoping to pick back up on the conversation at hand. “What book?”
“Oh,” The lavender unicorn deadpanned. I got the distinct impression she wasn’t supposed to say anything about that, but in her panicky nature let something important slip. “Umm… nothing, nevermind!”
“No, please tell me. I’m interested,” I said carefully. I needed to keep calm now, and not let my anger get the best of me.
“Okay,” The mare said after a moment’s pause. “Rarity won’t tell me anything about it, but I know she has it. It’s some sort of book on Zebra necromantic magic.” I nodded. I knew exactly which book she was referring to. It was a book that was now gone, thanks to the Destroyer. Painfully I remembered watching the grey mare toss the Black Book into the vats at Maripony. I had been there, I knew what it was and why the Goddess wanted it. The answers that such an item held were limitless for the now dead Trixie. It was rumored that Rarity used the book herself, unnaturally prolonging her life. Unfortunately it didn’t stop her from being killed in Canterlot when the Pink Cloud fell. How could Twilight’s spell have been finished if the Black Book was destroyed? I briefly wondered if maybe there was a second book somewhere. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for such a thing, and also to ask Spark at my earliest convenience. “But please don’t tell the Princess about it! I don’t want Rarity to hate me!” A pleading look crossed the crazed unicorn’s face. I smiled softly at her.
“Don’t worry. We’ll keep that one between you and me, okay?” I replied. The unicorn’s face seemed to calm for a moment before returning to the same crazed look she had before. She began to flitter around the laboratory once more. My response must have assured her that her work and her friend’s secret would be safe. I calmly watched as the lavender mare began another test involving several test tubes and some shimmering liquid. I recognized it immediately. Taint, I thought. Otherwise known as the Impelled Metamorphosis Potion (casually shortened to I.M.P.), taint was the stuff that made myself and my sister alicorns out of existing ponies. Taint was a very radical substance, and was largely responsible for the alteration of many species in the Wasteland. Bloatsprites for instance, were what you got when you mixed taint with a parasprite. It was most definitely not a substance one just sloshed around. With all that I had seen lately, the sight of the liquid so casually being mixed with other liquids in test tubes highly unnerved me.
“Panic?” I asked, catching the attention of the mare. “What are you doing with this stuff?”
“What? Oh the I.M.P. right. Just minor testing of its special properties is all. I’m working on that project as fast as I can. Please please please tell the Princess we’re almost ready for clinical trials. Once we get out to Maripony we’ll be able to test it properly,” She said frantically. I nodded in response, satisfying the panicked mare’s ego for a small while at least. I stood and addressed the purple unicorn once more.
“Well… Thank you for showing me everything. I will be certain to get a report to the Princess on everything,” I stated, trying to sound official in my speech. The mare nodded excitedly.
“Oh thank you thank you thank you!” She said animatedly before her panicked expression took hold once more. “Oh I almost forgot, I have to do this other experiment too!” I groaned and turned towards the door of the laboratory. The door was missing. Great, I thought. Now what? I turned back and looked at the other mare, who was continuing her work in her panicked fashion, paying no attention to me. My gaze fell upon the now missing door once more. I couldn’t recall a time when I’ve been blocked from going back to the hallway. Granted the dreams would usually end by now… so why was I still here?
I walked up to the area where the door had been and touched the wall. It was completely solid. It was the strangest thing ever. A coughing noise behind me interrupted my scan of the wall. I turned and saw the one I had been dreading seeing in my dreams. The midnight blue alicorn stepped forward, grinning evilly.
“We have unfinished business you and I,” She said smoothly. I stared down at Pride, who was standing there as if it were the most casual of things.
“Get out of my head. Now,” I said angrily. Panic continued her ministrations in the background, not even noticing us anymore. Pride chuckled smoothly.
“And why would I want to do that? Your head is so much fun to laze around in,” She replied. I snarled at the midnight mare.
“Get out. And stay out. You come after me, and I will make sure you go to Tartarus for what you did to me,” I shouted.
“Are you referring to your little dream about your marefriend dying? Pish, I have things much more fun than that in store for you,” The midnight alicorn responded. I’d had enough of this mare by now, I decided. I made a new resolution, right then and there to find this pony and end her. She had put me through hell, and she deserved just as much right back.
“I swear to you that I will find you. And when I do… I will end you,” I said angrily. Pride cackled at this.
“If you want that chance, then come to Chicacolt. I will be waiting for you… but be forewarned, the Blustery City will test you many times before we meet again,” The alicorn said. “Now then, wake up wake up little Star. I will see you soon.”
A cold sweat drenched my forehead as I woke up. I looked down and thankfully noticed that Violet had shifted enough that I wasn’t sweating all over her. She was still asleep it seemed. I smiled and sighed as I considered Pride’s words. Regardless of whatever happened next, I would find her and make her pay for what she had done. If that meant going to Chicacolt, then I would do it. I briefly wondered what she meant by the city testing me. I had heard many rumors about the Blustery City in my time. Some said that the bombs that hit there were enough to kill but not enough to damage buildings structurally. Much of the city was still intact, having fallen prey to gangs of raiders and slavers over the last few years. I blinked as I processed these things in my head. How do I know so much about that city? I’ve never even been there, I thought as I pushed myself up, taking care not to wake Violet. I stepped to the window of our room and looked out at the town of Glyphmark. Thoughts of Chicacolt and Fort Knowledge swam through my head. I still had yet to come up with a plan for getting access to the restricted sections. I decided that we would just have to wing it.
A murmuring noise behind me indicated that Violet had awoken. The shuffle of her hooves followed as she stepped up to the window next to me.
“Everything alright?” She asked softly. I nodded and smiled. I looked back at Steeljack and Patch, who were still sleeping comfortably in each other’s forelegs.
“Can we take a walk?” I asked Violet. She nodded and followed me as we stepped out of our room and began walking through the sleepy town. None of the town’s inhabitants had arisen yet, it being quite early in the morning.
“I… I want to tell you something,” I told her once we were alone enough to not be overheard. She nodded nervously, perhaps probably wondering why I was doing this. I began to speak, talking about the strange dreams I had in Pride’s captivity, how she was in them and how she had effectively died. A soft gasp escaped my lover’s lips as I arrived at this part, and tears formed in her eyes. I continued to speak, talking about my dream the night before and the confrontation with Pride. I mentioned about going to Chicacolt to confront her. By this time the sun had begun to form in the sky above and the townsfolk had begun to filter into the town square.
“That’s… Oh… Star… I’m so sorry,” Violet said, grabbing onto me and pulling me into a hug. “I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell us before?”
“I… I didn’t want to. It was too much. But now, I don’t have a choice. I’m going to find Pride and end it once and for all,” I said coldly. “She almost tore us apart, and made me think that you were dead. She deserves no less.” Violet grimaced and nodded. We made our way back to the inn where Steeljack and Patch were waiting for us. They had our things already packed up.
“Where’d you two run off to?” Steeljack huffed.
“I had some things I needed to tell Violet. Listen you two… I really appreciate what you guys have done for me… for us. After we’re done at Fort Knowledge, we’re going to be heading to Chicacolt,” I said firmly. “I have reason to believe that not only are there answers there, but a certain alicorn that we have unfinished business with.”
“Let me guess… Pride?” Steeljack replied, raising an eyebrow. I nodded. Patch grinned.
“Yeah! We’ll get that mean old alicorn and then umm… I dunno… do something?” She said, ending in a sheepish tone. I laughed as I nearly fell over. Forcing myself to stand back up and keep a straight face at Patch, who was now red all over, I smiled profusely at the green mare.
“Yes Patch… we will,” I said, grinning. I grabbed my stuff and latched Stargazer to its harness. We started along down the road out of Glyphmark and onto the way to Fort Knowledge. As we walked I clicked on my radio, letting the smooth sweet sounds of Sweetie Belle carry us along. Things seemed to be better for us as we moved farther away from Glyphmark, the memories of what had happened in that dreadful place migrating out of mostly everypony’s thoughts. Everypony but me… I still could feel the pain from watching Violet fall into the taint and then rising again as some monstrosity. I couldn’t wipe the image from my mind. It stuck with my mind as we walked, gnawing at the back of my head like some gnawy… thing. Shush, I know that’s not a word. Every so often I would steal a glance at my love, hoping she wouldn’t notice my nervousness. Of course, that meant she did, falling back to speak with me as Patch and Steeljack kept trudging along the road.
“You okay? You keep staring at me kind of funny,” She asked, smiling.
“Sorry… I just… I can’t stop thinking about the… dream,” I said quietly. “It keeps coming back to me. Goddesses Violet, you have no idea how real it felt.”
“No… you’re right, I don’t… but you shouldn’t let it get to you Star. I’m here, and I’m alive. Isn’t that all that matters?” She replied. I sighed, and nodded.
“I suppose you’re right. I just need to let it go right?” I said brightly. “No sense dwelling on the past.”
“Right, in that case then… TAG!” Violet said, hitting my left side with her hoof. She squealed joyfully and galloped forward, pushing through Steeljack and Patch and up the road. I snorted in response.
“Oh. It. Is. On!” I exclaimed, flapping my wings and taking to the air. I gotta admit, Violet’s a fast little filly when she wants to be… but me? I’m at least twenty percent faster. I landed in rear of her as she moved to dive out of the way. I grinned, tapping her on the rump.
“Tag! You’re it!” I shouted. I could hear giggling behind us from Patch. Violet stood up and grinned, making a beeline right for me. I jumped into the air over my excited fillyfriend as she crashed right into Steeljack. “Hey I guess that makes Steeljack it now!” I called as I landed again. Violet grunted at me.
“No fair, cheater!” She called back, sticking her tongue out at me. Patch meanwhile had moved away from the now ‘it’ Steeljack who calmly put a hoof to his forehead. He reached out and tapped Violet on the shoulder, grinning.
“It,” Was all he said, as he moved back away out of Violet’s reach. Violet groaned and tried to chase after the other two, giggling as they managed to stay just out her hoof’s reach.
“Dammit! Why am I always it?!” She shouted as she tried to tag me on the leg. I grinned and moved out of the way, keeping her at hoof’s length as I did.
“Because it’s always so much fun to mess with you like this. Besides, you started it!” I exclaimed as I took to the air once more to keep away from my silly mare. This behavior continued on for at least another hour when we quickly realized the strenuous activity from running around and flying (in my case) was making us quite hungry and a little winded. We decided to stop for a few moments to catch our breath and eat. Finding an abandoned utility station on the side of the road, we sat down and looked at our map, plotting the rest of our course out to Fort Knowledge and eventually to Chicacolt.
After a relatively uneventful meal and an even more uneventful few hours later, we crested over the final hill overlooking the small town of Fort Knowledge. The town looked much as I had remembered, its various libraries hidden behind the makeshift metal walls that made up the Fort. In the distance I could see the temple of the Followers, and several alicorns hovering about the walls on guard duty. I smiled and looked down at Violet, who was grinning to. Despite what we had gone through, it was good to be home, at least for a little while. We made our way down the slope towards the town, chatting about what we hoped to find when we got there. We approached the gate as two alicorns came out to greet us.
“Greetings fair sisters,” I called out and bowing my head to the two guards. The two bowed in turn.
“Radiant Star. Tis been too long since you have been home,” One of the two alicorns (the blue one, I for the life of me could not remember either of their names) replied. I nodded and smiled.
“We are not staying long unfortunately. We would like to have lodging for our two friends here, and then I must speak with the Elder. It is of grave importance,” I said. The other alicorn (a green) nodded. She motioned for Steeljack and Patch to follow her as we followed the blue towards the temple. The atmosphere of the town felt a little… different so to speak as we followed behind the blue alicorn. The townsfolk seemed to be normal, as they milled around their business as usual, but something felt off. I couldn’t place a hoof to it, and judging by Violet’s expressions as we neared the temple she felt the same way. The stonework of the temple of the Followers came into view soon. The blue stopped at the front gate and stood to the side.
“The Elder has been expecting you for some time. You may enter and see her,” She stated. I nodded and thanked her as we walked past into the temple courtyard. The Elder had been expecting me? Why is that? It didn’t make any sense. How could she have known I was coming back here? More questions swirled around in my mind as we made our way through the halls of the temple, finally arriving at the sanctuary of the Elder. I cautiously knocked on the door.
“Enter,” The voice on the other side called out. I lightly pushed open the door. I realized for a moment I had never broached the sanctuary of the Elder before. It was a private place that only the Elder priestesses of the Followers were allowed. The room itself was spacious and elegantly designed, the windows depicting graceful stained glass of various ponies. It looked like almost like a shrine of sorts. The Elder herself sat in the middle of the room on a beautiful red chaise lounge. Two large cushions lay in front of her. She motioned to them as we entered into the room.
“Please. Sit, make yourself comfortable,” She said. I moved and sat on one of the cushions as Violet sat next to me. “Now then. You are probably wondering why I knew you were coming.”
“Actually… I am. How did you know that we would return to Fort Knowledge?” I asked calmly. The Elder smiled.
“The reason that I continue to remain Elder is because I am gifted with a form precognitive vision my dear Star. To be perfectly clear, I saw that you were coming in my mind,” She replied. “You come seeking answers to questions that you have about yourself.”
“Yes… I was hoping that maybe I could get access to the restricted library. There may be tomes in there that can tell me what I need to know,” I said, putting on a pleading look across my face. I hoped if I sucked up enough that maybe I could get the access I needed. The Elder nodded along as I spoke and paused for a moment.
“I… I figured you might say something like that,” She said finally. “Know that while you are an initiate member, we are well aware of the good you have been doing in the world. This ‘Ministry Mare’ that the DJ has made you out to be has not gone unnoticed. Therefore, we arrive at an impasse. You see, we have a problem… a problem that only you might be able to handle.”
“What sort of problem?” I asked. What could I possibly do that the Followers needed my help with it? I had a bad feeling about whatever it was. The same kind of off feeling I had while we were walking to this place. Furthermore, I had been planning on just hinging my entire plan of getting into the restricted library. To ask and just be given access was sort of strange. There was something I had to be missing here.
“You see… the restricted library is hidden deep within the nearby mountain. A beast most fowl has settled there. We know not what it is; only that it is dangerous. It has caused our small town many problems including some that resulted in the deaths of several of the town’s ponies, and has eluded us every time we have searched for it. We will allow you access to the restricted library on one condition: slay this creature so that we may continue to access the knowledge stored in our most sacred of libraries,” The Elder said. I blinked. A creature? She wanted to us to take care of some beast that had moved in? Well… that sounded sort of easy… right?
Fort Knowledge was located in a small valley in the shadow of a large mountain chain. Inside of the mountain was a hidden labyrinth, a maze of books and tomes that made up the restricted section of the library. The Elder had explained to us that this library contained many volumes of prewar secrets, including some personal journals of the Ministry Mare of Magic herself. I was elated to know that there was a slim chance of finding out any answers, but at the same time I was worried about what sort of creature could elude the alicorns and cause so much trouble. After we met up with Steeljack and Patch, I explained what was going on. A few hours later found us trotting up the mountainous path, following the map that the Elder had given to us.
“So this thing just sort of keeps disappearing?” Patch piped up as we made our way up the rocky foothills.
“That’s what the Elder said. She said they can never get a look at the thing; even the ponies that got attacked by it were unable to identify it. The ones that died though…” I replied. The Elder had explained that the ponies that had died by the thing had been violently exposed to some form of chemical agent, reducing their bodies to bloody messes in mere minutes. Whatever this thing was, it was brutal in its attacks. The mountainous path ended at the base of the great rock, giving way to a cavern carved in the side of the stone. We entered into the cavern, the light of day replaced by the soft glow of the torches that lined the roughly hewn walls. The path led deeper and deeper into the mountain, until it stopped completely at a large metal door. A large rusty chain lay on the ground before it next to a massive padlock that appeared to be broken. The door was slightly ajar, the dim light from inside the facility emerging from within as we approached it.
I stepped forward and pushed the door open the rest of the way. A soft light washed over us as we entered; the torches that lined the walls more frequent. I began to wonder what sort of creature could hide in this kind of light until we reached the end of the hallway. A stairway descended downwards into the darkness and I realized that the light was less frequent down there. The bottom of the stairway opened up into a massive room, lined with rows and rows of bookshelves. Large tomes and books hung from every rack, dusty from the ages of time. Stylized lettering lined the ends of each row, showing what kind of books were in that row. There were several large rows devoted to Daring Do. I smiled and chuckled at the thought of Twilight storing her entire Daring Do collection here in this giant library. Another row was on the study of Magic. I was thoroughly amazed at the amount of knowledge stored here. It was incredible. We moved down one of the rows, looking at the books for any titles that stuck out. The library was quiet and still. I started to really wonder if the Elder wasn’t just giving us an excuse to be here. There didn’t seem to be any sort of creature here. I stopped in front of one of the large bookshelves and noticed something glittering in the center of it. I pushed aside the books around it, revealing a glittering memory orb. Interesting, I thought as I swept the memory orb into my saddlebag. I wonder why anypony would leave a memory orb in a place like this.
A skittering noise brought my attention back to the world of the present. I looked up, trying to locate the source of the noise. I heard the shuffling of hooves as my friends maneuvered around me. The skittering noise continued all around us, getting louder and louder as we tried to figure out where it was coming from.
“What is that?” Patch shouted over the noise. A dark shape passed over us as I looked back up towards the ceiling. I nearly screamed at the sight of the thing. A massive… thing hung from the archways above us. Its leathery wings stretched over the room. Red eyes lit up from its head as it skittered around the room. Glistening teeth emerged from the thing’s maw. Its skin was black and taut, filled with rot and holes. The worst of the thing was what emanated from its mouth. A gaseous pink substance erupted from the creature’s mouth, filling a space in the air before it. My eyes widened at the sight of it. I knew that substance. It was the worst of the weapons the zebras had used during the war. The zebras knew it as the Littlehorn Agent. We knew it as the Pink Cloud. This… thing was some form of ghoul, and not just any kind of ghoul… but a Canterlot ghoul. The thing appeared to be watching us intently, most likely wondering what we would do next.
“Is… that what I think it is?” Steeljack uttered. I nodded calmly.
“Pink Cloud,” I said, staring at the thing with incredulous eyes. “As long as we keep away from its mouth, we should be fine.” The thing must have decided that we were taking too long to determine our strategy. It lunged from the ceiling, knocking into several rows of bookshelves. Shit! I thought as several of the larger rows of shelves began tumbling onto the next, threatening to crush us. “Move move move!” I shouted as we started to gallop back towards the entrance. The thing above us screeched and howled as its claws ripped over our heads, coming deathly close. I pulled out Stargazer and dropped into E.S.A.T.S., queuing up several shots into the air towards the massive beast. Time slowly resumed as my weapon let loose its payload, unleashing several rounds into the air at the thing. Howls of pain erupted from the creature as my shots struck true. At the very least, this thing could be hurt. The air lit up with silver fire as Violet let loose with Thunder Flash, hitting the ghoulish creature in the leg. Steeljack and Patch worked in tandem, his rifle complimenting hers with perfect harmony. A massive gout of pink substance shot through the air at us.
“Move out of the way!” I yelled as I tried to push back on the substance with my telekinesis. My companions jumped behind one of the fallen rows of books. The cloud resisted at first as I grimaced harder, trying to push against it. The substance relented and flew back upwards at the thing, wafting harmlessly over it. I put up Stargazer and fired, hitting the beast in several spots, forcing more howls of pain from the thing. It flew backwards, trying to frantically escape as it hit the far wall with a sickening *thud*. It sank from the air and hit the ground, crushing several bookshelves and howling in intense pain. The thing labored in breathing as it lay there. As I got closer I noticed the thing was scaly and sickly looking. Its eyes were closed as it began to breathe slower. The pink substance that had been coming from it no longer lingered around its mouth. The thing was almost insect-like. The body structure looked almost similar to something I had seen before in a book.
“It’s almost like… like a dragon, but insectoid in nature,” I said aloud as my companions came up behind me. The thing’s breathing subsided and it finally lay still. I looked up to see where the thing had hit the wall. A large hole erupted from where the thing had hit, revealing another large room of bookshelves. The room looked even older than the current room we were standing in, which now appeared like a tornado had suddenly popped up in the middle of it. Books lay strewn about the area, shred into pieces. Some of them looked like they could be saved, but most of them were lost causes. I felt bad having destroyed such valuable information, but the Elder had neglected to tell us how big this thing could have been. I cautiously stepped around the beast, giving it a wide berth as I motioned for my friends to follow. I was concerned that the Pink Cloud that the thing had been emanating had stopped, almost as if it had been directed carefully so that it wouldn’t spread. It didn’t fit the normal behavior of the necromantic agent. We entered the old room, feeling the weight of time all around us. The shelves were marked with various icons instead of text, depicting what types of tomes were in that row. My eyes widened when I saw the final row at the end of the room. A stylized icon of Twilight Sparkle’s cutie mark was emblazoned on the row, several large books sitting on the only shelf. Next to the books was a large locker.
“I found something!” I shouted as I stepped into the row, eyeing the locker. I lifted it off with my magic and set it down. It wasn’t locked thankfully. I opened it up, revealing four glittering memory orbs. I lifted each one out and placed them in my bags. There would be no time for viewing these now. I looked up at the books and pulled them off of the shelf as well. One of the books felt relatively light as I opened it up. The first thing I noticed is that the book was hollow inside! Sitting inside the book was a large dulled golden tiara, a stylized crystal set in the top of it in the shape of a very familiar cutie mark. My eyes lit up at the sight of it.
“It’s just as I remembered it… but it’s a little dull,” A voice from the back of my head said. “It used to be a lot more colorful.”
Spark? What is it? I asked Spark. The spirit paused for a moment before answering.
“It used to be the Element of Magic, but now… I don’t believe it has that power anymore,” Spark replied. “In fact, I’m sure that it’s useless.”
Why would Twilight store it here if it was useless? I said, snorting. My friends had stepped up at this point and Spark decided to say no more. I grimaced as I lifted out the dull tiara and showed it to my friends.
“Pretty…” Violet said, eyeing the dull tiara up and down. I nodded as I turned to the other book. The word Diary was written on the top of it. I grinned and slid both the tiara and the book into my saddlebags.
“I think we have what we came here for,” I said with finality. Something inside me knew that this is why we were here. The book, the memory orbs, and the dulled tiara that had once been Twilight’s Element. They were all here for a reason. I nodded as we walked towards the hole the thing had made that revealed this room. We stepped out and I immediately noticed that the dragon-insect-thing’s body was gone. My eyes widened with fear as I realized that the thing wasn’t dead. I should have known better, I thought. The thing was some form of Canterlot ghoul. It took a fucking lot to kill one, let alone injure it. This thing was smart. It let us think it was dead and waited for us.
“Shit!” I shouted as I looked up, hearing the skittering noise once more. The monstrous thing lunged from the darkness above us, its teeth glistening. I jumped back out of the way, pushing my friends back with my telekinesis as the thing struck the ground in front of us, snarling and howling. Stargazer and Thunder Flash came up. The monster’s eyes glimmered in the darkness. It growled and pushed up off of the floor of the library, flapping its wings. I paused for a moment.
“Wait,” I said, staring at the massive beast and flagging down Violet. “Why isn’t it attacking us now?” The thing hung there in the air, simply staring at us and doing nothing. A glimmer of light shined behind the thing and I thought that I saw something else for a second. An equine-like figure with a massive shadow behind it was standing in the darkness on one of the balconies above the creature. Who? I thought as I tried to figure out what was going on. The figure shifted and turned away, waving what appeared to be a hoof. The dragon-like beast snarled and suddenly began to shrink, dissipating in a gaseous cloud of pink right before our eyes. Soon, it was completely gone. Nothing remained in the air before us, the musty smell of the library returning as we stood there.
“What the…?” Patch said, blinking. I blinked as well. When I looked back up to the balcony, the figure was gone. Its shadow was no longer cast over the ceiling. I was chilled to the bone. What was that thing, and how did it do that? I thought, as I stared at the air before us.
“Yeah… I’m right there with you,” Violet said. “What was that thing?”
“I… I am not sure,” I replied, surveying the damage done to the library. “We had better clean some of this up and continue looking around. There could still be some important books here, but I’m not holding my breath. Mostly I’d like to make sure we don’t get in trouble with the Elder.” I chuckled nervously as Violet grinned. She knew as well as I did that the Elder wouldn’t be happy that some of the knowledge had been destroyed. We moved about the massive room, picking up the shelves that had been knocked over by the monstrous thing. As I picked up a particularly large tome I noticed a familiar mark. Another stylized marking of Twilight’s cutie mark appeared on one of the books at my feet. I picked up the tome and opened it. It was a history book, containing old information about the Twilight Society. Interesting, I thought as I stuffed the tome into my saddlebag. It would make for good reading later on. Beyond that, there wasn’t much in the library other than old magic tomes and historical records in the first place. I sighed, having thought that the restricted section would have more. Violet came up to me, holding a book in her magic.
“Hey, check this out,” She said, handing me the book. It was a book on historical Chicacolt. “It’s nothing major, but the book says that there were several Ministry hubs in the city, including a Ministry of Arcane Science hub. Might be worth checking out when we get there.” I nodded, handing the book back to my love. She stuffed it into her saddlebag and smiled. “Everything alright?”
“Yeah… I’m just concerned. That thing we fought… there was something controlling it. I saw it up on the balcony,” I said, pointing up at the balcony that I had seen the shadowy figure.
“I saw it too,” Patch said as she walked up next to us. Steeljack was busy placing several books back on the bottom of one of the shelves. After he was finished, he trotted up next to us as well as we made our way back to the entrance of the large room. The walk was a quiet one. I spent the time trying to process the recent events. First Pride, then the horrifying dreams and now this monstrous thing that spewed Pink Cloud. Then there was the deal with the shadowy figure I had seen. It was almost as if the thing was waiting for us. More like it was waiting for me. I thought of Pride and what she had said about there being more like her, wondering if this figure was another one. If so… why did it not try and do us in completely? The dragon thing was more than enough of a challenge. I distinctly remembered the thing having died and yet it came back to life quickly. If it could do that, then all it would need to do is keep coming back until it tired us out. So why? It was all too much for my mind to process. I sighed and tried to keep my mind off of them, letting my thoughts drift to the items we had located in the small library room. The memory orbs I would be sure to look at later, when we had time. The diary though… I would have to begin reading it as soon as possible. Perhaps Twilight had written something in there detailing her secret project. One thing was for certain, I knew it would contain some answers.
The Elder had waited us outside of the town as we made our way down the mountainous path. I smiled as she raised her hoof in greeting. She motioned for my friends to continue on, wishing to speak only with me. I nodded in agreement and smiled at Violet. She nodded and ushered my other two friends down the hill, happily trotting along back to town.
“I trust that since you are alive you found the creature?” She asked. I nodded in response.
“I’m not really sure what it was to be honest Elder. It was some sort of dragon insect thing. I don’t think it was here by chance,” I replied. Her eyes widened.
“What do you mean?” She said. I sighed.
“We’ve encountered some… enemies for lack of the better word. I believe that whatever it was… it was waiting here for me,” I said, explaining about the shadowy figure we had seen and about Pride. She scowled of course when I mentioned the creature and how it had destroyed several rows of books. I knew she would. She didn’t say anything about it thankfully as I continued to speak. The Elder nodded at the fake name Diamond Night as I mentioned the midnight alicorn.
“The name does not ring a bell. It is not uncommon though for our kind to resist the call of the Savior. While the vast majority of our race is depending on Velvet’s plans to help us survive, there are still others that prefer to be on their own,” She replied. “This… Pride could be one of those wayward souls.”
“She has… powers. She can see into other pony’s dreams,” I said, drawing the gaze of the Elder. By now we had arrived back in the Fort and were walking alongside the stately green alicorn down the main drag.
“Really? That is unusual and very rare magic,” The Elder said, putting a hoof to her chin. “And you are going to go to Chicacolt to confront this alicorn?” I nodded.
“That is what I intend dear Elder,” I said, bowing before her as we stepped up to the Temple.
“Well… I could say that you weren’t allowed to, but… I know that wouldn’t stop you. You have my blessing and the blessing of the Savior. Be careful. If these enemies that seek you are as powerful as you say they are… you will need to be wary and keep your wits about you. Keep your friends close to your side Radiant Star,” The Elder said finally after a moment of pause.
“I will,” I said, smiling back. We continued to speak, as I talked about everything that had happened since we left Fort Knowledge. When I mentioned the Twilight Society the Elder’s eyes narrowed.
“So you say this DJ believes the Twilight Society has disappeared?” She asked. I nodded.
“Apparently the same day that this happened,” I said, indicating my body with a wave of my hoof.
“Interesting… this is new information. I will have to look into this. Are there no leads as to where they’ve gone?” She said. I pulled out the book I had found in the library.
“I found this. It’s some sort of historical record. Apparently the Twilight Society goes back pretty far,” I replied. “I’m hoping that it holds some answers as to where they might have gone.” The Elder nodded.
“Well, I wish I had some answers for you,” She said, sighing. “Unfortunately, I must take my leave of you. I’m sure you have a trip to prepare for. Good luck Radiant Star. May Celestia light your path.” She smiled and stepped inside the Temple, leaving me standing there. I sighed and began walking back towards the rooms my friends had been put up in. I stepped in, finding Steeljack and Patch, but no Violet.
“Where’s Violet at?” I asked as I sat down next to my two earth pony friends.
“She went off to do some trading. She said she’d be back a little later,” Steeljack replied. I nodded, smiling at the two. Steeljack seemed to be happier lately. I grinned internally; wondering if that had anything to do with a certain green earth pony mare that had turned his head. Patch was cleaning her eye patch off, keeping it free from dirt. Her eye had healed up to a point where it was pretty much sewn shut. Regardless of her disability however, the mare soldiered on. I was impressed by her tenacity. It certainly didn’t seem to affect her shooting capability. I stared at her as she worked, drawing her attention.
“What’s up?” She asked, smiling and breaking my focus.
“Oh, nothing. Just thinking. Lot on my mind you know,” I replied. She nodded.
“Listen… I know we haven’t gotten a chance to talk that much lately. Are you alright?” The green mare said quietly. I sighed.
“I just… I’m fine. I really am. I never got a chance to thank you, you know… for… you know,” I said, referring to my episode outside of the Ministry of Peace clinic. Patch got my hint and smiled at me.
“It’s alright Star… Everypony goes through those things. Relationships are hard like that,” She said, grinning. I grimaced.
“Yeah but the things I said… I shouldn’t --” I started to say. Patch waved me off with a hoof.
“Everypony says things they don’t mean when they’re angry. It’s part of life,” She said as the door opened. I looked up and saw Violet walking in, her bags stuffed full of trade. She grinned.
“Well, I got a bunch of supplies, and good value for the stuff we’ve scavenged,” She said, pulling out several bottles of healing potions and medical supplies. We divvied up the supplies between the four of our bags so that they weren’t all being carried by one pony. Violet brought out the book on the history of Chicacolt and began to skim through it, pointing out an illustration on one of the pages. It looked like a map.
“There’s an old prewar map of the entire city. I’m not sure how accurate it will be though,” She said. I took the book and looked at the map, scanning its locations. Sure enough, there was an M.A.S. Hub listed, along with a Ministry of Wartime Technology Hub. The city was quite large, nearly as large as Manehattan or Fillydelphia. Filly’s Tower also stuck out as being important. Apparently it was a very popular tourist location, being one of the tallest buildings in the entire city according to the book. I briefly wondered if the great Tower still stood or not. I set down the book and slid it back over to Violet.
“Alright. We’ll leave in the morning,” I replied, getting my things ready for bed. I laid out my bedroll and placed myself on the floor next to Violet, who smiled up at me and snuggled in closely.
“Goodnight everypony,” I said, to the murmurs of my friends as we all drifted off to a good night’s sleep.
The next morning arrived as normal, with no crazy dreams to speak of. I was surprised given my mental state lately. We packed up our things and stepped out into the fresh morning air, ready to get onto the road. As we left the Fort, I looked back once more and began to wonder when I would next see the place. It had been a home, but now no longer felt much like one. My home was with my friends, wherever we ended up at. I smiled as I pondered this thought. As long as I had them, I could be happy.
The sun grew high in the sky as we walked. The sultry voice of Sapphire Shores accompanied our trek across the barren Wasteland as we headed north to the great city of Chicacolt. As Sapphire Shores ended, the radio gave way to the smooth voice of DJ PON-3.
“Good morning Wasteland! This is your host with the most, DJ PON-3! I’m here, mixing up all the latest and greatest news and tunes.
Well folks, it seems like nopony has seen neither hide nor hair of the famous Ministry Mare in some time, but I can happily say that I finally have some news on her. It seems our famous friend is on her way to Chicacolt my ltitle ponies. Be careful up there Ministry Mare. And if you see my counterpart in that area, say hello to him for me!
In other news, a research team was found dead in Glyphmark in one of the Ministry of Peace facilities working with the Followers of the Apocalypse. I’ve been informed that the bodies have been interred and their families notified. A representative of our good friend Velvet Remedy tells us that they aren’t sure what caused the deaths of the research team, which was part of the efforts to develop a potion to help the alicorns procreate. Work has begun anew however on the project; the new teams refusing to let the deaths of their predecessors deter them. Extra security has been placed around the facility to ensure their safety.
And that’s all for the news today my friends. Remember; be kind for kindness sake out there. Protect each other as you would protect yourself. Have a little Sweetie Belle”
The DJ’s words drifted away and the sweet voice of Sweetie Belle replaced it, lifting our spirits as we progressed further north. I thought of the research team in Glyphmark, a pain in my chest rearing its ugly head when I realized those were most likely the ponies that Pride had murdered. Of course they couldn’t figure out how they died… Pride most likely had given them nightmares that frightened them to death. I cringed at the thought, having almost gone through the same thing at Pride’s hooves.
As we walked, the radio station playing DJ PON-3 began to get fainter and fainter until I could no longer pick it up. Hmm, that’s strange. I thought, fiddling with the buttons on my PipBuck, until a new radio station popped up on it. The music that blared out was new and interesting, and nothing like I’d ever heard before. The song consisted of chunky guitar riffs and a steady drum beat, while the lead singer belted out words that were barely incoherent. I grinned as I bopped along, drawing giggles from Violet and Patch. Steeljack rolled his eyes at us and merely bobbed his head.
“Oh come on Steeljack, get into the swing of things!” Patch said, nudging the buck on the shoulder. He grinned slightly.
“I’m good, thanks,” He said, laughing lightly. The song gave way to another tune, this one a little heavier. The drum beat started up early in the song as a crazy guitar riff began to play. The music continued into the background while we walked, the barren landscape giving way to what appeared to be a rough forest of dead trees. The ground became soft and muddy as the sun bore over the top of us. The air became humid and sticky, making it incredibly uncomfortable.
“What is this place?” Violet asked as we pressed forward, the sky above us turning a sharp grey as the sun dipped behind several clouds. It didn’t help with the humidity, instead only making it worse. The air hung still around us. The ground grew softer as it gave way to a swamp-like substance.
“Looks to be some sort of swamp area,” I said. “Come on, we’d better keep going.” The swamp appeared to stretch on for miles ahead of us, the dead trees surrounding us as we walked along the path. It began to get darker, the deadened trees creating a canopy of wood over the top of us. A chill wind blew across us, creating an eerie feeling in my gut. What is up with this place? I thought as we trudged along. I kept looking at my E.F.S., paranoid about any threats. There were several yellow blips to our east that appeared to be large bugs. Nothing seemed to be of any remote threat. Still, something felt off about the whole thing. I felt like we were being watched. I gently clicked off my PipBuck radio, letting go quiet.
The path led deeper into the swamp, finally opening up to a large clearing filled with ash black wooden stumps. A sinister feeling fell over us as we stepped into the clearing, making me feel even more like something was there. I looked to my E.F.S. again, and saw nothing. The feeling of being watched intensified as I grimaced, pulling out Stargazer just in case there was anything there. Violet looked over and noticed, drawing Thunder Flash.
“What?” She said quietly. I motioned for her to come closer.
“I think there’s something here,” I said. “But it’s not showing up on my E.F.S. I just have a really strange feeling that we’re being watched. It’s been getting worse as we’re walking.” Violet nodded. Steeljack and Patch took up point behind us, keeping watch as we continued through the large clearing. A creaking noise got our attention as we stopped. I turned towards the sound of the noise, not seeing anything at first. The creaking continued, drawing our attention to the center of the clearing.
Where once before there was nothing, now there was a shadowy figure wearing a long cloak. It was equine in nature, with a large contraption behind it. It appeared to be some sort of cart. The figure pulled off its cloak, revealing the most grotesque figure I’d ever seen. It appeared to be an equine of some sort, its mottled skin falling off its disgusting body. One of its front legs was exposed bone and muscle, ending in a gnarled hoof that was curved. The thing was surprisingly short and held itself low to the ground. Long ears lifted from the side of its head. Rotting flesh lined its face and pus oozed from its skull. The thing’s eyes were a sinister red as it stared at us, glowing in the darkness. Looking further back I could see that the thing was indeed attached to a cart, filled with pieces of rotting flesh. The cart appeared to be fused to the creature’s back end; its large wheels the source of the creaking. The smell alone from the contents of the cart could cause any normal pony to toss their lunch immediately. It took all my willpower not to empty my stomach right then and there. I looked over at Violet and my friends as they were struggling with the same thing. It opened its mouth and a pink substance spewed forth, flowing into the air before us. It swirled around the figure almost like a shield. My eyes widened as I realized that this must have been the same figure we saw in the library.
“You,” I shakily said as the thing regarded us with its sinister gaze. “You were at the library weren’t you?”
The thing looked up at me and stared intently. It opened its mouth once again and began to speak, its voice gravelly and harsh, the ages of time having taken their toll on the creature's throat.
“Kid… you’re a lot smarter than you look.”
Radiant Star: Level Up!
New Perk! Dreamwalker: Your mind is sharpened against mental attacks. Your mental resistance is increased by +25% and you take 25% less damage from psychic attacks.
New Quest: The Pride of Chicacolt – Go to the city of Chicacolt and confront the dark alicorn Pride.
Spell Upgrade! Telekinesis (Rank 2): Your telekinesis has improved. You can now affect insubstantial objects with your magic.
Spark Level: 60%. This is how much Spark has control of your body.
Violet Iris: Level Up!
Steeljack: Level Up!
Patch: Level Up!
Wow… what a chapter. This was a ton of fun to write. It was long… and umm… long. It was a big thing for me to have this chapter end up as large as it ended up being. I actually planned on this chapter being a large one, since it sort of represents the end of the first part of the story, and the beginning of the second as the group heads to Chicacolt.
I settled on Chicacolt because I hadn’t yet seen any fics that use it. It’s going to be fun to work with.
Now onto the chapter stuff… the first parts of the chapter I hope didn’t confuse anyone too much. The real question is which of the sequences were actually real and which ones were actually dreams.
Lust’s turnaround was intentional, as she only serves herself. Her only motivation is her own goals. She will show up again, trust me.
Pride was a ton of fun to write. Her mannerisms and the way she acts were a lot of fun.
Have fun figuring out who the one at the end is. I’m sure everyone will get it right off the bat though. Shouldn’t be too difficult!
Anyways, I want to point out the shameless stuff right off the bat. http://askradiantstar.tumblr.com is Star’s Tumblr. Send her some questions or whatever you want to send her! I also would be humbly accepting of any fanart or anything else that people would want to do for this story. You are all amazing readers and have been highly supportive of this story. I’d like to totally thank guys like Cadmium and mercenaryx who are theorizing and guessing along with each chapter.
I’d also like to thank the people on the IRC Channel. Wirepony’s encouragement and assistance on character building has been fantastically helpful. People of the Gdocs, including MyLittlePillager and Melonhunter… you guys are great. Huge thanks to Arcane_Scroll for fallout-equestria.com, his speedy updates and his site have been the largest source of my referrals here, and I have to give props to him for all the work he puts into it. You’re the man Scroll!
My plug of the week story-wise is for Starlight_Tinker’s story “Fallout Equestria: Just Like Clockwork”. Go read it… after you’re done with this chapter of course. It’s a great story and well worth the read.
Much thanks to Kkat, for creating this world and the sandbox in which we now play. Without the original, none of this would be possible.