I'm an amateur fanfiction writer with a love of many fandoms.
Expect most of my works to be crossovers.
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Maresidia was known as the 'Magic Capital' of the world. In other words, anything to do with magic could be found here. Almost anything, that is. Summoning was another kettle of fish that was inherent in bloodlines found only in Mist. Everything else, however, was fair game. The greatest sages and scholars of magic came from Maresidia, including Starswirl himself.
But magic is no almighty, unstoppable force. Little more than a week ago, Maresidia learned this the hard way. The Red Wings of Colton flew to land just outside the town, and invaded in force. Several mages were killed struggling against the invaders. In the end, though, the total losses were less than expected. This was mostly due to the Red Wings's commander being reluctant to kill more than necessary. Her objective, after all, had been the Water Crystal. Once she had that, she pulled her forces out. The elder of Maresidia said that Colton would no longer be a problem for them.
To the rest of the Maresidians, though, even the name of Colton had become anathema. The Road of Tartarus, the magical path that had once connected the two cities, was sealed off with spite. The remaining mages worked hard to move on despite what had been lost to the invasion. But they would never forget that day. And with it barely being a week since the attack, everypony was still tense. So when a lookout let out a warning that the commander was approaching the town, everypony dropped what they were doing, forming a mob just in front of the entrance to the town.
It was this mob that Twilight Sparkle found herself confronting. She grimaced, not looking forward to this. Not a single face in the mass before her lacked anger. She knew that coming back, alone and unwelcome, would not go over well at all.
Still, she was more than a little taken aback when a dark blue unicorn stallion with a white mane stepped forward, eyes blazing. "You dare return here, Dark Knight?! Haven't you done enough to this place?! You've killed our friends and family, you stole our Water Crystal! What more could you possibly want?!"
Twilight took a step back. "I'm not here to hurt you. I – "
She was cut off with a derisive snort from the stallion. "That's a laugh! After last time, did you really think you could return here with impunity?!" Lightning began to crackle around his horn. "Well, let me show you how wrong you were!" A lightning bolt flashed from his horn, striking Twilight and sending her flying into a tree behind her.
She winced, but refused to cry out in pain. Oh, it was painful, alright. This was the first time she could recall being on the receiving end of a spell that wasn't white magic. Still, she stood back up, and stepped forward. "Please, I was in the wrong last time I was here!"
"A little late to admit that, don't you think?!" The incensed stallion flung a large ball of fire at her, nearly baking her within her armor. Still, she refused to make a sound. This seemed to anger him even more, however. "My sister is dead because of you, and I will have my revenge, murderer!" A huge chunk of ice was thrown into her, knocking her down.
The shift from extreme heat to extreme cold nearly caused Twilight to black out from the pain. This time, she didn't get up, instead trying to think. Were there any female mages that her soldiers had killed? Only one came to mind: the white mage that had tried to flee at the last minute. She regretted that she hadn't told her soldiers to let her go. She regretted that entire day. She glanced up at the stallion's rage-filled visage. "If killing me… will bring you peace… then go ahead. I… don't deserve mercy… from this place," she managed to gasp out.
This seemed to give the stallion pause. He hadn't expected such a frank admission of guilt. Behind him, the rest of the Maresidians exchanged glances. Was this really the same pony who'd invaded a week ago? Before anything else could be said, another voice broke in, clear and strong.
"What is going on here?" The crowd parted, making way for the Elder of Maresidia. He glanced at Twilight, then at the stallion, who was now looking nervous. "I trust there's a good explanation for this, Pokey Pierce?"
Pokey gulped. Now that he was thinking more clearly, he knew he was in trouble. "I… we heard that the commander of the forces that attacked us was returning, and we wanted to make sure she didn't cause any more damage. So we – "
"You decided to assault her without provocation?" The Elder glared at Pokey. "Her blade is still in its sheath, Pokey. You can't tell me she made the first move in this confrontation."
"Elder! She's responsible for killing several of our kin! You can't tell me to let that go unanswered!" Pokey exclaimed.
"I can, and I will! We of Maresidia do not use our magic in anger!" the Elder retorted. "Not like this! You were deliberately holding back, just to make her suffer! If you truly thought her a threat, you would have slain her outright with the first spell!" Pokey raised a hoof, but the Elder cut him off. "Enough! Get out of my sight, Pokey! I'll deal with you later. The rest of you, get back to your tasks!" he barked at the crowd. It quickly dispersed, leaving just the Elder, two other unicorns, and Twilight herself. Glancing back down at her, the Elder sighed. "Tenderheart, heal her."
The blue unicorn mare nodded, and her horn flashed brightly. A moment later, Twilight felt all of the pain that Pokey's spells had caused vanish. She slowly got to her hooves, blinking at the Elder. "Why spare me?" she asked.
He gave her a small smile. "Because you spared me, if you recall."
Blinking, Twilight suddenly remembered ordering her soldiers to stand down just before they would have struck the Elder. She bowed her head. "Thank you."
"My debt is repaid, nothing more," he replied. "Do not expect such favors in the future. Now why have you returned to Maresidia? As I'm sure you're aware, soldiers of Colton aren't exactly welcome right now."
Biting back a sarcastic remark, Twilight nodded. "This wasn't exactly my choice. The ship I was on got attacked by Leviathan, and I washed up here."
Blinking, the Elder looked askance at her. "Sounds like you have quite the story to tell…" He considered for a moment, then nodded. "I believe I have some time. Come with me, and share your story. It seems you've changed much in the week since you were last here."
He began trotting off, the other two unicorns flanking him. Twilight followed after a moment, debating on how to share her story. She decided that honesty was the best policy. He had, after all, been honest with her regarding why he helped her.
The Elder and Twilight sat around a small table, the lavender unicorn finishing her tale. "… and when I woke up, I found myself on the shores a little ways down from Maresidia." She gave a wry smile. "Fate, it seems, isn't done tormenting me."
"I can imagine," the older unicorn murmured. "Colton's been busy in the past week. Mist, Clydecyan, and Stabul… and rumors have reached me that even the land of ninjas, Epona, has fallen."
"Epona?!" Twilight gasped. This was news to her. "But Epona never had a crystal! Why would Colton…?"
"It's possible that Colton may not have been involved," the Elder said. "What little I've heard of the attack indicates that the castle was overrun by monsters."
Twilight frowned. "But that doesn't rule Colton out. King Colton's militant stance started a few months ago, the same time that monster attacks began to increase throughout the world…"
"… and also when Nightmare Moon first came to Colton," the Elder interjected. At Twilight's stunned look, he chuckled bitterly. "Yes, I know of her. I've known of her for some time. She's been manipulating Colton from behind the scenes, as you feared. I never imagined she would be brazen enough to have the king order an attack on another country, though. And four other major nations, along with the village of Mist, have paid for my naivety."
Twilight frowned. "You make it sound like it's your fault Nightmare Moon came into being."
"Well, I'm not. I know that much. Still, if only I'd warned one of the other nations, this could have been avoided…" He trailed off.
"Only the Earth Crystal of Trotta remains out of Nightmare Moon's hooves, right?" Twilight asked after a moment.
"Correct. It would be in our best interests that she doesn't get it," the Elder said. "But we'll worry about that later. You said that your friend was foalnapped by Nightmare Moon?"
Twilight nodded. "And without a ship to get to Colton, my chances of rescuing her are next to nothing," she sighed.
The Elder looked at the ceiling for a moment. "Even if you had gotten an airship, and confronted Nightmare Moon, you would have failed." Seeing her about to object, he raised a hoof to silence her. "So long as you wield the dark sword, you haven't a prayer of stopping her."
Twilight sighed again, staring glumly down at the table. "So it's hopeless," she muttered.
"Not quite," the Elder said. "I said that you haven't a prayer so long as you wield the dark sword. But, there is another type of blade you may attempt to wield: the holy blade of a Paladin."
Twilight's eyes shone in wonder. "The legendary white knights? But I've never read of a Paladin in recent times!"
The Elder's grin was wry. "There's a reason for that. In order to become a paladin, one must travel two days to the east of Maresidia. There lies the Mountain of Ordeals, and at its summit is the means to become a Paladin. But the mountain is crawling with all sorts of creatures, and scores of undead roam its slopes."
Twilight sighed once more, dejected. "And my dark sword is next to useless against undead," she muttered. But then she looked up, eyes hard as diamond. "Still, I won't let that stop me! If becoming a paladin gives me a snowball's chance in Tartarus of rescuing Rarity, I won't let anything stand in my way!"
The Elder's smile was genuine this time. "Such passion and determination… you truly aren't an ideal Dark Knight. You may just be able to become a Paladin." He then coughed. "Still, passion and determination will only get you so far. You'll need aid if you are to ascend the Mountain of Ordeals. To that end, I will have a pair of mages escort you." He looked up to the ceiling, tapping his hoof to his chin. "Now, who to ask…?"
Suddenly, the door to the sitting room they were in burst open. In ran a unicorn filly, with a curly, two-tone pink-and-purple mane and matching tail. She was panting hard, as though she'd ran full-tilt from where she'd been. Catching her breath, she produced a book out of her saddlebag. "Here's that copy of 'Intermediate White Magic' I borrowed, Elder! I'm sorry it took me so long to get it back to you!" Her voice, young as it was, had a distinct musical quality about it.
The Elder chuckled, and lifted the book away from the filly with his aura. "My thanks, Sweetie Belle, but I'm currently busy with a guest." He indicated Twilight with a hoof.
Sweetie Belle looked at Twilight, and her eyes widened. "You're… that Dark Knight, right? The one I heard everypony talking about on my way here?"
Twilight grimaced slightly, but turned it into a smile. "Yes, I'm a Dark Knight. My name's Twilight Sparkle." She held out a hoof. "Nice to meet you… Sweetie Belle, was it?"
Sweetie Belle's nervous look faded into a smile as she shook the offered hoof. "That's right. You don't seem as bad as some of the other ponies were saying. So what were you talking about with the Elder?"
The two older unicorns exchanged glances. "Oh, nothing really," Twilight said nervously. "He was just telling me about how to become a Paladin."
Raucous laughter erupted from nowhere, and a cloud of smoke poofed into existence next to Sweetie Belle. Coughing, the unicorn filly glared into the smoke, as an orange pegasus filly materialized there, laughing her flank off. "Scootaloo! What's so funny?!"
Scootaloo managed to get her laughter down a few decibels. "It's her!" she said in a rather brash voice, pointing at Twilight. "She thinks she can become a Paladin!" With a smirk, she looked the lavender mare in the eyes. "Listen up, Dark Knight. You wouldn't last five minutes on Mt. Ordeals! With the number of undead up there, you'd be lucky to last five seconds!"
"Scootaloo!" gasped Sweetie Belle, mortified. "How can you say that in such a mean voice?"
The pegasus filly stopped laughing abruptly, and looked at her unicorn friend. "You're kidding, right? You do know that this is the same Dark Knight that came here a week ago, and killed all those older ponies, right?"
Sweetie Belle frowned. "So what? She wants to become a Paladin to make up for that, right?" she asked, smiling at Twilight.
The older unicorn nodded. "I've grown tired of this dark sword. I'd throw it away in a heartbeat, no question."
Scootaloo snickered. "Well, I'd offer you good luck, except no amount of that will keep you alive on Mt. Ordeals," she said with a scoff.
The Elder, who'd been silent during this exchange, spoke up. "You're completely right, Scootaloo. On her own, Twilight Sparkle hasn't a prayer of making it up the slopes of Mt. Ordeals."
Scootaloo shot Sweetie Belle a smug look. "See? Even the Elder agrees with – "
"That is why the two of you will be accompanying her," he interrupted.
Both fillies' jaws fell open. "HUH?!" they chorused, while Twilight gave the Elder an equally startled look.
"You've been craving some hooves-on experience, right, Scootaloo?" the Elder asked. "Well, now you have the perfect opportunity!"
"W-well, yeah, I was hoping for some, but… really? Help her become a Paladin?" Scootaloo seemed baffled at the request.
Sweetie Belle, on the other hoof, looked excited. "I think it'd be a great opportunity!" she said. "C'mon, Scootaloo!"
The orange filly scoffed, and turned to walk away. "You can join her if you want, Sweetie Belle, but I'm not, and there's nothing you can say that'll make me!"
The Elder decided to smoothly interject. "Did I mention that, if you do this, you'll receive full marks for and won't have to worry about the next month's worth of assignments at the Academy?"
Scootaloo froze mid-step, and was next to Sweetie Belle in an instant, forehoof raised in a salute. "Black Mage Scootaloo, reporting for duty!"
Sweetie Belle grinned, and also saluted. "White Mage Sweetie Belle, also reporting in!"
The two of them then took deep breaths. Twilight noticed that the Elder clapped his hooves over his ears. Looking around, she saw that other ponies in earshot had done the same, dropping whatever else they were doing. She decided to follow suit, and not a moment too soon.
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADER ESCORT MISSION TO MT. ORDEALS! YAAAAAY!!!!" The sheer pressure of the sound nearly bowled Twilight over, and she was almost certain she'd gone deaf despite the hooves over her ears. Before she could comment, the two fillies had vanished.
There was silence for a moment. "Uh… 'Cutie Mark Crusader'?" Twilight finally asked.
The Elder chuckled heartily. "Their little name for themselves. They're obsessed with finding their cutie marks, and will do just about anything to find out what they are."
Twilight blinked. "I see…" She then gave him an odd look. "If you don't mind me asking, why assign them to me? Surely there are more experienced mages around?"
The Elder gave her a dour look. "Yes, plenty of experienced mages with lots of hatred for Colton."
Twilight winced. "Ah, right. I guess I'm lucky I ended up with them rather than, say, that Pokey fellow."
"Pokey Pierce has always been a bit headstrong," the Elder noted. "But Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo are young, and not truly capable of the hatred that has clouded the hearts of the older ponies."
Twilight gave a wan smile. "So, kids are more trusting than adults, huh? Kinda sad, isn't it?"
"A little," the Elder admitted. He then shook himself. "Now, I believe you have a journey to prepare for. I'll have some provisions made up for you. Two days to get to the mountain, however long it takes you to get to the summit and back down, and two days to get back. Just to be safe, I'll have a full week's worth of food set aside."
Twilight nodded. "Thank you, Elder."
The image of Twilight speaking to the Elder vanished into thin air, throwing the crystalline room into semi-darkness. A midnight black alicorn snorted. "Hmph! So, the foal thinks to ascend Mt. Ordeals to become a Paladin? What a laugh!"
Nightmare Moon's mini-rant was interrupted by a cyan pegasus coughing into a hoof. "I wouldn't dismiss her so easily, boss. Twilight may not look like much, but she's very stubborn. When she sets her mind on something, she usually gets it done."
The alicorn considered this, ignoring the struggles of the bound unicorn behind her. "Hm… You may have a point. It might be best to ensure that Twilight Sparkle does not reach the summit of Mt. Ordeals."
Rainbow Dash smirked. "Well, then, if you'll excuse me, I'll go and make sure – "
Nightmare Moon whirled, and shot a bolt of lightning in front of the pegasus, causing a yelp of shock. "You are to remain here. You already had your chance, foal, and you botched it. Perhaps you aren't as loyal to me as you once said?" A crackling in her nebulous mane warned that there was only one right answer.
"Of course I'm loyal to you!" Rainbow exclaimed. "I delivered the Wind Crystal, didn't I?"
"After you had some help from me," the alicorn said acidly. "You aren't living up to your reputation, Rainbow Dash. You failed to kill Twilight Sparkle once, so why should I give you another chance?"
Rainbow bit her lip to keep herself from making a sarcastic response. Another voice chose that moment to speak up. "You know it doesn't matter. Twilight will ascend Mt. Ordeals, one way or another."
Nightmare Moon looked at Rarity, who had temporarily ceased struggling. "You sound so confident. Have you forgotten that that mountain is home to hosts of undead? She won't survive, I guarantee it. She'll die, alone and friendless."
"She's not alone," Rarity countered. "Goodness, are those eyes of yours just for show?"
The alicorn blinked, then began cackling. "You… you actually believe those two foals can make a difference?!" Her cackling turned into howls of mirth. "I've never heard anything so ridiculous! Two little foals will be enough to help her survive Mt. Ordeals! Oh, that's rich!"
Rarity sniffed. "Scoff all you like, Nightmare Moon, but the fact of the matter is, you aren't going to win this round. Twilight will gain the power of a Paladin."
Nightmare Moon paused in her laughter, staring at Rarity. "You're serious. You honestly believe that Twilight Sparkle will ascend to the summit of Mt. Ordeals, gain the power of a Paladin, and swoop in to save you?"
Tossing her mane (which would be more visually impressive were she not bound to a chair), Rarity nodded. "It's a fact. Twilight has never let me down before. Nor I her."
Nightmare Moon scoffed. "Then allow me to shatter your rose-tinted glasses. I will make certain that foal never even gets a glimpse of that power!" She stepped away from Rarity, facing outward. "Chrysalis! Come forth! I have need of you."
A pillar of green flame erupted in the center of the chamber. When it dispersed, a creature stood there. Nearly as tall as Nightmare Moon herself, she resembled a pony at first blush. Four legs, wings, and a horn might have caused her to be mistaken for an alicorn at a distance. But there were significant differences. This creature's legs and wings were riddled with holes, and she bore a pair of sharp fangs in her mouth. Her horn was crooked and bent, giving her an even more sickly appearance. Her coat was a dark, sickly green, and her teal mane hung limp against her.
"You called, ma'am?" the creature asked, in a low voice.
"Indeed, I did," Nightmare Moon said. "The renegade Twilight Sparkle intends to climb Mt. Ordeals to gain the power of a Paladin. I would prefer that she die before accomplishing this task."
Chrysalis bared her teeth in a feral smile. "I've always wondered what a Dark Knight would taste like. I guess I'll find out."
Chuckling darkly, the alicorn stepped aside, allowing Chrysalis to look at Rarity. "This unicorn is very important to Twilight Sparkle. She'll do, I hope?"
Looking Rarity over, Chrysalis's smile grew even wider. "Oh, she'll do nicely." With that, her form began to contort and shrink, her color brightening to white. Within minutes, to Rarity's utter horror, a perfect physical copy of herself stood.
"Wh-what in the world…?!" she exclaimed, as her double began to laugh.
"Never seen a changeling before?" her doppleganger asked through her mirth. "Wearing this form, that pony won't ever suspect me. She'll die thinking that you betrayed her." The changeling took Rarity's bow and arrows, slinging them over her back. "Not my prefered weapons, but they'll do."
"I hope you know at least a degree of white magic," Rarity found herself saying. Her clone paused. "You do know that I'm well-versed in white magic, yes? If you don't have it, you'll find it far more difficult to pose as me than you expected."
The smile she got dashed her hopes. "Anything you can do, I can do, pony. My charade will be flawless."
"I hope so, Chrysalis," Nightmare Moon said. "Twilight has escaped death once already, due to Rainbow Dash's incompetance. I won't accept failure from you."
As a pillar of green flame appeared around her, 'Rarity' smirked. "Don't worry, master. I don't fail." And with that, she was gone, leaving behind a chuckling Nightmare Moon, a pouting Rainbow Dash, and a horrified Rarity.