Twilight flipped through her thick tome, her only means of defense after leaving Leda in the hands of Luna. Three years ago, Twilight had been given Leda by Celestia herself. And in those three years, Twilight had never been separated from her gift. She still found herself grasping at the ground for a few seconds before realizing that it wasn’t there.
A lump formed in Twilight’s throat as she looked over her shoulder, making sure the light from the camp was far enough away from her. It wasn’t long until she found the blank pages in the back of the ancient book. They were labeled “For notes,” but everything from the forbidden section of the Chantalot library had it’s secrets.
These pages in particular were consistently a few seconds in the future, and could only be viewed by a relatively powerful time dilation spell.
Twilight spoke a few words of a small but powerful incantation. The pages marked “Notes” transformed into “The Outer Planes.”
“This is stupid.” Twilight said aloud, just to herself. But she knew that with Luna falling back into the Nightmare’s grasp and Celestia possibly at death’s door, this was a perfect time for stupid ideas.
Twilight drew the circle she viewed through a small window in time, every inch creeping closer and closer to the last person she’d ever talk to willingly. The more sickening the symbols she drew made Twilight’s stomach flip even more. A slug here, a newt here, a spider leg complete with hair at the three o’clock.
“You better be up.” Twilight said to herself as she closed the circle. The flow of magic in the air hit the wall that was brought up as the circle became airtight.
She gathered all of her energy into the tip of her crystal horn, looked behind her one last time to make sure she couldn’t see the campsite lantern’s glow. Knowing if she could, her friends could definitely see her.
Twilight let the guilt wash over her and refocused it into her summoning circle. She told herself that she was doing this for her friends, even if they wouldn’t agree with the company she was keeping.
The soft purple glow of her horn matched the intensity of the glowing myriad of horrors drawn in the circle.
They in turn glowed a deep purple to match Twilight’s horn, then dimmed, then continued to pulse once. Then twice, then three times, then changed to a dark crimson.
Twilight looked to her left and jumped. The newt she’d drawn in chalk start to stretch it’s tail and yawn. Twilight’s eyes widened as it let out a meow.
“It’s never done that before.” She said aloud. Twilight saw the light pulses quicken, and the spider leg stirred. The leg fanned out into eight, growing the body and head of a horse. The spider horse then turned to Twilight and howled.
Twilight let out a yelp she fell back and watched as the summoning circle automatically finished itself. A menagerie of talking cows and mooing cockroaches ran in opposite directions as the circle crackled and shifted through an aurora of colors, never staying on one for more than a millisecond.
Finally, amidst the chaotic and shifting shapes, the body of her other-worldly guest began to materialize. From his pointy white hair all the way down to his scalemail plate leg. The being stood at a slender six feet with an overcoat that looked like it used to be fantastic before the bottom caught on fire.
The different sized eyes of the apparition popped open and greeted Twilight with a curving, drawn back smile.
“Must have been bored, Discord,” Twilight said firmly. “That was more of a show than usual.”
“Well that’s what you get for disappearing of me for months at a time, Twilight.” Discord replied, his lip curling and revealing a jagged tooth. “But they’ve been practicing so hard! Especially the Spidorsewolf. When it wasn’t screaming.”
“Do I even want to know what it was screaming?”
“Something akin to ‘I should not be!! Let me die!!’” Discord rattled both of his hands in mock agony. “I’m not certain though. My spidorsewolf is really rusty.”
“You know why I’m here.” Twilight said planting her boots firmly.
“No idea, actually.” Discord continued with a wave of his hand. “And I majored in spidorsewolf at university. What would professor Flaffle think...”
“Do we need to play this game every time I want to talk?”
“HA!” Discord snarled. “You ask the avatar of chaos such silly questions Twilight. Please. Do another one.”
“No time. Tell me about the Shadow Blades.” Twilight demanded.
“Ooo.” Discord hovered in place with his hands folded beneath his head. “This seems less and less like our normal boring chit chat.”
“I mean it Discord.” Twilight flipped through her book, looking for something to put pressure on Discord. “No riddles, no games, just answers. We don’t have time.”
“You shouldn’t demand so harshly Ms. Sparkle.” Discord said, spinning his finger and causing the shrieking menagerie to do another lap around the circle. “Might make people think you’re desssperate,” he hissed.
“There’s been a sudden surge of nether creatures on this side.” Twilight said, reading off the section on shadow magic. “We know they’re not Shadow Blades.”
“Sounds like a jolly time enjoyed by all innocent civilians far and wide!”
“You must have noticed a flux of dark energy on your side moving to ours.” Twilight mentioned reading right off the page, still through her small window in time.
“Twilight, the only changes I notice in an inter dimensional prison is when I make them.” Discord said slithering circles in mid-air. “And they’re usually small changes, like gravity.”
“You haven’t noticed a lack of dark things to play with?” Twilight asked with a cocked eyebrow.
“No more so than normal. But there’s a lot of dark things here in this dark prison. And really. Ask yourself,” he smirked, his eyelids blinking sideways. “How lack is lack?”
“Stop playing games!” Twilight said stamping her foot.
“Then stop boring me.” Discord roared, digging his claws against the invisible wall, causing Twilight to jump. “You call me all the way here after months of silence and all of a sudden think that because your happy-town is in crisis that the rules for me-and-you-time have changed. The agreement is still the same.”
Discord bore his eyes into Twilight’s. Twilight knew Discord would use her mind as a playground for gods knew how long. One time, she’d let him in for information on the crystal empire. She woke up three days later, in her pajamas, twenty miles from home not knowing where she’d been. She wanted to avoid that for as long as possible. Hopefully completely.
“Information. First.” Twilight bargained.
“Tootles, Ms. Sparkle.” Discord said melting into the ground, fingers slithering good-bye.
“Celestia’s dying!!” Twilight blurted out. Her hand instinctively moved to her mouth as if she was trying to go back in time. Discord halted his disappearance and reformed in the middle of the circle.
“Goodness me, you are quite desperate indeed.” Discord said, seeming entertained.
“I shouldn’t have said that.” Twilight feigned regret. She might have said more than she wanted to, but now she knew she had Discord right where she wanted him.
“Nonono! Please. Continue.” He said with a fanged grin. “You’re successfully bought my undivided attention.”
“No. It wasn’t my place to say.” Twilight pretended to close her book, half watching the chaotic avatar.
“It absolutely was your place to say!” Discord said, now making the grotesque menagerie twirl in two circles on either side of him. “And as a bonus, you’ve bought three questions. BUT. After I give you three answers, I get my time...” Discord’s grin grew even wider. He tapped his forehead. And slowly, he reached over and tapped the invisible wall.
Twilight gulped silently, hoping that Discord wouldn’t see.
“Fine.” Twilight said reading down the pages of shadow magic. She relayed the entire story of the Shadow Blade attacks, them and Apple Jack’s sword and their relation to the nightmare. Discord let it all sink in before speaking.
“Those doesn’t sound like Shadow Blades.” Discord finally interject.
“We know that.” said Twilight.
“Who told you?” asked Discord out of one side of his mouth.
“Luna.” Twilight answered.
“Being their mommy, she would know, wouldn’t she...” Discord started then trailed off.
“...unless she’s in the process of being repossessed. Then you simply can’t trust anything she says.” Discord finished his thought.
“She has it under control.” Twilight said to reassure herself as much as Discord. She remembered the look of terror on Luna’s face when she said ‘he’s almost here.’
“An ancient evil, older than all of us and she’s got it under control?” Discord said in disbelief. “This isn’t an unruly child that got the best of her when she was sleeping, Twilight. It’s called THE nightmare for a reason.”
“It’s a dark spirit that possesses the strongest host and just takes and takes until there’s nothing left to dominate. That’s the definition of evil.” Twilight answered.
“Do you even know where that kind of evil comes from?” Discord continued to quiz.
“That’s a stupid question. It’s like asking where light and dark comes from. There’s plenty of stories but when it comes down to it, evil just is.”
“Textbook answer. Not sure which textbook it’s from though, because it’s wrong.” Discord hung upside-down from an invisible branch. “Evil comes from what’s left over from good intentions.”
“Yes. And whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Proven. Next.” Twilight followed-up. She was slightly disturbed that she was following Discord’s train of thought.
“Very good, my most faithful student.” Discord said mocking Celestia’s voice, complete with batting his crooked eyelashes. “But I’m surprised sunny and moony haven’t told you where black, dark, and evil thingy came from.”
“You’re giving history lessons now?” Twilight scoffed.
“I’m older than both of those Archmages, or whatever they’re calling themselves now, combined!” Discord spouted off angrily. “And I’m the one that’s not dying. I’m the best first person source you’ve got. And that’s exactly the reason you came to me.”
“You know I can’t trust anything you say.” said Twilight.
“You’d have learned nothing from me if you did!” Discord added. “Too bad. This is all going to make too much sense for you to ignore.”
“We’ll see.” said Twilight, folding her arms.
“To put it simply.” Discord arched his hands. “The nightmare is the other half of the elements of harmony.”
“HA!” Twilight stifled a laugh. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
“Listen to everything, then laugh all you want.” Discord said. He cleared his throat. “The elements of harmony were actually elements of balance. Each with their own double.”
“Oh my yes, what a plot twist. The next thing you’re going to say is that my lover is really my brother and I’ve got an evil twin.” Twilight said playfully.
“Stranger things have happened.” Discord entertained with shrugged shoulders. “Trust me. I made them.”
“It’s like it’s out of a book, Discord. Your lies are way too simple.”
“No. Too simple is when you have elements of honesty, loyalty and magic blahblahblah face down the forces of darkness without consequence, while the laws of nature scream to the contrary may I continue?!’” Discord yelled.
“Oh please do. This is most entertaining.” Twilight mused.
“Alright then genius, you tell me what happened.” Discord challenged.
“Archmage Celestia was banished for a hundred years, fashioned a good bit of her power into six trinkets to keep balance, then she split them up amongst six mortals to spread it out and make it more controlled.”
“And you’re also familiar with the saying:” Discord looked down his nose at the mage. “‘It’s rarely the losers that write the histories.’”
“Finish your fairy tale. I’m sure there’s a moral in there somewhere.” Twilight added. There was some truth to Discord’s lies. It was all about telling the difference between the two.
“As I was saying. These balance spheres were known as the Pillars of Mystika. The six of them lay in the six corners of the realm. Each holding all the boring balance they could muster for countless eons. Then one of the gods piped up, and said ‘Hey! Why not separate the two halves and use them independently of each other! I’m sure lots of good could come out of unadulterated positive energy.’”
“Makes sense to some people.” Twilight entertained, “I can see how that’d make a good bit of them nervous though.”
“Exactly. Needless to say, the few supreme beings started choosing sides. The splitters and the ‘if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it-ers.’”
“Where was the Archmage during all this?” asked Twilight
“This was far before the Archmage’s time. Needless to say, curiosity won out and the orbs were in fact separated.” Discord continued lecturing. “The only issue was, what to do with the evil unchecked.”
“No one thought to contain the brand new evil set free from its prison?” Twilight offered.
“No one knew what to contain. This was a time long before evil existed. No one knew what to look for. So when the two forces were separated to be studied, the negative waste left over milled around for a few hundred years and...”
“Gave birth to the nightmare.” Twilight finished Discord’s thought.
“Everything making sense now?”
“Hypothetically.” Twilight said still skeptical.
“Oh c’mon. It makes perfect sense.” Discord offered. “By this logic, the reason your precious Celestia let the realm suffer for two hundred years was because she was gathering them, not creating them.”
“According to you.” Twilight said in disbelief.
“According to common sense. You seriously think an all assuming, ancient evil would banish her to a netherrealm where she would have tools to make something like that?” He said hovering and circling his temporary prison. “On a long enough timeline don’t you think I’d have made something like that by now? More importantly, don’t you find it odd that she waited to be banished to make those thingamubobs?”
“The prospect of hanging does tend to sharpen one's senses.” Twilight quoted. “And you’ll be happy to know that there’s nothing of these anti-elements anywhere.”
“I didn’t say anything about anti-elements.” Discord played dumb.
“‘And their doubles?’” Twilight said in air quotes. “You were leading me right to that conclusion. Don’t lie to me.” said Twilight, shooting out of her seat on the stoney floor.
“And why on earth would I wanna do that?” Discord danced around the idea.
“I don’t know, but you’re back pedaling for a reason.”
“Maybe I didn’t mention them because they don’t exist.” Discord offered.
“You said ‘and their double,’ and even if you didn’t then, you just did now.” Twilight shot back, hoping to catch Discord in a lie.
“I only told you there were pillars that used to be balance then they were rocked out of order due to adventuresome thinking. It was a cautionary tale.”
“One of them was in the middle of the everfree forest, wasn’t it.” Twilight conjectured.
“Of course it is. That place has been a hot spot for dark energy for centuries. You yourself fought the nightmare for the first time mere yards from there. Everyone knows that.”
“HA! I knew it! And according to this.” Twilight said bringing her map out of her bag. “That’s exactly where the shades are coming from!” She shouted triumphantly.
Twilight’s mind started making a million connections at once, but they all seemed to fit. These anti-elements where beacons for the nightmare and were exactly where the shades were coming from. The lake in the everfree, the mountains near cumula, it all worked! She took her silent victory and smiled, content in not giving Discord another inch.
“Gotten all clever all of sudden, have we?” Discord said, shooing his menagerie in all directions.
“You’ve provided quite enough information for now, Mr. Cord. Good day.” Twilight said bowing low. She turned her back to leave.
“You think it’s that easy, do you?” Discord said with grounded confidence. “I feed you a few key ideas, then you run with them and save the world?”
“Your tiny bit there just happened to be the missing piece that made everything make sense sir. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”
“So you know how to kill them then.” Discord added as Twilight started to walk away. Twilight stopped dead in her tracks.
“I’ve got plenty of spells to end the world in this book, Dash is faster than all of us combined, and my best friend has a sword bigger than her that she regularly flings around like a dagger.” Twilight said, continuing to leave. “We’ll figure something out.”
“You know where to go, what they are, what it’ll mean, how to destroy them and the scope of the MASSIVE head start that brilliant black bastard has on you?”
“Explain to me how you’re suddenly an expert on the inner workings of an ancient evil’s brain?” Twilight said skeptically.
“Twilight dearest, being efficient at making things unwork, means I must know how everything does work, first.”
“Breaking things is easy.” Twilight challenged.
“Unwork.” Discord corrected. “Completely different from break.”
“You’re playing games again.”
“This is important because they’re completely different!!” Discord shouted, sounding offended. “Let me simplify this for you. If you have a pocket watch.” He started to explain, “And it’s broken, the first time you’re late you’ll just see that it’s broken and buy another pocket watch. BUT.” He paused dramatically “Take the same pocket watch, and have it tell the incorrect time right when it’s master needs something important. For example a job interview, a duel, to make his wedding on time.” Discord counted the reasons off on his fingers.
“Simply breaking the watch makes the person late temporarily and their friends would understand the transgression. The second way, however,” Discord counted off a second finger “Makes the person appear to be chronically late, and thus damages their reputation.” Discord said tapping the tips of his claws together. “Therefore by unmaking the watch, we unmake the person as well. See? Completely different.”
“So am I just a watch for you to break?” Twilight asked.
Discord laughed hysterically.
“Heavens, no! You’re not the watch. I am!” Discord said most convincingly.
“No you’re not.”
“Of course I am! You summoned me to have me show you the way, just like you’d look at your watch to tell you the time.” Discord slithered up to the invisible wall “Am I wrong?”
Twilight was silent. She knew Discord had a point but she wasn’t about to let him know that.
“So the question you have to ask yourself Twilight,” Discord continued, “is am I a) pointing you in the right direction because I’ll gain something from it? am I b) pointing you in the wrong direction because I’ll gain something from it, or am I c) simply fucking with you.”
“Or d).” Twilight added with a pause. “None of the above.”
“Now you’re thinking with chaos.” Discord said behind a snarl.
“Just say what you want.” Twilight asked. Once more, she turned to leave. However...
“A Pact.” Discord said, sending a shiver down Twilight’s spine.
“You know I’ll never do that.”
“I know you’ll absolutely do that.” Discord countered. “Your teacher is on death’s doorstep, the littlest demi-god is only a few weeks away from being the nightmare’s plaything again, you’ll do anything I tell you to.”
“Lemmie guess. You want all these anti-elements for your very own?” Twilight forecasted.
“Close. But being as though I just pulled your world inside out by the gonads, I think I’ll count myself lucky and just ask for one. Yours.” Discord offered. “Before you say no. Think of the trade. If you’re right and the nightmare is using these as beacons to gather strength,”
“I never said that.”
“Consider it a gift then. If that’s the case, then without me, you won’t know how to find them until it’s too late. In return I just get yours, which is ‘Power.’ by the by, and will be happy to use it to break free of my prison here...”
“OUT OF THE QUESTION!!” Twilight shot up.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAND!!!” Discord said holding out his hands in a halting gesture, “and use said power to create a little bubble of chaos in Mystika. That’s all I ask. It’ll be my bubble and people can come and go as they please.” Discord said in his best littlest angel impression, “I’ll be happy as a clam making gravity switch in this world with some real trees to mess with.”
“I’m not negotiating with you!!” Twilight slammed her book down.
“The sole purpose of summoning me was to negotiate with me! Am I wrong?!” Discord pointed out.
Twilight remained silent and started to close the portal.
“At least I’m being honest.” Discord said half faded.
“You’re never honest.”
“Very true, but completely besides the point in this case. The nightmare wants it all and it’ll get it if you let it go on it’s due course. But me. I’ll show you what I know, and all I ask for is my forty acres and a mule. Or horse. Or harpy.” Discord added, trailing off into thought. “Or whatever the Chantalot slave quarters can come up with. Are slaves still a thing?”
“Slavery. Perfect. You sound just like the nightmare.”
“Are you kidding?! If that thing was loose in Mystika again it’d be horrible. Number one, I’d lose my favoritest penpal, Sparkle dearest, and number two fascism is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Discord said adopting a faux military stance, “‘Stand up, sit down, do this, kill them, don’t touch that, cut that arm off,’ with that many rules, how much damage could I do in the next two hundred years? Sunny, moony and you are much better jailers.”
Twilight cringed as chaos god’s logic made sense.
“There’s no promise you can make that I can trust.” Twilight said stepping towards the circle.
“Of course...” Discord growled in his small victory.
“The Pact we make will be with our minds so the precise agreement must be met before you’re released. Any tricks and you’re stuck for good.”
“Nothing to lose and everything to gain.” Discord said holding out his hand. “Ready to dance?”
“I still have one question left.” Twilight added smirking giving Discord pause.
“Yes. You have been...careful.” Discord said almost annoyed that Twilight had bested him in one aspect of the conversation.
“Do you even care about what happens to me or my friends as a result of what could happen of seeking these out?”
“Not in the slightest.” Discord said without so much as a flinch. “But you beat the alternative.”
“What’s the alternative?” Twilight asked tentatively.
“Boredom.” Discord said between a toothy smile. “See? You were out of questions, but I gave you a new one. I’m such a nice guy.”
“Fine. Have your time then show me.” Twilight reluctantly agreed.
“No one said we can’t mix business with pleasure...” Discord hissed devilishly.
“And the pact?”
“As soon as I enter your brain, I’ll be automatically bonded to your thoughts. As soon as the five pillars are destroyed and your anti-element is in your hands I’ll be brought to your location automatically.”
Twilight rose and took a deep breath. Sure, she’d let him play in her mind a few times before, but she knew she could never truly be prepared for what was coming. Every time he played, the more he knew and the scarier it got.
“Just do it.” She said, closing her eyes.
“Thought you’d never ask...” Discord growled hungrily.
There was a hard wind of stench and decay that wafted up Twilight’s nose. Twilight’s eyes burst open to a burnt purple sky and stars pressing down over her head. She looked down to the ground to find that she was at least thirty feet up in the air.
As the sensation of falling kicked in, Twilight started to panic but then realized she’d done this before.
“Just hang in there until he’s done...” she told herself. “won’t be long.” she reassured herself, even though she had no earthly idea how long it would be.
However, looking back up through the thunderclouds, she found that recognized a constellation.
“At least I’m still in Mystika.” she murmured. And by the looks of it, not far from her home. She looked down at her feet to where ground should be and saw the lake in the middle of the Everfree forest. She saw humanoid figures moving back and forth in a hustle and bustle, but she was too high to make them out.
She found that by concentrating, she could adjust her altitude. Twilight closed her eyes and attempted to lower herself slightly, but found when she opened them, she was on the ground.
To Twilight’s horror, she saw that the Everfree surrounding the lake had become a wasteland of burnt trunks and fallen ash. Half eaten squirrels and rabbits still twitched in the dirt. Others were impaled on trees with rusty farm tools. A single squirrell laughed as it attempted to put it’s innards back in place.
Twilight cautiously approached the animal, but it simply looked up at her with Discord’s toothy grin.
“I just don’t know what went wrong.” it said as it laughed and flossed it’s teeth with it’s intestines.
A laugh rose from the rest of the falling apart woodland creatures. Twilight turned to run from the fauna. The only path was up towards a large wooden building with billowing smoke stacks and a line of people carrying fallen logs.
Twilight blinked again and she was suddenly viewing the building in profile. She saw the line of hooded figures bringing the trees into the factory and dumping them in a pile at its side. Their legs bent backwards with spines made out of jelly. The figures unison movements, processed up through the factory and out the otherside on their mission to nowhere.
Twilight gulped a bit then took a deep breath. She let the madness go in one side of her brain and outside the other.
“I know what you’re trying to do, Discord.” She said allowed, “I know you’re trying to distract me, but it’s not going to work. Next pillar.”
Twilight blinked again and she was up in the air a second time. This time she was hovering above a rocky wasteland. Twilight looked up at the sky again and saw that she was in the far west, nearest to Cumula’s old home before the Archmage put it in the sky.
“Harpy territory...” Twilight thought to herself.
She blinked again and her nose caught that horrid stench of death again. Bodies of dead harpy and Skyborn littered the ground. Most of them disemboweled or decapitated. One Skyborn body with was impaled on a harpy spear against a rock face.
Twilight looked again and in horror saw that the skyborn had seven colored hair and was looking up at the sky with the remains of her jaw in a deranged grin.
“I can do without the chamber of horrors routine, Discord!” Twilight screamed at the air. “It’s not funny!!”
When Twilight looked down again she saw that the dead Rainbow Dash had a halberd in her hand.
Dash’s corpse rose up and stumbled forward on inward knees and twisted arms. Following it up, Twilight saw that it had stuck her like a pig.
Twilight screamed as she Discord played with the pain centers of her brain. Every inch of her telling her the fake impalement was real.
Rainbow raised the halberd with Twilight at the end, six feet into the air. Her corpse let out a loud shriek and the dismembered warriors of the battlefield came back to life, all around her.
Slowly they all made their way towards an impaled Twilight. The undead harpy and skyborn army let out an otherworldly collective moan. The sound shook Twilight to the core. Mixed with snarls and lips smacks, these things were hungry.
Twilight screamed and lurched forward. When she opened her eyes she was in one piece and in the air again.
She coughed out a mouthful of sand and looked up at the stars. She was directly above the desert outside of Appleoosa, in the north west of Mystika. This time, the air smelt surprisingly clear. There were no bodies and nothing seemingly terrible on the ground this time.
Twilight shut her eyes and waited for the world to change around her. She had a plan. She was to open her eyes quickly and see whatever it was before shutting them just as fast.
Twilight opened her eyes. Still in the air. Automatically, her eyes returned to the stars. Twilight saw that she’d moved to a very southern place that was yet uncharted by the Mystika cartographers. Dense jungle as far as the eye could see and once again clear smelling air.
Twilight blinked again and jumped back as she saw Discord’s twisted, grinning face less than an inch from hers. She was looking at a gigantic statue head of Discord, in a dark, murky but man made cavern. Twilight laughed at herself for jumping back but still couldn’t bear to look at Discord’s face.
She shut her eyes and told herself “four down. two to go.” She opened her eyes to snow covered lashes and a harsh blizzard’s wind blasting her in the face. She didn’t have to see the stars to know she was in the eastern mountain tops. Home of the ancient Skyborn and rumored home of the Thunder Blades.
She blinked again and found herself inside a mountain cavern with five figures worshipping a giant form of Apple Jack’s sword.
“What’s Eri doing here?” Twilight thought as she took a couple of steps forward. She bumped into a hooded figure like on of the ones she’d seen at the factory on the side of the Everfree lake. Twilight instinctively moved to apologize when she noticed that the hooded figure had it’s back to her.
Twilight blinked again and expected to move. But instead the hood dropped down and revealed Apple Jack’s face on a backwards head, grinning the same crooked grin that Discord had on that statue.
Twilight screamed and turned to run out of the cave and hopefully out of the nightmare. She instead ran smack into Octavia and Rarity in the same state. Eyes crossed, face shaped differently on either side and with broken necks, heads twisted behind them.
Twilight turned to run, but her feet wouldn’t move.
She looked down to see there were two hands holding her down and were seemingly attached to the disembodied torso of Pinkie. Half of Pinkie’s jaw was unhinged but still managed laugh.
Twilight felt Apple Jack’s hands hold her shoulders down as Rarity and Octavia placed their hands on her head and began to twist it backwards, laughing as they did.
Twilight felt her vertebrae in her neck cracking one by one as she struggled in vain to get away from the laughing dopplegangers. Discord even got the sensation of Rarity’s fingernails right as they dug into Twilight’s temples.
The tension in Twilight’s neck was millimeters away from being completely snapped backwards.
Twilight still had another pillar to see, but this was too real. She ripped off her focuser gem, using its point as a weapon to stab whatever was in front of her.
Twilight’s hands hit the cold cave floor, her focus gem clanking down the hallway. She stared at the floor. Had it worked? Had Discord driven her to kill the illusions of her own friends?
Strong hands snapped over her shoulders. She screamed, whipping around to find the face of her friend Apple Jack.
“It’s ok Twi. You were just sleep walking...casting...stuff...” Apple Jack said to Twilight, putting her hands up. “Anyway, everything’s fine now, kay?”
Twilight panted hard and shivered. “How...how do I...I’m not...Am I stilll....”
“Never hearda sleep casting before.” Apple Jack said walking to Twilight’s focuser gem. It had rolled several feet down the cave pathway.
“You...came looking for me?” Twilight said, shivering.
“No you idiot, I went back to sleep and hoped you got ripped apart by diamond dogs.” Apple Jack handed Twilight her focuser gem back. Twilight flinched as she touched it, but when it didn’t transform into a snake or what have you, she closed her right hand around it. Then she rubbed her eyes.
“That’s not funny.” Twilight whimpered.
“Really? Cuz I think you bein’ such a hard worker, that you do mappy stuff in your sleep is funnier than hell.” Apple Jack pointed to Twilight’s map. It had a plethora of new pins surrounding entirely new areas.
“Clever Discord.” Twilight thought to herself. She trembled as she held the map, looking at her new destinations.
“Nightmare did a number on ya, didn’t it?” Apple Jack said peering over Twilight’s shoulder.
Twilight chuckled at the irony of Apple Jack’s statement. Then she breathed a sigh of relief that Apple Jack was oblivious of what she’d just done. But every inch of her was dying to tell her.
“C’mon. Maybe Ray’s got some of that wine left over.” Apple Jack said warmly. “I’d hand you some cider, but it’ll have to do. Good thing is they’ll both put you right over and out.” Apple Jack put her red duster over Twilight’s shoulders, rubbing them in a comforting motion.
It was the monotony of Apple Jack’s physical motions that snapped Twilight back to reality. Discord had a weird sense of humor, but if he were still inside her head, he’d have tried something by now.
She looked back at where the circle was drawn and couldn’t tell whether it was still there or not. The darkness of the cave made it impossible to make out.
“It was so real...” Twilight said, sniffling once or twice.
“I know, darlin. And I’m sorry you had a bad dream on wheels.” Apple Jack chuckled. “You wanna talk about it?”
“No.” Twilight said, her voice still shaking.
“Think you’re gonna be able to sleep?” Apple Jack followed up as they rounded the corner to their camp.
“Almost definitely not.” Twilight replied raspily. “But I’ll at least try.”
“Alrighty. I’ll be out here chattin’ with the campfire if you need me.” Apple Jack grinned softly, ruffling Twilight’s hair. Twilight returned her friend’s affection by giving her a very tight hug.
“Thank you...” she mumbled into Apple Jack’s shoulder.
“No problem. Rest up then let’s go get Fluttershy. Bout time we brought her in on the fun.” Apple Jack ruffled Twilight’s hair before letting her go.
“Good night.” Twilight said melting out of Apple Jack’s arms.
“Good mornin’ by now, I’d think. And only sleep a couple hours.” Apple Jack pointed over to the hourglass. “We’ll wanna get moving while it’s dark. They’re still lookin’ for us.”
Apple Jack was right. It was almost two am. Discord had kept Twilight under for hours, even though it only felt like a few minutes.
Even after all that time, he didn’t even show her where the sixth pillar was. She wondered what Discord had shown her had been true. Regardless, the pact had been made. As soon as the pillars were destroyed all but one, Discord would come and collect.
Twilight laid awake pondering how to get out of this deal with the devil she was now locked into. Her eyes watered as she refused to blink, so much that even when she finally nodded off to sleep again, her eyes were wide open.