“Hello… princess of the night.”
Luna let out a horrified gasp, “Twilight!”
“Or should I say… Nightmare Moon?!”
Luna could not believe what she was seeing. To the best of her knowledge, she had left all of her attendants behind at the castle. She had been very careful to make sure she was not followed when she departed under the false destination of Griffica. Yet here she was staring face to face with a pony she had come to hate over the past two years. Storm Dancer was dressed from head to hooves in golden armor. Not just any armor, but the armor of the royal army from the Griffin War. At the gray Pegasus’s hooves was a lavender Unicorn laying on her side. “Storm Dancer! What have you done to Twilight?!”
“Now, now. Don’t fret, Miss Moon. Your mistress is still alive and well.” Storm Dancer tossed an empty bottle on the ground, with just a few drops of brilliant blue liquid hugging the rim. “The witch of the wild Everfree gave me a little something to calm her down.” Storm Dancer nudged Twilight with his hoof and turned her to face Luna. Twilight’s eyes were shut and her mouth was agape slightly. She was breathing in slow, drawn out bursts; giving the impression that she was perhaps not getting enough air with each breath. “It’s a deep slumber potion. As you can see, she’ll be out of it for quite awhile.”
“You drugged her?” Luna was seething, “Storm Dancer, such actions are reprehensible; you are hereby relieved from your duty as an attendant!”
Storm Dancer threw his head back and laughed. As he spoke his sentences began to run together, “I am, Princess? Then who’s going to fetch you your tea, Princess? In the middle of the bucking night, Princess! Wouldn’t you like me to fetch you tea, Princess? Would you like that, Princess? No, Princess. You, Princess! You! You are hereby relieved of duty!”
Luna laughed, “You’ve gone insane, haven’t you?”
Storm Dancer gritted his teeth, “You would know. You are certainly an expert on the subject.”
“Enough, this has gone on long enough.” Luna took a step forward.
“No so fast!” Storm Dancer raised his hoof, revealing a dagger-like protrusion extending from his horseshoe. He angled it so that it caught the glint of the sun and reflected into Luna’s eyes. She recognized the attachment, it was a fighting spur used by the army. “Come any closer, or try to use any magic and well… you like to paint, right?” Storm Dancer lowered his hoof and pressed the spur against Twilight’s cheek. “What do you think about the stonework here? It’s a good shade of gray, to be sure, but wouldn’t it look lovely in a dark red?” Storm Dancer laughed. “It’s up to you, you’re the artist here. Your lover’s blood would make a great paint, don’t you think, Princess?”
Luna scoffed, “You don’t have the nerves to do so.”
Storm Dancer slammed his rear hoof against the ground. The sound echoed throughout the castle. “Nerves? I used to spill Griffin blood all the time back in the Griffin War. I used to be an army officer, until one of the blasted featherbrains sunk her talon into my carpal bone. I fought for my county and for what? So a temptress could waltz in here and blanket the world in eternal night? I don’t think so.”
Luna was trying her best to sound strong, but a hint or worry was creeping into her voice, “I… I don’t have time for this.” Luna lifted her hoof to take a step. Storm Dancer flicked the spur across Twilight’s cheek. It made a shallow cut and blood trickled down her Unicorn’s face. Twilight twitched slightly, but otherwise remained in her deep sleep. Luna put her hoof back down. Not out of a want to comply with Storm Dancer’s commands, but because she was now fighting two battles. In the confines of her mind, Nightmare Moon was screaming. Her darker side was screeching, demanding that she be allowed control.
“That was a warning. The next wound will be much deeper.” Storm Dancer glanced briefly at the ground. “I was right, wasn’t I? She does have the loveliest shade of blood. How much more of it do I have to spill before you’ll comply?”
Luna clenched her jaw and looked up at Storm Dancer, “You think you can take me in a fight? I? An Alicorn? Have you not heard the tales? You know I command night itself! How could you be so foolish? This battle will be over in a second. It won’t even be a footnote in history.” Luna began to focus magic in her horn. Storm Dancer raised his other hoof and placed it on Twilight’s ribs. Another fighting spur pressed against her coat, the small pony’s flesh indented under the weight of the spur.
“Tell me, Nightmare Moon, how fast do you think you are? Are you as fast as a Griffin? Are you faster than me?” Luna gritted her teeth; Nightmare Moon was beating against her mind. “Do you want to wager your love’s life against your speed? If you think you’re faster than my hoof. By all means, come and get me!”
“You foal of a bucking broodmare!”
Storm Dancer thrust the spur into Twilight’s side. The sickening slicking sound of the knife piercing the skin rang in Luna’s ears. Blood welled up around Storm Dancer’s hoof and matted down Twilight’s coat. “I suggest you watch your language in the future. No need for this to get uncivil, Miss Moon.” Luna’s eyes welled up with tears. It was becoming increasingly difficult to stop Nightmare Moon from taking control. She would be lying if she denied that she was in pain. She had to struggle through it, though. Nightmare Moon’s first action would no doubt be to charge Storm Dancer head first. That would risk Twilight’s life at the hooves of the mad pony. The only comfort she took is that Twilight was sleeping through all of this, hopefully blissfully unaware of the pain being inflicted on her.
“Please, Storm Dancer, let her go. She’s not done anything….”
“I’m afraid I’m the one making all the commands today, Princess.” Storm Dancer cackled and spit on the ground. His laugh was interrupted by the sound of a metal clang ringing from the west entrance of the courtyard. A pair of hoofs struck the gate again.
“Twilight! Princess Luna!” Applejack called out to her friends from behind the portcullis.
Storm Dancer glanced over at the orange pony, “Not to fret, fair Applejack. The spell this temptress has over you will be broken soon enough.” From behind the gate Rarity, Shining Armor, Applejack, and a small orange filly were terrified for Twilight’s safety.
The filly started to cry, “I’m so sorry! I just wanted my Cutie Mark! I didn’t know he was a bad stallion! I would have never told him you were in the Everfree Forest if I knew… I’m sorry!”
Applejack leaned down to the filly, “You did right to come and get us, Scoot’loo. Rar’ty, take Scoot’loo home and go get the others. Shining and I will stay here and try to get Twilight out of there.” Rarity nodded and took off with an unladylike gallop. “Don’t you worry, Princess, the cavalry is almost here!”
Shining Armor changed the gate head on, “Storm Dancer! You’re dead! You hear me! As soon as we get this gate open, you’re bucking dead!”
Luna smirked, “Well, the tables are turning.”
“Pfft. I can take the Captain easily, I’m armed and in armor. Little Applejack may be a strong kicker, but she can’t fly. Maybe then she’d be tough enough to go hoof-to-hoof with a stallion that can match a Griffin. This battle is over before it started.”
“And what about me? You know the only reason you’re still standing is that you have Twilight. Once she’s safe, I can end you with a small nod of my head. I have more magic in my hoof than most of the world.” Luna bared her teeth and pointed her horn at Storm Dancer.
“Well then it’s a good thing I have your little mistress then.” Storm Dancer chuckled.
“That’s the funny thing though. That little potion of yours is going to wear off of Twilight soon; Twilight’s friends… my friends… are going to be here in a matter of time. Your hostage is going to be very hard to keep and then you will have to deal with my magic.”
“Yeah. You see, I thought of that.” Storm Dancer reached into his saddlebag and tossed a golden necklace at Luna’s hoofs. “You’ll be putting that on now.” Luna stared at the necklace, she recognized the design, but it was not possible that this was the same necklace. “How does it feel, hag? How does it feel to look upon one of the only things in this world that is older than you?”
Luna gasped, “The Amulet of Null! Where did you get that?”
“I borrowed it from a couple of Diamond Dogs. It was going to be a simple trade, but things got complicated. Let’s just say there’s a lot less Diamond Dogs around these parts now. Filthy creatures anyway, High Princess Celestia will be proud that I’m cleaning up Equestria. Now to deal with the source of the filth. Put on the amulet, Princess.”
“You don’t even know what it does!” Luna stamped her hoof.
“You’re not the only one well versed in history. It was designed to phase lock the ethereal connection points of the mana envelop. In short, it nullifies all magic of anything it’s touching, even if that something is an Alicorn.” Luna’s eyes widened. “Yes, I’m not just a dumb block of muscle! I’m quite brilliant too. I am a member of the royal court!”
Luna stared in horror at the necklace, “This is a Centaurian artifact! The use of this is forbidden. Celestia will have your head!”
Storm Dancer chuckled, “It’s a good thing I’m not the one who’s going to be using it then. Put on the amulet!”
“If you think I’m that stupid…”
Storm Dancer shook his head, “Oh, Nightmare Moon. Why do you insist on putting this poor mare through so much pain? Tell me. What part of her excites you most? Is it…” Storm Dancer hovered his hoof over Twilight’s face, “Her lovely lavender eyes?” He lowered the spur less than an inch from Twilight’s eyelid. Luna bit down on her lip. “No? Is it…” He pulled back the side of Twilight’s mouth with the spur, “Her splendid smile?” Luna’s eyes steamed with tears. “Not it either?” He dragged the spur down the length of Twilight’s body, scratching the skin. “Her shapely flank?” Luna’s hooves dug at the ground nervously. “Really? What about something more…”
Luna fell to the ground, “You win! Just stop touching her! Please! I’m begging you. Your princess is begging you!”
Storm Dancer shook his head, “You were never my princess. I only serve the true princess!”
Outside the courtyard, Shining Armor through his shoulder into the gate once more. “I’m going to throw him the bottomless pit where Discord is kept. Let him rot there while he goes mad from the energies of chaos and that succubus’s singing!” The gate had buckled slightly from the impact. There was a visible dent from where he had impacted and where Applejack had been kicking. Shining Armor slammed into the gate again, he had produced a magic shield to help cushion the impact from his end and strengthen the damage dealt to the gate. However he had been charging with such force, his own shield shattered as he collided.
Applejack shook her head, “I reckon we’re just beating a dead tree. We gotta come at it together. You tackle it and I’ll give it a good ol’ taste of my signature harvest move.” Shining Armor nodded and picked himself back up off the ground. Applejack adjusted her hat, “On three!”
Storm Dancer slammed a spur into Twilight’s side. The Unicorn convulsed slightly as the area around her ran red. “You’re taking too long, Princess! Your lover is going to need medical aid very soon. Put on the amulet!” Luna lowered her neck and picked up the Amulet of Null with her teeth. “Hurry up, Miss Moon!” Luna tossed the necklace in the air and over her head. It slithered onto her neck and tightened against her throat. “That’s a good girl!”
Luna immediately felt weak. Nightmare Moon was screaming in pain. If not for the sheer rage she was feeling alongside it, she probably would have let the pain press her into submission. She tried her best to keep her eyes open and focused on Twilight. “Ok… I’m wearing the necklace… I’m….” Luna was having trouble breathing through the pain, “I’m defenseless. Let her go now….” Luna’s voice cracked with sorrow.
“As you wish, princess!” Storm Dancer charged forward and with a wing aided leap, he kicked Luna in the face. The Alicorn staggered backwards and clenched one of her eyes tightly shut. It most likely was not going to open again anytime soon. Luna reared up onto her hind legs and kicked them in the air. Storm Dancer deftly slid to the side and used his armored skull to strike Luna in the underbelly. The Alicorn was thrown off balance and slammed into one of the outer walls of the courtyard. If Luna had not been in so much pain she would have been winning even without her magic. She was an Alicorn after all; she had the strength of an Earth pony and the speed of a Pegasus. A pony with only one tribal gift should be no match for her. But the pain from Nightmare Moon’s agony was blinding her sight. She cursed her bond with the spirit; once more it was causing her heartache. Not that it was Nightmare Moon’s fault. She was a spirit of magic, and needed it to live. The Amulet of Null was slowly killing her and Luna herself, by extension. Luna reached down with her mouth and tugged at the infernal artifact. “Ha! A fat lot of good that will do you, temptress!” Storm Dancer kicked Luna in the face again, on the same side. A pulse of pain throbbed in her skull. She knew he could not kill her with just these primitive physical attacks, but she still was going to feel every single blow. “Once attached, the Amulet of Null cannot be removed by the wearer! Don’t worry it will all be over soon for you and your little toy.”
Luna spit on the ground, “You… piece of…”
Storm Dancer kicked Luna’s jaw, “I told you to watch your language! It’s so unbecoming of royalty to speak like such! I think I’ll just break that jaw of…” Storm Dancer was startled as the gate to the west was flung across the courtyard. Storm Dancer’s expression of confidence fell for just a moment as his mind processed what the event had meant. Shining Armor came charging into the courtyard with his horn lowered. Storm Dancer forced his wings downward and propelled himself a short distance into the air. He came back down onto the top of Luna’s skull with his hooves. Luna came crashing to the ground, her good eye closing shut as she lay motionless. Shining Armor crashed into Storm Dancer’s side, colliding with the Pegasus’s armor. If adrenaline was not pumping in such excess quantities, Shining Armor would have probably knocked himself out in the process.
Applejack meanwhile knelt over Twilight and tried to inspect her wounds. The Earth pony cried out, “She’s hurt badly, Shining! We need to get her plum out of here! Pro’lly Luna too!” Applejack leaned down and began to try to tend to Twilight’s injuries.
Storm Dancer dug a spur into Shining Armor’s neck. The Pegasus laughed, “That’s going to be harder done than said, honest Applejack!”
Shining Armor let lose a power kick that Storm Dancer narrowly dodged. The Unicorn growled, “Give up, Storm Dancer! It’s two against one! You can’t beat an Element bearer and the Captain of the Royal Guard!”
“Oh, misguided foal! I’ve already subdued your sister! Rumored to be the most powerful raw source of magic that comes in Unicorn form! And perhaps you didn’t notice that Nightmare Moon lies unconscious on the floor! I have beaten that which the strength of Discord and Celestia herself could not topple! What hope does a mere Unicorn have against that which can tackle goddesses?”
“Hubris!” Shining Armor unleashed a series of kicks. Storm Dancer allowed his armor to take the brunt of most of the attacks. When the final kick connected with Storm Dancer’s chest plate, the Pegasus kicked his own leg up and flipped Shining Armor onto his back.
“Oh, the Bumblehoof Seven? Are you trying to humor me, Captain? I had Bumblehoof for an instructor! Experience beats youth in these kinds of fights. You can’t beat me, Captain. My family has a long line of top notch fighters.”
Shining Armor struggled to his hooves, “You know… My family has a long line of something too. Where do you think Twily got all her talent from?” The Unicorn’s horn began to glow.
Storm Dancer laughed, “Please, spare me! You’re only capable of protection magic! It’s why your Cutie Mark is a shield. Go ahead; blow your little purple bubbles!”
Magic focused into Shining Armor’s horn as he screamed. He flicked his head and a wave of purple energy formed a wall of force, springing outward. The field struck Storm Dancer and sent him hurling against the caged ceiling. “My spells make force fields. They’re like portable walls of energy. Ever been slammed into a wall? It doesn’t feel so good.” Storm Dancer fell from the ceiling and slammed into the ground. He struggled to his hooves, his armor clanking as his muscles began to spasm. “What’s the matter, attendant? Spent too much time on your haunches? Or is your war injury acting up?”
Storm Dancer buried his head into his saddlebag and began rummaging through it, “I put my life on the line for my country. I’d do it again, because there is absolutely no place in the Known World better than Equestria. I fight for Princess Celestia to maintain our tranquility both from outside savages and false goddesses of the night, and most of all, traitorous Captains of the Guard!” Storm Dancer pulled a bottle full of a glowing liquid out of his saddlebag. “I was hoping to save this, but I’ll admit you’re out of my league.” the Pegasus whispered. He clenched the container in the side of his mouth and began to charge Shining Armor.
“You’re the traitor!” Shining Armor flung a few more waves of energy at Storm Dancer, “Face it! You’re no match for my magic!”
“Exactly! That’s why I came prepared!” Storm Dancer swung his head down and shattered the bottle over Shining Armor’s head. A vibrant purple liquid splashed over the Unicorn. “The witch of the wild Everfree gave me more than just the sleeping potion, my dear Captain!”
Shining Armor crumbled to the ground, feeling as though an invisible weight was laying on him. His words were strained, “What did you… do to me…?” The Unicorn struggled to stand, but it was no use. His legs simply lacked the strength.
“That potion quashes the magical powers of a Unicorn. Think of it like a liquid Amulet of Null. And it seems the shock of taking it away is enough to weaken you. Interesting.” Storm Dancer threw his head back and laughed heartily.
Applejack stopped trying to apply pressure to Twilight’s wounds, it was not helping it anyway, and she was pretty sure she was going to have to start defending herself very soon. The orange pony straightened her legs and stood tall overtop of Twilight. Out of the corner of her eye, Applejack noticed Luna was awake again and struggling to get to her hooves, a good sign, but she still was not able to stand. The farmer pony pulled the brim of her hat down and gritted her teeth, “Listen here, Mista Danc’r. You’ve gone and hurt a lotta ponies I care for. That was your first mistake. Your second one was using all those fancy artsy-facts and potions. I don’t take too kindly to ponies that cheat. So what do ya say? Care to settle this hoof to wing? Your speed against my strength.”
“Ha! The farmer has come to play the local militia! I’m going to tell you the same thing I told the Captain: Today I’ve tangled with demons and heroes and thoroughly, and single hoofedly, trounced them all! You’ve absolutely no hope of winning this fight. Now if you still think you and your little cowgirl tricks can match my brain and brawn, come at me!” Storm Dancer slid his hoofs against the floor and steeled his stance.
“Partner, you’ve just gone and bucked an apple tree you don’t have enough baskets for.” Applejack charged forward with amazing speed, her hat’s brim flapping in the wind. Storm Dancer took wing and soared over Applejack’s head. Applejack slid to a stop and reversed directions, without skipping a beat. She soon was back up to full speed and yipping wildly. Storm Dancer landed next to Twilight and only was able to turn around for a brief second when he noticed something orange in his peripheral. Applejack jumped in the air and twisted her body, her hind legs now facing Storm Dancer’s face. Her momentum from the charge fully behind her strike, she landed both rear hooves against Storm Dancer’s skull. The Pegasus only saw a white flash as the blow connected. He felt his body sailing through the air; somewhere in the distance, his helmet clanged against the stone floor, knocked clean off by the strike.
Strom Dancer spit out a couple teeth, “I’ll give you credit. That was a solid hit. But I’m made of tougher stuff than that. So unless you were just trying to make me look like you…” Storm Dancer gestured to his missing teeth, “I suggest you try again.” Storm Dancer raised his hoofs and readied his fighting spurs to strike.
“Happy to oblige.” Applejack lowered her head and started another charge. Storm Dancer dug his hind hooves into the ground and reared up to strike. If dodging was not effective, then counterattacking should get the best of this freakishly strong pony. Nearing the end of her charge, Applejack leapt into the air again and twisted her body, this time throwing her head first much more quickly than before. Her body turned a full circle this time; her tail swatting at Storm Dancer’s spiked hooves, safely knocking them away as her front legs came back around for a satisfying crunch against his chest. Storm Dancer slid backwards in utter shock of what he had just witnessed.
“Impossible! How did you counter my counterattack? You lack any training!”
“Aw, shoot. Sounds like all that fancy army training doesn’t work against my home-style. I’ve had more trouble wrestling with Applebloom in the field after work. Are you gonna put up a tussle or not?”
Storm Dancer reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a large blade, he gripped the handle in his teeth and readied his stance again, “Lady, you’ve just bitten into a rotten apple core!”
“You makin’ fun of the way I talk? That’s mistake number three.” Applejack charged once more. Storm Dancer was prepared for this. He just had to watch out for her hooves. He really could not stand take another one of her kicks. He had the advantage this time, his blade gave him something she did not have, reach. Once she leapt, he would have her. Applejack neared the Pegasus. He prepared to swing; she was going to leap in the air to bring her hooves around any moment. Only Applejack did not leap this time. She threw herself on the ground and twisted her body around. She slid on her back in between Storm Dancer’s hooves. The Pegasus’s eyes widened as he watched the unexpected maneuver. Once she was positioned underneath Storm Dancer, Applejack kicked upwards with all four hooves. Storm Dancer was thrashed into the sky, dropping his blade in the process. Applejack rolled to her hooves and flipped her hat back on her head. She stomped on the blade with all her might, shattering it at the handle. It was useless now. “Yeehaw! Now that was a buck! How ya doing up there, SD?”
Storm Dancer was clinging to the caged ceiling. His underside hurt, his head hurt, his mouth hurt, but most of all his pride hurt. How dare this untrained hick make him look like a fool? This was just not acceptable. Her kicks were like hurricanes! It was unfathomable. But what he hated most was not the skill or strength of the fighter. It was that snarky home-town politeness of her annoying voice. He saw nothing but rage as he kicked off the cage and dive-bombed the pony, “Shut up! Stop talking! Cease this instant!” Applejack had little time to react Storm Dancer crashed into her and slammed his own rear hooves right into her rib cage. His wings pushed into the attack and propelled both ponies to the south wall. Applejack’s back slammed against the stonework as Storm Dancer’s hooves crushed her ribcage. As Applejack fell to the ground into a pile of vines, Storm Dancer laughed. “There’s a good girl.” Applejack tried to get to her hooves, but it was no use, the wind had been knocked out of her.
“Wings… are… cheatin’…” She gasped as she rolled around in the vines. Storm Dancer proceeded to use Applejack’s moment of weakness to tie her up in the vines.
“Consider yourself hogtied.” Storm Dancer belted a laugh, “Ha! I’ve done it! I’ve defeated Nightmare Moon and her thralls! I’ve brought glory to all of Equestria! I’ve brought glory to Princess Celestia! I am victorious!”
“The only thing… you are… is delusional.”
Storm Dancer turned around, “Ah, the false Princess Luna. Good to see you’re back on your hooves. That certainly saves me the trouble of carrying your heavy body back to your sister.”
Luna looked over at Shining Armor, withering on the ground, “You used… a Mangus Thief potion?! That robs the… subject of their… tribal gift…. It’s a crime… against nature….”
“Yeah yeah, just like the witch said, terrible consequences. Listen, we’ve got to get going if we’re going to get out of here before the rest of your thralls arrive.”
“I’m not going… anywhere… with you….”
“Oh, I think you’ll follow this little one anywhere, won’t you?” Storm Dancer walked over to Twilight and kicked the Unicorn. Twilight groaned in pain. “Oh look, she’s going to wake up soon. Guess the potion is wearing off. Shouldn’t be too much of a hassle though, with all the injuries she’s sustained. Just to make sure though….” Storm Dancer dug a spur into Twilight’s flesh and drew more blood.
“You’re a monster….”