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Celestia continued to hold the strained facsimile of benevolent concern and interest upon her continence; even as the long-winded speech about the kingdom’s most recent crop-yield of barely from the rather boring and tiresome pony in front of her began to approach its second hour. “And with an additional week of heavy rains scheduled in the south-eastern fields to make up for last year’s drought, I believe that we can increase next season’s crop by almost 12.7%, which could help with…” The wizened gray stallion continued to drone on in an in-variably monotone voice. Eventually, even the princess’s legendary patience wore thin, and she began to tune out the droning of his voice, lest she be lulled to sleep by it.
As her mind wandered her eyes did the same, and soon her gaze fell across the small town just down the mountain and to the west. The delicate and gentle smile she had carefully held for the last several hours fell slightly, and a near-imperceptible sigh escaped her lips. Her mind at once turned to her student and not for the first time since she had opened her court that morning she was filled again with a deep-seated worry and concern. The simple thought that her little pony could be lying in a hospital bed, injured and in pain, while she sat here listening to the inane propositions of many of the most insipid ponies she could think of instead of being by her side caused her no small amount of un-ease. Once again she found herself slightly regretting taking up Luna on her offer, and not closing court for the day and flying off the Ponyville herself. And once more, she reminded herself that it most likely wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed, and she was just getting worked up over some small and meaningless injury sustained in another of her students all-too-common escapades with her friends and the other citizens of Ponyville. Honestly, sometimes it seemed like that entire town was just one giant magnet for misfortune. But then again, maybe something awful really did happen to Twilight. If that was the case then she really should be at her bedside and not here listening to presumptuous ponies who thought they could run the country better then she could. Silently, she willed her sister to hurry and return soon with word of Twilights condition. Admittedly, it was the simple fact of not knowing how bad the situation really was that was driving Celestia crazy the most.
Turning her attention towards the elderly earth-pony in front of her, she realized that he had fallen silent, and had been for at least half a minute while he apparently awaited her response; having taken her silence and thoughtful gaze out the window as contemplation. Suppressing a small blush of embarrassment, she mentally berated herself for not paying attention. Fortunately, she hadn’t ruled for as long as she had without learning how to recover from awkward situations. Drawing her benevolent smile about herself once again she spoke, “Yes, I believe that will work quite well Mr. Harvest. You have my full permission to commission Cloudsdale for—“ Whatever Celestia had been about to say was cut off as a large tremor shook the castle, causing more than one of the ponies present to nearly lose their balance and topple over. Following not a moment after was a hollow from somewhere to the west the echoed sharply around the chamber. Her mind immediately jumping to the worst conclusion, Celestia turned once more to look out the window she had been gazing out of not seconds ago.
In that instant everypony present was witness to something that had not been seen within Equestria in many, many years; the princess’s face twisted in true, unmasked and unbridled fear.
There, just beyond the window and to the west, was an enormous mushroom-shaped cloud of pure, raw magical energy, rising up from Ponyville in the exact site Celestia knew the hospital to be located. Eyes wide and jaw agape, she stared disbelievingly at the intense discharge of unfettered magics. Her pupils shrinking to pinpricks, she whispered a single word, hardly audible to even herself, “Twilight…”
A bright golden flash filled the room, momentarily blinding everypony, and when they could see again Celestia was gone, nothing but the faint scent of ozone and the warmth of sunshine in her place.
Pale grey eyes were visible even through the oppressive darkness surrounding them, glowing with an inner malice. They gazed far over the countryside, through hills and vales, past emerald coniferous seas, and over roil plains of amber grain, all to fall on the sight of a small rural village. Normally such a place was insignificant, far too unimportant to even draw a fleeting glance. But at this moment, something was different.
Rising up from the center of the village was a great white plume, mushroom-shaped and radiating far more magical energy then should have been possible. Such a sight was unusual in this land of Technicolor equines, ruled over by their peaceful little pretty pony princess. It was enough to turn some heads.
A simple, single taste of the air was all it took to determine just what the explosion was. There was hardly room for doubt; this was indeed a Reser-Stella event. Which ment that things were about to get interesting.
“Storm Chaser,” the owner of the eyes called in a booming voice into the darkness, “report.”
No more than a few moments passed before a sliver of light vaguely illuminated the darkened room as the door opened. The ruffle of feathers was heard as another body entered the room, shutting the door behind it and returning everything once more to darkness. Undaunted by the lack of light, the pale grey eyes easily witnessed the pegasus dropped to his knees. “Yes my lord, what is it you require?” he inquired, his smooth voice cutting through the darkness like rich velvet.
“I am giving you a new assignment,” the hidden figure announced. “There is a small town called Ponyville, to the west of Canterlot. Something very interesting has occurred there tonight. I want you to find the one responsible and bring them to me.”
“Of course, at once my lord,” the pegasus stallion responded in his honeyed voice before rising to his hooves and swiftly exiting the pitch blackness, eager to be out of his liege’s presence and the sinister aura he seemed to emit.
The pale grey eyes watched the charming stallion leave and shudder slightly once he thought he was out of his master’s sight. Confident that the servant would get the job done, the eyes turned once more to the rural town to the west of Canterlot. A deep throated sigh broke what would otherwise have been silence.
“Victor,” the owner of the eyes said aloud tiredly and with a small tone of trepidation, “what are you up to now?”
Pain. Joy. Fear. Agony. Ecstasy. Twilight Sparkle felt it all within the space of a single moment; stretching on to eternity. These feelings consumed her, leaving no room for thought as she floated listlessly along in the endless white void. Her perception was hazy; faded and obscured whilst some far corner of her mind fought valiantly to shake her from her complacency and return her to awareness. Unfortunately, the rest of her had no objections to the horrifying, agonizing pleasure currently electrifying her mind, and it was a long but un-knowable time before she was freed.
Snapping into a state of sudden understanding, and she was no longer content with these feelings, and at once realized just how afraid and in pain she really was. She cried out, begging for it to stop, even as she desired it to go on forever. Had there been room left in her befuddled mind for surprise, she would have been taken aback when it seemed that her screams were answered.
She came to a stop as she floated along, and slowly sunk down until her hooves met resistance against an unseen surface in the endless whiteness, and she was able to stand under her own power. Immediately, she fell to her knees, clutching her in pain and flailing in ecstasy. Her wails only grew louder as the out of control pain/pleasure grew more fervent. So engrossed was she with her own purgatory of joy and despair, she didn’t notice even in the slightest the growing and thickening mist all about her. Soon the mist grew thick enough to obscure anything else, leaving only it and Twilight in the empty expanse. A voice rose up then, speaking in a language alien and un-comprehensible to the writhing unicorn.
“Huc sou drad? Kron toc mir vestood. Pech ti, vepe kuun-sa moch?” The voice asked, reverberating through the timeless mists and shaking the lavender pony’s very core; still somehow going completely unnoticed by her as she still shook in the burning tumult she was forced to endure. “Huc sou drad?” the lilting voice repeated, speaking more clearly as its ghostly whispers echoed loudly about the blank expanse. Again, Twilight paid no heed, knowing nothing but her own delicious, delirious fervor. “Huc sou drad?” it called yet again, its impatient tones apparent. The only response it received was a loosened moan from Twilight as shivers of heat rippled down her spine.
With a harsh edge to its tone, the voice called out in an angered soprano, “Drad sou peta mir ton-das! Eada kèss! No kranda hiti muuc tan pell poor nag!” Yet again, the voice’s frustrations were met with nothing but a shriek of pain as the young unicorn clutched her head in her hooves. With its patience worn thin, a primal, angry roar erupted from the space around her, and the mist pushed against her body. A stiff and incessant breeze blew across Twilight’s form; physically insubstantial, doing not much more then ruffling her mane, but still somehow freeing her from the feverish haze that had clouded her mind, snuffing it out like a candle in the gale.
Quite suddenly, Twilight became only all too aware of her surroundings as she felt some unseen force constrict around her throat and lift her into the air. In an instinctive panic, she scratched her hooves at her neck in a futile attempt to pry away whatever it was that had her in its grasp. Frightful tears slid down her cheeks as the hollow voice that she was only just now aware of spoke once more with evident anger, “Pele deert mir kons! Mir vestage sou kuut pata, aad mir reeti mir nu. Nu surm att… huc sou drad?” Twilight only scraped piteously at her throat and whimpered as the incomprehensible foreign words reached her ears. Her continued silence only seemed to anger it further, as the force around her neck tightened and the voiced screamed, “Huc sou drad!?” Not understanding, Twilight could only attempt to shake her head in denial. Becoming enraged at having its questions go unanswered, the invisible force constricted ever further and voice positively roared, “Mir kons donna! Huc sou drad!?”
Desperate, and with her vision beginning to fade and her eyes mist over, Twilight barely managed to gasp out, “I… I don’t know… I don’t understand!”
Whatever it was didn’t seem to be pleased with her answer. “Pala dont! Huc. Sou. Drad!?” It bellowed as it squeezed tightly enough to completely constrict her airway. In a fit of blind panic, she released a blast of raw magical energy; somehow thankfully knocking away whatever it was that was holding her suspended. As she feel the few feet to what counted as the ground in the white expanse she noticed that instead of usual uniform magenta she had come to associate with her magic, it was deeper, more royal purple, shot through with wide swathes of bright, rippling silver. Unfortunately, it seemed that whatever the voice belonged to noticed as well.
A sudden force impacted her chest, hurling her almost a dozen feet backwards. As she skidded along the ground she felt the same force push on her again, pinning her to the ground and restricting her movement. “Theff! Sou maka pall kitt Ceal! Hoon sou Cealdus ga!?” the voice demanded in what almost seemed like righteous indignation.
The force continued to press against her body, driving out her breath and causing Twilight to panic all over again. “Please! I don’t understand! What do you want from me?” she pleaded, weeping in unmasked terror.
Unfortunately, her words didn’t seem to be what it wanted to hear; metallic clatter reached her ears as four chains as black as midnight emerged from seemingly nowhere and snaked through the mists, slithering up to her and wrapping around each of her limbs as she lay prone. With a single swift movement and a sudden bout of vertigo she was whisked into the air, her limbs pulled spread-eagle as she hung suspended from her bindings. Pulling desperately against her sudden manacles, she couldn’t keep the terrified quiver out of her voice as she pleaded, “P-Please! Just let me go, I don’t understand!”
The chains only pulled tighter, almost to the point of pain. The voice spoke again, no longer with anger but sheer contempt instead, “Niita pill sou? Poka kuuc shiti!” She felt herself being lifted up even higher, and the mists around her began to swirl and undulate.
Twilight had never been quite so frightened before. She offered silent prayers to Celestia, her friends, her brother, anypony to save her, but it all went unanswered.
Slowly, the mists just in front of her began to dissipate slightly, revealing a sight that caused hot, frightened tears to spill down her cheeks all over again. There, hanging suspended just before her was an immense, wicked, impossibly sharp blade. Disbelievingly, her eyes followed along its honed, jagged edge, falling on its double-pronged and gleaming tips. Her pupils shrank to pinpricks and she began to hyper-ventilate as the floating blade drew closer, alighting softly against her cheek. Without even thinking of it, she turned her head to follow the blade’s movement.
In response the flattened side of the gleaming instrument of bloodshed pushed lightly against cheek, forcing her to face forward as the swirling mist parted once more. What she saw emerge caused whatever semblance of rational thought that might have persevered in the face of her blind panic to flee her. Rising up from the roiling depths was… something. The closest then she could liken it to was a… a face but… it was all wrong. Her every instinct, every fiber of her very being screamed at her that the thing in front of her should not be.
It was long, slender, and almost entirely blank. It had no mouth, no muzzle, no snout, no eyes, no anything, just two empty, hollow and glowing pits where its eyes should have been. Its cranium was smooth, bulbous, and extended way further then it should have, tapering off into what almost looked like some sort of tail that whipped around slowly and listlessly, almost like a flag in some unseen, steady breeze. Instead of a muzzle, its lower half sloped down and outwards, ending in a rounded point and giving the whole thing a look like an inverted tear-drop. Its dark, leathery, matte-black skin was pulled taut over its gaunt, skeletal frame and reflected no light, instead seeming to cast an ethereal shadow into the air around it. The whole thing sat atop some sort of long, thin appendage that extended back into the mists, hugging it close and using it like an opaque cloak to conceal whatever else there may have been.
Despite its utterly alien nature, the face-thing almost looked as if it were staring deep into Twilight’s eyes as the silver blade pressed against her cheek. “Sou nag? Pitt. Mir chu kon heca seeb,” the voice called, full of pity and… disappointment? “Fon kussha dona sou theff Ceal. Pelln tikk oan ei peaninc…” the spoke in a serious and authoritative tone as the floating blade pressed further against her face, opening a thin cut that spilt crimson droplets amongst the tears already streaming down her face. The blade lifted away, much to her initial relief. Her relief quickly turned to newfound terror as it instead hung in the air above her, calling to her mind all-too-vivid imagery of an executioner’s axe, as the voice issued a final proclamation, “… Deeath.”
Twilight’s keening wail of fear pierced the air as the blade came down.