Disclaimer: I don't own My Little Ponies or anything related to it. That belongs to Hasbro or whoever it is that owns it.
"This isn't any good. And those two don't match. Just take it all back."
Spike bit back a groan as he watched the green-coated unicorn with a lyre for a cutiemark walk away, disappointment clearly etched on her face. He could sympathize: the flower bouquets she had prepared had seemed pretty to him, and he was sure that any other resident of Ponyville would have agreed.
All but one, it seemed.
Twilight moved to the last pony in the line, casting a quick glance at the banner in display and shaking her head. "It needs to be bigger if we're going to use it." She turned and walked back to Spike, not noticing as the pony took off on the verge of tears. Her eyes drooped in exhaustion and she bit back a yawn as she shook her head. "What's next on the list, Spike?"
The young dragon's eyes rested on his friend and he hesitated for a moment before unrolling a scroll and scanning through the various notes. "It looks like food. But Twilight-"
"All right," Twilight said, turning to the gathered crowd from where she stood on the porch of the pavilion in the town's central square. "Will anypony that's working on the meals please step over here."
The crowd obeyed instantly and she moved through the formed line, casting quick glances at the many dishes that had been prepared. Spike looked on with increasing concern. How many ponies had already left feeling like their best just wasn't good enough? Too many to count, and he knew the list would only increase as the day went on. He knew Twilight well enough to know when she was letting her concerns get the better of her, and at the moment that was exactly what was happening to the purple unicorn. He couldn't blame her; she was overworked, and the responsibility of overseeing everything was starting to get to her. She had managed to do more than enough on such a short amount of time, but unless she eased up everything would end in a disaster.
Lost in thought, the greeting made him jump slightly before he realized who was speaking to him. He turned to the familiar pony as she approached him. "Hey, Applejack. How are the preparations going?"
"They're mighty fine if I do say so, myself," Applejack replied. "I was just coming over to tell Twilight."
Upon hearing the words Spike sighed in relief. "That's great! Good news is just what Twilight needs to hear right now."
Applejack frowned. "Did something happen to her?"
"See for yourself," he said, pointing to where the purple unicorn was overlooking another possible dish for the festival. She shook her head and moved on to a grey pegasus who smiled and handed her a baked treat.
"Oh," Twilight said, taking hold of the offering and smiling tensely. "Muffins. Um…I'm sure these are great, but we're planning on serving cupcakes during the festival."
The pegasus frowned and stepped out of the line, a bag of muffins balanced on her back as she walked away with her head hung low. Twilight moved on to the next pony and Applejack seized the opportunity. Without a word to Spike she took off at a quick trot and caught up to the pegasus as she walked away. Spike, seeing where Applejack was headed, moved closer to Twilight.
"Twilight," he began, placing a hand on his friend. "I think you should take a break."
Twilight whirled around. "What? I can't take a break now. The Summer Sun Celebration is tomorrow! We still have to get so many things ready, and nothing's going right!"
"Sure it is," the young dragon said. "Everything is fine. Everyone's really looking forward to the festival and they're trying as hard as they can to make it perfect. But even with all their hard work you've turned down almost half the things that were on the list. You're letting the stress get to you and you're being mean to everyone else because of it."
When the purple unicorn looked at him in surprise he pointed to her side. The gathered ponies were shaking and trembling before her and those whose work had already been denied were breaking down into tears. Seeing how distressed they all were made Twilight realize that Spike was right.
She took a deep breath as she turned to the crowd. "I'm sorry, everypony. It's all fine. Please take what you have back to your areas and go help others who are still not finished."
The crowd began to cheer as they dispersed into different groups, each heading in a different direction until Twilight and Spike were all alone and silence had fallen around them.
Twilight closed her eyes and sighed. This was not what she had in mind when she had been asked to become the lead organizer for the Summer Sun Celebration. The mayor had told her that after doing such a wonderful job for Winter Wrap Up it seemed only fitting that she take over organizing the event. She had agreed instantly, flattered that the residents of Ponyville held her organizing abilities on such high esteem. Now, however, she was beginning to regret having conceded so quickly. For all the planning that had been required during the winter cleaning it seemed like nothing compared to all the tasks she had to hand out for the festival. There were dishes to cook, decorations to prepare, and entertainment to organize.
It really shouldn't have been such a difficult ordeal. She had initially turned to her friends and asked them to take care of the various tasks like they had done the year before, but every pony in Ponyville seemed to want to play a part in the preparations. And so she had taken the additional time to make sure that they all had something to do, handing out jobs left and right until she wasn't sure if they had been given to the best candidate. While all the others seemed happy to be involved with the festival it only meant she had more work to supervise.
The more she thought about it the more it felt like she had been tricked into taking a job that no one else wanted to do, and she had been hooked into it with nothing more than cheap flattery.
Spike, who recognized the distraught look on Twilight's face for what it was, said, "You need to stop worrying, Twilight. Everything's turning out fine."
"I'm not so sure, Spike," the purple unicorn replied. "It seems like we haven't made any progress at all. There's always something else that needs to be done. How are we going to finish it all on time?"
She lay on the ground and curled up, stroking her tail with her hoof as Spike rolled his eyes. Any concern the young dragon might have felt evaporated instantly. It was one thing for Twilight to be worried, but this was ridiculous. Was she really so caught up in the work that she didn't notice they were almost finished setting everything up for the festival? He supposed that he shouldn't have been surprised. Twilight always did worry too much.
The purple unicorn was still lost in thought when Applejack returned, looking shaken but happy. "That was one easy to please pony," she said. "I just told her we could serve muffins for the festival and she cheered right up. I don't know why you said no, Twilight. Those were some tasty muffins."
Seeing Twilight on the floor Applejack frowned. "Are you okay, sugar cube?"
"She's worried that we won't be ready for the Summer Sun Celebration and that everything will go wrong." Spike said, not bothering to hide his annoyance. "I told her she's got nothing to worry about but she won't listen to me."
Applejack moved closer to Twilight and placed a hoof over her friend. "Spike's right, Twilight. That's just nonsense in your head. You need to stop worrying. Every pony in town is working hard for the festival. I just know it's going to be great."
Twilight let go of her tail and turned to Applejack. "Do you really think so?"
Applejack nodded. "Of course I do. Why, with you organizing everything I'm sure it'll be even better than last year."
Twilight's features brightened as she lifted herself from the ground. "Thanks, Applejack. You too, Spike. I know you two are right, but I can't help it. I want everything to be perfect for when Princess Celestia arrives, and it's the first Summer Sun Celebration Princess Luna will be a part of in a long time."
"Princess Luna is coming too?" Spike asked. That was a small bit of information that Twilight had neglected to tell them all.
"Yeah," Twilight said, beginning to pace in front of her friends. "She wants to see Princess Celestia raise the sun and she's coming to Ponyville tonight to raise the moon, herself. I told Princess Celestia that I'd make sure Princess Luna enjoyed the festival just like she used to. I just don't want either of them to end up disappointed."
Applejack thought about it and opened her mouth to reply but was interrupted as Rainbow Dash landed in front of her.
"Hey, Twilight, looks like the weather will be perfect for the Summer Sun Celebration. I checked in Cloudsdale and there won't be any rain for the next few days."
When Twilight remained lost in thought Rainbow Dash turned to Applejack. "Did I miss something?"
"Twilight's worrying that something will go wrong with the festival and everypony will hate it," Applejack said.
The blue-coated pegasus shook her head. "Are you kidding? There's no way they're going to hate it, especially when the Wonderbolts arrive. It's going to be so awesome."
Spike turned to Twilight. "You see, Twilight? Stop worrying and start thinking about how much fun it's going to be."
"That's right," Applejack said, "and you won't be spending it locked up in your room this time, sugar bunch. You're going to join the festivities proper and stay up all night with the rest of us."
"And you've got to try out some of the games," Rainbow Dash added. "Me and Applejack are going to see which one of us can get the highest score. She should've learned last year when I beat her."
"Only 'cause you cheated," Applejack said. "You always use your wings when you're losing."
Rainbow Dash grinned. "It's not cheating if you're cool like me."
"You'll never change, Rainbow Dash," Applejack said dryly, yet her tone held a hint of amusement just the same. She turned back to Twilight. "What do you say, Twilight?"
Twilight smiled. Her friends' antics had helped ease her mood. It was true that she had not participated in any of the activities the last time, her mind focused on uncovering the truth of Night Mare Moon and pushing everything else away. This year she could look forward to spending time with her friends.
She turned to them and nodded. "When you put it that way it does sound fun, just as long as I don't accidentally drink any hot sauce this time around."
"Did you say hot sauce?"
Twilight turned to the new voice just as Pinkie Pie bounced up to her. "Hi, Pinkie Pie, how are your preparations coming along?"
The pink pony's eyes were bright with excitement. "Oh, they're perfect! It's been a lot of hard work but I just know everypony's going to love them. I can't wait to see the look on their faces when they take the first bite."
Twilight frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"Cupcakes, of course! I'm trying a new recipe for the Summer Sun Celebration, and I made an extra batch for tonight. They'll be my best cupcakes yet."
Rainbow Dash brought a hoof to her face and groaned. "She meant the decorations, Pinkie."
Pinkie Pie giggled. "Oh. Those look great. Rarity thinks so, too. I guess that makes sense, since she's made most of them, huh? I just went to see her and Fluttershy, and she asked me to get you so she can show you what else she's working on."
"Okay," Twilight said. She turned to the others. "Do any of you want to come along?"
"Well, I'm all done with my things," Rainbow Dash said, Applejack nodding in agreement, "so let's go!"
Spike hopped onto Twilight's back and they were off. As they walked the purple unicorn let her thoughts turn to the festival. Yes, it seemed like a lot of work, but her friends were right: when all the preparations were done it would all turn out amazing. She would not let her worries get the better of her this year. Instead, she would be spending time with her friends on a night that was sure to be unforgettable.
Nothing would go wrong.
The train came to a slow halt as it approached its destination: the royal city of Canterlot. It was one of the last places she had ever thought of returning to, but then again, much had changed since she had last been to the majestic city. She quickly slid out of her seat as the train stopped, hoping to leave before the mob of ponies reaching for luggage flooded the walkway. She herself had brought nothing on the return trip, her only valuables safely stored beneath the cloak she wore. Hopping off the train, she crossed the bustling station platform and stepped out into the crowded streets of the city. The sun hung high in the clear sky as she made her way through the paved road, wandering aimlessly and taking in everything about the city. From the beautifully decorated buildings to its sophisticated inhabitants, nothing seemed to have changed at all since her last visit.
That suited her just fine. The journey she had undertaken since leaving Canterlot had been a long one full of distant lands and unbelievable experiences, but that was in the past. She was back now, and she was ready for an encore performance. They had been unimpressed with her act before, a thought that still stung whenever she thought about it, but this time they would all be amazed as she took to the stage and performed feats beyond anything they had ever seen. Her shame would turn into delight as she wowed the crowd who had once discarded her magic as something unimpressive.
Her act would have to wait, however. She had more important matters to attend to first. Ponyville was less than a day's travel from Canterlot, and she could not wait to return there and show the whole town just how wrong they were of her.
Her stomach rumbled as though to complain and she decided to stop for some food first. A meal and some rest would do her good after the long journey back, and so she made her way to a familiar stand she had visited on her first trip to the fair city. She ordered a quick meal, found a table, and began to eat, every plan and thought of revenge vanishing as she savored her meal. How long had it been since she had last eaten something so delicious? She had a vague recollection of food during her travels but she had eventually abandoned it as she continued her search. Her desire for revenge and the strength it provided her had seemed to suffice, and throughout the journey she had wandered sleep-deprived and starving to death. Thinking back on it she realized how foolish she had been. Many times she could have fallen headfirst along the path, her body exhausted and weak from malnourishment. Surely it was by a stroke of luck that she had not met her end and now lived to tell the tale.
Then again, she thought, maybe it wasn't luck at all. Maybe it was fate.
She slowly raised one of her hooves over her back, felt the familiar object strapped under her cloak, and relaxed. She finished her meal and let her thoughts return to more important matters. Namely, returning to Ponyville. She would make sure that the whole town regretted ever making a fool out of her. She would rise above everyone else, becoming the lone pony to stand on top, and Ponyville would be the first to witness her greatness. All she needed was the perfect opportunity to extract her revenge.
A collective gasp broke out around her as every pony nearby looked to the sky, an excited murmur passing through them. She raised her gaze and her eyes rested on a dark winged figure that passed overhead and slowly disappeared over the horizon, emitting a majesty and grace that left her feeling dumbfounded as the crowd looked on in amazement. She recognized the figure instantly even without ever having met her in person.
"I had heard rumors that Princess Luna would be attending the Summer Sun Celebration this year, too, but I didn't think they were true. It looks like I was wrong."
Trixie barely heard the words and turned to the voice that had spoken. Three ponies had huddled together just a short distance from where she stood, and she strained her ears to hear their words as they spoke.
"I can't believe the Summer Sun Celebration is taking place in Ponyville again this year," a second unicorn, one with a white coating, said in an annoyed tone. "I mean, you'd think that they would just hold it here in Canterlot. I guess that's what happens when Princess Celestia's best student suddenly moves over there. That Twilight Sparkle sure is lucky to get to spend so much time with her."
The third of the friends, a turquoise-colored unicorn with an hourglass for a cutie mark, turned to the white unicorn with a frown on her face. "Why the harsh tone? Twilight might be Princess Celestia's protégé, but it's not like the princess ignores the rest of us just to spend time with her. If I didn't know any better I'd say you were jealous of Twilight."
"I'm not jealous," the white unicorn replied angrily.
"That's enough, you two," the first unicorn said, and Trixie tuned out of the conversation. There was nothing more of the quarrel that she wanted to hear. She left the area and continued to make her way through the crowded streets, no longer wandering about aimlessly. The small bit of eavesdropping had given her more than enough valuable information, and a sudden idea occurred to her then and there.
The white unicorn was indeed jealous of Twilight, and she had tried to pass it off in a casual way. Her friends might not have picked up on it or simply did not understand the gravity behind the unicorn's emotion, but Trixie knew better. As a stage performer she knew all about illusion and how to find hidden meaning behind things, and she picked up on it instantly. If the unicorn's words were true, then Princess Celestia did indeed spend more time with Twilight Sparkle than anyone else. Could there be more there than a simple bond between a teacher and a student?
She thought back on her last visit to the city and the information she had learned that would be the catalyst for the beginning of her journey. Twilight Sparkle was the youngest student to be accepted in the princess's magic academy, and she had become the protégé to the princess at a fairly early age. Now, presented with this latest revelation, that information seemed to take on a whole new importance in her mind. A plan was slowly coming to her, and a way to secure her revenge on Twilight Sparkle was slowly becoming a sure possibility.
Before she knew it she had reached the edge of the city. The familiar spiral road lay before her, stretching on to her intended destination. She took off at once, her thoughts focused on making her plans a reality. Soon she would get back at those who had made fun of her.
The Great and Powerful Trixie would have the last laugh.
Spike looked at the clock, saw the time, and groaned. "Come on, Twilight," he said. "We're going to be late."
"Almost done, Spike," called the voice from upstairs.
The young dragon rolled his eyes and sat on a chair. Why did girls always take so long in getting ready? He felt like it was something he would never understand. Twilight had never been one to dally on preparing for an activity, but tonight she was taking longer than usual. When Pinkie Pie had told her that Rarity had something to show her he had agreed to go with the others instantly, his mind focused only on seeing the lovely white unicorn. He should have known the reason why Rarity had wanted to see Twilight was to show her dresses, a topic that did not hold his interest at all. He would never let Rarity know for fear of upsetting her, but he only put up with what he considered to be 'frilly nonsense' just for the chance to be near her. Even so, he had to admit that Rarity made the best dresses he had ever seen, far better than even the things worn in Canterlot.
Her latest creation, a new dress for Twilight to wear that night, was no exception.
"As Princess Luna's host," Rarity had said, "Twilight will have to look respectable and graceful."
The outfit she designed would no doubt cause that impression in Spike's opinion. Rarity had fashioned a dress similar to the one Twilight had worn for the Grand Galloping Gala, sacrificing some of the more extensive details in favor of comfortableness. Even so, it was just as stunning as anything Rarity had ever made, and Twilight had been extremely grateful at the kind gesture. She had thanked Rarity and instantly agreed to wear it for the party.
That was the main reason why Spike was still sitting in the library bored out of his mind instead of sampling on various treats in the town square. Twilight was taking a very long time getting ready, and his patience, thin enough already, was running out. He was about to call out once more when he heard footsteps and saw her descending the stairs.
He had been right. The dress made Twilight look as lovely as ever.
"I'm ready." Twilight said. "Let's get a move on, Spike."
She moved towards the door and it began to glow around its edges. A moment later it swung wide open and she stepped into the threshold. She turned back to the young dragon. "Are you coming or not?"
Spike, realizing that he had been gawking at her, shook his head and joined her at the doorway. "Wow, Twilight. You look really nice."
Twilight smiled. "Thank you, Spike. The dress is just beautiful, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Spike said, sighing deeply as his eyes grew large and unfocused. "I wonder if Rarity will wear a dress tonight, too."
Twilight shook her head. "That's enough daydreaming, Casanova. Let's go or we'll be late."
But the young dragon was lost in thought and so she grabbed him by the tail and stepped out of their tree-like home, beginning the short trek to the town square. As she walked Spike continued to sigh lazily and blink slowly, and she resisted the urge to roll her eyes and laughed.
Some things would never change.
The sun was beginning to set and there was already a group assembled by the time Twilight and Spike arrived in the town square. She frantically searched the grounds for their guest of the evening, found Rarity amidst the crowd, and called out to her. The white unicorn's eyes fell on Twilight and grew large as she drew nearer and circled around her friend.
"Why, Twilight, you look lovely."
"Thanks," Twilight said. Then, as she searched the ground once more, "Please tell me I'm not late."
"Not at all," Rarity said. "Princess Luna should be arriving any minute now. Though I must admit, I thought you would have arrived much sooner than this."
Twilight glared in Spike's direction. "We would have been here sooner if someone would have actually walked here."
The young dragon scoffed and Rarity laughed. "Well," she said, "I suppose it doesn't really matter. I'm just glad you arrived in time. The mayor was just saying that she was hoping you would arrive soon."
Twilight searched farther down the crowd to the porch which had been turned into a makeshift stage for the occasion and spotted the mayor instantly.
"Are the others ready for Princess Luna's arrival?"
"Yes, they're all in place and waiting for your signal. You'd better get on the stage too, Twilight, quickly."
The purple unicorn nodded and made her way through the crowd towards the mayor. As she walked she turned to where each of her friends waited, running a mental checklist of each of their tasks. Fluttershy stood on a corner of the stage, a group of birds standing in order and awaiting her directions. Pinkie Pie and Applejack were among several ponies near baskets full of confetti and streamers, awaiting their cue to launch the contents from Pinkie Pie's party canon. High in the sky Rainbow Dash and other pegasus had cleared the clouds and now waited for the arrival of the princess. Everything seemed to be in order.
Now all they had to do was wait.
Reaching the stage Twilight moved next to the mayor. "Princess Luna should be arriving any moment now."
"Yes, and everything seems perfect," the mayor said, smiling at Twilight Sparkle. "You have done such a wonderful job preparing the festival. I knew I was right in giving the job to you."
Twilight shook her head. "I really didn't do that much. I actually lost it for a while. Everypony just seemed so eager to help, and I didn't want to disappoint them."
The mayor pointed towards the crowd, where the gathered ponies had begun to stomp the ground as anticipation began to build around them. "Do they seem disappointed to you? They're all looking forward to this night, and they worked hard to make all of this possible. I'm sure everypony here will enjoy it. Now, I think they're waiting for you to say something."
Twilight smiled and turned to the crowd. She took a deep breath, cleared her throat and began to speak.
"You've all done an amazing job these last few days," she said, pausing a moment as her eyes wandered from one pony to another. "Your hard work has led to this wonderful festival that we can now begin. Princess Luna should be arriving any moment now, so let's get ready to give her a big Ponyville welcome."
The crowd cheered and stomped the ground in eagerness, and Twilight sighed in relief. She was about to turn to the mayor once again when she heard Rainbow Dash call out from where she hovered in the air.
As one the crowd turned in the direction where the pegasus was pointing. Twilight focused her sight against the setting sun as a dark figure approached from the sky. The crowd began to cheer once more as the princess flew over them and seemed to hover in place. From where she stood Twilight saw her horn begin to glow as it flowed with energy, its aura radiating with bright light that forced her to shield her eyes. The setting sun disappeared in the horizon and the town was plunged in darkness, the only source of visible light coming from the princess herself as she hung in the sky, her horn's glow seeming to spread throughout her body. She flew higher and extended her wings as the aura surrounding her spread out. Behind her the moon began to rise in the sky, the luminescent orb flooding Ponyville with light as it ascended above the princess. She tilted her head towards the rising moon and the energy gathered in her shot out towards it, circling around it and then dissipating in each direction. As the energy raced through the sky it became filled with millions of stars that pulsed in and out place in the far reaches of space.
Her work done, the princess began to descend over the cheering crowd towards the stage where Twilight Sparkle and the mayor were showered in a large spray of confetti. To the side of the stage Fluttershy had turned to her bird friends and was conducting them to a festive tune provided by Pinkie Pie, who had quickly emptied the contents of a basket into the canon, pulled an array of instruments out of thin air, and joined her friend on stage, seeming to play all of the instruments at the same time. Twilight recognized the instruments as the ones the pink pony had played when the Parasprite infestation had almost destroyed their town. They had managed to rid themselves of them only when Pinkie Pie had paraded them through Ponyville and safely drove them out of town.
It seemed to Twilight as though only she had noticed the sudden appearance of the instruments. She wondered just where the pink pony had been keeping them but quickly decided against dwelling on the matter. There were some things concerning Pinkie Pie that were better left unexplained.
Princess Luna landed in front of her and Twilight bowed instantly. The mayor and every other pony followed suit, and then Twilight moved closer to the princess.
"It's good to see you again, Princess Luna."
"Twilight Sparkle," the princess said, and Twilight was pleased to hear her voice sounding even and controlled. "It is good to see thou, too. We have waited for this day with much anticipation."
Twilight smiled out of habit. It sounded as though the princess still hadn't gotten fully used to the modern speech used in Equestria. "I'm glad you could join us for the celebration. Now that you're here we can get started."
Princess Luna nodded and turned to the crowd. "Citizens of Ponyville," she said, her voice augmented many times beyond its normal capacity. "Thy princess of the night hath arrived. Let the festivities begin!"
The party went well into the night.
The residents of Ponyville moved to the inside of the pavilion once the moon had risen and the festivities had begun. Twilight acted as Princess Luna's guide and the younger royal sister spent most of her time with the purple unicorn and her friends. From the many treats that had been prepared for the party to the activities planned, everything seemed to fascinate Princess Luna. Twilight found herself equally amazed at the ongoing events. Her friends had been right: she had missed out the year before, but she was more than willing to make up for the lost time.
Every pony seemed to be enjoying themselves, but for all the wonders the party held, the biggest attraction was the presence of Princess Luna herself. The town's initial reaction to her on Nightmare Night might have been less than welcoming, but this time they drew close to her rather than run away from her. For her part the princess was overjoyed to be accepted warmly by Ponyville's inhabitants. She laughed with them, shared stories of the Summer Sun Celebration as she remembered it before her imprisonment, and joined them in the many activities planned for the night.
Her competitive side also manifested itself when Rainbow Dash challenged her friends to a contest in the early hours of the morning. Most of them refused, but Applejack, the only one of her friends to enjoy a good challenge, agreed instantly, and Princess Luna, not wanting to be left out, asked if she could join them as well.
"Are you sure you want to do this, princess?" Twilight asked, her voice barely hiding her concern.
"Aw, quit worrying, Twilight." Rainbow Dash said. "If she wants to join us just then let her."
Applejack turned to Rainbow Dash. "What kind of contest did you have in mind?"
The pegasus thought it over for a moment. When her eyes landed on Pinkie Pie devouring the contents of a table she smiled. "I know! How about a food eating contest? The one who eats the most sweets wins."
Applejack laughed. "That's just like you, Rainbow Dash. You're on, partner."
Rainbow Dash found Spike and asked him to oversee the contest, knowing he also held a soft spot for her antics. While they each selected their sweets Twilight spoke to Rainbow Dash.
"Do you really want to stuff yourself with so much food? You do remember what happened the last time you challenged Applejack to an eating contest, right?"
But Rainbow Dash merely laughed and shook her head. "That's different. Those were apples. This time we'll be eating candy."
Twilight frowned. "That's not different at all!"
"Stop being such a party-pooper, Twilight. You need to chill out and have some fun."
Hearing the discussion, Princess Luna walked up to them. "Perhaps Twilight would enjoy spending some time with my sister."
Twilight's eyes widened. "Princess Celestia's already here?"
"Yes." Princess Luna said. "She arrived a while back, and is waiting until it is time to raise the sun to join the activities. The mayor greeted her when she arrived, so she should know where she is."
Twilight nodded and left the group in search of the mayor, and Princess Luna turned to Applejack and Rainbow Dash. "Very well," she said, her voice once again magically amplified. "Are thy prepared to lose? Thy will regret ever agreeing to this foolish challenge once we are crowned the victor!"
Lightning flashed around her, making her eyes glow brightly as her laughter echoed within the walls of the pavilion.
Rainbow Dash turned to Applejack, her expression doubtful. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea…"
Pinkie Pie was lost amidst a feast of treats. She had been asked by Rainbow Dash if she wanted to compete in a food eating contest with the others but declined in the end. In her opinion, food - especially sweets - was not meant to be eaten quickly, but had to be enjoyed to the fullest. And so she watched as Rainbow Dash and Applejack tried and failed to keep up with Princess Luna as she quickly consumed her selected treats. She was glad to see that the princess had selected cupcakes as one of her choices. Maybe they could bake some together once the festival was over.
She took the last cupcake on the table just as a hoof reached for it. She turned to the other pony and smiled. "You can have it if you want. Here."
The other pony took the cupcake and remained silent. A thin cloak covered most of the pony's body and a mask hid the features from view, a unicorn's horn the only visible part in an otherwise indistinguishable face.
Pinkie Pie looked the pony over and laughed.
"Ooh, that mask would have been perfect for Nightmare Night. Where did you get it? Did you make it yourself?"
Again she was met with silence, but that did not stop her from questioning the pony more. "Do you like cupcakes? I made these, you know. I like baking cupcakes. My friends think I like cupcakes a little too much, but that's not true. I mean, how could you like cupcakes too much, right? So what do you think of the festival? Did you come here alone?"
The other pony took a step back and turned to the side. Pinkie Pie followed the gaze and spotted a familiar purple unicorn stepping onto the pavilion's stage and disappearing from view.
"Oh, you know Twilight?" Pinkie Pie asked. "She's a good friend of mine. I wonder where she's going."
She smiled as she turned back to the mysterious pony only to find herself alone. Her silent guest had vanished without a trail. She searched through the crowd, hoping to spot any signs of the mysterious unicorn, but to no avail. Shrugging, she took one last nibble of the sweets on the table and decided to join her friends.
After all, she thought, what was the point of a party if you didn't have anyone to enjoy it with?
Twilight had wasted no time in finding the mayor, who told her where Princess Celestia would be waiting until it was time to raise the sun. Thanking her, the purple unicorn made her way to the side of the inner stage, passing through the hanging curtains and into the narrow passage that led towards the lesser-used rooms in the back of the pavilion. The passage curved to a larger room where a single door stood directly across from her. She hesitated for a moment, then walked towards it and used her magic to open the door.
The room had apparently been decorated for the arrival of the princess. Many drapes hung from the ceiling and candles had been placed in the room, burning dimly and offering a moderate source of light. Twilight focused her eyes and saw the princess in the corner of the room, her eyes resting over some of the burning candles, staring intently into the small flames as they flickered from side to side. She watched her mentor for a moment, mesmerized by her presence, before shaking her head and clearing her throat.
The regal unicorn turned away from the flames and stared at Twilight, a soft smile forming on her face.
"Twilight Sparkle. Come in."
Twilight closed the door behind her and quickly closed the distance between the two.
"It's good to see you again, princess."
"It's a pleasure to see you, too," the princess replied. Her eyes moved over her student and she smiled. "That is a beautiful dress, Twilight."
"Thank you, princess." Twilight said. "My friend Rarity made it for me."
"It looks like a wonderful gift, and I think it suits you very well. It seems very appropriate for the occasion." Princess Celestia's eyes trailed the flames once more before she asked, "How goes the night? Have you been enjoying the celebration?"
"Oh yes, it's been a wonderful evening. I'm sure Princess Luna would agree. Everypony has wanted nothing more than to be around her tonight."
Princess Celestia nodded. "I'm glad to hear that. It's been so long since she's been a part of the Summer Sun Celebration. I feared that her attending it would bring horrible memories back from the time when she was Night Mare Moon. Treating her as a guest of honor and holding a party for her tonight was very thoughtful of all of you. Ponyville has done a wonderful job of welcoming her openly. But tell me, why aren't you enjoying the night with your friends?"
Twilight Sparkle shuffled nervously as she felt her cheeks grow warm. "Well, soon it will be time to raise the sun. I was wondering if I could stay with you until then."
For one terrible moment Twilight was afraid that the princess would implore her to return to the festivities. Then Princess Celestia smiled and she felt her heart soar.
"Of course, Twilight. I would love to spend time with you."
The princess's horn glowed for a moment and a comforter spread open before them. Twilight lay next to the princess and they began to talk, their shadows dancing in the wall to the light emitted by the flickering flames. Twilight spoke enthusiastically, recounting the many adventures she had shared with her friends, and Princess Celestia took a moment to feel proud of her student. She had really come a long way in such a short amount of time. Leaving Canterlot behind and moving to Ponyville had been a big change, but the purple unicorn had adapted quickly, in no small part thanks to the many friends she had made since she had arrived to the small town. The bonds in friendship that she had made with the others had only continued to grow over time until the modest and studious student had grown more sociable and accepting of others.
She thought back to the day when Twilight had taken the test to be accepted into her school for unicorns. She had shown amazing potential back then, and it seemed that, with a guiding hand, that potential would one day develop and manifest itself completely in her magic. Twilight had been beside herself to learn that the princess would personally look after her studies, a joy that had only increased when she found out that her efforts had also produced her cutie mark. She had promised to always do her best with her studies, a promise that she kept fully throughout the years. She had placed her studies first and foremost before anything else, and as time passed, the young unicorn grew a habit of keeping herself locked away in her library, her eyes trailing over the contents of many books in her search to learn more of her magic.
The only times she abandoned her pursuit of knowledge was to spend time with the princess. The regal unicorn always took the time to get to know all of her students, but Twilight was a special case. She was the youngest student that had ever been accepted into the school, and so she had arrived at a tender age compared to the others. She was also the princess's protégé, and while other students were under careful watch of others selected to show them how to use their magic, she had to guide the young unicorn through her studies on her own. She felt a natural draw to her pupil because of that, and so a bond quickly developed between them.
But as the years passed Twilight began to neglect another aspect that was just as important in life. She had no close friends, and she felt no need to make any. In her eyes they were just a distraction from her studies, and she wanted nothing more than to please her teacher, whom she had grown close to over time. Princess Celestia was aware of this, and had taken matters into her own hands to ensure that her pupil discovered the importance of making friends. The events that lead to the re-emergence of Night Mare Moon and her defeat at the hands of Twilight Sparkle and the other ponies of Ponyville was the moment she had been patiently awaiting, for only by discovering the Elements of Harmony, manifestations of the very traits that could help her make friends - honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, and loyalty - could her student begin to truly discover the depths of her magic, one that was not only strengthened by her studies, but which delved deeply into her emotions for a much more powerful source.
Twilight Sparkle had at last learned the greatest lesson the princess could ever hope to instill on her: that true magic, the magic of friendship, was the greatest force in the world.
She had been pleased when Twilight had requested to remain in Ponyville, the one true place where she could continue to grow. Yet hidden beneath a teacher's happy demeanor was the sadness of a surrogate parent, and she found it hard to give Twilight Sparkle the opportunity to experience the idea she had struggled to indulge in her for so long. In the end, however, she knew it was for the best. And so with a heavy heart she returned to Canterlot, looking forward to a day when she would be able to spend time with her most faithful student once again.
The light in the room became brighter as she returned from her trail of thought. The candles had almost completely melted away and the final flames burned stubbornly, casting a brighter glow in the room as they quickly dissipated against the receding wax.
The princess turned to her student, who smiled at her.
"I'm glad I got to spend this time with you, princess."
Princess Celestia smiled back. "So am I, my most faithful student."
"It's almost time to raise the sun," the princess said. "Shall we get going?"
Twilight nodded and both of them stood. The purple unicorn had only taken a few steps towards the door before the princess raised a hoof to block her path. Twilight raised her eyes towards her teacher and saw that she was staring intently at the door.
"What is it?" she asked.
The princess did not reply. She kept her eyes locked over the door and did not move, and her pupil turned form the princess to the door. Before she could say anything else the door was blasted off its hinges. Princess Celestia instinctively pushed Twilight aside, who had closed her eyes during the sudden explosion that sent wooden chunks flying in every direction. As she opened her eyes she saw that the remains had landed a few feet short from where they stood. Sighing in relief she turned to her mentor and took a step back, her eyes growing wide.
The princess's expression seemed to reflect the horror she felt. Her eyes remained wide as they darted in each direction before staring straight ahead, her whole body seemingly frozen in place.
"Princess!" Twilight cried, quickly moving close to where her mentor remained rooted to the spot within a crystal-like structure. She raised a hoof and brought it crashing down against the strange structure, her efforts only causing her pain as her hoof merely bounced off the strange material. Ignoring the pain she stepped back and her horn began to glow with magic, its radiance growing stronger as she aimed the tip of her horn in the direction where the princess stood. The waves of magic shot from her horn and crashed against the crystal creating a flash of light, sparks bright as flames flying in different directions before dying out. When the light dissipated the structure stood as whole as it had been moments before.
Twilight felt panic begin to set in as the hopelessness of the sudden predicament fell over her. Her magic wasn't strong enough to help the princess. What else could she do? Her mind began to race as desperation set in, but one thought remained clear: she could not stand around and just wait for something to happen. She needed to find help.
She thought of Princess Luna. Surely she would know what to do.
She began to race towards the door and stopped just as suddenly. Her eyes focused on the shadow that stood in her way and barred her exit to the room. The newcomer's body was wrapped in a cloak, but even so she could make out the shape of its body.
Whoever it was, it was definitely a pony.
"Help us!" Twilight cried, moving towards the figure. "Something happened to Princess Celestia. We need to find Princess Luna. She might be able to-"
A burst of light, and Twilight was on the ground, wind blowing from behind her as debris rained down on her. The wall behind her had been obliterated by the force of the blast, the cold morning air blowing into the room as a result. She turned to the broken structure, her mouth agape as she witnessed its destruction. She had barely moved out of the blast's path in time to avoid being struck herself.
Remembering that she was not alone she turned back to the doorway, her eyes narrowing as they fell over the mysterious pony.
"Are you crazy? Why did you do that?"
The other pony remained silent, stepping away from the shadows the doorway cast over its face and into the room. No sooner had the figure come into view that Twilight felt herself shrink back. Two large yellow eyes stared back at her, the wide and fixed gaze seeming to stare through her as though she were an open book. Above the two eyes she spotted a small horn that began to glow with energy. Realizing what was about to happen she readied herself for another blast.
The purple unicorn turned to her mentor. The frozen body twitched slightly as the princess struggled within the confines of the structure.
"You have to get out of here now, Twilight! Go!"
Twilight had no time to think. Everything seemed to slow down as she heard Princes Celestia's words. Ahead of her she saw the light emitting from the horn grow stronger. Without thinking she turned around and raced through the broken wall and onto the open grounds surrounding the pavilion. The blast flew by her and exploded a short distance away. She heard another explosion behind her, the only sign that another blast had missed its intended mark. Paying it no attention she circled around the grounds, galloping as fast as she could towards the main entrance. She dared not look back, Princess Celestia's words ringing loudly within her and pushing her ahead, a single thought burning deep in her mind.
She would not abandon her princess. She would return with the others and save her.
She gazed straight ahead and saw the main entrance to the pavilion. At the same time another sphere of energy fell near her, exploding instantly and sending her flying through the air. She remained suspended for a moment before slamming against the ground, her body bouncing as she rolled over and came to a sudden halt. Her body ached with pain as she lay on the ground, struggling to raise herself as a familiar cloaked figure came into view. The crystal-like structure containing the princess hovered a few feet away from where she lay. She raised her gaze groggily towards the cloaked figure, the other's horn beginning to glow as magic began to center over the horn.
There was a loud smack that echoed in the silence of the morning and Twilight felt herself rise to the air, the cold morning breeze whipping against her face.
"Don't worry. We've got you."
The familiar voice, combined with the rush of air, brought Twilight back. She shook her head and felt her weariness leave her as she turned to the voice and smiled.
"Rainbow Dash! Fluttershy!"
The two pegasus carried her towards the pavilion's entrance where their three friends stood waiting for them. They quickly surrounded Twilight as she touched the ground.
"Are you okay, Twilight?" Applejack asked her.
"I think so," Twilight replied. She turned back to the cloaked pony and frowned. "We have to hurry. Princess Celestia is trapped. We have to help her."
A hoof fell over her and she turned to Rarity, who smiled at her.
"Not to worry, Twilight. Help is already here."
The blow had caught her completely by surprise, but she managed to recover quickly. Whatever had hit her seemed to have spread over her upon impact. Turning around she saw a crumpled pie plate close to her. She raised her gaze towards the purple unicorn, who now stood surrounded by other ponies that she recognized instantly. A few feet ahead of them stood the pink pony she had seen earlier, another pie in hand as she stared in the direction of the cloaked pony.
No more games, she thought. I will have my revenge now.
The tip of her horn began to glow once more, her magic gathering quickly and beginning to take shape. She focused on sending it in the group's direction just as another blast of magic crashed against her. The world began to spin before her eyes as she soared in the air, coming to a crashing halt a few feet away from where the blast had struck. She rose to her feet and turned to a dark, winged figure that remained perched in the sky, two glowing eyes starring down at her.
"Release our sister now!"
For the first time in the night she felt fear set over her, and she grit her teeth as she desperately sent another blast of magic in the younger princess's direction. But Princess Luna swiftly dodged it and sent a second wave towards the cloaked pony, who was struck instantly and sent reeling backwards. She came crashing against the ground once more and lay motionless.
Seeing the unmoving body Princess Luna wasted no time. She quickly descended to where her older sister stood and with a burst of magic shattered the glass prison that held Princess Celestia captive. The older pony fell to the floor but quickly regained her composure and turned to Princess Luna.
"We have to seal it away now! Let us hurry, sister!"
Princess Luna nodded and they took to the air, flying side by side as they ascended through the sky. Twilight watched them as they soared higher and higher until finally they hovered in place and spread their wings, their horns beginning to glow with magic. Both sisters moved as one, circling above the cloaked unicorn as their horns grew brighter. A blast issued from each of the regal sisters, dark swirls and beams of light combining as they sped towards their intended target. The mass of magic surrounded the unicorn, circling around the masked figure before closing in and trapping the unicorn from within.
Behind the mask Trixie's eyes had gone wide and her body had frozen as the magical assault drew nearer. Her mind began to race, her heartbeat speeding up as a growing numbness spread through her. It was all happening too fast, and everything had gotten out of hand. There was nothing she could do to save herself. She closed her eyes and braced herself for the impact that would surely be her end.
The blow, however, never came.
Opening her eyes she saw the mass of combined magic suspended in midair. The two princesses remained hovering above the attack, their bodies unmoving as they stared down at her. To her side the purple unicorn and her friends had also frozen in place. It was as though time itself had stopped.
The voice came form the deepest corners of her mind. She did not flinch or jump in alarm for she knew the voice very well.
"The time has come for you to have your revenge. Why do you hold back?"
"I can't do this," the unicorn replied with a strained voice. She was painfully aware of how her body had started trembling. "It wasn't supposed to happen like this. I only wanted to face Twilight Sparkle and get my revenge on this town. Instead I kidnapped Princess Celestia and attacked Princess Luna. How could everything have gotten so out of hand? This isn't what I wanted."
"You lie," the mask replied, and Trixie felt the weight of the words as though they had slapped her across the face. "You wanted to be the very best, to stand above them all. You wanted to hear your name chanted by all. And one way or another they will, be it by adoration or fear."
Trixie's eyes widened. "Are you crazy? That's not how I wanted it at all. And even so, how could I attack both princesses? I'll probably be sealed away for such a crime."
But the voice in her mind persisted. "Why do you care for them when they do not care for you? Do you not see the truth?"
Her mind warped once more and she once again found herself amidst the crowd of ponies. They pointed at her and laughed, their cackles growing louder the more she begged them to stop. And there, between the purple unicorn, stood the two regal sisters, their laughter joining with the others as their continued jeers became a single voice in her mind.
"They do not care for you," the voice of the mask said. "They all stand with Twilight Sparkle. They jeer at you and make fun of you. They laugh at your dreams, they crush your hope, and they deny your heart's greatest desire. You are far better off without them."
The words rang within the unicorn, and she closed her eyes and lowered her head. "Please…make them stop. Make them go away."
"I cannot do that. Only you can make them go away."
Trixie opened her eyes. The crowd continued to surround her. The laughter became louder. Twilight Sparkle sneered at her. Everything around her began to spin.
A single thought flashed through her mind, and then all was silent. One by one the ponies before her began to vanish until only the purple unicorn stood before her. Then Twilight Sparkle disappeared and she stood alone, surrounded by darkness. She welcomed it, her vision growing darker as the same words continued to echo deep within her mind.
The swirling energy receded before vanishing altogether, leaving behind nothing more than a thick trail of dust where it had struck its target. Twilight and the others stared at the spot with wide eyes. The purple unicorn was caught between amazement and disbelief. She had known Princess Celestia for most of her life but she had never seen her do anything like what had just happened.
This was the power that had been used to seal Discord away so long ago, and it was the greatest source of magic in all of Equestria.
"Did all of you see that?" she heard Applejack ask to her side.
There was a moment of silence where everyone continued to stare at the same place.
Then Rainbow Dash jumped to the air and gave a loud whoop.
"That was awesome!"
High in the sky Princess Luna turned to her sister. "Is it done?"
Princess Celestia had narrowed her eyes when the combined magic had dissipated, scouring over the land for any sign of movement. Now she turned to Princess Luna.
"Yes," she said, yet Princess Luna heard a tone of uncertainty beneath the words. "Yes, I think so. Let's seal it away while we have the chance."
Wasting no time they landed close to where the blast had struck. Twilight and the others drew closer as they began to focus their magic.
"Stand back, girls," Princess Celestia said. She turned to Princess Luna. "Are you ready?"
The younger princess nodded. "Yes, sister, we are prepared."
They unleashed their magic once more, both forces converging over the spot where the cloaked unicorn had stood.
Twilight remained silent at first, watching the two princesses work with rapt attention. Then her concern got the better of her and she asked, "Princess Celestia, what are both of you doing?"
"We are sealing the mask away," the princess replied. "Listen to me girls. We must act fast. I need one of you to go and tell the others that they are to remain inside where it is safe until we are done."
A determined look crossed Rarity's face and she nodded. "Leave it to me, your highness." She took off before any of the others could protest.
Twilight, who had barely registered Rarity's departure, pried her mentor once more. "What's going on? What is that mask? Where did it come from?"
"There is no time to explain, my faithful student. We need the Elements of Harmony. Go to your home and bring them. We must hu-"
The explosion of energy caught them all by surprise. Twilight and her friends were sent flying back while the two sisters fought against the gales of wind that had blown the others away. The purple unicorn spun in the air before remaining suspended, cold wind rushing against her as she was lowered to the ground next to Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash let her go and landed next to her, turning just in time to watch Fluttershy land next to Applejack.
Once on the ground Twilight shook her head, her lightheadedness clearing instantly. "What in the world was that?"
"Twilight!" Rainbow Dash cried, pointing ahead of the purple unicorn. "Look!"
The comfort that Twilight had felt upon seeing the two princesses subduing the cloaked unicorn now vanished completely as she stared at the spot where both sisters stood. They remained close together, the familiar crystal-like structure surrounding them both. They struggled within the barricade, their efforts and magic unable to break the structure.
Trapped and helpless, the rulers of Equestria could no longer help them. The realization fell over Twilight and she felt her heart stop. What were they going to do now?
Laughter echoed in the open square, a gleeful and haunting sound that sent shivers up the purple unicorn. Out of the dust came the cloaked unicorn, the mask's yellow eyes seeming to glow brighter than usual.
"Foolish princess," boomed the voice of the unicorn from under the mask. It was a voice that Twilight had never heard before, its dark and sinister tone sending chills through her body. "You were barely able to seal me away the last time. What chance did you think you had now when neither you nor your sister can wield the Elements of Harmony any longer?"
Twilight heard the words and immediately turned to Princess Celestia. She saw the princess grit her teeth and understood what the regal unicorn had known all along: it was a hopeless battle, one they could not win on their own. The elements had been passed on to Twilight and her friends, and without them the two regal sisters had no chance of stopping this new evil.
Princess Celestia turned within the confines of the structure to face her student. There was fear in her eyes, yet her voice remained strong as she spoke.
"Twilight," she urged. "The elements. Hurry!"
The masked unicorn turned from Princess Celestia to Twilight Sparkle. For a moment all was still; then a strangled cry filled the air and the cloaked unicorn lunged for Twilight. The purple unicorn was caught by surprise and felt her body tense as a blur of wind passed by her side. There was an audible groan and the masked unicorn was on the ground, pinned down by Rainbow Dash. The pegasus turned to Twilight, the strain of holding the other unicorn down clear on her face.
"Twilight, you heard the princess. Go and get the elements. There's not much time."
Twilight's eyes widened as realization dawned on her. "No," she said, "I'm not leaving you and the princesses here."
The unicorn thrashed under Rainbow Dash, who clenched her teeth and added more strength to keeping the unicorn pinned. "Stop arguing and go. Get her out of here, guys!"
Twilight opened her mouth to protest and immediately felt her hooves leave the ground. Fluttershy had grabbed hold of her and taken to the air, quickly moving away from Rainbow Dash and the captive princesses. Below them Pinkie Pie galloped at a quick pace, keeping up with Fluttershy as she flew in the direction of Twilight's home.
Twilight fought against the hold Fluttershy had over her but quickly stopped as she heard her friend crying apologies. She realized how hard it must have been for Fluttershy to muster the courage to leave Rainbow Dash behind. The thought brought a pang to her heart as the reality of what they had just done struck her. There was nothing she could do to help the princess on her own. She would have to put her hopes on her friends and the Elements of Harmony.
She only prayed that Rainbow Dash would be fine without them.
Trixie fought under the weight of the cyan-coated pegasus, trying and failing to gain the upper hand. Anger coursed through her and she unleashed her furry, focusing the mask's power into another blast of magic. She saw the pegasus' eyes widen in recognition before she was sent soaring away. Now free she raised herself from the ground and hovered in the air, turning to see the pegasus lying motionless where she lay.
"Hurry after her," the voice of the masked urged her mentally. "You must not let Twilight Sparkle reach the elements. Stop her now!"
Trixie was only too happy to oblige. She turned in the direction that Twilight Sparkle had been taken and moved through the air following after the purple unicorn. She had only begun to move when she felt a tug on her waist and was brought crashing against the ground, knocking the breath out of her as her vision darkened and her body ached in pain. Struggling to stand on her hooves she shook her head and turned around. A noose had been roped around her, and she followed its length to the other end where it lay next to another pony. She recognized her as one of those she had bested during her previous visit to Ponyville.
"Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash!" she heard the pony cry as she turned away from Trixie and dropped next to the unconscious pegasus. After checking her over, she turned once more to Trixie, her features growing cold. "No one hurts my friends, you hear me? Looks like I'll have to teach you some manners."
"Is that so?" Trixie replied, her tone even and controlled. "Let's find out."
Her horn began to glow, and the rope tied around her became loose, quickly retracting towards the other pony and wrapping around one of her hooves. The pony tripped over the noose and was suspended upside down as the rope rose to the air, closing the distance between Trixie and the orange-coated pony.
"Let me go!" she screamed indignantly.
"Now look who needs to learn some manners," Trixie mocked. "You forgot to say 'please'"
The pony's eyes narrowed, her voice contorted with anger. "Please."
Behind the mask Trixie smiled. "That's better."
The rope cracked like a whip and the pony was sent flying back, racing towards the ground. There was an audible crack as the leg that had been tied in the noose bent at an odd angle under the pony's weight, her whole body twisting as she rolled over, crashed against the pavilion's outer wall, and moved no more.
Trixie turned from the pony to the pegasus and then to Princess Celestia, whose eyes stared at the other two in horror.
"Your faithful subjects haven't caused a very good impression, your highness. Let's hope that the others do a better job."
Without awaiting a response she took off, moving through the air towards Twilight Sparkle and her remaining friends.
The flight had been a quick one, and as the first rays of sunlight strayed over the horizon Twilight spotted it. The tree-shaped structure that was her home drew nearer and nearer as they quickly approached it.
"We're almost there, Fluttershy," she said, more to relieve herself than her winged friend.
Air whipped around her as Fluttershy pressed on; she heard a burst, and then Twilight felt her stomach plunge as she fell through the air, Fluttershy's unconscious body falling next to her. She reached for her friend, missed, tried again, and pulled Fluttershy close to her, sparks showering from her horn as they became surrounded in the purple unicorn's magic. There was a flash of light and a moment later both unicorn and pegasus were safe on the ground, and Twilight let go of the unconscious Fluttershy.
"Pinkie Pie," she said, "I need help here! Fluttershy's not moving!"
She saw Pinkie Pie's eyes widen as she stared at Fluttershy and realized too late of the danger that was approaching the pink pony. She didn't even have time to cry out a warning before Pinkie Pie was struck, the blow pushing her body through the air before she came to a crashing halt next to Twilight. She too was unconscious.
Twilight turned to the hovering figure responsible for the attacks. Two bulbous yellow eyes stared back at her, piercing through her and sending shivers down her spine. They had seemed ominous ever since she had first seen them, a feeling that had only increased once the princess had confirmed her assumptions. She stared at the mysterious unicorn wondering how the other remained levitated. The only magical means of flight that she knew was the Flight Spell, but the other unicorn didn't seem to have any wings. How was it possible? Could the other unicorn know more advanced magic that she wasn't aware of?
The unicorn continued to hover ahead of her as her mind reeled with questions. Then she blinked, and the other figure had disappeared. Her eyes darted through the sky in search of the masked figure, her heart beating hard in her chest as a sinking feeling spread through her body. Realization dawned on her and she spun around coming face to face with the eyes of the mask, the unicorn's horn radiating with magic.
Fear had frozen Twilight where she stood, and she stared at the figure with wide eyes.
The voice that replied was different from the one she had heard before, yet the malevolence in the tone remained the same.
"You're not the only one who knows how to teleport."
The rush of the blast greeted Twilight, and all grew dark.
Her body ached as she came to, and her vision remained blurry as she tried to stand. Her head throbbed dully and her legs shook under her weight, threatening to give in at any moment. It was not long before they collapsed and Twilight fell to the ground, her eyes gazing listlessly at the open sky above her. A barren and grey horizon stared back at her, and she realized that she must not have been out for very long.
The faint echo of hooves approaching reached her ears and she turned her head in the direction of the sound, her eyes falling on a familiar cloaked figure.
"Welcome back," the masked unicorn said. Even with her dulled senses Twilight easily caught the hint of disdain under the tone. "It's so nice of you to honor me with your presence."
Her limbs shaking, Twilight reclined on her front hooves and stared up at the figure. "Why are you doing this? Who are you?"
The other unicorn scoffed at her. "You really don't remember me. Isn't that just fitting? You probably never even thought about me, yet I've spent every single day hating you, waiting for this day to come. Let me refresh your memory."
Standing on two legs the unicorn pushed back the hood of the cloak, allowing the concealed mane to flow freely with the wind. A moment later the cloak had also been removed revealing the cerulean-coated body underneath. Two hooves slowly reached for the mask and pulled it off.
Twilight's eyes widened with recognition. "You."
Trixie smiled. "That's right. I'm glad you finally remember me, Twilight Sparkle."
The throb on Twilight's head intensified as her mind raced with thoughts. "You came here once before. Your name was Trixie."
Trixie's eyes narrowed. "That's the Great and Powerful Trixie to you. You might have dismissed it the last time I was here but you will remember it now. I'll make sure that none of you ponies forget."
"What are you talking about?" Twilight asked, a bewildered look on her face.
"Don't play dumb!" Sparks shot out of Trixie's horn as she sneered at Twilight. "You humiliated me in front of everyone. You turned me into a laughingstock. You ruined everything!"
When the same confused expression remained on Twilight's face Trixie growled in frustration. "The Ursa Minor! You vanquished it even after I was helpless to stop it myself. You made me look like a fool!"
Comprehension dawned on Twilight's face. "But that…I didn't mean to…I never meant to embarrass you."
"Stop lying," Trixie said, the scowl on her face becoming even more pronounced. "All of you ponies have laughed at me long enough. I'll make sure you never laugh at me again."
Twilight shrunk back. "What are you going to do?"
A wicked grin spread over Trixie's face as she stared at Twilight. "I'll show you the same despair that you made me experience, Twilight Sparkle. I'll take away everything precious to you and make you regret the day you made fun of me. I'll make all of Ponyville pay. I'll start by bringing this whole town crashing down."
Twilight's eyes widened as she gaped at the unicorn. "You can't."
"Of course I can. I have more than enough power to do so."
Turning to the tree-like structure that was Twilight's home Trixie heard a familiar voice in the back of her mind.
"There. The elements are in there."
The cerulean-colored unicorn smiled, placing the mask over her face before turning to Twilight Sparkle.
Her horn began to glow and a moment later six objects shot out of the structure and made their way towards her. They circled around her, the light emitted from her horn allowing Twilight to see what the other unicorn had obtained. Her eyes widened with recognition as she felt her heart stop.
"No," she whispered, her voice losing all of its strength as her mind reeled in shock.
Trixie stared down at her, a triumphant look on her face. "These are the objects the princess sent you to retrieve, aren't they? Your last chance is gone. The elements are mine!" She began to laugh as she stared down at her defeated nemesis. "You should see the look on your face. You look so weak and helpless."
Coming to, Twilight grit her teeth, using her remaining strength to rise from the ground.
"Give those back!"
The laughter faded away. Trixie turned to Twilight, her eyebrows raised. "You really plan on standing up to me? What chance do you think you have against me now?"
"I don't know," Twilight replied, "and I don't care. I won't let you get away with this. I won't give up."
Silence greeted her words as Trixie remained still. What was going on here? She had beaten Twilight Sparkle, taking away the princess who was so close to her and defeating all of her friends in the process. The Elements of Harmony were now in her grasp. She was finally achieving the revenge she had desired for so long.
Yet Twilight would not admit defeat. She remained defiant and sought to endure. She was beaten and had nothing more to give, so why did she insist on persevering?
A thought occurred to her then, one that she had not taken into account during all the nights where she plotted her revenge. It was a simple thought, yet one that she had not foreseen, and the weight behind it was so strong that she felt herself stagger.
Twilight Sparkle would never give up. She would keep trying, no matter how hopeless the situation seemed.
"No. You can't do that."
Stunned, Twilight stared at the other unicorn, her tense body becoming loose before the sudden change. Trixie took a step back, shaking her head as she fell to the ground. All of her planning - all the days of carefully honing her magic and preparing for the day she would return to Ponyville, ready to extract vengeance on the purple unicorn and the citizens of the small town – had been for nothing. She would never truly triumph over Twilight Sparkle for the unicorn would never admit defeat.
No. She would not let it end like this. She had come too far to be denied now. She would have her revenge. She would make all of them suffer.
Her horn began to glow, its light pulsing as Twilight stared in suspense. The ground began to shake as Trixie let out a scream that seemed to echo all around them, sending a wave of magic rushing out of the unicorn's body. Twilight braced herself as the magic passed over her, producing strong gales of wind that threatened to overcome the purple unicorn.
"I will have my revenge!"
"Stop it, Trixie," Twilight pleaded. "Don't do this."
Thunder rumbled as lightning flashed in the sky, a mass of clouds appearing out of thin air over Ponyville. The wind around them continued to pick up, threatening to send the purple unicorn flying away. At the center of the bedlam stood the masked unicorn, floating over the ground as the elements continued to circle around her.
"Listen well, Twilight Sparkle," Trixie's voice boomed over the rumble of thunder. "I have taken your princess. I have defeated your friends and left them strewn over the ground. I have won!"
Twilight braced herself as another blast of air blew over her, pushing her back as Trixie continued.
"You are beaten, and yet you remain stubborn and choose to continue a losing battle. I won't allow it. I want to see all hope vanish from your eyes before I'm done with you. I want to see you broken with despair, acknowledging that there will be no salvation in the end. If you will not succumb now, then I will have to wait a little longer."
The circling elements took to the air, the magic surrounding them intensifying as they continued to trace the same pattern over and over again. Lightning flashed overhead as the Elements of Harmony began to spin faster before shooting away, racing through the sky in different directions like shooting stars. Twilight watched the trail of one of the elements as it sped over the horizon and disappeared from sight.
She turned to Trixie. "What did you do?"
"I have sealed your fate," the other unicorn replied. "You have seven days to find the elements and unite them. If you can do that then you might be able to save your pathetic home. If not, then you can kiss Ponyville goodbye!"
Magic gathered on Trixie's horn once more. The masked unicorn screamed, her voice both horrible and chilling, the ensuing blast of magic aimed high towards the sky. Twilight tried to stand her ground as the wind around her picked up but to no avail. The power emitted form the other unicorn hit her hard and she was sent flying back. She fell to the ground, feeling her breath be knocked out of her as the pain in her head intensified. Her vision darkened at the edges, and she turned to the powerful unicorn floating in the air one more time before darkness took her and all was silent.
Author's note: At long last the second chapter is done! My thanks go to all the people who have read and/or reviewed the story. A big thanks go to the people at FiMFiction.net as well for accepting the fic on their site.
Thanks again to all the readers for taking the time to give this story a chance. I hope you look foward to the next chapter!