Spike ran towards the sun temple as fast as his little legs could carry him. The way was easy enough to find as at this point there were ponies regularly making the trip from Undervale’s main settlement. From the looks of things in fact, a great many ponies were actually pulling small carts full of what few possessions they had towards the temple. What were they doing?
Fortunately for Spike, they were all rather distracted, and he was able to climb into the back of one of the carts, hiding beneath the ragged cloth tarp that covered the items inside. Soon he found himself squished up against a number of old books, pillows, and small trinkets, trying very hard to be still enough to not draw attention as he peered out a gap at the front of the tarp at the two ponies pulling his chosen cart.
To the right was a pegasus pony with a blue coat and a faded pink mane, five pink whistles clearly shown as her cutie mark from his present angle. Her eyes were purple, seen when she turned her head to speak to her companion. She had the look of somepony that was incredibly tired, perhaps a bit hungry, but so used to the feeling that she was still coping fairly well with the cart pulling. To her left was an earth pony mare with a pink coat and off-colored pink mane and purple eyes. Her cutie mark was six pink ice cream cones with white ice cream, looking just as hungry.
“I can’t wait ‘til we get to the new land!” the earth pony was telling the other, her voice somehow upbeat despite her look, “I wonder if they’ll have ice cream there; it’s been so long since I’ve had it! Prince Helios says that they have all sorts of food, and that we’ll have a big feast when we get there!”
After a few more moments of silence, the same mare asked, “Is something wrong, Wind Whistler?”
“I don’t know Lickity Split, it just seems as if there is something more to all this,” stated the pegasus, apparently named Wind Whistler, with her more refined voice.
“But this will solve everything! When we get there it will be like a brand new Dream Valley!”
“Yes, I’m sure it will be, but how do we know that these other ponies are really such vile creatures? We have yet to actually see any of these 'evil' ponies, and the dragon He had us caring for does not seem any different to our baby dragon.”
“Because the Prince said…”
“Yes Lickity I realize that,” Whistler had the voice of a slightly frustrated mother, “but I’m still not comfortable. It is obvious that his core helpers have had some sort of psychological alteration. It’s almost as if they are different ponies. Why was it necessary to change those that know the most about what is occurring?”
"Mmmm, ice cream," replied Lickity, as if she had been day-dreaming during the last bit of the explanation.
Whistler sighed, and the two were silent again for a number of minutes. This persisted for most of the trip. When they did speak, they tended to avoid the same subject, so Spike was unable to draw anything more useful from them. He did know one thing however: only Helios’ main helpers had received full mental makeovers. Many of the others could be reluctant or completely unwilling to fight.
The cart stopped, and Spike realized that they had arrived. Carefully, he slipped from under the tarp and out the back. He only hoped he could make it all the way back to the underground chambers without being noticed. As for what he would do once he got there, he honestly had no idea, but he couldn’t leave his friends behind to suffer for his escape.
The main group of pony refugees was gathered in an orderly fashion in the plaza outside the temple, many others with carts lined up in a neat row, ready to begin the journey to Equestria. From the number of them here, the main settlement itself must have been nearly empty. There were all kinds of ponies as well, even several types that Spike had never even seen before, like flying ponies with butterfly wings instead of the feathers of the pegasi, and even carts filled with water barrels carrying ponies of some aquatic sort. Still other ponies had little more than a saddlebag containing a few personal items. None had packed food, having all been promised a paradise on the other side.
A white unicorn with a shiny blue mane and five blue flowers as her cutie mark appeared to be in charge of the evacuation at this point. She would have been quite beautiful had it not been for looking as if she was half-starved, her purple eyes looking dull from stress. From what he overheard, her name was Majesty, and she seemed to have been given this task by Twilight Wish. Spike, the pink one, was following her around doing whatever she wanted in very much the same way that Spike fondly remembered helping Twilight Sparkle, but he didn't dare reveal himself to either of them. It appeared that they had set up a smaller teleportation device, presumably to get the ponies down to the lower chambers and the one that would send them to Equestria. Unfortunately for Spike, it did not appear to be activated yet.
While it was clear they were getting ready to leave their desolate world for good, Spike had to wonder, why now of all times? He knew that something big was about to happen, but it was obvious this wasn’t an invasion force. Many of these ponies looked like they could barely hold themselves up, much less fight. Helios, who Spike had only heard of through his captors, must either have been extremely powerful, or foolish, if he thought that he could take on all of Equestria on his own.
From what Spike gathered from various overheard conversations on his way towards the temple, Helios did not think he could do that. As he crept from point to point, he heard several ponies talking about the return of somepony named ‘Selene’, who apparently could combine her powers with Helios’ to become truly unbeatable. Spike, of course, did not for a moment doubt that Celestia and Luna could stop both of them, not realizing that one of the two royal sisters was in no position to help anyone, but he did not want to imagine the chaos that would ensue during a battle involving four powerful alicorns.
He crept behind the cart nearest to the entrance, pulling a box from said cart with several convenient holes in it, which he then placed over his body and peeked out from. He crept closer to the door, trying to make sure nopony was looking his way whenever he moved.
“What’s this?” came a frightfully familiar voice from the door of the temple. It was Twilight Wish. Spike hadn’t thought to peek inside the temple door when rounding the corner, and now felt like a complete moron. Had she seen him move? He felt the grasp of telekinesis around the box, and quickly clung to the inside of it, pulling the lower flaps up with him.
To his surprise and relief, Twilight did not examine the box any more closely, and he instead felt himself being carried further inside of the temple.
“Hay, does this thing belong to any of you morons?” Twilight’s voice sounded again. “No? ‘Guess it’s just trash.”
And with that, Spike felt the box tossed aside, smacking into the ground and rolling several times before settling back down, mercifully with its open side once again facing the floor. He took a deep breath, eyes wide as he loosened his grip and allowed his feet to touch the ground, peering out from the holes once again.
He had landed on the far side of the temple, and the entranceway to the lower chambers was mere feet away, not to mention wide open. The gears attached to the door looked damaged, and it was unlikely it would ever be able to close again without serious repair.
“So are we gonna get to lead the charge or what?” Firefly’s voice sounded out, speaking with the other four ponies across the room.
Spike’s eyes counted them to be sure. He saw five of them; only Posey was missing.
“I hope so!” Surprise answered, “They’ll never see us coming!”
“Actually, I’m pretty sure we won’t be fighting at all,” Twilight said. “Luna won’t be able to stand up to Helios and Selene together; it’ll be a curb stomp and Equestria will have no choice but to submit.”
Luna? Only Luna? Spike suddenly felt far less confident in his world’s defenses, wondering what had happened to Celestia.
“I can’t wait to get to their palace!” Sparkler stated dreamily. “I can only imagine the beautiful things they must have there!”
“Honestly, I’ll be happy so long as I get the apple farm,” Applejack mused, “I bet I could eat ‘em all.”
“Oh stop it Applejack, you can’t eat all those bucking apples.” Twilight’s voice put a clear picture of her rolling her eyes in Spike’s mind.
“Buck you I can’t eat all those apples!” Applejack actually sounded a bit upset.
As the group seemed to sink further into their argument about apples, Spike saw his chance. He slowly lifted the box, padding into the exit towards the lower chambers as fast as he could manage.
Once past the front entrance, he did not stop no matter how tired he got. He took the stairs downward two and three at a time, bouncing from point to point as he found himself panting more and more. By the time he reached the bottom, he felt like he was going to collapse, but knew that he could not rest.
As he was approaching the hallway where he knew his friends were confined, he heard it. It was a gut wrenching chorus of muffled screams. As twisted as they were, he knew that they were his friends. Rarity’s scream, if nothing else, was distinct to his ears.
The only thing worse than the screams, was the sound he heard as he rounded the corner into the room from which they were coming. Silence; the screaming had stopped.
As his eyes fell upon the contents of the room, he felt rage over-riding all of his former exhaustion. Five of his friends were restrained on the tables, masks and helmets covering their faces, bodies twitching in silent, unconscious agony. Behind them was Posey, a motherly smile on her face as she flipped the switch back off.
“There we go, dears,” Posey had not seen Spike as of yet, speaking instead to her patients, despite their being only barely able to hear her at best, “My only regret is that you won’t be able to scream so very loud when I finish this.”
First, Posey moved to pull the casing off the top of the machine, pulling five variously colored glowing crystals from the top, which she carefully placed in a bag. Humming a happy little tune as she did so, she placed the bag on a nearby table and then moved to pick up a long, slender knife in her muzzle, smiling to herself as she turned to face her patients.
What she actually faced when she turned however, was the flailing of an enraged baby dragon. Spike moved so fast in his rage that Posey initially was not even certain of what was coming at her. He bounced up onto the table where Twilight was restrained, launching himself off the edge directly at Posey's face, claws and teeth bared angrily.
Showing no regard for his own well-being, Spike took hold of the knife in Posey's mouth by the blade in both of his claws. Fortunately for him, it was only sharp on one edge and he had grabbed it by the opposing side. Posey's eyes grew wide as the blade was pulled from her mouth, rattling as Spike sent it bouncing across the floor, and her face felt like she had just been stabbed by a hundred little needles as Spike sank his teeth into one side.
Screaming bloody murder, Posey backed into the shelves behind her, smashing several of them and causing them to tumble downward. Not especially wanting to be rained on with various medical instruments, Posey immediately darted forward, slamming her head into the edge of one of the tables to try to get the angry dragon off of her.
Spike felt himself jarred several times, finally releasing her only to use the table as a leaping point to land against her back. Posey let out another shrill scream as he used his whole body as if it were a jackhammer. He drilled his tail into the small of her back, causing the pony to rapidly collapse beneath him.
Utterly surprised at how competent a foe an angry baby dragon could be, Posey did not waste any more time attempting to fight him. Instead, she grabbed for the bag full of the gems, obviously intent on running with them. Instead, she found Spike leaping in front of her to take hold of them before she could, then running across the room.
At this point, he was not really certain what to do with the objects he had acquired, and his rage was hardly helping him think clearly. However Posey let out an uncharacteristic scream when he took the gems, sounding almost like a banshee as she raced after him. Important as the gems obviously were to her, and wanting nothing more than to hurt the one that had harmed his friends, Spike let out a belch of his sending breath.
Posey skidded to a halt, her screams stopping in a moment of stunned silence as she watched the bag disappear in a puff of smoke. Her face was momentarily tense as she considered this, and then finally turned to run out the door herself. The distant sound of hoofbeats against stone faded slowly away as she headed towards the staircase to the temple above.
"This place looks totally different." Inkie observed, standing at the bottom of the excavated chasm alongside her friends. The royal guard had apparently worked tirelessly through the night, and had achieved their goal of uncovering the hidden portal.
"It's still intact? ‘Thought for sure my ‘splodie Helios stole would have gotten it..." Blinkie sounded almost angry at her creation’s failure.
"Well if he blew it up, he couldn't get back now could he?" Gilda rolled her eyes, "He was probably just delaying us with having to dig it out."
"Indeed, uncovering it was his expectation," Luna's voice boomed behind them. "He was correct, believing that we wouldst not abandon our friends for our own safety. Underestimating us was his error, as thou shalt prove!"
Before anypony else could reply, Luna had used her magic to open her own royal saddle, six very shiny pieces of jewelry floating up and out of it, gleaming with the early morning sun. Amongst them was a crown, atop which was a purple, star-shaped jewel, as well as five necklaces, each adorned with a different gem matching the cutie marks of the original Elements of Harmony. Each piece floated to one of the substitute six, clasping around each neck, the crown settling on Trixie's head.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie would rather have a crown that matched her own marvelous cutie mark," the unicorn immediately complained, raising one hoof to poke at the crown, seeming offended that it was adorned with her rival's mark instead.
"Do not fret; the jewelry shall attune itself next you employ it," Luna boomed, "And shalt magnify the power of your friendship. We are counting on you."
"Wait, what about mine?" Gilda quirked an eyebrow, "I don't have a cutie whatsit..."
"Maybe it would be what you'd have if you had a cutie mark!" Ditzy suggested, tilting her head sideways, turning about trying to see her own necklace.
"Whee!" cheered Pinkie, the only one to have a necklace that already matched her mark, "Time to save our fr--"
Her statement was cut short, as statements so often were. There was a flash of light from the teleport pad signifying its activation. Immediately, the guards surrounding the portal took up stances around it, Luna herself turning towards it and arching her wings threateningly. The six, also, were fast to move up beside her, all expecting some kind of attack.
What they saw however, were five metal tables, which Spike had managed to roll up onto the portal pad on the other side, each containing one of the ponies that the heroes were set to rescue. Spike himself was with them, looking completely exhausted.
"Oh good it was aimed... here and-" Spike stumbled over a few words, then stumbled forward and rolled off the blue, circular pad and onto the ground, finally deciding it was a good time to take a nap.
"Does this mean we don't have to go?" Gilda asked, suddenly hopeful.
"Her Majesty is still on the other side," Trixie pointed out.
"Right..." Gilda took a deep breath and sighed.
"Spikey Wikey, you did it!" Pinkie bounced over to the unconscious Spike, cuddling him anyway.
"Remove them from the structure!" Luna commanded, wasting no time, and the guards were quick to obey, seeming to have lost all reluctance towards her by this point. She then turned to the substitute team, "Thou shalt move to the device. We shall see to thy friends."
"Can they not now wield the elements?" Inkie asked, unsure. "Would they not be better for this?"
"They shall not be recovered nearly soon enough," Luna shook her head. "You must go, now."
"Come on everypony," Ditzy moved quickly to the pad, landing on her back with a thump, "It'll be just like old times!" The looks she received suggested that none had much idea exactly which times she was referring to.
Pinkie, having moved next to Rainbow Dash's side, looked a little pouty that she had to leave her friends after just having found them, but also moved up to the device next to Ditzy. The others were soon to follow, each eyeing the tables as the nearby guards worked to loosen the helmets. Luna moved to block their view, as if silently commanding them to focus, and slammed her hoof down on the switch to return her champions to the other world.
"Applejack, you eat all those apples you're gonna get a wicked bad tummy ache," Firefly argued. Yes, they had really been arguing ever since Spike had infiltrated their headquarters.
The argument was only broken at the sound of a scream of rage from the entrance to the lower catacombs, suddenly drawing all five ponies from their bickering. A moment later, Posey stumbled into the main temple, limping rather badly as if she had hurt her back, and looking completely exhausted from stumbling up too many stairs.
"That scream came from you?" Twilight asked, incredulous.
"That's pretty surprising!" Surprise smiled, hovering nearby.
"Oh uh," Posey suddenly returned to her more typical demeanor, "I didn't mean to bother you all, but I just thought you should know..."
"Oh I knew we shouldn't have left her to do it," Sparkler rolled her eyes.
"I sure can't wait to get those apples," Applejack hadn't heard a word of it, still hooked on the old topic.
"Just tell us what you did wrong, Posey," Twilight sighed.
"Well," Posey explained, "It wasn't so much what I did, but the fact that well..." then suddenly her voice grew to a fevered pitch again, "You let that stupid baby dragon escape, walk right past you, and then he used his breath-whatsit on the gems and they disappeared!" Then back to complete calmness again, "I hope that isn't too much of a problem, I feel just awful."
Twilight smirked, as if she knew something Posey didn't realize, "Don't worry about it; just wait over here with us."
"Oh, really?" Posey seemed surprised at the lack of reprimanding, torture, or the like, "Oh, also I think he was able to activate the portal, which means somepony has probably uncovered it on the other side."
Twilight sighed, "That soon? Oh for Helios’ sake... fine! Everyone take their positions. Anything that comes up those stairs before Lord Helios gets back is gonna’ get a rainbow in the face. We'll show ‘em what a fully powered Rainbow of Light can do."
"Do we really have to move this fast?" Blinkie huffed, jogging up the spiral staircase towards the upper temple with the others, "I mean, we don't want to be exhausted right?"
"Oh don’t be such a pansy," Gilda huffed from above them. If nothing else, the breeze from her wings was cooling off those below and behind her. "I thought you were a tough psycho."
"They're probably going to be in the temple!" Pinkie chirped from the front, seeming unnaturally excited about all this, and practically bouncing up the staircase on her bottom as if it were a bouncy ball, "But don't worry, it doesn't take a lot of energy to do a pose-down, you just have to friend really hard!"
"Yeah that's where I'm worried," Gilda responded, "I'd rather have a back-up plan to beat the snot out of them ready."
"Friendship, friendship!" Ditzy was quite happy as well, flying above Pinkie as she sang a bit, periodically running into the wall of the staircase when she forgot to keep turning or into the stairs themselves, at which point she would roll up them for a few steps before taking off again.
"Not to fear," Trixie assured them, she herself running at a good pace and panting between words. She had initially attempted to be in front, but had since given up on getting around the two sillier ponies at the fore, "Trixie will energize you when we reach the top; The Great and Powerful Trixie and her Minions shall not be stopped!"
Inkie pre-emptively stuck a hoof into Trixie's muzzle to keep her from laughing maniacally and giving away their approach.
There was not much more time to discuss the issue however, as they reached the top of the staircase, at which point Trixie was finally able to move herself in front. Her horn began to glow, and a wave of fresh energy washed over the group, their panting slowly subsiding as they rested for a moment.
"Wait," Blinkie peered at Trixie, as if just having processed the words, "The Great and Powerful Trixie and her Minions?"
"Oh fine," Trixie responded, "Team Trixie and Friends."
"Nah," Gilda argued, "Needs to be something simple, but awesome, like Team Awesome."
"Oh!" Pinkie raised a front hoof, waving it about frantically, "We could be P.A.R.T.Y.!"
"What does P.A.R.T.Y. stand for?" Inkie raised an eyebrow.
"It has to stand for something?"
"Oh! Oh!" Surprise yelled from out in the main temple, "It could stand for Pony ARsonisTs Yay!"
"I don't know, that last one sounds a bit not-nice." Ditzy landed softly, and then fell against the nearest wall.
"Guys, I think they've noticed us," Gilda sighed.
"And what, pray tell, makes Gilda believe that?" Trixie adjusted her hat, which was now smush’ed slightly by the crown she wore over it.
"Oh for crying out loud! Come out here so we can target you!" Twilight Wish screamed from outside.
"Yeah!" Firefly echoed, "You can come up with a name later after we've killed you!"
"That," Gilda replied simply, then pointed out the door into the main temple, drawing their attention to the fact that the other six ponies outside had a clear line of sight to their present location.
"Interesting," Inkie observed, more quietly, "They don't want to hit us here. They must be afraid the tunnel will come down and block their path to the portal, or worse collapse it onto the lower chambers."
"But wait," Blinkie joined the quieter conversation, "We can still hit them, right?"
"Trixie is certain they won't hesitate once we power up," Trixie pondered, "But by then it will be too late!" Her voice rose to her usual hammy self, "Prepare to face your friendship-y doom!"
"Yay!" Pinkie squealed, "Pose-down time!"
Trixie leapt towards the exit into the main temple, raising her fore-hooves up into the air, her cape blowing about behind her from the energy build up as the others quickly took their positions behind her. It was a tight fit at the entrance if they all wanted to keep line of sight with the other ponies, so eventually Trixie was pushed out into the open. At least they were still at the exit, if that counted for something.
"You know Twilight," Sparkler complained, "I could have sworn you said these morons were dead."
"Shut up and concentrate!" Twilight moved in front of her group, heart-shaped necklace glowing as it snapped open with an energetic ‘whoosh’ of its own.
The energies of the two groups crackled when they touched in the middle, spreading out from each of them and causing the entire temple to vibrate. At first, it seemed as if the native ponies were powering up a great deal faster, the energy of the heroes pushed back significantly as the six within the temple lifted off the ground and glowed brightly. It was like a wall of hatred eating into the globe of energy around Trixie and her friends.
"No!" Trixie called back to her friends with sudden realization, "We do not feel anger, remember? Team Awesome P.A.R.T.Y Trixie fights with friendship! Not just for each other, but for them as well!"
There was a wave of beautiful rainbow energy surrounding the native ponies, the Rainbow of Light blasting like a cannon round out from them and up towards the high ceiling of the temple. It then arched downwards towards the heroes.
As the heroes looked up at the rainbow bearing down on them, all doubt cleared from their minds, suddenly acting as one and knowing exactly what to do. Their forms glowed, rising off of the temple floor as the power arced through them, and the wave of friendship seemed to burst from their very souls and into the air.
They did not target the other ponies though, but instead the Rainbow of Light itself. Crashing together, the friendship wave clashed with the beam midair, swirled around it, and with an ear-shattering boom drew the corruption out from it like a black miasma. The temple shook, dangerous-looking cracks splintering along the ceiling, rubble from the floor pushed out towards the walls and a gush of air blasting out through the windows and doors that caused the refugees outside to drop their belongings and fearfully move away from the temple of the sun.
Then, suddenly, the energy seemed to flow into equilibrium, both rainbows twirling around each other in peaceful harmony. Together they streaked back towards Twilight Wish and her allies, their own attack having been purified and sent back towards them, as if in unity with the substitutes' own wave of friendship.
"Can... can that happen?" Twilight stared up into the blinding light of the two rainbows, "Th-thank you... friends."
And then it hit them, feeling as if every hateful thought in their bodies was suddenly aflame. It was excruciating initially, even more so than the conditioning that had left them so twisted, and the chorus of deafening screams rattled the temple almost as much as the initial explosions. The double rainbow swirled around their forms, tightened around them so that they were pulled into a neat little pile, and then released them, all left sitting back-to-back and their eyes lidded in a dreamy state.
The Rainbow of Light retreated to the amulet around the unconscious Twilight's neck, snapping shut with a soft click as its work was now done, while the Friendship Wave dissipated into a mist and flowed back towards the heroes. For a moment, there was a near deafening silence, broken only by the soft creak of the temple as it settled back into place, having somehow managed to remain standing.
"It... worked?" Trixie's voice finally broke the silence. "Ahem...of course it worked! Was there ever any doubt?"
"I still have a few, actually," Gilda blinked, walking slowly over toward the grounded forms of their adversaries, "Are they?..."
"Smokin'" Blinkie strolled over to them as well. She was apparently referring to the smoldering ponies themselves as she poked a hoof at Applejack's head, soliciting a grunt, "Still alive, should I use a bomb to..."
"Now, now sister. Let us try to be the better ponies," Inkie reached out a hoof to stop Blinkie's own, which had been reaching towards her saddlebags.
"Are they all right?" Ditzy was the one that looked most worried about the defeated ponies, landing next to Twilight and leaning down to nuzzle at her, then shake her with both her fore-hooves.
"It's okay!" Pinkie bounced over with an audible ‘sproing’, "It's just like when we hit Nightmare Moon! They'll be up in a few minutes and will be all like ‘I'm so sorry!’ then I'll be like 'Whaaaaa.. hay this calls for a party!'"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie believes that we have yet to defeat Helios, which is also required for the party protocol to be initiated," the blue unicorn spoke as she shifted her crown again, then slowly blinked as she lifted it temporarily off her head and looked at it with a large grin.
Sure enough, the crown’s jewel had reshaped and recolored itself into Trixie's cutie mark, a wand with a wave of blue magic around it. Temporary as it might be, it seemed to have frozen her brain from ego overload. The others' necklaces had similarly reshaped, save for Pinkie's of course, and even Gilda had a flaming feather emblem on her own.
"Mine's best," Blinkie grinned widely.
Before the inevitable argument over whose was, in fact, best, could pick up any more steam, they were distracted as the other ponies began to stir.
"I suggest that, just in case, we leave them here and get them on the way back," Inkie moved around to start trying to push her sisters towards the exit of the temple.
"Do we even know where we're going?" Gilda eyed the twitching bodies of the downed ponies as well, and then headed after the others towards the door.
Without having the question answered, they went in the only direction they had not been, which was out the front exit of the temple. What they found there was less than encouraging. There was a large circle of ponies, unicorns and pegasi blocking off their path away from the temple.
"Y... stay where you are!" warned a half-starved-looking unicorn near the center of the mass. It was Majesty, though the heroes had never seen her. Spike, the pink one, was behind her, looking timid as Majesty continued, "We... we won't let you invade!"
"Every one of us is willing to give our lives for Dream Valley!" a pegasus hovering above the unicorn stated, though terror was apparent on her face. She was turquoise with a green mane, three green musical notes adorning her flank.
"Oh well," Blinkie started to reach into her saddlebag again.
"No killing!" Ditzy was the pony that stopped her this time, even looking a little cross.
"Why does nopony let me have any fun?" Blinkie practically threw her hooves up in despair.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie does not wish to battle starving ponies either," Trixie admitted, "It does not seem sporting. As we come only to retrieve our Princess, it would be best to let us pass."
"Come on guys," Gilda shook her head, "You don't want to fight the team that just smoked your elites."
"Um," even Pinkie seemed at a loss, "Maybe if we offer to bake them cupcakes or ... um... we could get you some balloons or something?"
"Let them pass," a weak voice instructed from behind Trixie and her friends. The group turned around to see Twilight Wish staggering up to the door and weakly leaning against it.
"Twilight?" Majesty blinked, "But..."
"Majesty, I am Lord Helios’ recognized second-hoof pony," Twilight managed to sound more stern, "If you are questioning me then you are questioning the Prince."
Majesty slowly nodded, then waved her head towards the crowd, which seemed to take her lead and slowly parted for the six to pass by them. The six heroes took a collective sigh, each for their own various reasons.
"It would greatly assist us," Inkie peered cautiously towards Twilight, "If we knew where to go from here."
"Directly into the city, there is only one path," Twilight stated, settling onto the stone floor as if too exhausted to stand, "It's the only new-looking structure; a giant temple with a sun emblem atop the door, no possible way to miss it."
"I could lead them..." started Majesty, but was cut off.
"No," Twilight shook her head, "We start evacuating right now, and you are more worthy than I to lead it. The ponies on the other side will not reject refugees." She then cut off the next inevitable question, "I'm absolutely sure... please, trust me."
Celestia lay on the cold, stone slab, her body aching from holding the same position for too long. The magical chains covered almost every part of her body, layered around her. It was a particularly annoying situation since the magic from the chains was actually quite ticklish, making her giggle from time to time no matter how much she willed otherwise. Helios had not even restrained her muzzle, as if the audible confirmation of her torment was something he enjoyed.
Time had faded into uncertainty for Celestia, locked away where she could not know what time it was or how many hours or days had passed. She would often fade in and out of consciousness, and was more on the fading out end of things now.
At least, until a flash of smoke above brought her back to awareness, right before a bag filled with hard objects slammed down onto her head, glanced off, and rattled to the floor. Her eyes snapped open just in time to see five gems of various colors fall from the bag and roll away from it. She wasn't rightly sure if she should say anything, and as she stared at them time seemed to fade out of focus once again.
"A special delivery!" Helios' gleeful voice rang out some undetermined length of time later as he noticed them, practically bouncing over from the nearby console and standing in front of Celestia, "How very interesting!"
The stones glowed with Helios's magic: blue, white, purple, tan, and yellow all floated to their particular slots, finishing out the set with the pink one that was already there. Celestia let out another chuckle without wanting to, and Helios chuckled in return.
"I know right?" Helios rolled his eyes, "It's like they intentionally designed the chains to be ticklish and annoying. Maybe I should go back in time and wrap whoever invented these things up in them, am I right?"
He paused for a moment, as if waiting for her to get some kind of joke, then frowned.
"Oh please," he rolled his eyes, "You always were such a baby about things. Aren't you wondering about my evil plan?"
Celestia grunted, "I'm pretty certain that I know it already, brother."
"Tsk," Helios shook his head, "You underestimate me. You think I'm attempting to change time, but I'm not actually going to do that at all."
Celestia quirked an eyebrow, "Then why, dear brother, are we opening a portal to a thousand years ago?" She kept her voice unbelievably even; by this point she arguably deserved sainthood for her patience.
"Well, changing time is way too dangerous," Helios smirked, "And then that annoying hourglass pony would probably show up and stop me, so I came up with a plan that doesn't technically change what happened! Tell me Celestia, how do you know that you killed Selene?"
"By accident..." Celestia reiterated.
"Right, whatever, so claims you," Helios rolled his eyes.
"Because she was there and then there was nothing left but charred remains," Celestia sighed, her gaze shifting sharply to one side.
"Unidentifiable remains?" Helios leaned forward, looking her in the eyes.
"Yes," Celestia got especially shifty-eyed at this part of her reply, "Because of the influx of magic..."
"So all you know is that you killed an alicorn, not for certain who it was?" Helios confirmed, nodding, "So when I grab Selene out of the vortex, and replace her with a different, but equally weakened, alicorn, you won't notice the difference."
Celestia grew silent, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes.
"In case your mind isn’t at its strongest right now," Helios leaned back, "That's you. I'm going to snatch Selene away, replace her with you, and the you of the past will never know the difference. An alicorn dies then, an alicorn lives now, and the timeline is intact."
Celestia chuckled again, but it didn't seem to be from the chains this time, "Oh Brother..." she couldn't help but smirk slightly.
Helios snorted, "What? Am I missing something?" his eyes narrowed, recognizing her tone, "That's your 'I'm pranking you' voice. I'm missing something, aren’t I?"
"You told them your evil plan; don't you know that once the villain does that, he's doomed?" Celestia smirked.
"Told who the what now?" Helios tilted his head, quirking one ear.
"Greetings 'Your Majesty'," the voice of Trixie called out from behind him. One could almost hear her waggling her eyebrows as she spoke.
"Oh for Faust’s sake."