Written by: Psychicscubadiver
Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
“I’m going to kill Trixie, of course. It’s the only way to be sure,” I said. I tried to soften the blow with a smile, but that just seemed to shock Twilight more. I turned away from her again, hurrying down the grim stone passage. I had an unpleasant job to do, and waiting wouldn’t make it any easier.
I don’t know why I told her that, though. It would have been so much simpler just to stay quiet and take care of it. It’s easier to seek forgiveness, etc. On the other hand, I’d never shown any talent for staying quiet before. I considered the question for a moment, but then shoved it to the back of my mind in favor of more pressing matters. The chief problem being how I would go about killing Trixie.
Thoughts of Trixie made my anger return, and I wrapped myself in it. This fury might be recent, but it was as comfortable and familiar as a well-worn coat. My anger and I were old friends. My revolver was the obvious answer: quick, relatively clean, and certain. But there was a slight hitch in that plan; I still wasn’t sure if my gun would work here. Certain places regard the laws of physics as only loose guidelines, and Pinkie alone was enough evidence that Equestria was one of them. If it failed, I would have to get creative. I could always throw Trixie out the window; that was quick and simple. We were probably high up enough for the fall to be fatal, but finding the body to make sure would be a pain in the ass. And I had to be sure Trixie had bought it. I wouldn’t let her escape to harm anyone ever again.
A small voice in the back of my mind suggested I simply torch her, but the thought nearly made me gag in disgust. Magic is the creative power of life itself; it comes from the hopes, fears, loves and pains of living beings. Using it to execute anyone is the act of a madman. Supernatural monsters like demons and vampires were one thing, but killing a human – or a pony, I supposed – with magic was just… perverse. To end a life with the force of life itself meant corrupting its very purpose. I couldn’t believe I’d even considered it.
Maybe… I was wrong.
Maybe I should just let the ponies handle it.
Memories flashed before my eyes. Applejack being bitten, her screams of pain resounding in the tightening corridor. Rainbow guarding Pinkie even though she took a vicious attack to do it, her wing and flank torn and bloody. Twilight crying after finding Spike gone, with only a cruel note left in his place. Pinkie breathing raggedly, her body failing as venom shut it down. Rarity screaming in fear as the floor vanished beneath her, dropping her into darkness. Fluttershy collapsing in the forest, incoherent with pain, as the sound of smashed glass rung in the air. But most of all I remembered how Trixie had looked through the Sight.
I had been examining the wire spell, trying to figure out a way past it, when I spotted her out of the corner of one eye. There were a couple walls in the way, but the Sight relies on more than mere physicality. Trixie was clear and visible; the aura of power around her was impossible to miss. She seemed indistinguishable from any other pony I’d seen; maybe a little bigger than average, her black coat turning blue at the extremities, silver hair and tail. The phantom hat and cape were a weird touch, but the Sight can be metaphorical. The human brain isn’t well equipped to comprehend pure magic. She looked arrogant and proud, but otherwise normal. Almost boringly so. Yet there was something about her that made my Spidey Sense tingle. Something was massively wrong, and it creeped me out. It wasn’t until I saw the blackness on her body shift and tighten that I realized the true nature of what I was seeing.
It was the demon. The Nightmare, Twilight had called it. Through the Sight it appeared as a snake, long and thin. It had wrapped itself around Trixie dozens of times, enveloping her in its coils. Its head moved into view, whispering in her ear. I couldn’t hear what it was saying, but I could feel the malice and hatred behind its words from here. Now that I had recognized the demon for what it was, the sense of wrongness, a hard-edged sensation that the word ‘evil’ doesn’t even begin to cover, doubled. I felt stained, tainted even, as though just seeing it had left a greasy handprint on my soul. But Trixie didn’t seem to feel the same way. She had a maniac’s smile, wide and malicious, hanging on to every poisonous word of hate it fed her.
Trixie wasn’t the demon’s victim; she was a willing collaborator.
I brought myself back to present, pulling away from the cruelly perfect memory. She had sought one demon for aid, she’d do it again the moment she could. I believed that without a trace of doubt. And next time, I wouldn’t be here to help. There was only one way to end this.
I had said there would be a reckoning, and Trixie was about to face it. I hoped Twilight and the other ponies would forgive me eventually. That they would realize it had been necessary. But as I’d thought in the forest, better that they live to hate me than die thinking the best.
I had reached the ballroom, and more importantly Trixie, when there was a loud clatter behind me from the hallway I’d just left. Twilight appeared, framed by the rest of the group.
“No! Please, don’t!” Fluttershy cried, staring at me in horror, all the happiness she’d had just a minute ago draining away.
I turned from them, determined to finish this at last. I hoped they’d look away as I drew my trusty revolver. Then there was a flash in front of me and Twilight appeared, blocking my line of fire.
“Twilight, move,” I bit out more harshly than I’d intended. She flinched, and I sighed. “I know you don’t want me to, but it’s necessary. You’ll realize that someday.” I moved to one side, trying to get a clear shot, but she moved with me. To make things even better, I could hear the rest of the group coming. I only had a few seconds before they reached me.
“Stop it, Dresden. This isn’t about Trixie. This is about you.” Twilight said. The barrel of my gun wavered, then dropped to my side. I gave her a wary stare, but she had my attention. She sighed, her relief palpable, and continued. “You’re…” she paused, her face torn by indecision. “...different.”
I raised an eyebrow. “We’ve been working together for hours, and you’re just now figuring that out? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one.”
“That ain’t what she means.” A familiar accent interjected.
Hail, hail, the gang’s all here. Great.
“What she means is that you’ve changed since we parted company to search for Spike,” Rarity cut in.
“Yeah, you look all gray and grim, not smiley and snarky like the wizard we know and love.” Even Pinkie was subdued, her voice serious.
My skepticism must have been evident, because Twilight stepped in, cutting to the heart of the matter. “You’ve been infected with the Nightmare. Let us help you, then we can talk about Trixie again.”
My first reaction was shock and fear, but it was rapidly replaced by a hearty helping of disbelief with a good-sized serving of amusement on the side.
Yeah, right. A demon. That’s a good one. I told myself.
I chuckled under my breath, trying not to laugh in their faces, but even that seemed to unnerve them. When I could finally speak, even I could hear the condescension in my voice. “Because we all know you’re such an expert on demons. Really, Twilight? That’s your big fear?” I shook my head. “I’m a Grade-A wizard of the White Council, so I think I’d notice if there was a demon in my head. Now, if you’re done stalling, Trixie has a date with destiny.”
“But that’s just it!” Rainbow yelled, throwing her hooves in the air. “You were always rude and a smart-ass, but this is just evil! Listen to yourself.”
Anger flared in me, bright and terrible. I don’t know what my expression looked like, but it was enough to cow even the steadfast pegasus. “So that’s it, huh? I’m the one willing to make the sacrifice, to do what needs to be done, and that makes me evil? You think I want this?” My voice rose to a shout. “I’m trying to protect you, to protect everyone, and that makes me evil?!”
There was a moment of silence, and I was afraid I’d gone too far. The reactions of my newfound friends hit me like a gut punch. They had begun to back away from me, putting distance between us. There was real fear in their eyes now. They were truly afraid of me. It should be something I’m used to, but this was a fresh twist to the familiar knife. I’d done everything I could for them. I’d bled and suffered to help them.
But, a part of me whispered sadly, at the end of the day they can only see me as a monster.
My heart churned with bitterness, but still I would do what they couldn’t bring themselves to. Then I’d disappear back into the Nevernever, and Twilight could think whatever she wanted of me. My grip on the revolver tightened, and I lifted it, aiming for Trixie’s head. I would double tap it. Just to be sure.
“I’m sorry it had to be this way, Dresden.” The words themselves didn’t catch my attention near so much as the tone did. Sad, yet resigned. I turned towards Twilight and saw the tiara on her head begin to glow. The necklaces on the rest of the ponies began to glow as well, their light pulsing in time to the main crystal. The bottom of my stomach dropped out as I realized what was happening. They were going to use their magic on me, to force me to see things their way, to twist me into what they wanted me to be.
Just like Justin did, some part of me whispered.
At first there was only the pain of betrayal. This wasn’t a breach of trust; this marched over trust’s mutilated corpse to punch me in the face. It’s funny, you know. My mentor, and foster father, tried something similar in my teens.
My mother died during childbirth, and my father had an aneurism when I was eight. I spent years as an orphan until my magic blossomed, and Justin DuMorne adopted me. He gave me a home, he cared for me, taught me magic. He brought home Elaine, another orphan, not long after me, and the three of us were a family. They were the only people I had in the world. Then, one sunny afternoon he tried to enthrall me, to twist me into his personal puppet. He had started down the left-hand path, and he wanted a pair of magical enforcers, whose loyalty was guaranteed, to help him in a bid for power. He’d already started on Elaine, and I was next. The rest of the story isn’t much fun, unless you like tragedies, so I try not to dwell on it. Sins of the past, and all. The ponies may have had better intentions, but from my point of view it looked a lot alike. I guess even with a couple decades of scar tissue that wound hadn’t really healed, because next came the anger.
I kept it on a tight leash, afraid of what I would do if I let it loose, but the fury burned away the haze in my mind, letting me realize something I should have hours ago. I let the anger fuel my magic, shaping what I was about to do. All of my thoughts had taken less than a second, the ponies were still gathering their power. I drew in my breath, and spoke.
“No. I’m sorry.” That got Twilight’s attention, and a confused expression overtook her peaceful face.
“Twilight Sparkle.” I said, matching the tone and inflections she’d used to pronounce her name perfectly. “Stop.” I felt her will against mine. She had a powerful mind, but I had expected that. Had it been a fair fight, we probably would have been evenly matched, but fair fights are for suckers. I had taken her by surprise, and besides that I had her True Name, given freely of her own will. It wasn’t even a contest. My mind pressed down on her like an ocean, and she had no choice but to comply.
The glowing tiara flickered and died, its light draining away. The rest of the group had only a moment to panic before I spoke again. “Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack. Stand still and stay silent.” They were confused, and unused to a battle of wills; it barely took a thought to hold them.
“What did you do?” Twilight shouted. She stared at her still and silent friends, her face a mix of fear and confusion.
Interesting that the magic of names has been lost here, I thought. Of course, with so many mages in the population, the princesses probably thought it necessary to kill that knowledge off.
“I just made them stay still for a minute. It’s a lot less permanent than what you were planning to do to me.” I could hear the bitterness in my voice. I tried to shake it off as I spoke again. “Twilight Sparkle, give me your tiara and do not attempt to use magic.” She slowly walked over to me, fighting the compulsion every step of the way. You’d think I had just ordered her to throw her first-born to crocodiles the way she was acting, but I could wait. It wasn’t like I was short on time, and any more pressure might actually hurt her.
About halfway there she started speaking, panicked but hopeful. “Don’t do this Dresden. We can help you. I know there’s still good in you.”
You can’t ignore a straight line like that. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.” James Earl Jones I am not, but my Vader impression isn’t half bad. “Twilight, it is your destiny. Join me, and we can rule the galaxy together!”
“Never!” She shouted, her face horrified. “I’m loyal to Princess Celestia. I’d never betray her!”
I waved away her reply with a rueful laugh and shook my head, disappointed. “That’s the worst part about being here. Nobody gets my jokes.”
Now she was just confused. I sighed, and carefully exerted my will, putting just a little more pressure on her. She stumbled the last few feet towards me. I reached down, carefully taking the tiara off her head, and slipped it into one of my duster’s inner pockets. The look in her eyes was heartbreaking as I took away her Element. I felt like a monster, but a small voice in the back of mind reminded me that it was for the greater good. Still, I wanted to reassure her.
“You can have this back after we’ve found me a way home. I’ll lift the compulsions in a second; I just need to take care of business first.” I jerked a thumb over my shoulder in Trixie’s general direction.
She found her voice and tried once more to stop me. “Don’t do this, Dresden. I know I wasn’t kind to you at first. I was afraid, and you were so strange. But I thought we got past that.” Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. “I thought we were friends.”
At some level I resonated with her sadness; I saw the tears she wouldn’t cry, and it hurt. But that small part of me was washed away by the anger. I jerked her head up, holding her face in an iron grip. “We were friends.” I told her, my voice low, and all the more terrible for its quietness. “Then you tried to brainwash me. After all I’ve done for you; you tried to stick a knife in my back.” I literally shook with anger. It was hard not tighten my grip as I barely held my fury in check. After a moment of glaring I let her go, trying to keep myself from doing something I’d regret.
The pain in her eyes would have been unbearable if I didn’t already know it was an act. “But−”
“Shut up!” I roared. “Now let’s get this over with already.” I glanced up at the frozen ponies several feet away. Their expressions were various forms of fear or anger, but all four were still immobile. Good, I thought turning my back to them. No more distractions. I can finally do this.
All four of them?
I completed the turn to find myself staring down a gray barrel big enough to swallow my fist. The pink pony at the other end smiled, as cheery as ever. Which, given the enormous gun in her hooves, was more than a bit disconcerting.
“Sorry, but Pinkie Pie is just a nickname.” She told me. My mental gears had almost shifted to deal with this surprise when she pulled the trigger. Evidently she hadn’t been kidding when she said her cupcake launcher could shoot pastries a hundred yards. If anything, I think she may have underestimated the range, given the force the cupcake hit me with.
I would have been skeptical if anybody had told me I could be knocked on my metaphorical ass by a cupcake. But at those speeds, at point blank range, in the face? My head whipped back from the impact, and my concentration shattered like cheap glass.
“The partillery saves the day again!” Pinkie cheered. I wiped the frosting off my face. That had been a surprise, but I was
still standing. At least, I was until Rainbow tackled me. She hit me between my shoulder blades faster than I would have believed. I tumbled forward tail over teakettle, Pinkie just barely jumping out of the way in time. I lay there for only a moment as a new sensation washed over me.
Rage. You know, it’s a word we use a lot without really considering it. Hell, even I’m guilty of that particular sin. We tend to use it pretty causally, describing an emotion so watered down that it barely qualifies as anger. But some people simply may not know any better. How often do people get so angry they are literally murderous? That’s its truest definition. Rage is a fury so terrible that there can be no compromise. No retreat. No fear. It means violence, brutality and blood.
That may be an odd thought given the circumstances, but I want my meaning to be perfectly clear when I say I was consumed by rage. I’d lost my gun, but I still had my staff.
They want to play hero? Fine by me.
I felt the smooth wood beneath my fingers, and I reached for my power. An angry wizard is one of the most dangerous creatures alive. It was time these ponies learned that.
I rose from my fall in a fluid movement, drawing myself to my full height as though I hadn’t been thrown across the room. My sudden recovery seemed to surprise Rainbow, and I grinned at her. “Well, that was annoying. Are you going to actually hit me this time, or was that the best you’ve got?” Her face turned pale, and I laughed. The rest of the group was still gathering themselves, Pinkie launched another cupcake but I just stepped out of the way. Rainbow shook off her surprise, and her face set into a determined expression.
“Come on, I want you to do it. I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Hit me!” I said as she readied herself for another attack.
“Dash, no!” Twilight cried, but it was too late.
Rainbow charged me again, a multicolored blur rocketing across the wide room. She was fast, no doubt about that, but this time I was ready. Quick as she might be, she wasn’t fast enough to avoid this. At the last second I poured magic into my shield bracelet.
“Riflettum!” I cried, my shield springing to life. It was a darker blue than usual but I barely noticed that. Rainbow saw the barrier appear, but she was too fast and too close to stop. She tried to brake, but it wasn’t enough. She hit my shield with a massive thud, and an impact I could feel even through the barrier. I let the spell drop, and Dash slumped to the floor, obviously shaken. As unbelievable as it sounded she was just stunned; it wouldn’t be long before she returned to the fight. Or, at least, it wouldn’t have been long.
I shifted my staff into a two handed grip, preparing the force spell as I went. I swung it like golf club focusing the power into tip. “Forzare!” I cried smashing it into Rainbow’s side, launching her into the air. I’d tried to make it as blunt as possible, spread the impact out, but I couldn’t take too many chances: she wouldn’t fall for the same trick twice. I dodged another subsonic cupcake as I watched her fly. A glowing purple nimbus surrounded her just before she hit the wall, and it gently brought her down to rest at Twilight’s side. Fluttershy was crying as she bent to treat her friend. Twilight looked uncertain, not sure what to do, but Rarity, Pinkie and Applejack had made their minds up.
“You’re gonna pay fer that, Dresden.” Applejack said, her voice icy as the heart of Winter.
Her tone stoked the fire burning in my heart hotter. Rainbow had attacked me! Was I supposed to just take it? “Come at me.” I told her just as coldly.
She did, and as she did, she doubled, then tripled. I had three Applejacks charging me. I rolled my eyes. Illusions may have fooled Trixie, but I had a lot more experience in battle. “Forzare!” I cried, a wave of force spreading like a shockwave from me. All three of the Applejacks passed through it without slowing, but I heard a pained yelp come from somewhere further to my left. Applejack was down for the moment, but my victory was short lived. Another cupcake smacked into the side of my head, sending me staggering. I turned to glare at Pinkie.
“Hexus,” I hissed. Wizards are Murphy’s Law incarnate when it comes to technology, and the cupcake launcher was no exception. There was a muffled ‘whump’, and icing suddenly squirted from every joint on the gun before it simply fell to pieces. That’s when Twilight decided to enter the game. Ribbons of purple light burst from the ground around her, streaking across the ground between us. I lifted my shield, but her horn flared bright as the sun. Her spell dodged nimbly around my shield, encircling me, binding my arms to my chest, and trapping my staff against me. Then they anchored themselves securely in the floor, completing the binding. She looked satisfied, maybe even hopeful, but I was going to disappoint her.
I poured my power into the restraints, battering them with a will harder than diamond. I was more than match for her in power, and she was playing on my field. Her spell didn’t stand a chance. I twisted my body and flung my arms outward, destroying the purple bonds.
“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” I roared. I had a moment’s warning, the sound of hooves on stone, before Applejack attacked me. I jumped backwards, just dodging a powerful kick. At this range the illusion didn’t hold as well, and I could see a vague pony-shaped outline if I watched carefully. I could tell where Rarity was bending the light around her.
“Ventas servitas!” I cried, and a gust of wind roared through the broken window. It slammed into Applejack, lifting her and throwing her across the room. Twilight caught her the same way as she had Rainbow, but the distraction had been half the point. I threw another wave of force, this one aimed at the whole group. I hadn’t put too much power into it, and most of the force bled off as it traveled. What hit the ponies was only a little more powerful than the punch of your average boxer. Still, I thought as Rarity yelped in pain, if you’re not used to it, that’s plenty. I took the opportunity to charge forward closing the gap between us. Twilight had weathered the attack surprisingly well and reacted almost instantly, flinging rocks at me with her levitation. I brought up my shield and kept moving. She was the most dangerous fighter left, and long range was her strength. When I got within about ten feet she stopped throwing rocks and brought her own shield to bear. I dropped mine and accepted the challenge.
It took me less than a second to charge the familiar spell. I’d been playing with kid gloves and this was finally a chance to cut loose. “Forzare!” I screamed. Raw force lashed out from my staff like the fist of a wrathful god. The lance of pure kinetic energy crashed into Twilight’s shield driving it to the breaking point. For a moment I thought her spell would actually hold, but then it broke like an egg, the residual force sending her tumbling.
“Stop. Now,” commanded a soft but imperious voice. I looked down to find Fluttershy standing in front of me. Her eyes angry and focused. The shy pegasus was gone, once more this was the implacable being I’d seen in the forest. Our eyes met, and I was subject to her stare once more. For a brief moment I was cowed by her will without understanding why or how, but this time was different. This time I’d met her eyes looking for a rematch.
“NO!” I bellowed, slamming my power into hers. Fluttershy turned out to be a glass cannon. Her assault crumbled under the weight of my counterattack. She let out a pained squeak and broke eye contact before the Soulgaze could begin. But she had given the other ponies the time they needed. An impact to my back pitched me forward, and I fell flat on my face. A pink blur dashed in, grabbing my staff. I flipped over to reach for it, but before I could, another rock came flying towards me. I caught it on my shield, but failed to notice that Twilight wasn’t the one who had thrown it until it was too late. Another barrage of purple ribbons ambushed me from behind, lashing me to the floor, anchoring my arms and legs firmly to the stone beneath. I opened my mouth to speak, but another stream of light wound across it locking it in place. Interesting. She’s a fast learner.
“Quick!” I heard Twilight cry. “Somepony grab the Element before he breaks through my spell again.”
I rolled my eyes and broke the restraints with a fierce burst of concentrated will. Huh, that had been even easier the second time. I must be getting a feel for Twilight’s magic. I stood up glaring at Twilight. “That was a neat trick. How’d you manage that?”
She faced me calmly, as though I hadn’t just ripped through her spell like tissue paper. “You ignored the rest of us to deal with Fluttershy. Your overconfidence is your weakness.”
This kid was a gold mine for a wise-ass like me. “And your faith in your friends is yours.” I wheezed, then laughed. “But enough playing around,” I said, my voice turning serious. “Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy and Rarity. Stand still and do not speak.” I didn’t know how many of them were still in the game, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I rose into a crouch, carefully checking for the one pony left who could ruin things for me.
“Looking for me?” A familiar voice asked. I spun to see Pinkie almost right behind me. I watched her carefully; she was up to something, but what? She was frowning, her face stern, as she gestured to her motionless friends. “I’ve hid your magic thingy some place you’ll never find it. Now give me the Element, and I’ll tell you where it is.”
I sighed in defeat and walked over to her reaching into my coat with one hand. She smiled, her cheer restored by victory. Until I pulled out my blasting rod, at least. “You know,” I said pointing the business end at her and letting it glow cherry red. “I don’t actually need my props to do magic. They just help me control my spells. Imagine what my magic would do to anyone without that control. Now, tell me where my staff is.” I jabbed the rod in her direction, making the tip pulse more brightly. I was bluffing my ass off − angry as I was, I still wouldn’t actually use it on her. But she didn’t need to know that.
Her smile faded, and her hair drooped a bit. She slumped in defeat and pointed to something off to my left. “It’s behind that rock.”
I half turned, keeping my blasting rod trained on her. I didn’t have much trouble figuring out which piece of rubble she was talking about. “Is it the one with ‘The staff totally isn’t behind this rock’ written on it in bright pink?” She nodded sadly. I chuckled letting off some steam. Hell, I almost forgot why I was angry with her. But then I reminded myself with grim determination what needed to be done. I turned back to her, sighing.
“I am sorry about this, but you’ll all understand someday. Now hold still. This won’t hurt a bit. I promise.” She trembled when I laid my left hand on her head, but I wasn’t planning anything sinister. “Dormius, dorme, dormius.” I murmured. Her eyes drooped immediately, and she was snoring before she hit the ground. I stared at the snoozing pink pony for a moment. I’d spent most of my anger in the fight, and Pinkie’s attempt at misdirection had killed the rest of it. In some ways I missed it. That anger had filled me with purpose, had energized me. But now?
I just felt empty. Tired and hollow.
But I still had a job to do.
Trixie waited motionlessly. She had slept through the whole debacle. I considered her for a moment. I’d lost my gun, and I wanted this over quickly, before anything else could go wrong. The cleaner, the better as well. I had a sudden idea. Why not? That would work. Maybe it’s a technicality, but I can live with that.
I drew in my power, and focused on the nearest window. It rattled in it pane and, with my shout, gale force winds shattered it, throwing the shards of glittering glass at Trixie’s limp form. It wasn’t a particularly subtle means of execution, but it would be effective. Hundreds of crystalline blades raced towards her, and I idly wondered what to do with the body.
Suffice to say, I was not expecting Twilight to suddenly appear, standing protectively over Trixie. The purple unicorn was stock still, just as I’d commanded, but that didn’t stop her from raising her shield. She blocked most of the deadly barrage, but more than a few shards were too close. I watched in speechless horror as she was cut, as the pieces of glass sliced into her, dark blood welling up. Her expression contorted in pain, but she didn’t make a sound as she stood.
My blasting rod fell from limp fingers to clatter on the ground.
“NO!” I screamed, running to her side. Without my will to back them the compulsions disappeared. Twilight slumped, falling to the hard ground, a soft sigh escaping her lips.
“No no no nononononono,” I reached her only moments later and tried to access the situation. Blood was rapidly pooling around her, the quiet flow of cut veins, not the frenzied pumping of an artery, but that only meant it would take minutes for her to bleed out instead of seconds. I hadn’t wanted this. As angry as I’d been, as hurt and betrayed as I’d felt, I didn’t want them dead. I’d wanted to teach them a lesson, to punish them, but I had never wanted this.
I had wanted to protect them. I’m supposed to be the good guy.
So why was my friend dying at my feet?
I started to cry silent tears as I searched Twilight for the source of the bleeding. I think I cut my fingers pulling glass shards out of her coat, but I hardly noticed. I found the wound, and I pressed on it trying to staunch the flow of blood. Twilight opened her eyes, her expression dazed. She saw me and smiled. There was no hatred on her face. No fear. Just sadness and a compassion so strong it cut me like a knife. “You forgot to tell me not to use magic.” She teased her voice soft and weak.
“Fluttershy! She needs you!” I screamed, trying my best to stop the inevitable. But in my heart I knew it was hopeless.
Oh well, some part of me whispered. She did betray me.
The world stopped.
I know me. I’ve met my darker half. I can be a vindictive asshole. I can be a violent bastard. But that thought wasn’t me. I would never have thought that.
And with that the charade fell apart. Mental magic may be powerful, but the moment the victim realizes, ‘Hey, maybe that’s not me thinking those thoughts,’ it tends to fall apart. I could feel the nauseating sensation of something ancient, vicious and hateful slithering through my mind. It didn’t take any thought to recognize it; I knew it instinctively. It was the Nightmare. The ponies had been right the whole time.
The Nightmare hissed and flinched in surprise, as I turned a mental spotlight on it. But apparently you don’t become an evil powerhouse without being adaptive. It struck, trying to establish outright control over my body. My muscles twitched, but I didn’t allow it. The damned thing may have been sneaky and poisonous, but this was my mind. My head, my rules, I snarled, visualizing a cage of silver. I threw the Nightmare into the cage, chains entangling it in a spider web of metal. Then I dropped the cage into a well, buried it under tons of earth and snapped the cage’s key in half with an angry flourish.
Did I mention I was vindictive?
A low, feminine chuckle from nowhere echoed in response. It somehow combined smug satisfaction with an ‘I told you so’ quality. But I had no time to investigate. Twilight’s life hung in the balance.
I dropped out of my mindscape to the sound of crying. Twilight was still in my arms, still breathing, but just barely. We were surrounded by her friends, all but Pinkie. They’d put the tiara on her head, but it was dark. Nothing but a dull stone without her magic to activate it. I gritted my teeth and reached for it. The others gasped, and I felt someone hit me, but I just grunted and accepted the pain. I touched the gem with one blood-stained hand and prayed that this would work.
I poured my magic into the jewel. I didn’t visualize lances of force, balls of fire or blasts of wind. The purest, greatest magic has nothing to do with stupid tricks like those. It comes from life, so that’s what I poured into the dull gem.
My hopes and fears, my dreams and failures, my loves and hates. The sensation of comfort and warmth in front of a roaring fire. The elemental terror when lightning strikes nearby. The happiness in sharing a good beer with my friends. The stress from a long, fruitless day of work. The memories that make me cry with joy, and the ones that still give me nightmares. Good and bad, I held nothing back. I haven’t had a pretty life, but by God, it was mine, and I had lived it. I put everything I was into it, and my body shook in pain. For a moment there was silence, then a single spark lit the inside of the jewel, and it exploded into light. I was thrown backwards by the force of it, even as the ponies were drawn inward.
Twilight Sparkle floated high above the floor, her friends and the glow of their shared magic surrounding her. Her wounds healed before my eyes, her skin patching itself, blood disappearing from her coat as her skin lost its sallow color. When she opened her eyes they were neon white, yet focused; the shocked daze gone. I sunk to my knees in relief, letting my body go limp. The rest of the group opened their eyes as well; brushing aside the spell I’d laid on Pinkie like it was nothing. They faced me, anger and fear wiped away. There was only a gentle sympathy in their expressions now. I bowed my head, exhausted, and said, “Do it.”
The Nightmare screamed in fury and smashed the prison I’d built for it. I moved to stop it, visualizing everything from force fields to lassos to halt the hateful thing, but it was a slippery bastard. Their power swelled to a crescendo and a there was a burst of pure, perfect light, out of which a rainbow formed. The Nightmare panicked and redoubled its efforts. I tried to keep a hold of it, but I was too drained, too tired. The damned demon slipped through my fingers, slithering away.
Then I was enveloped by the power of Harmony.
Have you ever worked outside in the hot sun? You sweat and strain and get dirty, salt and dust ground into your skin, but it happens so gradually you don’t even notice it. Not until you step into the shower and let the water cleanse you do you even realize how filthy you were. Not until you let it wash away the grime encrusting you. This was a lot like that, but it went so much further than just skin deep. My body went limp, supported only by the power surrounding me. There was pain, a lot of it actually, but it was a clean, honest pain. The kind you get from a hot shower or a good massage. The kind of pain that precedes healing.
But a thought disturbed the bliss I floated in. Dawn was approaching, and demons got along with that as well as gasoline did with matches. The Nightmare needed a new host if it wanted to survive. We were still in danger.
I hadn’t realized I’d closed my eyes, but I opened them using the Sight. I could see the Nightmare waiting in the shadows, ready to infect the next pony to pass it. Waiting to worm its way into a good pony and corrupt her from the inside. It wasn’t enough that it had already possessed me and Trixie, playing up our darker sides, manipulating us into hurting the innocent. It wasn’t enough that I had almost killed Twilight thanks to its whispers. No, it was going to add more and more crimes to the list.
It wasn’t rage that rose in me this time. Not within the grip of Harmony. This was righteousness so pure and powerful it was almost a physical presence. But I knew that it alone wouldn’t be enough. So I reached out and drew in some of the power surrounding me.
I had expected it to hurt – most power does − but this was different. I was part of something greater. I could hear a pulsing sound, and it took me a moment to understand. It was the hearts of the ponies behind me beating as one. I could feel them with me, each of their minds a complement to the whole. With a start, I realized that I hadn’t taken any power. It had been given to me. But that’s how friendship works, isn’t it?
A brief word brought my blasting rod back to my hand. The runes carved into it didn’t glow red as I focused my borrowed power. They flashed an incandescent gold, as harsh and beautiful as the desert sun. The Nightmare was impossible to miss; its darkness was an antithesis to everything else in this world. I breathed in deeply, but instead of shouting I merely spoke.
“Fuego.” I said. Golden flames in a column as thick around as a barrel poured out of the end of my carved stick. They crossed the room in an instant, and the raging fire tore into the demon. It shrieked horribly as the flames consumed it, a cross between a bobcat’s scream and the screech of tearing metal. Fire was already a cleansing force, and with the added power of Harmony, the ancient monster didn’t stand a chance. I watched it burn until there was nothing left but an intangible stain on the stones. Then I closed my Sight, letting myself crumple to the floor as I did so.
Several minutes later, dawn broke in the east. The long night was finally over.