Trixie felt as she was falling backwards. Against all instinct, she blinked.
She jolted awake with a snort, lifting her head off her forelegs. Trixie blinked several times as she looked around the campsite. The sky was overcast, the steel white of a morning only a few hours old. She was laying on her bedroll with Applejack’s old quilt over her, exactly as she had remembered laying down the night before. Where before her had been a modest campfire crackling away was now only a shallow pit filled with ashes. The rest of the site, her included, was covered in cool layer of dew that had still to be burned off by the newly risen sun.
With an aching groan, Trixie rubbed a paw over her face. Had she actually slept? Had her forest run combined with the shock of almost going over the cliff exhausted her both mentally and physically enough that for the first time in weeks she had actually slept?
If that were the case, her dreams were clearly symptoms of an unstable mind and the lingering trauma of events at the academy. Twilight would probably have a field day with the whole thing when— if, Trixie told her.
That was a matter for Future Trixie to decide. For now though, Trixie arched her back in a stretch, yawning widely at the same time. She then reversed the arch to stretch her back legs and hips. She had a bit of a headache, but nothing too severe, and cricking her neck seemed to help with that. Well limbered up, Trixie turned around to rouse the others and start the day, only to stop dead when she saw what was situated atop the log she had been sitting on last night.
On top of Trixie’s clothes, over the log next to the extinguished campfire, were six cards face down, arranged in a familiar crux pattern. She knew what was it, a classical divination to be read by axis. Past, present, and future from left to right, hopes up and influences down. Trixie got closer carefully, not knowing what to expect and dreading the idea of already knowing. When they were in reach, she felt an impulse to flip the first card, the past.
It was Death, upright. That meant change, but in the past it was not something Trixie could really pinpoint. It could mean her past was marked by change, which it was, or that a great change marked her past, which was also accurate. The image of a mare with bones painted over her coat came to Trixie’s mind as she remembered more of her dream. She was afraid now and didn’t want to flip the two cards representing the present. At the same time, Trixie felt the need to confirm what she already suspected and continued on.
The Tower upright and The High Priestess reversed. The first card represented sudden change and disaster as the heart of the matter, while the second was telling of hidden agendas and incomplete knowledge as the present obstacles or challenges. As with Death, Trixie remembered the scene in her dream. The Tower was the obvious card for her as her left claw instinctively ran over the markings on her chest. However, Trixie thought about the High Priestess. What kind of hidden truth could it mean and by who?
The old Trixie would have immediately started to mistrust everypony around her, be it filly or princess. But then again, the old Trixie put the current one in this situation. She then remembered who was the one shuffling the cards in her dream, which she was starting to admit could have been real. That made more sense to Trixie. Discord was known as a liar in the folk tales she herself used to perform. It wasn’t that much of a stretch that he couldn’t be trusted, in spite of how the princesses may feel. Trixie decided to go with that idea before even thinking about distrusting any of her friends.
Next, Trixie had to decide, which card read first, her goals or the influences. She decided to go for the one she could confirm first and flipped the card in the upper side. It was The Chariot upright. Trixie smiled at the first card she felt she could trust. Emerging victorious through willpower was all Trixie always wanted to do with her life. This time, the vision of the image wasn’t unpleasant, as Trixie recalled the beauty of the chariot descending under a blue light.
Calmer now, Trixie flipped the opposite card, the influences, and found The Magician reversed. She always identified with that image, representative of an illusionist instead of a spellcaster. Just as her name said, the archetypical trickster was an icon Trixie aspired to become. However, she felt some worry about it. In the influences axis it meant a manipulator, which combined with the reversed Priestess was pointing to an individual. Again, Trixie attributed it to Discord, but something inside her told her that wasn’t it.
There was still one last card to flip on the right arm. Trixie hoped and feared what kind of sense would it give to the rest of the reading. She secretly hope it was The World marking the accomplishment of her hopes and dreams, or maybe The Sun, finally bringing enlightenment to her life. Trixie’s claws began to shake as she took the edge of the card. Without looking, she flipped it and only after taking one long inhalation, Trixie looked down.
Announcing Trixie’s future was The Moon, upright: Fear and illusion. Before she could even think of what it could mean, the six cards began to vanish, like dust in the wind. Trixie looked at the last bits of the cards leaving when--
“Heya Trixie, watcha doing?!”
“MEOW!” Trixie’s world turned into a blur before stopping for a moment, allowing her to take in the beauty of the blue sky above, before gravity reclaimed her and she hit the ground, landing on her back on her bedroll, hard.
Trixie looked up, while Apple Bloom and Scootaloo returned her gaze upside down. She groaned while turning over.
“Oh wow, I’m sorry Trixie!” Apple Bloom exclaimed. Her ears flicked about, eventually ducking into her mane in embarrassment. “But I thought cats always landed on their feet.”
“Despite evidence to the contrary at times,” said Trixie as she dusted herself off, “Trixie is still a pony. Albeit a bit of a high strung one.” She smiled at the thought. In the face of all that had happened to her, all the twists and turns of fate and the changes she was subjected to, Trixie was still able to call herself a pony. “Hey, wait a minute.” She realized her silver mask was sitting next to her clothes. “You don’t mind seeing Trixie… unmasked?”
Both fillies shook their head.
“Why would we?” Scootaloo got closer to Trixie. “It’s not like we don’t know you.” Apple Bloom nodded in support. “Also, you look kinda cool without all that stuff covering you.”
“Aww.” Trixie smiled. “Get over here, you two,” Apple Bloom and Scootaloo jumped at her open paws. Trixie let herself fall back and, careful to not use her claws, pretended to try to push them away. It was some innocent tussling and nothing else, but there was something special in it for Trixie. She wasn’t sure what was it at first, but then realized what made it special. Trixie wasn’t just sensing the raw touch over her skin; instead, for the first time in a long time, she was feeling it.
“Hey, what are you playing?” The three of them stopped. Sweetie Belle was rubbing the last of the sleep from her eyes as she trotted out of her tent. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo got off of Trixie to greet their friend.
“So, Lightning and Spike are still sleeping?” Trixie went towards the tent to wake them.
“Heh, you should see them,” Sweetie Belle said as the three fillies trotted behind Trixie. She slowly pulled the opening aside to have a look. They all had to press claws and hooves against their muzzles when they saw the interior of the tent.
Spike was curled up in a ball, but not in his basket. Instead, he was lying over Lightning’s sleeping bag, who was also curled up around him. Trixie remembered them in that same position last night, the only change being that now their muzzles were just centimeters away from each other. She wished she had a camera. She imagined the others back at Ponyville having a blast with it. Doing their best to stifle their laughter, the four of them managed to creep away from the tent far enough so that the sleepers would not be awoken when they finally gave in.
Of course, Trixie only laughed under her paws and was thankful when the air ran out and she didn’t need to take more. It was one thing for the Cutie Mark Crusaders to be comfortable enough around her that she could go around unmasked, but after some testing with Twilight, she knew her laughter would still be too much for them to take.
As their laughter was dying down a familiar woosh came from the tent followed by a shrill scream. A turquoise bolt shot out of the tent and across the camp.
“Sweet Celestia, my mane’s on fire!” Lightning Dust shouted as she went for the water canteens, quickly emptying their content over her head.
“Lightning, I’m sorry,” Spike cried as he ran up behind her, holding a scroll in his claw. “This has never happened to me before! I honestly don’t know how it happened so suddenly!” Lightning Dust stopped him by raising a hoof in his direction, shaking her head to rid herself of the water and then examining the damage to her mane.
“Spike, stop apologizing,” Trixie said while patting his back to calm him down. “Trust me, after the first sorry, you can only go downhill by explaining.” She then looked at Lightning, who stood motionless for a moment before lowering her hoof and sighing. “Are you okay, Lightning? You’re not hurt are you?”
“A bit singed around the edges, but nothing a manedresser shouldn’t be able to fix. I think,” Lightning replied, slicking back her damp gold and now-blackened mane.
“Well, that’s good to hear,” said Trixie, giving Spike a final pat on the back. She turned and looked down at the little dragon. “So, what does the letter say?”
“Oh, yeah, the letter.” Spike took the hint and began to read.
Dear girls and Spike
Although I still have my doubts, and Princess Celestia agrees we need to be careful, Fluttershy has managed to reform Discord. We trust her and, by extention, believe him when he says he wants to help. Therefore, you can come back to Ponyville. Princess Luna offered to send her personal chariot to help with that. It should arrive an hour or so after this letter.
Stay calm but be careful, Twilight
“Well, you heard the letter,” said Trixie as she clapped her paws. “That should give us just enough time for you five to have a quick breakfast and then to break camp.”
“I’ll get the firewood,” Apple Bloom called out, already going for the pile.
Following her, Sweetie added, “I’ll help!” much to the relief of everypony else. Even Trixie wouldn’t brave that poor filly’s attempts at cooking. Scootaloo volunteered to get the food, heading back to the tents.
“Hey uh, Lightning?” said Spike as he rubbed the back of his neck and toed at the ground. “I’m, uh, really, really sorry about that. I didn’t mean to hurt you or anything, it just kinda happened.”
“Hey,” Lightning muttered as she came over. She wrapped a wing around his back and pulled him close, rubbing her forehead against his. “Accidents happen, I understand. I used to work weather detail, this isn’t much worse than a few lightning strikes,” she told him, lifting her head. “At least, I hope not. It didn’t feel like I was missing half my mane or anything.”
“Oh no!” said Spike with a gasp. “It’s just a little… heavily singed is all.” He winced and tried to turn that it onto a smile. “Like you said, it’s nothing a manedresser shouldn’t be able to fix.”
Thankfully, the baby dragon was spared further embarrassment by the convergence of three fillies around the fire pit and their calls to help with breakfast. Trixie grinned and walked back over to the log to retrieve her clothing. She was going to leave her mask off, at least for now, but decided to put on the rest of it. When she grabbed the pile, Trixie was caught off guard by her hat sliding the wrong way and landing with a thunk.
Trixie frowned, putting the rest of her clothes back down and picking up just her hat. It had… an odd weight to it. A quick rummage around the inside turned up the answer; a brass compass, the lid stamped with a circle that had eight wavy arrows emanating from its center. Popping it open revealed the same face she had seen the night before, the letters N, S, E and W being replaced by W, T, A and H, respectively. She waited for it to fade and blow away like the cards, but the compass remained solidly in her paw.
With a derisive snort, Trixie tucked it into a vest pocket. It looked like the events of the night before really had happened. She couldn’t wait to get town and see what Discord had in store for her.
Breakfast was an all-around success, at least based on the opinions voiced by those who ate it. Trixie sat it out, telling the others that Twilight wouldn’t want her to eat anything the day of a potentially big operation like this. In truth she had been too nervous to eat anything.
Once the food was done, the rest set about breaking camp. Trixie volunteered to take a quick walk around their site and make sure they had picked up any garbage they accidently dropped. What she really needed was to think and she always thought best on her hooves.
It was her third time around the camp when Lightning landed next to her. “Worried, aren’t you?” she asked, settling her wings.
Trixie spared a look back to make sure the others were still busy. “Very,” she admitted quietly. “It feels like I’m finally reaching the end of the road.” Even though she had her silver mask on now, she didn’t have it in her to keep up the masquerade. “I never expected to reach any end. Ever. Let alone an end like this.”
Lightning didn’t reply and turned her head forward. Her first and most prominent impression of Trixie was the one of a mare very strong in the face of tragedy, even before they shared their first drink. After they got to know each other, Lightning was used to seeing Trixie as a mentoring friend, someone to ask for help when in need. That image clashed badly against the vulnerable pony trotting next to her and to that, Lightning didn’t know what to do or say.
“Come on, Trix,” she said without thinking. “Rainbow and the others know what they’re doing.” Lightning wasn’t sure if she believed that, but she did trust Rainbow Dash’s judgement. “I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have called us without being absolutely sure they knew what they were doing.”
Trixie only looked back at her in silence.
Eventually she said, “Lightning, my friend, I really thank you for trying.” She snickered under her mask. “But let me tell you something I just realized.” Trixie lifted her left claw and put it against her chest. “Right here, fused to my body, is the reason everything that has happened.” She let the thought settle in. “Everything, from my friendship with Twilight and you, has happened because of this.” Trixie cleared her throat, not out of need, but to calm herself. “At the same time, it is something we need to get rid of, and I’m afraid of what will happen when we do.”
“Wait,” Lightning wasn’t sure she was following. “You mean you would rather keep that thing inside you?”
“I…” Trixie looked down. “I don’t know.” She took her mask with her left claw and pushed it up to look better at Lightning. “I really don’t know what can or will happen, or what I even want to happen anymore.”
Lightning put a hoof under Trixie’s cape, over her shoulder. They had been trotting so slow that neither of them noticed they were just standing still. Trixie shuddered in response, surprised that she felt the hoof’s warmth.
“If we fail,” Trixie interrupted her. “Trixie will be just another monster that’s too dangerous to keep around.” Her voice was slowly turning into the usual growl she had when getting too distracted to soften it. “And if we win…” Trixie stopped for a moment and only resumed when Lightning put another hoof over her claw. “Even if it all works out in the end, my death is among the likely scenarios.” Trixie lifted her gaze, locking her red and black eyes on Lightning’s copper ones. Although Trixie’s looked frighteningly similar to a dragon’s, they only showed sorrow.
“Don’t worry.” Lightning Dust pulled her close. “I’ll be there for you, no matter what happens.”
Trixie only nodded her head, too afraid of her own strength to return the hug. Instead, she settled on caressing Lightning’s wings with her claws, once again trying to extend the moment so she didn’t have to face what was coming next; the end of her road.
The ride back was uneventful, with the worst part for Trixie being the chariot itself. She didn’t think that her experiences from the last time she had flown would have been a problem, what with that involving a balloon and all, but the mere sight of the chariot, with its wide open top and sides, brought her up short. Lightning and Spike were thankfully the only ones to notice, the fillies bring too preoccupied with helping their escorts in loading their equipment.
“Hey, this won’t be like last time,” Spike told her softly. She hadn’t realized she was shivering until he had started rubbing her back.
“Yeah. I’ll even take Scootaloo with me so you’re not as crowded in there,” Lightning volunteered.
Trixie smiled and thanked them. It was good to have friends like these. It was good to have friends.
In the end, Trixie forced herself to get onboard. She was Great and Powerful and she wasn’t going to appear like some frightened little filly in front of both the Crusaders and their Night Guard escorts. The trip to Ponyville was spent with her hunkered down in the center of the chariot with her eyes tightly closed. Spike sat next to her, stroking and massaging her withers, nattering on about their camping trip. Most other times she would have probably snapped and told him to be quiet, but it gave her something to focus on besides the thought of flying and it was likely he knew that, too. One didn’t live with a unicorn as high strung as Twilight Sparkle without being able to handle such things. Trixie just hoped that Luna would forgive her the damage her claws caused to the wood floor of the chariot where they had dug in.
The Crusaders were all quite happy to get back to their sisters, practically jumping out of the chariot before it had touched down. Rarity and Applejack were clearly used to such antics and only gave them a perfunctory scolding which the girls ignored over their excitement at being back. Scootaloo was equally happy to be back with her hero, telling Rainbow Dash how much fun she had flying with Lightning alongside their escort back. She made sure that Rainbow knew it wasn’t nearly as cool as when she was flying with her, of course. Trixie caught the smug grin and eyeroll that Rainbow and Lightning exchanged at that.
Big Mac was there also to take the girls and Spike back to the farm. They would be spending the rest of their day in their clubhouse, working on still more schemes to get the girls their cutie marks. Trixie wished them all luck in their quest and they wished her the best with hers. Were it not for the necroplasm, Trixie would have blushed at the hugs they gave her before bounding off.
Then it was off to Twilight’s library for with rest of them. Then it was off to meet him.
“Well, well, well! The illustrious Trixie Lulamoon! So we meet again, for the first time!”
The oily grin that was too big for his face instantly set Trixie’s teeth on edge. “This isn’t our first meeting.”
“Exactly what our I said,” Discord told her while coiling himself around her like some mis-matched feather boa. “This is our first time meeting again, after that whole Day of Discord thing.” He shot her a knowing wink. “And I do want to say how sorry I am for that whole kerfuffle.” Everypony in the room could tell he wasn’t.
She just snorted and shook her head. “Let’s just get on with this, shall we?”
Twilight, being Twilight, already had everything fully prepared. One corner of the room had been covered with extremely elaborate sigils and runes, but Twilight directed Trixie to stand in the center for now. The Elements of Harmony were brought out, and each donned by their appropriate bearer. Even though it shouldn’t have been possible, Trixie felt a queasiness in her belly at being the focal point of such legendary magical relics. She took some consolation that Discord didn’t look much happier to be there either, though he was doing his best to hide that.
Lightning Dust was hovering around the outside of the circle. She locked eyes with Trixie and gave her an encouraging smile.
“Alright.” Trixie exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “Trixie is as ready as she will ever be.” She stood tall and proud in order to put on The Show one last time. “Let’s do this.”
“Okay, Trixie.” Twilight got closer as she began to focus her magic. “Relax, this is going to be the easy part.” Trixie could tell in her voice she wasn’t sure, but she still felt thankful of Twilight’s reassurance before proceeding.
Although she couldn’t felt the warmth of the magic close to her, Trixie still saw the glimmer of it over the necklace around her neck. There was a soft click and the restraining device floated away from them and over to Lightning Dust, along with a pouch to hold it. Trixie could feel a tickling in her muscles, as if she just lost a very heavy weight that was pressing down on her. The glimmer of magic began to bother her vision, so Trixie closed her eyes when Twilight started to remove the ring on her horn. Another click and another tickling, this time right inside Trixie’s head.
“Whoa.” She couldn’t resist the urge to wipe a paw across her face as a wave of disorientation passed over her, causing her to stagger.
“Trixie! Are you alright?” Pinkie was the first to react, immediately jumping next to her friend to offer her support. The others approached them too.
“Yes, I’m… Trixie’s fine,” she answered between her teeth. “It’s just that--” She opened her eyes, looking intently at her outstretched paws. “Oh my stars,” Trixie whispered as she began to hastily touch her forelegs, then her chest and barrel. “I-Trix-I…” She raised her gaze with both sets of claws over her face. “I can feel again,” Trixie whispered in awe.
She reached with her left foreleg to a side, where Pinkie was offering hers to hold her. Trixie softly closed her claws over the limb, slowly slipping her paw up the hoof to the elbow. “Pinkie, your fur, it’s…” She turned her head, sniffling the air. “And Rarity’s perfume, Trixie can actually smell how nice it is.” She got up on her four paws, looking around her. “And the colors. Twilight, why didn’t you tell Trixie how colorful this place was before?” Trixie trotted enthusiastically up to a window. “Can you girls hear that?” She was looking up, ignoring her friends’ puzzled expressions. “Birds, ponies, wind. So many sounds Trixie wasn’t…” She looked back at the group, smiling from ear to ear. “Trixie had forgotten this world was so… wonderful.”
“Uh,” Discord raised a sign in the air with a drawing of a screw and a baseball. “Am I seriously going to be that guy here, pointing out the obvious?” Everypony looked at him, his sign now saying ‘Irony’ in bold red letters. “I mean, for what I heard, she should be a dark slayer of doom without the restrainers, and not…” Discord pointed with his arms at Trixie, gesturing up and down. “Some sort of glassy-eyed poetess.”
“Maybe the Amulet burned off,” Rarity suggested. “It brought Trixie back from the death twice already. That can’t be easy.”
“I don’t think so,” Twilight said while checking on her notes. “Trixie’s body is literally made out of magic now.” She turned the notebook to show her findings about necroplasm. “It wouldn’t make any sense for it to be gone.” Discord smirked at the comment.
“Yes!” Everyone looked around at the triumphant exclamation, but Trixie wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
“Up here,” she called from the ceiling. “Look at what can Trixie do!” She mindlessly began to trot on the ceiling as if it was the ground. “No getting stuck and no vertigo.” Trixie let go of the ceiling, twisting midair and landing perfectly on all four paws. “It was about time for life to stop screwing Trixie over.” For once, Trixie felt things were going her way, after all the recent setbacks. She was so happy.
“Well, it’s good to see you’re taking this so well,” Twilight said to Trixie, the other pony happily prancing about and doing the occasional acrobatic move off the walls, “but just to be safe, I’ve prepared an isolation spell for the experiment. We, um, don’t want a repeat of last time after all.”
Trixie noticed Twilight’s ears pinned back, despite her ostensibly cheery expression otherwise. She sighed. “No. No, we don’t.” Trixie trotted over to the extremely elaborate sigil that had been drawn on the floor. Careful not to mar the lines, she hopped over them and landed in the center, turning on point to face her friends. With a quick flash of purple from Twilight’s horn, several layers of magical shielding rose into place.
Without a doubt, it was the most powerful shield Trixie had ever seen. The ambient energy from it crawled across her coat like ants. Looking at the shimmering wall around her and then at the runes on both the floor and ceiling, Trixie had to (grudgingly) hand it to Twilight. This was one heck of an isolation spell.
Trixie asked, “So, um, what do we do now?”
“Well,” hemmed Twilight, “now we wait. Without the restraints on you, I’m expecting that the entity behind the amulet will come to the fore sooner or later.”
Several moments later, nothing happened.
“Sorry girls,” Trixie apologized with a shrug. “It’s still just me.”
“I think I see what’s going on.” Discord appeared behind Trixie despite the spell, dressed as a medic and looking over her with a magnifying glass and light strapped to his head. She wanted to move away from his look, away from him. For a second, a red glimmer sparked from Trixie’s eye. “Yep,” Discord stopped, pointing the light right Trixie’s face. “There’s the problem alrighty.”
“What is it?” said Twilight, clearly seeing her friends’s discomfort. She trotted up to the shield as close as she could, not able to pass through it like Discord.
“She’s in the way,” Discord answered while spinning the magnifying glass and making it disappear in a blur. “Call it willpower or admit it’s just dumb luck, but this little skull,” somehow he was already behind Trixie, pointing at her head, “has only one wheel.”
“What wheel are you even talking about?” Trixie recoiled away from Discord, making sure she had her claws and teeth visible while doing so.
“Okay, let’s put this in pony’s terms,” Discord took a sip from a cup of tea held in his foot. “Your pesky… you is blocking whatever this thing is from coming to the fore.” He took a loud slurp of tea. “We just need to get you out of the way.” He turned to Twilight. “Tell me, how did you first encounter this thing that you know it’s even self aware?”
Twilight explained the circumstances of the encounters with the being that was behind or within the Amulet. First about how it slowly corrupted Trixie, ending up in her first death, then the encounter with Celestia, where it showed sentience for the first time, and finally when it had crawled out of Trixie’s grave and acted like a savage animal.
“Well there you go,” Discord ate the cup, talking between munches of porcelain. “That’s your solution right there.”
The ponies in the room were puzzled, but Trixie was the first to catch on.
“Oh no! No!” Trixie trotted backwards until her tail touched the wall behind her. “Trixie knows where this is going and is having no part of it.”
“Oh, come on, don’t be whiny about it,” Discord made a shovel appear from a puff of smoke. “This whole experiment is meant to help you after all. And who said we can’t have fun doing it?” He cocked the shovel, the ejected shell bouncing off across the floor.
“Trixie is not going to die again,” her voice dropped to a grave growl. “In the name of science or anything else!” For a fraction of a second, Trixie’s red eyes sparkled.
Discord pouted. “Are you sure? It’d be so easy, and it’s not like you haven’t done it before.”
“Discord!” Twilight exclaimed. Next to her, the other Elements, and Lightning Dust too, pressed up against the outside of the shield to express their vocal disapproval; they weren’t going to let Discord do anything to harm Trixie.
“Ugh, fine,” Discord groused, sulking and crossing his mismatched arms. With a flash of light, he disappeared from inside Trixie’s cell and appeared behind the rest only without his shovel. “But that doesn’t change that she is still the problem. With Trixie in the foreground, we can’t see what’s going on behind her.”
“Okay then,” Twilight huffed. “So we need to suppress her personality for this. We can try drugs, or potions, or hypnosis…”
“Hey, how about this?” Discord pointed a remote towards Trixie. Before anypony could do anything, he pressed the large red button on it.
It was like something had stung the back of her head. Trixie suddenly felt herself floating, like one of Pinkie’s party balloons that had come untied. Out of pure instinct she tried to flail about and regain her footing, but nothing seemed to be working. Her body was rapidly going numb, her world blurring and vanishing into black. The last thing she saw before losing all consciousness was a spark of red in the distance.
To those ponies watching, Trixie stood still as stone inside Twilight’s magic shield.
“Huh, that worked better than last time,” Discord muttered, sparing the remote a quick glance.
Twilight rounded on the draconequus, an enraged expression on her face. “Discord, what did you just do to Trixie?” The Element of Magic in her head began to shine.
“Woah, little filly, calm down!” He raised his paws, smiling. “I only did exactly what you wanted,” Discord explained, with a mocking expression of innocence. “I just shut off the part of her that was causing problems. We shouldn’t have any more issues now.” He slowly put his arms down. “Don’t worry, I’ll turn her back on when we’re done.”
“You mean you could have done that this whole time?” Rainbow Dash hovered closer to Discord, calmer than Twilight but somehow more enraged.
“Yeah, but then it wouldn’t have been so funny.” He floated around her and over the others, staying closer to the ceiling.
Twilight gave Discord an angry snort before turning back to the shield. Trixie was still standing but had started to move. Her movements reminded Twilight more of a newly hatched chick trying to work out its limbs for the first time. Trixie looked about the room uncomprehendingly and opened her mouth. Twilight thought it was to ask a question, but the guttural sounds and noises that came forth were nothing like speech.
A cold shiver ran down Twilight’s spine when she recognized the growling. She’d heard it once, in the dark basement while trying to protect Spike from the beast. The rest of the ponies outside the shield felt unnerved too. Rainbow Dash threw a protective wing over Fluttershy, while Rarity and Applejack, Lightning Dust and Pinkie Pie moved closer to each other for comfort. Twilight meanwhile, inched a little closer to the edge of the shield. She didn’t want to admit it, but the shield wasn’t only there to protect Trixie.
“Trixie?” she called out. “Can you hear me, Trixie? Are you in there?”
Twilight’s voice seemed to focus Trixie. Her erratic movements stilled and she turned her head to look at those before her. Trixie’s gaze, unfocused before, bore into the ponies on the other side of the shield. The red of her eyes burned with an intensity that Twilight had never seen in them before. Trixie then did something no one was expecting; she spoke.
“There is no Trixie.” The sound left no question as to which entity was in control. “There is only… I.”
Twilight recoiled in fear. “Discord!” she cried out.
“No, no, calm down,” the draconequus waved off the frantic unicorn as he came down to the floor. “No, she’s still in there, don’t worry.” He pointed at… Trixie? with his head. “Try asking again, see what we can get from it.”
Twilight grimaced and turned back to the monster in the cage. It had not budged, its eyes had lost none of their intensity. She swallowed and asked. “If you are not Trixie, who are you?”
“I… am,” replied the creature.
“That isn’t an answer!” Twilight cried, shriller than she would have liked.
Yet the creature on the other side of the shield seemed not to have noticed. It was busy looking around the rest of the room, its piercing gaze moving between her friends, pausing as if staring through them, deep into their souls. It lingered on Rarity longer than the others, causing a shudder to run through the fashionista’s body.
“Where is the other white one?” asked the creature before languidly dragging its gaze back to Twilight. “The one that forced me back before? Where is… she?”
“She had other matters to attend to. More important matters,” Twilight quickly added. “She entrusted any dealings you may have with our kind to me.”
The creature looked at her, its glowing red eyes slowly boring into her soul. Twilight could feel it studying her, judging her, stripping each and every layer of her her being away. “I know her,” it finally stated. “I have dealt with her before. I do not know you.”
“What are you?” Twilight whispered. Her hackles had risen in frustration and fear.
“I… am… many things, Twilight Sparkle.” The growling slowly became more fluid. “You couldn't begin to imagine half of them.” The creature smiled, showing its sharp teeth and burning red eyes. “You exist in a world older than you know. And I am far older than that.”
The creature whipped its tail behind it, the tip marking the floor. “In the beginning there was only Darkness. Only I, alone in the center of the existence.” It spoke in a monotone, near mechanical voice. “But then Light came to be and so Darkness was displaced by it.” There was a slight trace of anger, but it barely betrayed the monotone. “Where there was Light, Life soon followed. Where there was Life, Chaos and Harmony followed.” There was no mistaking the hate, the spite, that it used for those terms. “Each time Darkness had less place in existence, overthrown and robbed of what it had claimed.” It smiled a slight, bitter smile. “But Death follows Life, and with time what Light has taken will return to Darkness. As I once was, I will be again.”
The thing walked towards the edge of the magic shield. “I am the Dark Side of the world, present in everything and everyone who has a shadow.” It raised a clawed paw over its head. “I am,” it dug the claws on the shield's wall, the layers of magic giving way with screeching peels as they were rent apart, “supreme.” It raised another claw and dug it too into the wall while at the same time Twilight tried desperately to reinforce it. “And almighty!” For the first time, it raised its voice. Trixie’s horn ignited, bathing her face in a deep crimson aura. Bolts of magic hit the magic dome in every angle.
Everypony took a step back except Discord, who only looked amused by it.
“When you awake in the middle of the night, paralyzed in fear,” the claws, pulsing red with magic, slowly forced an opening in the magic holding the shield together, “I am what you see!” With one last thrust, the shield gave way with a squeal like tortured metal, and collapsed in a flash of light and a cloud of smoke.
The library was plunged into darkness, the only light the red glimmer of two eyes burning bright in its depths.
“In the absence of light, I prevail.” The voice had returned to the mechanical tone it used before. “And from the skies itself, the blackest of nights will fall.” More red glimmers became visible. In the center of Trixie’s chest, the marks of the Alicorn Amulet were pulsating like a heart. The red glimmers jumped forward.
“Okay, yeah. No.”
A snap of fingers was heard. The glimmers came to a jarring halt in the middle of the darkness.
“Now, where is that switch?” Discord muttered before making a ‘click’ sound. The lights came back and the smoke disappeared.
Twilight and the others had to shield her eyes from the light. Lightning Dust was the first to adjust to the change and saw what Discord did to the monster controlling Trixie’s body and she could only stare in befuddlement.
“What the…” Applejack tried to say, but she was too confused to end the sentence. There, mere inches from Twilight’s face, was the snarling monster…
Held inside a cat carrier.
“What just happened? What did you do? What is that?” Twilight was on the verge of collapse as she recoiled from the carrier, her brain seemingly only able to produce questions. “What is going on anymore?!” she cried out loud in frustration.
“Oh Twily, Twily, Twily,” said Discord as he reached down and patted the frazzled unicorn on the head like one would a small foal. “May I call you Twily? Anyway,” he continued, not bothering to wait for an answer, “what just happened was that our little Tricky--”
“Trixie,” Fluttershy whispered to Discord.
“--Trixie is being manipulated by a typical, uh, how would you call it?” He waved his lion paw in the air, a cigar appearing in it which he twirled in small circles. “Miss, what we have here is the unwillful appropriation of a physical host body in order to facilitate the manifestation of a non-corporeal being for the purpose of something unpleasant and nefarious, and against all the principles of love, friendship, harmony, and whatever else you ponies run this place on,” Discord explained, flicking his cigar dismissively. With a snap of his his claws, a light brown, baggy uniform with a pair of goggles, like something a sanitation worker would wear, appeared on him. “Now, let's talk seriously.” A small calculator appeared floating in the air next to Discord as he cleared his throat
“Now, for the separation or ‘exorcism’ if you prefer,” he made a pair of air-quotes with his fingers, “I’m gonna have to ask you for four big ones.” He operated the calculator with his eagle claw. “Four thousand bits for that. But I’m having a special this week what with now being a ‘good guy’ and all, so for safe transport and storage of the, ahem, beast, that's only going to run you one thousand bits. Fortunately.” The calculator caught fire.
“Chaos,” came the sound from Trixie’s cage. Twilight just caught Discord flinch before she turned like her friends to see what was happening. “Have you become so content that you forgot me?” This time, the sound barely felt like a voice. It came from something that wasn’t natural to the world and the ponies in the room didn’t know how to process its effects. “You really think this can contain me?”
“Considering you’re the one in the cage,” Discord took another puff of his cigar. “I’ll put my future commission money on ‘yes, I think this can contain you’.”
“The finite cannot contain the infinite,” Trixie? snarled. “You gave up the infinite long ago.”
Twilight looked back at Discord. At first he seemed puzzled and mouthed back the last of the words that Trixie? had said to him. Then his eyes grew wide and his posture stiffened as if he had just come to a realization.
“Ha ha, now you recognize the truth!” It resonated through the building like a scratch on a blackboard, loud and painful. “Heh, heh, heh.” Each spasm of laugh was met with the ponies trotting back, flinching in pain. “Hah, hah hah, hah hah!” The mares covered their ears as the laughter grew louder. Pinkie looked down and saw her necklace vibrating along the sound. “HA HA HA HA HA!!”
Lightning Dust fell over her side, pressing her hooves the hardest while clenching her teeth and shutting her eyes tight. She coiled herself into a tight ball, screaming against the noise, and wrapped her wings over her head in an effort to further try and protect herself. Pinkie Pie and Rarity tried to reach for her, but they couldn’t separate their own hooves from their ears, despite resisting the noise better. Rainbow Dash noticed it too and, clenching her own teeth, let her hooves go and let only her wings over her ears in order to try and help Lighting Dust. Soon, blood ran down her face coming from her ears as she collapsed too, still reaching her hooves towards her fallen friend.
“HA HA HA!!” As the creature kept laughing, it put a claw over the lock of its cage. Twilight could barely manage to focus enough to see the monster pick the lock like only Trixie could. In less than ten seconds flat, the door was open and It walked out of the cage. This time, not only the marks of the Alicorn Amulet were glowing like a crimson lantern, but its red eyes had a mist of the same color flowing out in small waves. While it may not have been the vibrant purple she had seen from Sombra’s eyes, Twilight couldn’t mistake it for anything other than the darkest of magic.
The laughing demon kept trotting towards them, slowly, as if savouring the moment. It was almost snout to snout in front of Twilight and she felt like she was drowning in those red, red eyes.
Then she wasn’t. The eyes and the laughter had disappeared and she was outside. Twilight blinked and carefully let her hooves go. There was a hard buzzing in her ears, but the laughter was gone. She looked around at her friends slowly getting up, rushing to Dash and Dust’s sides to help them. Twilight trotted to them, not without dizziness, as she realized they were on the street in front of the library.
Which was now enclosed by a glass dome…
And covered with fake snow.
“Phew, that was close,” Discord commented next to them, wiggling a finger in one of his ears. He conjured up a can of beer. “That… should hold her. Anyway, good thing I’m good now, or you would be in some deep dirt otherwise.” He popped the top and loudly gulped the content of his can while looking back at the ponies. Seeing they were too distracted attending Rainbow and Lightning, Discord coughed loudly. “Ahem! Hello? I just saved the day. Any recognition? I would like one of those stained-glass windows in the palace, please.”
“You!” Twilight had to be held by Fluttershy. “What did you do to Trixie?!”
“Me?” Discord pretended to be hurt. “Twilight, you offend me.” He smirked. “When I do stuff, I make sure to gloat about it. Also, you’re welcome for saving your flanks back there.”
Only Fluttershy standing in front of her with her wings stretched stopped Twilight from tackling Discord.
“Um, Discord,” Fluttershy said softly. “Would you kindly explain us what is happening.”
“Elementary, my dear Flutters,” Discord said while adjusting a hunter’s hat between his horns. “You see, something very rare and special happened today,” he produced a pipe from thin air and blew a bubble with it. “I made a small, tiny, little miscalculation.”
“You mean a mistake,” Twilight deadpanned.
“I’m not your mother, Twilight. You see,” he walked calmly towards the snowglobe enclosing the library, “like me, some concepts are so powerful that they manifest in this, the physical plane.” He softly tapped the glass wall with the tip of his pipe. “What we’re dealing with here is something that’s been around long enough to think itself a primal force, but being the spirit manifestation of one myself, I can assure you the odds of it actually being one are as good as old Sunbutt giving up her pastry fetish. No, your friend just got something really old and really nasty attached to herself.” He flexed his paws together, cracking his knuckles. “But after getting a taste of its magic, I can assure you it’s nothing I can’t hold and drive away.” He leaned back on the snow globe. “So, just calm down, attend your friends and I’ll give you your unicorn back in perfect shape in no time.”
Twilight’s face lit up at that last statement. She didn’t want to believe too much in Discord, but hearing him say those words was exactly what she had been waiting for since it all began. There was a solution for Trixie.
“Your house will probably need a bit of cleaning after all this though,” Discord smirked. “It’s not like your books react terribly well to water.”
Twilight’s face fell at the realization that her library was now under water. “My books!” she cried.
“Could be worse,” Discord added. He snapped his fingers and a soaked Owlicious appeared on Twilight’s back. “Could be your owl.”
“*cough-hack* WhoOoOo…*cough*” Owlicious tried to say, spitting water. Twilight closed her eyes and inhaled slowly, then put her foreleg in front of her and exhaled. She was still too happy for Trixie’s sake to be too angry.
“Now if you’ll excuse me,” Discord said, putting on a scuba suit. “As the only one here capable of doing this, I’ll be finishing up the job. One exorcised pony coming up!” He then disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Twilight reached around and pulled her owl into soggy hug as she sat on her haunches. Discord, of all beings, was going to provide a solution for Trixie. She smiled and nuzzled at Owlicious’ soaked headfeathers, looking back over her memories, to all the days and nights looking through book after book for a solution. To all the moments she had to convince Trixie there was still hope for her. To all the moments Twilight needed to convince herself of the same. After all that, there was finally an end. Trixie was going to be normal again, she was going to be free.
Twilight let hope into her heart that all was going to be well.
Owlicious struggled out of her grasp and waddled off to deal with his impromptu swim, hooting that he’d be back later. Twilight turned back to her friends who were gathered around Rainbow Dash and Lightning Dust. The two had already regained consciousness, even if they did appear a little dazed. When Twilight started to tell the others the good news she was met with the same joy she felt before. Applejack and Fluttershy were more austere, while Rarity put a foreleg over Twilight’s shoulder and rested her head on it. Pinkie, of course, was jumping all over the place, planning her ‘happy end of the series’ party.
“Hey!” Rainbow Dash shouted. “What just happened?!”
“What?!” Lightning hollered back. “Why are you whispering?!”
Their friends couldn’t help but laugh a little. The clouds above them began to disperse and the sun shone brightly. Applejack shook her head, smiling, and got between the semi-deaf pegasi from behind to put a hoof over each one’s shoulder.
“Calm down, you two,” she said loud and clear. “It seems we’re finally reaching the end of this.”
“What?!” They shouted in unison. Twilight rolled her eyes, still smiling widely, and began to conjure a ‘subtitle’ spell for Rainbow and Lightning until their hearing came back.
That was when the earth began to shake.
It was very slight at first, so the ponies didn’t notice it. Pinkie was the first to react, not smiling anymore, and began to trot in the direction to the library. Rarity noticed this and followed her with her eyes. The rumble reached a crescendo and by that time the others were also looking back at Discord’s dome. The fake snow was rising instead of falling, along with small bubbles. It looked almost as if the water inside was boil--
The force of the explosion knocked the seven ponies clear off their hooves. The glass dome around the library completely shattered, the water inside rendered to a cloud of steam. The tree had been clearly cracked through in several places. Before any of them could get back on their hooves the side facing them broke open completely, crashing to the ground, and a familiar serpentine silhouette was launched out of it..
The unconscious body of Discord fell right in front of Pinkie. Fluttershy shrieked and galloped to his side while Twilight took a step ahead, trying to look at the inside of the now destroyed library. She was afraid what she might find. From where the library had once stood, a black, near impenetrable shadow oozed out across the ground. The shadow took the shape of a pony-like figure. That figure rose up from the earth, forming itself into the creature that Twilight and her friends had once called Trixie.
“Well, well, well,” it said slowly while still emerging from its own shadow. The monster was surrounded by shadow, making it look blurry for the naked eye, as if it was constantly absorbing the light surrounding it. When it was finally solid again, the marks on its chest ignited again with the same crimson light as its eyes. “If you’re done throwing that idiot at me,” it smirked at the panicked expressions of the ponies before it, “There are other matters that require my attention.”
“Girls!” Twilight called for her friends while stepping ahead. “Formation!” she said with all the courage she could muster. As much as she didn’t like the thought of unleashing the Element of Harmony against a pony in Trixie’s position, it was clear that things had gone too far. From the corners of her eyes she could see her friends stepping forward with the same sense of resolve. The Elements of Harmony began to glow in their necklaces and crown.
The creature before them stopped, too, its ears perked up and eyes a bright-red with recognition. “Harmony!” it snarled in the same tone as when it had addressed Discord as Chaos.
Twilight and the rest could feel the power of the elements welling up inside them, building to a point of unstoppable release. But before it could build any further, she cried out at sudden a sharp pain in her chest and her and the other bearers were thrown back against the ground.
“Harmony,” the beast growled again. “Why am I not surprised to find you here also.” It waved its paw again, knocking Twilight and the rest to the ground once more. “That you would chose mere bearers instead of proper avatars shows how weak you are and you should feel bad about that. These pathetic things have so many doubts, so much regret within, they bearly do you justice. There’s even guilt in some of them.” It turned around, looking them directly in their eyes. “All those little shades of darkness I can sense…” It began to advance, slowly, while cocking its head to a side and smiling widely. “And exploit.” It slapped its paw to the ground, driving the six ponies before it down also. “Don't worry, girls. It won't hurt long. Relax.” The monster was, once again, mere inches from Twilight Sparkle. “Death is an old ally of mine.”
A greenish blue blur hit the monster in the side, forcing it away from the Bearers of the Elements.
As fast as she could, Lightning pushed the monster up in the sky. Around them, the air turning electric. The beast growled and clawed at Lightning, but the pegasus immediately started to spin to put it off balance. Reaching the apex of her climb, Lightning inverted them and dove back towards the ground. Aided by gravity and her powerful wings, Lightning did an eagle’s dive and drove the creature into the ground. They landed outside Ponyville. The impact was like a lightning strike, raising a cloud of dirt into the sky. Lightning slowly trotted away from the crater before turning and collapsing on her haunches. Still, there was an expression of triumph in her face.
“Fool!” the monster screamed in a show of pure hate. “I am above you in every sense.” Lightning didn’t move as it pulled itself out of the crater and began to stalk towards her. “I was going to show mercy to the bearers with a quick death.” It stopped a meter or so away from Lightning. “But you...” The beast glared and lowered its horn, preparing to attack. “The unfathomable agony that I will bring to…” The monster trailed off. “To you…” It seemed to notice something.
“Having trouble, mate?” Lightning managed to get to her back hooves, trembling a little from the exhaustion. She was smiling. “Let’s say that my ‘little stunt’ was just a distraction.”
The beast’s shriek of rage lost its previous volume. Its face changed from malice to fear as it reached with its claws for its neck and horn, touching the magic suppressors. Using the distraction, Lightning tackled the beast the ground again, firmly holding its neck with her forehoof.
“Come on, Trixie, wake up!” she called while punching the beast in the face. “I will kick your ass up around your ears if you don’t!” She kept hitting the beast. Lightning had heard about the last time this creature had been fought and had expected their crash to have knocked it out so Trixie could come back. She was getting desperate that it hadn’t. “Come on!” It felt like hitting a rock but it was all she had left. She was getting more and more tired with each blow. “I know you’re in there, Trixie! Fight!”
“Heh,” the monster smirked as Lightning threw her last hit. “Don’t worry, Trixie is in here.” It caught the hoof with a paw and dug the claws into it, making Lightning scream in pain. She screamed louder when the creature squeezed down, cracking the bones of her hoof. “I am just another part of her.” The beast slowly rose from under Lightning, holding her her by the chest with her free claw. “Her desires of power, her ambitions of greatness.” It held Lightning out at full length. "So you want to fight me, little filly? Happily." The beast aimed a kick with its hind leg that sent her flying, smiling maniacally the whole while. “After all, everypony has a dark side.” It pounced Lightning, holding her tightly, intimately, like a twisted lover as they rolled across the ground. “I can see myself inside you too, Lightning Dust,” the monster whispered in her ear. “That’s why you won’t deny me. You know I’m already inside. I’m what you fear is hiding in the dark corners, away from the light.”
“AGH!” Lightning shrieked in pain. Blood ran down her back, pouring from the claws buried where her wings connected to her back.
“Behind everything, everyone, even the brightest of souls… there are shadows.” It dug the claws deeper, doing more damage and making the wings go limp. “Darkness is everywhere.” It pressed the claws more until Lightning couldn’t scream anymore. Then, it let her go, dropping her helplessly on the ground.
Lightning couldn’t even move. Not only from the pain that was holding her down, but the realization of her wounds too. Even if she could get up, even if she wasn’t bleeding out, her wings were useless now. She had no hope of getting away. This would be her end, and it was wearing the face of a pony she had called a friend.
“Poor little thing,” the dark creature cooed while leaning its head down. “You tried so hard, and got so far.” Wrapping a blood-soaked paw around her muzzle, it lifted her head up, pulling her close. She looked up at the red eyes of death looking back at her. “But in the end,” the beast took hold of the magical restrainer on its neck with its other paw. With a single tug, the claws broke the necklace. “It doesn’t even matter.”
Lightning’s eyes followed the pieces of magical alloy falling in front of her. Another crack indicated the horn ring being broken too. “Fool me once,” the creature idly commented as it tossed the pieces aside. “I wasn’t going to let such bothersome devices get in my way again.”
Lightning couldn’t help but weep in despair. The monster dropped her again, watching the mare falling down into the abyss of her own sorrow, laughing at her pain. It ignited its magic, making the marks on its chest, eyes, and horn glimmer with the crimson of its power. The red aura raised Lightning in the air, stretching her limbs. Along with her wings, Lightning was covered in blood from head to hoof.
“Darkness isn’t just destruction, my dear.” Once again, the monster spoke with a softer voice, like the purr of a hungry, dangerous animal. The magic holding Lightning loosened, but still held her in the air. “I can offer peace too, and healing, like a cold breeze in the night.” Lightning felt her wounds being treated by the dark magic. “You have so much courage within you. I can respect that.” The crimson light around her wings gradually became solid, changing to black. A pair of wingblades, traditional pegasi weapons, began to take shape. “You have so much darkness inside you already, too.” A pair of straps crossed Lightning’s chest, securing the artifact to her body. “If Trixie had not found me, maybe you would have. You are strong. Powerful. Cheated of your rightful place in this world. Like her, you can take it all back, and more.” The being that was Trixie leaned closer. “All you have to do... is accept.”
Lightning only moved her eyes. She saw the wingblades out of their corners, shining like obsidian. Lightning could feel them too, connected already to her body, becoming part of her. They felt powerful. The strength of the hurricane, the speed of lightning, the roar of thunder, the might of the storm itself. All of that, at her wings’ reach. She slowly opened her mouth, carefully thinking of her next words.
“Up yours.” Lightning said, not without difficulty.
The magic wingblades vanished and the blight of pain came back immediately. Lightning’s limbs were stretched again, wider than before. It felt like they could be torn apart from her body at any moment. Despite the agony, she still managed to move her head to look at the demon holding her.
Lightning wasn’t sure she had hoped to do with her final gesture. Maybe to curse at the creature, maybe to scream, maybe hear one more final offer, like those villains in the comics she read as a filly made, always giving the heroes one last chance to escape.
There was none of that.
She realized it was no longer concerned with her. Her chance at relevance had passed and she was being treated as one would treat a irritating insect. She briefly wondered if that is how it would have regarded Trixie if she hadn't accepted the offer it made to her. Then something in her back popped and the agony became too much for her to think anymore.
Lightning Dust’s eyes went somewhere cold, somewhere beyond the pain. With her last bit of willpower, she faced death like a warrior of old and stared it down with defiance.
It didn’t even have the good graces to look like it cared.
A gust of hot wind and… party supplies… hit the demon, breaking its concentration and forcing it to drop Lightning Dust. A familiar blur of colors took her away before she hit the ground.
“Reload!” Pinkie shouted, aiming the Party Cannon. She was wearing a pink brodie helmet. Discord, who had a stahlhelm, saluted with his eagle claw while snapping his fingers. The cannon glowed with the Spirit of Chaos’ magic and Pinkie fired again. The second round hit the demon before it could get up from the previous strike. They kept firing over and over in rapid succession.
Meanwhile, Rainbow carried Lightning to the others. She let Rarity’s magic carefully hold the wounded mare as the fashionista conjured bandages around her. Fluttershy immediately began to treat the bigger wounds on the wings while Twilight magically sealed the minor cuts over Lightning’s chest and hoof.
“This is all we can do for now,” Twilight said as she looked back at Pinkie and Discord keeping the monster occupied. Applejack and Rainbow Dash joined them too, doing what they could to divide its attention. “We need to help them.” She turned back to Lightning. “Don’t worry, we’ll come back to you as soon as we deal with Trixie.”
“Trixie!” With a last flash of consciousness and burst of willpower, Lightning broke away from Rarity’s hold and threw her hooves at Twilight’s shoulders. “Twi-Twilight--” She could barely talk, much less move. “Trixie is not-- She’s--” The pain was too much. “Not there… anymore…” She rode the ‘e’ with the exhalation as she passed out. The image of an azure unicorn making the same gesture came hard and fast to Twilight’s mind.
“Twilight?” Fluttershy put a hoof over her shoulder as Rarity conjured her sofa for Lightning. “What do we do?”
Twilight Sparkle looked down at the wounded pegasus. Her eyes went to the wounds in the wings. The bandages were already red and the wings were hanging askew. She knew enough anatomy to recognize the severity of the injuries. Twilight couldn’t believe the brutality and cruelty of it. “We need to stop this.” She almost whispered, fearing the implications of her own words. “Trix-- This monster must be stopped, no matter the cost.”
The three mares galloped into the storm of violence and confetti ahead of them. And in the eye of that storm, the monster of darkness, barely contained.
“You can’t hold me forever!” The demon roared. Its eyes glowed again, this time regaining the crimson mist from before. The charged magic created a small dome around it. “This. Ends! NOW!” With that last shout, the dome expanded forcefully, pushing everyone away from it. Everyone except Discord, whose neck was enveloped by the red aura before being violently yanked back to face the demon. “And it starts with your end, Chaos.” It smiled again, wickedly, as its claws held Discord’s neck, pressing hard enough to destroy a boulder. “What’s the matter?” it teased. “No more laughs from you?”
“Huh, huh, hugh,” Discord coughed, raising his eagle claw. The demon was focused on that and didn’t see the joy buzzer on his lion paw before he could slap it against its neck. The shock of primordial lightning was strong enough to break them apart. Discord rubbed his neck while standing up again. In front of him, dark magic ignited like a pyre.
If the demon didn’t look angry with him before, there was no mistaking its feelings now. Hate rolled off Trixie’s form in waves.
“Now, uh, before this gets any nastier than it already has been,” said Discord, paws up and empty again, “I think you’re forgetting about somepony.” Darkness opened its mouth, but before it could ask, Discord smirked and conjured a pawful of cards, a royal flush from a poker game. “Smile for the birdie!” He flipped his wrist, changing the cards to a remote control, and pressed the red button on it.
Trixie felt something akin to awakening in her old wagon as it was careening downhill in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm with a broken wheel. All the while locked inside with a rabid wolverine that she had just hoofed in the face.
The world around her was blurry. She was slowly remembering what happened. Trixie stood up, trembling at the images flashing in her head. She tried to situate herself by opening her eyes. She saw her friends once again, but alongside relief, she felt something else.
Trixie felt a burning hate consuming her mind. She closed her eyes again.
There was no denying it. Trixie felt the demon inside her, fighting to retain control of her body.
Trixie’s horn began to glow red once again. She didn’t know how, but it had control of her magic and it was using it. It was going to use it to hurt her friends.
“I’m not a beast, I’m a pony,” Trixie tried to say, but couldn’t move her lips. She was sweating, trying to hold the evil of the Amulet from taking over. She didn’t want to recognize it, but she knew what she was truly fighting against: Herself.
“NO!” Trixie managed to scream as the killing spell fired from her horn. The red lightning bolt curved away from the six ponies before her at the last instant, shooting harmlessly into the sky. She opened her eyes again, clenching her teeth as tears of black ran down her face. The world stood silent for a minute.
“Trixie?” Twilight’s voice called from behind her. She immediately turned back, charging her horn again. The dark magic was surging through her body, making it move without her.
“Twilight,” Trixie managed to say. “It’s me.” She tried to turn her magic off or move her horn away, but at the same time, seeing Twilight gave strength to her hate. “The thing inside the Amulet, it’s Trixie’s own darkness.” The wind around Trixie began to circle, creating a small tornado, tinted with the red of her magic.
“No,” Twilight replied as her friends began to get close. “Trixie, this is not you, this is something else.” She reached with a hoof. “We can save you. I know we can.” Twilight’s hoof touched a force field.
“I can’t hold it anymore.” Trixie’s face was of pure sorrow. The magic in her body kept rising, like an explosive nearing critical mass. “I’m too dangerous to stay.” She gulped. Even if her feelings were contradicting each other, betraying her, there was one decision Trixie knew was of her own. “Twilight, you know what you have to do.”
“Damn it, Twilight, we’re running out of time!” Trixie shouted in frustration. She could see Twilight didn’t want to do it. “If you don’t do it, if you don’t use the Elements now--”
Trixie felt her body grow numb as her last bit of control slipped. She screamed as the dark magic finally tore loose from her horn.
Twilight felt the time freeze as the killing spell ignited and lept forward. Her friends galloped to protect her, reaching in time to be hit together. At the last possible instant, a round object appeared in front of them. The mirror reflected the spell which once again dissipated as it reached for the sky.
Peering around it, Twilight and the others saw Discord wearing a vest, chaps, and Applejack’s hat, now mounted on a saddle atop Trixie. A bridle had been conjured around her head and the draconequus was fighting to keep her horn pointed anywhere but at the six.
“Well?” Discord yelled with difficulty as the beast beneath kept twisting and bucking. “Are you going to use those overblown bits of costume jewelry anytime soon or just stand there enjoying the show?” He saw the doubt on each one of the Bearers. “Are you serious? Is this really the one time you feel bad about using those things?!”
Between the frenetic moves, Trixie managed to catch sight of her friends one last time. The hate within her was overwhelming, the magic suffocating. This time, however, instead of fear, Trixie felt something stronger. Mustering all the willpower she could, Trixie wrested control of her body back and faced her friends once more.
“Please, everypony!” she shouted. “I won’t blame you. Everything that happened to this point—” Trixie shuddered, forcing herself to stay in place. “It was all Trixie’s fault anyways!” She dug her claws into the ground, anything to keep from moving. She was holding on with all she could but control was still slipping away. “Please,” she whispered in a final effort, black tears streaming down her face. “I won’t be able to live like this, Twilight.” Trixie took one last breath, the red of her building magic beginning to block out her vision. “I’m begging you! Please!”
Twilight closed her eyes.
“Damn you, Sparkle! Take the shot!” screeched Trixie.
Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle began to float in the air. They had the power and the responsibility of bearing Laughter, Loyalty, Honesty, Generosity, Kindness, and Magic respectively. Together, they had the power Harmony itself, one of the fundamental forces of existence. They knew how much of that was a burden, but they all took it in order to do what was right. And yet, none of them could stand the idea of opening their eyes and seeing the Elements of Harmony taking the last action.
The last thing Trixie saw was all the colors of the rainbow.
Then her world went white.