Sparks Catch

by Tale Swapper

Burnt Offering

Discord grinned as Sweetie Belle approached. Picking up the pace, he began to strum his guitar with increased urgency, quickly sweeping aside the first few textbooks and water bottles the small girl swung his way. A few seconds later, he let out a loud twang, causing every object in Sweetie's magical aura to hit the ground in one swoop.

Breathing heavily, Discord glanced over a Fluttershy. "See? If you just do a little bit of a different tempo, it's quite easy to throw them off." Glancing back at the small Crusader, his grin faded as the girl waved her hands, pulling the objects from the ground back into the air. "...huh. Thought it'd take her longer to come around-" Discord found himself playing even more frantically, the swarm of detritus only increasing as he sped up the tempo of his music.

Fluttershy watched the two dueling mages, a whimper escaping her throat. Oh no- Sweeties is really trying to hurt Mr. Discord- but he seemed so confident earlier. Watching the sweat bead upon the janitor's brow, she came to a quick realization. He thought he could end this quickly- and he can't keep this up. But what was he-

Fluttershy gasped, then spoke urgently. "Mr. Discord- you thought you could control her, just like you're moving everything else, right?" As Discord glanced at her, giving a sharp nod, she shook her head. "That won't work. You're scaring.... whatever it is controlling Sweetie Belle, and you're scaring Sweetie too. She's cornered, Discord - and you don't try to fight someone scared."

Discord grunted, his finger thrumming over the strings of his guitar. "Maybe you're right - but I don't know how to calm someone down, and I doubt you're going to be able to get close enough for her to hear you or get within hugging range, my dear. So what should we do, hmm?" He snarled as a harsh barrage of detritus swung towards them, arcing form below and above, forcing him to strain to keep playing. "And whatever we're going to do- we need to do it soon. My fingers are starting to throb - I don't think I can keep this up much longer."

Fluttershy smiled softly. "I think we need to slow things down a bit - not speed things up." She sung her bag off her back, lowering it to the ground.

Discord's eyes widened. "Fluttershy- if I slow down, Miss Belle is going to smash us to bits! We can't just-"

Fluttershy cut him off. "You don't need to do anything to start." Rummaging through her bag, she withdrew a long, slender piece of metal. "Just let me lead- then make it a duet." She glanced up at Discord, and lifted her flute to her lips. "Just watch, okay?"

Fluttershy lifted the flute to her lips, and began to play, a soft melody over the harsh impact of books and the furious strumming of the guitar. At first, the change tin the music seemed to have no effects - but as Discord watched, some of the objects moving around the young crusader began to slow, matching Fluttershy's pace - before speeding up again, maching Discord's furious strumming.

The janitor winced. Fluttershy's right - my style of music isn't doing any good here. But- if she's wrong - if this doesn't work - we'll be wide open for her to attack.

I need to trust her. I need to trust her methods. If she's brave enough o face the storm - then its only right that I face it with her.

Glancing over at the flute player, Discord hesitated - then slowly began to strum a little slower. At first the objects moved at nearly the same speed- and Discord watched as Fluttershy calmly stepped forward, ducking around several flying water bottles, and allowing a small paperback to glance off her side, barely wincing as she played on. Slowly, as he reduced his tempo to merely picking at the strings, the swirling mass of green energy faded and the maelstrom of objects slowly settled to the floor. As they finished their duet, Fluttershy crouched, setting her flute on the ground, then braced herself, as Sweetie Belle's unconscious form settled into her arms. As she lifted the smaller girl into her arms, a pair of yellow wings and horse's ears appeared.

Discord gazed at the pink-haired girl, whose form had just shifted into that of a guardian angel. "...Miss Fluttershy?" Discord hazarded. "What should we do now?"

Fluttershy looked up at Discord, then gently positioned the girl in her arms. As she came to her feet, she said in a low voice, "There are others who're in pain - like she was. We'll need to go to them." Starting suddenly, she nervously glanced at the janitor. "Umm... could you please bring my flute and my backpack? I think we're going to need them."

Discord nodded mutely, bent over to retrieve the flute. As Fluttershy passed him, he turned to watch her move down the hallway. If I were ten years younger... Then he paused and sighed. Make that twenty.

Applejack hit the ground with a crack, her head ringing slightly, before she pulled herself to her feet. Glaring at Aria, who was desperately trying to pull the still-struggling Apple Bloom into a choke hold, she gave a massive groan. "Ah thought you said you could grab her!"

Aria glared back over the headlock she'd managed to get the smaller girl in, wincing slightly as Apple Bloom's fists glanced off the armor which now covered her upper arms and torso. "Normally, I could. But I didn't expect her to start using those kinetic bursts. I mean, I though she was just a- whoa!" Apple Bloom had pulled her arm free of Aria's left arm, and then slammed her own left elbow into Aria's breastplate. As Aria's grip loosened, Apple Bloom's right arm swung around and discharged a blast of yellow light, sending Aria sprawling onto the floor. "...ow."

Applejack cursed under her breath. Apple Bloom had never fought so hard in any of their little sibling spats. She'd assumed her sister had been given a bit of a boost by whatever it was which was possessing her, but she hadn't expected such a surge in strength. Ah mean, Ah know Ah'm pretty strong- but Apple Bloom seems to be hittin' harder than Ah can. She frowned as she noticed the dark patches on Apple Bloom's elbows and hands. Doesn't seem to make her much tougher,

She frowned, noting the way Apple Bloom positioned her body. With a jolt, she recognized the tilt of Bloom's head. She ain't tryin' to beat us- she's tryin' to break past us. But- why? What in the front of the school's so important?

One more question to ask this thing aster we get my sister calmed down, Ah guess.

Applejack moved to Aria's side, making sure to hold herself in the path of the small girls, escape. Leaning towards her fighting partner, Applejack gave an annoyed snort. "She's just waiting for us to slip up so she can get past us, far as I can figure. Ah don;t think this is working - we gotta be more indirect."

Aria hesitated, then shook her head. "If we had any of your friends except the rainbow wonder, I'd we might be able to pull it off. But neither of us are very good at subtle." She glared at Apple Bloom, who had taken up a fresh fighting stance. "Especially you."

Applejack seethed. "Hey- are you callin' me stupid?"

Aria glanced at her, the gem on her helmet glowing softly green, licks of flame rising from her gauntlets. "No- just commenting that you've got all the nuance and subtly of a brick to the face-"

Applejack snarled. "Yah sure are aggravating for someone who's supposed to be helpin' me."

Applejack couldn't see through Aria's visor, but by the taunting tone of her voice, she could tell the former siren had a big grin. "Helping you? Eh, I just figured I could get a chance to beat your sister, and do it without-"

Applejack's face twisted, her scoel growing by the second. "Aria, Ah swear if you hurt mah sister, I'll-"

Aria nodded, suddenly cutting the older Apple sister off. "Yeah, I hear you." Spinning on her foot, she raised a single gauntlet- whose flames now surrounded her entire wrist. "Hey- could you hold onto your anger for a second? That should do it."

Applejack blinked. "..what?"

Aria turned, charged towards Apple Bloom- who met the charging ex-siren with a charge of her own. This time, instead of being swatted aside, as the two collided, Aria held her own, locking her hands into her opponents' own. Apple Bloom began to press Aria back, until the lavender knight braced her sabatons against the ground. As she pushed, she growled out "Now! Whatever you wanted to do, do it now!"

Applejack stood stunned for a few seconds- then quickly shook off her shock. Without a word, she sprinted past Aria, and quickly spun, exposing her sister's back to her for the first time. Applejack wrapped both her arms around Apple Bloom's torso, and pulled her into the air.

Apple Bllom immediately spun her arms around, attempting to grab Applejack in both hands- only to stop still as Applejack gently tapped one hand on Apple Bloom's temple. "Tag out, Bloom. Wrasslin' time's over."

Apple Bloom seemed to tense for a brief moment- before going limp in her older sister's arms, light fading from around her fingers. Applejack grinned at Aria over her sister's bow. " This ain't the first time Bloom an' Ah've gone hammer an' tongs. We've got a system in our family- when someone's all set up for a knockout blow, we tap-em on the noggin. Let's em' know the fight's over." She smiled and roughed her younger sister's hair. "Looks like even through the mind control, that little fact stuck."

Aria paused, then let out a long sigh. "Looks like it." Moving forward, she slowly lifted her hand to Apple Bloom's face. "I wonder if she's back in control, or if we just-"

As her armored fingers brushed Apple Bloom's face, the small girl's eyes opened wide, orange irises once again back in their proper place. Drawing in a deep breath, she gave a startled gasp, then screamed "Scootaloo!"

Applejack released her younger sister, who immediately fell to her knees. Coming to her feet, the Crusader gasped out a few strangled words "Scootaloo- someone hurt her, and she told the magic to make it stop- but, but it doesn't understand how fragile people are yet- it's gonna kill her!"

As Apple Bloom took off running, Applejack and Aria fell in behind her. Applejack was still trying to process what her younger sister was saying, but Aria caught every word. "Wait- the magic will kill Scootaloo, or whoever hurt her?"

Apple Bloom gasped, turning the corner. "If we don't stop em'- probably both."

Sunset dodged to one side, narrowly avoiding the bolt of ice Scootaloo had lobbed at her. Since Pinkie and Rarity had gotten involved, the fight had devolved into a game of keep-away, each of the three girls working to keep Scootaloo occupied long enough for the others to catch their breath and maneuver. Pinkie had run out of beanbags, and had switched to a rather familiar sledgehammer she'd pulled out of her hair, quickly gathering drifts of ice and using the bludgeon
to smash them into Scootaloo's torso at a distance. Rarity had added a second scarf in her left hand, alternately cracking them in Scootaloo's face and using them to turn aside fireballs and lighting bolts.

Sunset had been busy, sending concussive bolts and shields to keep the orange crusader occupied. But she knew the holding pattern the four girls had built for themselves couldn't hold. Scootaloo's reserves seemed endless, but Sunset was already feeling the strain of her spell casting, small burns growing across her palms. Pinkie had ceased dancing and leaping, instead conserving her energy to hit back fireballs and ground out lightning bursts. Rarity's movements had lost their desperate haste- she moved more slowly, and her scarves dragged on the ground in between sorties.

It was during one of these sorties that the end came. Rarity had maneuvered near the statue, obviously planning on using the devastated snow drifts as ammunition to draw Scootaloo's gaze away from Sunset. As she moved, however, one of her high-heeled boots sank too deep in the trampled dirt- and as she dragged it free, the fashionista managed to face-plant in the snow. As Rarity struggled to her feet, Scootaloo spun to face her, raising a fireball in one hand. Sunset quickly raised her hand - only to wince as pain coursed through her fingers. The moment's heistation was enough for the fireball to leave Scootaloo's hand, arching towards Rarity, as the music built to a crescendo-

Sunset blinked. Where'd the guitar music come from?

As Sunset watched, mouth gaping, the horse standing above Rarity leapt from its plinth, stone turning aside the fireball at the last moment. Eyes glowing yellow and green, the animated statue danced to the strums of a guitar, carrying over the otherwise silent battlefield.

Sunset turned, taking in the sight of janitor Discord, standing on the steps of the school, working away at his guitar, frantic tempo stirring the air around him. Discord grinned, walking out into the snow. "Miss Shimmer! Lovely day for a dance, wouldn't you say?"

Sunser was about to respond when a shriek from behind her caused her to spin. Sunset was nearly bowled over as Rarity dashed past, scarves abandoned as she moved to the unconscious form of her sister. "Sweetie! Oh dear, Fluttershy, is she alright, what's-"

Fluttershy placed a hand on Rarity's shoulder as she set Sweetie down on the front steps. "She's fine, Rarity. Though I don't know why she-"

"Ah do." Apple Bloom stood at the top of the steps, gasping for air. "Ah had the same thing in mah head as Scoots still does." She glanced up at her friend, who was currently dodging the leaping statue, bolts of ice and fire deflecting harmlessly off the animated stone. "It's tryin' to protect itself- and it got us to help it, too. It can't think properly without bein' in someone- but it needed a person so it could fix the... confusion between our side of the portal and the other side."

Sunset approached, frowning. "Wait- are you telling me that what's happened to Scootaloo is just the magic trying to protect her?"

Apple Bloom nodded. "Pretty much. With me an' Sweetie calmed down, should be a little easier, but..." Looking up at the orange figure slowly rising above the prancing statue, Apple Bloom sucked in a breath. "But we gotta get to her without getting roasted."

Discord grunted as the six girls huddled up, the remaining audience gathering behind them. Looking back over the group, he jerked his head. "Whatever you're going to do, you need to do it now- I can't play much longer, and Scootaloo is starting to get out of range of my leaps."

Sunset frowned, reaching for her magic- only to have Fluttershy seize her hands. The pink-haired girl glanced over the small burns, and shook her head. "Sunset, hold on a moment." For a moment, Fluttershy frowned, her wings beating softly against her back. She slowly smile,d pulled in a deep breath- and breathed, sending a fine pink mist from her mouth, which slowly surrounded and healed Sunset's wounds. As Sunset looked up at her in disbelief, the shy girl shrugged. "Um- I knew I couldn't use my hands- but I knew I could still heal, somehow."

Sunset shook her head. Figure that out later. Looking around, Sunset realized a problem with her original plan. "Girls- does anyone here have their instruments besides Fluttershy?"

At the round of incredulous looks- (and in Pinkie's case, excited confirmation, as she pulled a bongo drum out from her shadow) Sunset groaned, placing her head in one hand. "I don't know how to transform into our Equestrian forms without music- and even then, I don't know if we can use the elements without the Princess here. Girls, we need a plan- and fast."

Everyone nodded- except for Rainbow Dash, whose eyes were fixed on someone moving from the group behind them. "Uh- girls? I think we might have less time than we thought."

Twilight Sparkle watched the fight between the stone statue and the little girl with mounting awe- which was quickly being undercut by streams of guilt. I just wanted to know the truth- I didn't think anyone would get hurt. But that girl, Rarity, she nearly died, trying to keep that flying girl from hurting me. So did Sunset - and now more people are fighting because of my mistake.

Twilight looked over at the small girl wearing the bow, who was trying to rouse a pink-and-purple haired girl laying on the steps. Nearby, Shining Armor was trying to talk to the school's principals, who were desperately trying to get through on cell phones to get help. Shining was right- I went too far. If I'd bothered to listen, if I'd stopped to think- none of this would have happened.

Her eyes narrowed, and she looked at the moving statue still trying to hold Scootaloo's attention. Magic. I've stumbled into a world of magic- and managed to aggro something far above my level. If it weren't for those girls fighting for me, I'd be dead- and maybe rightfully so.

Twilight stared down at the device still clutched in her hands. This was supposed to trap and record energy fluctuations-
and instead it became a weapon. I hurt someone with this, no matter how unwittingly. I got all the data I could ever want- both from my initial readings, and everything it's picked up since. Was it worth this?

Looking back at the girl floating above them all, finally freezing the statue to the ground, Twilight allowed one last thought through her mind. No. No it's not.

Stepping forward, Twilight walked towards the monster she'd made. She knew what she had to do.

Scootaloo watched through her eyes as the thing which had taken control of her finished freezing he statue in place. The pain had ended as the presence within her mind had seized control, but she'd been forced to feel as alien impressions and movements puppeted her own body. Worse, she'd watched as the thing had tried to protect her- by killing each of the classmates who had stood between her and the one who'd hurt her.

She'd seen how spent each had become as the battle had dragged on. How first Rarity, then Pinkie and Sunset, had started to flag- and how Rarity had nearly met her end by a fireball thrown by her own fist.

No one was dead yet- but Scootaloo could feel the flow of energy through her body heating up. She was shielded from the pain, but if the fight went on much longer, her body would begin to burn. Whatever this thing inside her was, it really didn't quite understand how humans worked yet- and it was using her as a testing ground. Or had been, until she'd been attacked.

As Scootaloo's body turned, she felt her eyes widen. The girl who'd hurt her- Twilight Sparkle -was stepping towards her, cradling her device in one hand. What is she doing?

The girl came to a halt, and slowly began to speak. "I- I never meant for any of this to happen. I never meant to... well, hurt anyone. I just..." Sh hung her head. "I'm sorry."

Scootaloo felt... hesitation from the creature puppeting her. Capitalizing on it, she urged it to hold still- to listen, rather than lash out. It obeyed- but sill raised one hand, red and purple light spinning around her open digits.

Twilight continued, "I heard your friends speak, Scootaloo- about how I'd hurt you. How what I did led to this." Sh lifted her gaze, then looked down at the device in her hand. "How this stole something from you. How it hurt you." She looked up, tears in her eyes. "I wanted to understand- but not like this. Not if it means hurting others. I saw far too much of that where I come from."

Behind her, Scootaloo could see Fluttershy grab Sunset's shoulder, keeping her from advancing. A man with blue hair struggled against a girl in lavender armor, who kept him from interfering. As Twilight lifted her device again, Scootaloo felt a white-hot fireball condense in her raised hand.

Twilight lifted her device- and then let it go. As it touched the ground, her boot rose, then fell, shattering plastic, crystal, and components alike. Streams of red and purple ran from the fragments, drifting up towards Scootaloo. As the energy was reabsorbed into her, she felt something relax within her.

Twilight Sparkle spoke. "I- I wanted to understand- but please- don't hurt anyone else. I'm-" she swallowed audibly. "I'm sorry."

Scootaloo pushed a little further- The threat is done. I'm safe now.- and felt the fireball die away in her hands. The force within her turned its attention to the maelstrom of magic which still surrounded the portal below- and to the damage felt by Scootaloo's own body. Scootaloo could feel the force within her recognize the damages, and quickly heal the wounds the magic had wrought.

It was over in a moment. The force within her saw no further threats- none moved against he one who had wished for protection. Sinking in for a moment longer, it left behind something within Scootaloo- then left, returning to the now-healed web of magic which surrounded the school.

Leaving Scootaloo hanging thirty feet in the air. Without magic keepins her aloft, gravity quickly took over.

Oh hell, not again. Scootaloo though as she began to fall, her thoughts going black.

Sunset wasn't sure how to take this turn of events. One moment, she'd been readying herself to fight a losing battle against the spirit of magic itself. Then Twilight Sparkle had moved forward, smashed her device, and finally calmed down the raging spirit- leaving Scootaloo falling out of the air. She reached forward, intent on channeling her magic, no matter how bad of an idea it would be, only to be sideswiped as a blue blur shot past her.

Rainbow was sure of one thing- this new Twilight was twice as nerdy as the old one, and that was saying something. Other than that, she didn't know how to feel about he new Twilight yet- on the one hand she'd hurt Scootaloo, but on the other, she'd just brought her back from being controlled by- whatever that was.

Still, at least her headache had vanished at the right moment. As soon as Scootaloo had stopped attacking everyone, Rainbow had felt something- unbend in her mind. Even more importantly, as soon as Scootaloo has started falling, Rainbow's thoughts had cleared for the first time in days. She'd been moving before her thoughts had caught up, but that didn't matter much. Scootaloo's back to normal, but falling to her death. No time to gawk- I've gotta Run.

Rainbow felt her body push to its limit, felt her wings spread behind her, felt a cone echo around her as she moved faster than she ever had in her life. Scootaloo was halfway to the ground as Dash rose to catch her, grabbing her unconscious form before falling to land on the empty statue plinth.

Rainbow turned as the world spun back up to normal, the adrenaline rush petering out in moments. Every eye was on her, and she quickly realized how she must look. I'm standing on a pedestal, wings spread, cradling a girl who was about to die in my arms. Glancing down, she took int he network of blue lines running across her body. And I've got some kick-ass magical tattoos.

Please tell me someone has a camera- I've gotta look AWESOME!