The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments
By Wanderer D
Editors & Proof-Readers: Understated Hyperbole, Trevor, Cardslafter, Fifth Alicorn
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Sweetie Belle kept screaming in panic, unable to move as Nightmare Moon herself entered the library. Never before had she been so scared. Not even being almost eaten by a werewolf invoked the deep-rooted fear that the alicorn before her inspired. She was suddenly reminded of the manic laughter of the Nightmare as she had somehow taken Celestia away during the Summer Sun Celebration.
“Well, you do seem to know how to impress ponies,” Twilight stated as she came all the way down the stairs to stand in front of the Nightmare.
“Well, I do have quite the presence,” the alicorn chuckled. “You look good, Twilight. I thought you hated wearing that.”
“I do,” Twilight growled. “Hate it, I mean,” she added when she saw Nightmare Moon begin to smile. “I’m only wearing it because it’s your birthday and you begged me to wear it.”
The alicorn chuckled and punched the unicorn on the shoulder playfully. “Oh, Twilight, you say the kindest things.”
Twilight glared at the alicorn. “It’s not your birthday, is it?”
Nightmare Moon raised her eyebrows in fake surprise. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
Both ponies looked at Sweetie as she continued screaming.
“So, what’s her problem?” Nightmare Moon finally asked.
“Apparently she’s scared of you,” Twilight replied.
“But... really? That much screaming? Isn’t it... too much?”
The alicorn and purple unicorn blinked as a pony-sized cushion knocked the filly over, interrupting her scream.
“Sweetie Belle!” Rarity groaned as her horn stopped glowing. “What do you think you’re doing?! Haven’t I told you not to scream like that?”
“Ugh... mah head...” Applejack groaned, blinking heavily as she slowly raised her head from Rarity’s mane.
Fluttershy twitched, and slowly opened her eyes, wincing under the light. “Oh... oh my...” She blushed. “I think I drank too much... again.”
The white pegasus next to her blinked and opened her eyes, yawning cutely. “Sis!” She happily jumped to her hooves and trotted up to Nightmare Moon.
Pinkie groaned and dragged the rest of her body into the kitchen. Spike, for his part, kept snoring as Rainbow Dash turned over and fell off the table with a dull thump.
Sweetie pushed the cushion off of her and stared as the group groggily got up and proceeded to discuss the last night as if Nightmare Moon was not there... unless...
“Is this a Nightmare Night prank, Princess Luna?” she asked the alicorn, whose eyes widened.
“Sweetie Belle!” Rarity gasped then frowned, “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at home?”
“Oh, so this is your sister!” Twilight said with a smile. “I was wondering who she was and why she was here,” she said, looking down at the filly. “Hi! My name is Twilight Sparkle!” she continued, then frowned. “Although you already seemed to know that.”
“Twilight...” Sweetie said without taking her eyes of the alicorn, who was watching her intently. “Why is Princess Lun-”
“Ahem,” the alicorn interrupted. “I’m afraid you have it wrong, my little pony. I am Nightmare Moon... ruler of Equestria!”
“Oh.” Sweetie considered her options. The pillow that Rarity had thrown at her slowly levitated off the floor and then smashed into Nightmare Moon’s face. “Quick, everypony! Run! I’ll protect you!” Sweetie shouted, horn glowing again as a couple more pillows were pulled into the air.
The pillow slid down from Nightmare Moon’s face as she gave an amused look at the filly. The look turned into a frown when another pillow smacked her in the face.
“What are you waiting for?” Sweetie called. “Sis, run! Twilight, if we cast the shield spell we can hold her back!”
“Shield spell?” Twilight blinked as she turned to look at the flabbergasted Rarity. “Your little sister knows how to cast the Shield spell? Why isn’t she in Canterlot studying magic?”
“Now, Sweetie, hold on just a second...” Nightmare Moon said before another pillow found its place embedded on her horn.
“I-” Rarity blinked. “I have no idea how she’s doing it!”
“Why are you still here?!” Sweetie asked, turning to look at the group as her control of the pillows faltered.
“If we’re done with that-” Nightmare Moon started to say, only to be interrupted by another pillow to the face. The alicorn turned to glare at Pinkie Pie, who gave her a wide smile from within a pillow fort she had somehow constructed while they were distracted. “Oh... It. Is. On!”
Rarity dodged the flying pillows as she made her way to her sister. “Sweetie, let’s get going.”
“Sunny!” Nightmare Moon roared as several pillows around her floated threateningly. “How dare you join Pinkie Pie’s side! Once I win this fight you will be grounded and spend the next thousand years in your room at the castle, you hear me?”
“But...” Sweetie Belle’s horn glowed as she sent another pillow flying. “Nightmare Moon! We have to stop her!”
The older unicorn just sighed and ushered her sister out. “They’ll be fine.” Once they were outside, Rarity looked up with a frown. “I just hope they finish their pillow fight soon so that Nightmare Moon can raise the sun.”
Sweetie blinked. “Huh? Buh- but, come on, sis! This is serious!” She looked at her sister doubtfully. “Isn’t it?”
“Okay, that’s enough, Sweetie, you’re starting to sound like Twilight,” Rarity chided. Then, when she saw the small frown in the filly’s face, clarified, “The purple unicorn.”
“I know who Twilight is!”
Rarity sighed. “Of course dear, I just... I’m still tired. Now, let’s take you home.”
The two walked in silence for a few minutes until...
“Sweetie, I may be... a bit under the weather, but... did you just levitate and throw pillows around?”
As they walked away from the library, Sweetie’s eyes were glued to the ground.
So I didn’t make it home... back there Nightmare Moon was stopped by sis and the others... even in that strange world where Trixie and Twilight were together, Nightmare Moon was gone! What am I going to do? Why isn’t everypony more worried about this?
To Sweetie Belle’s surprise, the sun eventually made its way up into the sky. “I thought Nightmare Moon wanted eternal night?”
Rarity glanced tiredly at her. “No, I think the only thing she really wants is Twilight...” She sighed. “Ever since we tried to use the Elements of Harmony on Nightmare Moon and failed, everything has been such a rush... with Twilight suddenly becoming Nightmare Moon’s slave and Celestia being...” Rarity stopped, looking around, “... indisposed... everything is very confusing. It might be easier if Nightmare Moon had been a tyrant- but no, we get a prankster...”
That made the filly stop. “What?”
What does Nightmare Moon want with Twilight? It can’t be good! Oooh, I should find the piece of Twilight in this world, but can I just do it and not help her defeat Nightmare Moon? What would my Twilight want me to do?
The older unicorn yawned as she herded her sister into the boutique, and looked longingly at the stairs that led to her room. “I know you just met Twilight, Sweetie, so you don’t know... she’s Nightmare Moon’s personal slave...”
Rarity held her hoof against her head. “Could you please not yell? Listen, Sweetie, why don’t you go play around town; maybe find that pegasus friend of yours, just don’t get into trouble, okay?”
“Go on, Sweetie. Big sis needs some more sleep.”
As she was ushered out the door, Sweetie rolled her eyes. “Fine.”
The cool morning air welcomed her into its embrace once more as she pondered what to do.
Nightmare Moon has turned Twilight into her slave! She makes her dress like a belly dancer! Does that mean that she defeated Princess Celestia? What am I going to do? Should I tell them about... the accident? But, how will they treat me if I do? Will sis still think I am her sister? Or maybe she will be scared of me! I don’t have Trixie here to explain... I’m... alone... She sighed, but her thoughts were interrupted by a familiar filly walking past Carousel Boutique.
“Apple Bloom!” she called, running up to meet her friend. Well, maybe not completely alone.
The earth pony stopped and looked at her, confused. "Sweetie Belle, right? Rarity's sister?"
What? But... oh... right. I’m the other world thing. Sweetie face-hoofed, then looked at her would-be-friend. “Uh... right! And you’re Applejack’s sister, right?”
“That’s me!” Apple Bloom said with a proud nod. “Ah’m lookin’ for her right now; she’s s’posed ta be back on the farm buckin’ apples you see...”
A plan started to form in Sweetie’s mind. “Hey, I know where Applejack is right now... want to hang out after we get her?”
Apple Bloom blinked. “Uh, sure.”
“Great!” Sweetie grinned as she motioned for the earth pony to follow her. “I’ll introduce you to another friend, and then...”
“... and then?”
“We’ll rescue Twilight!”
“So, let me get this straight,” Scootaloo said, looking at Sweetie Belle as if the unicorn had grown another horn. “You want the three of us,” her hoof went around encompassing them, “To take on The Nightmare Moon in order to free this Twilight Sparkle, who you just met this morning.”
Sweetie nodded excitedly.
“Ah met her a couple of days ago!” Apple Bloom supplied.
“Right...” Scootaloo gave the earth pony an odd look. “So you really want to do this, even after Nightmare Moon defeated Princess Celestia,” the pegasus pressed.
“Eeyup!” Sweetie smiled, ignoring the odd look Apple Bloom gave her in turn.
“Sweetie, I hate to break it to you, but we can’t do this!” Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “This is nuts! Besides,” she glared at the unicorn, “Since when do you want to go on crazy adventures? You’re usually the one telling me to not do this sort of stuff!”
The unicorn’s smile faded. “But... but,” she stammered. “Think about our cutie-marks!”
Apple Bloom blinked and looked at her flank. “We don’t have cutie-marks.”
“Exactly!” Sweetie said, nodding sagely. “Maybe we can get them by defeating Nightmare Moon!”
“That’s completely-” Scootaloo paused, eyes narrowing as she scratched her chin with her hoof. “You think that might work?”
“That would be really cool,” Apple Bloom added, eyes wide.
“So, what do you say? Cutie Mark Crusader Nightmare Vanquishers!”
“Yay!” the other two fillies joined, jumping up in excitement for a second before Scootaloo and Apple Bloom stopped.
“Cutie Mark Crusaders?” the earth pony asked.
Sweetie coughed. “Uh... ye-yeah! We’re trying to get our cutie marks, right?”
“You know...” the pegasus said thoughtfully. “It’s weird to say this, but... it sounds natural.”
The three looked at each other for a moment before wide grins were shared. “Cutie Mark Crusader Nightmare Vanquishers! Yay!”
The three ran in circles cheering, until Scootaloo suddenly stopped, which ended in the other two piling on top of her.
“Ouch! Get off! Get off!” she shouted.
“Why’d you stop?” Sweetie asked, as she rolled off to the side, making Apple Bloom slide over.
“Well, I was thinking... we need to plan this out,” Scootaloo said. “And we need a base!”
Sweetie blinked. “Well...” Her eyes widened. “There’s this filly pegasus called Sunny who lives at the castle, I think. Maybe she can help us find a hiding place there?”
“But... how can we get to the castle?” Apple Bloom asked.
“I saw Nightmare Moon come out of a magic door,” Sweetie provided, looking from one pony to the next. “I bet we can also use it to get to the castle!”
The three exchanged glances.
“We can do it!” Sweetie Belle insisted.
Finally Apple Bloom and Scootaloo both nodded. “Let’s go!”
Spike groaned as he dragged himself to the library door as the persistent knocks continued. “Hold your horses, I’m coming!” When the door opened, he was greeted by three grinning fillies. “Uh... can I help you?”
“Spike!” Sweetie said with a bright smile. “We need to get to the castle! Can you help us?”
The baby dragon looked at her, confused. “Buh- what? Castle?”
“Yeah... uh...” Apple Bloom, pointed towards the distance in direction of Canterlot. “Ya know, where Nightmare Moon is?”
“But... why in the name of Celestia’s mane would you want to go there?” the dragon asked.
“W-well.... I...” Sweetie hated to lie to Spike, but if they were going to save Twilight... “Twilight told me that I should apply to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns?”
Spike gave her an unamused look, arching an eyebrow. “She did, huh? Do you know any magic?”
“Y-yes!” Sweetie nodded. “I know Levitation and Prestidigitation and Shield, and I was learning some illusion magic and...”
“Fine! Fine!” Spike sighed. “I can tell a bookworm when I see one, especially after living with Twilight,” he muttered before peering around Sweetie at the other two fillies. “But what about you two?”
“Uh...” Scootaloo shifted nervously. “Moral... support?”
Apple Bloom nodded quickly.
Spike rolled his eyes as he stepped back, opening the door all the way. “Come on in.”
The three fillies made their way into the library. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked almost horrified at the sheer amount of books in there. “This reminds me of school...” she whispered.
“Spike? Could we also talk to Sunny?” Sweetie asked. “She knows the castle and where we have to go...”
Spike blinked, “Sure. I’ll go get her. You three stay here in the meantime, okay?”
The three fillies nodded as the dragon went up the stairs. Once he was out of sight they all released a deep breath.
“It... it worked!” Apple Bloom said in awe.
“I can’t believe you convinced him you knew magic!” Scootaloo added, turning to look at Sweetie with a huge grin. “That was awesome! Levitation and Presti-whatever! Ha! Classic!”
“But-” Sweetie raised a hoof.
“You mean you don’t really know magic?” Apple Bloom blinked. “Ah believed you when you said all them fancy words! You should be an actress, Sweetie.”
“But-” the unicorn filly tried again, only to be interrupted this time by Spike as he jumped down the stairs.
“Aha! I knew it!” the little dragon accused walking towards them, brows furrowed. “You almost got me, but there’s no way Twilight would tell you that without telling me about it! Besides, we arrived a few days ago and-”
“I do know magic!” Sweetie interrupted. “Look!” she levitated a couple of books off the shelf and then floated them up to the table. “See? I can do magic!”
“How the hay did you do that?!” Scootaloo asked, surprised. “I’ve never seen you do anything like that!”
Spike glanced at Sweetie with a raised eyebrow. “Moral support, huh?”
The unicorn filly cringed.
“Well?” Scootaloo pressed her face against the unicorn’s. “When did you learn to do that?”
“Spike, are they the ones looking for me?” A voice interrupted them. They all looked towards the upstairs room as a white pegasus with a sun cutie-mark and a gem on her forehead asked walked down the stairs, stifling a yawn.
“Prin- I mean, Sunny!” Spike smiled nervously. “Yes, that’s them.”
“Oh... hi!” Sweetie smiled nervously as she walked around Scootaloo, who frowned but held her tongue.
“I recognize you,” Sunny realized after looking at the unicorn filly for a few seconds. “You’re Rarity’s sister... Sweetie Belle, right?”
“Rarity is your sister?” Spike gasped as he grew dreamy-eyed. “No wonder you know magic... with a sister so perfect-”
“Yeah, well...” Apple Bloom looked at Sunny. “We was wonderin’ if you could give us a tour of the Castle?”
“Huzzah! At last! New friends!” she exclaimed giddily. “Sis will be so proud!”
The three fillies looked at each other. “Um, sure!” Sweetie hastily reassured the pegasus. “We’d be happy to be your friends!
“Well! Let’s get going!” Sunny giggled, a spring in her step as she trotted towards the now-hidden portal. “I’m sure sis would love to meet you!”
“So, she lives in the Castle,” Scootaloo said in a sing-song voice that vaguely resembled Sweetie Belle’s. “She can help us get a place to hide and plan there! Why, she’s the best pony that we could ask for help! She looks really nice!” She hissed at Sweetie, who winced. “Oh, and she’s also freaking Nightmare Moon’s sister!”
The unicorn filly winced as she and Apple Bloom watched apprehensively as the white pegasus nuzzled the dark Queen of Equestria. Next to the queen, Twilight Sparkle stood, this time without her belly-dancer costume, looking at them with confusion and something akin to panic.
“Ah’m not sure comin’ here was a good idea...” Apple Bloom noted.
“Sis! I made new friends!” Sunny said excitedly. “This is Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.”
“Welcome to Canterlot, my little-” Nightmare Moon’s eyes narrowed as she recognized Sweetie. “You.”
The unicorn filly gulped, but then took a deep breath, “Nightmare Moon!” she challenged, “I am here to save Twilight Sparkle!”
Twilight started coughing, looking at the filly in disbelief.
The Nightmare’s eyes widened as she suddenly grabbed the purple unicorn with a foreleg and cuddled up to her. “No! You cannot take her! She’s mine!”
“She is not!”
“Is too!” Sweetie blinked when she saw Nightmare Moon smile. “Heeeey!”
The trio of fillies watched as the Nightmare nuzzled Twilight affectionately, a hoof tracing its way up and down the purple unicorn’s horn. “She’s mine, and she likes it...” She grinned at the flushing purple unicorn. “Don’t you, slave?”
“I... I-” Twilight trembled, her blush deepening as her embarrassment grew.
“Don’t surrender, Twilight!” Sweetie shouted. “I’ll save you!”
“Ni- Niiii- Nightmare Moon!” Twilight gasped as she pushed back the queen. “They’re just fillies! They shouldn’t be seeing this!”
The queen pouted. “But Twilight, you know you like it...”
“Sis, is it okay if they stay here for a little while?” Sunny asked, blissfully unaware of the teasing and embarrassment. “They really wanted to see the castle...”
Nightmare Moon stopped trying to catch Twilight and looked down at the three fillies. “So you would condemn your lives to the misery of living in these empty halls, alone, save for each other, my sister Sunny, and the occasional visit from your family?”
Apple Bloom opened her mouth to inform the black alicorn that she was, in fact, not interested in doing that at all... but found that she could not speak at all. She blinked, starting to panic.
The Nightmare smiled. “Excellent! You will then stay at the Castle!”
“But-” Apple Bloom blinked. “Hey, I can speak again!”
“Oh, and I heard Sweetie Belle say that she wanted to study at my school for gifted unicorns!” Sunny provided helpfully.
Both the alicorn and Twilight turned to look at Sweetie with raised eyebrows. “Reeeeeally?” Nightmare Moon grinned.
“Um... I...” Sweetie stammered, looking around worriedly.
“Why, yes!” The white pegasus beamed down at the unicorn, “She even said that Twilight suggested she try out!”
“I did?” Twilight blinked. “I must’ve been drunk...”
“Hey, I’m pretty good!” Sweetie complained.
“I remember you attacking me with a pillow this morning...” Nightmare Moon remarked. “That means that you do have some magical skills, but enough for the School for Gifted Unicorns?”
“I was trained by the best!” Sweetie stomped the floor with her hoof. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo suddenly grabbed her and shoved an apple into her mouth.
“If you'll excuse us fer jus' a moment, yer highness...” the apple farmer filly quickly said as the pair dragged Sweetie to a corner of the room.
“Are you crazy?!” Scootaloo asked, glaring at the unicorn. “What the hay are you thinking?!”
“You’re provo- pro- gettin’ into a fight with Nightmare Moon!” Apple Bloom said. “This ain’t part of the plan!”
Sweetie cringed. “But...”
“No ‘buts,’ Sweetie!” The pegasus said. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but you can’t just go to the castle and start a fight with Nightmare Moon!”
“You mean she’s not usually like this?” Nightmare Moon asked.
“No!” Scootaloo said, annoyed. “All of a sudden she wants to be the stallion in shining armor that wants to save... the captured... unicorn....” Her words slowly died as she looked to her right... and into the slitted eyes of Nightmare Moon herself.
“AAAAAAAaah!” The pegasus jumped onto Apple Bloom’s forehooves, who stumbled, screaming in fright, and jumped, still carrying Scootaloo, on top of Sweetie Belle.
As the trio collapsed, Nightmare Moon laughed. “Priceless! I almost didn’t do it; I mean, I could hear you all the way to the throne, but I thought ‘Will they notice me? Oh, of course they would,’ but then I came over here and you didn't!” She pounded her hoof on the floor, trying to quell her mirth. “The looks on your faces!”
“Why, you...” Scootaloo glared at the Nightmare. “Now it’s personal!”
“Good,” Nightmare Moon said. “Since you’ll be staying here, I expect you to provide enough entertainment-”
“Wait, wait!” Twilight interrupted. “We can’t simply keep them here!” She looked straight at Nightmare Moon. “As much... entertaining... as they might be, their families will miss them!”
“But Twilight,” Nightmare Moon whined. “I’m the Evil Queen of Equestria! Can I keep one of them? Pleeeease?”
“Pretty please? With me on top? And sugar? And honey? And anything else sweet that you might like?”
“No!” Twilight repeated firmly. “They cannot stay and that’s final.”
Nightmare Moon sighed and looked at Sunny. “Sorry, Sunny, I guess you won’t be able to have that sleep-over you wanted. Twilight doesn’t want you to have friends over.”
“Twilight stopped, feeling cold sweat run down her side when she heard the whimper. Slowly, she turned to look at the white pegasus, who was slumped on the floor next to the throne, looking at her in misery, tears welling up in her innocent eyes... Twilight knew that it was her fault, that Sunny’s unhappiness was a direct result of her lack of compassion and-”
“Stop that,” Twilight growled, putting a hoof over Nightmare Moon’s mouth and ceasing the alicorn’s alarmingly accurate narration of her thoughts.
“Can they stay one night, Twilight? Please?” Sunny pleaded. “I promise we’ll be good!”
“Yeah,” Scootaloo said, glaring at the smirking Nightmare. “I wouldn’t mind staying a night at the castle.”
Apple Bloom shook her head as she also gave an evil look at the black alicorn. “Ah don’t mind stayin’ either, as long as mah sister is okay with it.”
They all looked at Twilight, who sighed, lowering her head in defeat. “Fine. I’ll go ask your sisters.”
“Yay!” Four voices echoed in the throne room, with a less enthusiastic Apple Bloom smiling uncomfortably.
When they settled down, Nightmare Moon turned to her sister. “Sunny, show your friends around the castle in the meantime. I have to arrange Sweetie’s test.”
“You’re really doing it?” Twilight gasped.
The alicorn just smiled.
“Twilight, Ah know that the- that Nightmare Moon and you have a... special... kind of relationship, but Ah can’t believe you’re askin’ me to let Apple Bloom stay the night over with her!”
“I have to agree, dear,” Rarity said with a grimace. “Sweetie was acting strange enough today, and I fear that-”
“That’s not all...” Twilight closed her eyes. “She... Sweetie Belle is...”
“What? What is it?” Rarity asked, walking closer to the purple unicorn, worry evident in her eyes.
“Um... Sweetie is taking the test for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns... today,” Twilight said.
“Oh no! That’s horrible! I-” Rarity stopped. “Are you serious?”
“Do I look like I’m joking?”
Rarity stared at Twilight, whose eyes shone with an unspeakable stress. Her mane was disheveled with little hairs sticking out in random directions. The strands around her horn seemed to be matted down, as if she had been rubbing a pillow on them or...
The fashionista coughed into her hoof. “Uh, no dear, you look like you were having... fun... and it was interrupted.”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Twilight, but I hope that my sister didn’t-”
“Nothing happened!” Twilight growled as her coat started smoldering and turning white.
“We believe you, sugarcube,” Applejack hastily interjected, giving Rarity a look. “Now, what was this about a test?”
Twilight took a deep, shuddering breath and let it out slowly. “Sweetie convinced Nightmare Moon that she was ready for to try out for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns and-”
“But, darling... Sweetie cannot cast a single spell,” Rarity pointed out.
“Well, this morning she was levitating and flinging pillows like a pro,” Twilight said. “And she claims to know at least two other spells and some illusion magic.”
“But, I haven’t taught her anything, and the Ponyville school doesn’t teach magic to young unicorns!” Rarity insisted.
Twilight shrugged. “Well, that’s what’s happening. She’ll be taking her test in a couple of hours. We could go watch her if you want.”
“But of course!” Rarity said. “What kind of sister... wait, we would go to Canterlot!”
“Well, yes, the School is in-”
“Oh, Celestia! What am I doing here? Two hours you said? Well, I should get ready! And maybe make something for Sweetie! She needs to look good for her test, in front of all those noble ponies!” Her eyes glittered with a sudden memory. “Do you think that Prince Blueblood will be there?”
Twilight frowned thoughtfully. “Blueblood usually stays away from any form of education or source of knowledge. So, I sincerely doubt it.”
Rarity looked downcast for the barest of seconds. “Oh well, I still need to get ready. See you at the library then!” With that, she cantered away.
The purple unicorn sighed. “Well, time to find Scootaloo’s parents.”
“Do you understand what I am asking of you?” Nightmare Moon’s eyes glowed with inner power as she looked down upon the cowering forms of the board of trustees at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.
“Bu-but... your- your Highness...” a grey unicorn stammered. “What you’re asking for... it... it doesn’t exist!”
“Aaand?” Nightmare Moon leaned closer, her long mane waving like a malevolent aura all around them.
“Aaaaand... we’ll get it done!” the unicorn squeaked.
“Good!” the alicorn said, leaning back. “Have it ready in two hours.”
“T-t-t... two hours?” the unicorn coughed, unable to fully express his shock. The wide eyes of the others was enough to bring a smile to Nightmare Moon.
“If you don’t have it ready... there will be consequences.” With a megalomaniacal laugh, Nightmare Moon turned into mist and flew out of the window.
The unicorns looked at each other in shock.
“How are we going to do this?” an elder, yellow coated unicorn asked the others. “This is...”
“We have to,” a blue male unicorn said with a sigh, “We have no choice. If we fail... the school would have nopony to repair whatever damage that monster might attempt against our students.”
“I...” A cream coated mare coughed. “I might have an idea...”
Rarity and Applejack followed Twilight through the halls of Canterlot Castle and out into the gardens. Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns was right next to the castle, since Celestia herself would sometimes teach and monitor promising students, as well as mentor a select few unicorns besides her faithful student.
“Well, this place here sure is pretty,” Applejack commented, looking around the grounds. “Pretty empty, that is! Where is everypony?”
“Well, since Nightmare Moon came back, most of the nobles left the castle,” Twilight explained.
“How awful!” Rarity sighed.
“Well, to be fair, we have managed to do more work for the good of ponykind since they went away than ever before-” Twilight elaborated.
“There she is!” Rarity beamed as she spotted her sister walking with Sunny, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. “Sweetie Belle!” She waved with a hoof to get her sister’s attention.
“Sis!” Apple Bloom called as she ran up to Applejack. “Sunny just showed us the kitchens! They’re huge! Granny Smith would love ‘em!”
“Yeah!” Scootaloo grinned, “The kitchen was great, and I can’t wait for dinner tonight!”
“You should have seen Scootaloo’s face, Twilight!” Sunny declared. “Her eyes went really big and she started running around and grabbing stuff and-”
The purple unicorn chuckled. “As long as nothing was broken, it’s fine. I’m glad you four are having such a good time.”
Rarity stepped forth to hug Sweetie. “I am so proud of you!” She gushed, “I can’t believe you’ve learned magic so early! You must tell me who taught you.”
Twilight caught the filly sneaking a glance at her for just a second. But Sweetie’s attention was back to her sister as a blue and white cape slowly draped around the filly’s form. “Sis... what-”
“You must look good for your test, Sweetie! Remember, It's the first impression that...”
“... will either open the door or close it.” Sweetie finished.
“Exactly!” Rarity smiled, stepping back to take a look at the filly and carefully arranging the cape until it was perfect. “So, you were saying, darlin’?”
“Um, her name was Trixie,” Sweetie said with a twinge of guilt. Well it’s not really lying... “She’s a showmare who has travelled all over Equestria.”
“Oh...” Rarity blinked. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of her.”
“Don’t worry,” Sweetie said absently, looking at the school nervously. “You will.”
“Are you ready for your test, Sweetie?” Twilight asked.
“Well...” the unicorn coughed. "I can't guarantee that you'll pass, but if you remember to smile and look confident, I guarantee you'll make a good first impression,” the purple mare advised with a wise nod of her head.
“Will they make me hatch an egg?” Sweetie asked.
Twilight blinked. “How did you...” She looked at Sunny hopefully. “Did you tell her, Sunny?”
The pegasus looked surprised. “No... I didn’t know what the test was...”
“Oh...” Twilight sighed, but her mind was working furiously. How did she know?
“Well, it’s time!” Nightmare Moon said, inserting her head between Rarity and Twilight.
“Yes indeed-WahaHAha?!” Rarity jumped, her dress fluttering in the wind until she landed on top of Applejack who gave her a half-amused, half-annoyed glance, while everypony else worriedly stepped back from the queen’s sudden appearance.
“You keep landin’ on top of me Rarity, and Ah might think yer lookin’ for something else!”
“Th-that’s nonsense!” Rarity stammered as she turned to glare at the black alicorn. “Don’t do that!”
“I’m the Queen. I do what I like,” Nightmare Moon grinned. “Now, let’s go, Sweetie!”
The room was a dull gray with the biggest chalkboard Sweetie had ever seen on the wall behind her. She faced the rest of the study hall, idly wondering if Miss Cheerilee ever felt so nervous in front of classroom. Of course, Sweetie was only facing a class of four unicorns, but it didn't help matters that all four were older and staring at her rather intently.
She looked nervously towards Twilight and Rarity, both of whom smiled widely and pointed at their mouths.
The filly struggled to bring a small smile out, and was rewarded by the board immediately taking notes.
A brown stallion walked into the room dragging a cart, in the middle of which a large egg of the utmost black rested.
“Well, Miss Belle,” one of the unicorns spoke, although she couldn’t know which one it was, since her eyes were glued to the egg. “It says here that you are the student of... Trixie.” There was a pause. “Are we talking about the ‘Great and Powerful’ Trixie by any chance?”
Sweetie looked at them. “Uh, yes. That’s her.”
“The Great and Powerful Trixie?” Twilight wondered aloud. “Never heard of her, but she sounds like an interesting unicorn based on the title alone...”
“Miss Belle, to be admitted into the school you need to hatch the egg in front of you using magic you know. Please, go ahead. Whenever you are ready.”
Sweetie gulped. I have no idea how to do this! What am I going to do?! She started hyperventilating. We never covered this in Twilight’s class! I don’t have a sonic rainboom to help me! A quick look at her mentor’s counterpart helped calm her down a bit. Well... if I don’t try, I won’t know...
How should I start? Maybe try to levitate half of it? Her horn blazed and the egg’s top part started glowing. Carefully pulling, she started the process of what would hopefully hatch the egg and-
“Why is the egg stretching like that?” Rarity whispered to Twilight, who was looking at the black egg in complete befuddlement.
“... I- that- why...” the purple unicorn stammered, her eyes widening as the lower half of the egg remained in place, but the upper part slowly stretched farther as if the egg was made of bubblegum.
Nightmare Moon turned her head away and shook silently, drawing Twilight’s attention to her. The purple unicorn raised an eyebrow, but chose to remain quiet.
Sweetie opened her eyes and gasped, releasing her control of the egg, which immediately reformed into its original shape. “Wha- what!?” She squeaked out before glancing at the board of instructors as they wrote more notes.
Calm down Sweetie! You can do it! She focused on the egg once more and slowly a visible aura formed around the egg as she concentrated even more.
The silence in the room stretched for a couple of minutes until a cough from one of the unicorns broke it.
“Miss Belle, while a continuous use of Prestidigitation as a warming spell would indeed hatch an egg eventually, we don’t have months to wait nor you the stamina to sustain it that long... however, I have to commend you, since you are the first unicorn ever to think of anything remotely similar to natural hatching... But I am afraid that still doesn’t mean you pass.”
“Oh...” Sweetie pouted.
Next to Twilight, Nightmare Moon could barely contain her laughter, drawing the attention of Celestia’s student.
“You... you had something to do with this!” She said, raising her voice and calling everypony’s attention to the Nightmare. “You’re-” Twilight’s eyes flashed in anger. “You’re cheating!”
Nightmare Moon smirked. “Now, dear Twilight, I just thought that such a smart filly would need a better challenge than a boring old dragon egg.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, I asked them to give her an ink-dragon egg,” Nightmare Moon smiled.
“You... what... I can’t... no...” Twilight started to smoke as her anger increased.
“Wow!” Sweetie Belle looked at the egg in awe. “An ink-dragon! I’ve never even heard of one of those before!”
“Now, Sweetie, that’s because-”
“Miss Sparkle,” one of the unicorns coughed. “If you’re quite done, Miss Belle has one more try, and we all have work to do.”
Think, Sweetie, think! The unicorn filly looked around for inspiration. Ink... ink...
“Ink!” she shouted suddenly, her eyes filling with hope.
That’s it! It’s just like that time that I dropped the ink bottle in Miss Cheerilee’s class! I had to use some paper towels! But... where can I get some paper towels... or even just some paper?
“Um...” Sweetie looked at the unicorns sheepishly. “Could I have some paper please?”
“I don’t know what you have in mind, Miss Belle, but the test can only be completed with skills and spells you possess and can do by yourself. The only paper in this room is in our notebooks and we are using them.”
Sweetie sighed, frowning as she pawed the ground, thinking. “Well, there goes that idea...”
What else can I do? She thought. Levitation doesn’t work, Prestidigitation takes months, Shield wouldn’t help, and that spell Trixie taught me won’t work unless I can talk it into hatching... She sighed. I should really review it, maybe take some notes later on that notebook Rarity gave me in the other world... I really hope the summoning spell works here.
The unicorn filly sat down and stared despondently at the egg. “I- I give-”
Everypony held their breaths.
“I- notebook!” Sweetie screeched, making the surrounding ponies jump in surprise.
“Yes, the notebooks are the only sources of paper here, so-”
“Not yours! Mine!” Sweetie said with a big smile as her horn shone with magic again. Slowly, to the surprised eyes of the gathered ponies, the space in the air just in front of Sweetie seemed to open, and an object slowly floated out.
“An Inter-Dimensional Pocket? A filly her age?! Impossible!” one of the unicorns shouted in surprise, dropping his own notebook and pen as the pocket closed up.
Ignoring everypony’s gaping stares, Sweetie opened her notebook and approached the egg. “Okay... all I have to do is get the top off the egg..." she slowly started pressing the open notebook on top of the egg. Everypony watched in awe as the top was slowly absorbed into the paper.
“That’s-” Nightmare Moon’s eyes were wide. “That’s cheating!”
“So is having the board create an egg for a dragon that doesn’t exist!” Twilight growled.
Still concentrating, Sweetie slowly lowered the notebook until-
“Ah!” Sweetie jumped back in surprise, losing her concentration on the notebook. The gem-studded booklet fell straight down, splashing the ink in all directions, splattering her face and her cape.
“No!” Sweetie yelled, running up to the egg while the unicorns exchanged worried glances.
“Why did you do that?!” Twilight rounded up on Nightmare Moon.
The alicorn rubbed her nose with her hoof. “I’m sorry! I really didn’t mean to.”
“Uh... this exam is concluded,” one of the unicorns said shakily.
The group watched the unicorns get up and slowly walk out of the door, casting uneasy glances at the ink in the floor.
Sweetie sniffed. With a flash of magic her notebook was gone. “... I failed.”
“It’s okay, Sweetie,” Rarity said, carefully stepping around the ink. “I think I can still remove the ink from it...” She sighed, then gave her sister an encouraging smile. “You did your best, and I have to say, I am very, very proud of you!”
The filly looked at her sister with big wet eyes. “Really?”
The fashionista nodded, “Really! I never thought you knew so much magic! I’m so proud!”
“It was impressive,” Twilight added. “And don’t worry, you really impressed them. I’m sure next time you take the test you’ll get in; you’re still very young... and although I never heard of anypony breaking the egg, it was nothing more than a fake egg .”
Sweetie slowly smiled, “Thanks, sis! Thanks, Twilight...”
She was suddenly hugged by two other fillies. “That was super awesome, Sweetie!” Scootaloo said. “You have to tell me when you learned all that!”
“Ah never seen anythin’ like it!” Apple Bloom nodded.
A loud growl made them all cringe. The group turned to look at Nightmare Moon, who had the decency to blush. “What? All of this made me hungry! We should eat!” she said, starting towards the door.
Sweetie nodded and followed the group, but not before looking back at the ink spots on the floor. “I’m sorry... even if you weren’t a real egg.”
“Oh, my!” Rarity gasped as they entered the large hall. It was tastefully decorated with banners depicting Nightmare Moon in various poses of unquestionable power. “This is amazing! Definitely what you would expect of Canterlot Castle!”
Nightmare Moon chuckled, “This is one of the smaller dining halls.”
Applejack’s eyes widened. “This is one of the smaller ones? Ah reckon you could fit half the entire Apple clan 'round that table!"
The wooden dining table had already been set by the time the group arrived. It could easily accommodate twice the amount of ponies, yet somehow all of it was covered with different dishes.
“Ah don’t rightly know if Ah can eat that much!”
“Don’t worry sis,” Apple Bloom patted her foreleg comfortingly. “Nopony expects you to; we’re supposed to only eat what we want.”
“Ah-” Applejack blushed as Rarity and Twilight chuckled. “Ah know that, Apple Bloom. Ah’m just sayin’ it’s a lot of food.”
“Oh, okay!” The filly smiled brightly. “Let’s eat!”
“Ah don’t see that many apples, though...” Applejack muttered, looking around the table.
“Applejack, darling,” Rarity shook her head. “There’s more to food than just apples!”
“Ah’m just sayin’, just sayin’...” the apple farmer shook her head, looking around the dainty decorations. The three different types of forks and spoons and knives and pincers and... she shuddered. It was like being back with the Oranges.
The four fillies, three mares and the incarnation-of-all-that-was-evil-in-ponydom sat down for dinner, with the black alicorn at the head of the table.
“Oh! Good! They made clover soup! That’s my favourite!” Nightmare Moon grinned.
“We were asked by Miss Scootaloo to prepare everypony’s favorite dish,” a pony in a chef’s coat and a toque said, walking towards the table. “For Miss Twilight, we have prepared a daisy salad with dried tart cherries and greens, with a hint of smoked almonds. I remember well the first time she ate it,” the chef chuckled as Twilight blushed. “For Miss Rarity, under Miss Belle’s advice, we have a wide selection of deli mushroom dishes, hoofpicked by myself and my assistant. Not too much of each, but all of them carefully prepared.” The fashionista blinked, shrinking into her seat as her stomach growled.
“Sounds like somepony’s really hungry!” Applejack smirked, patting Rarity. The unicorn just glared at her.
If anything, the chef looked pleased. He coughed, “For Miss Belle we have a daisy and clover sandwich with a side of fried potatoes.”
“Oh, I love daisy and clover sandwiches too!” Twilight exclaimed, smiling at the unicorn filly. “I have them all the time at the library!”
“Really?” Sweetie chuckled nervously, causing the purple unicorn to raise an eyebrow.
“Next, we have a hay milkshake and a carefully glazed portobello mushroom, with lettuce, dandelion and tomato sandwich with a single slice of bleu cheese made with multi-grain bread, toasted just to crispiness, along with a salad of greens, red-onion, chili, bleu crumbles, and nuts, tossed in the vinaigrette prepared personally by Miss Scootaloo.”
Everypony at the table gaped at the furiously blushing pegasus.
“So that’s what you were doing when you disappeared on us!” Sunny gasped. “My! That sound delicious!”
“It is!” the chef nodded. “I wrote down the recipe, with Miss Scootaloo’s permission, of course.”
The pegasus seemed to shrink as everypony showered her in praise. “Just don’t tell Rainbow Dash! Cooking is not cool!”
“We have buttered spaghetti with fresh basil for Miss Sunny...” the chef continued, although he seemed amused by Scootaloo’s embarrassment of her cooking skills. “A plate of waffles with honey for Miss Bloom-”
“Apple Bloom!” Applejack turned to look at her sister. “What kind of lunch is that?”
The filly blushed. “But I love waffles!”
“... and finally, under Miss Bloom’s recommendation, we have an apple-pecan stuffed cabbage with a cold pasta & apple salad as a side, and an apple variation of the crepe suzette for dessert, also courtesy of Miss Scootaloo...”
The pegasus hid under the table, face flushing a darker fuschia than her mane.
Applejack stared at all the apple dishes in front of her she had somehow missed spotting when they entered the room. Her mouth started watering, but she remembered her manners.
Rarity nodded appreciatively at the food and turned to face the chef, opening her mouth to convey her delight, when somepony else spoke.
“Why, this looks simply delightful, chef! My compliments to you, your assistant and of course, our little darlin’, Miss Scootaloo,” Applejack complimented, her own eyes widening at the words pouring out of her mouth and her involuntary shift in diction.
The table became very quiet. Applejack looked around nervously. “What? Ah said it looked delicious!”
“Buh-” Rarity stammered, her jaw hanging in a very unladylike expression. “Buh- but... you said...”
“Ah said it looked DELICIOUS!” The farm pony repeated, her tone slightly hysterical.
The others slowly turned to look at their plates.
“Well? What are we waiting for?” Nightmare Moon demanded. “Let’s eat!”
The chef pony bowed as he backed out of the hall, leaving them to their meal.
“Yeah!” Scootaloo seconded, taking a bite of her food. Her grin widened as the alicorn dug into her soup with gusto. “Enjoy, everypony!”
Following the example of both the pegasus and the alicorn, the rest of the group started eating. It was a few minutes before conversation started again.
“So, Sweetie, your performance in the test was very impressive,” Twilight complimented. “Had it been a normal Dragon egg, you might have been able to hatch it!”
Sweetie looked down at her plate sheepishly. “Thanks, but I tried all my spells...”
“Well, it was a very nice try, regardless,” Rarity assured. “This Trixie pony who taught you should be very proud to have you as a student.”
Sweetie’s eyes sneaked another peek at Twilight, but when she saw the unicorn looking at her, she quickly returned her focus to the plate in front of her. “Ye- yeah...”
“To think, my little sister might be attending Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns!” Rarity gushed. “This is amazing! I really hope she passes! Imagine how impressive it will be and-” She caught herself, adding, “I mean, whatever happens Sweetie, you’ll always make me proud.”
“Ah’m very impressed too!” Applejack said after a few more bites of her salad. “Now, if I could get Apple Bloom to dedicate herself to school like you do...”
“Hey! Ah study all the time,” Apple Bloom complained.
“Sure you do, sugarcube,” Applejack smirked. “That’s why Ah had that long talk with Cheerilee ‘bout your homework.”
“That was just once! And she told you in a bar! It weren’t even official!”
The screeching of a chair being suddenly dragged on the floor drew everypony at the table’s attention to Nightmare Moon as the dark alicorn stood up, a rather uncomfortable grimace on her dark features.
“I have to go. Now,” the alicorn said, turning around and galloping out of the dining hall.
“How rude!” Rarity said, looking at the door as it slammed behind the dark queen.
“I wonder what happened?” Twilight pondered as she stood up slowly. “All of you, please go ahead, I’ll be back shortly.”
The group remained silent until the purple unicorn had left the room. Then Scootaloo burst out laughing. The others stared at the pegasus until understanding dawned on them.
Twilight winced when the sudden scream tore through the halls of the castle. She hurried after the sound, knowing that whatever it was that could upset Nightmare Moon herself that much could not be good... or should that be bad? She got so confused lately.
She followed the angry mutters until she arrived at the... Royal Restrooms. Twilight blinked. “Uh... Nightmare Moon?”
“I can’t believe this!” The alicorn shouted from within. “WHO put cling wrap in the toilet seat!? HEADS WILL ROLL!”
Twilight stood outside, paralyzed as she mouthed the words she had just heard. “... cling wrap...”
There was a blast of magic from within the restroom and the sound of scrambling hoofs. Twilight walked away slightly so she didn’t have to hear more. After a few minutes waiting, Nightmare Moon made her way out on shaky legs. She was sweating.
“Somepony is going to pay for this...”
Twilight noticed that the dark queen was dragging a long piece of toilet paper on her left hindhoof, but chose to remain silent. “Who could have done it?” Twilight wondered aloud. “I doubt the head chef would-” her eyes widened.
The alicorn’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, this means war...” she took a couple of angry steps towards the dining hall, but then her eyes widened and she grimaced. “Slave. Make sure those three fillies stay the night with Sunny,” she blurted out before running back into the restroom..
Everypony’s attention focused on Twilight as she walked into the dining room. “Now, Scootaloo, that was a very mean thing to do-”
Twilight was interrupted as the whole table burst into laughter. Even Rarity, as hard as she tried to cover her mouth and keep some semblance of composure, was giggling madly.
The purple unicorn shook her head at the shockingly juvenile humor of her friends but then, as she thought about it, she also started giggling.
It was then that the door opened again, admitting a young pegasus guard into the hall. “Um, I am here for a Miss Scootaloo?” He questioned, looking around the room.
“Uh...” the filly in question raised a hoof. “That’s me!”
The guard blinked. “Oh, okay. I was asked by somepony named Rainbow Dash to escort you to receive flight training, but I don’t know if that’s-”
“YES!” Scootaloo shouted, jumping to the floor and rushing up to him. “Yes! YES! I can do it! I want to! If Rainbow Dash thinks it will help, I’m sure it will!”
“Well...” the guard still looked uncertain. “I do have to take you there, but-”
“Let’s go!” the pegasus filly shouted in excitement. “I wanna do this!”
“Oookay...” the guard said as the filly bounced around to him. “This way, please.”
The other ponies in the room watched silently as the pair of pegasi left.
“Did Dash even know we were coming here?” Applejack asked, “Or that Scootaloo was in the Castle?”
Everypony looked down at the remains of their food.
“... what happened?” Sweetie asked.
“A lesson,” Nightmare Moon said, as her misty form slowly materialized in the room, eyes narrowed. “We’ll see how she likes it!”
“So, are you gonna teach me to fly?”
“Oh.” Scootaloo blinked, “Well, then, who is?”
“We call him Sergeant Smoking Crater.”
“His name is so cool!” The filly stopped. “Wait, why do you call him that?”
“Yeah, about that... welp, here we are kid.” The guard looked around as he stopped in front of a door. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Hey, if Rainbow Dash thinks this will help, I wouldn’t miss it!”
“If you say so, kid...” The pegasus knocked on the door. “Sir! I’ve brought the trainee! I’m sending her in!”
The pegasus opened the door and pushed the filly inside.
Scootaloo looked around the room; it had old guard helmets, spears, armor, a chart with different flight formations, a large poster of Princess Celestia pointing her hoof at the viewer which read “Equestria needs YOU!” in big white letters... and in the middle of it all stood a pegasus stallion taller and more heavily muscled than anypony the filly pegasus had ever seen... even more muscled than Big Macintosh. His flanks were covered in scars, his mane was cut short and already turning white with only a few strands of red remaining. His coat was gray, and his cutie mark was a log being broken in two by some sort of giant hammer. His steel-blue eyes squinted at the filly as a look of utter contempt and disgust crossed his face.
“This is what they send me?!” He smashed his hoof into the stone floor, sending chips of granite flying. “A waste of my time!” He pointed his hoof at Scootaloo. “You. You are not FIT to be here. You are not WORTHY of being here. YOU ARE NOTHING! WHY ARE YOU HERE?!”
The pegasus guard quickly closed the door behind him, trying to ignore the shouts.
“STAND STRAIGHT, MAGGOT!”
“Good luck, kid,” the guard sighed as he walked away, the whole area resonating with the potent voice of the Royal Pegasi Unit’s Drill Sergeant.
“YOU WERE SENT HERE TO LEARN! SO MAKE SURE YOU DON’T WASTE MY TIME! WHAT THE HAY ARE THESE? YOU CALL THESE WINGS?! I CALL THEM FEATHER DUSTERS! BECAUSE THAT’S ALL THOSE WINGS ARE GOOD FOR SINCE YOU CAN’T EVEN HOVER! JUMP! I SAID JUMP!”
“... you’re going to need it.”
“THAT’S ‘YES DRILL SERGEANT’ TO YOU, MAGGOT! AND YOU CALL THAT A JUMP? I’VE SEEN DEAD LIZARDS JUMP HIGHER!”
Twilight, Applejack, Sunny and Apple Bloom watched as Rarity and Sweetie finished their goodbyes.
“Be sure to brush your teeth at least three times a day, okay, Sweetie?” Rarity said as she gave her sister a hug.
“Su-sure, sis. You really don’t want to stay? You and Applejack could-” The fashionista’s hoof softly pressed against her muzzle.
“Sorry, Sweetie, but we both have to work.” The unicorn sighed. “I’m sure you’ll be fine; if you need anything, just talk to Twilight.”
“You too, Apple Bloom!” Applejack said, patting her sister in the head. “Ah don’t want to come by tomorrow and find out you’ve misbehaved; you do the Apple family proud and mind your manners, y’hear?”
“We already talked to Scootaloo’s parents, so she’s good for the night too,” Twilight told the fillies.
“Yay! This’ll be my very first sleepover!” Sunny bounced around the group.
The group of mares watched in amusement as the fillies all got excited and jumped around, celebrating with Sunny.
Applejack noticed that Twilight’s smile was a bit sad. “What’s wrong, sugarcube?”
The purple unicorn blinked. “Oh... nothing, I just... well, I never had a sleepover before either.”
“Aw, don’t worry Twilight!” Sweetie said, stopping her bouncing to pat her mentor’s interdimensional counterpart on the foreleg. “I’m sure you, Applejack and Rarity will someday have one! And it’ll be raining, and you’ll use that book about sleepovers and try to follow it exactly, and sis and Applejack will get into a fight, but a tree branch will fall in and you’ll all be friends again!”
“That’s...” Applejack blinked.
“...rather specific.” Rarity finished.
Twilight just looked at the filly, confused. “Okay?”
The sound of a flushing toilet announced the imminent return of Nightmare Moon.
“Well, we should go. Ah’ll see you tomorrow, Apple Bloom. Don’t ya’ll go causin’ a ruckus now, y’hear?”
“Enjoy your stay at the castle, darling!”
“Bye, girls!” Twilight smiled as the group watched the pair cross the portal. “I’ll see you later.”
“Ugh,” Nightmare Moon walked up to them. “What’s going on, slave?”
Twilight sighed. “It’s time to work. I think I have the list of petitioners for today...”
Nightmare Moon grimaced. “Do we have to?”
Twilight glared at the Queen. “Yes.”
The alicorn sighed. “Fine.”
The two mares walked away, leaving the fillies behind.
“We have to save Twilight!” Sweetie said, turning to look at the other two fillies. “Nightmare Moon must be stopped!”
“Oooh! I love playing ‘rescue the princess!’” Sunny clapped her hoofs together happily. “How are we doing it?”
“I, uh... don’t know...” Sweetie said, slumping a bit.
“Ah have an idea...”
When both Sweetie and Sunny turned to look at her, Apple Bloom smiled. “We set a trap!”
“Yay!” Sunny cried, jumping up and down. “I love setting up traps! I think...” she tapped her chin with her hoof. “Something about it sounds familiar...”
Apple Bloom smiled. “Well, Ah’ll need some paper and pencil to show you girls proper...”
“Follow me!” Sunny cried, leading the other two away from the portal. “I have a bunch of paper and lots of pens!”
“What about Scootaloo?” Sweetie asked as she and Belle followed Sunny.
“She’ll be okay!” Sunny said. “I’ll tell the guards to take her to my room once she’s finished learning!”
Having gone three times over the list of things she would have to cover when she held court, Nightmare Moon and Twilight Sparkle made their way to the throne room.
Everything was in perfect order. Two guards stood at attention at the base of the stairs that led to the throne, and they could hear the ponies waiting outside the main doors.
“Okay,” Nightmare Moon growled. “Let’s make this quick.” She motioned for the guards to allow the first pony in as she sat down on her throne.
The sound of the rather undignified flatulation echoed in the throne room just as a monocled, top-hatted stallion took his first step into the lengthy room.
Everypony stared at Nightmare Moon in horror.
The monocle clattered to the floor, breaking in half as the stallion’s jaw almost hit the floor. The guards visibly forced themselves to look away and forward, as was their duty. Twilight Sparkle simply looked horrified and embarrassed.
Three distorted voices echoed around the the room, coming from everywhere and nowhere, making the guards snap to attention and the now monocle-less stallion to shiver.
“This was just the beginning, Nightmare Moon, unless you release Twilight Sparkle! If you don’t, you will suffer the consequences! You cannot stop us. You cannot find us. We are the Crusaders. We are legion.”
The ponies in the throne room stared around in awe. Who would be brave enough to challenge-
Suddenly they could hear giggles as something rustled behind the curtains where one of the no-longer-secret entrances to the throne room was.
“Oh, darn’ it! Ah can still hear it!”
“The spell’s still on?”
“Turn it off, turn it off!”
With a flash of blue energy the throne room doors slammed shut behind the now thoroughly bewildered petitioner and Nightmare Moon rose, followed by a wet, slurping sound as something inside the throne struggled to suck back air.
From the throne, floating in a blue aura of magic, emerged an industrial sized whoopee cushion. Nightmare Moon glared at everypony in the room. “NOPONY will hear of this. Am I clear? If anypony disobeys this order, I will hunt them down and banish them into the Sun!”
She glared around. “Is that clear!?”
“Yes, your majesty!” everypony but Twilight shouted immediately.
“Good,” Nightmare’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the shaking stallion. “Now, your requests. And make it fast... I have business to attend to.”
The three fillies ran away from the court, laughing.
“Did y’all see her face? That was amazin’!”
“Yeah!” Sweetie agreed before looking over at Sunny. “How’d you know about that secret entrance?”
“Well, I’m not sure...” the pegasus said. “I just remembered it was there...”
Sweetie stared at the pegasus, her mind flashing back to much earlier that morning.
“Sis!” The white pegasus happily jumped to her feet and trotted up to Nightmare Moon.
Sweetie looked at the sun cutie mark
“She’s also freaking Nightmare Moon’s sister!”
The unicorn filly blinked. Could it be...
“Sis! I made new friends!”
No... it couldn’t be... could it?
Sweetie shifted nervously. “I’m sorry to ask, but... uh...”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind you asking questions,” the pegasus said with a big smile.
“Um... did you know if you’re... adopted?” Sweetie asked with an encouraging smile.
Sunny blinked. “I- I don’t think I am...”
“But,” Apple Bloom interrupted, “You’re not an alicorn! You’re just a pegasus! Right?”
“Oh, I am... this gem just hides it.” Sunny said, but then frowned. “But don’t tell anypony; it’s supposed to be a secret!”
Then, like a hammer, the full force of Nightmare Moon’s words hit Sweetie.
“So you would condemn your lives to the misery of living in these empty halls, alone, save for each other, my sister Sunny, and the occasional visit from your family?”
If Nightmare Moon was Princess Luna...
...my sister Sunny...
...and Princess Luna only had one sister..
...my sister Sunny...
“Oh, sweet Celestia!” Sweetie’s eyes widened in panic as she pointed at Sunny with a hoof. “You’re Celestia!”
Apple Bloom stared at Sunny then at Sweetie. “But... how do you know?”
“Princess Luna is Celestia’s sister!”
“Who’s Luna?” The earth pony asked.
“Nightmare Moon!” The unicorn filly explained. “Princess Luna was jealous of Princess Celestia a thousand years ago and transformed into Nightmare Moon because of it.”
“Ohhh,” the yellow coated filly said. “I get it!”
“I’m just Sunny now,” the pegasus said. She smiled uneasily when Apple Bloom bowed before her. “And don’t do that... I don’t really mind...”
The conversation trailed off as the three fillies heard a tingling melody fluttering through the castle halls.
“Is that..?” Sweetie started.
“The candy mare?” Apple Bloom finished.
The three followed the music to just outside the halls, where a small garden was niched. In the middle stood a small cart with all sorts of treats. An earth pony mare with two crossed candy bars as a cutie mark smiled at them.
“Hello! Would you three like some candy?”
Sweetie slowly opened her eyes, taking in the room around her. She blinked. There was something... off..
For starters, the sofa was on the ceiling.
More awake now, she noticed that both Apple Bloom and Sunny were standing next to her, but they were still asleep.
When did I fall asleep? And why are they standing up if they are asleep?
She started noticing other things as well. Besides the sofa, Sunny’s bed was also on the ceiling. And her chairs, plush toys and papers...
It was when Scootaloo walked in on the ceiling and looked around before turning her head down to look at her that she understood. Wait! She’s not on the ceiling! I am!
The hall was quiet. A single, ephemeral blue tendril poked around the corner, probing around uncertainly before slowly pulling back. Nightmare Moon followed, smirking. A full hour without pranks! Victory is mine!
As Nightmare Moon walked, cackling, down the hall towards the archives, she still kept her eyes open. Those Crusaders could be anywhere, but for now it seemed that they had retreated, no doubt to lick their wounds.
Sweetie’s scream when she had found herself glued to the ceiling by the hooves... priceless!
She looked around once more as she approached her office. Everything was quiet. A little too quiet.
Clop. Her hoofsteps echoed in the unnaturally silent hall, and she could feel her pulse rise.
By the time she stood in front of her office, she was expecting the Crusaders to jump out of the shadows. She turned her eyes to the door. They were behind it. She knew it. They were probably hiding, ready to scare her.
She smiled deviously. Well, she would surprise them!
Taking a deep breath and rearing back, she kicked the door open and jumped in, roaring a challenge- which was cut short when her whole face was met with cellophane paper and glue. She sputtered and flailed, knocking down papers and a vase before she thought to use her magic to rip it off her face, leaving her fur matted in glue.
“Crusaders!” she shouted in anger as she threw the ball of cellophane to the floor. She stomped forward in anger, not noticing the tripwire until it was too late. She blinked as she saw the wire flash upwards by her side and looked up... just in time to see a bucket of chicken feathers come cascading down on top of her.
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom watched as Scootaloo and Sunny ran after each other in an impromptu game of tag. So far the copper-colored pegasus hadn’t thought to go chase after them, so Sweetie took a break of sorts to think.
She sighed and put down the book she had been half-reading. She had found some interesting spells, but her understanding was too basic to learn them without help, even if she was doing a lot better compared to a few weeks ago. That, and they didn’t seem any closer to being able to free Twilight from Nightmare Moon’s grasp.
“You okay, Sweetie?” Apple Bloom asked, hearing the sigh.
“Not really,” the unicorn filly shook her head. “I feel like I haven’t been able to do much since I arrived.”
“Well, maybe if our next trap gets Nightmare Moon...”
Sweetie was about to respond when she felt something.
What was that? Magic? But why?
“Hey!” Scootaloo and Sunny came running towards them. “Come on, you have to play too!”
“CRUSADERS!” A voice boomed, and a black alicorn covered in white chicken feathers suddenly materialized before them in a burst of blue mist. “I will have my revenge!”
“Aaaaah!” four voices echoed in horror as the fillies turned around in a panic and ran away blindly... only to fall into a pit full of tar the moment they passed the flower beds .
They all gasped and struggled to get out, but a blue aura levitated them out of the tar until the whole dripping group was floating in front of a feather-covered Nightmare Moon, who smiled viciously as another levitation spell brought up a giant batch of chicken feathers.
“...and furthermore, no more glue or gooey pranks, from any of you, am I clear?!” Twilight growled at the feathered group in front of her. “Now, you’re all going to take a bath.”
“No buts, Sweetie!”
“I don’t want to hear anything from you either, Nightmare Moon.” Twilight sighed, looking at the alicorn. “You are all taking a bath now. I asked the hoofmaidens to prepare it, so in you all go.”
“What? Together?” Scootaloo asked, looking at the black alicorn in horror.
“Yes, together,” Twilight growled.
“Huzzah,” Nightmare Moon growled sarcastically as she stomped to the bath. “The fun has been doubled.”
Once inside, she reluctantly joined Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom and Sunny inside the enormous bathtub while Nightmare Moon slowly lowered herself into the water with them.
“Now, the hoofmaidens are going to-” Twilight began to say when she was suddenly enveloped in a blue aura of magic and dunked into the water, eliciting giggles from the fillies. The purple unicorn spluttered out of the water, eyes wide and turned to glare at the black alicorn. “What- why?”
Nightmare Moon grinned as she nuzzled the unicorn with a feathery snout. “Why, Twilight, you don’t think I would take a bath without you, do you? It’d take all the fun out of... personal... cleaning.”
As Twilight started blushing, one of the hoofmaidens coughed uncomfortably. “Lady Twilight, if this is a bad moment... perhaps we could take the fillies to another bath?”
“No!” Twilight shouted, slightly hysterical. “It’s fine! We’ll all take a normal, uninteresting bath together, where the only thing that is going to happen is that we’re getting clean!”
“But Twiiiligiiht...” Nightmare Moon whined.
“Fine. Do I get to cuddle you tonight if I behave in the bath?” The queen asked.
“Only if you behave! If you want cuddles from me you’ll have to earn-” Twilight stopped mid-sentence and facehoofed as Nightmare Moon happily nodded at the hoofmares to begin their work. “Why... why me?”
“Don’t worry Twilight...” Sweetie whispered to her, “I’ll save you.”
The purple unicorn looked down and sighed. “Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel much better.”
The bath started with a simple scrubbing. Nightmare Moon watched in glee as the fillies were scrubbed harder and harder, trying to get the tar out of their fur.
“This... this is not working at all.” One of the hoofmares panted after a particularly vicious attempt at cleaning Apple Bloom, who looked at them with dread in her eyes.
“I think... we might need to shave some areas...” another hoofmaid suggested.
“But... mah hair and coat!” Apple Bloom cried out in panic.
“It’s okay dear,” the hoofmare said. “It’s not much... and you won’t have to stay in the bath for two hours like Nightmare Moon, Sunny and Miss Scootaloo...”
“What?!” Both the alicorn and the pegasus gasped simultaneously before looking at each other in horror.
“Well, we cannot cut the feathers,” the hoofmaid explained, making Sunny, Nightmare Moon and Scootaloo all wince at the thought. “So you two have to soak in water for a while so that we can get all the glue and tar out...”
“This is your fault!” Nightmare Moon growled at Scootaloo, who cowered for a second before a frown replaced her fearful expression. Scootaloo splashed the black alicorn in the face.
“Is not! You started it!” The pegasus retorted.
“I am the Queen! I do what I want without fear of repercussions!”
“Well, I have plenty of cushions here for you!” Scootaloo replied, getting in the Nightmare’s face.
“Repercussions means consequences, brat!” Nightmare Moon snapped.
“What the hay are you, a dictionary?” Scootaloo asked, glaring back.
“And with that... I think we’ll go for now...” Twilight said, stepping out of the bath. “Come on Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle. Let’s give you a trim and go do something more productive.”
“Ah... Ah think I’ll soak a bit longer, if ya don’t mind, Twilight...” Apple Bloom said. “Ah really don’t want to have to cut mah mane...”
Sweetie Belle shrugged and stepped out, following Twilight out of the bathroom.
The pair of unicorns walked back into Nightmare Moon’s room, closing the door behind them. Twilight turned to look at Sweetie, her horn glowing. Slowly, the tar peeled away, taking a few strands of mane and pulling a bit hard on her coat, but it was soon completely off of her.
“Why didn’t you do that earlier?” Sweetie asked, looking herself over.
“Well, first of all, Nightmare Moon deserves it,” the purple unicorn replied. “And I want to talk to you without distractions.”
“Oh...” Sweetie nervously looked around. “What about?”
Twilight sat down and looked at the filly sternly. “The truth. You’ve been lying about a lot of things, Sweetie Belle... And I want to know why. Why do you immediately look at me when a question about magic comes up?” Twilight took a deep breath. “You treat me like you expect me to know all the answers; you trust me... but you barely even know me.” She shook her head. “You told Spike that I had recommended you take the entrance exam, but I didn’t even know you until early today. We had never talked before, so I couldn’t have done that.” Twilight’s eyes seemed to bore into Sweetie’s. “Did this mysterious Trixie really teach you magic? Why are you so desperate to save me?”
Sweetie cringed with every question.
How can I answer... should I lie? Will she know? What will she think?
The filly’s eyes began watering as her frustration grew.
“I-” She gulped and closed her eyes. “I’m not the Sweetie Belle from this world!” she said quickly, trying to say as much as she could before the purple unicorn could get angry at her. “I was really your student, and I really liked it! You were an awesome teacher; I just... it was an accident, I promise! I wanted to take a look at the stuff you got for me and-” She sniffled. “When you exploded and disappeared- I’m so sorry Twilight! I’m trying to find you; I’m trying to go home! I miss my friends! I miss my sister! I miss Princess Luna and her Nightmare Night pranks!” The filly looked up at the flabbergasted Twilight Sparkle for a second before shutting her eyes again quickly, not able to handle the guilt. “I went to this other world and Trixie helped me find you... she told me that I was jumping to different worlds... I have to find a piece of you in this one... the last one was where you, I mean the other Twilight, had gone to look for a magic item so she and Trixie could have foals and I thought it might be there in this world too... but... Nightmare Moon captured you and I couldn’t-” She paused, shivering and breathing hard. “I couldn’t let her do that to you...”
Twilight stood up and walked around the room, looking at Sweetie as if she were some sort of strange creature.
“So, let me get this straight. You’re from another world,” she repeated slowly,“ and you caused an accident that basically destroyed the ‘me’ from your universe and catapulted you into another world.”
The filly nodded nervously.
Twilight continued pacing. “This doesn’t make much sense, Sweetie. How does the magic that is sending you all over operate?” Twilight paused and sighed in frustration. “If you're here, then where is this universe's Sweetie?” Books floated out of the shelf and hovered in front of the unicorn as she quickly looked at one index after another. “This is not it. Not it.” She threw a couple of books out of the way. “And this ‘Trixie’ told you she had seen something similar?”
“Yes... she said that the Rhinos used a spell like it...”
“Rhinos?” Twilight blinked. “They’ve been extinct for over a hundred years.”
“Well, not in my world.”
“This is very hard to believe, Sweetie.” Twilight sighed.
The filly felt her eyes moisten as tears threatened to come out. “But...”
Twilight, who was not looking at her shook her head. “If it wasn’t because nopony even believed you could do magic, much less cast those spells, I would say you’re lying.”
“I’m not lying!” Sweetie protested as tears ran down her cheeks.
“And how does the spell know where to send you? What’s to say that there even is a fragment of this other ‘me’ in this world?” The purple unicorn continued frowning as she looked out the window, deep in thought. “What happens if you’re sent to a world without a fragment? Will you stay there forever? What happens to the local Sweetie Belle then? And if you’re only sent to worlds that have a fragment, are there clues as to how to find them?”
Twilight sighed as her mind raced through Sweetie’s words. “If that’s the case... could it be related to me? She found the fragment where the other world’s ‘me’ was with this Trixie...” she hummed, trying not to imagine herself with another mare. “If the fragments... hmm. She found it next to Twilight in a moment that would create a big change... but, has anything like that happened here?” She tapped her hoof against her chin. “If Nightmare Moon was defeated in her world... That’s the main difference with this one... We didn’t beat her, the elements broke in the Sister’s Castle in the Everfree... could the fragment be there?” She stopped when she heard somepony sobbing.
Sweetie cried by herself as her mentor’s double pondered aloud. I shouldn’t be here. I’m not wanted. I should just go- her thoughts stopped when she felt a hoof on her shoulder. Then another hoof on the other... and she was pulled into a hug. I always cry. I’m useless. She buried her face in Twilight’s mane, unable to control her shaking body.
“It’s okay, don’t cry... I forgive you.” Twilight comforted, her hoof carefully stroking the crying filly’s hair. “You lied, and that’s not right... but I forgive you. You have to learn to tell the truth; it’ll save you a lot of trouble. I don’t know what exactly happened, but if your Twilight is anything like I am... she would forgive her student for a mistake, regardless of how bad it was.”
Even if I killed you?
“Thanks Twilight...” Sweetie said hoarsely, pushing her thoughts away into the back of her mind, along with the hurt and fear as she sniffed. “As soon as we stop Nightmare Moon, I’ll be on my way...”
Twilight smiled and shook her head. “You don’t need to save me, Sweetie.”
“What? But... she... you... slave–”
“I know what you’re thinking, but-” Twilight hesitated. “Nightmare Moon is not the monster you think she is... at least not here... at least I don’t think she is...” The unicorn sighed. “I haven’t quite figured her out yet, but I know she’s not all bad... and she needs me.”
But then... what have I been doing here all this time? Sweetie sighed. “So, I just... I’m useless here?”
“No,” Twilight said firmly, drawing the filly’s attention to her. “Everything we do is a learning experience. Maybe you could have gone away, but you would never have tested your current skills to see how well you would have done in a magic test of the level required to enter Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.” The mare stood up. “It was impressive, Sweetie. Much better than I did at first...” She smiled fondly at the memory. “If I had been the Twilight teaching you, I would have been incredibly proud. And also, if you hadn’t stayed and tried to help me, you wouldn’t learn a new spell from me.”
Sweetie’s eyes widened. Does she mean... “Are you saying... you’ll teach me a new spell?”
Twilight smiled. “How do you feel about a spell to make everything dark? I think it would help you if you’re ever in real trouble.”
Sweetie grinned. “Let’s pull out the books!”
The purple unicorn chuckled as her horn’s magic levitated a tome from its place in the bookshelf. “You’re definitely my student.” She shook her head in amusement, but looked at Sweetie seriously. “I also want you to think about telling the truth to Scootaloo and Apple Bloom.”
Sweetie Belle winced.
“They are your best friends in your world, and would likely be the same for our Sweetie Belle.” Twilight pointed out. “It wouldn’t be right for them to think she had been lying, and more importantly, if you can’t trust your friends, who can you trust?”
Sweetie sighed, “I’ll think about it.”
When Nightmare Moon and the fillies marched out of the bathroom, they found Twilight and Sweetie going over several books, jotting down various passages in the younger unicorn’s notebook.
The black alicorn sashayed up to them and looked over their shoulders. “Globe of Darkness?” she asked aloud, looking at the diagrams and theories in the book. “Whatever could Sweetie Belle need that for?” Her eyes narrowed as she looked from unicorn to unicorn. “Are you helping her plan a prank, Twilight dear?”
“Not at all,” the purple unicorn replied amiably. “I’m just teaching her a new spell she wanted to learn.”
Nightmare Moon raised an eyebrow. “Why would anypony want to plunge everything into darkness?”
There was an awkward pause. Apple Bloom coughed and looked away.
Sunny looked at her sister and blinked.
“Besides you, you mean,” Scootaloo clarified helpfully after the silent moment had stretched too far for her liking.
“I... I just think it might be useful?” Sweetie smiled nervously.
Nightmare Moon’s eyes roamed from one unicorn to the other before settling on Twilight. “You do know that she won’t be able to see anything at all when she casts it, right?”
Twilight slowly returned her eyes to the books, opening her mouth a moment to speak before snapping it shut on further reflection.
The alicorn laughed, “I guess not.” Her horn shimmered with light and another book floated out of the bookcase. She let it drop in front of Sweetie. “Darkvision.”
Sweetie looked from the book to the alicorn in surprise. Finally, a question that had been nagging her from the beginning erupted. “Um, Nightmare Moon?”
The alicorn, who had been halfway to the door by then, stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Yes? I’m afraid I cannot tell you what Twilight tastes like; she wouldn’t approve.”
“Oh...” Sweetie looked at Twilight, who turned beet red. “Okay, that wasn’t my question...”
“What is it then?”
“Why did you help me?”
Nightmare Moon shrugged. “I like a challenge.”
That said, the alicorn simply walked out of the room, leaving a confused group of ponies behind.
“Well...” Twilight coughed. “Let’s copy that spell, Sweetie... as for the Globe of Darkness... I think you understand the theory; better get some practice...” She hesitated. “But see if you can get the Darkvision down first, okay?”
“Yes, Twilight!” Sweetie nodded, smiling brightly.
“Okay.” The purple unicorn got up. “It’s about time for dinner. I’ll see you fillies in the dining hall in half an hour, okay? Try to behave.”
After the unicorn was gone, Scootaloo turned to look at Sweetie Belle intently. “Alright, Sweetie, you’ve had fun, but mind telling me why you’re suddenly so good at magic?”
“I...” Should I tell them? No... she would think I betrayed them and lied to her and... I did... “I... have been studying at night, after my sister went to sleep. I uh... I met with Zecora and...”
“With who?” Apple Bloom asked. “I don’t know anypony named Zecora in Ponyville.”
Sweetie Belle looked from her to the frowning Scootaloo in a mild panic. “Uh... she- she’s a zebra, and she lives in the Everfree Forest...”
“Y’all don’t mean the witch?!” Apple Bloom asked in horror. “Ah’ve heard from mah sister that she curses ponies!”
“You met her? How?” Scootaloo asked, more impressed than dubious.
“Uh... we... I- she came to town and I talked to her... She’s really nice,” Sweetie gulped. “Um, she... she introduced me to Trixie and... well, Trixie taught me how to... study...”
“Wow! You’re very brave!” Sunny said, impressed.
“Yeah!” Apple Bloom agreed.
Sweetie sighed in relief, not noticing the slightly hurt look Scootaloo sent her way. The pegasus quickly moved to the books and started turning pages. A particular one caught her eye. “Hey, Sweetie... take a look at this spell think youcould do it?”
The filly looked over the page. “Well... maybe... it looks pretty easy...” Her eyes went wide as she turned to look at the pegasus. “You’re not thinking...”
“Yes. Yes I am.” Scootaloo’s crafty smile said it all.
The whole group sat together at the table in the dining hall in uncomfortable silence.
A fork enveloped in magic energy dug into the salad and carefully lifted greens and a tomato out. Twilight Sparkle took a bite and hummed appreciatively as she chewed. “This is good.”
Next to her, Sunny chugged noisily into her own salad, relishing in the flavors and crispiness of the fresh veggies.
The others, however, stared at their food nervously. Nightmare Moon’s fork poked a piece of tomato as the alicorn pondered if that morsel was the one that might’ve been ‘spiced up’ by the crusaders.
The fillies, for their part, looked at the food dreading a possible revenge from the queen.
Apple Bloom whimpered as she looked at the food, her head tentatively leaning forward to take a bite.
“No!” Scootaloo whispered harshly. “We don’t know what she might have done to it!”
“But...” an angry growled emanated from the filly’s stomach, followed shortly by one from Nightmare Moon’s. Scootaloo and Sweetie looked at each other painfully. They were so hungry!
“Come on everypony, don’t be silly.” Twilight looked at each pony in the eye. “You’re all just being paranoid. There’s nothing wrong with the food.”
There was a chorus of unsure laughter and slowly the ponies started eating, watching each other warily.
Twilight sighed and carried on eating, her thoughts and eyes straying to the only other unicorn at the table. She then noticed that Scootaloo kept shooting Sweetie Belle looks and shook her head slightly.
When Sweetie’s eyes crossed with hers, Twilight nodded slightly towards the pegasus. Sweetie sighed and looked at her plate.
It’s up to you, Sweetie. Twilight thought as she watched Sweetie Belle’s reactions.
Dinner ended on a slightly better note than the stress it had begun with. Nightmare Moon looked at Twilight as she stood up. “Well, Slave, it’s about time to lower the Sun.”
The fillies watched the pair walk out of the room in silence. “I gotta see their expressions when they walk into that room!” Scootaloo said, jumping to her hooves excitedly.
Sweetie hesitated. “Wait, Scoots...”
The pegasus stopped. “What is it, Sweetie?”
“I- I want to... talk with you.”
The pegasus lifted an eyebrow. “But... the room... don’t you want to see how Nightmare Moon-”
“I’m not your Sweetie Belle,” the unicorn filly interrupted, quickly looking down at the floor in shame.
The silence in the room lasted nearly a full minute.
“Explain,” Scootaloo demanded, as she, Sunny and Apple Bloom walked up to the unicorn.
Sweetie took a deep breath. No going back now. “I’m really from another world... I came here to find a piece of my Twilight-”
“Stop.” Scootaloo angrily stomped on the ground. “If you want to lie about how you learned all that magic, you don’t have to treat me like an idiot!”
The pegasus turned around and walked towards the door, but bumped against an invisible wall of some sort. “What-” she poked it with her hoof, feeling something stopping her. She turned and glared at Sweetie Belle, whose horn was glowing. “Sweetie, let me out.”
“Not until you believe me!” The unicorn replied, “I’m sorry I lied earlier but... I didn’t want you to hate me because I’m not the Sweetie you knew!”
“Does that mean yer not really our friend?” Apple Bloom asked, looking hurt.
“No!” Sweetie turned to look at the earth pony. “I mean, I am your friend! I didn’t want to hurt you... I got you into trouble once in another world...”
“Why did you come to me and Apple Bloom then?” the pegasus filly demanded.
“Because...” Sweetie looked at Scootaloo pleadingly. “Back home, you two are my best friends! I- I needed your help...”
“What did you do to the real Sweetie?” the pegasus snapped at her. “Did you hurt her?”
“N-no!” The unicorn filly said. “I’m just.. kind of borrowing her body... she’ll be back once I’m gone... I don’t think she’ll know how to do anything I know... and she will not really know Apple Bloom or Sunny... at least, that’s how Trixie explained it to me...”
“So Trixie does exist?” Apple Bloom asked confused. “Ah thought you made the whole thing up, just so you could take the test?”
“So, what you’re saying is that you took over my friend Sweetie Belle and man- manip- used us.” Scootaloo growled, “Some friend you are.”
“Don’t bother,” Scootaloo turned away. “Just... just let us out.”
Sweetie‘s shoulders slumped as her horn stopped glowing. Scootaloo immediately ran out of the room, while Apple Bloom and Sunny slowly followed, giving Sweetie side-long glances. They closed the door behind them, leaving the unicorn alone in the dining hall.
The unicorn filly took a deep breath and turned around, walking in the opposite direction.
Nightmare Moon looked at Twilight askance as both of them walked towards her chambers. “What’s on your mind, slave?”
Twilight shot her an annoyed look. “Nothing.”
“Sure,” the alicorn snorted. “Should I be feeling jealous of Sweetie?” she teased, a smirk playing in her lips. “Am I going to be replaced? I feel so sad Twilight, that you would just leave me and...”
“Oh, stop!” Twilight growled, looking straight at the alicorn. “It’s nothing like that!”
“So I don’t need to feel jealous?”
“No, you don’t need to feel jealous,” Twilight deadpanned.
“So you won’t leave me?”
“I won’t leave you.”
“You’re mine to cuddle and play with?”
“Yes, I’m yours to cuddle and- what?” Twilight glared at the alicorn. “Hey!”
“If you were paying attention it wouldn’t have happened.” Nightmare Moon chuckled. “But, since you so kindly offer, I will take full advantage of your promise tonight.”
“I- what? No,” Twilight shook her head as the door to Nightmare Moon’s chambers opened with a bit of magical help. “We have to lower the sun.”
“Oh, Twilight, you’re no fun-” the alicorn stopped in shock as she looked around her room. “Wha- buh- how...”
Her bed. It was pink.
Her books. Pink.
Her desk. Pink.
The purple unicorn looked around, impressed. “My, Nightmare Moon, I would have never guessed...”
“But...” the alicorn quickly stepped out to confirm that they hadn’t taken a wrong turn. “My- my room!” She looked at the unicorn with pleading, horrified eyes. “It’s all pink! This must be a nightmare!”
“Don’t know,” Twilight muttered, poking a pink piece of armor. “Feels pretty real to me!”
The black alicorn gritted her teeth. She started shaking. The bookcase, the curtains, the carpet... pink! “CRUSAAAAADEEEEEERS!”
The sun was wrenched out of the sky with far less effort than ever before, and a very tired Nightmare Moon stomped angrily around the castle in search of the crusaders.
“Of all the things those little...” the alicorn sputtered indignantly. “Pink! Pink! Can you believe it?! How did they even do that?! It’s... argh.”
Twilight was following the queen as fast as she could. “It was just a prank, Nightmare Moon; don’t do anything harsh!”
“I’ll show them a prank!” the alicorn vowed as she opened another door and saw Scootaloo, Apple Bloom and Sunny walking towards her. “There you are!” She glared at the group, “You have crossed the line!”
“Yeah, whatever.” Scootaloo growled as she passed by. “I don’t care. You win.”
“And if you think you can get away with this and challenge me again, I-” the alicorn coughed and looked down. “Beg pardon?”
“I don’t care anymore,” Scootaloo repeated, not looking back at the two adults. “I just want to go home.”
“But...” The alicorn frowned. “Is this another prank? Because I’m pretty sure it’s my turn-”
“I said, ‘I don’t care’!” the pegasus filly snapped. “Just... just let me go.”
For a moment, Twilight worried that the alicorn was about to antagonize the obviously upset pegasus further, but Nightmare Moon kept quiet and nodded. She looked at Apple Bloom. “What about you?”
The earth pony filly scratched at the floor, obviously torn. She sighed. “Ah think Ah should go home too.”
“Very well.” Nightmare Moon walked past them. “Follow me.”
Spike was about to run out of the library when he heard the noise coming from the portal. He turned around and looked at the group of ponies that stepped out of it.
“Hey, everypony! You just missed Sweetie Belle; she came here and-”
“I don’t care,” Scootaloo snapped.
“Okay, hold on,” Twilight stepped in front of the pegasus. “I think I know what happened. Sweetie Belle told you the truth.”
The purple eyed pegasus nodded. “You knew?”
“I... just found out earlier. Sweetie...”
“She lied to us! And she said she was our friend!”
“Girls!” Spike waved his hands at them.
“Listen, Scootaloo, I know it’s strange, and she shouldn’t have lied, but you have to understand that-”
“Girls!” Spike shouted, then stopped as he felt something rumbling in his stomach. With a loud, flaming burp a scroll appeared in the air, which he caught in his claws. “Hey, I wonder where this came from?”
The fire had interrupted the argument, and Twilight had opened the scroll with a flash of magic. Nightmare Moon and Sunny looked over her shoulder, both of them curious.
“That’s...” the alicorn blinked in surprise. “I never expected that.”
“Wow...” Sunny smiled.
“What is it?” Despite herself, Scootaloo crowded the group as Spike and Apple Bloom shared a look and joined them.
“Well ah’ll be,” the earth pony smiled, while the dragon whistled.
Scootaloo said nothing, choosing to frown. “Yeah, whatever, let’s give it to her and be done with it.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!” Spike said, drawing their attention. “Sweetie came through the portal earlier and she said something about having to go away. When I asked her what she meant, she said she was going to the Everfree.”
“What?” Nightmare Moon looked surprised. “That’s dangerous!”
“Why would she think of going there?” Apple Bloom asked. “She should know better!”
“Oh, my...” Twilight gasped. “She must have heard me when I was thinking out loud. I thought the fragment might be in the place where we fought Nightmare Moon with the Elements of Harmony!”
“Fragments?” Nightmare Moon asked, then frowned. “I think, Twilight dear, you should tell me what’s happening.”
“I will,” Twilight nodded. “But right now we have to catch up to her; it’s too dangerous for her to go alone.”
“Who cares if something happens to her?” Scootaloo snapped. “She’s not even really-”
“Scootaloo!” Twilight interrupted her, glaring in disbelief. “I know you’re hurt and angry, but do you really want something to happen to her?”
The pegasus looked away, shuffling nervously. “Well no, but...”
“You have to remember, where she comes from, there’s another Scootaloo and another Apple Bloom that are her best friends,” Twilight said. “She doesn’t know when she’ll see them again... you two are the closest she can get to them. And right now she’s in the Everfree forest alone because she thinks you hate her.”
Scootaloo looked down at her hoofs. “She shouldn’t have lied.”
“No, she shouldn’t have.” Twilight smiled, “But she’s our friend, right? And friends forgive.”
Apple Bloom put her hoof on Scootaloo’s shoulder. “Ah know we only really just met this mornin’, but ah feel we’ll always be good friends. Let’s go help this Sweetie... and then y’all can introduce me to the one you know.”
With a glance at the earth pony, Scootaloo nodded.
The Everfree Forest.
It was there where Zecora lived, the place that Apple Bloom had frequently visited to spend some time with her zebra friend.
It was there that they had been attacked by the Cockatrice and witnessed the awesome power of Fluttershy’s stare.
It was there that The Elements of Harmony had fought and defeated Nightmare Moon... or at least where they had in two other worlds. And it was here that the Castle of the Alicorn Sisters was located.
Sweetie didn’t know how to get to it, as her excursions into the forest had never gone too deep. However, she remembered hearing from her sister and the others as they talked about it... the way wasn’t that difficult to follow, but it was a long trip, and the forest was a dangerous place.
But she didn’t care.
Slowly making her way down the path, Sweetie paid no heed to the noises of the forest until she heard somepony moaning in pain.
She stopped and looked around. Where did that come from? And who could be so stupid as to come here at night?
There it was again. She turned to her left, where several thick bushes limited her view to a mere few feet in front of her. Taking a deep breath, Sweetie gathered her courage as she stepped into the bushes. The branches scratched at her hide, and her mane got tangled more than once, but she persevered. The noise was coming from just up ahead.
She finally broke through the growth and onto a small clear area of the forest, where she could hear the sounds. She carefully stepped around it until, behind a log, she found a pit, and lying at the bottom was...
“Zecora!” Sweetie gasped as she recognized the zebra. “Are you okay?”
“I’ve surely hit my head or ear, for is it my name that I hear?” the zebra asked weakly, looking up at the filly in confusion. Their eyes crossed and the zebra gasped. “Child, this world is not where you belong, your presence here feels rather wrong...”
“You... you know? You can tell?” Sweetie gasped.
“Many things I have observed, but talk later we must if my life is to be preserved,” the zebra answered. “A hearty meal we would both become, if the wrong creature were to come. I must ask you with all due haste, to pull me out, for there’s no time to waste!”
Sweetie looked around. I’m not strong enough to levitate her... Her eyes settled on a loosely hanging vine. “I think that will work!”
Her horn aglow, she uncoiled, tore and lifted the vine from the tree branch it rested on and lowered it to the zebra. Then she tied the other end around a tree. “Try to come up now!”
With the aid of the vine and Sweetie Belle pulling, the zebra managed to scramble out of the pit.
“Thank you, I was afraid I would have to spend the night there! Certainly not a fate for which I’d much care.”
“It’s okay, Zecora, you would have done the same.”
The zebra looked amused. “You know my name and unless I forget, you have me at a disadvantage since we haven't met.”
“Oh...” The unicorn filly smiled. “Sorry, my name is Sweetie Belle.”
“Well met, young Sweetie Belle, now maybe you can tell,” the zebra nodded. “What are you doing here, in this forest most ponies fear?”
“I... I’m trying to get to the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. I was following the old road when I heard you.”
“If it’s the castle you want to reach, a better way I must beseech,” the zebra advised. “Come with me, and you shall see.”
They walked in silence for the most part. Zecora seemed to be concentrating on the ground around her, no doubt wanting to avoid any other pitfalls. It was a few minutes before the filly remembered.
“Hey, Zecora, you said earlier this wasn’t my world.”
The zebra smiled as she continued leading the little filly. “Indeed I did, for the truth may be... that the soul I see is not that of the body before me.”
Sweetie sighed. “Yeah... I have to find pieces of a crystal to carry on, and I think the one for this world is in that castle.”
“A simple explanation for something, I sense, was much more convoluted was when it did commence,” Zecora said with a sidelong glance.
The filly shook her head. “It’s my fault this is happening. My teacher was doing an experiment and I messed it up.”
“Accidents happen as I know well, think of that hole into which I fell,” the striped equine replied, her deep voice carrying a trace of humor and understanding.
Sweetie looked at her guide. “Zecora, I think I killed Twilight... my teacher... she was turned into crystal and then broken into little pieces!”
The zebra stopped and looked back at Sweetie, a serious expression in her face. “Magic works in mysterious ways, to zebra and unicorn it turns into an obscuring haze. If it’s Twilight's fragments that you seek, perhaps to the magic itself you will speak. Whatever you do, even if you feel torn, mistakes and sorrow you must not scorn. As good or bad as things can get, misery and self-pity bring only regret.”
“Why should I be happy? I killed my teacher!”
“That you don't know I can tell, so give yourself a chance for a spell.”
“Easier said than done,” Sweetie muttered.
The zebra smiled back at the filly. "Indeed it is so, but the trick I have found, is for the best to expect, even if the worst is bound." She winked at the unicorn as Sweetie groaned, but smirked.
“What kind of advice is that?”
“Advice,” the zebra noted, “is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.”
“Wow,” the unicorn shook her head as she mulled over the words. “That was kind of depressing.” She frowned. “And it didn’t even rhyme.”
The zebra laughed. “A far wiser pony than I once told that to me. To say it wrong, a disservice it would be.”
“I’ll try and remember that,” Sweetie said, smiling despite herself. Then she sighed, “Zecora? What should I do if I lied and hurt a friend?”
The zebra didn’t even look over her shoulder. “Ponies lie to protect their feelings, often ignoring the damage they cause in their dealings.”
“But, I already hurt her... even if I don’t lie again...”
"Sweetie, I can see your regret, and your friend I'm sure will on that reflect. She might forgive you, or she might not, but lies should not be where you throw your lot."
They reached a river and Zecora slowly stepped through. The water felt cool but good to Sweetie’s hooves, and she sighed in relief as it seemed to wash away her worries.
She sighed bitterly. I wish everything could just be carried away by the current...
“We should hurry now, Sweetie Belle,” Zecora called from the far shore. “The castle’s there as you can tell.”
Sweetie blinked and nodded, following the zebra out of the river and once more into the forest.
They walked in silence most of the way. At one point Zecora made quieting motions with her hooves and moved to the side into the undergrowth.
They watched in silence as a large creature walked past them. The body of a lion with bat wings and a scorpion tail. That’s just like the manticore sis and the others faced! Sweetie thought in awe of the size and ferocious look of the creature.
Once it was gone Zecora waited a bit longer before guiding her back into the trail. “Some creatures with nasty tempers we should evade, lest their anger and hunger make our chances fade.”
Eventually they reached the old bridge. “Thank you, Zecora,” Sweetie said, giving the surprised zebra a hug. “You’re always so helpful!”
The striped horse chuckled. “I wish other ponies would see it that way; it’s hard to imagine their opinion will sway.”
Sweetie shook her head. “It will happen... when we see each other again, I might not remember you... but I would like to be your friend.”
The zebra blinked at this, but her smile was warm as she nodded. “Friendship is special and something to treasure; to have one with you, dear child, would be my pleasure.”
The filly nodded as she cantered over the bridge and onto the other side, where the castle walls had crumbled in most areas. All I need to do is find the fragment in there... She turned to wave at Zecora, but the zebra was gone.
The castle had been huge once upon a time, but now the battlements were nothing but a pile of rocks, the walls little more than a memory. The castle itself was mostly intact, or at least recognizable. Sweetie’s eyes roamed the area in search of a clue. She knew the elements had been broken apart in a tower, but which one?
“Why couldn’t sis’ story have been more specific?!” Sweetie Belle huffed. She trotted around the castle, trying to connect the buildings with the descriptions her sister had given her. Eventually she found her way to the courtroom, where she could see the stained glass windows her sister and the others had described.
And there before her was the broken throne and the place where, in her world at least, Twilight and her friends had defeated Nightmare Moon.
She looked carefully around, her eyes scanning cracks in the wall, torn curtains, even the broken stained glass window.
“So, you would just leave without even saying goodbye?”
Sweetie had been concentrating so much on her search she hadn’t heard the group that came into the room after her.
“Twi-” she sputtered, “Twilight!”
The purple unicorn looked at her sadly as Nightmare Moon, Sunny, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo stood next to her.
“I heard about your fight, Sweetie, but are you sure running away is the best thing to do?”
The unicorn filly looked away. “I just don’t want anypony to hate me... I don’t want to do all of this alone.”
“So you really are from another world,” Nightmare Moon said, walking up to her and looking at the unicorn in the eye. “That’s how you knew...” she trailed off, but Sweetie saw her eyes shift to her moon emblem.
“Yeah...” the filly sighed.
The alicorn smirked, but left it at that.
“Sweetie, regardless of the circumstances, you shouldn’t have come here alone,” Twilight said after a moment, “What would you have done if something happened to you? How do you think we would feel?”
“I don’t know,” Sweetie retorted, looking at the group angrily. “Who cares anyway? I’ll just find the fragment and get out of your mane. Maybe I’ll even get to return home!”
Twilight sighed and was about to reply when Scootaloo stepped forth.
“Sweetie... I’m sorry I got so angry with you... it just really hurt to find out you were lying to me.”
The unicorn filly stubbornly scratched the floor, tiny tears on the edge of her eyes betraying her emotions. She was about to reply when she was suddenly being hugged by Apple Bloom.
“Ah know you got to go, Sweetie, and I know we really just got to know each other today... or at least I did, but I’m gonna miss you anyhow,” Apple Bloom said.
Scootaloo was also suddenly hugging her. “Don’t be stubborn, Sweetie!” She begged, burying her face in the unicorn’s mane. “Let’s not... let’s not say goodbye like this... I don’t want you to go away with us being angry with each other!”
Sunny soon joined the hug. “That’s right! You’re all my friends now, and I don’t want to see you angry!”
“I’m sorry I lied,” came Sweetie’s muffled reply, and it seemed as if the whole group relaxed with just those words.
Nightmare Moon walked up to Twilight as both adults watched the group hug in mild amusement. Sweetie looked at them and smiled; it was then that she noticed it. A slight purple glow near the lower corner of the stained glass window.
Slowly she disentangled herself from the group and made her way there. Her magic levitated the crystal as everypony gathered around it.
“Is... is that a piece... of me?” Twilight asked, staring at the crystal as it spun slowly inside Sweetie’s levitation spell.
Sweetie nodded. “My Twilight.” She smiled warmly.
“So, this is really goodbye,” Scootaloo said, scratching the back of her head with her hoof. She looked down. “I’ll miss you.”
Sweetie shook her head. “You’ll still have your own Sweetie.”
“Yeah, but I will miss the one I got to know now.” The pegasus smirked, “You both are crazy, but she’s even more stubborn than you are.”
Sweetie laughed as she gave the pegasus a short hug. “She’s not, just give her time.”
Apple Bloom suddenly looked nervous. “Ah don’t want to lose a friend Ah just made.”
“We’ll always be friends,” Sweetie replied, hugging the earth pony for a few seconds. “We became best friends in my world, so I’m sure this will happen again.”
Sunny stepped up to the unicorn filly and gave her a quick hug. “It was really fun! If you visit again, we should start another prank war!”
Sweetie nodded as her eyes turned to the adults.
Twilight nodded at her, but then her eyes opened wide. “Oh, my, I completely forgot about this!”
She levitated the scroll that Spike had produced early and gave it to Sweetie. “It’s for you.”
The filly blinked and opened the scroll. She started reading, and as the words sank in, her eyes grew wider and wider. “I... I passed?!”
“That’s what it says!” Twilight nodded with a bright smile. “I’m sure they will be disappointed when you can’t make it but... be sure to show that to my other self when you see her again, okay?”
Sweetie nodded happily as she started jumping around Twilight. “I passed! I passed! Yes! Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes! I did it!”
Nightmare Moon chuckled and the filly stopped, looking around her, completely embarrassed. “Um, I think I should go.”
Sweetie’s horn lit up as her notebook materialized. She opened it and smoothed out the acceptance letter until it was flat, then fitted it between the pages. When she dismissed it, the scroll disappeared too. “I hope this works!” She said worriedly as she made the notebook reappear. The scroll was safely tucked between the pages.
Sweetie let out a sigh as she sent it away again.
“Well, this is it... Goodbye everypony...” She looked at the gathered group as her horn started glowing. When she was about to absorb the energy from the fragment she paused. “Nightmare Moon?”
The alicorn blinked. “What is it Sweetie?”
“What does Twilight taste like?”
The queen ignored the sputtering purple unicorn to her right as she smiled. “Like Blueberries. Very Tangy.”
“Oh. Good to know.”
“Wait, Sweetie!’ Twilight raised a hoof, but it was too late. The fragment shone with a bright purple light that enveloped the filly as it slowly faded away. The light remained for a few seconds and then it was gone.
Sweetie Belle slumped to the floor, confused and dazed. She shook her head. “What? Where am I?”
She looked up and noticed Nightmare Moon and a unicorn she didn’t know staring at her.
“I have one big concern over all of this,” the purple unicorn confessed to the group of ponies as she watched the unicorn filly scream.
“What?” Scootaloo asked.
“How am I going to explain all of this to Rarity?”
Inside a stage wagon in a small town in the middle of Equestria, a certain showmare stared at the scroll that had just popped out in front of her. She had a little dragon-fire contraption she used to keep in contact with a few ponies, but she hadn’t written anypony recently, and she had no idea why Nightmare Moon’s School for Gifted Unicorns would send her a letter.
Shrugging, she levitated the scroll and opened it, reading the contents aloud out of habit. “Dear Great and Powerful Trixie, as head supervisor of admissions, it is my pleasure to inform you that your apprentice, Sweetie Belle, has been accepted to study at our prestigious institution should she choose to do so. Although we are aware you are not in Ponyville anymore, and that your training of the young unicorn is over, we felt you would like to be one of the first to know of her success. Yours truly, ~Passing Grade”
Trixie stared at the scroll, re-reading it silently a couple of times. Finally, with a confused blink she let it rest on her desk. Only one thing crossed her mind.
What. The. Hay?
Somewhere, far beyond the worlds and universes, in the deep darkness, an eye opened, radiating with an inner light. It looked around the vastness around it until it seemed to spot something. Its will concentrated as a voice as old as a star rumbled.
“Desertus in me aeterno ardes et in obscuritas captatus est...”
Wherever it was she had arrived, it was dark.
Sweetie tried to make sense of where she was, and illuminated the area around her with her horn as her magic coursed through it. She finally recognized the place as her room in the Carousel Boutique. With a twist of magic, she lit up her lamp to see better, but things seemed odd... they appeared to have shrunken.
She looked around. Her bed was smaller, her desk... what were those posters doing there? And that tea set? It was all too small. She passed in front of her dresser, again, too small, giving it little thought and carried on to the door.
Then she stopped. She ran back to the dresser and looked in the mirror. Her eyes widened and her jaw fell slack.
The door to her room was suddenly kicked in as Rarity came in, wielding a poker in her magical grasp.
“How dare you break into my-” She blinked and dropped the poker, staring at Sweetie Belle. “Buh-” she sputtered. “Sweetie... you... but you’re dead!”
o.o.0.o.o End Chapter 2 o.o.0.o.o
Next chapter: The Light Never Goes Out