Pony Predators of Equestria

by Pentarctagon

Chapter 12 Cleansing Corruption

Silence reigns as Luna, Twilight, Midnight, and Rainbow Dash stare at the horn, all of them starting when it emits a sharp, snake-like hiss before dissolving into thick black smoke. The dark mass quickly expands to fill the entirety of the shield, tendrils forming to press and prod at various parts of its prison in search of a weakness to exploit.

"Huh. Well that's definitely unexpected," Applebloom comments.

Twilight's ears stand straight up, the voice of the Apple family's youngest member dragging her attention from the newly filled barrier to the Crusaders standing just a few steps behind her. Closing her eyes for a moment, she mentally kicks herself, Great, just great, not only was I actually right about Sombra, but I let four fillies watch Luna kill another pony. Or whatever this would count as. Annihilate another pony? End another pony? Well, in any case…

"Girls," Twilight says, turning to sternly address the still gawking fillies, "you need to go to the town square right now. And I mean actually go there this time."

While she speaks, magic crackles across Sombra's prison accompanied by an incomprehensible, echoing whisper as he continues testing the limits of the spell containing him.

Flinching at Twilight's tone as much as the remnants of the deposed tyrant, Scootaloo nervously salutes along with Sweetie Belle and Applebloom, "You got it, Twilight."

The trio makes a hasty retreat in the direction of the town square, however Applebloom suddenly stops and turns around after passing only a single house, "Hey Dawn, you comin'?"

Dawn glances at the waiting fillies, then uncertainly back at her sister.

Midnight tilts her head towards the other fillies, "Go on."

Casting one last worried look at her sister, Dawn joins her friends and they soon vanish around a corner as they head to their original destination.

Watching the four complications leave her sight, Twilight closes her eyes and fills her lungs with air, placing a hoof to her chest. After holding that pose for several seconds, she moves her hoof away and slowly exhales, though what little stress the action manages to relieve is instantly replaced as soon as she reopens her eyes.

"Luna," Twilight says, returning to the matter at hoof, "this whole 'Sombra getting destroyed and transforming into smoke' thing is very similar to what happened last time you and Celestia defeated him, right?"

"It is," Luna confirms.

"And last time, according to Princess Celestia, it caused any remaining undead vamponies to go berserk, right?"

"That… " Luna's eyes widen, "Oh."

As if on cue, her three guards land behind the pair of alicorns, each bowing quickly to their princess, "Your Highness, we have found no trace of the pony you described anywhere in Ponyville."

"He is no longer of any concern," Luna replies, dismissing their outdated information. "Have you seen any other similarly suspicious characters or activities?"

The lead guard shakes his head, his eyes occasionally darting from Princess Luna to the swirling shadow captured at the alley's mouth, "We have not. With the exception of one house blasting some sort of strange classical-electronic music, the entire town was completely silent until a couple minutes ago, and this is the last section we have yet to sweep."

Luna nods, relief washing over her at their words, "Good. Continue searching and report back to me if you find anything."

The guards salute, then take to the air once more.

Luna turns to the other fliers, "Rainbow Dash, Midnight – I want both of you to continue searching as well. You both know this town far better than my guards and may think to look in places they would not."

Midnight sends Rainbow a concerned glance, but nevertheless jumps into the night sky and vanishes.

Rainbow Dash stands as Midnight takes off, gritting her teeth and shifting her weight onto her good legs to ease the growing pain spreading through her bitten one. Meanwhile thin arcs of lightning travel across Luna's shield as the smoke once again tries – and fails – to escape, a familiar pair of green eyes with red pupils forming in it after the attempt.

"Twilight," Luna grunts, breathing heavily, "we cast this spell quickly in order to contain the undead vampony, but it is highly inefficient and therefore very difficult to maintain for any length of time, especially against somepony with Sombra's abilities. Therefore we require your assistance in creating a more permanent solution."

While Luna speaks, the pair of floating eyes wander from the two alicorns to settle on Rainbow Dash, the pegasus' leg beginning to throb in time with her heartbeat.

Rainbow gulps, averting her gaze from the eyes, "So, uh, Twilight, what was that about the undead? Why is Sombra here? What the hay is going on!?"

"Not now, Dash," Twilight replies without even glancing up at her friend. "What did you have in mind, Luna?"

Rainbow's vision blurs and she rubs her eyes, "But it's kinda important-"

Twilight sighs, massaging the bridge of her nose, "Look, I know this seems really strange right now but believe me, everything is going to be fine. Sombra's been captured and he's going to stay captured."

"We were thinking one of Starswirl's ambiance-sustained containment barriers, if you have the materials available," Luna suggests, likewise paying the pegasus little mind.
Twilight taps her chin while she mentally runs through her inventory of magical supplies, "Hmm, I should have everything on hoof. If not, I can definitely pull whatever else we need from some of my past experiments."

Rainbow frowns and again opens her mouth to speak, however Twilight disappears in a purple flash before she can get a word in edgewise.

"Was there something you wished to say?" Luna asks, glancing up at Rainbow Dash – though only for a fraction of a second, her attention diverted as Sombra once more strains against his prison. Small cracks form in multiple places on the sphere, Luna's horn flaring brighter and beads of sweat forming on her face while she struggles to keep the shield from shattering. Once Sombra's attack subsides, she sits heavily, her head lowered as she pants from the exertion.

"Uhh… no, it's fine, it can wait until after you and Twilight make that ambi-whatever," Rainbow replies uneasily. As soon as she speaks, her vision swims and nausea rises in her stomach, "I think… "

A minute later, Twilight reappears in another flash of purple with a lumpy bag held in her telekinetic grasp. Rainbow Dash sways, blinking away the lingering afterimage as Twilight places the bag next to Luna and unloads several blank runestones, transparent focus crystals, and deep blue amplification gems.

Luna nods tiredly, "That should suffice. We will need you to take over containing Sombra while I set up."

"Of course," Twilight walks over to stand next to Luna, the shield glowing purple as the pair touch horns.

"Oof, you weren't kidding about it being inefficient," Twilight jokes once they separate. However her attempt at humor is lost on Luna who sighs with relief at the removal of her arcane burden, closing her eyes for a few seconds to rest and refocus on her new task.

Levitating four of the runestones to lay on the grass in front of her, she lowers her glowing horn to the closest of the set for several seconds, dim white lines originating from their meeting point to move seemingly at random across its smooth surface. As Luna moves on to the next runestone, the white lines fade from the first, thin strands of smoke rising from the fresh engravings now etched into its surface. Once identical runes have been carved onto all four stones, she embeds them in the ground to form a square around Sombra's purple prison. Eight of the focus crystals follow, Luna carefully placing a single crystal on either side of each runestone one quarter of the way along an arc to form part of a circle. The amplification gems complete the circle, one centered between each pair of focus crystals.

Unnoticed while Twilight concentrates on maintaining the current shield and Luna works to create a new one, Rainbow Dash slumps to the rooftop, the world bending and twisting before her eyes as a haze fills her mind.

After walking a lap around her circle to examine her work, a ball of energy gathers at the tip of Luna's horn. Closing her eyes and taking a deep, slow breath, she lowers her horn nearly to the ground, the rings of her horn glowing as four beams of white light simultaneously shoot out to hit each of the runestones. Tendrils grow like roots from their surfaces, digging into the earth and air before fading from view to leave the runestones thrumming with magical energy. As soon as Luna ceases her magical injection, the air chills, twin beams shooting from each runestone to pass through the focus crystals which narrow the beam and direct it at the amplification gems. The brightly glowing blue gems rise to float just above the ground, an identically colored beam of energy arcing from each to strike the existing barrier containing Sombra. A second layer of magic grows from those four points, quickly merging with each other to complete the new shield.

"You may release your spell now, Twilight," Luna says once the air begins to warm.

Twilight does so immediately, her shoulders sagging tiredly as Luna's original barrier disintegrates. The smoke pushes against its newly constructed prison, though nothing happens apart from a slight drop in temperature, the air warming again as soon as the escape attempt ends.

Luna allows herself a weary but satisfied smile before she begins another lap around her activated spell circle, horn pulsing dimly against the thrumming backdrop of magical current as she probes for any slight defects.

Sighing, Twilight rubs her eyes, the enveloping darkness along with the slow, circular motions of her hooves providing a welcome respite. Eventually though, she lowers her hooves, a pink blur blocking her vision when she reopens her eyes – a few blinks revealing Pinkie's smiling face mere inches from her own.

"Hi Twilight!"

Twilight jumps nearly a foot into the air, her wings snapping open to slow her short descent. Heart pounding in her ears, she forces herself to take several long, deep breaths, the mad beating in her chest gradually calming, "Pinkie! Please don't do that. Tonight of all nights."

"Okie-dokie-loki," Pinkie replies. Turning, she takes in the rest of the scene, her smile shrinking at the sight of Sombra.

"What are you doing here anyway?" Twilight asks quizzically, "You couldn't possibly have woken everypony up yet."

"Weellll… most of the ponies I woke up were pretty annoyed about it, seeing as it's late and all, but once I explained what was going on they were really understanding and some even started helping out! So when the moon suddenly got super bright I told told them to finish up and I'd investigate. So here I am!" Concern fully replaces Pinkie's smile as her eyes move from Sombra to the adjacent roof, "By the way, what's wrong with Dash?"

Twilight blinks in confusion, finally looking up at her many-colored friend, "What do you mean what's wrong with – Dash!"

"'s fine," Rainbow slurs from her perch, "'m totly fin"

"No you are NOT fine. Now get down here so I can see what's wrong," Twilight demands, faint warning bells going off in the back of her mind.

When Rainbow's only answer is a gurgling groan, Twilight lifts her friend from the roof with her magic, gently lowering the pegasus to the ground. Her jaw drops as soon as she sees the rest of Rainbow's body, jagged black lines of lumpy flesh stretching the length of her leg and beginning to spread across her barrel as if fire flowed through her veins instead of blood, burning her from within, "Lunaaa!"

Luna glances up from her examination, "We are standing right here, Twilight; there is no need to yell."

Twilight paws at the ground, "What… does it look like when a pony gets bitten?"

Luna is beside Twilight fast enough to have teleported, the lack of a telltale flash the only indication she hadn't done so. She gasps when she sees Rainbow's injury, "It can appear similar to that."

"Nooo nonono," Twilight murmurs, backing a step away and turning in a circle, "how do we fix her? Cure her?" She looks up hopefully, "Luna?"

Fear twists in Luna's gut, but with a grimace she forces the unhelpful emotion into the background, "I… we do not know. Never before have we seen it behave with such… virulence. In our limited experience with the turning process, it only ever succeeded when the pony bitten was near death already, in which case there was little point in trying to save them and even then the scarring was nowhere near this severe. In a healthy pony it should be almost indistinguishable from a common cold, and should disappear on its own after a few days."

Twilight whirls to glare at Sombra, "What did you do to her?!"

The tyrant's shadow merely laughs, Rainbow Dash simultaneously yelling in pain as the lines of corrupted flesh pulse and spread further across her body. Pinkie watches the exchange expressionlessly, her mane flattening to reach her knees in time with her friend relaxing once the flare of pain subsides.

Luna places a hoof on Twilight's shoulder, "Perhaps the Elements would be of use? They were able to purge me of the corruption which led to my becoming Nightmare Moon after all, and what is happening here is as disharmonious as anything I've ever encountered."

"Twilight! Whatever is making that absolutely awful noise?" a familiar voice calls from behind them, "And where did that disgusting smoke monster come from? Though I suppose that probably answers my first question, doesn't it?"

Relief rushes through Twilight at the sound of Rarity's voice, the sight of Fluttershy trotting beside her drawing forth a weak smile despite the situation, "Have either of you seen Applejack?"

Rarity shakes her head, "No, we haven't. She ran all the way out to Sweet Apple Acres, remember? Is something the matter?" She pauses, "Also, is that thing… staring at me?"

Fluttershy's eyes widen upon seeing Rainbow Dash and she raises a hoof to her mouth, "Oh my… "

Rarity's gaze shifts back and forth between the smoke and Rainbow, "Twilight, dear, what in the world is going on?"

Her query bounces impotently off of Twilight's stress-muddled mind, Twilight instead focusing on a different question, How do I find Applejack? How do I find Applejack? How do I-

"Hey girls, Ah came as fast as Ah could. What's goin' on? Why'd the moon get bright all of a sudden?" Applejack asks, galloping towards the group from the opposite direction as Fluttershy and Rarity. Her ears lower as soon as she sees Rainbow lying on the ground, "Scratch that, what's wrong with Dash? She don't look right."

A sensation of displacement answers her questions rather than words, Twilight pulling her five friends along into a group teleport.

For a long minute, Luna stares at the place they had been, at last raising her gaze to the full moon still shining overhead, Good luck, Twilight Sparkle.

Unable to sit still any longer, Luna resumes her examination of her circle only for Spike to run up several seconds later.

"Princess… Luna… have you seen… Twilight?" Spike asks between pants, falling first to his hands and knees then onto his side as he gasps for breath.

Luna nods, "I have. They just left, in fact. I do not know precisely where to for certain, though I would expect them to be entering the Everfree Forest as we speak."

Spike groans at the thought, his already burning lungs like a weight filling his chest, holding him to the ground. The door to the house Twilight had teleported into opens as he lays there, Berryshine peeking out with a fresh chair clutched in her hooves. She jumps at the sight of Luna, dropping her chair and falling into a bow, "P-Princess!"

Spike raises his head and waves, "Hey, Berry."

"Since neither of you are doing anything else at the moment, could you both begin waking the ponies on this street and directing them to go to the town square?" Luna requests.

Spike grunts, but after a few more deep breaths gets to his feet, "Sure."

Berryshine rises from her bow, "Of course, Princess Luna."

Sombra struggles to break free once more, dark whispers at his failure finally drawing the attention of Spike and Berryshine. They stare at the shadow. The shadow stares back.


Chaos explodes through the Golden Oak Library as soon as Twilight and her friends appear – books, chairs, and all manner of other movable objects flying through the air at random while Twilight frantically darts around her home, skimming through the moving projectiles.

"So Twilight-" Applejack ducks, a lamp just barely missing her hat, "-are ya gonna explain why we're here? Or what's wrong with Rainbow Dash?"

"Or what that awful smoke creature was?" Fluttershy adds as she pulls a slowly tumbling Owlowiscious from Twilight's magic and into the relative safety of an empty bookshelf.


Fluttershy smiles, "You're very welcome."

Rarity steps aside to dodge a slow-moving table bearing Pinkie Pie, "Or perhaps you could start with why you're trying to smash us to bits with this maelstrom?"

"QUIET!!!" Twilight shouts, the floating objects abruptly ceasing their movement. "I need to find where I put the Elements so we can cure Rainbow Dash and all your talking isn't making it any easier!"

"Then why are we here?" Pinkie queries monotonously from beneath her still flat mane, the rest of her friends sharing an uncomfortable look, "We gave the Elements back to the Tree of Harmony, remember?"

Twilight's right eye twitches and several tufts of hair pop out from her well-combed mane, everything falling to the floor along with several of the more delicate objects shattering as her magic cuts out, "But that – but we – we need the Elements to fix Rainbow, and if they aren't here, if they're in the Everfree Forest, teleporting myself that far through so much chaotic magic is already incredibly dangerous and teleporting all six of us is impossible but if we don't get there, if we don't-"

A scream interrupts her, Rainbow Dash's corruption spreading again to reach halfway up her barrel. Twilight's mouth hangs open as she stares at her dying friend, her mind both trying, yet unwilling, to go any further down that path.

Applejack walks over, snapping Twilight out of her daze with a light punch to her chest, "Hey, now Ah may have absolutely no idea what's goin' on right now, but what Ah do know is that we still represent the Elements even if we don't got those fancy necklaces or crown anymore. So what do we need to do to save Rainbow Dash?"

Twilight swallows and shakes her head, the motion reorganizing her jumbled thoughts, "Right… you're right, Applejack; we do still represent the Elements, so we should be able to channel them at least a little bit. Okay, everypony form a circle with Rainbow."

I just hope it'll be enough.

Twilight, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity arrange themselves in a circle to include a barely conscious Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie's mane re-poofing to its usual curly style despite Pinkie's own determined frown. Closing their eyes, each of the five focus on their element, a light breeze swirling around them as they levitate a couple inches above the floor – all aside from Rainbow beginning to glow a faint white while two translucent rainbows arc out to connect each of them to their neighbors. Their unity does not last however, black wisps leeching out of Rainbow Dash's body to surround her in a thickening haze, the shadow absorbing the two rainbows linking her with Twilight and Rarity to prevent them from reaching their friend. The other connecting rainbows begin to flicker at the interruption as well, and after a few seconds the channel abruptly ends, dropping them all back to the floor.

"What happened?" Rarity asks worriedly, "Twilight, why didn't it work?"

"I… I don't know," Twilight replies, cold tendrils of dread sinking into her heart. "It should have worked. The entire purpose of the Elements is to spread harmony, so the only reason I can think of that it wouldn't have worked is it's become too ingrained to be removed without the actual Elements of Harmony."

Applejack shivers despite the room's warmth, shifting shakily from hoof to hoof, "So what's gonna happen to RD?"

Twilight blinks away tears, "She's going to die."

Well, not quite, a part of herself whispers unbidden from a dark corner of her mind. It's your job to grant her that luxury now.

Taking one last look at her friend, Twilight charges her horn, Rainbow Dash spasming as the corruption spreads again.

"Um… I have an idea… "

Four pairs of eyes meet Fluttershy's.

"W-Well… I was just thinking… m-maybe if we tried making a circle around Rainbow Dash instead of with her it might work better, since she'd be connected to all five of us instead of just two?"

Twilight stares at Fluttershy dumbly for a split second, then grins widely, gleefully letting the magic leave her horn, "Fluttershy, you're a genius!"

Their hope rekindled, Rainbow's five friends gather around her and focus on the elements they embody once more. Levitating a couple inches from the ground, a faint rainbow again passes between Twilight, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity – strengthening when the circle is completed. They rise a further few inches as the breeze swirling around them intensifies and they start to glow, Rainbow Dash also beginning to be drawn up as five rainbows arc down from her friends to struggle against the black haze forming around her. This time however the unity of her friends holds firm, the shadow surrounding her losing ground until one, then two, then all of her friends connect.

A brilliant white cocoon envelopes Rainbow, an eerie screech echoing around Twilight's library as Sombra's poison is purged from her body. Finally free of the corruption, Rainbow Dash rises to join her friends, the light of the cocoon spreading throughout the entire room before the six slowly descend to the floor.