If there were one sensation that defined her existence today, Twilight would have said it was pain. To her, It seemed agony was all there ever would be. She could almost not remember what it was like to be free of this suffering. Intellectually she knew that could not be true, but that's how it felt.
She no longer screamed or struggled, her throat was too raw, breath too hard-fought and limbs too weak.
There was one bright fact she could take pride in, that she could try and take comfort in. Yesterday she insured her friends were safe; the ponies of Manehattan were safe. What could have been the most extensive loss of life in recent history prevented. Not a bad final achievement? she thought to herself.
The danger had been a powerful dark magic spell, it was going to end all life within a few miles of the city. It had taken almost all of her considerable arcane might to hold back the destructive dark magic. It felt like hours, her horn burned as she battled the tainted spellcraft. Thank Celestia I held out long enough to let everypony escape. She thought, considering the pain she felt then would feel like a spa visit today.
Thinking back to how she had arrived here, she had to admit her attackers had a good plan. It was a perfectly timed ambush and they expertly executed it. All it had taken was one forced teleportation spell. She was exhausted and just about to make her escape. Distracted and unaware she could do nothing to resist it. Today for all anypony knows I died a hero in an explosion, bravely giving my life, saving everypony.
Oh, how hard it was to try to stay positive or at least accept things. She knew that if she was asked yesterday she would have said that being here was a price she would have paid willingly, to save the others.
She was trapped, completely restrained with no options for escape. Her hope was rapidly fading, her attackers had covered all their bases. Her horn had been removed, her limbs immobilised by the rune encrusted silver rods piercing them. As an almost redundant addition the runes were suppressing her earth pony strength.
Adding insult to injury at least ninety per cent of the runes restraining her was based on a research paper she published two years ago. A moment of wry humour flitted through her mind. At least I can say I do excellent work, they better have accredited me for this. She thought.
Her ever-faithful mind and enhanced Alicorn senses perceived, logged and noted everything. She hardly cared about the dim rough-hewn stone room, and the altar she lay upon, nor the lighting caused by the menacing red radiance from her pooling blood. Her mind noted another sound; her automatic count moved up by one, thirty-five thousand and seventeen drips of her blood since Sombra's servants had left her alone.
Oh, how she wished the pain would stop, to pass out, to go mad or literally anything to bring her relief, but no her new royal body was too robust for that. She was still awake, and fully aware of how bucked she was. In all honesty, she was surprised she was still sane, likely some alicorn mental resilience.
Another drip, thirty-five thousand and eighteen her mind noted
Her ever diligent mind had a full listing in its cold, clinical detail hungry manner of every cut, every break and every degradation inflicted upon her body. She could almost see a little crazed version of herself with a quill eagerly scratching away, recording every detail — each entry dated, time-stamped and even with little diagrams.
Legs broken in four places each, one hoof removed.
Wings dislocated, about half the feathers from one removed.
Torso opened up so her captors could take various samples, six ribs broke, one removed.
The last insult to her body, her horn removed from and stabbed deep into her chest.
If not for their final act, she would eventually have been fine, eventually healed despite everything. They broke her horn off and used it to pierce her heart exploiting one of the few true weaknesses of an alicorn, their own divine horn. They had taken the focus of her special talent, her very destiny and using it as the tool of her demise.
Her heart was still valiantly trying to pump blood around her failing body, each beat just a little weaker. Her innate magic denying her a quick release allowing it to function despite the damage. They said it would take her days to finally die; she sincerely hoped they had overestimated that.
Drip. Another drop of blood fell. Thirty-five thousand and nineteen. her count continued. How many drops of blood would fall in a day, how would you calibrate something that could be so variable to keep accurate time? No, it did not matter. She thought.
I did all the right things; I did my duty as a Princess and kept everypony safe.
Being here now, this is the price I paid? She thought as a filly like voice in the corner of her mind kept asking. why can't I be saved, why is nopony here to rescue me? Why must the suffering always be mine?
Drip. Thirty-five thousand and twenty.
More tears rolled from her eyes; she could hear them drip from her muzzle into her blood below, each making a subtly different sound to other fluid dripping. At least my count will still be accurate. Her mind filled with thoughts of home, family, friends, the Princesses, Celestia.
Oh, how she wished the Princess would come and save her. On how she wished to be wrapped up in those perfect white wings to be soothed and find this is nothing more than a nightmare, a horrible, terrible nightmare but nothing else.
In her mind, she started on one final friendship report, one last letter she would never get Spike to send. Dear Princess Celestia. was as far as she got before another drop fell.
Thirty-five thousand and twenty-one. her mind reported. Her body shook as weak sobs wracked her body.
"Please somepony help me," faintly escaped her lips.
"I am here my Little Star," an almost familiar voice said in a loving tone.
To say Twilight was surprised was an understatement till she remembered. Audio hallucinations could be a sign that I am closer to death.
Something almost like magic brushed against her senses; somehow, she knew this voice of kindness was offering to take her pain away. "Let me help," the voice said as smooth as the softest silk.
Twilight let her eyes fall closed, accepting this gift of help. As darkness closed in, she felt her pain fading like a bad dream; soft feathers enveloped her in an achingly familiar embrace.
After so long, merely the lack of pain was the sweetest of ecstasy. Twilight's slow breath brought her the scents of the crisp night air, feathers, and the warm scent of an equine body.
"There, there you are safe now," her saviour gently stroked her mane with a hoof.
Shifting slightly she found herself free and no longer restricted by pain or evil metal spikes. Twilight reached out with both forelegs and her wings, returning the embrace. Tears of joy now tracing new tracks in her coat. She melted into the sensations of the hug, pressing against the reassuring feel of her saviour's hoof.
Twilight blubbered out her thanks and relief not caring if this was real, a delusion or simply Faust come to claim her soul.
The Spirit waited for something to happen, as always she was aware of everything Twilight experienced. Even if she viewed it in a detached, somewhat removed way. The suffering her host was going through was not what she would wish inflicted upon her worst foes. Even with Twilight being her enemy, she respected her. Yes she might kill her or torment her a bit to prove her dominance, but this unnecessary torture was going too far.
If it were not for the seal preventing her from acting, she would have spared Twilight this suffering and torn apart those foul followers of Somber with relish. Trapped since the Elements had stripped her from Luna, suppressed under the might of Twilight's magic. There was nothing she could do but watch.
She had spent a long time just watching, she had nothing else to do. Given everything she'd seen from her prison in Twilights mind, she had learned much. The Spirit was still unsure of a lot of things, the truth of her existence being the largest issue. Who am I? The original, a fragment, a copy? She wondered again. She did not know the answer, and most of the time she did not care. She was here; she was herself that is all that mattered.
One thing she did not understand, she remembered from Luna that both her previous host and Celeista should know that she was here. It was one of the burdens of using the Elements to contain spirits. So why did they never tell Twilight? No matter, Twilight served as an adequate jailer too strong to be escaped from, too pure to call out for a devil’s bargain. At least this prison has been far more interesting than the moon. Will I be free when Twilight dies? Will I be trapped in her corpse or will this be the end of me?
Well, I should find out in a week or two.. She thought bitterly.
"Please somepony help me," her host spoke in an almost inaudible whimper.
It was a cry. It was weak. It was desperate and contained the sweetest words the Spirit had heard for centuries. It was an open request for assistance, and with her host's magic so weak one she could answer. She could feel her host fading from the blood loss if she was ever going to get a perfect chance; this would be it.
She felt almost giddy, nearly breaking out in laughter before schooling her thoughts and voice. Free, free I will soon be free. What words to use, what to say.
Trying her best to use a tone her hated sister had long ago mastered, she answered. "I am here my little star." Her happiness aiding her attempt to sound truly loving.
The Spirit reached out with a tendril of her power, an open offer for Twilight to accept or rebuff as she wished. No force, no compulsion, it was carefully crafted with nothing that might awaken any suspicion. "Let me help," she almost purred. She was so close it was almost unbearable.
She could feel her host closing her eyes yielding, willingly accepting her, welcoming her in. Everything is perfect. The Spirit thought.
It was foal's play to pull Twilights mind away from the pain. It wanted so much to flee into a simple mindscape, one of a larger Alicorn lovingly holding her, stroking her mane and humming a soft, soothing tune.
The surge of gratitude and relief flooding the Spirit mind from her host was almost overwhelming. So this is what it feels like to take a genuinely willing host. The Spirit thought smiling.
As much as she loathed to admit it, she knew she had gained more respect for Twilight. After watching her adventures and may even have some small amount of affection towards her. She split off a small portion of her mind to keep Twilight company; it was the least she could do for such a good host, she could be this kind at least out of respect.
Turning the rest of her being outward to her host's body, to her body and its senses, the seal that once held her resisting her no more than a warm summer breeze now she had the permission of her host.
It was time to escape.