Dishonored: The Outsider’s Reach
Chapter 3: Checkmate
A/N: Woo! Almost 13 000 words... That's a record for me O_o Hopefully you'll like the chapter! One important thing though, It's not over yet... Anything can still happen :P Also sorry for the derps... It's hard to correct all the errors in 30 pages worth of a chapter...
And as usual thanks for reading, have a BEER!
Anyway onto the story:
Her eyelids… They felt so heavy, as if sew together. With tremendous effort she slowly opened them, or at least she thought she did. There was however nothing in front of her… A deserted space made entirely of blackness. She felt as if underwater, unable to neither breathe nor move. There was no source of light to be found. She tried to move, but her body refused to comply with her commands. She couldn’t feel it in fact and could only exist in this world of emptiness, where no sounds, no feelings were present. This place was so cold that it paralyzed her mind, her senses. She couldn’t think straight, couldn’t feel the time passing by and couldn’t remember anything. Where was she? Why was she here? How could she live without breathing? Then at some point during this pointless existence a light appeared… It immediately struck her senses hard, slowly dispersing the ever-present darkness. Each passing second it was becoming more intense and warm. The coldness was slowly receding, yielding to the warmth. For a while it felt good and she welcomed the change, but then in the back of her mind a feeling of unease and anxiety appeared. There was something disturbing about this light, as if with it some kind of change was coming. It seemed to be offering sinister experience and knowledge. She didn’t want such thing and didn’t like what the light had to offer. It was misleading and the darkness she already knew. She wanted the peace and calm, the cold was offering her. Nothing could be done however, except for bitterly accepting the fact that the light was consuming the dark. Soon it enveloped her and in the distance she heard first sound since God knows only how long.
“Thanks for the ride Fluttershy.”
Slowly the feeling of warmth disappeared with the light also gone, yet again replaced by the familiar darkness. Soon the feeling of being underwater ceased, the emptiness was no more as steadily she started to feel her body. Some amount of joy appeared in her heart. She knew she was in a laying position now. The sense of smell appeared, giving away the aroma of water mixed with lavender and some chemicals. Hearing came back as she could make out the creak of doors. She could also taste something now, a delicate flavor of some vegetables. Yet she still felt somehow not entirely synchronized, as if still not out of the darkness. Her joy and happiness of finally being able to use her senses was suddenly crushed when with all of them came reality and her mind adapted to it. A wave of pain and tiredness washed over her with the feeling of the hard floor pressing against her body. She felt a throbbing pain inside her head and involuntarily moaned from the negative feedback of her senses. She was so tired and weak, she wanted only to sleep. Some primal fear however told her that if she goes to sleep now, she might never wake up. With whatever strength she had left, she opened her eyes. Her vision was horribly blurry and the throbbing pain in her head made the image pulse unpleasantly. The place she was in now was she easily identified as a bathroom or toilet. The walls were painted in white and just above her there were some sinks and a mirror probably. It was hard for her to identify the details, as she couldn’t see straight. The same fear that made her open her eyes told her to stand up and get out of here. She obeyed and slowly started to gather her sprawled about hoofs. The yellow mare was shaking from the exhaustion and had a few failed attempts in which she found herself back on the cold floor. Soon however she was standing, barely. A nauseous feeling that seemed not to bother her that much previously attacked her with tripled force, as bile built up in her stomach. Even though she wanted to hold it down, the short battle was over quickly. She leaned forward and released her stomach contents on the floor, breathing sharply soon after that. The Element of Kindness felt some relief after this, as she raised her head again, vision still blurry and pulsing. Fluttershy was swaying slightly from left to right, not entirely able to stand straight.
The door in front of her seemed like a long distance to trot, but she knew this was her destination. She had to get out of here. Fluttershy took a look to the left, into what she presumed was a mirror. The only thing she spotted in it was a yellowish blob however. She wasn’t sure if this blob was in fact her or not and didn’t really have time to ponder over this as her thoughts were quickly dispersing not allowing her to concentrate fully. She took a deep breath and with it started her advance towards the door. Unable to walk straight she was placing her hoofs clumsily and tripped over them a few times. The yellow mare was half way there when a particularly unpleasant sway made her trip again and fall to the side, ramming the wall with her side. A sick crack could be heard and a wave of pain came through her body. She let out a pained scream and felt her right wing hurting horribly with additional pain in her ribs. As quickly as possible however, she recomposed herself and despite the pain, with tremendous determination she finally arrived at the door, feeling some amount of fulfillment. It was as if she reached a very distant destination, as if behind this door everything would become clear and normal again. She pushed the door with her hoof and…
It was raining… Heavily… Despite her vision remaining blurry and pulsing she was able to see a stone road in front of her where once in a while a bipedal creature strolled slowly, holding an umbrella often. The buildings around her were very tall, made out of bricks and sheet metal. Many different logos and signs were placed above doors and shop-windows. It was night-time however and most shops were closed. The darkness was dispersed thanks to many lanterns that gave away bright light. The surroundings seemed to be very gray and monotonous though, a complete contrary to what she knew. Fluttershy looked down, feeling that something else was off.
She… wasn’t herself anymore, there were no hoofs nor a tail. She looked like one of these bipedal creatures with her skin very pale and completely black mane. She was also clothed in a pricy black dress with many white decorations. The mare looked at her open hands, studying them in amazement. Soon however amazement was replaced with a feeling of panic. She turned around hastily. Behind her there was a wall made out of bricks belonging to one of the tall buildings, not a door. Her breath became raspy as she was starting to hyperventilate.
She whispered scared, as the throbbing pain in her head grew stronger. She clumsily took a step forward, swaying slightly to the sides, as she put a hand on her head. Fluttershy blinked a few times, hoping to clear her vision. It didn’t help however. The bipedal creatures walking-by, were not paying much attention to her, simply passing by. The light from the lanterns all around her became somewhat more intense. The drops of rain soaked through her clothes immediately, but didn’t feel cold. She leaned forward breathing in and out in raising panic. Again the primal fear told her to get out of here, go forward, anywhere. She started to walk, tripping and swaying as if drunk. Looking around in panic for any clue where she was, what happened and what were those creatures. Quickly Fluttershy increased her pace, which only threw her forward and made her fall to the stone ground. She put her hands forward involuntarily and felt her skin being ripped slightly by the hard stone. She winced from the pain, having no idea what was happening, where she was and for that matter what she was. She felt confused and was worried about what was happening to her, why was her head hurting so much? A horrible feeling of hopelessness instantly overwhelmed her and bitter tears soon followed, mixing with the rain water. She was sobbing now, still on the ground, on all fours.
“Where am I…?”
She asked out loud through her tears.
“Where is everypony…?”
She asked again in sorrow.
She then saw that a shadow covered the light from the lanterns. Somepony was standing above her. Fluttershy looked up, barely seeing any details. It was definitely one of these bipedal creatures. The tears covered the image in front of her even more.
“Are you alright, miss?”
The bipedal blob asked. She heard it as if through a thick wall, but made out what was being said. It offered her its paw, a gesture of good will she thought. She was still sobbing quietly.
“Um… I… don’t think so”
She barely whispered.
The blob was slightly shorter than most of the creatures. Its voice seemed to be that of a child.
“Let me help you up, miss.”
The child said, with a vigorous and warm voice. Fluttershy nodded to herself as she weakly extended her arm and grabbed the hand of the child. Not without effort the small biped helped her up. She still felt sick and weak however, something definitely was wrong with her and she was scared of it. The mare had no idea what could cause her state. There was a hole in her memories, as she remembered feeding a bunny, then some panicked screams of her animal friends and then… Nothing… Blackness, all the way to the point when she woke up. She mustered a smile looking down at the short biped. It definitely was a child and a young stallion at that.
“Um… Thank you…”
She whispered lowering her head down and looking at the ground.
“You’re quite welcome m-“
He was interrupted by a shout.
A female voice echoed. It was coming from behind them. Swaying slightly, Fluttershy turned around, just to spot another biped closing-in on them and fast.
“Here I am Martha!”
The child shouted back happily. The female quickly arrived at their position. Because of her state, Fluttershy was however unable to make out any details, only seeing a blob again. The woman approached the child and hugged him, breaking the embrace very fast.
“I told you to wait outside! Why did you walk away William?!”
The female asked the child, visibly angry.
“I’m sorry sister… But I saw this lady falling and wanted to help…”
The child said with an apology in his voice.
The woman replied standing up as she looked at Fluttershy. She froze up instantly staring at the Element of Kindness.
Fluttershy said in her usual timid voice.
“William… Get behind me… Now!”
The woman said coldly as she took a slight step back. The child saw his sister’s cold stare and obeyed without word. There was a pause after which the woman shouted out as loud as she could.
Fluttershy got startled and again fell down, this time on her butt. The confusion only rose. Out of nowhere loud heavy steps could be heard, somepony was galloping. From the distance 3 figures appeared, they were running as fast as possible closing in hastily. Soon they arrived, three bipeds in some kind of uniforms. Fluttershy was scared and confused, she understood it had to be some kind of law enforcement force, but had no idea what she did wrong. Two of them had silvery blades drawn and one was holding, what looked like some kind of miniature cannon in its appendage. They stopped right next to the woman and took a quick look at Fluttershy immediately understanding what the problem was. They pointed their blades and the contraption at her. Fluttershy found herself sobbing again, completely disoriented.
“God damn it, I can’t believe it. The plague has ended so many years ago and here we have another weeper.”
One of the bipeds said with a raspy and firm tone of voice. He turned his head and spitted on the ground.
“What do we do Captain?”
Another one asked.
“Knock her out and deliver her to Sokolov’s clinic. They’ll take it from there.”
Fluttershy looked up. Her eyes hurting from the tears and constant pulses of vision.
“I-I’m sorry, if I did something wrong… Please, I think I’m lost…”
She said feebly as her throat hurt from the sobs.
One of the officers whistled.
“Captain, she’s still sentient!”
The younger watchman said, visibly amazed. The Captain nodded to that and holstered his pistol. He gestured for his men to do the same. They lowered their weapons, as the Captain crouched in front of Fluttershy holding his arm against his mouth, as if to prevent the sickness from infecting him.
“Ma’am, can you hear me?”
Fluttershy turned her head to the side, scared of the bipedal blob in front of her. After a short pause however she responded.
The Captain’s eyes widened slightly, not quite believing the infected woman actually spoke to him.
“You are very sick ma’am. We need to take you to the Clinic for yours and all the citizen’s own good.”
Fluttershy didn’t want to go anywhere, she just wanted to go back to Ponyville or wake up, because all of this seemed like a nightmare to her. She couldn’t see the Captain’s expression, but something told her that if she refuses they will take her by force.
She said quietly. The Captain nodded and motioned for his men to help the sick woman stand up. They put their hands under her armpits and pulled up, instantly bringing her to her feet. The Captain stood up and looked at Martha.
“You will have to come with us madam, we all have to be decontaminated in the clinic and get a dose of the cure.”
He said calmly. Martha coughed slightly and nodded as William’s expression turned into a sad one. He couldn’t help but feel guilty for the whole commotion. The falling rain didn’t help his mood either, wetting his clothes constantly. He felt sorry for the sick woman though, as he heard stories about the plague and knew that weepers were brainless animals not people anymore. Martha grabbed William’s hand and waited for the watchmen to get a proper hold of the weeper. Fluttershy simply couldn’t stand straight anymore, the ground under her feet seemed to shake and nausea in her stomach was getting worse. The watchmen took out some kind of kerchiefs and held them against their mouths as they grabbed her by her arms stabilizing the poor woman. With that they started to move towards a district check point. Those were places left after the plague where previously walls of light were. Now they served as City Watch posts and temporary prisons for criminals, until they are picked up by rail transit system.
“Shit, what if we catch it?”
The young watchman asked as they walked, very dissatisfied with the whole situation, holding the weeper tight.
“The plague doesn’t turn you into a weeper instantly. If we catch it Sokolov and Pierro’s formula will get rid of the sickness.”
The other watchman said.
“You better be right Siergiej”
The dissatisfied one replied. They were trying to walk as fast as possible, as the Captain was very tense. There was a whole protocol for what to do in such situation. Holger Square will have to be locked down and decontamination unit will have to sweep it wholly in search of rats and other pests, cleaning them out with special nerve toxin. The sick woman was probably in a very early stage of the plague. He remembered that it took about 48 hour of no treatment to reach the early stadium of being a weeper. Then it developed faster turning a human into a mindless beast. She could be still saved though. Then she will have to be questioned as well as the young boy and the other woman that found the weeper. After few minutes of walking they finally arrived at the City Watch Post. There were no other watchmen here, as the district was actually very calm and didn’t require many forces on each post. The Captain motioned for the group to wait as running he entered the control point booth. Inside there was a new and handy invention, City Watch adopted not long ago. It was a long distance communication device, powered by a small whale-oil cell. With a copper cable it was connected with City Watch central, where every requests and reports were sent. It looked like a small black box with an elongated receiver and a loudspeaker inside. The Captain picked up the receiver hastily, bringing it up to his lips.
“Dispatch, requesting Containment Rail Unit ASAP. We have possible outbreak of Rat Plague. I repeat, possible outbreak of Rat Plague. One weeper found. District lockdown required!”
He said loudly, remembering to speak very coherently. The device distorted the voice a lot.
“Understood Holger East, containment unit sent, T – 5 minutes. Relaying information further.”
The loudspeaker echoed with a distorted, mechanical male voice. The Captain put down the receiver and went out of the booth sighing heavily. This will be a long night. He approached the group.
“A Rail Unit will take us to the Clinic soon. How are you feeling ma’am?”
He asked looking at Fluttershy. The latter had no idea what was happening. The feeling of panic somewhat receded as she felt that all of this had to be only a very weird dream. Her vision got a little worse and some bile was building up in her stomach again. She however was holding it down. Her legs were trembling, and she was standing only thanks to the two watchmen supporting her.
She said weakly. The Captain took out a kerchief and held it against his mouth. It probably wasn’t helping at all, but the common belief that the rat plague won’t get you if you don’t breathe in or breathe through some kind of material was still apparent in most people’s minds. Except for some, like Martha, who herself had the plague once, being in a very advanced stadium. She was cured but her life expectancy was shortened horribly as many of her internal organs were damaged. Especially her lungs, hence the cough. She was staring the sick woman down, some anger and blame in her eyes. She couldn’t help but feel some kind of deeply rooted hate towards such victims of plague. Yes they were sick, yes they were poor, but they still were spreading the disease on others. That’s how she was infected.
“Martha, what will happen to us now?”
William was scared slightly and he just couldn’t help but ask his older sister. The latter came out of her thoughts.
“Nothing much really, we will be taken to a hospital, drink some juice and the nice men from the Watch will ask us some simple questions. Don’t worry Willy.”
She smiled at her brother, who visibly lightened up after this.
Fluttershy was getting very sleepy all of a sudden. She simply couldn’t hold her tiredness in much longer. Yes, sleep would be good. Maybe if she goes to sleep here, she will wake up from this dream, come back to Ponyville?
The Captain saw that the sick woman’s eyes were getting a milky shade to them as they were closing slightly. He cursed under his breath and approached her, grabbing the woman’s shoulders disregarding the fact that he was dealing with the devastating plague again.
“Hey! Don’t go to sleep! Fight it! Do you hear me?!”
He shook the woman. The two other guards were slightly flabbergasted by what was happening.
“Captain, if she’s sleepy why not let her simply take a nap?”
The watchman asked perplexed.
“She’s weak! If she goes to sleep now, her heart may give up completely!”
The younger watchmen looked at each other taking in the situation.
“Hey! What’s your name?! Do you hear me? What’s your name?!”
Fluttershy’s eyes shot open suddenly as the shaking and screaming therapy seemed to take some effect.
“It’s… It’s Flutt-“
She was barely able to put words together. Her vision was getting dark, the light was fading away, as were the sounds.
She finally stammered as blackness consumed her. Her consciousness faded away together with the dream world.
Spike was in a bad mood. He was cleaning up the library today (the upper book shelves to be exact) with accordance to Twilight’s list of to do things. Oh boy was it long. He took down all the books dusting the non-existent dust (It seemed that they were constantly in use and there weren’t many Ponies coming to the library… Was Twilight really reading THIS much?), than he cleaned the shelves and even placed the books back alphabetically. With his work done he could finally use some free time. That is until Twilight came back to the library from her visit at Rarity’s. Seemed the Mares were planning some kind of Slumber Party? Yuk… Well he would go to be honest if Rarity would be there… Ah Rarity… He would give his heart to her, such graceful mare she was. So beautiful, radiating style and charm. Whoops, he got carried away again. Anyway Twilight came and told him to rearrange the books alphabetically but also thematically. And so again he took the books down and was in the process of doing what he was told. Honestly he didn’t see the point. Twilight could really be a pain in the a-… tail sometimes.
“Stupid books… I’ll rearrange you good!”
He said to himself really. The Element of Magic was currently reading (duh) something up in her room. How can somepony do nothing but read and read? Weren’t her eyes hurting or something? Meh… Twilight was simply Twilight. He picked up another three books and climbed the slightly unstable ladder to put them next to the previous ones. He was carefully placing a rather big and heavy one as a knock echoed, so loud that he lost his balance and fell on his back from the ladder. After him naturally some books fell burying him under. He could only wince from some pain and sigh slightly at the situation. It definitely happened too often. The knock was repeated and Twilight’s voice came from upstairs.
She quickly trotted down from her room, wondering who might be in such a hurry to cause a commotion like this. The knock echoed again, even harder this time.
She shouted louder as she approached the door opening them wide. It was Rainbow Dash, breathing sharply. She was covered in sweat and had a horrified expression on her face.
“Rainbow Dash? What’s t-“
She didn’t finish as Rainbow said with seriousness Twilight never saw in the Element of Loyalty before.
“It’s Fluttershy… She’s in hospital! Ponies found her on the train station bruised, covered in dirt and with a broken wing! Everypony is already there! We have to go… NOW!”
Twilight’s eyes went wide. Fluttershy? What could have happened? Something attacked her? Why was she on the train station? All those questions (and more) were buzzing in her mind, but were quickly stopped by the inpatient RD.
“Twilight! Come on!”
Twilight blinked a few times as her horn lightened up.
“Right! We’ll take a shortcut!”
Then she and RD were teleported out of the Library in a flash, leaving the buried and flabbergasted Spike
Meanwhile in the Ponyville Hospital a group of Ponies was standing around a bed. In the bed lied unconscious Fluttershy. She was covered in bandages, as there were some cuts and bruises visible all over her body. Her eyes were closed and squinted as if she was having a bad dream. The yellow mare was also sweating, an indication of fever. Rarity, Applejack and Amethyst Star were there, their expressions ranging from sad to angry at whatever did it to their friend. There was also a doctor right next to the bed of the patient. He was a white stallion dressed in doctor’s coat with a stethoscope over his neck. He had thick black glasses on his eyes. His black mane and tail were solid in color and not quite kempt. He was observing his patient when the door to the room opened up suddenly and both Twilight and RD stormed into it. Everypony looked at the arrivals.
“Finally Twilight. Ahm glad yer here.”
Applejack said with a very serious and angry tone of voice. Rarity remained silent looking at her injured friend sadly.
“What happened and how is she?”
Was the question that came to Twilights mind instantly. Her tone of voice was full of worry.
“Nopony knows. Amethyst Star found her laying on the ground in the middle of the Train Station. She was already in such state. How she ended up there…”
Rarity said silently, not taking her eyes off Fluttershy.
“I don’t know what could have happened to her Twilight. She had to go through a lot…”
Amethyst said, obviously sad.
The doctor on the other hand, cleared his throat.
“As to how she is… She had a broken wing and a cracked rib when she was brought in. Something very heavy had to strike her side. There is also an indication of many smaller physical traumas. Seems to me she had to be in some kind of hoof to hoof combat situation. She also has some cuts on her left hoof and some wooden splinters stuck under her skin. This damage could have been only caused by the patient herself. She had to hit something made out of wood very hard. The amount of force used however is far greater than a mare like her could produce. This is why there is also a slight swelling, as her body was simply not ready for this. She has also a high fever, however… We don’t know why… It resembles a condition known to unicorns as Hollowing”
He explained as calmly as possible
The mares looked at the doctor, their expressions ranged from surprise to a complete shock.
“What do you mean she did it to herself?”
RD asked glaring at the doctor.
“There’s no other explanation to this wound…”
The doctor replied calmly.
“Fluttershy wouldn’t do this to herself!”
RD shouted out, angry. All the mares nodded in agreement, except Twilight who seemed to be in shock.
Twilight suddenly shouted out.
“It’s impossible! She can’t use magic, so how can she have depleted all her reserves of it?!”
She asked angrily.
“I’m really not sure what to tell you… This are the facts…”
He said sadly.
“Twilight? What does it mean? Is it dangerous?”
Rarity asked as if not really wanting to know the answer.
“It… Might be… If the fever won’t go down after 24 hours it can cause permanent damage to her…”
Rarity’s blood was drained from her face. The other mares didn’t look so well either.
The element of generosity asked, fear in her voice.
“She… She can die…”
Twilight said quietly, as some tears formed in her eyes. Reality struck the mares hard. Never in their lives, had they experienced something like this. Death in Equestria was a very rare occurrence as was the Hollowing. There were only a few known cases among unicorns and all of them… Resulted in death… The silence that fell after these words was terrifying, no one dared to break it, as the mares looked to be in a deep state of disbelief and shock… Until…
“E-Empire... Empire of Isles…”
Fluttershy barely whispered, her eyes still closed. She was fever-talking. All the mares immediately came closer to listen, with some hope appearing over their faces.
“D… D-Dunwall… He came… From Dunwall… I am…”
They looked at each other surprised not knowing what this could possibly mean.
“I am The Outsider… I Bring you change…”
She was speaking louder now, her voice changed slightly.
“I sent one being, one man to this stagnant place and he bears my Mark…”
She was speaking clearly now, her voice was doubled. The mares were terrified…
“Twilight?! What’s happening to her?!”
Rarity asked taking a step back, panic was slowly taking over her mind.
“I don’t know!”
The Element of Magic replied similarly terrified and confused.
“Through him the Sun and the Moon will lose their masters…”
Fluttershy’s eyes shot open, but they were completely black…
“He is the bringer of change, the shaper of Fates, the Grim Reaper or the Seed of Life. He carries the destiny of your World and he fights for his freedom…”
Everypony took a step back as Fluttershy slowly sat up looking straight forward with eyes black as coal.
“What will he do with this place, is his decision entirely… No one can control him, no one can stop the wheels of fate. Mark my words mortals as with him I have arrived and I am observing you. I exist outside of Time and Space and both bow before me. Lose all hope those who believe in everlasting status quo, for it is about to end…”
No one was able to move, the fear was paralyzing them. They all felt some gripping coldness and ancient power around them, gluing them to the spot. Nopony dared to speak a word.
“I am the Outsider! And THIS is my MARK!”
Fluttershy looked up at the ceiling. Everypony soon followed. Flames appeared out of nowhere, consuming a part of the ceiling, forming some kind of a mark. Soon they put themselves out and what was left was a symbol unlike any other. A black Mark of the Outsider…
Fluttershy then fell on her back again with eyes closed. They weren’t squinted anymore. There was a silence for a while as everypony was looking at the sign…
“What the BUCK was that?!”
Applejack shouted out, first to break out of shock. Twilight shook her head and then as if remembering something spoke.
“Doctor! How is she now?”
Everypony approached the bed again. The doctor quickly checked Fluttershy’s temperature. It was dropping down.
“Her fever… It’s going down…”
He said amazed and at the same time very confused. Nopony knew exactly what just happened, but the feeling all of them had a moment ago was primal fear. They all seemed to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of power this Outsider had… Whatever this being was, its power had to be tremendous…
“Is she going to be okay, then?!”
Rainbow asked, again with some hope apparent in her voice.
“Yes… Yes I believe she is!”
The doctor answered with a slight smile.
Twilight sighed in relief as did the rest of mares. The question that all had in their mind however was… What the hell happened a second ago, who’s The Outsider and what all of it means?!
“What the buck happened to her?!”
RD asked what was on everypony’s minds.
“I have a theory but it’s ridiculous…”
Twilight answered after a few seconds of thought.
“Any theory is bettah than nothing, Twi!”
Applejack said observing Fluttershy.
“She might have been… possessed…”
RD’s brow rose up
“You mean… Like ghosts?”
She asked not quite believing in what she’s hearing.
“That’s the only thing that makes any sense whatsoever!”
Twilight said out loud placing a hoof on her forehead.
“What I’m worried about though is the part where… This Outsider said ‘Through him the Sun and Moon will lose their masters…’”
The mares blinked in realization.
“Princess Celestia and Princess Luna…”
“Something is coming for them?”
RD asked worried.
“I’m afraid so…”
Twilight sighed. This weren’t good news at all. Whatever was coming for the Princesses if it had just an ounce of the power The Outsider had… The thought of it made Twilight tremble.
“We need to inform the Princesses right away!”
Rarity said firmly.
“We have to get to the library and fast!”
Twilight added, agreeing with Rarity.
“Girls… Where’s Pinkie Pie?”
Applejack asked suddenly, finally realizing something that was amiss for quite a while. The girls looked at themselves worried and then at Rainbow Dash.
“Um… I’ll go get her…”
“Meet us at the Library Rainbow Dash.”
She added with a sigh, as RD nodded storming out of the hospital heading for Sugarcube Corner. As she did this the doctor looked down at the floor, visibly thinking deeply.
“There is also another issue…”
He finally said gaining the attention of all the mares present.
“What is it doctor?”
Twilight asked, as worry again appeared in her voice.
“Fluttershy was found covered in blood… Sompony’s blood…”
The terror and lack of understanding that appeared on Fluttershy’s friends faces was beyond description abilities. Somepony could as well tell them that Fluttershy died…
Twilight stammered. The doctor sighed heavily
“This will have to be explained, when she wakes up. For now be glad that she’s okay. I believe there is a logical and simple explanation to this…”
He said, with Twilight nodding, trying to forget what she just heard.
“We’ll be going then…”
Amethyst Star looked at Twilight, determination and worry in her eyes.
“I’ll stay with Fluttershy… Somepony needs to be at her side when she wakes up. You go inform the Princesses!”
The Elements nodded, as Twilight smiled slightly. All of them then went out of the room, leaving the sleeping Fluttershy, Amethyst Star and the Doctor.
Pinkie thought counting another yellow thing she found in Fluttershy’s cottage. She was so horribly bored and was killing the time simply. Angel on the other hoof was jumping on her back right now, trying to break the weeeird spell. Really freaky. The changeling ran away quite some time ago, but she had no idea what was the time right now. She still couldn’t move however so it had to mean the day didn’t come to an end yet. She would sigh if she could. Never in her life had she to suffer through such a boooring activity. There was simply nothing to do. She tried to free herself several times already, as Angel was helping her. They even tried to use orange juice to free her. It always worked when she was stuck somewhere previously! The way she was bound had to be… DIFFERENTTTT…
She looked to the right… AHA! A yellow book laying on the floor!
She thought happy suddenly. Angel hopped from her back and kicked her in the hoof angrily. Of course she didn’t feel it even. Minutes were passing by as Pinkie was starting to get sleepy from the boredom. It was however dispersed quickly as her Pinkie Sense kicked in. Her left foreleg tried to twitch. She could feel it!
Yay! Somepony is coming!
She thought again trying to smile… Only to fail miserably. Sompony will find her, then they will find the Changeling, get the meanie and discover what it wants! It was a perfect task for Detective Pinkie! Too bad the detective STILL couldn’t move. Minutes were passing by and her savior was still not coming… Was her sense MISTAKEN? Nooo… It was impossible! Sompony was very close… Minutes were passing and then out of nowhere she heard a sound of flapping wings and something tearing through air at neck-breaking speeds. With a thud sompony landed in front of Fluttershy’s Cottage. Pinkie couldn’t wait to see her savior! The door to the hut were opened violently and in the doorstep a familiar figure appeared. It was Rainbow Dash.
“Pinkie? Are you here?”
She asked loudly. The cottage was very dark for some reason. She couldn’t spot a thing and the fact that night was coming quickly didn’t help either.
Pinkie managed to expectorate. Rainbow seemed to hear this as she entered the cottage further. Her eyes soon adapted to the ever-present darkness only to spot… Pinkie Pie… Frozen in one spot in an unnatural position. Next to her a tired bunny was resting. His chest was going up and down as he was breathing in and out heavily.
RD quickly approached the frozen party pony. Pinkie seemed to be unable to move whatsoever. Only her eyes were darting from left to right, showing any kind of response. Her body however was covered tightly in some kind of transparent energy. Discharges of black electricity sometimes came through her body, threatening to damage anything that was close enough to her. This energy formed a cocoon that prevented the pink menace from moving whatsoever.
“What the buck…?”
RD said quietly, shocked and disoriented… Who could have done this? Why was Pinkie paralyzed by MAGIC in the middle of Fluttershy’s cottage? What the HELL was going on HERE?!
RD quickly came close to Pinkie and tried to touch the latter with her hoof. Body of the Element of Laughter wasn’t different than normal. It was in fact soft as usual but somehow different. RD couldn’t quite put her hoof on it.
“Pinkie! Can you hear me?”
She shouted out at the Pink mare.
The party pony replied barely. RD shook her head, it was obviously beyond her comprehension. She had to get the eggh-… Twilight here.
“Don’t move Pinkie! I’ll be back with Twilight and we’ll get you free!”
RD said hastily and left the cottage as fast as possible. Pinkie tried to sigh, but of course no sound came out of her shut mouth.
The Train was moving slowly and every single roughness of the railway could be felt by the Lord Protector. He was now sitting up on the roof of the crooked train, deep in thought. Events of last few hours were playing inside his head over and over again. He was wondering if the decisions he made were right or if they were even relevant. This World seemed to be such an impossible place, he was simply not ready to believe in its reality. Jessamine convinced him further, as holding the knowledge of the Void she herself was unable to completely distinguish this place as real. There was a problem however. Attano knew how killing a creature felt… How did ripping the muscles and tissue of a living being felt like, he could remember the coppery smell of blood, the rush of adrenaline and the low resistance someone’s throat could present against a sharp blade. He knew how a victim with slit throat behaved, how long did it take her to fall down to the ground and loose life fully. He was aware of the fact that every time he took a life some part of his soul died also. The feeling of emptiness grew stronger as has coldness and resistance to emotion. Those horses he killed… Back then he was so sure they were simply made up by The Outsider, an illusion made to test his resolve. An obstacle to be conquered. Now however, as he remembered the scene, he knew… The moment he slit the throat of the taller bully he could again smell the copper, feel the emptiness… The pony’s soft throat felt way too real. Did he just kill innocents? Innocent sentient horses that weren’t guilty of any major crime? Did he take an innocent life because he thought it couldn’t be possibly real? It’s true, they left him with little choice, but still the course of action bothered the Lord Protector quite a lot. He took life very seldom, only if it was an absolute necessity.
“You’re thinking about those two bullies, aren’t you?”
Jessamine whispered quietly. Her voice was full of scorn however.
“Yes… Yes I am… What if this World is real after all?”
He said, also quietly.
“Corvo… This World is not yours and not for you to protect… You are the Lord Protector of Dunwall. Even if it is real do you really believe those two deserved to exist further? What did you see in their eyes?”
Jessamine asked seriously, her tone of voice was cooler than usual.
“Cruelty… Cruelty, evil and pettiness… The same eyes High Overseer Campbell had…”
He answered, after some thought.
“What’s the difference between them and Dunwall thugs or High Overseer Campbell that tried to hurt real innocents?”
There was a moment of silence in which Corvo thought deeply…
“I don’t know…”
He answered finally.
“There is none Corvo… This World may be stagnate, may be in peace all the time, but it still has its darkness, deeply rooted. They are not so different from us. Given the circumstances they would be able to hurt those that are pure.”
She said firmly.
“Who am I to judge who deserves to die and who doesn’t?”
He asked as some guilt still stung him unpleasantly.
“If you won’t judge… Who will Corvo? On the path we are taking, this choice will come many times. Fate shows that you are more than capable of deciding.”
Empress answered with deep belief in her voice.
“You have to realize that our goal is far more important than lives of two pathetic thugs. You allowed scum such as Campbell to live because you were given a choice. Here however… You did only what was necessary in the given circumstances. You made a decision that secured your ability to fulfill the mission. I believe it was the right choice, as you protected a real innocent at the same time. Any more powerful ability could damage both you and the yellow pony.”
She added. Corvo lowered his head slightly.
“I felt no hesitation back then… Don’t you find it disturbing Empress?”
He asked sincerely.
“I believe your lack of hesitation comes from the fact that deep down you know the value of what we are fighting for Corvo and that you cannot fail... You made your decision instantly when this goal was threatened. Your resolve is strong, because you know that we are fighting for our souls Corvo, for you to meet Emily again. The love you two share is worth much more than the stability of some unreal Kingdom to me… And to you…”
The Heart said making Corvo nod. She was right, but this was not the whole truth. It wasn’t only about freedom. Corvo was afraid of what could happen in a case of failure. If he fails Jessamine will be trapped in her state for eternity. The Outsider is unpredictable and he also might do something to Emily on a whim. Attano couldn’t allow that, he simply couldn’t afford to fail. In the end he was unable to put the good of a possibly unreal place over two people he loved the most. He wasn’t ready to pay the price. With the further high possibility of this being a simple test… He felt a sudden burst of anger. He was a plaything for the trickster, nothing more than a curiosity and all his decisions were a way to amuse this supernatural being. No… He had to end it as fast as possible, without giving the bastard his entertainment.
“Real or not, this ends today!”
He said loudly, resolve hard as steel. His fists clenched. Again however a pinch of guilt appeared. The fastest way to end this was to take lives and this didn’t sit well with Corvo. He was actually disgusted by the thought. Killing felt very real here… Too real…
“Princess Luna and Princess Celestia… Rulers of this peaceful land and I’m sent to end their reign for someone’s amusement. They are not guilty of anything and the fastest way to freedom is slitting their throats… There has to be a better way…”
Corvo whispered waived.
“Corvo… There is something you must know… I believe our time is little on this mission…”
The Empress said sadly.
“What do you mean Jessamine?”
He asked, curious
“My soul… It’s weakening every minute… I feel myself and my memories drifting away…”
She said timidly. There was a pause.
“Why haven’t you told me of this earlier?”
Corvo asked angrily.
“I… Didn’t want this to distract you…”
She said quietly.
“We have to end this as fast as possible then… And this means bloodshed…”
He said, he’s voice determined but disgusted.
“There are no innocent rulers Corvo. Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely…"
Jessamine’s voice became sad as she said this. Corvo raised his head hearing his Empress’s tone of voice.
“Does… Does this also apply to you Jessamine?”
He asked unsure. There was a moment of silence.
She finally said, voice shaky. Corvo was slightly taken aback by this. What could she possibly have in mind?
“There… There are things that are better left buried in the past my Lord Protector. I believe to keep this amount of peace and stability the rulers of this land had to do something… Something that left a deep scar in them, something that was forgotten but gives them nightmares even today.”
The silence that fell was only broken by the sounds of train wheels.
“Does this justify ending their lives?”
Corvo finally broke the silence. Some amount of disdain in his voice.
“It doesn’t… Sometimes however you have to do things that are conflicting with your morals…”
Jessamine answered timidly, hearing the disgust in Corvo’s voice.
“I won’t be able to do it Empress… Unless…”
He stopped short.
Jessamine asked again keeping the timid tone of voice.
“Unless you give the order your Majesty…”
He said seriously. Jessamine knew that if ordered Corvo would do even the most unspeakable things. There were definitely other ways to end the reign of the rulers of this land, but Jessamine felt they had little time… And if her soul was weakening, it was possible that Corvo’s was also… There was silence again until…
“I, Empress Jessamine Kaldwin of the Empire of Isles order you my Lord Protector to end the lives of this world’s rulers…”
She said with high amount of authority. If Corvo couldn’t carry the guilt, she will… Another short pause. Corvo lowered his head in sort of a bow.
“Yes, your Highness…”
He answered. As he raised his head he could see towers of a castle and a big city in the distance. The sun has set and there was night. The darkness covered the World, but did nothing to hinder Corvo’s sight. He saw the yellow auras on the ground of Canterlot, probably in the houses. In a few minutes they will reach their destination. Most of the auras were immobile, probably ponies asleep. There were however few walking slowly through the city. Corvo quickly came to a conclusion that those had to be guards. He stood up to his full height managing to easily hold his balance, despite the wagon jumping up sometimes on the unevenness of the railway. The city was getting bigger. He could see some details now. There was a simple train station in the distance. Two yellow auras were apparent near it, facing each other. As he concentrated more he could catch some words being said. They were probably having conversation then. Attano cracked his neck and prepared for advancement through the large city. After a few minutes the train passed first few buildings. Many yellow auras inside them. He didn’t pay much attention though and crouched down ready to jump off the train when it stops. He passed a few more buildings, some alleys and a few main roads. He saw a few citizens and guards walking by. The latter were easily distinguished as they were wearing some kind of armor. The train however passed them quickly, leaving the creatures behind.
Finally he felt the train slowing down and then a sharp pull as its breaks were engaged. Some sparks came out of its wheels as Corvo took a deep breath. Finally the train stopped. Attano took a look around, still in a crouching position and immediately spotted the two Ponies he saw from the distance. They were indeed talking, seemed like train station workers though as they weren’t wearing any armor.
“And then I just sighed and went out. Seriously what can you say to something like this?! Oh hold on, last train arrived. I wonder if somepony actually takes it… ever…”
The door to most wagons weren’t opened and Corvo knew that the only wagon that had someone in it was the one he was standing on. It was a Unicorn of some sorts, but again Attano paid little attention, waiting for the horse to get out. The two workers started walking along the train checking doors and other things one by one. His wagon’s door shot open and a young mare walked out looking around as if she was for the first time here.
“Canterlot! I can’t believe I’m here! Wow!”
Her voice was full of joy. She had some saddlebags on her back and was simply radiating happiness.
“Oh! Somepony actually rode the train! Ha! You owe me 5 bits Bright!”
One of the workers shouted out as they approached Corvo’s wagon. The other looked rather disappointed. The young mare giggled at the statement and started walking towards the road leading from the station, into the city. She soon disappeared around the corner. Corvo stood up and took out the crossbow. Sleeping bolts loaded. With a simple movement of his body he jumped down on the ground just behind the two workers. They heard the thud and turned around. First they had slightly confused expressions, which soon turned into those of complete terror. The creature before them was a thing of worst nightmares. It’s mechanical face and soulless eyes only worsened the state of the Ponies. It was holding something in its claws. The dim light from gas lanterns didn’t help the whole situation either, making the shadows around the creature dance.
One of the workers stammered silently. They were not moving.
“Who… W-What is this?...”
The braver one finally said… Barely…
“I’m your worst nightmare.”
The creature stated and pointed the weird object at them. A silent swish was heard and the braver worker fell down to the ground, asleep. The other’s instincts kicked in as he was about to scream and run away but Corvo’s crossbow was a technological marvel really. It had an autoloader. With inhuman precision he quickly pointed the weapon on the other Pony and pressed the trigger. Another swish and another thud.
“Corvo… Was this really necessary?”
Jessamine asked with slight disappointment in her voice.
“I had to know if the sleeping bolts work against those creatures…”
He replied somewhat innocently.
“And what about ‘I’m your worst nightmare’ part?”
She asked again, more firmly. Corvo simply shrugged to that…
“Got carried away I guess.”
He replied after a moment. Jessamine just sighed.
Corvo took a look around. The train station was kind of an open one, not a closed building so there were many roads leading out of it. Logic dictated that the rulers of a land would be in a place that sticks out from standard buildings, probably a castle or mansion. The City itself somewhat remained Corvo of medieval times, as it was surrounded with a stone wall. As Corvo looked up he spotted what he was looking for though. In the distance he saw towers that were a part of greater construction. This was definitely the spot. Slowly he started walking down the road. Dim lights of the gas lanterns poorly dispersed the darkness, making Corvo look like a prowling beast. He could see the yellow auras of patrolling guards. It was very simple to maneuver out of their way, with many side roads and alleys at his disposal. There weren’t many patrols at all. However as he proceeded towards the castle, Corvo noticed that the density of patrols was getting annoyingly higher. He stopped near a two story tenement house which was connected with another one. It was located on crossroads of two stone roads, probably main ones. Around the corner, through the wall he could see two guards coming. With supernatural agility he jumped up on the second story balcony of the house and then again on its roof. He crouched down and took a closer look at the guards that just turned around the corner and passed the place he stood in just seconds ago at. He was getting closer to the castle now.
There were patrols of pegasi in the sky now also. Fortunately he was virtually invisible to them, through the thick darkness. Corvo was opting for not using many supernatural abilities during this phase. He was planning to end his mission very fast and use his most powerful ability yet, when he reaches the rulers. Call it conserving energy. Unfortunately for him the distance between this house and another one on the other side of the main road was far too great to simply jump through. The road was also lit better than the side alleys he was using up until now. He looked around again thinking of what to do next. The city itself seemed very unnatural to the human. It was very clean and quiet, as if its night life was almost non-present. There was absolutely no trash on the roads, no rats, no pests and other such things. There were no petty criminals walking through the streets looking for trouble. No winos sitting in the corner, drinking cheap whiskey. No shady dealers offering illegal merchandise in the back alleys of the city. Also its colors, even in the dark seemed way too bright. It all seemed… Utopian…
“This is somehow… Disturbing…”
“It is… But there is something shadowy hidden under this whole trimming of perfection…”
Jessamine said worried. The heart suddenly let out a beat
“I can feel it… Something down, underground, hidden from curious eyes…”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m not here to uncover secrets.”
Corvo replied coldly. The guards were in constant patrol motion and there was almost no space to sneak between, but he will have to run across the road to the other side. There was no other option here. He will have to take down a few of them to create a hole in the security. Seconds were passing by as he counted them, waiting for the guards to come back through their patrol route. Soon they appeared again, walking casually, without any worry. Corvo looked up seeing a yellow aura appearing in the sky. A Pegasus guard was flying over the road. Attano came up with an idea and pointed the crossbow up waiting for the perfect timing.
He whispered to himself. Soon the Pegasus was nearly over the guards down on the road. With perfect precision, Corvo fired the crossbow. Silent swish broke the silence and then the Pegasus suddenly lost his balance and altitude fast. The two guards on the ground looked up with some amount of shock on their faces. They realized it was too late for any reaction as the Pegasus fell down directly at them with a thud and sound of cracking bones. A heap of hooves formed as they all laid on the ground sprawled about.
“What the hell?!”
One of them shouted out, feeling pain all over his body as he laid on the ground under the rather heavy Pegasus.
Corvo said to himself as he jumped down from the roof with a heavy thud. The lights showed his full silhouette. The guards heard the sound, but were far too busy getting the sleeping Pegasus from their backs. Attano didn’t waste a second. He quickly stood up and ran fast across the street. He had little time as already he saw another yellow aura in the sky about to fly over the street. Sprinting he ran across the road and just in time. The Pegasus’s Field of Vision swept it the moment Lord Protector hid himself under a marquee of the building. He breathed in deeply and waited a moment. The Pegasus guard landed, seeing the heap made out of three other guards on the ground. On the left end of the building there was a small alley leading between this house and another one. It was much better than going through the lit up road. Back against the house Corvo moved quickly towards the alley, merging with the darkness. It was a dead end, a brick wall closing its connection with the street on the other side. There were some dumpsters standing next to the wall. Corvo looked up measuring the height of the house. With cat’s grace he jumped up on the brick wall that reached about the first story of the building and separated the alley from the main street. He kept his balance perfectly and felt a surge of energy. It was a long time since he did such stunts and it felt great. He made another jump and grabbed the edge of the roof, quickly pulling himself up. Within seconds he was on the roof. The density of patrols fortunately ceased to increase, but there was still little space to maneuver whatsoever. They were almost everywhere, every time walking through the roads in groups of minimum two and soaring through the skies. He had to wait for the Pegasi to be far away enough from his position to make a jump to another building possible. It might have been dark, but they were flying low enough and could spot him while he was in motion. They seemed to be moving around in circling motions, as if securing single quadrants. The security was very heavy indeed and it was starting to look suspicious.
“Why do they need so many guards? It is as if they are expecting an attack…”
Corvo finally asked, some annoyance in his voice.
“This place was under attack not so long ago. I believe the security is only a response to that, an additional measure.”
Jessamine whispered. Corvo pondered that over for a while. The distance between him and a brightly lit square in front of the castle wasn’t great. He had to take a few jumps over the low buildings and then move across the square in which a lot of flora was present. It seemed to be some sort of a garden. Then there was a tall gate, richly decorated, an entrance to the castle without doubt. Of course the whole square was densely patrolled. Corvo looked up and counted the seconds that took the Pegasus to fly around his route and above the Lord Protector. He waited patiently for the proper moment and as the Pegasus started to turn around Attano started to sprint. He reached the edge of the roof and took a long jump across the much narrower street. He landed safely on the other roof, barely producing any sound. He stopped in a crouching position checking if he wasn’t heard or seen. His timing was perfect and the guards were still continuing their routine as if nothing happened. He repeated that a few times, until the last house was reached. In front of him the square was present. It looked truly magnificent with many stone paths cutting through it and a beautiful fountain in the middle. The amount of yellow auras here was far too great to simply walk through, but fortunately he was somewhat prepared for that.
With that he turned into white mist that traveled around the lit square, stopping in a dark corner and solidifying into flesh… Waiting…
“We’re under attack!”
A shout came from the main street. A Pegasus soon landed in front of the gate guards, his eyes widened, he was obviously scared. The two gate guards looked at each other shocked
They shouted out in unison
“Probably, something knocked out one of our patrolling Pegasus, with some kind of dart! We are already increasing security and sweeping the streets! There are reports of a shadow moving on the roofs of Canterlot buildings… Most dismissed it as an illusion, but this dart shows it’s obviously not. The Captain has been already informed and so were the Princesses.”
He said on one breath.
“What are our orders?”
They asked worriedly.
“Stay alert! There are additional guards on their way. Whatever is this shadow, it probably will try to enter the castle!”
They both nodded, sweat appearing on their brows. The situation was becoming really tight. With that the Pegasus flew away. Corvo could see that the yellow auras were moving more chaotically now, no longer relaxed. He took out his crossbow and loaded an explosive bolt. He aimed at the fountain and steadily pressed down the trigger. A silent swish was heard and then… A loud explosion tore down the upper part of the fountain, debris flying in all directions.
“What on Celestia was that?!”
Someone shouted from the other part of the square, as the clang of hoofs against the stone path could be heard. The guards were gathering around the fountain.
The gate guards watched the thing happen with jaws hung open. Soon however the shock passed as they also quickly made their way towards the destroyed fountain. About 8 guards gathered there looking for any sign of the intruder.
Corvo turned into white mist, using the distraction to his advantage he seeped under the gate and into the castle itself.
Rainbow Dash pushed the Library door in a hurry, entering the tree quickly. All the Elements were there. They all agreed to meet here after finding Pinkie after all.
“So where is she, Rainbow?”
Twilight asked a little worried.
“She’s… Umm… Paralyzed…”
RD answered unsure how to put into words what she has seen.
“What?! What do you mean paralyzed? Where did you find her?”
Twilight shouted out in shock.
“I don’t know, okay?! I found her at Fluttershy’s! She wasn’t in Sugarcube Corner and the Cakes are out of town so I just started to search in places that she could have been into!”
RD answered angrily.
“Is she fine, darling?”
“Yeah, she’s alive all right, just can’t move. Somepony used weird powers on her I guess.”
“We’ll go help her, but now we have to inform the Princesses as fast as possible!”
She said loudly. All the mares agreed on this one. Of course they felt bad for leaving Pinkie like that, but this was simply far more essential.
“Err… I don’t know how to tell you this girls…”
Spike suddenly said as he came down from the upper floor…
“Did you send the message Spike?”
Twilight asked, somewhat not wanting to believe that something could have gone wrong and the Princesses were not informed.
“I can’t… The letter simply won’t go through!”
There was a moment of silence…
“No… But… I forgot!”
Twilight put hoofs on her head an expression of panic on her face.
“What did ye forget Twi?”
Applejack asked surprisingly calm.
“The barrier! The Princesses keep an anti-magic barrier, so that nothing magical can come through it!”
Twilight was on the verge of tears.
“Calm down sugarcube! How did ye send Friendship reports then if this barrier was up?”
AJ again asked calmly.
“I… Gave them personally…”
The fact dawned upon the Element of Magic. AJ nodded.
“I’ll teleport near Canterlot right away! The Princesses must know!”
AJ, Rarity and Rainbow Dash agreed with this.
“We’ll go to Fluttershy’s cottage and see how we can help Pinkie then, the poor girl…”
Rarity added as they all looked at Twilight.
“Okay! I’ll meet you at Fluttershy’s then! Off I go!”
Her horn lit up brightly as she concentrated and then with a bright flash, Twilight was gone
She appeared directly in front of Canterlot entrance gate. Immediately she noticed that something was wrong. The guards were galloping through the streets, as if searching for something and there was far more of them than usual. Something happened… Did she come too late?! Twilight felt a pinch of dread as she approached the entrance to the magnificent city. Two guards were standing on both sides on the entrance. One was a tall, muscular stallion. His coat was black as night, as was his mane and tail. The golden armor was reflecting the rays of moon somewhat, making the guard look a little monstrous. He would definitely fit night guard role better. His blue eyes however showed layers of good and honesty, Twilight rarely saw. The guards immediately stopped her.
“The city is under lockdown! Nopony is allowed to enter or exit as of now!”
The taller stallion said with a deep voice. Twilight looked at him with plead in her eyes.
“Please! I have to inform the Princesses! Something is coming for them! Something very powerful…”
The stallion stared her down and then as if remembering something, his gaze softened.
“Wait, you’re Twilight Sparkle! The Element of Magic!”
He stated, to which Twilight only nodded vigorously.
“What is happening?”
She asked finally.
“We’re under attack by an unknown entity. Captain Shining Armor identified the threat as a Changeling attack!”
Twilight shook her head in disagreement.
“It’s no changeling… It something much worse…”
She almost whispered.
“What do you mean?”
The black stallion asked somewhat perplexed.
“I have information, that something much worse is attacking Canterlot! Please, the Princesses must know! Can you take me to them?”
She asked with determination. The stallion lowered his head in thought and after a few
seconds he turned to the other guard.
“Citrine, test her…”
The other guard was a short unicorn mare without helmet. Her long red mane was unkempt and covered half of her face. Her coat resembled gold. She truly was beautiful. Citrine looked at Twilight somewhat distrusting as her horn lit up.
Twilight asked feeling again a pinch of dread. The Unicorn’s horn shot out a small ray of magical energy that struck Twilight. The latter felt nothing as the ray failed to produce any effect.
Citrine said monotonously.
“A test to see if you’re a changeling… Which you passed. Come Twilight, I’ll take you to the Princesses. Stay alert Citrine.”
Twilight visibly lightened up as both her and the tall stallion started to gallop towards the castle.
I just need a little more time…
The Element of Magic thought in full gallop
Corvo was in the castle. Immediately after he seeped through the door he knew that there were two guards on both sides of the entrance. Without sound he solidified into his flesh form. The guards were oblivious to the danger that stood behind them. One of them even managed to let out a yawn. Both were stallions, white at that, looking shockingly similar to each other with some blue manes sticking out of their golden helmets. Corvo however had no time to pay attention to such small details. Silently he took out two sleeping bolts, holding one in each hand. The guards were in arm length reach. Slowly he started walking forward, as his heavy boots made two stamping sounds. The stallions heard this and turned their heads in the direction immediately spotting the terrifying intruder. The latter however was just between them and as they opened their mouths, he rammed the two sleeping bolts into their necks, one for the guard on his left and one for the pony on his right. They both fell to the ground, asleep as the toxin took immediate effect. Attano looked around, trying to spot something with his supernatural senses. There were many yellow auras of course, on different floors of the castle, but most of them looked the same. This floor was surprisingly emptier, except for the two guards he just took down there weren’t many auras walking around. The forces of the guard were probably redirected to the city to search for the intruder. He was in a long and wide corridor decorated with many banners and made out of white marble. There were different paintings and some other decorations along it, but also a red carpet. The corridor led to a big hall from which stone stairs led to the next level of the castle. Two other corridors connected with the hall led to different parts of the structure. The richly decorated room was empty however. Corvo knew also that no one was coming, as there were no auras moving towards his position. He looked up and… There it was… Two unique auras, slightly taller than others, possessing both wings and horns. They were one floor above him. He started his advance taking a turn into left corridor
Twilight and the tall guard reached the Royal Castle quite fast. The commotion and search for the intruder was in its peak, many Pegasi flying around looking through roofs and towers. All the citizens were ordered to stay in their homes. They passed the ruined fountain and stopped in front of the gate that led to a familiar place. The two gate guards gave them some unfriendly looks.
“This is Twilight Sparkle and she believes that the Princesses are in grave danger and not from changelings…”
The tall guard said. The gate guards on the other hand looked at each other slightly waived.
“Please! They have to be prepared! They have to know it’s no changeling!”
She said pleadingly, worry and fear in her voice.
“The Princesses already know of the danger. They are both in the Throne room, as Princess Celestia said ‘This time we will face the changelings together’”
Twilight’s eyes widened as she realized something.
“What happened to the fountain?”
She asked worriedly.
“We’re not sure… It just suddenly exploded… Magical burst maybe?”
Twilight’s brows furrowed in thought. Then she raised her head up, again fear apparent in her eyes
“It didn’t simply explode! It was a distraction! The creature is already in the castle!”
She shouted on top of her lungs. The guards reacted immediately, opening the gate wide. What they saw confirmed Twilight’s fear. Two guards on the other side were laying on the floor asleep with the same bolts in their necks, that the first Pegasus had. One of the gate guards quickly ran through the square alerting other forces to get back to the castle. Twilight, the black Stallion and the other guard on the other hand quickly stormed into the Royal Castle, heading for the throne room. They took a left turn on the stairs, passed a corridor, reached another set stairs, again went up and then stopped in front of big double door, that were opened wide. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were standing there, looking healthy and fine. They just had threatening expressions on their faces, not very content with the whole ordeal. They spotted the visitors and their expressions softened slightly.
“Twilight Sparkle? What are you doing here under such circumstances? I would gladly welcome you, but as you can see we have a slight changeling problem. One managed to penetrate our barrier undetected and is currently probably on his way here, thinking he can defeat us both…”
Celestia said softly. Twilight sighed in relief. Seeing her mentor fine calmed her tarnished nerves somewhat…
“Princesses! The thing coming for you is not a changeling! It is something much worse, a servant to something called ‘The Outsider’! And it’s in the castle!”
Twilight said quickly, dread in her voice.
Luna asked perplexed.
“What is this you speaketh of, Twilight Sparkle?”
She asked further, with her sister nodding, also not knowing what might it be.
“I… I’m not sure what it is, but it possessed Fluttershy! We all were in the hospital… She started talking through her fever, and then her eyes turned black… There is no logical explanation to this! The power it radiated and the fear we all felt back there was unlike anything I ever experienced… It also left a mark on the hospital ceiling, telling us that it is it’s symbol and it’s watching us now… It also told us that ‘The moon and the Sun will lose their masters…’”
Celestia raised a brow to this.
“Fluttershy is in hospital? Possession?”
She asked taken aback by all this. Celestia knew that Twilight was nopony to think of ridiculous lies like that and she made a whole trip to Canterlot just to warn them of the danger. They would be foolish to ignore this. Also why was Fluttershy in hospital?
“I understand Twilight, I trust you… But why is your friend in a hospital?”
Celestia asked worriedly.
“We don’t know what happened exactly… Amethyst Star found her near the train station, bruised with a broken wing and a fever. I was scared that… That she might die, the doctor said she had the same symptoms as unicorns after the Hollowing… After the possession ended though, her fever went down and she is on a straight path to recovery!”
Twilight mustered a smile.
“She was attacked?”
Celestia asked angrily.
“I believe so…”
The Princess narrowed her eyes.
“Who would dare attack my little Ponies?”
Twilight felt small suddenly. She could feel the anger of her mentor and it was truly scary.
“I think… It might be the same thing that is in the castle right now.”
She answered somewhat quietly.
“Don’t worry Twilight, whatever it is it has to be foolish to challenge me and my sister alone with my best student at our side. It won’t be even able to come close to us.”
Celestia stated matter-of-factly. Twilight nodded unsure. It was true, the Princesses were very powerful and not many could match that power. Actually none could match their power, with the exception of Discord maybe. Whatever this creature was, it either had no idea what it will face, or… Was on the same power levels. The latter was a ludicrous idea though. Maybe Twilight had nothing to worry about after all? Maybe all of them acted under the influence of this horrible fear they felt when facing The Outsider?
The guards approached their rulers and bowed deeply.
“I beg your forgiveness your Highnesses, but we were concerned for your safety. Would you agree for some Royal Guards guarding you at all times?”
One of them asked. Celestia only smiled.
“Very well, we will have to catch the creature when it shows itself before us, after all.”
Twilight smiled slightly. She was glad nothing has happened, a thing still remained however. This creature will show up eventually and all of them have to be cautious.
Twilight’s ear perked up slightly, did she just hear something? She looked up, the ceiling above her crumbled as it turned into ash, that fell slowly on her nose. A hole appeared that could easily allow a muscular stallion to pass through. Her eyes went wide as she processed what was happening. She saw a moving shadow above her. Celestia and Luna looked up also spotting the phenomenon, as their horns were about to light up, but…
The creature whispered first and the Time itself obeyed. Celestia blinked and was about to cast an immobilizing spell as she suddenly felt a pressure against her throat. Something cold was pushing on hard against it.
Luna was also casting a spell, which was supposed to blind the creature. Then she felt a cold round object pressing at her temple. She looked to the left with her eyes, without moving her head. Celestia did the same.
They saw a bipedal creature, fully dressed in a black, long coat with a leather hood covering its lowered head. Both Princesses saw that its arms were spread and the thing pressing against Celestia’s throat was in fact a long, sharp, silver blade. Luna on the other hoof had some kind of object pressed against her head. It looked like a miniature cannon and they understood that its purpose was probably the same. Then another horrid realization dawned upon them. They had no time to cast any spell now… Twilight managed to turn around, just to see her mentor and her mentor’s sister looking at a nightmarish monster that stood between them, they were not moving. Twilight noticed that the monster had a familiar mark on its left paw. It definitely was The Outsider’s servant then. The long silver blade’s purpose became clear to Twilight. She immediately understood what could happen in a few moments. Both Princesses on the other hand for the first time since very long felt something cold making its way down their throats. This feeling, of not being able to do anything, of failure and being on the verge of existence… It was fear…
Twilight’s lips trembled as her eyes begun to be filled with tears slowly.
The creature raised its head up. All the Ponies present now knew, it was a true monster, as it had no face. The guards wanted to storm in and help, but were afraid that any movement will end in tragedy. The monster’s glass eyes clicked a few times as it swept the room with its hellish sight.
It said quietly as its grip tightened around the blade and the miniature cannon. Twilight was crying now as the Princesses eyes went wide from the horror and realization, that it was the end.
The Element of Magic screamed in sorrow. Crying she extended her hoof towards the Princesses desperately