Lavender "Dinky" Doo hated colts.
Well, not quite all colts.
She thought that Featherweight and Truffle Shuffle from school were pretty cool. Pipsqueak with his awesome accent was a good friend. She could even get along with Rumble, even though he was a little too boisterous for her tastes. Hay, even Snips and Snails were okay. They told funny jokes that always made her laugh.
But the coltfriends her mother brought home were something else entirely.
It wasn't her mommy's fault. She was just tired of being a lonely, overworked, single mother all the time. The family would do well with a stallion in the household. None of the colts mommy dated were good enough for a mare like Ditzy.
The first one just wanted somepony to do all of his housework for him. He'd ordered her mother around endlessly, proclaiming that if she really loved him, she'd help him out a little. Ditzy had ended up cleaning the entire house by herself (though her daughter did at least try to help) from top to bottom. It had taken Dinky a week, two days, and five hours to convince her mother that she wasn't just somepony's housemaid.
Coltfriend number two had not been after Ditzy's working capabilities, but her money. Dinky's mommy slaved away at a difficult job all day for just enough to support the two of them and a little extra for a "rainy day," as her mommy put it. Dinky had caught him with his hoof in the money jar they kept on the mantle. The stallion had required twenty-four stitches and two plaster casts when the diminutive filly was finished with him.
The third stallion had seemed nice enough. He'd given Dinky's mommy a dozen roses on their first date, and the filly had gotten a brand new toy! Dinky had thought he might be the one who'd be the perfect match for her mother, but something kept nagging at the corner of her mind. There was something odd about him... Two days after the lovebirds' third date, the stallion had been revealed as a changeling.
Eight stallions later, and Ditzy was still trying. Dinky knew her mommy had been sad and lonely ever since her daddy had ...gone away... and there was only two ponies living in the house now. Dinky missed her daddy, but not nearly as much as her mommy did. Daddy had ...left... before dinky had gotten the chance to really know him. The little filly knew she had to be strong, strong for her mother.
And so, Dinky decided to take thing into her own hooves.
Her first attempt was a collaboration with the rough and rowdy Rumble. Both of them agreed that Thunderlane would be a great coltfriend for Dinky's mommy.
One awkward date later, and Thunderlane and Ditzy Doo were no longer a couple. (Thankfully, they remained friends.) Rumble and Dinky swore to never speak of it again.
Dinky and the Cutie Mark Crusaders tried their collective hooves at matchmaking, specifically Apple Bloom's brother, Big Macintosh. To put it lightly, Big Mac's blush was visible through his apple-red coat.
The unicorn filly began growing desperate. Each of her mommy's coltfriends was worse than the last, and Dinky herself was having no success. Operation Noteworthy failed abysmally, resulting in six escaped chickens and an overturned cabbage stall. Even worse, if possible, was the attempt with Fireball. Dinky learned even more inappropriate words than fillies twice her age. But the worst one of all was the date with Narcissus. She should've known that the egotistical stallion would have no interest in a modest mare such as her mother.
Dinky's frustration at her own inability and futility began to turn violent. She quickly developed an arsenal of destructive spells that ranged from incendiary to concussive. The trees in the clearing behind her house were scarred from blast upon blast from a filly who was too ineffective to even earn her own cutie mark- with the power she now easily slung around, she should have definitely gotten a mark in devastating spell-casting.
On one particular day that Dinky had returned to her training clearing, she had been dangerously close to erupting into flames. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had been particularly vicious with their insults, and the teacher had done nothing but stand by and watch. It had taken every ounce of her preciously little willpower not to disintegrate the pair of bullies on the spot. To make matters worse, the CMC couldn't come to play with her, and her mommy's snide coltfriend was coming to dinner with them. Dinky couldn't stand the holier-than-thou expression he constantly wore around her. Oh, he never showed that face to Dinky's mommy, but the little filly understood his intentions well. If he ended up moving in like the grown-ups planned, then Dinky's life would be comparable to that of a cursed soul in the Underworld.
With a wrathful yet adorable shriek, the filly blew a hole the size of a hoofball clean through a tree trunk. She was furious, which only served to further her devastating power. Enough branches to thatch half of her house were incinerated in the blink of an eye, turned to ash in a powerful magic beam.
With every blast, the rage in Dinky increased. The filly didn't even notice as her mane and tail began smoking alarmingly. With an alarmong FWOOM!, golden flames spontaneously combusted around her, engulfing her in waves of arcane fire.
The edges of Dinky's sight became shrouded in the same buttercup-yellow as her magic. Her furious scream became all but inaudible over the maelstrom of magic that boiled around her. A sphere of energy burst from her horn, enveloping her fiery form. Rings of magic so destructive that archmages could but dream of circled around her at a brutal velocity, sawing easily through any obstacle they encountered, whether it was stone or tree trunk.
Dinky felt a burning, all-consuming rage sweep her away. She felt helpless at her inability to help her own mother, and that helplessness quickly morphed into anger that burned brighter than the sun. She felt intense hatred for those who mocked and belittled her. She was incensed at her own weakness, furiously enraged because she could do no more than accept her unkind fate, the fate of her mother.
Her vengeance burned bright, the irascible ire against those who would dare break her mother's heart. They deserved to die. All of them. They all deserved to burn in her unquenchable fire, burn until nothing remained. They were nothing. They knew no pain like that her mother had felt, grief that had torn her heart in two, leaving her a broken shell of the mare she had once been. And this... scum... would rip her apart in a moment, for what?! A few bits?! Extra hooves around the house?! The vile pests. Her animosity defied all words that would come to her, save for three:
A blast of golden fire, burning as hot as the unicorn who had cast it, blazed forward, catching anything, anything that dared stand in its way. Anything and everything erupted into brilliant flames and burned to ash in a split second.
And then, as quickly as it had boiled over, Dinky's inequine rage faded, as well as her potent magical force. The orb of fire flickered and died out. The flames that danced around the circumference of her vengeful blast were extinguished in an invisible wind. A dry breeze returned her mane and tail to their former furry state. Her vision went black and she toppled, unconscious, into the scorched crater her own magic created.
Such is the wrath of a filly whose mother's pain is her own.
Nurse Redheart had been heading home from a busy day at the Ponyville Hospital when she saw the massive burst of magic blast through the trees. She dropped her saddlebags and raced towards the sight of the explosion, certain she was about to have to resuscitate some poor burn-riddled pony.
What she found was far from that.
Little Dinky Doo, daughter of the clumsy mailmare who sometimes visited Redheart's office, lay curled up in the middle of a crater the size of a two-pony buggy. Scorch marks radiated from her prone position, but aside from a layer of dust, Dinky seemed to have come out unscathed.
The same could not be said for the surrounding area. Every tree in a ten-yard radius had been razed to a smouldering, charred pile. The ground had been burned until the moisture had evaporated, laving the dirt cracked and brittle. Alarmingly, the nurse was reminded of a dry lake bed she had once seen, parched from a paucity of water during a brutal and unforgiving drought.
The fact a school-age filly could wield power that great terrified her.
Dinky began to stir beneath Redheart's hooves. She blinked blearily, confused about her change in surroundings. "Wha- What happened?"
Being an earth pony, Redheart could only speculate and use the textbooks she had all-but memorized in medical school. "You had a magic overload. All unicorns have a lot of magic in them, and it all came out at once. You're lucky you didn't get hurt or killed..."
Dinky scowled. "I'm not a filly. I know what an overload is. I just wanna know how I managed to use that much in one go. I don't think even Twilight has that much magic in her."
The nurse shrugged. "I honestly don't know. My guess is that you tapped into some big magical source or something. I'm not an expert on unicorn magic."
The filly frowned, her face contorting adorably. "Does emotion contribute at all? That might have been what triggered the overload."
Redheart was impressed. You didn't often see a filly as young as Dinky capable of managing more than the occasional two-syllable word."I'd guess so. Unicorns tend to cast better spells when affected by a strong emotion, like love or happiness."
The unicorn gulped. "What about anger?"
The nurse blinked, taken aback by this abrupt question. "What do you mean?"
"You know," Dinky elaborated, "Animosity. Ire. Fury. Wrath. Rage. I can go on and on..."
Nurse Redheart, one who often treated small foals, quickly picked up on the look in Dinky's eyes. It was the same look many fillies and colts had when faced with a needle as long as they were: absolute terror. "Are you saying..."
The now-distraught filly nodded, tears pooling in her eyes. "I-I was r-really angry, and th-then there was..."
The nurse had to lean in to hear the last word.
The filly wept freely, the drops of sorrow washing away trails of dust upon her cheeks. "I-I was so... so angry... I'm so sorry!"
Nurse Redheart, named so for her compassion towards the young and sick, nuzzled the stricken Dinky. "It's okay. It's all okay."
"No it's not!" Dinky wailed. "What if I hurt somepony? What if I get in trouble? What-" here she gasped as the ice-cold sensation of horrible realization poured down her back, "-what is the princesses take me away? I don't want to go away!"
Dinky Doo could already imagine the scenario:
Princess Celestia herself would descending from a golden chariot, surrounded by grim guards dressed in armor. She would look at Dinky and scowl. "Is this the one who has the impudence to burn my beautiful land with her horrid fire?
"No! No!" Dinky would try to wail. "It wasn't my fault! I just got angry!"
Princess Celestia would loom over the errant foal. "You are far too dangerous for you to stay here. Guards, take her away!"
The guards would grab Dinky and pull her away by her back hooves, with her screaming the entire time. Nopony would help her. Nopony would care. They would shout awful things at her:
"She's a menace!" That would be Roseluck.
"She's a horror!" That would be Lily.
"She's a monster!" And there would be Daisy.
"Ah hope Ah never have ta see her face again!" Apple Bloom.
"She tried to burn mah farm down!" Applejack.
"You freak!" Diamond Tiara would snarl.
"Nopony would ever want to love you!" An now Silver Spoon too?!
"Get away, you runt!" Rainbow Dash would growl as Dinky would turn beseeching eyes upon her.
"I hope they feed you to the changelings, you brute!" Rarity would recoil from the terrified filly.
"Yeah! Feed her to the changelings!" Sweetie Belle would echo.
"You're no good!" Carrot Top would snap. "You need to be thrown out!"
"I don't know why I ever wanted to be friends with you!" Scootaloo would shriek shrilly.
Her mother would be waiting for her at the end, face twisted into a mask of revulsion. "You are no daughter of mine."
By this point, Dinky was wailing, utterly inconsolable. Her itty-bitty shoulders were wracked with violent, trembling sobs that threatened to break her in two. She could barely draw a breath before crying out.
And then, she was warm. She was safe.
"It's okay," Redheart crooned, forelegs wrapped tightly around Dinky's shoulders. "I've got you. Everything is going to be just fine."
"R-Really?" Dinky whimpered.
"Really." The older mare assured her. "You're going to be okay."
"I'm scared," the filly whispered. "What if it happens again?"
"It won't," Redheart promised. "I can help you."
"H-How?" Dinky asked.
"I can teach you to be a nurse. You can learn to heal things instead of hurting them."
A beautiful friendship was formed that day. Dinky became an apprentice to Redheart, learning the way to tend to the sick and injured. Even though the nurse wasn't a unicorn, she still helped Dinky find a way to learn spells for healing. As the filly progressed in this gentle magic, she felt less and less angry as time went on. Something about the nature of the spells seemed to cleanse the very soul of the troubled filly.
As a result, Dinky was even more fun to be around, and thus gained popularity amongst the foals and fillies in school. The members of the Cutie Mark Crusaders became especially close, going so far as to acknowledge Dinky as an honorary member. They went on many explorations in search of their destiny... and their cutie marks, of course.
Little did teeny-weeny Dinky know that her destiny was waiting right around the corner...
Doctor Whooves, last survivor of the Time War of Gallopfrey, savior of worlds, and time traveler extraordinaire, was having a bad day. A really bad day.
For starters, his companion, now ex-companion, Clover the Clever, had decided it was time for her to leave and, as she put it, "settle down." Huh. As if he had the time to do that. Ridiculous.
To make matters worse, the TARDIS decided that this was an excellent time to play the silent game with him. It probably had something to do with him sulking, but he wasn't in the mood to acknowledge that right now. It was time for him to start over. Again. He was getting tired of doing that. Always moving about, never staying anywhere but the TARDIS for very long. Maybe Clover had a point.
But now was not the time.
He was chasing after a creature. One that had eluded him for quite some time: the Shadowed One, a creature who even he, the Doctor, had failed to glean any information about. All that he had to go on was an old poem inscribed into the wall of a notoriously difficult-to-enter temple located on Selena IV, a planet long forgotten to all but the eldest beings, himself being included, of course.
The Doctor had written down the poem as neatly as he possibly could while being pursued by the temple's automated defenses. Fortunately, his sonic screwdriver, two large boulders, and a hard-to-see piece of twine had solved that problem.
The poem read as inscribed:
To lords today and kings of old
Listen now to what's foretold
He who walks the darkened line
Where neither moon nor sun doth shine
Concealing within a heart of black
Both light and joy himself doth lack
Seeks to twist us with his lies
And darken now our sunny skies
He shall face the queen of joy
She who doth the dawn herself employ
Who sings to bring the coming day
And drive the doubt of dark away
Within her is the heart of flame
That burns the evil in her name
Queen of queens and bane of night
In whom all ponies do so delight
They shall meet in the keep of stone,
Where swords sharpen and blades hone
There greatest love is put to test
Through trials without rest
Aided by the the final knight
Who with him brings the hope of light
The one who is the bringer of dawn
When faith is broken and hope is gone
Shall rise up with wings anew
Avenge the ones the darkness slew
To find the stolen, to seek the lost
That which is achieved at highest cost
The poem was, to say the least, quite grim. Well, grim for anypony besides the Doctor, who had witnessed wars beyond counting and more death than anypony ever should. To him, it was a clue, a chance to stop this evil before it could take the lives of the innocents he protected.
"Alright, I'm going to need you to listen to me," the Doctor whispered to the TARDIS. "You're the one who knows exactly where we have to go in order to stop the Shadowed One. I need you to help me."
"Please," he murmured. "They need me."
"I need you too."
A slight hum. But only a slight hum. The TARDIS was playing hard-to-get.
The Doctor sighed. "Fine. I'm sorry."
There were a couple more beeps. The TARDIS wasn't entirely convinced. She had been the one to travel with him since the very beginning, after all. There were certain drawbacks to how much she knew about him.
The Time Lord scowled. The TARDIS wasn't exactly making this easy on him. Then again, being the thing that carried you throughout all of time and space did give you a certain precedence.
The Doctor shook his head. "I guess I can just sit here and do absolutely nothing."
The TARDIS did not deign a reply.
"Is that the way you want to be? Well, fine. Don't expect me to be the one to talk to you."
More silence. She really was in a bad mood.
"See? I'm just sitting here, not talking to you."
If the TARDIS had eyes, she would probably be rolling them.
"Oh, I'm the immature one, am I? Well, who's the one that's acting like a 200-year-old?!"
It was then the Doctor realized he had been conversing with an empty room. He sighed deeply, resting his muzzle on the TARDIS controls. "You're right. I miss her."
With a whir, the time machine activated, preparing to travel to Celestia-knows-where. The Doctor perked his head up. "Have you got the orientation? Oh, you clever girl!" He paused, and then frowned. "I really need to get a new assistant."
The world the Doctor stepped out into was lush and verdant. All forms of life crowded around him. Tall trees gestured with long branches, reaching with their emerald fingers into the sky. Birds of every color, from mundane brown to neon orange, sang and chirped and squawked. The rattle and buzz of insects was everywhere. Small mammals and reptiles climbed and crawled and scuttled. Occasionally, a larger animal, like a deer or fox, would slink past shyly.
"Oh, hello," the Doctor said softly. "This Equestria alright, but where? Not Stalliongrad. Not Vanhoover either. Can't be Trottingham..." he sighed. "I don't have a clue..."
The Time Lord settled for camping up in a tree right outside the TARDIS. If this was where she wanted him to go, then it was best if he was out where he had clear field of vision. He wrapped himself in blankets he had found in one of the time machine's many rooms and waited for something to happen. Between his forehooves he cradled the Orb of Illumi, a small glass ball that would help alert him to the presence of the Shadowed One.
Day started to fade into night, the chunks of sky between the tree branches growing darker and darker. The sounds of nocturnal life began to awake around him, forming a comforting tapestry of noise. The Doctor's eyes began to droop sleepily. He understood that the reason the TARDIS was making him wait as long as he did was so that he didn't startle him. The on the Time Lord was searching for.
The last Gallopfreyan was all but asleep when the orb began to vibrate in his hooves. On closer inspection, he noted that the interior was boiling and frothing like the sea during a storm. It could only mean one thing.
The Shadowed One was nearby.
The Doctor froze, muscles tensing up in the preparation to bolt after the creature he was searching for.
Nothing moved. All was well.
Then the Doctor had a sickening thought: Nothing was moving.
Twin hearts now pounding, the Time Lord realized that every creature he had previously seen had fled from some unseen evil. As his eyes alighted on the unmoving body of an owl, he realized the animals may not have had time to flee.
And then he heard it. A deep, rattling breath.
The air around him chilled suddenly. His vaporous breath was now visible in the air. The hairs on the back of his neck stood straight upright, like soldiers at attention. They prickled his spine in a way that completely bypassed uncomfortable and went straight to utterly terrifying.
Slowly, very slowly, as if to keep from startling a nervous animal, the Doctor twisted his head to look over his shoulder. The Shadowed One was there.
The creature of darkness was a unicorn, but one with a horn that twisted backwards in a vicious curve, a symbol of warlords long forgotten by ponykind. His eyes were two malicious orbs that bled red light into the darkness. A roiling shadow-mane and tail seemed like an extension to the creature's black pelt. From just a glance, the Doctor could tell that the Shadowed One's body was as twisted as his mind. The creature was painfully thin and twisted, like the body of a starving foal. His legs were also long and needle-like, ending in pointed hooves that looked like they could stab a certain sepia pony straight through.
Any wise pony would have run. The Doctor wasn't wise. Grabbing his sonic screwdriver, he bolted. Directly at the Shadowed One, of course.
The Shadowed One shied away from the brilliant cerulean light that emitted from the Doctor's device. The dark creature darted backwards, needle-like hooves clicking against rocks and twigs. This was all the invitation the lone Gallopfreyan needed to give chase.
"Oh no you don't!" he roared. "No homicidal sprees for you, my murderous friend! I've already had enough trouble tracking you down!"
The Shadowed One hissed and continued his flight, leaping effortlessly over low-hanging branches, while the Doctor had to make do with crashing through the underbrush clumsily.
The chase continued, the pace becoming more and more frantic. The Shadowed One leaped over a narrow gorge that the Time Lord nearly fell through; he managed to scrabble for the upper edge at the last second. The dark creature skittered around a cluster of rocks comically, his narrow hooves barely finding any traction; the Doctor leaped clean over it. The shadowy unicorn scuttled down a steep incline covered in tiny pebbles; the Gallopfreyan simply slid down, remarking Ow! Ow! every time he hit a bump.
The Shadowed One was fast, but the Doctor was determined. Anything the beast tried to do to hinder him was avoided or plowed through, heedless of the numerous small cuts and scrapes he received.
Finally, the Doctor cornered the Shadowed One at the end of a canyon. A stone wall was behind him and a rock outcropping prevented him from going upwards.
"Right," the Doctor panted. "Now that we've got that all out of our systems, why don't we-"
He was cut off at a strange sound from the Shadowed One, something akin to stones rattling together. It was a moment before he realized it was laughter.
"What in the good name of Celestia," he asked, "Is so incredibly funny?"
With his right forehoof, the dark unicorn pointed to something to the Doctor's right.
The Time Lord rolled his eyes dramatically. "Oh yes. Of course. I'll go and look away, while you make your escape!"
And then a blinding, searing pain struck him in the right side. He let out an agonized gasp as he felt a cruel, sharp point dig into his flesh. The world spun and he dropped to the floor, muscles spasming as venom coursed through his veins. He twitched in a silent, all-consuming agony, every movement more painful than the last. Forget fire, cold needles of ice ripped and tore their way through his body. He writhed helplessly, unable to even scream. His eyesight faded, blurred in the darkness. The last thing he heard before he passed out was the rattling laughter of the Shadowed One.
And then, darkness claimed him.