The Quiet Place
[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]
Chapter 19: Eye of the Storm
"Sister, the sun may be too much of a tax upon you. Please, allow me to control both the sun and the moon in your stead," urged Luna.
Celestia gave her an annoyed look. "I've already told you Luna, I will be fine. The sun is a constant—" The princess broke into a fit of coughs as her legs folded under her. She crashed to the soft grass and caught her breath after a moment of focused breathing.
Luna hung a doubtful stare over her sister. "You are beyond your capacity for the moment. I shall begin moving the moon into position. If you will not leave your duty to me then at least allow me to finish preparing before you."
"Fine, but I am doing this Luna, even if it's the last thing I can do." Celestia shifted uncomfortably as the others watched them in silence. She grunted to clear her chest, but it did little to relieve her weakness; the constant feeling of breathlessness and muscle fatigue bothered her. What is going on? Why is it taking so long for the sun to regenerate me? She poured more efforts into her breathing and shifted her gaze to the battlefield.
Twilight's dark, astral mane stilled for a moment as questions ran through her mind. Questions of her status, Nightmare's status, everything that had happened. But for the moment, something else held her thoughts. "I've been wondering for a while now," she started, her mane snapping to Telos and devouring it into its magical abyss. A part of her mane floated into her view and she examined it. "Why do you hate Telos so much? Not very many ponies know who he was, and even the archmagi have very little information about him," she finished, resetting her mane and rolling her eyes to the undead dragon.
Aurelius grunted. "That is none of your concern," he replied curtly.
Keep asking, said Nightmare. Celestia will need more time to reposition the sun. Maybe we can keep him talking.
Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose, releasing it slowly out of her mouth. Celestia isn't the only one. I'm still recovering from the spells I used earlier.
"So, it would seem you are sane once more," said Aurelius.
"So, who exactly was Telos, huh? You seem to know more about him than I do, and I have his staff."
"His name is not yours to use so casually," the dragon growled. He lunged forward and pivoted, sweeping a fully extended claw in a wide arc. The earth rose up behind it and tided towards the alicorn.
Twilight's mane expanded into a bubble, shielding herself preemptively, but Aurelius lunged again. His claw connected with the barrier and the wave of earth bolstered his attack. As her barrier shattered, she vaulted backwards, narrowly evading a third sweeping strike, but Aurelius pivoted a final time and brought his tail speeding into her. She cried out as it impacted her chest and sent her sailing backwards. She hit the ground hard, tumbling a few more meters before sliding to a stop.
As she lifted herself from the ground, coughing all the while, Aurelius advanced, his stomps quaking the earth. Raising both hands, the dragon brought them down for a kill, but Twilight dashed into the dead zone of the attack and stopped beneath his chest. She prepared to unleash a spell but a green glint caught her eye. It was the blade of Dash's sword Nightfall impaled beneath Aurelius's left wing. The dragon backpedaled in two huge steps and attempted to snap at Twilight. She teleported beneath his left side and held a hoof, aiming her telekinesis.
I can't grab it!? The sword didn't move or react to her magic, and she felt as if her magic was being drawn into it. She teleported away before Aurelius could attack her again.
"I know what you're after, you little devil," he said. "That pitiful knight has no idea what she was wielding." The dragon furled up his wing and frowned. "And neither shall you know what it truly is."
We need more time, reminded Nightmare.
I know, I know, but what else can we do? I'll be out of magic soon if I keep staying on the offensive. Twilight glanced to the ground in thought. I've got an idea. Before Nightmare could process the dominant soul's thoughts, Twilight reproduced Telos from her mane and floated it in front of her. The spire exploded in a blinding light, and Aurelius shielded his eyes for its duration.
"I-impossible!" he roared when he opened them again. Standing before him was the real Telos, unfazed and staring back at him. Aurelius trembled for a moment, half laughing to himself, half muttering. "I am going to tear you apart, Telos!" he bellowed as he charged. Strengthened by his rage, he slammed his right claw down as hard as his body would allow, cratering the ground and threatening to break his own arm. When the dust settled, he retracted his arm to find the ancient sage still staring back at him, only one eye peeking out from beneath his hood and completely untouched.
"Arrogance will blind you so long as you hold onto it," said the sage.
Twilight watched from a cautious distance behind. I can't believe it's working, she thought to herself.
"Do not mock me!" Aurelius bellowed. "You, who hide behind fakes, should not dare speak down to me, you pathetic pawn!" The ground trembled with his rage, but Telos continued with his staring.
Aurelius thrashed about, striking where he stood with his tail and his claws until there was nothing more than a ravaged piece of land devoid of grass. His eyes, his face, his robe, his name. Everything about Telos incited a fury within him. When he ended his tantrum he scanned the area, satisfied for the moment while the dust settled. However, his satisfaction soon twisted into disbelief as his eyes fell to a particular mound of dirt.
"H-how... How can you still live? You helped take everything from me, and I claimed your life in return. But how? How are you still alive!?" he roared.
Standing atop the land was Twilight with Telos, the staff, affixed to her back, and Telos the pony beside her. "I thought you could use the reunion," she taunted. Why does he hate Telos so much?
I don't know. I have never heard him mention anything about him until now. Nightmare's confusion seeped into Twilight for a moment, and the dominant soul shook herself to alleviate the feeling.
Maybe he'll tell us. Twilight prepared to speak, but her eyes caught a shift in the light as the sun moved. Finally. The change was subtle, but the sun had moved from its expected position as the moon prepared to creep over the horizon behind it. Twilight took a deep breath of relief knowing that she still had magic left.
It's not over, yet. Don't let your guard done, reminded Nightmare swiftly. We need to keep him distracted.
"That's enough of that," said Twilight.
Telos glanced to her before muttering, "So it would seem." His image blurred before dissolving and flowing into the spire of the staff.
Aurelius froze as he observed the sage's form disperse. "M-merely an... illusion?" he muttered. It seemed as if a great weight had been lifted from his decayed body and he straightened himself as he snickered. He stretched his ravaged wings, a grin stretching his face to match, and Twilight maintained an even gaze back to him.
We can keep going, encouraged Nightmare. I didn't know you could create an illusion of Telos from the staff, but now what do you have planned with the sun and the moon?
A self-satisfied vibe was transmitted to Nightmare as Twilight began to respond. I plan to purify him. I'm going to use the real Holy.
An audible scoff echoed in Twilight's thoughts as the Id struggled to believe her. Do you not already control holy magic? You are capable of healing yourself and others.
Twilight inwardly shook her head. It's an all-magic. Technically, Holy is just one spell, but used with varying levels of power. Low grades of it can heal minor injuries, and more magic can be used to mend bones in rare cases. I used the strongest amount I could on you in our duel, and that was with the help of the moon, my alicorn power, and all of the years I had trained.
There was a lull between them before Nightmare responded. I understand now, but will it be enough, even with the sun and the moon to strengthen you?
I don't know, but I will make sure this works. No matter what.
Despite the distinction between their minds Twilight could feel Nightmare's apprehension. She countered with her own confidence, nullifying the negative feeling; it was a strange sensation to have each other's emotions overridden by the other, but at the same it was an almost familiar, natural feeling. One could feel what the other was if they invited the emotions in. Twilight was unsure if Nightmare was unable to block hers, or if she was constantly accepting anything she felt.
It will be fine, I promise, Twilight reassured one last time.
You promise so easily. The thought had already transferred before Nightmare could stop it, and she immediately regretted it. She could feel the bite into Twilight's heart as it mirrored over to her. I'm sorry, I didn't mean... to...
"Have you fallen asleep," asked Aurelius, "or are you out of cards to play now that your little illusion is over?" Twilight shot him an unreadable look again as she pondered what to do next.
Are you going for the sword again? asked Nightmare.
He seems to be keeping it away from me. Maybe it's amplifying his powers, but it seems to drain the magic of my telekinesis when I try to grab it.
Not wasting any time, Twilight teleported beneath the dragon again. As Aurelius tilted his head down and prepared to react, the alicorn unleashed a burst of energy, blasting him in the chest and sending him off balance. He beat his wings to prevent the recoil from toppling him backwards, and Twilight took flight during his recovery. She bolted for the sword in his wing, wrapping both hooves around the hilt. With a heave, she wrenched it and sliced his wing down before flying away.
Aurelius growled. "You will return that at once." Twilight was surprised when he did not react vehemently. He relaxed and watched her as she studied the weapon. "Tell me, Twilight Sparkle. Do you play chess?" the dragon asked suddenly.
Be careful, he might have something planned!
Twilight shot him a cautious look. "Why, is this a game? Or did you plan ahead knowing what could happen?"
Aurelius loosed a rumbling chuckle as he furled his wings back up, the left one's leathery folds swaying in the wind. "I must admit I could never have foreseen something like you, but I see your true potential. Your weak willed princesses can only see a fraction of it. Why don't you join me?" He stretched out his hand, but didn't smile. Twilight's eyes widened as she realized he was serious. "Together we could rule Equestria, the Brood, and accomplish so much more." His eyes drifted away from her as his mind wandered.
Twilight glowered at him. "No... I would never join you! You manipulated the Brood and Equestria into war with each other and who knows how many have died because of you!" Her voice lowered from a shout to a deadly growl. "I will kill you for everything you've done."
"Hm. I thought not, but one can hope. You have been given immortality, and I will take your life before even your natural lifespan is up."
"Why would you want to rule forever?" countered the alicorn. "Immortality is a double edge," she added, running a hoof along Nightfall's blade.
"Tell me, Twilight Sparkle, do you believe in fate? Perhaps destiny?"
For a moment, she ignored the dragon's questions and attempted to sense Nightfall's power. As she concentrated she could feel the blade nullifying her magic again. It doesn't do anything? She frowned and slid the sword beneath her cloak. The moon was now visible and she began to gather energy in her horn. "I don't care about fate or destiny. My life and my decisions belong to me." Telos moved before her and its spire shined brightly, the earth quaking to life.
Aurelius snorted. "I wonder if your mind would crumble if you knew the truth," he muttered to himself.
Twilight's mane shifted into a billowing flame of three shades, her body lightening to white. "I don't know who you are, and I don't care, but this is the end for you."
"Who I am?" the dragon said, chuckling again. "I am a true ruler of Equestria—a rightful heir to the throne. The seat of power belongs to me so long as I draw breath." He raised his claws and four flares of energy appeared around, a red barrier quickly forming around him and between the flares. "I will be the king that I should have."
The sister princesses stood side by side as they gazed out across the battlefield. The Rites had siphoned most of their natural energy reserves, but they had managed to push themselves in spite of it. Celestia fell to her knees in exhaustion.
"Sister, are you alright?" Luna asked, forcing herself to divide her focus.
"I will be fine. I just... need a... moment." Celestia's consciousness faded away a moment later.
Luna gnashed her teeth and redoubled her efforts, maintaining the sun's position while finalizing the moon's. Her power waned as the moon aligned. "Twilight," she bellowed, "It is done. The rest is all up to you! Do not fail!" She fell to her knees, the last of her power and focus dedicated to maintaining the celestial objects' positions.
Twilight removed Nightfall from her cloak and stabbed it into the ground. With her right hoof she grasped Render's magical lance in the distance and quickly moved it in front of her beside Telos. I won't let your death be in vain, Trixie.
The dragon's interest had been piqued. "What do you plan to do with that?" he asked quickly.
Twilight glowered death at him. "I'm going to fulfill Telos's legacy and kill you. Unlike him, I won't fail."
Aurelius threw his had back and laughed. "Such insolence," he barked. "Well, then. Show me your resolve! Show me the power of the one who will kill me!"
Twilight leaped into flight, quickly rising above the dragon and taking light from both celestial objects. The dragon completed his barrier and poured more and more power into it. As the alicorn gathered energy his eyes finally caught the oddity in the light on the ground. He threw a glance behind him, but his eyes widened and he found himself turning in disbelief and awe.
"Impossible," he muttered, staring at the moon. As he rotated back to Twilight he was met with the flicker of the lance surging towards him. He loosed a choking breath as the prongs sank into his neck and chest, and he stumbled backwards. His powerful barrier had already vanished.
"Take one last look at my face, Aurelius," Twilight called down to him. "Because I don't want you forget who killed you."
"You fool... This doesn't... end with..." he choked out.
The energy in Twilght's horn erupted into a burst of light that drowned out the rest of the world. Her small body cast a massive shadow over the ground as everything began to white out. Telos appeared between them near the dragon, a loud hum emanating from it. The staff melded into the light as it emitted its own from the gem in the spire.
"HOLY!" Twilight boomed, forcing the words out with all of the air in her lungs.
Aurelius made an attempt to grasp the lance, but he watched in horror as his hand dissolved before reaching the shaft, and the mythril shaft of Telos fractured and vanished into the whiteness. He unleashed a roar, but it was lost just as quickly in the blaring hum of the spell.
The radiance of the light consumed Twilight's form before further expanding and consuming the entirety of their battlefield. When the light faded Twilight had an aura around her for a moment; it faded away as the moon began to shift back into its rightful position. Her wings numbed and she descended rapidly to the ground, her white coat fading to black and her mane losing its burning property. She slowed her descent with magic as she reached the ground. Despite her attempts to make the landing soft, her legs faltered as the fatigue from the grand spell set in and she collapsed.
Don't push yourself too hard. You need to rest, said Nightmare.
Twilight grunted and, gnashing her teeth, forced herself back to standing. I'm fine.
The alicorn glanced around the field and gasped. All of the damage that it had sustained during the battle with Aurelius had been completely healed. It appeared as if the field had never been disturbed. So this is the power of Holy? muttered Nightmare in awe.
A wind swept the fields, and Twilight drew in a deep breath before walking shakily towards the lance that now marked Aurelius's grave. She moved to where she would be just underneath the dragon's head and stared up to it. The weapon had been ruined by the energy. Flakes of rust peeled away and some fell freely into the grass around it.
"It's over Nightmare Moon. You're free from him now," said Twilight aloud to her.
Thank you, Twilight Sparkle—for everything you have done for me. However, I am without a body of my own, and we may be stuck together...
"I'll find a way to give you your own body," she said quickly. "I don't care how long... it takes. I..." Tears welled in her eyes as she fell to her knees. "I... promise you," she muttered, breaking down. She bawled into her hooves as images of Trixie filled her mind. "I promise..."
Nightmare said nothing. She could say nothing. Vibes of comfort transferred from her soul to Twilight's, but it made no difference to the alicorn and she continued to cry out loud to herself.
After several minutes passed she wiped her face and eyes. "I-I'm sorry. I just... I need some time to mourn. Please."
You don't need to apologize to me, Twilight. I understand, replied Nightmare softly. Take all the time you need.
A glint in the grass caught the alicorn's eye and she scrubbed her forehooves through the blades until she captured the glinting object. The gem from Telos's spire? she thought, holding it up to her eyes. "How did it survive the spell?" she wondered aloud. Her exhaustion sapped her ability to think. Seeking true rest over answers, she slipped the gem beneath her cloak and rose back up.
She marched towards the edge of the battlefield where her friends observed, but she stumbled halfway and fell to the ground, giving in to her tired body. The toll of the spell had drained her of even physical strength. She grumbled to herself. The sickness of an absolute magic purge would soon render her bedridden again, and the unpleasant irritability and agitation would follow it. Even if the sun restored her the effects would still occur.
The party of observers moved to her, and Luna nudged her sister to waken. Celestia opened her eyes as Twilight was surrounded by her friends. She stood up and prepared to move, but Luna placed a hoof on her shoulder and shook her head. "Nay, sister. Rest," she whispered.
"You were amazing, Twilight," exclaimed Dash. "What was that bright light?" Twilight didn't make eye contact and the knight awkwardly maintained a smile as she slipped past the archmage and retrieved Nightfall.
Fluttershy looked over the archmage's body quickly. "You're not even injured?" she asked, half to herself.
"I'm fine. Thanks, everyone."
Garr's rumbling voice came next. "You have cleared the Brood of Aurelius's treachery, and executed him as the traitor he is. I will ensure that all dragons will know the name of the hero who freed us. Thank you, Archmage Twilight Sparkle."
As Twilight opened her mouth everyone fell silent. "What about all of the dragons I killed?" she snapped. "What about the ones who thought they were fighting for their brethren—their king?" Her face scrunched into a bitter scowl and she stared at the ground.
"Luna, promise me," started Celestia, earning a questioning gaze from her sister, "that you will not intervene no matter what happens next?" She fixated on Twilight as she stood, and the archmage met her gaze with contempt in her eyes.
"Sister, what are you—"
Twilight abruptly walked away from her friends as they tried to reassure her from guilt. Celestia forced herself to maintain an even look as Twilight's pace increased. As the archmage neared she rose up on her hind legs while she ran at full speed, anger driving her. Reeling back her right hoof, Twilight swung a haymaker at the sun princess, striking her jaw. Celestia groaned as she was sent toppling backwards.
Luna gave a start as the others loosed cries of surprise and fright. "Have you lost your mind, Twilight?" shrieked Luna at the same time as Dash cried, "What are you doing?"
Twilight straddled Celestia and continued planting blow after blow into her face with both hooves. Each hit was punctuated with a distressed grunt, not from Celestia, but from Twilight. She pounded her until her body gave out again and she fell to her side, trembling and whimpering to herself. Garr and the other Elements watched in silent horror as they gazed at Celestia.
The princess's face was covered in bruises; both cheeks were cut and swollen and both of her eyes had been blackened. She shakily reached out to the smaller alicorn, but Twilight pulled herself away.
"Don't.... touch me!"
"Twilight, I'm sorry for all of this... I'm so... so sorry," Celestia blubbered as tears ran down her swollen cheeks. Despite the pain she forced a remorseful expression up.
The archmage only cried quietly to herself in the silence that followed, her friends forced to watch with sorrow etched onto their faces. Only Dash knew all of what she had been through among them, and she couldn't bring herself to stare.
Twilight finally stood up after several minutes, wiping her face and sniffling with her back to her friends before she could compose herself. "I want all of you to know exactly what's happened," she said.
Are you sure about this? asked Nightmare.
Twilight stepped back and put more distance between her and her friends. Luna dashed to her sister's side, and Twilight cast a sidelong glance to them. The black circles around her eyes had not yet faded and her glance appeared even more contemptuous to the princesses.
"Aurelius had infiltrated the Brood's hierarchy a few years ago. Tensions between Equestria and the Draconic empire, the Brood, rose until the borders between our lands became hostile territory." She turned around to face her friends and Garr, all silent. "Aurelius manipulated their council and king into instigating war, and he was the one who created Nightmare Moon, using her to corrupt Princess Luna and use her against Princess Celestia once before. That's why she appeared again when he took Canterlot.
"Rainbow Dash and I were tasked with stopping this war. We were supposed to do this by infiltrating Draconis, stealing their war plans, and having me assassinate the dragon king, Render." Her friends loosed gasps, and Dash hung her head in shame. "And part of this,"—she turned around and extended her wings—"required me to become an alicorn. I was also given the legendary mythril staff, Telos."
"But, if it was just you an' Rainbow, how did Trixie get mixed up in all of it?" asked Applejack.
Twilight choked on a breath, forcing away her sorrow as she thought of the magician. She furled her wings up and turned back around, regret etched onto her face. "I asked Trixie to join me. That was my decision... and that decision... cost her her life..." she trailed off. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trembling in regret, anger, and shame.
Dash stepped closer and said soothingly, "C'mon, Twi. It's not your fault." The knight attempted to move closer, but she backed off when the archmage opened her eyes and glared at her.
"She's gone because of me and I... have to live with that." She took another deep breath to prevent from breaking down and crying before continuing. "Before we reached Draconis we encountered Nightmare Moon. I stayed behind to fight her so that Trixie and Rainbow could make it the rest of the way there... and because I was afraid I would hurt them in our fight. Somehow, my magic loosened Aurelius's control over her."
Thank you for that.
"After that battle I regrouped with Rainbow and Trixie before continuing on to the city. We parted ways for our mission there, but they had to leave without me when I was trapped there," she lied. "I.... killed most of the royal guard and completed my mission to assassinate King Render." She clamped her eyes and trembled as tears ran down her cheeks. Images of bloody and charred dragons from the massacre surfaced from memory.
"Twilight," began Rarity, "do you and Nightmare Moon—?"
"We share the same body now," replied the archmage quietly. Her friends gasped, but could say nothing else to the new information. "We can share some of our thoughts, but I don't know about anything else. It's also why I look like this."
Rarity spoke again. "What will you do, Twilight? Surely you don't intend to share the same body with her forever."
Twilight shrugged and sighed. "I don't know. I'll find a way to give her her own body eventually, but for now this is how it has to be."
"Should we regard Nightmare Moon's presence within you as a latent threat?" asked Luna, a bitter glare holding her eyes.
Twilight gave her a sharp look before responding flatly, "No."
Luna appeared as if she had more to say, but Celestia sat up and cleared her throat. "It has been a trying time for all of us yet there is still more I need to discuss with Twilight. The rest of you may return to the castle and rest."
Garr nodded and shook his form, extending his wings. "I must return to Draconis. After all that has happened there is much explaining and rebuilding to be done. I will arrange for the burial of all who fell in the confusion of the war. By now whatever generals remain should be receiving withdrawal orders. We shall speak soon, princesses." He bowed before turning and lifting off, the grass rustling violently in his wake.
Twilight moved to her friends, Luna moving to stand with them, and a large alchemy circle formed beneath the group. In a flash of light they were gone. After several seconds Twilight reappeared alone.
"Who was your source for the coming war with the Brood?" she immediately interrogated. "It was Spike, wasn't it?"
"Where is he?" she roared, stamping a hoof.
Celestia didn't flinch and maintained an even gaze, even as Twilight's anger had surfaced. "He is safe. He was always safe, hidden away in Ponyville before the war even began." She brought a hoof up to her face and gently massaged her jaw. "Twilight, can you assure me that you are fully in control of Nightmare Moon?"
Twilight's eyes widened as her anger boiled over again. "After everything I've been through, everything I've done for you, you suddenly can't trust me anymore!?" she screamed. "How dare you!"
The princess discarded her calm composure. She took on a combat stance and shot a heated look back to her former student. "Then calm yourself at once!" she shouted. "Prove to me that you can handle yourself—that you can handle her! I don't want to detain you, but if you lose control and hurt someone then I will not hesitate to seal you somewhere where you won't be a danger to anyone else! I am the ruler of an entire nation, and I must put the safety of my subjects first!"
"You ungrateful bitch..." Twilight seethed. She gnashed her teeth and unleashed a howl of rage and frustration. "You lied to me from the very beginning! I can never trust you again, and now you're threatening me with this!?" She huffed for a moment to catch her breath and shook her head. "If you're going to treat me like a rabid animal then we are through, Princess Celestia," she snarled, emphasizing her mentor's title.
She is right, Twilight. You would do the same if you were in her position, said Nightmare in an attempt to pacify the archmage.
After a minute of silent thinking Twilight groaned in frustration again. Nightmare was right, but she didn't want to admit it, and that just frustrated her more. She took a deep breath and allowed her anger to wash away for the time being.
"I... I need time to mourn," she said in a calm tone, and Celestia visibly relaxed in response. Twilight laid a hollow gaze over Trixie's body. "I need to bury her. I need to..."
"I am truly sorry about her loss, Twilight."
"Save it, princess. After today I will no longer complete any assignments under the Archmagi without Luna's personal approval."
Celestia watched in regretful silence as Twilight moved to Trixie's body. The archmage trembled as she crouched down and pulled the magician to her chest. Her mind flooded with all of the memories they had made together, and what little time they had shared. "I will never forget you," she whispered as she squeezed her eyes shut and rested her head upon hers. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
Twilight flinched, her eyes shooting open; her heart skipped a beat, and she could not immediately form a response. Nightmare's surprise was audible in her head, and Celestia mirrored her with a startled gasp. The archmage scrambled away and stared at the magician. Trixie coughed several times before opening her eyes and slowly sitting up on her own, the mud and blood from the battle having disappeared from her body.
"T-Trixie!? But... H-how!?" cried Twilight as she stood up and moved to her with a drowsy and confused look in her eyes.
Trixie stretched and adjusted her cloak before answering. "What are you talking about? What happened? Where's Aurelius?" she asked as her alertness returned. Concern became more evident in her voice with each question that she asked. Twilight's mouth hung open for a moment, unsure of where to begin, but Trixie spoke again. "Why do you look like... Nightmare Moon?" she asked while motioning to all of the archmage's drastic changes in appearance.
Twilight pursed her lips and turned away. Celestia shook away her awe and stepped closer. "Could Holy have done this?" she chimed in. "In all of the centuries, the millennia that I have ruled, no one has ever been resurrected with magic."
"Trixie, you really don't remember anything at all?" Twilight asked.
The magician half-closed her eyes attempting to coax her memory to return. "Aurelius... Nightmare Moon was about to get hit. I... Did I block it?" she asked after a moment of hesitation.
Twilight stared at her worriedly, afraid that her mind might have been damaged. "Trixie you shielded us from him... That attack killed you. I... I watched you die!" She threw a hoof over her mouth and trembled as the anguish of her sacrifice returned. She remained like that for a while, taking deep breaths until her nerves calmed once more. "I watched you... die..."
Trixie stared at her in shock, her mouth agape. Twilight could not bring herself to look at her in that moment. "But I'm fine, see!?" she insisted, patting herself down. "I-I'm not dead."
Twilight nodded slowly. "Are you alright? I... It's just so hard to believe that... that you're alive again." She moved closer and placed a hoof to Trixie's face. "It's like a dream."
Trixie placed one of her hooves over Twilight's as her eyes watered. "I'm here, Twilight," she cooed. "You never answered me before, though."
"Why do you look like Nightmare Moon?"
Twilight's heart sank as the Id's voice began in her mind. Just tell her. She trusts you, and she will accept it, even if she doesn't understand.
Twilight nodded, both to Trixie and Nightmare. "We share the same body now. Her soul is in me." Trixie's eyes widened, but Twilight moved her hoof over the magician's mouth before she could interrupt. "It's not like Luna. We... can communicate, and I've tapped into her power. I guess this change reflects that," she finished as she glanced to her own darkened foreleg. Trixie gazed at her mane, its almost spectral look engrossing her.
"Let us return to Canterlot. I'm sure your friends will be overjoyed about this miracle," chimed in Celestia again.
Twilight gave her a hard look that Trixie could not see before standing and picking the magician up. Despite her exhausted state, she found the other mare to be lighter than before. Nightmare's strength? she wondered to herself. "I'll see you back in Canterlot, princess." She teleported away in a flash of light.
Celestia gave a downcast look to the grass where she stood. "I will find a way to mend our bond. I swear it, Twilight," she muttered to herself. Sighing, she coiled down in preparation for flight.
"Were you the one to unleash the full power of Holy, Princess Celestia?"
The voice cut through the air like a sword and the princess froze, her chest tightening as she turned around. "I don't believe it..." she muttered, her eyes widening.
Twilight appeared in the throne room just inches off of the floor, the distance giving her ample time for a graceful landing. As she touched down her legs buckled beneath her and Trixie landed on her hind hooves as the alicorn crashed to the hard floor. Her head spun and she clamped her eyes shut. She focused on breathing and the coolness of the marble she now rested on.
"Are you alright?" Trixie shrieked the question as she crouched down to her. "Please take it easy. If you used up all of your magic against Aurelius then you need to rest."
She is right, Twilight. You need to rest now more than ever, echoed Nightmare.
"No, I'm fine. And I don't need to yet. I can still—"
"Who are you talking to?" asked Trixie as she helped the alicorn back to standing.
"I, err," she took a breath and scratched her head, "I was talking to Nightmare. Sorry about that." The magician maintained a perplexed stare.
Can we... switch places? asked the Id timidly.
I don't know. I don't remember how I did it before. It just... happened. Twilight shuddered as she recalled some of the rage she felt when Trixie had died.
She closed her eyes and concentrated, however she couldn't be sure of what she was to focus on. She tried clearing her mind and then picturing Nightmare and then reproducing the feeling of the Id being the dominant soul. It gave her an odd sensation and she couldn't feel pain or injury if her body was wounded, but it was almost as if Nightmare had held her in a soft embrace; always there, but not.
"T-Twilight...?" asked the magician, taking a cautious step back.
"No. I am Nightmare Moon," replied the Id as she looked her form over. Her coat had lost what little purple pigment it had and her eyes converted into her sharp turquoise. After a moment, the features of Twilight's mane faded and shifted into the blue, starry mist of the dark counterpart.
"But... how? I thought you... uhh..." Trixie pawed at her face and looked abashed for a moment. "I thought you only possessed ponies, like you did with Princess Luna."
Nightmare blinked and put a hoof to her chin. "With Luna I never had a choice, but Twilight and I have a much different connection." Her eyes fell back to Trixie who gave her an uncomfortable stare. For a moment, Nightmare became indifferent to the situation and regarded her in a way she couldn't be sure.
"Are you okay?" asked Trixie, abandoning her discomfort.
Nightmare blinked hard and shook her head. "I'm fine. It's just..." She took a breath and gazed into Trixie's eyes. "I have received most of Twilight's memories. You and I are strangers to each other, but seeing you invokes her familiarity with you in me. I'm still processing everything that has happened to us." She paused and tried to articulate a better explanation, but ultimately failed and loosed an exasperated sigh. "I'm sure she could explain it better than I."
Unexpectedly, Trixie chortled. "Maybe one of the princesses can explain it to me, as well as what happened to me." She pulled up one of her hooves and marveled at it, trying her best to recall her death. "I don't remember anything. I just... woke up and there Twilight was crying over me."
"Can I ask you something?" Nightmare turned away when Trixie nodded, and she allowed her mane to obscure her face, using it to grimace privately. "Are you bothered by me?" she asked.
Trixie arched a brow to her. "I trust Twilight, and if she trusts you then... Why are you asking? Should I be?"
Nightmare opened her mouth to speak, but the thundering sound of armored hoofsteps rang up from the throne room doors. In minutes, the room had been filled by soldiers of the royal guard, some clad in blackened and soot covered pieces of armor, and all brandishing some form of weaponry. Filing into the outer rim were a few unicorn magi, but Nightmare relaxed when none bore any signature garments of archmagi.
"Nightmare Moon," shouted one of the mages, "You are hereby ordered to surrender to her majesties, Princesses Celestia and Luna, for war crimes against the nation of Equestria and her kingdom. Surrender now or we will use lethal force to detain you!"
"Wait!" cried Trixie, positioning herself in front of Nightmare to face the soldiers. Sweat ran down the sides of her head as pegasus soldiers occupied the air to further surround the pair.
Now would be a great time to switch places again, Twilight! urged Nightmare. There was no response. Twilight? Twilight! Her heart raced into a panicked beat as the other soul didn't respond. She poised herself to use what little magic remained between them to teleport away if she could. To her surprise, Trixie formed a barrier around them.
"She's innocent!" the magician yelled. "The princesses will pardon her. Just wait for them!" she pleaded further. The soldiers ignored her words and began an assault on the barrier with their weaponry. The front line struck at it then pulled back for the next wave of soldiers to attack it. "Don't worry, Nightmare. I can hold out until one of the princesses arrives."
"That may be..." Nightmare suddenly became dizzy and staggered around inside the barrier. She took a few sharp breaths falling to the floor. "Too long for me," she muttered as she panted. "What's happening... to me?" I can't lose focus. Just a little bit longer...
Worry filled Trixie as a crack formed in her barrier and the soldiers moved to focus their attacks on it. She concentrated her magic on repairing it, but her focus was broken as a familiar pegasus bolted into the room and dropped down in front of it, blocking the strike of a halberd with one of her bracers.
"What the hay is going on here?" shouted Dash.
The soldiers immediately disengaged and pulled back, all lowering into kneels or bows. One of the more decorated soldiers stepped up and gave a quick salute before speaking. "Commander Dash," he began, "We have the criminal Nightmare Moon cornered and we are attempting to detain her."
Dash turned and looked through the barrier, the blue tint of Trixie's magic making it difficult to see all of the details of those inside. "Stand down, captain," she said.
"That's an order," Dash barked as she moved her face closer to his. "Is that going to be a problem, captain?"
He quickly shook his head and saluted once more. "No, ma'am." Pivoting on his hind legs, he called to the rest of the soldiers in the room, "You heard her. Stand down and return to your previous assignments. Commander Dash can take it from here." The rest of the soldiers gave salutes and filed out of the throne room, some of them and the mages shooting her wary glances before departing.
Dash turned around as the barrier faded and she grinned. "Looks like I got here just in time. You two look like manure," she teased.
Trixie flipped her mane to the other side of her face and stuck her nose in the air. "Are you always this slow?" she said, earning a sour look from the knight.
Dash prepared a response for her, but it was immediately forgotten as the rest of their friends and princess Luna entered the room. "Hey, where's Princess Celestia?"
Nightmare answered. "Twilight... intentionally left her behind."
"And she wasn't back before me?" Dash wondered.
"Perhaps she is taking her time to decompress and mull over the situation. A great many things have happened to her—to all of us, recently," said Luna as she stepped closer. Despite her words, her eyes focused only on Nightmare, and the Id quickly became uncomfortable beneath her gaze. She walked past and took a seat at the throne. "All of you should be taking a rest. See to it that your eye is tended to soon, Knight Dash."
"Nah, I kinda like this. Battle scars make me look fierce!" She grinned, but Luna frowned and the knight immediately erased her expression and shrank into herself. "I will take care of it right away, your majesty." She bowed and turned to head for the doors when a blast of light stunned her for a moment.
Celestia appeared with a robed pony beside her. Dash, Trixie, Luna, and Nightmare—with the aid of Twilight's memories—gawked at the newcomer, but the rest of their friends exchanged wondering glances.
The sun princess gave defeated look to them. "Astra's brother may still live," she announced. She cast a glance to the robed pony who gave a short nod of affirmation.
"The former alicorn prince now has his original body, and so shall his magic no longer be shackled," added the robed pony. "I am afraid that I have failed in my final task."