Trixie ran through the forest, never slowing down and never looking back. The darkness of the forest surrounded and pressed in at her, smothering her, suffocating her. She strained to see the path ahead of her through the gloom, and even with her horn shining she could only see a few feet in front of her. The path was littered with detritus, which was hidden in the murky shadows.
The only things Trixie could think about was the path in front of her, avoiding the obstacles that rose up out of the blackness, and revenge. However, her vigilance was not perfect. A bush scratched her flank. A root caught her hoof. A lone branch smacked her chest. Still, she pressed on, running through the forest as fast as her hooves would carry her, the melodic drum of her hooffalls slowly lulling her to sleep.
Her hoof came down in a ditch, twisting it sharply and sending a bolt of pain through her leg. “Ahhh!” she screamed in pain. The ground raced up at her as the world spun around her. She hit the dirt path with an audible thud, sending up a cloud of dust. For a moment, she lay there taking stock of her injuries.
Trixie’s head hurts... badly, and Trixie’s ankle is sprained, she thought bitterly as she picked herself up off the ground. Those ponies will pay for this. Groaning, she dusted herself off and looked around to reorient herself. The trees were obscured by shadows, and each one looked the same as the next. Sighing to herself, Trixie set off in a random direction at a slow walk.
She walked through the forest, her horn pushing back the oppressive darkness that permeated the night. As she walked, she thought about what she was going to do next. All of Trixie’s belongings are gone, destroyed by that bear. She’ll have to start over from scratch before she can go back there... Manehatten is nice this time of year, and not far off, she thought absently. Then again, they have never been profitable for Trixie. Maybe she should try Canterlot instead, they’ve always been a good city to perform in. Yes, Canterlot it is.
Trixie stopped in the middle of the path, smiling broadly.
“Now, which way to Canterlot?” she asked aloud. Looking up, she couldn’t see through the thick canopy of the trees. Unable to find some sort of landmark to orient herself by, she glowered at the trees. Anger rising in her breast, she embraced the feeling; her horn glowed brighter, and she launched a concussive wave of energy from her horn. It crashed against the canopy, tearing a gaping hole in it and sending the branches flying into the air before they landed in distant parts of the forest. A bright, silvery light cascaded through the gash in the canopy, dimly illuminating the forest path.
Looking through it, Trixie couldn’t see much, except for the night sky and a nearby structure. She tried to make out the structure, but couldn’t see it for the darkness of the night. For a moment, she examined the stars and the moon, trying to tell the time. The moon hasn’t reached its zenith yet. The night is still young, she thought with a pang of regret. Maybe running into the forest wasn’t the best idea. Although, there seems to be some sort of shelter not far off. Trixie gave the shadowy structure a wary glance before deciding. Well, it’s not like Trixie has much choice, after all ‘beggars can’t be choosers.’
Trixie started the long walk towards the distant edifice, limping on her sprained hoof. She walked off the path, taking the direct route. The bushes and undergrowth parted in front of her and her horn lit the way. Her progress was slow, her hoof hobbling her walking and several close calls with branches and vines. After several hours of walking, she arrived at a large clearing, feeling tired and rundown.
In the center of the clearing stood a massive castle, though it was in a state of disrepair. The ceiling of it was mostly gone, collapsed in on itself over the years. Its walls were covered with moss and vines as the forest slowly overtook it. Even the stones it was built with were cracked and broken. Trixie was separated from it by a rope bridge that looked to be worn and rotten.
“Humph,” Trixie sneered. “If Trixie was not desperate, she wouldn’t give this… place a second thought.” She stared at it for a moment longer, glaring at it with as much disdain as she could muster. But Trixie is desperate, she thought.
Sighing, she started to walk across the bridge that spanned the ravine in front of the castle. “Don’t look down,” she whispered to herself repeatedly. However, she chanced a quick glance over the side of the bridge, only to find that she couldn’t see the bottom. Instead, all she could see was an ocean of darkness and shadows that reached up at the bridge, threatening to tear it down and swallow her whole. She took another step forward, her gaze bound to the ravine in fear.
A sharp snap shattered the silence that had developed as her hoof fell through the board. Trixie fell onto the boards surrounding the opening, and she watched the broken board fall down into the chasm, eventually being swallowed by the darkness. She lay there for a few minutes, held in place by horror and fear, but eventually she pushed herself back up, and set her sights on the castle in front of her.
“One step at a time, and don’t look down,” Trixie intoned, closing her eyes and repeating the mantra as she walked across the bridge. After what had felt like hours, she felt her hoof touch ground, and she opened her eyes. The castle was still at least twenty feet away, but the sight of a shelter being so close re-energized her and brought her out of her shocked state.
Trixie limped through what had once been the courtyard, eager to get underneath the shelter of the castle. As she approached the door, she slumped against it, pushing it inwards. The hinges screeched in protest, but they slowly yielded to her, the door opening just enough for her to squeeze through. She stumbled into the antechamber, a sense of relief briefly washing over her.
She picked herself up off the cold stone floor, and looked around the desolate room. It was barren, the only thing occupying the interior were several large spiderwebs. Soft moonlight filtered in through the holes in the roof, casting the room in an eerie twilight. Well, it’s better than nothing, Trixie thought, looking around for a place to spend the night.
“Hello my little pony,” echoed a voice coldly.
“Who’s there?!” Trixie snapped. Frantically, she searched the room for the source of the voice. The room was still empty, but she felt a tugging at the corner of her mind. She couldn’t put her hoof on it, but something was compelling her to go up the stairs at the back of the room. Looking at them warily, Trixie considered turning around and spending the night in the forest, but the nagging in her mind only grew stronger at the thought of leaving. Trixie could only hold out another minute before she capitulated and started towards the stairway.
The stairway was just wide enough for her, but didn’t leave much room on the sides. It spiraled upwards in a tight circle, her hooffalls echoing loudly in the stone stairway. After a few minutes of trudging up the stairs, she emerged into a large, elliptical room. Moonlight streamed in through the windows, lighting the entire room brightly, except for the far corner, which was completely dark. The compulsion in her mind grew until it was all she could think about, driving her to that dark corner.
Her legs carried her across the room, no matter how much she resisted. As she reached the edge of the darkness, whatever had possessed her released her. Trixie stood there, staring into the darkness as it shifted within itself, alive.
“It is amazing how quickly ponies forget that which haunts their worst nightmares,” the voice said, cool and bitter.
Trixie swallowed her trepidation. “The Great and Powerful Trixie isn’t scared of... whatever or whoever you are,” she said boldly.
The voice laughed, a deep and evil laugh. “Oh, don’t worry, you will be.”
Trixie’s eyes grew wide with fear as she watched the miasma coalesce in front of her. It formed itself into the shape of a tall, black alicorn. The alicorn towered over Trixie, staring down at her with ice blue eyes. She threw her head back, sending her astral mane flowing in a non-existent wind.
“Ah, it is so good to have some sort of body again,” said the alicorn.
Trixie felt a small part of her magic being siphoned off by the newly formed projection. “Who... who are you?” Trixie stuttered, backing away slowly.
“I am Nightmare Moon, the true Queen of Equestria,” she said calmly. “And, you Trixie are my new assistant.”
“Trixie is nothing of the sort!” Trixie yelled indignantly.
Nightmare Moon gave her a look that dared her to try anything. “I know you Trixie, everything about you. You are ambitious, you love what you do, but are rarely celebrated for it, you want to be the best and see the smiles you inspire in other ponies.” She paused. “Trixie, you and me are the same. We just want to be happy and make others happy in our own way, but ponies hate us for it. Trust me Trixie, I know you better than anypony else.”
“You... you can’t know all of that! Trixie has never met you before!” Trixie said, taking another step backwards.
Nightmare Moon strode across the space between them in a few steps and put her hoof on Trixie’s shoulder.
Trixie recoiled, shrugging the hoof off, stumbling backwards and screaming, “Don’t touch me!”
Nightmare Moon lunged at her faster than Trixie could react, tackling her to the ground. “You will help me whether you like it or not!” Nightmare Moon sneered.
Trixie looked up at the astral projection angrily. “Trixie does what she wants to do!” she yelled, thrashing at the pony who had her pinned. Her good hoof connected with the projection’s face, causing it to dissolve into a black miasma. The essence of the alicorn flowed around Trixie, and into her, permeating her entire being.
“Ahhh!” Trixie screamed as she was consumed by Nightmare Moon’s consciousness. The last thing she saw before passing out, was the dancing shadows caused by the moonlight.
Trixie screamed. She was laying on a wooden table, shackled and bound so that she couldn’t escape. The only light was a dim candle on the table near her face, and its light didn’t reach more than a few feet. In those few feet, Trixie could only see the roughly hewn stones that made up the floor. They were dark red, though she guessed that they weren’t naturally that colour.
She screamed until her lungs burned, and she kept screaming until she lost her voice entirely. After she had finished screaming, she heard a door creak open behind her and saw a dim light spill in through it, splashing against the wall to reveal the red stains upon it. Trixie closed her eyes and sobbed quietly, already knowing her fate.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie,” came a voice from behind her. “How far the mighty have fallen.” The owner of the voice walked around the table, and into Trixie’s line of sight. She was tall, and had both wings and a horn. The dim candlelight made her coat glow a demure cream-orange colour.
“Mother,” Trixie hissed.
“Don’t call me that,” Celestia sneered. “You’ve never been more than a failure to me. Even now, you lie here accused of treason and you couldn’t do that well.”
“T... Trix... Trixie is not a failure!” Trixie sniffled. “Trixie is one of the most powerful unicorns in all of Equestria!”
Celestia laughed, but it was different than the laugh Trixie remembered from her foalhood. This wasn’t the sweet, ringing laugh that she had grown up hearing, rather it was cold, harsh, and malicious. “Trixie, even my student, who is the daughter of two measely librarians, is more powerful than you. You aren’t fit to inherit the title of ‘princess.’”
Trixie’s will finally broke, and tears streamed from her eyes. “I... I just wanted to make you proud...” Trixie sobbed through her tears. She cried for a few minutes more, before finally surrendering to her fate. “Just... just make it quick please.”
The torture chamber around her faded, taking the image of Celestia with it. The space around her became an empty void of black, pressing in on her from every side. Slowly, it was replaced by a crowded street that was surrounded by tall houses and shops on all sides. The flagstones shining brightly in the morning sun, and the celestial banners billowing in the wind.
“No,” Trixie whispered to herself upon recognizing the street. “This... this can’t be real.” One by one, the ponies walking along the street disappeared into the air, the river of traffic waning to a tickle, and then to nothing at all except one pony standing across the street from her.
“Trixie,” he said sweetly, his white mane flowing in the wind.
“This isn’t real. You aren’t real!” Trixie yelled, backing up until she ran into the wall of the house behind her. “None of this is real!”
The stallion strode across the street, his pale grey coat glistening in the sunlight. “Trixie, it’s me, Boreas. Remember?”
Trixie tried to compose herself, and said, “Trixie... Trixie remembers you.”
Boreas’s face contorted with sadness and anger. “The you remember how you killed me.”
“I... I...” Trixie stuttered as her composure broke. “There was nothing I could do. The entire house was coming down. I tried my best to protect you.” Trixie’s voice cracked. “It... it was just too heavy. There was nothing else I could do,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.
“Lies,” Boreas hissed. “You’re the daughter of Princess Celestia, you should have been able to save your fiancé at the very least, but no. You save that pathetic friend of yours, what was her name?”
“Moondancer,” Trixie whispered. “Her name was Moondancer.”
“You could have saved me,” Boreas said fiercely.
“I... I... I could have,” she gave in. “I let you die.” Trixie looked down at her hooves in defeat.
“My, my, how easy it is to break ponies these days,” said the all too familiar voice of Nightmare Moon. “It used to take days of this. It’s a shame really, I never get to have any fun anymore.”
Trixie looked up to find Boreas disappearing in a dark cloud, and replaced by Nightmare Moon.
“What do you want from Trixie?” she asked as the street faded away, leaving the two of them floating in the dark recesses of Trixie’s mind.
“Help,” Nightmare Moon said, cringing at the admission. “I do not have a body, and the magic required to recreate it cannot be done from the corner of a decrepit castle.”
Trixie beamed at her new-found leverage. “And why should Trixie help you after all the pain you have caused her?” she said boldly, challenging the goddess.
“Because, I can offer you so much more. That little display was but a fraction of my power, and of the power that you could wield until I am able to find a body. I can offer you everything you could never do on your own. With me you could have saved Boreas, you could live up to your namesake, you could get revenge on that purple unicorn that humiliated you. You can be everything you always wanted to be,” Nightmare Moon said elegantly.
“That is too good to be true,” Trixie replied. “What is the catch?”
“Well... the power isn’t easy to control, and it will make sleep difficult at night. But those are the only drawbacks,” Nightmare Moon said nervously.
Trixie looked at her, deadpan. “Is that really all there is?”
“No... I’m sure Celestia won’t be happy about this, and will do everything in her power to catch you.”
“This is acceptable,” Trixie said nonchalantly.
Nightmare Moon smiled wickedly. “Good—”
“Now, if you don’t mind, Trixie wants back in her body,” Trixie demanded.
“Fine, but I will be back,” Nightmare Moon admonished.
The darkness permeating her mind closed in around Trixie, blocking out everything and swallowing her whole.
Opening her eyes, the first thing she saw was the brightly lit antechamber she had come into initially. The sun shone through the doorway and the holes in the roof, causing Trixie to blink as her eyes adjusted to the light.
What happened? she asked herself, looking around. She tested her sprained ankle, putting as much weight on it as she could, and found it to be completely healed. What is going on here? she though frantically, before remembering the exchange with Nightmare Moon. Did... did she really do all this while I was passed out? Checking her entire body, she found every scrape, scar, cut, and bruise she had ever had was gone.
Her eyes came to rest on her mane, which had a thin black streak running through it, marring her otherwise illustrious silver mane.
“Oh well,” Trixie said, brushing it off. “Every sword has two sides.” Trixie reached into her well of magic and found it exponentially larger than before. She grasped the door and pulled on it gently, trying not the break it. The door snapped off its hinges and flew across the room, impaling itself in the far wall. Trixie will have to get used to this... power, she thought as she strode towards the unobstructed doorway. But for now, Trixie has other matters to attend to. Without a look back, she walked out of the castle, and onto the road that led to Ponyville.