Chapter 11 Define: Gehenna
When Rainbow and Twilight stepped through the portal, Rainbow’s uniform vanished, as well as the portal. Dash was a little sad to see her uniform go but she would not trade Twilight for anything, even being Captain of the Wonderbolts. The two friends spent the time talking, mostly about nothing in particular. After a while, Rainbow could not help but think they were lost, even though Twilight seemed sure hooved the entire way; leading them deeper and deeper down the tunnels. Finally, Rainbow could not take it anymore.
“Twi, you have any idea where we're going?”
“Somehow I just knew you were going to say that.” Dash expected the answer but it was not the one she wanted.
Twilight led them down several more tunnels, Dash was amazed at how they didn't have to backtrack or look for another way. Wherever they were going, Twilight seemed to know the way. When they made it down the fiftieth tunnel, everything changed; almost like walking through a door. The new place was as different from the old as night is from day.
The variance between the two places startled Twilight, where before it was just normal cave walls, here was a version of hell personified. The fires were everywhere, radiating heat and the souls burning in them suffered untold agony.
The cavern was massive, easily dwarfing the size of most continents. Demonic beings flew overhead, leather wings keeping them in the air as they plucked up souls and dropped them into molten fire pits for their own amusement. All manner of creatures were chained to the wall, some impaled on spikes; those souls impaled in such a way were forced to look on in horror as their torturers took their pound of flesh in turn, literally, only for it to grow back and await the next torturer.
The smell, Twilight once again found herself envying Dash’s current state. Although they both could hear the screaming – while it was not as bad as what occurred at the lake – it would forever haunt their dreams.
Looking at the area on the magic plane hurt, a lot. The physical suffering of these damned souls was nothing compared to their spiritual suffering. Twilight mentally mapped out the path they needed to take and then did her best to limit her other sight. It was useless now anyway, the pain of these souls blinded her magic vision to anything else.
“Let’s keep moving, the sooner we get out of here the better.”
Rainbow could not agree more with that statement. The two made their way down the path. Twilight kept a lookout on the ground while Rainbow watched the sky. They were keeping an eye open for any demon that might eye them as potential victims.
“Twilight, have you seen any more hellhounds?” Rainbow asked as a realization crossed her mind.
Twilight looked away from her friend, a guilty expression on her face. “No,” she said meekly.
“I thought you said they were like the guards down here or something? Just how many did you fight?”
“I... I don’t know, I didn’t keep count or anything.”
“Twilight, how many?”
“A lot, all of them I think. They… they just kept coming and I had to get to you.”
Rainbow stared at Twilight in shock, ‘all of them’, the repercussions were not lost on her. This place just deteriorated from bad to worse, she knew she would have to stay on guard.
As they continued on, the heat grew more and more intense. Twilight was sweating profusely now, the heat was next to unbearable, and her shields were only just keeping it back. After five minutes it became too much for her and she would have collapsed if not for a pegasus that rushed to her side.
“You ok, Twi?”
“I will be, the heat it… it just got to me. Give me a minute to try and strengthen this shield.”
Twilight had not put much energy into protecting herself with the shield. She did not want to accidentally injure Rainbow Dash if it was too powerful, but with the heat radiating off these pits she did not see much choice in the matter. She concentrated, taking a fraction of her power, then a fraction of that just for safety. The shield around her grew in power ten-fold; she truly was scared of her own abilities at that moment.
“Alright Rainbow, I should be good to go.” The purple alicorn said. The shield was doing a wonderful job keeping away the heat and Twilight already felt much better.
The pegasus was nowhere around.
She heard it in the distance, several hundred feet up Rainbow screamed. She was being carried off by one of the demonic flyers while they had been distracted with Twilight's problems. Cursing herself, Twilight took off flying after the two.
The demon was faster than she was; Twilight had to open up her senses in order to insure she did not lose it. The suffering that assaulted her was almost too much to bear, but at that moment she closed herself off to it. Twilight focused only on the demon, the creature that had taken Rainbow. She was too far behind it to see with her normal sight, but she did not need it. Only the goal mattered. Until she saw something falling from its form, the demon had dropped its cargo.
Gasping, Twilight went into a nosedive. Flying faster than she ever had before but she was still too late. By the time Twilight arrived at the spot Rainbow fell. The pegasus was lying on the ground. Twilight considered it a blessing that the demon had not dropped Rainbow in a flame pit, but that was for another time. Right now, her friend needed her.
“Rainbow, are you alright?”
“Well, beyond being dead you mean?”
That was Rainbow all right.
“Hold still, I think you might have a few broken bones,” Rainbow tried to get up, but she instantly fell over a few times. After a quick healing spell, she was able to stand without issue.
“When did you get so good with those, Twi?”
“Well, not having to worry about causing pain it makes it a lot easier.”
Twilight looked around; she was not sure where they were at that moment. It scared her a little to think they might be lost.
“That damn thing grabbed me when I was distracted. Ugh, I’ll never drop my guard in this place again.”
“It’s my fault Rainbow; I was the one who couldn’t take the heat.”
“Let’s just get moving. The sooner we get out of here the better.”
Twilight could not agree more.
It took Twilight a while to find a new path, as the old one was too far away now. Every time she opened up her other senses, the pain was worse than before. She had to shut them down completely now just to stay on her feet. It was odd that Rainbow had not said anything for a while; the pegasus was unusually quiet, but before Twilight could question her, a noise stole her attention. A voice she never thought she would hear again.
“Well, well, and here I thought I was in hell, but fate has delivered me my revenge.” Queen Chrysalis spoke to the two.
The pair came to a dead stop as Twilight stared up in shock. Up above them, sitting on the edge of one of the flame pits, was the Queen of the Changelings. She was smiling down on the two with a condescending grin on her face.
“Well, at least you got put where you deserved to be,” Twilight remarked.
Chrysalis‘s grin wavered at that, Twilight took it as a minor victory. “That may be so, but when the hellhounds disappeared, I got free. Now we get to play all over again young Twilight Sparkle. First, I think I will have some lunch, care to join me?”
“What are you playing at?” Twilight asked.
“Tell me something Twilight, how do you like your pegasus wings? Rare I hope.”
One of Chrysalis's changelings flew up from behind her, carrying a pair of shish kabob cyan-blue pegasus wings.
Twilight stared on in shock, her mind barely accepted the scene that played out before her; those wings were too familiar. She had seen them too many times. Twilight had no doubt to which pegasus those wings belonged to: Rainbow Dash.
She stared at her friend standing by her side. It was not possible, Rainbow was right with her this whole time and she still had her wings. Daring a glance with her other sight, Twilight saw the truth. That was not Rainbow; it was a changeling.
The changeling by her side blew a raspberry at the alicorn before transforming back and flying beside its queen. ‘When had the switch occurred?’ The answer was obvious; the Rainbow she found was the changeling. They still had the real Rainbow.
“Breaking my dear child’s bones was a heavy price to pay.” Chrysalis commented as she stroked the changeling’s head. “But, to get my revenge on you I would happily do it a hundred more times.”
Twilight was livid; this creature had dared harm her friend AGAIN! She instantly went into an attack position, “WHERE IS RAINBOW?” There was no need for her to shout, as her voice carried all across the realm and echoed off the wall back to her, not losing any of its potency.
“Oh you want your friend back, why didn’t you say so?”
Across the cavern, Twilight made out eight different sets of changelings, each holding a bruised and battered pegasus with nothing but stumps for wings. Their changeling handlers held each one over a different flame pit.
“One of these is her, but dear me, I forgot which one.”
Twilight’s anger left her, Chrysalis had figured out the perfect hostage situation. If she attacked, the changelings would all let go at once. While Twilight had no doubt she could stop several of them from falling into the fire, their spacing and distance from each other would make rescuing all of them next to impossible. There was no guarantee that she would save the real one. The changelings began surrounding her.
‘This is my fault; I took out the hellhounds after warning Rainbow against that very course of action.’ Twilight felt defeated; once again, she caused suffering by not thinking ahead. ‘Celestia was right, I have so much more to learn.’ Chrysalis interrupted her thoughts before she could continue.
“I wonder if it’s true what they say about pegasus wings; do they taste like chicken?” Twilight gasped in horror as Chrysalis took a bite out of the wings and began chewing. “Never really had meat before now, to be honest not my thing.” Chrysalis spit the bite into the flame pits.
The rage in Twilight's mind hit critical mass; she was well beyond boiling point. Last time she faced Chrysalis, Twilight did not have full control of her actions, it was like watching someone else take control. This time though, she knew exactly what she was doing, and she was in FULL control.
Her wings flared out, each feather sending blades of magic extending out in the direction they pointed. Several hundred miles away on either side of the cavern, the energy trails from Twilight's wings left perfect cuts in the walls, slicing through everything from Twilight to the wall; like a hot knife through butter. The changelings near her vaporized in an instant, the only clue that they were even there was a death shriek that sounded exactly like the one Twilight heard when she stuck her hoof in the river.
“AGAIN YOU UNDERESTIMATE ME CHRYSALIS. AGAIN YOU ATTACK THE ONE THING YOU SHOULD NEVER TOUCH.” Twilight did not shout, there was no need, not a soul in Hades failed to hear her warning.
Chrysalis was scared; Twilight was right, the power she had felt back in the castle was only a fraction of what she wielded here. The death of her children’s souls, she did not think such a thing was possible. ‘Might as well get something out of this’, she thought. “Drop them.”
At once all eight Rainbows began falling into the flame pits.
Time seemed to slow down for Twilight; her mind ran a mile a minute playing out every scenario she could possibly consider. At best, her odds of saving the right Rainbow were sixty percent and quickly dropping. Her magic vision too blurred by the hate and destruction of this place to be of any assistance.
Only one thought seemed to stick in her mind: Rainbow had to fly, but it was impossible, the queen had cut her wings off. Even had that not been the case, the pegasus had no feelings in her wings; she could not fly. However, Rainbow had to fly. The thought would not leave her alone. It began to drown out every other idea that she had. ‘Rainbow had to fly’, ’Rainbow had to fly’, ’Rainbow, you must MUST FLY’. Desperation caused her to shout the last one, “RAINBOW, YOU MUST FLY!”
Rainbow fell; looking down the fire was coming up fast. The changeling queen had kidnaped her and used her as a hostage against Twilight. Her bones were broken from an earlier fall, there was no way she could not stop it. That had hurt her pride but when Chrysalis decided to cut her wings off… while she did not feel anything, much to Chrysalis loathing, it had hurt her in different ways. Like seeing your best friends leave you, knowing it was the last time you would ever see each other.
Chrysalis had her changelings clone Rainbow, as she figured out the perfect way to use her as a hostage. To make matters worse, Chrysalis ensured Rainbow had a completely unobstructed view of the whole thing. Rainbow watched as Twilight walked into the trap: She was forced to watch as Chrysalis revealed herself. She watched as Chrysalis’s changelings surrounded Twilight, she watched as Chrysalis ate part of her wings, and she watched in pride as Twilight finally had enough.
The energy that flew from her wings had impressed the pegasus; that Twilight was always impressive with magic was never in doubt, but this, this was on a very different scale. It did not come as a surprise when her handler dropped her.
Rainbow was too far away to yell for help. She accepted her fate and was glad Twilight would be ok after she was gone, it would hurt her of course, but nothing could harm her physically. For now, Rainbow would take that small victory.
“RAINBOW YOU MUST FLY!” those four words, Rainbow knew that it was impossible. She did not have wings; she did not have feeling in her appendages. Rainbow could not fly at all. She was not even a pegasus anymore; she was an earth pony. Dash did not know why, perhaps it was instinct, her body trying to save her, or perhaps she was simply trying to carry out the command of one of the Princess of Friendship. Rainbow tried flying anyway. After all, what did she have to lose in trying?
“RAINBOW YOU MUST FLY!”
Twilight had commanded it, and the world had no choice but to obey.
Golden wings shot out of the pegasus’s stumps; they shone brighter than any of the gems in Rarity’s shop. Each wing was completely weightless, but stronger than steel. Made of pure magic energy, they responded not to the changes in wind pressure, gravity, or temperature, but to Rainbow's will. She willed herself to stop falling and she did. Rainbow willed herself up. She shot up faster than ever. Dash easily broke her previous speed records without even trying, she created a site never before seen in Hades and only once before in all of Equestria, the double sonic rainboom.
Twilight stared on in shock, the vision before her was unbelievable: A pegasus had shot out of one of the flame pits. Surrounded in a golden halo of energy and created not one, but two sonic rainbooms. Only one pegasus in all of Equestria had ever pulled that off before. She could not bring herself to believe it though; only by checking with her other vision did she come to accept the truth. It was easier now; the rainbooms seemed to have blown away all the interference around them.
Up in the sky was the unmistakable energy of Rainbow Dash, cloaked in a magic that Twilight had never seen before. It seemed as if the very world had given up some of its power to restore flight to the pegasus, with the added effect of healing her broken bones. Her wings… and what wings they were! Shining golden wings with pure magic feathers, the wingspan would put Celestia’s to shame; each feather as sharp as diamonds. Twilight had no doubt the damage they could do to somepony if Rainbow used them as weapons.
As it turned out, Twilight did not know the half of it.
Chrysalis was furious. Again, these two ponies had ruined her plans for the third time. ‘Not again’ she thought, the queen ordered her entire hive to attack.
Rainbow was in heaven. After the time she spent in the arena had given her a chance at flying again, she had made peace with herself that it was the last time. Rainbow was glad to have the memory and figured that would be it. Now? Now, she could fly for real. This was no gift that would be lost, no exchange made for her giving up something precious to her. These wings, they were hers, and it was not just the wings. She now had full control over her hooves again, the magic that radiated around her restoring her broken bones to normal.
No, better than normal, she could sense everything at an accelerated rate. Normally moving so fast would be impossible in a cavern like this. However, her senses were heightened to a degree she thought impossible. She could twist, turn, move, or fly at whatever speed she wanted with virtually no risk whatsoever of losing control. Rainbow soon noticed an entire hive of changelings coming up to attack her. They obviously thought Rainbow was the safer target of the two, the fools.
Rainbow dived straight through the center of the changeling horde; she checked her speed, as she did not want to go through them too quickly, not for what she had planned. Rainbow was a little jealous; Twilight had showed her a new trick, and she wanted to try it out. Flying through the changelings at near rainboom speeds, she barrel rolled. Her wings spread out fully. At first, nothing happened. However, just when she was about to speed off magic energy shot like blades out of her feathers, copying the stunt Twilight had pulled off earlier. While not as powerful, it was just as effective at this range. After Rainbow’s seventh barrel roll, HER skies were clear of changelings.
Chrysalis could no longer stomach watching the COMPLETE destruction of her children; she turned and looked at the alicorn. “Finish it.”
Twilight gave the queen her last wish. It was a mercy Chrysalis did not deserve, but the scream sounded like music to Twilight’s ears.
Twilight flew next to her friend, after all this time on the ground she figured Rainbow would not be landing any time soon. Before she could say anything, the golden wing pegasus flew over and hugged her. Twilight returned the hug with all the strength she could muster.
“Don’t you dare apologize, Twi.”
Twilight did not, she wanted to, but with the strength she had left, she just hugged Rainbow and started crying.
It took no time at all to find their destination, the fight with the changelings and subsequent sonic rainbooms had given every creature here cause to fear them. Twilight’s vision returned to normal and was easily able to pick up the path; to top it off flying was much quicker than walking. As they flew, Rainbow could not help but show off a little, Twilight did not begrudge the pegasus one bit. If she was impressive before, this new Rainbow put that one to shame.
Sooner than the pegasus would have liked, but not soon enough for Twilight they found the exit. It was hidden behind a faux wall; Twilight had learned her lesson though, instead of destroying the wall she simply made it temporally insubstantial so the two of them could pass through.
When they reached the other side, Twilight turned the wall back to normal. Rainbow had stopped in front of her, mouth agape at the sight that greeted her. Cerberus, Guardian of Tartarus.
“That... that is a big dog.”
“I forgot, you didn't see him when he came to Ponyville.”
“How do we get past him?”
Twilight thought about this, as the portal to Tartarus was sitting right behind a very sleepy three-headed dog. Even if Cerberus did remember her, she doubted the dog would be happy to be disturbed.
"If only we had a ball or something.” Rainbow said.
Twilight laughed, “What, you think Pinkie is just going to show up and give us one?”
“Hey girls, what’s up!”
Twilight and Rainbow nearly jumped out of their skin. There, as if she was sitting behind one of the rocks the entire time, was the pink mare they both knew. Pinkie had chosen that exact moment to jump out as if to scare them both to death. Had it been possible, Twilight suspected that is exactly what would have occurred.
The noise had awoken Cerberus; he stared at the intruders with a threatening glare in his three sets of eyes.
“Oh, that’s a big doggy! Who wants to play ball?” Pinkie reached behind a rock and pulled a ball out of thin air. Tossing the ball down the hallway Cerberus took off after it, joy written over all three of his faces at finally being able to play again.
“Pinkie… how… are… you... here?” Twilight knew she should not ask Pinkie how she did anything. It was the golden rule of Ponyville, never ask Pinkie how, but at this time, her mind decided it would not function anymore without at least some explanation.
“Oh that’s easy, my pinkie sense told me my friends needed a ball, so I opened a pocket dimension and came out behind that rock… Rainbow you got new wings!”
Pinkie ran up and began looking at Rainbow’s wings from every possible angle, all the while asking her a million questions all at once. To say Rainbow was uncomfortable was an understatement.
“Pinkie if you don't mind, we need to get going before Cerberus gets back,” Rainbow replied, yanking her new wings away from the excitable pink pony.
“Oh ok, but we'll catch up later, kay? Bye!” Just as when Pinkie arrived, the pink mare disappeared behind the rock she came out of.
Twilight glared at Rainbow, hoping she had some new insight into their crazy friend.
“Pinkie being Pinkie?”
Twilight sighed at that answer; true it was the fall back excuse the standard 'hell if I know' Ponyville answer, but something was different this time. What Pinkie said made sense. It was pure speculation, but according to string theory, you could open a pocket dimension and come out anywhere you want. ‘But how had she…’ it hurt too much to keep thinking about it.
“Pinkie being Pinkie.” Twilight went with the fallback excuse – it hurt less – as they both crossed the portal into Tartarus.