Celestia looked over the table in front of her. It was a simple, yet elegant wooden table, one she might have had for the past hundred years or so; she rarely bothered to keep track on her furniture’s age anymore. There was a pony who did that for her now, though she didn’t know their name. So instead, Celestia focused on what was on the table itself.
A large glass bowl holding a dozen frogs was currently acting as the table’s centerpiece. Next to the frogs was a straw doll, two pieces of corn, a half-eating ham sandwich that had caused several of the novice guards to lose their lunch, a wet paper bag that was on fire when first found, and now smelled of something rather unpleasant, and a counterfeit bit that showed the royal plot on both sides.
“So, how exactly did these get in the royal treasury?” Her question was directed at a dark green earth pony named Twobit.
“I don’t understand it your highness! I was just going over the accounts and making sure everything in the treasury was up to date when they just…popped in! Some of the frogs jumped from out of the coin piles, and the guards found the rest after searching through the room. I took count after the…invading objects were removed, and found that several bits had disappeared, the exact amount to much up the number of random objects in the room no less.” The Royal Treasurer scratched her brown mane in confusion.
“So you’re saying the royal currency turned into frogs, among other things…” Celestia sighed and rubbed her hoof on her own head a little. Since she woke up there had been rumors of bits changing across Canterlot. While it wasn’t a large sum of bits that had shifted into random objects and creatures, it was enough that Celestia would have to assure the nobles that the official Equestrian currency was not cursed. Even now a few more paranoid investors were in the process of dumping the Royal coin for foreign denominations.
“Thank you, Twobit, that will be all. Miss Pennsworth?” A grey unicorn near the door bowed her head in Celestia’s direction and got a quill and parchment ready. “ Have a release in tomorrow’s paper assuring everypony that the Royal currency is in no danger of disappearing or turning into something else in mass. Also, set up an appointment with the more...problematic nobility for me, you know the ones.” Pennsworth nodded and left to fulfill her orders.
While I shouldn’t point hooves, this has Discord written all over it. I’d like to ask him to refrain from actions like this, but compared to the last several messes he’s made when ambassadors showed up, this is rather tame. I’ll let him know it wasn’t appreciated, but not be too harsh if this is all he disrupts this week.
Well, things could be worse I suppose. Trixie lamented irritably.
Luckily, her cape had snagged on a rock above her, saving her from falling into the glowing, bubbling green lake of what she assumed to be acid seven dozen hooves below her. Though she was alive, Trixie wasn’t willing to bet on how long her cape could hold her. Not to mention that it was acting as a make-shift noose at the moment, and breathing was becoming harder. After struggling through a few deep breaths and pushing through the desire to panic, she used her weight lessening spell again, allowing her to breathe easier and hopefully for her cape to hold her up a little longer.
Looking over the cavern, Trixie could see on the far end of the acid lake another ledge with a cavernous exit on it. She shuddered a bit as she looked down again at the mammoth skeletons of what looked to be wingless dragons half-way jutting up from some sections of the lake. In Celestia’s name, please let them all be long dead and gone. Trixie’s having enough trouble right now without any other help.
Trixie felt her cloak give a little, and stopped gazing around for hidden dangers to work on the very obvious one of falling. A glow of magenta magic slowly oozed out of her horn and into her small travel pack. As she continued to concentrate, a rope slipped out of the pack and slithered its way up to the ledge, tying itself around one of the stalagmites. With a lot of grunting, slipping, and choking from twisting her cloak the wrong way around herself, Trixie managed to climb back up to the ridge. Reaching the top, Trixie saw her cape had luckily been caught on a smaller stalagmite and was now sporting a fairly large hole near the lower end of it.
Well, better the cloak than Trixie, she isn’t replaceable, despite what some ignorant foals might say.
Trixie took a few minutes to rest and gathered up her rope again. She sighed and looked over to the other ledge. Ok, so if Trixie was an Alicorn, she could just fly over. The rope isn’t long enough to use it to tight walk across. Not that Trixie was looking forward to that. But how did Luna ever get anyone else over? Teleport? Trixie used her magic to scan around the area again, but unlike the hallway, this cavern was fairly saturated in magic, causing her to have no luck in finding anything helpful.
Perhaps Trixie might have skipped a few too many classes on detection, it would be nice to know if this is all just residual magic or some sort of spell. Still, the magic did look a bit deeper in tone to Trixie along both ledge’s, but looking them over showed her nothing special.
“Well, if magic won’t help, Trixie will simply have to use her brilliant deductive skills to get over this hurdle!” With that she promptly kicked the nearest pillar. When that did nothing, she then proceeded to kick and poke the other pillars and walls randomly. After about ten minutes of this and the painful reminder of how bad of an idea it is to buck stone, Trixie noticed a fairly obvious lever on the wall next to the entrance.
"Hmph, always the last place you look."
Pushing it down, Trixie caught the sight of a iridescent bridge slowly being formed with magic between the two ledges. The outer skeleton of it formed first, with magic running along the rope-like black lines and archways to slowly fill it in. Once the bridge had coalesced, Trixie had a semi-solid looking walkway of purple and bluish magic to the other side. She nervously trotted over the bridge, eyeing the acid and huge bones below her warily. Trixie breathed a sigh of relief at making it to the other side without incident, and continued on.
She peered into the next room, seeing it to be made of roughly hewn stone. The room looked to be a giant box, maybe going twenty hooves up and roughly ten hoofs in length. There was an archway with a closed door on the far end of it, exactly like the first magic door Trixie encountered, but a bit smaller and minus the bar in front of it. The room had an eight pointed star in the middle surrounded by a white glowing circle. Unless Discord was messing with her, which Trixie wouldn’t be surprised about; this was the last obstacle before she reached Luna’s sanctum. With an audible gulp, Trixie slowly walked forward, pulling the small box out of her backpack with her magic as she approached the star.
“P-Princess Luna…?” Twilight said, feeling just as disturbed by Luna’s actions as the Zebra and Crystal Empire ambassadors seemed to be. This was one of the few meetings Twilight had actually looked forward to. The Zebra ambassador, Troika, was almost as interesting as Zecora in his own ways, and it was wonderful for Twilight to talk to somepony from her Sister-in-laws capital. Having Luna here was just an added bonus, resulting in a nice relaxed talk with few, if any, undertones to the conversation.
Then, in mid-laugh, Luna had cocked her head to the side, as if listening to something the rest of them couldn't hear. Her eyes went wide and she quickly stood up, knocking the large throne-looking chair she was in over. Her stance had turned rigid, her ears perked in alarm, and her wings had spread like she was about to take flight, despite the small size of the room. Everything and everyone was still for a few scant seconds before Luna’s magic tore the doors off their hinges as she rushed through them like a tempest.
"Luna! Wait!" Twilight cried out in alarm, quickly getting to her hooves and following in Luna's wake.
Twilight caught sight of Luna as she emerged from the room, watching wordlessly as Luna charged down the hall and crashed through the large stained window of herself at the end and took flight. Luna was out of Twilight’s sight in seconds after this, leaving her, and two very perplexed ambassadors to explain what just happened to the emerging guards now pouring into the hallway.
Once Trixie followed Discord's instructions and went through the last trap, she found herself in what she could only assume to be Luna’s old Laboratory. Her lavender eyes widened in awe and a little drool even made its way to the floor as she realized just how many palpably magical artifacts were in the room, with more almost calling to her from nearby. Dozens of trinkets littered stone tables around her, illegible notes on chalkboards which lined the entire room near each table. A beautiful red gem on a pendant almost sang to her from one table, calling her to it like a siren. Before she knew it, Trixie was gazing down at the pendant before a flash of memory caused her to shake her head and back away.
Discord said Luna would be alerted the moment Trixie touched anything…but the things she could do if she could take even a couple of these with her… Trixie looked over the various notes and papers strewn about and continued forward, ignoring the treasures around her as best she could.
Trixie can’t risk being the pawn of another Alicorn amulet, and she won’t ruin her chances at Alicornhood, among other reasons...
An image of Twilight tried to force its way into her head at this thought but she shook it off. Trixie started to open doors and search for the object Discord had sent her here for. She came upon several other rooms with work tables that looked innocent enough, and barely glanced at the assorted beakers and flowerpots assembled for experiments long gone. The next few rooms caused Trixie to cringe a little as they were revealed to have bones of long dead animals kept in cages with diagrams of their anatomies around the walls.
Well, Luna is a researcher like Twilight, so of course she works with animals. Nothing you need to get too worked up about Trixie.
Moving further down the hall and into yet more new rooms caused Trixie to let out a gasp of horror. Pony skeletons were shackled in what looked like dentist chairs with dozens of rusted over blades and dissection instruments attached to hooks on the walls and laying on rusted medical tables. The skeletons themselves were missing various parts that Trixie was pretty sure she saw resting on shelves in the back of the room. Quickly trotting away from these and opening another door, Trixie saw the the next room contained a few giant greenish orbs taller than Trixie hovering in the air. The orbs were seemingly filled with water and a few looked to contain sleeping ponies, but Trixie chose not to investigate further. She shivered upon seeing several unicorn horns on one of the medical tables in the room as she walked past, hoping this plan wouldn’t end up with her facing the same fate.
What in Equestria happened here? What was Luna doing to these ponies? Are these literally the skeletons in Luna’s closet that Trixie is now witnessing? These…experiments of Luna’s are getting worse as Trixie goes deeper. What else was Luna hiding here?
Shaking a little, Trixie left the rooms of nameless skeletons and proceeded down the corridor. She came to the last door, which was larger and far more ornamental than the others she had passed, and took a few shaky breaths before slowly easing it open. The room was easily three times the size of any other Trixie had come across, and held the closest explanation she felt she would ever get for Luna’s creepy experiments.
The ceiling had a glowing full moon etched into it that bathed the room in light, eliminating the need for torches, though definitely would require Trixie to wear a sleep mask if she ever had to stay in it overnight. A huge and unkempt bed was placed by the wall at the far end of the room along with a small dresser. Bother were corroded badly due to their age.
A large, shattered mirror was off to the side, and in fact, it looked as though a lot of things had been broken in this room at one point. Gouges were in several places in the walls, painting were ripped beyond comprehension, and the debris of other things destroyed and ravaged by time were strewn about, with only a few surviving and recognizable among the mess.
Trixie quietly clopped up to a still intact table that had been centered in the room. On it was a large and impressive looking mechanical display depicting ponies living in a small village. Trixie could only guess it was a wind up device of some kind. Several holes and wires were obvious in the village where ponies had been violently ripped out. A crescent moon attached to what looked to be a clock hand rested above the village, and was attached to the back of the device.
I’ve heard of these displays before, but why did Luna have one? It looks like the ponies moved at one point, probably to wake up with the sun and lay down at night. So if I move this moon…
Trixie slowly moved the moon hand behind the device to bring up the sun. But, as the sun hand came up, Trixie only saw a black colored moon where the sun was supposed to be. Looking the hand over, Trixie quickly realized that Luna had glued the moon over the sun.
Trixie felt herself shiver and looked around, becoming aware of all the beady little eyes of the broken villagers around the room. She glanced at the diagrams of an Alicorn far too similar looking to Celestia for Trixie’s comfort. Her eyes went past the half done and crazed looking scribbles that were in the notes all over the table. With a audible gulp, she turned away from the table.
I..I don’t need to see this. Or think about it. Or still be here for that matter. I’m going to get that orb and forget this as soon as possible.
“No no no no no no no no no!”
Luna continued her beloved mantra as she rocketed toward the Everfree Forest, the warning spells in the ruins still giving off shrill cries in her head. Luna cursed her own ingenuity, practically having to fly within a few feet of the old castle before the old spells recognized her and let her teleport into her private sanctum. Said teleport was a little off, as Luna hadn’t gone to her old rooms in a thousand years, and ended up with her crashing into the bed. She could swear she heard the distant sound of hooves before the bed showed its disapproval of her landing by promptly collapsing into itself and breaking the head board over Luna’s back. After half a minute of fighting to get out of the sheets and rotted wood, Luna righted herself and took a few steps out of the remains, coughing and sneezing at all the kicked up dust.
Luna looked around her old chambers quickly and shivered at old half-forgotten memories of her final years here, the memories being only half experienced due to Nightmare Moon being fairly in control of her by that point. The hate, the loneliness, the experiments on corpses that showed her how to twist her own powers into something so much darker than she had thought possible. She wanted to flee from here and put all of this behind her, but some thing, somepony had drawn her back.
No, we must not be consumed by these thoughts, somepony was here, and something was stolen. How did they get through our traps though? Has magic improved so much over the past thousand years?
Luna scanned the room, finally remembering what experiment had been important enough to be kept in her private chambers. Opening the drawer of the small dresser, she let out a scream of anger and distress. The bottle she had stored the orb in was empty, save for the warning note next to the empty vial.
Should any snooping maid or pony with ill intent find this, know that thou shall rule rue the day if thine intent is to consume this precious artifact of ours.
“Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap!”
Trixie continued to yell her beloved mantra as she jammed herself into the hole at the end of the hallway, getting a few cuts and scrapes due to her carelessness. She could practically feel the orb she had swallowed moving around uncomfortably in her stomach for the last few minutes as she ran for her life from the crashing sounds approaching behind her. A distant scream echoed down the hallway as Trixie finally squirmed through the hole and started up the stairs.
That must be Luna! Or-or Trixie woke something! Forget what it is, just keep running!
Luna charged down the laboratories hallway, hoping to hear the sound of hooves again, but picking up nothing. As she came up to the last trap that only she was supposed to be capable of getting through alive, she gave a cursory look around. When a pony stepped onto the eight pointed star in the middle, both doors would seal and they would only have ten seconds to identify themselves as Luna, else the room would crush them and warn Luna of the threat, and need for a cleaning crew. It was, perhaps a little much, but what she experimented on down here needed to be kept safe.
As she continued to look around more, Luna's gaze focused on a strange metallic object on the floor with a button near the star. With a little hesitation she picked it up and gave the button on it a firm push with her magic. Less than a second later, Luna was listening to a very familiar voice.
“I’m Luna, the most lonely and boring Princess to ever exist," a voice from the box that sounded exactly like hers said. "Thou shalt not tell Celestia that we hath wet the bed again! Before courting us thee would do well to remember that our sister's horn is longer and plot much more -"
Luna let the remains of the device fall to the floor as she ran forward in a rage. “How dare you! Come back here and we swear you’ll never be able to wake again unsoiled!”
The acid Wyrms, how did they fail!? Only one with the powers of an Alicorn or dragon could withstand such beasts!
Luna ran through the cavern and over the bridge, looking over the acid pools and at the numerous skeletons. She let out a grunt of frustration at her obvious oversight. Right…we weren’t here to feed them…
As she approached the trapped hallway, Luna once again slowed down and looked at the wrecks that were once traps. No pony to oil or maintain them, and we’re pretty sure Nightmare added some kind of poison to them. Wonderful to kill, but if not cared after, the poison surely would only make the traps corrode even faster over time…
Finally, Luna slowed down to a trot, a menacing smile on her face.
Still, even if everything else fell apart, the fool can’t know about the door.
Luna’s horn glowed a soft blue as she confirmed the door ahead was sealed. They may have somehow opened it once, but they cannot know that it would reseal once the alarm went off, and only we could reopen it this time. They are trapped, and have only us to look forward to.
Luna tried to calm her anger down, despite the memory of what that device said in her voice. No true harm was done, and the intruder had forced her to come back to a place she had badly needed to visit since her return, if only to seal away the magic relics here in a safer location.
But still…she mused It would not be unseemly to make them grovel for forgiveness, and if they swallowed the trigger…well..their next few weeks will be most unpleasant as we remove it from them.
Her smile started to slip from her face however, as the door came into sight with nopony desperately beating on it to escape, or groveling in fear at her approach. It disappeared completely, and her jaw hung loosely as she looked to the door, and then a scant few hooves over to the pony-sized hole in the wall, then back to the door. She did this several times as her mind worked for a proper response to the situation.
After several more seconds, and the world taking on a slight tinge of red, Luna decided on her course of action.
“FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-” Luna’s form shifted to mist in mid scream, shooting through the hole in search for somepony to skin alive.
Trixie had just re-cast her weight reduction spell, and was midway through her wolf illusion when a scream pierced the night and mist erupted out of the ruins behind her. She promptly let the spell fall apart and ran for her life. The Everfree had turned dead silent, save for the galloping hooves of a desperate mare and the enraged screams of another; the monsters and denizens of the forest apparently knowing to stay hidden.
Trixie felt rocks and bushes slap against her legs as she ran, leaving bruises and abrasions. But the pain barely registered as she tried to stay ahead of the ever approaching mist and constant screams she knew were directed at her.
“WE’LL FIND YOU! DON’T THINK YOU CAN OUTRUN THE NIGHT ITSELF! YOUR DREAMS WILL BECOME LIVING NIGHTMARES! THOSE EXPERIMENTS YOU SAW WILL BE LIKE A TROT IN THE PARK COMPARED TO WHAT WE DO TO YOU IF YOU DO NOT COME BACK HERE NOW!”
The warnings of pain and demands for her return continued to call out as if from right behind Trixie for several minutes. Her brain practically shut down from the fear filtering through her with only one order repeatedly going over and over through it.
Run run run run run run run run run!
Trixie collapsed to the ground finally, those last two words carrying out to her, but now sounding from a great distance. After less than a minute, she urged her beaten and exhausted body back up, knowing if she stayed still any longer she would cramp up and be unable to move again before Luna found her. Her mad dash became a limping walk now, with her tongue sticking out to one side and spittle flying with every ragged breath, But somehow, she had made it out. she was still alive.
I…I did it…I got the orb…Luna’s going to fucking kill me if I’m found now…but Trixie did it! Now she just has to make it to Ponyville…and not get run out of town…and find Discord…
A more prominent thought welled up quickly after, dispelling her bravado.
I really hope Luna can’t just find me when I sleep…would I ever wake up again?
Trixie stopped for a second, laughing quietly to herself while trying to stop her body from shaking.
Twilight better appreciate the shit Trixie is doing for her. If she hadn't gone Alicorn on Trixie, then Trixie wouldn't have to go to such lengths to prove her already obvious worth as a rival!
Despite bleeding, aches, pains, constant fear for the future and probable whiplash from various tree branches, thoughts of Twilight helped Trixie’s stumbling trek to Ponyville go just a little bit easier.
The grey, thick mist swirled in front of the castle, gathering itself back together. A short time later Luna reformed and started gasping for air. Her body ached a little, not having been spread out over such a length of land in a very long time.
“COME BACK! YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE STOLEN!” She called out one last time into the dark forest.
She didn't expect a reply, but waited a minute nonetheless before Luna quickly turned around and began a tired flight back to Canterlot.
They had to have swallowed the artifact, if not, they would have been easy to track down. Now their own magic hides it. We’ll have to search the dreams of everypony near here and hope the culprit accidentally reveals themself. But first, we have to warn Tia! Too much time was spent on the Alicorn Trigger for somepony to use it against us!