CHAPTER 7: The Doctor, The Devil, and The Darkness
“Hello Doctor, glad you could join us.” Celestia's voice was calm and cool, as if she were completely unfazed by the sudden and unceremonious entrance. Twilight, for one, had to remind her heart to keep beating.
“What's all this about then? Another big old adventure about to begin?” shot off the brown stallion, rubbing his front hooves together in anticipation. His Cutie Mark was a golden hourglass, indicating that his talent had something to do with time. Now that she saw him, Twilight realized she had indeed seen him around before, but she'd never thought to stop and talk to him. He had just been another face in the crowd, and yet here he was, apparently a sage of sorts and completely trusted by the Princess. She noticed that the guards hadn't reacted to the potential security threat either, after they had seen who it was.
“Miss Sparkle, I've heard a lot about you. Sorry for disturbing your night's rest, but I hear we have something big on our han- er, hooves.”
“Yes we do, Doctor. We've found what we believe to be the Devil, a figure from our childhood fairy tales.”
The Doctor's countenance suddenly shifted. “Did you say the Devil?”
“Have you heard of it?”
“Well, you could say that. But you say you found it?”
“In the Everfree Forest, after a large release of arcane power.”
The Doctor was quiet for a moment, lost in thought. “May I see it?”
Luna pointed to the floor, where the orbs still lay amidst the remnants of Twilight's table. The Princess of the night made a mental note to compensate the unicorn for the loss later.
“Orbs? No biological body?” he trotted over to examine them. “Wait... This couldn't be...”
“Couldn't be what, Doctor?”
He turned back to Celestia with a look that was a combination of shock and wonder. “I think what you have there is a Metaspectre.”
“A Metaspectre!” he said, looking back at the orbs. He gave a small laugh of disbelief. “A very powerful race that supposedly died out long ago. Though, if I had a bit for every time I've thought a race has died out... They were always reclusive, and loved nothing more than knowledge. They were known to conquer planets, their only demands for surrender being a tribute of philosophical writings.”
“They conquered... planets?” Twilight asked in disbelief.
“Well of course! You didn't think yours was the only one with life, did you? Though I will say yours is the most charming.”
“What caused them to die out, Doctor? What's their weakness?” asked Celestia quietly.
“Well, nobody's quite sure. As far as I know, they never lost a battle. And because they're non-organic, they don't age. The older they become, the more expert they become at what you know as magic. And the more expert they are at magic, the harder they are to destroy. Normally, however, they don't kill unless it's necessary. You called this creature the Devil?”
“Yes Doctor. It's a manipulator. In ancient times, it would grant wishes to those who would seek it out. The 'Metaspectre,' as you call it, would find a loophole in their request, and make life so horrible for them or those around them that the wish-seeker would give their own life to fix the pains they had caused.”
“Does the Metaspectre kill those it corrupts?”
“It's implied that it does, but we found a reference in the book that says it absorbs their knowledge and personality.”
“That sounds like a Metaspectre alright, though a bit more direct than they normally are. But it seriously is odd that one still exists, especially so far from home. You said the Metaspectre, or rather the persona it's taken in Equestria, 'The Devil,' was a story from your childhood. But you thought it was nothing more than a story. So it must have existed long before your childhood, correct?”
“That makes sense to me,” said Luna.
“Well, if it's been active this entire time, it will be immensely powerful. Perhaps as strong as you, my Princesses. But there are no recent references to it. So it's either been dormant, or someplace else entirely. The energy release, however, is what tips it off. The Metaspectre race is very good at retaining energy, and only uses as much as is absolutely necessary. So that energy release isn't a mistake. I believe it was both a beacon to draw attention and the natural result of a temporal shift.”
“A temporal shift?”
“Time travel/teleport combo. If done correctly, it can also allow somebody to jump between dimensions, and though it takes a lot of power, a Metaspectre could pull it off.”
Twilight looked at the orbs, which were still spinning ever so slowly on her floor. “If the Metaspectre is so powerful, why hasn't it spoken to us, or hurt us, or... done something at least. It's just sitting there.”
The Doctor shrugged. “Beats me. It depends on this specific Metaspectre's goals and personality.” Then, raising an eyebrow he added, “You do have an awful lot of charms placed on it. Perhaps they're working as intended?”
“Or it's biding its time,” said Luna. The others looked at her with some concern.
“Isn't it obvious? We have the three most powerful magic users in Equestria in this one room, along with the Doctor, who, from the short time I've known him, is a miracle worker. If it's really as clever as you say, Doctor, it probably wouldn't want to challenge all of us at once.”
“It's definitely better at manipulating in one-on-one situations, as shown in the stories,” noted Celestia.
“One other thing,” the Doctor began, “The Metaspectre race is a very proud one. They, though slippery in words, will make good on whatever promises they make. Whether they be threats or favors. If they can find a loophole or an alternate translation that technically still fits the covenant, they'll use it to their advantage. Sadly, though, that's pretty much everything I know about them. I've only actually met one, and that was a long time ago.”
Twilight held a hoof up to her head. This was a lot of information, even for her. Especially the part about life on other planets. It made sense, but to have it confirmed so suddenly, so casually seemed... disrespectful.
“So. Princesses, Doctor. It's getting late, and I should probably put Spike in his bed,” Twilight hinted, looking over to the dragon which had fallen asleep not long after sending the letter summoning Celestia. He'd even remained asleep during Luna's attempt to smash the orbs. “Would you like to stay over? I know my home isn't much, Princesses.”
“It will do just fine, Twilight,” said Celestia warmly. “Is it alright with you, Luna?”
“Of course. Though, since I've had a day's rest already, I volunteer to watch the Devil with my night guards.”
“And you, Doctor?”
“I have my own arrangements. I'll be just next door if you need me.”
“Next door?” asked Twilight in disbelief. She was pretty certain Colgate would have told her if a pony as interesting as the Doctor moved in.
The Doctor opened the library's door with a push of his hoof. Just outside, almost blocking the door's full swing, was an odd, blue, wooden box. “Goodnight Ms. Sparkle.” The doors of the box swung inward, and he stepped inside.
“Is that... big enough for him?”
“It's bigger on the inside!” came the distant reply. “I'll show you tomorrow.”
Twilight was now positively confused by the Doctor.
“It's alright.” said Celestia with a slight smile. “If it's any consolation, I felt much the same when I first met him. But we can trust him.”
“Will you be wanting my bed, Princess?”
“I'll take the floor next to it. Though I'm your Princess, I was at one time just another unicorn like you. I didn't always live in luxury.”
A short time later, the library was dark, with quiet snoring upstairs. Luna sat alone in the shadows, the only sources of light the moonbeams from the windows and the soft glow of the orbs. Two of her guards stood by the door, leaving her some space; the others had stepped outside.
Luna had an ulterior motive, being alone with the Metaspectre. She was hoping to get a chance to speak with it, to learn more about it and why it was here. Seeing as it wouldn't talk in a group, perhaps it would speak to her alone.
“What exactly are you?” whispered Luna quietly.
The orbs glowed brighter in response. Luna caught her breath. It was the first time the orbs had acknowledged her presence, except when they had lashed out at her in self defense.
“Can you hear me?”
We can. As we have been able to. The voice in her head was deep, yet not dark. It was both clear and intelligent, and yet not condescending.
“Are you the orbs, or rather the being inside them?”
We are. Every name you know us by is correct. The Devil, The Metaspectre,The Corrupter, The Temptation...
“Are the stories true?”
Luna felt her heart rise. She was finally getting answers.“Why are you here now?”
We are here for you.
Twilight shot out of her bed before her brain knew what it was doing. Something was wrong. She leaped to her balcony, Celestia only a moment behind her. Down below, something was happening to Luna. The orbs were in the air, perpendicular to the floor, pouring a smoky darkness into the blue Alicorn's mouth. Luna convulsed, her eyes wide with fear.
The guards rushed forward, but were thrown back by a flash of light. The orbs buzzed like angry bees, glowing brighter than was bearable to look at. The light was soon consumed and extinguished by the same darkness that was entering Luna, as a body began to form.
Celestia jumped off of the banister, horn glowing. “Luna! Stick with me!”
Sun Goddess. Twilight started at hearing another voice so clearly in her head. Telepathy was one of the higher forms of magic and required immense concentration. Here was this creature holding back guards, restraining and corrupting Luna, building a body, and it took the time and effort to make small talk.
“Devil! Metaspectre! Whatever you are! You have one chance to release Luna or I'll have to destroy you!” Celestia was furious, more than Twilight had ever seen her. Why, even when Discord returned, the Princess didn't seem much more than annoyed. And truly, she had only been stern with Chrysalis, Queen of the Changelings.
With what? Not a challenge, simply a question.
“You question my power?”
Twilight's jaw dropped.
“Every spell I know. My life if I have to.”
We would hold you to that, but our plans do not have time for deviation. We are taking Luna. Attempting to stop us would be... unwise.
The door burst open as the rest of the guards flooded in. The Doctor lead them, carrying some sort of glowing rod in his mouth. “Freeze Metaspectre! This is a peaceful kingdom! They've done nothing to provoke you! On the pride and honor of your species, let her go!”
Doctor. In another life we could be great allies.
The darkness stopped. Floating in front of them was a true creature of nightmares. Though it was the shape of an earth pony, its flaming white eyes seemed to pierce into your mind, scrying every thought. The mane and tail were an ethereal white against the smoky black body. The mouth seemed completely absent, not at all the gaping maw described in the story Luna had recounted. Yet The Devil's presence made Twilight want to cower in fear, though nothing about its physical appearance was particularly frightening. Yet looking at it made Twilight remember horrible moments of her past. Every wrong she had done to another, every unresolved conflict, every word of harshness.
Luna stood stock still, eyes closed and head lowered. The guards had the door blocked and the Metaspectre surrounded. Celestia glowered in anger while Spike cowered in fear. They were at an impasse. Then...
Twilight's eyes grew wide.
Nobody else can hear this, these words are for you alone. Celestia has hidden great darkness from you. You are a creature with a thirst for knowledge, something I, the core personality, share. You are about to be thrust into a bloody history that Celestia has left unresolved. If you don't fix it, this kingdom, this world, will fall. And not by my hooves. By yours. You must choose where your loyalties lie, and don't be too quick to answer. Friends will fall, allies will betray. And I will say I am deeply sorry for what I'm about to do.
Luna's eyes shot open, but a different intelligence was behind them. Dragon slitted irises shot around the room, each glance accusatory and challenging. The dark umbilical cord between her and the Metaspectre sparked with energy. Luna cried out in pain as she grew in stature, her coat growing darker as she matured into a true adult Alicorn. She began to laugh. A dark, familiar laugh. Nightmare Moon was back.
And then the library exploded.