CHAPTER 8: Up in Flames
Twilight had never noticed how beautiful and soft the grass outside her home was. She always had her nose stuck in a book or her head in the clouds. No, she hadn't noticed it until she had been violently thrown through her wall in a shock wave of destruction. She picked herself up, grunting from the effort. Looking back, she saw her home was in flames.
Her home was in flames?!
Twilight ignored her pain and ran forwards, charging through debris and jumping over the other unfortunate late night visitors. “No! Nonononono!” Twilight's horn flared up as she cast spell after spell at the burning wood. The heat was intense, but it was nothing compared to her desperation. If she lost her home she lost everything. Every bit of research she had done in her life. Every book she had read and re-read in the library. Every memory of life with Spike. She'd lose her one refuge. Her one haven.
The flames taunted her. For every one she put out, another appeared. Her tears dropped uselessly to the now exposed earth which ate up the moisture as greedily as the fire ate her home.
“No! No. No...” Twilight dropped to her haunches, body shaking with emotion. She looked to the sky. The rising smoke was the last she would see of home. As strong as she was, it hadn't been enough to save her home. Not against the enchanted flames.
What happened next was a blur. Twilight was so emotionally distraught she couldn't even focus on reality. Indistinct voices called out and shapes moved around her. Eventually she found herself being carried away from the wreckage.
“Twilight!” She snapped back to Reality. Princess Celestia was carrying the purple mare on her back, staring into Twilight's eyes with utmost seriousness. “I understand your pain, but now is not the time for grief. Books can be replaced, homes can be rebuilt, but lives cannot. If Luna has truly become Nightmare Moon again, all of Equestria is at stake. I need you to be strong, Twilight. As I know you are.”
Twilight shook her head, realizing the Princess was right. It didn't make the pain go away. “What happened?”
“The Metaspectre caused the explosion that destroyed your home. It disappeared shortly afterwards with Luna, before anypony had the chance to recover. Nopony was seriously hurt, but the entirety of Ponyville is now awake. While I consult with the Doctor to see if we can track them down, I need you to gather your friends and the Elements. We need all the help we can get.”
Twilight sniffed back the last of her emotions, storing them for later. “Of course Princess. You can count on me.” She jumped off of the Princess' back, Spike waiting for her only a few feet away. “Come on Spike, I'll find the others. See if you can find the Element of Magic in the... the remains of our home. Thank goodness I stuck it in that fireproof safe.” After the incident with Discord, and more recently Chrysalis, Celestia and Twilight had agreed that it might be safer to split up the Elements, so they couldn't all be lost at once. Each of the six friends kept their respective Element in a secret and safe place in their homes, and were instructed to bring them anytime the Princess called them anywhere.
“Twilight? Is that you darling?”
“Rarity! I'm glad to see you.”
“Did um... did your home explode?”
“Yes, and there's no time to explain it. Go home and get your Element. Tell any of the others you find on your way to do the same. Luna's been possessed by a creature of great darkness.”
“Oh dear! Sounds absolutely dreadful.”
“It is. Princess Celestia herself is here to help us. Meet me at the libr- at the remains of the library in ten minutes.”
“Of course Twilight.”
After Rarity left, Twilight continued on her way. Sweet Apple Acres was just far enough away that Applejack might not have heard the explosion. So Twilight would go there first. Then she could make a wide loop to Fluttershy's cottage and Rainbow Dash's cloud home. Hopefully Rarity would find Pinkie, wherever the hyperactive pink pony was, and then the six of them could head out.
Applejack, sure enough, was already long asleep, following the age-old adage of 'early to bed, early to rise, makes a pony happy, healthy, and wise.' She was pulled out of her slumber by the sound of a small 'clink' on her window. She stepped over to the window and looked down. Twilight was motioning for her to come out. Shaking the stupor from her eyes, Applejack quickly donned her hat, and making certain to not wake her peacefully sleeping family, made her way out into the front yard.
“Twilight! I wasn’t expecting a visit from y’all this late. Nothin’s wrong is it?” Twilight’s look said otherwise.
“I'll explain at Fluttershy's. You need to go get your Element. We'll be gone for a while, so grab anything else you need as well and catch up with me.”
Applejack nodded. She knew from experience that if Twilight seemed hurried, it was best to just listen to her. She turned on the spot without a word, and went back to her room, grabbing her saddlebags which were always ready for a journey. She had her lasso, some dried rations, and a survival kit. The basic needs for survival in any situation. If Applejack was anything, it was practical.
As she stepped out, Applejack peeked into Apple Bloom's room. She was sleeping peacefully, lost in much needed rest after a hard day playing. Applejack smiled happily. “Love ya' Apple Bloom.” She shut the door quietly behind her, and ran quickly to Big Mac's room, where she left a note explaining where she was going. Big Mac would have to take on Applejack's responsibilities while she was gone, but the two of them traded jobs all the time. Applejack had been at her worst the last time, when Big Mac hurt his side. Why, if it hadn't been for Twilight's logical intervention, Applejack might have been confined to her room for weeks just to recover. Looking back on it, Applejack laughed at her stubborn self.
In short time the two friends were at Fluttershy's cottage. Fluttershy was outside calming the animals, which apparently had been startled by the blast. “Oh Twilight! That's horrible! I'm so sorry about your house!” Twilight bit her lip. She could only hear that so many times without being overwhelmed by her emotions. “We'll track down that meanie and make him pay for what he did! I'll just put Angel in charge while we're gone.”
They visited Rainbow's house next, but she had left a note on the front door, which Fluttershy brought down for them to read. “Pinkie told me what's up. I'll meet you at the library. -Rainbow”
“Oh good, Rarity found Pinkie.” said Twilight. “At least something is going right today.”
As they approached the remains of the library, they saw that the mess had been largely cleaned up by the guards and townsfolk. That didn't make it any less painful to look at the gap between the buildings. Celestia and the Doctor were conversing quietly, the Doctor obviously fiddling with something. Spike was talking with the other three spiritual Elements, holding Twilight's crown.
“Oh! Twilight! You're here!” exclaimed Pinkie, bouncing over. She stopped suddenly, and stuck out her lip in the most serious and sad face she could muster. “Twilight, I'm so SO sorry about your house. I just want to let you know that I'm here to help you however I can. The Cakes have already offered you a room if you want it, though the babies might be too loud for your tastes.”
Twilight smiled. Seeing Pinkie look genuinely distraught made Twilight feel worse for her than she did about herself. “Thanks Pinkie. I'll keep it in mind. Spike, you found the Element of Magic?”
“Yeah, it was thrown clear by the initial blast. And lying next to it was this,” he said, holding out a picture frame. Inside were two photographs, one of Twilight and her family, the other of the very friends gathered to support her. Once more, Twilight smiled.
“That's wonderful Spike.” She took both of the items and placed them in her saddlebags. Then, looking to the others, “Everypony have their Elements?”
Twilight approached Princess Celestia. “Twilight! I'm so glad you're here,” the Princess welcomed. “Perfect timing as well. The Doctor's just finishing up.”
“I've programmed the Sonic Screwdriver to pick up the smallest isotopes from induced trans-consciousness communication.”
“Forced mind control, sorry. The energy required to directly control another consciousness through brute strength leaves a distinguishing trail. And this,” he said, holding up a small metal rod, “will lead us right to the Metaspectre and the missing Princess.”
“What is that exactly?” asked Twilight, pointing to the rod. “You called it the Sonic Screwdriver?”
“Think of it as a unicorn's horn.”
“But you're an earth pony.”
“Let's just say, where I come from, technology is magic. But, it's too early to explain those nuances to your beautiful, uncorrupted world. Shall I lead the way, Celestia?”
“Of course, Doctor.”
The rod sprung to life in the Doctor's mouth. The tip buzzed blue, and the Doctor strained his ears forward for the slightest frequency shift. He spun slowly in a circle until, finally, “Aha! They've gone this way!”
Twilight rolled her eyes. Of course it was towards the Everfree Forest.
“Let's go!” shouted the Doctor, around the Sonic. He took off in a gallop with the Princess, her guards, Spike, and the spiritual Elements following after. It was smooth sailing until they reached the tree line. As they maneuvered between the thick foliage, the Doctor had to almost constantly recalibrate their direction. “Around this one... dodge that bush... over the stream... alright. We're getting close.”
Twilight stopped, realizing something. “The Metaspectre's not heading back to the altar.”
The Doctor looked at her, and then up. “Huh. You're right. Where else would it be going?”
As they turned the corner, it suddenly became apparent. “Oh.” said Twilight quietly.
Princess Celestia tensed up. “The old castle ruins.”
“Where Nightmare Moon was defeated.” whispered Fluttershy.
“Where she'll be defeated again! Come on!” Rainbow, true to her name, dashed off, the rest of the friends struggling to keep up. Only Celestia remained unmoving, her guards uncertain how to act.
“It was a miracle they missed it last time...” she whispered under her breath.