Shadow Flare's heart was pounding, despite her best efforts to calm its distress. She tried to take reassurance in the fact that she was faster, that she was also completely hidden from her foe's view, but to no avail. She closed her eyes for a moment as she took in a shallow breath, before peering beyond her perch in the lightning laced clouds. She looked to the ruins in the distance, still distracted by the tempered urge to flee.
Beneath her was a barren and broken land tinted red. The very air she breathed almost felt caustic. Though she knew it wasn't, she couldn't help but hold her breath every so often as she tried to read her enemy.
In the distance were the ruins of the largest dream home within The Realm of Dreams. It was so large that it had been called a palace by its former owner, Princess Luna. A structure of many towers, not dissimilar to its real world counterpart, only here, Luna's home lay crushed. Its foundations ruptured. Its towers scattered. Its contents burnt beyond recognition. Nothing more than an indistinguishable pile of rubble.
And now, it was Nightmare's den.
Shadow Flare's heart ached for a brief of moments upon seeing the ruins, and it wasn't because of fear. Realizing the emotions she felt regarding the palace made her brow furrow, her fear temporarily replaced with anger. You foolish princess, how could you let this happen! She thought as she looked towards the ruin's center, seeing the undefined mass that was Nightmare; a bubble of red fog. Nightmare was nothing more than an entity, a terrible dream composed of malice and fear that was drawn towards others.
At least, that's what it used to be. But Nightmare has been acting strangely for some time now, being the reason Shadow Flare dared to come this close to observe it.
The changelings... It's been acting strange since they came to Equestria. Why? Shadow Flare wondered as she scrutinized Nightmare as best she could, unsure if she could will herself to edge any closer.
It-It went straight for Trixie after she left the dream I placed Page's father in. But after Trixie encountered Cadance's dream, Nightmare came here. Is the changelings' presence changing Nightmare? She wondered before her eyes widened. It's waiting! But, what is it waiting for? She wondered as she pulled the clouds closer to better hide herself, ready to bolt at a moment's notice should Nightmare move.
Is it waiting for Trixie, Page, or … me?
Without even batting an eye, Trixie was off, leaving the street behind as she took to the air, flying towards the castle with righteous haste.
I don't care if it's just a dream! There are some things you just don't do! she thought, her brow furrowed, her gaze focused on her destination. Or, at least it was for several moments, but before she reached the castle she couldn't help but notice more features regarding Sunset's dream.
Just like the Realm of Dreams outside, it was uncomfortably hot, and there was no green to be seen. As she took this in, her pace started to slow, and her anger began to lose direction.
Where is everypony? She thought as she noticed how quiet it was, seeing no movement within the city below. I mean, it's Canterlot! I doubt even Sunset's dream would miss such a detail... She began to waver on her path, trying to get a better look down the alleys and streets of the city as she passed them by.
Canterlot was decorated for a celebration in honor of Sunset, but Trixie was now under the impression that these displays were put up long, long ago. Many buildings showed signs of neglect, and when she peeked into one of them, she saw the decayed remains of wooden furniture inside. Struck with an idea, she flew up, high enough to look over the buildings, and see what state Equestria was in beyond the mountain.
Her mouth slowly fell open as she saw a land of dried earth, just like outside, only bathed brightly in daylight. Far off, towards the horizon, the tan and brown colors gave way to a wall of white, which Trixie assumed to be the dream's borders.
So, Sunset's nightmare is being the last pony in all of Equestria? Trixie thought as she somberly took in the scenery for a moment longer, feeling a quiet breeze punctuate the idea. Looking back to the castle, she adopted a determined look as she spread out her cape, and continued on.
Still, Great and Glorious!? What a better way to end her nightmare than by giving her a piece of my mind! She thought with mixed feelings as she descended towards the castle's 'garden'.
When she got closer, she noticed that the old statues of mythical creatures had been replaced with new statues of ponies. As she glanced between them she was assaulted by a painful migraine, making her lose focus on her flying, causing her to unceremoniously crash into the dirt.
Just as quickly as it came, the migraine was gone, making Trixie glare at nothing in particular as she got on her hooves. As she brushed dirt off of herself, she glanced to the statues before her.
They were modeled after a number of very familiar faces, paired on either side of the path leading to the castle's front door. Closest to Trixie were statues of Twilight, Shining Armor, and Sunset's father. Each was twice as large as the pony they were modeled after, and they all had a life like quality to them that made her eyes linger in awe.
Twilight's statue stood on three hooves. A forehoof planted on an open book floating next to her. She had a happily excited look on her face, her eyes aglow behind her glasses, as if she was explaining something of great importance to an eager listener. There was also a small enchantment on the statue that gave the illusion that Twilight's horn and the book were giving off a magenta glow. Seeing the statue brought a smile to Trixie's face, and she couldn't think of a better pose to see of her friend expressed in stone.
Her somber mood dispelled by seeing the statue, Trixie moved on from Twilight, taking in Shining Armor's statue. He stood tall with his eyes to the sky, his stone form covered in the golden armor of the royal guard. He had a determined look in his eyes, and his tall stature radiated a sense of strength that Trixie couldn't help but find inspiring.
So this is how she prefers to see him? She thought as she adopted a sly grin, She's so getting teased for this later!
Letting out a mischievous laugh, she moved on, briefly taking in the statue of Sunset's father. He had an old and tired look in his eyes, but a smile on his face.
She then adopted a ponderous look when her eyes fell on a statue of a shadowbolt, Shadow Blitz. She stood in a flying pose, her back hoof and tail connecting to the statue's base. She was looking to the sky, a proud smile on her face, as if oblivious to the other statues around her.
Are those two friends? Trixie briefly wondered as she nodded, I suppose working close to Luna, Sunset must see the shadowbolts often... She concluded, making a mental note to pester friend on the matter as soon as possible. Good to know she doesn't need The Great and Powerful Trixie to make new friends! She thought as her eyes wandered to the next statue.
Before she could take it in, the migraine returned, more powerful then before. She staggered back as she felt her stomach churn, looking away from the statue, muttering a curse before feeling the sensation dissipate again.
Opening her eyes slowly, she looked to the source of her pain. This time, there was no migraine. Trixie looked, wide-eyed as she saw that the statue was now completely covered in a familiar looking white cloth.
Did I put that there!? She thought in alarm, certain the statue wasn't covered a moment before. Her statue.
She eyed the cloth for a moment, gently brushing it with her magic. She felt a chill crawl down her spine, and for a moment was paralyzed once again by the sense of dread born from touching the cloth.
What's the deal!? Can't I see myself in the dream realm? Just what's up with this whole thing!? She wondered in frustration, summoning a large mirror, seeing her glaring reflection in it. With that reflection came no fear, no migraines, only a brief moment of surprise at how different she looked with her cape now mostly white. Looks like I can see myself just fine, so why can't I see myself in the dream homes, or this statue? She wondered as the mirror vanished, suspecting it had something to do with the headaches she had while awake. She then let out an annoyed exasperation before stomping the ground.
“Questions questions questions! Why does everything have to be a stupid mystery!” She then eyed the covered statue, pointing at the harmless drapes as they blew in the wind. “You! You're here because I'm the only pony that woke up!” she declared, “And that's all there is to it!” She added, dropping the matter, quietly hoping it was really that simple. Turning her back on the concealed statue, she continued towards the castle, pausing when she reached a display for Cadance.
She was kneeling down, her hoof stretched out towards the path Trixie walked, and Trixie almost felt an urge to accept that hoof. Cadance had a warm, almost loving smile, and in her mane was a golden mane-clip that caught Trixie's attention. The accessory had a small pink crystal heart in it, her Element of Harmony, Kindness. As she looked into it, the gem started to glow, in tandem with Trixie's cape, catching the mare off guard as she was blinded by a flash of light.
As Trixie's vision returned, she noticed a change on Cadance's statue. On the base were words written on a gold plaque. Briefly glancing to her white cape, she stepped closer to the statue to read the message. By either her imagination, or by the strange workings of the dream, she could hear Cadance's voice reading the words in tandem with her, making Trixie's heart jump in surprise. Finding herself alone, she continued reading, almost feeling as if she was taking part in a recent memory shared between Sunset and Cadance.
'Kindness, isn't love. Kindness is reaching out a helping hoof to somepony that needs it. Somepony you probably don't understand. Somepony that may wish you harm, or harm to ones dear to you.'
'Love, however, is a warm smile, or a harsh frown, when those you love are in need of it. To love somepony, is to be willing to be hard on them, while kindness may cause those you love to stray from the path their hearts' wish to walk.
'Kindness, isn't love, but it is born from love. And from the kindness of an outstretched hoof, love can blossom from the kindness that was given. Kindness begets love, and love begets kindness.'
'Yes, you should be kind to others. It would make me happy if you did. But, above that, I want you to be kind to yourself. Please, forgive yourself for the actions you regret. From there, love's wings can spread, allowing your, heart to soar...'
Trixie looked up from the words to Cadance's smile, her heart aching slightly from the words she read. She then rubbed her eyes, before letting out a sheepish laugh.
Be kind to yourself? These words aren't for me, are they? She considered as she looked to the castle, then back to the statue.
“...Cadance.” Trixie said out loud, glancing to her cape, remembering the small promise they made to each other. “You ... wouldn't be against waking up, before dawn, would you?” She asked, getting no reply from the statue. She then let out a sigh, looking over the words again. “Well, if you're gonna leave Trixie with this, you can bet that she'll remember it.” She said with a nod as she took a moment to commit the paragraph to memory. Then, just to be sure, she created a paper copy with her magic, and tucked it under her hat.
Moving towards the castle's doors, she glanced to the next statue, adopting a surprised smile. Wait, Tell Tale? I guess Sunset does like him more than she claims! She thought as she looked over the statue.
He stood at the ready, a confident stature gained from years as a Luna's bookkeeper. There was a scrutinizing look on his face, as if he was judging the pony passing in front of him. He looks a lot better with a smile. Trixie thought as she trotted past him, her cape shimmering slightly as she did. She then approached the last pair of statues before the castle, statues of of Luna and Celestia.
They were both sitting together, each without their crowns or crests. Luna had a hoof raised, her mouth open as if speaking, with a smile. The exasperated look on Celestia's face suggested that whatever Luna was saying was on the silly side, and seeing the two sisters being sisters made Trixie feel a little envious of them.
I guess even Nightmare can't keep us from dreaming about Luna. She thought, taking the statues as a good omen as she climbed the stairs to the castle's open doors. She then paused when she reached the top, looking back over the statues behind her. Nightmare... Her brow then furrowed. This is Sunset's dream, her prison. I need to be ready to snap her out of it. She thought as she turned around, moving closer to the statues before appraising them.
Even though it was a dream, Trixie didn't see any harm in trying, as her horn glowed. Her magic spread out in all directions, touching everything around her, before returning back to her. A small spell that let a unicorn get a basic understanding of ambient magic around them, a spell that Trixie mastered before she even got her cutie mark. Sensing magic came naturally to her, often to Sunset's annoyance. As Trixie's magic returned to her, she adopted a smile at what she found.
The dirt and path feel just like dirt and rocks, but the statues, they were made from magic! That must mean they were made after the dream started! She thought as she walked between the statues again, And there isn't one for Sunset. I can see her actually making these if- She thought before she paused, her ears falling as a somber realization struck her.
She once recalled Sunset say something along the lines of 'stone lasting longer', and seeing the statues, as well as the state of Equestria in this dream led Trixie towards what Sunset's nightmare was.
Losing her friends.
Trixie's eyes briefly fell to the cloth covering her statue before looking back to the castle, her chest aching as she looked to where she believed her friend to be.
“Sunset! It's just a dream!” She let out, unsure if she was heard as she rushed up the stairs to the castle's doors.
Instead of opening to the grand hall, the front doors lead straight to the throne room. Or, at least what used to be the throne room. Large pieces of structured stone lay scattered about, and a great many blueprints littered the floor. The throne itself was in a state of neglect, and the stained glass windows had different, shattered murals on them.
Trixie's ears then perked when she head the sound of somepony writing, and a small amount of mumbling from the corner of the room. She willed her cape to fly, but when it didn't respond she adopted a relieved smile. Just like Cadance's dream! That means-
“Sunset!” Trixie let out, her voice echoing off the high ceiling.
“Tch, Trixie, you don't need to be so loud! I'm right here.” Sunset replied, and though Trixie couldn't see her, she still smiled all the same as she started traversing the room towards the source of the writing. She then tilted her head as she tried to look over the rubble littering the room.
“You ... don't seem too surprised that Trixie's here.”
“Should I? You've been here the whole time, nagging me and pointing out every. Single. Mistake.”
“Trixie helped you with something?” She asked, disregarding Sunset's tone as her pace started quickened, feeling something off about this conversation. Was I wrong about her worst fear? I really hope so- She then bumped into one of the stone chunks in the room, causing her to eye it as she moved around it. The rock looked like a piece of Twilight's statue, shattered and cast aside.
“Just this whole mess!” Sunset let out in exasperation. As Trixie moved closer, she saw more of the rubble for what it was.
These were the statues that didn't make the cut... She thought wide-eyed as she reached the pile of stone that Sunset's voice came from. Trixie looked down both sides of it, walking the pile's circumference until she found an opening.
The first thing that caught her attention as she looked into Sunset's 'workshop', was how dusty Sunset looked. She sat in front of a desk, a quill hastily at work as she ignored Trixie's presence. Seeing a crumpled pile of paper next to the orange mare, Trixie levitated a scrap over and unraveled it, revealing a design for a statue of Spike.
Looking up from the paper, Trixie saw a small assortment of pony-sized statues, as well as blueprints of the statues that stood outside, lined up behind a life-sized statue of herself, and Twilight. Trixie's eyes lingered on her own statue for a moment, noticing a lack of a head-splitting migraine. As she looked to it, she noticed flaws in its make, the cutiemark was off, and her mane was too long. So, the ones outside are close enough to the real thing to be special? She wondered as she noticed flaws on Twilight's statue as well, which was wearing her glasses, while Trixie's had her hat and cape, in their original colors.
“Well if you're gonna bother me, the least you can do is help.” Sunset stated as she levitated what she'd been writing on to Trixie's statue. “So, think this is 'Spike' enough? It's been really hard to nail him down.” She stated to the stoned Trixie, with a hint of hesitation.
“Um, Sunset... I'm over here.” Trixie said, making Sunset flinch before turning around. As she turned around, Trixie noticed that she was wearing her Element of Harmony, covered in a little bit of rock dust just like its wearer. Sunset looked at Trixie, she had shadows under her eyes, as if she were tired.
“W-What? Trixie!?” Sunset asked in confusion, dropping the paper in surprise.
“The one, and only!” Trixie said confidently, before pointing at her statue, “Did you honestly think some statue could capture the grandeur that is The Great and Powerful Trixie?”
“I, well, that is-” Sunset stammered as her face turned red. “P-Pretend you didn't see any of this!” She demanded as she gave Trixie a hard look. “Got it?”
“Trixie's word is as good as her show, she won't tell a soul.” Trixie stated as she gave Sunset a sly grin.
“That smile suggests otherwise.” Sunset replied as her shoulders sagged. “So, are you real?” She asked as she looked to Trixie apprehensively, “I haven't completely lost it, right? You're actually here?”
“You didn't think a big Nightmare thing would keep Trixie from her friends, did you?” She asked, feeling the dream shift as Sunset blinked at her.
“I haven't completely lost it, right? You're actually here?”
Oh great! Just like Cadance. Trixie thought as her brow furrowed. So, I guess I just have to convince her that everypony is just fine- She thought, before adopting a confident smile.
“That's right, Trixie's come to bring you home!” She declared as her horn glowed, summoning an illusion of a magical portal behind her. “Sorry it took so long to find you, Trixie's hoove's were a little … full.” She finished with a confident smirk, getting a surprised look from her friend. Hopefully this illusion won't escape my control this time. She thought as Sunset appraised the portal.
“Okay Trixie, what's going on?”
“You were whisked away into the far future by a mishap on Twilight's part, and we've been trying to get you back. What did you think this is?” Trixie asked, rolling her eyes as she worked towards selling her lie. "Honestly, we work so hard to save you, and you're busy wasting the day away trying to be a sculptor!" She added in a disappointed tone.
“I was- that doesn't matter!" She replied before letting out a long sigh, "I was sent into the future? Seriously Trixie? That sounds … really made up.” Sunset stated skeptically.
“Well, it's the truth. It's either that, or you've lost your marbles. Come on, you woke up, not sure how you got here, all thanks to Twilight's blunder!” Trixie then feigned a wince, making the portal shrink a little at the same time. “Hurry Sunset! Trixie can't keep the portal open long!” Since this is a dream, if Sunset believes the portal is real, then it'll actually take her to the past when she steps through it! Well, the past in her dream anyway. Trixie thought as she resisted the urge to nod to herself, Then the nightmare can end because everypony will be fine in the past! She hoped as Sunset's face started to soften.
“So it's real then? Everypony's alright? This is just some terrible far off future?” Sunset asked hopefully as she started approaching the portal. Her horn started to glow, catching Trixie off guard as she was wrapped in Sunset's magic, her power aiding in sustaining Trixie's 'portal'. “Oh Trixie, this portal doesn't require that … much...” Sunset said as her steps started to slow, her eyes drooping as her sentence died off.
“Sunset?” Trixie asked hesitantly as she felt the ambiance in the room start to shift and darken. “Ooh horseapples...” She let out as she started to back away from her friend, abandoning her illusion, which faded instantly. Before she got too far, the emerald aura that surrounded her shifted dark purple, and shadows started to form around Sunset.
Trixie felt that purple magic tighten around her, and she wasn't having any of that. She teleported out of it, closer to the door. She almost staggered back as she looked to her friend wide-eyed. That was as taxing as a real teleport! She thought, feeling drained as her friend's eyes shifted green.
“She thought we'd just let her bring back the sun!?
This mare is ours!
Beware the cape. Cut it off. Tear it to shreds.”
Trixie heard the voices speak in unison, the first being the most clear, the first reminding her of her double in Cadance's dream. And those weren't the only voices, as there were more speaking in tandem, but their words were unrecognizable in the haunting chorus that rang before her. A chorus born from the shadows around her friend. Oh great! This isn't ever going to be easy, is it? She wondered as she glared at her friend.
“Come on Sunset! You're going to let yourself get possessed? Again!?” Trixie let out in an insulting tone, making Sunset flinch in time with the shadows. The room seemed to freeze for a second, before the shadows started to swirl around Sunset.
“She is not your friend, but a traitor in your friend's guise! Don't trust her. Give her a traitor's reward!
A copy! Fake! Not your friend!
Crush the one that got free, make it swift. Make her scream.”
Trixie took another step back as a shadow tendril touched the Element of Loyalty. There was a brief shooting of red and black sparks, before the element began to darken.
“No!!” Trixie shouted as her horn glowed, grabbing the tendril in an attempt to pry it off.
The other tendrils acted in unison, lashing out towards Trixie. She brought her cape around to take on the assault, and was caught off guard when the tendrils whipped around the fabric entirely. She abandoned her magic as she quickly rolled to the side, hopping off the ground to get some distance from the shadows. As her magic died down, the shadows retreated, to her surprise. “Sunset, fight them! Don't you dare lose!” She shouted desperately as she saw the Element of Loyalty lose its red shine.
“Shut up!” Sunset replied as her horn glowed purple. A large amount of the scattered rubble in the room glowed in response and rose into the air, making Trixie's ears fall, before she bolted for the door. “Where do you think you're going, impostor! You're not Trixie! She's gone, she's been gone for a long time!" She shouted as tears started to run down her face, "And I won't let anypony copy her!” she declared as she hurled her broken collection.
Trixie stopped for a half second, before rolling to the side, the mass of stone crushing down where she once stood. The impact sent the mare rolling, throwing dust and debris all over the place, obscuring the area. Certain she was hidden, she hugged the ground as her horn glowed, creating an illusion of herself running out of the cloud. She felt the air above her shift, as if many things were passing her at great speed, towards her illusion. When it passed, she immediately got on her hooves and continued towards the door, hearing another loud cascade of stone behind her, prompting her to abandon her spell.
Reaching the garden, she continued her gallop to the nearest statue, Celestia's, and hid behind it before glancing back to the castle. She took in several deep breaths, seeing the sky immediately becoming overcast, darkening Canterlot as Trixie took the time her illusion bought to formulate a plan.
Nightmare, or I guess a piece of it, doesn't like my cape. It remembers me from Cadance's dream, so that means it's connected between nightmares! And it wants Sunset do me in instead. She thought, not doubting that the shadows would attack her if she tried to get close enough to touch Sunset with her cape. Thinking of her cape, Trixie was alarmed with she noticed it was now torn and tattered. Why is everything just getting worse-
“Where is she!?” Trixie heard Sunset shout from the castle. As she looked to the source, she saw an emerald and purple light pulse out, followed by a shockwave that sent every brick, window, door, pillar, every piece that comprised the castle flew outward. As Trixie pulled her head behind her cover, one such piece struck the statue, its fragments knocking off her hat and sending it flying away. The noise was deafening, and the entire area was immediately blanketed in dust.
Trixie sat there, her mouth hanging open as she saw parts of the statues ahead of her get pulverized by the debris.
Sunset. Sunset's going to- Trixie began to shake, and she swallowed as she tried to not picture what would have happened had she been struck by any of Sunset attacks. How am I suppose to take that on? Sunset's tough on her own, but, with Nightmare too? She wondered as she cradled her head. I need help. I need to get out of here. But, if I do that, then... then... She thought as her eyes started to itch.
As she lay there, unable to make a move, a small piece of paper fell past her, drawing her eyes to the copy she made of Cadance's words. Cadance... ! Her eyes widened as as she recalled what happened in her flying friend's dream. Nightmare, it wants to make Sunset scream!
She could easily picture it. After everything was done, Sunset would become aware of what's happened, what she did to the broken blue mare lying before her, and what it would do to her. It didn't matter if Trixie stayed, or ran. Nightmare would make Sunset see that outcome all the same.
Something about that mental image struck Trixie, and her shivering slowly stopped. She took in several deep breaths, her brow furrowing as she pushed out all concern for herself. The, The Great and Powerful Trixie isn't going to run. And Sunset isn't going to cry. Not if I have anything to say about it! She thought as a fire lit in her breast, washing away the poison that shook her.
She then felt a drop of water strike her nose, followed by another as it started to rain. Knowing the rain would clear out the dust, Trixie got to work, tearing up what remained of her cape and throwing it in the air before putting some distance between herself and the castle.
“For somepony so Great and Glorious, you sure have a hard time hitting a fake!” Trixie projected from an obscured part of the garden, hearing something hard and heavy hit the spot she'd used her ventriloquism spell from. “Hah! At this rate you'll end up destroying what's left of your precious statues before you can even find Trixie!”
“Stop saying that! There's only one Trixie, and you are not her!” Sunset declared, signaling a bout of thunder as the steady rain became a heavy downpour, clearing the area of dust. Now hiding behind Shadow Blitz's statue, Trixie could see Sunset standing at what remained of the stairs leading to the castle. Her eyes were glowing green, and she walked with a deliberate and determined pace that made Trixie briefly doubt she could pull this off. “Show yourself!”
“Right, because Trixie is dumb and would come out of hiding because you said to!” Trixie replied from behind Celestia's statue, getting a dark scowl from Sunset. Sunset then glanced to the side, mumbling something as she adopted a briefly apologetic look, before her horn glowed, and Celestia's statue was bathed in fire.
Seriously!? Trixie thought, counting three pieces of her cape lost to that conflagration. Sunset looked to the burnt statue, mixed emotions on her face as the shadows seemed to waver and hesitate, an opportunity Trixie took advantage of. She sent a nearby cape fragment burred in the now muddy ground towards Sunset's Element of Loyalty. Before it could reach her, the shadows lashed out at it. When they connected, there was a brief flash, and the tendrils and the cloth that touched vanished. Thought so, well, at least now it knows what I'm up to. Trixie thought as she adopted a sly smile. Don't get hit, catch her off guard, and Trixie wins!
“You torched Celestia? How could you!?” Trixie asked out loud, her eyes widening as she realized she forgot to use her spell. She jumped away from Blitz's statue, her tail feeling hot as the statue was bathed in a pillar of fire.
“I can replace it, now stop wasting my time!” Sunset said as Trixie rolled around, dragging her tail through the mud to put out the flame as she adopted a pained look.
“Th-There are some things you can't replace!” Trixie replied, her voice coming from her own statue. She then saw Sunset look to her statue, adopting a confused look.
“You- You covered my friend!?” Sunset said, her brow furrowing as the green in her eyes started to fade. The shadows around her seemed to twist as Sunset's horn flared, its purple glow shifting to a fiery red. “You- You!”
“Cat got your tongue?” Trixie asked as she slipped behind Tell Tale's statue. Her own statue was engulfed by an explosion, the cloth burnt and broken up from the blast, scattering its fragments all over the garden as nothing remained of the statue. Trixie let out a brief sigh that no headaches came from that action, before taking a deep breath. “Seriously Sunset, what if Trixie had been hit by that?”
“Trixie's too good to be hit by a simple fireball!” Sunset quickly replied, bringing an unexpected smile to Trixie's face. Her smile then faded as she rolled her eyes.
That was no simple fireball!
“Then I guess you're never gonna hit her!” Trixie goaded.
“Stop.” Sunset said as she stomped the ground, “Pretending. To. Be. Her!” She shouted as her horn flared. The shadows seemed to dance around her, and Trixie could hear them laughing as a pair of fiery wings appeared on Sunset's back. Trixie's jaw fell open as Sunset took to the sky, her wings creating a small trail of steam behind her. After ascending, Sunset quickly flew a circle around the garden. Trixie tried to keep out of sight, but when she peeked around the corner, Sunset's eyes locked with hers, making Trixie's stomach sink at what was about to transpire.
As Sunset began her dive, Trixie cast a fire-warding spell on herself, and all the cloth fragments in the area. She then tried to teleport before Sunset landed, but her horn sputtered out a refusal, making the mare bound out of the way at the last moment, as Sunset impacted the earth.
Trixie was sent flying back as fire and earth blasted outward. By sheer, dumb luck, the path Trixie was hurled through didn't collide with any of the statues. She slammed into the mud, sliding a good distance as flames brushed past her. From the impact area was a short lived mushroom cloud, washed away by the rain, was well as the flames spread by the impact. Trixie's horn still glowed as she tried to crawl onto her hooves. She then let out a gasp as she felt something grasp her neck, dragging her up, as she saw Sunset walking towards her.
“Look what I've caught.” Sunset said with a smile as her wings ebbed away. She then blinked as the shadows drew close to her. Her eyes gained that green sheen again, as her magic shifted back to dark purple. “Nothing more than a surviving changeling that needs to be taught a lesson.” She stated as her magic pinned Trixie to the ground, getting a small cry from the mare as Sunset levitated a large rock over her. Trixie's eyes ached as she struggled to move, turning her head towards Sunset.
“S-Sunny, you're hurting me.” Trixie managed to get out as she felt tears running down her cheeks. Sunset hesitated, and just as earlier, the shadows hesitated too. Trixie took the opening. Her horn glowed as she called on all the scaps of cloth she'd protected from Sunset's impact, driving them all towards her at once.
A single voice from the mass of shadows cried out, the only voice to react in time, as the shadow tendrils flew out to destroy the burnt fragments. Fragments of a particular veil used to cover a statue. Trixie smiled as the fragments of her cape came out of their hiding places in the mud, having slinkered closer when Sunset grabbed Trixie. With the shadows occupied with the decoys, the pieces of Trixie's cape reached Sunset's Element of Harmony unimpeded.
When those slivers of cloth connected, everything in the dream seemed to freeze. The shadows, the rain, and the ponies in between. The dark hue in the Element of Loyalty shattered like glass, falling away to reveal the glowing gem beneath. Its light poured out, blasting away the shadows tied to Sunset. Her magic faded, the glow in her eyes dissipating as she collapsed onto the mud.
Time resumed, the rain fell as Nightmare let out a cacophony of cries. Trixie herself let out a yelp as she rolled out of the way of the large rock that had been floating above her, becoming splattered in mud as it crashed next to her. As she picked herself up, she felt something grab onto her. Her heart skipped a beat as she flinched, paralyzed as she looked wide-eyed to the dark mass that was closing on her.
“It is ours. It is all ours! And you'll give us more!
Feed us, give us more!
She'll bring them to us. Plant the wish. Consume the changelings.”
Trixie tried to cry for help, now hearing the voices in her head, but her body wouldn't make a sound. She began to feel as though she was falling away, and the image of a white cloth resting over her came to mind as her dread built up. She wanted to scream, but she couldn't.
There was a brilliant flash of red light, causing Nightmare to let out a scream instead.
In that red glow, the dread faded, and Trixie felt something warm wrap around her as Nightmare's cries grew more distant, before vanishing altogether. Trixie opened her eyes, feeling a little battered, soaked to the bone, and drained. Yet, in Sunset's embrace, she also felt warm, and safe.
“Still think I'm a fake?” Trixie let out weakly, giving Sunset a small smile as she looked to her.
“Trixie, I'm so sorry! I-I don't know what came over me.” Sunset said as her eyes started to water.
“Trixie does. It's okay. No hard feelings.”
“But, I almost-” Sunset sputtered out, "I almost-" Seeing horror building in her eyes, Trixie interrupted Sunset, weakly slapping her.
“Trixie said no hard feelings.” She repeated, making Sunset rub her cheek as she glanced to the side, before tightening her hug.
“What about soft feelings?” She asked after a moment's pause, making Trixie giggle.
“That's so corny. Especially coming from you! Trixie'd expect Twilight to say something like that!” She let out, getting a miffed face from her friend. Trixie couldn't hold it in, seeing that look on Sunset's face made the mare's giggling open to full laughter.
After all that just happened, Sunset couldn't help but find her friend's laughter infectious, and shortly after she started laughing as well. And as the rain continued, the two friends laughed their hearts out, in joy and relief, as their tears were washed away.