"Girls," Apple Bloom said as she slowed but kept leading her friends through the fog. "Ah...Ah was thinkin', we saved Miss Cheerilee cause Scootaloo knew Miss Cheerilee in a special way. Ah saved Zecora. And Sweetie Belle saved Rarity. But...anypony got any ideas on how we're gonna save Miss Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Miss Twilight Sparkle?"
Scootaloo said, "I'm sure we'll think of something by the time we run into them."
"And I bet we're gonna rescue our big sisters first, Twilight Sparkle's got to be the last one to save, because she's the leader, that's how it works in video games, right, Button Mash?" Sweetie asked her 'coltfriend.'
"DON'T EVER SAY THAT!" Button Mash yelled, waving his forelegs. "Don't you know if you say stuff like that means then we'll run into Twilight Sparkle NEXT?!"
"Oh come on, Rarity says you should never fall for such silly super-"
One Fog-Wall Later
"-stitions," Sweetie finished glumly, looking at the ugly pink charcoal sketch version of the Golden Oaks Library.
Showing maturity that would have made his mother faint in shock, Button Mash did not say 'Told ya so.'
"So...'bout them ideas?"
"...Spike," Sweetie said in realization. "Spike! Our Spike! If we can't bring back the Twilight we know and love, then we CAN bring back the Spike we know and love, and he can bring back the Twilight Sparkle HE knows and loves!"
"That's assumin' he's here and not in Canterlot, or out ripping towns apart as Spike-Zilla, or-"
"The rules say there has to be a way to win, remember?" Sweetie Belle insisted. "And if Spike can’t be saved, how we can save Twilight, that means he HAS TO BE HERE for us to save HIM because otherwise your magic eye wouldn't have led us here!"
"Yer a genius, Sweetie Belle!" Apple Bloom hugged her.
Button Mash wisely chose not to verbally introduce the idea of heroes running into problems they could only tackle after a long and obtrusive side quest.
"But we're still gonna hav'ta figure a plan for Miss Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie."
"We'll cross those bridges later!" Scootaloo said. "Twilight could be in there, forcing chained-up ponies to read boring books!"
The foals all shuddered at such a terrible fate.
Sweetie half-expected a force field to block their way (again), to keep them from saving the most powerful of her big sister's friends. Instead there was nothing. Sweetie shuddered.
"Button Mash? I...I don't remember, but-" Sweetie fidgeted. "I-I think I wanna know. When we were all Gabby Gums...did we write any mean stories about you?"
Button Mash stopped and lowered his head so his mane blocked his eyes. The others looked at Sweetie wondering why the Tartarus she'd bring that up now. "No. But there was one about mom... 'Mom Wants To Be Big Sister Instead', with a picture of us playing video games together."
"...I'm sorry." The way Sweetie remembered things they'd never done that story. "Were, were you upset?"
Button Mash kept his head down. "I uh, maybe erased your saved games. Maybe...maybe it's better you don't remember that."
"Button Mash I'm sorry that we did that to you." Sweetie hugged him.
"You already said you were sorry to everypony, remember?" Button Mash hugged her.
"Oh, right, we did," Sweetie Belle said awkwardly, smiling.
I was going to tell 'em to cut it out, that Sweetie's dramas with Button Mash better not start becoming a regular show. But...then I wondered what the buck I was doing. We were surrounded by monsters on all sides who were supposed to be our friends and families and we were the only ones who could fix it. And...we were doing our hardest to prove that these hugs and loving little moments were stronger than all the grimier and darker stuff in the universe!
Yeah, yeah, not very Scootaloo, but wasn't there more to being me than just being the tough tom-colt? I showed Cheerilee a part of myself even I hadn't been sure was there before. Besides, didn't video games always allow for these little moments between the heroes?
Apple Bloom kept her eye open for booby traps as they all made their way to the public library's door.
"Do we knock?" Sweetie asked.
Scootaloo answered by flying to one of the windows and motioning to her friends. One wolf, and one colt followed her lead. Rarity and Zecora had both had cursed objects waiting for them, best scoop things out first.
Sweetie tilted her head. "I don't remember Golden Oaks Library having a fireplace."
"Pretty sure it didn't," Apple Bloom remarked, shivering. She forced herself to look at the fireplace, there weren't any bones or pony shapes burning within.
Apart from the fireplace and the colors the library looked almost normal inside. That was kind of the most disturbing part about it all.
The foals had no idea how many of those books had been there before or not, but at least none of their covers had eyes looking straight at them. After a nod from Apple Bloom that she didn't see any nasty surprises, the foals piled in through the window.
'Now let's hope Spike's here to find and before Twilight Sparkle finds us,' Scootaloo thought.
Sweetie magically lifted one of the books off the table and began to open it. Scootaloo did a diving save slamming the book shut.
"Sweetie Belle!" Scootaloo hissed. "If you're ever in a scary story. Don't EVER read the books!"
"Scootaloo, we need ta figure out what's goin' on, we don't have any time, let mah eye check 'em out."
"It didn't give us a warning 'bout the masks or the whatevers Blanky ate at Rarity's."
"Doesn't mean it can't!"
"Doesn't mean it will!"
Sweetie injected, "Well, black magic helped with Kabuto even if it didn't with Zecora."
Apple Bloom looked around, making sure Spike, Twilight, or some invisible ghost demon wasn't sneaking up on them. "Sweetie, you sense any bad mojo from the books? No? Then stop with the nonsense."
Apple Bloom practically tore one of the books open.
The title was...It didn't have one? It was just a blank cover, Apple Bloom never understood those kinds of books. There was no title or bylines inside the book neither!
The inside was as much a mess as the outside was empty. It was a bunch of writin' in High Equestrian hyrorgryphs… high-row-glyphs…? …Pictures used for words. And a whole bunch of diagrams that made no sense to Apple Bloom at all. There were pictures of the Elements of Harmony, and creepy little faces with letters and numbers next to them.
"Sweetie, ya recognize any of this here stuff?"
"It isn't anything Twilight or Chrysalis ever showed me, sorry," Sweetie Belle frowned sadly.
Apple Bloom turned the page. "Sweet Celestia."
Drawings of the Element Bearers with lists of terrible things to do to them. A drawing of Applejack being shocked for every time she told the truth. A through Z tortures for Fluttershy to break kindness. Apple Bloom turned the page before she threw up and blocked the view for her friends.
"Ya don't wanna know."
The next page was just as horrible. Brainwashing Rarity by making her ...Sweetie Belle...Bloom dared not read it. Cutting off Trixie's cutie mark was the LEAST horrible thing. Apple Bloom loudly slammed the book closed. "We gotta go through five more of all this?" She whispered feeling sick. What was this hateful horseapples about friends torturing each other?
I'd seen this part with Dash a hundred times.
We all heard those clockwork stomping feet at the same time. They were coming from downstairs and closing in fast. We did what victims in horror movies always do, stay put, and I didn't complain, because we couldn't just run away, it could be one of our friends, possessed or not.
So Bloom said the wisest intelligent thing in the world. "HIDE!" And we scurried like rats to anywhere our tiny bodies would fit. Then out came...
"May this unit offer a library function?"
It was Spike, his lanky 'teenage' Spike-zilla self. Except...he didn't look greedy, he looked like there was nopony at the wheel. It was almost as shocking as the big black metal thing with red lights stuck in half his head. No I didn't say 'on it'; I've had enough scooter accidents to know the difference! Should I be worried I wasn't sick at the sight?
I...I don't think he saw us, he looked like he was staring out into space.
Sweetie crept out of her hiding place first.
"Spike? What happened to you?"
Spike just stood there like a poniquin. "This unit is IGOR Intelligence Gone, Obedience Remains processor subject 3. May this unit offer a library function?"
"Oh, Spike," I whispered. Wasn't getting reduced to a robot by the bug ponies enough?
"This unit is IGOR Intelligence Gone, Obedience Remains processor subject 3. May this unit offer a library function?"
"Spike, it's me Sweetie Belle! We're friends! You remember me, right? All the times we went Crusading together with our other friends? That didn't get erased did it?"
"IGOR processor subject 3's memories are all intact. Details are all filed and categorized. IGOR processor subject 3 is an object, objects do not have friends." Spike's voice didn't so much as quiver.
"Look up yourself! Please. Spike you assist Twilight because you're family, not because you're a slave! Twilight loves you too much to do...to do this!" Sweetie ears wilted.
"Correction: IGOR processor subject 3 is programmed to obey. IGOR processor is installed in place of discarded gray matter of subject 3. Slave implies person being owned by another. IGOR processor subject 3 is an object. Therefore, it is not slavery."
"I don't want to talk to 'Igor', I want to talk to Spike now." Sweetie horn glowed.
"Correction: One cannot speak with what is not here," Spike said like he was reading the world's most boring script. "The section of the brain that governs consciousness in subject 3 have been removed."
We all gasped. No! Sweetie's face went blank like she's been stabbed. "N-No...Remember Rarity? You still like her, right?"
"IGOR processor subject 3 does not 'like.'"
Sweetie growled, her eyes now glowing green too. "If you're not Spike, I'll just have to make you Spike!" Sweetie's magic grabbed Spike's head and wrench him down to her level, Spike didn't even flinch. Sweetie, what are you doing?
Sweetie blinked, shuddered, the glow went from her eyes, she let go of Spike, he snapped back into place like a spring. "No...no if I do that...I'd just make you the Spike I remember, instead of the Spike you're supposed to be. I won't give you FAKE memories." Poor Sweetie's eyes misted over.
"Unable to process library function, please restate."
LibGuest1 makes physical contact with IGOR3
Hostility Undetected, continue Passive Mode
LibGuest1 pushing muzzle into IGOR3's R-Thigh
Hostility Undetected, continue Passive Mode
Audio Input LibGuest1: "Spike! Please wake up! Please! I never wanted this to happen to you AGAIN! You're not a machine! Not a slave! Not property! Not a doll!"
Audio Output: "Unable to process library function, please restate."
Audio Imput LibGuest1: "You're not a puppet...you're not...a puppet dancing because it's told to dance…"
Liquid on IGOR3's R-Thigh
Hostility Undetected, continue Passive Mode
LibGuest1's body vibrating
Hostility Undetected, continue Passive Mode
Audio Input LibGuest1: "...I feel awful."
Audio Output: "Shall IGOR Processor Subject 3 contact a medical pony?"
Audio Input LibGuest1: "I feel awful because I figured it out from Chrysalis' lessons. The stuff no different than this. 'Waste not, want not.' That machine took away part of your head, and that means this lazy curse didn't bother to mess with your heart. And if that's the part that's still you, then that's the part I'll speak to you."
LibGuest1 disengages contact, distances 1.2 meters.
Audio Output: "Unable to process statement, please restate."
Audio Input LibGuest1: "Glady."
Audio Input LibGuest1:
ERROR Unable to Process
No known words detected
Octave Wavering, unknown pattern
(beat to Rock 'n' Rule's, 'Angel's Song')
"What will the signal be."
Unable to process
"What will the signal be."
For your heart to hear me."
Unable to process
"I'll send out my song on the world's stage,
Our friendship's song reach through your cage."
"I know everything I sing is reaching out to you,
And the dragon's heart will break on through."
Unidentified Input Source
Potential Hacking Source
Warning Runtime Error Build Up
Eliminate Hacking Source
LibGuest1 Redesignated HackSource1: Nullify
Asphyxiate Audio Source
HackSource1 Not Retreating
HackSource1 Facial Recognition Identification: Distress
It seems so long ago.
When did our friendship grow?
Audio Source Not Wavering: Complete Action
"It doesn't matter, and all the better,
Friendship doesn't have a past or fut-ure!"
Attention: Three new resonance sources detected.
"Minds might twist and turn round
But hearts stay on solid ground."
Attention: Unknown Input Source intensifying.
Unknown presence detected inside unit.
Now as one, we're gonna show
Ain't no putting out this fire
Now as one, we'll make the stage,
Focus friendship's flames on you
Warning: Firewall failing. Unknown presence intensifying.
Unknown Imput Source intensifying.
Now we're singing, every wave,
This'll send friendship's fire through.[
E-Error. Does not compute.
Process: Eliminate Input Source.
Send our fires through
In the out, up to down
There's no doubt, Yell and shout
Our friendships' flames don't burn out!
Unidentified Presence overwhelming IGOR Processor systems.
In the dark Simple things become confused
Alone we stand Bemused
But one thing's always clear
With each other understanding will appear
Unidentified Presence...Identified as IGOR Processor Subject 3…
Identification flawed. Identification impossible.
Subject 3 consciousness removed.
We sent our friendship through,
And now the rest is up to you!
I-IGOR Critical Error.
I'm not a robot
I'm not a machine.
NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL!
NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL! NOT LOGICAL!
"I know everything I heard is coming out from you,
And my dragon's heart will break on through!"
"From my friends I'll never daunt
Spike exploded in a giant flash of light that knocked everypony on their plots.
Amazingly, there wasn't a smoking hole around Spike, if anything, the spot he stood actually looked better. No black headpiece inserted into his brain, just good old Spike the baby dragon, with a bit more light and shadow to him.
"That...was one of the worst experiences, of my life," Spike said, waving on his two legs, looking dizzy. "T-thanks, girls. And oh and you too 'Button Masher'. Bloom, Scoots, what's with the accessories?"
"SPIKE!" They all hugged the baby dragon at once, including Button Mash. Spike hugged them back. They then nuzzled him, which Spike politely accepted.
"Yer back!" Apple Bloom said.
"Thanks for saving me...I guess I owe you girls again."
"Who's keeping score?!" Button Mash laughed, proudly.
Spike and Button Mash smiled at each other like kids who'd already hung out together, but if Button had hung out with the CMC, why wouldn't they of too?
Blanky sniffed from his spot in Sweetie's saddlebags, and gave 'satisfactory' barks. Sweetie felt a pang of disappointment that Spike made no notice of Blanky unlike Button had.
Apple Bloom checked out Spike with her vision and asked. "Spike, what do ya remember?"
"Everything." The fillies held their breath. "I remember having no choice in what I thought or did and not feeling anything. Like, ya know, that time. Girls, thanks for reaching me when even I didn't know I was there. DON'T tell Twilight I said this, but I think our friendship's magic super charged my dragon healing or something. Though being a cyborg might have been cool so long as I was still me."
The foals smiled. Apple Bloom looked at Button then Spike and asked. "So ya remember last week?" Had it been yesterday? They couldn't tell if it was the sun or moon in the sky.
"Sure, Princess Celestia thanked Princess Animatia Erroria and Princess Liza Doolots again for taking out the entire changeling army and rooting out all their spies before hoof and luring the changelings into a brilliant trap. And you and Button asked me again to be the 'boss monster' for your playdate.'"
Apple Bloom faced away from the boys. "Alright, just makin' sure you're okay."
"Thanks, Apple Bloom… Oh my gosh!" Spike took out a scroll and quill from wherever he kept them and began to hastily write. "I better tell the Princess what's happened to Twilight!" Before the girls could stop him, Spike breathed on the scroll, and it flew off.
"Girls? What's with the looks? Twilight needs help!"
Then Spike burped up a letter.
Spike read the letter.
"Totes apologies, Spike, but I, Princess Cadence, am not in a position to help poor Twilight, which like, really sucks, because she's a best friend, I mean sister-in-law, like isn't it cool I found happiness with my knight in shining armor in this life? But don't be scared, because I, Princess Cadence, have absolute faith in you being able to save Twilight where I couldn't, I mean can't. Don't worry, I, Princess Cadence and my husband are safe. Invest in jewel polish, and good luck, and remember Twilight is strongest with you beside her. Sighed, I, Princess Cadence.'"
The girls didn't know what was more confusing, the letter, or that Super-Spike had tried to use his teleport breath through the fog and it hadn't worked, but for their Spike it did?
"I got nothin'," Button said.
"Oh so you meant Cadence," Apple Bloom said, as mixed up by their presumption as the odd reply.
"Who do you think I meant? I don't think Twilight needs 'fun time' with Celestia, and Celestia never lets poor Luna do anything, and super-cool Princess Animatia Erroria and Princess Liza Doolots never gave me a link cause they said the other princesses needed me more than they did."
Blanky reacted to the letter like it stank, but Apple Bloom's eye saw just a letter.
Sweetie and Scootaloo looked at each other. A Princess Celestia who did nothing but have fun all day, and a Princess Luna who was never allowed to do anything? It was unpleasant being reminded Miss Void had said the princesses were hit first.
'Is that letter so fake so we'll know it's fake and do the opposite of everything it says? Or is it so fake we'll know it's fake and-Ugh!'
"Weird, this looks like my claw writing," Spike said turning the letter sideways.
'That solves that mystery,' Sweetie thought.
"Must be a letter from you in the future so you'll know what to do," Button Mash said as if that was the most natural thing in the world.
"Hhhhmmm, maybe." Spike scratched his chin. "Twilight! I forgot! Oh Erroria! Girls! And you Button! You stay up here! I have to go into the basement! And don't come down no matter what you hear! That's what that letter means! I gotta save Twilight! She's got an evil spirit inside her!"
"Evil spirit?" Apple Bloom asked.
"I know Twilight more than enough to know a fake when I see one, and she's Twilight! But there's no way Twilight would do that to me! NEVER!" Spike said almost defiantly to some invisible puppeteer.
"Sorry Spike, we're coming with you, whether you like it or not," Scootaloo said trotting forward.
"We've already seen lots of baaaaaaaaaaad stuff today, and we're gonna be there to help you help Twilight." Sweetie Belle said doing the same.
"Besides, it looks like this is an escort mission," Button Mash said looking at his floating menu. Spike didn't even blink at it. "It's game over if anything happens to you."
Apple Bloom just stood there daring Spike to argue.
Spike looked at the faces of his friends, then sighed defeated. "Just...stay close, and, watch out for Owlowcious, and Twilight too. Being turned into a potted plant is the least scary thing she can do to you right now."
The foals nodded. As the foals circled the door to the basement Spike swallowed and sweated.
"Spike, if...if you need a break, you can, you can rest for a while," Sweetie offered.
"Twilight needs me. Shining Armor didn't let getting turned into some mind controlled zombie stop'em, and I'm not gonna stop either," Spike said, clenching one claw, his tail shaking.
"Ah've been there too Spike." Apple Bloom put a hoof on his shoulder, and looked them in one eye. "And Ah SEEN ya got it in ya to be the bravest toughest dragon there is who'll face the worst monsters to protect his friends!"
If dragons can blush Spike was. "Thanks...you really think so?"
"Ah know so."
Spike answered by opening the door to the basement. Down the little heroes went on the twisting stairwell. Apple Bloom's eyes watching everything, Sweetie and Scootaloo flanking Spike, and Button Mash with his sword drawn guarding the rear.
Sweetie Belle was SURE Twilight's basement hadn't been this deep before.
Dash's no coward and neither am I, but the basement wasn't just turned creepy, it was crazy! It was like that modern art stuff Silver Spoon showed us by...'Pico Casserole' or something?
Creepy buzzsaws on mechanical arms stuck out at odd angles, no matter which way I looked, what they connected to was out of my line of sight. Hooks, pokers, pinchers, zappers, like a forest of branches with a way cut through for the stairs to fit.
Blurry glass picture screens showing the Everfree Forest, ponies I didn't know in cages, ponies with wires stuck in them, ponies strapped to chairs, I swear I saw the pictures move. I couldn't even see the basement walls. I looked back at our way out, a little less dark patch leading the way we came, the stairs looking like a twisted noodle.
The biggest change crept up on all of us it was so gradual. Instead of dusty pink, everything looked grimy purple. There wasn't a sound in the whole place except us. The smell, it crept up on us too. An awful mix of blood, sweat, rust, 'anti-ceptics', and exposed wiring. I'm proud none of us threw up.
The way down looked like it went on forever almost, but Apple Bloom acted like going down infinite stairs was old news to her, she didn't stop. We passed 'layers' of metal floors. None of us dared speak.
We nearly fell off the stairs. It was Owlowcious, or used to be. He had the same black thing with red lights in his head that Spike had had. He was flapping silently like clockwork, hovering in place. We all cringed. I'd NEVER seen Spike look at Owlowcious so, so, SADLY before!
"WHOWHO-WHO-WHO!" Owlowcious' eyes started to glow red, and so did little wands around us too.
"Oh no, please, don't tell me, Cyborg Owl Eye Death Lasers?"
Spike sighed. "IGOR processor subject 2 Passcode: IGOR Processor Subject 3: 1-7-3-4-6-7-3-2-1-4-7-6 Charlie 3-2-7-8-9-7-7-7-6-4-3 Tango 7-3-2 Victor 7-3-1-1-7-8-8-8-7-3-2-4-7-6-7-8-9-7-6-4-3-7-6."
The glow in Owlowcious' eyes died down as did the gizmos around him, he silently fluttered out of the way.
Our jaws dropped at the insanely long password, Button Mash scribbled it down perfectly in a notebook from nowhere without batting an eye.
Spike didn't say anything, he just looked at his 'rival' sadly then us and we kept moving. You'll be okay Owlowcious.
The creepy metal forest now had leaves, pages of stupid history books with black splotches of an Alicorn on them stuck on anything that had a pointy end.
"What's this about?" I whispered.
Spike just said "Research," or something. I couldn't tell we were at the bottom a tic later until my hooves were touching the floor, like out of nowhere, only Apple Bloom and Spike weren't thrown off kilter too.
That was nothing to what I saw next. It was like I'd bitten into a cookie and tasted newspaper. It was Twilight. Except she wasn't performing some evil experiment or trying to cut open Pinkie Pie for no reason.
She was...chained to the floor in a Cold Iron collar? She looked awful. Smelled awful too. Ugh. When was the last time she took a bath, her mane made Dash's look combed. Her cutie mark had cuts and scabs all over it.
Above her watching were cameras with red eyes instead of lenses, like, I don't know what! They had little red lights blinking on them, and, what's that on the side? Nemesis. Co Recording?
"Twilight?" Spike asked like he was scared his voice would break her.
"Spike?" Twilight looked at us. Her eyes were blood shot and baggy. "How are-, but I-, that doesn't-," she looked at us. Then focused on, "Sweetie Belle? But...but I made Rarity kill you to traumatize her into being my spy, no wait, I killed you myself after you discovered the experiments I'd done to my friends, no wait, I gave you your cutie mark and adulthood to be my minion, no wait! I never passed the entrance examine and I just deluded you up Spike!" She held her hooves to her head and screamed. "Make it stop!"
What's Twilight to me? She's my mom/big sister/best friend, all rolled into one! I reached out to comfort her on instinct. She glared at me with glowing pink eyes that weren't her and screamed, "GET AWAY FROM ME!"
I jerked back before I thought it. The look on her face, I don't think I've ever seen her like that before. I felt dizzy when I tried to think if she'd had that face when she...did that to me, like a bunch of contrary pictures were pushing for room in my head. I kicked them out. I don't know what magic this evil spirit was holding on Twilight, but I wasn't about to let her down!
Okay. So how do I do that? If my friends can sing me back, then me and Twilight can sing this thing away.
(beat to Steven Universe 'Stronger than You')
"Twilight, it's Spike, back together.
And we're never going down to the likes of this.
We're together, we won't lose to 'em so let's go get 'em.
Me and you, it'll be one on two."
"I know Sweetie's sister, don't listen to their whispers.
Her heart would ache but she wouldn't break. She's stronger than that and you know it too-"
"Enough with your inane singing!" Twilight's voice echoed! Oh man! Her eyes had that crazy glow, and her shadow, it grew larger and larger behind her, sprouting wings and heads, like tumors growing out of tumors. If I didn't know better I'd swear the creepy cameras were miming laughing!
Guess dragons don't do heart songs. I'm not Sweetie Belle. I'm Spike The Dragon! Master Kenbrook Gilspotten Heathspike! I don't help Twilight by singing! I help her by bringing her back down to Earth! I was there for her when Celestia did, bad things to her. I ran away when I failed at being New-Rainbow-Dash. Ah whatever! I'm here now so chew on that! Yeah! I bet that's WHY this evil spirit made Twilight do that to me! It knew I could help her! After what Goat-Face and Queen Bug did, I'm not about to be scared of my own family because of it made Twilight's body do!
Meanwhile Twilight's shadow moved on its own, rising UP from the floor like it was alive! It reared back its hooves and its pony-head wings right above me and I braced myself.
Then it reached over past me and attack my friends without even looking at me!
"Oh come on!" I snorted. "I'm a dragon and helped save Equestria!" Okay, asking evil spirit WHY she isn't attacking me too. Not smart. But I'm ticked!
"Oh Spike, you're a great assistant, but you're not a warrior, and you're no priest," Twilight said like I was jealous of Owlowcious again.
"We're just fine! Thanks for asking!" Scootaloo snorted as the shadow tried to crush her into an orange flapjack.
"Black magic isn't working!" Sweetie shouted zapping at the shadow heads useless.
"Of course it isn't, I invented black magic." Said Twilight teacher-like with glowing magenta eyes.
"My sword is just hitting the floor! Where'd I put the light arrows?!"
Apple Bloom was looking at Twilight like she was the one with a zillion heads. "Just how many the hay are inside her?!"
No clue what she meant and didn't have time to figure it out.
I trusted the girls to stay in one piece as golden and rainbow colors flashed behind me between shouts.
"Come ON, Twilight! Zap this thing out of you! You're the smartest pony I know! You NEVER give up on your friends. You didn't give up on your ENEMIES. Remember Trixie? Even when I was being a jerk you didn't give up on her!"
"Stupid slave, of course I gave up on my friends. Discord didn't even need to use his magic on me, when all my friends and you abandoned me, I discorded myself!"
"And I'm SORRY for that! Maybe I'm not as brave as I wanna be sometimes but I'm here now! For you! And all it took was Celestia reminding you what you'd already learned to snap yourself out of it too! I remember the stomachache." Why did I get a headache remembering Princess Slut doing that?
"If you can beat loser Discord you can beat this thing! It's YOUR head they're in!"
"It's not 'this thing', WE are ALL of me! It's our head too! Including me who incinerated my entire class so I'd be valedictorian. Me who knows celestia used my friends' life spans to fuel the Elements!"
"Oh come on! She's not THAT evil!"
"But I am! I am the shadow queen Midnight reborn! I ruled Equestria with darkness and tyranny and I have returned!" The crazy on Twilight's face quadrupled and she rose her forehooves up wildly. "I am Celestia's illegitimate foal! Am I her little minion to murder my friends to bring her the Elements! I am the one who turned half of Ponyville into living dolls so I wouldn't have to see them die, then murdered Rarity, Filthy Rich and Diamond Tiara when they wouldn't play along! I'm at the center of a conspiracy with my friends as backstabbing master minds after she killed Luna! Agh!"
"YOU'RE TWILIGHT SPARKLE! MY FAMILY!"
"Don't you see Spike, it's too late, I'm beyond saving! Even now the chosen one is here to destroy me so I may never be reborn!"
"Twilight, I'd never hurt you!"
"Huh?" She tilted her head. She laughed and clapped. "Oh Spike/Slave/Son/Brother, Apple Bloom is the Chosen One! Not you! Come now Spike, you know you're not important."
The creepy cameras mimed roaring with laughter. I gave them all fire breath to the lens. They made a satisfying noise as they melted.
"Twilight, focus! You come from a loving family! You'd have never raised me as the super cool dragon I am if you were actually evil!"
"Celestia raised you."
"On paperwork only!" I shook my fist. "You've done way too much good to let this beat you, and a little good can beat a ton of evil!"
"That's a lie, Spike, Chrysalis' little good couldn't beat her ton of evil. Goodness is HARD, the right thing is HARD, it's selfishness that's easy."
"And nopony's worked harder than you to be good for Princess Cadence!"
"So did Discord."
"WHAT? You crazy?!"
"Discord when he was born tried hard to be good too. But the Discord he was BEFORE ate him inside. There's no ground to stand on."
I didn't know if this is more crazy talk, but- "Maybe he didn't have anypony to help him when it happened, but I'm here now! Those stories said you come from a bloodline of heroic Twilights! Not an evil queen! Your mom fought Chrysalis to help you!"
"DNA doesn't decide if you're good or evil! What's one life as a good pony to a million lives as a monster?!" Twilight's voice echoed, she was in so much pain. "Dissy couldn't beat Discord! I can't beat Queen Midnight and ALL OF US!"
"Twilight, if you wanted to break your friends' link to their Elements and see them die, you could have lied to Applejack, cruelly thrown Fluttershy to the Hydra, and abandoned Pinkie to get all three and nopony would know! You protected them!"
"I'd still have an angry Hydra to deal with! Beating us/them, one by one, you don't have time for that before your/our friends wear out Spike!" Twilight's poor face twisted between grinning and desperation. I heard my friend huffing and puffing behind me.
Right. Dragons don't fight peace meal. We blast them to ashes and take the treasure! We go for the throat!
"You said Discord tried hard to be good before the evil him won. BLECH! I can't believe I'm saying this! That means he must have some good in him already! Which means the only way he lost was if he was ALONE! YOU'RE NOT! If your soul has ALWAYS been rotten, how CAN there be any good in you? How could any part of you feel GUILTY about this? Listen to the parts of your soul that know you can be good! Listen to the good parts. You WANT to be good, don't you? You want to be a friend and my family, right? Who are you Twilight? You make your own choice! WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?"
"Li-listen t-to them?"
I got right in her face. "Take it from the dragon who chose to be kind: you are who you choose to be. You choose. Who do you really want to be? What does the real you want to be?"
Yeah, I stood point blank...but I trusted the REAL Twilight.
"W-who do I want-"
=Friendship Through The Ages=
Twilight froze like a picture. Then her body language changed, becoming more wild and feminine, her eyes changed too, from a moderate violet to a straight up purple. "I choose to stand by my friends, to risk my life for them, to put my faith in new friends, to always wish for a happy ending. I wish, I wish, I WISH!"
Then her body language became that of a graceful ballerina, her eyes turned pink. "I'll look up to those I love for how to be a great mare. I choose to trust in my family, I choose to believe things can and should turn out right in the end. I'll work hard for a future for those I love."
And again her language changed again, her eyes still pink, but like she was gonna trip over her own hooves sitting down! Her voice like a mare-foal's. "I am NOT some Frankenpony monster of souls sewn together! Clover. Dandy. Lucky. I am a family."
She cycled through them. Wild. "A me where good constantly defies evil." Graceful. "A me who helped found a one spot of harmony in a racial divided world." Klutzy. "A me in a world where good stuff doesn't need bad stuff to exist!"
The big heads-alicorn-shadow-thing began shaking like it was in pain, my friends getting a second wind and wailing on it. Then I saw glowing white wings form out of Twilight's back for a second, brightening up the whole creepy place!
Twilight's voice chorused with the klutzy voice at the front, "And we choose to believe in the good stuff and things being better than things being bad!"
"CURSE YOU, AMICITIA!!!"
Klutzy Twilight smiled and said, "Bless you."
Then everything exploded, but you know that was coming right? Big white and rainbow colors everywhere.
There was also some pink jewel shaped like Twilight's cutie mark that floated out that was full of gunk that got magically washed clean, vanished, and there was an unlocking sound somewhere.
The rainbow light faded, the little filles saw everything back to the colors they remembered, Twilight's basement not an infinite abyss of horrors but the house tree's lower levels converted into a science lab by Twilight after she'd moved in.
One new difference though was things had light and shaded sides to them instead of flat colors.
Owlowcious flew down next to Twilight, as if 'IGOR-2' never existed. Spike had never been so happy to see the bird okay.
"Twilight!" Spike hugged then looked over his family. "Are you okay?"
Twilight gently smiled. "I'm free." She hugged back.
"I'm so happy you're okay!" Spike cried tears of joy. Twilight joined him.
For reasons none questioned confetti sprinkled down and a banner reading 'Congratulations Spike!' unfurled.
"Oh yeah, who's the drake? Who's the drake?" Spike did a victory dance. Twilight smiled. Then the girls hugged, followed closely by Button.
"I'm sorry you had to see me like that, girls."
"Doesn't matter, you're okay now," Apple Bloom expressed.
"What the heck just happened?" Spike asked.
"Spiritual boss battles are always weird, don't think about it too much," Button explained.
"Trust me, your life is less confusing NOT knowing," Scootaloo affirmed.
"Past lives again?" Apple Bloom whispered.
"Sweetie...Rarity...she really is okay, right?" Twilight asked, sadly remembering what she'd believed she'd done.
Sweetie nodded. "Yeah, she's fine. We just left there after and she's safe."
The librarian and the foals nuzzled. There was a knock on the door upstairs they all heard. Sweetie felt no internal alarm bells.
"Excuse me, girls." Twilight hugged them and raced up the stairs, the foals and dragon didn't hesitate to follow. The foals braced themselves but found Razzaroo waiting outside with several books.
"Hello, I found these books and I think they belong to the library, can I come in?"
"You... look familiar... what's your name?"
"Huh?! Oh! It's... Birthday Present! Yes, that is my cutie mark, and that is me!"
Twilight blinked then politely let the pony inside.
As both Twilight and Spike shelved books (more dedicated an OCD and assistant you will not see), Razz' recorded their progress.
"Weird, says here our escort quest with Spike is only one-third over," Button Mash said scrolling through his game menu.
"So Spike's coming with us?" Sweetie asked, holding Blanky.
"Shouldn't he decide that?" Scootaloo asked.
"More like he will decide to come with us," Button Mash said.
"OH!" Sweetie gasped remembering, she trotted from the table the foals were at to Spike at the book shelf. "Spike! A friend of ours told you, uh, that you shouldn't give up on Rarity just cause."
Spike thought for a moment and slammed a claw into a palm. "Must be our future son making sure he gets hatched!"
Sweetie's brain drew a blank.
Twilight finished helping Spike put the last book away, gave the Golden Oaks Library itself a goodbye kiss, followed by sleepy Owlowcious, and teleported away. She came back a few seconds later with her travel bags. "Spike! We're going."
"Huh?!" EVERYPONY/DRAGON in the room replied.
"I was attacked by evil spirit of myself! My bestfriendsbelovedgoodfriend ApplejackRainbowDashFluttershyPinkiePieRarity could be targeted as well! It's what I have to do! Girls, stay here where it's safe, Owlowcious, the library is yours for now."
Twilight took Spike and teleported him on her back, and galloped towards the fog wall.
"MINTY! DON'T!" Razzaroo screamed.
As Twilight reached the edge, it was like a drawn out fractured cry. Spike was knocked off her backwards. Twilight flickered like a figure in frame by frame slow motion. A shadow stretched out from her, like a cut of blackness back into the library's center. The temperature plummeted, and a unicorn shape began to rise from the shadow's other end. And a feeling of defilement spread from it.
"TWILIGHT!" Spike pulled her back from the edge, the shadow vanished along with the dark feeling.
Twilight lay on the ground, panting. "W-what happened?"
"You're...a gatekeeper of the princess' world tower aren't you?" Razzaroo asked slowly, she and Spike both helping her up. "If you leave your 'post', then, something else will have to take it."
"But...that doesn't make sense! That never happened before! Did it? I...feel woozy." Twilight's head spun with confusion as she was brought back inside and laid down to recover.
"But that...Button Mash could leave his bubble!" Sweetie Belle whispered.
"But Button's not a 'gatekeeper,'" Scootaloo said sadly, ironically the one to piece it together.
"Spike," Twilight whispered looking him in the eye. "I...go with the girls, help them as much as you can, help your friends, help our friends...I... I'll trust you, my baby dragon."
Spike was stunned. It was like out of a dream. But he steel himself and saluted. "I'll do my best!"
"I know you will." Twilight patted him on the head. She turned towards Apple Bloom and co. "Girls, I don't have a right to ask, it's WRONG to ask but-"
Apple Bloom nodded. "Don't worry, we're already on it."
A few minutes later, with Razzaroo promising to keep an eye on Twilight for a little while, four foals, one ghost puppy, and a dragon were leaving the library behind, Spike holding onto Button Mash's tail as Apple Bloom led.
"And remember to not go wandering off in the fog or walk real slow when monsters are nearby."
"Like DUH, I'm not stupid," Spike snorted.
"Sorry, force of habit," Button Mash apologized.
"Hope Phobia's okay," Sweetie said.
"Just cause he can't fly doesn't mean he can't handle himself, speaking from experience," Scootaloo said.
Then the fog twisted and swirled around the younglings. They got ready for a fight without a word. What they got instead the same filly cloned several times over.
Her mane was a deep purple like clown make-up, blue eyes like the sky, and a coat as white as snow. She was wearing a little maid's dress. They stood politely, not blocking their way, running, or attacking.
All smiled identically. This wasn't what disturbed the foals. Instead, it was one had a noose around her neck, another with her neck broken, another was purple faced, another with a rock in her head, another had a sword through her.
"Hi! I'm Neatly Spell!" They each said a word in turn. "I was a happy maid with big dreams of being a wizard, who made friends with Diamond Tiara."
The youths looked at each other. Diamond Tiara? How long had it been since they heard her name?
"But Diamond Tiara killed me." They said. "Because she's an evil monster the whole world would be better off without that nopony missed or cared about, and can't love anypony, and that's all she ever can be." They just stood there like sign posts.
Apple Bloom, feeling sick to her stomach, and weak in the knees at the latest flavor of horror, looked at them with one eye. She shook her head, not alive.
"Sweetie?" Button Mash asked afraid for her. The unicorn filly was stiff, her eyes distant, like a void, her body temperature low, like a graveyard, her heart rate rising by the moment.
"No redemption. No redemption. No redemption." She began whispering.
"That's not true!" Spike snorted, pushing past Button Mash and the others, looking the fillies in the eye, poking one with a claw. "Diamond Tiara's an entitled brat who needed a spanking who thought bullying was the only way to be queen of the mountain! Not a murderer! She's JUST A FOAL! And her dad went nuts looking for her! And Silver Spoon talks about her STILL all the time! Silvery just want her to be okay, and be FRIENDS AGAIN!"
The various fillies looked at Spike expressionless, then dissolved into mist on the spot.
Spike huffed and puffed and turned back towards his friends who were all looking at him in awe. "What?"
Sweetie Belle shuddered and held her friends in a hug for dear life. "I love you all! You're all so very special to me! Spike, Bloom, Scoots, Button, don't ever leave me please!"
Button Mash blushed, "Uh, if you really want that, Sweetie."
Scootaloo elbowed him. "I promise, Sweetie Belle, uh, I'm never leaving any of you either."
"Yer good as family to me, and Apples don't leave family."
"You need to even ask?" Spike replied. All of them deciding to simply comfort their obviously distressed friend. Spike shook his head. "Okay, who'd create illusions of a foal claiming Diamond Tiara would do THAT? Sure she's a jerk, but...well, from how Silver described her, she wasn't psycho."
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo politely said nothing. Button Mash thought about it, but couldn't argue.
"Maybe Diamond Tiara?" Sweetie Belle suggested. "Maybe... the fog did it, because Diamond felt guilty about hurting somepony? Somepony who trusted her?"
"Diamond Tiara? Feel guilty? Yeah right," Scootaloo said. Apple Bloom somberly nodded in agreement.
"I'm kind of with Sweetie Belle..." said Button.
"Because she's Sweetie Belle?" Scootaloo asked.
"No...Just I don't really know Diamond Tiara that well, and mom says it's not nice to judge ponies you don't know too well..." the gamer colt replied, his posture leaving his answer ambiguous.
"I'm with Sweetie too," Spike said. "I think I'll save judgement until I see her in person, and see how she is NOW, a year is a long time."
Night Gale, gasped, let out a growl no living thing could make, and teleported away in a swirl of blackness. Curious, the Nightmare followed her. They reappeared in a vast chamber full of works of that were physically impossible and would drive any pony mad who looked at them with a black chair at the center. Night Gale screamed in fury, a faceless sphinx appeared before her, mimicking her motions as she used it to tear the gallery to pieces, broke the chair over the head of a snake head with hair that ended in human faces. She screamed, wailed, kicked, screamed more, slamming her hooves and the sphinx paws into the floor cracking it, red smoke rising from below.
"HOW DARE SHE?! HOW DARE SHE?!?!?! HOW DARE SHE DO THIS TO ME AGAIN?! HOW DARE SHE! AMICITIA!!! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! THIEF! YOU WERE NEVER NOTHING BUT A THIEF!!! HOW DARE YOU STEAL MY TIC FOR TAC TOO!"
'Twilight Sparkle...she, she defeated all of those curses inside her? You stuffed more crazy evil versions of herself in her than all of Ponyville put together. It's a wonder she didn't explode.'
"SHE HAD HELP! SHE CHEATED! AS ALWYS! That wretched dragon! HOW!? HOW?! She was going to vivisect his brain! Revenge was mine! MINE! MINE! He'll suffer for this! Then it'll be like he never suffered anything at all, EVER!" Night Gale let out a sick demented giggle as the faceless sphinx vanished. Night Gale crossed her eyes grinning like a filly planning to dump a hive of bees into her big sister's shower.
The filly Nightmare looked in confusion at the ground. "Father...are you, crying?"
'Don't be stupid dear. Why would I cry at a pony, whose my enemy, managed to defeat her former evil self with the help of her best friend. Why should I ever cry over anything like that? Don't be absurd! (Just this once.)'
The Nightmare filly shook her head, brushing it off to her father's natural randomness. She let out a gasp herself. She looked around in confusion. Nothing felt different, meaning she felt nothing. She felt nothing, nothing had no weight. So why, why did she feel like some weight was gone? She felt confused. She shook her head. She could trust the nothing, even father admitted she couldn't be trusted, only meaninglessness was certainly.
"So Abandon is banished from this realm, pst." Night Gale whispered to herself. "It was the Nightdrake wasn't it? That's who it was who stole my revenge on Amicitia's pupa form from me wasn't it? Hiding in that pathetic form in front of my cameras before switching to his true form after destroying them, of course." She held the calm of a frozen tundra.
She moved to a curled up furry beast, patting on the side, several red eyes opened on its head, its head splitting open like the pedals of a flower as it growled. "My Wolf, born of my spirit and my flesh, you will erase the inconsistencies that have invaded our world."
Alula Kicker, aka Princess Animatia Erroria had finished her ice cream (at the ice-cream pony kept insisting she have extra helpings) and had finally solved that puzzle cube and had told her story, er, her adventure twice (the ice cream pony actually giving tips on how to improve it). She had flown away after thanking her as a Princess should. She had intended to go straight back to the World Tower, but first she wanted to see more of the happy world she'd help create. Where morals weren't there to tell ponies that things that made them happy were bad.
That was when she spotted an earth pony gray mare with purple hair and eyeshadow wandering about aimlessly. Was she lost? She looked confused. She had a black diamond for a cutie mark. Maybe she was a treasure hunter? Maybe a villain who had lost her memory who Alula could now lead to the path of being a hero! She looked dirty. She walked like she'd forgotten how to walk. She bumped into things like she didn't understand how perception worked. She breathed like it was something new to her completely.
Then the mare walked into a street lamp. It fell over backwards with a pony shaped dent, but the mare continued to wander like nothing had had happened. She also stepped on a rock that broke in two under her, not even noticing. Even for an Earth Pony, that was something else.
Alula HAD to help her, it was what Princesses and Magical Fillies did!
Alula gracefully landed in front of her, twirling her gold outfit and oh! Better put away her weapon, don't want to scare her. Ooopsie. "Hi! I'm Princess Animatia Erroria, Magical Filly! Who are you? I'm here to help you?"
"Haaaaiiiii?" The mare repeated, like words themselves were a foreign language.
"Yes. Hi." Alula said patiently. "I'm a friend. I can help you. Can you tell me your name?"
"Yes friend." She said, taking the mare's hoof. The gray earth pony looked at her own like she didn't even realize she owned one until now. "Do you have friends or family nearby?"
"Yes family. Yes or no. Can you... can you remember them?"
"Yeeesssss? Noooo? Nooooo. Nooo. Nooo." Her voice was slow, but never wavered or changed, staying the same with no emotion, exactly like her face showed no feeling.
Alula wilted. "I'm, I'm sorry. I promise I'll get you somewhere you can get help."
"Heeelp? Somewhere? Nowhere. Nowhere."
"There's help! I promise there is!"
Alula looked at her stone cutie her, her gray complexion, her voice like gravel, her expression like a rock's, how she broke that rock. "WAIT! I know! I saw pictures of ponies like you at Sugar Cube Corner! You're part of Pinkie Pie's family! I know you are! I bet you're sisters!"
"Pink-kie Pie? Sis-ster?"
"Yes, your sister Pinkie Pie. Do you remember your name?"
After an infinite silence she replied, sounding confused at herself at the idea of having a name, so many coming together all at once, crashing together and falling into pieces into her. "Voooidnothingendreversemother, reversemaudther, versemaud- maud-"
"Maud Pie! That's your name!"
"Maud, Pie, my... name?"
"Yes! Your name is Maud Pie! Let's get you to your sister, Pinkie Pie!"
The gray mare nodded, and Alula led her through the fog, it obeying Alula's will without hesitance, bringing her to Sugar Cube Corner within seconds.
"Pinkie Pie!" Alula shouted as she came in. "I found your sister Maud Pie wandering Ponyville, I think she could use your help!"
"Sister Maud? Did my parents adopt or have a foal when I was gone?" Pinkie Pie came out of the cellar, tossing off an apron with strawberry jam on it.
"Sister? Pinkie Pie?" Maud Pie asked looking the happy pony in the eye.
Pinkie Pie looked the pony in the eyes, then gasped out loud and cheered. "Oh right! Sorry Maud! I can't believe I forgot you!"
Alula wondered how Pinkie Pie could forget her own sister like that, she had her right there in the family photo on the wall after all.
"Maybe you should make her a cupcake, that always makes me feel better when you do it for me," Alula suggested.
Pinkie Pie shook her head. "Sorry, family isn't cupcakes material. I don't even do cupcakes if family is visiting. And silly Alula, if I made you a cupcake you wouldn't be here."
Alula wondered what that meant, but figured it was Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie. "Good luck! But a Princess' work is never done!" She hoped Night Gale had saved her spot on the game console.
"Okay!" Pinkie Pie smiled. "Thanks for finding my sister, that means everything Princess Sue!"
"Uh, it's Princess Animatia Erroria."
"Okay, Princess Sue."
'Pinkie Pie, being Pinkie Pie.' Alula flew away giving a royal bow.
Pinkie Pie took Maud upstairs.
"Hey, Maud, you remember Rocky, right?"
"Hi, Rocky," Maud Pie said without emotion to the pile of rocks.
Maud began to wonder why she had left Boulder at home, but he did tend to wander, and she didn't want to lose him in this fog. Wait, Ah, she hadn't forgotten him, he'd been hiding under her hoof. Slippery Boulder.
"Oh! Hi, Boulder! Nice to see you again," Pinkie Pie said to the little rock. She looked up at her big sister. "So, do you remember the rock farm?" Pinkie Pie continued to talk a good while about their family, jogging Maud's memory. And the more she spoke, the more Maud remembered. The desolate and vast and even, gray, and peaceful rock farm, truly did sound and feel like home.
Alula meanwhile flew back to the World Tower, happy she could help a pony in need as a Princess should.