Hero Souls: Awakening

by SvenFoxx


(Rewritten) 1. Soul of Hope

Written in the most ancient of fables and the oldest of records, you will find whispers of the term ‘Hero Soul’. No pony truly understands what it means. Some think it means those who have this moniker are heroes. Some think it means they are incredibly brave. And others think it a mark of destiny; that they will somehow play a pivotal role in the shaping of history.

And sometimes, they are right, but not for the reasons you would think.

If one were to examine every person in history that was called a Hero Soul, they would eventually find a pattern. Every time someone such as this turned up in history, conflict and struggle was not far behind. War. Tragedy. Devastation. And yet, it is not the fault of the Hero Soul that this happens.

No, the Hero Soul is actually the answer to these trying times. They rise from the ashes of empires that were torn apart, and lead them into rebuilding and thriving once again.

Fake Forge, the Dream of Heroes. A Unicorn who wielded the power to bend reality itself, his desire to protect was so potent. He waged a secret war in the hopes of preventing Armageddon.

Fury Cutter, the Blue Rogue. A Diamond Dog that dreamed of exploring the unexplored. He thrived on adventure, and rose to the call when the world was threatened by the Gryphons attempting to control ancient magic that even the Alicorns barely understood.

Maelstrom, the Feral Gale. A Pegasus that was given the chance to save all he loved from a terrible fate, cultivating a fire within himself that he claimed was the source of his strength until the very end.

Time Turner, the Oncoming Storm. An Earth-Pony driven by exploring the unknown and experiencing life, yet hiding a painful past and regretting many mistakes. He saved the life of the Princesses when he sacrificed himself in their place.

Black Wing, the Infinite Archive. A Thestral that always strived to better himself, and somehow achieved power similar in scope to the Alicorns. He vanished from the annals of history suddenly and without explanation.

And now, the gears of destiny slowly begin to grind for even more Hero Souls.

---

Twilight Sparkle groaned as she came back to awareness. The very first thing her mind registered clearly was pain. By the Stars was she in pain. Every twitch came with a lance of pain. Every breath felt like her lungs were nothing more than mulch. Every light that hit her eyes felt like a white-hot needle into her brain.

She was in pain… and that was good. ‘Pain means I’m not dead.’ She frowned at that thought. She wasn’t entirely certain where it had come from. However, she could see the wisdom in it. She could feel pain. Therefore, she was alive and in a good enough condition to acknowledge that pain. But still, that begged a question. ‘Why am I in pain?’

Looking around, she tried to get her bearings. Her neck complained at the action, but she ignored it. It was dark out, nighttime. That was important. She knew it was important. But… why was it important?

She was laying in a mess of rubble near a demolished old-looking stonework wall with a hole in it. Dust fell in strands from it, telling her the hole was recent. She tried to stand, and wobbled as indistinct images and sounds flashed across her mind. The only thing she could make out from the mess was… well… some kind of bipedal furless creature.

Her head ached, and she wasn’t sure if that was a product of a concussion or magical overload. It wouldn’t be the first time she had one or the other. Considering the confusing mess her thoughts were in, she was leaning towards concussion.

More images, this time of a bird’s eye view of green pastures and fields of corn. The farm house situated in the center of it all called to her, making her heart heavy with sadness.

She groaned and tried to focus, to push past the haze and fog in her mind. She could think, but it was disjointed and sporadic. Definitely concussed. What hit her?

She leaned her head back with a slow inhale, and opened her eyes, staring at the Moon.

Wait…

The Moon…

She frowned. There was that feeling of importance again. The Moon was important. It was very important. Why? She felt like growling in frustration.

“Ah found her!”

Twilight jerked at the sudden accented shout, and looked over to find an orange Earth-Pony mare galloping towards her, concern etched into her facial features.

“Twi! Are ya okay?” The mare asked, sliding to a stop next to her. “By the Stars… we weren’t sure you would even be alive after that.”

“After… what?” Twilight mumbled.

The mare frowned, the concern in her green eyes growing. “Twi?” She asked.

“Who… are you?” Twilight managed to get out. “I know you… I know you… but I don’t know you.” She knew that she should know this mare.

Stupid concussion.

The mare blinked. “Er… What? I don’t think I get it, Twi. What do you mean you know me, but don’t? It’s me, Applejack!”

“Well howdy do, Miss Twilight! A pleasure making your acquaintance.”

Twilight gasped, her eyes lighting up in recognition… but then the image of Applejack was momentarily replaced with the image of one of those bipedal creatures again, this one female and older. Twilight’s heart wrenched when she saw her. Her smile was kind and eyes full of love and wisdom both.

And then Applejack was in front of her again, her own eyes full of worry.

“Ma?” Twilight mumbled, half asking.

Applejack blinked. “What?” she whispered. Then she shook her head. “You’re not well, sugar-cube. We need to get out of here before-”

“Too late!”

From out of nowhere a black Alicorn with a blue mist-like mane blasted Applejack away from Twilight with a beam of magic. Then the Alicorn charged towards Twilight. Twilight didn’t think. Fear gripped her the moment she heard that horrifyingly familiar voice, compounding when her friend was attacked. Instinct gripped her…

And she proceeded to punch Nightmare Moon so hard in the face that not only did the Alicorn stop, but she rebounded and crashed through the wall with a hole in it, completely missing the hole.

She looked at her hoof in awe. “How…?” she mumbled.

The image of a bipedal creature in green armor surfaced in her mind, and she saw a fist, hers if her perspective could be believed, hitting him and launching him through several buildings.

“What’s happening to me?” Twilight whispered to herself. With a start, she remembered Applejack and turned, finding the mare laying on the ground some ways away. She got up and ran towards her friend.

Applejack was unconscious and slightly banged up, but otherwise fine. That was all Twilight could determine before Nightmare Moon came roaring back into the clearing and tackling her past Applejack into a nearby tree.

“You are fast becoming a nuisance!” the Princess declared, her eyes flashing with power. “You failed to activate the Elements of Harmony. Your friends are scattered, and you are injured. Just give up and leave! I will not stop you.”

Twilight glared at Nightmare Moon and tried to use her magic. Her horn sputtered and flared, but nothing happened. She gripped the hooves holding her against the tree with her own hooves, but the strength she had struck Nightmare Moon with earlier had vanished. “Never.” she whispered, despite her predicament.

“Why?” Nightmare Moon growled in frustration. “Why do you resist the Eternal Night? Celestia is defeated! Her precious Sun will never rise on Equestria again, and your so called last resort failed! You have no reason to fight, so why?”

Twilight grimaced, before a strange feeling came over her. She stopped struggling and stared at the Alicorn in the eyes calmly. “Because I love Equestria… and I refuse to see it become a land of darkness and oppression.”

“My rule will be firm, but fair. Criminals will be punished. Heroes will be praised.” Nightmare Moon’s eyes narrowed. “And no pony will be discriminated against because they are different.”

Twilight’s eyes widened as she recalled the words of the Tale of the Two Sisters.

… but as time went on, the younger sister became resentful. The Ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought forth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night…

“…This isn’t about power or control for you, is it?” Twilight asked quietly, almost shocked as things began clicking into place at a rapid pace in her mind.

“No,” Nightmare Moon agreed. “This is about recognition. My Night will be appreciated… even if I must show the world exactly how terrifying the darkness of the Night can be.”

“But… but no pony fears the night anymore!” Twilight exclaimed. “There are even entertainment establishments that operate only during the night!”

Nightmare Moon paused, and Twilight noticed her eyes, teal colored cat-like eyes, shift into a normal cerulean color and shape. “Truly?” she asked.

Twilight nodded. “It’s been over a thousand years, and ponies change. I won’t say that ponies don’t fear what they don’t understand, but now we strive to try and understand what we don’t. Like space. We’ve created devices that allow us to view the space beyond what our eyes can see at night. Ponies… no, creatures all over the world study the stars and the planets lightyears away from us. And it’s all curiosity that drives them.”

‘Maybe we didn’t need the Elements of Harmony,’ Twilight thought to herself. ‘Maybe, just maybe, some good old-fashioned talking would do it.’

“There are planets other than Equus?” the Alicorn asked, releasing Twilight and backing away. “Are there Ponies on those planets as well?” she asked in growing excitement.

Twilight shook her head. “We don’t know. We can see the planets, but not what’s on them in any real detail. That question is one of the largest drives for the study of space. Are we alone in the universe?”

Twilight began to relax, but it was short-lived. Nightmare Moon’s eyes flared with dark power and she expelled a magical shockwave, throwing Twilight back against the tree. “No! I will not be distracted by lies!” she growled, her eyes once more cat-like and teal in color.

Twilight squeaked as Nightmare Moon fired a blast of magic at her point-blank, and frantically dived away to avoid it. She ended up accidentally launching herself clear across the clearing, flailing in shock at the action and landing in an undignified mess.

As Twilight tried to get her hooves under her, Nightmare Moon was charging a much larger spell. While getting up, she noticed the spell just as it was fired. She tried to use her magic to teleport away, but it fizzled out again. She panicked and tried to jump to the side again, but only ended up tripping over her own hoof and landing on her face.

She closed her eyes, waiting for her end and hoping it wasn’t too painful.

“No!”

Twilight felt magic surround her body as she was yanked out of the way, just barely avoiding the ball of magic as it roared by. Twilight opened her eyes to find her rescuer, and was never happier to see a Unicorn with a Canterlot attitude than she was when her eyes fell on Rarity, standing at the edge of the clearing.

“I could kiss you right now.” she said frankly as Rarity pulled her closer.

Rarity blushed, but it wasn’t her that responded. Rainbow Dash surprised Twilight by flying over and grinning. “Really, Twi? I didn’t know you swung for that team.” she ribbed her friend.

Twilight blushed as well, now realizing just what she had said to Rarity. “Er… I…”

“We heard Applejack yell, and came running as quickly as we could,” Rarity interrupted, forcing her blush down. “Actually,” she continued. “Where is she?”

Twilight’s hooves touched grass and she was released form Rarity’s levitation field as she answered. “She’s over there. She was knocked out shortly after finding me.” She pointed a hoof towards Applejack’s body.

“Well that simply won’t do.” Rarity commented, lighting up her horn again.

Twilight’s ear twitched, and she spun around and threw her hoof forward. She ended up punching Nightmare Moon in the face again. Once more the Alicorn flew backwards from the force of the punch and through a tree, breaking it in half and making it fall on her.

As Rarity and Rainbow Dash stared at Twilight with dropped jaws, Twilight herself glared at her hoof. She had reacted on pure instinct when she heard the Alicorn disturbing the air on her approach. Just what in Tartarus was going on?

“Oh dear…” Rarity said faintly, her eyes on Twilight’s hoof.

Rainbow Dash’s shock faded quickly to be replaced with a face splitting grin. “That was so cool! How did you move that fast? How did you hit her that hard? Applejack tried bucking her already, and it only annoyed her!” she asked.

Twilight snapped out of her thoughts at the rapid-fire questions, and looked at Rainbow Dash and Rarity. “I… don’t really know?” she offered, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly. “I keep having these moments where I’m suddenly really strong or fast, but it keeps fading away.”

Before any more questions could be asked, Nightmare Moon exploded into the clearing surrounded by an aura of magic, flying straight towards Twilight. The Unicorn only had enough time to squeak in surprise before she was soundly punched in the face by Nightmare Moon’s hoof, and Twilight felt the immense magic behind the punch just before she was launched backwards by the action.

Nightmare Moon laughed as she watched the Unicorn disappear into the darkness, confident she had finally killed the pest. She turned her attention towards the two Ponies she was sure were now staring at her in fear, only to find a pair of furious blue eyes glaring into her own from inches away, startling her.

“How DARE you!”

---

Twilight hit a tree, and then she went through the tree, destroying it in an explosion of wood splinters.

Her speed greatly reduced by the obstacle, gravity reclaimed her and she hit the ground, still at a respectable speed. She bounced a few times and flailed, trying to get a grip on the ground, or a rock, or a branch, or… anything! She finally was brought to a stop when her back hit a large boulder with crash and a shower of stone chips and shards.

Twilight groaned in pain, but despite that pain her mind was working quickly to try and figure out just how she had survived her journey through a tree and, after a quick glance at her current resting spot, halfway through a boulder.

At that very moment, more images flashed through her mind. More of those bipedal creatures, a rather impressive city made of stone and metal with very tall buildings, and…

And a stylized red S on a yellow background.

She quickly realized, as more and more sounds and images flooded her, that this wasn’t the madness of a concussion, but rather memories that did not belong in her head. More than that though, she could feel the memories quickly overwhelming her. She was forced to use every meditation trick she knew of to try and just keep her awareness.

Something was waking up inside of her, and it was trying to overtake her own consciousness. Worse, it was succeeding despite how valiantly Twilight was struggling to retain herself. Slowly, inch by inch, it was winning.

Twilight didn’t want to lose herself. She didn’t want to stop existing. She wanted to stay herself!

So focused was she on trying to keep from being swallowed by the foreign memories, that her senses had stopped registering in her mind as she devoted every last bit of her will into fighting for her very existence.

But one sound pierced that silence. It was a scream, the pained scream of a Pony Twilight had only met recently, but had quickly found herself bonding with, just as she did with the other four mares. Her voice was normally so soft, so timid, but so undeniably kind as well.

Fluttershy.

Twilight made a decision. ‘Fine! Take me! Just save them!’

And for the first time since waking up in the clearing, Twilight Sparkle’s mind and soul achieved unity.

---

“Let her go!” Rainbow Dash yelled, struggling under the heavy chains made of magic the Alicorn had conjured to trap her. “Let my friend go!” she screamed, thrashing as much as she could.

Fluttershy, who had arrived with Pinkie Pie just in time to see Twilight get punched hard enough to launch her further into the dark forest, had snapped. She had proceeded to glare at the Alicorn and start berating her. At first, it seemed to work, as the Alicorn had been completely wrong-hoofed and began backpedaling as Fluttershy verbally tore into her.

Just as the rant was building to a climax though, she had snapped out of her apparent fear and struck Fluttershy, sending her sprawling with a pained scream. Rainbow Dash, enraged, had charged Nightmare Moon, with predictable results. She was captured and trapped in chains, and Rarity’s attempt to free her had resulted in the same treatment, but with ropes.

Pinkie Pie was off to the side, working to avoid a Manticore Nightmare Moon had somehow summoned and sent after her.

Then she had grabbed Fluttershy in her magic and raised her up.

“The Predator Stare. To think I would be confronted with his descendant so quickly after my return. But you are weak, feeble. Without courage, the Stare is useless,” she noted.

Her eyebrow twitched, and her left eye flashed cerulean. “Yet, even when only powered by a brief burst of courage, you nearly unraveled everything. I cannot allow such a power to roam unchecked.”

Her horn ignited, and Fluttershy watched fearfully as an ethereal sword composed of magic formed above Nightmare Moon, pointed at Fluttershy’s head.

“NO!!!” Rainbow Dash screamed. She thrashed harder, and harder, and harder still, but nothing worked. “Fluttershy!” She pushed as hard as she could, and further. She stopped caring about limits. She stopped caring about herself, and pushed. The more she pushed, the more she struggled, a fire slowly began to grow in her. Unfortunately…

“Die,” Nightmare Moon commanded softly, almost sadly. And then she fired the sword like a spear.

Rainbow Dash felt the fire go out completely as dread overwhelmed her. “FLUTTERSHY!”

Fluttershy flinched and closed her eyes. There was a rush of wind, what she assumed was the sword as it approached, but…

Clang.

“You!? How?! I killed you!”

Fluttershy’s eyes opened, and she found Twilight standing between her and Nightmare Moon. She couldn’t see it, but Nightmare Moon’s sword was being stopped by Twilight holding her hoof against the tip, without any apparent effort. She squeaked as the magic holding her released, dropping her.

Rainbow Dash began openly crying in relief, grateful beyond words that her first and best friend was safe. She didn’t care if Twilight was floating off the ground without wings. She didn’t care if it should have been impossible to stop a sword with your hoof like that. She was just immensely grateful that she had saved Fluttershy. “Thank you,” she nearly sobbed.

“No, you assumed I was dead,” Twilight corrected the Alicorn calmly. “You should have checked to make sure.” Twilight then swung her other hoof up and over, bringing it down on the magical construct and shattering it like glass.

As the pieces of magic fell and faded away, Nightmare moon roared in rage and funneled a great deal of magic into a single beam, which was aimed right at Twilight’s head. It was small, the size of a coin, but so powerful it could probably punch through the strongest metals.

Twilight just rolled her head to the side, avoiding it completely. It lanced into the darkened forest, briefly lighting up the night.

“I assume that was just a warning shot?” Twilight asked with a raised eyebrow.

Nightmare Moon looked absolutely livid, and perhaps a bit embarrassed, but calmed herself down after a moment. She looked at Twilight with narrowed eyes, realizing just now the impossibility of the actions the Unicorn was committing to. “You’re different,” she noticed, observing the absolute lack of fear in Twilight’s gaze.

“I am.” Twilight nodded.

“How so?” Nightmare Moon asked conversationally.

Twilight vanished in a blur, appearing inches from Nightmare Moon’s face and grabbed her head with both hooves. “Allow me to demonstrate,” the unicorn whispered.

And then she drove her knee straight into the Alicorn’s startled face.

Nightmare Moon staggered back, blood leaking from a split lip, but had no time to recover as Twilight spun and bucked her in the chest. She flew backwards, arching towards a tree, but was stopped by Twilight appearing behind her and jackhammering her straight down. She hit the ground with an explosion of dirt and dust.

Twilight flew over to where she had stopped the sword and landed. “Do you know what it’s like, Nightmare Moon, to have memories that aren’t your own trying to flood your mind?” she asked curiously, watching the cloud of dust carefully. “It was overwhelming, and I thought I was going to lose myself to them, they were so strong. No more Twilight Sparkle. No more Celestia’s Faithful Student. Just the meat-puppet of a consciousness you know nothing about. I was terrified.”

Nightmare Moon stalked from the settling dust, her expression thunderous. “You think you know fear?” she demanded, and then reared up. “I shall show you true terror!” she bellowed, charging Twilight.

Twilight began moving backwards, dodging every punch, kick, and the occasional blast of magic with speed and apparent ease. In the back of her mind, she realized they had left the clearing her friends were in as the fight began moving through the forest.

“And you know what? I was losing. Those memories would have overwhelmed me, and likely killed me. But then I heard Fluttershy scream,” she resumed her story.

“Hold still!” Nightmare Moon growled, summoning an ethereal sword and using it alongside her other attacks. Still, Twilight dodged with ease, though she moved faster to keep up.

“That scream pierced everything, bringing a dead stop to the struggle between me and the memories. I decided then and there that I didn’t care. My existence isn’t important compared to them. I would gladly give up everything, mind, body, and even my soul, for them. Because, against all odds, despite how little I knew them,” she paused. “I care about them. They had somehow become my friends.”

Something in her mind clicked, and her eyes widened briefly. ‘Wait, it can’t be that simple… can it?’ she thought.

Rarity and the serpant.

Fluttershy and the Manticore.

Applejack and the cliff.

Pinkie Pie and the fear spell.

Rainbow Dash and the Shadowbolts.

And the reasons behind it all.

It all fit. Everything fit. How had she missed it?

Twilight suddenly retaliated, striking Nightmare Moon across the face and knocking her to the side. “So I let them in. I let all of the memories in, with the the only condition for my surrender being the safety of my friends. Imagine my surprise when I found out the memories where mine all along, just… hidden.”

Nightmare Moon got to her hooves quickly and charged back in with an incoherent scream of rage. “I am an Alicorn! A mere Unicorn is nothing compared to me! Celestia herself could not best me!”

Twilight resumed dodging with apparent ease. “True. A normal Unicorn would have little to no chance against an Alicorn. But I think I’ve already established that I’m not normal.” She jumped backwards, and then slammed her hoof into the ground as Nightmare Moon approached.

The ground buckled and heaved, and Nightmare Moon nearly speared herself on a jagged chunk of stone that was uplifted by the force of the punch. Twilight blurred in and grabbed her in a headlock that was impossible to break from.

“The strange thing is that these memories aren’t just from my time as Twilight, but are the memories of another being entirely. His name was Clark Kent, the Man of Steel. He dedicated his life to the protection of humanity, a species he wasn’t a biological member of. But the kindness of just two humans proved to him that they were worth defending to the very end, and that’s exactly what he did.”

“Is there a point to this insane story?” Nightmare Moon grunted, realizing that though she was trapped, Twilight didn’t seem to be attacking either.

Twilight smiled at the Nightmare, and the Alicorn realized it was not a kind smile. “Clark Kent fought Gods and won, repeatedly. At the end, he was considered a mortal God by the very same Gods he defeated and gained the respect of.” She shifted her hold. “An Alicorn is powerful, and perhaps even ageless, but they aren’t Gods.”

“Blasphemer!” Nightmare Moon roared, resuming her struggling with renewed vigor. “Alicorns are worshiped widely as Gods and Goddesses!”

“Not anymore. Celestia put a stop to it through open honesty about your species. She admitted the very same things, that an Alicorn was a mystery in many ways even to her, and I assume you, but they aren't truly immortal, just ageless and powerful.”

Nightmare Moon stopped struggling after a moment. Twilight frowned when the mare began convulsing, and her eyes widened when the Alicorn’s fur actually started to change colors.

A single cerulean eye shot to her own lavender irises, and a telepathic message lanced into her mind. “Now! We cannot maintain control for long! End this monster!”

Twilight was visibly startled by this, and whoever it was that had contacted her noticed.

“We are Princess Luna, Alicorn of Dreams and Darkness. Please, whoever thou are. We have no right to ask this of thee, but correct Our sin. End this monster. End the Nightmare.”

Twilight hesitated, and then another message reached her, quiet and resigned. “Please, We cannot hold on for long. We have at best minutes before the Nightmare reasserts control over Our body. Now, while We are open and exposed…

“End it.”

Things started snapping into place in Twilight’s mind at blinding speeds.

1. Luna was the original incarnation of Nightmare Moon, before she gave into rage and hatred.

2. Princess Luna and Nightmare Moon were separate entities, rather than the Princess being evil as the stories depicted.

3. Luna was fighting back.

4. Luna was asking Twilight to kill her.

She could see it in the cerulean eye, the determination that could only come from resignation. The drive to, if not win, then to at least prevent her enemy from winning.

She had seen those eyes far too many times as Clark Kent.

She had seen far too many friends die this way as Superman.

Steel formed in Twilight Sparkle’s eyes. ‘Never again,’ she swore to herself. She leapt away from Nightmare Moon, who only managed to stand up straight with Luna running roughshod over her control. She looked at the cerulean eye that seemed to belong to Luna. “I’ll be back,” she promised, and then vanished in a blur.

---

Rainbow Dash didn’t say anything as Twilight grabbed the chains pinning her down and tore them to pieces like so much paper. She didn’t say anything as she stood up and stretched her body and wings. She said nothing as she looked at Fluttershy, who was standing near her staring at her first friend in concern.

When Rainbow Dash finally turned her attention to Twilight, she still didn’t say anything, but Twilight suddenly found herself holding a shaking blue mare.

“Thank you…” Rainbow Dash whispered, low enough that Fluttershy couldn’t hear her.. “I can’t lose her, I just… I can’t. Thank you so much.”

Twilight smiled after a moment, and returned the hug. She pulled back though and stared at Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy seriously. “Go back to the ruins and get the Elements. Bring them here. I’m going to try one more time to make them work. We need them to work now, because I refuse to kill her.”

Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy exchanged a glance. “Er… I don’t like it either, Twilight, but I’m not seeing any other option. The Elements didn’t work then, why would they now?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Twilight smiled. “Because this time I know how they work. I figured it out earlier. Now go!” she ordered.

Rainbow Dash’s expression became stern and she nodded. She turned to Fluttershy. “Let’s go, Fluttershy. I trust her.” She shot into the air.

Fluttershy followed after a moment of indecision.

Twilight vanished again.

---

Rarity started when Twilight appeared in front of her with a gust of wind, and grabbed the ropes. She tried to tear them away, only to find even her great strength insufficient.

“Darling, those are magical ropes. You would need magic equal to or greater than the magic that created them to break them,” Rarity reminded her fellow Unicorn.

“Magic’s not working.” Twilight explained briefly, emphasizing the fact by trying to cast a spell and the only result is a spark of magic that jumped from the tip of her horn. Her eyes began glowing red as she stared at the ropes. “I have a better idea anyways.”

Rarity flinched when twin beams of hot energy lanced from Twilight’s eyes, neatly severing the ropes. The constructs faded as they were broken, and Rarity fell to the ground, stumbling slightly.

“I just sent Rainbow and Fluttershy after the Elements. I think I know how they work now, and need you nearby when it’s time to use them. But don’t get too close. I don’t think Luna can keep that thing pinned for long and I may need to keep it occupied while we wait. Can you do that?” she asked her friend.

Rarity took a moment to process the request, and then nodded with determination. “Easily,” she said.

Twilight gave a quick smile of thanks, and then flew off towards Pinkie Pie.

Rarity started to canter towards where she had last heard Twilight and Nightmare Moon fighting, but then paused. “Wait… Who is Luna?”

---

Pinkie Pie giggled as she bounced off the Manticore’s head, leaping for a high branch and landing on it easily. “Nah-nah, you can’t catch me!” She poked her tongue out. “Mneeeeh!”

The Manticore, eyes black as night announcing the magic being used to control it, roared and tackled the tree Pinkie Pie was in. The tree shuddered, but didn’t fall. Pinkie Pie, however, did, failing to get a grip on her branch when she was rattled right off of it.

Thankfully, she was caught by Twilight before she could fall into the Manticore’s large and open mouth.

“Hiya Twilight! Fancy meeting you here,” she greeted enthusiastically.

Twilight smiled at her bubbly friend. “Hi Pinkie,” she returned the greeting, flying up and keeping out of the Manticore’s reach. “Hey, I see you’re having fun, and wouldn’t dream of dragging you away from it, but can I ask you for a favor?”

“You need me nearby when you use the Elements on Black Snooty, freeing Princess Luna from the icky darkness, and learning a valuable lesson in friendship at the same time?” the party Pony fired off rapidly.

Twilight sputtered, completely wrong-hoofed. “Wha… how… You knew?!” she shrieked. “You knew how the Elements worked, and didn’t say anything?! Why?!”

Pinkie giggled. “Silly! The Elements only work if you accept friendship! You were just looking at them like tools, and not what they really are.” She shrugged. “If I had told you, you would have instantly tried to claim we were your friends, without actually feeling it.”

Twilight, once again, sputtered, trying to deny what Pinkie said, but ultimately knew it was true. She finally frowned at her friend. “I have half a mind to let the Manticore have you,” she grumbled.

“Yay! Then I can continue playing with it!” Pinkie said excitedly.

The Manticore stopped for a brief moment and shivered, a chill running up its spine. Then it was growling and jumping once more, trying to catch its prey.

“And I’m sure he would love tha… why do you have pigtails, Pinkie?” Twilight asked. She was fairly certain her friend’s mane was like cotton candy not five seconds ago.

Sure enough, Pinkie’s mane was done up in twin pig-tails shaped like curved teardrops. Strangely, the idea of playing with Pinkie was suddenly much more terrifying to Twilight, and she wondered if the Manticore would survive the experience if she really did drop her now.

Pinkie mussed up her mane with her hooves, and it was suddenly back to its normal poofiness. “What pigtails?” she asked innocently.

Twilight hesitated for a moment, before almost visibly deciding it wasn’t worth the headache. She flew over to a really tall tree and placed Pinkie on it. “Stay here,” she said, and then turned her attention to the Manticore.

In Pinkie’s point of view, Twilight vanished in a blur, and then the Manticore vanished, and then Twilight returned.

“There,” she said, brushing off her hooves. “The bad kitty’s taking a cold bath to cool down on the other end of the forest.”

She grabbed Pinkie and took her to the ground. “Head for the clearing that way, but try and stay out of sight of Nightmare Moon.” She pointed her hoof towards the clearing she and Nightmare Moon had wound up in while the Alicorn chased her.

Pinkie saluted in mock seriousness. “Hai, Mon Furer!” she said, much to Twilight’s confusion. She turned and started bouncing towards the clearing.

Twilight hesitated, before shaking her head and focusing on her next task.

---

“Not good.” Twilight mumbled, staring at the bent grass where Applejack had been laying unconscious. This was both good news and bad news. Applejack was awake, meaning she could perform her job as the Element of Honesty, but on the other hoof…

“Applejack!” Twilight called, looking around. “Where are you!?”

“Twi?”

Twilight was immensely relieved when Applejack hesitantly poked her head out of the canopy of a tree. The farm-pony’s eyes lit up when she recognized Twilight.

“Twilight!” she exclaimed in relief, jumping down and galloping towards her friend. “I woke up a few minutes ago, and when I saw somepony flying around the place like a supersonic chicken with its head cut off, ah figured it was Nightmare Moon and hid.” She paused to look around. “Er… where is she anyways? And our friends?”

Applejack yelped when Twilight grabbed her. “Whoa nelly!” she hollered when Twilight flew off the ground.

“No time to explain! I know how the Elements work, but I need your guys’ help.” Twilight said as she flew, at a much reduced pace for Applejacks sake, towards the clearing where Nightmare Moon was. “Just stay out of sight until Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy show up with the Elements. I’ll keep her distracted.”

Applejack frowned after a moment. “I ain’t some coward that’ll hide from a fight, Twilight!” she said, offended. “Especially when my friend is puttin’ herself on the line when ah could be helping!”

Twilight responded by landing, putting Applejack down, turning, and taking a swing at a boulder they landed next to. Applejack’s jaw went limp when the boulder exploded from the sheer force of the hit, stone chips and chunks flying everywhere in the direction Twilight had punched.

“…Oh…” Applejack muttered.

“At the moment, I’m the only one can fight her without getting killed in one hit,” she said. She noticed Applejack frown in confusion. “I’ll explain later, I promise. Just please, trust me.”

Applejack looked at Twilight, and saw the desperation in her eyes. She nodded slowly. “A’right. I’ll try,” she promised.

Twilight hugged Applejack with a grin. “Thank you!” She backed away. “Now, our friends are around her somewhere, also waiting. Try and flag down Rainbow and Fluttershy when they get here and get ready.” She smiled. “Once I get started, it should be obvious what to do. I hope.”

Applejack nodded. “Got it! Now go show that nasty Alicorn why you don’t mess with Equestria!”

Twilight nodded and turned, vanishing in a gust of wind that nearly stole Applejack’s hat from her. “Hey! A little warning next time!” she complained half-heartedly, holding her hat to her head.

---

Twilight flew into the clearing she left Nightmare Moon in just in time to narrowly dodge around a thin beam of magic, the same one Nightmare Moon had tried to attack her with earlier. Twilight looked at the dark Alicorn, and then did a double-take.

Nightmare Moon had changed. Instead of black fur and feathers, she looked to be made of shadows themselves, wisps of darkness wafting from her body like steam. Her eyes, no longer teal or cerulean, were now a solid yellow that glowed. Her mane, no longer the strange nebula-like mist, was now nothing more than a writhing, shifting mass of shadows.

You…” The voice that came from her was deep and menacing, and not feminine at all. It echoed, giving a strange double-layer to it.

Twilight was startled when Nightmare Moon vanished. No blur. No, fading. Just… gone.

And then she was crashing through trees once more, vaguely aware of a pain in her chest. She was stopped rather abruptly by Nightmare Moon catching her and gripping her neck with both hooves from behind. Twilight struggled to break free, but discovered that not only was Nightmare Moon suddenly a great deal stronger and faster than before, her own strength and power were fading fast at Nightmare Moon’s touch.

“The plan was perfect,” the dark Alicorn hissed. “This child’s visage would have been perfect to lead this world into everlasting Darkness, but she fought back and I was forced to reveal my hand before I was ready. I was locked away on that infernal rock for a thousand years! But that’s fine. I had time. I could have still salvaged this mess. My return would have heralded nighttime eternal! The Master would have rewarded me handsomely for preparing this world for him. But you…”

Nightmare Moon whipped Twilight around and dove, slamming her face first into the ground. It had hurt, but Twilight’s remaining strength had managed to take the brunt of it.

You had to somehow get in my way. You, who somehow restored hope within this vessel to make her fight back once more. You, who should by all rights be dead at least three times now. Even now you live when a normal Pony would have died from being abused as such!” The creature snarled. “I will END YOU!!!”

Twilight panicked when she felt magic begin to gather above them. She needed to move! She needed to get loose! But no matter how much she struggled, her waning strength could not break the Nightmare’s grip.

So she improvised.

“You think it’ll stop at me?” she asked with a cough. It was, after all, a little difficult to breathe, let alone speak. “I was able to threaten you. Me. I was just a slightly above average Unicorn, and yet I’m now the biggest threat against you. You think this was just a fluke? You’re wrong. More will follow.” ‘Maybe. I don’t really know what happened to me, so I can’t be sure.’

“Perhaps.” Nightmare Moon conceded after a moment. “But I have defeated you, have I not? They will also fall.”

“And what if one of them isn’t like me?” Twilight returned. “What if, instead of strength and speed, they get magic? Light magic, to be specific. Light magic the likes not even Princess Celestia can call on. What then?” ‘Come on… Come on… Work already!’

She felt the Alicorn hesitate.

“…It does not matter. Power is not all that determines a fight, after all. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Twilight grunted when the Nightmare’s grip on her neck tightened. Praying, she turned her head as much as she could and aimed. Normally she needed no time to do this, but her weakened state had changed that, making it difficult to focus.

Nightmare Moon almost asked her what she was doing, but then red energy, stuttering slightly from the drain on her powers, lanced from her opponents eyes. It completely missed her. “Was there a point to that?” she asked, assuming Twilight had been aiming at her.

Crack.

“Timber.” Twilight said with a grin, just before the tree she had cut through crashed down on top of them both. Twilight felt Nightmare Moon move, letting her go, and tried to scramble away herself.

The tree hit the ground with a very loud thud.

Good news; Twilight could now breath much easier since Nightmare Moon had let go of her. She could also feel her strength slowly returning now that she was no longer in contact with the Alicorn.

Bad news; her strength was returning too slowly, and at the moment she only had enough to be as strong as an above average Earth-Pony, and as fast as Rainbow Dash on a good day. The tree trunk was also on her left hind leg, and she was fairly certain it was fractured, if not broke.

Not exactly what she had planned.

Nightmare Moon, to Twilight’s dismay, walked around the leaves of the tree and into her sight, completely unharmed. “You recall that I can turn into mist, yes?” she asked with a quirked eyebrow.

Twilight felt like swearing for forgetting about that. She tried to pull her leg free, but it wouldn’t budge.

Nightmare Moon lifted off the ground with a flap of her shadowy wings and rose upwards. Magic began gathering at the tip of her horn. A lot of magic, Twilight noted with dismay. It began to form a light blue ball that grew steadily as more and more magic was pulled into it.

Twilight’s eyes widened and her ears flipped back as the ball of magic grew to at least three times the size of the Alicorn wielding it, and stopped. Then it started to shrink, compacting itself beyond safe limits. She paled as the Alicorn leveled the incredibly powerful eye-sized ball at her. It fairly crackled with magic. Then the Alicorn paused. “Oh?”

Twilight paled further when her five friends ran from their cover and got between her and Nightmare Moon. Rarity erected a magical barrier around them. They were all shaking slightly in fear, but their gaze was steely as they stared down Nightmare Moon.

“No! Get out of here! That will kill all of us!” Twilight tried to tell her friends, but they didn’t even move.

“Sorry, sugar-cube,” Applejack said. “I would never be able to live with myself if I just abandoned you to save myself.”

“I have many dreams to aspire for, true… but nothing is more important than my friends, not even my ambitions,” Rarity declared.

“Those Wonderbolt wannabes didn’t make me leave. What makes you think I’m gonna give up on you now, Sparkle?” Rainbow grinned fiercely.

Fluttershy didn’t say anything. She was shaking so hard she was almost vibrating, but she refused to run and hide, and that said far more than any words could.

“I have a big party planned for you, Twilight! But I can't throw it if you’re not there for it!” Pinkie giggled, despite the sheen of sweat on her brow showing her fear.

“Very well. I shall end all of you in one move. Die,” Nightmare Moon declared softly.

A massive blast of magic larger than anything Twilight had ever seen erupted straight for her, and she flailed and shoved at the tree, trying to get it to move. Unfortunately, she could only make it shift slightly.

“No!” Twilight screamed, and time seemed to slow in her perspective as the blast of magic drew closer.

In that timeless moment, Twilight felt nothing for herself. She couldn’t feel the pain in her body. She couldn’t hear her heart beating in fear for her life. She couldn’t care less about herself.

She only cared about her friends. Her friends, who even when staring death in the face refused to abandon her.

Her friends…

‘Help me save them! Please!’ she cried out mentally in desperation, though to what she wasn’t sure.

Twilight called for help…

And from the darkness, help came.

From out of the forest where said friends had been hiding, five meteors of separate colors burst into the clearing and lanced for Twilight and her friends.

Nightmare Moon’s attack struck, and exploded violently. But, despite feeling wind ruffle their manes and fur, the six friends found themselves unharmed. As the explosion died down they turned to find out what saved them.

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the five orbs that were the Elements. ‘Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy must have gotten them here before they came to my defense,’ she theorized.

Not only were the stone orbs of the Elements floating between them and what had been Nightmare Moon’s attack, they were glowing with an aura of power, each one with a different color. Red, orange, pink, blue, and purple.

Twilight grinned at Nightmare Moon, who actually looked visibly scared at the sight of the active Elements. “It’s over, Nightmare Moon!”

“How?! The sixth Element is absent! The Elements can’t work without it!” The Nightmare cried.

Twilight felt the tree on her leg shift and move. Looking over, she found a multicolored aura moving it, and then she and her friends began floating off the ground.

The orange element burst apart, and the dust that resulted flew for Applejack. Twilight watched as a golden necklace formed on her neck, an orange apple-shaped gem resting within it. The Element of Honesty.

The purple Element did the same, forming a necklace with a purple diamond at its center on Rarity’s neck. The Element of Generosity.

A pink butterfly for Fluttershy. The Element of Kindness.

A blue balloon for Pinkie Pie. The Element of Laughter.

And a red lightning bolt for Rainbow Dash. The Element of Loyalty.

But… where was the sixth Element?

She felt something spark in her heart, and she had the answer.

“You’re wrong,” she told Nightmare Moon confidently. “The sixth Element was here the entire time, ever since the six of us became friends.” She closed her eyes, and basked in the feeling of the bonds she formed with her friends. They were young, fragile, but at the same time carried a certain kind of strength to them. In time, those bonds would become unbreakable. She could even feel the small bond she had formed with Luna during their brief communication.

“The last Element has always been here, sleeping in our bonds between each other, waiting. And now I know…”

A brilliant light formed above Twilight, descending towards her. She felt not a necklace form, as she had expected, but rather a crown. She couldn’t see it, but a rose colored six-point star was embedded in the gem, and etched onto that star was the S that, in another language she knew well, meant Hope.

Her eyes began glowing a solid white as she looked at the terrified Nightmare Moon. “Now I know that Friendship is Magic.”

She aimed her horn at Nightmare Moon, and brilliant waves of rainbow colored magic flowed forth. It didn’t hit the Alicorn, who began screaming as if in pain, but began circling her like a mini-cyclone. There was a pulse, and the tornado contracted, and then exploded outwards. Pieces of Nightmare Moon’s armor, and the darkness that had covered her, flew outwards, except towards the six friends.

Descending to the ground now was an Alicorn that, unlike Nightmare Moon, was colored a rich navy blue with a sky blue mane and tail. She opened her cerulean eyes to look at Twilight, and smiled tiredly.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Twilight blurred forward to catch the mare as she passed out, distantly noting that her leg didn’t hurt anymore. She slowly placed the Princess down, and smiled at the rising sun.

“It’s over,” she said to herself, turning to look at her friends, who were now all passed out in a pile. “It’s finally over.”

---

“I see,” Celestia said, sipping her tea. “Interesting.”

Celestia and Twilight were seated at a table within the Golden Oak Library. Outside, the Ponyville citizens were still celebrating the return of Princess Celestia. Unfortunately, when the truth of who Luna was and her connection to Nightmare Moon was revealed, it very nearly turned into a riot. It took some fast talking on Twilight’s part to convince them that Luna was nothing more than a victim, trapped within her own mind as a malevolent force used her like a puppet. It was about as close to the truth as she could get without revealing things she didn’t have answers for yet.

There was still distrust, but most had decided on a wait and see approach regarding the newly recovered Princess of the Night. Luna took that as a good sign, as it was more than the Ponies of the past had given her.

They had retreated into the library after it became clear the other bearers were sticking close to Luna, and Twilight had told Celestia everything that happened over tea.

“Tell me, Twilight. Does the term “Hero-Soul” mean anything to you?” Celestia asked, sipping at her tea.

Twilight frowned, and then remembered. “The term applied to ancient heroes? It shows up in historical texts from time to time, usually depicting a hero of great power. Why?”

Celestia took a moment to respond, seemingly considering her answer. Twilight waited patiently. Finally, after a couple minutes, she answered. “All throughout our history there have been villains out to subjugate or destroy us, and heroes to stop them. Alicorns like my sister and I were not always there to combat these forces, so the everyday Ponies were forced to rise to the occasion… and rise they did, displaying powers and abilities that they should not be capable of using.”

Celestia drank some of her tea. “History speculates upon these Ponies and other beings as destined heroes, given power by Fate to prevent a great catastrophe in the near future.”

“Is that what you think I am?” Twilight asked. “A hero chosen by destiny to accomplish something?”

Celestia could see in her student’s eyes that she did not like this idea. Twilight had always held strong beliefs that Ponies were defined by the choices they make, not by destiny. Hard work and determination. Twilight was born to a commoner family, and through hard work and a little luck became Princess Celestia’s student.

“It doesn’t matter what I think you are,” Celestia said, forcing Twilight to look at her with a bit of magic. “You have always been strong-hearted and sure in what you want in life. Destiny has little to no hold over you, beyond what you let it do to you.”

Celestia conjured an illusion depicting a familiar Unicorn silhouetted by the rising Sun. “You could become a hero so great, so loved, and so powerful that history will remember you for thousands of years to come.”

The illusion changed to show the Unicorn seated on a blood red throne, half-cloaked by shadows and sporting a disturbing grin with razor sharp teeth. “You could become a terrifying power-hungry villain, with an empire of pain and misery stretching far and wide.”

The image changed once again, this time showing a relatively normal Twilight, but surrounded by her new friends in front of the Golden Oak Library. “Or you could become a normal librarian, in a normal town, and live a normal life… completely unremarked upon by history.”

Twilight gasped as the images faded, instantly understanding what Celestia was saying. “You’ll let me stay?” she asked quietly.

Celestia smiled and nodded. “I would be the last Pony to try and force you from your friends Twilight, especially since I sent you to make them in the first place. I cannot realistically make them lift their roots to come to you in Canterlot. So, if you wish it, I will speak with Mayor Mare and have the library gifted to you as a home.”

Twilight was excited, that was easy to see, but Celestia could see a hesitation as well. “But what about my studies? Are you letting me go as your student?” she asked meekly.

“Nonsense,” Celestia almost scoffed. Almost. “I am merely shifting their focus.” She stood, her expression becoming serious. “Twilight Sparkle, your studies in magic have continued well, but now you are presented with the magic of Friendship. While you have successfully wielded said magic to save Princess Luna from her curse, you do not yet understand even a fraction of this school of magic. Your next assignment is to live within Ponyville and study the magic of Friendship. I expect weekly reports on your progress. Do you accept this assignment?”

Twilight did not answer with a yes. Rather, she squealed like a school-filly and hugged the Princess, who lost her composure and laughed as she returned the hug. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

After Twilight managed to reign in her emotions, she left to join her new friends, feeling the need to celebrate even more. Celestia smiled and waved back when Twilight waved a hoof just before vanishing outside the door.

After a moment, a golden aura took hold of the door and gently closed it. Golden magic gently flowed about the room, quiet and stealthy. It seeped into cracks and soaked into the walls. It caressed the books and slid across the tea set on the table. Once her magic fully saturated the room and everything in it, she tightened the spell.

Celestia already knew what she would tell her sister and student. She was not feeling well. The sealing sapped her of a great deal of her strength. She just wanted some peace and quiet right now, not a rambunctious party.

It was no wonder the Element of Honesty chose Luna over her all those years ago.

Celestia let out a sigh as the entire room pulsed with the privacy and protection enchantments. Along with that sigh, she released her tenuous grasp. The fires of of the Sun flooded the room, roaring just as loud and just as hot as the rage of the Primary Alicorn.