Ah'd finished the rest of the trip through the gray hallway. The door had a keyhole, but it wasn't even locked. It just slid open when Ah got close. It was all dark beyond. Ah took one deep breath, slowly let it out, and stepped into the Personal Chambers.
A dozen green flamed torches all lit up on their own. The room was made of dark gray blocks. The way the blocks were carved reminded me of faces, but the Truth saw just plain stone blocks. No souls trap inside, no rock monsters about to jump out at me.
= Viewtiful Joe Music - Boss Stage =
But that was nothin' compared to the jade statues. Ah recognized some of the jade faces, but not most of 'em.
One was a cross between a skinny mare and a spider with button eyes.
Then there was one of Abandon.
The third statue was some crazy mix of an eel and a shark with a whole buncha tentacles with claws at the end.
Number four was Shub-Neighurath.
The fifth statues was... ugh, that thing me, Scoots, Sweetie, and Button Mash kicked six ways from Sunday when it popped up tryin' to keep me from gettin' my brother back to his real self.
There was one of a stallion with no face. The faceless stallion wore a business suit and also had lots of tentacles on his back.
The seventh statue was a stallion with a tentacle for a head, jaws in its stomach, and its nethers were like the arms of an octopus.
Ah had a feelin' what was gonna happen next as Ah took a few trots forward. And Ah wasn't that surprised when Ah saw one's eyes start glowin'. What Ah didn't expect was all seven of 'em to come to life at once!
"You're ours now!" Echoed the statue of that thing, like a recordin'. "Now you must face all of us together! You're doomed!"
Ah felt like my eye with the truth in it was on fire. Ah felt my forehead and my back burn too. An anger bubbled up inside me and it wanted out.
"Why should Ah have to fight ya all?! What's it got to do with anythin'?! Yer alllll.. POINTLESS!"
And boom, they all shattered, pieces of jade fallin' to the floor lifeless. The burnin' feelin' faded. Ah kept on truckin'. At least none of 'em were statues of
Was there a point to these rooms? Probably not. Who built all their rooms in a straight line like a train? Probably Discord.
The door had that eight diamonds engravin' on it and wasn't locked. The next room had the walls, ceilin' and floor all black. In the center was a nice rug, a pretty table and tea set, along with four chairs.
The chair's backs each had a picture each: a flower, a feather, a spoon... and a tiara. In the tiara chair appeared a shadow, shaped like an Alicorn filly, from which a pair of blue lights shown from where the eyes should be.
"This curse brought every rumor to life if it was in enough creature's heads. Not just the ones written by Gabby Gums."
"Ah knew that already."
"But did you think about it?"
"We thought about Button Mash."
"Where was the article abut Iron Will being a monster? Or Zecora being a witch?" She picked up the cold tea and sipped it. Ah never got tea, tastes like dirty water to me.
"Ah.... Ah didn't see it."
"That's because there wasn't one. I'm sure you thought about it when you ran into Zecora. You're not stupid, Apple Bloom. Ponies invented that lie all on their own. We never had to encourage those rumors."
"What was that?!"
"Cool was that a human?"
"I hear they lure ponies into mazes and eat them!"
"I hear they can never get lost!"
"I hear The Princess trapped one in a tunnel a million miles long."
"Are they male cows?"
"Well... when was the last time you saw a four legged bull?"
"She lives WHERE?!"
"Only monsters live there!"
"She must control them!"
"She must be friends with them!"
"She's a monster too!"
"She can't be trusted!"
"Where did she even come from?"
"What's with all those weird masks of hers? Is she part of some cult?"
"..." No words could come out of my mouth.
"Rumors twisted and warped the ponies of Equestria long before Nyarlathotrot or Gabby Gums, or the Canterlot tabloids. We just made it more obvious."
"... Yer right, Diamond Tiara, that IS somethin' we ponies gotta get better at. And ponies GOT TO KNOW Zecora! Ponies CAN get better! Just like we got better from the Three Tribes!"
= Last Day (Final Hours) - Majora's Mask =
"You think that's all there is to it? Even if you had beaten this curse, so what? Our world is a dark and ugly place already. Did you know that pony civilization has been destroyed THREE TIMES, AT LEAST? Ponies violating each other! Rampant racism! Sunny Town! All these were allowed to exist in our world after we broke away from the heart of worlds... This world was already a horror show. Any entity that says differently is a high and mighty hypocrite."
Ah narrowed my eyes. "...Yah think Ah didn't already know that?"
Diamond's shadow curled about as I continued. "Mah ma and pa are gone, Ah nearly got killed and turned inta a ZOMBIE. Yah ain't tellin' meh anything Ah didn't already know."
"... then why are you still fighting?"
"Because there's still GOOD things in it."
Ah didn't finch. "Call Silver Spoon a horrible thing. Cause Ah sure as Tartarus can't. Chrysalis bragged about how Equestria's got more love than anywhere else! Or was she blowin' smoke?! Changelings are all our friends now! We're friends with Spike! Princess Gaia, no matter how crazy she was, she healed nearly everypony of Discord's sick games! And EVERYPONY FORGAVE Luna for bein' Nightmare Moon! Ah still say the good outweighs the bad!"
She didn't huff and puff, she didn't shout or make a face. She didn't give that annoying laugh. Her shadow didn't grin like a shark or look smug like a weasel. She was like a machine, or a statue.
"Then you're right, Apple Bloom. Equestria was once a wonderful world of love and friendship in spite of the beasts and villains kept in check by heroes. Did you wonder why Uncle Nyarlathotrot had so much raw material to work with?"
Ah replied irritated, bored, insulted, annoyed, and just plain done with all her horse plop. "Haven't we kinda beaten that dead horse enough already? Like, straight into the ground?"
"Then this will be my last remark on the subject," She stated.
“Really hope so,” Ah said, but Ah knew she was lyin'.
"Uncle Nyarlathotrot served the Shadow Who Watch. Equestria being a paradise reminds The Shadow Who Watch how flawed their world is, and so they desire to see our Elysium become Tartarus. Seeing an ideal makes them uncomfortable. Paradise going to hell restores their comfort. Uncle Nyarlathotrot had experience making such worlds for them, that's why they desire the dark. Better than an impossible ideal."
Ah'll admit, Ah felt like a punch in the gut from that one, or maybe more like Ah'd gotten the rug pulled out from under me. Ah should just go around her and get to the next room. But where was the door? Was this a dead end? No! There had to be a way through!
"Ah can't argue that... ya know more about this than me, Diamond Tiara."
"That name means nothing now."
Ah winced. Then Ah returned fired.
"But have ya ever MET a Shadow? Or just heard about 'em from Umbra and Discord? Cause if there's one thing this Tartarus has taught meh: passing on information you heard without fact checkin' is how rumors get spread." Ah said, goin' for a quick jab, throwin' her off. "If ya've never met'em, who're YOU to say why they like or hate somethin'?! Or why they do somethin'?!"
She got thrown off course, it was really small, Ah only saw with my artist eye, Ah don't think Ah couldda seen it with a microscope.
"...Diamond, yah know somethin' else Ah've learned? From a horror story Ah was in?...Ponies ain't always good. Not just Flim and Flam. Just like changelings weren't all rotten like Chrysalis and Kabuto. Most of 'em ain't!...So maybe there are rotten Shadows, but if nothin' in Equestria's all good or all bad, why should they be any different? Why should we EXPECT them to be any different?"
Diamond didn't budge. "...What about Discord?"
Ah shuddered...but didn't change my tune. "...Are there more Draconequi than just him?"
"...They ain't all here turnin' Equestria into somethin' nasty. 'Life ain't fair' big sister is always sayin', life is hard! Life ain't gonna hold yer hoof! Life is gonna give and take things without askin'! And risin' to the challenge is how we get better! So maybe they just want us to be alive, and Ah can't call 'em wrong for that!"
"... I used to think how blind you and your friends were to your own talents was funny... or so I told myself. But now that I'm not bound by feelings, you make even less sense," she said like Ah was homework, not a pony.
"Shouldn't that make me more fun with the company yer keepin'?"
"There's a difference between meaningless, and senseless. Alula broke, Tootsie broke, I shattered, your friends and your sister and her friends cracked when they all learn the truth. Yet you don't bend or break. You're just a filly like us. Do you think you're better than me and my friends?"
"After makin' friends with Silver Spoon? Not anymore. And seein' Sweetie Belle use her magic? Ah just have faith in fundamental goodess, and that there are times when the dark can be used responsibly!"
The shadow's blue lights shined brighter, but like they were gettin' colder, not hotter. The chairs, walls, tea, everythin' turned gray. Her shadow silently zipped away like a bowstring.
= 'Hollow Bastion' - Kingdom Hearts 1 OST =
A silver diamond studded key fell to the floor where the shadow had been. Ah picked it up. There still wasn't any new way in or out of this place. What was the key for? Ah got a crazy idea.
Ah hurried to the door Ah came in through. Ah didn't need a key to come in ... So why have a keyhole?
Ah closed the door, put in the key and turned it. Ah heard somethin' unlock! Ah pulled the door open to somewhere that wasn't the way Ah'd came. On the other side was... a big beautiful gold framed lookin' glass. How could a mirror be so beautiful? So wonderful, so perfect?
= The Bearer of the One Ring (Return of the King, 1980) =
Ah saw myself. Ah was an Alicorn Princess. Ah was pretty and flawless. Ah could fix everypony's problems. Everypony came to me fer help. Ah was the one who got stuff done. Ah was the one who helped along Equestria's heroes from the background, so they didn't feel weak and useless even if Ah couldda solved all these problems by myself, well, maybe times when Ah was too busy Ah could let 'em do some stuff. Everypony listened to me. Nopony to told me how wrong Ah was, how stupid Ah was, or how Ah should just shut up. Ah was the gal who told the jerks to shut up! And they just did... then they... Ah dunno, went around the bend and weren't seen again.
The bearer of the Truth, the holder of the Truth
Stands on the very brink of fate;
Staring into eyes of deceit and despair
That rise and shrink with wait.
Ah wore jeweled dresses that made Rarity's look like trash! Ah had the biggest, reddest, most sparklin' apple for a cutie mark ever!
The bearer of the Truth, the holder of the Truth,
She hears a voice compelling her;
Filling her with thoughts that echo in her mind
It should be telling her she'd find:
Beware, the power is a power never known.
Beware, the power that was simple now has grown.
Beware, O, bearer of the Truth,
The final power has yet to be shown!
I'd find Scootaloo's parents and get 'em to move in with Rainbow Dash. Ah'd bring Sweetie Apple Acres out of the Three Tribes Age, Ah'd bring Ponyville, Canterlot, Equestria into the future! Ah could do all this and more! Me! ME! ME! Ah was the real hero! They could never win without my help!
The bearer of the Truth, the holder of the Truth,
Through forces too tempting to resist,
Must recall the quest to end the darkest lie
That Shadow's pen has kissed.
All them lies Ah destroyed, and make sure none ever appeared again. There Ah was! Ah could just reach out and touch it.
The bearer of the Truth, the holder of the Truth,
Beware who holds The Truth!
Must recall the quest
It was a lie.
Since when did Ah want to be a princess? Okay, what filly hadn't wanted that? But it wasn't what Ah wanted more than anythin'. Ah was dang good and fine without it! Ah didn't care if Ah was Queen of Equus, a future without my friends there wasn't one Ah wanted.
"Mah sister doesn't like lyin' at all...but Ah'm not mah sister, so...that was a pretty good trick you pulled. Thanks fer helpin'."
Ah said to Trixie after her disguise as Cobweb, and meant it. Ah'd forgotten 'bout that. Ah wonder how much Ah'd changed cause of the Truth, or seein' this world of lie. Ah'd never wanted to be some knight of truth.
Applejack and her friends only winnin' 'cause Ah secretly help'em? Ah didn't need to make other ponies' doin's mine to make what Ah do worth somethin'.
Ah felt my forehead and back tingle as Ah pushed the mirror, it fell back and shattered.
"My own four hooves are enough, Ah didn't need the hooves of others to boss around."
Ah stepped over the broken mirror, and was now in Diamond Tiara's bedroom. Except it wasn't an oversized dollhouse room with more toys than a toy store. No mountain of dolls and plushies. No pretty books she never read. No frilly bed. No pictures of herself everywhere. In short, it was nothing like Ah expected.
The walls floor and ceilin' were as black as bein' blind. A big round gray bed sat in the room’s center. On it was a plushie of a black cat with a blue collar. A couple little doorless entrances led off to a bathroom and pantry of the most basic and lifeless design. There was a giant hourglass just loomin’ in the room like some big brute.
Remember what Ah said about the walls, floors and ceilin'? There was a bit more to it than that. Ah could just barely see it. High Equestrian symbols written in pencil. It started on the ceiling, and moved out to the walls, then down to the floor, and circled down to the middle... and just stopped halfway in drawin' one of the symbols.
Ah squinted. Ah knew one or two words. Zecora and Twilight had taught me just a few. Ah saw the symbol for Nightmare, repeatin' over and over. And Ah saw the symbols Ah recognized my name, and the names of my kin and kith... So much for her big lie. Thank Celestia.
Ah saw one more door. The words 'printing press' were engraved on it... but the words, 'Abandon all hope ye who enter here' were BURNED into the gray wood, still smokin'. Yeah, she was definitely waitin' for me in there.
But Ah've saved the biggest part for last. Cause before Ah saw that unfinished story on the walls, before Ah noticed the door, there were the floatin' windows. It reminded me of Button Mash's magic game screen. But they weren't showin' little block drawin's of us and numbers.
It showed Diamond Tiara... over and over... but not the Diamond Tiara Ah knew, and not the Diamond Tiara we'd been fightin'. So many different Diamond Tiaras...
Ah saw one where she was playin' with a flesh and blood version of the black cat plushie on the bed, except the cat kinda acted like a dog.
A little faded pink hamster with her crown and cutie mark runnin' in a wheel forever.
A Diamond Tiara who... whoa... she looked like, what was that cross between a monkey and a minotaur called again that The Megan was supposed to be? Oh right, 'human.' She was wearing some pajamas and being consoled by her human pa over some nightmares she’d been havin'.
Another one had her piloting a giant robot while she was in a swimsuit. And she spoke in a Stalliongrad accent.
"You built this robot with parts you stole from the Loyalists, I'm simply taking it back. And blow up a city so the world thinks you're terrorists... unless your little army swears loyalty to the Loyalists and help bring about actual peace."
Miss Twilight Sparkle's father, dressed like a solider and wore an eyepatch, looked up at the robot in horror. "Diamond Tiara, how can you do this?"
"THAT NAME IS A LIE! My age? My cutie mark? The whole 'filly who believes' garbage? All given to me for my mission! If you think you can stop me, then go ahead and try!"
She then began to sing an upbeat song that made the fight feel even more wrong. Ah looked away.
...A Diamond Tiara who...who went too far with Dinky and...and had tah make a deal with a not-as-evil Discord tah fix it. Next; a robot filly bein' put togethe'? Oh wait, they're dressin' it up tah look like Diamond? A Diamond Tiara doin' Discord's dirty work too, but actin' more like Pinkie Pie if she were even crazier...then cryin' her heart out tah Scootaloo and helpin' a big goat monster, Grogar?
A Diamond Tiara who was given a weird indigo colored ring by Rarity, and both of 'em had weird staffs to fight zombies in black.
A Diamond Tiara wearin' AJ's hat arguin' with a me who was a big brat.
A Diamond Tiara wearin' diapers for teasin' Scootaloo wearin' 'em after a scooter accident, and Diamond Tiara now bein' teased by Silver Spoon about it!
Ah saw a Diamond Tiara who took a prank on Scootaloo way too far in front of the class for not being able to fly and...Scootaloo went berserk on her...but Cheerilee took her to the hospital...her parents couldn't even make it but Cheerilee stayed with her.
Then a weird one where Ah was a colt named Applebuck, but filly me was there too and so was filly Diamond! And...EW! We had colt me seduce Diamond Tiara tah get back at 'em! Applebuck seemed as grossed out as me.
There was the inside of a big mansion, looked a little like the insides of the first parts of the house, is this the Rich house like it's supposed to be?
There was Diamond Tiara, the one and only, she looked like she was trapped in a cage with a Ursa Major. In front of her was this mare with a busted nose who looked like she could make a sunny day cry.
"I give you the best tutors, the best supplies, I even became head of the school board so Cheerilee wouldn't report your schoolyard antics to your father. And NOTHING is how you repay me?! Any other filly would have soared to the highest heights with what I've given you! So, are you really just trying to make me look bad, or are you just a defective jewel?"
Diamond Tiara's lips quivered, her eyes wide as dinner plates. She started cryin'.
"I should be the one crying! But if you WANT something to cry about, I'll give you that too!"
She scrambled to wipe her tears away. "I-I'm not c-crying-"
"AND NOW YOU'RE LYING TO YOUR OWN MOTHER! Do you think I'm stupid?!"
"NO! I don't! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"Are you? Because I recall hearing you saying those words before. Yet you never improve."
"I won't lose! I won't let them win! They'll live to work for me when I'm done!"
"They better! I bore you for eleven months, fed and clothed you since the day you were born! Was I wasting my time on a defective diamond?"
"You weren't! I swear!"
"I've raised you since the day you were born to be a lady, to take command, to rise, I taught you how to speak, to succeed me, to surpass me, how to curry favor from your superiors, how to act around your inferiors, to never accept defeat, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and all you ever do is LOSE IT! Come along! I'll be instructing you personally today!"
Her ma?! HER MA?! That was her ma?! Ah didn't recognize-, did she look like- How can anypony say that to her own filly?! Ah didn't meet my Ma, but Ah still know what parents don't say to their youngin's! Queen Chrysalis wasn't that awful to her filly!
Things blurred, it was now the end of the day. Diamond Tiara looked tired, kinda like a ghost. Ah looked as well as Ah could, but at least Ah didn't see any bruises on her... But there really hadn't been any bruises anypony could see after what Discord did to all of us... and that made it worse.
Then Ah saw some kinda shadow thing on the wall with glowin' green eyes and a red horn looming behind her.
"Let your heart listen to my voice, little one. You despise your parents who decided your fate for you. And because of that fate they choose for you, others have all judged you. And even the one you hold most dear will eventually abandon you once that destiny your family chose for you comes into conflict with what she wants. Hate them all. Hate them for using you. Hate them for judging you. Hate them for abandoning you. We're alike. We can help each other. I can lend you power to punish them!"
Ah took in a deep breath. Ah couldn't believe what Ah was seein'. That shadow thing didn't LOOK like Discord... and it didn't, Ah dunno, FEEL like 'im, either.
"I ... I don't hate daddy... If... Silvey ever left me, which she'd never do, I'd... I'd be SAD, not angry... And... I don't hate those stupid blank flanks... and it's not like I'm jealous of them for getting to find who they are instead of being told."
"What of your mother?!"
"... I care more about daddy and Silvey, than I want to get back at her."
"Agh! Make I'll have better luck with the white one who loves to sing."
WAAAGH! What in loving Princess Celestia is THAT THING?! It looks like ... like... some big round robot the size of a planet with a skull face the size of Equestria! And... there's a buncha of 'em!?
"Consume... CONSUME EVERYTHING!"
The horrible things echoed.
"GIVE ME BACK MY MOM!" It was... Diamond Tiara as an PRINCESS?! Looking like a noble little alicorn in a fancy gown and crown?!
The skull faces fires lasers that looked like they could have blown up Equus! Princess Diamond Tiara deflected them all. Then one TELEPORTED behind her and SWALLOWED HER. She escaped punching an island sized tooth out.
A name came to me: 'Earth Bound Kings.' The monsters' name was the Earth Bound Kings.
Princess Diamond tore one of the monster robots open like it was an orange! With nothin' but pony strength! "Mom! Hold on!"
"Con.... sume..." The big monster groaned.
She dove into the mess of the monster, blowin' up a buncha bug-like monsters that swarmed at her like antibodies attacking bacteria.
"S-S-STOP! Anything you want we shall give! Wealth! Power! Riches! Your own virtual universe! Please! You don't need to be just a mere Alicorn! You-You can be made something far more e-e-efficient!"
She flew out with what looked like her Ma from what Ah saw her kinda at Canterlot, except she was a Princess too. The lights around the robot began to die down, had it been usin' her like a battery?
"CON-SUME!!!" Mental tentacles sprouted from the robot and reached for them.
Then Princess Diamond and her Ma touched horns and blasted the monster to space dust.
Ah whispered. "She loves a ma that loves her... more than she hates a ma who doesn't..."
Ah looked at one last floatin' window.
It looked like the the Diamond Tiara Ah knew... It looked like a room fit for royalty. And there more toys than Ah'd think any filly would know what to do with. But there weren't a bijillion pictures of herself everywhere, instead, on a dresser, there was a Hearth Warming Eve picture of her and Silver Spoon smilin' together in the most garish dresses Ah'd ever seen.
She was cryin', Ah couldn't tell if this was after she'd had that 'chat' with her ma or not. But Ah knew somethin' had hurt 'er bad! She look in a mirror, like she barely knew her own reflection.
Without really thinkin' about it, Ah touched the window, like Ah could magically comfort her through her through. Ah felt my flank tingle, but still Ah didn't see a cutie mark. But Ah did feel what she was feelin'... trapped and alone.
If I'm a diamond
Then why do I feel so rough?
I'm as strong as a stone
Even that's not enough
Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo in puzzle room 82, at the same time, felt their cutie marks tingle. And a vision assaulted them both. Sweetie grabbed onto Scootaloo for comfort, and her friend folded her wings around her. Sweetie Belle like her heart was going to shatter into a million pieces. And she sang, but she knew it wasn't her words she was singing.
There's something jagged in me
And I've made such mistakes
I thought that diamonds were hard
Though I feel I could break
A mother who told her to always be the best, and to do anything to be the best... even if it meant stomping out the competition. A father who told her everything she did was right, while her mother criticized everything she did.
I've been told my whole life
What to do, what to say
Nopony showed me that
There might be some better way
And now I feel like I'm lost
I don't know what to do
The ground is sinking away
I'm about to fall through
Would you believe
That I've always wished I could be somepony else?
Yet I can't see
What I need to do to be the pony I want to be
Scootaloo knew Sweetie Belle's style of singing, and that hadn't been it.
"Sweetie Belle... was that... Diamond Tiara?"
Sweetie Belle cried. "It was her heart, or I think her heart... "
"Would you like mommy to be nice like she used to be my sweet?"
Ah wrenched my hoof from the window. It was... so sad. Ah felt it. Was Diamond so scared of her feelin' she threw away her heart or somethin'? It was like she had everythin', so she had nothin'. Ah shook my head. Ah don't know if this related to OUR Diamond Tiara or not! But from everythin' Ah was seein', maybe Ah understood her just a bit better.
Ah stomped to the door. Ah'd been distracted long enough. Ah looked again at the message, Abandon all hope ye who enter here
"No," Ah said, and Ah kicked down the door.