It was a hope that proved to be in vain.
No sooner had Twilight uttered the words, than another portal opened up mere feet away from the group, depositing a rather annoyed looking Aeon.
“Absolutely unacceptable!” she bellowed, her icy glare directed squarely at Sunset and Twilight. She raised her hand again, a threatening red glow enveloping it down to the wrist.
“Whilst my superiors would prefer for me to take you two back with me, I have no compunction over meting out your punishment where you stand! Make your choice!”
The scene had garnered a lot of attention and the crowd that had gathered started to murmur. The soft whine of… whatever it was that powered the field enveloping Aeon’s hand was the only other sound to reach Twilight’s ears, reminding her of the magical fields surrounding unicorn horns back in Equestria. Her hand reached up and clutched the TPT.
If only there was some way to manipulate the natural magic field into charging the device faster, they could escape this madwoman and get one step closer to home, maybe even lose her. Twilight spared a glance down at the Talisman, tilting it up to face her.
A sudden surge would work. A magical beam attack, or a bolt, or a—
A bolt! That’s it!
Twilight’s heart thumped in her chest as she leaned in and whispered to Sunset. “I think I can get us out of here, but we need to get her to shoot that bolt attack at me again.”
Sunset’s head whirled around.
“Are you crazy?!” she whispered back, harshly. “You could get hurt, or worse!”
“I think her bolts are charged by magic,” Twilight explained, still whispering. “If so, I might be able to use one to charge the TPT.”
Sunset gave the little box in Twilight’s hand an appraising look.
“You really think the Talisman can stand up to that?”
“Would you rather go with her?” Twilight countered.
“Then let’s do this.” Sunset nodded and turned back to face Aeon.
Twilight felt a sudden surge of confidence, completely antithetical to her breakdown of a few moments ago. She didn’t know where it came from, but she suddenly felt sure that she could do this, especially with Sunset and her two friends at her side.
She looked over at Rainbow and Applejack, who were casting their own, slightly nervous, glances between Aeon and the pair of interdimensional friends.
“What’s the plan, sugarcube?” Applejack called out.
Before Twilight could answer, Aeon’s voice barked down the street at them.
“There is no plan! You two will come with me and face your fate with dignity, or you will die in the street right here!”
“Hey!” Rainbow Dash yelled back. “You can’t talk to them like that!”
“Stay out of this, girl! Or do I have to throw you through another window to cool you off?”
Rainbow made to charge down the street at Aeon, but was held back by an orange-skinned arm around her waist.
“Whoa there, nelly!”
Sunset and Twilight walked past the struggling duo, drawing closer to Aeon. As they did so, Sunset said over her shoulder,
“You two just stay back. There’s no sense in either of you getting hurt any further.”
Rainbow ceased her fruitless efforts in escaping her lover’s grasp, her jaw slack in surprise.
“Huh?! But-but… we-you can’t-” she spluttered.
“I think we just gotta let them handle this themselves, Rainbow,” Applejack said, watching the two girls line up in front of the older woman. “I don’t think this is our fight.”
“But they’re our friends!”
“And sometimes you gotta let your friends work out their problems by themselves… even if that problem threw you through a window first.”
Rainbow grumbled but relented, relaxing enough that Applejack released her.
Twilight turned her attention from her friends to fully focus on Aeon. The woman still had her hand raised, the red glow reflecting off of her glasses. Her expression was one of tightly controlled rage, her lips pursed and her eyes narrow.
“Follow my lead and be ready,” Sunset said to Twilight, apparently standing up from a crouch. A slight turn of the head was the only indication she was talking to the Equestrian princess.
Twilight watched as the other girl stepped forward between her and Aeon.
“You don’t have to do this, Aeon,” Sunset called out, addressing the older woman by name. “We just want to go home. We’re not trying to cause any trouble.”
“Well, too bad!” came the angry response. “You’ve broken countless interdimensional laws, not to mention assaulted an officer of the Accord! You will answer for your actions!”
“We’ve never even heard of this ‘Accord!’” Sunset shouted back. “How can we obey laws we’ve never even heard of?”
“Ignorance is no excuse! Submit or be executed where you stand! This is your final warning!”
“Is there really no other way?” Sunset asked, her voice shaky but her stance firm.
“No.” Aeon practically spat the word.
The sudden resoluteness in Sunset’s voice caught Twilight’s attention, but she had no time to think about it as the other girl quickly cocked back her arm and threw something. Twilight caught a brief glint of light as a piece of glass hurtled through the air before Aeon suddenly stumbled back, a shout of pain escaping her mouth and her free hand grasping her face.
When the woman straightened up again, she removed her hand and stared at it in shock briefly, before her expression turned to one of pure, incandescent fury. A streak of blood ran down her cheek, already reaching her neck and soaking into her collar.
“You… little… witch!”
The intensity of the field around her hand surged, the colour becoming richer and the glow brighter.
The red bolt leapt from Aeon’s hand. As it did, Sunset ducked.
Twilight quickly darted in front of Sunset, straight into the path of the oncoming bolt, thrusting the Talisman out in front of her as she did so. As the bolt made contact, Twilight winced, but felt nothing but a small vibration in her hands as the little box took the full brunt of the blast and stored the energy.
Turning the device over in her hands, she saw the ready indicator was lit. It had worked!
“Wait… what?” Aeon spluttered incredulously. “What did you do?!”
Without answering, Twilight pushed the button on the Talisman. A portal opened in front of the smashed window of the diner, but immediately, Twilight could tell something was wrong.
The other portals had all looked the same, with clearly defined edges and a solid look to them. This one was different. It looked… unstable, swirling, with crackling edges that flickered like the flames of a log fire.
Twilight didn’t have time to reflect on this, however, as another shout from Aeon drew her attention.
“Stop! Now!” Another bolt careened towards Twilight, missing her by mere inches. She felt someone grab her hand and looked over to see Sunset, just as the other girl began dragging her towards the portal. Applejack and Rainbow Dash flashed past the pair, charging at Aeon.
“Go! We got her!” the farm girl yelled as they ran past.
Twilight bumped into Sunset as she suddenly stopped in front of the portal, giving it a concerned look.
“Is it safe?” Sunset asked.
“I don’t know, but we don’t really have the time to find out!” Twilight replied, hurriedly.
Sunset nodded. The pair jumped. The world turned to twisting colours and cacophonous sounds. Twilight was vaguely aware of her body shifting back into her more familiar alicorn form.
Then her vision went black.
And suddenly, everything was pain.
The portal spat them out into immense heat, the very air seeming to sear Twilight’s throat and lungs, burning her inside as it did outside. Underneath was a rough stone platform. Above, an orange, smoky sky roiling with fire. Through tears of pain, Twilight could just make out the forms of impossibly tall mountains everywhere, sharp and jagged against the angry sky. Coughing furiously against the foul and scorching air, she looked up as she felt something approach. Something big.
It was huge. Bigger than huge. Much bigger than any creature had any right to be. Something, possibly horns, stuck out of the side of its head and curved downwards. It stood silhouetted against the unnatural sky, its features hidden, but clearly looking at her and her companion.
And then the creature spoke.
“Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer?” Its voice was surprisingly cultured, if somewhat booming. “You two aren’t supposed to be here.”
The creature abruptly turned to smoke, swirling down to assume the form of a tall, dark and handsome male unicorn, his eyes glowing a deep crimson.
“Tell me,” the unicorn continued smoothly, walking slowly towards Twilight. “What brings you two to Hell?”