• Published 13th Oct 2011
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The Quiet Place - Aynine



Twilight fights against sinister manipulations, struggling to overcome a deep-seated darkness within. As she battles to preserve everything she cares about, she will sacrifice anything necessary to succeed. But the price of victory may be herself.

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Chapter 36: Within, Without Eden

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 36: Within, Without Eden

Twilight shivered and sat up, but she tensed as memory of her grievous defeat to Berry hit her. Bracing herself for the agony of her broken body, she clamped her eyes shut. After a moment of feeling nothing, she opened them, throwing her head in every direction. She stood up and looked over her body quickly, feeling only a chill in the air. There wasn't a single injury, but her fur had darkened, slipping closer to Nightmare's black coat.

"You won't feel any pain here."

Twilight's surprise faded into irritation. "And where exactly is here?"

The creature of her dreams stepped into view from the shadows, slowly circling her like a predator. "We know."

Twilight frowned. "How did I get here? Why am I here? I don't need this."

The creature snickered and stepped closer, the last vestiges of darkness fading from it. It now possessed Twilight's mane, though devoid of color, but Twilight found herself more bothered by the different colors of the eyes. Azure and scarlet. "You pretend to be fearless," it said.

"I'm not afraid of anything," Twilight retorted. "Certainly not some figment of my imagination."

"You have been avoiding using all sides of your magic. You, an archmage, the second vessel of Nightmare Moon, have taken to her powers, as she has taken to yours. Now you fight for Astra, as well as Equestria, but still you hold back." The creature took a step closer. "What are you afraid of?"

Twilight tried to use her magic, but nothing happened. "I don't need her type of magic anymore."

"Oh?" The creature swayed a hoof and an image of Twilight's broken form, heavily decorated with casts, blood-soaked gauze, and attached to medical equipment appeared. Her right eye was visible, but discolored and swollen, while her left was thickly bandaged. A tube running into her mouth had been secured with medical tape while a bag of liquid loomed from a fixture just beside her. "Holding back doesn't seem to have gotten you very far." The creature slowly turned back to her. "Has it?" Twilight growled and imagined the image away, only for her anger to diminish when it faded. The creature smiled. "Now you are starting to catch on."

"What the heck is this?" Twilight asked. "You still haven't answered why I'm here."

"This time? To help you see the error of your ways. Give in to your urges. Use your magic. All of your magic. You wouldn't want to disappoint her would you? She's invested a lot of faith in you. Or... are you just a coward that is willing to watch the world burn because you are afraid?"

Twilight's eyes expanded. Her breath misted and she lunged for the creature, attempting to drive a hoof into its smug face, but everything blurred into nothingness the moment she reached it.

***

"Doctor! She's waking up!" a pony shouted.

Shut... up. Be... quiet, Twilight thought. You're too loud. Why is everything so loud? Her body resisted her efforts to move, but the moment she shifted her body her left foreleg erupted with pain, her torso and head reminding her of the devastating impacts they suffered in battle. She loosed a dry squeal and whimpered as she returned to lying motionless on her back. Minutes passed, but she slipped in and out of consciousness, recalling only moments of excruciating discomfort as the tube was removed from her throat.

Steps could be heard in the room as other ponies shuffled about. Two sets entered and moved about without saying anything, then departed as two more took their place.

"Twi...light?"

Luna?

"By my sister's grace, what in Equestria happened to you?" Twilight's mouth opened, but she struggled to articulate anything, her dry tongue and throat failing her. Luna grabbed something and tapped Twilight's mouth. "Open and drink." The cold liquid felt heavenly as it flowed down her throat. After a few large sips and a painful cough, she was finally able to speak.

"Lu...na."

"Yes, I am here," the princess said, clasping Twilight's right hoof. "That won't be necessary, doctor." Twilight guessed she had turned away to speak to him for a moment, and she heard the other set of steps exit.

"Wh...where...? H...how?"

"You're in a hospital in the outer territories of Equestria. The doctors say they found you outside only a few mornings after you... They said that some of your wounds had been triaged before you were brought here... just enough to keep you alive."

Twilight tried to organize her thoughts in her head, but the pain—and what she presumed to be painkillers—muddled her concentration. She opened her mouth to speak again, but her strength waned.

"Shh," Luna cooed. "You are safe. I... will protect you. Rest for now."

Twilight could hear her voice fading, but she couldn't open her eye to see. But I... don't want to... sleep...

***

Twilight's eyes opened back to the dream world with the creature lying down and staring at her. For once, it did not speak first, though nothing else had changed. She took a deep breath, watching as it misted in the air several times before deciding what to say.

"I'm scared of..."

The creature cocked its head and watched her intently. Twilight rubbed one foreleg with the other as she glanced away, biting her lip.

"When I fought against Nightmare Moon, I was terrified of killing Luna, or watching her kill Trixie and Rainbow. I knew that her being back would hurt Celestia, even if she never admitted it. I was never afraid of dying."

The creature swished its tail back and forth, but continued to watch and listen in silence, going so far as to sit up.

"When we reached Draconis, I chose to go into the keep alone, and assign Trixie and Rainbow to fetch the dragons' war plans. They're strong, but... they'll never be as strong as me. I didn't want to put them in harms way. I left the keep and waited for them. I saw them rushing out, but nothing was happening. I was worried, but I thought we would make it out together, that we were close to the home stretch of ending the war."

Twilight took a deep, staggered breath before hanging her head.

"Render's lance pierced me. It happened so quickly that I didn't even know I had lost the use of my legs, but I knew... I knew that in that moment I was going to die. I tried to save them, and I tried to save myself, so I did the last thing I could and tried to tap into my ascension."

Glancing up, tears dripped from Twilight's eyes.

"I failed! I was so scared of using that power, so terrified that I might kill my friends instead, or lose control of myself forever. And for what? I saved them and I died. I should've killed the dragons." She pounded a hoof into the floor. "I should've killed them all from the start, and none of that would have happened. I don't know if I could've killed Aurelius, but I was going to try." After a moment of labored breaths, she quieted herself and relaxed. "There were other archmages in the past, early on when the order was started. I researched the power, tried to find records of it, but there were none. The princesses only spoke of it during the few training sessions for it, and the other archmagi had never heard of it. They had no idea what I was talking about."

Twilight brought her forehooves up to her face, staring at them as they trembled.

"Then I became an alicorn. My magic had gotten stronger, and I knew that would make my ascension worse." She glanced up to the creature, its face remaining placid, its tail still swishing back and forth. "If Astra hadn't intervened in Draconis, would I have killed only the royal guard and Render? If I had transformed against Nightmare Moon, would she and Luna still be alive? If I had transformed against Aurelius, would I have killed my friends? Or..."

Twilight looked away, hanging her head once more.

"Would everything have been better if I had just stayed dead? If I had just refused... I'd spent years studying psychology, reading books about it among all of my other studies. I prepared myself for being an archmage, but I never... ever... could have predicted all of this." She sniffled several times and wiped her eyes. "Why won't you say anything? Isn't this what you wanted?" The creature continued to stare in silence. "Answer me!"

"I. Know," it replied simply, stilling its tail.

Twilight blinked several times. "What—"

"I mean what I said. I am you, and you are me. But, saying it out loud does make it easier, doesn't it?"

Twilight grimaced. "I've changed my mind. You're worse than Astra."

The creature stood up and took a step closer, then cast a warm smile to her. "You don't believe that."

"I don't know what I believe anymore," replied Twilight, allowing her shoulders to sag. "I just want it all to end. Dying would be easier."

"But dying is a dull end."

Twilight snorted. "I never said it would be better." She shivered and rubbed herself. "Why is it so cold here? Am I actually dying?"

"No," the creature answered simply. "Death isn't one of your concerns. At least... not your own."

She turned to the creature with a wondering look on her face. "What should I do, then? Everyone I've killed, dragons and ponies, many of them were innocent. They were being manipulated, or they were forced."

"Just keep telling yourself the same thing you have been all along."

"And what's that?"

"No one is innocent anymore. They've made their choices, and now they must live, and die, with them."

Twilight rose up and offered the creature a defeated expression. "I guess you're... right. I can't stop now. I need to keep going, no matter what."

The creature rose up and slowly paced its way around her. "Yes. There are many who are going to try and stop you, to stray you from your mission. Never bow. Never relent. Kill any that stand in your way. You can't afford to fail again."

"I won't fail again," Twilight said, closing her eyes.

"I know you won't," the creature replied as everything receded into nothingness.

***

"Lu...na?" Twilight took a slow breath as she mentally prepared herself for the shockwaves of pain she was about to feel. Opening her 'good' eye, she raised her uninjured foreleg slowly up to her face, throwing a quick glance to her other one, encased in a thick cast, fixing its angle. Her delicateness wasn't good enough, and the weight shift immediately extracted something between a grunt and a squeal out of her. She could feel the adjusting of more gauze and wrappings across her torso. The best she could compare the feeling to in her more sensitive areas was sandpaper grinding across open flesh as it was set aflame.

"Not so fast, Twilight," she heard the princess say, but her eye was already clamped shut as she shuddered. She would have clenched her jaw, but she could feel the bruises through the bandages. After a few moments, her nerves stabilized and she opened her eye to catch Luna's worried gaze, but glanced away.

"I'm... fine," she replied, unsure of what else to say in that moment.

"Are... are you sure you're okay, Twilight?"

"I told you I'm—" Turning back to her, she found the princess had risen and backed up, taking on a defensive stance. What was once worry was now replaced with fear and concern. "What!"

"Twilight, I know your fusion with Nightmare Moon had brought about some... changes to you, but now that you are separated..." A mirror floated to Twilight, face down, as Luna spoke. "I do not know what to make of this now that she is gone."

Twilight took the mirror into her own magic and slowly rotated it up to her face. She blinked several times as she took in the change, and its oddity.

"Are you... afraid of me, Luna?" she asked, laying the mirror down.

The princess turned her head away. "I-I am not afraid of you. I just... Please explain it to me. It is unsettling given the circumstances."

Twilight lifted herself off of the bed, clenching her jaw as the bruising of her chest reminded her it was still there. With a few heaving grunts and gasps, she managed to sit up, slouching forward. "I'm still me. I'm just tapping into what she left me. Her magic changed me before, and it's changing me again." She swept her blanket from her legs, revealing her darkening fur. Throwing them over the side of the bed, Luna moved to support her underneath her right side.

"Easy, Twilight. You should be resting. You only just woke up." She supported her to a chair by the bedside.

Sitting down, Twilight winced and exhaled sharply, her stamina already depleted. "How long was I out?" The princess' lips curled inward as her eyes slid away from her. "Luna," Twilight said as she cocked her head to her. "How. Long?"

"The doctors say you were in a coma for two weeks. They found your battered body laying outside, covered in bloody bandages, your leg in a crude splint." Luna motioned to the cast. "There was no trace of anyone else around."

Twilight's jaw flapped as her eyes widened. "T-two... weeks?" She stood up abruptly, but groaned loudly, a hoof to her chest. Collapsing back down, she slumped forward in painful defeat. "Why... Why do I keep losing time? I'll never find anyone at this rate." She sniffled several times before bawling dryly into her foreleg.

Luna levitated a chair next to her and sat down, pulling her friend to her chest. "I... am sorry. I wish you had stayed with Derpy and I." The princess cradled her head as she sighed. "I lay the blame upon myself for this. Had I tried harder, had I pushed you to stay, then... perhaps you would not be in this state."

Twilight raised her head, huffing and sniffling, ignoring the pain of her wounds, and turned Luna's face to hers. "This is. Not. Your. Fault. It was my decision. I have no one to blame but myself for this." She wiped her eyes and calmed down. "I underestimated my enemy again, but most importantly..." She trailed off and stood up, managing only to bare her gritting teeth as she straightened herself. "I underestimated myself." She curled her uninjured hoof in front of her.

Luna watched in awe as Twilight gnashed her teeth and took steps on her own. "This pain... is nothing..." Her left leg gave out and she fell; however, she never hit the floor. She groaned, but looked up to see Derpy, the paladin shouldering her back to the bed.

"You need to rest, Twilight. There's only one pony I know that could walk around with injuries like that," she said.

Twilight snorted. "Is it that Celestial Knight, Berry Punch?"

Derpy cocked her head. "How did you—"

"Because she did this to me," Twilight interrupted, a quiet anger weighing over her gaze.

"Good heavens, Twilight," Luna said, jumping to her hooves. "Had I known that you were going to fight her, I would have warned you."

Twilight pulled the blanket back over her and frowned. "Warned me about what? That she's an unstoppable juggernaut that can take a direct hit from concentrated, lethal magic and still attack me with enough force to break a concrete wall? Yeah, that sure would've helped to know."

Luna and Derpy exchanged uneasy looks before Derpy spoke. "I, uh, wouldn't fight her head on. For as long as I've known her, Berry has been incredibly strong."

"Indeed. Her physical might and fortitude cannot be matched."

"Why? Is she blessed like I am?"

Luna took a seat and scratched a hoof on the arm of her chair as she explained. "Yes, and... no. Berry Punch is descended from ancient giants of... well, even Celestia and I had only seen a couple in our youngest days. It is rare to see their strength contained within a pony, but she appears to possess all of their facets, save for their size. She is a force to be reckoned with, and it is extremely rare to elevate an earth pony to the status of Celestial Knight. She is newer to the ranks than even Derpy, but dangerous nonetheless. You cannot fight her with external magic. Her resistance to it is akin to that of a fully matured dragon."

Twilight growled and slammed her right hoof on the bed. "Then how am I supposed to fight her? She broke through my barriers like they were nothing! Even my strongest ones in our fight could only take several punches. One kick and she breaks my leg. One hoof to my chest and I'm winded." She let out a pained growl and sank into her bed, huffing and puffing.

Luna stared at the floor in silence for a while, her eyes unmoving. After a moment, she slowly stood up and moved to the bed. Slipping both hooves beneath Twilight's plastered foreleg, she lifted it up, earning a few Ow's and a wince from her friend. "Your constitution... has changed," she noted aloud. "Celestial Knights were meant to keep archmages in check. To see you defeated by one is nothing short of their successful function." Twilight glowered at her.

"I'm not just an archmage anymore," she retorted, returning her foreleg to resting at her side.

Luna stifled a grin. "I shall devise a plan, but you must recover in the meantime." She moved to the door and turned, "Come, Derpy. You will have questions."

"A half-giant? Why didn't she ever tell me!" the paladin cried.

"She, herself, is unaware of her true heritage. Now come. Twilight must rest."

Twilight sank into her bed, loosing a harrumph as their voices faded away. After a moment, she sat up and looked around. "Luna?" she asked, her ears flicking and bending. Strange. I thought I heard talking. She laid back down and rolled onto her right side, wriggling into a comfortable position. The last thing she saw before closing her eyes was Moonlight leaning against the wall, resting quietly in its sheath.

Author's Note:

5/2/2015 - Been dwelling on the finished one for a while. I didn't like the original chapter closing. It's still iffy for the Luna/Derpy interaction, but their dynamic is a peculiar one that I've liked since the latter's formal introduction as the current reigning paladin. Expect to see them, and the other celestial knights, more.

As for those waiting on important characters to make a return: fret not! A lot can change in four years, even for someone that lost that time entirely.

Edit: I meant to post this before work today, but I rushed out the door and forgot. lol

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