• 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 51: Convergence

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 51: Convergence

Agony twisted nerves and muscles alike as Twilight braced herself to turn. The yearning inside her made the pain grow distant and small while sweat dripped from her face. The doppelganger continued to speak, but she tuned its spiteful words to background noise. Violet eyes followed the black blade to a shaft, and then watched as the weapon was slowly pulled away. Her gaze passed over Celestia and she took a shaky step to view the voice’s owner.

A dragon’s skull met her face, but the sharp, draconic eyes of Nightmare Moon glowed unnaturally in the sockets, her horn rising from the top. For a moment, Twilight wasn’t sure what to make of it, but the black fur visible from beneath the parting of her cloak offered a sense of ease. The skull was pulled open and the Id gazed at her with caution. She opened her mouth to speak, but the sword slipped from Twilight’s grasp. It clattered loudly to the floor and hid her steps as she lunged to her. She caught the oracle as her scythe hit the floor, and held the oracle as she started to sob.

Nightmare gazed past her to the princesses, meeting Celestia’s eyes. The sun princess looked confused for a moment, but she slowly stood up. A quick glance to her axe before focusing on Twilight unsettled her, but she maintained her composure.

“I’ve missed you so much, Twilight. More than you could…” Nightmare trailed off as tears welled in her eyes. “No. You’re the only one that could know.” She sighed and returned the embrace, her cloak wrapping around her protectively. “What’s happened to you? What’s going on here?” Choked squeaks and incomprehensible words escaped the smaller alicorn, and Nightmare could only force a smile as the sobbing resumed.

A hoarse squeak managed to make its way above the sobs. “Be… careful…” said Luna before she coughed.

Twilight stepped back and wiped her eyes. “They attacked me,” she said, turning to glare at Luna with glassy eyes. “I had to defend myself.” She wiped her eyes and faced the Id.

“What?” she asked, and Twilight huddled into her as she trembled. Nightmare glanced to Celestia, and the sun princess offered a regretful look.

Nightmare shoved Twilight back and took the scythe up. “I know Twilight. She would never attack Celestia. Who are you?”

The oracle looked shocked and hurt as her eyes watered once more. “H-How can y-you…” Suddenly she grimaced. “So, you’re going to turn on me, too? After everything we’ve been through?” She hung her head for a moment and sniffled. “I guess I can’t be surprised. Everyone betrays me in the end.” There was a sinister flick in her eyes as she glanced between Celestia and Nightmare.

“Detain her!” Celestia took up her axe and started to charge her.

Nightmare’s horn shined blue as she prepared, but Twilight snatched Moonlight and disappeared in a flash. “Where did she go?”

“She still had some magic left?” Celestia stopped and huffed. “Damn it. She’s out of control.” She dropped her weapon and dashed to her sister’s side. “Your wounds are bad, Luna. We need to get you triaged.” Nightmare approached and looked over her injuries and the smears of blood reaching out from her, and then she slowly looked over the destruction of the throne room.

Luna groaned. “I can’t believe… that she would try to kill you, sister.”

Nightmare’s attention snapped back to her and her eyes narrowed. “That’s impossible.”

The moon princess arched a brow. “You caught her blade as she was trying to execute her. How can you say it’s impossible when you bore witness to her insanity?”

Nightmare shook her head. “She can’t kill Celestia. Even if she has come to this… however extreme it may be… she needs her alive.”

“What… do you mean?”

The Id cocked her head before turning to the sun princess. “So… you never told her?”

Celestia chewed her lip. “It… never came up. It was to be between Twilight and I, in case she changed her mind.”

Luna attempted to sit up, but her mouth twisted and her eyes clamped shut and she hit the floor again. “What are you talking about? Sister, tell me.”

Nightmare frowned and stepped to a ruined window viewing the carnage in the city. “Before Twilight would agree to go through with her original ascension to assassinate the dragon king she made Celestia promise her…”

“Promise? A promise of what?” asked Luna.

The Id turned around and peered over them to the empty space that once held the window depicting her purging. “That at the end of whatever happened, and if she survived, she would not be allowed to remember any of it. She was afraid of doing it… what it would do to her, so she wanted a contingency.”

Luna gestured to her sister and she was lifted into sitting up. “But that does not solve what she has become, what she has done, and…” Nightmare met her gaze. “She would remember nothing of you. She will have lost time. Everyone else would live with what she has done… what she will have forgotten. Is this some twisted gambit for absolution now?”

Nightmare shrugged. “We didn’t know. This idea was hers and she was not afforded the time to prepare.”

“You have her memories, don’t you?” asked Celestia. “What is she planning?”

Nightmare threw a hoof up. “I haven’t seen her in years! How do you expect me to know?” She let out a long sigh. “There was a darkness within her that I saw. I could not determine its origin, but I had hoped to root it out. However, all my presence did was suppress it. I had hoped that… after all this time it would be gone, but I see it’s only gotten worse. I need to go after her. Can you handle this on your own?”

Celestia stood up. “You don’t even know where she’s going. Stay and fight with us. We can track her down together afterwards.”

“She is pursuing Aurelius, isn’t she? Where is he going?” asked Nightmare.

The sun princess chewed her lip. “To the Crystal Empire, but we need you here. There is too much chaos in the city. You won’t be able to catch up to her, and as wounded as she is she won’t get far.”

Nightmare loosed an agitated grunt, and then glanced to Luna. “Am I still unwanted?”

The moon princess glared at her, and then to Celestia. “My predilections are irrelevant. I find it disgusting that I was not informed of this. Had I known this all along I could have done something more to keep her from this path she now treads. I cannot fathom how Twilight sees the endgame here knowing this now.”

“I can,” replied the Id as she closed the dragon skull and faced the window. “We are not finished here.” With a few beats of her wings she was gone.

***

Twilight yelped as she warped from the castle and into open sky. The sun greeted her as her wings lazily opened out, catching a gust of wind. No enjoyment came from the sensations, and panic rapidly set in as she plummeted, unable to find the strength to keep herself aloft. Too high, she thought as she could view the real target far below. A train could be seen moving away from Canterlot, gradually growing larger as she drew closer to the ground. For a moment, she wondered if hitting the ground would be better. She reigned in her thoughts, but struggled to find any magic left to save herself. Come on. Just one more time!

Concentrating, she calculated how much magic she would need to precisely teleport onto the train, or at least the roof, and how close she would need to be to the ground to do it. Dread poisoned her with doubt as the train came into earshot, and she closed her eyes. She could feel the shift, and when she opened her eyes she was lying on the floor of the caboose. The knocking of wheels to the track and the car drifting forward brought her back to reality. She pushed herself up from the floor before noticing she had left a spot of blood on it.

Oh, right. She inspected it and started to calculate her blood loss against whether she would reach medical treatment, but her mind seized halfway through the effort. Looking around, it became clear the car was not meant for passengers. Luggage surrounded her, and she opened the nearest one. To her luck, she found clothing and quickly tore a white shirt into a long strip, fashioning it into a makeshift bandage. She pulled it tight over the wound, and then wrapped her hoof with another piece before getting as comfortable as she could. The muffled droning of the cars to the tracks brought her exhaustion to bear and her eyes strained to remain open. Did I lose too much blood? I can’t even… think right now.

Her thoughts drifted to Celestia. I can’t… believe I attacked the princesses… What am I even doing anymore? she wondered.

What needs to be done, replied the doppelganger. And if you won’t do it… I will.

The doppelganger’s words chilled her blood, but she decided not to ask it for elaboration. Her thoughts sank into ideas again and she did her best to avoid the subject.

I should make it to the Crystal Empire. Maybe I can see Cadence and my brother. Or maybe… Her mind drifted to Nightmare Moon. The tall, dark mare smiled at her before pulling her close and nuzzling her. A smile crept onto Twilight’s face, but the last words and look she received from the Id quickly soured the moment. Before she knew it, sleep had come to her.

***

Derpy surged through the castle corridors in a smear of light and drab décor, cutting around corners with an uncanny finesse. Red carpet flowed under her like a river, and steps blurred while she descended into the depths of the castle. The corridors dimmed, but her own light kept them illuminated. Abruptly, she stopped before a large wooden door. Her light faded to the immediate surroundings and she pulled the door open. As she entered, she was met with walls opening behind iron bars on the sides of the path.

“Rainbow?” she called out as she hurriedly stepped forward. Many ponies appeared in the cells and called back, but none were the chromatic pegasus. Her eyes darted among them, their pleas to be freed growing louder the more she walked on. A rumbling shook the castle, and she swallowed as they went silent for a moment. It was soon broken by shouts and hollers her way, but she ignored them and moved deeper within. The cells grew empty the further in she looked, but she reached the last one and found her mark.

“Derpy?” came a familiar voice. The cyan pegasus stood up and lurched to the bars, a smile lighting up her dirty face. “I can’t believe it! It’s really you! I knew you’d come back for me.”

The paladin reached in and hugged her, smiling as tears escaped her eyes. “I’m so sorry it took so long, but there’s no time to catch up.” She stepped back and wiped her eyes. “Stand back,” she added as she brandished her sword. In four streams of light, the bars fell away to an exit. “Can you fight?”

Rainbow stepped out and stretched. “I don’t have a weapon or my armor.” She appeared thin, but her movements and demeanor hid any weakness she might have had.

“Here.” The paladin removed her shield and produced a second baldric. “It’s nothing special, but it’ll have to do for now.”

Rainbow took the baldric and equipped it. “What’s going on Derpy? Where are the others? What’s happening outside?”

“Resistance forces and those still loyal to the princesses are combating Aurelius’s forces. Archmage Twilight Sparkle and Princess Luna went to overthrow Aurelius, but I don’t think it’s going well. I’ve been ordered to secure the city, but I had to come get you first. My sister is already in the fight. We need to go!”

Rainbow took a step, but stumbled into a halt. “Whoa, wait. Your sister?”

Derpy shook her head. “There’s no time to explain. Now, c’mon!” She equipped her shield and grabbed Rainbow, bursting out of the castle dungeons as fast as she could.

***

Sirens blared over the cityscape, a blanket of sound masking the battles below as Nightmare soared into the skies. It had been a long time since she had been here in the open, but she felt lost without Twilight. The city under attack was nothing like it had been before, coming to her like an empty room. Without Twilight, it had become a bitter place punctuated by Luna’s contemptuous looks and Celestia’s sympathetic reassurances. The first dragon she neared took notice of and broke her chain of thought.

“A dragon’s skull?” he growled. “I’ll make an example out of you.” He took a deep breath, swelling his chest with an orange tint, and unleashed a breath of flame towards her.

Nightmare barreled over and her ragged cloak expanded to wrap around her briefly. The cloth unwound as she breached the flames unharmed. Rage filled her, and with a roar she brought her massive scythe down and sliced through his shoulder. He flinched and groaned, and she flipped with her momentum and cut again, this time into his neck. She was unable to make a clean cut and had to pry her weapon out of a gushing wound. The dragon was not defeated, and a swift backhand knocked her free and away.

Nightmare sailed through the air as the dragon skull was smashed to pieces, her mane flowing free. She shook her head and her cloak shrank down, reducing its coverage and hindrance to hiding her neck. “You’ve caught me on a bad day,” she remarked. She beat her wings and surged towards him, the blade of her scythe shining blue as it was pulled back.

The dragon attempted to strike out at her, but she maneuvered between the rakes of his claws. Rather than aim for the side, she flipped forward and brought the blade down into his skull. The crack of the bone splitting signaled his final moment and she glared into his eyes as the life was cast out. “All that serve Aurelius will die,” she said to him before ripping the weapon free and watching him plummet to the ground. Below, soldiers glanced up to her in surprise, but their shock was interrupted as two more barreled down the streets towards them.

The Id dropped into a sharp dive towards the first, spinning in a whirlwind of steel and magic as she reached the ground. Blue waves of energy trailed her scythe while slats of blood hit the walls and street. With a thud the dragon’s head hit the ground and rolled away, and she quickly turned her attention to the next.

“Regroup with a larger force. I’ll handle this one!” She turned over her shoulder to the small unit of resistance soldiers, meeting their wondering and fearful gazes with her own of determination. “Go. Now!” They quickly acknowledged her and disappeared around the block.

Nightmare took in the appearance of the dragon before her. It was different from the usual ranks of Aurelius’s army and the Brood. It was a dirty grey, with thicker scales coating its body like large plates. She shuffled forward and kept her focus on its movements, making light swings and focusing on evasion. The tail smashed through an adjacent building like a wrecking ball, sweeping the debris into an avalanche. Dust plumed into a thick sheet before her, the dragon’s silhouette shifting beneath. A claw pierced the dust and she lurched backwards, the talons narrowly missing her face. One of his wings shot forward, striking her away, but she extended her own and launched into the air. With a heave, she brought her scythe down upon his appendage. She grunted as it bounced off with a resounding clang, the blade wobbling for an instant. Metal!? The dragon caught her in its grip and brought her to its face. Beady red eyes drilled into her own as it regarded her curiously.

“You’re different from the rest,” he muttered, cocking his head to one side.

Nightmare writhed and struggled in his grasp. “That’s funny… because you’re all the same.” The scythe blade furiously glowed blue and cut his hand off. Whirling free, she drove the blade towards his neck, but the back of his other hand caught it. There was a muffled clink before it scratched itself off and she pulled back. “What the—“ The tail swept back through the other building, leveling it on top of her. She formed a barrier as it poured over her, waiting until it settled before blast it all away.

The dragon inspected his lost hand, cocking its head to Nightmare in the same view. “Dragon eyes,” he remarked as he lumbered closer. “I think the king will want to see you.”

Nightmare’s barrier reformed and she glared death at him. “That’s going to be hard after I rip Aurelius’s eyes from his skull!” The scythe’s glow twisted into a burning violet, casting its hues upon her face.

The dragon offered a long, rumbling chuckle. “The little brother. The king would gladly watch that.”

King?” Nightmare took a step back.

The dragon eyed her cautiously. “Dragonkin, where does your allegiance lie?”

He reached for her with his other hand, but she knocked it away with her scythe. Surging forward, she flipped and brought it down to his skull as he backed away. She missed and it cut through the front of his muzzle. He staggered backwards, coiling his tail for balance, and unleashed a dark flame.

The heat ripped away at Nightmare’s magic, but she sustained her barrier and breached it. Releasing the spell, she could see the dragon’s claw coming down for a deathblow. As she started to react a light pierced through the dragon’s body, and fire exploded from both ends of the wound into the air and onto the street. She watched in awe as his eyes went wide before rolling into the back of his head. The large body seemed to clank as the tension released and he fell forward towards her, roiling the dust once more.

What killed him? she wondered as she peered around and attempted to scan the area.

“Hey, be careful!” a voice called. She recognized it, but wasn’t sure where. “This one isn’t like the others.”

Nightmare traced the voice to a pegasus stepping out from the flames. They moved to the dragon’s body and tapped one of their swords to his scales, earning a dull clang. “Who are—“ She remembered the voice, and drew her scythe, meeting the pegasus’s sword at the same time.

“You!” cried Daring Do. “You’re the one that caught me in Ponyville. Who are you?”

The Id chuckled. “You’re impressive for a celestial knight. Have you come to kill me?”

Daring growled, but suddenly relaxed and sheathed her weapons. Stepping back, she laughed. “Well, doesn’t that beat all? You were killing dragons, so you’re alright in my book.” She spun around and reached out a hoof to the bewildered alicorn. “The name’s Daring Do, paladin of the Celestial Knights. Nice to meet you.”

Nightmare glanced at her hoof, and then to her face. “Paladin? That is… not you.” She poised to attack with her scythe, but Derpy landed next to her.

“What are you doing? There’s still more of Aurelius’s dragons in the city!” She glanced to Nightmare and went wide-eyed. “Nightmare Moon,” she muttered. When she received a frown she corrected herself. “Midnight Moon. Sorry. Uh,”—she rubbed the back of her head as she glanced away, “is my sister giving you trouble?”

“Sister? This one claims to be the paladin of your order.”

Derpy nodded. “It’s complicated, and there’s no time to explain. We have to help the resistance.”

Daring nodded. “Right. It was nice to meet you,” she said as she took off. Derpy flew right after and Nightmare prepared to do the same, but something stopped her.

A magical presence sank into her with a dreadful aura. She spun around and glimpsed a figure move around the corner. What was that? She stared at the corner for a moment, and slowly began to approach. As she neared, a pony with dark green fur and a faded blue mane stepped out.

“D-Don’t hurt me! I was just watching!” She slinked back until just her eyes and the top of her head could be seen.

Nightmare followed her around the corner. “Hey, if you’re not hurt you need to make your way to the castl—“ Bodies of ponies littered the street, but they were not maimed victims of the dragons. In a blur, she spun around and slashed away a beam of green energy. “You’re no pony. Who are you?” The pony’s form faded as a small green flame rolled over its body and revealed that of a dark, holed frame with insectoid features. “Queen Chrysalis, of the changeling Swarm. What a surprise to find you taking advantage of this. Really. What are you doing here?”

The changeling’s eyes were wide. “How do you know who I am? I’ve never met you before.”

Nightmare’s scythe blade started to glow blue. “She always wondered what happened to you…”

Chrysalis took a few shaky steps back as Nightmare’s magic welled. “W-Wait! I’m a friend of Princess Luna’s. I had to feed, but it was only a little on each one. They’re not dead or completely drained. I swear, you can check for yourself.”

The Id maintained a glare on her as she moved to several victims and examined them, her eyes flicking away from the changeling for an instant. She’s not lying… she thought as she pressed a hoof to a unicorn’s head. But I don’t trust her. “Luna didn’t mention you.”

The changeling’s face blanched and she turned to run. Nightmare dashed at her and cleaved towards her body, but there was a flash as it was stopped completely. Derpy appeared between them with a tower shield catching her blade.

The grey paladin’s teeth were clenched as she halted the attack. “She’s on our side, Midnight. She’s with Princess Luna.”

Where did she come from? She eyed the grey paladin intensely for a moment and then glanced at Chrysalis. “I don’t trust her.” The scythe was pulled back and she released her tension. “But I will trust Luna. Don’t forget to clean up after yourself, queen.” She turned and surged into the air and out of sight.

***

Daring glided across the skies, scanning the battles below and the foes still in the air. I wish we had more time… she lamented as she could see buildings burning across the city. Her gaze drifted to the castle, but she ripped it away and plunged to the ground to aid fellow resistance forces in a plaza. She flipped as she reached the dragon they were fighting, and stopped on the ground beneath with her swords extended out. The beast reeled back in pain and fright as it raised its arms, both claws missing and replaced with bloody stumps.

The dragon inhaled sharply before spitting a flame at Daring, and she moved through it, leaping up to drive her swords through the top and bottom of its mouth. A choked howl escaped its throat and it spun around, a wild swipe of its tail missing her. She ripped her weapons free, leaving its jowls in bloody pieces before finally driving her blades into its neck.

The resistance forces behind her offered thanks and a quick cheer, but she turned and silenced them. “Regroup with the others. Fight them in close quarters and you’ll have an easier time.” Before they could say anything else she was back in the sky.

“We can’t keep this up,” Derpy said as she flew up next to her. “I don’t have the energy.”

Daring glanced her way. “Neither do I, but we’ve got a problem. That was a contractor back there.” Her sister’s eyes went wide. “That one the alicorn was fighting… I spent a lot of my power to kill him. I’m not sure if there’s more, but it’s a bad sign.” Her focus shifted back to the grounds.

“What’s a contractor?” asked Rainbow.

Daring glanced over her shoulder to the knight. “Who’s this?”

The grey paladin opened her mouth to speak, but she was interrupted. “I’m Celestial Knight Rainbow Dash.”

The sandy pegasus glanced between them with an eyebrow raised. “Is she alright to fight?” she asked, motioning to Rainbow’s physique.

“She’ll be fine,” replied Derpy. “We’re supposed to work together with the resistance forces, but I don’t know what we’ll do if we fight any of those armored dragons.”

“Let’s just hope he’s alone.” A barrage of fireballs caused Derpy and Rainbow to split away as they passed through Daring. She glared ahead to the attacking dragon and charged. The pair watched as she slashed at him, leaving three dark and bloody marks across his chest before he crashed into a building below. Her return was marked with heavy breaths. “I’m heading for the castle. I have to see if Princess Celestia is here.”

“I’ll go with you,” her sister said.

“No. Stay here and help the others.”

Derpy blocked her flight. “I need to check on Princess Luna.”

“What about her?” she motioned to Rainbow.

“I’ll help the others. Just come back soon,” replied the cyan knight.

Derpy moved to her, quickly embracing and kissing her. “I promise. Don’t overdo it!” The sisters raced back towards the castle as Rainbow descended to join the others.

“So,” started the elder sister, “when were you going to tell me you had somepony?” Derpy slowly met her eyes, her aggravation scarcely hidden. “And that somepony just happened to be a celestial knight?”

The younger sister glared back. “My personal life is none of your business, Daring.” Her glare quickly shifted to surprise. “Look out!” She latched onto Daring and attempted to roll them out of the way, but a large fireball from below hit both of them.

“Ditzy!” cried the sandy pegasus, as she held her dazed sister. Derpy’s tail was burning, and she rolled midair to brandish a sword and slice the end off, but struggled to maintain her grip. “C’mon, snap out of it! I can’t fly us both like this.” They reached the castle, but Derpy slipped free. Sheathing her weapon, Daring dropped into a sharp dive. Catching up, she latched onto her, but it was too late to avoid crashing. “Hang on, this is gonna hurt!”

Abruptly, they collided with something solid amidst the castle rooftops, and the light faded away as they continued to descend through a tunnel. Debris fell with them as they reached the end, and stones chased them into a small, dark chamber. The pair’s fall was broken by a stone pedestal and punctuated with a sharp cry. Coughing mixed with groans filled the chamber while stone and dust settled.

“Where… are we?” asked Derpy. The grey paladin rubbed her eyes before squinting to murals that ran along the walls.

The elder sister stood up and dusted herself off, but her eyes went wide. “Are you okay?” She rushed to her side, giving the grey paladin notice to a slab of stone resting on one of her wings.

“I didn’t even notice…” Derpy attempted to wrestle away, but she yelped and became still. “I can’t move. Can you lift it?”

Daring shoved a sword beneath and attempted to pry it free, but it shifted over and crushed her wing more. “No-no! I’m sorry!” she blurted at her sister’s cry of pain.

“T-Together,” Derpy managed, drawing her own weapon. At once, they attempted lift the stone from her, but after a moment of grunting and curses, they ultimately failed. The blood drained from Daring’s face as her sister offered a solution.

“Cut my wing off.”

“What?” Daring winced, her eyes already wide. “I can’t do that!”

“What good is it going to do me if it’s crushed down here? Just… Just get it over with! I know you can cauterize the wound.” She turned her head away, her expression somewhere between a scowl and a wince.

“But you’ll never fly again. I can’t—“

“Just do it!” shrieked Derpy.

Daring swallowed and glanced up the hole. Her eyes wandered to the chamber door before finally settling back on her sister, a shiver running up her spine. “I hate this place. Give me a sec.” She turned and moved to the entrance and drew a sword. It glowed orange briefly before the chamber door opened outward.

“What are you doing? Hurry up and cut me out!” shouted Derpy through clenched teeth. “This hurts more than you think.”

Her sister returned with a grimace on her face and shook her head. “I’m going to try one last thing before it comes to that. I just needed to use my magic on the door before I burn it trying to rescue you.”

“What do you—“

Daring brandished her second sword and stepped to the other side of the stone. With a roar and flourishing orange light in front of her, the stone slab slowly lifted. For a moment, Derpy glimpsed that her sister was gripping it with fiery claws, the stone was dropped and it ushered dust back into the air. When it settled, Daring was slumped against the wall, panting, both of her swords lying on the floor beside her.

“How did you do that? And what did you mean by your magic?” Derpy asked. She offered her injured wing a mournful glance while she slowly furled it up.

“Don’t… worry about… it…” replied Daring between pants. After a moment, she stood up and sheathed her swords. “Are you okay? Is anything else injured?”

“I won’t be doing any flying, but I can still fight. That flame took a lot out of me, though.” Daring moved to her and helped her walk, and they trudged down the chambers without a word. As they ascended stairs and reached more familiar parts of the castle she broke the silence. “Thank you. Whatever it was that you did. Let’s check on the princesses and finish the fight in the city.”

Daring nodded. “I already did. They’re fine.”

A bewildered expression rapidly formed on Derpy’s face. “What? How?”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll see them later.” She offered her younger sister a grin. “I’ll take care of the skies while you help the soldiers in the streets.”

Derpy nodded as she looked out into the city. The smoke rising from the buildings and the roars of dragons in the distance soured her mood. Daring always left her with too many questions, and she watched for a moment as she took off into the air. With a deep breath, she galloped down to the city streets.

***

Hours passed as the resistance forces and those loyal to the princesses forced the dragons back. Many fled the city in the carnage as their kin were overwhelmed and cut down by the combined effort. Smoke drifted slowly to the sky as everyone worked together to snuff out fires and begin cleaning up the aftermath.

Nightmare’s legs buckled as she landed in the castle gardens, gracelessly crumbling into the plush grass. The grass radiated a faint fragrance that overpowered the sickly scent of blood carried by her cloak. For a moment, she merely lay there soaking in the last rays of the sunset. It felt soothing, and she chuckled at the irony. She started to drift to sleep, but was interrupted.

“Honestly. Is that all the stamina you’ve got?” mocked Luna.

The Id regained her strength and grumbled. Rising, she brandished her scythe. “Are those little scartches going to stop you from a fight?” However, she relaxed as she took in the moon princess’s injuries.

“Yes. They are.” Luna sat on the steps leading to the lower terrace. Her broken legs were in reinforced casts, but her pain was displayed in tenseness only. Her torso had been wrapped in bandages that crisscrossed between and around her wings. Silence fell between them for a moment, but she continued. “Thank you,” she muttered.

“If you hadn’t asked I would have chased after her,” Nightmare replied, laying back on the grass and gazing up to the coming eventide.

Luna followed her gaze and sighed. “I mean for everything. Without you… I don’t know how things would be now.”

Nightmare chuckled again. “Who knows? I didn’t have my own body until…” She glanced to the princess and grew somber. “Everything fell apart.”

“Our lives can be rebuilt. All is not lost, even for you.” Luna met her eyes and gently shook her head. “Tell me more about Twilight. I need to know everything when we face her again.”

Nightmare grimaced. “There isn’t much I can tell you that you don’t already know. Whatever happened to her from the time she vanished to now… it’s changed her for the worse. I wish I could link our minds one more time… just so I can… understand.” She sighed. “I never thought I would be free of Aurelius by becoming another pony’s prisoner and jailer, and now I finally have real freedom. I don’t know if it was worth it.”

The princess offered her a smile, much to Nightmare’s surprise. “Perhaps, but I believe it is. You are worth more as a being than a mere soul. We will save Twilight from herself in time.”

“I… never expected to hear that from you.” Nightmare put a hoof to her chin as the skies faded to purple. “Twilight was not acting like herself, and I’m wondering if another soul has taken my place inside her.”

Luna cocked her head. “She spoke of an… it telling her things. Would she be hearing voices, or something more?”

“I don’t know. When we shared the same body and linked our minds I could see her memories, and her mind… and yours. It was like a… blurry picture of emotions and fragmented ideas. If we tried, we could hide our thoughts from one another, or push them away. With enough willpower, we could override the one in control. When she was weakened in Canterlot those years ago and I took over, she was unable to access my magic. It seems now she has full control over the magic she gleaned from me.”

The sun started to disappear behind the horizon and Luna took flight. Nightmare watched as the moon began to rise over the opposing horizon. “My sister and I taught Twilight her archmage’s ascension. Never could we have imagined that it would be used against us.”

Nightmare snickered. “Your wounds are bad. I’m surprised Twi—“

Luna shook her head. “These are self-inflicted,” she interrupted, raising the wounded foreleg aloft. “She wasn’t able to fully discern my abilities in our fight. I can externalize my magic in a way she is only just beginning to learn. As such, I can drive it into and out of objects in a manner of my choosing. I could have killed Twilight when I overcharged my magic in my final attack, but I could not bring myself to put her down. Instead, I ran it through her body, but the excess had to be discharged somewhere safely. The only option I had was… through me.” She stood up and turned around, revealing bloodied bandages. “The pain was... is…excruciating. I used everything I had, and it took everything to spare her.”

“Thank you.” Nightmare rose and moved to her. Abruptly, she pulled her into an embrace, hugging above her wound and resting her head on her shoulder. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for… everything you’ve been to Twilight. She thanks you, even if she can’t do it right now.”

“I…” Luna’s eyes watered and she snorted. “It’s not quite the same… hearing it from you.”

Nightmare released her and stepped back. “Nothing is the same coming from me. I have only her memories and feelings. I can’t express them the same way she would.” She sighed. “I only wish I could have expressed myself to her, without the… complications of our bond.”

The princess gawked at her and wiped her eyes. “Your affections for her… How strong are they?”

The Id gnawed on her lower lip as her eyes darted away. “I… love her. I confessed that to Trixie. I felt it would be better to tell her sooner, rather than later.”

The princess choked on whatever words she first attempted to articulate, but managed to speak softly. “Her… marefriend. You divulged your feelings first… to her marefriend.” She, too, chewed on her lip. “How… specific are your memories of the two of them together?”

Nightmare flushed. “I don’t have those if that’s what you’re referring to. There was a mutual agreement that those memories were off limits. I’m not… ugh… nevermind.”

“Well,” Luna started, swaying her gaze back to the Id. “I believe she reciprocates your feelings. She was very determined to find you above all else, even before finding Archmage Lulamoon.”

“I… don’t know. She wasn’t very receptive when we were fused. I… tried more than once, but we slowly just grew to want each other. I don’t know if love is what she feels for me.” Nightmare loosed a long sigh and glanced up to the stars in the darkened sky. “If Celestia is to fulfill her promise in the end, I will do whatever I can to win her back.”

The princess followed her gaze. “It will be torture. Living with her memories and her never knowing of what happened and who you were to her. That you even exist will be a shock. Can it be said that you can handle that?”

“I… know. But this time would be better.”

“Oh?” She glanced back to Nightmare and met her gaze. “What makes you say that?”

The Id smiled and looked past her. “Because I’ll get to do it my way. I also have the advantage of knowing her.”

Luna gave her an incredulous look. “If that is what you desire, why don’t you erase your own memories?”

“It doesn’t work that way, and that wouldn’t help me. There’s a… let’s call it a marker… in her memories. Everything before that marker will remain intact. Her life before the war, before all of this chaos… before me… will stay exactly the same. The marker will make it so every memory after will have never existed for her.”

“Could she… one day remember?” asked the princess.

Nightmare’s smile faded away. “No. The memories are destroyed. There won’t be anything to remember. She will go back to being exactly the same as before. Just the normal Archmage Twilight Sparkle that everyone knew back then.”

Luna took a deep breath. “That is… a dangerous promise. With a reset to her life and sins like that… I loathe to imagine just how far her she will go before all is said and done.”

The Id nodded. “That makes two of us.”

“Three of us.” Celestia landed beside her sister, a somberness taking hold of her demeanor. “I never wanted this for her. It will feel like I’m killing her, or stealing away her life in some way. The collateral damage… The cost of all of this will be everyone else. You stand to lose the most, don’t you?” she glanced to Nightmare and took a deep breath.

Nightmare turned away. “It’s not my decision and never will be.” She took a deep breath and faced them again, watching as Celestia checked over her sister’s bandages. “In all honesty, I’m afraid of losing her. I searched into her feelings and memories as much as I could, but I couldn’t find the answer I was looking for.”

Luna shooed her sister away. “And what is the question?”

“Would she see me as I am, or will she see the monster she once fought years past?” Nightmare glanced at her bloodied cloak. “I can’t escape what I’ve done, but I can be at peace with it if it means I can have a future.”

Celestia smiled. “Don’t give up hope, Midnight. Both of you rest and recover. I’ve sent missives to Cadance and Shining Armor. We’ll sort out Twilight soon enough. For now, you’re welcome to rest in the castle. I’ve already had a room prepared for you.”

Luna yawned. “Some real sleep in my bed will be wonderful after spending so long in rustic conditions.” She got up and departed towards the castle.

“Thank you, Celestia.” Nightmare bowed her head and moved to follow after Luna, but the sun princess held a hoof out and stopped her as she passed.

The sun princess spoke in a hushed, but intense tone. “If it comes down to it, and there truly is no saving her… Can you bring yourself to mute Twilight?” Nightmare’s heart thudded painfully in her chest, and she met Celestia’s gaze. Her eyes were still and serious, a grimness captured in them that unsettled them both. “It is the very last resort… aside from having you two bonded once more. I don’t want to take Twilight’s livelihood, but her magic is the only other option.”

The Id’s eyes fell to the ground, and several tears dampened the stone path. After a long while she took a deep breath. “Her magic would be a small price to pay for her life.”

“Is that how she would feel,”—Celestia turned her face to hers, her gaze no less hardened—“or is that what you believe?”

Nightmare stared back in silence before prying herself away. “I can do it,” she replied quietly before continuing towards the castle, her head held low.

Author's Note:

8/1/2017 - Praise Peppy for the proofing.

Praise Knighty. The importing features have been completely fixed. Lot's of real life stuff happened. Enjoy the chapter!

I'm quite happy with how this turned out overall. I almost panicked when I thought my SSD died and cost me hours of work (both this chapter and the next).

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