• 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 7: The World Alive

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 7: The World Alive

The deft movements of two mares ruffled foliage that sought to ensnare would-be adventurers. Focused hoofsteps pattered as they made their way through the dense wilds, careful to avoid overgrown roots and obstacles littering the path they took. A cloak forever fluttered behind a unicorn as they lead swiftly in front of a pegasus knight. A pair of violet eyes holding determination shared equally a passion for their task--and a mutual distaste for the presence of the other in their company--cut through the evening tint of dark. Even the wildlife knew well enough to steer clear of their beholder, and the sounds of such were seldom heard.

"You could at least try to keep up. I was sure you always boasted of being the best athlete, on top of flier, in all of Equestria at some point or another," sneered the unicorn that led the way.

"This coming from the Great and Powerful Trixie? Puh-lease. I'm only tagging along as a safety precaution this time," retorted her pegasus companion.

Trixie stopped and adjusted her hat in an intrepid manner before turning to her companion with a scowl of annoyance. The pegasus only returned an incredulous look, furthering her ire. She stomped over to her and raised her nose high while maintaining eye contact with her.

"And only an escort is all you could ever hope to be. You achieved your foalish dream of flying for show and fame, and then you threw it away for the royal guard. Then, in your infinite lack of foresight and wisdom, threw away a Captain's rank for this lazy position of... of... 'Celestial Knight'. And yet, here you are, merely an escort to that of a superior unicorn, even a year later."

The knight glowered menacingly, biting back the urge to hit the high and mighty unicorn out of her conceit. Despite her feelings, the anger of the insulting words subsided and she ignored her impulses. She tugged at her baldric and adjusted her sword and shield before marching past the unicorn, extending a huff as she broke eye contact.

"Let's just go this over with," she stated simplistically, hiding her agitation.

Trixie trotted in front of her before slowing to a comfortable pace to lead by. In her effort to walk as proudly as her body would allow, she stripped over a rock. Loosing a sudden squeal, she stumbled forward several steps before falling to the ground, unable to regain her equilibrium. Frustrated by her companion's presence already, she was met with laughter at her clumsiness.

"You know, you really should watch where you're going," Rainbow Dash added at the end of a snort.

In response, Trixie's horn shimmered, conjuring a tiny storm cloud in the open air that blasted the knight's flank with a small bolt of electricity. Dash leaped at the quick, nostalgic burn and whirled around to inspect the damage. With the balancing humility restored, Trixie was the one with chuckles of joy as Dash gaped at her singed tail.

"You're going to pay for that!"

"Oh, really now? You weren’t in any position to do anything the last time," she muttered, rolling her eyes.


The blue glow of magic-borne flames lit up the faces of Twilight and Celestia, two braziers placed opposite of one another; a cerulean orb laid in the grasp of a pedestal between the flames, casting images of the knight and magician to the watchers. Twilight made a mental note of how much it seemed like a dream sequence as she observed silently, the images appearing with a cloudy blur over them. She glanced around into the darkness to find a notepad for a loose thought, squinting until the particular one came into view. The area around them had been littered with books, a few stray notepads strewn about in a particular order.

Mild amusement founded itself on their faces as they spied upon the two during their quest in the forest. Celestia glanced up to see Twilight’s head as a dark blur, her mane obscuring her face while she pulled away to find the notepad. She returned her gaze to the glass orb, but the scribbling of a quill could be heard over the quiet fires in the braziers. "My faithful student, I commend you for this idea, but are you sure they will be alright?" inquired the sun princess as she looked up again to the one across from her.

Twilight shook her head and deepened her gaze with thoughtfulness. "Maybe not, but if we're all going to be working together and seeing each other more often... It's a perfect teamwork exercise, don't you think?"

Celestia pondered the idea for a bit, contemplating the potential for disastrous results. Her faithful knight and her faithful student's faithful student, both with a distaste for the other's presence around Twilight, were directly put into danger. She was conflicted at remaining idle in the situation and fidgeted uncomfortably.

"I trust that you are capable of intervening should the need arise--when it does."

Twilight hadn't looked up from the orb, constantly observing the task as often as possible while the quill continued to jot notes in the darkness. She levitated the quill to another piece of parchment laying next to her as she spoke. Faint sounds of the writing played behind her voice as the feather danced in a diligent syntax. "Trixie doesn't know it yet, but a magical rune is weaved into the lining inside of her cloak. If she ever winds up in danger, I can teleport to it from long distances without exhausting too much magic. They'll be fine," she finished, smiling proudly.

The assurance that Twilight had planned in advance for the great danger, or petty quarrels, of her beloved came as a welcome relief to the princess. As the party of two came to a resting point in the forest, they chose to turn in for the night beneath the canopy of the trees. When they yawned, the scrying orb elicited one from each of its observers.

"Perhaps it is time that we went to bed as well. The moon is already rising high and Luna is probably covering the royal duties now. I'll see you in the morning, Twilight."

The unicorn nodded in affirmation and the glassy orb ended its seamless streaming, returning to clear. With her horn glowing with a sudden light, she extinguished the two braziers and illuminated the room herself. Weary eyes received rubs of comfort before blinking a few times and glancing over the array of materials around her scrying area.

Her body protested prioritizing tidying up over the incentive of sleep, even if it was as simple as using her magic for a few more moments. She wanted to use it for something else before she allowed herself to rest. "I'll clean this up tomorrow. If you see Princess Luna before you go to sleep, tell her I said, 'Hi.'"

Celestia gave a warm smile and nod before departing the chambers. "Goodnight to you, too."

Twilight removed her own cloak and set it upon a hook. When the door closed in her mentor's wake, she moved to a nightstand beside her bed, and made sure to lock the door with her telekinesis. Casting a cautious glance to the door, she pulled open the top drawer and reached inside to the back. A small book with a red snake tongue's bookmark peeking from the top, taunting anyone to read it, was pulled free. Twilight levitated it before her and opened it, snatching her previous quill again to write down something for her eyes only.

'Trixie has become increasingly agitated by Rainbow Dash's new position. They both spend a lot of time with and around me, but I fear she is jealous of Rainbow's presence. This exercise only continues to reinforce the idea behind my scheme. I’m wondering if both of them aren’t just homesick rivals now. I was sure of their feelings before, but observing my student and my friend continuing to fight has led me to question whether or not I need to be absolutely sure.'

Twilight paused the writing, turning around to ensure the door was locked again. She sighed and slipped into bed, continuing to write and dwell on her theories. Her body already began relaxing and made it difficult to maintain focus on logging her thoughts.

'No, I remember now. Rainbow was about to go to Ponyville before I asked Princess Celestia to insist that she stayed for this one mission before she left. Does she know it was me? My observations have not given way to any idea as such, but I do wonder. I don't think she’s shallow but... Nonetheless, I must know if those two are going to be a risk to one another. Oh, things wouldn’t be so complicated if they could just let the past go. Their egos are so inflated...'

The words groaned in the final sentence as she considered dictating the writing. The book snapped shut, devouring the quill and bookmark together. She sighed and tucked it into the back of the drawer in the nightstand. She peered back over the mess of her studies and scrying once more, then to the door, her night vision outlining everything. She yawned and, with her task complete, she rolled over and let sleep take her from reality.


Guileful hooves carefully maneuvered across the floors of the ornate castle corridors. Each step alarmed the stealthy owner to caution, but she showed little more than taking each step with intense focus. Determination smeared itself over Luna's dark face as she moved in as much silence as she could muster, her form still maintaining a regal grace to match her subdued gait. Arriving at Twilight's chambers, she wandered beyond and checked all of the connecting corridors. No guards had patrolled through, or perhaps they had already made a round and she merely lucked out.

Suppressing a harrumph, the moon princess dissolved into a starry, smoky cloud and seeped beneath the door and into the dim chambers. Perfect night vision removed the necessity of light in the darkness and she could glean out every object in abstract detail. Moving carefully through the mess of books, parchment, and quills, Luna stepped towards the bed. She stopped and loomed over the sleeping form of Twilight for a moment; her eyes studied the unicorn's body, staring intently at the rise and fall of her chest in calmed rhythm. Casting away her fixation, her starry mane enveloped her horn to hide the glow of magic opening her nightstand. She held her breath as the dark blue formed over the nightstand.

With the speed of a decrepit tortoise, the drawer opened and the contents removed themselves and shuffled about in the air in silence. Twilight's hidden diary was brought to the front and she confirmed its authenticity upon a closer examination. Her heart sank and her mane procured a book and quill of its own, dispensing beside the diary. With the other contents of the drawer still floating around, she opened the diary to the latest entries. With a sigh in her mind, the latest entry of the diary was copied into the magic-borne book quickly, the soft scribbling compelling Luna to constantly watch Twilight's body for fear she may stir and awaken.

Twilight shifted and moaned in her sleep ending the writing and increasing the heart rate of the moon princess. Luna's eyes locked onto the unicorn without moving any fiber of her being or letting any of the objects shift in her magic. Twilight rolled to her side and away from of the edge of the bed on Luna's side. The princess breathed out in silent relief and finished the copying in haste. Her mane swallowed the book and quill and she placed everything back in the drawer, careful to make it appear as though it were never disturbed, and then allowing her mane to move back to its natural resting and out of its ridiculous shape to conceal her horn.

Luna crept back across the room, dodging tomes once more. She made it to the door with the absence of noise. Smirking pride in the darkness at her stealth skills, she dissolved into her cloud and flowed under the door again, appearing on the other side in relief. She turned to creep away, proud of the task accomplished in utter secrecy.

"That was quick," came Celestia’s voice from a very close proximity.

The younger sister nearly jumped out of her skin as her heart skipped a beat and she stumbled against the wall, avoiding unnecessary sounds and barely suppressing a startled squeal. With a few hyperventilated breaths and a free hoof to her chest, she collected herself and restored her composure, a few strands of her mane still frazzled to mark the instance of her alarm.

"Do not do that!" she scolded her sister in hushed irritation. The sun princess merely giggled in delight at scaring the incarnate of darkness herself.

"Forgive me. I couldn't let that opportunity pass. Now, do you have it?"

Luna nodded and her mane produced the notebook for her sister. She nodded and flipped to the latest entries, perusing the contents. A small chuckle left her as she finished reading and closed it.

"Quite the thinker. Her foresight and desire to get along with everyone are good traits. I believe she will be ready to begin helping us before too long," remarked Celestia.

Luna cautiously raised an eyebrow. "Do you not think her relationship will complicate or damage your vision for her?"

Celestia shook her head in response. "No. I think it will only bolster her resolve and confidence. Though, I honestly never expected you to add any guidance to her love. Now why did you do that?" Celestia added with a spreading grin.

Luna blushed, but forced her face to remain even. "I simply commented on what I felt was right since Twilight had not pushed for it yet. Why, should I not have?" she asked defensively.

"It's... fine, and a wonderful bonus to her nonetheless." Celestia smiled as she mulled it over.

Luna huffed and led the way back to Celestia's royal chambers. "Do you believe her complaints are justified? I do not feel as though Knight-Captain Dash and Ms. Lulamoon would jeopardize their positions, nor endanger themselves intentionally." She gave a doubtful look to Celestia, unsure of that herself.

"I believe the trial she has setup will answer and solve this for us. Rainbow Dash has never liked Trixie, but I think she's curious if Rainbow Dash is jealous that Trixie is stealing much her attention now."

"Is Rainbow Dash jealous of that?" asked Luna, raising an eyebrow.

"I don’t think so. She simply dislikes Trixie being around her friend--that somepony she dislikes is her friend's lover. Twilight has a very forgiving and open heart, but I fear it may lead her into trouble some day," replied Celestia with a sigh.

"Will you ever be truthful with her as to your intentions of this very time, when she does not know?" asked Luna suddenly, forcefully. There was a tone of disgust lining her voice.

Celestia stopped and narrowed her eyes to her. "Do not be coy Luna. Speak whatever is on your mind," she said sharply.

Luna quickly cut in front of her and brought her face closer to Celestia's. "You are using her for something she may not be capable of handling. I do not think she will be fine with what you plan to have her do."

"And that is exactly why we are keeping a close watch. I don't intend to throw her to the wolves. I am surprised you are doubting yourself now. When the time comes, she will be ready. Trust me and trust her, Luna. It will be the best for all of Equestria."

Luna backed down from the argument and continued walking ahead, but her thoughts still stormed in her mind. Celestia hesitated when following, the guilt of her actions holding her back. She kept her head lowered while Luna raised hers in haughty disapproval.

"I don't want to do this anymore than you do, but having her as a proxy is truly for the best."

"Tell me then, does she know where our information comes from?" pressed the moon princess. “This is a dangerous gamble--one that is not in our favor.”

"No, and I know. She will never learn of our source directly from us I hope. I cannot afford to lose her trust. Not now." Her heart twisted. May these secrets be our salvation...

"She will find out eventually. What will she think then, knowing her trust has been abused?"

Celestia shook her head again, her eyes watering. "Hopefully... she will only find out when it has all come to pass. If not, I will endure the justly consequences," she said, adding a grimace. The thought was petrifying. All of her trust and love for Twilight would be painfully rejected if she uncovered the truth too soon. Even so, knowing at all would surely send ripples of tension through their bond.

"I pray that she understands, but I will still carry doubts of my own," said Luna, undertones of apathy lining her words. She straightened up and moved through a branching corridor. "Goodnight, sister," her voiced echoed through the darkness as she melded with the darkness where there was no light.

Celestia sighed and retired to her chambers for the rest of the evening. She opened her door, no creaks from the perfectly oiled hinge to alert any staff to her presence. She waited until it closed behind her before moving to lay in front of the fireplace, opening the notebook and reviewing the copied entry. After looking it over she flipped back to the first page.

'I'm starting this journal for my thoughts this day. Today, I have become an Archmage for Princess Celestia. I'm so happy, but there's so much more! Trixie came and tried to crash the ceremony and the party. That unicorn never learned her lesson after all, but she’s so predictable. However, I managed to convince her to let me take her on as an apprentice with the encouragement of the princesses. I get to be her mentor! Me! I'm so excited, but I’m so nervous! I always try to think of how Princess Celestia taught me.'

Celestia smiled, but stifled her regrets of having Twilight in Canterlot. She loved spending time with her, but knew that sending her a bit more abroad with her friends would be much better for her growth. Her eyes read on, carefully tracing Twilight's documented thoughts and course of planning. Every emotion the lines offered were more insight to the unicorn’s well-being and methodology.

'I think I will start her on concepts or magic theory, something easy. She has a lot of potential with her magic, but no discipline. That just won’t do. I wonder how well she takes to any newer ideas. It's going to be hard crushing her overconfidence in her abilities, though. I can't think of any other way she will learn without experiencing her failures first hoof. I don't know what she did immediately after the Ursa Minor incident in Ponyville, but I hope her travels have helped open her mind.'

Celestia scanned through several more entries, chuckling slightly as the details of what she could not always be around for flourished in her mind.

'Oh boy. I got an earful from my friends after the Archmage ceremony, but this is going to be much worse. Rainbow Dash left the Wonderbolts today! Her lifelong dream of flying with the best and performing with them and she just left. She hasn’t even been with them all that long. Now she's joining the royal guard instead. Princess Celestia thinks she will make a strong leader and knight some day. I groaned at the notion or her being around Trixie more. I need to figure out a way to get those two to get along or I'm never going to hear the end of their bickering.'

"And figure it out you have. No matter how this ends, I think they will get along just fine if you’re there to remind them what truly matters." She neared the most recent entries, drinking in the bittersweet reminiscence.

'Alright, I can't play mediator anymore. Rainbow Dash has been inducted into a military rank I didn't even know about: Celestial Knight. She is now directly commanded by the princesses for more extreme tasks, but at the same time, has more free time when she's not out conducting missions. It's apparently a great honor, but now she stays in Canterlot even more... and fights with Trixie just as much. I've got a plan to make sure that they get along. With Princess Celestia's help, I know I can make this work.'

The sun princess laughed out loud at recalling Twilight's original approach. An odd and extreme idea, but her student still came off as meek to her. She closed the diary, and pushed away her guilt, hiding the diary in the back of a desk drawer. She looked up to the mantel to see a picture of her and Twilight together when she was just a filly entering her School of Gifted Unicorns. The picture reflected back a sad smile by light of the flickering fireplace.

"Luna understands, and I know you shall in time. But even then... could you ever... forgive me?"


Twilight awoke to the sounds of some of her books being shuffled around. She sat up and caught several of them being stored back into her personal shelf. Blurry, lingering images of a dream already forgotten meshed poorly with the unprocessed reality before her. Leaping out of bed, she nearly bumped into the source of the commotion without looking away from the shelves. She failed to untangle herself from her sheets and blankets and fell down, quickly rising back up to cover her clumsiness.

"Oh. Good morning, Twilight. I hope you don't mind, but I thought I'd clean up for you before you began scrying again," Celestia greeted. She was putting all of the unneeded materials away while reorganizing what she did need.

The unicorn rubbed her eyes and loosed a loud yawn. "Oh, it's just you Celestia. Thank you," she muttered, smacking her lips. Her bed covers levitated back to the massive slab of comfort she called her mattress and immediately reorganized themselves.

"Do you wish to dine with Luna and I this morning?" she asked as the final book slid squarely into place.

Twilight nodded and snatched her signature cloak from a rack, choosing not to don the hood while in the presence of her mentor. Her staff levitated behind and fastened to her back over it. It signified her status as an archmage even if she didn't require it for anything. “Let me just freshen up first.” She disappeared into a bathroom for several minutes and returned with a more kempt appearance, her mane straightened and her face washed.

They exited the room and headed down the main corridors. Twilight did her best to reciprocate the greetings of the castle staff. She took the time of the walk to fully awaken and take in the day. They arrived at the throne room, the large, ornate doors now familiar to her, and strolled in.

Princess Luna rested idly at the helm of the room. Her eyes were glazed with boredom as she seemed distant in the moment. She stared blankly at the red carpet stretching to her, almost as if she might fall asleep at any moment. As the hoofsteps of new guests crept into the room, she glanced up to see who it was. Her expression brightened immediately at the presence of Celestia and Twilight. The pair exchanged several words out of earshot before Twilight approached her. Celestia departed the room without saying anything more.

"Good morning, Luna," chirped the unicorn.

"Good morning to you as well, Twilight." Her voice came all too happily now that there was another pony to talk to. The morning peace sometimes made her feel lonely.

"I didn't think we would find you here so early... or is it late?" Twilight looked around the room. The two guards normally stationed in the throne weren’t there. Must be patrolling, she thought.

"I am allotted much free time, both thanks to my sister, and bureaucratic ponies such as the Royal Council of Magi--like yourself--to bring equilibrium to the duties of our esteemed government. I am free to do whatever I please, but they may always contact me should the need arise."

"Oh, please, Princess. You know I’m rarely involved with that stuff," she said while rolling her eyes. "I much prefer you or Celestia sending me off to do whatever she needs." Luna admired Twilight's devotion to them, longing to have as much admiration towards her from the rest of their subjects.

"Are you comfortable sending Trixie off in a similar manner?" Luna asked casually.

The question caught Twilight off guard. She chewed her lower lip with a reminder of her apprehensions about letting her beloved be so far away, previously risking going out of reach of her protective reach in common circumstances."...No, but I’ve finally managed to solve that problem to some degree," she said with a confident inflection.

"Ah, yes. Your research into runes and glyphs that would allow you to teleport to marked locations with greater ease. A most impressive pursuit and investment." The moon princess gushed pride at the unicorn's ingenuity.

Twilight beamed her own pride at the achievement and personal problem solving. "I didn't like letting her go off by herself into danger. I could watch her from really far away, but I couldn't teleport far enough and still have a lot of magic left if she ever got into trouble."

Luna turned her eyes to the door with a subtle wonderment in them. "Is she... the only one who possesses such a rune?"

There was a long pause before a reply. "No... There are others," responded Twilight. Her tone slipped into the distance. She seemed sad or regretful, but Luna was unable to tell which or why.

"Do you inscribe the ponies, or a belonging oft kept with them?" She returned her gaze to her friend.

"I don't...!" Twilight's response came a bit sudden, bringing a blush with it, and she had nothing to add to it.

"Are they not an invasion of one's privacy?"

"Err..." Twilight’s blushed deepened at the implications. "They're attached to objects or garments, never the ponies themselves. Trixie's cloak, Rainbow Dash's..." she trailed off biting her lip and scratching at the floor.

"Oh? Like a piece of armor, or perhaps her shield?"

"Her... left wing." She turned her head to the floor, embarrassed with her own overcautious decision.

"So then you do inscribe ponies."

"She never carries any one thing all the time. We work together occasionally and this way I can always keep an eye on her, too," she protested quickly with a mild groan.

"Do not worry, Twilight. Your secret shall be safe with me," Luna whispered, and added a wink and smile.

"I know, it's just... a little embarrassing though."

"I am not judging you. I understand your desire to keep your friends safe and nearby. I am very fond of your residence in Canterlot's castle at the same time," smiled Luna. "You freed me and have always been there to talk to and guide me in these current times; a true friend within every sense of the idea."

"Aww, thank you, Luna. If you don't mind me asking, but how do you deal with...” She paused, shifting her eyes to the door and back then back to Luna’s expectant gaze. “Immortality and having mortal friends?" The question took the princess back. She gaped at Twilight momentarily before articulating a response slowly. "Ah, I'm sorry, Luna!"

"No... you are not at fault with your question, Twilight." Luna's gaze became distant again. "It is... not easy. Celestia and I treasure our friendships, no matter how fleeting they may seem to us. It is painful to live forever and watch your friends die. It never becomes easy, and it never should." Her face became sullen and she looked to the floor and recalled friends of the past for a moment. She looked up to face the unicorn with a new determination. "It is important that you hang onto those friendships no matter what happens. They are what make life worth living, Twilight, even if we outlive them. Never forget that."

"I won't forget, I promise," she said quietly with a smile.

Luna melted under that smile. A pony truly kind and honest with her; a friendship she wanted to last forever. The pit of her stomach turned into a well of guilt. "I do not believe you will," she replied. Her voice barely kept from wavering but Twilight took no notice of it.

Princess Celestia returned to announce breakfast had been prepared. The pair hungry ponies at the throne moved to follow her to the dining hall. The table had been set with a usual grand array of food, ranging from fruits to vegetables. Though not engorging themselves, they ate their fill. Once finished, it was time for Twilight to return to the scrying.

"Hmm. Do you think they will be successful?" asked Luna.

"Which part? Becoming friends or finishing the task?" replied Twilight in a half-joking manner.

"Hmm... Both. May I join you in observing them this time?"

Twilight shot her a wondering look before it shifted into acceptance. "Of course you can, Luna."

They returned to Twilight's chambers, and despite Celestia having cleaned up much of it, the required scrying materials still gave a messy vibe to the area. The braziers were prepared and the glassy orb remained inert on its pedestal. Twilight rubbed her hooves together and quickly set about to darkening the room and lighting the braziers. The room took on its shadowy, blue tone and the unicorn moved over to the orb with an eager look on her face. The two princesses sat opposite of her and peered in as the magic set the stage for observation.


"It's been, like, a day now. How deep into this forsaken forest is the Ursa Major?" complained Trixie.

Dash grumbled loudly in annoyance. Trixie had been complaining all morning about the journey through the forest. From Rainbow Dash not carrying her and flying to how much she missed the royal furnishings to sleep on. If there was something she didn't like, she had something to say about it.

"...And please cut more of the brush out of the way. A rose bush almost frayed my cloak back there."

Dash had had it with the unicorn. "WILL YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP!?" she bellowed out of annoyance.

Trixie stared back as if she didn't understand her before sneering and saying, "No."

Dash turned around and stomped closer. "All you have done is complain! Why are you even here? Why am I even here?" she questioned out loud.

"Honestly, do you think that I want to be here with you anymore than I want to be out here roaming around aimlessly in this forsaken forest?" yelled back the magician.

"Then why don't you just LEAVE? If it wasn’t for Twilight-!"

Before the knight could finish, a massive paw crashed down onto her with two of the claws digging into her wings, the force blasting debris everywhere. Trixie yelped and reeled backwards while Dash reached out a weak hoof helplessly to Trixie. The magician charged up a blast of invisible force, knocking the paw away. Dash quickly clambered up and drew her broadsword and shield, clenching her teeth to combat the pain. The bear swiped at them both and the knight flew above to avoid it.

Trixie shielded herself but was knocked backwards, the sheer power behind the attack breaking her defensive magic. The Ursa Major's raw power completely exceeded her estimations. She skidded across the forest floor and hit the base of a tree. Winded and bleeding from the back of her head, she shakily stood up and forced air back into her lungs. Dash stole its attention by slashing the paw and circling back around. The Ursa roared and pulled back quickly before angrily charging forward again.

Dash gasped as Trixie neared recovery. She would be unable to focus herself enough or dodge the charge in time. Trixie grabbed her staff and prepared to do whatever she could to survive. As the bear rampaged on, her shaky vision jumped at her, and her horn shined brightly through the lack of focus. In a fearsome tackle, the Ursa crashed into the ground flowing debris and dust into her face. She hadn't gotten a single spell off, but the bear had stopped only a few meters from her.

"Are... you... alright?" asked Dash in low grunts as she struggled to hold the bear's muzzle back. She was standing with her chest pressed against its lower jaw and her front hooves spread out in an attempt to catch as much of it as possible. The broadsword she carried had fallen from her bracing hooves, glinting where the shade of the trees couldn’t cover it. A canine cut through Dash’s helmet, grazing her head and resulting in a slow blood trickle down her face. The knight's eyes were fierce and focused on the beast before her.

Trixie had never seen her demonstrate just how physically strong she was. A few inches of struggling ensued before Dash whirled around and in a single, swift motion, snatched the sword from the ground and slashed a vertical cut into the snout, sending the massive beast reeling back. She slid backwards from the force while the Ursa coiled onto its hind legs, whining in pain.

"Wow, you're a lot stronger than I thought... Is this what a Celestial Knight is really like?" mumbled Trixie in astonishment.

"Snap out of it! This is a real battle. Pay attention or we’re going to die!" returned the knight swiftly.

The bear roared again and swung back with blood dripping from its jowls. Trixie powered up, and a large storm abruptly formed overhead, a heavy rain soon following it and turning the dirt ground to mud. Dash could be heard groaning as the rain, thunder, and lightning started. Booms of thunder reverberated through the air while the Ursa remained unfazed by the display. Trixie took her staff and raised it high and lightning cascaded upon the Ursa's frame, searing flesh with every lick. The Ursa howled and blindly raged forward. Prepared this time, Trixie erected a much more powerful barrier. The bear swiped at it with colossal force that shook the ground on impact, but the barrier held fast.

Dash flew to the underside and sliced at the stomach, attempting a quick disembowelment. It ultimately failed when the frame was too massive to cut to anything vital. She became bathed in blood from the strikes nonetheless. The bear spun around and bat her out of the air as she made her way back into the open sky. The knight slammed into a distant tree beyond her view and became silent.

"Damn it, this is bad!" cursed Trixie. The lightning storm ceased and a flame whirled around her and spiraled up to the staff. It burst forth into a rotating inferno. The Ursa attempted to side step it, but the flame coursed its way back to it and ignited it. The beast howled and rolled around, the flames quickly dissipated in the smothering and the rain.

The beast’s fortitude proved to be stronger and it remained standing on all fours, roaring and launching into a charge again. Trixie fired several blasts of energy at its face, but it continued its blind charge. Out of options, she put all of her energy into another barrier. The Ursa Major crashed into it with its full weight behind it, the ground heaving. The spell shattered in a blast of light and the bear's body smashed the unicorn into the ground. As it rose and stepped back, Trixie was revealed once more, bloody and unconscious.

"Twilight, I believe it is time you assisted them," chimed in Celestia with urgency.

"Not, yet..." she muttered in response, her eyes deeply focused on the situation below.

"But Twilight, surely they could die if you do not help them now," interjected Luna with open worry.

The unicorn looked up with confidence shining in her eyes. "I promise you they will not die. Rainbow Dash has a little more fight in her. I want to see what happens..."

Her assumption was tested as the bear slammed down its right paw for the deathblow. The Celestial Knight moved with incredible celerity to Trixie and protected her from the attack; the finishing strike intended for the magician was met with the tip of the knight's sword along with Dash's shoulder and other hoof to reinforce the defense. The bear squealed at the puncture wound and to its hind quarters while shaking the paw frantically. Blood was splashed onto the trees painting the leaves with thick splotches of crimson.

Dash appeared missing her helmet and shield, blood from the beast and herself layering over her cyan coat. The bear unleashed a shrill battle cry before slamming both paws down in a follow up. Dash dropped the blade and used only her hooves to shield herself. The ground shuddered on impact, ground zero filling with an unnatural explosion of dirt and debris that saturated the open space. When the dust settled, Dash was standing over Trixie holding back the bear's paws. Surprised, the Ursa Major unintentionally relaxed the attack.

Seizing the opportunity, the knight forced the paw away and picked up her broadsword. Her movements were too dulled to move gracefully and the Ursa followed up with a second double swipe. She attempted to block with the sword again, but the next attack broke her stance. Her sword fell to the ground and she was left huddled over Trixie, the bear beating her into the ground. It struck her back twice more and the knight finally collapsed in defeat, her remarkable endurance and strength having failed her. The bear leaned low and howled triumphantly, craning its neck outward with its head tilting back. In a final stroke to end the lives of the ponies on the ground, it pulled back for assurance its foes would be vanquished this.

This is it... I'm gonna die... Twilight, Rainbow... I'm sorry... thought Trixie as her blurry vision caught the outlines of incoming death. Dash was laying across her alive, but unconscious. Trixie's own injuries prevented her from any powerful magic. It was the end of the line. She held out a weak hoof as if to ward death away or plea for it to stop.

The paws crashed into the ground with tremendous force, the forest trembling again in its wake. A slew of mud from the storm tided outwards briefly. A faint light preceded the flying debris, and Twilight appeared with both Dash and Trixie laid out beside each other on the ground. She stood in front of them to face the Ursa Major with her horn glowing brightly. Her eyes could barely peak out from beneath the brim of her hood, but they carried a dark look. The bear swung around in a wide, sweeping arc as it twisted its body. Twilight created a translucent wall beside the mares on the ground, preventing the strike from ever connecting. The Ursa's paw was quickly pulled back at the unexpected block, the barrier stopping all force and only crackling slightly. The Ursa charged forward in an effort to kill all three of them with its weight.

The ground swirled and dirt and mud waved outwards from Twilight. Her staff moved into the air, encased in a purple aura, and stamped the ground. A nova of ice and wind ringed out from her position and struck the bear in the face, freezing the ground in a coat of ice. Blinded by the spell, the Ursa stumbled backwards, pawing at its face and yelping in pain. Before it could regain proper footing, Twilight shifted to a bipedal stance and she took the staff into her forehooves.

"Mjollnir!" she called out over the anguished cries of the beast.

A bolt of lightning half the size of the Ursa Major tore down from the heavens and raked the Ursa's back. The yelp that followed could've shattered windows through sheer volume; Trixie could almost feel the pain in the horrifying cry as it reverberated throughout the forest. Her vision had failed her now and she was left with a subconscious grasp of the world. Twilight as the Ursa fell to the ground in defeat. She moved closer and peered into the eyes, forcing herself to breath through her mouth and avoid the scent of its burning flesh. Harsh breaths could be heard from the bear that slowed down as it finally slipped into unconsciousness.

Twilight's staff replaced itself upon her back as she walked over to Dash's sword. She picked it up and inspected it, running a careful hoof along the straight edge. She slashed a few times before carrying it to the Ursa Major. Climbing up to its head, she made sure to cast her back to her fallen comrades. Raising the hilt above her head, she took deep breaths in preparation for what she was about to do.

"Stop... I'll do it..." croaked Dash from behind. Twilight snapped up and turned around to glimpse the fallen knight creeping up from behind, blood matting down her face and back in a heavy sheet. With labored breaths and staggered jerks for steps, the knight continued forcing herself through the pain of injuries. Her breastplate had been broken and dented in several places with two of her bracers missing. Twilight reluctantly levitated the blade to her. As Dash took it in her grasp, she muttered, "Mission complete," before collapsing back down to the mud and dropping it.

Twilight dropped down and retrieved the sword, rolling the pegasus onto her back. "Rest up, Rainbow. It's over now," she cooed. She leaped back atop the head and took several deep breaths again. A loud clack of the blade hitting the bear's skull filled the air several times. The final sound Trixie could hear was the audible crack of Twilight breaking the skull. The blade punctured through and ended the bear's life. The unicorn grimaced at the blood that splattered on herself, taking more breaths to calm her nerves. She wiped the blade off on her dark cloak and tucked it away. The rain began to pour heavier and she looked up to the overcast sky. A quick nod to the princess ensured the deed was done and she moved to teleport her friends back.

"I believe the time is soon..." commented Celestia with a mournful tone.

Luna's lids lowered at the notion. "I will prepare the weapons. They will need their time to recover anyway."

"They will have it. I will dispatch a squad to dispose of the Ursa Major’s body. Taking life--any life--is always... regretful." Celestia removed her crown with her magic and massaged her temples before replacing it.

Luna paused for a moment. "Do you truly feel Twilight is ready for such a thing?"

The sun princess faced her with hollow look. "No one is ever truly ready... I know only that she is willing. Slaying a rabid beast is dry on the heart... but a being with a visible soul is not." Luna silently acknowledged the words and left.

Twilight teleported in, the flicker of a rune appeared on the carpet briefly, and set her cloak upon a rack. It was dampened by water and blood, dripping lightly to the floor. She held out Dash's sword before the princess, allowing her to inspect it closely.

"This needs to be sharpened or tempered again," she said. "It doesn't seem fit for a Celestial Knight." The blade rotated slowly for observation. Scratches and nicks lined it, but the worst of its condition was that the blade was bent slightly at the hilt.

"I will have it replaced with something better very soon. All Celestial Knights are given a unique sword to wield when they are ready to operate independent of others." Celestia took the sword into her own magic. "I suppose you don't need to debrief me. May I ask why you waited so long to intervene?"

Twilight loosed an exasperated sigh before chewing on her bottom lip. Her eyes shifted back and forth before locking with Celestia's expectant gaze. "I guess I could've helped sooner, but I wanted to know how strong Rainbow Dash was. I've never seen another Celestial Knight before. Waiting also let me know how that their values are more important than their petty squabbles. After all, it's the values like friendship that count." She grinned sheepishly and rubbed the back of her head with mild embarrassment glowing upon her cheeks. Celestia gave a thoughtful look, appearing more like an uncertain wince.

"I understand. I must prepare some things, though. There are no pressing matters right now, so why don't you relax and see to your friends' recovery?" Twilight looked to the side and the princess hesitated in moving on. "Was there something else?"

"No... I'm just surprised by how strong Rainbow Dash really is. I guess the way Luna spoke earlier meant something else..."

A confused, "What?" filled the air briefly. "Oh, that. You are correct. Perhaps you should inform your friends of your plan all along. I don't think they'll be too pleased if it comes out later, rather than sooner." With that, Celestia left.

Twilight cleaned up her scrying setup and made her way to the castle infirmary. She found the mares laying in beds side by side with nurses and doctors scurrying about to tend to their grievous wounds. Despite being cleaned up, they were both bruised in various places with each bearing casts and a neck brace. Dash had far more casts and bandages than Trixie, though.

"Oh good, you're both awake," Twilight said with some relief. She received groans and some eye focus in response. "Now, let me have your attention, please. I orchestrated that entire mission, save for the actual part of dispatching the Ursa Major. Trixie and I could've done that without you and you could've just gone home, Rainbow."

"WHAT!?" snapped the knight in response. She attempted to sit up, but her muscles were no longer aided by adrenaline to combat the debilitating pain. Instead, she loosed a pained, angry groan and sank back into her pillow, a deep scowl replacing her groggy expression.

"What the hay? Why? You almost got us killed! That Ursa Major was ridiculously strong!" Trixie's voice reflected her feelings of betrayal, but she paused for an explanation.

Twilight closed her eyes and cleared her throat into a hoof. "I did it so that you would work together. Rainbow, you have been constantly fighting with her since she first became my apprentice." The knight rolled her eyes, only for them to return under the scrutiny of Twilight's frown.

"And you, Trixie, haven't made it any easier either. I set this up so that you two would work together, and, with nothing short of a miracle, become friends. Princess Celestia helped me with this." Twilight paused for questions.

"Ok, so...? We completed the mission. We're not exactly best friends..." started Dash.

"Twilight, just because we fight, doesn't mean we hate each other and won't work together... I merely enjoy antagonizing Rainbow Dash," snickered Trixie, casting a smug glance to the pegasus.

"So we could've avoided this whole thing if we didn't argue?" Dash uttered in complete disbelief.

"Not exactly. I'm glad you two worked with the other's well being in mind. I would just like you two to be friends all the time--not just when in danger." The injured ponies slumped further into their pillows in defeat while Twilight grinned happily. "You're both my friends... and if you're both going to be around me then you better get along!" The last sentence came out in a strangely dark, sing-song fashion.

"Alright, I am definitely going home when I can move, but not before I kick your flank," grumbled Dash.

"You had better make this up to me, Twilight!" cried Trixie, though her words came out more in a grinding fashion. “You better!”

Twilight wandered out of the room smiling. Well, that probably could've gone much better.

Author's Note:

3/1/2013 -- Updated to final. Probably needs an additional proofread, but old mistakes were preened out.

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