• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 7,661 Views, 342 Comments

Alienation - Longtooth



I am not Twilight Sparkle. We share one body, one past, but not our souls. I do not know why I am here, or why I have done these terrible things. This is my story.

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The night was as beautifully clear as it could get. The moon shone with a delicate silver light that edged the white towers of Canterlot in an otherworldly glow. It was quiet out, ponies worried by the news of a potential 'gang war' staying inside for safety. That included, thankfully, the dealers and addicts who were my targets. They had a lookout on top of the building, but he'd been easy to dispatch. I stood on the roof the building across the street from my target, unseen, unhurried. I took a deep breath of the night air, and slowly let it out as I focused on the task at hoof.

Then I picked up the discarded couch and telekinetically rammed it through the wall of the dealer's hideout. Brick and mortar exploded into the converted apartment, showering whoever was inside with debris. I heard the screams of surprise and fear from where I was, and it brought a smile to my face.

I teleported across the street, dropping onto the part of the couch that stuck out of the broken wall and bounced through the hole, bypassing the wards that had been laid across the walls to prevent me from just going straight inside. The oppressive weight of dark magic hit me immediately, and I saw what they had been using to protect their lair. The walls were covered in black crystal, the tiny grains of the drug grown to sharp clumps the size of a hoof by feeding them on black magic. No wonder my probing spells had been ineffective, I was just feeding these growths.

It was clever, and it showed a level of understanding of the black crystal that the other hadn't possessed. I was dealing with a pony who knew what he was doing.

I couldn't spend time admiring the defenses, though, as the ponies inside reacted to my presence with immediate violence. An emaciated earth pony launched herself at me with a scream. I dodged out of the way, flaring my coat to disorient her and hide my exact position from the others. The addict mare slammed a hoof into the arm of the couch, shattering it where the impact through the wall hadn't. I took the opportunity to raise a hoof to each side of her head, my horn bursting to light as I cast a simple electricity spell, and passed a current through her skull.

As the first attacker was dropping in convulsions another was already rushing at me, an iron crowbar clutched in his teeth. He swung hard at me, but his approach had been painfully obvious and I was ready. My coat snapped out, striking the swinging bar hard enough to completely reverse its momentum. Physics did its work, and the pony who had swung at me found his jaw completely dislocated, teeth shattered. The now-uncontrolled crowbar completed its spin against the pony's head, and he dropped as well.

I grabbed the bar with my magic and stepped past my downed assailants, taking stock of the room I found myself in. It was dark inside, no lights that I could see at all, but the moonlight coming through the hole in the wall was enough to give me a good look. It was a fairly decent living room size for a Canterlot apartment. I can imagine that it would work well for a family of four, with plenty of room for a couches, a table, and a few sitting chairs. I could see stains on the wall of long use, and the lighter areas that had once been covered by furniture or hung pictures. Those were gone now, stripped away to leave a filthy squat for the addicts to ride their highs uninterrupted. Five dirty cots were the only furniture now, the smell attesting to all the things that had been done on them and then not washed off. There were boxes arrayed haphazardly along the walls, some open to show that they were canned food and other imperishables. Bottles of alcohol littered the floor by the cots, along with empty fast-food packages and what I could only take to be the meager personal effects of the cot's regular occupants.

A pegasus stallion was curled up in one of the cots, shivering in terror and mumbling to himself as he stared at me with wide, unblinking eyes. I regarded him quietly for a moment, then cracked the crowbar across his head. He yelped and whined, so I hit him several more times in key locations, disabling his body. The magic of the black crystal could reverse his terror into rage at any moment, and I couldn't afford to leave a possible attacker behind me.

I stepped farther in, but stopped as I noticed something I had nearly walked into. It took a moment to focus on it, but once I did I saw that not only were the walls covered with nodes of black crystal, they had also hung them from the ceiling. Very clever indeed. It would limit the range of my magic, make it as impossible to teleport within the apartment as it was to teleport into or out of it. I wasn't worried about it sapping my powers, I'm too strong for that, but these nodes could act as power sources for any terminal addict to draw from. I couldn't just smash them, either, as that would probably fill the air with black crystal dust, and I would be breathing it in and infecting myself. I was dealing with a thinker here.

I heard movement from another room, and sidled up to the wall, laying my ear against it to hear what was going on. There was talking, but it was too quiet for me to make out what was being said even through the thin interior walls of the apartment. They were gathering in the next room, preparing for me to come through the door, which was the only way there.

Well, almost the only way. I covered my face with my coat, then picked up my ruined couch and once more used it as a battering ram, this time dragging it through the exterior wall so that it tore open a hole into the next room. The couch didn't survive the maneuver, but it did give me a clear way in. It also crushed several of the crystal nodes, sending black crystal dust into the air. I held my breath and stuck my head out of the apartment. Once I had a clear line to the open air I called down a gust of wind that blew into the apartment, sweeping all the black crystal dust into the next room and the ponies who had been waiting to ambush me there.

They hacked and coughed and snarled in surprise and breathed in far more of the stuff than most of them were probably used to at one time. I stepped in after the wind had died down, and the fight began.

Six ponies waited in the next room, which at one point must have been a master bedroom. They had removed a wall between it and the next apartment over, linking the two into one large space. It looked much like the first room I had attacked in the hideout, but this one had added a table where packets of black crystal and cases full of bits were stacked. A card game had also been going on, interrupted by my dynamic entry. More black crystal covered the walls and hung from the ceiling. This was going to be interesting.

I attacked first, taking full advantage of the way the influx of dark magic in the dust they inhaled had stunned them. I sent my acquired crowbar in first, spinning it into their legs. There was the satisfying crunch of bone breaking and two of the addicts went down in a heap. I leapt forward, keeping low to avoid hitting any of the hanging crystal nodes. At the same time I charged my horn and let loose a blast of undirected magic. It was absorbed into the hanging crystals quickly, but the purpose had been to create a blinding light and noise, and that I accomplished quite well.

I struck the first one with a hoof, sending another electrical charge through my metal shoe and into the addict's body. He jerked and spasmed, but it wouldn't do more than slow him down. That was okay, I didn't think it was going to be a problem. My coat flared, slamming into a unicorn mare and sending her flipping through the air and into the table. the usual equal and opposite reactions didn't apply to my telekinesis-driven coat so I was able to immediately bring the leather pseudo-wing around to block the kick from an earth pony who had already recovered enough to strike back.

I got to the middle of them and ducked low, drawing a small pouch from its place hanging on my harness and quickly opening it up. I gave the bag a short kick that I had practiced for hours earlier in the day, knocking the contents, dozens of small iron caltrops, up into the air above my head. My horn was already charged and ready to go. A burst of undirected telekinesis blasted the caltrops outwards in all directions. A couple bounced off of my jacket, but most found their place in the hides of the addicts all around me. They jerked and hissed at the pain, but the tiny weapons weren't capable of doing enough damage to slow them down. Of course, slowing them down wasn't the point.

I had been using electricity magic for a reason, it takes a while to build up a really good charge with that stuff, especially if you're not under a properly charged cloud. It's closer to pegasus magic to be able to summon lightning, but I can simulate the effect as long as I'm willing to follow the normal rules for electricity. That is, it will seek to equalize charges and ground itself out. If I wanted to use it as a weapon I either needed to be able to set up opposing terminals, like I had with the first mare I had downed in the previous room, or make sure that my targets had something on them that would draw the charge, like a lighting rod. Which they all now did.

I shut my eyes tightly and slammed my forehooves together as I released the lightning spell I had been building since before I had started my assault. Energy lashed out from my horn, a blinding, flashing coil of electrical power that sang through the air with a ripping snap. It was loud, louder than I had expected, and it was just as effective as I had hoped it would be. The lightning flowed straight to the opposite-charged caltrops stuck like burrs in the hides of the addicts. Two dozen strikes in the span of three seconds, and the charge I had built up was exhausted. I opened my eyes and found myself in a circle of fallen ponies, their bodies twitching spastically and their coats showing fern-like burn patterns.

Perfection.

I licked a forehoof and touched it to the tip of my horn, hearing the sizzle as the waste-heat from the release of power evaporated the water instantly. I would need to be a little more circumspect with my next foe, but other than that this was going better than the last two nights had.

I grabbed a downed unicorn and floated him into the air, holding him before me as I moved to the door that would take me into the next part of the hideout. I opened the door with a blast of magic that blew it off its hinges, then hovered the unicorn’s body through. A crossbow bolt slammed into him immediately, followed by a blast of concussive magic that ripped him from my grip and threw his limp form all the way across the room. I chuckled at that, though in retrospect I don’t know what was so funny about it.

I stepped into the next room, which turned out to be a hallway that led deeper into the second apartment. A pair of ponies, a pegasus and a unicorn, were crouched behind a table that had been pushed onto its side to provide some rudimentary cover. They weren’t looking at me, too busy yelling towards somepony else farther in, which was their mistake. I used my jacket to lift off, sliding through the air soundlessly and pressing myself against the table, waiting. The unicorn was the first one to come into my view, leaning over the table as he wondered aloud if they had gotten me. As if I would have been that easy to stop.

The wings of my jacket whipped up, wrapping around his head and dragging him over the table top and down next to me. I left his horn free, and as soon as he started struggling it lit up with his magic. I leaned forward and touched my horn to his, letting the usual barriers against accidental contact down and allowing my magic to cycle through him.

What? No, I didn’t eat his magic. I’m not a Changeling. I just hijacked his nervous system for a bit. If he hadn’t panicked and started charging magic without a stable spell in mind I wouldn’t have been able to do it, but, well, black crystal heightens fear, remember? Anyways, I wasn’t capable of using any of the really good magic that could take advantage of this kind of connection. I could, however, brute force a few things.

I let him stand up and forced him to use that concussive blast spell against the table at point-blank range. It exploded into splinters that flew down the length of the hallway, shredding the pegasus who had been behind it and clearing my path. I couldn’t keep control of the unicorn for long, sadly, so I concentrated the magic I had left in him in his brain, interrupting some of the electrical activity there enough to give him a grand mal seizure. Sure that he was out of commission I walked past the downed pegasus and towards the door at the far end of the hallway.

Halfway down the hall I passed by another door that burst open, a shadow-eyed addict leaping at me with a knife in his mouth. I actually hadn’t been expecting the attack, so I barely managed to jump back before he impaled me. As it was I still came away with a long cut down my left foreleg. I hissed in anger, my horn flaring as I ripped the knife from his grip, reversing it and plunging it into his neck, right above the collarbone and angled down into his chest. He gurgled, falling back and futilely tugging at the handle of the knife. I snarled and shoved the knife deeper so that there was no part of it sticking out. He went quite still after that.

The room beyond him wasn’t empty. It had another two ponies, mares who stared at me with crystal-augmented fear. I considered eliminating them as I had the terrified stallion earlier, but something stopped me. Some shred of compassion, perhaps. Maybe it was their youth, they looked barely out of school. Clearly addicts, yes, but they weren’t attacking me right then. I decided not to hurt them, but I couldn’t simply leave them to come up behind me. So I slammed the door closed and focused on a spell that caused plants to grow. It was, thankfully, still in the range of spells that I could caste, and it quickly made the door swell to the point where it was stuck fast in its frame. I could only hope that it would hold them.

The delay might have cost me, because when I finally came to the last door in the hallway there was nopony in the next room. Its had been a bathroom at one point, the walls had been stripped and the plumbing was visible. There was a hole into the last apartment of the hideout, but I was more interested in the space between the pipes. Wide enough for a pony, going all the way to the cellar. A clear escape route.

I took a quick look down the space and saw two pairs of shadow-filled eyes looking back at me. Dark magic roared up the crawlspace, a bubble of malice that sought to eat the flesh from my bones. My horn lit up and I sent fire down at them in answer. The two magics met somewhere between us, and I matched my power against the addicted caster.

He was clever. Oh, yes, very clever. He had lined that crawlspace with more of his crystal nodes, and he drew power from them as he battled me. It gave him something like five times the power he would have had normally. That doesn’t even include whatever dark magic boost his addiction had given him. The result was that he was strong, immensely, unequinely strong.

Not, it turns out, strong enough. I opened the floodgates of magic, pouring power through my horn and into my fire. I consumed his spell like so much tinder, breaking his magic and using it to fuel mine as it roared towards him. I didn’t see what happened, but I knew when he cut off his spell and channeled his magic into escaping. My fire hit his companion, who absorbed as much power as her crystal-saturated body could handle before she exploded with the overload.

I was thrown back by that detonation, slamming into the remains of the wall, barely able to keep my head from cracking against an exposed pipe by using my jacket’s defenses. I dropped to the ground coughing at the sudden burst of dust in the air. I had a moment of panic as I imagined inhaling a few lungfuls of black crystal, but thankfully my target had drained the crystals in the crawlspace completely in his attempt to overpower me, and what fragments got to me were empty of magic, inert.

I got to my hooves and took another tentative look down the crawlspace. It was destroyed. A hole was blown through the middle of the building, shattered bathrooms on the second and first floors now open to the crawlspace, water cascading down from destroyed pipes. A very surprised earth pony stallion with fragments of tile in his mane sat on a cracked toilet and stared back up at me, miraculously unharmed save for the shredded newspaper he had been reading. I paid him no mind and leapt into the now much wider passageway. My coat flared and smacked at the walls to control my fall, sending enough debris down on the earth pony, making him close his eyes and flinch back as I passed. It was enough to ensure that he wouldn’t be able to clearly identify me to the authorities that were undoubtedly already on their way.

I dropped into the basement in a clatter of debris and the clang of my metal shoes crashing against wet concrete. I stood slowly, looking around, wary of any attack. A trio of large boilers heated the water for the building, a garbage incinerator was set into one wall, a thick glass window in its door filling the room with an orange glow that cast flickering shadows from the mess of pipes and ducts that criss-crossed the space.

“Magnificent,” a hoarse whisper came from a dark corner of the room. I turned that way, my jacket swirling about me to deflect any surprise attack. I saw what I could only presume was my target sitting slouched against the wall. Half his body was burned badly, the coat completely gone and the flesh charred. Every move he made flaked bits of blackened skin off, showing the crystals that had grown through the muscle tissue underneath. He was a unicorn, and obviously knew how to use black magic to avoid becoming terminally addicted, but for some reason he had still allowed the saturation to progress to this point. He grinned at me, and I saw how his teeth had been replaced by obsidian-black crystal, sharp and cruel. “Simply magnificent,” he said again.

I lit my horn, ready to counter any attack, but he raised his good forehoof to wave the action off. “I’m not going to fight you, Shadow Slayer,” he said with a dry chuckle. “Though if you’d like to finish the job, I will go down swinging.” I backed off, a little thankful, actually. I had used a lot of power in that blast of fire, more than I should have.

“Shadow Slayer,” I repeated, the question implicit in my tone.

“Something I heard you called: The Shadow Slayer.” He chuckled again, and it turned into a cough that brought blood to his lips. “Though now that I see you I can tell you’re as much a shadow as we are. I thought the other shadows were exaggerating when they said what you could do. Two of my fellows annihilated in as many nights, all their power and minions nothing but wheat before the thresher. You have us worried.”

“Shadows. Is that what you call yourselves?”

He shrugged. “A little overwrought, but the masters love their drama.”

“Masters,” I relished the word. “You know the ones manufacturing the black crystal.”

He grinned black and bloody. “I do.”

“Tell me.”

“No.”

I stepped closer, my jacket opening into dark wings. “I’m not going to give you the choice.”

“I didn’t think you would,” he said with another chuckle. “So much power. Who are you, Shadow Slayer? An avenging angel? Or a devil come for my black soul?”

“A mare with a mission,” I replied. “And you are in my way.”

He laughed, not the chuckle from before but a full-throated cackle. Then he lunged at me, his injuries were real, but he had been faking how much they really debilitated him. He struck out with a hoof, and I caught it on my jacket. I’d miscalculated a bit, though. He’d drained the black crystal inside him of its magic when he had attacked me in the crawlspace, but he was still saturated enough that it would drain normal magic. It would also greedily suck up black magic until it was full again, which meant that any power I used against him would just make him stronger. The telekinesis that moved my jacket was one such power, and as he touched the leather it went limp, my spell temporarily broken.

The blow landed, softened a bit but still with a lot of power behind it. It knocked the wind out of me, and left me open for his follow-up which cracked across my head and sent me reeling back. He tried to follow, but his burned leg crumpled and gave me enough time to recover from the hit. I was rattled, but not so badly I couldn’t think, and I started looking for ways to hurt the dealer.

I grabbed a hot pipe heading from one of the boilers and wrenched it out of its place, letting hot steam gush into the room. I backed away from it, but he followed me through, uncaring of how the scalding water aggravated his burns and raised blisters wherever it fell. He struck me again, fast and heavy. He’d had training in hoof-to-hoof combat. More than I had, at the very least. I scrambled back, using my superior maneuverability to get away from him. Still, we were in a small room and there weren’t a lot of places I could go. Less now that I had created a cloud of scalding steam that would hurt me a lot more than it apparently hurt him.

He cackled with mad laughter as he followed me, his injuries weeping blood. He was beyond pain, probably dying, but he might as well have been perfectly healthy for all that it was slowing him down. I couldn’t match him physically, and attempting to use my magic on him would be futile. He was a juggernaut. I had to find a way to hurt him or I was dead.

The idea that saved my life came to me as I was watching the glint of the crystals in his exposed muscle. I remembered the nodes he had strewn about his hideout, and I thought about how I could grow them the same way. I called up black magic, filling my eyes with power and letting it bubble along my horn.

“That’s the spirit!” the dealer said, closing the distance between us in long strides.

I aimed carefully and sent a pencil-thin beam of darkness into the open muscle of his leg. It struck a crystal that poked out of his muscle, and quickly charged it to beyond its capacity. Then, with a high squealing sound that was like glass being cut, the crystal began to grow. It thrust new shards both out and in, expanding so fast that it burst through the back of his leg in a spray of blood. His bone cracked and then shattered as the crystal squeezed it beyond its ability to hold, and he toppled to the ground. I changed the target of my beam, slicing through all of his legs until I found new crystals to force-grow until each of his legs was a mangled mess, unable to move. Unable to hurt me.

I slowly stepped up to him, my eyes still trailing darkness. He laughed again, uncaring that he was defeated. I spat blood, feeling the ache of where he had hit me. It could have been worse, a lot worse. I’d gotten off much better this time than I had against Shady Deal. “Now,” I said. “Tell me who manufactures black crystal.”

“Oh? Are you asking? Come now, little shadow, you know that when you want something you do not ask! You take!”

“I’m not one of your shadows,” I said. “Now tell me. Tell me or I will take it!”

“Do it!” he snarled, grinning like a black-toothed maniac. “Don’t be like them! Don’t be held back by the petty qualms of morality. Don’t grovel like a worm when you can command like a queen!”

I admit, I gave in to his taunts. I touched my horn to his, and sent my power into him. It was similar to what I had done upstairs, but with structure to it. The spell I cast was similar to the memory spell Twilight had once used to return her friends to themselves, but modified to pull memories out instead of putting them in. I had worked out just how to do it when I was preparing for my attack on the black crystal trade. The problem had been that I actually couldn’t cast it, it was one of those spells that were inexplicably beyond my abilities. I tried it anyway.

I have great facility with magic. My cutie mark is the same as Twilight’s and I’ve never felt like it should be anything else. I’m good with magic, good at using it, good at sensing it, good at manipulating it on the fly. I’m powerful, terribly so. But there is an entire area of magic that I hadn’t really explored, a side to the power that Twilight barely touched. Black magic, the power of the negative, the antithesis of the magic of friendship. It was this dark power that I used to cast my memory spell, and it responded with eager hunger.

The spell ripped into the dealer’s mind, scouring his neurons for what I wanted. He screamed, reliving moments in such rapid succession that they must have blurred together into a nightmarish eternity of being locked in his memories. The dark magic wasn’t as easy to control as normal magic is, however, and I felt the spell slipping from my control long before I had what I needed. I tried to force it, snarling as I attempted to will the power into line. The black crystal in the dealer’s body hampered me there, eating at the edges of my magic, eroding my control of the spell. It slipped from my grasp far too soon, burning through the addict’s brain, stripping him of his past and feeding me disjointed pieces of his life too fast for me to process.

I broke the spell, reeling back. The images I had received faded quickly, never meant to belong to me, but I managed to pull a few important bits of information out and memorize them for myself before the effects of the spell were completely gone. I sat for a minute, breathing heavily in the aftermath of the power, trying to clear my thoughts.

Eventually I was brought back to my senses by the hitching laughter of the dealer. I looked at him, and he stared back at me with dead eyes, the pupils having become a sightless white from the way the spell had burned in him. “Magnificent,” he breathed, his breath coming in shuddering gasps. “I… knew you... had it in you. He… will be… delighted... if you reach him…”

“Who?” I asked, but I knew he couldn’t hear me anymore.

“You… will make… such a magnificent… queen… of… shadows…” His breath stilled.

I shook my head. “I’m not one of your shadows,” I repeated. “And what is it with you ponies and your ‘join me and we will rule’ crap? I understand the megalomania, but wanting to share it? Weird.”

Yes, I was talking to a corpse again. I talk to corpses sometimes. When they’re handy. It’s actually kind of soothing. Nevermind. Forget I said anything about it.

Anyways! I dumped the dealer’s body in the incinerator and made my escape before the Guard could discover me. I would have liked to start working on making sense of the information I had gained, but I was too exhausted from the power I had spent, and fell asleep as soon as I was in a bed. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had been able to stay awake, though. I had preparations to make first, and they couldn’t be put off. I would be returning to Ponyville in two days.

Ah, I can see the sky getting lighter. I must have talked all night. Well, that’s good, I guess. I’m getting the story out, at least. Better than nopony ever knowing what I’ve done. I’ll be back tomorrow night with the next part of my story and hopefully some good news too. See you then!

And… thank you.

Author's Note:

True Word Count: 60,486