• Published 2nd Nov 2013
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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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Dark Hospital part 5: A Lesson

There was a hurricane of magic around me. In me. It was exactly what I wanted. The power to fight them, the power to win. There was one problem with it: it was all raw dark magic, siphoned from the pain, fear and misery of a hospital full of ponies. Stained as it was with the weight of so many emotions not my own, it would have overwhelmed me. Especially considering, as I have shown, I’m not exactly in full control of my emotions as it is. Not that I couldn’t use it, of course. Had I wanted to I could have seized that power for myself and shattered half of Canterlot. The main reason I didn’t want to take it was because I would have shattered half of Canterlot.

Oh, it wouldn’t have been intentional, I’m sure. Just collateral damage as I sought out every black crystal addict I could find and crushed them into paste. It would have hurt Alley Cat and her ilk, sure, but it would also have played right into their hooves.

To be honest, actually, I have to admit that it was this reason, more than the destruction I would cause, that made me refuse the power they were shoving down my throat. I didn’t want Alley Cat to get her way. I could just imagine the smirk on her face as she watched me indiscriminately annihilate the city, and I knew I would do anything to wipe that smile away. I wasn’t going to let her win.

Regardless, I couldn’t use the magic they were giving me until I had stopped their ritual. Not and stay sane. Once I had disrupted things enough, though, the gloves would come off.

So I reached for my magic. Not the black power she was feeding me, but my magic. There wasn’t much, a trickle that had recovered since I had foolishly squandered it all. It was barely enough to pick up a quill.

It was enough for me.

You see, as insipid as she is, Rarity does know the gem trade. She’d come through for me, and just in time for me to have my two little trump cards ready for this. Designed to function in an environment where magic was being actively drained, keyed to respond as perfect extensions of my will, my blades detached from their hiding places in my jacket. I grinned up at Alley Cat, locking eyes with her. She smirked back down at me, a delicious misinterpretation of exactly why I was smiling. Then I slashed one of my blades across, and the hoof touching my horn fell away from her leg.

Oh, the look in her eyes! The surprise and the confusion as her mind tried to understand what I had done. Then the dawning horror as she realized just how badly she had underestimated me! I will keep the memory of that expression with me forever. I will hold it close and use it to warm me on cold nights. If I had it as a picture, I would wallpaper my house with it!

Blood spurted from her stump, splashing over my face. Delightfully warm. I could see the way the black crystal had integrated with her bones and muscle. It looked neat, orderly. Intentional, rather than the mostly random growths I had encountered before. I suppose that’s the difference between the normal terminal addicts and the ones like Alley Cat. I’ve only had the chance to look at the insides of another like her, but I wasn’t really in a position to do a proper examination at the time.

Her horn spat dark sparks as she shifted her magic into the spell to become smoke. I had done my research on her, though, and I knew every trick she could pull out. I knew what she was doing and I wasn’t about to let her get away with it. I twisted in my bonds, reaching out and clamping my teeth down on the stump of her leg. The sudden pain inturrupted her spell, and I let out a muffled laugh as she jerked back in panic.

The other addicts were reacting to what had happened, but slowly. They were too invested in their ritual, too focused on being a channel for the dark magic they had accumulated. It left them slow, unaware.

My blades found the earth pony who had captured me first. I slashed her throat, but it turned out there wasn’t much flesh left there. She flinched at the attack, her chains rattling as she filled them with whatever pseudo-telekinesis her addiction granted her. I didn’t give her the chance to do anything with them. My blades spun like buzzsaws as I sent them into either side of her head. Blood and brains spattered the walls as I reduced her to a gruesome caricature of the headless horse. The chains binding me loosened.

Alley Cat managed to pull her leg from my teeth. “Kill her!” she shrieked, fear finally singing out in her voice. “Kill her now!”

They heard her, and three of them lurched towards me. Two earth ponies and a unicorn. My jacket was still out of commission, so I had very few options. I sent my blades at two of them. One earth pony didn’t move in time, and I cut into his side, sending bits of meat and crystal flying. The unicorn saw my attack coming and dodged out of the way. I would have compensated for his move, but I was too busy with the second earth pony, who raised up hooves that flared with greasy green flames, ready to stomp me to death.

I rolled, barely fast enough to avoid the attack. Even through the leather of my jacket I could feel the heat as he stomped the floor tiles, melting them into molten hoofprints. I kicked out, using the motion to shake more of the binding chain loose as well as get an attack in on the pony. That was a bit of a mistake, as kicking him felt like kicking concrete.

He lashed out, and this time I wasn’t fast enough to get out of the way. His kick landed on a foreleg, thankfully at the wrong angle to break anything. It did leave a nasty burn. This scar, here. You would not believe the trouble I had to go to so that none of Twilight’s friends noticed it.

Anyways, while it hadn’t done much damage, that kick had hurt. So I responded by using my blades to remove both his forelegs. The dull surprise he showed at that was nowhere near as satisfying as the look Alley Cat had given me.

All the addicts were on the move, now. The three attacking me were joined by two others, while the last two were desperately trying to regain control of the whirlwind of power that the others had abandoned to focus on me. I shook off the last of the chains and rolled to my hooves, facing all my opponents with a mad, bloody grin plastered on my face.

Now, weeks later, I understand that I was in a bad situation. My blades had surprised them, and I could do phenomenal damage with them, but I was still going to be overwhelmed. All they would have to do is rush me, and that would be it. Rationally, I understand that my best option would have been to use the blades as cover and run. I could disappear into the hospital, wait and recover while the Guard broke through my barrier and forced the addicts to enact their plan, then escape in the confusion. The Guard might even be more cautious than usual thanks to my display of power, saving them from the trap.

At the time? I wasn’t quite so rational. I suppose, in the heat of the moment, I never am. Ah, well, I can’t change the past. All I can do is accept the consequences for my actions.

Faced with overwhelming odds, I just laughed, then took hold of the power in me. The power they had given me. Black magic surged through my veins, bubbling around my horn and energizing my costume back to full life. It writhed and twitched, spilling shadows like water that pooled at my hooves. The addicts paused as they saw me, uncertainty and fear flashing in their eyes. “Shadow Slayer,” I said, relishing the words. “Well, if that’s the name you’ve given me, I might as well start living up to it.”

I lashed out with a spell of pure darkness, invested with a large portion of dark power. Twin serpents of shadow lanced from my horn and struck at their targets. Not to the five addicts arrayed against me, but against the two who were corralling the wild power they had raised. They foolishly thought I would focus on the immediate threats, and so they were unprepared for the attack, and succumbed immediately. They should have known, why do a straight-up fight when there were so many more interesting options.

I was already flying high from beating Alley Cat, couple that with the misery laced through the dark magic I was channelling, and you can see why I wanted them to suffer. I wanted them to hurt, and know that they were hurt. I wanted them to be seen hurting. I wanted to make a show of it.

So I killed the two ponies trying to contain the storm of dark power. My magic bored into them and consumed them from the inside, melting away their flesh and leaving only the black crystal that had infested them. Their efforts brought to a rude end, the power exploded.

I admit, I am still a little surprised at how… vigorous an explosion it was. You see it… well… Okay, there’s not any other way to say this: it tore the front of the hospital right off.

The dark power had surged towards the strongest source of similar power around. Which happened to be the clustered addicts. It washed past them, forming the first part of the explosion. Then it hit my barrier outside and backlashed, forming the second part. The two parts met in the middle and decided the only way to continue was sideways and up. The result was a blast like a knife, slicing the first few feet of the hospital off and flinging it up into the air.

Ponies as far away as Ponyville were woken by the sound of the explosion. Some of the more sensitive Pegasi in Cloudsdale have reported being able to feel the pressure wave roll through. Unicorns throughout Canterlot were bombarded with the released black magic, causing headaches and sickness for days after. Pieces of debris were scattered so far that some of them smashed windows in the castle, and broken medical equipment is still being found in the strangest of places. Pictures of the resulting smoke cloud spreading out over the city, lit from below by searchlights and fire, have been used in almost every newspaper article about the supposed ‘gang war’ ever since.

The Guard, standing right in front of the explosion, were saved from harm by my barrier spell. A fortunate coincidence. It was also fortunate that the addicts had drained most of their black crystal nodes in their attempt to corrupt me, rendering them mostly inert and not infecting every pony in the city.

Really, it could have been a whole lot worse.

I admit to being knocked senseless. My energized costume protected me from the more destructive effects of the explosion, but even I can only take so much when I’m at ground zero of a blast that powerful. I had been thrown through the windows and into my own barrier, which allowed me to avoid the hassle of being buried under a building that had half-collapsed. I got up, wobbling a little, and surveyed what remained.

The innards of the hospital lay exposed. All floors open, lights flickering sporadically inside. Parts of the building were collapsing, but not enough to threaten the whole structure. Frightened, infected ponies looked out from the rooms and hallways. Behind me I could hear the guard rallying, Shining Armor ordering his troops to charge up some kind of shield-breaker spell that would likely defeat my weakened barrier.

I spotted one of the terminal addicts as he dragged himself out of a pile of rubble. One of the pseudo-horned earth ponies. I could see remnants of others, but it seemed like not many of them had survived the explosion intact. I stumbled over to my one remaining opponent.

He saw me coming. His false horn pulsed with darkness and released a swarm of screeching, fluttering insects made out of shadows and fear. They attacked me, finding bare places to bite. I screamed in indignation and let loose a burst of power that threw the little things away. My horn roared with power as I grabbed the offending addict and held him up in front of me. A pulse of searching magic allowed me to find where my blades had fallen, and I brought them back to my side, setting them orbiting around me in lazy circles.

“You really thought you could get away with it?” I asked, stretching his limbs out wide. “You really thought you could do that to me and get away with it?” I felt rage boiling up in me, a fire I had neither the ability nor desire to control. “You are nothing. Your entire pathetic conspiracy is nothing! I am coming for all of you, and I will see you all broken at my hooves.”

“You live in the darkness,” the addict growled out, trying to meet my eyes but unable to hold my gaze. “I can feel it in you. You are already one of us. No, more than us. You are a beacon of shadows. You will join us eventually. You just haven’t realized the power the Masters are offering you. Think about it, you could rule with us!”

“Oh, I know,” I said, flashing him a vicious grin as I crushed his throat enough to prevent him from speaking. “I just don’t like sharing.”

The Guard unicorns hit my barrier with something complicated and overpowered, and my fancy bit of spell-work fell apart with a flash of light and a rush of ozone-scented air. I turned, and search lights trained on me. The flare compensation in my hood worked perfectly, and I got a good look at the staring, terrified faces of the Royal Guard as they got their first good look at the Canterlot vigilante.

Shining Armor and Cadance stood near the back, both their horns lit and ready to shield the troops from any attack that might come out of the broken hospital. I have to give them credit, they were prepared for a trap. It wouldn’t have been enough had Alley Cat succeeded in her plan, but it might have slowed me down for a few minutes. As it was, they were ready for action, and if I didn’t do something soon, that action would be ordering my arrest.

They all gawked at me. I knew they couldn’t see through the enchanted shadows of my hood to my true identity, but it still felt a like being exposed. I tried to speak, but found my mouth had gone dry. I took a deep breath, feeling the heightened emotions the black magic was generating. I couldn’t let myself be afraid, it would only destroy me. I couldn’t let them see the insecure, unstable pony that had replaced Twilight Sparkle. Instead, I had to be what they were expecting. I had to be the unstoppable vigilante they had heard whispers of, only seeing the destruction and death that came in her wake. I had to be the Shadow Slayer.

I worked up some spit and swallowed. Then I raised my voice, allowing my costume’s magic to amplify it to be heard over all the other noise. “This is what you fight!” I shouted, bringing the addict forward. “This is the plague that has infested Canterlot! This is the face of Equestria’s enemy!”

There was a reaction from my audience. Ponies looked on the deformed, crystal-ravaged body of the addict and recoiled. He sneered back at them, uncaring of their disgusted stares. I saw Cadance whisper something in Shining Armor’s ear, to which he gave a grim nod.

“They laid a trap for you this night!” I gestured back at the hospital. “They corrupted hundreds, perhaps thousands of good, innocent ponies, just to get to you.” And me I silently added. “And it would have worked! You would have been destroyed. Equestria’s best line of defense, broken because you did not yet realize what it was you were facing.” I shook my head and raised the addict a little higher. “Look! Look at what he has done to himself! See what he has done to these innocents! Then think of what you have to do to stop them.”

“I know that you’re hurting!” Cadance called out. I looked at her, confused. “I can feel the pain they’ve caused you!” With that I understood. She was sensing the emotions the dark magic had been tainted with. Since I still held a significant amount of that magic, I was probably like a bonfire of negative emotion to her. “But you don’t have to do this! Please, put him down. Let the Guard deal with him. I swear to you, he will see justice!”

“Justice?” I repeated, laughing. “You think there’s justice to be done here?”

“I am Mi Amore Cadenza!” she cried out, flaring her wings and letting her horn shine to show her claim to authority. “Princess of Equestria and ruler of the Crystal Empire. I promise you, my little pony, whatever you think of his crimes, there is no justice in you torturing him like this!”

My little pony. I don’t know if she was consciously aping Celestia with that line or if the condescension just comes naturally to Alicorns. Either way, all she managed with that plea was to make me stretch the addict out even further, straining his joints until he shook from the stress. “I know who you are, Cadance,” I spat out, glaring at her. “I know you are a loving, kind pony who is utterly incapable of understanding what must be done. If I have to leave this up to your ‘justice’, I might as well slit your throat now and save the bad guys some time.” She was taken aback by this, and Shining Armor stepped protectively in front of her. I switched my glare to him. “What about you, Captain? If I left this monster to you, would you have what it takes to finish the job? Would you do what is necessary, or would you follow your wife’s example and choose the path of the weak?”

The look he gave me would have chilled the blood of any other foe. I could see the strength in him, the resolve. Oh, he wasn’t going to kill anypony. He hadn’t quite hit that line yet, but he was dedicated to stopping me now. He would not rest until I was brought down in chains and set before Celestia to face judgement.

Which, I don’t have to tell you, just absolutely sucked.

Ah, well, I was dedicated myself, and I had wanted to put on a show. This would suffice, even if it set Twilight’s brother–my brother–and I on a collision course.

“You are under arrest,” he said. “Guards, seize her!”

They started moving forward, so I dissuaded them. A flare of dark power surged from my horn, sending out a wave of shadows that crashed into the advancing Guard, striking them with the fear and pain that the magic had absorbed. They cried out as the shadows touched them. Some fell to the ground in seizures of agony, others turned and ran. The rout only lasted a moment, as my shadows were swiftly countered by a soothing light from Cadance, her power bolstering the Guardsponies. Still, it was enough. They had stopped fleeing, but were more cautious when they turned back to me.

“Fine,” I said. “If none of you are strong enough, then I will be.” I brought up my blades. “Watch carefully, now. If you want to save Equestria, this is how you do it.”

“Stop!” Cadance cried out, her eyes wide with fear. Guards surged forward. It was too late.

My blades spun and slammed into the addict’s chest. He let out a wheeze as they sliced through his crystal-laced flesh and tore through his insides. Then I dragged them in two opposing directions, and split him down the middle.

I ripped the two halves apart, letting a shower of blood fall on me. Again, warm. Always warmer than I expect. Then I threw the remains at Shining Armor’s hooves. Some of the Guards stopped, staring in horror. Cadance buried her face in her husband’s side. He just stared at me, a rock of calm in the chaos erupting around him. Not even angry, just… undaunted.

“Here endeth the lesson,” I said, and my coat flared out, sending a cascade of shadows rushing up from the ground to screen me from sight as I teleported away.

While it was, overall, a bad night full of many mistakes, my little display for the Guard almost certainly being one of them, I will say this for it: that was a great exit.