Trixie’s special talent was magic in general, but her chosen specialty was illusion spells – spells that created ghost sounds or false sensations, or which manipulated light and shadow to create fake images or impressions. Of the numerous tricks she had both learned and developed herself, her favorite was, by far, the light-bending glamor that allowed her to turn invisible, followed closely by its companion spell that negated the sound of her hoof-steps. It was just so useful to not be seen or heard by anypony, and therefore become privy to things she probably shouldn’t of been. Trixie used her invisibility glamor more often than any other spell she knew by far, and so had been sure that she knew just about everything about being invisible.
As it turned out, she was wrong, as she had overlooked something significant, yet obvious in hindsight: while invisible, her eyelids were transparent. This was not particularly conducive to achieving sleep, especially during Corona’s perpetual midday. Ordinarily, if it was too bright out, she would have simply pulled her hat down over her eyes, but she was beginning to understand why (if not how) the poison joke had rendered that and her cape invisible as well. Thus, no matter how exhausted she was, sleep was simply not coming.
“Stupid poison joke!” Trixie proclaimed loudly. Nopony could hear her anyway, so she didn’t feel a need to keep quiet. She turned her attention to Carrot Top. “And stupid you! Raindrops had wings, you idiot! This is your fault! And mine! Because I followed you! Because I’m an idiot too! A bigger one! And Lyra! If you hadn’t overchanneled I wouldn’t be in the situation either! And none of you should have followed me in here! Corona shouldn’t of escaped! Luna should have been able to kick her flank! She was useless! Morons! Idiots! Foals! All of us! We’re all idiots!” Trixie paused, breathing in and out deeply a few times. “…wow that was cathartic.”
Carrot Top let out a slight sigh. She had managed to fall asleep, somehow, possibly because she had an excellent blanket in the form of a mane and tail that had finally stopped growing at around twenty feet in length, give or take a yard. Trixie had considered burying herself under the other pony’s hair, but several things stopped her. Firstly, the thought of sleeping wrapped in a blanket made from another pony’s hair was more than a little creepy, especially one she barely knew. Secondly, Trixie was fairly certain covering her eyes in a hair-blanket would be uncomfortable.
But the third, and probably the overriding reason, was that doing so would require getting out from underneath Ditzy Doo’s wing. Despite the pegasus’ comment about being used to long hours, she had fallen asleep while sitting next to Trixie. Raindrops had noticed, but hadn’t done or said anything about it. Trixie had almost moved, when Ditzy had muttered a name in her sleep – Dinky Doo’s.
Trixie could be a terrifically cruel pony at times, but even she couldn’t bring herself to wake Ditzy Doo from whatever dream she was in with her daughter. It was good to escape from reality sometimes, even if only for a little while. “Of course, that’s basically what I’ve done,” Trixie observed. “Escaped from reality. I am a reality expatriate. Good on me. Or really, it’s more like I was shoved from reality by the poison joke. Which is a stupid flower. Hate it. Hate, hate, hate, hate…”
Ditzy Doo shifted a little, her wing’s grip tightening on Trixie for a moment. Trixie did her best not to flinch as she sighed, laying her head down on her hooves, eyes looking around the plaza as she examined it out of mind-numbing boredom. Ordinarily, if forced to sit in one place for a time, she would have been practicing her illusions, amusing herself in one way or another with them, but the poison joke had rendered even her magic invisible. All she could do was sit and wait for sheer exhaustion to force her asleep. Sit and wait…sit and wait…sit…wait…sit…wait…
...yeah, this isn’t happening, Trixie thought.
“Here me now, O thou bleak and unbearable world!” Trixie sang idly, trying to keep herself amused somehow. “Thou art base and debauched as can be…and a knight with his banner so bravely unfurled, now hurls down his gauntlet to thee! I am Don Rocinante, hero of Equestria, destroyer of evil and I…I am an awful singer.” Trixie laughed at her own interruption, looking to Lyra. “Right? Gah, stars, that’s right, you can’t hear me…”
Lyra, like Trixie, had not been able to find sleep. She was sitting in a back-breaking position again, leaning against a wall with her harp (lyre, whatever) in hoof and gently plucking out a slow, sad melody. Lyra’s eyes were closed, and she looked like she had totally lost herself in whatever she was playing, some tears in her eyes. It was obvious that she was thinking about BonBon.
“Ugh,” Trixie objected, looking to Cheerilee’s sleeping form. “Well, it was a good idea while it lasted, Cheerilee.” The magenta pony had been doing a good job of keeping all their minds on anything other than Corona, but the admittedly necessary sleep was giving Ditzy Doo and Lyra all the time they needed to focus on their losses.
Trixie looked down, tapping her hooves on the plaza beneath her. Not that it made any sound. The slush had been cleared away, too, to give them someplace to sleep; Trixie’s telekinesis was still unable to affect it. Trixie tried to come up with a plausible explanation for why she couldn’t touch or affect slush but could touch and affect other ponies and the Elements of Harmony, but the best she could conjure up was “because magic.”
“Bored,” Trixie stated. “Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored, bored, bored…”
From somewhere in the Everfree, there was a roar.
“What was that?” Carrot Top asked, even as she struggled to get out from under her own hair. It was not an easy task
“I don’t know,” Raindrops whispered, as she cautiously stood, careful not to step on anypony. The roar came a second time, this time followed by a crashing sound in the far distance, like trees being shoved out of the way. A sound which was getting louder – or closer.
“Um,” Raindrops said, not bothering to keep her voice down as she got up on her hind legs, affording her a better view of the direction the sound was coming from, roughly in the direction of the castle’s tower. Her eyes widened when she saw whatever it was. “Hide. Hide now.”
The other five ponies – well, four, certainly, but Raindrops assumed that Trixie was smart enough to follow suit – did so by running back into the former Court, Cheerilee and an invisible Trixie helping Carrot Top with her mane and tail, Lyra grabbing the Elements with telekinesis and dragging them as far back as they would go, and Ditzy Doo instead taking to the air, looking in the same direction Raindrops was as soon as she was a good fifty feet up or so.
“Is…is that Spike – ” Ditzy began, when the crashing sound stopped as the sound of displaced air reached their ears. Whatever was coming had leapt into the air, and moments later it came crashing down inside of the courtyard, hunched over at first, but quickly rearing to a full forty-foot height and letting out a roar that was felt more than it was heard.
A dragon, mostly purple, with a pale underbelly and a long series of green, wickedly sharp spines running from the top of its head down along its spine, and across the top of a long, whip-like tail that ensured that the dragon was at least twice as long as it was tall. It also, further, sported a pair of large, bat-like wings, covered in purple scales and with a translucent green membrane between its fingers.
“Spike?” Ditzy Doo asked. The dragon turned its gaze to her and let loose another bellow, then charged forward, at Raindrops. The giant pegasus reared up and lashed out with her hooves. Neither hoof connected, but the dragon did stop its assault and creep backwards, affording the giant pegasus new respect even as it growled in anger.
“How are you looking at that and thinking ‘Spike?’” Raindrops demanded as she felt back onto all fours, beating her wings a few times as she adopted a fighting stance – wings out, three hooves on the ground, but her right front hoof raised and ready to strike.
“Ssspike?” The dragon hissed, as it too adopted a four-legged posture and began drawing in a deep breath. Both Ditzy Doo and Raindrops started at the sibilant, deep, yet somehow familiar tone to its voice even as the back of the dragon’s throat began to glow a sickly green, licks of flame escaping from between the its tightly clenched teeth. “Ssspike…hungry! Ssspike mad!”
The dragon exhaled a gout of green fire. Raindrops leapt upwards instinctively, spreading her wings and beating them frantically, sending gusts of air downwards. Apparently, cruel though poison joke could be, it hadn’t robbed her of her ability to fly. Unfortunately, it hadn’t done much for her speed or agility, either, and a portion of Spike’s flames caught the tip of her tail, singing it. The dragon leapt into the air as soon as it had finished exhaling, grasping Raindrops by a back leg and throwing her down to the plaza below. The pegasus landed on her shoulder without breaking anything, getting up just as her foe landed nearby, mouth once more glowing green.
“Ssspike burn, and sssmash, and eat!” The dragon proclaimed.
That didn’t work out quite as well as it had the first time, however. Raindrops leapt right at it, bringing her right hoof down on the top of its muzzle. The dragon’s jaw snapped shut – making it bite off maybe six inches of its long tongue as it did so – and it staggered under the blow, then began coughing and belching green-tinted smoke as the fire it had been preparing was forcefully quenched. It was too preoccupied to notice Raindrops raise her hoof a second time, this time striking the dragon’s back, where its two shoulders met. It collapsed to the plaza floor with a loud roar of rage, claws scrabbling in the slush and tiled stone as it scurried backwards from Raindrops, or tried to – Raindrops followed its every step, hooves coming down as she tried to step on the beast, which suddenly seemed considerably less eager to dine upon pony flambé. Its back was quickly against a wall, however, and on realizing this, its expression changed from concerned to terrified.
“Wait!” Ditzy Doo called, as she flew near Raindrops. “That is Spike!
Raindrops stopped her stomping advance, resuming the pose she had struck earlier. “And he was trying to eat us,” she noted, eyes never leaving the dragon, though they did narrow as she regarded it. “Which, by the way: why?”
The dragon didn’t answer as it remained pressed against the wall, wings held high in defense, eyes darting between Raindrops and Ditzy Doo, looking at the latter hungrily but the former with a considerable amount of fear.
“He’s not in his right mind,” Ditzy Doo noted. “Maybe…maybe that poison joke stuff? We need to find Zecora.”
“Ten bits says he ate her,” Raindrops said, as she noticed movement from the corner of her eye. The others were coming out from where they had taken cover, slowly, making sure to stay close to the wall and well out of the way of Spike an Raindrops. “How can you even tell that’s Spike?”
“I just can,” Ditzy explained, though not helpfully, as she alighted atop Raindrops’ head and stared at Spike. “Spike. What happened?”
The dragon was breathing heavily. “Hungry…mad…” it hissed, teeth still clenched. Its head whipped around to Raindrops. “Hung – !” it shouted as it lunged at Raindrops again. Once more, it received a hoof square to its jaw, sending it reeling backwards and into the courtyard’s wall. The stress proved too much for the ancient structure, and it crumbled under his impact, sending the dragon sprawling under collapsing stone and mortar.
“You’re good at that,” Lyra noted from the back wall.
“Iron hoof martial arts,” Raindrops explained. “The discipline helps when I get really angry. Which is sort of happening right now.”
Ditzy Doo took to the air once more, staring down at the dragon as it lay in the rubble, breathing heavily and blinking rapidly, before its eyes rolled back and it began to glow with the same sickly green glow its fire had possessed. The glow obscured its features, but began to shrink and compress, and after several moments there was no longer a massive, winged, hungry-looking purple wyrm, but instead a tiny green-and-purple baby dragon, groaning in pain.
“Okay, what?” Cheerilee asked, as the ponies, sans Raindrops, picked their way over the debris – Carrot Top having a harder time than most thanks to her hair getting caught in just about everything, but she seemed determined to not be left behind – and towards Spike just as the baby dragon slipped into unconsciousness. A few tentative pokes from Ditzy Doo got no real response from him.
“Somepony please explain to me what the hay just happened!” Raindrops exclaimed, almost stomping her hoof in frustration before she managed to stop herself, as it might have brought the entire Palace ruins crashing down. “Is this normal for dragons or what?”
“I don’t think – ” Carrot Top began.
There was an explosion in the sky, a blast of heat and light that shoved the ponies who were standing to the ground, covering their ears with their forelegs and shouting in fright at the sudden sound. Even Raindrops was forced to the ground.
Then – wings. The sound of large wings beating steadily.
Then all was black.
Consciousness was a thing that had to be grabbed with teeth and telekinesis and dragged, kicking and screaming, back to Trixie. She awoke only slowly, to the too-bright sight of fire and a glaring sun overhead that penetrated her invisible eyelids with impunity, not to mention a white aura wrapped firmly around her being that glowed of its own accord, keeping her pressed to the now-dry ground and outlined for all to see.
Hearing was the next thing to return. She heard the cackling of flames, yes, but over that, she heard the whimpers and sobs of frightened foals, and the hushed assurances of other ponies, trying to keep them calm. Trixie couldn’t move her head thanks to the aura, but her eyes were her own still. Glancing around, she saw – beyond the flames that surrounded her in a wide circle – a second fiery prison, far larger than her own and holding dozens of ponies in place.
Above even those sounds, however, Trixie heard a voice.
“I do not understand this foreign mindset that grips you,” Corona said. Looking around with just her eyes, Trixie saw her five companions, each trapped in circles of flame and held in place by a white aura of their own, though they at least were standing. Even Raindrops was held in place with no additional effort on Corona’s part, while Carrot Top’s mane and tail had been wrapped around her in a way that might have been funny, were they in any other situation. The Tyrant Sun was facing them, wings spread wide, with the obsidian statue and the five orbs that contained the Elements of Harmony behind her.
“Were my intentions not clear?” Corona asked, as she folded her wings against her body and began to pace back and forth in front of the ponies. “Was I not precise? Did I not tell you the exact consequence for actions such as this?” She swept a hoof at the Elements. “Do you not care for your friends and loved ones?
“You admit to having no true plan,” Corona continued, “yet you would defy me anyway! And I tell you now, the Elements would not have worked for creatures as you. You are mere ponies. It takes alicorn magic to direct the Elements, even in the inert, corrupted state that Luna left them in.”
Corona looked between the five of them like they were children being scolded. Raindrops was managing to meet her glare head-on, while Cheerilee and Carrot Top were trying desperately to look away, though all they could move were their eyes. Lyra and Ditzy Doo, meanwhile, were alternating between watching Corona, and looking into the crowd of captured ponies. Trixie couldn’t see BonBon or Dinky Doo, but she knew they were in there – somewhere.
“And thou,” Corona intoned, looking to Trixie, apparently perfectly aware of Trixie being awake and, more to the point, having no apparent difficulty seeing her. Trixie was lifted up and stood like a doll or figurine, her muscles straining against the aura that gripped her and yet unable to move. “Thou, whom I entrusted with the governance of that settlement. Yet you waited not a moment before turning against thy Queen. I revise my opinion of thee yet again. Thou art not brave. Thou art not even a coward, nor an opportunist. Thou art simply stupid.” She leaned in close to Trixie. “Stupidity has a price. A very, very dear price.”
Trixie blinked a few times. “It…” she began, surprised Corona was letting her speak, surprised even more when the alicorn’s head turned slightly, indicating that the Tyrant Sun heard her. “It was my idea. It was all my idea. Don’t – ”
“Silence!” Corona commanded, making a sweeping gesture with one wing as her horn flared. “I will believe no more of thy lies. Even if thou were telling the truth it would matter not. Thy idea it may have been, but they endorsed it. It is fortunate indeed that I yet have allies in Equestria or I might have been unaware of thy treachery.”
“Allies?” Trixie echoed, eyes wide, before narrowing. “Zecora.”
“Indeed,” Corona observed with a smile as she drew back, looking to the side and turning Trixie’s head as she did. Sitting – no, kneeling, in obeisance – to the Tyrant Sun was the zebra, cloak still removed. Somehow, Trixie was able to take note of the fact that on her flank was a stylized sun cutie mark. She had lied about not having one, it seemed, though that hardly came as much of a surprise.
But why? That was still the question. What pony – what anything – would be insane enough to support Corona?
Corona continued to glare at them all like they were children who had been caught with their hooves in the cookie jar. At length, she shook her head. “I have much to do,” she said. “I can waste no more time on traitors whilst Canterlot yet defies me.” She turned her back on the six ponies, instead facing her captives. “Yet behold that I am merciful! Far from here, Ponyville sits peaceful and orderly, as I commanded. ‘Tis only these six who defy my orders. And so my wrath shall fall solely upon them!”
The captive ponies seemed anything but grateful for Corona’s ‘mercy,’ but the white alicorn didn’t take any notice of it as she turned back around. “First,” she proclaimed, looking to the obsidian statue and the Elements. “I shall deal with far older traitors than you.” She raised one hoof, and slammed it into the ground, even as her horn glowed. The impact sent a reverberation through the ground as strong as any earthquake, as well as a cracking sound like thunder. In front of the ponies’ eyes, the obsidian statue – and the stone that were the Elements of Harmony – shattered. There was a brief flare of magic from each, but then nothing.
Trixie felt another thing shatter, as well – hope. All of it, everywhere, but most especially inside of her.
“Whatever dark magic my sister used on the Elements,” Corona proclaimed as she used a hoof to brush them aside, “rendered them corrupt and base. They were gone long ago, only these black echoes had remained. But I do not need them, for I am Celestia! I am the Sun!”
Corona chuckled slightly as she looked up, eyes focusing on Trixie. The blue unicorn was aware of the white aura that had surrounded her leaving her body, and the flames around her dying down. In fact, the same had happened for all of her companions. After all…
…what could they do?
Run? What was the point? Corona didn’t even seem to notice that Trixie was invisible.
Beg? For what reason would Corona be convinced to spare them?
Fight? Against a being that had tossed Luna aside like she was a rag doll?
Trixie stared at the plaza beneath her, tears in her eyes, real tears, the first she had cried in stars knew how long. She had failed. She had failed in everything, and she’d managed to take these five ponies with her in the process. This was it. Everything was over. Luna was gone. Canterlot would fall to Corona’s flames. The Elements were destroyed. The Tyrant Sun would reign forever over all of Equestria.
Trixie looked to the five ponies she’d doomed. Three of them – Cheerilee, Carrot Top, even Raindrops – had looks on their faces that had to mirror Trixie’s own, maybe even surpass hers. Ditzy Doo and Lyra, meanwhile, were both focused on the ponies that Corona held captive – on Dinky Doo and BonBon, most likely, seeing them where Trixie couldn’t, trying to ensure that the last sight they held was that of their loved ones.
Corona wouldn’t even give them that as she approached, spreading her wings wide, blocking their view, as her blank eyes looked to each of them. Her eyes settled on Cheerilee. “Thou shalt go first – ”
“It’s you shall, you throwback.”
For a few moments, silence, rather than Corona, reigned over Equestria. Corona’s eyes were surprisingly wide, and everypony – even Cheerilee herself – seemed to need a moment to comprehend what the magenta pony, the schoolteacher, had just said.
“I beg thy miniscule pardon?” Corona demanded.
“You!” Cheerilee shouted, eyes wide as she stepped forward. “It’s you! Nopony has used thou or thee or thy for hundreds of years! And it’s shall, no matter the subject! I don’t care – ”
“Cheerilee,” Lyra interrupted the earth pony’s tirade, or tried to. It didn’t work.
“ – if you’ve been locked up in the sun for a thousand years, you said Luna will be able to watch Equestria so I only assume that you could too, how could you not know how to speak Equestrian?”
Corona’s eyes narrowed as she seemed to take a surprising amount of offence from a being that she considered so far beneath her. “My command of the tongue far surpasses thy own mangled – ”
Cheerilee laughed. After a moment – after realizing what Cheerilee was laughing at – Raindrops and Carrot Top both joined in. Corona only stared uncomprehendingly. “You are hysterical,” she noted of the three of them.
“Command of the tongue…” Cheerilee echoed, leaning forward towards Corona. She licked her lips. “Well, Lyra says I’m out of practice, maybe you could show me some of your command…”
Corona’s eyes fluttered rapidly at that for a moment as realization of how Cheerilee and the other two were interpreting her words hit her, and she recoiled. It was a very interesting sight, seeing the Tyrant Sun blushing in embarrassment and utterly flabbergasted. “I – thou – thou dare?”
“Yeah, I do!” Cheerilee proclaimed. She set her hooves as though prepared to take the brunt of a charge. Tears still stained her eyes, but they were narrowed and challenging. “I’m dead anyway. So why not? I’m going to die laughing and I’m going to die making everypony else laugh at how ridiculous you are – ”
For the second time in far too recent memory, there was an explosion, though this one far smaller than whatever one had occurred on Corona’s arrival, centered on a number of the shards that Corona had shattered the Elements into. They took on a light blue glow and shot off of the ground, arcing towards and beginning to orbit around Cheerilee’s neck.
“What?” The white alicorn demanded as she retreated several more steps at the sight. “What black sorcery is this?”
Cheerilee stared at the stones orbiting her neck, seemingly unsure herself and blinking away her tears. “I think…” she said, then giggled slightly in amazement. “I think I’m the Element of Laughter now…”
“What?” Trixie demanded. She ignored the fact that nopony could hear her – it still had to be said. “Why?”
Lyra wiped her own tears away from her eyes as she looked at her second-oldest friend. “The Elements made the world,” the unicorn noted as she stood, and cautiously approached her friend. “They’re not a bunch of rocks, you can’t destroy them!”
“But why Cheerilee?” Carrot Top asked. “Because she said she was the Element of Laughter?”
Cheerilee shook her head. “Not because of that,” she said. “Because I made ponies laugh. I made Raindrops and Carrot Top laugh right when it mattered most, when everything looked doomed.”
“Or earlier in the forest,” Ditzy Doo said. Both her eyes were focused on Cheerilee. “That school activity you made us do. You made us laugh to forget our troubles.”
“It matters not!” Corona proclaimed, stomping her hoof as her horn glowed. A bolt of hot, white light lashed towards Cheerilee, or tried to. Lyra saw it and leapt in the way, closing her eyes and preparing for the end...and finding herself pleasantly disappointed when instead, she landed evenly on her hooves, neck now orbited by another collection of shattered stones, Corona’s beam of death having been harmlessly deflected away into the sky. The shards were glowing red.
“What – ” Trixie began.
Lyra interrupted her, albeit without realizing she was doing so. “Loyalty,” she stated, as though it were both obvious fact and a great revelation. “The Element of Loyalty. Because…because of the forest. Because I wouldn’t let the sirens get any of you, no matter what. Even if it killed me.”
One by one, the remaining shards of the shattered elements picked themselves off of the ground, levitating and glowing and forming a barrier between Corona and the six ponies, but not moving further. Corona’s head was whipping around as she looked between each of them, eyes wide as she tried desperately to understand what was going on.
She wasn’t the only one. Trixie stomped a hoof. “But why?” she asked, even if nopony could hear her. “Why now?”
Lyra and Cheerilee looked to Raindrops, who looked down at them. “I don’t get it,” she stated.
“Like I said,” Lyra explained, “the Elements can’t be destroyed. They made the world. Not even Corona can destroy them.”
“That is not my name!” Corona shouted from behind the barrier the Elements’ shards had created, as she glared upwards. The sun flared brightly, and a jet of flame and plasma shot down from it, towards the ponies. The shards glowed, however, and the flare splashed against a multi-hued shield without effect, hundreds of feet before reaching them. All that reached them was a wind, although it was admittedly a strong one – strong enough to blow Trixie’s hat from her head.
“The Elements aren’t something physical,” Cheerilee said, “but they do need containers. Those containers were always those rocks…but I guess they don’t have to be. They can be ponies, too.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Trixie shouted, not caring that nopony could hear her. “There’s more magic in one Element than in Corona and Luna combined! They’d kill any normal pony!” Trixie blinked a few times even as she said that, looking between Cheerilee and Lyra and how they seemed very much alive and unharmed. “…right?”
A series of shards separated from the wall they had created, and began orbiting around Carrot Top, taking up a purple glow, which spread throughout Carrot Top’s body. Her hair changed color, back to its normal orange, and both her mane and tail began to shrink back down to their normal length. Her eyes widened at the sight. “Generosity!” she exclaimed. “I…how do I know that?”
“Because what else would you get?” Lyra asked. “You walked through poison joke for me!”
“Anypony else notice a pattern here?” Cheerilee said with a smile, looking to the ponies. “I think the Elements want us as the new containers. Us. We’ve all earned them. Trying to get here, trying to get them to get rid of Corona, we want to protect the world they created.”
“The Elements aren’t alive,” Trixie objected. To her own ears, though, she sounded far from sure.
“In that case,” Raindrops observed, even as shards took up an orbit around her neck and began shrinking her down to normal size, glowing yellow-orange as they did, “Honesty. That’s the one I want. That’s the one I am.” She had reached her normal size, and she offered something of a smile as she checked her hooves and looked over her normal-size body again. “But I think I earned it before the Everfree, when we were in Carrot Top’s house. When I convinced all of us to go on this. Stay honest with ourselves, what we knew we had to do, whether or not we wanted to.”
“Sounds about right,” Carrot Top said.
Ditzy Doo blinked a few times, even as the last series of shards – green – began to twirl around her throat. “Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head. “No, no, no. Not Kindness. I don’t deserve – ”
“Shut up, yes you do,” Raindrops said as she came up to her fellow pegasus, rubbing a hoof on her head. “And don’t try to call me wrong. Apparently I’m a reliable source.” She jerked a hoof at her shard satellites.
“But – ”
“You stopped Raindrops from pounding in Spike’s face,” Carrot Top noted. “You had no reason to do that.”
“He…he wasn’t himself, it wouldn’t of been right – ”
“And,” Lyra said, “let’s be honest, you’re the only one who’s been able to consistantly put up with Trixie despite her being a gigantic jerk.”
“Hey!” Trixie objected.
“She’s not a jerk,” Ditzy Doo pointed out. “She was just stressed. And she hasn’t been a jerk at all since we came into the Everfree!”
“See?” Cheerilee said, smiling. “And I happen to have it on good authority from a student of mine that you are the hardest-working, best mother in the world.”
Ditzy Doo blinked, looking down at the shards. “I…yeah. Kindness. Okay. I can get behind that, I guess…”
Trixie looked between the five other ponies standing beside her, all of whom were glowing slightly, surrounded by an effervescent aura of energy. It occurred to Trixie, idly, that Corona had been lashing out at them the whole time, with fire, with lightning, with tremendous magical power. None of it got through, or even came close to getting through, the multicolored barrier that the Elements had created between the six of them and the Tyrant Sun. But…
“But…but it doesn’t matter!” Trixie objected, even as Corona stopped throwing magic, glaring and breathing heavily – actually winded. Trixie looked to Corona, who stared back at her. “It doesn’t matter…we still don’t have the sixth Element.”
Corona paused at that – then began chuckling. “Thou art correct…” she intoned, then laughed aloud. “She is right! I have nothing to fear from this light show! I know not what dark magics you have worked over the former Elements, but you don’t have them all! The Element of Magic isn’t here! I have but to wait for this parlor trick to run its course, and then – then I shall have you all at my mercy!”
Her mouth hung open for several moments before words made their way out. “The…Element of Magic?” she asked.
Corona glared at her. “Yes, foal. Know thee not the list of the Elements?”
“Who are you talking to?” Ditzy Doo asked, then realized. “Oh! Trixie! We forgot her!” Her eyes swept over the courtyard. “Where is she?”
“Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty, Loyalty…and Magic?” Trixie asked incredulously.
“Of course,” Corona proclaimed, leaning towards Trixie. “All the other Elements are useless without Magic. It is power. Who but the powerful can afford to be caring or giving? Who but the powerful can expect sincerity or faithfulness from those they surround themselves by? Who but the powerful can waste their days in comfort and joy?”
Trixie felt a hoof hit her head, a little harder than its owner, Cheerilee, probably intended. “Ah, found her,” she said. The rest of the ponies, who had been reaching out blindly, stopped and stared at Cheerilee as she wrapped her left hoof around what must have, to them, looked like nothing. “Trixie, like I said…there seems to be a kind of pattern here.”
“By which she means,” Lyra said, coming up along Trixie’s right, “that we’re pretty sure we’re all supposed to have an Element. Maybe it’s our destiny or something.”
“Or maybe it’s just random chance,” Ditzy Doo said with a shrug, as she placed herself in front of Trixie for a moment, staring into where she must have guessed Trixie’s eyes were. “Doesn’t really matter.” With that, she went and stood to Lyra’s right.
“What does matter is that you pony up,” Raindrops said as she tapped Trixie on the head a few times, then sitting down on Cheerilee’s right side. “Come on. Corona just figured everything out for you. It’s the Element of Magic.”
“Oh!” Carrot Top said after a moment. She also got in front of Trixie, looking her in where she supposed her eyes were, a broad grin on her features. “And I just noticed something. Remember Princess Luna’s 'stupid' riddle?” With that, she trotted over and stood to Ditzy Doo’s right, though she kept her eyes focused on the empty space that Trixie occupied. “Take a look beside you.”
Trixie blinked a few times at that, doing so. To her left was Lyra, Ditzy Doo, and Carrot Top. To her left, Raindrops and Cheerilee. Beside her.
“The sixth Element is Magic,” Trixie reasoned aloud, closing her eyes. To her surprise, it actually worked; that was, she managed to block out her view of the world. Opening her eyes again, she saw that she had, somehow, become visible again. Maybe due to the close proximity of the other Elements. In fact…yes, that was definitely it. That was a clue, she knew.
“The sixth Element is Magic,” Trixie repeated. “And…and it’s right beside me. You’re all right beside me.”
“A regular genius, you,” Raindrops noted, though she was grinning slightly.
“So, what?” Trixie asked, looking to her left and her right, trying to puzzle things through. She’d lived with Luna for ten years, she should have been better than this at puzzles. “Ponies are magic? Mares are magic? The Elements are magic? What?”
“Friendship is magic?” Cheerilee suggested.
“Stop ignoring me!” Corona shouted. “I am thy Queen! I am the Sun! Give me the respect I am due!”
Trixie ignored her. “You’re not my friends,” she objected. “You all hate me.”
Cheerilee laughed. “Trixie, we don’t hate you. So you can be a jerk. So what? So can everypony. But we wouldn’t even be here without you.”
“You made my muffin smile,” Dinky Doo pointed out. “That makes you a friend in my book.”
“You also walked through poison joke for me,” Lyra pointed out.
“You helped my farm,” Carrot Top added.
“And…well, your heart was in the right place with the weather-for-hire team,” Raindrops admitted. “So…yeah. Friends?”
“Friends,” the other four ponies agreed.
Trixie’s eyes were wide. “Friends,” she echoed softly.
“Good,” Cheerilee said. “Now could you hurry up and figure out how to get the Element of Magic already so that – ”
There was a bright, lavender flash from above Trixie, and an orb of that same color appeared in front of her head. Trixie stared into it. Somehow, it stared back. And Trixie got the distinct impression that it liked what it saw.
“Already did,” Trixie observed, as the orb and the stones surrounding each other pony flashed and coalesced around them. In the case of the others – of Trixie’s friends – they became gilt necklaces, emblazoned with arcane designs and each holding a gem of a different color, that took the shape of their cutie marks. In Trixie’s case, the orb of light instead became a tiara that set itself upon her head, glowing with radiant energy.
And Trixie saw…something. Maybe everything. She felt herself, and her friends, being lifted off of the ground by magical force, their bodies glowing painfully bright. Corona backed away at the sight.
“No!” The Tyrant Sun exclaimed. “No! This is impossible! You are mortals! You cannot wield the power of the Elements!”
“Anypony could,” Trixie said, as she felt eldritch might gathering around her – but oddly, not within her. In each of her friends, yes…but she, herself, contained nothing. Not yet. That wasn’t Magic’s role in this. “Anypony could have become the Elements. You're wrong, Corona. Power isn’t magic. Friendship is magic.”
Corona paused at that. “That,” she proclaimed, “ is the stupidest, most insipid, worthless dross I have ever heard!”
The eldritch energies that had been gathering in the others now left them, and flowed into Trixie. Now she felt her body brimming with magic. She could never have gathered it on her own, but that was the point. Now that it was gathered, however, she was the one who aimed it. She pointed a hoof at Corona.
The white alicorn stood firm. “Thou shalt not banish me once more to the sun,” she proclaimed slyly. “I have sealed away my treacherous sister. With her gone, and I as well, who will move the heavens?”
“We’ll think of something.”
Corona’s eyes widened at that. “No!” she exclaimed, as a rainbow-hued beam shot upwards from the ponies and began arching down towards her. She beat her wings, taking to the air frantically and sailing away, but she couldn’t outrun the prismatic force that chased her. It caught up to Corona just as she passed over the tower of the ruined Palace, and she fell down to its roof, the rainbow wrapping around her and assaulting her.
“No!” the Tyrant Sun repeated in defiance as the light grew brighter. “No! I shall not fall to thee! I am Celestia! I am the Sun!”
Trixie wanted to remark on that – to say something witty – but she couldn’t, as the last of the power that the Elements had gathered chose that moment to leave her body. She gasped at the sudden vacuum of magic within her as she and her friends were lowered to the ground, their descent mercifully gentle, at least until whatever held them up failed and they all collapsed. Trixie had just enough time to hear Lyra groan “not again,” before everything once more plunged into darkness.