• Published 22nd Mar 2012
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Silent Ponyville 3 - SamRose



Twilight must confront a town overcome by a demonic fog.

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Chapter 5

Chapter 5


Only the sound of Twilight’s breathing permeated through the thick darkness that enveloped her. This heavy breathing was Twilight’s only comfort, as at the moment it was really the only way she could tell she was alive. While she felt some degree of safety since her pendant was remaining quiet just like everything else in this place, the silence was disconcerting enough that in combination with the pitch dark room she found herself in, she feared for her life just as much as if there was a monster getting ready to slice her in half. At this point, the one thing the unicorn wanted most was to see again, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get the room to light up, even though she knew she had the energy and was performing the light spell perfectly. She could even feel the light coming off of her horn. Yet the darkness around her remained.

She concentrated harder, giving more energy to the spell. She knew the spell should have grown brighter and yet no light penetrated the sea of black surrounding her. With an exasperated breath she let the spell dissipate into the air then tried to absorb as much remaining unused magic back into her reservoir as possible.

The strain from her chronic use of magic over the past few hours was starting to get to her, a testament to how dire her situation was considering her natural magical power was much higher than the average unicorn’s. The exhaustion was worse on her mind, as it was also causing her thoughts to become clouded and problem solving more difficult. The thought of losing her wits as well as dealing with diminished magical abilities terrified her. Losing free use of any spell she might need was bad enough, as that ability was what had kept her alive so far, but to be deprived of both magic and intellect was all but a death sentence. Rather than fill herself with any more dread by pondering how her situation could deteriorate any further, she decided it was better to instead take stock of how her situation was right then.

She still had a tally of the items she had stored inside of her spell crafted holding space right then, mostly notes and books that she was hoarding. She wasn’t sure what was compelling her to hold onto them, but she felt these items were somehow necessary. She also had the health drink bottle from the library, though she was unsure of what use it would be would be at the moment. Maintaining the storage spell was only a little taxing, the thing that had been using up the bulk of her magic was using her sword.

She had been wielding the sword with fear, gripping it harder than was necessary. She knew that was a rookie mistake, an easy way to get you exhausted when you found yourself in prolonged danger. She could still remember practicing with her sword as a little filly...

“HYAAAAA!” Twilight cried out as she swung the wooden sword at the guard as hard as she could . Her weapon struck dirt as the guard simply stood to the side and levitated his own sword towards the filly before it came striking down against her head.

“OOOOOWW!” The young student rubbed her head as the sword she had been gripping fell to the ground. “That hurt!”

“It hurt because you not only let your guard down but you attacked at an inopportune time.” The unicorn explained as he returned the floating sword to his side. “You’re also gripping your sword too hard. You only need to grip it that hard when unleashing a devastating strike.”

“I know that!” The lavender filly huffed as she stood up, planting her hooves against the ground and forcing magic to her horn once more. The grip of her spell surrounded the small wooden sword they had provided her and she again lifted it up to her side.

“That’s too much magic. You’re gripping it as though you’re trying to break it into splinters.” The unicorn guard shook his head in disapproval.

The little filly unicorn just huffed in annoyance once more and tried to reduce the grip of her spell. It seemed so much easier to just study magic as the Princess’s prized pupil. Though she’d been curious about practicing with swords the guards she occasionally sparred with always complained about how she was doing it wrong. It was starting to annoy her.

“Too little.” The guard said, striking Twilight’s sword with his own and knocking the wooden weapon from her grip. “You need to have just enough strength so that if struck you won’t lose grip of the sword, but not enough to so quickly exhaust your magic.”

“UGH! When am I ever going to use this!?” The filly stomped her hooves against the ground. Now she really regretted giving up precious study time for this silly hobby.

“You’re always going to use this.” The unicorn guard explained, causing Twilight to glare at him with disbelief. “As the Princess’s student you’re tasked with learning as much about magic as you can. So you should already be aware of the fact that how much magic you put into your spell effects how much the spell changes. Don’t put enough magic into your spell and it doesn’t work. Put too much and the reactions cause your spell to become something entirely different.” The guard pointed his wooden sword at Twilight. “Combat forces you to be aware of this at all times, to instinctively channel your magic to just the right amount. Never too little, never too much. You may never have to raise a sword to a foe, and I pray to Celestia that a day where you have to never comes, but the fundamentals of what you are learning here will stay with you forever.”

The little filly huffed angrily yet again. She was being lectured and she knew it. Begrudgingly, she lit her horn up and grabbed her wooden sword once more.

“Fine.” She said while raising the sword. “But I only want to spar for a few more minutes, then I want to return to my studies.”

“I have no objections.” The unicorn nodded, preparing himself once more.

Something loudly crashed in the darkness. Caught off guard in her own thoughts, Twilight screamed, fumbling over her own hooves to get away from whatever had made that racket. Her leg struck something hard and she tumbled forward. Her chin struck the ground, and she felt something wet splash against her face. She groaned as her chin ached.

Her pendant began to flicker, light slowly filling the darkness that had surrounded her. She sat up, rubbing her jaw, careful of how she sat with the burns still aching on the back of her legs and flank. She could feel the liquid that had splashed onto her face. She blinked, her eyes adjusting to the light that was now filtering into the room.

Twilight wasn’t even sure she was in the same place anymore. The interior decor she was beginning to see didn’t look like anything she’d find in Rarity’s boutique. She was even beginning to wish she wasn’t seeing it at all, wanting the room to revert to the ruin it had been before.

Rusted sheets of steel had taken the place of the normal boutique walls, each spattered with blood as though some gruesome occurrence had taken place next to them. The destroyed curtains were no longer made of any kind of cloth but instead seemed to be made out of skin, stretched and torn in several places. The normal decorations of the boutique were replaced with rusted chains and grime.

Twilight looked down at her legs to try and avert her gaze from the horrific scenery and to also see what she had tripped over. It was the body of that creature in the armor she’d killed before the world had changed around her. The liquid she had landed in was its blood.

She grimaced, feeling her stomach flip. She carefully stepped away from the body, not wanting to step in any more of the blood that had pooled around it. She glanced around the boutique once more, looking for a rag or a cloth with which she could wipe off the blood. But the only things that were anything remotely like cloth were the skins hanging from the curtains, and wiping the blood off with them seemed just as nauseating as having the blood on her in the first place.

She reached into her magic reservoir and pulled out one of the scrolls she had been keeping, the one with the nonsensical scribbles plastered all over it. She still couldn’t discern if any of the scribbles held anything important; for all she knew it was only there to block the original cryptic riddle. She gambled with the importance of the paper and closed her eyes.

The scroll wasn’t very absorbent and therefore wasn’t able to pick up the blood that was spattered on her face very well. But she wiped as hard as she was able to get as much of the blood as possible off of her face. She knew she wasn’t getting it all, she was certain there were still some smudges left, but she felt better knowing most of it was off of her face.

Twilight returned the now bloodied scroll to her magic reservoir while looking at the body she had tripped over. She adjusted the light to look towards its head, spotting the handle of her sword that was still buried deep within the monster. She grimaced, quickly realizing that she was going to have to pull the sword out.

She hesitated for a moment, but her horn lit with magic all the same. The handle was wrapped, giving her a good grip of the sword. She tugged on it, hoping it would slide out without much effort, but the sword barely moved, simply nudging to the side for her. Twilight grunted and pulled a little harder. The body was dragged along the ground by the handle of the sword. A realization struck her that once again flipped her stomach: The sword was stuck fast in the creature’s body and forcing it out would most likely mutilate it beyond recognition.

She closed her eyes and clasped a hoof over her mouth. Her stomach was rebelling and it wanted to expel its contents. Her resolve was shaking. She tried to remind herself why she needed that sword, the very same reason that it was embedded in the creature in the first place. She needed it so she could defend her life from the creatures that wished to snuff it out. She couldn’t help her friends, the citizens of Ponyville, the Princess, or Spike if she was dead.

She gulped down the contents of her stomach and opened her eyes, wrapping a separate section of magic around the armored creature’s head and neck. With a soft grunt she pulled the two sections in opposite directions, feeling the objects catch on each other and refuse to budge. She grit her teeth and steadied her stance before lowering her horn and channeling more magic into it. The force made the sword begin to wobble, as though it was about to come out. The body oozed more blood from its mouth as she persisted in trying to retrieve her only weapon.

A loud snap echoed through the dilapidated building as Twilight felt something give way. Her eyes widened as she lifted up her sword to view what had come free from the creature. Most of the blade had stayed embedded within the creature; due to the age, wear and rust of the sword she had picked up, all that remained now was a small, jagged stub of metal that used to be a sword.

“Oh no…” Twilight felt her heart sink. Her sword had been the difference between life and death. Without it, she was certain she would…

A shiver ran down her back, sticking her hair on end at the thought. She looked the broken sword over carefully, noting how sharp and jagged the broken end was now. The blade only extended out about three inches now, the sides still sharp though admittedly a bit chipped. Twilight had a feeling that the jagged ends of the sword would likely snap off if too much pressure was applied to them, but that still left it as a means to defend herself. She would just have to use it as a dagger instead. As long as she didn’t run into anymore of those soldier-like weapon brandishing creatures she could imagine she’d be able to defend herself.

“I won’t be able to kill anything swiftly though…” She spoke aloud to herself, slashing the impromptu dagger through the air. The length of the blade had been what allowed her to kill quickly so far, minimizing the chances of being hurt by any retaliatory attack. But now she’d have to stab until the creature she was fighting bled to death, not an option she liked.

She vanished the dagger into her magic and took a deep breath, calming her senses. She opened her eyes back to the horrible world she now found herself in, able to smell blood wafting through the air. She turned her head to where the front door had been, expecting to see the splintered remains of where the creature had come in. Instead, she saw the same blood splattered steel blocking the door.

An idea sparked in her head as she examined where the door had been and remembered how her attacker had chopped the door to bits. She quickly looked around the floor, trying to find the double headed axe that the soldier had been wielding. To her ever growing luck, it seemed to have vanished. The body of the soldier was still there, but the weapon it had been using was gone. Twilight sighed in defeat; it seemed she wasn’t going to be getting a replacement weapon that easily.

The lavender unicorn then focused on her pendant and turned it to look around the room, trying to locate a possible exit. Her light fell upon a rather large wooden door located exactly where the three viewing mirrors had been placed when she saw that shadowed creature.

She gulped, fear gripping her throat. She had a feeling that going through that door meant she was going to see that shadowed figure again. The thought terrified her, but it was the only door that now remained within Carousel Boutique, even if she hesitated to call it that anymore. Twilight hesitantly began to walk toward it.

She stopped as heat tore through her haunches once more, biting her lip as the reminder of her burns struck her mind. During the tense moments when adrenaline and endorphins had been coursing through her blood, she had forgotten about the pain that assaulted the back of her legs.

Not only was her offensive capabilities reduced, but her ability to walk was hindered. She tried to push it to the side of her mind, stepping carefully so as not to agitate her hind legs as she walked up to the door that was now conspicuously in the middle of the building. She raised her hoof to the door, expecting it to be locked just as every other door she’d encountered and pushed against.

The door let out a rusted squeal as it slowly swung open. Twilight was surprised at how heavy the door actually turned out to be as it opened to reveal a stairwell that lead down into a dark abyss. The unicorn was confused, not having expected there to be a basement of any sorts below Rarity’s workshop. Especially not one located in the middle of her showroom.

The lavender unicorn pushed the thoughts aside, trying to remind herself that wherever she was, she wasn’t at Rarity’s place of business anymore. Rarity would gag and faint at the sight that had become her workshop.

Aiming the light of her pendant down the stairs, she began to make her way down the stone steps. The walls lining the stairwell looked to be made of a strange cobblestone which she thought she recognized but just wasn’t quite able to place a hoof on it. Each wall was covered with a dark green mold that seemed to be sliding downward with blood spattered all over just like in the room above.

The bottom of the stairs came upon her quickly; her hooves clopped agaisnt the dark stone floor below. She turned her eyes up to the wall in front of her and gasped, almost jumping back in surprise.

There was a large mural depicting Nightmare Moon in a threatening pose facing the pony viewing it. The visage of the mare of darkness loomed over, her eyes glaring white and the armor covering her body as it had the night Twilight had confronted her. It took her a moment to realize the mural wasn’t moving, that the mare of darkness wasn’t actually standing before her at that very moment.

Her eyes scanned the mural more carefully, noticing a strange outline digging into the picture. She traced the shape with her eyes and realized that it was a door the mural had been directly painted over. Twilight placed her hoof against the door and pushed. Nothing. The door didn’t even so much as budge. She ran her hoof along it and felt it slip inward a little. She blinked and looked closer. Part of the mural was missing, specifically the chest piece of Nightmare Moon. The moon adorned mantle she wore wasn’t there and in its place was an indentation in the wall in the same shape.

“This day just keeps getting weirder…” She murmured softly, putting her hoof backon the ground. She turned her head to look around the hallway. The walls were still made up of the same stone material that the stairs had been made of, though there was less grime on these particular rocks and more spatters of dried blood. The stench finally reached her nose and she gagged softly, realizing she was already starting to get used to the smell of blood in the air everywhere.

The hallway was narrow, not what she expected to find in a basement. The building materials didn’t even seem similar to that of the Boutique, as if this had been built first before the Boutique had been put on top of it. The door before her was locked for now and the hallway went down to her left and right, seeming the same in either direction. Taking a wild guess, Twilight began to walk down the right path.

Her hooves struck the stone ground as she walked, the echoes bouncing off the walls loudly. The creeping darkness still sent an unsettling chill up her spine. Anything could be lurking in the shadows, just waiting to attack her. The echo of her hoof steps offered no comfort against the knowledge that her medallion could still go off at any moment.

The hallway made a sharp turn to the left suddenly, causing Twilight to hesitate. She carefully peeked around the corner, illuminating the path before her with her pendant. She saw the hallway come to a dead end at another wooden door placed in the wall. She crept around the corner and walked up to the door. She placed her hoof against it and summoned the dagger-length sword to her side. She would be ready for anything that lay in wait on the other side... at least, she hoped she would.

The door creaked open. Her rune remained silent as her light hit the room, but her eyesight instantly caught something wrong. Hanging from the ceiling were several blood red vines with plant-like weeds matching the vines snaking all along the ceiling. It was as if the ceiling itself was a plant. From the ends of a few of the vines she could see a dark red liquid dripping to the ground, she could only guess what it was exactly. The stone walls were covered in rusted chain links that seemed to be keeping the stones in place. The stone floor had several cracks that the liquid dripping from the ceiling seeped into.

Twilight cautiously walked into the room and shut the door behind her. She couldn’t see anything of particular interest towards the front of the room, but she couldn’t just leave it unexplored. She carefully walked towards the center of the room, not knowing what to expect. A drop of liquid hit the top of her head and she shivered, feeling it on her body.

She heard something shift in the room and her medallion began to buzz. She instantly turned towards the source of the sound. There was an opening in the wall to her left that seemed to go into a separate section of the room, however, two things appeared to be in the way. The first was a stone altar that appeared to be missing three square indents on the top. Behind it was a gigantic creature that seemed to be stretched taught across the opening.

It was bound by two large circles, one on the ceiling and one on the floor, each circle covered in large protruding spikes aimed for the creature. Its body was attached to the wall by large hooks, stretching its ragged skin taught. Twilight could see several muscles through rips in the skin, the creature dripping blood from the wounds. Its head appeared to be small, though Twilight could only assume it was a head. It seemed to have a mouth that opened slightly only for it to take in breath. Its lower half appeared to have been forcefully ripped off, though no entrails hung from below it. She couldn’t discern what kind of a creature it had been, it was unlike anything Twilight had ever seen before.

She held her former sword out before her, waiting for the creature to attack. Her medallion was buzzing, telling her it was a threat. She wasn’t about to be caught off guard by an attack from it.

The creature only seemed to slightly move within its confines, the hooks digging into its flesh as it breathed and the hanging flesh on the lower half of its body brushing against the ground as it moved. It didn’t even seem to make a sound, content to just stand in its designated spot blocking her path. She looked the creature over trying to discern its purpose, but it only persisted in remaining still. Very cautiously Twilight looked around the room. There was nothing else in there, only the monster and the altar before her. She looked back at the altar before the monster, making note of the three empty indents that it presented.

‘So I need to find the armor piece of that mural and I need to find three squares for this creature…’ She mentally noted, stepping away from the creature and back towards the door. The further she grew, the quieter her medallion became. Grabbing the door with her magic she opened it and backed out slowly, closing it behind her. The medallion grew silent, prompting her to let out a sigh of relief.

“They just can’t make this easy on me…” The lavender unicorn whispered to herself. She put the sword back into her reservoir and looked at the dead end of the hallway. “I guess that means the answer is the other way.” She softly cursed herself for picking the wrong way.

She passed the mural again and reached a sharp turn to her right, just as she had going down the other hallway. The hallway also led to a dead end and a wooden door, same as the other hallway. She placed her hoof against the door and opened it, peering inside with the light of her pendant.

This room was just as different from the hallway as the last room had been. Instead of the grime ridden stone, this room was adorned with brown stone tiles, as though the room belonged in one of Equestria’s many discarded ruins. This room also had the tell-tale spatters of blood along the wall, but what stuck out the most was the wall directly across from the door. Twilight carefully walked up to it, not understanding what she was seeing.

There were three separate sheets of glass allowing her to look inside of three boxes within the wall. Each box contained an environment, each one different from the other. The left most box contained a beautiful jungle, kept pristine within the glass. She could see luscious greens and beautiful flowers inside. A single tree seemed to dominate the back of the box and fill the ceiling with the bountiful branches.

The middle box contained what seemed like a murky field. Grass covered the floor but was dampened with water. Above the ground was a darkened black cloud that covered the entire ceiling, threatening to rain at any moment.

The third window seemed to contain a bookshelf and a ladder. Each of the books seemed indistinguishable from one another yet brimming with knowledge all the same. None of them had any dust, indicating they were well kept, but no one was there to read them.

Twilight viewed the scenes curiously, not quite sure what they meant. Each one contained a theme, but what did the theme mean? She shook her head slowly, trying to take a mental note of the scenes before turning to look at the rest of the room. It contained nothing more than the scenes and another door. With nothing left to do in the room, the unicorn inspected the second door before opening it.

“Huh?” Twilight wondered aloud while walking in. There was a strange contraption taking up the entirety of the room. It appeared to be a cage of some sort, though the cieling and floor was made out of the same cobblestone from the hallway and the bars on the sides only went down about three fourths of the way before meeting a wall, as though it were a guard rail. The front of it had an open door and inside the door she spotted a lever.

The unicorn spared a moment before stepping into the cage, expecting the door to have shut closed behind her. She turned to look at the lever, not sure what its placement within the cage accomplished. If it locked the cage, that meant she could flip the lever and escape once more. Taking a gamble she raised her hoof and pulled the lever down.

As she expected, the door to the cage closed in front of her.

“What a silly contraption.” Twilight muttered softly to herself, raising her hoof to flip the lever the other way when the entire cage suddenly lurched. Twilight stumbled away from the door, trying to keep her balance as the entire cage began to move. The cage grew pitch black save for the shining of her pendant. Twilight turned her attention to the walls that were moving upwards just beyond the steel bars. The entire thing was moving down, as though it was automated to.

The unicorn was rendered speechless. Of all the things she expected to happen, the cage taking her somewhere was not one she had even considered. With nothing to do but to wait for it to stop moving, her mind quickly went over the layout of the boutique in her mind. She couldn’t conceive such an intricate basement was resting underneath Ponyville, let alone the boutique of all places. She’d been feeling as though she was in some kind of otherworldly place ever since she heard the droning of the siren.

The cage lurched once more, almost knocking Twilight off her hooves. The entire contraption stopped moving and dim light began to filter into the cage once more. The door opened up, revealing the room before her. She carefully stepped out of the cage and viewed the rather large set of wooden double doors just before her. They looked as though they belonged in a castle. After walking up to the doors she pressed her hooves against them and pushed. With a heavy creaking the doors gave way, allowing her access to the room that lay beyond them.

The hallway she entered was gigantic in comparison to the ones she had just been through, easily large enough to be one of the hallways in Canterlot Castle. A moth-eaten red carpet stretched from the door across the entire hall. The grime and blood-soaked stones lined the walls and floor. She couldn’t see the ceiling unless she aimed her pendant straight at it and the large windows which normally contained stained glass pictures were instead covered with the rusted, blood splattered steel she’d seen on the first floor of the boutique.

Twilight’s eyes were drawn to the center of the hallway, where a square marble pillar stood, holding a glass case on top of it. She spotted something inside of it that was glinting off of the light of her pendant.

Twilight approached the marble pillar to see what was inside. The buzzing of her medallion froze her in place however. She was instantly looking around for the source of the sound. Her ears perked, hearing the sound of stone being scraped by metal. She whirled around, looking for the soldier she was expecting to see.

The scraping of metal continued, the buzzing of her medallion grew louder, and no matter where she looked she couldn’t spot the creature. Her heart began to race, her breathing going short as she felt herself slipping into panic. She was right on top of a monster and couldn’t even see it. She could feel sweat forming on her forehead as she stepped back, bumping into the marble pillar.

A loud crack came from above and Twilight snapped her gaze upward, spotting movement. She quickly aimed her pendant and saw what was crawling on the ceiling.

A mask was looking down at her, a theater mask that covered the entire pony’s face, one half red, the other half white. It had no eye or mouth holes to speak of; the creature was staring down at her with no way of seeing her. Its body was covered in a tattered brown cloak that only covered its body. The feet that dug into the ceiling… no, they weren’t feet, they looked like skin colored sickles. Each sharpened appendage moved forward and dug into the stone before it, causing the metallic scraping she’d heard.

The creature’s mask was pointed in her direction, as though the head of the creature was upside down. Twilight couldn’t breathe as she stared at the creature slowly making its way across the ceiling. The head of the creature snapped, twisting its head back around to view the ceiling. Twilight winced and the creature’s movements suddenly sped up. The scraping of metal as it moved its sickles across the ceiling echoed. Twilight followed it with her pendant, watching it escape into a hole in the ceiling. The medallion grew quiet as the creature moved out of sight.

“That… can’t be good…” Twilight gulped, thankful for the return of the silence. However, a new dread swept over her as she realized that these creatures really could come from anywhere. That creature could have easily jumped down onto her and then what would she do? She needed to find a new weapon; her dagger of a sword wasn’t going to cut it against creatures like that.

Twilight turned back to the marble pillar, giving it her attention for a moment. Inside of the glass casing she could see what was without a doubt one half of a piece of chestplate. It was colored dark blue with half of a circle in light blue in the center.

“This must be the missing piece from the mural…” Twilight muttered to herself looking it over. It looked exactly like it had come from the mural in the wall. Twilight raised a hoof to the glass and pressed on it, trying to move it. It seemed to be firmly in place. Twilight thought for a moment, trying to figure out what she could do to get the mural piece. She lit her horn and wrapped the glass in magic, trying to lift it off of the marble pillar. The glass remained in place.

The unicorn focused on just the front section of the glass, calling upon one of the many spells she’d worked so hard to memorize upon the glass. She raised a hoof and pressed it to where she had cast her spell, expecting her hoof to phase through the glass. Instead she was met once more by the solid glass. At this point she knew it wasn’t the spell that had failed, but rather the world around her was messing with her magic.

“Guess I’ll just try busting it open.” Twilight sighed in exasperation, pulling out her dwarfed sword. She aimed the handle towards the glass and took a few steps back. She raised the handle well above her head and brought it swinging down hard against the glass. The resulting strike let out a loud ‘thud’ that briefly echoed before going quiet, but the glass didn’t even have a scratch on it.

“I guess I’m not getting it this way…” Twilight put the sword away, glaring wearily at the piece behind the glass. It was bad enough that her flank stung from burns, that she could be attacked at any moment without a proper means to defend herself, and that she had no idea why any of this was happening, but now the world was seeing fit to mock her by defying everything she’d ever come to know about the way glass worked.

“I’ll be back for you.” Twilight pointed at the glass with a hoof as though it were able to hear her. She then stepped around it and looked towards the opposite end of the hallway, seeing another pair of large doors that led further into the decaying stone basement.

She spared a glance up at the ceiling, aiming her light at the hole that the creature with the sickle legs had gone into. It didn’t appear to be coming out of its hole, a fortunate sign for her, though she could already guess with her luck that she hadn’t seen the last of it.

The door at the end of the hallway let out the moaning wail that Twilight had expected as she opened it. She was instantly struck by a wave of stale air that almost made her gag. She put a hoof to her mouth trying to stifle the air, feeling as though it was trying to strangle her. She backed away from the door, trying to breathe. By no means had the air around her up until then been fresh, but the air beyond that door was on a completely different level.

Twilight aimed her pendant towards the door once more, gulping down the fear welling in her throat and pushing it open further.

The room was even more open than the hallway she was in; if she had to guess it was at least the size of the banquet hall in Canterlot. She could see a fountain in the center of the room, showing a rusted pony standing triumphantly, wielding a tattered, broken flag. Twilight could see blood dripping from the statue. She followed the drip of the statue towards the ground, suddenly realizing where the stench in the room was coming from.

The ground was littered with body parts. She could identify several legs, chewed up torsos, various flattened organs, pools of blood and at least one disembodied head, though she was certain if she looked hard she could find another.

She retreated immediately, falling into a sitting position and putting her back to the wall. Her flanks cried out in pain as soon as she did and she grit her teeth trying to ignore it. She’d rather be focusing on the pain than the horror show in the room behind her. It was all she could do to keep her stomach contents from rushing up out of her.

“Oh Celestia…” Twilight grimaced, shaking her head trying to fight the tears forming at the edges of her eyes. “Why is this happening? What would have caused this?” She pictured her friends in her mind. Each body part in that room came from a pony. Each of those ponies must have had friends, a family, other ponies they loved and cared for. The thought didn’t quell her stomach any.

“I have to go in there…” Twilight spoke to herself, putting a hoof to her mouth. Carousel Boutique upstairs was a dead end, there had been no way out and no way into any of the other rooms. The only place she hadn’t been able to check was behind the mural door. One of the mural pieces was trapped in unbreakable glass before her. If Stalliongrad library had been any indication of anything, it was that the pieces to unlock a door were obtainable. One just had to figure out where they were. And Twilight could feel it in her gut, the way to get the other mural piece had to be through that room.

Her legs shook as she stood up again. She tried to steel her nerves and took in a deep breath of the air unpolluted by the wretchedness of rotting flesh. She then very carefully made her way to the open door, the wafting stench of death and decay still spilling out from behind the doors. The moment the air hit her nostrils again, she gagged.

She put one hoof in front of the other, walking deeper into the suffocating room. She aimed her light towards the ground, spotting the open spaces between the discarded body parts and organs that lay scattered about. Her horn lit up and she grabbed several of the body parts and organs in front of her then slowly moved them to the side, creating a path for her to walk without stepping on anything. The stained stone floor was cold despite the repulsion of the air; it sent shivers up her back as she made her way through.

Twilight lifted her head towards the fountain, once more looking at the statue of the pony. She glanced slowly to the left, trying to discern where she needed to go. Her light fell upon a small wooden door on the left most wall. She could reach it if she maneuvered through the death that lay around her.

Twilight carefully lifted her hoof and took a blind step, something squishing underneath. She instantly grimaced, not wanting to see what it was she had just stepped in but she could already feel the compulsion to look rising. She lifted her hoof and looked. It appeared to be the squished remains of an eyeball-

Yup. There went the small bit of breakfast she’d had that morning.

The unicorn coughed against the bile that had escaped her mouth, still feeling the burning in the back of her throat. She shook her head, trying to clear it of the vile thoughts that had caused her to lose her stomach in the first place. She wanted to break down and cry, to just collapse from the horrible mess she found herself in.

Her medallion sprang to life, telling her there wouldn’t be time for it. A dull thud combined with a squelching sound came to her ears. She turned around, directing her light towards the source.

Something struck against the ground, picking up a discarded leg with it. The leg was lifted into the air and a loud smacking echoed as the limb slowly disappeared between the folds of a round mouth. The mouth appeared to be at the top of the creature’s head, following a long neck to a large, engorged body that seemed to slither against the ground. Twilight thought it had a pony-like shape, but it was missing any semblance of legs or a pony head. It was like a leech slithering across the ground, twice the size of her and devouring the meat that was littered on the ground.

The massive creature was sliding closer, through the blood and organs, crushing anything that didn’t slide out of the way when it moved. Its mouth came down to blindly clamp down on another piece of bloody meat so that it might choke it down its long gullet.

Twilight turned back to face the wooden door she was heading for and lit her horn. With a wave of her magic all of the various pony parts slid out of her way and she ran. Her hooves hammered against the floor and almost slipped on the fresh blood, but she stayed on her legs and made it to the door.

She flung the door open and threw herself inside before slamming the door shut behind her. Her medallion grew silent and she panted heavily. The stench of death wasn’t suffocating her in this room, though the smell of blood still wafted through. She took a moment to examine her surroundings.

The room was small, a closed in room of four walls probably no bigger than an average bedroom. What stood out was that the entire wall opposite the door had been painted with a large picture depicting an army of ponies being led by Princess Celestia. All of the ponies, even Celestia, were clad in a thick looking armor that covered most of their bodies. She could see all kinds of ponies standing behind her, though they seemed to be sorted by groups. She could see a section of earth ponies, a section of unicorns next to them, and in the air a group of pegasi. Underneath the picture was a plaque with elegant writing on it.

Twilight drew closer to the picture, inspecting the details of the strange mural. It wasn’t one she’d seen in Canterlot art museum or any book on historical art. As far as she knew this wasn’t a depiction of any of Equestria’s major battles. Her eyes were drawn downward to the plaque.

Though our combined power can defeat any threat that may come to harm our lands and loved ones, we will always stand out from the ones around us.

Twilight thought the words on the plaque sounded weird. She thought back to the pictures in Canterlot. If this had been a picture there, the plaque would have said something like ‘Through our combined power we can defeat any threat that may come to harm our lands or loved ones.’ However, this one made a point to indicate that the different ponies meant something specific. Her instincts told her that something was off about the picture, something that she needed to figure out now if she was going to get out of this crazy otherworld.

Her eyes scanned across the picture once more, viewing Celestia in all her glory. She then examined the massive army that was behind her. She looked through the group of Earth ponies first. They all seemed to be about the same color, here and there was a small variation in color, but nothing that seemed to stand out. She raised a hoof and took a closer look, examining each soldier. Their armor, their color, their weapon of choice, their wings.

“Wait, wings?” Twilight said, looking at where her hoof was. In the group of Earth ponies, almost invisibly, were a pair of wings attached to the side of the pony. It was a pegasus in the middle of earth ponies. Her hoof touched the strange misfit of the group when it suddenly moved. The pegasus sunk into the picture about half an inch.

Twilight moved her hoof away and stared. She hadn’t even seen an outline for her to push something into the wall. She looked at the Pegasus amongst the Earth ponies and thought about it for a moment.

“If there was one pony that was mismatched… then…” Twilight swept her eyes over to the group of unicorns in the picture. She scanned across the rows of ponies, checking each of them for a horn until she found the exact pony she was looking for. Amongst the unicorns was a single Earth pony. She raised her hoof and pushed against the outcast, the part of the wall pushing into place like the first one did.

Scanning upwards she looked over the flying pegasi that seemed to blot out the sky over the army below. She carefully examined each one until she found the unusual one, a unicorn amongst pegasi. She lit her horn and used her magic to push against the pony and he too sunk into the wall.

With all three sections pressed in Twilight took a step back, not sure what to expect. The picture was fine for just a moment before it suddenly let off a small glow. Twilight was confused by the sight as the glow grew brighter. She covered her eyes as light filled the entire room.

As the light began to fade she lowered her foreleg from her face and viewed what had happened. She found that she was no longer in the room staring at the picture, but instead was in a regal hallway staring once more at the figures of Princess Celestia and Merlin.

“Thou shalt find that our accommodations are quite relaxing.” The regal Princess spoke with an air of kindness behind her voice. “We’ve already had the guards prepare your room, close to the royal archives so that you may conduct thy research.”

“I cannot express my gratitude in a finite number of words.” Merlin spoke appreciatively. “The kindness thou hast showed me far exceeds any that I would expect.”

“It is simply part of our nature. That which gives us our true power comes from but one of those elements, the element of kindness.” Celestia smiled at the azure unicorn. “And if not for that we would extend this kindness to thee anyway. We have received word from our guards that they will be bringing in the Acnologia soon. Just as thou said, he is but an Earth pony now.”

“I am but a pony that has put it upon himself to tell no lie.” Merlin nodded his head slowly. “Nor did I lie about why I needed thy resources for study. I shall be able to save many a pony if my research proves fruitful.”

“And we have no doubt in your ability.” Celestia spoke warmly. “Come, we wish to give thee a tour of our castle before thou retire to thy room for the night.”

“A tour from thy Princess herself? I could think of no higher honor.” Merlin smiled, accepting the gift.

“Your majesty!” A loud voice suddenly cried out above the both of them. The two turned around to see a rather portly looking unicorn with a white coat and dark blue mane walking towards them. He was adorned in a rather expensive suit, made of rare silks and threads, adorned with jewels and emblems showing his status in the castle. The coat he wore over the suit had its ends carried by two humbled and thin servant ponies dressed in uniform.

“Your majesty I simply must have an audience with thee.” The plump unicorn stopped short of the royal Princess. He did not bother with bows or formal greetings; he just began to speak of his needs first. “The land thou hast given me is no longer enough to carry my needs. The discovery of a gem mine has expanded my need of ponies for work and I simply must have more land so that I may accommodate them.” He snorted with an uncaring attitude, as if he didn’t really care about the ponies living on his lands, but rather about the gems those lands contained.

“Is thy work force not adequate? Thy land is rich with ponies who will work with sweat on their brows and food in their bellies. We have no doubt about the strength and the will of our citizens, why would thou ask for more?” The Princess raised an eyebrow, unconvinced by his argument.

The fattened pony looked shocked and appalled, as though the very idea of having his request disputed in the slightest was unheard of. Even while addressing the ruler of the land, he appeared to only want what he seemed to believe was his.

“Your majesty Princess Celestia, I do not think that thou truly knowest of thy citizens.” The plump pony adjusted his suit and cleared his throat. “They are often lazy and think only of their own selfish desires. They wish to bleed me dry of my wealth which I rightfully acquired and know not their place. Many refuse to work the generous hours that I gave them and more mines are found each week. With such lazy ponies I do not have an ample work force to make Equestria as a whole richer.” He stated matter-of-factly, lifting his head into the air and closing his eyes.

Celestia eyed him for a moment, almost unable to believe that he was being serious with her. She let out a discontented sigh and turned to face Merlin.

“Our apologies, dear Merlin. It appears that once again our duties must supersede the business which we would like to conduct.” She gave a soft nod. “We hope that thou are not disappointed.”

“Do not think upon it for a minute longer.” Merlin waved his hoof gently. “I cannot begin to fathom what thy life must be like and understand that thy country comes first.” He gave her a comforting smile. “See to thy people and we shalt meet again later.” With that Merlin turned and began to walk off down the hallway.

“As I was saying your majesty, you simply MUST give me the land I request!” The plump noble pony began to speak again, however his words began to drown out as the images started to fade.

The hallway was no more as it faded back to the room with the mural, leaving Twilight once more in a state of confusion. The lavender unicorn gave her head a soft shake before rubbing it gently, trying to think about the events that she had just seen.

“…There’s no doubt in my mind now.” Twilight spoke softly, staring at the mural, at the depiction of Princess Celestia leading the army behind her. “These are the memories of Princess Celestia.” Twilight pondered that for a moment. She was seeing memories of her mentor, of the ruler of all of Equestria. She was viewing them the same way that she had viewed her own memories when Celestia had cast the mind delve spell upon her.

“I wonder…” Twilight put a hoof to her chin in thought. “Pinkie and Fluttershy each say they experienced memories of their past when I put them under the Mind Delve spell; and I confirmed that’s what I saw with the Princess. However, what I experienced and what they experienced were vastly different… am I viewing the memories of the Princess and experiencing this town because of the Mind Delve spell?” she tried to rack her brain for an explanation. “That wouldn’t make sense. I’m the only pony in town that has cast the spell or even knows about it. There are no other copies of Dreams: A Psychological Understanding in Ponyville. The only other possible pony who could have cast the spell was…”

Her heart instantly sank. The creator of the very spell was in the town. She’d left her number one assistant in his care.

“No… no that’s stupid, Twilight.” She shook her head. “He said he had nothing to do with this. You’re jumping to conclusions. Other ponies borrowed that book right? It was a book in a library after all.” She rubbed her head trying to remember if any pony had borrowed the book at any point. “I can’t possibly keep track of all the books rented out in the library can I? Maybe someone borrowed it while I wasn’t looking or... or when I wasn’t studying it. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.” She suppressed the feelings, trying to swallow them in her stomach.

“I know… I’ll talk with Magus again when I get out of here. He’ll explain everything and I’ll prove that he had nothing to do with this and that it wasn’t wrong of me to leave Spike in his care.” Twilight nodded her head, doing her best to convince herself. “I just need to get out of here first…” She then murmured, looking down at the floor before the mural.

A brown tile seemed to have appeared just below the mural. She lit her horn and grabbed it, bringing it up to her eyes. She swiveled it around quickly and got a good look at it. It wasn’t very big, a small square tile. On the front of it was the depiction of an Earth pony.

“I guess this is one of those tiles for that monster up above.” Twilight spoke aloud, placing the tile into her magic pool. She turned to face the door to the room once more, gulping at the realization that she was going to have to go back outside into the massive room of decay where the body parts were being devoured by that leech-like creature. She took a deep breath and opened the door once more.

The overwhelming air assaulted her senses with a vengeance as she stepped out into the room. Her medallion instantly began to buzz as she searched for the source. Her light hit the leech just a little ways out, closer to the middle of the room. It was gorging itself upon more limbs of the discarded ponies and didn’t seem to have noticed she was there. She turned to her left and decided that she’d follow along the wall, figuring she could find the next area she needed to go quickly and avoid that horrible abomination.

Her horn lit up as she quickly began to walk while pushing the pieces out of her path. The room was only about the size of the grand hall back in Canterlot. Twilight knew she could circle the room in just a few minutes if she kept focused on her goal.

The medallion suddenly began to buzz louder as the sound of metal scraping against stone came from just above her. She stopped and turned to look up, the light of her pendant landing upon the masked creature once more. Its head was aimed at her; each leg striking into the cold stone wall underneath it. It was climbing along the side of the wall straight in her direction.

The lavender unicorn didn’t wait until it got closer or for what it might end up doing. She turned on her hooves and began to run. She turned for the wall she had been walking towards, pushing the discarded organs out of her way in her bid to flee.

She heard the metal scraping sound hit the floor and a loud snap echo from behind her. The scraping began to click rapidly against the ground, as though the creature was now scurrying towards her. It was chasing her.

She swept her light back and forth rapidly in a panic, trying to find a door that would lead to another room and hopefully her escape. Each scraping click of the metal was punctuated with an echo behind her, the creature beginning to gain on her.

Her eyes fell upon another wooden door, similar to the one she had entered with the mural. She ran straight for it, the metal scraping growing louder as the creature slammed its blade-like legs into the ground with each step. Her horn lit up and she seized the door with her magic.

A burning pain suddenly seared into her flank and she let out a cry of agony. One of the sharp blades of the creature’s legs had reached out to try and get her, ultimately missing but managed to slice along her furred skin as it went.

Twilight flung the door open and jumped inside, sliding across the floor as she whirled her head and slammed the door shut.

Her medallion grew silent and the sound of scraping metal against stone stopped. The unicorn panted heavily watching the door, expecting to see a sharpened leg stab straight through the wood or for the door to just burst off its hinges.

She sat in the new room for several minutes, just observing the door and waiting. For whatever reason the creatures didn’t seem to be following her. The medallion was silent meaning they weren’t nearby or trying to get inside. It seemed that as soon as she had entered the room they had simply forgotten about her presence.

With her heart still beating and the room having gone deathly silent, she turned her head to look at the burning gash that had appeared on her flank. It was a long cut, though it didn’t seem to be very deep. She examined it carefully, noticing it was very slowly dribbling blood. She would’ve thought a creature with blades for legs would’ve been able to do more damage, but it seemed it had only nicked her with the end of its legs as she had ran away.

She hoped the bleeding would stop on its own soon, and for once she was grateful that it was her own blood on her body and not some pony else’s. She just had to account for it like the rest of her injuries that she’d sustained. The simple burns on her flanks didn’t seem so important anymore by comparison, not with everything out to kill her.

She turned herself around, putting her back to the door so that she could examine the room she now found herself in. The first thing her eyes fell upon were the two regal seats that sat in the middle of the room. They were large and made of gold, though they showed their age in how unkempt they had become. The backs and seats were made with a red material, most likely a silk of some kind that had been torn apart by the passage of time and eaten by moths. Their edges of were adorned in gems that no longer carried their luster. A long red carpet led from the door to the thrones, covered in dirt and grime. Sitting between the thrones was a small marble pillar with a plaque on it.

“This is… a throne room?” Twilight asked, confused, scanning her light over the two chairs. She made a note to check the rest of the room for anything out of the ordinary. Her light swept along the left-most wall and saw an unusual lever jutting out from it. She turned her head and saw that the right-most wall also had a lever jutting out.

Curious as to the levers and the layout of the room, she walked closer to the two thrones and the pillar that was between them. There was nothing on top of the pillar and it only came up to about the height of her chest, but the plaque on it bore words, another puzzle she assumed.

One by one we would help the citizens of our country and though we could help most, there were times where just one of us was not enough. Only with our powers combined could we accomplish our goals.

“With our powers combined…” Twilight rubbed a hoof against her chin in thought. She turned once more to look at the levers that stood out from opposite ends of the walls. “…No… no it couldn’t be that easy could it?” She murmured in disbelief.

She trotted over to the lever in the wall and placed her hoof against it. She then turned and shined her light on the lever on the opposite end of the room. With it in her sight, she lit her horn and wrapped the lever within her magic. She then began a short count down in her head.

‘Three… two… one…’ She pulled down her hoof and her magic at the same time, flipping both of the switches in the room simultaneously. For a moment, nothing seemed to happen. Twilight was about ready to draw the conclusion that she had indeed been right about it being too easy, however, just as those thoughts crossed her mind, light suddenly began to glow in the middle of the room, steadily growing brighter . She raised her hoof to cover her eyes from the glow, until it began to die down. When she moved her hoof back down, she wasn’t in the throne room anymore, but rather a well adorned bedroom.

“It has been over a month now dear sister; you cannot tell us that you have not found peace with the stallion.” Celestia spoke as she stared into the mirror, carefully using a brush to sweep up and down her delicate coat. Normally a servant would be tasked with this chore to keep her coat looking lustrous, but the Princess found comfort in having a rare moment of peace to herself to just do as she wished.

“And what would be wrong with us still reserving our judgment?” Luna huffed from across the room, raising her head and closing her eyes. “It’s not as though he has truly earned his place within our castle.”

“Thou knows that is not true.” Celestia chuckled, turning to face her sister and placing the brush down upon the desk. “The stallion has aided our country and served our magic court. He has brought new riches where they were thought to be dried up. Why can thou not appreciate him?”

Luna was silent as she seemed to think over her sisters words, turning to look at the mirror before her.

“H-He just hasn’t that’s all! We have no reason to believe he is anything more than a braggart, Merlin the Braggart.” Luna huffed again, refusing to turn around to face her sister.

“We do not think that thou are telling us the whole truth.” Celestia looked at her sister knowingly, a soft grin on her face. “We think our dear sister is hiding something.”

“We would not hide anything!” Luna almost slammed a hoof down against the desk she sat at. “That stallion may rot in his studies for all we care.”

Celestia couldn’t help but grin and walk over to her sister, looking over the dark mare’s shoulder and seeing her cheeks brighter than normal.

“Thou fancies the stallion!” Celestia couldn’t help but laugh seeing her face. Luna turned to her sister with a look of utter shock and disbelief. Her face contorted, unable to believe those words had come from her sisters lips. She muttered and grasped at words but they refused to escape her lips, only coming out as garbled nonsense.

“We cannot believe it! Our dear sister! In love!” Celestia laughed, turning to walk away from her sister, unable to keep a serious face upon this revelation.

“What does THOU know about love!?” Luna almost raged, standing up, her whole face turning a bright red. “We think it is THOU who has a crush on the stallion! Thou are projecting thy thoughts onto us!” Celestia let out a roar of laughter as she fell to the floor, unable to stand on her hind legs anymore. “SISTER! Such disgraceful behavior!” Luna gasped in shock at the display.

“Oh… oh forgive us dear sister.” Celestia still laughed, wiping a tear that had formed at the edge of her eye. “Our dear sister always has an air of such seriousness about her. To think she would find a stallion desirable, let alone be embarrassed to admit to such is a thought that had not crossed our minds.” Celestia lay on her hooves, still stifling laughter. Luna huffed loudly, turning her head away from her sister, still red in the face.

“So we are not allowed to enjoy love? We are not allowed to express marehood fancies?” Luna almost growled as she closed her eyes. “We are but a Princess after all. Our royal duty will always hold weight over any life we choose to have in private.”

Celestia’s laughter finally quieted down to a couple of chuckles as she stood up on her hooves, smiling at her sister who had sat back down, looking at herself in the mirror.

“Now dear sister, thou know we said no such words.” Celestia smiled brightly, walking over to her sister.

“Thy laughter spoke enough, carrying with them words of our true place upon the throne.” Luna glared at herself in the mirror as her face began to calm down. Celestia walked up behind the dark mare and wrapped her head around her shoulder, gently nuzzling her. “S-Sister!” Luna spoke in shock.

“If thou are truly in love then thou have our blessing.” Celestia smiled. “We would be overjoyed to see our dearest sister happy. Thou are always so serious and take matters into thy own hooves as personal. We know thou have laughter inside, thou aids us with the Elements. We just wish we could see that side more.”

The words spoke true and Luna knew it. Her sister wasn’t actually making fun of her, just the way she presented herself. The Princess of the night let out a disgruntled sigh as she had to let go of the frustration she was feeling towards the elder sister.

“Thou should not expect anything to come of this. We are a Princess and the stallion is but a court mage; an exceptional court mage who has aided our lives, but a court mage none the less. It is expected, nay, demanded that if we should have ourselves a suitor that it be a noble that garners for our attention.” Luna closed her eyes resigning herself to such a fate.

“Dear sister, we are the monarchs of our land. If it is expected of us to garner the attention of a noble then we simply must make the one we desire into a noble.” Celestia devilishly grinned, Luna looking up at her older sister in surprise. “If we must play by the rules of our land then we too must play with the rules given to us.”

“…Thy words are bold dear sister. Thou hast thought of this before.” Luna softly glared at her sister suspiciously.

“We must always be on the edge of our hooves if we are to rule our countries with integrity.” The Princess of the sun smiled before beginning to walk away from her sister. “The night shall be upon us soon and we would like to adjourn for the evening. Sleep well dear sister and always keep our words close to thy heart.” Celestia said as she exited the room. Luna looked as though she were about to say something else, but if there were more words to the conversation they were not meant to be heard. The bedroom began to fade away, returning to the room it had been once before.

Reality came back to the darkened, destroyed throne room. Twilight blinked for a moment, standing on her hooves in thought once more.

‘Princess Luna had a crush on Merlin?’ The idea even amused her a little. The bookworm she’d met in the Canterlot archives certainly seemed confident, but picturing her with an actual love interest seemed weird. She could only imagine the gravity of the situation, after all even today if one of the Princesses had found love, it would be big news all over Equestria. In all her time under the Princess as her personal protege, she hadn’t heard or seen a single thing about the Princess falling in love.

“…Not a single thing…” Twilight spoke out loud for herself to hear. It was beginning to dawn upon her that she had never seen the Princess take a romantic interest in anypony. Not to say she was any better, she certainly hadn’t taken any time out of her studies for romantic interests, but she did still hold the romantic idea in her heart that she would find just the right stallion one day, one that shared in her love of books and studying, one she could spend long nights just reading together with, sharing thoughts, opinions, and theories.

She’d never once heard any such ideals from the Princess. The Princess was always attending to her royal duties, always having so much to take care of throughout the entire land. Certainly she had advisers, she had several councils, and she was well versed in the laws she had put into place, but Twilight almost never saw her put in personal time for herself and what little time she did take out was almost always interrupted by some other important royal duty.

“…I guess I never realized how tough the Princess had it…” Twilight murmured to herself. She had known the Princess had it tough, but she’d never put the pieces together till just then. Now she was starting to feel guilty at finding the idea of Princess Luna in love funny. Both of the Princesses deserved to be happy and she knew that, they just never had the time for it.

Twilight looked around, the room escaping from her thoughts for a moment. Her eyes came to look at the marble pillar once more, noticing that something had appeared on it. She lit up her horn and grabbed hold of the item, levitating it over to herself. It was another brown square tile, though this one had the depiction of a Pegasus on it.

“I guess this is my reward for solving the riddle.” Twiliht said as she put it in her magic alongside the other tile she had grabbed. “Though this was a really easy puzzle…” She looked once more at the downward turned levers. She had automatically assumed she needed to pull them both at the same time. After all, the riddle made it sound like both had to work together in order for anything to be accomplished. She put a hoof to her chin and thought about it.

“No… this puzzle was only easy because I was a unicorn.” She quickly realized. “If I was an Earth pony or a Pegasus, how would I have gotten to the opposite side of the room in time to pull them down at the same time? I can use magic; any other pony would’ve had to find some other way.”

She realized now the advantages she had for being a unicorn; and not just any unicorn, one that spent her life studying magic. None of her friends had that luxury right now. She was again reminded of what she was working towards, why she was going through this demented world in which she now found herself.

She walked over to the door and put her side to the wall next to it, lifting her ear up to try and hear anything that might be lurking behind the door. She couldn’t hear a thing from within the throne room and her medallion remained as silent as the air was. The medallion was no longer comforting for this situation though, the masked creature had been right behind her when she entered the room and yet it had grown silent the moment she had closed the door. For all she knew it was right outside the just waiting for her to stick her head out. Then it would bring its leg down in a swift motion and…

Twilight put a hoof to her neck as she cringed. The burns on her legs, the bruises on her body, the cut on her flank, she could work through all of that, she could still do what she needed to get done. But if she lost her head it would obviously be over.

She lit her horn and grabbed the door, swinging it open. She grunted, a short wave of exhaustion hitting her. The magic inside of her was dwindling, she could feel it. It had been a long time since she’d used so much magic in such a short period of time and she was starting to feel the effects of it hitting her body. If she used too much more she was going to pass out.

With the door now open her medallion began to buzz so softly that she was only barely able to pick up the fact it was making a sound at all. If the monster had been hanging just above the door like she had thought she was sure it would be ringing louder. She wasn’t sure where it had gone, but it seemed that as soon as she had entered the room it had run off somewhere.

Twilight quickly looked out the door, sweeping the light back and forth. She could see the leech again in the distance; it was still preoccupied with its meal. The masked creature was nowhere in sight, most likely crawling along the wall or ceiling somewhere. She quickly formed a plan in her head and tapped her hoof against the ground.

Lowering herself and lighting up her horn, she then began to run. Bolting straight out the door she pushed aside everything in her way, blood splashing up and around with her rushed magic use. The leech let out a growl as it lifted its head in the direction of the commotion, spotting the unicorn running straight for the one wall that had yet to be investigated.

A door came in to her vision and she grabbed it with her magic. She wasted no time sprinting inside and slamming the door shut. Her medallion went silent. She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, finding herself once again safe from that vile room. She knew she’d have to cross it at least once more, but she would prepare herself for that when it came.

Twilight now took the opportunity she was given to examine the new room she had entered. Along the side walls she saw several pictures, each one showing off various ponies through history. On the back wall however, were three large pictures that seemed odd. Only the middle picture showed the depiction of a pony, of the Princess of the sun with her wings spread in front of the sun, radiating her glory for all to see. The other two pictures appeared to be made up of misshapen lines, each with a glowing red gem at the top most right or left.

In the middle of the room was a strange square device angled at the top with three valves in front and a plaque towards the top. Twilight carefully walked up towards the device and examined the plaque.

We must share our power with the one who holds the fate of the land; only by connecting through her will Equestria know salvation.

Twilight was slightly confused. The glowing red gems seemed to be angled up perfectly to touch one line on their respective images, and the line touching the gems were also glowing red with them.

Taking a guess that turning the valves would accomplish something she pressed her hooves against the left-most and began to turn it to the right. As she did she could hear the sound of stone moving and looked up towards the pictures. Several of the lines in the picture had turned with the valve. Now a new line had connected with the already glowing red line and lit up with the red light from the gem.

“I see…” The unicorn spoke aloud as she set her hooves against the middle valve now and began to turn it. A different set of the lines in both pictures began to move now, twirling them in place. She took a mental note of which ones turned before moving to the third valve and turning it as well. More lines moved and she had a mental image of where each line turned from which valve.

“Alright… so I just have to line them up, that way the red light from the stone touches the picture of Celestia… I can do this.” Twilight boosted her confidence and began to turn the valves in quick succession. She would normally have used her magic for such a task, but she didn’t want to waste any more precious magical energy. Instead she took to manually turning each valve, spinning the various lines several times in order.

It took a moment of calculating and repositioning, but Twilight figured out the exact order she needed. After several minutes of turning the machine, she grabbed the middle valve and turned it one final time.

A successful red line of glowing energy stretched across the two pictures next to Celestia, from the gem stone all the way to the regal Princess. The lines connected directly to the picture and it took a moment for anything to happen. Then, the picture began to glow brightly with the familiar glow. Twilight closed her eyes waiting for the light to die down and see the next memory this world was going to present to her.

“Grah!” Came the loud cry of a stallion as he was shoved to the ground. He had a dirty green coat with disheveled purple hair. He was being pinned down by two royal guards, a dropped knife laying before him. Celestia looked down upon the pony the guards had restrained, glaring at him.

“Does thou know what thou has done?” The Princess demanded, the guards giving the pony just enough oxygen to speak. The green stallion coughed as air returned, then let out a short laugh.

“It was all I could do and yet it was for naught… yes, I do know the weight of my decisions.” The pony boldly grinned up at the Princess, who narrowed her eyes at him even more severely.

“Thou doth realize that thy actions shall result in thy death?” The Princess demanded to know.

“It is a better place I go than the land that thou have made for us to live.” The green pony spat. “I respect not the monarch who would let their people wither and die whilst feasting upon the luxury of thy land.”

“That’s enough out of you.” One of the guards struck the green pony hard in the ribs, the green pony coughing hard from the blow.

“Your majesty.” A familiar deep voice spoke from behind her. The regal Princess turned her head to see Merlin approaching quickly from behind. “Your majesty, I would like to request a chance to speak with this prisoner in the dungeon before thou send him off for execution.”

“Court Mage Merlin.” Celestia spoke regally, looking him over curiously. “What would thou hope to gain from such an endeavor?”

“If thy prisoner cares not for his life, then I might be able to garner some use out of him in favor of my research.” Merlin closed his eyes as he spoke calmly. The green pony glared at the mage, gritting his teeth hard.

“Unicorn swine. Thou know not the hardships we endure or our suffering, seeing us only as pawns in thy games. In thy lounge of food and wine, suckling on the life of thy citizens, thou are blind and cruel.” He spat again, closing his eyes in anger. “I wish thee to rot in the bowels of hell.”

“Enough.” The guard delivered another swift kick to the prisoner’s gut before both guards hoisted him onto their hooves. They proceeded to drag him away, heading for the dungeons. Merlin and Celestia stood in the hallway watching the pony be dragged away, and when he was gone they stood in silence for several more minutes.

“Court Mage Merlin, we ask of thee…” The Princess spoke softly, keeping hold of her emotions. “What does thou think of the way we run our country?”

“A subject I am not yet ready to speak of.” Merlin answered calmly. “However, there is more to a country than just its nobles. Thy ponies make the heart and blood of this very land, but they live if for nothing more than to serve thy majesty. I wish to speak more with that pony about this subject, to see what I can learn of his life.”

“We see…” Was the only reply that the Princess of the sun could utter. She seemed to be lost in her thoughts before turning to Merlin. “Forgive us, thou does not approach us unless thou needs something. What is on thy mind Merlin?”

“Yes, but of course.” Merlin cleared his throat and turned to the Princess. “It is about the research I am conducting. I have heard much about them and have become quite fascinated with the study of them. I wish to ask thy permission to study the Elements of Harmony your majesty.”

Celestia looked a little shocked, not having expected such a request. Though ponies knew of the Elements, it was understood that only the Princesses had control over them.

“Thou makest a bold request. Let us ask, does thou think that thou could control but even one of the Elements in order to research it?” The Princess eyed him curiously.

“I do not pretend to know what forces I will be looking into. Thy power with the Elements are grand indeed, able to take down forces more powerful than thyself or thy armies could do combined. I can only believe that research would go well with help from thy Majesty.” Merlin spoke clearly.

“Thou wish for our help with thy research?” The Princess raised an eyebrow curiously. “Thou must realize that our time is precious, seeing to our citizens and caring for our nobles. We have little free time and what little we have is often spent preparing for more important matters.”

“I assure thee now as I have assured thee in the past that the time of this research is of utmost importance. In my studies I have come across things that I cannot discover simply with the tools at my disposal, that I need more in order to be able to save thy country from further peril, much the same as I stopped Acnologia. I request thee take time from thy delegations to aid me in my research.” Merlin spoke his request.

The Princess thought his words over, wondering what she could do or say to make a difference. Seeing to her citizens was important, but if Merlin spoke true about saving her country she would have no choice but to make time for his research.

“Very well.” The Princess spoke finally. “We shall make an exception for thy research, we are certain our Dear Sister can handle a bit of extra responsibility.”

“I thank thee, your majesty.” Merlin bowed respectfully. “Thou shall not regret thy time spent.”

“See to it that I don’t.” Celestia nodded her head before turning and walking down the hall.

The memory grew quiet as it began to fade away, the world returning to the way it was once more.

Twilight blinked as her vision returned, readjusting to the gallery she had found herself in. She shook her head softly, not having enjoyed what that last memory had spoken of. She had always thought of Celestia as an all-knowing ruler, who knew what was best for everypony and did everything she could to help them. She’d never once heard of Celestia sending any pony to death, to an execution.

And yet there it was, in front of her eyes, the Princess had told a pony that he would be killed for his actions. What had he done? She remembered the knife laying on the floor, but what did that mean? Had that pony tried to attack Celestia? He had spoken viciously about the Princess and her country. He had hated how she ruled it…

Twilight turned to look at the large picture of the Princess once more, only to gasp in shock. It wasn’t there anymore. Instead, the picture that had taken its place was a picture of the blue stallion unicorn with blond hair and a soft growing beard. Merlin was framed perfectly where Celestia had once been. The two sections that had once contained the lines and the gems were now replaced each with a picture of the two Princesses. Celestia was to the left and Luna was to the right. Both were facing towards Merlin with a forlorn look in their eyes.

“What does all of this mean?” Twilight whispered to herself trying to understand everything that was going on around her. She looked down at the valve she had turned and saw something new sitting on top of the device. It was another small brown tile, this one depicting the shape of a unicorn.

She grabbed it with her magic and added it to the other two. She now had three small tiles, each with a different picture on them. The altar that had stood in front of the monster up above had three slots. That meant she had all the pieces to his puzzle. She just needed to make it back upstairs in one piece.

She turned from the room and walked to the door, raising a hoof to push it open. The medallion instantly began its quiet buzz as the light of her pendant filtered into the central room reeking of death. She quickly spotted the leech, still gorging itself on pieces of pony meat. It was near the front door now, exactly where she was headed next. She waited for a moment to see if it would move, but it just grabbed another nearby limb and began to devour it.

Twilight waited, twitching her ears to see if she could hear the sound of metal scraping against stone, but it was silent save for the leech. She stomped her hoof against the ground and prepared herself. She was going to make a run for the large doors out of there.

She backed up a little and braced herself against the valve device, before pushing herself off of it and running straight forward. She picked up to her top speed and her lit her horn, the scattered organs squelching under her magical grip as they dispersed out of her way. The medallion grew louder as the leech turned its head, facing towards the racing unicorn.

Twilight grit her teeth as she galloped, her magic grabbing the doors she was aiming for. The leech let out a guttural sound as its head reared back, preparing to slam it down onto her body. The doors swung open with her magic and the leech’s head came crashing down. It scraped the end of her tail just as she jumped, flying past the room of death and landing ungracefully in the hallway beyond it. Her horn slammed the doors shut behind her and let go as she panted heavily.

She’d done it. She had solved the puzzles and made it out of the room alive. She couldn’t believe her fortune. Her body ached and she was low on magic, but she had made it out without dying. Twilight took in a deep breath and let out a soft sigh of relief, finally feeling a small smile on her face. She turned to look at the pillar in the middle of the hallway she was in. It still contained the mural piece surrounded by the invincible glass from earlier.

“I was hoping it would’ve opened by now…” Twilight sighed in frustration, walking closer to it. She was going to give it one last check before moving on to the creature above.

Her medallion suddenly began to buzz and she stopped halfway to the pillar. A loud pop echoed through the room as something then fell from the ceiling. It landed on top of the glass case, the case shattering loudly as the creature hit the ground. The unicorn backed up a few feet, staring in shock.

The masked creature was right in front of her now. Its long razor legs bore into the stone ground beneath it as its head sickeningly snapped once more, twisting all the way around to look directly at her. It had broken the case but now it was guarding her path forward.

“Oh Celestia…” Twilight gasped in horror.

The creature didn’t waste any time. Instantly its legs began to move, rushing straight for the petrified lavender unicorn. Each leg struck the ground with the scrape of metal as it approached her swiftly.

Twilight snapped out of her stupor and summoned her dagger of a sword before her. The creature was right upon her, raising its leg and striking it down straight for her. Twilight cried out and swung her dagger straight at the limb heading for her. The limb struck the thin blade and clashed hard. The leg was powerful and refused to be stopped by such a wimpy blade. It pushed against it and the leg struck Twilight’s foreleg.

She let out a cry as the razor sharp limb cut into her leg, stopped from cutting too deep by the edge of her sword. Blood began to flow from her leg as she poured more magic into the blade and pushed away.

The masked creature rose up on its hind legs, planning to bring down its front legs and skewer the lavender unicorn upon them. Twilight jumped, the two legs coming straight down. She felt one of the legs scrape against hers as she barely managed to jump out of the way and avoid a fatal injury. She cried out in pain as her left front leg began to bleed from several sections. Her legs collapsed from under her, causing her to tumble against the cold stone floor.

The creature turned to face the unicorn on the ground, approaching her quickly. Twilight grunted in pain but looked up at the creature from where she lay on the floor. Her eyes widened as it reached a razor sharp leg up to stab down into her.

Her magic went into overdrive and her dagger flew swiftly. The striking leg was knocked back by her small appendage of a sword. The creature wasn’t deterred, raising its other leg to strike down at Twilight. The dagger struck the other offending leg as well, knocking it out of striking distance.

The creature wouldn’t relent. Repeatedly it raised each leg and brought it down trying to skewer the unicorn before it, and the unicorn managed to deflect each blow. Twilight was panicking; she couldn’t seem to launch a counterattack. She was completely on the defense and if she didn’t keep it up she was going to be skewered.

The creature twisted its head with a cracking snap, before finally taking a step back in realization that its efforts weren’t working. Twilight managed to get to her hooves, gingerly standing up. There were precious seconds ticking by as the creature prepared its next attack. She didn’t have time to think anymore; she just had to act.

From within her reservoir she pulled out the books she had been carrying with her. The creature didn’t even seem to be phased by the new additions to Twilight’s arsenal. It reared up onto its hind legs once more, preparing to strike down the unicorn.

Twilight hurled the books as hard as she could, aiming each of them straight for the creatures head. On its unstable hind legs the creature batted the books away with its forelegs, getting them each out of his vision. A loud crack was heard as the last item the unicorn had thrown made it past the legs, embedding itself through the creature’s mask. The handle of Twilight’s blade could be seen sitting just outside of the cracks in the mask.

The creature finally lost its balance, falling onto its back, each of the four razor sharp legs flailing in the air. The tattered robes that covered its body began to be ripped to shreds, revealing the rotting corpse that was barely being held together underneath it. Its body had several open gashes, revealing the rotting organs inside of its body. Twilight was revolted, grabbing hold of her sword from its head and pulling it out.

The creature flailed in pain, as if refusing to die now. The lavender unicorn raised the dagger up and swiftly stabbed it into the chest of the creature. It let out a dull, sickening thud as it tore into its muscles. The flailing began to slow down but had yet to stop. Twilight raised the dagger and slammed it down once more. When the flailing still refused to stop she stabbed it again.

Each strike hit the body with the sickening thud. Black, tainted blood gushed with each strike as Twilight refused to let the creature live a moment longer. Her dagger was coated in the thick, gooey mess that had become the creature’s blood.

The masked creature no longer flailed, but lay with its limbs heavy on the floor. Twilight panted in exhaustion, quickly putting the sword away into her magic. Getting rid of the books had given her some extra magic to spare, enough to keep her conscious and to still have use of her horn. She had killed yet another creature; it was another body to add to her growing tally.

She limped past the dead creature, trying to put some distance between her and it. Her front left leg was bleeding profusely now; the clotting was having a hard time with a wound that size. She knew she wasn’t going to make it far if she didn’t cover the wound quickly.

Her horn lit up and grabbed hold of part of the ancient red carpet that lined the floor. Her horn managed to rip off part of the carpet and she stretched it with her magic. She ran a quick spell over it, grabbing hold of the dirt and grime of the carpet and tore it off, tossing it to the side. With the fresh cloth she carefully held out her leg and began to wrap it tightly around her wounds. She winced and grit her teeth hard as her nerves fired at the cloth. She had to at least stop the bleeding and this would have to do till she could find some proper bandages.

She finished tying the makeshift bandages onto her leg and let out a relieved sigh as the pain began to subside. She turned her head to look at the fallen creature once more. It still wasn’t moving, a sign she truly had managed to finish it off.

She looked over at the shattered glass of the pole, seeing the mural piece still all together and laying on the floor. She levitated it up and put inside of her reservoir. If there was one good thing to have come from that encounter, it was that she didn’t have to find some other way to break open the glass.

With bandages on her leg, she began to make her way over to the other end of the hallway. She would just have to take that lift back up to wherever it was she had come from and solve that monster’s puzzle.

Each step with the limp was slowing her pace, but she was able to make it over to the lift once more. She pulled the lever from inside and the device once more whirred into life. It quickly shifted into gear and began to rise, the darkness returning momentarily before coming to a stop at the top.

The unicorn limped into the room with the three weird chambers once more. She examined them once more, seeing the forest, the damp and rained on field, and the library that was ready for someone to check out the books. Twilight still wasn’t sure what it meant exactly, but figured it must have some purpose.

She turned from that room and walked out into the hallway where the mural of Nightmare Moon waited. The air around seemed fresher in that hallway; even if the lingering smell of blood was around her she didn’t feel the air was as stale, as if the world was giving her a moment to breathe.

She made her way past the mural and to the door at the other end of the hallway. She carefully opened the door and made her way into the room that was covered in the red plants once more. Her medallion instantly began its low buzz as she expected. She walked further into the room and turned her light to face the creature. It hadn’t moved, it hadn’t done anything, it was still just hanging there, impaled to the walls and awaiting for someone to draw close to it.

“…I kind of feel sorry for it…” Twilight murmured to herself. Unlike the rest of the monsters it didn’t seem to want to attack her. Her medallion told her it was a threat, something to worry about, but it seemed harmless without any way to move.

Twilight carefully walked up to the altar that stood before the monster, examining it over once more. Three square slots, all about the size of the tiles she had grabbed from downstairs. She carefully pulled each of the tiles out, wincing as they did. Her magic was dangerously low now and she could feel it. It was starting to nip at the back of her mind that she was using too much. She needed a place to rest, to get her energy back, but she was still nowhere safe.

She reviewed the three tile pieces she had quickly, one with an Earth pony, one with a Pegasus and one with a Unicorn. She thought it over in her head, wondering in which order the three went in. Then, as if triggering a light in her mind, she thought back to the three strange environments she’d seen in the ancient room.

“Earth ponies have domain over the land…” Twilight spoke aloud as she placed the Earth pony tile into the first slot. “Pegasi have domain over the air…” She placed the second tile into the second slot. “And Unicorns have domain over knowledge.” She placed the third tile into the third slot.

A loud, horrifying cry suddenly echoed through the room causing Twilight to jump back in shock. She stared up at the creature, who was now flailing and thrashing in what looked like agonizing pain. Her eyes widened upon realization, the spikes that had just been holding it in place were growing. They were now going through and stabbing the creature, piercing the flesh it had left.

She put a hoof to her mouth as she watched in horror. Whatever it had for a mouth was raising up and flailing, screeching out in pain as the spikes tore through its flesh. Twilight watched as spikes drove through the front, piercing all the way through its body. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, the spikes began to twist.

The circles holding the spikes began to turn in opposite directions, forcing the body of the creature to be torn apart and shredded. In just a short period of time the body of the creature was no longer discernible, all of the pieces that had been hanging from the walls fell to the ground, a large pile of skin, organs, and bones. Her medallion went silent.

For the second time that day, Twilight lost her stomach.

Twilight wiped her mouth as she panted, unable to believe she had just witnessed that with her own eyes. It was a gruesome, horrific act of not just torture, but of death. The creature couldn’t move, it couldn’t defend itself, it was just as much a victim of this world as she was.

There was no way she could have known that solving the puzzle was going to do that to the creature, she hadn’t even thought twice about it. She had just solved the puzzle like she had solved all the others before it, just going one through the line. But now her actions had taken the life of what seemed like an innocent creature.

Twilight carefully looked back at the scene of the carnage. Something glinted off of the light of her pendant right behind where the creature had been. Not daring to get closer she lit her horn up, bearing with the biting at the back of her mind, and brought the item over. It was the other half of the armor for the mural. She now had the whole piece to fit into the mural over the door. Shakily she managed to get to her hooves, facing the messy pile that had become of the creature.

“Please… forgive me…” She spoke with a shaky voice, bowing her head in respect, before turning to the door and running out of the room.

Twilight took deep, sharp breaths outside of the door to the plant room. Her throat burned once more and now she felt sicker. Her stomach was rebelling against everything she could see and hear now, just wanting to escape and return to life in Ponyville as it was before.

This felt beyond her now.

Twilight slowly managed to get back to walking, almost unsure of how she still had the strength to be moving. The stone hallway seemed longer than before, but she knew it was just in her imagination. She stopped just before the mural, the visage of the mare of darkness before her, Nightmare Moon.

From within her magic she pulled out the two halves of the missing mantle and carefully aligned them just right so that they would fit within the holes in the mural. Each piece fit with a satisfying ‘click’ in the door. Twilight let out an exasperated breath of air, grateful that it finally felt like she was starting to make some progress in this hell hole of a basement. She pressed against the doors and found them opening slowly.

“HNNNGG.” A feminine voice called out, almost knocking Twilight off of her hooves. The voice sounded like it was struggling with something and Twilight looked in front of her.

“You stupid, HHNNNNGGG, dirty, messy, HHNNNNGGGG, hard to use piece of junk, HHNNNNGGGG, why won’t you come out of there!?” A white unicorn gasped in frustration as she backed away from something stuck in the middle of the floor. Twilight stared in wide eyed shock at the unicorn.

The white coat, the indigo mane, the azure eyes, the three blue cut diamonds for a cutie mark and that way of speaking; Twilight thought her mind was playing tricks on her.

“Fine! See if I care if you rot in this disaster of a world.” Rarity huffed as she lifted her head away from the item and closed her eyes.

“RARITY!” Twilight said running across the room instantly.

“What?” Rarity opened her eyes just as shocked, before being tackled by the lavender unicorn into a tight, embracing hug.

“I found you! Oh Rarity I found you! I found you I found you I found you!” Twilight cheered excitedly, almost swinging the white unicorn around.

“T-Twilight!?” Rarity asked in shock. She pushed her hooves against Twilight to get a better look at the mare before her. She could see Twilight’s shining face, so happy to see one of her friends after everything that she had been through. “Twilight! It IS you!” Rarity gasped putting a hoof to her mouth.

“It is! Oh you don’t know how happy I am to see you!” Twilight let out a sigh of relief, feeling her body relax for the first time in hours.

“Twilight… you… you look dreadful!” Rarity spoke with instant concern. Twilight was covered in small cuts, smeared with blood almost all over her body, her leg was wrapped up in dark red bandages and looked exhausted. “What happened to you, darling!?”

“It’s… a long story.” Twilight sighed, looking Rarity over. Rarity looked perfectly fine, as though nothing had attacked her. The only thing wrong seemed to be the smears of blood she had accidentally just rubbed onto Rarity’s coat. “But listen, now that I’ve found you we need to get out of this place!”

“I’ve been trying to escape too, darling.” Rarity put a hoof to her chest. “This place is simply dreadful. No, it’s beyond dreadful.” Rarity shivered. “What kind of a world like this exists? Its… its…”

“Like a nightmare?” Twilight asked interrupting her.

“It’s exactly like that.” Rarity shook her head. “I found this just now and I was trying to get it out of the ground.” Twilight turned her head to where Rarity had pointed. In the ground was what looked like a fresh, black sword. There were no nicks or scratches, nothing that showed that it had been used in battles or worn with age. Twilight’s eyes widened.

It was exactly what she had wanted; a new weapon to replace the one she’d broken.

“But no matter how hard I pulled with my hooves or with my magic, the thing just won’t budge.” Rarity rubbed her forehead. “What if one of those monsters came to attack me again? I have no way of defending myself.”

“Don’t worry, Rarity.” Twilight raised a hoof and put it on her shoulder, smiling comfortingly. “I’m here now. Together we can get out of this and help the rest of our friends.”

“It really is good to have you here, Twilight.” Rarity let out a soft sigh, smiling at her dear friend. The two of them were drawing strength from each other. In that instance they felt like they could take on anything together.

The door Twilight had come in through suddenly banged shut loudly. The two girls jumped as the sound echoed through the room, both of them instantly turning to look at the door.

“That’s… not normal.” Twilight gulped. She quickly spun her head around to look at the room. She hadn’t been paying attention, but she now saw that the room was made up of the steel walls that had appeared in the boutique above. There was a steel cage door at the room opposite of where the door she had walked in had been. She looked up towards the ceiling, but even with her light shining she couldn’t see it, her light just went off into a dark abyss.

“Twilight… how did you get here?” Rarity spoke with a quiver in her voice. Twilight blinked, not realizing she didn’t know how Rarity had gotten there either.

“I… I opened a door that brought me here. I… I had to go through a lot of monsters to get here.” Twilight winced at the memories.

“I had to solve a deranged puzzle…” Rarity murmured as if not wanting to speak of the puzzle once more.

The sound of grinding chains and squealing metal suddenly filled the room as both the mares quickly turned their heads to look at the metal cage door that was sliding open slowly. The door opened completely, silence suddenly filling the room. Twilight’s medallion began to buzz, drawing Rarity’s attention as Twilight stared in shock at the dark space that had just opened from the metal door. Rarity was about to ask why there was sound coming from Twilight’s pendant, when she saw the look on Twilight’s face and turned to look as well.

Hoofsteps were heard first coming from the dark pathway that had been revealed. Following that was a tall, gray body that walked through the doorway. As it came into the room, the grinding metal door closed behind it, sealing the creature in the room with the two mares.

Twilight’s mouth hung open in shock. Rarity pressed herself harder into Twilight, wanting to get away from it.

It stood as tall as the Princess, its gray body beaten, bruised and bloody. It had four long slender legs that seemed to barely hold the weight of its body. It had a large, destroyed wing hanging from one side of its body, the other was missing completely. Its forehead held a large, broken unicorn horn and its eyes were closed shut, blood flowing down its face from the sockets. It had thick, gray cobweb hair that clung to it down half of its leg. It opened its mouth and let out a wail that seemed to echo and bounce through the room.

“T-Twilight… w-what is that?” Rarity stuttered, staring at the creature in fear.

“I… I don’t know.” Twilight whimpered unsure of the answer. The buzzing of the medallion grew louder as Twilight suddenly heard the sound of metal scraping against metal. Her head looked upwards. Crawling down from the abyss of the ceiling was one of the masked creatures, its razor sharp legs digging into the metal as it climbed.

The creature’s head let out a sickening snap as it turned to face the alicorn-like creature that had walked into the room. Without another word it jumped from the ceiling and aimed its four sharp legs straight at the alicorn creature, planning to impale it instantly.

The alicorn turned its head slightly, spotting the creature as it flung straight at it. The masked creature was about to strike when something shook loudly. Twilight and Rarity turned their heads, seeing the black sword in the ground shaking. It suddenly flew up and out of the ground and straight for the alicorn. With a wide swipe, the sword cut straight through the masked creature as though it wasn’t there.

The two halves of the creatures struck the ground around the alicorn. With another flick, the blade that had latched onto it flew off and the sword came to face the two mares.

The blood of the mares ran cold as they instantly realized what was going on.

“Rarity! Stay back!” Twilight jumped forward, whipping her dagger out instantly and gritting her teeth at the creature that stood before them.

“Twilight!” Rarity called out in shock as the alicorn began to casually walk towards them. Twilight grit her teeth and glared at the monster.

“You will NOT HURT MY FRIEND!” Twilight cried out and ran straight at the alicorn-like creature. She could hear Rarity calling out after her, but the words were drowned out in her own adrenaline. She raised her dagger, intending to strike straight at the creature. The creature seemed to notice her presence and tilted its head curiously. It raised its own black sword and swung it decisively, aiming straight for the lavender mare.

Twilight’s dagger rushed forward and took the strike. Instantly she felt the difference in presence as a rush of wind erupted around the room. The magic binding the black sword struck the dwindling magic of the dagger and sent it flying. Twilight was instantly knocked off of her hooves and tumbled away, rolling several times at the force of the strike.

A loud scream echoed out in the room as Twilight opened her eyes in shock. Getting to her hooves she turned and saw the creature was already near Rarity. Rarity was being held up by some force of magic, though Twilight couldn’t see a magical aura coming from the alicorn’s head or one around Rarity’s body.

“LEAVE HER ALONE.” Twilight screamed loudly, racing towards the alicorn without a plan. She jumped into the air, landing straight onto the alicorn’s back. Without thinking she opened her mouth and bit down hard on its neck. The alicorn bucked its hind legs into the air, trying to get the unicorn off of it. Rarity was still attached to the magic, being tossed around like a rag-doll in the air.

The alicorn finally tossed Rarity straight at the wall, the white unicorn hitting with a sickening ‘thud’. Its magic then reached Twilight, who felt herself instantly being lifted up off of the alicorn. She bit down harder, refusing to let go of the patch of skin she had in her mouth. The magic pulled harsh and fast, pulling Twilight straight off of its body. A chunk of flesh came with her.

Twilight was slammed against the metal ground, air escaping her body instantly. She gasped for air as her body and mind reeled from the damage. Her eyes fell out of focus and she tried to readjust them, looking for the alicorn that was attacking her. The alicorn was raising the sword above its head, intending to strike straight down onto her, cutting her in half just as it had that masked creature.

The black sword began its strike, swift and fast, intending to come straight down on the lavender unicorn’s body. But just as it was about to strike, the dagger that was Twilight’s sword flew through the air, embedding itself into the alicorn’s neck.

The alicorn wailed the haunting, echoing wail as it stumbled back away from Twilight. Twilight tried to get to her hooves, shaky as they were. She could see Rarity panting; having just thrown the sword with everything she could muster into her throw. The alicorn pulled the sword out of its neck with its magic and tossed it across the room. Its legs picked up and it ran swiftly.

Rarity wailed as she tried to get out of reach, only to find herself once more within the alicorn’s grip. Her body was flung into the air and pressed against the cold steel wall once more.

“RARITY!” Twilight yelled out, barely managing to get to her hooves. She had to do something, she had to react.

The black sword moved swiftly through the air, whistling with the intensity it sailed. A sickening thud was heard, followed by the intense wailing howls of Rarity. Twilight’s eyes widened as she watched her friend be impaled by the black sword. Rarity flailed and cried as the sword sunk straight through her flesh.

Twilight cried out in anger, feeling her hooves move on their own. She ran straight for the alicorn, who just stared at her apathetically. The sword was drawn from Rarity’s body, the white unicorn hitting the ground hard, just as Twilight reached the alicorn. Without thinking Twilight rammed her speeding head straight into the torso of the alicorn.

Another wail let out as the horn pierced straight through the broken flesh of the alicorn, right before Twilight felt herself get shoved to the ground again by its powerful magic. Twilight struggled against it, trying to force herself up to save her friend.

She was flung into the air like a rag-doll, feeling her body flip before heading for the ground. She struck it hard. The sound of breaking bones hit her ears but she had no idea what had snapped. Her head was pounding and her body broken. She was disorientated beyond comprehension and could no longer discern where she was.

The lavender unicorn was then being dragged across the metal floor of the room, dragged quickly back over to the alicorn that was toying with her. Her body was lifted into the air and slammed against the wall, the same way it had done to Rarity. Twilight couldn’t see her friend, her eyes were blurring and the only thing she could make out was the barely visible alicorn.

Suddenly a piercing hot pain ripped straight through her shoulder and straight into the metal wall behind her.

Twilight’s screams echoed through the room as the pain assaulted her mind. It was unlike any pain she’d felt before, the steel tore away at her body and filled it with an unrelenting anguish. She could barely think straight.

The alicorn’s magic began to pull the sword back out, satisfied with the amount it had stabbed into the lavender unicorn. However the lavender unicorn’s hooves lifted and suddenly gripped the handle. Instead of the sword being pulled out, Twilight was now being lifted by the blade. The alicorn, confused, held the unicorn up by the sharpened metal. The weight of the unicorn’s body was forcing the blade to dig further into her flesh, cut even more muscles and bone, slowly ripping the very leg off of her body.

The damaged mare opened her eyes, hate and pain seething through her body, her eyes flaring with a white energy that was flowing through her body. A purple aura extended from her body and she let out yet another cry as her magic blasted through the room, sending the very air churning, blasting away from her body. The alicorn stepped back in shock and surprise, unable to comprehend what was happening.

The damaged unicorn summoned her magic around the handle of the intruding metal and pulled the sword out of her shoulder. In her rage she could only cry out in the agony of her wounds, instantly bleeding and the leg falling limp and useless to her side. The power of her magic levitated her in the air and white hissing magic escaped from her mouth as she could no longer control her actions.

The alicorn faced the roaring nexus of magic that had appeared before it, the black sword now in possession of the purple mare. With her hatred and energy flowing free, unable to do anything but act upon her instinct, the enraged mare flew forward with the black sword. The world spiraled into a black abyss as her vision began to fade.

The sword flung through the air and the alicorn let out a ferocious cry. The wind rushed faster through the area before dying down.

Twilight’s body struck the cold steel and the black sword clattered down before her. All around her the items she had been storing within her magic sprung free from their imprisonment. Several sheets of paper floated through the air, still riding the wind that had whipped through the room just moments ago. The health drink rolled around her face, stopping when it came into contact with the mare.

Lying there, bleeding profusely and out of magic, she could no longer keep herself conscious. Everything went black as the world around her vanished.