• Published 26th Oct 2011
  • 6,655 Views, 119 Comments

Point of No Return - Wild_Heart



The mane cast must content with eternal night and each other's selfishness to save Equestria.

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Eighth Deliberation

(Author's Note: In reference to complaints I've had from editors, I'm going to start toning down Applejack's accent a great deal. I'll go back and fix the other chapters soon.)

In a world where Celestia's sun still shone, morning had come. Rarity woke with a start, her eyes focusing on the table where she'd fallen asleep. The unicorn shook her head to clear it, but instantly regretted the action when it brought her a headache. "Ugh...Where..Where was I?" She looked down to her notes, which she found to no longer be there. She blinked, and got up, heading upstairs to check on Nyx. The bed was empty, and her eyes widened. "Nyx? NYX! Where are you?!" She rushed downstairs, checking side-rooms in a panic.

Spike groaned at the sudden noise, wishing it would just go away. When his mind registered what Rarity was doing, however, he also jumped out of bed, disturbing a note that fluttered to the ground. He snatched it up and read it, his eyes getting wider and wider as they pored over it. The dragon rushed downstairs, holding it in the air. "R-Rarity! I found a note! You should see this!" He wasn't holding it for long, as a blue glow enveloped the scrap of paper and lifted it into the air, and in front of the white unicorn's gaze.

Dear Ms. Rarity,
I'm really, really sorry, but I can't stay. I found out how to get to where momma is. I'm not very good at magic yet, but I can follow instructions, and I think I can do this by myself. I bet you'll want to come too, but I couldn't wait ... The notes and stuff are in the basement, but I think you'll need friends to help you.
Nyx

The fashionista tore away from where she stood before, rushing to the basement. The lab equipment inside had been shoved to the walls, and a ritual circle had been drawn upon the floor with black paint. It seemed crude, and had likely been drawn over several times. Rarity could not really comprehend this actually working. She cast her eyes around the room, searching for the filly. "Nyx! Nyx, dear, this really isn't a good idea. Please come out," the unicorn called as she began to seek the small alicorn actively. There were many spots one could hide in down here, thanks to all the machinery. She spied a few scraps of paper on a table, but her gaze never found the filly it sought. "Please, dear, you're not in trouble. I'm only worried about you."

Now and then, her eyes shot back to the designs painted on the floor, feeling a tinge of her compulsion towards neatness. Eventually, it grew too great to ignore, and Rarity sighed. A brush lifted as her horn glowed, and it's tuft was dipped into the paint bucket. "Spike, darling, Nyx must be around here, somewhere. This ritual is completely unworkable in this sta-" She hadn't even finished before she heard Spike rushing out, the door slamming behind him. She smiled at his concern for his 'little sister', but the unicorn's smile drooped into a frown of concentration as she went back to work.

It took nearly an hour, but when she was finished, the designer had used her great attention to detail to somehow forge a perfect circle from the mess it had been before. "That should prove useful once I find those notes. Now, where are they?" Remembering the scraps of paper from before, she trotted over to review them. Rarity smiled at the effort the young filly had put into this. Though she herself had done most of the research, Twilight had taught the foal well when it came to organization skills. Nyx had compiled it all and put it to actual work. Thankfully, the alicorn's handwriting was far better than her drawing skills. Rarity attributed that to some of her older memories seeping through. When she finished the last note, the unicorn furrowed her brow as she read it aloud. "Hmm? 'Thank you, for finishing it, Miss Rari-'" Her eyes went wide as she realized she'd been tricked, and she whipped around just in time to feel a magical surge that was large enough to make her dizzy.

At the center of the circle now was the little alicorn, and she looked very apologetic. "I'm sorry, Miss Rarity!" Before the designer could recover enough to stop her, the filly had disappeared.

---

In a world where night rules eternal, a lavender coated unicorn descended a flight of stone stairs, her destination a dungeon. She would normally have stayed far from such a place, but this dungeon contained the friends of a pony that was her. Or, at least, something close. She wouldn't be happy to see them, however. To say Twilight Sparkle was angry would be an understatement, but her rage was abated by fatigue. Queen Nyx had been brought into a good mood by her victory, and Twilight wanted to use that as much as she could in her attempts to talk Nyx out of the executions. She had been talking to her daughter all night, and the unicorn's anger was partly due to her lack of sleep. The other parts were from the assault on the alicorn itself, and what she'd learned from the monarch.

Applejack's rebellion seemed rather terrible indeed, though Twilight had learned long ago that every story has two sides, and now she wanted the Element of Honesty's side of things. The guard that accompanied her turned his head to acknowledge Twilight as they reached the door to the cell block. "Miss Sparkle, as a precaution against prisoners escaping," he spoke quietly, "you will be locked into the block. The prisoners will not be able to harm you if you stay away from the bars." Twilight had not, and would not consider the idea that these ponies might hurt her. The very idea was absurd to her. "When you want to come out, knock on the door and announce yourself." The unicorn just nodded, and the soldier opened the door for her. Other guards had already searched the saddlebags she was wearing for contraband, and found nothing but a quill, inkwell, and small journal.

She wrinkled her nose at the horrid smell. "Was the door blocking this stench?" She stepped forward, breathing through her mouth to avoid picking up that scent. The slam of the door behind her made her jump a bit, her heart racing. Twilight put a hoof to her chest, taking a deep breath to calm herself. Once she felt as though she could continue, the unicorn stepped forward. "Girls..." The librarian didn't like what she saw. They seemed so hopeless. So downtrodden. Save for Pinkie, each of them looked like they'd really given up. Applejack lifted her head to Twilight's voice. The mare looked exhausted, but not the kind one gets from sleepiness. It was the weariness that came from facing disaster; in this case, her mortality. The azure pony beside her was thankfully asleep, though from her expression, she was likely having nightmares. Twilight couldn't blame her. She remembered facing her own death on the gallows, after all.

"Hey, sugarcube," Applejack greeted without even a hint of energy. "Ya come ta say goodbye?" Twilight shook her head quickly, trying to put on a smile for the orange pony. "Then what?"

"I'm trying to get you girls out of here alive. Nopony is going to die today, I promise." The unicorn sounded more confident than she looked, but every little bit helped. The earth pony laid her neck gently over Trixie's, which helped to soothe the dreams, but didn't expel them entirely.

"Thank ya, Twi. But Ah think ya shouldn't be makin' promises ya cain't keep." The farm-mare smiled despite her words. "Ah'm ready ta die. Ah jus' don't want Trixie ta have to go too." The lavender unicorn drooped her neck, closing her eyes tight for a moment as she tried to find the strength to continue. She reminded herself again that this wasn't the Applejack she knew. It didn't help in the slightest.

"No. I will get you out of this. All of you. But I need to know something for sure. Applejack, is it true your rebellion keeps the ponies of Equestria from receiving aid?"

Applejack's head jerked up, a fire in her eyes. The movement woke Trixie with a start, the blue unicorn narrowing her eyes at Twilight, but saying nothing. "That's a lie! A damn lie! We ain't never done nothin' ta keep nopony from gettin' food or shelter. We've been fightin' Nightmare Moon this whole time, but Ah never let any of my stallions and mares disrupt supply lines."

Rarity's voice came out from another cell. "Why would they need them? The rest of Equestria is doing as well as Ponyville, is it not? That is what we've always been told."

"And that's why ya'll in Ponyville hate the rebellion, ain't it? Nah, Rarity, Ah've seen it with my own eyes. Equestria is dyin' out there. Slowly, but surely." She gave a heart-breakingly sad, but sincere look to the direction of the white unicorn's voice. "Ya gotta believe me, Rarity. Ah'll admit," she said, swallowing before she continued, "that Her Royal Nagjesty does try ta get food and warmth ta everyone, but it's always too little, too late. And ponies are gettin' sick of it. Most of 'em won't even take the aid, sayin' that they'd rather starve and freeze than accept her as their queen."

"That's...That's horrible!" Twilight was in shock as she spoke that, her eyes wide. She looked around at the various cells, as if seeking confirmation from the rest of them. "I love the princesses, and I would be very upset to see them get replaced too, but isn't that going too far?" She couldn't help but give Applejack an accusing look. "Didn't you ever tell them to take the supplies?!"

The farm-mare snorted and rolled her eyes at Twilight's indignance. "Sugarcube, c'mon. What am Ah gonna do? Shove the food down their throats? Ah cain't control what the populace does. Ah can only inspire 'em, tell 'em what they should do. Ya can lead a colt ta water, but ya cain't make him drink." There was a silence before she added, "and there ain't enough ta drink no how."

Another silence filled the air. Twilight looked down to the floor again, not knowing what to say to this. Rarity broke the still herself. "I...I had no idea, Applejack. I truly am very sorry for my reluctance to help. I simply cannot believe I took every lie I was told like a foal!" The clop of a hoof being stomped onto hard stone rang out, Applejack grinning. It was still too late, but at least she would go to her grave knowing her friends no longer thought her a foal. That grin faded at the next words. "And yet...She is still trying. Perhaps there's not enough, but Her Majesty is attempting to make things better for all of us. Really, is she so bad? Applejack, what is this really about?" She didn't name Spitfire, but it was implied enough.

"Darlin', Ah'm gonna ignore that you jus' suggested this is all some kinda personal vendetta on my part. That's how it started, Ah cain't lie, but Ah didn't stay out of Ponyville jus' because of that. Ah stayed out there because the rest of Equestria needed a leader. They needed somepony ta support them, to help them along. Nightmare Moon cain't do it. She don't have enough, and the populace won't accept her offers of replacing crops with this new stuff." Trixie stood suddenly, trying to reach behind her with her jaws.

"I can explain far better. This letter contained an ultimatum that our spies were apparently meant to intercept... If I could... Only get at it..." She strained, trying to bite onto the hairband that kept her hair up and out of the way. Applejack reached forward and pulled the hairband up with her jaws. A piece of paper that had been folded up many times fell to the ground. "Thank you, love. Now, please read this." Trixie was not about to get her mouth anywhere near that floor if she could help it, so the azure unicorn pushed the letter over towards Twilight. She lifted it with her magic, and began to read. Her expression quickly turned to horror. Skimming the letter at first, the magician re-read it again, and again, and again, not able to believe what she was seeing. She dropped the paper as if it were on fire after the third time. Twilight felt as though she were going to throw up.

"Oh Celestia! I don't-I can't-No, I don't believe it!" She shook her head violently, tears quickly forming in her eyes. "This isn't real! She wouldn't!" Trixie kept her expression as calm as she could, though she really just wanted to slap the unicorn silly.

"It is real. That is her hand-writing. I assume you are capable of recognizing it?" She wasn't able to keep some of the scorn out of her voice. Twilight either did not notice, or did not care. She lifted her head to the other unicorn.

"It's not going to happen, though. She has both of you. That's what she wanted, isn't it?"

"And how long until another rebellion is formed? How long until she decides to do something like this again?"

Twilight regained enough of herself at that rebuke to stamp a hoof angrily, glaring at the former show-mare, who returned her glare full force. "What if it's a bluff?!"

"What if it ISN'T? That she is threatening it in the first place shows she would go through with it if she really had to," Trixie shot back. "After all, if she didn't go through with it, it would send the message that she was too weak to!" From another cell, Rainbow Dash snickered.

"Speaking of too weak...I bet you were the reason the elements bucked up in the first place!"

That completely took the wind out of Trixie's sails, and the unicorn shrank back from the cell bars, trying to make herself as small as possible. Applejack came to her defense. "Oh yea?! Ah remember a certain pegasus not bein' too loyal last night! How do we know it wasn't YOU who ruined everything?!"

"Yea, 'cuz after all, it was TOTALLY me who ruined it last time we tried to make Nightmare Moon taste the rainbow."

"G-Girls..."

Not to be deterred, Applejack retorted, "besides, Rarity had some problems too, didn't she?"

"Now, that was simply unnecessary! I did nothing different from any other occasion we have used the elements!"

"Girls...!"

"Don't drag Rarity into this! She's actually one of the elements, which is more than we can say for the loudmouth bi-" Rainbow Dash was cut off by a scream which sent all the occupants of the cell block reeling.

"YOU'RE ALL GOING TO SHUT UP AND LISTEN!" Everypony shut up. "Thank you." All heads turned to Fluttershy's cell, and the door to the cell block opened.

"What's going on in here!" The guard looked suspiciously at the lavender unicorn, who coughed to the side.

"It's nothing. Just an argument. I'm not finished here yet." When the soldier hesitated in leaving, Twilight waved a hoof. "Look, I'm fine. Nothing's wrong." Only when the door shut did Twilight look back to a very sheepish Fluttershy, who was drawing a circle on the floor with a forehoof.

"S-Sorry, but...But..." She closed her eyes for a moment, before the pegasus took on a determined glare. "No. No, I'm not sorry! What I am is disappointed! I'm disappointed in all of you!" Everypony in the room stayed quiet and perfectly still under the force of the ranger's scolding. "We were all supposed to work together for a common goal! To save the ponies of Equestria! But none of you can put aside your differences! So we're going to talk that out. All of you! Every single one of you here is at fault for what happened, and you're all going to fess up and make up!" She took a deep breath.

"Diamond Rarity! You know that if there was a peaceable solution then it would have been done already! You're just making excuses so you don't have to face the fact that your career is based on the back of a tyrant's rule! Would you really have the success you do now if you had any real competition? Is that what you want? To take the easy street to your dreams? You know better! It doesn't really mean anything if you haven't worked for it, that's how you've always thought about your career."

"Pinkie Pie, I know it still hurts a little, but keeping it bottled up inside will just make things worse! A happy face only makes others happy if YOU'RE happy! I can tell you're just trying not to think about it, and that's very brave of you, but it's doing more harm than good!"

"Rainbow Dash...I am most of all disappointed in YOU. Maybe this isn't your world, maybe these aren't your friends, and maybe you don't have a responsibility to make sure everything is okay here. But did you have to make sure I was okay when we first met? When you defended me in Flight School? You're scared, and angry, and it's okay to be those things! But I know deep down, you still want to help us, so stop being so petty!"

"As for YOU, Applejack, you're being just as selfish as Rarity! You have to stop moping over your Dash! It's been five years, Applejack, and you're only hurting yourself, Trixie, and now us! Appreciate what you have before you lose it!"

"Twilight, what this Nyx is doing is wrong. I know you care for her. I know you don't want to admit your daughter is capable of this. But you can't neglect your duty as one of the Elements of Harmony! Remember, there's a different set of circumstances that shaped her as she is in this world. She's not the same Nyx you know. Maybe you can reach her, maybe you can save her, but right now, we can't work with maybes! Even if you won't act for us, act for her, before she does something truly horrible!"

"Finally, Trixie." Fluttershy's tone became much more soft and comforting. "Trixie, you're a far cry from what you were before. You shouldn't have to worry about whether or not we'll accept you as our friend. You're willing to do what you need to do to protect this world, even if it's throwing yourself into what you hate most: Critique of yourself. That by itself proves you can do this! You've never doubted yourself before. Don't start now, when we most need you to be proud and strong!"

Fluttershy lowered her head, panting softly, seeming drained from her string of outbursts. "B-But I guess it doesn't matter...Since we're...In prison now..."

The mares gathered could only stand in stunned silence, the guilt creeping into their thoughts slowly. Pinkie was the first to speak. The pink pony's voice was tinged with grief. "I-I'm really sorry, girls ... I tried, I really did. But after I hit Twilight, all I could think about was how I hurt her. Please forgive me Twilight! I wasn't thinking!"

The unicorn took a deep breath. Her head still hurt from that blow, but she couldn't bring herself to anger. Not after Fluttershy's rant. "It's okay, Pinkie. I forgive you. I know how you can get, sometimes, and I couldn't hold that against you."

Applejack had, during the speech, laid a hoof on the front brim of her hat and pushed it down, over her eyes. "Ah've been a damn foal myself. Trixie, Ah-" The blue unicorn held up a hoof to cut her off, shaking her head.

"Not another word, Applejack. We have more important things to worry about." The farm-mare rose and pushed her hat back up, her green eyes locking firmly to Trixie's own. The disapproving frown on Applejack's muzzle brought the former stage magician pause.

"No. Now ya listen here, darlin', not talkin' about this is what's gotten us into this situation, and Ah ain't about ta make that same mistake again. Pinkie's got the right idea. Trixie, Ah'm sorry. Ah didn't want to admit it, 'cuz of how sensitive ya can be sometimes, but I guess I ain't quite over Dash." She didn't move her gaze the entire time, not willing to break her stare. It did soften, however, as she continued. "Ah loved her deeply. Losin' her was like losin' a part of myself.

Trixie grit her teeth and shut her eyes, a tear sliding down her left cheek as Applejack spoke. "So...So do I mean nothing, then? Is Trixie just a replacement, there to tide you over until you join her? Or replace Trixie with someone you can't have?!"

"Not even in the darkest of my days would Ah ever, Trixie," Applejack smiled as she lifted a hoof to the unicorn's chin. "Ah lost a part of myself when Dash died, but you helped me get it back. You, sugarcube. You kept me goin' all that time. Ah had my moment of weakness, but Ah don't want us goin' to the grave unsure of each other. Ah love ya, darlin'."

Trixie pulled away, her head turning down, and to the side. "Applejack, please..." She was forced to look back towards the farm-mare when the very same kissed her. Trixie's magenta eyes went wide, for a moment, then she relented, kissing her lover back with blush tinged cheeks. After a few moments, she broke the kiss. Her smiling cheeks were wet with more tears, and Applejack wiped them clean as best she could with a hoof. "I love you too, Applejack. We don't have much more time, but I don't want to die resenting you, either."

"Hey, stop being sappy, over there," Rainbow Dash teased, letting off a nervous chuckle. "You're making me jealous."

Applejack and Trixie blinked at the unexpected commentary, and realized that they were still in the company of friends, not alone. Both mares had a red glow in their cheeks, Applejack rubbing the back of her head, while the magician turned her head and coughed imperiously. Neither were able to stop a smile, however, nor a laugh. "Sorry, sugarcube. Ah kinda forgot ya'll were there."

"Yea, well, I'm still here. And I'm sorry. I'm a mule, I know." Dash pouted at the very idea of actually saying sorry, but she went through with it anyway. "Fluttershy was right. I am mad. I'm not scared, though! I'm not scared of NOTHING!"

"So, you're scared of everything?" Trixie smirked, and the earth pony next to her gave her a light whap with a blonde tail.

"Trixie, let the mare apologize."

Thankfully, the comment went completely over the rainbow pegasus's head. "No, I'm not scared of nothing. Geez, pay attention!" Twilight was trying very hard not to laugh at the clueless correction. Rarity couldn't help but let out a snerk, while Trixie just grinned. "Anyway, yea, I'm mad. Who wouldn't be? But hey, I gotta get my priorities straight. I'm the Element of Loyalty, and I haven't been acting like it. Don't give up yet, you two! We'll get outta this. I just gotta break these bars."

"...Darlin', ya cain't break those bars." Dash wasn't listening, she was straining at the bars with her hooves. "...Nevermind. So, uh, Rarity. Ah know Ah went outta Ponyville half-cocked, but-"

"Think nothing of it, my old friend." Rarity rubbed at the anti-magic collar on her neck, considering it. "Applejack, I doubted you, and I am sorry as well. If there's one thing I learned as your friend, it was that you are nothing if not trustworthy." Her hoof found a keyhole, and she smiled. "Aha!"

"'Aha' what?" Applejack strained, trying to look into Rarity's cell, but it was a doomed effort from the beginning.

"I found the lock on this collar. Does anyone have a hairpin, or a needle?"

"'Fraid not, sugarcube."

"No, Miss Rarity, I do not."

"S-Sorry..."

"Do I seem like the kinda mare who has something like that?"

"Nope!" Pinkie jumped up. "But I got something better! I got my laugh back!" She giggled to prove the point, and Twilight smiled, making up her mind at long last.

"I have something just as good. Okay, girls, listen," Twilight took a deep breath, hoping nopony would interrupt. When they stayed quiet, aside from Dash, who was still groaning and grunting as she attempted to break out of her cell, she continued. "I still think we can work this out peacefully. But I won't stop you if it really comes to using the elements. Not this time." She quickly added, "I won't help you, either. I'm sorry, I just...I just can't even think of harming my daughter. No mother could ever want that. What I will do, though," Twilight paced slowly between the cells, looking at all of them in turn as she passed. "What I will do, though, is stall her. You girls need to get out of here. I'm not going to let anypony hurt my friends. But you can't get out of here with her breathing down your necks. I'll keep her busy." ]

"That's great and all, but we still gotta get out of here, sugarcube."

"I've got a quill right here." Twilight lifted it with her magic. "Is this going to work?"

Rarity's eyes lit up, and she clopped her hooves together. "Yes! Listen, dear, you must do something for me. Exactly what I say. This will be hard, and it may take a while, but you're a quick learner..."

"Um...Okay? What is it?" Twilight stepped over to the white unicorn's cell, holding the quill up. "Wait, I get it. You want me to pick the lock on this. Rarity, I said I wouldn't hel-"

"Twilight, how can we get out of here if you don't help us to some degree? Please, don't doom us to failure from the very beginning of our plan," Rarity pleaded. Her eyes watered and sparkled in a way that was very hard for Twilight to say no to.

"Alright, tell me what to do." Twilight held the quill's tip close to the collar's keyhole.

"YES!" Rarity hopped into the air in excitement, but as soon as she was on the ground again, she cleared her throat and pretended as though nothing happened. "Now, slip the quill's point in. Use the glow of your horn to light the mechanism inside. What you're looking for are tiny pegs on the top. Those are the tumblers," Rarity explained as Twilight looked for what she was speaking of.

"Wow, those are really small. I see them, though."

"Good. Now, what you must do is depress the tumblers in just the right way. You'll hear a very soft click, so we'll need complete silence. Do that to all the tumblers, and you'll unlock the collar. Just be sure not to-" Snap. " ... "

" ... Sorry, Rarity. I messed up."

The white unicorn groaned, and buried her face in her fore-hooves. "Search the other cells for something thin enough to fit into the lock. A pin, a bone, something!"

Twilight went about this chore, hurrying. She looked into each cell, though each one, aside from those occupied by her friends, were empty. The skeleton across from Applejack and Trixie's cell was incomplete, and any bones that were small enough had long since been carried away by pests. Dejected, she walked back to Rarity's cell, her head hung low and her eyes to the floor. "I can go get something, but I doubt they'll let me come back in."

Rarity sighed. "We'll figure something else out, dear. Go on, and stall for us."

Just as the lavender pony was turning to leave, there was a loud popping sound from outside the cell block, followed by a grunt and a loud clattering. "Oh no! I'm sorry, Mr. Guard! ... Mr. Guard? Are you okay?" There came a sniffling, then crying. "Nuuuu! I killed him! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean it!"

Twilight rushed to the door, unable to believe what she was hearing. "Nyx?! Nyx, is that you?!"

"Momma! Please don't punish me for killing Mr. Guard!"

The unicorn couldn't help but smile. "I'm sure you didn't kill him, Nyx. He's probably just - Just unconscious ... " She swallowed back a sob, choking on it a bit. She couldn't stop herself from crying, though.

"Oh, phew ... Momma? Why are you crying?"

Twilight quickly wiped her eyes. "I'm just so happy to know you're alright, Nyx. Now, you need to help me. There should be a keyring on that guard. Unlock this door, and bring the keys in with you, okay?" Thinking of the skeleton, she changed her mind. "Actually, just pass the keys through the window, I'll..." She had to duck as a keyring shot through the door's view-slot and zoomed down the cell block, hitting the far wall, bouncing off, and sliding a fair distance. "Whoa! Be careful!"

"Sorry, momma. I got a little too excited," the little alicorn sheepishly apoligized.

"It's okay. Now stay right there, don't move!"

"Sugarcube, what the hay is goin' on?! Is that-"

"I really want an explanation too, Applejack, but now is not the time. I said I'd get you girls out of here, and I will." Twilight tried each of the keys in the keyhole for Rarity's cell. As each one failed, Twilight got more and more apprehensive. She let off a relieved sigh, however, when the last one she tried managed to get the lock undone, and the cell opened. "Okay, hold on a second. I'll get-Argh! None of these keys match these collars!" The lavender unicorn drooped. "It must have been an extra precaution to keep the keys for them somewhere else."

Rarity smiled despite the setback. "I am out of that filthy cell, at least. We'll just need to find something to undo this lock later." Twilight's eyes widened as she remembered something. The unicorn rushed to the door, unlocked it, and threw it open. The filly on the other side squeaked and jumped back in surprise, but she squeed happily as her mother hugged her tight for a few moments, then checked her mane. Nyx's hair was a mess, but a certain part of it was still in place. "Oh, thank Celestia!" She pulled out the hairpin, and the foal blinked as her mane was now flopped over her head.

"Momma?"

"I need this right now, Nyx. I'll be right back." Taking the hairpin back to Rarity, it took Twilight only a few minutes before she figured out the lock, and the collar fell to the floor. The white unicorn flexed her neck with a sigh of relief.

"That was so very uncomfortable. Thank you, dear. Now let me see that hairpin..." Taking the metal sprig from Twilight's magical grasp, Rarity set upon Trixie's collar. While Twilight had taken a few minutes, Rarity had the rebel's collar off in mere seconds. Twilight gaped at the sight.

"Where did you learn to do this, Rarity?"

"Ahahaha let's not bring up the past, dear." Rarity beamed with a smile that spoke volumes about exactly how quickly Twilight should drop this topic. The magician took the hint.

Applejack grinned as she straightened her hat. "Well, that's that, then. Let's go give Nightmare Moon a little surprise."

Trixie shook her head and put a hoof on the earth pony's shoulder. "No. We need reinforcements. We can't bet on her lieutenants being far from her. They'll expect a rescue attempt, after all." She turned to Twilight. "I'll take our friends back to our head-quarters, gather up our forces. You keep trying to stall Nightmare Moon from this crime."

Twilight nodded, and scooped up her daughter, placing the small filly on her back. "Okay. This is going to get confusing, though."

"I'm already confused, momma!" The foal laid down on her mother's back, frowning.

"I'll explain on the way up. You're going to be a big help to us, Nyx!" The foal beamed at the idea of being useful, and as the others were teleported away, Twilight started up the stairs quickly. "Now, how am I going to get this world's Nyx to believe I had nothing to do with their escape?"

---

Queen Nyx laid in her bed, her legs under her. She hadn't planned on sleeping yet, the monarch was waiting for Twilight to return from visiting her friends. The alicorn had given a lot of thought to what Twilight had said, but she couldn't back down now. She wouldn't back down. As Queen Nyx had explained to the unicorn, if the rebellion was gone, it would crush the hope of a proper opposition to her rule. The ponies of Equestria would be more likely to give in to her rule. And if they did give in, that would mean they would accept her aid. Thousands, no, millions of lives would be saved. If she had to execute two ponies for that, then so be it. She didn't want her subjects to suffer, after all. She was no monster.

Her head turned as she heard a knock at the door. "What is it?" From the other side came a gruff, but cheerful voice.

"Your Majesty, it's Fletcher. I wanted to check on you. You okay in there?"

The alicorn smiled, and rose from her bed. "I am well. Everything is going perfectly according to plan, after all." She opened the door, to reveal Fletcher. Beside him was a small foal, a white unicorn with a vividly blue mane, and a crescendo mark on her own flanks. "Adagia? What are you doing up this late?"

The filly shuffled her hooves shyly, a blush on her cheeks as she tried to find the words to explain. Fletcher chuckled. "She said she had nightmares, and she wants to sleep with you." The little unicorn nodded slowly, eyes still on the floor. "I'm going to go back to patrol. I don't like how quiet things are."

"Very well, Fletcher. Come, Adagia, let's get you tucked in." As the chief-ranger left, Adagia followed the tall alicorn into her room, though she turned to shut the door with her magic. "You poor thing. What did you dream about?"

At that, the youngest of her lieutenants jumped into the bed and squeezed herself close to the alicorn's flank, shuddering. Queen Nyx finished Adagia's ascent for her, with her tail gently wrapped around the foal. "I-I dreamed that y-you were defeated, and you left forever... !" The filly buried her face to the dark queen's side. The monarch just smiled as Adagia cried.

"It was just a silly dream, Adagia. I am not going anywhere. My rule is as eternal as my night, and I will never leave you. Never." Queen Nyx lowered her muzzle to gently nudge the filly over onto a pillow. Her dark magic suspended a blanket over the small unicorn, covering her up and tucking it snugly around her. "I will make sure your dreams won't turn so unpleasant again tonight. Sleep well."

The filly yawned, closing her eyes. A happy smile graced her muzzle as she nestled into the blanket and pillow. "Goodnight..."

"Goodnight, my beloved daughter."

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