• Published 31st May 2015
  • 2,062 Views, 85 Comments

Shadow's Flare - MrAlterad



Trixie works to break a curse of eternal slumber cast over Equestria, with some unexpected help from a former enemy.

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3. Third Shadow

Spike paused, noticing that Page had stopped following him. Raising the burning branch higher, he saw that the filly was looking back the way they came, looking as if she saw or heard something important.

“Something up?” Spike asked as he gave her a confused look.

“Huh? Oh. I- well, I thought I heard Cadance.” She got out, looking to Spike before glancing back to the source of their confusion. “It was like, she was wishing me luck.” She said, then turned back the way they came, as if to respond to that call, but she hesitated, glancing at the two bound books resting in her saddlebag. “Spike, what do we do?” She asked as she looked back to him, “I- I wanna see Cadance.” She added as her ears fell, and not for the first time since this week of night began, Spike saw her fighting tears.

Her words got to the young dragon. He wanted to see Sunset just as badly as she wanted to see Cadance. But, they had an important mission to carry out, and he was the older of the pair, so it was up to him to keep them on track, and in high spirits. However, it was hard at times, especially now that they were in the Everfree Forest.

Fortunately, and unbeknownst to both of them (or anypony else for that matter), the Everfree was the safest it's been in a very long time. The forest itself had also fallen under the same spell as the rest of Equestria. The monsters, the trees, even the unbound weather was asleep. Spike and Page were none the wiser to the dangers they were spared for it.

“Do you wanna check in?” Spike asked, hoping the break would help ease her apprehension. Page considered his question for a moment before shaking her head.

“N-No, she said we're close.” She then hesitated again before nodding, “We gotta find the castle first. I wanna know 'bout Cadance, but, we gotta find the magical necklace. Then, we can wake everypony up.” She finished hopefully as she looked to Spike.

“Right, castle first.” Spike started as he adopted a confident look. “A bit more this way and we'll be there for sure!” he added as he puffed his chest out, getting a small smile from the white filly.

Lifting his torch high, Spike pressed forward through the underbrush, Page a step behind him. Using the moon's light as a compass, Spike led the two of them in the same direction for several minutes through the forest. He paused every so often so Page could catch up, for she was constantly looking back in the direction she'd heard Cadance's voice with a longing look. As Spike crossed past a line of trees, his eyes widened as he spotted their destination.

Beyond a ravine, illuminated by the moon, was an ancient abandoned castle, left to be swallowed up by the forest. Spike smiled, glad they weren't lost, having secretly suspected they were for the last few hours. He then spotted a problem, but was distracted when he heard a small, painful yelp from his friend.

“Page!?” He asked as he turned around, seeing that she was trying really hard not to cry as she got on her hooves, twigs caught in her brown mane.

“I'm okay.” She replied as she sniffled. Her brow then furrowed as she glared at the source of her pain, “I just tripped-” She added, rubbing her eyes before noticing the castle in the distance. “The castle? We're here?” She asked, getting a nod from Spike as he helped get the branches out of her mane.

“Yea, but the bridge is out.” He pointed out, making Page adopt a contemplating look.

“Umm, hold on, I think there's something about stairs, and a secret door.” She replied as she pulled out a book from her saddlebags, a certain ancient journal that was shared between Luna and Celestia.

“Wanna check in first, before we go?” Spike asked, and Page paused, about to open the book as she looked to Spike. She gave a reluctant nod, adopting a slightly disappointed look as she put the book away.

“Are you ... staying up?” She asked as she tried to mask the fear in her eyes, and Spike nodded, prompting a sigh of relief from the filly.

“Don't worry. I'll check the book while you're out, I won't go anywhere, promise.” He said resolutely, making the filly blush as she nodded. Laying down, Page allowed the fatigue that's been nipping at her ever since this all started to wash over her, quickly falling asleep.

Spike quietly sat next to her as he looked over the journal, looking for any details concerning the secret passage Page mentioned. As he looked over it, he glanced back from whence they came, feeling a little lonely as he wondered how Sunset and his friends fared. Those thoughts on his mind, he looked back to the castle, a tomb for the copy they were sent to retrieve. A copy of a relic, the one Luna supposedly used to defeat Nightmare back in the early days of Equestria, The Queen's Necklace.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trixie winced as she opened her eyes, slowly turning her aching head as she saw that she was in the Golden Oaks Library. There were a small number of sleeping ponies gathered near her, tucked in sleeping bags and blankets. She recognized their faces as Twilight and her Ponyville friends, but she'd never really put in the effort to remember her friend's names. Well, besides the one she worked with to put her show on after what happened last winter, Applejack, and the one who totally wasn't a Shadowbolt, Rainbow Dash.

She saw a table with dishes and candy, old punch, as well as spoiled food. Taking that in, she vaguely recalled Twilight mentioning a slumber party with her friends to celebrate the victory up north. As Trixie got on her hooves, she noticed that Chrysalis was at her side, and after taking a moment to rub her head, her brow furrowed as she looked to the changeling.

“Chrys! Why'd you have to wake Trixie up now!?” She asked as she slammed a hoof on the ground, then almost fell over as her headache punished her for her outburst. And why has my headache gotten worse!?

“W-What?” Chrysalis responded in surprise, before frowning. “Because we're in Ponyville now! What of it?” She asked, and the two of them shared a brief glare before Trixie let out a sigh.

She didn't know I was in Cadance's dream. Just calm down Trixie, or you might just pass out... She thought as she rubbed her head again.

“Sorry. It was- Trixie was helping a friend, and it almost ended horribly.” She said, making Chrysalis look over her for a second before adopting a slightly apologetic look.

“I did feel some resistance, that's why I let up on pulling you back. How's...?”

“Cadance. It was Cadance.” Trixie then adopted a fiery look. “There's a lot you need to know.” She began, “But, how'd it go, did you try waking Twilight?” She asked, and Chrysalis shook her head.

“It didn't work, that's why I woke you up.”

“Of course it didn't.” Trixie said as let out a sigh. “Alright then, here's what Trixie learned on the other side...” She said as she began filling in her friend, casually walking about Twilight's home as she did, looking over the sleeping ponies before reaching Twilight herself. She adopted a small smile as she finished, then looked to Chrysalis, who was thinking over everything she'd heard. Trixie then noticed a small rolled up piece of paper next to Twilight, and her eyes widened in realization. She tried to pick it up with her magic, her brow furrowing when nothing happened.

“You know, if Trixie could use her magic, we could send a letter to Spike!” She let out in annoyance, causing her to wince again. She then scooped up the rolled paper with her hooves, opening it to confirm her suspicions. “It's a letter, from Spike.” She said for Chrysalis' benefit, pulling the changeling from her thoughts as she looked over Trixie's shoulder.

'I sent a letter like this to Sunset and Trixie-' Trixie read, pausing as she looked to Chrysalis.

“Don't look at me. I was too distracted to notice any letters in your home.” Chrysalis admitted, getting a sigh from Trixie.

“Trixie missed it too, she was also distracted.” She stated in annoyance as she continued on.

'I sent a letter like this to Sunset and Trixie as well. We're both going Page and I are going into the Everfree to find something that can wake everypony up. If you somehow wake up before that, we could use help getting there!'

'If you see this, and everypony else is awake too, then we did it! That would-' The rest of the letter didn't have any other pertinent information, and was mostly the young dragon sounding energetic at the prospect of saving Equestria. A notion that made Trixie adopt a fond smile.

“The Everfree!?” Chrysalis let out shortly after she finished reading. She then ran outside, to Trixie's surprise. Looking out the window, Trixie saw Chrysalis' horn glow as a ball of green light flew from it, into the sky. Trixie watched for a moment as she saw the orb start to pulse.

Is she calling her children? Trixie guessed as she looked back to the changeling, who seemed to be focused on the orb. Spike and Page are looking for something to wake eveypony up? Did Luna leave something behind for them? She wondered, before looking back towards the sleeping mares behind her. She looked to Twilight, briefly glanced back to Chrysalis, then moved to her sleeping friend's side.

Trixie sat there for a moment, looking over her, before putting a hoof on Twilight's shoulder, shaking her gently. Getting no response, Trixie resisted the powerful urge to shake her harder as her eyes started to sting. She blinked as a depressing notion came to mind, and she felt her shoulders start to shake as she glared at nothing in particular.

Great! Just Great! Now I'm getting myself worked up! She thought as her brow furrowed. Darn it. If only I had my magic! I could pick up Chrysalis' spell and just dive on in! Thinking that, she looked back to the door, considering her options for a moment before nodding to herself. She then looked back to Twilight, and adopted a determined smile.

“Don't you worry, Twily, I'm coming to get you.” She whispered out, “And Sunny too, just wait a little bit longer.” She added as she moved some of Twilight's mane from her face. A fire beating in her chest, Trixie left the sleeping ponies behind, finding Chrysalis done with her spell.

“You sent a message to the others?” Trixie asked as she looked off towards Canterlot mountain.

“Yes, the Everfree, isn't safe for children!” Chrysalis let out, getting a curious look from Trixie.

“Wouldn't it be asleep too?” She asked, hesitating as she looked back to the library.

“I'm not counting on it.” Chrysalis replied as Trixie noticed a small green glow shine from Canterlot. Chrysalis then looked to Trixie, “You coming with me, or am I sending you back?” She asked, and Trixie shook her head, recalling her words before she had sent her into the Realm of Dreams.

“Trixie's going back. She said she'd trust you with Spike and Page, so she'll keep doing that.” She then gave Chrysalis a frustrated look, “There's not much I can do on this side without my magic. I want to do what I can, so it'd be best if I was back on the other side!” She said resolutely, getting an understanding nod from Chrysalis. Trixie then cleared her throat, “Trixie'd like to go back to Cadance's dream home; but, she doubts you can simply send her back there. Still, she can reach Twilight from here, so let's keep moving forward.” She then adopted an uncertain look, “You're not going to carry Trixie as she sleeps again, are you?” She asked, and the changeling quickly shook her head.

“No, I'll be leaving you here.” She then adopted a very serious look. “I want you to be careful around Shadow Flare, she may very well want to save Equestria simply so she can rule it.” She then adopted a slightly disgusted look, “Not that I can see why, you ponies can be insufferable at times.” She added, getting a smile from Trixie.

“Well, Trixie will keep that in mind.” She replied, then winced again in pain, prompting her to appraise her friend. “Chrys, are you sure your magic isn't causing Trixie's headaches? It's worse than before, and she's worried she may not be able to think straight next time she wakes up.” She explained, getting a concerned look from the changeling, who quickly hid it under a contemplating expression.

“Maybe it is. I still don't know why the spell worked for you, but nopony else.” She admitted as she glanced to the side.

“What does the spell do?”

“It literally pulls a pony out of their dreams, nothing complicated about it. When I used it on the others, it felt like there was a wall that my magic couldn't get past.”

“...Why do you know such a spell?” Trixie asked hesitantly, making her friend adopt a somber look.

“My mother loved to play with her food, and insisted I learn the spells involved.”

“R-Right, say no more!” Trixie quickly replied, then looked back to the library. “If you pull Trixie out again, the headaches could be even worse, so don't wake her unless it's important, 'kay?”

“Agreed.” Chrysalis replied as her horn started to glow, catching Trixie off guard as she was hit with a wave of fatigue, making her topple over as everything started to grow dark. Before hitting the ground, Trixie vaguely felt her friend's magic catch her, as everything faded away.

~~~~~~~~~~

Shadow Flare's recounting of what occurred faltered as she felt Luna's student return to the Realm of Dreams. Flare's little 'minion' noticed the interruption in her narrative, and was giving her a quizzical look.

“What's wrong?” Page asked, before her eyes widened in alarm, “Is it Nightmare!?”

“No. You needn't worry,” Flare quickly replied, “It seems that Trixie's returned.” She explained, making the filly's ears perk up in surprise.

“She's here? Now? Can I see her!?” She asked as she gave Flare a pleading look, eyes aglow with hope. Seeing that glow made Flare falter for a moment, before she shook her head.

“Not right now. We've both got important things to do.” She insisted, her heart aching when the filly adopted a sad look.

“I get it.” She stated as she pattered the ground with a hoof. “It's time to go?”

“Yes, it's time to go. Remember, you don't need to be afraid of the castle, there are no monsters there, understand?” Flare asked as she lifted the filly's chin, looking her in the eyes.

“I won't be scared, promise.” Page assured as she adopted a determined look.

“Very good, I'm counting on you, and Spike too.” Flare added, getting a firm nod from Page. “Be safe.” She urged, and Page hesitated for a brief moment.

“You too. Bye bye...” She replied as she closed her eyes. Flare then tapped Page's head with her glowing horn, bring the filly's dream to an end, leaving Shadow Flare alone as Page's dream home materialized around her.

The home itself greatly resembled Tell Tale's, but the pictures were different, the plants were younger, and there were several mostly empty bookshelves waiting to be filled. Flare stood there for a moment in anticipation, before seeing the home shimmer and fade away, just as the dream had.

Letting out a small sigh of relief, Flare looked south. She then called back her shadow, reconcealing her cutiemark, mane and eyes, once again becoming a featureless creature of the night. She then adopted a fond smile as she thought about the little filly and the dragon.

As far as minions go, I think this is more than acceptable. She thought, before looking north. I wonder, what would Celestia think if she saw me now? Her brow then furrowed as she let out a sigh. She'd probably tease me. Still, that's not gonna happen if I can't get rid of Nightmare. She then considered what to do next, before looking in the direction of Ponyville's dreamers. Trixie... I better make sure she doesn't make a mess of things. She affirmed as she focused her mind's eye towards Canterlot, sensing Nightmare in the distance. Feeling no movement from that presence, she took to the sky, to see to the blue unicorn.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trixie let out a comfortable sigh, feeling no trace of her headache as she opened her eyes. A crack of thunder ended her brief relief, making her adopt a defensive stance as she looked to the sky. Eyeing the horizon in every direction, she saw no sign of the ominous red glow that preceded Nightmare.

Instead, she saw several isolated areas of fog, each of them separated by about hoofball field's distance, making Trixie wonder why distances were so off in the Realm of Dreams. I mean, those are the dreams of Twilight and her friends, and they were practically sleeping next to each other! She thought as she re-enchanted her cape, taking flight in an energetic manner as she got a better look around. So, six dreams. Which one's Twilight- She began to wonder, then paused when she saw that there were only four pockets of fog.

Pretty sure I saw six ponies sleeping in her home. She thought as she double counted. Okay, there's two on the ground, and two in the air. Assuming the ones in the sky are for her pegasi friends, that still leaves two missing dreams! She thought as worry started to weigh upon her, Why do I get the feeling that Twilight is one of the missing ones!

She began to circle around as lightning stuck nearby, making her eye the sky warily before focusing back on the ground. Calm down Trixie, maybe earth ponies' dreams take place underground? She then paused as her eyes fell upon a slightly worn down home.

The structure was hidden by large rocks; Trixie wouldn't have spotted it had she not hovered around, and her curiosity got the better of her as she landed near the structure. Did somepony manage to end their own nightmare? She wondered, assuming the place to be a dream home as she entered.

While the outside had been worn and unassuming, the interior was far from that. It was brightly colored, mostly pink, with walls decorated with candy, along with pictures and portraits; a lot of portraits, to Trixie's surprise. As she entered, her eyes fell on a bowl near the door with a sign on it. 'Help yourself!' The sign read, the bowl filled with colorful rocks, a sight which jogged Trixie's memory.

Wait, I remember this! This must be that pink energetic pony's dream home! She gave me some rock candy when I first came to Ponyville. What was her name again? Trixie wondered as she gingerly took one of the colorful rocks. Something-a-mena? Giving it a lick, her tongue was assaulted by a zap of sugary goodness, bringing an unexpected smile to her face. Suddenly having the idea to summon her favorite meal, she abandoned the notion as she focused her attention on her surroundings.

This mare is friends with Twilight, so I should be able to get to her dreams through one of those portraits, like I did with Cadance! She thought as her eyes went over the large collection of ponies on the wall. There seemed to be no order to the arrangement, but it wasn't that difficult for Trixie to pick out her friend, despite the fact that Twilight's portrait was still ruined.

Her picture wasn't as messed up as it had been in Tell Tale's place, but it was still ripped in several places, and Trixie's heart sank when she placed her hoof on the portrait. She stood there for a moment as her ears fell, suspecting that the last missing dream in the area outside the building was Twilight's.

Well, at least the picture is in better shape than it was before. Ending Cadance's nightmare … Did doing that fix up Twilight's portrait? Trixie wondered as she recalled Shadow Flare's surprise when she said that Cadance's picture had been fixed. Helping Tell Tale fixed Cadance's, what if it also made Sunset and Twilight's pictures better than they were before? Looking to the wall, she let out a small sigh when she couldn't spot Sunset. Right, that was a silly thing to hope for. She doesn't make a lot of friends like Twilight does. Or any friends for that matter, unlike The Great and Powerful Trixie! She thought as she shook her head.

Her eyes then fell to something she hadn't expected, a picture covered by a white cloth. Is that my portrait? She wondered as she reached for the cloth, feeling the sense of vertigo returning. Yep! Can't say I'm surprised it's here. I am The Great and Powerful Trixie after all! She thought with a smile.

As she looked away from her portrait, her heart nearly lept out of her chest when she saw Shadow Flare standing at the door. W-When did she get here!? She thought as she tried to hide her embarrassment for being spooked.

“What do you want? Is Nightmare coming again?” Trixie asked as she gave Flare a cold look.

“It's settled around Canterlot for now,” Flare replied as she causally grabbed a bit of rock candy from the bowl, “What's wrong, can't get into your friend's dream? Don't you know that's an invasion of privacy?” She added mockingly.

“And possessing ponies isn't?” Trixie shot back.

“Possession requires consent-”

“Trixie doesn't want to hear your excuses! If you want to help, help Trixie get to her friends.”

“Right to business then.” Flare said, sounding a little put off, “Follow me, I'll take you to Sunset's dream.” And not even waiting for a reply, Flare turned around, and took flight.

“H-Hey! Wait for Trixie!” She let out as she flew after Flare. “How'd you know Trixie could fly now?”

“I wonder...” Flare stated, leaving Trixie under the impression she was smiling at her. As they left the dreams behind, Trixie couldn't help but feel as though she overlooked something, making her look over her shoulder for a moment. Shrugging off the feeling, she eyed Flare with a determined look.

“So, how do you intend to stop Nightmare?”

“The same way Luna defeated me before I made a pact with Celestia, and that's all you need to know.”

“You don't want Trixie's help?” Trixie asked, hoping to gleam more from the shadow.

“I have all the help I need.”

“Fine.” Trixie let out in annoyance, “Why are you helping Trixie?”

“For insurance, in case my plan fails.” Flare replied before glancing to Trixie, “It seems that when you end a pony's nightmare, it heals the bonds between.”

“Bonds between?” Trixie asked, “You mean those portraits?”

“Yes. Everypony is connected, through memories and relationships. The dream homes show that connection. And it was through that connection that Nightmare spread.”

“So, if Trixie takes down enough nightmares, we can reach Luna?”

“That's a possibility, yes. This is a speculation on my part, but if you can free Sunset from her nightmare, she should be able to wake up.”

“You're not sure?”

“Not entirely, something like this has never happened before.” Flare admitted. Trixie then let out a gasp a she was struck with a realization.

“If Sunset wakes up, she can raise the sun!”

“Yes. Though I doubt it would be enough to defeat Nightmare, or end the sleeping curse, I suspect it would greatly weaken it.”

“And that's when you swoop in, take over it, and claim Equestria as your own?” Trixie stated as she looked to Flare, who seemed upset by the accusation.

“My interest in ruling her kingdom has waned greatly in the last few months. I just want to make it all right again.”

“For Celestia?”

“Yes.” She curtly answered.

“Can't we wake her as well?”

“That would be very difficult. Only a handful of ponies know her enough to have a connection to her. And they're all currently trapped in their own nightmares.”

“...Trixie doesn't get it. How can you care about Equestria, but clearly hate Luna?” She asked, getting a dark scowl from the shadow, the power behind it distracting Trixie, almost making her crash into a floating rock. “F-Forget Trixie asked.” She added, and Shadow Flare considered her a moment before casting her gaze forward.

“I have every right to hate her. She's spurned me thrice, and never apologized.” Flare explained as the shadows around her started to dance, as if on fire.

Three times? Okay, there was when she was defeated the first time, then the second time with the Elements of Harmony, is the third time when we beat her last winter? Does she blame Luna for that? Trixie wondered as Flare let out a sigh.

“Luna is truly a foolish mare, who shuns her fears, and at times lets herself be ruled by them.”

“Hey! Luna's the bravest pony Trixie knows! You take that back!” Trixie shouted as she flew in front of Flare.

“Oh what do you know! All those years under her, you must have at least picked up that she's great at keeping secrets!” Flare replied, making Trixie hesitate for a moment.

“What of it!?” Trixie asked, prompting Flare to adopt a confident stance.

“I know what she fears. I know what anypony fears, and do you know why?”

“Because you were once Nightmare!”

“That's only the half of it! I was once the Queen of Nightmares! Nightmare Moon was my name! And do you know what it was like!? I was filled with fear! Anger! All dark emotions born from the time before Equestria was born!? And I wanted to share that! Return it all from whence it came!!” She shouted, and for a moment, Trixie was certain Flare was about to attack her, but the shadow's anger died out after a moment's silence. “...I was once Nightmare Moon, a name I wish to never adopt again. I had power, ambition. Now, I have no need for those.” She admitted as she looked to the side, making Trixie tilt her head in confusion. Flare noticed, and let out a small sigh. “Suffice to say, sharing a vessel with Celestia for a thousand years tends to change a pony.” She explained, and Trixie hesitated for a moment before speaking up.

“If that's the case, why do you still hate Luna?” She asked, hoping Flare had cooled down enough for the question.

“Because, of all the ponies in Equestria, I'm the only one with the right to hate her.” Flare responded, leaving Trixie under the impression that was going to be the best answer she'd get from her. The two of them then flew in silence for several minutes, before Flare spoke up. “Do you know what she's afraid of?”

“The Grand Galloping Gala.” Trixie quickly responded, getting an unexpected chuckle from Flare, “H-Hey! Trixie was being serious!”

“No, no, you're quite right, she truly can't stand the event, and I don't blame her.”

“...If that's not it, then, what?” Trixie asked.

“You ever wonder why she's never had children?” Flare asked, making Trixie blush briefly before coughing into her hoof.

“Sort of, yes. She's been looking after Equestria for so long, Trixie couldn't help but wonder. Luna said it was because she has to be a 'responsible' leader.” Trixie replied in an unconvinced manner.

“Yeah, she's been giving that excuse for centuries. Truth is, she want's to have a foal or two of her own. But, because of her fears, she keeps herself away from that outcome. And as long as she's afraid, she'll never be a mother.” Flare said, and Trixie was about to asked why, but she then recalled a particular hall in Canterlot castle, and was filled with an idea as to what Luna's fear was.

“Is she … afraid of outliving her children?”

“Hah! I didn't have to spell it out for you!” Flare let out, sounding a little impressed, which only made Trixie's brow furrow.

“S-So, when Trixie finally reaches Luna, she'll need to take on a nightmare like that?” How would I even tackle such a thing!?

“Not likely, if you can enter Luna's dreams, then that would mean that Nightmare was defeated.” Flare said, and she looked like she was about to add something, before stopping herself. “But all that aside, yes, Luna has her fears. Everypony has them, and I typically know them with simply a glance.”

Even Luna's afraid of something. I guess I can't blame her, but, doesn't Chrysalis have a similar problem? She seems to handle outliving her children just fine. Though, I guess that would explain why she's always so bitter around everypony close to her. Trixie thought as their conversation died down.

In the silence that followed, Trixie found her eyes taking in the bleak landscape. They were following a path of large metal train tracks below them, the land around the tracks barren. There were no trees to be seen, and the lightning had been traded in for cyclones dotting the plains, which were swallowed by shadow and vanished when they got too close to Flare.

“Trixie supposes this was all Nightmares doing?” She asked in an attempt to end the silence.

“Well, yes and no. Nightmare's influence fell over the ponies and their magic, which trickled down to the land and all the critters and creatures that inhabited it. The wildlife doesn't have dream bubbles like ponies and dragons and other thinking creatures do. Instead, their dreams shape the land within the realm. Critters are afraid of storms, inhospitable conditions, lightning, thunder, and all that you see around you.”

“How did Nightmare do all this?” Trixie asked, and she could feel Flare's expression darken for a brief moment before she answered.

Sombra. One of the greatest wielders of dark magic our world has ever known. He was malicious, insidious, and a little over prepared. I assume that he had prepared a powerful curse, set to go off should he ever fall, which activated when he was bested by your friends. I don't know what that curse would have done, and I doubt anypony will ever find out. Nightmare found that curse, and fed off of it.”

“And that was enough for it to best Luna?” Trixie asked skeptically, and Flare nodded.

“A nightmare, all by itself, is harmless. Add some dark magic, and it becomes something greater, and curses are the greatest manifestations of dark magic. It was more than enough for Nightmare to best Luna. But, that alone wasn't enough to cause all this.” Flare stated as she indicated the wastelands around them.

“Something else let it spread overnight?” Trixie offered, under the impression that Flare was smiling at her.

“There's an old artifact, made for Luna by one of her friends long, long ago. She used it to defeat me when I was Nightmare Moon. I never learned its original name, and I made sure that Luna and its creator didn't know its name either.”

“Huh?”

“Well, when I possessed Celestia, I acted to erase all evidence of the artifact before awakening Luna. I didn't want to be done in again by that blasted trinket. Although, I didn't really count on Luna being able to wield the Elements of Harmony on her own.”

“What did this, uh, thing, do?”

“The 'thing' is a necklace that only works in the Realm of Dreams. It reverses the portraits in a pony's dream home.”

“That doesn't sound very special.” Trixie admitted.

“Right, let's see, how to put it,” Flare began as she adopted a contemplative look, “The ponies you see on the walls in a pony's dream home show those that are important to the pony. Loved ones, ponies that had a big influence on their lives. Take Luna's bookkeeper for example, you saw all the ponies there, those were the ones he cares for, the ones he deems important to who he is.”

“Right...” Trixie said, a little impatiently.

“That necklace makes it so that instead of showing the ponies important to your life, it'll show the ponies who consider you important to their lives.” She explained, and Trixie thought on it for a moment before her eyes widened.

“Nightmare, can it travel through the portraits?”

“Only if the pony is asleep, and not already under its influence.”

“Then, Princess Luna, she's a part of just about everyponies lives, so when Nightmare defeated her-”

“It used the artifact Luna used against me on her, granting it the ability to wash all of Equestria in nightmares.”

“Then, shouldn't we be trying to get this thing away from Nightmare-”

“Let me worry about that, you can deal with bringing the sun back.” Flare curtly stated, making Trixie frown.

“About that, you mentioned that Tell Tale is still asleep, and Trixie guesses that Cadance is too, even though she ended their nightmares. How is she suppose to wake them up?”

“Actually, that's the easy part. Now that Nightmare's initial hold is gone, a simple cleansing spell should do the trick. Though, you need to do it from the other side.” Flare stated simply, making Trixie's brow furrow.

If I could use my magic on the other side- Well, guess I'll just have to tell Chrys.

“Where's Sunset and Cadance, in the real world?”

“They're on the train bound from Rainbow Falls to Canterlot, we'll be there shortly.” She stated as Trixie looked to the horizon, seeing large structures of metal dotting the broken tracks they were following.

Right, once I take care of Sunset's nightmare, I'll return to Chrys, and we can follow the tracks. She thought as they got closer, seeing that the large metal structures were train cars, four times their normal size.

“Why is everything exaggerated here?” Trixie asked as she flew low, seeing the broken down and rusted cars having several dream 'pockets' in them.

“Because it's a realm made from dreams.” Flare stated flatly as she reached Trixie's side, sounding a little disappointed by the question. “Well, Luna's little shadow, this is where we part, I need to head back and make sure Nightmare doesn't wander from Canterlot. Look for Cadance's home,” she said as she pointed to a series of floating rocks above them, “You can reach Sunset's dream from there.” With that, it looked like she was about to part, but she hesitated for a moment. “Give Sunset my regards, and for what it's worth, I'm sorry I tried to possess her last winter.”

“You can apologize to her yourself, Trixie isn't your messenger!”

“The apology wasn't for her.” Flare replied flatly as she parted, leaving Trixie alone with a surprised look on her face. She watched Flare fly away, at a speed that impressed Trixie, as it was only moments before Shadow Flare was too far to make out from the dark clouds in the sky. Shortly after Flare parted, a lightning bolt stuck close to Trixie, to the mare's annoyance.

“Trixie is getting really tired of this hostile weather!” She declared as she rushed towards the floating islands, looking for a cottage she had been in not too long ago. I think I'm beginning to see why Sunset doesn't speak poorly of Shadow Flare. She thought as Flare's apology played through her head.

Spotting the cottage, she bee-lined for it, intending to get Sunset out of her nightmare as soon as she could. She paused briefly as she entered, looking to all the portraits, noticing that Page was missing here as well. Her brow then furrowed as she noticed that Spike's portrait was also nowhere to be found. Finding Sunset's portrait, she approached it, seeing it was whole again, if a little ragged. Adopting a determined look, she entered the portrait, and was whisked away to tackle one of her best friends' nightmares.

Knowing her, it wouldn't surprise me if her nightmare involved her becoming Princess of Equestria! Trixie thought, a little amused at the notion as her falling came to an abrupt end, the portrait's corridor having formed into a back-alley of Canterlot.

Getting up, she dusted herself off as she stepped out into the street. She then stopped as she saw a banner emblazoned with Sunset's cutiemark, as well as wings and feathers of fire. The banner was one of many hanging above the road, and the moon, as bright as the sun, was casting a harsh light upon the city.

The decorations reminded Trixie of the Summer Sun celebration, and her brow furrowed as she noticed another banner down the road with very telling words written on it.

'Praise be to The Great and Glorious Princess Shimmer!'

“T-The Great and Glorious!?” Trixie let out as she looked to the castle, before taking in a deep breath. “Suuunsseet!!!!”

Author's Note:

It's here! Chock-full of exposition and character interactions! (I really hope it wasn't boring.)
For some reason, I feel obligated to state that none of the remaining bearers will be OCs.
I had originally intended for Sunset's dream to take place in this chapter, but then it would have been twice as long as it is now.
Chapter 4: It's Always Sunny in Canterlot!
Hope you enjoyed this chapter, and thanks again as always for reading!

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