• Published 26th Jul 2015
  • 29,563 Views, 2,743 Comments

Oops! I'm Equine Again - MythrilMoth

  • ...

Left Hoof Free

Twilight Sparkle fidgeted in her desk, drumming her stylus nervously on the edge of her tablet. It was the start of fourth period; as soon as the lunch period began, she would be meeting up with Tirek and Dean Cadance to return to Canterlot High for further investigation.

The other students began to trickle into the room. Sugarcoat took the seat beside her, as usual, then paused, peering intently at her. "You changed back into your uniform," she noted. "And your glasses and hair are back to normal. And you have a bra on."

Twilight frowned. "Umm...why wouldn't I...what do you mean my hair is back to normal?"

Sugarcoat snorted. "You're weird," she said dismissively, turning to face front. "Contacts not working out for you?"

Twilight blinked. "I've never worn contacts," she said. Gears turned in her mind. Her eyes widened. "Wait. Sugarcoat. Are you saying you saw me today? Without glasses? Wearing my hair differently?"

"And wearing a fancy dress without a bra," Sugarcoat said in a bored tone.

Twilight shot half out of her seat. "Where? When?!" she shouted.

Sugarcoat glared at her. "Walking the halls," she said frostily.

Twilight's heart started pounding. "She's here!" Just as the teacher entered the room, she grabbed her things and bolted for the door, scrambling down the hall.

The teacher frowned at her retreating form, shook his head, and sighed. "Not my problem," he muttered. "Everyone, settle down..."

Twilight nearly tripped and fell to the floor several times as she raced down one hall, then another, ultimately coming to a stop outside Dean Cadance's office. She threw open the door, bolted inside, and slammed it shut behind her.

Cadance looked up in alarm from the paperwork she was stamping. "Twilight? What—?"

"SHE'S HERE!" Twilight shouted excitedly. "The other Twilight! Sugarcoat saw her here, at Crystal Prep, today!"

Cadance gasped. "What?!"

At that moment, the door opened. "Cadance, I need you to—" Principal Cinch trailed off as she noticed Twilight. She frowned. "Your alleged 'wedding' ended early, I trust?" she asked acidly.

Twilight blinked. "Wedding? What—?"

"At least you're adhering to uniform code once more," Cinch said. "Although you are still out of class without permission."

"Actually, I called her out of class," Cadance lied smoothly. "There's a girl who looks exactly like Twilight who apparently enjoys confusing people, and we're just trying to figure out what to do about it."

Cinch blinked at that, then looked at Twilight, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"It's my...cousin," Twilight said. "Sunset...Sunset Shimmer. She, umm...she's, well, she really looks almost exactly like me, except she doesn't wear glasses and she likes dressing fancy and apparently she's been using my name." She rubbed the back of her head nervously. "She does it to mess with me."

Cinch frowned. "I see," she said. "Then the girl I saw leaving the school this morning was this cousin of yours?"

"Yeah, that was her," Twilight agreed, nodding rapidly. "She's up to her old tricks, trying to get me in trouble! Aheheh."

Cinch folded her arms. "Perhaps the authorities should be notified."

"I'd...rather not," Twilight said. "I don't, you know, wanna cause that kind of drama with family. Besides, it's...it's harmless, I mean, she's just messing around."

"Hmm." Cinch pinched her lips together tightly. "Is this in any way related to your skipping afternoon classes along with that ruffian?"

"Actually, that's my doing," Cadance said before Twilight could try to come up with a reasonable lie. "I'm using them for a little covert espionage on Canterlot High." She smirked. "You are concerned about their newfound reputation, aren't you?"

Cinch shifted awkwardly. "I wouldn't go so far as to say concerned," she said. "Suspicious, perhaps."

"Well, we're just scoping them out," Cadance said. "Pretending we're doing a secret research project on their student culture."

Cinch smirked. "Why, Cadance, I had no idea you could be so...devious." She squared her shoulders. "Very well. Continue your...investigation. Twilight's grades won't suffer from missing a few afternoon classes, and goodness knows the less of that boy I have to see in this school the better." With that, she left the office, having completely forgotten her original purpose.

Once the door closed behind her, Twilight sagged in relief, heaving a massive sigh. "We. Are. Horrible. People."

Cadance sighed. "Well, as much as I hate piling lies on top of lies like this, it's the only way we're ever going to figure out what's going on." She frowned. "So. The other Twilight Sparkle was here today, but left. Do you suppose—"

Twilight nodded. "Either she's already at CHS, or she'll be heading there soon," she said firmly. "We need to get Tirek and go."

Cadance pulled her phone out of her desk and tapped away at it. "My thoughts exactly."

* * * * *

Twilight's reaction to Rarity showing up with pony ears and a horn was a gasp, followed by a confused furrow of her brow. "The horn's new," she said. "Though now that I think about it, you should've sprouted a horn every time you ponied up." She tilted her head. "Magic? Can you use it?"

Rarity nodded. "To some extent," she said. "Mostly for small things, though under stress I seem to be capable of...greater feats." She eyed Twilight up and down appraisingly. "My counterpart designed this?" she asked.

"Yeah!" Twilight said happily. "It's pretty amazing, isn't it?"

Rarity cocked her head. "Well, it's certainly elegant," she said. She pinched the fabric of the skirt between two fingers and rolled it between them. "I say, this is a rather unique fabric..."

"She invented it herself," Twilight said. "She was going to use it in this big design contest in Manehattan, but she loaned a bolt of it to a rival who wanted to make accents out of it, and the jerk copied her entire line and entered it ahead of her."

Rarity frowned. "That's terrible!"

Twilight shrugged. "Rarity won anyway." She giggled. "She came up with an entirely new emergency line made out of random stuff we had in our hotel rooms!"

"Oh my." Rarity tutted, then let go of the skirt. "Well, I'll have to learn more about all that later, of course. Is this a typical example of her work?"

"Actually, this is a rush job," Twilight said. "And, well...it's also the first time she's made a human dress. I mean, there aren't any humans in Equestria, so she usually designs for, well...ponies."

Rarity nodded. "In that case, I am impressed with my counterpart's skill." She smiled. "And the color choices are simply fabulous! Perhaps not what I'd have chosen, but I get what she was going for, and—"

"Rarity?" Sunset interrupted. "We need to move this along."

"Oh. Yes, of course." Rarity coughed. "Well. Let's get you set up with proper undergarments...how did my counterpart manage to miss something so crucial?"

"Umm...ponies don't wear underwear," Twilight said sheepishly. "And, again, no humans, she's never even seen a bra."

"Right," Rarity said, pressing her lips together. "Once the current crisis is resolved, I would love to have a line of correspondence with my Equestrian counterpart," she mused as she rummaged though a plastic bag she'd brought with her and pulled out a bra and matching panties. "I have a feeling we have much to learn from each other."

Twilight smiled as she slipped out of her dress. "If we can stabilize things so that we can keep the portal open, I'll probably ask Princess Celestia about a new set of enchanted journals."

Sunset stretched. "It's good to be me again," she said. "I can't wait to get back to CHS." She chuckled. "Much as I love my apartment, I've seen a little too much of it lately."

Twilight blinked at her. "Umm...you do know you've been you again this whole time," she pointed out. "I mean, you're not...really human..."

Sunset's smile faded. "I know," she said. "But I've been here so long being a unicorn again feels...strange. Besides, I've pretty much decided to stay in this world for the rest of my life if...if I don't have to go back to Equestria, so..." She worried at the hem of her shirt. "I mean...this is home now."

Twilight sighed and gave her a comforting smile. "I'm sorry," she said. "And...don't worry. We'll fix this. And we'll make sure you can stay where your friends are." She finished fastening her bra, then slipped her dress back on. "Alright, let's get going," she said. "The sooner I get a fix on what we're dealing with at CHS, the better."

* * * * *

Principal Celestia examined the neatly-ordered folder of credentials lying on her desk. "Well, I'm impressed," she said. "You certainly are more than qualified." She looked up. "Wouldn't you prefer teaching at a university instead of a high school?"

The woman seated across from her smiled broadly. "I prefer the challenge of molding and shaping young minds, students who still haven't really figured out what they plan to do with their lives." She brushed a stray hair into place. "Besides, the timing honestly works out in my favor. Although I am so terribly sorry to hear about your Civics teacher's untimely accident."

Celestia grimaced. "Yes...Ms. Mare is a dear friend and I can only pray she'll recover one day. I've been in contact with her family. She's...still in critical condition. They're not even sure when she'll be able to leave the ICU." She shook her head. "But back to business. You seem to be exactly what this school needs, exactly when we need it."

"I'm just grateful for the chance to be able to step in and fill Ms. Mare's shoes. And to be able to work with such a diverse and interesting student body." She smiled. "I've heard quite a lot about the students here at CHS. There are several of your pupils I simply can't wait to meet."

Celestia smiled. "Well, I see no reason you can't start work tomorrow," she said. "I'll have my aide show you around campus for the rest of the afternoon. You can meet some of the students, observe the classes you'll be taking over, get a feel for the place."

"I'd like that very much, Principal Celestia." The woman stood and offered her hand to shake.

Celestia stood as well, grasping the offered hand and shaking it firmly. "Welcome to Canterlot High School, Ms. Glimmer."

* * * * *

By the time Rarity's car pulled into the student parking lot at CHS, it was only five minutes until lunch. "I think we should go to the cafeteria and get lunch first," Sunset said. "Touch base with the girls. After lunch, you can start investigating the portal while I...try to have part of a normal school day."

"Sounds like a good plan," Twilight said. "I'll need your help after school. And the other girls as well."

"Of course." Sunset frowned. "What if the other Twilight shows up?"

Twilight grimaced. "We'll deal with that when it happens."

The three girls headed into the building just as the bell rang; Twilight's entrance caused a stir and a round of cheers and applause. She blushed, ducked her head, and waved sheepishly. Sunset rolled her eyes, smirked, and flanked Twilight, with Rarity walking on her other side. "Hi everyone!" Twilight called to the crowds of students. "Good to see you again!"

"Hey, Twilight!"

"You look amazing, Twilight!"

"Are we having a secret cafeteria ball?"

"Love your outfit, Twilight!"

"You looked better with glasses, Twilight!"

"Loved the super-short skirt, really showed off those legs—ow!"

Twilight facepalmed. "Good grief. How many people saw that girl?"

"Where's that new boyfriend of yours, Twilight?" one girl called. "Didn't peg you for liking the bad boy type."

"DIFFERENT TWILIGHT!" Sunset yelled.

"Hey, it's Sunset!"

"Where you been, girl? We missed you!"

"Welcome back, Sunset!"

Sunset smiled and waved. "Hey guys!"

The trio made their way to the cafeteria, collecting a group of students along the way. Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack already had a table; the crowd more or less ushered the three girls over to their friends, then larger-than-healthy lunches materialized out of nowhere in front of the three of them. Twilight blinked. "Wow. This is new."

"Everybody really missed you," Fluttershy said. "And they missed Sunset, too."

Sunset blushed. "That's a refreshing change."

"So you figured out how to fix Sunset already?" Rainbow asked excitedly. "I totally knew you could do it!"

Twilight sighed. "Sorry, not...yet, actually. She's using a transfiguration spell to appear human. So am I. It'll wear off in about ten hours."

"Aww," the girls chorused.

"But I can keep casting it!" Sunset said brightly. "So I can pretty much go back to my old life now. I just need to keep an eye on the clock so I don't time out my spell, because these spell matrix locks do have a recharge time. And so do I, it's...not an easy spell to cast."

"One would assume not," Rarity said.

"I love your dress, Twilight," Fluttershy said. "It's so pretty."

"Thanks!" Twilight said, smiling. "Rarity—I mean, my Rarity—made it."

"So uhh...about that other Twilight," Rainbow prompted.

Twilight grimaced. "I'm going to need to talk to her and convince her to stop...whatever it is she thinks she's doing here," she said. "I seriously doubt she'll listen to me. In fact, my being here might make things worse." She sighed. "One time I visited myself a week in the past with a short-range time travel spell and freaked myself out so badly I spent an entire week trying to prevent a disaster that was never going to happen. I mean, we did end up fixing a few problems nopony had caught before they got any worse, but it turned out the only reason I freaked out was because I tried to warn myself not to freak out."

"Oooh, I think I saw a movie like that once," Pinkie said chipperly.

"Ah did not follow one word of that," Applejack said flatly.

"I'm not sure I did either," Sunset said, blinking.

"The point is, if this other Twilight is anything like me, seeing me is just going to freak her out, and there's no telling what she'll do." Twilight shrugged. "So...I'm not entirely sure how to handle her. I mean, I probably need to face her, talk to her, try to explain things. Maybe even get her to help. But on the other hand..." She waved a hand vaguely. "She could freak out and end up making things worse." She sighed. "It's complicated."

"Yeah, no foolin'," Rainbow said. "And that's not even gettin' into her weird boyfriend or that lady she was with."

Twilight frowned. "The lady she was with. Did she have really pretty hair that was purple, light gold, and rose?"

"Actually, yes," Rarity said. "She was quite lovely. Do you know her?"

Twilight nodded. "That'd be this world's Cadance," she said. "In Equestria, she's my sister-in-law and the ruler of the Crystal Empire. Apparently she works at Crystal Prep in this world. This really nasty woman I ran into there dropped her name, and evidently she's close to the other Twilight."

"I always kinda wondered where Cadance was in this world," Sunset mused. "Well, I did until I just sort of forgot she existed."

"So what about that dude?" Rainbow asked. "You know everything else, you gotta know who the scary dude was."

"I only know she's with Cadance by chance," Twilight said. "If that woman at Crystal Prep hadn't mentioned Cadance by name, I wouldn't have made the connection." She shook her head. "Whoever this boy is, if I even know him, I'll have to see him with my own eyes first."

"So what's Crystal Prep like?" Rainbow asked. "It's terrible, right?"

Twilight tilted her head. "Well, it's...sterile," she said. "Big, cold, kinda..." She shrugged. "Pretentious? I didn't really see much of it besides a few hallways and a bathroom, and the bathroom stank of bleach."

"Eww," Pinkie said, pulling a face.

"Well, it looked like a toilet exploded or something," Twilight said dismissively. "Probably had just disinfected it. Funny, it wasn't like that when I first opened the portal there."

"Maybe your portal blew it up," Sunset joked.

Twilight rolled her eyes. "I doubt it," she said. "Well...I hope not, anyway." She opened the bottle of fruit milk she'd been handed, took a sip, then asked, "So, anything else interesting going on around here lately?"

"Well, the Sirens are snooping around," Sunset said. "They're harmless, though."

"Not totally harmless," Fluttershy said. "They've gotten some of their magic back. They don't seem to be able to, you know, mind-whammy anybody anymore."

"But they can sing again and they've got ears and those fin-wing things," Pinkie added.

Twilight frowned. "Hmm. That's still troubling," she said. "We'll need to keep an eye on that."

* * * * *

Tirek munched on a fry as Cadance's car weaved through lunch hour traffic, headed for Canterlot High. Beside him, Twilight rather messily ate a hamburger, smearing ketchup on her face as she fiddled with her tracker. The dozen or so napkins spread over her uniform top were covered in ketchup, stray lettuce, and crumbs.

"Try to eat a little more neatly, Twilight," Cadance said with a pained grimace. "I really don't want to have to get my car detailed...again..."

Twilight swallowed. "Sorry," she said sheepishly. She folded the waxpaper wrapper around her burger, put it back in the bag, then took a huge gulp of her soda. She grabbed a couple of napkins, cleaned her face and hands, then attacked her fries.

"So you're reasonably certain this girl who looks like you and uses your name is at that school right now?" Tirek asked as he picked up his own burger and took a huge bite.

Twilight nodded. "She was seen by Principal Cinch and Sugarcoat at Crystal Prep this morning. I have no idea what she was doing there, but chances are she probably went to CHS." She munched a couple more fries, then grabbed her burger again.

"Hm," Tirek grunted. "That's a gross supposition." He glanced over at Twilight, then flinched away when she wiped some stray ketchup off her cheek with the bun of her burger and took another bite. "And that...is merely gross."

Cadance laughed. "Now Twiley, you need to mind your manners!"

Twilight swallowed, blushing through the smears of ketchup on her cheeks. "Sorry," she said. "I can be kind of a slob when I'm, y'know...distracted."

"Hrm." Tirek finished his burger, crumbling up the wrapper and stuffing it into the paper sack, then wiped his fingers with a napkin and extracted his remaining fries. "So, out of curiosity," he said, "what exactly do we hope to accomplish if and when we do find this girl?"

Twilight licked her fingers. "I'm honestly not sure," she admitted. "I guess talk to her? Study her?"

"Kidnap her?" Cadance suggested wryly, arching an eyebrow. "Do questionable stuff to her?"

"No!" Twilight said, blanching. "Just...I just need to know who she is and what she knows. And...and I hope she'll just...y'know...tell us something." She shook her head. "But first thing's first. We need to find her."

"Yes. Her and those other girls. That Sunset Shimmer girl in particular," Tirek rumbled thoughtfully.

"You seem strangely fixated on her," Cadance noted with a mildly disapproving frown.

"Well, she does look like she'd be, you know, his type," Twilight quipped, throwing a smirk at Tirek. He turned and raised an eyebrow at her, and her smirk turned into a flinching, sickly grimace. "Erm...that was a joke?"

Tirek snorted. "Amusing. But no." He took a long sip of his drink. "Her physical transformation into a demon interests me."

"Gah! You want to turn into a demon?!"

"Don't be absurd," Tirek grunted. "I want to understand how such a transformation is possible. What provoked it. Why she visibly took leave of her senses when it happened." He plucked one last stray fry from the carton, then crushed the empty carton and stuffed it into the bag. "Magic is not a toy to be played with until it breaks. Magic is a dangerous and temperamental force. If we are to continue studying the mysteries of magic, we must learn how not to succumb to its dangers."

"That...makes sense," Twilight admitted. "Like understanding how volatile chemicals interact before you experiment with them in the lab so you don't blow up the science wing or melt your arm off."


"Still," Cadance mused, "I doubt it's something she'll be that willing to talk about."

"The way those three girls reacted to us, I doubt we'll get much cooperation from them at all," Tirek agreed, "but we must at least try."

* * * * *

Lunch ended, and the Rainbooms broke apart to head to their respective classes. Fluttershy had a free period, so she decided to stick with Twilight. "So, umm...what are you going to do, exactly?" Fluttershy asked as they headed for the library.

Twilight frowned. "Well, honestly...until I change back into an alicorn, I can't really do much here. But I'm not going to do that in broad daylight." She shrugged. "I guess all I can really do right now is hang out here at the school until everybody goes home, then change so I can use my magic to probe the portal."

"I'll be happy to stick around," Fluttershy offered quickly. "In case you need a ride somewhere. I have a van. It's very roomy."

"Thanks," Twilight said. "I'd rather not fly around in a city I'm not familiar with."

As they approached the library doors, two women approached from the opposite direction. The shorter of the two looked scarcely older than most of the students at CHS; she had flawless ivory skin, curly pink hair, and bright blue eyes, and wore a dark pink skirt adorned with three sparkly blue stars, a purple blouse with a lavender lace ruff, and purple shoes with low heels. "And the school library is just over here," she said to the taller woman.

The taller of the two women had pinkish-purple skin and sharp blue-violet eyes. Her long purple hair was pulled back into an elegantly wavy ponytail; in the front, razor-straight bangs paralleled her eyebrows precisely, forming exact perpendicular angles to the twin stripes of pale aqua that ran the length of her hair, framed by lighter violet streaks. She wore black jeans, black flats, and a black blouse, and had a small black purse slung casually over one shoulder. A pin was affixed to the collar of her blouse: a four-pointed magenta star backed by a four-pointed white star. "I'm sure it's just as wonderful as the rest of this amazing school!" she said in a bright, chipper, sweet voice.

Fluttershy stopped short, blinking. "Oh my...who's that, I wonder?"

"Hm?" Twilight followed Fluttershy's gaze. Her eyes widened.

The shorter woman noticed them and waved. "Hello, Fluttershy! Oh! Twilight! I didn't know you were back! Oh, but you don't remember me, we never actually met. I know all about how much you did for our school, though!"

"Umm...thanks," Twilight said, her eyes never leaving the taller woman in black.

"So this is the Twilight Sparkle I've heard so much about!" the other woman said as she breezed over, offering her hand and a warm smile. "You wouldn't believe the very interesting things I've seen about you online! You and your friends the Rainbooms...oh, and of course Sunset Shimmer." Her eyes twinkled. "I'm very much looking forward to meeting her."

Twilight numbly shook her hand. "Err...I'll let her know you said so, Miss—?"

"Oh! Where are my manners," the woman said, laughing and fanning her other hand at herself. "I'm Starlight Glimmer, and I'll be the new Civics teacher starting tomorrow!"

"Oh! You're taking over Ms. Mare's classes?" Fluttershy asked.

"That's right!" Starlight Glimmer smiled brightly. "Well, I still have quite a bit of the school to see, so I'll be going now. It was very nice meeting you girls!" Her eyes shone in the hall lights. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you again soon." With that, the two women headed down the hall.

Twilight's eyes never left her.

"She seems nice," Fluttershy commented.

Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Keep an eye on her," she said softly. "Don't trust her. Not for one second."

Fluttershy blinked, her mouth turning down into a frown. "Huh? Why not?"

Twilight turned back to Fluttershy, saw her expression, and sighed. "It's a long story. I've met Starlight Glimmer before...or rather, my world's version of her." She grimaced. "Let's just say it wasn't one of my better days."

"Oh," Fluttershy said quietly. "Well...maybe this Starlight Glimmer is different?"

"I hope so," Twilight said softly. Shaking her head, she continued on into the library; Fluttershy followed a moment later with a contemplative look on her face.

* * * * *

Once the trio arrived at CHS, they spent an hour and a half cautiously prowling around the campus, trying to look like they belonged there. Twilight's appearance drew a number of odd stares; this time around, nobody was calling out casual greetings to her. Instead, the few students they passed in the halls seemed puzzled, even perplexed. Whispers followed her as she passed, making her increasingly nervous. It only grew worse when, during a class change period, more and more students saw her and began whispering, pointing, and even taking pictures.

Tirek frowned. "It seems you were right," he said softly. "She is unquestionably here. And now they know there are two different Twilight Sparkles."

Cadance's brow furrowed with worry. "Maybe it's a bad idea for us to be—"

Twilight's magic tracker suddenly began blaring out a ringing alarm, lights flashing wildly as the needle on the meter SLAMMED all the way into the red. She stopped cold, staring at it. "What in the...?"

At the same time, Tirek's crystal floated up into the air and began strobing oddly; half of the crystal lit up with a lavender hue, while the other half shone amber. Motes of red, gold, and magenta danced around the crystal like fireflies as a high, pure chiming sound filled the air.

"I'm...guessing you two just found something," Cadance said.

Twilight turned off her scanner as it started to spark and smoke. "Yeah," she said. "We found exactly what we're looking for. Right, Tirek?"

"Unquestionably." His eyes gleamed as he watched the dancing lights of his crystal. "Unimaginable power..." Without a word to the other two, he ran off, following the light of the crystal. Twilight and Cadance rushed to keep pace with him.

* * * * *

Twilight and Fluttershy had met up with their friends near the vending machines during the class change break. Twilight had wasted no time in taking Sunset aside to warn her about Starlight Glimmer; in hushed whispers, she explained exactly what her version of Starlight had done. Sunset's eyes grew wider and wider as she spoke, her face paling. "Okay, I don't know if this Starlight Glimmer is anything like that Starlight Glimmer, but I'll definitely keep an eye on her," Sunset promised.

"Thanks, I—" Twilight broke off as a growing tumult from the surrounding halls reached her ears. "What the—?"

"Uhh, girls?" Applejack said nervously. "Ah think y'all wanna come see this." Exchanging a curious glance, Twilight and Sunset followed Applejack to the corner of the hall, where the other Rainbooms were gathered and peering around the edge. Up and down the hall, several students had stopped and were watching something with wide eyes and lots of whispering.

Twilight Sparkle, hair gathered in a messy bun and wearing a purple school uniform with a ridiculously short skirt and black-framed glasses, skidded into view, accompanied by what was unquestionably the human version of Princess Cadance.

"Wow," Princess Twilight breathed, jaw dropping. "This...is so weird."

"No kidding," Sunset said as she and the other girls looked between the two Twilights.

Then three CHS students were bumped roughly out of the path of a third person the girls hadn't noticed yet.

"And there's that nasty boyfriend of hers," Rarity said distastefully.

Princess Twilight gasped, taking a step backward. "No...!"

The red skin, muscular build, cold, cunning eyes, and silver hair of her counterpart's companion brought back a flood of horrific memories. Her mind's eye filled in massive, curved horns and four heavy, cloven hooves. She felt the ground shake with every step of his steel-toed boots, heard his rumbling voice carry like a warning of death and destruction.

Saw her friends lying broken and helpless, drained of their magic.

Saw her library explode, charred wood and books raining to the ground as the stump smoldered.

Princess Twilight's legs gave out from under her. She was only peripherally aware of the other girls catching her, asking her if she was alright. She barely heard them. As the trio came dangerously close to their vantage point, every nightmare Twilight had had for the past few months boiled out of her mouth in one disbelieving whisper: