• Published 19th Sep 2015
  • 2,674 Views, 53 Comments

Broken on the Wheel - billymorph

Trixie lost everything to the Alicorn Amulet. But, after Trixie is tricked into becoming the new host of the Nightmare, she is the only mare who can save Equestria from eternal darkness, if she wants to.

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Chapter 2

“Who dares?” The dark alicorn cast her eyes across the frozen circle, meeting our terrified gazes in turn. "Who dares rouse me from my slumber? Who dares to defy the Sun?"

"I do," Scepter boomed; the catch in his voice was well hidden. "I have summoned you, Nightmare."

Her slitted eyes snapped to the stallion and she stalked a pace towards him before pulling up short, her nose inches from the circle. "Summoned? No, you have not. You called, little pony. You called across the void and through the chains of harmony, and I have answered. Tell me, little pony, why did you dare face the wrath of the Nightmare?"

She strode with feline grace around her confines of her circle. "Do you wish for knowledge? I know many secrets of this forsaken world. Kingdoms rose with the right words, and kingdoms have crumbled with the wrong." The Nightmare paused before the scared mare. "Or perhaps you would prefer a weapon, a curse upon your enemies, or a doom of nightmares eternal?" She reached me, and I felt my coat stand on end as her eyes bored into my soul.

"Or does your heart yearn for power?” she said, her voice no more than a harsh whisper. “Twice before I provided such a blessing. Once, to a group such as you, thrice damned by their actions, and once to your own dear Princess Luna." She tossed her head and continued. Suddenly free from her terrible gaze I almost collapsed there and then, struggling to stand on legs that had turned to jelly.

“Well then? Speak already.” At last she came to rest before Scepter regarding him with glare of utter contempt. “Already my prison draws me back, so speak! Before I forsake this waste of time and destroy you all for your insolence.”

I was beginning to get why the Princesses banished her the first time around.

Scepter took a deep, steadying breath and met the Nightmare’s gaze. “We wish to free you,” he said, with quiet confidence.

“What!” It took a moment to realise the cry had escaped me, and a warning growl from the thestrals at my back quelled any further protest.

“Well now, that is interesting,” the Nightmare purred. She stepped out of the circle, which offered not a spark of protest as the alicorn began to circle Scepter. “My children have tried for many years to spring me from my eternal trap, to no avail. You have come closer than any before you, but it is not a fraction of what you need to break Harmony’s hold.” She leaned in close and murmured in his ear. “What will you give to see me free?”

“Everything,” he said, without hesitation. “Mind, body and soul.”

“Indeed.” She lowered her head, holding her horn a mere millimetre from his. “Well in that case–” A lazy spark of magic rolled from the base of her forehead, down the length of her tapered horn “–perhaps I will...”

Her head snapped up and Scepter almost fell over, stumbling with all four hooves as he leaned into a presence that was no longer there. “No. I am too hasty,” the Nightmare announced, striding back into the glowing ring. “After all, six potential hosts stand before me. It would be foolish to chose the first willing body to hurl themselves at my hooves.”

I glared at Raz, mouthing the word, ‘host?’ He had the audacity to look sheepish. I made a personal promise to throw him in bay when we got out of this. Or rather, if we got out of this.

“I... but Nightmare,” Scepter stammered. It seemed the ritual had gone badly off of script. “I am your most faithful servant, you–”

Suddenly she was right in front of him. Between eyeblinks she had doubled in size and towered over Scepter, great waves of darkness and lightning rolling off of her coat. “DO NOT DARE DICTATE TO ME, LITTLE PONY!” she bellowed, the whole room trembling beneath the onslaught. “Before you stands a GOD! The last true god. I will have your respect or I will have your heads.”

She diminished, her body evaporating into smoke until she’d returned to the size of an overlarge pony. It may have been my imagination, but she seemed smaller than her earlier incarnation, perhaps her time was already running out.

“Understood?” the Nightmare fixed us all with her soul rending gaze. Utter silence reigned.

“Good.” The self-satisfied purr returned to her voice. She advanced on Scepter’s right-hoof pony. “Now, what is your name, little pony, and what is it that you wish from being my vessel?”

The huge stallion swallowed. “I...” the syllable slipped from his lips, but the rest seemed stuck to his tongue. He glanced at Scepter, his eyes pleading, like a drowning pony’s begging for a rope. Scepter merely waved him on.

“Come on, come on,” the Nightmare snapped.

“I’m... I’m Heavy Hooves, Your Majesty, and I wish for nothing.”

The Nightmare sighed. “I hate insipid loyalty. You are a child of this forsaken world; all you care for is food and sex. Do not try to fool me into thinking that you are some enlightened monk and tell me what do you want!”

“I...” The thug shot another desperate look towards Scepter. There was no reassurance there, though, only wary suspicion. “I want power.”

“Give the pony a prize, he got there in the end.” The darkness pooled around her, as she narrowed her eyes. “Now, let’s see if you can claim it.”

Like a viper she struck, lunging forward and, with a clack that sent shivers down the spines of every unicorn in the room, their horns struck. Heavy Hooves went as stiff as a board, his eyes locked with the Nightmare’s. A slow smile spread across her face, her lips pulling back to reveal a hunter’s fangs as Heavy Hooves’ back leg began to tremble.

“Well,” she said, magic wreathed her horn, a deep indigo, almost black. “I’m waiting.”

The fool tried.

Gritting his teeth, the stallion lit his horn and dark power flooded into him. His eyes flew wide, flashing as black as tar for just an instant before the magic vanished. A low keen escaped Heavy Hooves’ throat, rather like that of a mouse crushed by a trap, and he fell. He toppled, hitting the ground with a muffled thud, blood streaming from his nose, eyes and ears. His vacant eyes stared sightlessly out from bloody sockets.

“Goddesses,” Raz swore. The colt next to him screamed and the scared mare smiled as Heavy Hooves’ blood dripped onto the floor. Only Scepter and I seemed unsurprised, we’d both realised the stallion was dead the moment the Nightmare turned her gaze upon him.

“Disappointing.” The Nightmare didn’t linger over the body, nor show any indication that she cared about the stallion whose life she’d just snuffed out. She proceeded around the circle to the scared mare who stepped forwards to meet her.

“I am Red,” she snarled, glaring daggers at the alicorn. She had a curious accent, oddly forced, I wondered if it was because of the scar. “And I want to bring nightmares.”

The Nightmare’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure whether I am insulted or flattered. Why, little pony?”

Red’s grin was ugly. “Because fear rules.”

“Indeed it does.” The pair touched horns.

Red’s pupils dilated and her eyes went blank. A second later she began to scream. It was a horrible, soul rending wail that went on and on, clawing at my ears and sending shivers down my spine. It was a scream of utter agony and utter terror, and it ended only when Red ran out of breath and collapsed, shivering, curled into a ball and stroking her tail like a foal.

“But you don’t rule your fear,” the Nightmare said, stepping over her.

“Trix’,” Raz hissed, suddenly, as the Nightmare advanced on the trembling colt. “We need to go.” He was trembling from hoof to horn, little splotches of colour appearing and vanishing as fast as they came. With wild eyes he cast around for an escape route, but all there was beyond our little circle of arcane light were dozens of angry, inequine eyes.

“How?” I asked, simply.

“I don’t know, do something! Anything! You’re the one with the plans, think of something!”

“Well then,” the Nightmare stood before the shivering colt. Sneering down her nose she demanded, “your name?”

He ran.

The kid had good instincts, you had to give him that. Without ever a warning tremble, he was suddenly fleeing at a wild gallop into the gloom.

“Kill him,” Nightmare barked.

A strangled cry echoed out from the ring of grim eyes, and the sound of hoof on stone vanished.

Raz swallowed a huge lump in his throat. “Trixie,” my name escaped him in a shrill whine. “Help. Oh Goddesses, help.”

Plans flickered and died as I tried to conceive of any way to escape the closing trap. A flare could blind the thestrals, giving us a chance to run; but we didn’t know which way was out. A properly placed spell could invert the summoning; but I had no idea what spell that was. A teleportation charm was a possibility; but I didn’t know one. Smoke bombs, slight-of-hoof, electric shocks, the shadows of plans chased each other in circles through my mind. Not a one could defeat the dark alicorn who was prowling like a cat who’d cornered a mouse.

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear,” the Nightmare growled, looming over Razzle. “I seek a host. A vessel to drag me into this forsaken world. In exchange I shall grant your every petty, mortal desire.” Lightning crackled across her coat and Raz let out a startled squeak.. “So stand! Stop quivering! And give me what I want!” She slammed a forehoof down, shattering the stone floor and sending razor sharp silvers flying in all directions.

“Please,” Raz begged. “Don’t kill me.”

I wondered what Twilight Sparkle would do. She faced the Nightmare before and won. Had she been scared? Had she thought that she too was about to die? My breath had caught in my throat as I watched Raz tremble. How would Twilight get out of this?

“Your NAME?” the Nightmare bellowed.

Well, Twilight would make an overly condescending speech about friendship. Then she’d blast the Nightmare with some insanely powerful magical artifact. One that she had received from Celestia earlier that week.

“Raz...” The rest of his name seemed to get lost somewhere between his throat and his mouth. “I don’t want to die. Please–” He dropped to his knees. “–I just want to go home.”

I can tell you what Twilight wouldn’t do, though.

“Pathetic.” The Nightmare lowered her horn towards him.

She wouldn’t watch a friend die.

“Hey!” I strode towards the pair, puffing out my chest and strutting like a tenth-bit hero. I paused a moment, as I realised I hadn’t really thought through my plan any further, then said the first thing that popped into my head. "I'm first."

As final words went, they weren't great. Still, they got the job done.

The Nightmare's head whipped around, and she glowered at me. "Do not interrupt," she snarled. "Your time will come."

"Oh Trixie is sorry," I said, in a condescending drawl. "Trixie didn't realise that you were the ‘Queen of Orderly Queues’ as well." I paused a beat to be immolated but, though the Nightmare's glare could have burned through steel at ten paces, she made no move to stop me.

I advanced, my pulse pounding in my ears. "So, are you done toying with these lesser unicorns?" I demanded, with as much stage gravitas as I could muster. "Are you ready to test yourself against the Great and Powerful Trixie?" I wished I had some fireworks. The finest—or was that final—introduction of my life deserved a grander stage than a dimly lit cellar.

"You have quite a mouth on you," the Nightmare observed, raising an eyebrow at me. She took a step away from Raz, who seemed to fold in on himself, sinking down to be as small and unnoticeable as possible. “Who are you?”

“No less than the most powerful unicorn in all Equestria,” I proclaimed, keenly aware of the head and a half the Nightmare had on me as the dark alicorn advanced.

“Really?” The Nightmare began to circle me, like a shark spiralling ever closer to a helpless foal. “So why are you here, little pony? Why do you not dazzle Celestia’s Court with your talents? Why not share your gift with the students of some great university? What brings you so deep into the dark when your star shines so bright?”

My mouth opened, but no sound came out. She was right, of course. Despite everything I’d ever struggled for, despite my talents and despite my every dream, I’d still ended up in a cellar facing down Darkness incarnate.

I blame Twilight Sparkle.

“Oh, but you want it to be true, don’t you?” she murmured in my ears. Her coat brushed against mine, sending freezing sparks down the length of my spine. “The fame, the power, the legions of fans. You see yourself as the hero, but nopony else does. I know what it is you wish of me.”

I nodded. I knew too.

She stood such that our horns were a mere half inch apart. “You wish for–”


“–glory.” She paused, frowning. “Well, isn’t that interesting. Perhaps you have half a chance.”

Our horns struck, and the world vanished.

I grumbled to myself as I strained against the stone, every muscle aflame. With a great groan and wet sucking sound the boulder shifted, sliding maybe half a hoof further towards the summit.

“You’re pushing that wrong, Trixie.”

I shot the grey mare an angry glare. “Shut up, Maud.”

She pushed me aside and the rock slid back into its furrow. “You need to put your whole body into the motion.”

“Shut up, Maud,” I repeated.

Bracing herself against the boulder she hunkered low. “But first you need to make sure your footing is solid. No rocks rising above the others.”

My eyes narrowed. “Shut up, Maud.” I rejoined her at the stone, trying to match her stance in the muddy ground.

“Then, you need to press your head firmly against the rock,” she continued, setting her head. “Like this.”

There was a horrible scrape of horn on stone as I tried, honestly tried, to follow along. I ended up with my cheek pressed against the boulder, facing Maud’s disapproving eyes. “Shut up,” I begged.

“Ah, I see the problem.”

“Please, shut up.”

“The horn.”


“It has to come off, Trixie.”

I screamed, as Maud advanced on me, and tried to flee. The mud turned to glue in an instant, holding my hooves fast and I struggled and strained against the morass. My horn sparked like a little filly’s as a ring of angry ponies closed around me, their muddy hooves tugging on my tail and grasping at my coat.

“Get away!” I shrieked. “Trixie won’t be like you. She won't!” The ground sucked me down, dragging me deeper and deeper into the muck and–

I was stood, trembling with fear, next to the Nightmare atop the boulder. The pale blue filly disappeared beneath the soil and crushing mass of earth ponies.

“And you say you don’t seek glory,” the Nightmare observed, a condescending smirk on her face. “This is your first nightmare, Trixie, the crushing fear of others dragging you down. This is the nightmare that broke you.”

“Trixie...” I swallowed the lump in my throat. The filly’s screams, my screams, still echoed in my ears even as the dream began to fade away. “Trixie did not break.”

She pricked her ear up. “Oh? You threw away everything, your family, your home, your future and risked your life because of what? A little filly’s fear that other ponies didn’t want her to be special.”

I set my hooves in a broad, rock pushing, stance, my eyes narrowing. “Perhaps you think you’re still talking to the filly,” I snapped, jabbing a hoof at the now empty field. “She’s gone. Trixie doesn’t need your spoon fed glory, she became the greatest and most powerful unicorn all by herself.”

“Really?” The Nightmare grinned. “Shall we see how that went?”

Her smile grew wider and wider, her teeth ballooning outwards until each was as broad as my hoof, and I was staring up at a sky full of vicious, pony rending fangs. It took me a moment to realise the twinkling stars above my head were not in the night's sky, but part of the luminescent hide of the most terrifying monster ever made, an ursa minor.

“Save us Trixie!” came the dimwitted cry. The two lackwit colts huddled behind my legs, as if I would pose any kind of shield against the monstrosity.

“Yeah, use your magic.”

“This is a dream,” I assured myself, as the hot breath of the ursa washed over me. It smelt of blazing iron and burned my nose and eyes. Somehow the knowledge that it was just a memory made no difference.

The beast roared, drawing back a paw to crush us and I pulled as much power as I could muster into my horn. A lighting bolt burst from my horn with a deafening boom and struck the monstrosity right in the nose. It had the sole effect of, slightly, irritating the star-bear, and its eyes narrowed.

Adrenaline flooding my system I desperately pulled more magic into my horn. Moments before the blow struck a dull magenta bubble shield burst into life around myself and the foals. With a boom the paw struck and hurled us across Ponyville square. My spell failed an instant after the blow, leaving us to the tender mercies of physics and I hit the ground hard, tumbling head over hooves. I came to a stop upside down, my rump against my faithful wagon.

“This is a dream,” I repeated, wincing in pain as I staggered onto my hooves.

The ground shook as the ursa let out a bellowing roar and charged me down. Its eyes were as red as fire rubies and its open jaws seemed to lead to the very darkest pits of Tartarus.

“Help us!” The idiot foals lay in its path screaming for aid when they should have been running. “Please!”

I didn’t.

I couldn’t, they’d seen that. Everypony in town had already watched my humiliation at their hooves. Somehow though they still cried for Trixie to save them, even as I watched them vanish beneath the titanic paws of the ursa.

There was nothing left between the beast and my cart. Mustering the last dregs of power, reaching as deep as I could to protect my home, launched a phosphor bright flare at the ursa. It had no visible effect, I have no idea why I thought I could dazzle a beast made out of stars.

I hurled myself out of the way as, with a great scream of tearing timber, it demolished my wagon. Bellows of rage and screams of terror echoed around me as I pulled my hat down over my eyes, not wanting to see my life torn to shreds yet again.

“Trixie,” Princess Twilight Sparkle said, suddenly before me. “What have you done?”

Begrudgingly, I lifted my eyes. The ursa, miniaturised and trapped in a glass bottle, raged against the walls of its prison, but Twilight held it in her aura with no visible strain.

“How could you let this happen?” she demanded. “How could you choose to save a wagon over the lives of innocent foals?”

“This is a dream,” I told her, standing. “And I chose to save my dreams.”

“You’re a monster.” There was no malice in her tone, just a clinical statement of fact.

My eyes narrowed. “I’m a monster?” I demanded, jabbing a hoof into her chest. “Did I lure a beast to attack Ponyville? Did I ridicule your magic? Did I make your name mud in all Equestria? No! It was you who crushed my home, my dreams and my life. You’re the monster here, not Trixie!”

I realised the fur I was poking was midnight black and looked up in horror to see the Nightmare before me, grinning.

“Oh no, Trixie, you are a monster,” she assured me. “I’ll even prove it.”

A heavy weight settled around my neck. I knew what it was without looking. Still, despite my better judgement, I glanced down. The crass black and red spikes of the alicorn amulet greeted me, and already the power of the infernal relic began to flow through my veins.

It would have been easier to resist if the amulet followed the classical sort of evil. If it chilled the flesh, or set my blood aflame, or tore a pony into the realm of wraiths then perhaps it would be easy to resist. The alicorn amulet, however, just made me feel good. Wonderful even, like I was standing on stage before an electric crowd. While I was wearing it everything felt possible, easy even, and yet I felt icicles run down my spine.

“No, please,” I said, whimpering. “This isn’t right. This isn’t Trixie.”

“Isn’t it?” The Nightmare whispered in my ear. “You know what the alicorn amulet does better than anypony alive. They think it brings insanity, but you know what it really brings, don’t you?”

Raz began to scream as the flames ate at him. His agony swirling around the dreamscape in ruddy clumps. It was an idle fantasy, once, but with the amulet it would have become action in an instant.

“Say it.”

I shook my head. Ornery scrabbled at my hooves, silently pleading for his mouth back.

“Say it!”

Twilight screamed, clutching the bloody void where her horn once sat.

“Freedom!” I roared. A shockwave raced away from me, the images vanishing into mist as it struck, leaving the Nightmare and I alone. “Freedom,” I continued, my voice just a whimper. “It allows your true self to shine through. Unfettered by morals or fear.”

The Nightmare smirked. “Ah, we got there in the end. I like you, Trixie. All your life you’ve wanted power, and respect, and fame, and... well I could go on and on. It's a shame that you hate that liberated self so much.”

My eyes narrowed and I rounded on her. “She was a monster,” I growled. “But that isn’t what the Great and Powerful Trixie is. I’m better than that. I am a good pony.”

She threw back her head and laughed, her cackles echoing around the empty dreamscape. “Oh that is wonderful, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Watch.”

The dream shifted again and I found myself sat in Canterlot atop a broad throne. Celestia’s audience chamber was not quite as I remembered it. Blue and silver banners hung from the walls, emblazoned with my cutie-mark, and silver trim lined the carpet, the windows and the furniture. The stained glass windows were swept clean of Twilight Sparkle’s successes and replaced by glittering pictures of my many triumphs. Somehow I could not bring any one image into focus, but I was sure of their content. Silver armoured stallions stood in rows, three deep against the walls, each carrying a vicious spear.

“Ah-hem!” the Nightmare proclaimed, dressed in the foppish finery of my court herald. “Now to face Queen Trixie’s judgement, the Traitor Princesses’!”

The four princesses of Equestria were half walked, half dragged down the carpet towards me. Thick bands of iron bound their hooves together and welded cages kept their wings trapped at their sides. I winced as I saw their horns, filed flat less than an inch from their brows, but it was just a twinge. Finally, the so called ‘rulers’ of Equestria stood before me, laid low. Finally, it was Trixie who sat on the throne, ready to dispense justice.

“So, it has come to this,” I said, rising to my hooves. I spread my wings as I towered over the little alicorns. “For all your foolish pride, you still ended up before the Great and Powerful Trixie in chains. How does it feel to know Trixie was right from the start?” I drew in a deep breath and boomed. “Trixie is truly the greatest pony in all Equestria!”

Thunder rolled, and lightning flashed beyond the stained glass windows, casting harsh shadows across the princesses who flinched back. All except Twilight Sparkle of course. The pissaint alicorn, her legs trembling, her feathers haggard and limp, matched my terrifying gaze.

“Trixie. You are a fraud.”

“What!” I roared, the room going dark as I drew a titanic surge of magic to my horn. “I brought you low, Twilight Sparkle! I saved Equestria when you could not!”

“No, you didn’t, Trixie,” she said, quite calm despite my towering rage. “This is a dream.”

And suddenly it was. The twisted logic of dreams fell apart under a moment's scrutiny and I found myself staring at Twilight, gaping like a beached fish.

“Oh, such a pity,” the Nightmare cooed, sidling to my side. “You were so close to defeating them once and for all. Yet somehow, even in your own head, you can’t seem to win.”

I felt sick and a great shudder ran down the length of my spine as I saw the horrific wounds I’d inflicted on the princesses with fresh eyes. “Trixie...” I swallowed my gall. “Trixie doesn’t dream of that.”

“Please,” the Nightmare said, rolling her eyes. “Luna may be the new Mistress of Dreams, but I know one when I see it. This is what you want, Trixie.” She tapped the crown on my head. “You say you want justice, but I think you just want the crown. You want to be the one on the throne passing down divine judgements.” She pointed at the huddle of alicorns. “Go on, no pony will stop you.”

As if part of some great mechanism every eye in the hall snapped to me, awaiting Queen Trixie’s decision. I glanced at the Nightmare, who bared her fangs in her vicious parody of a smile. Taking a deep breath I said, softly. “Be free.”

The alicorns’ bonds shattered, along with the windows and every guardspony in the room. I wrenched the crown from my head and threw it at the Nightmare’s hooves.

“Trixie won’t play this game,” I told her. My wings faded away, replaced by my showmare’s cloak. “This isn’t what I am.”

“Oh? Then what are you, Great and Powerful Trixie? Here you sit, on Celestia’s throne dreaming of justice against those who slighted you. That is not the dream of a good pony.” She began to circle me again, and I swallowed the lump in my throat. “I’ll tell you what you truly are. A liar. A thief. A bully. A coward.” I flinched back from every accusation, but couldn’t defend myself. “You’re a bitter and spiteful mare.” She took a step back, spreading her wings wide. “You, my dear Trixie, are perfect.”

I did a double take. “What?” the word slipped out before I could stop it. It was not the most heroic of responses.

“Congratulations,” she said, with a cold smile. “You are going to help me destroy Equestria.”

Oh. Well that was a very bad sign.

“And if Trixie refuses?” I managed to squeak out.

Her eyes transfixed me. Sorry, my dear, but it’s far too late to refuse.

She blinked, and the world went dark.

The morning sun was just peaking over the edge of the windowsill when my eyes flicked open. My heart was pounding, as if I’d just galloped a marathon and every muscle in my body started screaming at me in protest.

A low groan escaped me, and I reached around in vain for a pillow to press over my eyes. There was a muffled mutter from next to my ear, and I was suddenly aware of the pair of legs draped around my neck. Their owner was lucky I knew his hooves, or he would have ended up blasted through a wall.

“Raz,” I growled.

“What?” he asked, letting out a sleepy groan. He didn’t move, however.

“What are you doing in my bed?” I demanded, my tone as cold as ice.

“Oh, if I had a bit for every time I’d heard that,” he sighed. He started suddenly. “Wait, Trixie? You’re alright!” His forelegs tightened around my neck like a vice.

“Air!” I protested, kicking like a mule. “I need air.” I scrambled free, rolling off the mattress, and onto the floor. Fortunately, the little suite hadn’t gained a bed frame in the time I’d been away, so I didn’t fall far.

“Are you okay, Trixie?” Raz exclaimed leaping forwards. “Are you feeling... Nightmarish?” He held up a hoof. “Quick, on a scale of one to ten, tell me how much you want to plunge Equestria into eternal night.”

I shot him a flat look. “Well, it's six a.m. and I don’t feel like I’ve slept for a week. About a three, three and a half.” Raz failed to meet my eye, and I added. “Which is about normal.”

“So...” he shuffled his hooves. “You won?”

“I did not lose,” I said, after a long pause. “I’m not dead nor mad, I think.” Red’s scared and screaming face flashed before my eyes, and I shied back, shaking my head. “I... what happened while I was out?”

“Well, not a lot. When you touched horns with the Nightmare you kind of... stared each other down for a few minutes and then—goddesses Trix’—she turned to smoke and you just kind of absorbed her. Scepter went crazy. The thestrals seemed about ready to tear your throat out. By that point, though, you’d collapsed and gone jet black, so nopony wanted to get close enough to touch you.”

I glanced down at my coat. It was my usual cerulean blue.

“Yeah, you got better,” Raz confirmed. “But you were muttering to yourself and twitching. In the end they decided to just wait and see what happened and put you to bed.”

“Well.” I drew myself up to my full height. “You’ll be pleased to know that the Great and Powerful Trixie, unlike the foolish Twilight Sparkle, has mastered the...” I petered out as Raz’s expression became more and more sceptical. I shuddered. “Okay, you’re right,” I hissed. “We’re in way over our heads and I think I’m now host to an ancient alicorn set to destroy all life as we know it.”

“Right... so what do we do?”

I glanced around. “How about... we sneak out while everypony is still sleeping, then don’t stop running until we reach Zebradia?”

Raz’s expression was inscrutable for a moment, as he thought it over. “Good plan,” he said at last, hurrying over to the window. “Let's go.”

He was halfway through opening it when a pair of slitted eyes, flashing with the reflected light of the room, appeared before him. Raz let out an effeminate shriek and staggered backwards as Astral let himself into the room.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” Astral said, keeping his voice low. He didn’t seem to have noticed our abortive escape attempt. “Are you...” he fixed me with a calculating look. “No, you’re not the Nightmare, are you?”

I sighed. I got the feeling I’d hear that a lot. “No, Trixie is Trixie, for better or for worse.”

“Worse in this case,” Astral pushed passed us, putting an ear against the door. “I don’t have long, I’m supposed to be getting you both for breakfast, but I can only dawdle so long. I–I needed to tell you what’s been going on. The whole colony is up in arms after the ritual, it wasn’t supposed to go that way, I promise you.”

My eyes narrowed. “What, Trixie wasn’t supposed to become Nightmare’s chosen, or she wasn’t supposed to survive?” Magic began to pool around my horn.

“Hey! Nopony had to die,” Astral protested, holding up his hooves between us. “That was all the Nightmare’s work.”

“Yes, because I’m sure you all trusted a thousand bits to keep anypony from running to the guards.” I gave a dismissive toss of my head. “Trixie has a bridge to sell to anypony who’d believe that story.”

Astral’s jaw dropped. “My father would never–” He cut himself off, either unwilling to lie or unwilling to argue the point. “Look, it doesn’t matter. You’ve thrown every plan they had off the rails. My father, Paterfamilias Blade, and my uncles are about a hair’s breadth from fighting in the courtyard over whether we should be bending knee to you or not. Scepter is plain murderous, I’ve never seen a pony so angry before. I don’t want anypony else to die over this, so I have to ask you something.” He looked me, right in the eye. “Are you there, Your Majesty?”


I should have lied, but somehow I couldn’t. It would have been like trying to claim ‘the sky is red’ with a straight face.

A shudder ran from the tip of Astral’s tail all the way to his wings. “Right. Good. Great even, Your Majesty. If we can just–” His tufted ears shot up. “–Ah rut, somepony is coming. Just try not to say anything that gets you killed.”

With remarkable speed he dove through the window. Raz and I shared a long look.

“You know, I think I’ve always tried to live by that,” I said, shaking my head.

Raz rolled his eyes. “I prefer our old gang slogan.”

“Stand by your friends,” I said, a chuckle escaping me.

“Take what you can,” Raz continued.

“And run like you stole it,” we chorused.

There was a knock on the door and I sighed. “There’s going to be a lot of running in our future.” I paused a moment, putting on my stage face. Then wrenched the door open with my magic, revealing a pair of surprised stallions, a thestral and a large unicorn.

“Well?” I demanded. “What is it that you want?”

The disparity in reaction was amazing. The thestral looked like he wasn’t sure whether to bow or not. The unicorn looked like he wanted to kick my teeth in.

“Boss wants you at breakfast,” the unicorn growled, before his colleague could squeeze a word out. “Is it Nightmare or Trixie now?”

I lit my horn building power for a summoning spell. It was exhausting to teleport objects more than a couple yards, but an excellent trick to wow the–

There was a sudden crack and a billow of smoke as my performer’s hat and cloak materialised. I was so surprised I almost let them fall. Long practiced sleight of hoof saved me. I snatched them out of the air and onto my person before the smoke could clear.

“You are addressing the Great and Powerful Trixie!” I declared, with a dramatic rear. Raz might have noticed how rushed my introduction was, but it went over the heads of the thugs. I dropped to the ground and lifted my nose high. “And she would be quite glad of breakfast. Lead on, sirs.”

They shared a confused look, but began to lead us from the room. Leaving me to try to figure out how I’d managed to breeze through one of my most difficult spells. I sensed I would not like the answer.

Breakfast was served in the mansion’s large dining room, and it possessed less cheer and welcome than a Canterlot garden party. A long table down the centre of the room groaned under the weight of food, but the ponies sitting at the table did not dare touch it. Far more ponies were stood along the walls, clustered in little knots and glaring across the table at each other with naked suspicion. There was a harsh divide between two groups, thestrals giving a wide berth to the more mundane ponies. I didn’t blame them; those ponies were the worst kind of Riverside thugs. It seemed, overnight, Scepter had called for reinforcements. The kingpin sat between the two groups at the head of the table, bridging the gap.

“Ah, if it isn’t our erstwhile guest!” Scepter exclaimed, rising from his chair as I stepped into the room. He looked like a pony run ragged. His eyes were wide, red rimmed and wild, his blond mane was all over the place and his smile was just too wide and showed far too many teeth to be reassuring.

I paused a moment at the threshold, as all eyes in the room turned to face me. Some suspicious, some bowed, others openly hostile. I tried to reassure myself that it was just another stage, just another role to play. They wanted the Nightmare, or at least the thestrals did, and I could deliver them the Mad and Megalomaniacal Trixie if they so wished.

“And if it isn’t our most gracious of hosts,” I said, striding to the table. A seat sat open at Scepter’s right hoof and I didn’t fail to note the significance. With a glare I forced the oily looking earth pony a place down out of his seat to make space for Razzle. Razzle did not look particularly pleased to have so many ponies watching us, but he played the role of a loyal follower and sat without protest.

“Trixie must admit she wasn’t expecting quite as large a celebration.” I cast an eye across the gathered crowd. I’d seen wakes with more cheer, but ignored them and plucked an apple from the table. “But it seems fitting, even if things did not go quite to plan last night.”

Scepter stiffened as I crunched down on the apple. “What do you mean?” he said, his voice unnaturally still.

“Well, Trixie did think things went a little off script. She did not expect to lock horns with the physical incarnation of Darkness and Nightmares during a ‘healing ritual’.” I gave a flippant wave of my hoof. “Still, it seems we came out of the ordeal with at least some measure of success–” The vacant stare of the dead stallion, as he lay cooling on the flagstones, flashed before my eyes, and I fought back a shudder. “–regardless of the cost.”

I tried not to think about the colt murdered by the Nightmare’s whim, or what the thestrals might have done with the mare driven mad. Behind me, the sunlight streamed through the windows and the table before me bowed with food. I focused on those, rather than dwell on that dark chamber. It was easier said than done, and I set the apple down, hardly touched.

“And you were successful?” The thestral sat opposite was the grizzled stallion from the previous night. He was no less imposing in the full sun, though perhaps it highlighted the lines of grey in his mane.

“Well mister...” I trailed off, waiting for him to reply.

“Paterfamilias Blade. You can call me Nightblade, however.”

I smiled. “And you can call me The Great and Powerful Trixie,” I declared, with my trademark trill.

He shot me a flat look. “I can. I won’t. Tell me, is it true, have you accepted our Mistress into your heart?”

“Head, not heart,” I found myself saying. I blinked, frowning, as every thestral’s gaze snapped to me. Why did I say that?

“But yes,” my mouth continued, unheeding of the rest of my body. “Well done my faithful Blade.” Blade puffed out his chest, his eyes shining. “It is early for celebrations, though, keep a careful watch on my host.”

I slammed my hooves over my muzzle, but too late. I worked my mouth in silence for a moment before screaming, “Trixie demands to know what in the name of the rutting goddesses that was!”

Blade’s look went flat. “Show some respect, unicorn. That was the voice of the last true God.”

I drew a shaky breath. “Yes, right, of course.” I shook myself, glad for the cloak as the chill of that dark room returned in force. I could panic later, when my every move was not under scrutiny by a hostile audience. “Well, Nightblade. Trixie thinks that proves her point. She has been chosen by your... Goddess.”

Scepter was glaring daggers at me, spinning the ring on his horn with a hoof like a prayer wheel.

I tried my best to ignore him. “So, Paterfamilias Blade,” I said, turning back to the thestral, “tell me... what is going to happen now?”

He shrugged, plucking a pastry off of the table. “Well, in short, Trixie, we’re going to change the world.”

I was fairly sure the Nightmare had used the word ‘end’, but didn’t mention it. “That is a–” I cast around for word other than ‘insane’. “–lofty goal, for certain. You’ll forgive Trixie if she asks just how you intend to do such a thing.”

Scepter let out a derisive snort, but I ignored him.

“Not at all,” Blade said, taking a delicate bite of his roll. “Tell me, Trixie, what do you know about the story of Nightmare Moon?”

I shrugged, mimicking him and drawing my own pastry from the table. “No more than any foal does, less even, Trixie was hardly in any position go hunting for candy or trade scary stories as a child.” To emphasise my point I devoured the chocolate roll in two swift bites. “They say that Princess Luna’s spirit would roam Equestria on the day when the chains keeping her bound to the moon were at their weakest. Correct?”

“Not quite,” Scepter corrected. “They said that Nightmare Moon would roam Equestria, an important distinction.”

“A minor point,” I said, dismissively and cut a thick slice of bread. “They were one and the same, were they not?” Stony silence met me, and I felt the sudden weight of a dozen angry looks. “Ah... they were not then.”

“No,” Blade said, as if a foal had just suggested the sun rose on its own. “Did you never wonder why Luna, the lesser alicorn, could match her sister and all Equestria just by changing her name? The truth—that the sisters worked so hard to keep hidden—is that she called on an ancient power. She called upon the last true Goddess of Equestria, The Nightmare.”

I waved my hoof for him to continue, as I began to assemble a sandwich.

Blade furrowed his brow. “Do you have any idea how old the tradition of Nightmare Night is?”

“A thousand years, or thereabouts, Trixie would guess. She takes it you’re about to tell me the true history.” I failed to keep the scepticism from my voice.

“You would do well to show a little more credulity, host,” Scepter snapped. I just shrugged and continued to pile cheese and lettuce into my sandwich.

“Indeed,” Blade said, turning back to me. “Offerings to the Nightmare go back millennia, to before the time of Discord, some say to before the land was even called Equestria. Ponies have always feared the dark, Trixie, and the monsters both within and without. Once they laid offerings of blood and treasure at our Mistress’ hooves, now it is candy, but both rituals are to allay the spirit of our Mistress. To beg for another day of pitiful life.”

Complete, the sandwich was bigger than my head. “And did it work?”

Blade just smiled, showing the full length of his fangs. “Of course not. The Nightmare is a god, she does not care for candy nor treasure. She aims to change the world.”

“Yet, she’s not done anything but a fairly half hearted coup,” I pointed out.

Raz jabbed me hard in the ribs, but too late. The already cool atmosphere went icy in an instant, as every thestral stiffened. Scepter’s ilk followed suit a moment later, reacting to the sudden tension rather than my actual words.

If looks could kill, Blade would have torn me to shreds in an instant. The glare lasted just a fraction of a second, though, then he broke out into a deep belly laugh. “Oh, I guess I walked into that one,” he said, with a forced chortle. The razor sharp tension began to dissipate, slowly. “You see, Trixie, the Nightmare has faced the Elements of so called Harmony many times before. Much of her power is still locked away behind seals that date to the very dawn of the world as the result of those great battles. Even for all the power of last night’s ritual, even with Nightmare’s Tome in our hooves, we were barely able to forge a single link with that prison.”

My ears flicked up. “Tome?” I echoed. “What Tome?”

“Are you sure this is a wise topic?” Scepter said, still spinning his ring.

Blade fixed him with a flat look. “The Nightmare selected her as host, if we are to proceed, she must have at least some knowledge.”

I took another nervous bite of my sandwich. The little tick in the corner of Scepter’s eye was not encouraging. I could see him preparing for a killing blow.

“I simply think we’re being a little hasty with a mare who has such strong ties to Celestia,” he said, with an airy smile.

My eyes narrowed. “That is very dangerous ground,” I said, my tone low and venomous.

“Indeed,” he agreed. “But this is a very dangerous enterprise. We are plotting treason against Celestia’s corrupted court after all. Police watch our every move, a presence that has only intensified since Trixie’s little visit to the local leadhooves.”

“Trixie was attacked,” I pointed out.

Scepter shrugged. “Indeed. Very convenient for you, joining a long string of very convenient events.”

“Scepter,” Blade cut in. “You already vouched for her. Are you really changing your mind now?”

“I agreed she should stand in the circle,” Scepter corrected, his breezy tone never slipping. “But acting as the Nightmare’s host is quite a different matter. Tell me, Great and Powerful Trixie, how long was it that you spent in Celestia’s Palace?”

Ah. I knew that would come back to bite me. Ignoring Raz’s incredulous stare, I straightened the hem of my cloak. “Three months,” I said. There was no point lying, Scepter would not bring it up without evidence.

Scepter's grin was that of a cat upon finding the birdcage unguarded. “Indeed, strange that. There are lesser nobles who would kill for that level of access to royalty.”

Unfettered power began to flow around my horn as I glowered at him. “Those lesser nobles could have left,” I observed, trying and failing to clamp down on the rising tide of rage. “Trixie could not.”

“So you say.” Scepter lifted a cup of grape juice from the table and took a delicate sip. “Of course, we do just have your word on that. It seems very convenient that you arrived on our doorstep, and on the eve of our ritual, after spending so long in Celestia’s presence.”

“Trixie would like to remind you, that she tried to refuse your generous offer to join,” I growled, through clenched teeth. My magic was building up fast, casting a red glow across the gathered ponies.

“Yet somehow you were the one selected by the Nightmare. Interesting term you used, Trixie. Justice, I think you said you were after. Justice on behalf of who, I wonder.”

My voice was colder than a windingo’s heart. “What are you suggesting?”

“I’m just curious who it is that holds your reins.”

“ENOUGH!” I roared, slamming a hoof down on the table. Power arced through my hooves, and with a titanic boom the table split across the breadth. Plates and glasses exploded into powder from the sheer force, and whole third of the table collapsed with a drawn out clatter of falling crockery. For a moment there was utter bedlam as the assembled ponies scrambled to get away.

“Trixie is nopony’s stooge!” I roared, rising to my hooves. I put my foot through a melon, but nopony seemed to notice. “Especially not Celestia’s. Do you perhaps think Trixie is some lickspittle foal who simpers in the sun-god’s shadow? Well, Trixies thinks you have mistaken her for Twilight Sparkle. Trixie is her own mare, beholden to nopony, especially not you!”

The only sound in the dining room was the steady drip of fruit juice.

Scepter smiled, sipping his drink. “So, you’re either an enemy agent, or a rogue one. Interesting.”

It occurred to me then, just how foolish declaring my independence was when still caught in the manticore’s den. I swallowed the lump in my throat and bit down the angry retort, the flow of magic to my horn stilling at last. Glancing around I caught Blade’s eye. The grizzled thestral’s look was flat and guarded.

“I think we should leave things here for the morning,” he said, after a moment. With a single flap of his wings he leapt into the air and hovered above the devastation. “We’ve done something remarkable here, my ponies,” Blade declared. “In the last six months we’ve achieved more than in the last six centuries, but we should remain wary. We can’t let petty jealousy–” He fixed Scepter with a glare. “–nor personal pride–” He tuned the evil eye on me. “–get in the way of our purpose. We are all here to serve the Nightmare. Let’s not fall to petty squabbling before we’ve fought the first battle. Agreed?”

Nopony said a word, Scepter began to spin his ring again, his glare murderous. I matched it.

“Agreed,” Scepter and I said in unison.

“So, that could have gone better,” Raz observed. He and I made our way through the spartan halls of Scepter’s mansion with Astral at our heels as our guide/bodyguard/jailer. “Trix’, you really need to learn to shut your mouth once in awhile.”

“Oh, shut up, Raz,” I grumbled. “I didn’t see you leaping to my rescue.”

He rolled his eyes. “Trix’, you broke a table with your bare hoof, what in tartarus’ name was I supposed to do to stop you? Goddesses, you were already doing your damned ‘Wicked Warlock of the West’ act before this whole...” he petered out, shooting a sidelong glance at Astral.

“I think Trixie was perfectly reasonable,” Astral protested. In unison, Raz did a double take. “Really, if Scepter had insinuated my father was a follower of Celestia then Dad would have torn him to shreds on the spot. A broken table is the least he could have expected.”

“He was, very obviously, trying to get a rise out of you, Trix’,” Raz added.

“I know, I know,” I grumbled, rubbing a hoof against my temple. “Argh. How is it Trixie can never do anything to fix the damn messes she keeps finding herself in?”

“How is it that you’re still speaking in third person?” Raz asked, rolling his eyes. “Actually, scratch that. If you’re going to answer any question, how in the hay did you end up a guest at the palace?”

Astral stopped dead, his ears flicking bolt upright. “I’d like to know the answer to that one too,” he murmured, glancing up and down the corridor. “There’s nopony around, if you want to tell us.”

“It’s not important,” I said, far too hastily.

“Trix’, you just stamped a table to pieces because somepony mentioned it,” Raz said, rolling his eyes at me. “That seems pretty important to me.”

My glare could have set fires at ten paces. Raz matched it without blinking. “Fine!” I barked, throwing up my forehooves. “I was a prisoner, okay? I was a prisoner because I was filled with so much dark magic I couldn’t tell left from right, let alone good from evil.”

“What? But, how?” Raz stammered, his jaw dropping. “Why, Trixie, you’ve never touched dark magic before, what in Equestria possessed you?”

“Beyond a Goddess of elemental darkness?” I asked in a deadpan. I tossed my head and began to walk away. “Raz, I tried to beat Twilight Sparkle at magic. I tried to beat the future Princess of Magic at her own game. I put everything into that victory and lost it all. Did you think I escaped unscathed?”

“I didn’t know you’d fought her at all!” Raz exclaimed, hurrying to keep up. “When did this happen, during the Ursa Minor? I thought that was just a mistake that got out of hand.”

A long sigh escaped me. “No Razzle. I went back. I almost won, too. I had the alicorn amulet in my grasp and the whole town keeling at my feet, worshiping as me as the God that they always should have. I–” I stopped myself dead and took a deep, shuddering breath. Slowly, the red glow of my tainted magic began to fade away to nothing. “–I messed up... I should have known I could never stand up to Celestia’s pampered little hoofmaiden.”

I should have won. It was as simple as that. If life were fair, if there was some impartial god handing out the rewards of life then I would have crushed Twilight Sparkle. The gods, however, played favorites and I never had any hope of standing up against their chosen child.

“Heh, well I think the Nightmare might have a thing to say about that,” Astral said, with a smirk completely at odds with my mood. “However, that does rather mean we have to solve the whole, massive argument between my Dad and Scepter.” His smile broadened as an idea seemed to strike him. “Actually, might the Nightmare have some idea of the best way to solve this?” He looked at me expectantly.

I shuddered, then waited a beat for the spirit to chime in. “Thankfully no,” I said, with a sigh of relief. It was very disconcerting for something else to use your voice. “Trixie, however, has a plan.”

“Oh goddesses, we’re doomed,” Raz muttered under his breath.

“You’ll like this one,” I said, smirking. “It involves stealing something. Astral, where might we find Nightmare’s Tome?”

He frowned, fidgeting his wings. “Why do you want that?”

“We need an edge and, while I hate to admit it, sometimes the answer is in a book.”

“Umm...” Astral pursed his lips, shuffling his fore hooves.

“Please,” I said, taking my hat from my head and holding it against my chest, dredging up the last of my charm. “Help me, Astral. I can’t do this without you.”

His scowl deepened. “Urgh. I just can’t say no to a pretty face. Come on, it’ll be in Scepter’s office.”

Our passage through the mansion was swift and almost silent. Astral, it seemed, possessed far more than his tribe's measure of stealth. The few thestrals and gang-ponies we did encounter were easy enough to bluster our way past.

Astral pressed his ear against Scepter’s door. “Okay, coast is clear,” he announced, after a moment’s hesitation. “I can smell the magic on the door, though.”

I nodded, stepping forwards and kindling my horn. There was a nasty spell woven into the wood, designed to either crack some nosy idiot’s horn or crack their skull. One spark of magic in just the right spot disarmed the trap.

“Keep an eye out,” I told the pair. “And if anypony tries to get in, stop them or give three knocks. Got that?” They nodded and I cracked the door open. I slipped through the gap like a prowling cat, low to the ground and moving with utmost care and grace.

Scepter’s office was no different from the the last time. Artifacts and antiques still lined the walls, and the barely constrained menace of those forgotten relics made the base of my horn itch. I cast my eyes across the room, searching for a tome amidst the treasure. I spent a moment examining the bookshelf for any books that were either jet black or dripping blood, figuring the tome would be just as tacky as its name. The only one I found, however, detailed the various prophecies one could glean from the entrails of a pony. So, disgusting, useless and nonsense.

Picking my way around the artifacts, I made my way to the desk, feeling around with my magic for any more traps. A spell hung like a cobweb around the old oak, but it lacked charge so I sat myself in Scepter’s chair, frowning. Where would a tome be?

“Hello Trixie,” Scepter said, stepping out of the shadows.

I screamed, tried to leap out of the chair, tripped and ended up in a heap on the floor.

He sighed, shaking his head. “Do make yourself comfortable.” Wincing, he lifted a silvery amulet from his neck and made his way over to the drinks cabinet. Without the spell I could sense the underlying invisibility charm laid into the metal. It was a trinket Razzle would have given his hind leg for. “I take it you’re here for Nightmare’s Tome.”

I pulled myself up onto my hooves, and dusted off my cape. “That seems like a bold assumption.”

Scepter rolled his eyes as he poured himself a drink. “Please, Trixie. You’re as smart as you are subtle.” He shot me a sudden glare. “And don’t take that as a compliment. I knew the moment Paterfamilias Blade let slip about Nightmare’s Tome you’d try and set your hooves on it.

“It seemed a sensible choice, given the circumstances,” I pointed out, settling back into his chair. “If Trixie is to play the role of host, then she needs every advantage she can get.”

“Indeed.” Scepter sipped his bourbon. “However, that ‘host’ business is very much the point we need to discuss.”

My eyes narrowed. Where was he going with this? “The Nightmare chose Trixie,” I pointed out, keeping my response neutral. “Trixie did not go into that room seeking The Nightmare, but The Nightmare still chose her.”

“You say that like I should care.” Scepter’s voice was icy. “Trixie, let us not dance around the point. Over the past two years I have burned through a considerable amount of money, time and lives in the pursuit of a single goal. That goal was not to let some street performer come in and steal my prize at the eleventh hour. I was to be the host. ”

“Perhaps.” I gave an impetuous toss of my head. “Or perhaps you were to be another body on the floor. Did you think, perhaps, Trixie saved your life?”

He didn’t even acknowledge that with an answer. “I am going to be the brutally honest. There is no doubt in anypony’s mind that you should not have been in that room, nor become Nightmare’s host. So we come, once again, to a matter of price.” He fixed me with a steely gaze. “What price are you willing to pay for power, oh Great and Powerful Trixie?”

“I...” I began, but trailed away. I had no answer. Once the answer had been easy, but I was no longer so sure.

“You have until sundown to decide,” Scepter said, draining his drink in one gulp. “I suggest you choose wisely. There have already been three dead for the sake of Nightmare’s crown, I do not care how many more there need to be.”

His horn flared and the office door swung open. He strode through, ignoring both Astral and Raz who stared at him in opened mouth horror. “Oh.” He paused, casting a contemptuous look over his shoulder at me. “And Nightmare’s Tome is in the bottom draw of my desk. I don’t advise taking it.”

Scepter walked away without another world.

Astral and Raz hurried inside.

“Rutting tartarus, he was in here!” Razzle exclaimed, bucking the door closed. “How?” He rounded on Astral. “You said it was empty!”

“I didn’t hear a thing,” Astral protested. “It was completely silent. Nopony was here.”

“He had an invisibility amulet,” I explained, my voice wooden and dull. “He was less than pleased to find me here.”

“I think ‘less than pleased’ sums up his whole damn life,” Raz grumbled, running a hoof down his face. “Goddesses, he was already pissed off with us, what’s he going to do now?”

“Trixie has a good idea,” I said, making my way over to the drinks cabinet. “He’s going to have her killed.”

Comments ( 35 )

Wow, Scepter is really stupid.

I'm still having some trouble seeing Nightmare as menacing rather than corny, but I suppose it's at least getting in that direction.

6546445 I think we may have found our story's Admiral Ozzel.


Sufficient ambition and arrogance is often the most potent blinders a mind may have. 'I am the best, of course I shall prevail!'

Pride goes before fall. Trite, but true.

Not that Trixie has been a paragon of wisdom herself so far. It takes a special, almost strangely inspiring level of casual arrogance to scream out that you're nobody's pawn at the cult meeting of the local goddess of darkness and nightmares. The same one you basically ritually swore yourself to the night before. :facehoof:

Speaking of, I do think this song sums up the chapter better. IMO so far, at least.

I'll freely admit my interpretation of why it fits might be off, though. We'll just have to wait and see. :derpytongue2:

6546713 Maybe normally, but Specter doesn't seem like an idiot. I mean look at what he's done so far, and set all this up.

Yet he thinks harming Trixie, who the Nightmare willingly chose to be her host, aka Attacking the Nightmare Itself too, is going to make the Nightmare choose him as a host, or not do something far worse than killing him. People on the good side, I can understand them thinking Death is the end, because for them it usually is. But those in the dark and shadows like Specter? They should know intimately that there are worse things than Death. And a goddess, even behind many layers of Chains and Binds, can punish very very harshly.

Oddly enough, no song i can consider fits this one. Not even the more unique classics. A shame, and something about this one sits askew. Like a panel misaligned.

6546445 6546691 6546713 6547262

Wow, Scepter is really stupid.

You guys might also want to consider that Nightmare has done quite a good job at driving Scepter into a frenzy. And while Trixie may be incapeable of keeping her mouth shut, Nightmare is far more measured and deliberate with her provocations. There's a lot she could have done to force Scepter to back down or at least keep him in check but she didn't, if anything she just made Blade even more suspicous.

6546466 Give her time, she's only killed three ponies so far, she's still warming up. :trollestia:

6547307 Aw that's a shame, don't worry, there's pleanty more story still to go.

I think it's the talking, honestly. A villain who talks has something to prove. A devil talks to tempt, but Nightmare Moon doesn't even tempt - she just talks to assert her dominance. That implies he doesn't have it already or at least isn't sure of it, which just makes her... less, I suppose. What you see is what you get, not something that you can only guess at. It makes her more human, I suppose, for lack of a better word, and certainly more relatable - but also not quite larger than life anymore in the sense that, say, Sauron is. Dark Gods are above petty concerns like compensating for a sense of insecurity.

6550033 the closest to inspiration was Black Unicorn by heather alexander, but it just didn't fit. Same for Enter the Haggis's The Apothecary. Just not quite, it needs a harsh mix of rock or metal/mithril, and a softer tone as well.

6550099 Yoy raise a good point, Nightmare is far more of a talking villain than a force of nature though I'd argue she isn't just strutting. She's cruel and capricious, but has defintely started on her long term plan which is not going to be as simple as just getting Trixie to sign up to team Eternal Darkness. We've got another chapter until everything is on the table, so Nightmare's goals are a little hazy at this point, but she should become quite a bit more sinsiter as her influence over Trixie grows and her aims become clearer.

6550155 Have you tried any Nightwish? I've been using that a lot to get me in the right frame for writing this.

I don't doubt it. I'm really just thinking out loud here, so please don't feel bothered if it doesn't seem relevant or applicable to you - it's just my perspective on the kind of villain she is. The thing about Nightmare Moon, and really most of the villains in this show, is that they always seemed very personally relatable to me. They have motivations that I can not only understand, but see the underlying reason for. Some stories play Nightmare Moon as simply insane, but she really isn't. I've met people who genuinely lost all contact with reality, and she isn't that. Cruelty and caprice are neither hard nor particularly rare - I might say as much about myself sometimes. Lord of Dorkness would probably kick me for this, but I also like to read Discord in particular as something more like a Buddha of Nonsense. He always feels more like he's trying to teach, in a way, rather than really harm.

There are only very few exceptions to this. Sombra basically has no personality and can't even really be talked about, for example. On the whole, though, it results in what I think is the reason there are so many "redemption" or "reformation" fics on this site, though: is is hard to think of them as anything but people. A person can be scary, terrifying even, but they can't stop being a person. Once that basic sense of equality between perspectives is there, it's there to stay. How could you take a person who talks like Nightmare Moon seriously, after all? I mean, really. Ted Bundy could walk up to you while on fire, but giving you that Eternal Night monologue you would still die of laughter before anything else.

And that is really the weakness of it. A villain who isn't relatable, doesn't have humanizing impulses, it appeals to the primal part of us that still sees thunder gods in any lightning storm - something greater than yourself, with grand and possibly unknowable powers over you. They're not subject to change or appeasement. You can resist or you can submit, but there is no third option. It gives it an intensity that dealing with people just can't have, even in a life-or-death situation. It's why human (or even just talking) villains are so rare in horror fiction, I think. Putting even a metaphorical face on something makes it less frightening, even when you know you really should be.

6550259 There's a long tradition of Gods being "Mortals but bigger." Zeus and the rest of the Greek pantheon spring to mind.

Also Gods of Evil who started out as just pure evil are quite rare in most mythologies. Lucifer was God's right hand man until he was overcome by pride and ambition. Loki's mischief taught valuable lessons and he was a vital ally of the Asgardians until his jealousy of Balder caused him to go too far.

There's a good chance that the Nightmare once had a vital purpose before she fell. I got the impression that she chose Trixie because she felt some kind of kinship with her. Though how Trixie's circumstances relate to the Nightmare's fall from grace remains to be seen.

I count these under the same "scary, but relatable" category, personally. It's easy to read the Titans as the misunderstood heroes of the story even throughout many of the original Greek epics. If we ever find an actual surviving copy of the Titanomachia, I'm sure it'll overthrow our entire understanding of how the Greeks thought of them. I wouldn't think of debating the fact that it has tradition, though. It just also makes for a different (and, in a sense, less threatening) kind of villain to me .

6550438 If the nightmare was a force of nature archetype, would this alleviate the views you have expressed here?

It's not really a judgment about the story itself or what the character is in terms of the story, just about the way it interacts with the other characters in it so far. Don't worry, though, I'm not about to stick to that for any longer than I think the story makes the character actually work that way. I just enjoy giving verbose (and probably mostly not that useful) feedback on writing as a general thing.

6551028 I really wish at times fimficition would let me know about the replies far earlier and not in email. But ah well.

As for feedback, the why it doesn't click is feedback that may be right on the money. No matter the nature of perspective that plays into it. From our stance as the reader, and of the authors as the writer too.


Lord of Dorkness would probably kick me for this, but I also like to read Discord in particular as something more like a Buddha of Nonsense. He always feels more like he's trying to teach, in a way, rather than really harm.

Eh, I can sorta see that interpretation... but I have to admit I need to squint and tilt my head to do so.

To me, Discord's first appearance was simply too sadistic for me to really buy that he's redeemable, and to me at least it just reeks of the fan favorite getting special treatment—but to the writer's credit Discord's wasn't just *poomfed* good but has outright struggled with this 'friendship thing-y.' I'll freely grant that at least.

My interpretation is rather plain, that he's simply a bully. Discord got seven's across the board on throwing the genetic dice as far as magic goes, and he used that power about as well as that one kid from The Twilight Zone. Just with chocolate milk instead of cornfields.

For the record, though, I don't hate Discord. I'd even go so far as call him a decent villain. (:pinkiegasp:)

I just don't see what people see in him beyond John de Lancie's excellent voice work. That and an original, non-standard design is literally the only outright good things about Discord in my eyes, while the rest is just... average. I don't even find him that funny most of the time.

Whenever Discord comes up in discussion around here, I have to admit its like sitting in a group where a large majority thinks Walter Peck was their favorite character in all of Ghostbusters.

I just... don't get the appeal. :unsuresweetie:


I wish I could say more, but I can't. Morally ambiguous characters, a truly dark spirit, and a terrifying crime syndicate.

Gotta wonder. You obviously didn't have the way Trixie's failing go as it did in the show. Too simple to trick off her necklace and send her scampering back into the woods. I'm wondering... How did that go in THIS universe?

Loved the interaction between The Nightmare and Trixie. I can't figure out her character, but I can see how it's clashing against the Nightmare. I can feel her struggling, against herself and her demons. Maybe she isn't the strongest, but a willingness to get up and keep fighting when all seems lost is what separates the winners and losers. Even a God can be defeated if you never stop. But this one... It ain't gonna be that easy. >:)

For now, we're still establishing the playing field. The cult of Nightmare, the insane Crime Lord, and the terrified ponies wondering how the hell they got caught up in this. (By far the best) But not all the pieces are in play, and before long, the battle lines will start moving. Within the darkness, and in the light.

Keep writing man. I wish I could write like this.

I'm really not so convinced on the "bully" part of this. He's a dick, no doubt, but even in the show, at least a few of the characters appreciated his "pranks" for the (admittedly not great) humor of them. I admit, though, it's less the actual execution of it at times than what could be done with the character. It's an easy one to just say that he got lucky and ended up with random super-duperpowers for no good reason, but personally, I like to imagine what connection there could be between absurdly potent chaotic powers and a world-view that gives him a reason to use them in an appropriate, but ultimately also ineffectual way.

Buddhism, for example, has the concept of "Maya." It means both "illusion" and "magic," in a way, and it refers to the visible, phenomenal world that we live in. It's not quite not real, but it's also somewhat less than actually permanent, solid or true. Insight and understanding of this non-reality is believed to give certain magical-seeming powers to the most enlightened of monks and saints, but it's also a kind of insight that can seem detached or outright insane to someone who isn't possessed of it. It is taught in a way that is self-contradictory and almost intentionally nonsensical at times.

Personally, I think there's just so much more that could be done with the character than the one-dimensional villain or cheap plot device that most stories use him for.


A really interesting concept, but I honestly can't see it for Discord. Not when he's so childish he'll do stuff like pretend to be sick for attention, think that one friend is completely equal to the nice new centaur in the unmarked van, or ruin a party just because the one girl that likes him has another friend.

I just can't see a 'Buddha of chaos' in that. He's power is great, yeah, but the things he keep using that power for are just too consistently small and petty.

Well, you know, therefore the concept of it more than the actual execution. Still, though, one very famous Zen koan goes like this:

"Master, what is the true Buddha-nature?"
"A dried shit-stick."

Petty and childish is not all too terribly far removed from that.

Yay, more words in a deliciously long chapter!

Once again, truly excellent writing in every regard. As was pointed out, Nightmare could have caused Scepter to back down... so what devious plan does she have that needs Frenzied Scepter?
I need the next chapter to find out - looking forward to it.

As an aside... so, uh, Trixie and Nightmare are triumphant at the end, right? Riiiight?

Well, reading in between the lines it looks like Celestia did try to decontaminate Trixie, but obviously didn't do a very good job of it or handling releasing her either. Hell, Trixie's loathing of Twilight Sparkle even above what was shown in Magic Duel might be a result of whatever happened during those three months, too.

I suppose we'll have to wait a chapter or two for the Nightmare to rear its head and become more than an idle bystander in things. Given it didn't speak up when Scepter was pretty much threatening Trixie at the end there, I suppose she doesn't ultimately care about Trixie's fate, implying that breaking out of her prison was the far more important first step. If Trixie dies, then too bad, Nightmare can still jump to another host instead of automatically getting sent back to her prison. Or something.

This reminds me a little of the Maleus Darkblade series of novels

“Before you stands a GOD! The last true god.

My my, she and Discord are going to come to blows over that arrogant little claim. After all, she couldn't even manage to slow down 6 completely amateur young mares who hadn't yet even been bonded to the Elements.

I would simply have killed them had my intent been to rid myself of them. None of them were impervious to, say, a sharpened stick flung at them via telekinesis from the bushes at the side of the path in the Everfree.

Given the Nightmare's demonstrated failure over such pathetic opposition, I can scarcely take her this seriously.

Had she even once utilized a tiny fraction of the power she claims to possess in this story, the Mane 6 would have been dust in '10 seconds flat', as the meme states.

“Indeed,” Blade said, turning back to me. “Offerings to the Nightmare go back millennia, to before the time of Discord, some say to before the land was even called Equestria. Ponies have always feared the dark, Trixie, and the monsters both within and without. Once they laid offerings of blood and treasure at our Mistress’ hooves, now it is candy, but both rituals are to allay the spirit of our Mistress. To beg for another day of pitiful life.”

Ugh, sniveling blather like this just makes me want to kill them all even more.

The dark is nothing more than the absence of light. Children and animals fear the dark merely because of what might be lurking in it unseen. Those of us who pierce the darkness with our vision cast fear upon the lurkers, for they cannot hide from us.

For I am Saitama... and one punch is all I need.


In all honesty, though, this is clearly a different Equestria's Nightmare. The canon one is no god, and likely came from Luna herself. Also, it wasn't that powerful. A direct hit TRYING to kill could only stun Celestia for a few moments. At best, bonded to another alicorn, the original Nightmare Moon only equaled Celestia... who was beaten by Chrysalis.

Frankly, from any proper analysis of powers and abilities, Discord kicked everypony's flanks until that lame powergamer version of Tirek showed up.

Found this on Equestria Daily, going to give this a chance!

My ears flicked up. “Tome?” I echoed. “What Tome?”
Well, Trixies thinks you have mistaken her
I had the alicorn amulet in my grasp

1. Question; Is this entire sentence supposed to be bolded on purpose?
2. Trixie.
3. Forgot to capitalise.

I took way too long to catch up with this. By way of a recommendation: Thirty-five weeks passed between reading the last chapter and this one... But I fell into the rhythm of this story again from the first sentence. Please tell me it's not dead.

Are you getting back to this at some point? This is one of those stories I keep hoping you'll pick back up because I like he concept just that much, but you don't really seem to be working on it anymore.

Can't wait for moar :pinkiesmile:

Update this year? I loved this story, it would be sad to see it cancelled or put on permanent hiatus, which is just as affirmative a term as cancelled.

Are you still writing this? If so, I can send coinage next month.

I love it this has to be my fav Trixie fic though i'm sad it hasn't updated in a while

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