• Published 13th Mar 2016
  • 945 Views, 22 Comments

Pressure - PaulAsaran



Pinkie has a voice in her head. He seems like a nice enough sort, and she could always use another friend! Nothing bad ever came from having a voice in your head, right?

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Pressure

The sun had fallen by the time Twilight finished her work throughout Ponyville. She had taken a detour to check on Applejack, then went to ask Spike how Fluttershy was doing. She was so proud of him, volunteering to look after the poor, distraught mare. She’d decided that letting him stay the night with her would be good for both of them, albeit in very different ways.

But now she had something else to do. She moved quietly through the Ponyville Hospital, careful not to wake the residents. Before her floated the scroll which, with any luck, would let her solve one of the many mysteries of the past week. She’d originally planned to do this tomorrow, but after a thoroughly frustrating day she’d pushed her schedule forward. She wanted to end the day with at least one high note.

The door numbers were easily visible in the light of her glowing horn. She found the proper room and slipped in silently, careful to lock the door behind her. In the dim light of the room she could make out a lump in the bed, perfectly still save for the slow breathing. A heart monitor beeped in the corner of the room, but otherwise the space was silent.

Twilight sat beside the bed, eyes on the unconscious face of Trixie. Her curly, pale mane dangled over her eyes, rising and falling with her deep breaths.

The nearby table lamp clicked on. “Alright, Trixie. I’m going to take a look inside your head. I hope you’ll forgive me for it later, but it’s the only thing I can think of to help you.”

Determination filling her, Twilight pulled the ribbon off the scroll and opened it, peering at the spell. She’d already examined it several times, but once more wouldn’t hurt anything. As she inspected every part of the spell, she recited in her head all the rules and ethics Celestia and Luna had pressed her on. She wanted to be absolutely sure she didn’t cross any lines.

At last confident, in herself and the spell, Twilight opened her magic to the scroll. A midnight blue aura swept over her horn, which she gradually pressed against Trixie’s forehead. She held that position, letting the magic flow and prepping herself for—


The world was white. Not a soothing white, nor a bland white. No, this white was domineering, pressing down on Twilight from all directions as if it disapproved of her very existence. She gazed up at the nothingness and couldn’t help feeling a little threatened.

Already, worry bubbled within. This wasn’t at all like what she’d anticipated, and she grew more and more uncomfortable by the second. Her horn continued to shine blue, though if the spell was doing anything to this world she couldn’t tell. She turned a circle, eager to get about her business and be out of here.

It was easy to spot the anomaly; there was no other feature to see. Twilight began walking, her hoofsteps making not a sound, towards the grey object in the distance. As she did, she pondered the nature of the mind delve and what Luna had told her about dreams. If she was right, then she was inside Trixie’s mind. But why would Trixie’s mind be so oppressively blank? If this was all she had in her head, it was no wonder her body stopped functioning.

But this emptiness didn’t feel natural. She could sense that something was upset with her, like she would be cast out if at all possible. Trixie’s mind wasn’t blank so much as it was filled with something, and Twilight suspected that something wasn’t at all friendly.

What in Equestria had Trixie gotten herself into?

Twilight could distinguish the gray object's form by now; a cloud. Or, perhaps, smoke. Why would Trixie be thinking of smoke?

She paused at the edge of the cloud, studying it with a frown. The cloud was large enough for several ponies to fit inside. Perhaps Trixie's real mind stood within? Twilight hesitated at the thought of entering. After all, there could be some threat hidden inside. Maybe it only looked so big on the outside, but inside she’d find herself lost in endless smoke. Dreams were weird like that.

After pondering for what may have been several minutes – she couldn’t tell in this strange place – an idea came to Twilight. Hoping her magic worked the same here as it did in the real world, she pushed a little more out of her horn. Her natural purple blended with the dark blues as a small torrent of wind picked up. That done, she pushed the wind source forward, brushing back the smoke to create a path.

Within seconds, she found something; metal bars. Twilight held her breath and pushed the wind farther, gradually revealing more and more, until she’d uncovered a small cage barely big enough for a pony to fit inside. There Trixie lay, curled on the floor of the cage with hooves over her eyes.

And she was crying.

Making sure the path out of the smoke was clear, Twilight hurried to the cage. “Trixie. Trixie, it’s me, Twilight.”

Trixie rubbed her eyes and raised her hooves to peer through red eyes. She looked a mess, her mane tangled and her face soaked with tears. “T-Twilight Sparkle? But how?”

“I used a mind delve spell, courtesy of Princess Luna.” Twilight knocked a hoof on the bars a couple times. “What is this?”

Trixie cocked her head one way, then another. “But you can’t be here. Arabus made sure I couldn’t…” Her eyes went wide and she leapt to her hooves. “Wait, Princess Luna? You mean, you’re here? Really here?”

“That’s right.” Twilight offered a reassuring smile. “I’m here to help you, Trixie. You’re in a coma.”

After a few seconds of speechlessness, Trixie turned her face away with a deep frown. “I don’t deserve your help. You should just leave me like this.”

Twilight blinked, then leaned forward. “I couldn’t possibly do that. I know you’ve done a few bad things, but—”

“You have no idea the things I’ve done,” Trixie whispered. “The things I was forced to do. I finally stood up for myself, and this is where I ended up.”

The winds continued to push the smoke away, but Twilight thought she could feel the clouds pressing against her magic. Not that it mattered; her focus was entirely on the prisoner. “Explain it to me, Trixie. What did you do?”

Trixie turned her back to Twilight. “I don’t want to talk about it, Sparkle. You’re a princess now, right? You should make the call and leave me like this. Cut off life support, if I’m on any.”

“I couldn’t possibly do that!” Twilight pressed against the bars. “Talk to me, Trixie! What did this to you? Why were you coming back to Ponyville?”

At first, Trixie said nothing. When she did speak, her voice cracked. “Arabus wanted me to go there. He picked my brain and found out about the Elements of Harmony. He promised me so much…”

Twilight scowled. “Arabus? Who is that?”

“He promised. He said he would… Would…” Trixie’s ears perked. Then she spun around to meet Twilight’s gaze with wide eyes and small pupils. “The box. You found me, that means you found my wagon. What happened to the box?”

Another blink. Twilight tried to connect dots in her head, but it seemed she was still missing some. “What box?”

Trixie pressed against the cage, muzzle close to Twilight’s. “Arabus’s box! I found him in Tartarus. He has to be sent back!”

“Slow down!” Twilight reached through the cage to press both hooves to Trixie’s shoulders and force her into a sitting position. “I don’t know what’s going on. Please, Trixie, take it from the top.”

“Right. You’re right.” Trixie pressed her hooves to the sides of her forehead and took a few deep breaths. “I… I decided to go to Tartarus. I’d heard of a special alchemical ingredient I wanted to try.”

“Tartarus.” Twilight gave her an incredulous stare. “Trixie, do you have any idea how—”

“Yes, yes, I know!” Trixie growled and jerked her head away. “Trixie’s shows were dipping in popularity, okay? She thought if she could cook up some strong alchemy that she might be able to kick things up a notch. It’s not like I went their intending to free some ancient smoke demon!”

Twilight’s jaw dropped. “A smoke demon? They have those?”

Trixie gestured at the ground as if there were something to look at. “It was just a bunch of ash on the floor. It was Tartarian Ash Trixie was looking for, she thought she’d found some. Trixie put it in a lockbox and left. It was only after she opened it again that she discovered that ash was really a fiend named Arabus who had been lying there for millennia.”

“I am not hearing this.” Twilight facehoofed with a low groan. She didn’t even notice that her tunnel of wind had shrunk ever so slightly. “Why didn’t you try to, I don’t know, put him back?”

“I did.” Trixie’s anger faded, her expression returning to shame. “I tried, but he… he got inside my head. Literally. He was here, Sparkle. I couldn’t get him out. He started… manipulating me.”

Twilight pressed against the cage once more, heart pounding as she came to recognize the true scope of what she was hearing. “Trixie?”

Trixie ran the tip of her hoof along the floor in random circles. She spoke so quietly Twilight had to strain to hear. “It was slow, at first. Subconscious. I didn’t even realize what he was doing. I started making decisions I normally wouldn’t, even as I told myself they were wrong. Sometimes he would actively control parts of my body, making me walk in certain directions. Small things. Then he…”

She shuddered and turned away from Twilight once more. “He made me hurt somepony.”

Swallowing a lump in her throat, Twilight asked, “Why would he do that, Trixie?”

“I didn’t know, not at first.” Trixie shook her head. “I realize it now, though. He grows stronger through blood. The more damage he does, the more control he has. If enough blood is spilled by his host, he can regain his old form.”

Twilight sat back, mind swimming in circles as she took this in. “So… what happened? Is he still here?”

“No. No, thank Celestia, no.” Trixie laughed, a fragile sound. “When I realized what his endgame was, I finally found the strength to put my hoof down. He couldn’t make me go any further. Trixie refused to be his pawn!” She stomped, head raised and ears perked. She turned to Twilight, expression firm and determination burning in her gaze. “It took everything Trixie had, but she managed to force him out and put him back in that stupid box!”

Then her ears folded and her shoulders sagged. “But Arabus got the last laugh. At the last minute, he left this—” She gestured to the smoke surrounding them, “—in my head, imprisoning me in my own mind. Honestly? I thought I’d died and gone to some sort of limbo.”

Twilight studied this mare, her off-and-on foe. She considered all she knew about Trixie and the situation at hoof, trying to weigh events. She realized that Trixie’s fate would need to be decided, and as a princess, she’d probably be the one making that decision. Perhaps this was something she would have to contact Celestia, Luna and Cadance about.

But first… “You’re not dead, Trixie, and you’re not going to stay locked up like this.”

Trixie looked up, her eyes wide. “B-but, I did terrible things! And even without that, I brought a demon out of Tartarus!”

“We’ll determine the consequences of that later,” Twilight assured her even as she began studying the cage a little more closely. “For now, I’m going to find a way to wake you up, and then we’re going to put Arabus back in Tartarus.”

She paused as a thought occurred to her, then she cursed. “I'll have to put the investigation on hold. I hope no other animals get killed while we’re gone.”

In a blur, Trixie was in her face. “What did you say?”

Twilight yelped and backed away. Upon recovering, she replied, “I said I didn’t want any animals to die while we’re on our way to Tartarus. What of it?”

Trixie swallowed audibly, then waved Twilight away. “Arabus is loose. Somepony else must have opened the box. Forget me, you’ve got to stop him!”

“Trixie, nopony opened the—”

A snarl from Trixie shut her up. “They were murders, weren’t they? Small animals, then big animals. It’ll be ponies next if you don’t get out there right now and stop him!”

“But that’s impossible,” Twilight cried. “Nopony’s been around your wagon since—”

Her blood ran cold, her eyes bulged.

Trixie leveled a knowing look at her, leaning heavily against the bars of her cage. “Leave me here, Twilight. I deserve it. Somepony else needs your help far more than I do.”

“Pinkie Pie.” Twilight looked away, recalling the day they’d found Trixie and her wagon. “She’s the one who moved the wagon to clear the path. She said she looked around the inside.”

She blinked, then looked up. To her alarm, the smoke that surrounded Trixie’s cage was roiling like a storm! Now that she finally paid attention, she realized her wind spell barely held the smoke at bay. Her wings flung open as she looked from Trixie to the exit.

Trixie noticed as well. “Go, Sparkle! Save your friend before she does something truly terrible! Trixie isn’t worth your life.”

“That’s not true!” But Twilight could already tell that she couldn’t stay. With another curse, she turned and galloped to the exit. “I’m going to get you out of this, Trixie! I promise!”

Whatever answer might have been forthcoming, it was lost as the wind failed and the smoke cascaded back into place. Twilight leapt and made it just as the hole closed over her tail. She flew a short distance away before turning back, but all she could see was the grey cloud, as calm and quiet as it had been before.

Twilight landed, huffing from the momentary exertion. She wanted to help Trixie. Nopony deserved a fate like this. And from the sound of it, Trixie hadn’t intended any harm, so she’d probably get off with only a slap on the fetlock once she awoke. But that was something she would have to discuss with her fellow princesses when the time came.

As much as she hated to do it, Twilight elected to end the spell. Trixie was right; if Arabus was inside Pinkie’s head, then she had to act before her friend ended up in the same situation.

Or worse.


Pinkie felt like she was swimming in cotton. It took her a while to realize that the sensation was in her head, and a little longer to understand that she’d woken up. When had she fallen asleep?

And why was she standing atop the stairs of Sugarcube Corner?

Ah, you’re awake.

She shook her head and rubbed her eyes. “What happened?” It seemed as if her thoughts were coming from far away.

I put you down for a couple hours, just to give you some time to relax. Don’t worry, I kept the ship going while you were out.

“Umm… thanks?” She tried to move, but couldn’t. “What’s going on?”

It was several seconds before the voice answered. The Cakes went to bed thirty minutes ago. I was waiting to make sure they really were out of it.

The hairs on her back bristled, her stomach churned. “W-what are you planning to do?”

In response, her hoof raised on its own. Her breath caught at the sight of a long, shiny kitchen knife.

“No. No, you’re not planning on killing Mr. and Mrs. Cake, are you?”

Of course not.

She sighed with relief even as her legs turned her around. She trotted a few steps… then paused at a barely opened door. She glanced through the crack and saw the twins Pound and Pumpkin sleeping soundly. The sight made her smile.

The smile vanished when she inadvertently pushed the door open.

Her heart pounded as she stepped quietly into the room. The hilt of the knife felt hot in her hoof.

“W-what are you doing?”

Taking the next step.

Pinkie thought her heart had stopped. Her attempt to shriek came out only as a stuttering whimper. Her legs refused to lock, taking her smoothly to the side of the crib. “P-please, no. Anything but this. Anything!”

There is nothing else. One of these foals must die. For the good of Equestria.

“You’re lying!” She thrashed against her body, grunting and sobbing, but the knife rose anyway. “This is evil! You can’t make me do this!”

The pressure in her head was like a vice, only spreading outwards. The storm boiled and swirled. I have to! We’ve already concluded that it’s for the better. You know it’s for the better! Relax, My Dear. It’s okay.

“No! It’s… Please, not them… Anything but…”

She stared at the knife, tilting it back and forth. She didn’t want to do it… so why did she suddenly feel so calm? “This is wrong.”

But you’re going to do it.

“I… I don’t want…” Tears poured down her face as she took in the blissful, slumbering faces of the foals. Foals she’d treated as her own siblings. Foals she adored more than anything. “Why are you making me do this?”

I’m not making you do anything.

The knife rose over the crib. It shook violently.

“You’re lying. I would never… I’m not okay with this. P-please. Please.”

The pressure built. You’re okay with this.

“I’m… I’m not…”

And more. You are okay with this.

She gritted her teeth. A long, high pitched whine escaped her throat. “I’m… okay with…”

For Equestria.

“For…” The knife began to lower, even as she silently screamed. “Equest… tri…”

Pinkie!”

She whipped around, knife hidden behind her back. Twilight stood panting in the doorway, her features hidden due to the light just behind her. “Twilight? What are you—”

Twilight thrust a hoof forward to present an open metal box. “It’s over, Arabus! Let my friend go.”

In one moment, elation filled Pinkie to her core.

In the next, she felt only horror; smoke poured out of her throat. The burning heat sent her into a fresh spasm of choking and gags, and she fell to the floor in a heap. She looked up in time to see the smoke entering the mouth, nostrils and ears of her startled friend. Within seconds, the cloud had disappeared and Twilight was as still as granite.

At last, the opportunity arises! And far sooner than I had expected.

Pinkie’s body rose roughly of its own accord, the knife already back in her hoof.

The ice returned to her stomach, heavier and harder than ever. “W-what do you mean, sooner than you expected?”

The clouds in her head seemed to pause. It lasted only an instant, and then the words came back with that familiar, silken smoothness. Come now, My Dear. You know we can’t let others know our secret.

“No. No!” Pinkie opened her mouth to scream. Once more, she could manage only a high pitch whine. “She’s my friend. My bestest best friend! I won’t do it!”

Look at it this way; the blood of an alicorn will keep the Gates of Tartarus—

Buck your Gates of Tartarus!” Had she been in full control of her voice, Pinkie was sure that would have woken the entire town. “You said I was protecting Twilight by doing this, but now you want me to kill her! You’re lying to me, you’ve been lying from the beginning!”

“Pink… kie…”

She gasped as Twilight’s upraised leg twitched. It was only the faintest movement, but it was there. Twilight’s eyes were soft, gentle… understanding.

Her lips moved. Barely. “You… can… do… it…”

“I’m trying,” Pinkie replied, her words punctuated by a sob. “I’m trying.”

The vice in her head pressed tighter against her skull. You can’t resist me, My Dear. Kill her. You want to do it.

“No!” Pinkie squirmed and snarled even as she moved closer. “Twilight, help me!”

Her mind began to calm. Alicorn blood. There’s so much power there. At last, I can resume my true form! But why do that when I could just take that power and control somepony those foul princesses trust implicitly? Laughter, painful in its pitch and like the sound of a hurricane’s winds, erupted in Pinkie’s mind. After all the millennia, I can take my revenge! Celestia and Luna won’t even notice as their precious element bearer slips the knife in the back of their necks!

Pinkie breathed slowly, steadily, her heart pounding but her mind calm. She stared into Twilight’s trusting, smiling face and felt sick. “Twilight…”

Twilight’s smile didn’t fade. She closed her eyes even as the blade came up to rest against her throat.

Do it, Pinkie.

There was no movement. Pinkie took in the calm that had been forced upon her, examined the expression of trust Twilight had offered. Deep down, she felt the urge of panic. On the surface, she felt as steady as a smooth stream.

Do it.

The knife moved. It trembled as Pinkie struggled, her breath coming in sharp hisses.

What are you doing?

The blade landed on Pinkie’s own throat. She sneered through gritted teeth.

“I won’t hurt another pony. Ever.”

That airy laugh filled her head. The pressure intensified. You can’t resist me. Between the blood produced by you and Trixie, I have more than enough power to control a mere earth pony.

The knife budged back towards Twilight, only to return to Pinkie’s neck.

“I won’t kill the twins. I won’t kill my friend.”

Yes, you will.

The temptation to obey, to cooperate, to agree filled her to her core. Pinkie squeezed her eyes closed and bit her lip so hard she tasted blood. The knife didn’t move.

I said, yes, you will.

“Pink… kie…”

She opened her eyes. Twilight was staring, eyes wide and pupils small. Her head shook ever so slightly.

Pinkie’s lips trembled into a smile. “I’m sorry, Twilight. It’s all I can do.”

“He… can’t… hold… me… for… ev… er…”

Kill her! Kill her now!

“You monster.” Pinkie’s other leg reached up to catch the knife just as it started to leave her throat. “You won’t hurt anypony ever again.”

The storm raged within her skull, which began to throb with the pressure. Kill yourself, and I will simply take over your friend.

“She’s f-far stronger than me,” Pinkie whispered, eyes still locked with Twilight’s. “She’d beat you.”

Her hooves trembled. The blade made a shallow cut in her throat, little more than a nick. Pinkie’s legs ached from the sheer effort of the battle that was being waged through them.

I will kill her myself. I have her brain in a stranglehold. Do this and your friend dies!

Despite everything, Pinkie laughed. “That’s your worst l-lie yet. If you could have killed without me, you would have already.”

And what about you?

Pinkie’s victorious smirk returned. “You didn’t kill Trixie. You won’t kill me.”

What? How did you know?

“Pinkie.” Twilight shifted forward so subtly she might as well not have moved at all. Tears cascaded down her cheeks, her eyes pleaded. “Don’t. Pinkie. Please.”

Pinkie only smiled. “I’m just being Pinkie Pie.”

The blade sliced, and her throat erupted in pain.

No. No! I was so close! No!

The pressure disappeared in an instant as smoke erupted from her mouth, her nose and ears, even from the fresh hole in her neck. Pinkie collapsed, gasping and choking, eyes hot and blurred. She could do nothing but convulse, hooves grasping at her throat as the air failed to enter her lungs. Her chest heaved, her heart throbbed.

But only one thought came to her mind: she’d won. She was free, her friends were safe.

That was all that mattered.

But then, just as her vision began to darken, she felt something… cool. It encased her entire body, and suddenly she couldn’t move. For a fleeting moment, the last remnants of her conscious mind panicked at the thought that she was still a slave to the monster.

Then, she heard the voice. She couldn’t understand a word of what was being said, but it didn’t matter. She knew the voice. Twilight had her.

She was glad.