• Published 6th Apr 2016
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Return to Gravity Falls: The Equestria Chronicles - Arkansandragon



SPOILERS for Gravity Falls' season 2 & finale + MLP:FiM season 6: "The Crystalling". One year after Weirdmageddon, the Pines reunite in Gravity Falls for another summer of adventure. A fall into Equestria as ponies wasn't what they had in mind.

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Chapter 7: Nightmares and Dreamwalking (Part I)

Princess Luna, Sovereign Ruler of the Night, Shepherd of the Moon, and Guardian of Dreams, among numerous other titles, found herself uneasy, as her sister lowered the Sun and she rose the Moon to herald the night. She followed Celestia back to her bedroom, where a new scroll lay waiting on the floor.

Celestia was quick to open and read it, then she turned to Luna and shook her head at the unspoken question. "Still no sign of them."

"What of the castle's map?"

"According to Discord, their cutie marks disappeared from it after they reached that strange pit, but never reappeared."

"How did he know when they had reached it?"

Celestia raised an eyebrow. "How does he ever know anything? Who are we to fathom the ways of a chaos spirit?"

Luna thought this over for a moment, then shrugged in agreement. "Although..." she levitated one of Twilight's previous letters from that day, "his outburst and Pinkie Pie's... 'doozy', at what I presume to be the moment of the strangers' arrival, they are very unusual. What could cause such a reaction?"

Celestia moved to Philomena's cage, checking that her pet had food and water for the night. "I don't know, sister. But if I had to guess, it must be something powerful. Discord has shown himself prone to jealousy. You remember when I told you of the Gala incident?" The phoenix opened a sleepy eye, gave a soft chirp, and closed it again. It made the solar alicorn smile despite the situation.

Luna giggled at that memory. "The one with the Smooze? Oh yes!"

"Yes, and given that fact, it stands to reason that Discord might also become territorial."

Luna blinked in confusion, raising a hoof in protest. "What? But he knows-"

"-He accepts our rule, yes," Celestia explained patiently, "but I believe that deep down, some part of him still sees Equestria as 'his', and after Tirek's betrayal, he might now see it as even more so."

"You worry that these ponies could pose some threat? Have you had any visions recently?"

She was silent for a few moments, before turning back to face Luna with a grave expression. "You would know if I had. But if there is a threat, that is what you must find out tonight, dear sister."

Luna nodded, then sighed, toying with her mane uncomfortably, "To be honest, I'm worried as well..."

The white mare hugged her younger sister. "Be careful, Luna. I just wish I could go with you."

"You may not have power over sleep, Celestia, but there is something you can do." Luna climbed into her sister's bed and made herself comfortable. "If something goes wrong, you can break the spell by waking me."

Celestia nodded, then climbed into the bed beside her sister, settling down to keep watch.

The lunar alicorn closed her eyes, focusing on her spell. Her horn began to glow, sending out those white threads of magic that only she could see. They reached out beyond the room, beyond the castle and city, down the mountain and into the Everfree Forest. She quickly found Zecora, and searching further, several dragons, but it wasn't until she had nearly reached the heart of the forest that she came across the sleeping minds of six ponies.

In the star-filled dream realm, Luna saw six doors before her. One was elaborately carved, while another looked worn down, though still sturdy. Another one looked to be covered with colorful stickers. The fourth was a simple thing that looked as if it would be more at home on a broom closet. Another seemed to be a locker door, as she had seen in the dreams of factory workers, guards and police. The last door also had carvings, but these were simpler, as if the creator had tried to imitate the style of the ornately carved door, yet was still learning the craft.

Unsure of which to try first, she moved towards the closest one. It was the simpler of the two carved doors. Stepping through it, she sensed immediately that something was wrong. A blue unicorn foal with a fluffy brown mane and tail was stumbling through a bleak, foggy landscape full of flaming geysers. He moved sluggishly and with a dazed expression. There was also something off about the colt's horn and tail, but the fog made it difficult to tell what that was. She had been inside the dreams of of sick and injured ponies before, and the fog combined with the heat and his weak state here indicated a fever dream.

She took wing, flying towards him as he collapsed. Another geyser blast blocked her away for a moment, obscuring the colt from her sight. When she caught sight of him again, it was not a colt lying there, or rather it was, but not a pony colt...

Luna had read Twilight's articles on the world of Human Equestria often enough to easily guess the colt's species. The hands and flat face were a dead giveaway, but there was also his clothing. Most ponies didn't wear pants, and the shoes were the wrong shape for hooves. Aside from this, he was also wearing a blue sweater with writing stitched in pink which she couldn't read. That his mental self was human, while according to Twilight and her friends, his physical form was clearly a pony, intrigued her. Perhaps this was a case of a transformation spell, as had happened to Twilight and Sunset as they passed through the Mirror Portal. But she quickly realized, looking at him again, that the poor colt was in no condition to answer any of her questions. His eyes were closed and his face flushed from the illness. His brown eyes slowly opened as she fanned him with her wings, but soon closed again.

The princess lowered her horn, touching it to the boy's forehead and casting her magic. The landscape around them dissolved into a black void, until only they two remained. She conjured a bed, gently settling him in it. Though unable to cure the fever from here, she could at least give him peace with a dreamless sleep for tonight.

She left that mind on silent wings, her magic calling her to another one of the doors, this one the oldest and worn. There was a nightmare here that needed vanquishing.

The place she found beyond the door was a dimly lit brick room. As she looked around, it appeared to be a giant throne room of some kind, and the throne itself was just as massive, fashioned from many human stone statues all jumbled together, and set atop a high dais shaped like a flat topped pyramid. The support beams holding up the roof were set at odd angles instead of being purely vertical. The only light source was from the huge, red stained glass window in the shape of an eye with a slitted pupil set behind the throne.

As Luna looked closer at the statues, she realized that many of them were in poses of running, cowering, or fighting, and all had looks of fear, anger, or pain on their faces. It made her wonder with a sick feeling if they were even statues at all...

A soft moan caught her attention, and she turned, spotting something lying on the floor beside the dais. In the red glow from the window was another human, a stallion by the look of him, but the lighting made it hard to tell his age. His eyes were closed, and his face contorted with pain. She flew down to get a closer look.

She caught sight of the silver band in what might have a been a fluffy grey mane. An old stallion, then. He was unconscious, and his breathing was rasping and labored. He wore glasses, though one of the lenses was cracked, along with a tattered and burnt red sweater, what might have been an equally worn tan trench coat, black pants, and brown boots. There was also a black belt worn across his chest in baldric fashion. She noticed an oddity as she saw his hands. Twilight had said that humans had five-she searched for the right word... fingers?-on each hand, but this one had six on both hands, the sixth being a double of the smallest finger. There were also burns on his pasterns-wrists, she corrected herself-that looked very much like shackle marks. As she pondered this, the stink of burning hair hit her nose, and she noticed that his mane and the lower half of his face were singed. If he once had a beard, it had been burned off. There were multiple bruises on him as well from what she could see of his skin, but her magic told her that he was not truly here. He was merely a part of the dream.

The echo of footsteps caught her attention, and she quickly hid herself in the shadows. This, she could sense, was the dream's owner, and it seemed unwise to be caught standing over the body of that hurt human.

Another human walked into view, and Luna started upon seeing his face. Twins? She looked back and forth between the two just to be sure, but there was no mistaking it. The only difference she could make out between them was in their style of dress. The one entering the room wore a black tuxedo with a red bow tie, white undershirt, and brown shoes. He also wore a red fez with a stylized gold crescent, along with glasses. His eyes might have been brown, though it was hard to tell due to the lighting, and she noticed that he was stricken with cataracts.

"There's gotta be an exit around here somewhere..." she heard him mutter as he looked around. Then he saw the body on the floor, and froze, a look of shock on his face. Then his expression changed to a mix of anger and sorrow, and a strange tension came over him. He seemed torn, quivering to move, yet holding himself back. Why did he not rush forward to aid his twin?

"No... Not again..." Even his gruff voice sounded strained, "I won't fall for this again!"

A lucid dreamer? Luna wondered. Then, why does he not simply end the dream himself? Lucid dreamers were rare among her subjects. Often it was only through her intervention and revelation that they realized they were dreaming, but in those cases of lucidity, such ponies usually learned to completely master their dreams. Did he not yet have that level of control?

A new voice interrupted her thoughts, and it came from the injured human.

"...Br...Brother...?" He slowly opened his eyes, looking at the other with surprise. "You... You came?..."

"No..." The black dressed twin slowly shook his head, "No, this isn't happening... It's not real... It's not..."

"They-" The wounded twin coughed, blood dripping from his mouth. Luna did not need to be a physician to see that he was dying. "They said... said you'd abandoned me..." A look of betrayal came over his face, and his voice grew angry. "That you said I'd 'got what I deserved'... Why would you say that-?!" A coughing fit overtook him, and he lay gasping for breath when it had passed, staring at his brother with tear filled eyes.

His brother looked shocked at this statement, as if it were something new to the dream. "H-How could you know that? I never-"

"The kids... They came for me... Told me everything... Tried to save me themselves... after you wouldn't..."

"That's not true!" The dreamer roared, "I went with them! We did save you! None of this is real!"

Luna tensed, ready to spring from her hiding place. She had to stop this, but some instinct held her back. Something wasn't right here...

"Do you know what happened?..." The dying brother's voice was accusing now. "What he did to the kids?... They're dead!... Dead, because of you!..."

"No!"

"And now... Now we're all that's left..." The voice was grieving now, and he was openly weeping. "You came too late... Too late to save them... Too late... to save me..."

The dreamer seemed unable to move, only shaking his head again and repeating that this wasn't real. But the mantra brought him no comfort. Luna could see tears in his eyes and hear choking in his words as sorrow won out over disbelief.

"Vwdqohb..." The wounded twin reached out a hand to his brother, either too weak or too injured to pull himself across the floor.

Luna put a hoof to her ear, running its tip around the inside to clear out any wax buildup: a reflexive gesture. Surely that had been a name, but it had sounded like gibberish, like the soft bark of a dog.

"Vwdqohb, I'm dying... Please... Don't leave me like this..." His voice had grown weaker, pleading.

"Vwdqirug... No! You're not-!" His voice broke, and the dreamer closed his eyes, as if that would make any difference.

"...Brother..." The plea was no louder than a whisper, but it was enough.

What remained of the dreamer's resolve was shattered.

"To heck with it!" he snarled, anguish clear on his face as he rushed forward. He fell to his knees beside the body, cradling it to his chest and fighting back sobs. "Vwdqirug!... Brother, I'm here... Forgive me..."

There was no answer.

"Brother?... Vlahu?..." He shook his twin gently, trying to rouse him.

The wounded twin's eyes were closed, and Luna could no longer hear him breathing.

"Vwdqirug?... Vwdqirug?!" Tears streamed freely down his face now, and at the lack of response, he screamed. There were no words, it was a raw sound of rage and pain that echoed through the blood-lit chamber.

Luna spread her wings, determined to end this once and for all, but again, she found herself hesitating. True, there was a chance that he would attack her in a fit of grief-madness, but she had faced such situations before. No, it was something else that held her back. She reached out with her magic, searching through the dream...

The dreamer shook with emotion as he cradled his dead twin, no longer fighting the sobs that wracked him. "Why?... "

This was not a normal nightmare...

"Why does this keep happening to me?!"

There was another presence here...

"You... really don't know?..."

Both the dreamer and Luna stared at the dead twin in shock.

His face, which had been peaceful in death, slowly twisted into a sneer as he opened his eyes. "You haven't figured it out yet?"

The dreamer could only blink in confusion.

"Oh come on, Vwdqohb. We both know you're not that dumb." His voice changed in an instant to a threatening growl. "You know perfectly well who I am..."

The dreamer pushed his "twin" away, scooting backwards across the floor. "Hey- Hey, get away from me!" His eyes were wide in alarm.

The other human picked himself off the floor, standing to his full height. The smile on his face was not a pleasant one as he looked into the dreamer's eyes.

"Ah... So you do know me... But I think... Yes..." His voice became sing-song. "I think somebody's in deniiiial. But you've been a good sport about this. So why don't I just-"

He moved with lightning speed, seizing the dreamer by his shirt collar and lifting him to eye level before the other could react.

"-give you a clue!"

The dreamer could only gurgle a reply, his eyes squeezed shut in pain and his hands clawing at the six fingered claw that was twisting the front of his shirt, choking him.

"Look at me, Vwdqohb! Look into my eyes!"

The dreamer forced himself to look, and his face drained of color, eyes wide in shock.

"YOU!"

Luna shifted for a better look, and saw that the thing which held the dreamer had different eyes now. They glowed yellow in the dim light, and had slits for pupils.

The creature began to laugh, releasing the dreamer. His form shuddered and distorted as he laughed, until he was no longer a human. Floating there now was a glowing, yellow, triangle-shaped creature with skinny black arms and legs. He had hands, but with only four fingers. The only feature on what might have been called his face was a single eye with a slit pupil and long lashes above and below it. There was a brick-like pattern below his eye which continued down the rest of his triangle body. He was also wearing a black top hat and bow tie. His voice changed, rising in pitch from the human's rasping laughter, to a high nasally cackle. It had an echo to it, as she had heard changeling voices had.

The dreamer fell to his knees where he had been dropped, rubbing his throat and glaring up at the creature.

The thing seemed to smile with his eye, and there was the sound of ominous music steadily rising in the background. It was the sound of quickening hoofbeats, followed by a drum overlaid with something that reminded her of a bass guitar, but it had a strange buzz to the chords. One of those modern "electric" instruments? The triangular beast listened for a moment, snapping his fingers to the beat, then he began to sing:

"My return is a mystery.

Thought you had control of me?

I'm offended that you're so surprised.

That first defeat was a practice round,

But I pulled myself off the ground,

And I've already planned your demise-"

"Can it, Cipher!" barked the dreamer.

Luna flicked an ear in surprise. Why had she understood the name that time?

The music cut off with a sound like a record scratch, and the creature, Cipher, crossed his arms, eyelids narrowing in what Luna could guess was annoyance. "Well if you're going to be rude about it. At least your brother let me finish my song first."

"You leave Vwdqirug out of this!"

Cipher chuckled nastily. "Oh yeah, you're not the only one who does a pretty good impression of your brother, ARE YOU?" At those final two words, his voice became a yell of outrage, and his eye flashed from white to red. Then his eye faded back to white, and he shifted into a reclining pose, still floating in front of the human, who slowly got to his feet.

"Oh please," Cipher said in mock politeness, "don't get up on my account." He snapped his fingers, and glowing blue chains sprung out of the floor. The dreamer cried out in pain as the things tightly shackled his wrists and neck, pulling him back down to his knees.

"It's been a while, Vwdqohb..." Cipher changed position again, hands clasped behind his back as he continued to float, circled the bound stallion. "So..." He got behind the human, whispering into his ear. "Did you miss me?"

The stallion shuddered, and Cipher chuckled again, ruffling his hair.

"So that's your 'big revenge scheme'?" growled the stallion, making what Luna guessed were quotation marks with his fingers as he spoke. "Driving me insane?"

"Well... I was going to slowly disassemble your molecules, but then I remembered how much more fun this is!"

The stallion blinked in confusion. "Disassemble my- wait how would that even work? You don't have a body anymore, remember?"

Cipher's eye narrowed. "Yes... I remember... In fact-" He suddenly grew in size, eye blazing red again as he flew back in front of the stallion, blinding red light from his eye forcing the human to look away. "-IT'S THE ONLY REASON YOU'RE STILL ALIVE!"

"What? What are you talking about?" The human was wincing from the yell.

Cipher returned to normal size, and his eye changed back to white, seemingly calm again in an instant. He conjured a gold cane in one hand, twirling it thoughtfully. After a few moments, he spoke again. "Thanks to that little stunt you pulled, I'm currently too weak to leave this wrinkly flesh sack you call a brain. Otherwise you'd be dead long before now."

The stallion gave his own chuckle at that. "The jokes on you, demon. We both know you can't really hurt me in the mindscape. Glsshu told me about the time you shot him through the chest during his first dreamwalk to get you out of my head. The worst you could do was scare him!"

Cipher smiled with his eye again, looking smug. "Oh really? So if I did... let's say, this-" He snapped his fingers.

Instantly the stallion screamed in pain, doubling over as a patch on his right shoulder blade glowed orange hot, burning through both of his shirts in a strange symbol. He groaned, panting on the floor as the glow from the brand slowly faded, though it was still inflamed and clearly painful.

Cipher looked, if possible, even more smug. "Now see, that looked like it actually hurt. Whaddya say, tough guy? Want me to test your theory again?" On this last word, his voice dropped several octaves to a demonic bass.

Enough was enough. Luna soared skyward, horn glowing to combat this creature, but was stopped short, yanked back to the ground by more of the glowing blue chains suddenly springing up beneath her. One quickly wrapped around her muzzle, preventing her from calling out as she fell. Once she was down, the chains snaked over her back, neck, legs, and wings, pinning her to the floor. She tried to remove them with her magic, but was unable to.

"What was that?" gasped the dreamer, looking in her direction at the noise. "What's that glowing thing?"

"Oh, just a guest." Cipher snapped his fingers again, and the chains wrapped further around Luna, dragging her into the light, until she lay in front of the human.

The dreamer raised an eyebrow at her, but did not seem overly surprised. "Huh... I gotta tell you, I don't mind dreaming of beautiful women, but..." He looked her over, "You're not exactly my type." Noticing her crown, which had somehow stayed on her head, he quickly added, "Er-no offense, Your Highness."

Luna was unsure of how to take that particular comment. But if he could still joke despite his pain, that was probably a good sign. Unless he was one of those who only joked to cover fear...

"Vwdqohb," Cipher gestured from him to Luna by way of introduction, "meet pony Princess Moon-Butt. She's a dreamwalker in this world."

"Nice to meet you... or it would be if we didn't have to deal with this maniac..."

"Flattery will get you nowhere."

The dreamer shut his eyes with a sigh, muttering, "Sweet Lord..."

Cipher patted his head demeaningly, his voice taking a lecturing tone. "Exorcism won't help ya, kid. I'm not that kind of demon."

"Doesn't make you any less of a Hellspawn..."

That got a laugh from Cipher. "Ha! A Hellspawn!" He drifted to the ground, resting an elbow on Luna's barrel, while gesturing with his other hand. "Can you believe this guy? He's gonna have therapy bills a mile long because of me, but he still has a sense of humor!"

Luna tried to speak, but the chain around her muzzle muffled her words.

The dreamer reached out to her to try and remove it, but the demon snapped his fingers, sending the stallion into another scream of agony as his brand flared hot again.

Luna tried yelling in the Royal Canterlot Voice, but it too was muffled and unintelligible.

Cipher ignored her, keeping his attention on the dreamer. "You didn't like that, did you? Well, I didn't like being humiliated and punched in the eye!"

"What was the first one for then?..."

"Because I felt like it!"

The human slowly pushed himself upright again, wincing at the pain in his back. "How-How did you-?"

"How was I able to hurt you? Well you can thank Shooting Star and Pine Tree for reminding me what a lack of sleep does to you humans. How are the little brats anyway? Did they get eaten yet?"

"None of your business..."

"Oh well, I'll just look through your memories later... Anyway! All I had to do was keep you sleep deprived from nightmares for long enough and it completely screwed up your mental state. I've already got you sleepwalking. Confuse it a little more..." He punched the dreamer across the face, sending him sprawling to the floor again. "And you feel actual pain!"

The stallion rubbed at his face, feeling for anything broken, then looked down to see blood on his hand. That punch had given him a split lip.

"Understand now?" Cipher rubbed his hands together, a malicious gleam in his eye. "Now, if I were to take this to its logical conclusion..." One of his fingers became a serrated claw, and he pressed it to the stallion's throat. His voice dropped to a whisper. "Well... I'm sure you've heard the stories... The ones about people who die in their dreams?"

Several tense seconds passed. Then Cipher removed his claw, and the dreamer let out a breath, glaring harshly at the demon.

"Of course, I can't take all the credit for your current condition," continued Cipher. "You're right about one thing. I could drive you to insanity, even kill you once your mind was unhinged enough, but I couldn't cause you this much pain in your world no matter how confused your brain was. But we're not in your world anymore, are we? You see, Vwdqohb, in this world, nightmares have a bad habit of becoming reality... Isn't that right, Luna?"

Luna's eyes widened in shock, but this only made the creature laugh.

"Oh don't look so surprised, Princess, I can read your mind in here too... Such a scandal!" He stroked her mane, running his fingers through the stars. "But then again-" Music swelled in the background once more: the beat of a drum and the melody of piano, and Cipher began to sing.

"Why shouldn't they adore you?

Was it not within your right?

You'd not be overshadowed!

Yours was not the lesser light-!"

Images flashed across his body as if it were a projector screen, images from her past. Luna shut her eyes, ears folding tight against her skull. She would not let this creature have the satisfaction of "getting inside her head", as the modern ponies called it.

"Hey!" yelled the dreamer. "Leave the lady out of this! It's me you want!"

The images and music stopped, and Cipher turned his attention back to the dreamer. "Feeling chivalrous, are you?" He rolled his eye. "You humans and your heroic tendencies... If I could vomit, I would. Oh it's adorable now and again, but yeesh... Hey, want to see just how vulnerable dreamwalkers are in this world's mindscape?"

He suddenly turned back to Luna, slashing her across the flank with fingers that had become claws.

She yelled, but was bound too tightly to move.

Blood oozed from the cuts, staining the fur of her cutie mark, and Cipher looked at it with mild interest. "Huh, just like regular ponies... Who knew?"

The dreamer tried to lunge at Cipher, but was held fast by his own chains. "YOU SON OF A-"

Cipher slapped a hand across his mouth. "Language. We have a lady present."

Luna growled several of her own choice insults at the beast.

He had no eyebrow to raise, but still somehow managed to pull off that look. It quickly changed to a look of indignation. "Hey! I'll have you know-!" Then a thought crossed his mind, and he shrugged. "Actually, nevermind. You basically hit the nail on the head. Well, I'm off to rummage through Vwdq'v recent memories. Be back to torture you later!"

Flying over to a nearby wall, a door popped into existence with a label she couldn't read. Cipher opened it and entered the room beyond, but left the door open a crack behind him.

Once they could hear the sounds of Cipher digging through piles of something and tossing other things, the human pulled a key from inside his sleeve. However, it took him a few moments to realize that the shackles lacked any keyholes. He rolled his eyes, and the key shimmered, transforming into a miniature pair of bolt cutters.

They listened quietly for a few seconds to make sure that Cipher was still occupied.

His voice could be heard from the other side of the door. "Nope... Nope... Pretending I never saw that... Nope..."

The human slid the bolt cutters over to Luna. "You need these more than I do."

Levitating the cutters and freeing her muzzle, she asked, "But what about you?"

"I'm the distraction," he grinned.

She nodded uneasily, then set to work cutting her chains. Just as she finished, they heard Cipher's yell.

"VWDQOHB, YOU IDIOT!"

Luna quickly turned herself to shadow and hid among the other shadows.

The stallion, meanwhile, banished the pair of bolt cutters, glancing at the door as Cipher emerged in a rage.

"You let yourself get bitten by a COCKATRICE?!"

If Luna had a mouth in shadow form, she would have gasped.

"Didn't know you cared so much."

"I don't care about you. But until I get my full power back, my life is tied to yours." As if to better illustrate this, a thin golden chain appeared, one end around Cipher's wrist, the other end around the human's. Cipher banished it once he had the stallion's attention.

"Relax," said the human. "I had Glsshu suck the venom out."

Cipher groaned, rubbing at his eye as if he had a headache. "There's no way Pine Tree got all of it... You won't die tonight, but without anti-venom we've got another day, maybe two at most, if you don't all drop dead of dehydration first." Then he seemed to notice the empty place where Luna had been. "Where's the Princess?"

The stallion shrugged. "She left while you were busy. Something about not liking you or my jokes."

"You told her jokes?"

"Yeah, but she thought they were terrible. Hey, do you think my jokes are terrible?"

Cipher thought about this for a few moments. "Let's see what you've got..."

"My ex-wife still misses me... But her aim is gettin' better!"

The demon snickered.

"So you like that one? Well here's another: I used to have an ant farm, but I had to get rid of it... because I couldn't find tractors that small!"

This one earned him a chuckle.

"What's black and blue and yellow all over?"

"Huh... I don't know. What?"

The human gave a cheeky smile. "You."

Cipher barked out a laugh, then realized what he'd said. "Wait, what?"

A sudden blast from Luna's horn smashed the creature into the far wall, leaving a dent. She emerged from the shadows in full battle armor.

At the same time, the stallion quickly cut his chains with a new pair of bolt cutters, then wrapped the glowing blue links around his hands. He glanced at Luna and whistled in approval. "That's a good look for you."

She gave a smile, then a questioning look at the chains.

"In case I get close enough to punch him again," he explained with a wink, then focused back on their enemy.

Cipher pried himself out of the wall, chuckling darkly. "Clever mortals... So that's how you want to play now? Alright then, let's play." Blue flames engulfed his hands, and he launched a fireball straight towards them.

Luna raised a shield with her magic to block the attack, then took flight, firing another magic blast from her horn as she did. Meanwhile, the stallion moved behind one of the room's support beams, using it as cover. She saw something materialize in his hands, but her attention was more focused on Cipher at the moment.

Cipher teleported several feet away to avoid her blast, and fired his own beam of magic from his eye.

Luna was forced into a mid-air roll to dodge it, and as she straightened out, she saw the human lean out from behind the support beam with an odd weapon in hand. It resembled a very thin, long cannon with two barrels, and a wooden piece at the end which rested against its wielder's shoulder. He jerked backwards as it fired with a loud bang, but she could see no projectiles. They must have been very small, or moving very fast. Quite possibly both.

Cipher yelled in pain even before the sound of the blast had finished echoing, his hands moving to inspect the two new holes through his body just below his eye. "You'll pay for that!" he yelled, throwing another fireball at the human, even as his wounds sealed themselves.

The stallion quickly rolled behind another beam as his original cover was blasted to pieces by the fireball. Luna saw him patting out tiny clothing fires as several glowing embers landed on him, his weapon forgotten at his feet. She cast a low powered frost spell to help him, and although shivering from the sudden cold, he nodded in thanks.

Getting an idea, the alicorn shot a more powerful ice spell from her horn towards the demon. Cipher countered this with a blast of fire, just as she guessed he would. The room was quickly filled with steam as the two held their attacks, each seeking the upper hand. Over the crack and hiss of fire meeting ice, Luna heard several fainter sounds of metal on stone. There were suddenly more hisses, and a large darker plume within the steam cloud as Cipher cried out in pain.

"My eye! Not ag-!" His yell was abruptly cut off as her ice beam froze him solid without his fire blast to hold it back.

"HA! Eat smoke bombs, sucker!" yelled the stallion, coming over to the demon and laughing. Then he suddenly groaned in pain, clutching his back. "Ow... Everything hurts..." He looked to Luna as she landed beside him. "Is this kind of thing normal?"

She nodded unhappily. "I am afraid Cipher spoke the truth on that score. In this world, dreams are much more than mere illusion." Turning to the frozen creature, she decided to send him off with the traditional farewell of a wrathful warrior princess.

The light suddenly dimmed, and stormclouds formed, swirling overhead as the wind became a frenzy, lashing her star filled mane and tail. The human beside her looked around in bewilderment and fear, clutching his fez to his head to keep it from being blown away.

"Hey, what's going on here?!"

He jumped as lightning tore across the ceiling and thunder echoed through the chamber. "Uh, Princess-Whoa!" This time his jump was away from her as her eyes glowed white and she slowly rose to hover before the still-frozen Cipher.

Luna glared straight into the creature's eye and unleashed the force of her Royal Canterlot Voice.

"WE HAVE BESTED THEE, DEMON! BEGONE AND TROUBLE THIS DREAM NO FURTHER!"

Cipher glared right back at her, and Luna met his gaze, unflinching. Then he began to laugh, and she blinked in confusion, causing her eyes to cease their glow and her storm to vanish. She fluttered back to the ground, somewhat annoyed now. This thing dared to laugh at her?!

The ice around him cracked and shattered, force the human and her to shield their faces from the shards.

"You know what, Princess?" he said, reclining mid-air and pointing at her. "You've impressed me. I expected ponies to be more skittish, but you actually made this fun. Those theatrics at the end were pretty cute too. So I'll let you have this round... As for you-" he turned his attention to the stallion. "-glad to see you still have some fight left in you. You're gonna need it... See you in your nightmares! And remember: Reality is an illusion! The universe is a hologram! Buy gold! Bye!" His voice echoed on that final word and a flash of light obscured him, then he was gone.

Luna glanced at the stallion with a puzzled expression. "Is he always that... insane?"

"Yeah. Never heard him sing before though..." his own expression grew wary as she banished her armor. "Remind me to never get on your bad side..."

That got a smirk from her. "That would be wise, but you were in no danger then." Then she stomped a hoof, the annoyance returning to her face. "But that he had the gall to mock me?! That display should have put the Fear of the Night into him!"

"Yeah well, he doesn't scare easy..." the look changed to one of concern as he looked her over. "How's your hip?"

"Do not worry," She looked back to examine the jagged claw marks. "T'is only a minor wound. Yours however... Perhaps you should let me see to it." He was tall when compared to a pony. She had not realized that until now.

"There's not much you'll be able to do, Your Highness." he turned around to let her see the mark. "That's a..." he seemed to search for the right word, "an actual, physical injury. I've had it for years."

She studied it carefully, then gently touched her horn to the brand and began a healing spell. If what he said were true, then her spell would do little more than ease the pain Cipher had inflicted. But even that small comfort would help. "This... This is an alchemy sigil! I don't quite understand its meaning but... How did you get this? Did that brute-?"

He chuckled, but the sound held no mirth in it. "Oh no, no it wasn't him. It was an accident. My brother and I... Heh, we got into a stupid fight... It turned into a brawl... He knocked me into a glowing hot panel." He sighed with relief, as the swelling lessened, and the brand returned to its normal dark coloring. Now it simply resembled an unusual tattoo. "Thank you, and... thanks for helping me out with that creep."

"Think nothing of it," she smiled, turning the spell to her own wound. "As Princess of the Night, it is my duty to walk amid the dreams of my subjects and guard them from night terrors."

He raised an eyebrow at that, turning around to face her properly. "OK... Uh, no offense, Princess, but I'm clearly not one of your subjects..."

"Clearly," she teased. "But nevertheless, you are within the borders of our kingdom, and have taken pony form in flesh. Thus, you are under my care."

"Oh," Then his eyes narrowed. "Wait a minute... How do you know I turned into a pony?"

She raised a hoof in a placating gesture. "Please, be not alarmed. We were notified of your arrival into our world by magic, and a search party went out to find you. They found your hoofprints. I am sorry to say this, but you have chosen a very poor place to arrive. That particular forest is the most dangerous in all of Equestria."

His shoulders slumped, and he sighed heavily. "Just our luck... Well, if you know a way out of it, you'd better go to my brother's mind. He got the brains of the family. By the way, you wouldn't happen to know a cure for cockatrice bites, would you?"

She shook her head. "Not without proper medicine, I'm afraid. But I will inform the search party, and see that they find you in time."

"It's not just me that needs help. Listen, my nephew-"

"The human colt who's dream I last visited? I would have taken you for his grandsire, instead of an uncle."

"I'm his grand-uncle, but that's beside the point. One of those wooden wolf things broke his leg. Wait, you were in his dream too?" A teasing smile crossed his face. "He must've driven you crazy with questions! He loves learning about new magical creatures."

Luna's face grew grave. "His dream was feverish, and he was unable to speak with me. He is very ill."

The smile vanished instantly, replaced with deep worry. "That's not good. You need to tell my brother."

"I shall." She turned to leave, then stopped, looking back at him. "Does your brother know of the creature that haunts you?"

The stallion suddenly looked uneasy, rubbing the back of his head. He avoided her searching gaze. "Not exactly... No..."

Luna remained silent, giving him a raised eyebrow.

The stallion waved his hands at her, as if to somehow shield himself. "Look, he knows about the nightmares. But I can't just tell him that guy's in my head, he'd freak!"

"And that frightens you?"

He looked confused. "What? No, of course not! It's just... It's complicated. I... I don't want to scare him... Or the kids... Hot Belgian Waffles, if the kids ever find out-!" Both hands went to his head, his expression shifting to alarm.

She opened her mouth to speak, but he suddenly grabbed her shoulders. His grip was surprisingly strong for a being so old. She was no judge of human age, but if it worked the same as for ponies, then he was perhaps in his sixth or seventh decade.

"You can't tell him about this! Promise me you won't!" His eyes were pleading.

She gently lessened his grip with her magic, schooling her expression into a neutral one. "I will make no such promise either way." Her voice was gentle, but firm. "I cannot force you to tell him, but I will not stand idle if this monster continues to torment you. Has it not crossed your mind that he and your foals are already worried for you? Would it not do them more harm than good to keep this secret?"

He looked away, releasing her. Then he sat down with a groan, cradling his head in his hands. "I... This is just too much right now..."

She sat down beside him, letting the silence linger for a moment. "I do not mean to cause you further distress. But, at least think on what I have said..."

He nodded slowly, looking up at her again. "You should go. I can handle things here, for tonight anyway..."

She dipped her head gracefully, then rose to leave. A sudden touch on her leg stopped her as she spread her wings.

"I never caught your name, Princess."

"Call me Luna."

He blinked in confusion, cupping a hand to his ear. "Could you say that again?"

"Lu-na," she said, slowly and clearly.

He blinked again, brows furrowed. "Moon Silver...? Huh... Well, it suits you." He gestured to her cutie mark.

Now it was Luna's turn to blink in confusion. "That... Ah... I suppose is close enough..." She would ask Celestia about this strange problem later. It seemed she was not the only one who had trouble understanding names tonight. "And, what is your name?"

"It's Vwdqohb, Vwdqohb Pines."

"Pines? Like the tree? Could you repeat your first name? I did not quite understand it..."

"Yeah, like the tree, and it's Vwdqohb," he said, sounding it out for her. "Vwdq-ohb."

She focused on the sounds, on the parts of the name, and a vague impression came to her. It was the sight and feel of stone under her hooves, and then of a forest clearing...

"Stone... Clearing...?"

He looked, if possible, even more confused. "How the heck did you get 'Stone Clearing' out of Vwdqohb?"

She shook her head. "I have no idea. To be honest, your name sounds more like a dog barking than anything else."

He crossed his arms over his chest with an annoyed scowl. "Oh yeah? Well your name sounds like a horse whinny."

She couldn't help but giggle at that. "Does it really?"

"Yep!" His scowl softened into a smile, before a more thoughtful look crossed his face. "So... We've got a language barrier?"

Luna was impressed. Despite his claim, this stallion clearly had plenty of wits. It made her wonder just how clever the brother was by comparison. She was also scolding herself for not recognizing the language barrier for what it was sooner.

"It would seem so. Than again, this is the first time I have walked in a non-ungulate's dreams."

"Well, I guess that's another thing you can ask about. Oh, and be careful when you get in there. He's... kinda paranoid."

She nodded in thanks, then took flight, blasting a hole through the stained glass window to return to the dreamrealm.

Author's Note:

The two songs Bill Cipher sings are from the brony music community and can be found on youtube. Be sure to check out their other great hits! :twilightsmile:

"Getting Stronger" by Michelle Creber, Black Gryph0n, and Baasik

and

"The Moon Rises" by Ponyphonic

Also: If you want to know what the "gibberish" Luna heard means, here's a little game the creators of Gravity Falls liked to play with the audience. :trollestia: :twilightsmile: The "gibberish" is written in cipher. The clue to break the cipher is: kcaB sretteL eerhT

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