• Published 10th May 2016
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The Titan's Orb: Rising Storm - Old Man Dusters

While Callum and the Mane Six continue their quest to find the shards of the Titan's Orb, their path ahead grows only more deadly as they are now stalked by a relentless shadow that will stop at nothing until they are vanquished...

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Chapter Seventeen - We're Not So Different, You and I

I closed the front doors behind us and walked into the main hallway.

“Head on upstairs Twilight, I’ll catch up.” I said, ruffling her mane.

She nodded and headed up, while I searched the ground floor until I found the kitchen, I didn’t bother switching on the light, as the full moon outside poured into the window, giving me adequate lighting. I took a glass from a nearby cupboard and filled it with water from the sink; after downing the glass, I bent over the counter, burying my face into my hands. The shock slowly settled in as I realised that Twilight had literally just tried to kill herself. Despite the recent events with Bunnie, and the Frozen Forest, and all the other things that had gone on over the mission, nothing had prepared me for something like this. Depression and suicide were subjects I knew only too well, and Twilight making an attempt on her own life had hit home more than I expected.

I heard a noise and looked up to see someone’s silhouette, I quickly recognised the shape of the hat upon her head and gave her a weak smile.

“Y’alright sugar cube?”

I sighed heavily and looked down again. Applejack came around the counter to give me a hug, I turned to her and she could tell that I was very troubled.

“What is it babe?” She asked.

She took my hand in her hoof, and I looked into her eyes.

“Twilight just tried to kill herself…”

Letting go of my hand, Applejack took a step back and she instantly choked up, completely unprepared to hear such a thing; it took her a few seconds to speak.

“Wh-wh… Wha… What happened?” She stammered.

“The argument at dinner brought everything to the surface, she broke under the guilt of what she had become. She tried to throw herself off the cliff.” I explained hoarsely.

“Oh my gosh…”

Applejack’s eyes watered up and I could tell she was picturing the whole thing.

“Is she alright?”

“Yeah, I caught her and was able to talk her out of it. I’ve sent her upstairs, I just needed a moment to myself to process everything.” I replied.

She nodded and relaxed slightly, knowing I had kept her safe.

“How are things between you both?”

“Rather good actually; we had a serious heart-to-heart at the cliff. Twilight needs someone right now, and I’m ready to let go of the past, to be that someone.”

She gave me a tight cuddle, and I got onto my knees so it was easier to hug her. She put her mouth to my ear and spoke to me softly, her voice was full of emotion.

“After all she’s put you through, you’re still here for her. That takes a special kind of guy Callum, I see why the Princess chose you now. You’re a true friend.”

That was it… THAT WAS IT!
The puzzle pieces finally clicked together.

I realised why I was chosen for this mission; Princess Celestia had warned Twilight of humanity, knowing she would overreact and treat me poorly. The tension would be enough to push us to our limits, but Celestia needed someone that wouldn’t give up, she needed a human identical to Twilight, someone who was ambitious, who wanted to learn and spread the magic of friendship. A human who believed in giving everyone a second chance. I thought back to every episode of the cartoon, and no matter how intelligent or gifted Twilight was, it always came back to depending on her friendships to overcome problems. Friendship was the root of this, Celestia didn’t choose me for my athletic body or physical strength, nor did she choose me just because I was a brony.

She chose me because I would refuse to give up on Twilight.

“You alright babe?” Applejack asked quietly.

“Yeah, just in thought.” I answered.

I gave her another quick squeeze before standing up again and finishing my water.

“Thanks for the chat.”

“Anytime sugar cube, my door’s always open.” She replied, smiling.

I put my glass in the sink and headed upstairs, and made my way to Twilight’s room.

“Hey you.” I said warmly as I entered the bedroom.

Twilight was sitting on the end of the bed, smiling guiltily with a book in her lap. I recognised the book, it was one of my books from home; Shadow, by Michael Morpurgo. It was about a British Springer Spaniel in Afghanistan; it was a sniffer dog trained to locate bombs. It was separated from its unit during a firefight and got injured. It was nursed back to health by an Afghan child, who later named it Shadow. They became inseparable. When the boy and his mother sook asylum in England to escape the Taliban, the dog was left behind. The story was about Shadow trying to find the boy again, it was a touching story.

“Where did you get that?” I asked with an eyebrow upraised.

“I may have packed a few of your books during my first visit.” She responded with an innocent look.

I rolled my eyes and gave her a dead look.

“You mean you stole it.”

“I prefer the term, permanently borrowed.”

She giggled nervously, and I chuckled as I closed the door and sat next to her.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Not amazing, but a little better, thank you.” She replied, dipping her head.

“One step at a time Twi, one step at a time. Try to get some rest.”

I rubbed her shoulder, and then stood up to leave. I had taken one step when Twilight grabbed my wrist with both hooves and pulled me back. She looked up at me with an expressive frown.

“I don’t want to sleep alone… I’m scared…”

I smiled warmly, and came back to the bed and sat down beside her again.

“Whatever you need, I’m here.”

Twilight’s face lit up, and I had to admit, I felt a ton of sympathy for her. She felt lonely, and I was only too familiar with that feeling, she had lost her friends due to her actions, and now I was the only friend she had. I was determined to help her rebuild the trust between the others.
Already being topless, I only needed to take off my wrecked militia cargo trousers before getting into bed. As I held them up in front of me, I realised just how devastated and filthy they were.

“I need some new clothes.” I chuckled.

Twilight giggled, and then started eying me up and realised how many scars I had. My legs bore round puncture marks, from the crocodile attack in Brazil, and when Ingeo had stabbed my thighs with his sharpened screwdriver, heated with a blowtorch. My back had a few smaller scars dotted around from the number of times I had fallen from trees, and I had caught my lower back on some barbed wire on our way from Ukraine to the border of Romania. My torso wore the largest of my disfigurements, the lacerations from Chernobyl’s deathclaw raked across my right side, from shoulder to belly. The wound from Ingeo’s knife went from the top of my left pec, all the way across my chest down to the bottom of my sternum. It was only just visible since my fight with Twilight, as there was now an oval shaped blotch of heavily scarred flesh, her fireball had burned away most of the skin, and was so severe it had completely burned away my left nipple, I assumed magical fire was much hotter than ordinary fire.
Zecora’s Kuphila Amanzi was a true godsend, as it had allowed each and every one of these wounds to heal quickly without infection, regardless of the gruesome marks they left behind. My face was the only part of me that wasn’t damaged, thankfully.

“I’ve really put you through the mill.” Twilight muttered.

I looked down at my hands, the gashes from the tree branches weren’t fully healed yet and caused some discomfort. After flexing my fingers, I turned to Twilight and knelt in front of her.

“The Fel, put me through the mill.” I corrected her.

She smiled weakly, and I put an arm around her neck.

“Besides, most of these scars were inflicted by other things; from crocodiles, to mutant lizards, to drug lords, and the like.” I reminded her.

Sadly, this didn’t comfort her, and she sighed.

“You wouldn’t have had to face any of those things if it weren’t for me, I still caused all the complications that landed you in all those situations.”

I took both her hooves with my hands, and held them firmly. Slowly rolling over the hard base with my thumbs, I looked at Twilight with a lowered brow.

“You mustn’t blame yourself, we’re all still alive, which is the important thing.” I told her.

“Not all of us…”

I closed my eyes, I wasn’t ready for that…

{Remember what Hawnu Rey’eng said, it was merciful this way…} I thought to myself.

Clenching my jaw for a moment, I exhaled through gritted teeth and opened my eyes again.

“Look, what happened with Bunnie was awful; and yes, I will need time until I’m back to my old self again. But the way I see it Twilight, you’re in a pretty broken state of your own. I think we both need some time to recover. So, how about we do it together?” I suggested.

She responded by leaning sideways and resting her head on my shoulder.

“I like that…”

I smiled and gave her a cuddle, before flopping backwards and rolling onto the right side of the bed. Getting under the covers, I nestled down and yawned. Twilight got under as well and sighed happily, glad that we had finally made amends and were finally friends.

“So, how do you think we’re going to get to the next orb shard without magic?” Twilight asked.

“I think we need to stay here and recover before we focus on moving. Nah’Lek never found out where we are, so we should be safe for a while. Let’s just get you better, and work on rebuilding with the others. Applejack, Pinkie and Fluttershy are most likely fine with you, but I think we need to smooth things over with Dashie and Rarity.” I replied.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right…” She mumbled.

“Hey, it’ll be okay.” I told her, rolling over to face her.

Twilight sniffed and then wrinkled her nose slightly, clearly bothered.

“As much as I needed to hear it, Rainbow Dash really laid into me.” She said miserably.

“Yeah, it was pretty harsh. But you’ve got to remember we’ve all been through some nightmarish situations together, Rainbow Dash having her wings plucked, Rarity being attacked by a bear, and generally as a unit we’ve been shot at, intimidated, and have all witnessed death. Perhaps the others are in need of an outlet of their own, I wouldn’t take everything too personally.” I reminded her.

She smiled and put a hoof on my shoulder.

“Thank you.”

“What for?”

“Just being here for me, I forgot what it was like to have a close friend.”

I emitted a huge grin and opened my arms.

“C’mere you.”

We exchanged a cuddle, and then I switched off the lamp and went to sleep with Twilight in my arms. Quite an amazing thing really, how the most bitter of rivalries could forge the tightest bonds. When you’ve been through so much turmoil with someone, even if they’re your enemy, you begin to realise how lost you’d be without them. My relationship with Twilight had ironically started off like Batman’s relationship with the Joker; bitter enemies, but one was incomplete without the other. Twilight’s cruelty had shaped me over the quest, and made me a much stronger person; and vice versa, my emotional outbursts and confrontations had given Twilight just enough strength to resist the Fel’s corruption for as long as she had done. Without me to frequently challenge her actions, the Fel probably would have taken her over before we’d even reached Chernobyl.
With such a strong relationship, even as a negative one, we depended on each other. Now she was cured of the Fel, and we could finally see eye to eye, the relationship had transformed into a positive one, but retained its strength.

“I’ll do the talking tomorrow, okay?” I said softly.

“Why? I’m not that bad at conversation.” Twi retorted.

“No, but I think its best if I explain a couple points on your behalf.” I clarified.

“Hm, alright.” She hummed.

“Besides, you could say anything with that big mouth of yours.” I teased.

She gasped, and then playfully elbowed me in the ribs.

“Says the one with a bigger mouth than Pinkie Pie.” She mocked, winking at me.

“And what evidence do you have to support that claim?” I questioned, raising my eyebrows.

“Back when we were travelling in England, you played Fluffy Bunnies around the campfire, and beat Pinkie’s high score with an astonishing seventeen marshmallows.” She reminded me.

“Oh my god, you remember that?” I asked, amazed.

“I may have been an asshole, but I was watching.” She replied sheepishly.

I lay back onto the bed and sighed, happily reminiscing the time I beat the Ponyville Champion of Fluffy Bunnies, I took a dive down memory lane and remembered all the silly games we’d played during the beginning of my quest. The game of hide and seek in my back garden, where Fluttershy found me up the ironwood tree. Racing Applejack and Rainbow Dash, and coming second as Dashie had cheated a little by using her wings, and the time when I was first introduced to the Kuphila Amanzi, and was dared to put my nose in the container and sniff the extremely strong bleach-like substance, which almost destroyed my sense of smell. There was the time when I had slept in a tree with Rainbow Dash, and Rarity had levitated a Threezie up to me, I loved those cookies, I wondered if she had any left...
And how could I forget the time I’d fallen into the River Mole on the way back from Brazil? I had chased Rarity for ages in attempt to get her mane wet, as she’d recently cleaned it…

“Heh, this adventure has had some pretty good times as well…” I sighed.

“Yeah…” Twilight agreed.

“And there are many more ahead of us.” I whispered.

The unicorn hummed gleefully in agreement, before rolling away from me into a comfortable position. Twilight must have been absolutely exhausted from tonight, so I left her to sleep, and decided to do the same. I rolled onto my back and closed my eyes, and soon drifted off myself…

I was disturbed by a small breeze, it wasn’t cold, nor was it warm. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up to look around, and everything felt off. The dark room looked different, all the wood was warped and grey. I looked to my left to find Twilight wasn’t there.

“Twilight?” I asked aloud, hoping she would answer.

Nothing replied but my own echo, I got out of bed and walked over to the bedroom door, placing my hand on the knob, I twisted and pulled, as the door creaked open, I instantly spotted the glowing purple eyes.

GOT YOU!” Nah’Lek roared, lunging forward at me.

I cried out in terror, which was when I sat up in bed, shaking.

“Callum, are you alright?” Twilight asked.

I felt Twilight’s hoof rubbing my arm, and I took a breath of relief and calmed down.

“Yeah, just a dream…” I muttered.

Slumping back onto my pillow, I huffed. Twilight went to go back to sleep, but left her hoof resting on my chest for reassurance. I held it close and was soon able to drift off again…

The morning sun shone through a crack in the curtains, it was enough to wake me, but not so much that I was irritated. I opened a single eye, before squinting hard as I stretched, my hand lightly brushed Twilight’s mane, thankfully it didn’t wake her up. Sitting up, I looked at the unicorn as she slept softly on her back, she looked so calm, so peaceful. Being her first night without Nah’Lek’s torment, I could imagine it was the best night’s sleep she’d ever had. Not wanting to take that away from her, I eased out of bed and decided to make breakfast alone, Twilight deserved a lie-in.

I made my way down the corridor, and heard Rainbow Dash snoring in one of the rooms, causing me to smirk. I headed down the spiral staircase that led to the main hall, and then into the kitchen.

“Good morning.” Rarity welcomed me as I entered the room.

“Heya.” I replied.

“Think fast!” Applejack forewarned as she flung an apple at me.

I caught the apple with one hand and took a bite, it was fresh, sweet, and juicy, possibly one of the best apples I’d ever eaten. I hummed merrily and munched away.

“That there’s from Sweet Apple Acres, it’s from my last batch.” She told me.

It’ch deliciou’ch!” I praised with my mouth full.

“Would you like some tea?” Rarity proposed, walking over to the kitchen stove.

On the stove was a fancy kettle, it seemed the group had unpacked all their home supplies since settling into the mansion; which made sense as we were going to be staying here for a while.

“Do you have any coffee?” I requested after swallowing another bite.

“But of course darling!”

Rarity took a large mug from the cupboard and then levitated some instant coffee powder into it.


“Two please.”

“I thought you were sweet enough.” She teased, plopping two sugar cubes into the coffee.

After pouring in a few splashes of milk, Rarity brought me the mug and gave me a small cuddle, before taking a sip from her own tea. Applejack on the other hand, was quite obviously drinking apple juice.

We headed into the living room, Rarity and I sat on a settee, while Applejack sat in a recliner. Rarity put a hoof onto my wrist and sighed.

“Darling, I want to apologise for dinner last night.”

“You don’t need to Rare, everyone has been through a lot, and I think everyone needed to blow off some steam. Nobody should be held accountable for that.” I said kindly.

I noticed a disagreement in Rarity’s face, and decided to clarify my statement.

“Which includes Twilight.”

Rarity awkwardly put a hoof behind her head.

“I know, I know. I’m just finding it a little difficult to find a place in me to forgive her after everything, it’s not just the way she treated you, only a couple of week ago she-”

“I know what she did, you don’t need to repeat it.” I interrupted.

She nodded, and skipped the gritty details about Twilight’s killings.

“What you say about the Fel most certainly makes it easier, but corrupted or not, it’s not easy to look at Twilight in the same light after watching her do such a thing.”

I put a hand on Rarity’s shoulder and gave her a small smile to assure her I wasn’t angry.

“You don’t need to forgive her immediately; I’m not asking that of you. I completely agree that we all need some time to accept everything that’s happened. All I ask, is that you give Twilight a chance.”

Rarity looked down, and then gave me a nod.

“After all we’ve been through, it would be wrong of me not to. I promise I will give it a lot of thought, and will try to find a place for her in my heart again.” She said warmly.

I put my coffee down and gave her a small hug.

“Thank you Rarity, I know it’s asking a lot.”

“It’s Rainbow Dash you’ve got to worry about.” Applejack muttered.

I hummed in agreement, Dashie wasn’t exactly subtle when it came to expressing her views on Twilight. While Rarity would be willing to give Twilight a chance, I knew Rainbow Dash would be a much tougher kettle of fish. That’s when I had an idea.

“How about Rainbow, Twilight, and I go and hunt for the nearby orb shard together, just the three of us? I’m sure we’d be able to come to an understanding.” I suggested.

At this, Applejack kissed her teeth, not fond of the idea.

“I don’t think you realise quite how bad things are sugar cube. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rainbow tried to tear Twilight into shreds if you put them together long enough” She told me.

“That bad ey?” I hummed.

Applejack and Rarity both nodded, and I picked up my coffee to take another sip.

“Okay, then I’ll go with just Rainbow Dash, I’ll try to talk to her about it alone.” I put forward.

“I think that’ll work better darling.” Rarity agreed.

“In the meanwhile, perhaps you both can try to make some amends?” Applejack suggested to Rarity.

Dipping her head to show her consent, Rarity got up and gave me a small peck on the cheek, before going to make herself another cup of tea from the kitchen. While she was gone, I moved closer to Applejack and gave her a concerned look.

“Is it just me, or is Rarity acting a little over-friendly?” I asked.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed it; it’s probably on the account of Twilight mentioning your depression last night.” She replied.

I hummed as that was a plausible reason.

“Well I hope she doesn’t keep it up, it’s a little awkward.” I mumbled.

Applejack chuckled and then rolled her eyes at Rarity’s behaviour.

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell her while you’re gone with Dashie. Some ponies feel like they’re walking on eggshells when it comes to mental health stuff; I just don’t buy into it. If you need my help, I’ll help you, and I’ll support you in any way you need, but I won’t pander to you about the place.”

I smiled, this was one of the best things you could hear when suffering from depression.

“Thanks AJ, that’s actually really nice to hear.”

“Don’t sweat it hun.” She grinned.

I finished my coffee, and almost hit the ceiling as I was shocked by an ear-splitting scream from upstairs, I dropped the mug and charged into the main hall with Applejack at my side.

“That sounded like Rainbow Dash!” I barked.

Applejack was just about to head up the stairs when a flash of blue shot past us like a bullet, Rainbow Dash whizzed out of the front door and disappeared.

“Rainbow Dash! Wait!” Fluttershy called after her.

She rushed down the stairs and chased Dashie outside, followed by Blu. Applejack and I went after them, and my mouth fell wide open to what I saw.

“Rainbow Dash… You’re… You’re…” I murmured.

I’M FLYING, BIIIIIIITCH!” She squealed with delight.

Up, down, and all around, Rainbow Dash zipped through the treeline, before she eventually landed and skidded to a halt in front of us. She extended her wings to reveal them covered in pristine, healthy feathers; she had fully recovered.

“Your wings!” I exclaimed.

I came forward and ran my hand across some of her beautiful feathers, they were silky soft, yet strong and sturdy. Oliver’s feather growth medicine must have been more effective than we anticipated.

“I’m all better!” Dashie squeaked.

This was when Fluttershy pushed past me and prodded Rainbow Dash’s shoulder, clearly very irritated.

“For goodness sake Dashie, I told you precisely not to do that!” She scolded.

“Oh come on Fluttershy, I haven’t been able to fly for months, I just HAD to!” Dash replied.

She started tiptoeing in circles, occasionally giving her wings a small flap to take her off the ground, giggling uncontrollably all the while. It was safe to say; this was the happiest I’d ever seen her.

“They might be better, but you haven’t used them in a long time, you don’t want to sprain them and end up flightless again, do you?” Fluttershy prompted her.

Dashie rolled her eyes, and then took herself off the ground again.

“My wings won’t sprain, are you forgetting these belong to the most awesome pony around?”

She did a flip before landing again, prancing around as if she were on a catwalk showcase. I stood next to Fluttershy and told her to relax, and then whispered a suggestion into her ear. She liked my idea, and allowed me to tell Rainbow.

“Hey Dashie, I’ve got a deal for you.” I hinted.

She zoomed up to me with a huge grin; I smirked as I made my proposition.

“If you let Fluttershy check you over, and you spend today doing the boring medical stuff; tomorrow we can go hunt for the orb shard together, just the two of us. What do you say?”

Rainbow Dash bit her lip, then hummed as she mentally debated the offer. A couple seconds later, the large grin returned, and she nodded frantically.

“Deal!” She squeaked.

She bounced around, giggling to herself. Blu hopped off Fluttershy’s shoulder and fluttered onto mine.

“I know the way! I know the way! Two days walk from here!” He squawked.

I nodded and suggested the parrot came with us to make sure we went in the right direction. He happily agreed and jumped onto Fluttershy’s head. That was when Twilight came outside to join us.

“I heard a scream, is everything okay?” She asked before yawning.

Dashie’s face dulled, and she turned to Fluttershy.

“Come on, let’s do the boring medical stuff.” She moaned.

Both pegasi walked back into the mansion, I growled quietly under my breath as Rainbow physically barged Twilight out of the way. Applejack was right, this was going to be challenging.
Twilight’s ears drooped, and she shuffled back inside to make her breakfast alone. I went after her and joined her in the kitchen.

“Good morning sleepyhead.” I sang.

She turned around to face me, and thankfully she smiled.

“Hey.” She said.

“Sleep well?” I asked.

She nodded, before attempting to pull something out of her bag, unable to open the zip without her magic. I came forward and offered to help, which she gladly accepted. I picked up the bag and unzipped it, only to find it was empty.

“Ugh, right… Magic seal.” She groaned.

“Say what?” I quizzed.

“Our bags, remember? Discord made them, they’re pocket dimensions that make them bigger on the inside, but it can only be opened with Equestrian magic.” She reminded me.

“Oh yeah…” I hummed.

I went over to Rarity’s bag, which had a small fridge compartment; it had been deployed as the group’s shared fridge, and so she’d left it open for anyone to use. I took out one of the many preserved milk cartons and offered to make Twilight a coffee and some cereal, she didn’t want much milk and so I was left with half the carton. Being a milk lover, I seized this opportunity to have a nice glass of cold milk.

“If only I had something to dunk…” I sighed.

“I swear Pinkie’s got like, an endless stash of cookies in her bag.” Twilight suggested.

I clicked my fingers and smiled, before putting both hands to my mouth and hollering loudly.


In seconds, Pinkie Pie rushed into the room and almost crashed into a cabinet upon entry.

Whoop, whoop! That’s the sound of the beast!” She shrieked.

I squinted my eyes at Pinkie, and squatted slightly, my hands at my sides so I was standing like a cowboy during a standoff. She, too, squinted her eyes and prepared to draw. I furrowed my brow and growled to her in a thick Texan accent, imitating an old western movie.

“We got ourselves one cow shake for fifty pounds a pop, but we ain’t got no chunky hunkies for the ol’ steam tank. What’s your dangle at, partner?”

Pinkie pulled a stalk of wheat from her mane and put it in her mouth, baring her teeth.

“That’s one heck of a rustle you have there, friend. But this cowpony doesn’t cut a dry deal for fifty pounds a pop, it’ll take some of your harvest to make this chicken lay an egg.” She snarled.

I wiggled my fingers, and Pinkie twitched her ears, and the tension grew thicker and thicker. Poor Twilight had literally no idea what the fuck was going on.

“Six pounds a pop.” I offered, licking my lower lip.

“Thirteen.” She refused, upping the bargain.



She stood up straight, smiled, and then hurried out of the room. I smiled to myself, it had been a while since I’d been able to have a crazy moment with Pinkie. I turned to face Twilight, to find the poor unicorn in shock, utterly bewildered and traumatised by the random experience.

“What, did I just witness?” She asked.

“Quite simple really, I just told Pinkie that I had half a carton of milk, and that I wanted some of her cookies. In return, she wants a sip of my milk; a fair trade if you ask me.” I explained.

Thinking over what we had said during the standoff, she began to translate the words, and blinked a few times with astonishment.

“That’s… Incredible… Since when could you understand Pinkie’s antics?”

“I don’t think there was a time I couldn’t understand it. I’ve always been a little crazy and random, I guess there’s a little Pinkie in my DNA.” I chuckled.

Pinkie whizzed back into the room with two cookies and gave them to me. I passed her the glass, and as promised, she only drank one fifth of the milk. She licked her lips and then gave me the glass, before bowing politely and trotting away.

Twilight and I enjoyed our breakfast peacefully, and then relaxed in the living room for a bit.

“So, what are today’s plans?” She asked.

“Today, we relax. I think we’ve earned it.” I replied, kicking my feet up.

There were no objections to that plan, and we just enjoyed the peaceful day. No fighting, no danger, just harmony for once.

After about an hour in the living room, we headed outside and took a walk around the woodland, listening to birdsong and the wind that whistled over the mountainside. We came across some snow as we headed a little further up.

“Looks like we’ve found a more peaceful Frozen Forest.” I teased.

“That’s not even funny.” Twilight groaned.


“It’s fine, I just don’t want any reminders...” She huffed.

I nodded to confirm I wouldn’t bring it up again, we walked around for a while before coming back to a warmer section of the woodland, where we sat on a log together and talked about stuff. Now that she was getting back to her old self, she had become more curious about humanity, and wanted to learn more. So we talked for ages about all different topics, from my education system, to technology, to the world wars, to religious topics…

“So, I’m confused, if Jesus was Jewish, why don’t the Jews believe he was the son of God? Don’t you think that’s a little contradictory?” Twilight quizzed.

I had studied religion a lot online, as I loved the stories. So thankfully I had the answer, but it was quite a mouthful. I took a moment before explaining the ‘How come Jesus was Jewish?’ conundrum.

“Well, basically, the Jewish religion was known as the Old Covenant, and there was a certain group of people who believed a messiah would come to fulfil it and create the New Covenant. Jesus still grew up in the Old Covenant, and thus was Jewish. Upon being heralded as the son of God and the Messiah, people began to follow him and formed the New Covenant, Catholicism. It became a huge religion, but there were still a large group of Jewish people who didn’t trust in Jesus, and believed him to be a pretender. The prophecy claimed the New Covenant was the successor to the Old Covenant, so even though Jesus was the mid-way point that divided the religion, he was still technically Jewish.”

“Oh, okay, that makes more sense.” She hummed.

I loved how Twilight didn’t need me to explain anything twice, she took in all the information like a sponge, she was like a damn supercomputer when it came to storing information. I went on to explain extreme views, and how whole organisations were formed just to force their views on others, and attacked anyone who didn’t follow the same principles. From the IRA and their extreme political views, to the Taliban, notorious for their terror attacks in the name of Allah. Twilight hummed with interest, before I decided to switch the topic, not really wanting to get into the subject of terrorism.

“So, tomorrow I’ve decided to get the next shard with Rainbow Dash, just to two of us.”

What? You made a decision without MY say-so?” She snapped.

She stood up and glared at me, and I could tell she was having another outburst.

“Relax, it’s alright.” I said calmly.

Relax? You do not command me, I OWN you!” She spat.

“Twilight, you’re not yourself, look at me.”

She stormed up to me and snarled, I remained motionless as she went to hit me; I caught her punch and held her hoof tightly, and kept eye contact with her. With my other hand, I placed my palm on the side of her face to get her focus.

“Twilight, it’s me.” I breathed softly.

Her pupils dilated, and she stopped trying to yank her hoof away; I let go of it, and she took a step back.

“I’m… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” She choked.

She turned and was about to run away when I got up and put a hand on her neck.

“Walk with me.” I ordered.

“But I-”

Walk, with me.” I repeated sternly.

I headed back towards the mansion, and Twilight reluctantly came with me. I took her to the cliff, where I sat on the very edge and dangled my legs below.

“Sit.” I uttered.

She sat beside me and looked at me, her eyes full of tears.

“Callum, I’m so s-”

“If you wanted to, you could push me.” I interrupted.

“What?” She gasped.

“If you really wanted to, you could kill me, right now. I’m right on the edge, all it would take is a little shove, and I’d fall to my death.”

Twilight froze for a moment, and I looked out into the horizon, the view was incredible. I could see towns and villages in the distance, all of them lightly kissed by the winter sun.

“But I don’t want to.” Twilight finally replied.

I turned my head to face her, and looked into her eyes; and gave my statement some explanation.

“I know, which is exactly why I’m sitting here; I trust you, Twilight. I trust you with my life.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t find a single thing to say, lost in my words.
I carried on.

“Twi, that outburst wasn’t you. I’m not angry, upset, or wary of you. Last night, you touched my heart and changed everything I thought I knew about you, so much that I feel like I’ve known you all my life; because in a weird way, I have. We’ve lived very similar lives, we were both introverted and preferred to be alone, left to our own devices. We both studied science, and loved to learn how the world works. And most importantly, we’ve both struggled to cope with the monsters inside our heads...
We’re not so different, you and I…”

{Ha! He said it!} Conscio blurted out.

I ignored him, not wanting him to ruin this moment. Twilight looked at me for a good few seconds, before I noticed her entire body relax, she had been tense the entire time. She put her legs forward and lay down, and then rested her head on my hip. No further words needed to be said, we just got each other. We looked into the distance together and let the time fly by until the sun began to merge with the horizon, coating the world with an orange blanket.

“We should get some dinner, and then hit the hay.” I suggested after a while.

“Yeah…” Twilight sighed, in a state of inner peace.

We got up and headed back to the mansion, and went to the kitchen, where I found Applejack cooking something delicious, I hummed merrily and slid over to her, giving the farm pony a little hug.

“What’s cookin’?” I asked.

I dipped my finger in the sauce and had a little taste, it was creamy and scrumptious. I suspected from the taste that she was making a mushroom pie, I went for another taste and Applejack smacked my hand.

“Hey! Get outta here you varmint!” She exclaimed.

I chuckled as she chased me out of the kitchen, and I headed upstairs with Twilight until the food was ready. I flopped onto the bed and let out a huge yawn, before delving into Twilight’s other satchel, which had no magical lock, allowing me to take out Hawnu Rey’eng’s collars.

“Funny things, aren’t they?” I muttered, more to myself.

“Yeah, so funny they almost killed us.” She replied, rolling her eyes.

“They did save your life too though.” I pointed out.

She grumbled an inaudible reply and I started to examine my collar, next to the power button was a tiny panel, using my fingernail, I was able to open it up and found a tiny white crystal. Next to it, was a switch with the words “in” and “out” engraved on either side, the switch was currently set to out.

{You know, I’d bet my left testicle that flipping the switch would allow you and Twilight to get inside YOUR mind, instead of hers.} Conscio wagered.

“You’re inside my brain, you don’t even have testicles.” I retorted.

What?” Twilight squeaked.

My cheeks instantly went red as I realised Twilight could only hear my end of the conversation.

“Sorry, Conscio was just talking about the collars.” I said awkwardly.

“What do the collars have to do with testicles exactly?”

Never mind!” I squawked.

Twilight giggled, as did Conscio, leaving me with a disgruntled frown. I rolled my eyes and fiddled with the collar for a while, before putting it back into her bag and waiting for dinner.

A while later, Applejack called us down and as suspected, it was mushroom pie. Dinner went just as I expected it would; not, well. Rainbow Dash refused to eat in the same room as Twilight, which sparked yet another argument between her and Applejack. Pinkie escaped with everyone’s bread, and Fluttershy burst into tears because the group had officially fallen apart. Eventually Rainbow stormed off to bed, which left us all eating dinner in silence, the tension was so thick, you’d need a chainsaw to cut it.

When Twilight and I had eaten our fill, I got up and thanked Applejack for cooking for us, we headed upstairs and both flopped onto the bed at the same time, both of us feeling glum.

“Well, that was a disaster.” Twilight grumbled.

“You’re telling me?” I huffed.

“She really does hate me…”

I sat up and took Twilight’s hooves.

“She’s still struggling to understand the Fel, and what it did to you. Tomorrow I’m going to explain things to her in greater depth while searching for the orb shard.” I told her.

“It doesn’t help that she’s got a huge crush on you.” She sighed.

“This again… Does she really like me? I still think she was just bantering.” I moaned.

“Before I killed those men, she literally admitted it to Fluttershy.” She confirmed.

I got into bed and rolled onto my back, pulling my cheeks downward and moaning with frustration.

“I can imagine it’s not the best time to know that, with what happened with Bun-”

“Don’t say her name.” I interrupted harshly.


“Ugh, it’s alright; I just don’t know how to take it, I hardly expected one of you six to like me in that way. I’ve got nothing against it, I just don’t really know how to deal with it.”

Twilight hummed with understanding, and then got into bed.

“Well, I suggest you stay open minded, it might help you move on.” She advised.

“Really?” I replied, rolling to face her.

“I’m not telling you to suddenly dive onto her, but if you need something to help you move on when you’re ready, I don’t see the harm in it. Rainbow Dash isn’t one for serious relationships, so it wouldn’t be anything more than a rebound if that’s all you wanted.”

Sitting up, I thought on her words. She had a point, and I certainly considered myself an open-minded person, but really? With one of the ponies? It didn’t really sit right with me. Either way, I wasn’t ready to move on from Bunnie, it was much too raw, so there wasn’t much point overthinking it. I lay back down and closed my eyes, the thoughts swimming around my head were almost unbearable, even with my eyelids shut, my eyes darted in all directions as each individual thought raced across my brain.

It took almost an hour for my brain to settle, and I was soon able to relax and try to sleep. I curled up and breathed out slowly, before finally beginning to drift off, and soon after, fall into a deep sleep…

I woke up very abruptly as I felt my skin crawling, I sat bolt upright and found myself in the same warped room from last night’s dream. Quickly understanding I was still asleep, I decided to explore the room. As I stood up, the bed quickly developed a fungal mould, the furry paste coated the duvet in seconds.

“Weird…” I mumbled.

I then heard a light rapping from the bedroom door. Much like in the first dream, I presumed Nah’Lek was on the other side. Upon taking a cautious step towards it, the rapping grew slightly more intense. I gulped and took another step, and it grew faster and louder. The closer I got to the door, the harder the knocking became; by the time I was in front of it, it sounded as if someone was bashing their head against it. I put my hand on the knob, and it stopped instantly.

Very slowly, I turned it and opened the door; nobody was on the other side. I stepped into the hallway, to find it was twisted and distorted, it looked identical to the Twisted Hallway from The Legend of Zelda.

From behind me I heard a strange clicking noise, and almost wet myself as I turned to inspect it.

What a tangled web, we weave…” Nah’Lek hissed.

Nah’Lek stood upon the mouldy bed, all around him were ropes of spider’s silk. A human body dangled in his claws, and I quickly recognised her figure. Holding Bunnie by the neck, he tore her throat open with a quick movement, and from the gash poured thousands of squirming maggots, instead of blood.
Nearly throwing up in my mouth, I turned and bolted down the corridor. I almost fell over as gravity went in the opposite direction of the warped hallway, forcing me to run in an anti-clockwise motion. I took one glance behind me to find Nah’Lek only a metre away from me, unaffected by the changing gravity, he came towards me at lightning speed, his eyes leaving purple light trails. I sprinted at my absolute maximum and spotted a window at the end of the corridor, Nah’Lek was about an inch away when I dived headfirst and smashed through the window. I hit the dirt and rolled to break my fall, and then looked behind me to see if Nah’Lek had followed me, thankfully he hadn’t. I brushed myself down and looked around, and what I saw was unbelievable.

“Whoa…” I breathed.

Similar to the Frozen Forest, I was met with dense woodland, except there was no snow. The grass was yellow and white, barely alive, and almost every tree was snared in thick black vines, there was barely a leaf in sight, this place seemed to be hanging by a mere thread.

“This can’t be Twilight’s brain.” I muttered.

“No… It’s yours…”

I turned around and was grabbed by the throat, Nah’Lek lifted me into the air and brought me to his face, a faint clicking noise came from his mouth as he inhaled. His grip tightened more and more, both cutting off my breathing and blood supply to my head.

{Ragequit!} Conscio cried out in pain.

Everything turned black, and I sat up in bed, gasping for air and clutching at my throat.

“Callum! Are you alright?” Twilight asked, sitting up next to me.

I turned to face her and gulped, shaking all over.

“He’s in my head, Twilight! Nah’Lek’s inside my head!”

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