• Published 28th May 2016
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Hùndùn - LoZLttP13

A powerful young Sorceress, her faithful apprentice, and her five new friends are tasked with preventing the return of the all-powerful God of Chaos.

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I-V. Nightmare Moon

When Twilight and her companions awoke the next morning, Applejack and Pinkie cooked them some pancakes in a cast iron oven over the fire pit. They ate them with canned fruits, then they packed up their camp and continued moving.

Rainbow, Applejack, and Spike were all still rather tired, as they had alternated keeping watch during the night, but otherwise everyone was well-rested. They were still a bit fearful of the dark forest around them as they hiked ever deeper, but as the day drew on they encountered few more obstacles. Aside from the occasional bruise or scratch and a few swift tussles with small carnivorous plants and animals, their greatest challenge was not getting lost; the maps of the atlas began to differ significantly from the layout of the woods, and several times Twilight had to stand and study them and the position of the sun for several minutes before choosing the direction for them to go.

The day was long and very hot. They were all sweating profusely, and Spike took off his shirt while the girls pressed bags of ice against their heads created from stream water that Twilight and Rarity had frozen. Spike noticed as he levitated his shirt into his backpack that Applejack was a little flushed and wouldn’t look at him while Rarity would cast quick, admiring glances at him from the corner of her eye. He made a small, satisfied smile, taking pleasure from the attention he was getting.

As the Sun sank down and the air began to cool, they took long drinks from their water skins and ate a small lunch of nuts and baked potatoes while Spike put his shirt back on. Applejack seemed relieved and Rarity seemed a little disappointed, which pleased Spike well. He only wished he was a few years older so that he could put his looks to better use with them.

Once they were well-rested and full, they set back off. In a few more hours, Twilight muttered to herself, “It should be close to here…. It should be close….”

After making a few more turns and hiking a few more kilometers, they came to the edge of a cliff. Upon reaching it, Twilight smiled as she looked down at the river running below. “This is the North Canyon,” she said. “There should be a bridge a bit east of here, and on the other side is the castle.”

With renewed spirits at having come nearly to the end of their journey, the girls followed Twilight as she led them alongside the cliff. In a few more minutes, they began to see the ruins of medieval houses and workshops on the other side, which prompted Pinkie to ask, “Is that Nightmare’s old capital?”

“Yes,” Twilight said, looking down at her map. “And that means we should see the bridge any minute now….”

As she predicted, they soon saw ahead of them a long, wide, arched stone bridge crossing over the canyon, with a crumbling road laid over it and winding into the city. In the distance the travelers could see a tall, crumbling black medieval castle looming ominously over the city’s ruins.

“We made it,” Twilight said, and her companions all cheered. She placed the atlas in her bag and said, “Come on, let’s go.”

They began walking across the bridge toward the overgrown remains of the world’s former capital. They had only gotten halfway across, however, when they saw stepping out of the shadows of some old stone workshops was a group of muscular, leather-clad mercenaries. They were all tattooed and scarred, and each of them had one-shot pistols strapped to their chests and old, beaten swords at their sides. Most of them were Humans, though there were a few Angels and one Elf. One Angel, who was one of the only females among them, said to Twilight and her companions, “The High Princess thought you might be comin’ this way.”

Stunned, the party stopped. Applejack looked over her shoulder, behind herself, and saw that more bandits were emerging from the trees behind them and blocking the way back, as well.

Rainbow, who was right behind Twilight, stepped forward and shouted, “You have another thing coming if you think you can take us out!”

The female bandit laughed. “Oh, the Princess doesn’t want you dead,” she said. “In fact, she sent us to make an offer to you.”

Rainbow’s eyes widened in confusion. “R-really? Why?”

“The Princess has grown interested in the lot of you,” the woman replied. “She doesn’t yet have servants who have sworn their loyalty to her.” Here she chuckled. “At least she knows our loyalty begins and ends with her gold. In any case, High Princess Nightmare Moon invites you to serve her and become her consorts.”

Twilight and her companions all said astonishedly, “Consorts?!”

“Oh yes,” the woman said, smiling. “She needs staff for her castle, and she’s learned of your professions and skills. She’ll need someone to tend her horses, to prune her gardens, to cook her meals, to make her clothes, and to manage her household. And to you two,” she said, pointing at Rainbow and Twilight, “she offers an especially prestigious honor. She offers to you chairs in her Royal Court, as her Court Magician and Captain of the Guard.”

Her smile widened. “As her consorts, you’ll also sometimes be invited to share her bed. As someone who’s experienced it, take it from someone who knows; even if you don’t care for women, there’s nothin’ half so pleasurable as makin’ love to a Goddess.”

Applejack scoffed. “No way!” she shouted. “I ain’t gonna be anyone’s consort, or whatever ya’ll call it!”

The others soon loudly voiced their agreement, but Rainbow remained silent. Twilight looked over at her and softly said, “Rainbow?”

Rainbow looked down, as though she were thinking deeply.

The mercenary woman smiled again. “Eh? So you accept Her Highness’ offer, Angel?”

Rainbow looked up, smiling back. “As awesome as that sounds,” she said, “I’m afraid I have to say no. I’m not gonna leave my friends hangin’.”

The bandits laughed. “Well,” one who stood beside the woman said, “you’re all comin’ with us- either the easy way, or as our prisoners.”

Applejack pulled out her revolvers and pointed them at the bandits before them. She fired them, but the bullets ricocheted off a shield the Elf mercenary had conjured up. “Get them!” the woman shouted, and the bandits charged them from both directions.

Fluttershy threw down another smoke bomb, then flew up into the air. As two of the Angel mercenaries flew up after her, the rest fought hand-to-hand with her companions on the bridge. Twilight found that Rarity and Rainbow had spoken the truth; both were capable fighters, and Rarity was able to knock out three of their assaulters while Rainbow got a headcount of ten. After Rainbow, Spike and Twilight were the best combatants, successfully defending themselves against four and six bandits, respectively. Fluttershy lured her pursuers to the ground and then threw tranquilizers at them, instantaneously rendering them unconscious. Pinkie and Applejack held their own, as well, and so together the companions subdued and won a complete victory against all the mercenaries.

Rainbow laughed haughtily. “You mercenaries are pussies,” she said, placing her foot on one’s head, “and you don’t know shit about loyalty.”

Rainbow and Fluttershy carried each of the mercenaries to the bottom of the canyon, where they laid them down. “They won’t be bothering us anytime soon,” Rainbow remarked when they returned to the others. Once they were all reunited, Twilight led her companions into the city.

The old capital had once been an Elf city, as evidenced by the large number of libraries and decrepit signs along all the streets. Many of the signs were unnecessarily long and elaborate, advertising in peeling mideval Elvish such things as “The Great, Welcoming, and Hospitable Inn, Tavern, and Restaurant of the Phoenix Claw, owned by the Generous and Wealthy Master Jolly Ale, Son of Hearty Ale, its Former Master, who Himself was Son of Warming Ale, also a Former Master before its Current One,” and “The Shop of Ink Drop, Seller of Ink, Pens, Quills, Parchment, Measuring-Sticks, and Other Tools for the Arts of Writing, Calligraphy, Drawing, Drafting, and Other Related Crafts.” This was because Elves were in previous ages the only mortal Beings who were widely literate, and made such signs to spite the more-uneducated Humans and Angels, who they viewed as inherently uncivilized. Many of the books in the city ruins’ libraries were still filled with illustrations of caricatures that painted Angels as warmongering, thieving barbarians and Humans as filthy, stupid, apelike oafs. Elves, in contrast, were portrayed in medieval Elvish books as being wise, educated, beautiful, and enlightened, while in those same times the Humans and Angels would speak of Elves as wicked warlocks and witches who slaughtered animals to use their blood to curse each other and reanimate the dead, had great drunken orgies in which the activities were often of homosexual and other natures often called “perverse,” and engaged in pederasty with their child apprentices.

When the mortal races of Beings put aside their differences and joined together in friendship, they were all deeply ashamed of the utterly dishonorable manners in which they had painted each other. Of the three none were more guilt-ridden than the Elves, for unlike the Angels or Humans they had thousands of libraries of carefully-preserved ancient records proudly proclaiming their unquestionable superiority over the other races. Their vast pride had come to sting them most terribly, for the great wisdom and enlightenment they had laid claim to and boasted of for centuries was in fact much emptier than they thought. For an age of thousands of years, known then as the Civilized Age but later humbly renamed the Divided Age, they had been blind to a blatantly obvious truth: that all Beings were by far more alike than they were different.

In self-loathing, Elves abandoned their streets of boastful signs and libraries of libelous manuscripts, leaving them to be forgotten and lost to the ages. The buildings of the old capital of the Earth were some of the longest-abandoned, and so had more vines and were more crumbling than nearly any others. Twilight and her companions were deeply uncomfortable traveling through the city’s rough streets; these libraries and signs were deeply entrenched in all of their minds as symbols of intolerance and hatred. Twilight’s mother had told her that collecting the spiteful manuscripts of libraries like these was the most unpleasant part of her job, but also one of the most important; “We shouldn’t run away from our mistakes, Twilight,” she had said. “We Elves tried to hide and run away from ours. But we must preserve these records and remember them, so that we do not forget and repeat those mistakes, however painful remembering may be.”

It was twilight when they finally came within sight of the castle gates, but there were about half a dozen mercenaries standing guard there. Twilight and her companions hid in a nearby house to discuss how they were to get past them.

“We need to neutralize them. Can we use your tranquilizers?” said Twilight to Fluttershy.

“I don’t think so,” Fluttershy replied. “It must be taken through the skin. That means that we’d have to hit them all at the exact same moment.”

“So,” Twilight said, “you don’t have anything that can be ingested via inhalation?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No.”

Twilight hummed to herself, gazing out one of the windows. “Can you tell me the chemicals you have in your satchel?”

Fluttershy nodded. “Yes,” she said.

Fluttershy listed off every item she had in her bag, and Twilight hurriedly wrote them all on a piece of parchment. Once she had it, she said, “I think I can Mix something with these. Spike, do we have a chemistry set?”

Spike shook his head. “No.”

Twilight sighed. “Alright. Fluttershy, can you empty two of your phials of gum-herb and four of your red soils?”

As Fluttershy did so, Twilight took some chalk from her pocket and drew a simple Ritual Circle on the ground for the conjuration and binding together of silicon and oxygen. She then sat back for about a minute, closing her eyes, and Spike knew that she was calculating measurements in her head.

When Twilight opened her eyes again, she reached into her bag and pulled out three granola bars. After eating them, she held her hands over the circle, snapped, and her Marks glowed as she began creating silica.

Once Twilight had transmuted enough of the white, powdery substance from her Chi, she levitated it up into the air and began heating it. Once it had melted, Twilight formed the molten glass into several delicate beakers, flasks, and retorts. She then asked Rarity to create some iron holders for her equipment, and while Rarity was busy with this Twilight measured several of Fluttershy’s substances into her flasks.

Twilight began Mixing the substances, at points channeling some Chi into one or asking Spike to heat one over his flames at a specific temperature and for a specific period of time. The others were quite impressed at how precisely they worked, and soon enough Twilight at last fused two flasks together at the lips and tipped the resulting hourglass-like container to one side, allowing the two substances they contained to mix together. She then heated the flasks’ lips and telekinetically pinched them closed. She then set aside the now-empty flask and held up the remaining filled one, saying, “This tranquilizer, when exposed to air, will evaporate immediately and knock out anyone who inhales it. The flask is very delicate, so we need to be careful with it, and we have to get far away before we drop it on the guards.”

The others nodded, and Twilight led them a few blocks down, where they hid behind one of the buildings. Twilight then looked around the corner and telekinetically lifted the flask, levitating it several meters into the air. She then directed it to move just over the heads of the guards, where she dropped it. After the flask shattered against the ground, the guards all immediately fell.

After waiting about a minute to allow the vapors to disperse, Twilight and her companions went to the guards and dragged them into the house, where they hid them. They then went past the gates and approached the fortress proper.

Much of the decrepit castle was missing, so it was a bit difficult for Twilight and her companions to find cover to sneak through it. However, it was night, so they had the cloak of darkness working for them. Guards were easy to spot, as the party could hear their footsteps approaching and see them light their way with torches or Ether-light, so Rainbow was able to silently knock out any they came across with choke holds.

Twilight knew the layout of the ruins well, having long studied them in Camelot’s library, so it was far easier to lead her companions to the stairs into the dungeon than it was to navigate the forest. As they went through the halls and grand chambers, they quickly admired the statues of stone and metal that stood around them and the intricate tapestries so masterfully woven they nearly rivaled Tale Spin’s work that hung above them. Rarity wished to complain of the disrepair the tapestries had fallen into due to the neglect they had faced, and resolved to do something about them after their quest was over.

They reached the doorway to the stairs to the dungeon, where Twilight said to Fluttershy, “Give me your tranquilizers, please.”

Once Fluttershy reached into her bag and handed them over, Twilight whispered to her and all the others, “Wait here.” She then magically silenced her steps as she descended into the darkness below.

There were lit torches occasionally on either side as Twilight stepped down, so before going into their light she magically extinguished each of them. Before long she reached the dungeon, where she used a small, purple fire to light her way as she went through a very long, dark, cold hall with rows of dozens of cells of etherial, rustless iron bars lining either side.

In a few minutes, Twilight saw two distant points of light at the end of the tunnel. She crept forward, allowing her fire to go out. She soon saw that the two lights were torches mounted on the walls, under which were two Elvish mercenaries guarding a great, arched door of etherial iron bars.

Still in the shadows out of the guards’ sight, Twilight took two tranquilizer phials from her pocket and telekinetically flung them at the guards. Her aim was true, and the phials shattered against their faces and caused them to immediately collapse. Twilight then ran forward to the door and grabbed the bars, looking inside. In the circular, stone cell she saw Celestia, kneeling with her wrists chained to the walls on either side of the chamber and her head bowed as her body slowly rose and fell with the steady breathing of slumber.

Twilight smiled, gasping delightedly. “Princess Celestia!” she cried.

Celestia’s eyes fluttered open, then she looked up at Twilight. Upon seeing her young student, she smiled. “Twilight,” she said softly. “I knew you would come.”

“What happened?” Twilight asked worriedly. “How did you get captured?”

“Nightmare Moon came into my chamber on the eve of the festival and sealed me in etherial iron as I slept. Perhaps I should have been more cautious, and remained on guard throughout the night.”

“No, it’s my fault, Your Highness. I saw the organization that released her perform the ritual, but I didn’t stop them in time.”

Celestia’s eyes widened. “You saw the ones responsible?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes.”

“Did you see their faces?”

Twilight shook her head. “No. I saw that one had green wings and that one girl had turquoise eyes, but otherwise their faces were all hidden.”

Celestia’s mouth opened slightly. “Turquoise eyes?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes. Do you know something about that, Princess?”

“Perhaps, but I cannot be certain.”

“Who do you think it is?”

Celestia sighed. “Any suspicions I have will remain with me, at least for now. In the meantime, have you come alone?”

Twilight gasped, suddenly remembering her companions. “No! Spike and his friends are just upstairs!”

“His friends?” Celestia asked curiously.

Twilight nodded, smiling. “Yes! They helped us reach you!”

Celestia smiled back. “I would be delighted to meet them.”

Twilight ran back down the hall and up the stairs, where she found Spike and the other girls still waiting. They all sighed relievedly upon seeing her. “Thank Celestia!” Applejack said. “We thought ya’ll’d been captured or somethin’!”

“Funny you should mention Celestia,” Twilight said with a sly smile. “I found her down there.”

They all gasped again. “Celestia’s down there?!” Rarity exclaimed.

Twilight nodded. “Yep. Let’s go!”

They all ran back into the dungeon, and soon Twilight returned to the door to Celestia’s cell with them. Upon seeing Celestia, all of Twilight and Spike’s companions gasped in amazement. “Well, Ah’ll be…” Applejack muttered, taking her hat off and kneeling to her.

The rest soon followed suit, and Celestia in turn nodded respectfully to them. Once they all stood up, Rarity said, “These bars are infused with Ether! How are we going to get in?”

“I know of a ritual that can create a key that opens these cells,” Celestia said. “Twilight, follow my instructions.”

Twilight nodded, pulling her chalk from her pocket. “Yes, Princess.”

Celestia directed Twilight in drawing a circle on the ground beside the cell which Twilight and the other Elves had never seen before, but they recognized as being for the “forging” of iron into something. After Twilight had carefully written the characters Celestia dictated to her in position around the circle’s shapes and designs, Celestia instructed Twilight to create two cubic centimeters of iron and lay it over the circle. Once Twilight did so, Celestia said, “Good. Now, initiate the ritual, then chant:” she spoke in ancient Elvish, “Iron, be forged into the shape of a key conforming to the commands of my hands.” Celestia returned to speaking Eastern Dragon Imperial as she continued, “While you do this, look at the cell’s keyhole as you sign, Accept a shape that will open that lock.”

“Yes, Princess,” Twilight replied. She clapped her hands together, then her marks and the circle’s lines glowed violet as she began chanting the first command and staring at the door’s keyhole while performing with her hands the second command in the Ancient Elvish Signs. The others gazed wondrously at the cube of iron over the ritual circle as it floated up into the air, glowed red and turned molten, and began forming itself into the shape of a key. Once the key was formed, its shaft slowly warped until its teeth settled on a final design, at which point the iron turned black again as it cooled and the chalk lines glowed blue, signifying the ritual’s completion.

Twilight then levitated the key up to her hand and inserted it into the lock in Celestia’s cell door. After turning the key and pushing it open, Twilight ran to Celestia and embraced her.

Twilight’s companions followed her in, and as Twilight stood back Celestia said, “It’s wonderful to see you, Twilight. And it’s an honor to meet all of you.”

“The honor is ours, Princess!” Rarity laughed.

“We need to get you out,” Twilight said, placing her hand on one of Celestia’s chains. “These are Etherial Iron, aren’t they?”

Celestia nodded. “Yes, the same substance I used to Seal Nightmare Moon in Tartarus.”

“That’s all you Sealed her with?” Twilight asked astonishedly.

Celestia nodded. “Yes. It was all I used because I thought it would be all that was necessary, among other reasons. However, those can wait for another time. Our first priority at the moment, of course, is stopping my sister before she can seal me more thoroughly and further cement her claim of rule over the world.”

Twilight nodded. “Right!” she said as she drew her chalk back out of her pocket, turning to Spike. “You have yours, too?”

Spike smiled and drew his own chalk from his pocket. “Yep.”

Together Twilight and Spike drew the Rusting Circle on the ground around Celestia. Once they had finished, Celestia said, “You have until dawn to release me, as my sister will come down to inspect the dungeons then.”

Twilight’s eyes widened as she gasped worriedly. “W-what?! But that’s in only a few hours! I can’t possibly rust through these chains by then!”

Celestia smiled gently. “Nightmare Moon hasn’t channeled an enormous amount of her power into them; it would’ve exhausted her.”

“But still,” Twilight argued, “a tiny fraction of her power is still many times more than all of mine! I’ll never do it in time!”

“Twilight,” Celestia said patiently, “you are strong, and I can see that you’ve grown even stronger since your journey to Avalon. Your strength is greater than you realize. In addition, you have Spike here to help you, and he is rather powerful himself. Believe in yourself, for I promise: you can do it!”

After a moment of hesitation, Twilight apprehensively nodded. “Alright,” she said quietly. “I’ll try.”

Spike produced some bread and cheese from his bag and handed some to Twilight. As both were eating, Celestia said to their companions, “The key Twilight created will open every cell in this dungeon; I suggest you lock those guards in one, then go and watch for my sister.”

“Uh, Princess?” Pinkie said, raising her hand. “Shouldn’t Rarity help unseal you, too?”

“Of the three Elves you’ve brought, two will work to release me,” Celestia replied. “I think it best if Rarity goes with you, so that you might also have an Elf to aid you.”

Pinkie grinned. “Okie dokie lokie!”

Twilight and Spike stood at the edges of the circle, opposite each other, and lifted their hands over it. They snapped, then their marks and the circle glowed as they began chanting in Elvish, “Supernatural Etherial Iron, rust and weather away. Supernatural Etherial Iron, rust and weather away.

As Twilight and Spike performed the Ritual, the others dragged the unconscious guards at Celestia’s cell door into one of the nearby empty cells, locking them in. They then went back up the stairs and stood guard outside the door.

The night was long, tedious, and thick with tension. As the hours crawled by Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinky, Rainbow, and Applejack occupied themselves by playing small rock-paper-scissors tournaments. Once they grew bored of the game they began idly speaking to each other, but soon this lost their interest as well as they steadily grew more tired.

Every hour or so Twilight and Spike would take a break from rusting Celestia’s shackles to eat and replenish their energy, though their Chi’s flow still slowed as their weariness grew. On these breaks Spike or Twilight would go up the stairs to see how the others were faring, but each time all was well and otherwise uneventful.

It was incredibly dull work to compel Celestia’s shackles to redden with rust, and the process was agonizingly slow, but as the hours passed Twilight and Spike began to see layers of the iron peel and weather away. They had gotten nearly though when Rainbow looked out of one of the windows upstairs and saw the first light of day shine from the east horizon.

Oh no,” Rainbow said, then she turned and ran down into the dungeon. When she reached Celestia’s cell, she shouted, “Guys, the morning’s starting!”

Twilight and Spike lowered their hands, gazing at her anxiously. “What?! But we’re not finished!” Twilight cried.

“You’re almost there,” Celestia said softly. “Keep going. Rainbow, you and the others go and find my sister. If she begins to come here, delay her as much as you can.”

Rainbow nodded with a “Yes, Your Highness!” then sprinted back up. Once she reached the rest of the girls, she said, “Come on! We have to find Nightmare!”

Fluttershy squeaked fearfully and lifted her hands to her mouth. “Is she coming?”

“I don’t know,” Rainbow said. “But if she is, we have to slow her down. Come on!”

So the others followed Rainbow as they looked around the castle. They checked the halls and rooms they passed, but saw no one inside them. Eventually they returned to the castle’s grand front hall, where they saw two mercenaries at the top of the grand staircase, guarding the tall doors to the castle’s throne room.

Fluttershy hurled tranquilizers at each of the guards, which shattered against them and immediately knocked them out. The girls then crept up to the doors, where they pushed them slightly open and peeked inside.

At the end of a long, columned hall, beyond an ancient, decaying blue carpet stretching between the stone pillars was Nightmare Moon, sitting with a bored expression upon an elegant iron throne. She was holding up a book with one hand and reading it, occasionally looking out of the window, watching the night fade away.

Rarity sighed relievedly. “She’s not coming yet,” she whispered to the others. “For the moment, we’re safe.”

They silently watched Nightmare wait for several minutes, until at last the sky began turning pink as the sun peeked over the eastern mountains. When a ray of light shined upon Nightmare’s face, she turned to the Sun and sighed. “Well, it is dawn,” she muttered. She stood up, set her book on her throne, stretched, then began walking toward the doors.

The girls outside tensed up with panic. “What do we do?!” Pinkie whispered worriedly.

“Fluttershy, give me a tranquilizer!” Rainbow whispered. Fluttershy fished her last phial of the foggy liquid from her satchel and handed it to Rainbow, who motionlessly watched Nightmare approach for a few moments. Rainbow then suddenly pushed open the door and flung the tranquilizer at Nightmare, whose eyes widened with surprise as the phial sailed through the air towards her.

Before Nightmare could block or dodge away from it, the phial shattered against her cheek. “Ahh!” she cried, stumbling and holding her face. Rainbow made a small smile as Nightmare swooned and nearly lost her balance, but soon her footing stabilized and she stood up straight, taking her hand away from her cheek and inspecting it. “A sleep-poison,” Nightmare observed, smiling at the mortal girls. As they fearfully backed away from her, she continued, “A rather potent one, too. However, a poison is still a poison, and I am immortal; any harm you inflict upon me will immediately be healed by the Chi in my soul, which is as vast as the Moon itself.”

Nightmare laughed. “I must admire your courage, however. You have the audacity to challenge the Spirit of the Moon, and for that I commend you. However, I must ask: why do you rebel against me?”

Though Rainbow was quite frightened, she smiled back. “Because you stole the throne from our High Princess. She’s good to us, and I won’t let you seize her power.”

Nightmare Moon scoffed. “Tell me this, valiant Rainbow Dash; what have I done to to earn the ire of you mortal Beings?”

“You threatened to punish us if we didn’t love you.”

“No, you hated me even before I issued that command. Can you tell me why you did?”

Rainbow opened her mouth to reply, but said nothing. As she looked down, she realized she had no answer.

No…?” Nightmare said, frowning. “Very well. Allow me to tell you why: it is because I am a Dark Goddess. Yes, I am Dark indeed; Dark, mysterious, strange, and frightening. I am all of these things, true, but I am not evil. I am the night, and Beings fear me, for I am dangerous. But though it is true I am dangerous, I am not malicious or cruel, any more than a bat or owl is. You mortals hated me because you did not understand me, and knew little about me. Rather like yourself, Rainbow.”

Rainbow’s eyes widened, and Nightmare chuckled. “Oh yes, I can see it in your eyes, fair Angel. You know pain and loneliness much like my own. What have you done to earn their ire, sweet girl, except be different? Except have that forbidden desire for the intimate companionship of other girls? You have grown strong to shield yourself against the shunning and scorn of your kin. Yours is a righteous battle; join me, for I am on your side. Though my sister and I both wish to see hatred and intolerance banished from the world, I am the only one prepared to do all that is necessary to accomplish it. Come with me, and aid me fight against those who would harm the innocent and downtrodden.”

After a few silent moments of very deep thought, Rainbow smiled back at her. “Sorry, but you’re on your own,” she said. “If the world’s gonna treat me like shit for no reason, let it. But I have my friends, who accept me and stand by me. Celestia made that happen, and it wouldn’t’ve if you tried to force everyone to stop being assholes.”

Rainbow’s friends shouted in agreement, “Yeah!”

Nightmare was frowning again. “Very well,” she growled. “It seems I’ll simply have to demonstrate the truth of my philosophy. Observe my reign, and watch as I bring an age of unparalleled peace to the world.”

“Your reign ends here,” Rarity countered, and she, Rainbow, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Pinkie assumed combat stances against the Goddess.

Nightmare chuckled again. “If you stand against me,” she said, “you shall be imprisoned for high treason. But I shall be merciful, and your sentences shall not be long, for I shall be a fair and wise ruler. You shall soon see the error of your ways.”

Applejack swiftly drew her revolvers and fired them alternately at Nightmare, who calmly raised her hand and conjured up a translucent, blue Etherial shield that deflected them. Rainbow then ran towards Nightmare, directing a knife hand strike at her. Nightmare parried Rainbow’s arm away and struck her chest, sending her flying backwards. As she was distracted by Rainbow, however, Applejack sent a bullet through her elbow, leaving a bloody hole and causing her to cry out in pain.

As Nightmare held her arm and glared at Applejack, Rainbow rebounded against one of the nearby pillars and darted back towards her. She kicked Nightmare’s head, sending the Goddess flying across the chamber.

Nightmare sprawled to the ground, but quickly leapt back up. The wound in her elbow was closing up, and she was quite enraged. She raised one hand to deflect the bullets that Applejack continued to fire at her, and with the other she levitated a nearby hunk of stone that had fallen from the wall and shot it at Rainbow, who dodged away from it.

Rarity and Pinkie attacked her at the same time, and though it was only minimally difficult to defend herself against them, Nightmare found Pinkie a bit troublesome to fight; her style of combat seemed carefree and inexperienced, but it was surprisingly effective. With her cheerful, nonchalant dodges and unconventional attacks- some of which seemed to defy the very laws of physics- she was almost able to connect two or three blows to Nightmare between the hits that she and Rarity received.

When Nightmare attempted to direct a kick at Pinkie, Pinkie seemed to vanish away and reappear behind her. “Hi!” she cried buoyantly, kicking her in the back. Roaring in fury, Nightmare spun around and raised her hand, sending a torrent of blue flame towards Pinkie. Pinkie gasped in fright, but just before it reached her Rarity conjured up an Etherial barrier that shielded Pinkie from the fire. Nightmare raised her hand, gathering her Chi for another attack, but before she could complete her spell Fluttershy hurled a smoke bomb between them. As Nightmare coughed in the gray cloud of smoke suddenly billowing around her, Rarity and Pinkie escaped through the front doors while Applejack sent another bullet through Nightmare’s back.

After screaming in pain, Nightmare spun towards Applejack, raising her hand and preparing a massive fireball. As she was throwing it, however, Rainbow dived down from the air and kicked her again, causing her to miss and hit the wall beside Applejack, who then turned and fled as well.

Rainbow darted between the pillars, spinning around them as Nightmare flung more fireballs at her. After missing the extremely swift Angel several times, Nightmare engulfed one of the pillars beside her in blue telekinetic Ether. With only a small movement of her wrist, the pillar cracked and pulled itself out of position. Rainbow gasped in fright as Nightmare swung it at her, giving her only a fraction of a second to fly out of its path. The levitating pillar collided with the one Rainbow had been hiding behind, shattering it and sending hunks of stone flying in all directions.

Nightmare smiled, then struck away a few more pillars. The chamber’s now-unsupported roof began to collapse around them, and Rainbow was forced to dodge away from pieces of falling ceiling and fly out the door after her friends. Nightmare cast her massive stone club aside and sprinted after Rainbow.

As the Throne Room collapsed to the ground behind her, Nightmare looked in every direction for the mortal girls. “Hey, Moon Pie!” she heard Rainbow call from down one of the halls. She looked over and saw Rainbow waving at her from behind a corner. “Over here!” Rainbow taunted, laughing and running away.

Nightmare smirked and flew towards her. However, as she turned the same corner Rainbow had, she collided with another barrier Rarity had conjured up and fell to the ground.

As Nightmare stood back up, holding her head, Fluttershy threw down another smoke bomb, and she and her friends vanished again. Nightmare conjured a gust of wind that blew the smoke away, then flew down the hall. “We’re back heeere!” she heard Pinkie cry from behind her, to which she turned and ran at her. However, while she was pursuing Pinkie she passed by another hall, in which Applejack suddenly pulled up a rope, tripping Nightmare and causing her to fall again.

“So long!” Applejack shouted, throwing another smoke bomb down. Nightmare growled and stood back up, then Rarity called from down the hall, “Over here, Darling!”

Nightmare teleported ahead, then turned to see all five girls running towards one of the castle’s exits. She began to pursue them, but after she’d followed them outside a realization struck her and caused her to suddenly stop: they weren’t trying to defeat her; they were merely drawing her attention to themselves. She also noticed that Twilight and Spike weren’t with them.

As the girls heard Nightmare’s footsteps stop and turned back to look at her, Nightmare furiously shouted, “You were distracting me!” then turned around and ran back into the castle.

“No!” Rainbow cried, swiftly flying towards her. However, Nightmare simply caught her in a levitational field and flung her aside, causing her to strike her head against a wall. As Rainbow cried out and fell to the ground, Nightmare continued running to the dungeons.

There was only a thin amount of rustless iron remaining around Celestia’s wrists, and as Twilight and Spike continued to chant Celestia said softly, “Just a little more.” However, they heard the sound of footsteps rapidly coming down the stairs, and Celestia cried, “Hurry!”

Panic overcame Spike and Twilight as they reached deep into their souls and channeled Chi as quickly as they possibly could into the circle. Celestia began straining against her chains, and they could hear Nightmare’s scream grow louder as she rapidly approached them.

With a loud grunt and a mighty tug, Celestia shattered her shackles and stood up. An instant before Nightmare hurled an enormous fireball into the cell, Celestia raised her hand, conjuring up a large pink etherial shield that prevented it from reaching Twilight and Spike.

As the flame subsided and the barrier shattered, Nightmare gave Celestia a gaze of pure terror. Celestia then thrust her palm forward, and her Marks glowed for a moment as a powerful pulse of energy shot forward and threw Nightmare tumbling and sliding back down the dungeon’s dark hall.

Celestia turned to Spike and Twilight. “Stand back,” she said, then she dashed towards Nightmare.

Celestia came to a stop just before Nightmare, where she stood and gazed down at her. Nightmare slowly stood up, growling, then she suddenly shouted as she directed a strike at Celestia, who calmly blocked it.

Watching Nightmare fight Celestia was like seeing a repeat of Rainbow’s first attempt to attack Nightmare, except it was Nightmare who was on the receiving end of the rout this time. Though Nightmare’s movements were unimaginably fast, Celestia was able to neutralize each of her strikes with astonishing ease. Between her punches and kicks Nightmare also attacked Celestia with powerful magical spells, each of which Celestia either cast aside or blocked with small Etherial shields.

The battle between the two Goddesses was truly something for Spike and Twilight to behold, as their spells produced a great amount of magical light as they rapidly shifted around the dungeons. The rest of Twilight’s companions came down the stairs and stopped to watch the Princesses, gaping in awe at the spectacle as well.

“I do not wish to fight you,” Celestia said gently as she continued to block Nightmare’s attacks. “Please, dear Sister, listen to me. I beg you: not make me banish you back to Tartarus.”

Nightmare responded by attempting to blast her sister with another enormous fireball, which Celestia parried aside. Celestia continued, “Our subjects were wrong to hate and shun you, Luna, but you cannot gain their love by force; attempting to do so will only cause them to hate and fear you more.”

Nightmare roared and spun, attempting to kick Celestia, who said, “Only kindness and patience can bring compassion, and the world has grown wiser, Luna. There is less hatred and fear in the world.”

Nightmare continued to strike at Celestia, but her blows seemed to grow weaker and more hesitant. Celestia said, “I promise, dear little sister, you will no longer be alone if you simply give our subjects the chance to prove the goodness within themselves. You were right, Luna; we were meant to rule together. I beg you: please choose the path of gentleness. You can have friends now. You can let the pain go.”

Nightmare kept her fists up for a moment, but then slowly let them fall to her sides. “R… really…?” she whispered.

Yes!” Twilight said, smilingly running towards her. “I met my new friends only a few days ago, and they’re already soamazing and kind to me.”

Pinkie gasped, smiling elatedly. “So, we’re… w-we’re your friends, Twilight…?” she whispered through watering eyes.

After a moment, Twilight smiled softly and nodded. “Yeah, you are my friends.” As her friends cheered, she turned to Nightmare and said, “And… I’ll be your friend, too, Luna.”

Really…?” Luna whispered, gazing in Twilight with stunned disbelief.

“Same here,” Applejack said. Nightmare turned to face her and Twilight’s other friends, who all voiced their agreement with her.

Even… even after I…?” Nightmare said, looking down as tears welled in her eyes.

“Of course, Princess!” Fluttershy said. “We know your heart’s in the right place. You were just a little lost, that’s all.”

“Yeah!” Rainbow said. “You’re way cool, Nightmare! I mean- Luna. It’d be awesome to be your friend.”

“It would be my honor,” Rarity added with a polite bow.

Luna made a small smile, trembling. “Oh…” she said. Tears began streaming down her cheeks as she turned and embraced Celestia, who hugged her back. Luna sobbed, “I missed you so much, Big Sister! I… I was… wrong….”

Celestia gently stroked Luna’s hair and kissed her on the forehead. “I have missed you too, Little Sister. More than I can bear.”

Luna sobbed a little more, and Rarity, Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Twilight wiped away tears that had rolled down their cheeks, as well.

Luna stood back, then brought her hands to her crown-helmet and began sliding it off of her head and through her hair. “I do not like being wrong,” she chuckled. “But I’m glad it’s my bleak view of Beings’ fundamental nature that I was wrong about.”

Yay!” Pinkie cried, excitedly bouncing in place. “This calls for a PARTY!”

“Maybe later,” Spike said, yawning. “I’m exhausted.”

“Yeah,” Rainbow chuckled. “I could really use a long, long nap.” Her friends all voiced their agreement with her.

Once Luna’s long blue hair was out of the helmet, she set it on the ground. Celestia said, “I think you all have wellearned a lengthly rest. Let us return to Olympus, Luna. We have much to do to prepare to celebrate your return home.”

Luna smiled and nodded. “Yes, Celestia, I will return to your side. I will also henceforth call myself by my true name: Luna. And to all of you,” she said, tearfully glancing at Twilight, Spike, and their friends, “I gladly accept your friendship. I cannot thank you enough for offering it to me.”