• Published 28th Nov 2011
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The Moonstone Cup - Cyanide

Twilight is invited to Canterlot to compete with some of the greatest unicorns in Equestria!

  • ...

Chapter 8

Twilight collapsed in her bed after Celestia returned her to the quarters she and her friends had been given. Her friends had questions, but they went unanswered as Twilight lapsed into blissful unconsciousness.

The next morning, Twilight awoke to the morning sun streaming in the window and Pinkie Pie's smiling face inches from hers.

"Morning!" Pinkie said, grinning. "I brought you breakfast!"

Twilight started as she shook the night's sleep from her head. "Pinkie!" she said, sleepily. "I... What?"

She looked down. A small tray was sitting over her, on the bed. Toast, poached eggs and an apple sat on the tray next to a steaming cup of tea.

"You went to bed without any dinner, silly!" Pinkie continued, cheerfully. "So we all thought you'd be hungry!"

Twilight looked around again as she blinked the sand from her eyes. All of her friends were already awake, sitting on the other beds. Pinkie's outburst had drawn attention, and the others were looking at Twilight with a mixture of smiles and concerned looks.

"Mornin', Twi!" Applejack said, walking over. "How you feelin'?"

Twilight pushed her mane back as she sat up, rolling awkwardly to keep from crushing her wings. "Oh, morning, AJ," she said, slowly. "Better than yesterday, thanks." The apple levitated from the tray to Twilight's mouth, and she took a big bite.

Fluttershy trotted up to the opposite side of the bed. "You were very upset last night, Twilight," she said, softly. "Is everything alright?"

Twilight sighed and set the apple back down. "I don't know. I took a walk with Princess Celestia last night and I think I know what's going on, at least. And, hey!" she said, somewhat brightly. "I won, didn't I? If I win one more match, I'll make it into the semi-finals!"

"Oh, well, that's good," Fluttershy said. "And I'm sure you'll be able to beat Trixie. You've done it before, after all."

Twilight's stomach flopped, and she sighed again. "I'm facing Trixie?"

"Oh yeah!" Rainbow Dash called out from behind Applejack. "You're gonna kick her dock right off the mountain!"

Twilight giggled awkwardly, then furrowed her brow. "Mountain?"


Scant hours later, Twilight emerged into the sunlight after climbing the cave pathway up to the plateau arena. The plateau above Canterlot was a broad, perfectly flat granite expanse, brilliantly lit from the east by the morning sun. It was obviously not a natural structure; a crenelated wall carved from the stone of the mountain guarded the expanse on three sides. The fourth side was bounded by broad, massive stone stands with a single gap in the center leading to the stairs into the mountain. Twilight took all this in as she stepped out of the gap, after her eyes had adjusted to the blinding sunlight.

The stands were already full of ponies as Twilight walked out. She turned to the left, walking to the far end of the plateau, doing her best to ignore the cheers that erupted as she took the field. The arena was much larger than the competition space at ground level had been.

Suddenly, there was a crack and a burst of smoke from the far end of the arena. A muted gasp arose from the crowd as the smoke cleared, revealing Trixie, her mane and cape flowing dramatically in a wind that blew only for her. She turned to the stone stands and bowed elaborately for the crowd.

"Good morning, my enthusiastic admirers!" Trixie projected in her practiced stage voice. "Once again, it is I, the Great and Powerful Trixie, here to take my next big step on the road to the Moonstone Cup!" She turned and looked at Twilight, her arrogant expression still readable even at the distance between the two ponies. "Or perhaps Trixie is just stepping over a speed bump."

Some scattered applause arose, but the crowd was largely quiet. Twilight looked up at the audience to see a sea of unsure faces.

A familiar voice piped up after a moment of this tension. "Boo!" called out Rainbow Dash, the technicolor pegasus rising up above the crowd. "Twilight's gonna mop the floor with you!"

Rainbow Dash's outburst opened the floodgates, and a din arose from the crowd. A few scattered cheers were heard here and there, but the sound of jeers and catcalls were deafening.

Trixie turned and looked up into the unfriendly crowd. "I am the Great and Powerful Trixie! Stop that!"

Trixie's protest only seemed to strengthen the crowd. The small cheers for Trixie died away, replaced with an even louder chorus of boos.

Looking up into the crowd, Twilight was unsure what to do. She waved a hoof, trying to get her friends' attention. She couldn't tell if she was noticed or not, but a new voice joined the cacophony.

"Twilight! Twilight! Twilight!" Twilight recognized Spike's voice rising from the crowd, the little dragon barely audible over the roar. The cacophony died down slightly as if the crowd were weight the relative merits of the two approaches, then more voices started joining the chant. Soon, most of the crowd was chanting Twilight's name. Trixie stamped her feet angrily at the far end of the arena, and she shouted, but her voice was lost under the chant.

There was a sudden, blinding flash from the center of the plateau, which faded quickly, leaving behind Najstariot, her mane fluttering in the slight breeze. The crowd quieted down somewhat, the chant of Twilight's name breaking up as the dragon queen took the field. Beyond Najstariot, Twilight could see Trixie angrily pawing at the stone of the arena.

"Attention!" called out the dragon queen. "Welcome to the third day of the Moonstone Cup tournament! This will be the final match in the Young Adult competition bracket. The winner of this match will receive the Mimic Memorial Medallion awarded to the best young competitor, as well as advance to the semi-final rounds."

Twilight inhaled deeply, her heart racing. The last Mimic Medallion winner had also been from Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, and she hoped she could make her mentor equally proud today.

Najstariot continued, turning to face Twilight, her face blank and unreadable. "To my right, the famous Twilight Sparkle! Her service to Equestria and to the world is well-known by all. Originally hailing from here in Canterlot, she now lives in Ponyville, with the other bearers of the Elements of Harmony. She has won two decisive victories through a broad and versatile magical talent." The dragon queen smiled mirthlessly at Twilight. "Good luck to you, Twilight Sparkle! We look forward to seeing your performance this morning."

Twilight's ear twitched, but she otherwise stayed stony in the face of the oblique jab. She watched as Najstariot then turned to face Trixie.

"To my left, Trixie! Originally from Hoofington, she has made quite a name for herself across Equestria as a traveling entertainer, and is known as 'The Great and Powerful'. She has acquitted herself quite admirably in her age bracket; her specialties are light and force manipulation and her use of them in this tournament has been more than impressive. Good luck to you, Trixie!"

Trixie threw her mane back with a grin, and once again drew up a breeze to flutter her mane and cape dramatically. She sneered across the arena as Najstariot stepped to the side, near the stands.

"Competitors, to the center!"

Twilight channeled through her horn and vanished, teleporting to the center. She blinked as she found herself face-to-face with Trixie, who had done the same.

"So, Twilight Sparkle, we meet again," Trixie said, airily. "Trixie has been looking forward to this chance since she found out you were going to be in the tournament."

Twilight scowled and roughly hoofed a strand of hair away from her face. "Trixie," she said, matter-of-factly. "I'm going to beat you."

Trixie took an unsure step back, before narrowing her eyes and smirking. "Oh, really?" she asked, forcefully. "Well, Trixie is definitely looking forward to this, then. Show me what you can really do." With a burst of energy, she then vanished, reappearing at the far end of the arena.

Twilight teleported back to her end of the arena, dark and angry thoughts clouding her mind. She felt both tired and full of nervous energy; she wanted to put an end to this quickly, win or lose. Trixie had been attacking Twilight, one way or another, since they first ran into each other at the opening ceremony, and part of Twilight was looking forward to putting her rival in her place.

Najstariot's voice roared forth. "Begin!"

Before Twilight could react to the stentorian voice, she was blinded by a brilliant flash of blue light. She squeezed her eyes shut, reflexively. Spots danced in the darkness before her as she was battered by telekinetic strikes. Twilight grimaced as she channeled power through her horn, and the strikes stopped, replaced with slapping sounds in the darkness.

Twilight opened her eyes. The world was dimmed and tinted purple through her semi-opaque shield bubble. She saw two more dulled blue flashes against the shield before Trixie stopped her telekinetic strikes. Twilight watched as the distant, obscured unicorn shape she assumed to be Trixie began walking sideways slowly.

The view in front of Twilight blazed into full brightness and color as she dropped the shield. Her horn glowed, and a purple miasma surround Trixie's left rear hoof. Trixie stumbled as Twilight yanked on her opponent's hoof. Twilight lofted into the air with her wings as she wrenched left and right on Trixie's hoof. Trixie shouted, and a blue barrier appeared around the distant unicorn, breaking Twilight's telekinetic hold.

Alright, Twilight, time to get serious, she thought. Twilight's horn glowed, and, with the grating sound of grinding rock, large stone spikes erupted around Trixie, boxing her in. Trixie's shield fell, and Twilight could hear Trixie shouting imprecations. Twilight grinned and began to prepare a stronger binding spell.

There was another roar, and Twilight dropped her spell in shock as the stone spikes in front of Trixie were blown outward. They flew across the arena and pulverized themselves to gravel against the battlements. Trixie stepped forward, her entire body surrounded in blue energy.

Twilight felt a chill pass through her body a moment before she felt a huge weight settle onto her wings. She flailed awkwardly, her horn glowing as she slowed her fall to the ground. As she landed, she looked behind her.

Her own shadow was sitting on her back, pressing down on her wings. It seemed to weigh nothing, and yet was applying a great force to her delicate butterfly wings. She heard a roar, and a shield barrier appear in front of Twilight in time to intercept a second shadow, this one wearing a silhouette of Trixie's hat and cape.

The world seemed to freeze for Twilight. She couldn't move or control her magic. The crowd stopped moving, as did Trixie. As she attempted to figure out what was happening, the world dimmed in front of her.

Everything went black. There was no light, no sound. Twilight couldn't even channel magic into her horn. She began to panic as she realized that her horn wasn't there, nor was the rest of her body. She was simply a consciousness, floating in the void.

So, Twilight Sparkle, do you enjoy being cut off from everyone and everything? Trixie's spiteful voice filled Twilight's mind. She didn't hear the voice so much as it imposed itself on her.

Maybe I'll just leave you like this. Maybe Trixie will take your Element of Harmony and you can stay here, in the dark.

What was this? Twilight had never heard of magic that could take a pony out of their body completely.

Well, that's just because you don't know everything after all.

Twilight started. Trixie could hear her thoughts?

Of course, Trixie can hear your thoughts! Trixie's voice was triumphant. The Great and Powerful Trixie can do anything!

Oh, of course, Twilight thought. A Telepathy spell.

Wait, you've heard-

The world came back to Twilight in a flash of light as Twilight simply terminated the connection with Trixie. Twilight had never experienced a Telepathy spell but she understood the principle. It simply set up a connection between the minds of two participants and allowed their minds to converse. Trixie had been isolated in the darkness just as Twilight had been; it was nothing but psychological manipulation.

Twilight scowled, and a powerful wind whipped up, cutting across the plateau and blowing Trixie's hat off. A blue aura appeared around the hat as Trixie desperately caught it in midair.

While she was distracted, Twilight's horn glowed brightly. The ground around Trixie glowed and Trixie fell heavily to the ground. Shahnaz's Gravity spell was fairly straightforward, Twilight thought. Let's see what else I can do with it.

Trixie writhed helplessly, attempting to rise to her hooves, and she lashed at Twilight with telekinetic strikes. Twilight jerked as she was slapped. She grinned, and her horn's glow brightened for a moment. The ground around Trixie seemed to shimmer, and, with a shriek, the blue unicorn launched herself high into the air. Twilight lofted into the air, her telekinesis reaching out to grab Trixie as she dropped the Gravity spell.

Trixie continued to shriek, lashing at Twilight with telekinetic strikes as they both lowered to the ground. Twilight groaned slightly and raised her shield again. Apparently bruises were not considered sufficient injury for a forfeit, because the strikes that were lashing against her shield had gotten pretty vicious.

The strikes stopped, and Twilight lowered her shield, watching Trixie carefully. Trixie was standing stock still, her horn glowing brightly. Twilight watched closely, turning her head slowly to see what Trixie was doing. Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight saw something move, and she spun to look as something yellow-white and insubstantial lashed at her and tried to wrap around her.

Twilight tried to grab at whatever the thing was with her telekinesis, but it was like getting hold of air. Nevertheless, the ribbon of light wrapped around her legs and pulled, and she fell roughly on her side. More and more of the sunbeam ropes flew at Twilight. She raised a clear shield, but the sunbeams flew clear through it, wrapping Twilight more and more tightly. She felt her breath shorten as the 'ropes' wrapped around her chest.

Desperately, Twilight lashed at Trixie with her telekinesis. Trixie stumbled, the glow around her horn fading, but Twilight's bonds held fast.

Wrapped up like one of Applejack's cattle, Twilight thought as she started to feel lightheaded. By sunlight.

Sunlight. Blue spots exploded through Twilight's head and she struggled to channel power through her horn. She strained in effort, sparks shooting from her horn, and suddenly Twilight's opaque shield erupted, dulling the incoming sunlight. The bonds vanished and Twilight collapsed, gasping.

Twilight stumbled to her feet, angrily. More telekinetic strikes lashed at her shield, but she ignored them. The world seemed to dim further as the shield grew thicker. There was a rumble, as if from far away, as Twilight began to channel another spell she learned from a recent opponent.

Trixie's side of the arena exploded in a shower of gravel, much of it going over the battlements, some spattering on a quickly-summoned green energy barrier protecting the spectators. When the dust cleared, seven huge stone ponies stood, towering over a series of gaping wounds in the stone of the plateau.

Twilight could feel Trixie's energy lashing against her golems, tearing furrows from the stone with force that would have easily killed Twilight if Trixie has used the same energy against her. No matter. The stone ponies advanced to surround Trixie.

Twilight could barely see out of her shield, and so she dispelled it. The color and brightness came back just as the first of the stone golems collapsed into a pile of rock. The backlash to Twilight was strong; Trixie had banished it with the same lethal magic she had used against the bean, and it felt like Twilight had been kicked by a mule.

Twilight bared her teeth, her eyes glowing white, and even as the remaining stone ponies pressed in around Trixie, the shards of rock from the fallen one began to float into the air. The fallen golem started to knit itself back together, strands of purple energy lashing the rocks back together.

Another banishment, and another. Twilight collapsed to her front knees, the light fading from her eyes, and she began to retch. Her horn glowed weakly, and the remaining golems collapsed into rubble. She struggled back to her feet, her eyes watering with the strain.

Twilight teetered unevenly, looking at the rubble and dusty air across the field. As she watched, Trixie stumbled drunkenly through the haze, her coat grey with dust, her hat missing and cape torn.

"Twilight Sparkle!" Trixie called from across the field as she wearily picked her way between the deep furrows in the ground. "Trixie is going to-"

Trixie's horn glowed briefly, guttering and spitting blue sparks, before the glow faded and Trixie pitched sideways, falling into one of the stone furrows, toward a bottom strewn with shards and jagged rocks. The world seemed to go once again into slow motion as Twilight reached out with her telekinesis. Trixie's fall stopped, the limp unicorn floating over the possibly deadly drop in a purple bubble. Twilight carefully levitated Trixie to some flat ground and set her down.

Silence prevailed for a moment before Najstariot stepped forward across the gravel-strewn ground. She looked at Trixie's inert form, then turned to look at Twilight. Seconds passed as the two stared at each other before the dragon queen turned to walk back to the stairs away from the plateau. Her voice called out, audibly but not with the thundering loudness to which Twilight had become accustomed, "Twilight Sparkle wins."