• Published 20th Jul 2012
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The Conquering of Love - Littlecolt



Twilight finds she and her friends are trapped in their own minds and must escape.

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Overgrowth Ch 3 - Shining Loyalty

Book Two: Overgrowth

Chapter Three - Shining Loyalty

Rainbow Dash sped back towards the forest where she’d left Fluttershy. The forest was now ablaze and the fire was swiftly spreading like a wave across the trees. So many days of non-stop sunlight had dried everything up, so there was nothing to stop the raging blaze. As Rainbow Dash got closer to the forest, she saw a group of four adolescent dragons in the center of the patchy fire, right near where their tree had once stood. In its place stood a blackened stump and a circle of flaming debris.

Oh no! thought Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy! Where is she?

Her question was answered as she flew even closer. The dragons were gathered around in a circle, and one of them was holding Fluttershy in its claws. Fluttershy’s body and mane were black with soot and burns, and the dragons seemed to be yelling at her.

The bright gold dragon holding Fluttershy shook her as it yelled, “Just tell us why and we’ll let you go!” She squirmed in its grip and whimpered, tears streaming out of her eyes.

“I don’t know either,” sobbed Fluttershy as timidly as she could. “Please let me go.” She cringed in pain as the dragon squeezed her harder in its claws.

“You ponies control the sun! Now it’s not going down!” angrily shouted a smaller dragon with shimmering red scales. “This is an attack! That’s all it could be! The water is drying up, the plants are all shriveling, the animals are dying! What else could it be?”

“That’s right!” said an emerald green dragon. “The ponies are finally moving! I bet this one’s a spy who was sent here to watch us and send intel back to Cloudsdale! She is one of them pegasus ponies!” The dragon spat on the ground as he finished the sentence.

“A spy? No, I’m not a--” said Fluttershy, but was cut off by the dragon dropping her onto the ground. She landed roughly with a solid plop and curled into a ball as she cringed from the pain of impact. She coughed and tried to catch her breath, but did not get much of a break.

“Yeah, whatever!” yelled the dragon. It reared back and then kicked Fluttershy towards a blazing section of the forest. She sailed through the flames just as a colorful streak shot past the dragons and into the fire after her. Rainbow Dash caught Fluttershy with her forelegs and swooped up, the rising heat pushing her skyward even faster than she could do on her own.

“Rainbow Dash!” exclaimed Fluttershy in surprise, still coughing and trying to catch her breath. “You came back!”

“I saw the explosion! I couldn’t just leave you in this mess!” said Rainbow Dash with a grin. “The plan’s changed! We’re going to Cloudsdale together! I’m just gonna have to carry you!”

“It’ll slow you down too much,” said Fluttershy, raising her head to look over Rainbow’s shoulder. She spotted four dragons in flight chasing them. “and those d-d-dragons are after us!”

Rainbow Dash swung towards the lake where she and Fluttershy had bathed earlier. She made a beeline towards the waterfall at the far end.

“Hold your breath!” yelled Rainbow, tightening her grip on Fluttershy. Fluttershy shut her eyes and inhaled before closing her mouth tightly. The two of them shot through the waterfall, creating a blast of water spray. Once clear of the waterfall, Rainbow turned northward and began to increase her speed as much as she could, flying towards Cloudsdale, which sat barely visible in the distance.

“Rainbow Dash, they’re still f-f-following us!” yelled Fluttershy, shivering from being splashed with water.

“Just let them try and catch me!” shouted Rainbow Dash, pushing herself harder than before to outrun the pack of dragons. A hissing sound came from behind them, followed by a blast of fire and intense heat. Their water-soaked bodies resisted the flames and didn’t ignite. Fluttershy gasped, finally realizing why Rainbow had flown through the waterfall earlier.

“The water! Sharp thinking, Rainbow Dash!” said Fluttershy, raising her head to look back at the dragons, who were still behind them, but slowly trailing off.

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Don’t get comfy just yet! We can probably only withstand one more shot like that, and we’re not even close to Cloudsdale yet!”

Another flash of heat and flames shot past them, and Fluttershy’s mane lit on fire at the ends. Fluttershy shrieked, flailing her hooves at the flapping, flaming hair. Much to her relief, the fire was quickly blown out by the whipping winds that surrounded the two pegasi. Fluttershy sighed with relief and glanced at Rainbow Dash, who was starting to look a bit panicked. She frowned and tried to think of something that might help Rainbow Dash get them away from their pursuers.

“Can you go any faster? Maybe... with a Sonic Rainboom?” asked Fluttershy hesitantly. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold on, or if Rainbow would be able to keep hold of her for that matter, at the speed of a Sonic Rainboom.

Rainbow Dash frowned. “I don’t know if I can do it while I am carrying you, but--” she said with doubt, but then her eyes shot open wide and a grin formed across her lips. “Fluttershy! Can you glide at all?”

Fluttershy blinked. “Maybe for a moment, but I can’t put any pressure on my left wing...”

“That’s fine! It’ll only be for a second!” yelled Rainbow, and she swooped upwards. “Do you trust me?” She looked straight into Fluttershy’s eyes as she asked, a serious look on her face.

“Yes, I do,” Fluttershy nodded, “with my life.”

“Then fly!” shouted Rainbow Dash, pushing her hooves upward and launching Fluttershy into the air. Rainbow Dash continued to climb straight up, while Fluttershy barrelled up and forward until her trajectory peaked. She opened her right wing as she felt herself hanging in air at the apex, spreading it out and falling slowly in a wide spiral.

The dragons stopped in mid-air, eyeing both ponies suspiciously and scratching their heads.

Rainbow Dash waited until she felt she’d gained enough vertical distance from the dragons and Fluttershy before going into an aerial backflip. She spun as she flipped and then began to speed downwards right toward the pack of dragons.

One of the dragons motioned towards Rainbow Dash, who was coming right at them, and laughed. “Check it out, guys! This little pony is gonna dive-bomb us!” he said, and the others erupted into fits of laughter as well.

Rainbow Dash extended her hooves forward, and a vortex of air began to spin all around her. The dragons turned to face her, opening their mouths.

“Welcome to the barbecue, my little pony!” yelled the red dragon. “You’re the main course!” With that, all four of them spewed forth their fire breath right at Rainbow Dash. The fire hit the vortex of air and spun all around, never even making contact. The dragons gasped in shock, but didn’t have much time to think about what had just happened. Rainbow Dash shot right into the dragon pack at blinding speed.

“Later, losers!” shouted Rainbow. There was a flash, a loud cracking sound, and then a circular wave of color erupted from the center of the pack of dragons. A split second later, a blast of air hit the dragons, shooting them out in different directions. Rainbow Dash fired like a cannonball from the epicenter of the colorful explosion, the force of the Sonic Rainboom accelerating her even further. She spotted Fluttershy ahead of her, and with as much care as she could manage at this speed, grabbed onto the yellow pegasus as she sped past.

Fluttershy wrapped herself around Rainbow Dash as tightly as she could, the sudden increase in speed knocking the wind out of her. She took a moment to catch her breath and then tilted her head forward. She could see the city of Cloudsdale ahead, and they were approaching at speeds she’d never experienced in her life.

“So, is this what it’s like to be you?” yelled Fluttershy as the wind whipped her hair around.

Rainbow Dash laughed. “Every day!” she yelled back.

I don’t think I could handle the excitement, Fluttershy thought to herself as she grinned and held tightly to the blue embodiment of speed that was carrying her.

As the two pegasi came closer to Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash could see the city was not in its usual state. A solid wall of ice and frozen clouds surrounded the city with a protective glass-like icy dome towering over it. The bottom of the city, likewise, appeared to be multiple thick layers of protective ice and tundra-like frozen clouds. She’d heard of this before, but she had never actually seen it. The city was in a state of lockdown, and from the look of things, it was pretty serious.

“The city is frozen shut,” said Rainbow Dash, pointing ahead of them.

Fluttershy faced forward and shook her head. “Do you think they’ll let us in? Those dragons are sure to follow us once they regroup,” she said nervously.

A siren from the city started to sound loudly, interrupting their conversation. A voice boomed through the clouds at them. “Identify yourselves!” it called out to them. “Cloudsdale is in phase three lockdown, unauthorized parties will be treated as hostile!”

Rainbow Dash descended towards the landing platform that sat in front of two large solid gates of ice. “Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy reporting from Ponyville!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “We’re being chased by dragons, let us in!”

“Ponyville!” said the voice in surprise. “We haven’t heard from them in weeks! What news do you have from Ponyville?”

“We don’t have time to talk about it now, though! There’s gonna be dragons coming after us soon, I could only manage to shake them for a sec!” shouted Rainbow Dash, who had now landed on the icy surface. Fluttershy managed to detach herself, but it took a bit of prying. Her mane was a tangled mess from being whipped around at high speeds.

“All right, we can talk more inside. Let them in!” shouted the voice. The gates began to part and two guards wearing royal army uniforms stepped forward and gestured for Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy to enter quickly.

As the two pegasi entered the city, they found a path before them that was lined with guards wearing heavy armor and wielding spears. In the distance, various siege weapons, including ballistae and catapults, stood at the ready. It looked as if Cloudsdale was prepared for all out war at the drop of a hat.

A large gray stallion wearing golden armor and a large helmet with a white crest on top of it galloped towards the two newcomers. He removed the helmet and eyed Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy for a moment. His mane was as white as the crest on his helmet, and his face was sharply angular. On his flank, a cutie mark resembling a white lightning bolt stood out from his dark gray coat. His eyes were pale blue, but very bright. His glare could probably melt ice, and Fluttershy shrunk away from it, hiding behind Rainbow Dash.

“I’m Radiant Thunder, captain of the Cloudsdale guard,” the pegasus said with a gruff and grainy voice, then placing his helmet on the ground in front of him. “Good to see you made it in one piece. What news from Ponyville?”

“Ponyville is under attack from the Everfree Forest itself,” said Rainbow Dash. “We need help, but it looks like you have your hooves full as it is. Have you heard anything from Canterlot?”

Radiant Thunder shook his head and sighed. “All communication with Canterlot abruptly ceased two weeks ago when the sun stopped moving. Our scouts report that Canterlot is once again surrounded by a protective shell, and we can’t find any way to enter, nor do we see any sign of life within the city. There’s just no telling what’s happened, and we’ve had very little time to investigate thanks to the dragon attacks,” he said, and then raised his head, glancing behind Rainbow and Fluttershy. “Speaking of which, get those gates closed and locked faster!”

He ran forward and assisted in pushing the heavy gates shut. He and the two guards at the gates began to raise a large metal bar to drop into place, when suddenly there was a loud smashing sound as something hit the gates from the outside.

Red claws pushed through between the doors, forcing them open again. The guards pushed harder to close the gate, but were met with a jet of flame shooting right at them from between the crack. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash jumped back in surprise, and then Rainbow ran forward to assist.

“Come on, Fluttershy! They need our help!” yelled Rainbow Dash as she slammed into the gates. The rows of guards that had been standing further back from the gates were now advancing to assist as well. Another crash came from outside, and the force of the impact pushed the gates open more. Rainbow Dash and the three guards at the gate fell backwards as sets of red and green claws pressed further into the opening. The gates began to slide open faster. The rows of guards that were originally lined up had been advancing since the gates began to push inward.

A swoop of red and green shot past. Two of the dragons that had chased Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy now stood inside the city walls. “Check it out, it’s our little pony friend from earlier!” said the red dragon. “I owe you a little payback.”

The dragons shot their fiery breath at Rainbow Dash and into the city. Rainbow and the guards jumped back, barely avoiding the blast. Fluttershy’s eyes shot back and forth in a panic, stumbling back against the flow of the advancing guards. She stared at the gates, which now swung wide open, and the other dragons who had been chasing them earlier entered. Behind them, Fluttershy could see even more dragons approaching from the distance.

What’s going on? thought Fluttershy as guards behind her loaded large ice boulders and wooden bolts into their weapons of war. Why is this happening? Why?

Radiant Thunder jumped back to his feet and charged towards the red dragon, pushing his spear into its gut. The dragon winced, but grabbed ahold of the spear and pulled it out. Radiant Thunder leapt back, and the dragon swung the spear down at the stallion, barely missing. He landed heavily upon the clouds, and then ducked to his left, avoiding a blast of flame from the dragon’s maw.

The dragons who had been approaching from the distance, which were much larger, full-grown dragons, had now reached the gates and advanced beyond them. They twisted their long necks around, surveying the situation for a moment before unleashing powerful blasts of fire. The heat was overwhelming, melting and softening the solidified ground under hoof.

“Fire!” yelled Radiant, dashing towards the back of the plaza. Several catapults and ballistae let loose their payloads. A rain of jagged, icy boulders fell onto the battlefield, crashing into the dragons that had just pushed their way into the city. The large wooden bolts from the ballistae flew through the air, impaling the dragons in the front line of attack. They continued their fiery assault uninterrupted, unshaken by the protruding projectiles.

More dragons continued to enter the city, and the guards were being pushed back towards the city center along the large main road that ran straight through Cloudsdale. The dragons that had been knocked over by the large chunks of ice had now regained their footing, and began to throw the jagged boulders back towards the pegasi.

Fluttershy, who had now backed away even further and was crouched against a building, shook as she watched the battle unfolding in front of her. She tilted her head upward just in time to see a huge boulder of ice heading right towards her. She screamed and covered her head, but was then suddenly launched to the side as Rainbow Dash crashed into her, shoving her out of harm’s way. The boulder crashed into the building, causing the front walls to collapse inward.

“Fluttershy! Get it together!” Rainbow yelled, and then turned back towards the battle, flapping her wings as she ran.

We need a better plan than just standing and fighting! We’re no match for these dragons as it is! Rainbow Dash thought as she ran. She passed a smoldering pegasus who had been clutching a spear in his last moments. She stopped just long enough to grab the weapon. I guess this will have to do for now!

“Is this our fault?” said Fluttershy as she ran as fast as she could towards the city center. “Because we came here? Because they let us in?”

The front plaza of the city was now full of dragons who had lined up and begun raining fire down on anypony that approached them. Rainbow Dash looked around in panic at the scene. Flames shot in every direction, buildings crumbled, and guards were strewn about. She gritted her teeth and then took to the sky, preparing to dive-bomb one of the dragons. As she reached the peak of her ascent, she heard Fluttershy scream again, and jerked her head back.

Fluttershy had reached the central plaza’s south end, and was greeted by more dragons who had already flown through and gathered there.

“They’re flanking us!” yelled Rainbow Dash, dropping her spear and zipping through the air towards Fluttershy. “Just run! Try to get somewhere safe!”

Fluttershy pressed her hooves to her face and fell forward, her body shaking uncontrollably from fear. Then, suddenly, something happened that no one was expecting.

Everything went silent.

The dragonfire ceased, the guards held their ground and stayed their weapons, and even the multitude of injured hushed their cries as all eyes turned toward the suddenly dark and empty sky, visible through the glass-like dome of ice above the city.

The sun, which had been in the same position in the sky for nearly two weeks, had swung down past the horizon and out of sight.


Earlier, in Ponyville...

Twilight and Celestia were locked in a small cell inside a run-down building that served as Ponyville’s jail. As someone in the adjacent cell snored, they discussed what to do next. They also wondered what had become of Rainbow Dash, whose dream they believed they were in.

“I don’t know if these dreams work the same as normal dreams,” said Celestia. “Normally, if a dream is bad enough, you’d wake up. However, since we were all forced to sleep, things could be different.”

Twilight nodded. “That makes sense, I guess,” she said. “Well I hope things aren’t going terribly for her. Still, it would be nice if she was actually here. I wonder if those two made it to Cloudsdale.”

The sound of a metal door slamming caused the two ponies to jump and stare towards the front of their cell. A familiar pink face peeked around the corner and stared at the two of them. Her mane was styled differently than usual, combed straight with a bit of a wave. Her eyes were lined on their bottoms with dark creases, and she squinted them as she stared at the captives. So much of her was different, but it was undeniably Pinkie Pie.

“How’s a pony supposed to sleep with you two blabbin’ in here?” Pinkie asked, her voice flat and a bit scratchy. “Not that I’ve slept much in the last - I don’t know - month.”

Twilight blinked with confusion. “Pinkie, were you locked up in the next cell over? What happened? Furthermore, how did you get out?” she asked.

“What happened to me?” Pinkie asked, raising her voice a bit. “What happened to me? What happened to you, Twilight? Not to mention... her!” She flung her hooves towards Celestia.

“Pinkie, we’re--” Twilight started, but Pinkie slammed her hooves against the cell door and pushed her snout between two bars.

“You two were alive! Everypony thought...” Pinkie said, closing her eyes tightly, “Everypony thought you were gone forever! The sun stopped moving! All the water is drying up, the plants are withering... well, the ones that aren’t attacking us every day, anyway...” she sobbed, falling to her knees and shaking her head.

Celestia twisted her head towards the window in the back of the cell and stared into the sky. She hadn’t noticed it until just now, but it was definitely true. The sun was not moving. She turned back to look at Pinkie, who was now kneeling at their cell door, tears falling from her eyes. Celestia rose and walked to the door, reaching through the bars and placing her hoof on Pinkie’s shoulder. Pinkie jerked her head up, her wet eyes wide and full of anger. She slapped Celestia’s hoof away and pushed back from the bars of the cell.

“Don’t touch me!” Pinkie screamed. “Don’t act like you know what we’ve been through! You two barely have so much as a scratch on you! What have you been doing? Laughing to yourselves as the sun sits in the sky for days, and days, and days, AND DAYS, AND DAYS?” She breathed heavily, her piercing gaze burning into Celestia’s eyes.

Twilight slowly stepped forward and reached her hoof out from the cell as well. It should be okay to talk to her, right? she thought. It’s Pinkie, so maybe she’ll be able to help us once she calms down.

“Pinkie, look, it’s really complicated, but we’re here to help. Before we can help, though, we need your help,” Twilight said calmly, gazing into Pinkie’s eyes.

“If you’re here to help, then make the sun go down!” Pinkie shouted. The door at the front of the jail opened and Applejack strode in. She approached the cell slowly with a grin on her face.

“I think that sounds like a better idea than any story y’all might’ve come up with,” said Applejack, sitting down next to Pinkie and patting her on top of her head. “Calm down, now, Pinkie. Don’t waste yer rage on these two. Might just be changelings, anyway.”

Pinkie turned her head towards Applejack and made a disgusted look. “Changelings? Ewww, no wonder they look so... different.” she said.

“Different?” asked Twilight. “What’s that mean?”

Applejack shrugged. “Ya got me. I think you did a mighty fine job, myself. You really look like Twilight and the princess,” she said with a chuckle.

Celestia turned toward the window. She lifted her head and gazed into the small sliver of sky that was visible through it. “Twilight, I don’t know if this will even work,” she said, “but if it doesn’t...”

Twilight nodded. We break that spell and get the buck out of here, I guess, she thought. We’ll have to manage without Pinkie, she doesn’t seem like she’ll help us unless Princess Celestia can lower the sun.

“I’m ready,” replied Twilight, turning her head towards Pinkie. “Looks like you’ll get your wish, Pinkie. I hope...”

Please work, Celestia thought, and then closed her eyes, concentrating on the sun. Her horn began to glow with white magic. Her mind searched the unfamiliar dreamscape sky for any familiar energy. Finally, she came upon a familiar warmth, not as powerful as the actual sun, but similar enough that she was sure it was the sun of this world.

“This is pointless!” said Applejack with a frown. “What good is faking it at this point even gonna--”

Applejack had to stop mid-sentence. The sun shot down out of the sky faster than she’d ever seen before.

“Well I’ll be...” said Applejack, her voice full of awe. A moment later, Twilight’s horn began to glow as she cast a light spell. There were no candles or other light sources in the building, probably because they hadn’t been needed in so long. A purple glow illuminated the room, joined by gentle moonlight shining in through the window. Pinkie leaned back against the far cell door, her face plastered with a huge smile, laughing uncontrollably.

“All right,” said Applejack, then taking a key in mouth and pushing it into the cell’s lock. She twisted it with her hoof and pulled the door open. Smiling more gently now, she gestured for the captives to come out. “Now let’s talk about where ya’ll been.”


Meanwhile, back in Cloudsdale...

“The sun... it went down,” said one of the guards. The moon quickly rose to take the sun’s place, illuminating Cloudsdale in moonlight.

“...and there’s the moon!” said one of the dragons. “The glorious moon!”

Then, there was silence again. Everyone in the central square of Cloudsdale, packed with ponies and dragons, stared skyward, but only for a moment.

“You think this will stop us, ponies?” came a booming dragon’s voice from the south end of the plaza. “We finally strike back, and you think this will calm us? Not a chance! There will be more blood tonight!”

The rest of the dragons roared in approval, and continued to advance from north and south, corralling the pegasi into the square. Several dragons flew overhead, creating a zone where no pegasus could leave. Any who tried got shot out of the sky by dragonfire.

Rainbow Dash had reached Fluttershy by this time. She grabbed her by the foreleg and began to pull her towards a building on the outskirts of the plaza.

“Come on, Fluttershy,” whispered Rainbow Dash. “You need to get out of here! You’re gonna get hurt!”

Fluttershy continued to glance around in horror. The scene had become much scarier to her since the sun went down. It was dark, with blinding flashes of light coming when the dragons breathed fire. The bright gleam of burning ponies created spots of illuminated ground throughout the square. Fluttershy began to breathe rapidly, her eyes wide and shaking.

“Stop...” said Fluttershy, shaking loose from Rainbow’s grip. She raised her voice and yelled. “Just stop!”

The pegasus guards had set up catapults on the roof of an adjacent building and were launching large ice boulders at the dragons in the sky. One dragon was hit cleanly in the head, and began to plummet from the sky straight towards the two ponies. Rainbow Dash grabbed Fluttershy and pulled her towards a closed door. A moment later, she jumped into the door as well, breaking it down and falling into the front room of what appeared to be a store of some sort.

Seconds later, the dragon crashed down in front of the shop, its massive body crushing the front of the store. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy were pushed further into the building by the force of the impact. Shattered glass and rubble fell all around them as they finally slid to a stop.

Rainbow Dash looked up and assessed the situation. The dragon’s body was the only thing holding the front of the store up at that point, having shattered several support pillars. To make matters worse, the dragon’s face was pointed right at them, it’s eyes wide and full of rage.

The dragon roared, filling the small space with a deafening sound. Rainbow Dash knew it was only a matter of time until it let loose with its breath weapon again. She looked around for Fluttershy, and located her across the room against a wall, her hooves pressed against her ears.

Then Rainbow saw something that could just get them out of this mess. Right above Fluttershy was a window. Rainbow glanced back at the dragon. It was pulling its head back, shaking the supports of the second floor above them. Rainbow knew the flames were coming, she had mere seconds to get them out of that room or they were toasted ponies.

She bolted towards Fluttershy as fast as she could, crashing into the yellow pegasus and wrapping both her forelegs around her. With all her strength, Rainbow Dash lifted Fluttershy.

“What’s going on?” asked Fluttershy in a disoriented panic. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry, no time to explain!” yelled Rainbow. “Close your eyes!” With that, Rainbow Dash threw Fluttershy right at the window. She crashed through the window, shattering it on impact, and landed on the clouds outside.

Fluttershy shook her head and looked up at the window she had just crashed through. “Rainbow Dash?” she said as she tried to stand up.

A blue hoof shot up from beneath the window, and then fire shot out from behind it, accompanied by a blast of heat and wind. The hoof, now blackened, fell back down inside the building, which was now completely ablaze.

“Rainbow Dash!” yelled Fluttershy, running towards the window. A loud crash came from her right, and the dragon that had been inside with them launched out from the front of the building and took back to the sky. The dragon's exit caused the building to shake, and it collapsed upon itself, a massive pile of burning debris left where it once stood.

Fluttershy ran towards the rubble and began to dig into it, pushing pieces of wood and stone away frantically.

“Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash!” she cried over and over, shaking her head and digging as tears streamed down her face. She finally uncovered a charred blue hoof. She grabbed onto it as tightly as she could and pulled. After struggling for a moment, Rainbow Dash’s foreleg and head were pulled out from the burning rubble.

“No! No! No!” Fluttershy yelled, pulling harder to try and free her buried friend. Rainbow Dash’s eyes opened and looked up at Fluttershy. Her breathing was shallow, and bright red blood was trickling down her charred black face.

“You’re safe...” said Rainbow Dash, gasping for breath. “Now get out of here!” The blue pegasus closed her eyes, and her raspy breathing stopped.

“No...” said Fluttershy, reaching her hoof out and touching Rainbow Dash’s face. “Not you. Please, not you...” She fell to the ground, pushed her face against Rainbow Dash’s foreleg, and cried out in anguish.

The moon began to wane, as if being eclipsed. Dark clouds began to appear in the sky. The clouds spread out from Cloudsdale, moving like a wave in all directions. The land was blanketed in darkness, spreading southward over the Unicorn Range, and past the forested foothills, which were still engulfed in flame. The dark front shot over Ponyville, shortly followed by a torrential downpour. Rain fell over all of Equestria, lightning streaked across the sky, thunder cracked from all around, and the ground began to shake as if it was going to erupt like a volcano.

“What in tarnation’s goin’ on?” yelled Applejack, grabbing ahold of Pinkie Pie to steady herself and looking towards Celestia and Twilight. “Did you two do this?”

“No,” said Celestia, “This is something completely out of my control! I’m afraid of what this might mean.” She shook her head and turned to Twilight, who had a look of shock on her face.

Then, the sound of rainfall abruptly ceased. Twilight stared in disbelief at Pinkie Pie and Applejack. They stood as still as statues, Pinkie even frozen in mid-fall as she had just lost her hoofing. The color was slowly draining out of everything, leaving nothing but dull gray. Everything but Twilight and Celestia stood completely still.

The world had stopped.

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