• 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 6 - Twisted Emotion

Book Two: Overgrowth

Chapter Six - Twisted Emotion

“You sure about this?” asked Applejack, squinting as she tilted her head in close to Twilight.

“Sure about what?” Twilight questioned, shaking her head as she pulled a set of saddlebags over her back.

“Bringin’ Fluttershy into the forest, and all,” responded Applejack. “Why, last time she wandered near the Everfree, she’d’a been a goner if I hadn’t tagged along.” She raised a hoof up to her missing eye, her hair still draped down over where it used to be.

“Well, that’s why we’re all going with her. Surely if we’re all together, we’ll make it through,” said Twilight, tilting her head and discreetly removing the pink earpiece from her ear and placing it into one of her bags.

Applejack shook her head. “That Pinkie Pie changeling’s out there, too, and aimin’ ta attack Fluttershy,” she said. “I still think she should hide out here.”

Twilight closed the flap on her bag and turned back towards Applejack. “All the more reason why we should stay with her. Did you see how powerful Pinkie Pie was?”

Applejack nodded. “Not really, but I sure felt it when she blasted me,” the orange pony responded, rubbing her hoof against her chest. “Guess yer right, there, Twilight. Not sure the guards here could handle her. Not sure we could either, though.”

Twilight tilted her gaze downward and frowned. “Here’s hoping it doesn’t come down to that,” she said, and then started making her way to the door of the storeroom they were standing in. “We should go check up on Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy at Sugarcube Corner.”

Outside the small, gray building, they met Princess Celestia, who was walking away from Mayor Mare at the far end of the pavillion. Twilight raised her hoof in greeting, and then pointed north towards Sugarcube Corner. Celestia nodded her head and joined the two as they headed to the bakery.

“The mayor isn’t pleased that you’re leaving, Applejack,” said Celestia, plainly gazing down at Applejack, who sighed in response.

“Honestly, she worries too much,” said Applejack. “The town will be fine, the unicorn squad is more than capable of holding the forest off while I’m away.”

“It will be dangerous. There’s a real chance you may never come back, Applejack,” Celestia said with a frown. “A leader has to take these things into consideration.”

Applejack shot the princess a nasty glare over her shoulder. “I never asked fer this!” she said, a bit of contempt in her voice. “And I really don’t wanna be hearin’ it from you. You two still ain’t explained where you been all this time!”

Twilight put a foreleg on Applejack’s shoulder, pulling her to a stop. “AJ, you have to understand, we got here as soon as we could,” she said, looking into Applejack’s eyes. Applejack turned her head away and bit her lip.

“I’m sorry, Twilight. Princess. It’s just, we’ve been through so much here,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. “Y’all showin’ up was the last thing I expected. I guess I’m still in a bit of shock, seein’ as how I spent the last month cursin’ yer name, Princess.” She cleared her throat and continued walking towards Sugarcube Corner, which was just ahead of them now.

Celestia and Twilight both shook their heads and followed Applejack, silent for the rest of the trek. The three arrived at Sugarcube Corner and quietly entered through the front door. Fluttershy was behind the main counter, sorting various dried fruits and small loaves of bread into piles.

“Looks like we’re about ready,” said Applejack. “Where’s Rainbow Dash?”

Fluttershy looked toward the staircase in the back of the shop. “She said she had to get some things from the basement, but she’s been down there this whole time,” she responded as she started to place food into Twilight’s saddlebags.

“I better go check on her,” said Applejack, trotting towards the basement door.

Twilight leaned her head towards Fluttershy and whispered. “Looks like there’s no way to talk AJ out of coming, and I’m pretty sure Rainbow Dash won’t budge either.”

Fluttershy sighed. “What do we do, then?” she asked. “If they come along, they might find out the truth, and you said that’s bad, right?”

“Really bad,” Twilight said gravely.

Celestia frowned. “We may want to leave now while we can, then. They may try to follow, but we can lose them,” she said quietly, but was then interrupted by Applejack storming back up the stairs.

“Rainbow Dash ain’t in the basement!” she yelled. “That dang fool, I bet she’s flown off without us!”

Fluttershy gasped. “Why would she do that?” she asked with shock.

“I bet she thinks she’s gonna take care of this on her own,” said Applejack, gritting her teeth. “I should’a known!”

“That does sound like something she’d do, but let’s check the rest of Sugarcube Corner first before we jump to conclusions,” Twilight responded calmly, starting to make her way to the staircase that led to the Cakes’ house above the shop. “Check all the rooms up there.”

Everyone nodded and made their way up the stairs. Fluttershy flew down the hall and through the door that led to the upper level where Pinkie’s room was located. Clearing the stairwell that led up into the room, she noticed a bit of color sticking out from Pinkie’s closet, and could hear the sound of crying. She flew over to the closet door and quietly landed, sliding the door open slowly.

“Dashie?” she said softly as the opening door revealed the blue pegasus within.

Rainbow Dash buried her head in her hooves and sniffled, then turned to face Fluttershy. “Oh, hey Fluttershy. You about ready with those rations down there?” Wet streaks were visible around the bottom of her eyes, but she wore a confident smile.

Fluttershy blinked and nodded her head. “Yes, we’re all about ready to go. Are you... ready?” she asked, placing a hoof on Rainbow Dash’s shoulder.

“Me? Of course!” said Rainbow Dash with a chuckle. “I was just looking for something up here, and--”

Fluttershy interrupted her friend with a sudden hug, pulling her close and squeezing tightly. The two sat quietly for a moment, until Rainbow Dash finally broke the silence.

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Rainbow Dash said, her voice wavering. “It feels like just yesterday she was here making food for us all.” She closed her eyes tightly and pushed her face into Fluttershy’s shoulder.

“I know,” said Fluttershy compassionately. “Everything that happened is hard to believe. We’ll make it right, though, Dash. I’m sure of it.” She patted Rainbow Dash on the back.

Rainbow Dash pulled away and stared into Fluttershy’s eyes. “Listen, Fluttershy. I have to tell you something, but you have to keep it a secret from the others,” she said gravely. “That whole talk about Pinkie being a changeling? I’m not buyin’ it! She was a little... crazy from what’s been going on before, but it was definitely the real Pinkie Pie. I’m sure of it!”

Fluttershy nodded in agreement. “You might be right, Dashie, but we have to get moving in order to find out,” she said calmly.

“Something fishy is going on. Something other than the forest coming to life. I can’t put my hoof on it, but I feel it so clearly... like a burning sensation in my mind. Like I’m forgetting something. Something important,” Rainbow said, her tone of voice as serious as could be. “You believe me, right? You feel it, too, right? Ever since we found ourselves in Cloudsdale. Is that why you couldn’t tell me what happened? Why you said something about me dying?”

Fluttershy shook her head nervously, knowing she couldn’t tell Rainbow anything about the events in Cloudsdale. “I just don’t know, Dashie. I don’t know where I got that idea,” she said.

“That’s just the thing, though,” Rainbow Dash said, flustered. “When you said that, I thought you were acting crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to almost remember something... something scary. Like a cold darkness. I can’t explain it, but I know something had to have happened!”

Fluttershy sighed. “I don’t know, I’m sorry,” she said. The two turned their heads suddenly as hoofsteps began to come up the stairs. Applejack’s head poked up over the railing and spotted the two of them.

“There you are!” Applejack said sternly. “We been lookin’ all over for ya! Come on, now, we gotta get a move on!” She gestured towards the stairs and trotted back down them.

Fluttershy turned back to Rainbow Dash. “We’ll figure it out. We have to go, now, though. Come on.” She stood up and reached a hoof towards Rainbow Dash.

“I never thought I’d see the day that you’d have to pull me out of a slump,” said Rainbow Dash, smiling up at the yellow pegasus. She took her hoof and stood back up. “Let’s get moving! We have some mysteries to solve!”

The two walked out of Pinkie’s room and down the stairs to join the others. They arrived to find their companions, saddlebags loaded, ready to head out.

Applejack walked over to Rainbow Dash and tossed a set of saddlebags over her back. She glanced at Dash’s eyes and shook her head. “You gonna be okay, there, tough girl?” she asked with a slight chuckle. Rainbow Dash nodded her head.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Rainbow Dash said. “We’d better get a move on.”

The five ponies stepped out from Sugarcube Corner’s front door and into the streets of Ponyville, or what was left of it. The air was hot and dry, still cooling down from the constant sunlight of the previous weeks.

As they approached the south gate, they were met by Mayor Mare and a group of guards, blocking their way out. The mayor wore a look of determination on her face and stared squarely at Applejack.

Applejack walked straight to the mayor, her lips dropping to a frown.

“Let us through, Mayor,” she ordered. “We got business in the Everfree.”

“You can’t go,” the mayor said harshly.

“Let us through,” repeated Applejack. “I ain’t gonna say it again.” She glared at the mayor with her one burning eye.

Mayor Mare closed her eyes and sighed, stepping to the side, the guards following suit. Applejack pushed past her without a word and passed through the gate. The others followed, nervously glancing at the mayor as they passed her.

Celestia brought up the rear of the group and stopped for a moment beside the mayor.

“Madam Mare, we will make sure we end the forest’s advance. I give you my royal oath,” she said firmly. “You need not worry. Watch after your people, I know better than anyone that you are capable of protecting this town.”

The mayor opened her eyes and looked at the princess. “Have you forgotten what happened when the forest first began attacking?” she asked, her voice lowering.

Celestia bit her lip. I have no idea, she thought to herself.

“Perhaps you’ve forgotten how the forest basically devoured an entire army,” said the mayor, heightening her volume. “We never forgot here, though. So yes, rest assured that we will be fine behind these walls, but you five are marching to your deaths!” She panted heavily through her clenched teeth.

Celestia leaned toward the mayor, speaking with as much royal confidence as she could manage. “Things have changed,” she said. “We will not fail. Trust in those four, for they have saved Equestria before.”

The mayor sighed. “I know, but it just seems so hopeless now. Rarity is gone, Pinkie was probably killed by that changeling, and Applejack is mentally exhausted,” she whispered nervously, bowing her head. “I just hope you’re right, Your Majesty. Please, take care of them, especially Applejack. Hers has been such a heavy burden.”

Celestia smiled, placing a hoof on the mayor’s shoulder. “You are a true leader, Madam Mare. Worry not, your town’s residents will be safe. We’ll be back before you know it.”

With that, Celestia galloped forth, meeting up with the others that had gone ahead of her. They passed silently through the ruins of the southern town, eventually coming to Fluttershy’s cottage at the edge of the forest proper. Although the growth from the forest had extended its reach, the thickness and darkness within the original forest grounds were far greater.

Fluttershy cowered low to the ground behind Rainbow Dash and Applejack, staring into the dark forest before her. “Can we maybe come back when it’s light out?” she asked timidly, the bravery she’d found before having left her upon encountering the dark woods. She’d been used to going into the forest before, even at night on a couple of extreme occasions, but it had never seemed so terrifying as it did to her right now.

Twilight and Celestia both lit up their horns with light spells, illuminating the path ahead of them, which had been grown over by brush and tall grass. Applejack grabbed Fluttershy by the foreleg and pulled her back to her hooves.

“Sorry, Sugarcube, but we can’t wait another night,” said Applejack calmly. “Crazy as it seems, we need ta press on through there. You know as well as I do that the forest is less active at night, even though we ain’t had one for a while. Maybe we’ll get lucky and nothin’ will happen.”

Fluttershy nodded forlornly and began walking behind the orange pony, her head twisting back and forth to watch for any movement.

They had all walked this path before, and knew the lay of the land well enough to navigate even though the forest had taken over any clear places. Twilight would occasionally clear away brush with magical blasts while Rainbow Dash hovered just overhead, keeping a lookout for anything that could threaten them.

“It feels like it hasn’t been that long since we were making this journey to find the Elements of Harmony,” said Twilight. “I thought the forest would be a lot more wild, though, considering what’s been happening.”

“Don’t jinx it, Twilight!” said Rainbow Dash, annoyed.

“Hate to say it, but she’s right, though,” said Applejack. “Ain’t had so much as a vine or branch or wild animal jump out at us this whole time. Even though it’s calmer at night, this is too calm. Makes me nervous.”

“Nervous?” asked Fluttershy. “Why would it being calm make you n-n-nervous?” She shook and glanced around more, still wound up from just being there.

Applejack glanced over her shoulder at Fluttershy and shrugged. “Guess I’m just so used to things takin’ me by surprise by now, that I--” her words were cut short as she tripped over something in front of her. Celestia and Twilight shone their horn lights down towards her to help her stand up. Everyone gasped when they realized what Applejack had tripped on.

Lying across the path was a sliced-off purple-scaled fanned ear. Applejack jumped to her hooves, backing away from the severed body part.

“What in tarnation!” Applejack exclaimed as she brushed herself off.

Celestia shone her light more brightly, revealing blood still dripping from where the ear had been severed. “This is fresh,” she said. “These woods are definitely not harmless right now.”

Celestia furrowed her brow. What is this magical energy emanating from it? she thought. She glanced up at Twilight, whose eyes were turned in the direction they were headed. Has she not sensed it?

“I think I recognize that ear,” said Twilight. “That poor sea serpent... we’re almost to the river, let’s hurry.”

I’d best not say anything for now, Celestia decided. I need to be certain.

Everyone nodded, even Fluttershy, who was staring sadly at the gory sight before her. They all galloped forward, the sound of the river drawing closer and closer.

As the flowing body of water came into view, so too did a horrible sight. The kind purple serpent who had helped them in their quest to find the Elements of Harmony was strung up from vines that were hanging down from the trees above. His body was raked with deep cuts along its length, and his face was in even worse shape. His eyelids were clenched shut, blood running down over them from the large wound that went across his forehead and over to his ear, which was missing on the left side.

As he heard the ponies approaching, he began to writhe wildly.

“Stay away!” he yelled, his voice loud but full of fear. “Please, just stay away!”

The ponies stopped in their tracks, all staring up at him in awe.

“Good heavens, what happened?” asked Twilight, taking another cautious step forward. “Did the forest do this?”

“I said stay away, ponies!” the serpent yelled, swinging his body back and forth, which was only causing the vines to constrict around him more tightly.

“Please, we want to help you!” Twilight said firmly as she tried to think of the best way to free him from his hanging prison.

“Hold still, now,” said Applejack, flipping open a saddle bag and pulling out a length of rope. “We wanna get’cha down from there.”

“Your voices... I knew I recognized them,” said the serpent as he slowly opened one eye and tried to catch a glimpse of his potential saviors. “I recognized her voice, too! Just leave me! I’m not long for this world!”

Still so dramatic, even though the situation is a bit more serious than a cut-off mustache this time, thought Twilight with a sigh. Then again, he’s just part of Fluttershy’s dream, so he would be as she remembers him.

“We better get him down from there,” said Twilight, turning to her friends. “Any ideas?”

“We can’t just cut him loose, he’s up too high. Falling from there in his condition would just make it worse.” Fluttershy assessed, despite barely being able to bring herself to look at him.

“Rainbow, can you get this rope looped around a branch and then wrapped around his chest?” asked Applejack as she tossed one end of the rope to Rainbow Dash. “Twilight, we’re gonna need you to levitate him up away from those vines a bit.”

“No problem, boss!” yelled Rainbow. She quickly darted up towards a thick branch in the tree above, looping the rope over it, then pulling it back down to the serpent’s midsection.

“If she comes back, we’re all dead!” yelled the serpent in a panic as Twilight began to raise his body upward with her magic.

“If who comes back?” asked Celestia as she leant a hoof to Twilight with her own levitation magic.

“I don’t know!” the serpent responded in a panic. “She’s the one who did this! She sounded so crazed! So angry!”

Rainbow Dash finished wrapping the rope around the serpent’s chest and then joined Applejack on the ground to pull on the other end.

“Alright, Twilight. Once we got some slack, you blast those vines!” yelled Applejack, and then gripped the rope tightly in her teeth. She and Rainbow Dash pulled as hard as they could, and Twilight released her levitation spell. She pointed her horn at the vines that had been under the serpent’s neck and body and let loose with a thin, precisely aimed shot, splitting the vines cleanly.

The sound of the energy blast sent the serpent into another panic attack. Applejack and Rainbow Dash struggled to keep their hoofing while holding him up. Fluttershy timidly grabbed ahold as well, but it was no good. The three of them slid forward, almost stumbling.

“No! Stop!” yelled the serpent. “Let me go!” As he struggled, several vines from the trees above flew down like whips, snapping around his neck and head and began to pull tightly. The serpent gasped for breath as he struggled.

“Consarn it!” yelled Applejack. “Twilight! Do somethin’!” yelled Applejack.

“Oh my goodness!” yelled Fluttershy, staring up at the serpent. Cold shivers ran down her spine, and she could feel the same sort of despair she’d felt earlier that day in Cloudsdale rising inside of her.

Rainbow Dash leapt back into the air and grabbed ahold of the vines with her teeth. She gnawed as hard as she could, but was met by more vines lowering from the treetops and trying to wrap her up as well. She darted away, avoiding any contact with the assailing plant life.

Twilight glanced at the river. “It might be our only hope! If we can swing him towards the river as we cut him loose, he could land in the water!” she yelled. “It’s better than the alternatives!”

Rainbow Dash nodded. “Right! I’ll try and get him swinging, but I’m gonna need help!” she called out. “Applejack, you try and get him moving with the rope, too. And Fluttershy, you need to--”

“Fluttershy, no!” yelled Celestia, interrupting Rainbow Dash.

“I just can’t take it anymore,” said Fluttershy, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Twilight jerked her head back and saw Fluttershy floating off the ground without flapping her wings. Her eyes were pouring out streams of yellow energy, and her breathing was heavy and fast.

“Fluttershy! Stop!” yelled Twilight, charging towards the yellow pegasus. “You can’t do that!”

“Sorry, Twilight,” said Fluttershy with a sad smile. “I just want this nightmare to end.”

“No!” yelled Twilight, leaping through the air at Fluttershy.

A rippling wave of yellow magic shot from Fluttershy. It flew right past twilight and exploded in a bright flash as it hit the serpent’s body.

Twilight landed on the ground with a thud just in front of the floating mare. She turned her head towards the serpent and saw him floating in the air, his wounds closing and the vines retracting back into the trees. Applejack stood and stared at him, as if in a trance. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, landed on the ground and stared at Fluttershy, slack-jawed.

“Fluttershy, How are you...” said Rainbow Dash, reaching a hoof out to Fluttershy. “That’s impossible.”

Fluttershy landed on the ground softly and walked over to Rainbow Dash. She smiled at her and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash. I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but it’s what feels right to me.” she said, another tear escaping from her eye. “Even if none of this is real, it’s still so dear to me. That includes you, too, Dashie.”

“Real? What?” asked Rainbow Dash, solidly confused. She placed a hoof to her head and fell to the ground, groaning in pain. “My... head! What’s happening?”

Fluttershy dropped to her knees and wrapped her hooves around Rainbow Dash’s head.

“Fluttershy,” said Twilight nervously as she approached. “We have to get out of here. They could change at any moment!” She glanced nervously at Applejack, who was still staring in astonishment at the now healed sea serpent that was lying on the ground, unconscious. She looked up at Celestia, who was keeping a careful eye on Applejack as well.

Slowly moving ripples of magic began to flow around Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. Loose magical particles split away and flowed outward randomly as well, some of them right at Twilight. On contact with the energy, Twilight felt instantly calm, warm, and happy.

This feeling, thought Twilight, It’s like how you feel when you’re being cared for. Being loved by somepony else. Is that the essence of Fluttershy’s magic? The essence of her heart?

Twilight closed her eyes, and images began to fill her head. She saw herself lying in bed at home, back in Canterlot. Her bedroom door pushed quietly open, and she saw her big brother walk over to her bedside, levitating a small cup of hot tea. He set it gently down on the nightstand beside her.

“How’s your throat feeling?” Shining Armor asked, kneeling beside her bed. She nodded her head, unable to speak. She remembered that she’d come down with a really bad sore throat, and her parents were away, so Shining Armor had to care for her.

She reached out for the cup of tea and tried to lift it, but her arms were shaking. Shining Armor took ahold of the cup with his magic, steadying it, and placed a hoof on Twilight’s chest, pushing her back onto the bed against her pillow.

“You just lie there, Twiley. I got this,” he said with a smile, gently pressing the rim of the cup against Twilight’s lips and tilting it towards her. The warm liquid entered her mouth, and she swallowed tiny sips. It was so soothing on her throat, but that wasn’t the only thing she felt.

As she looked up at her big brother, his face so serious in the execution of the simple task of caring for his sick little sister, she felt a different kind of warmth deep in her heart. Something she didn’t have much experience with at the time, but something she was all too familiar with now, looking back. It was love, friendship, affection; It was kindness.

As she saw her past self reach forward and embrace her older sibling, she came back to the present and opened her eyes. She was smiling from ear to ear, filled with the spirit of kindness. She looked down at Fluttershy, who was still hugging Rainbow Dash’s head tightly, and knew that there could be no other way for her. This was inevitable from the very beginning, and while it may lead to a harder road ahead, or their friends becoming changelings within the dream, it would be worth it so that Fluttershy’s dream could be happy again.

“Twilight, look out!” came Celestia’s voice. Twilight jumped and looked over her shoulder to see Applejack approaching.

“You three ‘bout done there?” asked Applejack, a dazed look on her face.

“Huh?” questioned Twilight, unsure how to take the current situation.

“We really need ta’ get a move on, ya know,” said Applejack with a sigh, looking down at Rainbow Dash. “We ain’t got time for Rainbow to be havin’ a breakdown, not ta’ sound heartless or anything.”

“Breakdown?” asked Twilight, turning to face Applejack, her muscles tense and ready to flee at the first sign of trouble. “She’s just... Didn’t you see the serpent just now?”

Applejack shrugged. “What about him?” she asked. “Not sure what happened, but he seems okay now. Havin’ himself a nice nap, and I’d say he’s earned it.”

Twilight turned her head slowly towards Celestia, her eyes wide with shock. Celestia’s jaw was dropped and she only responded with a confused shrug.

“What in the hay is wrong with y’all?” asked Applejack, shaking her head and turning back towards the river. “Get Rainbow back on her hooves and let’s git goin’!” She began to walk slowly towards the water’s edge.

Twilight knelt down next to Fluttershy and whispered. “Is she going to be okay?” she asked, placing a hoof on Fluttershy’s back.

Fluttershy looked at her with a smile and a nod. “Yeah, she’ll be fine.” she responded happily, releasing Rainbow’s head from her grip and standing back up. Rainbow Dash looked up at Fluttershy and blinked.

“You’re... not gonna tell me what’s going on, are you?” she asked.

Fluttershy giggled and shook her head. “Sorry,” she said with a grin.

Rainbow Dash smiled back and shrugged, rising to her hooves.

“Fine. I give up, yet again,” she said. “For now, anyway! But you have to explain everything later!” She gave Fluttershy a serious glare.

Fluttershy nodded her head. “I promise,” she said. The three of them dusted themselves off, and then ran towards Applejack and the river ahead of them, passing by the slumbering serpent. Princess Celestia trailed the group, her brow furrowed in thought.

Fluttershy’s lucidity didn’t trigger any changeling defense mechanisms, she thought to herself. And there’s still the question of that magical essence I felt coursing all over the sea serpent.

She glanced at the serpent as she passed by, concentrating on any magical essence she could sense. There was nothing but the overpowering energy of Fluttershy’s kindness now, not a trace of the dark magic she had felt earlier.

“Not far now!” came Applejack’s voice from the front of the pack. “Just through this patch of trees and across the gorge and we’ll be there. Be ready for anything.”

The bridge across the gorge still hung as Rainbow Dash had tied it for them on their previous journey, actually reinforced now with vines that had pushed their way through the cliff walls and wrapped around it. Shortly after crossing, the travelers finally found themselves at their destination, the Ancient Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters.

The entryway was completely covered in vines and plant growth. Twilight wasted no time in firing a shot right through the doorway, clearing a path straight to the large chamber inside, and its center where the Elements of Harmony had once set in stone. In their place, however, was a pulsating mass of green and brown plantlife coming up from the ground. It beat like a heart, making deep thumping sounds as it pulsed.

“This is it,” said Celestia. “This is the cause of the forest’s expansion. Let us be done with it.”

“Ya don’t hafta tell me twice,” said Applejack, brushing her hair away from where it had been covering her missing eye.

“Blast the thing, you two!” said Rainbow Dash with excitement, looking up at the princess.

Princess Celestia turned her gaze to Twilight, who was staring at the undulating mass of vines nervously. “You know what might happen,” she spoke with hushed tones. “You must be prepared. If this is where the rift is at, things may turn out like they did before.”

Twilight nodded her head, readying her horn with purple magic at its tip. She closed her eyes and fired a beam of energy right at the heart. An explosion of plant matter sprayed all around, joined by a loud boom and a ripping sound, like a piece of cloth being torn in half.

Twilight felt a blast of energy hit her, but it wasn’t at all the energy she was expecting. Before, when she had blown a rift open, it was an explosion of fire and heat. This time, she felt a sudden pulse of familiar magic.

Twilight’s eyes shot open, and as the cloud of green mist cleared from the air, a floating rip in the fabric of space lie open before her. Everypony walked slowly towards the portal, staring through it.

There, on the other side, was Princess Cadence, shackled in chains, her eyes wide and burning with red energy, and her horn encased in a black crystal. She screamed in agony as the crystal on her horn glowed with power, and a pulse of magic shot from it and towards the rift.

Everypony jumped back as a wave of love magic flew over them.

“Cadence... No...” said Twilight, quickly coming down from the burst of emotion she’d felt from just being clipped by the blast. She quickly turned her head to the left and saw Applejack and Rainbow Dash both still staring at the portal, their eyes glowing with bright green light.

“It’s worse than I could have ever imagined!” yelled Celestia. “Twilight! Fluttershy! We have to get out of here!”

“We can’t just leave Cadence like that!” protested Twilight.

Applejack turned towards Twilight, her one green glowing eye now accompanied by a wide and sinister grin.

“You can’t stop it!” she yelled. “You better just go back to sleep!” She leapt at Twilight, screaming like a banshee.

Twilight jumped back, readying her horn for a fight, when a flash of color shot out from the corner of her eye and crashed into Applejack, knocking her to the ground.

Rainbow Dash, glowing with a yellow aura, stood over the possessed Applejack and stared down at her.

“Sorry, AJ, but I won’t let you do that!” yelled Rainbow Dash, pressing her hoof against Applejack’s chest, holding her down to the ground.

Applejack grinned up at Rainbow Dash. “Oh please, sugarcube,” she said gruffly. “Like you could stop me!” She pushed up with her hind hooves and kicked Rainbow Dash into the air. Flipping back to her hooves, she leapt at Rainbow Dash. In mid-leap, a pair of translucent blue wings shot out from her orange back, and she took flight.

“Fluttershy!” yelled Rainbow Dash as she darted away from Applejack. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you have to save Cadence! I’ll keep Applejack busy!”

Fluttershy had fallen to her rump, still staring through the portal at Princess Cadence, whose tortured state continued uninterrupted. Twilight quickly turned to Fluttershy and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Fluttershy! We can’t go out there and help her! Princess Celestia says it’s not an exit, only an entrance! We have to close it!” Twilight yelled. “We’ll work on that, you try and get ahold of that power of yours again, we might need it!”

“I can’t control it!” Fluttershy responded, her voice shaking. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Please! You have to try!” said Twilight, then turning back to the rift and aiming a beam of magic at it, joining Celestia who had started a second before. Twilight started from the bottom of the rift and was working her way up while Celestia worked from the top down.

Fluttershy managed to stand up and take a few steps back from Celestia and Twilight. She closed her eyes and began to concentrate, trying to bring the power back. The sound of Applejack and Rainbow Dash fighting off to her left rang clearly in her ears, followed by a crashing sound right above her and a loud voice.

“Fluttershy!” the voice yelled. Fluttershy opened her eyes and looked up in time to see Pinkie Pie barreling towards her, horn aglow. “Die!”

Author's Note:

There's a note section, now? Well dang! Happy Holidays, everypony!

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