• 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 8 - A Dash of Hope

Book Two: Overgrowth

Chapter Eight: A Dash of Hope

Twilight Sparkle stood silently, concentrating on the solemn task before her. In a matter of seconds, she would lose sight of her dear childhood friend and foalsitter, Cadence, until she could really come to her aid. The two ends of the portal, one being sealed by Princess Celestia, and the other by Twilight herself, inched closer and closer. Twilight lifted her gaze towards the opening one last time, holding her right hoof towards it.

“We’ll be there soon, Cadence,” she said bravely. Cadence lay limply on the other end, and Twilight knew she could not hear her words. She said them all the same, though, and as the portal finally closed, the last image to come through was a single, shining tear falling down Cadence’s cheek.

Twilight sighed and shook her head, turning it towards Celestia, who was standing similarly with one hoof extended, a tear having left a line on her own cheek. Twilight remained silent, allowing the princess a moment to her own thoughts.

“Twilight,” Celestia calmly said, finally breaking the silence.

“Yes?” Twilight responded quietly, her small voice echoing off the now silent walls around them.

“They can never be forgiven,” said Celestia, her voice smooth and filled with unwavering determination.

Twilight had known the princess for many years, studied under her as a mentor, and had countless conversations with her. She had seen her amazing magical ability, and knew how powerful she was. Despite all that, those five words which were spoken so calmly sent shivers up Twilight Sparkle’s spine. It was the first time in her life that Princess Celestia had truly frightened her, the thought of her vengeance leaving Twilight at a loss for words.

“We are in far greater danger than I had first thought, my student,” Celestia said as she turned and approached Twilight. She lifted her gaze skyward and closed her eyes, concentrating on the magical auras that were flowing through the vicinity. “Have you sensed a strange and powerful magic in this dream?”

“There’s been so much strange energy flowing all over, but I haven’t noticed anything that stood out, no,” Twilight replied, closing her eyes and concentrating as well.

“Pinkie Pie was not merely wielding magic that was borrowed from me,” Celestia said, her voice grave and tense. “A source of magic, likely from the outside, has given her a significant boost in raw power. This magic is dark, and its power rivals my own. I’ve felt it before, but I can not quite place where or how. It has been haunting me for a while now, and even after feeling its strength I am no closer to pinpointing its origin.”

Twilight furrowed her brow, surprised to hear her teacher at a loss when it came to magic. “Surely there can’t be many in the world who could hold such power,” Twilight pondered. “If it’s not you or Princess Luna, then who else could be at such a high level?”

Princess Celestia placed a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “There is much we must discuss, Twilight Sparkle,” she said, having taken on her teaching voice, which Twilight was all too familiar with. “Walk with me, and I shall tell you about The Order of Ismara.”

At the bottom of the Ravine, the changeling that was impersonating Applejack laughed as the others stared at it with confusion.

“The Order will destroy any hopes you may think you have of winning,” Applejack said with a sneer. “The changelings you’ve faced before have been nothing but grunts. The Order is an elite magic division, and you have no chance against us.”

“Us?” questioned Fluttershy. “Are you in this... order?”

Rainbow Dash laughed, gripping her ribs from the pain it caused. “Please, don’t make me laugh, it hurts!” she pleaded. “If you’re one of the elite, I think we’ve got this in the bag!” She continued to laugh, grimacing with pain. Fluttershy sat down beside her and tried to hold her steady, taking her head in her forelegs.

“You won’t have dream magic to help you in the real world!” snapped Applejack. “You’ll all fall before The Order of Ismara!”

“The Order of Ismara?” asked Twilight, turning and walking with the princess towards the castle’s entryway. “I don’t think I’ve ever read about them before.”

“You wouldn’t have,” Celestia responded. “There is no existing text that contains any information about them. They are only known by myself and my sister, and even she is not fully aware of everything about them. The Order became known to me just before the incident with Nightmare Moon one thousand years ago. At first, I was only aware of their leader, Ismara, a unicorn with great power and variety in her magical abilities. I had never seen a unicorn with her raw abilities before.”

“You said that to me on the day we met,” Twilight interrupted, looking up at Celestia’s jaggedly serious expression. Celestia glanced down at the smaller pony and nodded.

“And it was true that day, as well. Your potential is greater than Ismara’s was, though rest assured that she was quite the prodigy as well,” Celestia continued as the two ponies passed through the large, broken doorway and into the courtyard of the ancient castle. “Ismara truly became emboldened after Nightmare Moon’s banishment, though. She knew that I was trying to keep the incident as contained as possible, not wanting anypony to realize I had sealed my own sister in the moon. She requested an audience, and I accepted, having already taken an interest in her. She revealed to me that she had mastered a powerful form of illusion magic that would not only allow her to look and sound like Princess Luna, but would also give her the ability to at least appear to be able to raise and lower the moon at night.”

Twilight gasped slightly and tilted her head in confusion. “How is that even possible? That sort of magic is beyond unicorns of even the highest level,” she gawked in disbelief.

“Right you are, and at first I was also skeptical of her claim. Even if it were an illusion, such a large one should be impossible,” the princess replied. The two ponies were approaching the tower where Applejack and Rainbow Dash had fought. “But her aim was not to convince me of anything, it was merely to pique my curiosity, in which she succeeded. I had her perform her magic, and I couldn’t have been more amazed. She did indeed appear to pull the moon up into the star-dotted sky, though in reality I had merely lowered the sun.”

“There had to be a trick, though,” said Twilight, squinting her eyes in disbelief.

“There was indeed. My foolish desire to maintain some sort of order for the kingdom had blinded me. I had taken her word too easily and let her get too close to me.” Celestia sighed. “The next part of the tale is a bit confusing, unfortunately, and I still do not fully understand it all. As with any good trick, the audience is left wondering, and I am still wondering to this day.”

Twilight nodded and continued to listen as they approached the ledge that overlooked the ravine where their friends had fallen.

“I don’t know how, but all of my guards and advisors had been switched without me noticing. They were all changelings, and Ismara herself was one as well. She wasn’t a changeling like any I had seen before, though,” Celestia said, spreading her wings and lifting Twilight Sparkle up so they could descend into the deep trench. “She had large, beautiful wings like that of a butterfly, black as the darkest night with bright patches of white. Her subordinates, who had replaced all of my inner guards, were just the same. They wore armor unlike that of changelings I had seen in the past, and all had regal, black horns. At the base of their horns were large, single holes that had different colored gemstones inset. To this day, I think those gems must have had something to do with their magical potency.”

“Do you think they’re behind the strange power you felt?” asked Twilight. “It would make sense for them to be involved since they were changelings.”

“The Order is almost surely involved, but I don’t think it’s them,” Celestia answered. “Ismara is dead, along with her order. After revealing to me that they were changelings, Ismara made a display of her true power to me and rose the sun on her own. I don’t mean she created an illusion, I mean she actually... raised the sun.”

Twilight shook her head with confusion. “I thought you said that was impossible for her, though,” she said.

“It should have been. No, It definitely was, but she did it all the same. I still don’t understand how, but she did it through me somehow. She and her guards all began wielding immense magical power at that point. They aimed it all at me, surely meaning to end my life. They were not successful, of course, foolishly thinking that I had no defense magic in place. The powerful magic that was aimed at me was reflected right back at them, and they were obliterated on the spot. Ismara was the only one who was still alive after the explosion of magic, and she could barely speak for the mere minute that she hung on to life.”

“So wait, if The Order was destroyed, how can they be involved? Why even tell me this?” asked Twilight, now completely baffled.

“With her dying breath,” Celestia said, looking down grimly at the ground as it approached. “Ismara told me that The Order wasn’t finished, and that she would be back to haunt me some day. I fear that day has come.”

“Consider this a warning, my little ponies,” said Applejack with a grin. “Look at me, and remember my face well, for if you see another like me, you are in serious trouble.” Applejack’s features began to dissolve away, revealing the dark face of a changeling underneath. Though recognizable as a changeling, there were drastic differences.

Her face came to a much sharper point at the tip of the snout, and vein-like golden coloring lined her jaw. The golden veins went up and around her eyes and to her ears, which were sharply pointed as well. Her horn was long and straight, with a hole at its base. Her eyes, which were both still present despite this dream’s Applejack having lost one, were a bright green, unlike the typical changeling drones which all had pale blue eyes.

“I shouldn’t even be telling or showing you any of this,” the changeling said with a sigh. “It’s almost as if... I somehow felt that I had to. Somehow compelled by this pony I’ve taken the form of, especially after losing to Rainbow Dash.”

“Well, thanks... I guess,” said Pinkie Pie with a shrug. The sound of hooves landing heavily on the ground behind her made her twist her head around just in time to see Princess Celestia setting Twilight Sparkle on the ground. The princess’ eyes were locked squarely on the changeling, and she advanced towards it quickly.

“How many of The Order are in Canterlot? How are you controlling these dreams?” she asked loudly, staring down at the changeling.

“Oh, don’t expect me to tell you everything!” the changeling chuckled. “I only said as much as I did because I felt like it. I’ve got no obligation to say any more. In fact... I think I feel myself slipping away. Looks like this pony’s time is up in this dream world.” The changeling laughed as Applejack’s face quickly reappeared, along with the rest of her body, leaving no sign that she’d been a changeling.

“No!” shouted Celestia, shaking Applejack’s body with her front hoof. “Come back!” Applejack coughed out a weak laugh and grinned up at the princess one last time before falling completely limp.

“No...” came Fluttershy’s voice from behind the rest of the group, soft and sad, punctuated with a sniffle. Twilight, Celestia, and Pinkie turned their heads and found Fluttershy hugging Rainbow Dash’s head tightly in her forelegs, pressing her face into her rainbow-colored mane. Rainbow Dash lay motionless in her grasp, her eyes peacefully shut.

“Please, no... not again, I can’t take it,” Fluttershy cried, shaking her head softly back and forth against Rainbow Dash’s bright hair. “I lost you once today, already, and I don’t want to see you go again. It’s all my fault, you saved me both times, and I couldn’t stop it.”

“Fluttershy, what do you mean... twice?” asked Twilight with hesitation, reaching out to the crying mare. Celestia placed a hoof on Twilight’s foreleg and shook her head.

“I sensed it earlier, but did not say anything,” Celestia admitted. “Rainbow Dash was full of - rather, alive because of Fluttershy’s power. She was, in a way, an extension of Fluttershy in a very real sense.”

“In Cloudsdale,” Fluttershy started between sobs, “we were attacked by dragons. It was terrible. They burned and destroyed everything. In the end, Rainbow Dash saved me, but... she didn’t make it. She died... right there in front of me... and I couldn’t stop it. I felt so powerless! I felt so weak! There I was, relying on her, and she couldn’t count on me at all!”

Fluttershy hugged Rainbow Dash’s head closer, continuing. “That’s when that strange power filled me up. I couldn’t control it. I just knew... I knew I could fix everything. I knew I could save Rainbow Dash! I knew I could save everypony!” she began to yell, a bright yellow glow emanating from her body and puffing from her mouth as she spoke.

“Fluttershy, calm down,” Celestia said calmly, taking a step towards her. “Your power is rising too quickly. You could-”

“I could do it again!” Fluttershy yelled. “I will do it again! I’ll save her! I’ll save everypony, and make this dream happy!” She clenched her eyes shut, yellow energy now pouring out from every inch of her body. Her eyes shot open after a moment, her head twisted upward toward the sky, and beams of light fired from her eyes into the dark, starry night. The other ponies around her flinched and covered their eyes, blinded by the sudden outburst.

Fluttershy opened her eyes and found herself standing in the middle of a dark cloud of nothingness. Ahead of her, she could make out a small pool of water. She approached it, and looked down at her own reflection. Staring back up at her was something she hadn’t seen for many years - she was a filly. She blinked and turned her head, looking at her flank, which was plain and bare. Before she knew it, cloudy hallways had appeared all around her, and she realized she was standing outside the restroom at summer flight camp near Cloudsdale. She turned back to the water and found that it was a basin up against the wall, a mirror hanging right behind it. She gazed into the mirror and could tell she’d been crying.

Then from behind her came a familiar voice. “Those big bullies don’t know when to stop!” it said. “Sorry about that. I should have said something. I just... couldn’t.”

Fluttershy turned around and saw an equally young Rainbow Dash standing there, her gaze turned down toward the ground, her front right hoof drawing circles along it.

“Rainbow Dash?” Fluttershy asked, still puzzled by how she ended up there.

“Yeah, that’s my name. I guess you remember, not that it’s hard considering my mane,” Rainbow Dash said with a chuckle. “You’re Fluttershy, right?”

Fluttershy nodded.

“Look, those jerks are so full of themselves, someone should knock them down a peg! Don’t you think so?” Rainbow Dash asked, finally raising her head to look at Fluttershy directly.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Fluttershy meekly, surprised at how different her voice sounded in this young form of herself. Despite the sudden jarring change of scenery, Fluttershy remembered this moment well and played along. “I’m... used to it.”

“You shouldn’t have to be used to it!” Rainbow Dash insisted, raising a hoof in the air and flapping her small wings. “The next time those windbags start getting on your case, just tell me, and I’ll set ‘em straight!”

Fluttershy blushed, the impact of this pony she’d only just met for the first time offering to help her still making her speechless, just like she was back then. She nodded her head and smiled softly.

“We’re friends now! Friends look out for each other! Okay?” stated Rainbow Dash confidently. “My dad told me to never leave a friend hanging, and I won’t!”

Fluttershy smiled up at Rainbow Dash and nodded her head again.

You were the first pony to ever call me a friend, even though I know you were one of the ones teasing me just earlier that day, Fluttershy thought to herself. You never did tell me what made you change your mind and want to protect me instead of laughing at me, but it felt so wonderful all the same. I had never felt that way before.

With the blink of an eye, Fluttershy found herself tumbling through the air towards a patch of clouds below. She landed with a thud, shook her head, and looked up to find herself face to face with two of the bullies who had been teasing her the entire week.

“Nice one, Klutzershy!” one of the colts laughed. “They oughtta ground you permanently!”

“Leave her alone!” came Rainbow Dash’s voice as she zipped into view, placing herself between the bullies and Fluttershy.

“Ooh, what are you gonna do, Rainbow Crash?” one of the bullies taunted.

“Keep makin’ fun of her and find out!” Rainbow Dash shouted back defiantly.

Fluttershy huddled closer to the ground, trying to hide from the argument that was unfolding in front of her.

You can get so confrontational sometimes, even with me. It’s kind of scary, but I love it, too, Fluttershy thought as she observed this moment from her past.

Fluttershy closed her eyes and recalled more of that day. We both got our cutie marks that day. All of us did, really, and it was all thanks to you, Fluttershy thought as scenes of the race and her subsequent fall to the ground filled her mind. But you never did truly see how great you were, even though I tried to show you.

When Fluttershy opened her eyes again, she found herself sitting in her dorm room on the campus of Cloudsdale’s high school.

I’d been forced to live in these dorms by my parents, she recalled. They wanted me to make friends and stop being so shy. She turned her head and saw Rainbow Dash sitting on her bed, a flustered look on her face.

But the only friend I ever had, was you, she remembered.

“I just got so tired of the teachers. They didn’t do anything but give me a hard time. How can you stand it, Fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash said, not taking her eyes off the ground, her voice full of frustration.

“I don’t know, I think they’re nice... You should come back to school, Dashie,’ Fluttershy said quietly. “I’m sure we could figure out something.”

Rainbow Dash sighed. “They don’t want me there, and I don’t want to be there,” she said, hopping down from the bed. “Sorry to disappoint you. I should go, though. Thanks for listening, at least.” Rainbow Dash lifted the window and leapt out, taking to the sky without giving Fluttershy another moment to even respond.

You were so sad, and I couldn’t help you. Fluttershy thought with a sigh. I graduated later that year, and left for Ponyville. I never did see you after graduation to say goodbye.

Fluttershy saw herself standing at a train station below Cloudsdale, boarding a passenger car. As the train pulled away, tears flowed down her face. I was running away, and I knew it, she thought. I knew deep down inside that I’d never see you, my only friend, ever again.

A second later, Fluttershy found herself standing in the doorway of her cottage in Ponyville, breathing heavily and staring at Rainbow Dash, who was right outside with Pinkie Pie by her side.

“It’s you,” said Fluttershy, not even blinking. Rainbow Dash looked just as regal and confident as she remembered.

“It’s me,” said Rainbow Dash, staring back with an odd expression on her face.

Fluttershy leapt forward and tackled Rainbow to the ground, hugging her. She began to cry.

“I thought I’d never see you again!” said Fluttershy, pressing her face to Rainbow Dash’s chest.

I really did think that, too, but you came back to me all the same, Fluttershy thought, smiling to herself. From that day, you showed me just how a loyal friend should be. You introduced me to so many ponies, even on that first night of our reunion. You’d already made more friends in a single day than I had in an entire year.

Fluttershy sighed. “And I thought I could live up to your expectations. I thought I could come out of my shell and try to be as good a friend to you as you were to me,” she said out loud, finding herself now standing in a dark void once again. “But I couldn’t. It was too much for me. The pressure of everypony trying to get close to me... I knew I’d only let them down. I knew it deep in my heart.”

Rainbow Dash appeared in a flash in front of Fluttershy. She smiled and raised a hoof up, patting Fluttershy firmly on the top of her head. “Don’t worry so much about stuff like that. Friends stand by each other and never leave another friend hanging! Remember?” She pushed a hoof out towards Fluttershy, holding it steadily.

Fluttershy nodded, her lips trembling. With another flash, she found herself surrounded by her friends, all standing in a half-circle in front of her.

“Rainbow Dash is right, Fluttershy,” said Twilight, walking towards her and putting her hoof out on top of Rainbow Dash’s. “We’ll always be there for each other.”

Rarity approached next, daintily placing her hoof onto the forming pile. “Just be yourself, darling,” she said with a smile and a wink. “After all, that’s the Fluttershy we love.”

Applejack pushed her hoof firmly onto Rarity’s and grinned at Fluttershy. “No matter what you may think,” she said with a chuckle, “We’re yer friends, and yer stuck with us!”

Pinkie Pie leapt forward and slammed her hoof down onto Applejack’s. “Now come on, Fluttershy! Let’s see that smile!” she yelled with a big toothy grin.

Fluttershy raised her head and smiled at her friends, placing her hoof on the top of the stack. “I’m so sorry how this dream turned out. It should never have been like this, so scary and sad. After all, I have such wonderful friends who all care so much about me!” she said, becoming choked up as she spoke. “Just you watch! I’m going to make this world a happier place!”

Her friends all nodded their heads happily, and began to fade into clouds of magical energy, flowing into Fluttershy’s chest, causing her to glow and shimmer many colors of magic. Only she and Rainbow Dash remained, their hooves still extended, smiling at one another.

Rainbow Dash flashed a huge, toothy smile, her eyebrows lowering. “Well, let’s do this!” she shouted, her mane erupting in rainbow-colored light, firing away in all directions, piercing the darkness around them and revealing a bright, sunny sky beyond.

Fluttershy pushed herself forward and wrapped her forelegs around Rainbow Dash, placing her head on her shoulder. “Yes! Let’s save this world!” she said with confidence as their magical energy began to swirl around and mix.

Fluttershy sat on the ground of the ravine, still hugging Rainbow Dash’s head closely, her eyes pouring out light towards the sky. Rainbow Dash began to glow as well, the colors of the rainbow swirling around the two of them.

The others were still flinching back, only a matter of a few seconds having passed for them since Fluttershy’s eyes shot skyward. The beams of light that were piercing the heavens began to be filled with color, and an explosion resembling a sonic rainboom erupted far above them. The colorful circle of light shot outward and expanded, washing over the land as far as could be seen.

Twilight Sparkle looked up towards the top of the ravine and saw vines and tree branches receding back into the forest. “Do you think... Do you think she really did it?” Twilight asked hopefully. The only response was the sound of coughing from behind her. She turned around and saw Applejack standing up and brushing mud from her coat. She flipped her hair to the side, revealing a complete pair of eyes from underneath.

Pinkie Pie leapt into the air and cheered, flapping her wings and waving her forelegs wildly. “They’re doing it! It’s Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash! They’re doing it!” she yelled with hyperactive jubilation that was more Pinkie-like than she had been in a long time.

“Well I’ll be,” said Applejack, placing a hoof to her face. “Thought I’d never see outta both eyes again.” She grinned, looking up at the sky. The beams of light from Fluttershy’s eyes were still hanging in the air like beacons, with swirls of rainbow-colored magic circling around them.

Twilight raised an eyebrow and looked at Applejack suspiciously. “And... you don’t find anything strange about this?” she asked, this having been the second time she’d expected Fluttershy’s power to cause a changeling transformation.

Applejack shook her head and shrugged. “Not really. Why?” she responded quite plainly.

Twilight sighed with frustration, almost wanting to point out exactly what was strange about the whole situation, but decided against it just in case.

Celestia leaned her head down to Twilight and whispered in her ear. “I have a theory about that, I’ll tell you later, when we’re alone.” Twilight nodded in response.

A moment later, the beams of light and colorful energy suddenly vanished from the sky. Fluttershy slouched forward over Rainbow Dash, breathing heavily, her mane draped down over them like a pink curtain.

“Fluttershy, are you alright?” Twilight asked, reaching a hoof out towards the yellow pegasus.

Fluttershy nodded, raising her head up, her mane parting and revealing Rainbow Dash’s face, which was still motionless, her eyes still closed, and a smile on her face.

Fluttershy smiled back down at Rainbow Dash’s peaceful expression, her eyelids hanging heavily over her sparkling, teary eyes.

“Thanks, Dashie,” she said softly. “We did it. We saved everypony.”

Silence hung in the air, and the moon glowed brightly above.

Author's Note:

A couple of notes, for those interested.

1. The canon for Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash's reunion in Ponyville is taken straight out of another fanfiction I wrote, called "Wonderbolts... Yeah, Right." - If you want to know more about Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash's past as according to me, give it a read. The situation where she sees Rainbow Dash outside her door with Pinkie Pie is the day Rainbow Dash moves to Ponyville, and finds out that Fluttershy has been living as a shut-in for a year.

2. A while ago I was asked by Arkaine Deao if Season 3 was going to influence my writing, and I responded at the time that it was not going to. However, I can say that it has had a small amount of influence on this chapter, but only in the form of Rainbow Dash referring to her dad. Originally, she was going to say her mom, but the scene in Games Ponies Play with RD standing on her dad's shoulders was so cute, I couldn't resist slipping in a mention of him. Who knows, maybe he'll make an appearance later on if I can work it in.

As far as further influences from Season 3, I don't forsee much. If anything, some of the things revealed in season 3 have only strengthened the story I've got planned. Nothing has lessened it in the slightest, so I am extremely pleased about that.

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