• 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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Horizons Ch 1 - Cracks

Book Three: Horizons

Chapter One: Cracks

Twilight, Fluttershy, Scootaloo, and a disguised Celestia stood in a line, looking up at the floating city that spread through the northern skies. It dominated the view, completely blocking their line of sight to Canterlot.

Scootaloo leapt into the air and flapped her tiny wings, hovering for a moment before landing again. “I can’t wait for tomorrow! Rainbow Dash told me that it was going to be a special performance with a special announcement at the start!” the filly shouted excitedly. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s gonna be awesome!”

The three others nodded their heads. “Awesome is right,” Twilight said quietly, still staring up at Cloudsdale. “I wonder why they moved Cloudsdale to here?”

Scootaloo tilted her head and gave Twilight a confused look. “Did you bump your head in that tree? You’re one of the ones who helped move it here, after all,” she said with a blink of her eyes.

Twilight cleared her throat and tapped the side of her head with a hoof. “Oh, of course!” she said nervously. “Sorry, I guess I had a bit of a ditzy moment there. Right, how could I forget that?”

“Well,” Celestia said, turning around, “I should look around this town and, you know, see the sights and gather some local information. I think that’s the best plan for right now.” She nodded her head sideways towards Twilight and Fluttershy, gesturing for them to follow.

“Oh yes, we should show you around!” Fluttershy joined in, also turning to join Celestia who was walking out towards the main areas of the village.

“You’re new around here, huh?” Scootaloo asked, sliding in front of Celestia, still wearing a big excited smile. “I could help! I know all the best places in town to have fun!”

Twilight laughed and patted the filly on the head. “Oh, that’s okay, Scootaloo. We should be fine. My cous--”

“Friend!” Celestia interrupted abruptly.

“I mean, my friend and I, here, will be fine on our own,” Twilight finished with a bit of confusion.

“Yes,” Celestia added with a nervous laugh. “More of an acquaintance, really. Twilight Sparkle was going to show me Sugarcube Corner, weren’t you?”

Scootaloo hung her head despondently. “Fine, grown-up time, I get it,” she said with a groan. “It’s just so boring around here with Rainbow Dash gone.”

All three of the travelers’ eyes lit up at the mention of Rainbow Dash, even her absence.

“Rainbow Dash is gone?” Fluttershy asked, approaching Scootaloo. “Where is she?”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes and sighed. “I think all three of you must have bashed your heads into the ground too hard when you fell out of the tree,” she said. “What were you even doing up there, anyway? And what was that flash a minute ago?”

Of course, Twilight thought, The us from this world must already know where Rainbow Dash is... and why Cloudsdale is in the sky... oh, and Twilight from this world wouldn’t recognize a cousin, or a friend for that matter!

“Silly us, I guess we really are out of it!” Twilight said, shaking her head back and forth. “Just... remind us?”

Scootaloo shrugged and pointed up at Cloudsdale. “She’s up there, of course, with the Wonderbolts! They’re getting ready for their show tomorrow! Do you remember the poster you were just gawking at, or do I need to show that you that again, too?” The orange pegasus pointed towards the wall where the poster they had been looking at was hanging.

Twilight raised her head and looked towards Cloudsdale again. “Maybe you should go up there and see how she’s doing, Fluttershy,” she said. “We’ll head to Sugarcube Corner and meet you there afterwards.”

Scootaloo looked back and forth between Twilight and Fluttershy suspiciously. “What’s going on at Sugarcube Corner, anyway?” she asked, tilting one eyebrow upward.

Twilight thought for a moment. There’s no harm in saying we’re going to see Pinkie Pie, I guess.

“We just need to have a little talk with Pinkie, that’s all,” Twilight said nonchalantly. Scootaloo took a step backwards and stared at Twilight silently, as if she’d just said something terrifying. “Is... something wrong, Scootaloo?”

After a moment, Scootaloo managed to open her mouth to speak. “Is... Is Pinkie Pie back? Did they find her?” she asked. Her eyes were were now beginning to tear up and she sniffled lightly before bringing a foreleg up to her eyes to wipe them.

Oh dear... what now? Twilight thought, And what’s happened to Pinkie Pie?

Celestia thought quickly and interjected. “Don’t worry, child, I’m certain Pinkie Pie is okay. I’ve come all the way from Canterlot just to find her.” While not entirely truthful, this line did seem to bring a smile to Scootaloo’s face.

“Good. It has been boring without Rainbow Dash, but Pinkie Pie being gone just made it worse,” Scootaloo said. “I know you wanted to be alone, but do you mind if I come with you? I promise to not get in the way. I want Pinkie Pie back as much as anypony.”

Twilight glanced at Celestia and clenched her teeth, shaking her head slightly. However, it was too late, Celestia had already patted the filly on the head.

“Of course you can come,” Celestia said with a gentle smile.

Scootaloo leapt into the air happily and then ran off towards an alley across the way. “I just need to get my scooter! It’s around the other side of this building!” she shouted as she disappeared from sight. The three remaining ponies took this opportunity to quickly huddle together.

“Okay, Fluttershy, we’re counting on you,” Celestia said quietly. “We need you to bring Rainbow Dash down to Ponyville somehow. We’ll still meet at Sugarcube Corner. Once she’s there, we’ll awaken her.”

Fluttershy nodded. “What if she won’t come, though? How do I convince her?”

Twilight smiled and tapped a hoof against Fluttershy’s chest. “You know Rainbow Dash better than anypony else. If anyone can think of the right thing to say to her, it’s you,” she said, glancing towards the alley Scootaloo had run into. “But just remember, you can’t say anything about the changelings or the dream worlds. Once she knows the truth, she might start to reject the dream and wake up. It happened to me, so be careful not to let anything slip.”

“Yes, it’s a defense mechanism,” Celestia added. “When a dreamer starts to become lucid, that is when they know they are dreaming, there is a tendency for the lucidity to express itself by ending the dream. Lucidity is not the normal state for a dreamer, and a sudden realization could cause the dream to just end.”

Fluttershy nodded her head. “My awakening wasn’t all that terrible, though. I was scared, but the dream didn’t end,” she responded.

Twilight shook her head. “Fluttershy, you caused a worldwide earthquake and rainstorm, not to mention draining the color out of everything. Anyway... it's best just to not take the chance."

Fluttershy glanced up and saw Scootaloo approaching on her scooter at high speed. “I’ll be on my way, then. Good luck!” she said, and then spread her wings, taking off towards Cloudsdale.

Twilight and Celestia joined Scootaloo and began to head towards the town center where Sugarcube Corner was located.

Fluttershy pushed her way up through the lower levels of Cloudsdale, passing between two large cloud islands and into the southern square. It didn’t take her long to find indications of where Rainbow Dash was staying. Posters were plastered on walls and ponies in the street were talking with childlike excitement about the upcoming Wonderbolts show. She knew that a lot of pegasi were Wonderbolts fans, but this was beyond the usual levels.

Everypony is so excited, she thought. I guess that makes sense. There’s no bigger fan than Rainbow Dash, so everypony in her dream must be big fans, too.

At the northwest end of the central cloud stood a giant complex atop a cloud mound. The emblem of The Wonderbolts shone brightly from the front, and several spires shot upward from it at various points. The central tower rose higher than the rest, and Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark was emblazoned upon it.

Fluttershy sighed and rolled her eyes. She’s definitely getting a little carried away, but it’s her dream, so I guess that’s fine. It’s not like my dream didn’t get out of hoof, too.

She glided towards the compound for what felt like ages, realizing as she went that it was much larger and further away than she’d initially thought. The compound itself was practically the size of the royal palace in Canterlot. As she got closer and was able to see more detail, she could see each tower had its own cutie mark, signifying the inhabitant. At the top of each tower was an entrance to the interior, which she assumed would be each Wonderbolt’s living quarters.

She finally approached the entrance to Rainbow Dash’s tower and landed on the balcony that hung outside the large, regal doors. They were made of thick, stained wood and had her cutie mark carved in the center. It was definitely the type of thing you’d expect to see in Canterlot, and not so much in Cloudsdale. Fluttershy grimaced.

Really, Rainbow Dash? she thought to herself. This seems a bit much, even for you...

Fluttershy knocked softly against the door and put her ear against it. “Rainbow Dash?” she said timidly after a moment. The grandiosity of the whole situation had made her a bit nervous to the point where she wasn’t even sure if she should be meeting her like this without the others. It was too late now, though. She could hear hoofsteps on the other side of the door, and then it swung inward a second later.

Fluttershy stumbled forward slightly, then regained her balance and looked up at the pony on the other side of the door. Rainbow Dash stood before her, a slightly confused look on her face. Her mane was a bit longer than Fluttershy remembered it being, and she had the back of it tied up in a ponytail. She was wearing a red velvet robe with a white collar. The robe was tied loosely at her waist and had long tails that dragged behind her. Regardless of the slight differences, it was definitely her, and this was the first time Fluttershy had seen Rainbow Dash since her dream version of her had died in her forelegs.

She swallowed, trying to hold back mixed feelings of happiness and sadness. The thought that this was the real Rainbow Dash only amplified her feelings, though, and she couldn’t keep herself from grabbing her friend and hugging her tightly.

Rainbow Dash raised a foreleg and put it around Fluttershy’s shoulders. Her brow furrowed and she blinked with confusion. “Nice to see you, too?” she said, unsure of what was going on.

Back on the ground, Twilight, Celestia, and Scootaloo had almost reached Sugarcube Corner. On the way there, Scootaloo had been explaining what had happened to Pinkie Pie.

“Nopony knows what happened, but just after getting back from the royal wedding, Pinkie Pie started acting really weird,” she recalled. “She would always look at walls, or even empty spaces, really strangely and say she could see cracks in the world.”

Twilight glanced at Celestia, who returned a knowing look. Pinkie had been aware that something was wrong with the world, just like Pinkie Twi had, she thought.

“And then what happened?” Celestia asked as they turned a bend in the road and Sugarcube Corner came into view.

Scootaloo shrugged. “She just up and vanished one night. Nopony has seen her since. Zecora came and tried to use her powers to figure out anything she could,” she said. “Hay, even you couldn't tell what happened, Twilight. You tried everything and couldn’t seem to make heads or tails of any of it, especially those weird notebooks she left.”

Twilight grinned nervously. “Ah yes, those notebooks. You know, I think I should take another look at them, are they still there?”

“As far as I know, they’re still up in Pinkie’s room,” The filly responded as they arrived at the front entrance. She looked up at Twilight hopefully, then turned to Celestia. “Please tell me you can find her, please.”

Celestia nodded confidently. “We’ll do our very best.”

Twilight pushed the door open and stepped inside, glancing around for signs of the Cakes. Sitting on a counter at the far end of the shop was a tray of steaming hot tarts. The smell of fresh baked dough and sweet apples filled Twilight’s nostrils. She felt her mouth watering and swallowed before opening her mouth to call out.

“Hello? Is anypony in here?” She asked. Celestia and Scootaloo entered behind her as the sound of hoofsteps came from the kitchen towards them. Carrot Cake, the father of the Cake family, pushed the kitchen door open and smiled as he saw Twilight and her companions.

“Hey there, Twilight! What brings you here? Planning on getting some of our famous apple tarts for the show tomorrow?” he asked, pointing a hoof towards the baked goods on the counter. “There’s more in the oven, and Applejack should be bringing another cartload or two of apples. We’re hardly able to keep up with the demand, but I can make an exception for you.”

Twilight smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Cake, but we’re actually here for a different reason. Do you mind if we go take a look upstairs in Pinkie’s room?” She glanced towards the stairs that led up to the Cake household, in which Pinkie resided in the attic.

Mr. Cake drooped his head and shook it slowly. “I suppose there’s no harm in it, but... do you really think there’s any point?” he said, and then stepped close to Twilight, pressing his mouth to her ear. “I mean, she went completely crazy, up and disappeared. It’s been most of a month now. It might be time to consider the possibility that she might be...” he whispered, trailing off at the end, not wanting to finish the thought.

Twilight shook her head. “I know she’s still out there. I’ve brought somepony with me from Canterlot who I think will be able to help us find out what happened,” she said. “Let’s go take a look up there, um... Inspector...”

Celestia nodded her head. “Orange,” she finished for Twilight. “Really, dear Twilight, try to concentrate. The game’s afoot.” She walked past Twilight and began to go up the stairs. Twilight chuckled and followed her with Scootaloo bringing up the rear.

When they arrived at the doorway to Pinkie’s loft, Twilight whispered to Celestia, “Do we really want to bring her up with us? We’ll have to be careful what we say.”

“Come along, you two. Let’s get to work,” Celestia said aloud in response, opening the door and ascending the final flight of stairs.

As the three of them gained a view into the room, they saw that the whole place was torn apart. Papers, quills, and ink wells were scattered everywhere. Writing and pictures had been scrawled onto every wall, and a stack of notebooks sat neatly on a table. The top notebook’s cover read “REALITY IS NOT REAL!” in large, scribbly letters.

Twilight and Celestia began to circle the room, while Scootaloo took a seat at the table and picked up a notebook from the top of the pile.

Twilight’s eyes darted around, taking in the drawings and writing. As she went along the wall, she read the words aloud.

“Cracks in reality. Flashing beams of color. Day 12, I can see some kind of magical aura. Nopony else can see it. It’s deep red and won’t let me touch it. I want it.”

Celestia’s head jerked back towards Twilight. “Deep red magic? I’ve seen that before,” she said. “Do you remember, Twilight?”

Twilight nodded. “Pinkie had used it before. Do you think the same power has possessed her again?”

“No way to know yet, but she said she couldn’t touch it. Why would she write Day 12 on the wall like that, and not the other days?” Celestia asked, placing a hoof on her chin.

“Looks like she wanted to make sure that got noticed,” Scootaloo spoke up, flipping the pages of the notebook she was holding. “It’s in this notebook, too, but it also says ‘Put on wall,’ afterwards.”

Twilight continued to look at the wall, her eyes eventually coming across a drawing of something that looked very similar to the colorscope she had in her dream. The words next to it read “Voices won’t shut up. Telling me to break the world. This thing would let me. Have to make sure I never get it. Might do what voices say. I want to.”

At the end of the wall right before the stairwell, Twilight finished reading Pinkie’s writing. “I’m leaving. I’m so scared. I need help. Voices tell me to do terrible things. Help me.” Twilight recited. “That’s it. I guess the rest of the information we need is in the notebooks.”

Celestia tapped a hoof against the wall she was standing in front of. “Twilight, look here,” she said. “The wall here has a big oval drawn on it, and says ‘Crack here!’ I wonder if this could be... you know...”

The exit! Twilight thought. We’d have to check with the Colorscope to be sure, but that would be really useful to know! We can’t with Scoots here, though. She nodded to Celestia.

Twilight walked over to the table where Scootaloo was sitting flipping through Pinkie's notebooks. She picked one up and began to read through it.

There must be some sort of clue as to where Pinkie has gone, she thought. I just need to find it. As she was thinking this, she turned a page and found a diagram of some sort of cloak with arrows pointing to several pockets and pouches along its edges.

There were words underneath the diagram, which Twilight read out loud. "Night's Cloak, voices told me how to make it, will need to get help from Rarity," she recited. "Prin, er, Inspector... come look at this."

"Looks like she wanted to wear a disguise to help her sneak away," Celestia said, glancing at the drawing. "The design seems familiar, but I can't place it."

"In any case, we should go see what Rarity knows," Twilight decided. "Pinkie might have said something to her before leaving."

Scootaloo waved a hoof back and forth in front of her. "Don't bother, Rarity's been really tight-lipped about anything involving Pinkie Pie. I hear she made a Pinkie Promise not to tell anyone anything," she said.

Twilight sighed with frustration. "Pinkie Pie..." she muttered. "Surely Rarity could be convinced, though. Pinkie Promise or no, our friend's safety could depend on what she knows."

Scootaloo rolled her eyes and hopped up onto her hooves. "Like nopony's thought of that before," she said sarcastically.

"Nopony has been here on an official investigation from Canterlot before, either," Celestia chimed in. "I shall go pay a visit to Lady Rarity. Perhaps I can convince her to talk."

"Worth a try, I guess," said Twilight. "I'll take these notebooks and study them more. Thank you so much for your help, Scootaloo." She slipped the notebooks into her saddlebag, and then she and Scootaloo followed Celestia towards the stairs.

Descending back to the ground floor of Sugarcube corner, they were greeted by the door at the front of the store opening and Applejack pushing her way in, pulling a cart full of apples behind her.

"Mr. Cake! Got the extra apples ya ordered, here!" she hollered towards the back. Her eye caught Twilight standing at the stairs, and she smiled and waved. "Howdy, Twilight! What're you doin' here? Thought you were off in Canterlot gettin' some last minute preparations done fer tomorrow!"

I'm in canterlot, eh? Good to know. That means the library's free, Twilight thought, then remembered something. Shoot! I bet all the books are blank, anyway!

Twilight smiled back at Applejack. "Oh, no, I got back early. I brought Inspector Orange here with me, she's investigating Pinkie Pie's disappearance."

"Oh, and we are mighty thankful for it, too!" Mrs. Cake's voice came from the kitchen as she emerged. "Carrot was just telling me all about it. We sure hope you find her. She's like family to us, and we really do miss her. Please find her! Bring us back our smiling face!"

“Well that’s sure somethin’, but I don’t know,” Applejack said with a look of concern. “She’s been gone for a good while, now, and nopony’s been able ta find any trace of her.”

Celestia smiled and nodded her head, placing a hoof above her forehead as if she were tipping an invisible hat. “Don’t worry, you two. I’m on the case!” she said confidently.

Twilight laughed. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?” she asked, smirking.

“Do you think I need a hat? Oh, I bet Rarity has one that’s just perfect.”

“Oh, please…” Twilight said, sighing. “Anyway, I need to get to reading through these notebooks some more, and the inspector is heading to Carousel Boutique. You know the way, right Inspector?”

Celestia nodded her head and turned to head out the door. However, she was obstructed by a small filly pulling a cart full of apples into the shop. The cart’s wheels became stuck at the entrance, and she fell over backwards, tumbling into a roll and finally stopping at Celestia’s legs.

Applejack laughed. “Come on now, Apple Bloom, you gotta do better’n that if ya wanna be a full-fledged farm pony!”

The filly rolled back to her hooves and stood up. She looked up at Celestia and blushed. “Sorry, ma’am. Sorry sis!” she said embarrassedly, rubbing her hoof against the back of her head.

“Not at all, little one,” Celestia said, patting Apple Bloom on the head. “I was just heading out. Be more careful next time.” She stepped through the door and out into the streets of Ponyville towards her destination, carousel Boutique.

Apple Bloom watched the unfamiliar pony leave and then her eyes trailed to the back of the room where Scootaloo was standing. She suddenly smiled and leapt towards the small pegasus. “Scootaloo! Long time no see!”

Scootaloo smiled and trained her eyes away from Apple Bloom. “Yeah,” she said, pausing. “A while.”

“Oh, come on now, I’m sorry I ain’t had time ta hang out as much, but I just been so busy helpin’ the family, we’ve all barely had a moment’s rest!” Apple Bloom said, pressing a hoof gently against Scootaloo.

Twilight stepped towards Applejack and leaned in, speaking softly. “What’s up with them? I thought they were such good friends. I’ve never seen either of them so reserved when there’s another Cutie Mark Crusader around.”

Applejack shrugged. “So you noticed it too, huh? Those two just ain’t been the same lately. Really, it’s all three a’ them, if ya know what I mean,” she said with a sigh. “Poor Scootaloo, I feel so bad for her, but I just don’t know what ta’ say to her, and Apple Bloom’s just as lost as I am.”

Twilight shook her head with confusion yet again. “Say to her? About what?” she asked.

Applejack gave Twilight a cold glare. “Oh, come on, Twi. You know how bad those three wanted ta’ get their cutie marks together,” she said.

Twilight nodded her head. “Right, and...?”

“Can you really be that dull, Twi?” Applejack asked in disbelief. “Ever since Apple Bloom n’ Sweetie Belle got their cutie marks, poor Scootaloo’s the only one left without one. She’s a tough kid, but it’s broken her heart and made her feel like the third wheel, I reckon.”

Twilight jerked her head suddenly towards the two fillies again. How could I have missed that she had a cutie mark? she thought. After a second, she realized that she hadn’t missed anything. Apple Bloom’s flank was as blank as ever. That’s strange. Why would AJ think she has a cutie mark?

Twilight looked back towards Applejack. Visions of Applejack from the previous dream world entered her mind-- Her glowing green eyes and the way she turned into such a formidable changeling foe. Best not mention anything and just play along for now, Twilight decided.

Twilight looked back at the two fillies. Suddenly, a light bulb lit up inside Twilight’s mind. Her eyes widened and she bit her lower lip as she realized a distinct possibility.

This... might not be Rainbow Dash’s dream.

Author's Note:

Finally, Book 3! I don't know if this book will compete with Book 2 in its epicness, but... eh, actually, it might! I have a lot in store for this one, and have been dreaming of writing it since WINTER! So here it comes, finally! Way too long coming, but that's partially because I have ended up writing ahead a lot. There is a big chunk of late chapter 2/early chapter 3 already written. So the next two should pop faster than expected.

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