• 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 7 - Power Surge

Book Three: Horizons

Chapter Seven - Power Surge

Who are you?

The Cutie Mark Crusaders suddenly skidded to a stop. They had been charging down the corridors that circled around the outside of the stadium, trying to make their way around to where Rarity and her parents were. Scootaloo dropped one hoof down from her scooter onto the floor and lifted her gaze upward.

“Who’s there?” she asked nervously.

“Yeah, show yerself! We ain’t scared!” Apple Bloom added on.

Who are you? Answer quickly, we implore thee!

“We are the Cutie Mark Crusaders!” Sweetie Belle replied loudly.

“Yeah!” Scootaloo shouted. “We’re, um, really powerful defenders of Ponyville! So you better watch who you’re messing with!”

The voice giggled in response. You need not fear, children. I know not how I’ve come into contact with thee, but it is most fortunate.

“Yeah, but who are you?” Scootaloo asked again.

It is I, your princess of the night, Luna, the voice responded. The fillies’ eyes widened, and they smiled, recognizing the voice as Luna’s. Their hearts seemed to fill with a kind, gentle warmth.

Listen carefully, fillies, for I must relay information to you of vital importance, Luna spoke gravely. If the power I sense inside of you has awoken, then you must surely have started to guess that something isn’t right.

“Guess?” Sweetie Belle exclaimed. “We just saw a big crowd of ponies all turn into changelings, Rainbow Dash use magic, and some weird light came out from our bodies. You were out there, you must have seen it, too.”

I did not, for I am not there. The one you see there as Luna is but a dream, as is the entire world around you, Luna responded in the Crusaders’ minds. The three of you, through an unnatural form of magic, are sharing a dream together. The world you are in is all part of the dreams you are having.

“A dream?” Scootaloo asked, an orange glow now shining out from her more brightly than before. “If this were all just a dream, that would almost be a good thing.” She looked back at her flank, then shut her eyes.

“A dream...” Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom said in unison, both glancing back at their flanks. With a blink of their eyes, they saw the truth. There were no cutie marks there, but their bodies shone with radiant magic instead.

“I guess that makes sense,” Apple Bloom said sadly, though she breathed a sigh of relief. “My talent was cool, but didn’t feel right. It felt like I shouldn’t be doing it, somehow.”

“Me, too, even though I was kind of proud to be helping my sister,” Sweetie Belle said, blushing slightly.

That is not all, I am afraid. Reality is not so kind, Luna’s voice spoke. Please try to remain calm, for the next part may be difficult to accept. The changeling queen is behind this dream of yours. Stay still and concentrate, and I shall fill your minds with the truth.

Visions of the throne room in Canterlot, cocoons hanging from the ceiling, flooded into the fillies’ minds. Looks of shock, distress, and sadness flashed upon their faces as they finally comprehended the weight of their predicaments.

“All our friends… our families…” Sweetie Belle said, at a loss. Tears streaked down her cheeks, falling to the ground.

“Everypony that was in Canterlot for the wedding...” Apple Bloom said.

And if we do not act, Luna said, everypony in Equestria.

Scootaloo shut her eyes tightly and smashed her front right hoof against the handlebars on her scooter. “But what can we do?” she asked with frustration.

The way I have come to be in communication with you is a mystery, but I can feel a kindred magical energy emanating from you three. A nearly identical wavelength to my own, a warm and gentle wave, full of love and compassion, Luna spoke softly. You three Crusaders, as you call yourselves, bear a power greater than you know.

“Power? What power?” Scootaloo asked, looking down at her chest nervously. The glowing flame-shaped symbol that had appeared before was shining brightly, a fiery orange color. The other Crusaders’ glowing emblems were also pulsing outward with magic.

Concentrate hard, Crusaders, for your power is two-fold within your dreams. The strange magical energy that has connected us is only the beginning, Luna’s voice echoed powerfully in the Crusaders’ minds. This is your dream, and you are the masters of it! Do not let the dream control you, for you can control the dream. Every pony in the world, big and small, can grasp this form of magic, the inner power of their imaginations – lucidity.

“Luci.. Lucidy…?” Apple Bloom started, trying to pronounce the word.

“Lucidity?” Sweetie Belle finished for her friend. Apple Bloom pouted momentarily.

Focus, young ones. Yours is the power to change the world as you wish.

“Change the world as we wish…” Apple Bloom pondered, concentrating on those words. “A wish.”

With a flash, Applejack and Big Macintosh appeared in the corridor in front of the three fillies. Applejack ducked down as if she was bracing herself for an attack, and Big Macintosh calmly looked around his surroundings before turning to face the three fillies.

“What in tarnation…?” Applejack finally asked, reaching a hoof out towards Apple Bloom. She tapped her sister lightly on the chest where the bright shape of a golden flower glowed. “How did we end up here?”

Apple Bloom smiled widely. “I wished you were here, and it worked!”

“Ya know, weirder stuff’s been happening, so whatever,” Applejack replied.

“I wished you were here and you just… appeared,” Apple Bloom reiterated. “That’s more than weird.”

“Eeyup,” Big Macintosh echoed the sentiment, looking towards Applejack. “Didja see that big pink blast?”

“Eeyup,” Applejack replied, staring at the three crusaders whose chests were still aglow with magic. “Ain’t nothin’ makin’ any sense ever since Twilight and the princess came back from Canterlot. As far as I can reckon, them two princesses and the Twilight they had with ‘em are changeling imposters.”

I’m afraid time is short for me, Crusaders, Luna’s voice spoke again in the fillies’ minds. I am captive and bound in more ways than one. I do not know how long I will be able to stay connected to you. Indeed, it is miraculous that I was able to reach out at all. If I remain, you will all be in greater danger.

“Danger?” Sweetie Belle asked aloud. Applejack and Big Macintosh looked at her curiously, but did not speak.

Yes, child. A nightmare beyond your imagining, Luna replied. Before I go, I have a task for you three. A task that I am loathe to place upon the shoulders of children, but I have run out of choices. You must fight, brave Crusaders, defenders of Ponyville. Grasp onto your powers within that dream and fight. The changelings who hold us prisoner will come after you. The more of them that get distracted by turmoil inside this dream, the less will be present to keep me locked away. It will not be an easy task, but I implore you. Equestria’s fate may very well rest in your hooves alone.

“What do we do, ya’ll?” Apple Bloom asked nervously, looking at her two best friends.

Scootaloo laughed. “Save Equestria? No problem!” she scoffed.

“Yeah! And we’re not alone!” Sweetie Belle said bravely. “We have our families, and Twilight, and Fluttershy, and that inspector lady on our side!”

“Who in tarnation are you youngin’s talkin’ to?” Applejack finally asked, becoming frustrated. “And what’s that about savin’ Equestria?”

Apple Bloom grinned sheepishly up at Applejack. I can’t tell her the truth, can I? she thought. No… if she’s gonna fight with us, she has to know!

“Sis, you might not believe this, but we’re talking with Princess Luna somehow. It seems like we can hear her, but nopony else can,” Apple Bloom said. “It’s the real Princess Luna, though. You were right, the one out there in the arena is just another changeling.” She covered her mouth after speaking, realizing that she’d said that all pretty bluntly, though she knew her sister did prefer straight honest talk.

Applejack took her hat off and shook her head. “This is gettin’ ridiculous,” she said. “That inspector lady as you called her is the real Princess Celestia.”

Sweetie Belle gasped. “The inspector is the real Celestia?” she asked, amazed. “The princess stole a hat from the boutique?”

Any thoughts the Crusaders were having at this moment were interrupted by Luna’s voice, shouting out with the force of the Royal Canterlot Voice in their heads.

My sister is present in your dream? Is this true, children? Luna asked loudly.

The fillies cupped their ears with their front hooves to no avail, but all nodded in response.

“Looks that way,” Scootaloo managed to say, her ears ringing.

This changes everything! Luna shouted with excitement. You must tell my sister that I need her help; That the darkness falling is darker than she knows! If she’s traversing dreams, then she will surely be able to help you as well! You must move quickly, Crusaders! I am now certain, the fate Equestria rests firmly in your hooves, and as your princess, I command thee! Find my sister!

“Okay, okay!” Scootaloo said, “But can you stop yelling?”

The sound of Luna clearing her throat echoed in the fillies’ minds. My apologies, I became a bit overexcited, Luna said quietly. Crusaders, if you all accept the command of your princess, then I shall do one last thing to help thee. I shall grant thee a spark, a mere twinkle of my magic. I fear any further magical transference would be too dangerous, or perhaps not even possible. However, with this spark, you three shall be well on your way to controlling your new powers.

“A twinkle?” Sweetie Belle asked.

A second later, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were bowled over backwards, the symbols on their chests exploding with magic. The corridor lit up as streaks of energy shot out from the three young ponies rapidly. Their eyes glowed bright white, and they cried out loudly as the magic burst forth. Applejack and Big Macintosh ducked down to the ground, staring in confusion at the display.

After a moment, the magical surge subsided. The Crusaders returned to normal and the emblems on their chests had vanished. The three of them stood up, dusting themselves off.

“Princess Luna?” Apple Bloom called out. There was no response.

“That was a twinkle?” Sweetie Belle squeaked, rubbing a hoof against the back of her head.

“Some twinkle!” Scootaloo exclaimed.

“Look, ya’ll! Those glowing things are gone!” Apple Bloom shouted. “Did we mess it up somehow?”

Scootaloo squinted her eyes and reached her hoof out towards the far wall of the arena. She slid her hoof downward gently, and the wall unzipped as if it were made of cloth. The sunlit fields of Sweet Apple Acres could be seen on the other side.

“No, I think it worked. Can you two feel it?” Scootaloo asked with a grin.

The other two fillies clopped their hooves together at Scootaloo’s “trick”. Applejack and Big Macintosh just stared at Scootaloo in awe.

“Ya know, I…” Applejack started. “I… nevermind. Weirder stuff’s been happenin’, so whatever.”

Pinkie Pie carefully took the gem from Twilight and stared into its depths, her eyes sparkling and unfocused. Twilight clopped her hooves in front of Pinkie’s face.

“Pinkie, we have to hurry!” Twilight said impatiently, looking back up at Rainbow Dash and her ball of changelings.

“Right, sorry!” Pinkie shouted, seemingly startled, and then pushed the gem into her left ear. She flopped down to a sitting position and sat completely still, blinking her eyes.

“Do you… think she’s okay?” Fluttershy asked. Celestia shook her head and shrugged, and Twilight let out a frustrated sigh.

After a couple more seconds, Twilight sat down in front of Pinkie and waved her hoof in front of her face. “Hello? Anything?”

“Shh!” Pinkie responded, putting the tip of her hoof up to Twilight’s lips. “Wait, what?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Pinkie, we don’t have time for this!” she shouted. A second later, a bright flash shot in the group’s direction. Twilight, Fluttershy, and Celestia turned their heads up toward the flash. The dream princesses, their eyes glowing unnaturally, stared back down at them.

Pinkie slowly cocked her head upward, bringing the princesses into her field of view. “You’re right, that was pretty weird,” she said aloud.

“Yeah, but nopony said that,” Twilight said flatly. In response, Pinkie grinned and stuck her tongue out. A long, pink horn erupted from her forehead and a pair of pink wings popped out from two slits on the back of her cloak. A blinding wave of pink magic exploded outward, engulfing the arena in light. The two princesses, along with Rainbow Dash and the ball of changelings were blown up and outward.

Pinkie levitated the communication gem out of her ear and slapped it forcefully into Twilight’s. Twilight flinched slightly, and then even more from the yelling coming from the other end of the communicator.

“Twilight, those two! The princesses!” Pinkie yelled over the comm gem. “Get away from them!”

In the sky above, Rainbow Dash was being chased by a group of changelings once again. Many of the changelings had been scattered, flying so far up and away that they were landing outside the arena in the fields and orchards of Sweet Apple Acres. Dash was easily able to stay ahead of the ones who were still flying after her and trained her eyes down towards Pinkie Pie.

What in Equestria was that, Pinkie Pie? she thought.

The changelings Mulcibar and Linnai, disguised as Luna and Celestia, recovered from the sudden surge of magic and stared down at the group of ponies below.

“That earth pony just sprouted a horn,” Mulcibar said plainly. “Is she the dreamer, using lucidity?”

Linnai grinned. “One of them must be the dreamer. The other three are outsiders like us.”

Mulcibar stared at Linnai for a moment. “They’re traversing dreams?” he asked, placing a hoof to his chin. “So there are others besides Luna who can do so. Who are they?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Linnai said, licking her lips. “Now we get to fight! We have to crush them!”

“No!” Mulcibar cautioned, placing a hoof against Linnai’s chest. “We report back!”

“No need! They’re all there! One blast and they’re all just ash!” Linnai said, her eyes going wide, gleaming a brighter red color. Her horn, the horn of Princess Celestia, lit up with a fiery aura.

Back on the ground, Twilight stared up towards the princesses, who were hanging very high in the sky after having been blasted upward by Pinkie’s magical burst. Even from this distance, though, Twilight could see their menacingly glowing eyes.

“Not sure we can just get away from them, but let’s run,” Twilight said, turning back to Celestia and Fluttershy, who were trying to get Pinkie Pie to stand up again. “We can figure out what to do next after we get away.”

“But, what about Rainbow Dash?” Fluttershy asked. “We still need to get her out of here, too.”

Pinkie Pie stood back up and brushed herself off. She spread her newly acquired wings and grinned. “Don’t worry about Rainbow Dash,” she said. “I’ll go talk some sense into her. The two of us heard the same voice, I’m sure of it, and it was a big fat fibber! Dash just needs to hear the truth from a friend, I bet!”

“Alright, we need to move,” Twilight said. “We’ll leave Rainbow Dash up to you, Pinkie!” She waved her hoof towards the side bleachers and started to gallop away. Celestia and Fluttershy ran with her, but their charge was cut short. A surge of magical power shot out from their left.

“That power surge!” Celestia shouted. “Did you feel that, Twilight? That was Princess Luna’s energy, I’m certain!” She turned and charged faster than ever before towards the stands to the left. She burst outward with a flash of light, shedding her disguise and assuming her true form, leaping skyward and flying towards the corridor entryway.

The princesses from the dream hung in the sky above, changelings occupying their bodies. Linnai had not begun her attack yet, interrupted by the surge of power coming from the arena’s corridors. They both watched as the ponies on the field changed direction towards the surge and one of them transformed into Princess Celestia.

“Oh, this just keeps getting better!” Linnai shouted. “It’s just like I said! Princess Celestia would be the only possible threat!”

“We can’t allow her to run free, especially after that power surge just now,” Mulcibar admitted. “I don’t see any other option, unfortunately.” He grimaced, glancing at his sister, whose crazed look had only intensified.

Linnai laughed. “You just want to fight, admit it,” she said tauntingly, then burst with green flame.

“If we must, best to be at full power,” he said with a sigh. “No attacking first, though! We move quickly and do not strike unless we have to!” He burned with green fire as well. The both of them quickly transformed, revealing their true selves. Their golden-ridged faces glinted in the sunlight. They spread their wings outward in a flashy display, each of them having a pair of intricately-patterned butterfly wings. Mulcibar’s wings were black with bright blue spots, while Linnai’s wings were a lighter shade of gray with white and orange webbing running through them.

“Sure, anything you say big brother,” Linnai said, her horn still burning with fire. She tilted her wings back and took off downward towards the entryway that Celestia was approaching. Mulcibar put his hoof out for a moment, but then groaned and sped after her. Neither of them noticed Pinkie Pie heading in the opposite direction and flying up towards Rainbow Dash, who was hanging in the air far above the arena. She had managed to compress all of the changelings who had been chasing her into a tight orb once again, and was holding them there.

Pinkie Pie pulled up alongside Dash and crossed her forelegs. “Nice job, Dashie,” she said, nodding her head with approval. “They can’t get you now, but what happens if you stop holding them?”

Dash jerked her head to the side and shouted in surprise, seeing Pinkie with wings and a horn. “Pinkie! What the hay did you do?”

“Ah yes, this is pretty strange, I guess,” Pinkie said, nodding her head again. “No time to get into it, though. You gotta admit, it’s only a little stranger than you using magic like this.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “I guess. This never would have happened if you hadn’t stopped me, though! The sooner this world gets ripped apart, the sooner we can stop the real enemy!” she shouted, annoyed. She pushed her hooves closer together, and the sphere of changelings crunched in even tighter, releasing a cacophony of screams.

“No, no, no, Rainbow Dash,” Pinkie said calmly. “You’ve got the wrong idea, and I think I know how. It’s that voice I heard. You heard it, too…. Didn’t you?”

Rainbow Dash clenched her teeth, not saying anything or looking towards Pinkie.

“I heard the truth, too, though,” Pinkie continued. “The real truth. It’s a lot scarier than you think, but believe me, breaking this world won’t solve anything.”

Don’t listen to her, a voice came from Rainbow Dash’s mind. She lies.

Almost as much as you, Rainbow Dash thought in response.

I will give you true power, Rainbow Dash, the voice said. Enough power to crush anypony in your path, the power to tear this world asunder. Now that the changelings have arrived, there is no turning back!

She’s my friend, Rainbow Dash thought. I can talk to her, make her see…

She’s a puppet, just like you were! The voice snapped. She was the first one I tried to show the truth to, and she turned against it, coerced by the changelings! She may be your friend, but you must not trust her!

Rainbow Dash stared at Pinkie Pie, still saying nothing. Pinkie looked back into Rainbow Dash’s eyes, a worried look on her face.

“You still hear it, don’t you?” Pinkie asked, reaching out towards Rainbow Dash. The Pegasus flinched away.

“Don’t touch me,” Rainbow said.

Accept my power, Rainbow Dash, the voice said. As a sign of good faith, I will give you all of my power. You and I will become as one. We will defeat these changelings together, crush the hollow shells of your friends that they use to try and trick you. We will break free of this prison and have vengeance!

Rainbow Dash’s eyes began to glow red, dark energy spreading outward from their edges. Pinkie Pie’s eyes went wide with fear, staring at her friend.

“Dashie, no!” Pinkie pleaded. “Don’t do this!”

Rainbow Dash turned her gaze towards the sphere of writhing changelings. “It’s too late,” she said flatly. “I’ll end this all!” She pushed her hooves together, and the bodies of the floating, half-transformed ponies smashed together. The terrible sounds of bones cracking and flesh tearing echoed loudly through the arena. Horrifying screams shot out briefly, and then were silenced. Rainbow Dash swung her hooves outward, and the mass of now unidentifiable corpses dissolved into the air like steam vanishing. Rainbow Dash glowed dark red with a border of nearly black purple. She turned back to face Pinkie Pie, staring into her eyes. Pinkie stared back, her irises shaking in disbelief, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry, Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash said, raising a hoof and pointing it towards Pinkie’s forehead.

“I am, too,” Pinkie replied, closing her eyes.

A flash of pink energy gleamed from Pinkie’s horn, and all the gems lining her cloak began to glow. A burst of magic exploded at Rainbow Dash’s abdomen, and she was flung backwards, crashing into the arena’s stands below.

Just seconds earlier, Twilight looked up at where Princess Celestia was now making a beeline to. A flash caught her eye, and she saw Rarity in the stands fighting a group of changelings with her parents. They seemed to be holding them off, but were losing ground as the number of changelings coming after them increased.

Good timing! Twilight thought. She turned her head towards Fluttershy, who was running alongside her, and shouted “Fluttershy! Grab me and take us up there! We have to stay with the princess, and Rarity needs our help!”

Fluttershy nodded and leapt into the air. Twilight took a running jump, and Fluttershy grabbed ahold of her as best she could manage. She strained for a moment, and almost scraped the ground, but was able to flap her wings hard enough to gain lift. The two rose up into the stands. After a few seconds, they were above Rarity’s party. Twilight dropped down, landing roughly besides Rarity. Fluttershy touched down a second later.

“Nice to see you here, finally!” Rarity shouted. “Your invasion came a little early!”

Twilight began to respond, but was interrupted by a blast of golden energy from above. Princess Celestia shot a powerful beam of energy right into the heart of the changeling mob, blasting them outward with great force. She landed next to Twilight and pointed her horn straight towards the corridor entrance, a sea of hissing changelings between them and it.

“Twilight! Just like in Fluttershy’s dream with the tall grass!” Celestia shouted. “Cut them down!”

Starting from the center, aimed right at the entryway, Twilight and Celestia shot out sustained beams of magic, swinging them outward, bowling changelings over in the process.

“What’s the point of these things?” Twilight yelled. “They’re even weaker than the changelings were before!”

Maniacal laughter filled the air, and Discord appeared above the writhing mass of downed changelings.

“I told you I was helping,” he said with an innocent smile. “I’m pushing so much of this chaotic energy into their little bug-brains, they can barely see straight! In fact, most of them are only seeing crooked. Or cupcakes. Or that one, he’s seeing kittens.” Discord pointed to a particular changeling off by himself up near the top of the stands, shaking his hoof back and forth as if he were petting something.

Rarity looked at Twilight and Celestia and lowered her eyebrows. “Care to explain this?” she asked. Fluttershy shrunk down as low as she could to the floor.

“No time,” Celestia started, but suddenly jerked her head upwards. Mulcibar and Linnai were shooting towards them.

“Linnai, the corridor!” Mulcibar was heard shouting. Linnai continued her beeline towards the group of ponies.

“What was that?” Linnai asked. “Fire more? I haven’t even started, though!” She let loose a giant blast of fire. Celestia and Twilight reacted as fast as they could, raising a forcefield, but the spell shattered through it. The whole area exploded in flame. The stands crumbled, floorboards and seats breaking, debris flying in all directions and a cloud of smoke and dust rising. The platform fell out from beneath the ponies who were standing on it, crushing them under a twisted pile of rubble.

Discord vanished from sight once again and shot his body upward. He hung above the arena, looking down at the situation that had unfolded. For now, I’ll quietly take care of the rest of these brainless drones, he thought. The rift was still spewing out chaotic energy, and all the interfering waves are only agitating it. Those two are clearly different from the rest. Once I know what they’re capable of, I’ll make them wish they’d never peeked into this nightmare.

Mulcibar stopped in mid-air and placed a hoof over his face. “You’re absolutely intolerable!” he screamed. “Do you even realize what you’ve done?”

The smoke cloud dissipated, revealing a pile of twisted rubble. Linnai pointed down at the mess. “Buried them alive. Now we’ll get to that power surge first, for sure,” she said. “Come now, brother, you know I have the mission at heart.”

“If you had one,” Mulcibar responded. “Or a brain, for that matter. You’ve shaken a beehive, you idiot!”

A large section of the rubble levitated upward and was launched forcefully at the two of them. They broke apart, dodging the attack. Twilight and Celestia stepped up out of the twisted heap and stared up at the changelings.

“Princess, I’ll take care of them and dig out the others. You get to Luna as fast as you can, then bring her back here,” Twilight said, pushing the burnt remains of her cloak off. Celestia did the same and nodded. She shot off towards the corridor entrance, and Linnai did the same, moving to intercept her.

Twilight teleported ahead of Celestia and shot a beam of magic up at Linnai. The magic hit its mark, pushing the changeling back in the air. Linnai stared down at Twilight contemptuously.

“So, Twilight Sparkle, I take it,” she said, her voice laced with disgust. “The old timer was worried about you.”

The two of them locked stares for a couple of seconds, then both let loose with blasts of magic simultaneously. The beams hit each other in mid-air and exploded brightly. Twilight closed her eyes from the flash for a second. When she reopened them, she found herself awash in a sea of blue color.

“What’s going on?” Twilight asked, looking around. “Where am I? This has to be some sort of trick!” She stood ready, waiting for an attack to come.

“Twilight?” a familiar voice called out. “Where are you, Twilight?”

“Rarity?” Twilight asked, looking around. The blue color had faded to a dimmer hue, and she now found herself standing in a vast sea of nothingness, very similar to when she had faced Pinkie Shy in her mind.

“Twilight, thank goodness!” Rarity said, suddenly appearing. She approached Twilight, looking around in confusion. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know, but it might be some sort of changeling attack. Be careful,” Twilight replied. “We have to find a way out of here. Come on!” Twilight turned and began to run.

Rarity smiled and her eyes flashed a faint red. “Yes, Twilight, we have to get out of here!” she said. “This place is creepy.” Rarity followed, keeping just behind her and began to power her horn up with magic.

Moments earlier…

Celestia slid into the corridor and hooked a left, galloping as fast as she could.

Where are you, sister? She thought, feeling for signs of Luna’s energy. I’m certain that was you! Where have you gone?

“Now!” Celestia heard a voice shout. A fraction of a second later, she felt a massive body crash into her, tackling her to the ground and sliding for several feet with her. She twisted her head around, practically bumping noses with Big Macintosh, who pressed his hoof against her, holding her to the ground. The red stallion blinked a couple of times then glanced to his left.

“Uh, AJ?” he said calmly. “It’s the princess.”

Celestia turned to look in the same direction, and saw Applejack popping up out of a wooden crate. She trotted to where the two ponies were and glanced down at the princess suspiciously.

“How can we be sure?” Aplejack asked, inspecting the princess’ face. “Could be a trick.”

Celestia levitated Big Mac and Applejack into the air and stood up. She held them there and dusted herself off. Applejack flailed her hooves helplessly.

“My sister, Luna,” Celestia said. “I’ve felt her presence. Have you two seen her?”

The sound of small hooves came from behind the princess. She turned her head and saw the three Cutie Mark Crusaders emerge from a doorway and step up to her.

“Princess Luna wasn’t here,” Sweetie Belle said. “She was somehow communicating with us, she said she didn’t even know how.”

“Yer the real Princess Celestia, ain’t ya?” Apple Bloom asked, tilting her head. “And that was the real Twilight with ya, wasn’t it?”

Celestia blinked and then stared down at the fillies. “Children, I’m not sure how to say it, but…” she started, but was interrupted by Scootaloo stepping forward and raising her hoof in the air. Big Macintosh and Applejack levitated through the air and landed gently behind the three fillies.

She broke my levitation! Celestia thought. Lucidity, again!

“Oh stop yer showin’ off, Scootaloo!” Applejack said, brushing her hair back and putting her hat firmly onto her head. “It’s just spooky!”

“We know about the dream, and we know about the changelings in Canterlot,” Scootaloo said.

“Then, it’s you,” Celestia said, falling to a seated position. “You’re the dreamer.”

Scootaloo grinned. “All three of us are,” she said smugly. “And we have a message for you from your sister.”

Celestia swallowed hard and sat at attention. “I’m listening,” she said.

Rainbow Dash pushed herself up from the pile of splintered wood and broken seats that she was lying in. Two changelings leapt from behind her and latched on, attempting to take her down. She turned her gaze over her shoulder and stared at them. Dark energy shot out from her forehead, blasting the changelings back. They shattered into pieces as if they were made of glass. With dark energy still streaming from her eyes, she turned her head back upward and stared at Pinkie Pie, who was hovering in the air above the middle of the arena. With a single push of her hind legs, she blasted into the air towards the pink alicorn, crashing into her with the force of a cannonball, dark magic cascading outward from the impact.

Pinkie reacted quickly, twisting her hooves in a circular motion in front of her, magic streaking from her horn and forming a flat, circular shield. She flipped the shield upward from the bottom, flinging Rainbow Dash further up into the sky.

“I don’t want to fight you, Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie shouted up at the pegasus, who had stopped and was hovering above her. “Just listen! This is just a bad dream! Whatever that voice told you, don’t believe it! If you tear this world apart, it’ll all be over!”

“Exactly!” Rainbow Dash shouted back. “We’ll be able to get out of here and finish off the real threat! Why can’t you see that?”

Pinkie growled in frustration. “We’re not real, Dashie! We can’t possibly deal with the real threat! We can only help our friends who can!” she screamed. Rainbow Dash stared down at her, eyes wide, dark energy pouring out of them more intensely than ever and accompanied by a purple glow. “That voice, whatever it is, is just using you! It doesn’t want to save us, it wants to enslave us!”

Not real? She’s completely lost, Rainbow Dash! The voice yelled within her mind. She’s just like everything else in this falsehood you’ve been living, now! She says you must help your friends, but she’s just trying to trick you! The fame, fortune, and favor you had were all lies, too, designed to keep you placated! How dare she use friendship in the same way?

But she is my friend! They all are! Rainbow Dash thought, still staring down at Pinkie Pie. I have to save them! Make them understand!

They are too far gone, Rainbow Dash. They are lost in the lies. The only truth left is this: you are mighty! You alone stand against the darkness! The voice shouted. The greatest mercy you can give to your friends is to end this quickly, even if it means crushing them! The greater good must be put first! Harden your heart and stand up for all of Equestria!

Tears fell from Rainbow Dash’s glowing eyes, and the aura around her darkened. Orange sparks crackled at her hooftips.

“Dashie! Don’t do this!” Pinkie screamed. She began to channel energy from her horn into the gems of her cloak, which shone with many sparkling colors. She glowed radiantly, the cloth of the cloak flowing in the wind. Each gem shot out an orb of magic, six in all, that surrounded Pinkie and orbited around her.

“There’s no choice anymore,” Rainbow Dash said. “If you want to stand in my way, then I’ll have to go through you!” She charged at Pinkie Pie, swinging her magically charged hooves straight at the pink pony’s face. The orbs of magic that had been surrounding Pinkie shot up to her face and formed a forcefield, deflecting Rainbow’s attack.

Rainbow Dash glared at Pinkie and shot upward, accelerating as she flew.

“Dashie! I don’t wanna fight! This isn’t fun!” Pinkie shouted up at Rainbow Dash. The blue pegasus responded by diving down at Pinkie with another double-hoofed punch, which was deflected by the shields once again.

Moving so fast she seemed to be popping in and out of reality, Rainbow Dash spun around Pinkie in all directions, her hooves flying in with lightning fast attacks. Pinkie Pie began to swing her hooves around and charge more magic into the gems of her cloak. The many small forcefields around her spun around, precisely taking every attack Rainbow Dash threw, bright sparks of every color flying through the air away from the two of them.

“Dashie, quit it!” Pinkie shouted as she swung a hoof up and shot a beam of energy past her shields. The beam curved around and struck true, blasting Rainbow Dash away from her.

Rainbow Dash wiped away a trickle of blood that was coming from the corner of her mouth. She then lifted that hoof slowly through the air, causing a sharp, black javelin to appear in front of her. The spear glowed with the same dark purple energy that was now surrounding Rainbow Dash. She pushed her hooves towards it, charging it with her dark orange magical energy, the aura around the weapon growing and shining brighter.

“Pinkie Pie!” Rainbow Dash shouted, pointing the javelin towards her friend. “If you’re not with me, then you’re against me! This fight is over!”

Pinkie flashed with magic and the many small forcefields all quickly flew to the front of her, right in the spear’s path. They combined and shot outward, creating a massive shield that pulsed with many colors.

Rainbow Dash launched the javelin at Pinkie Pie, the speed of it cracking with a sonic boom as it shot through the air. It pierced through the forcefield like a needle passing through cloth. With a loud, hollow sound, it stabbed through Pinkie Pie’s chest, and the pink pony fell downward. The forcefield shattered like glass, its shards falling all around her as she plummeted towards the ground.

A dirtied, gray hoof pushed up through the top of the pile of twisted, smoking debris that used to be a section of the arena stands. Pieces of metal and burning wood levitated upward. Rarity pushed her head up and gasped for breath, then glanced around at the situation.

Her parents, along with Fluttershy and Discord, were nowhere to be seen, presumably still buried underneath in the smoldering, shattered mess. The first thing she noticed was the glowing blue sphere off to her left. Hovering above it was one of the changelings that had charged at them from the air. He was hovering gracefully, his blue-spotted butterfly wings holding him aloft and also emanating a blue aura downward towards the large orb of magic.

Those wings really are quite lovely, it’s a shame that the rest of him is so… well, Rarity though. She tapped a hoof against her forehead. Stay focused, Rarity.

She glanced up past him and saw Pinkie Pie hovering high in the air, glowing with magic. She followed Pinkie’s gaze downward and saw Rainbow Dash staring up at her from another smashed section of the arena, dark magic pouring out from her.

Heavens, this place will be torn to pieces before the day’s over. Now, where has Twilight gone? Perhaps still buried as well, though I thought I heard her a moment ago, she thought and glanced around, but saw no sign of Twilight. Her eyes were drawn back towards the blue sphere. She squinted and could barely make out two figures standing within it. Is that her? No time to think too hard about it. That changeling must be stopped, regardless.

Rarity began to wriggle her way up and out of the ruined stands as quietly as she could so as to not draw any attention. “Mother? Father?” she whispered into the scrap heap, carefully levitating away pieces of it and placing them below, onto the grass.

A bright flash of light filled her vision. She flinched, turning her head up to look at the changeling. Has he noticed me? She thought. Instead, she found herself looking up at the familiar face of Big Macintosh, her nose bumping right into his. She blushed slightly, and he pulled his face back calmly. She was the second mare he’d had this type of encounter with in the last few minutes, and he felt like he could get used to it.

“I… beg your pardon,” she said with confusion. “What happened?”

“Mom! Dad!” Sweetie Belle’s voice came from behind her. She turned her head and saw Sweetie Belle jump towards her, tears coming from her eyes. Rarity turned her gaze down and saw her parents lying on the ground beside her. Their breathing looked shallow, and they had burns all over their bodies. Rarity glanced down at her own body, only then seeing that she also had black patches of fur and exposed red skin in places. She flinched as she felt the pain for the first time as the adrenaline slowly worked it way out of her system.

Sweetie Belle shook her father gently. “Wake up, dad, please,” she said. He didn’t respond. The filly buried her face in his coat, sobbing. Rarity reached a hoof over to her sister and placed it on her back, her own tears slowly seeping now as well. Princess Celestia, Applejack, and Big Macintosh all bowed their heads, saying nothing. The two other Cutie Mark Crusaders walked up behind their friend and sat down quietly.

“Why did this have to happen?” Sweetie Belle asked, her voice muffled. “What good are these powers if we couldn’t stop this?”

“Sweetie,” Rarity started, not knowing what to say. She noticed her sister’s horn beginning to glow brightly, flashing with more and more light as the child sobbed.

Sweetie Belle lifted her face up and looked down at her father. “She said we’re the masters of this world. If that’s true,” she said, sniffling. “If that’s true, then I won’t let this happen. I won’t allow my family to be hurt.”

A warm, light pink energy glowed around Sweetie Belle, surrounding her parents and her sister. Rarity looked down at her blacked, burned body and saw it returning to normal. She felt no more pain, only an incredibly strong emotion – love.

Her parents, likewise, lost their injuries. Their breathing became stronger, and they eventually opened their eyes, immediately looking at one another and smiling.

“Sweetie Belle, that’s incredible,” Rarity said, awestruck. “How did you do that?”

Princess Celestia stepped forward and sat down next to Rarity. “We don’t have much time, Rarity, so I must keep this as brief as possible,” she said, having gained Rarity’s full attention. “Your sister and her two friends have been given a great responsibility, and also a burden. With it, I too have been forced to make a most difficult decision, one that I’d hope I’d never have to make.”

“I don’t understand,” Rarirty said. “What responsibility? What burden? Nothing is making any sense.” Her voice became choked up once again, tears threatening to fall.

“All you need to know right now is that your sister and her two friends have within them a great power. One that can save us and deliver us from the nightmare we now find ourselves in,” Celestia continued. “We must return to the arena and save the rest of our friends. The three fillies were able to bring you, your parents, Applejack, and Big Macintosh here. I believe it has to do with the fact that you are family.”

“We can’t seem to bring the others here, though,” Scootaloo added. “We wanted to bring Twilight, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash, too, but something’s stopping us.”

“It’s those changelings, I bet!” Apple Bloom said loudly. “We gotta fight ‘em, just like Luna said!” Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle nodded in agreement.

“Now, now, Apple Bloom, you might want to leave that to—“ Rarity started, but was stopped by Celestia, who shook her head as she spoke.

“I’m afraid not, Rarity. You saw the healing power Sweetie Belle just demonstrated. These three, even the non-unicorns, have awakened to a mighty power known as lucidity," Celestia explained. "The two changelings who are waiting for us are not like the ones you are thinking of. They are from a powerful group of changeling mages known as The Order of Ismara. Their magic and fighting prowess could possibly best any of us in single combat. We have to work together, and we will need the power these fillies possess. We should hurry, I fear for Twilight and Pinkie Pie’s lives.”

Rarity nodded her head, looking back at Sweetie Belle. Her sister stared back, determination burning in the depths of her eyes. Rarity could feel it, like a fire in her mind. She lowered her eyebrows and smiled.

“Alright. Let’s do it!” she said, returning to her hooves.

Big Macintosh and Applejack helped pull Rarity’s parents up to their hooves as well. Rarity’s mother, a worried look in her eyes, sighed and shook her head. “You sure this is going to be okay?” she asked, looking to Rarity.

“Oh, it’ll be fine!” Rarity’s father said with a laugh. “Our little girls are real bruisers, just like their old dad!”

“Eeyup!” Big Macintosh said, smiling down at Apple Bloom.

“Yeah, no worries fer now,” Applejack added. “The stuff I’ve seen these fillies do in the last five minutes or so… you wouldn’t believe it. We’re gonna get through this and give them changelings a wollopin’!”

“Let’s go, then!” Celestia said, waving the group down the hall in the direction from where she’d come. “The stands are smashed where I came in at, and they may be expecting an attack from there, so let’s head out from the next entryway.” Everypony nodded and began to gallop, Celestia leading the way down the hall.

A yellow nose tip pushed out from the bottom of the pile of debris that had spilled over onto the field. Fluttershy pulled herself out from underneath the rubble and then leaned up against it. She breathed heavily, looking down at her body. She had gotten away with surprisingly few injuries at a glance, but she stretched her wings out slowly, remembering the pain she’d felt in her dream when her wing had broken.

“I hope the others are okay,” she said to herself, looking around finally. She spotted Mulcibar immediately, as well as the blue magic sphere beneath him. She nervously glanced around for any sign of anypony else, but only spotted Pinkie Pie floating in the air high above the arena, facing down Rainbow Dash.

“I wish I could use lucidity like in my dream,” she said quietly, focusing on her inner self like she had done to command the power. There was no response, and she let out a sigh. “I just have to be brave. I knew this would be hard. I have to find the others.” She looked up at Mulcibar again to make sure he wasn’t looking, and then leapt up to the broken edge of the stands above her, beating her wings as lightly and as little as possible. She ducked down behind a seat back and looked ahead of her, towards the glowing blue sphere. She could make out the shape of two ponies standing within it.

That might be them. I have to get closer and see, she thought. This is how I have to fight. I can be like a sneaky scout! She smiled to herself, but knew that even though her quietness and lack of magic was an advantage to not being noticed, her bright yellow coat would surely been spotted, even when it was smeared with soot as it was.

Fluttershy looked to her left and spotted a seat back that had been broken off. That could work, she thought. A second later, there was a bright flash from above. She looked up and saw Rainbow Dash flying circles around Pinkie Pie with amazing speed, her hooves flying at Pinkie from all directions. I have to hurry! Hang in there, Pinkie Pie!

She carefully hoisted the seat and placed it over herself as cover. She began her advance, moving in stages. She would first check to see if Mulcibar was looking, and then sneak forward a few feet before stopping again. After doing this four times, she was finally at the edge of the seats that were near the open area where the blue orb sat. She was able to move quickly since Mulcibar seemed to be focusing heavily on the spell he was casting.

Fluttershy gazed into the blue orb, squinting to try and make out the ponies inside. A purple glow from a horn shone through ever so slightly, illuminating Twilight’s face. Fluttershy frowned. I was afraid of that, she thought. She looked up at Mulcibar, judging his distance. If she tried hard, she could make it up to him with a single beat of her wings. If I can interrupt his spell, Twilight will be free! Then we can have a fighting chance! Be brave, Fluttershy! You can do this!

She slid the seat back she’d been using for cover down and gripped it firmly with her hooves. She steadied her shaking knees, crouching down low behind the last seat in the row she was in. She knew that if Mulcibar looked her way, she’d surely be seen now. There was no turning back.

Here goes!

Moments earlier, within the illusion field, Twilight turned back to face Rarity, who quickly dispelled the magic in her horn.

“We don’t seem to be getting anywhere. There must be a way to keep our bearings in here,” Twilight said, aiming her horn at the ground. She blasted a scorch mark into the floorboards. “There. I just know we're inside some sort of magical trap. Just need to figure out what kind.”

Rarity shrugged. “Perhaps you go that way, I go this way,” she said. “If we find anything, we scream.”

“Okay, though I’m not sure if we should get separated,” Twilight said nervously. “Then again, if this is what I think it is, we won’t be able to get too far apart anyway.” She turned away and again and trotted carefully, scorching another mark in the ground as she went.

Rarity grinned and turned away, her eyes lighting up red. So naive, Twilight Sparkle, she thought. Joke’s on you, I can move around here just fine. She trotted around the edge of the sphere the two of them were trapped in and reacher her hoof out, tapping Twilight on the flank.

Twilight twisted around and lit her horn up, ready for an attack.

“Nothing there…” Twilight said, looking upward briefly into the blue abyss above her.. “I know I felt something. They’re toying with us…” She felt someone breathe into her ear from the right. She turned around, seeing nothing once again.

Outside the shell, Mulcibar hovered in the air, projecting the illusion field down onto the two. He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Stop toying with your prey, Linnai. We don’t have time for this, and we can’t afford to do this to all of them,” he said to himself. “Just Twilight and Celestia.”

Inside the sphere, Twilight felt like she’d been walking for ages and still hadn’t come across any of her scorch marks. Was I wrong? she thought. Is it not an infinite loop? Just ahead, Twilight saw hazy movement, and lit her horn up to get a better look.

Linnai snuck up on Twilight and lit her horn back up with fire, approaching as silently as she could. The light from their horns shone through the walls of the sphere, slightly illuminating what was beyond.

“I think I found something!” Twilight shouted. She squinted her eyes, barely able to make out the faint outline of a yellow pony. “Is that… Fluttershy? Fluttershy, can you hear me?”

Linnai glanced over Twilight’s shoulder and also spotted Fluttershy, hiding under something. What’s she up to out there? You better see her, Brother, or you’ve completely lost my respect! She’s yellow, for crying out loud!

The yellow blur shot upward, there was a loud sound, and the blue field vanished with a magical zap.

The group of ponies that had been running through the corridors stopped at the edge of the entryway, and Celestia glanced around the corner. She could see Mulcibar floating in the air, beaming magic down towards a glowing blue sphere. A flash of color caught her eye higher up and she saw Rainbow Dash crash into Pinkie Pie, who quickly formed a shield and deflected her even further up.

Celestia stepped out from the doorway, the rest of the others following in her hoofsteps. “There’s no sign of Twilight, and only one of the changelings,” Celestia said quietly. “It appears that Pinkie Pie has been unable to convince Rainbow Dash, we may need to intervene there. As for Twilight and the other changeling, I fear they are inside that blue orb, which is likely some form of illusion magic.”

Applejack tilted her head to the side, her neck popping. “So first thing we gotta do is take out that one up there, eh?” she said, pointing up towards Mulcibar.

“Yes. If we can stop his spell, Twilight will be free and we’ll have her on our side as well. That will announce our presence, though, as well as bring the second changeling into the fight,” Celsetia responded. “We need to move quickly and simultaneously. I’m the only one here with wings, so I will have to be the one to fly out to Pinkie Pie. The rest of you will have to deal with the changelings down here.”

“No problem,” said Sweetie Belle. “Mom and I can both blast that guy up there with magic. That should be enough of a distraction to break the spell, then we all jump in!”

Scootaloo waved a hoof in the air, which seemed to bend around it. “I’m really getting the hang of this stuff,” she said, causing a large metal plate to materialize from nowhere in front of her. “We’ll beat them easy!”

Celestia smiled, the fact that one of them was already so advanced in skill giving her some extra confidence in the otherwise sloppy plan. A flash and a loud cracking sound from above drew her attention, though. Everypony looked up at Pinkie Pie, who was now plummeting to the ground, a sharp black spear stabbed completely through her, shards of colorful magic tumbling with her.

“Pinkie Pie!” Celestia said, her voice filled with determination. “We have to move, now!” As she spoke, ready to leap into battle, a flash of yellow caught her eye near Mulcibar.

Fluttershy leapt into the air, beating her wings one time as she had planned, and then flung the seat back right at Mulcibar’s head. It struck true, knocking his face backwards. With another beating of her wings, Fluttershy flung herself at him. She smashed into his body, wrapping her forelegs around him. The two of them fell to the stands. With a flash, the blue orb vanished, revealing Twilight and Linnai. Twilight turned around to face Linnai.

“We made it out, somehow, Rarity!” Twilight shouted as Linnai’s grinning face entered her field of vision. Her smile immediately melted away. A bright flash of fire shot before her eyes and she felt a burning sensation in her chest.

“You sure did,” Linnai said with a grin.

Twilight was completely run through, a blade of magically compressed fire stabbing into her chest, exiting out of her back. Her eyes uncontrollably rolled up into the back of her head, and she fell to the floor. The flames flashed brightly and then were gone, leaving a gaping hole. Twilight coughed, and her breathing started to slow as she bled out onto the floorboards.

“Twilight!” Celestia screamed, the others behind her doing the same. With her mind filled with rage and her vision blood red, Celestia leapt towards the two changelings, screaming at the top of her lungs. “You monsters will pay!”

Author's Note:

We're approaching the end, fillies and gentlecolts!


So yeah, everypony has gone Super Saiyan.


I'd also like to take this opportunity to point people to my BLOG here on Fimfiction. I've begun to adopt an interesting method for getting more people to pre-read and edit my chapters - Basically, open it up to anyone who wants to see it! Rather than relying on a few trusted individuals, I have opened up the google Docs versions of this chapter and the work file for the next chapter. Anyone can read them, anyone can add comments to them. Of course, if you read them on there, you'll be spoiling yourself. As I said on the first blog post where I started doing this, you should keep information about unpublished chapters away from Fimfiction comments.

So far, only a few people have looked at/commented on them, but I have high hopes that interested individuals will really drop me some serious critique and such.

I hope you liked this chapter! The next one should be quite the doozy!

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