• 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 8 - The Sky Darkens

Book Three: Horizons

Chapter Eight - The Sky Darkens

Celestia crashed straight into Linnai, their foreheads cracking together, their eyes locking onto one another. Linnai grunted, but continued to wear a big, fanged grin. Celestia pushed out from the changeling in mid-air, launching her away. With a horn aflame with white-hot fire, Celestia let loose a giant beam of magic that completely engulfed the changeling. Firing straight past her, the beam struck the stands on the opposite side, blowing them to bits that scattered and rained down into the apple orchards in the distance. Celestia landed on the edge of the stands and looked out to where her attack had flown.

Linnai hung in the air, a hoof pressed outward, her mane and wingtips singed, but her body still intact. “Princess, I hope that’s not the best you’ve got, or you’ll end up just like that useless purple thing behind you!” she shouted, giggling afterwards.

Celestia screamed, her voice loud and rough. “Don’t you dare speak of her!”

Linnai laughed again. “Stop me!” she taunted. “Pour your rage into me and shut me up! I can’t wait to feel your burning anger!” She licked her lips and launched herself back towards the princess, her horn ablaze and leaving a trail of fire in her wake. The two of them clashed again, a bright flash firing out from the point of impact.

“This is bad! This is bad!” Apple Bloom shouted in a panic, not knowing what to do now that the time had come.

“Calm down!” Scootaloo shouted. “Help the princess and Twilight! I’ll go to Pinkie Pie!”

“You can’t fly, dodo!” Sweetie Belle yelled, the pressure having gotten to her.

“You wanna bet?” Scootaloo snapped back. She spread her wings, which increased in size as she flung them out from her body. She leapt into the air and took off towards Pinkie.

Sweetie Belle stared in awe for a moment before shaking her head and looking over at Twilight. “That’s right!” she shouted. “We can do anything we want! Get ahold of yourself, AB! We have to help Twilight!”

Apple Bloom took a deep breath. “You’re right! Can’t let our friends down!” she resounded.

Rarity stepped a hoof forward, her eyes filled with determination. “Let’s go, girls!” The three of them began to radiate with a brilliant light, and then dashed forward together towards their fallen friend and her assailant. “We won’t let them get away with this!”

Scootaloo dove towards the arena field where Pinkie Pie was falling to. Her wings spread out wide, each one the full size of her body in length, carrying her through the air with ease. As Pinkie was about to hit the ground, her body stopped, a cushion of light orange magic softening her landing and placing her gently onto the ground. Scootaloo landed by her side. She stared down at Pinkie’s chest, the black javelin protruding like a nail half-driven into a board.

The spear quickly dissolved into small black particles and evaporated into the air. Scootaloo turned her head upward and stared at Rainbow Dash, who was descending at a gradual speed towards her.

Rainbow Dash landed with a plop in front of Scootaloo and Pinkie, and stepped forward, staring down at the gaping wound in Pinkie’s chest.

“Scootaloo…” Pinkie coughed out weakly. “Get away… from her.” Blood trickled from the corner of Pinkie’s mouth as she spoke, and her eyelids hung heavily over her eyes.

“No,” Scootaloo responded firmly, swinging her hoof down over Pinkie. The wound in Pinkie’s chest began to close, a bright orange glow flowing out from it. Her eyes never left their target, locked on to Rainbow Dash’s face.

Rainbow Dash’s eyes narrowed, still shining with the dark magic that had gripped her mind. She looked at Scootaloo, her stare burning back. “What are you doing, squirt?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Don’t tell me you’re going to try and stop me, too.”

Scootaloo shook her head. “Rainbow Dash… I never wanted any of this to happen,” she said, the wound on Pinkie Pie having now completely closed up. Scootaloo began to glow a brighter orange color than before as tears fell from her eyes. “I just wanted everypony to be happy. I just wanted us to be happy.”

“How are you doing that?” Rainbow Dash asked, her eyes widening and an orange glow beginning to take over the darkness that surrounded her.

She’s the one! The voice in Rainbow Dash’s head said. She’s the one who wanted you blinded to the truth!

Rainbow Dash shook her head. Scoot? No way! She thought. She’s, like… one of my best friends!

Is she? The voice asked. Think hard. When did you first meet her? When did you first take note of this little one?

Rainbow Dash stared down at Scootaloo, her eyes shaking, the dark aura fighting against the orange. She just… I don’t know! She was a fan of mine! She had this cute little fan club in Ponyville before I was even a Wonderbolt! she thought. Why would she be working for the changelings? It doesn’t make sense!

Look at the power she possesses! What else could be going on here? The voice asked. Rainbow Dash stared down at Pinkie, who had fully recovered and was rising back up to her hooves.

“I don’t know…” Rainbow Dash said aloud.

“Don’t know what?” Scootaloo asked. “Rainbow Dash, please, snap out of it!”

You see? the voice said inside Rainbow Dash’s mind, laughing. She’s nothing to you! She invented your relationship for her own purposes!

“It’s too late, Scootaloo…” Pinkie said weakly, having stood back up. She began to charge her horn up again. “She’s too far gone. Whatever that voice I heard was, she hears it, too. It’s not just a voice, though… She knows it’s not, just like I did.” Pinkie stared up at Rainbow Dash, locking eyes with her as she spoke.

If you don’t believe me, just ask them, the voice said. They’ll tell you the truth. They arrogantly think you’ll fall into line! That you’ll crumble like a weakling!

“Whoever that voice is coming from has dark, evil magic… full of hate, distrust, and a lust for power,” Pinkie said, staring into Dash’s glowing eyes. “I resisted it somehow, but Dash can’t do it. It’s not her fault—“

“So, tell me, then!” Dash yelled at Pinkie and Scootaloo. “Tell me the truth!” The dark aura around her erupted, what was left of the orange glow fading to almost nothing.

“It’s all a dream, Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo said, closing her eyes. “We’re inside my dream, and you were a part of it… such an important part of it. I just wanted you to notice me. I just wanted to be your friend... But I wanted you to be happy, too, so--.”

“So, everything I did…” Rainbow Dash began to say, her jaw shaking as she spoke. “All of my time with the Wonderbolts… All the time I spent with you… Cloudsdale moving south, my fame, my dreams… you did this to me?”

“Please, Rainbow Dash, it was supposed to be fun!” Scootaloo said. She started to cry, her tears dropping onto the bright green grass. “I was all alone! Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom got their cutie marks and stopped hanging out with me. I’d always wanted you to just see me! I just wanted to have somepony who cared, again!”

“Well, forget it!” Rainbow Dash shouted, her eyes erupting with glaring purple energy, red streaks of magic erupting out of her body as the dark aura around her expanded. “Everything I ever wanted is gone forever! I don’t even know if I’m real anymore! It’s all your fault, and you want me to just forgive you?” Rainbow Dash lifted a hoof upward, a ball of black energy growing at its tip.

“We have to get out of here, Scoot!” Pinkie Pie shouted, firing magic down into her cloak’s gems. A ball of pulsing colors surrounded them, and Pinkie pulled back on Scootaloo’s shoulder. “No matter what, you have to stop thinking of her as Rainbow Dash! She’s not the pony we knew anymore! She’s turned into something else! It’s completely taken over her!”

Rainbow Dash rose into the air, the energy ball she held aloft growing in size. Her eyes had turned completely black, only her irises remained, letting off a bright purple glow. The dark energy pouring out from her began to whip up heavy winds in the arena.

“No!” Scootaloo shouted. “This is my fault, she’s right!” Scootaloo stood her ground, looking up at Rainbow Dash.

The ball of energy that Rainbow held up pulsed several times, and then split into a thousand smaller balls, each stretching into a black javelin just like the one that she had launched at Pinkie Pie. They blocked out the sky, and then turned, all aimed at Scootaloo.

“Fire your dark magic at me, Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo shouted. “Until there’s none left! And then, we can start over! We can be friends for real!”

Rainbow Dash frowned, her eyes flashing white for a brief second. “F-Fine!” she screamed. “You can have it!”

The black spears sailed toward the ground like a torrential downpour. The sound of them whistling through the air, accompanied by Rainbow Dash’s screaming, echoed across the arena and out into the fields of Sweet Apple Acres. Massive amounts of dirt flew up from the ground as they pounded into it with the force of a bomb exploding.

Mulcibar landed roughly on his back, a weight pressing down over the top of him. He opened his eyes and saw nothing but a blurry field of pink. The side of his head was sore from an impact of some sort, which had knocked the sense out of him for a brief second. As soon as he’d regained his thoughts, though, the same sore spot on the side of his head received a surprisingly powerful blow, knocking his head sideways. The pink color in his field of vision dissipated, and he realized it was hair hanging over his face. The weight pressing down on his body was a little pony who had so foolishly leapt on top of him.

Fluttershy sat on top of the laid-out changeling, her left hoof pressing down against his chest. She wasn’t sure what to do now, but she was so hyper-focused on her attack that she swung her right hoof around without even thinking, smashing it into the side of the changeling’s skull.

Mulcibar flailed his hooves upward and wrapped them around Fluttershy. It was like a hug, but much more painful. He squeezed her down against him with sudden force, knocking the air out of her lungs. Fluttershy’s eyes bulged, and she coughed. She pressed against the changeling as hard as she could, pushing away from him. She finally lifted her front hooves into the air and smashed them both down against his face, which was mostly obscured by her long, pink mane.

“Gah! Get off me!” Mulcibar shouted, finally punching upward against Fluttershy’s chest and launching her off of him and to the right.

Fluttershy landed with a squeak. She felt something wet on the ground where she had landed, and opened her eyes. Right in front of her was Twilight Sparkle’s face, her mouth gaped, her breathing shallow and sporadic, and her eyes barely staying open. The ground was soaked in a puddle of her blood, which was still pouring out of a blackened hole in her chest. Fluttershy’s eyes went wide. She stared at Twilight, reaching a hoof out and touching it to her cheek.

“Twilight…” Fluttershy said, her voice shaking, her mind racing. Visions of memories with her friend flashed before her, and she began to curl up into a ball. The pain she felt in her ribcage was unable to even compare to the pain she now felt in her heart. “It’s all over…”

Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom slid in towards Twilight and Fluttershy, all shouting at once.

“Twilight! Hold on!” Rarity shouted. “Sweetie Belle, can you help her? Like with mom and dad?”

Apple Bloom shook Fluttershy and spoke, her voice shaking and nervous, her gaze cast to the edge of the stands. “Fluttershy, get up! We hafta get outta here!” she said. “Sweetie Belle’s gonna help Twilight, it’s gonna be okay, but that changeling don’t look too happy!”

Sweetie Belle kneeled beside Twilight, her hooves pressed against her and her horn glowing with a blinding light at its tip. “I won’t let you die! I won’t let you die! You can’t die!” she repeated over and over. The air around her and Twilight seemed to warp and twist, but Twilight still bled, her condition worsening by the second. “It’s not working!”

Apple Bloom pulled Fluttershy’s hoof. The yellow Pegasus, one side of her body stained red, pushed herself up and regained her hoofing. She looked over her shoulder. Mulcibar stood just yards away, his wings outstretched and his eyes glowing blue, staring at them. Blood was trickling out of his nose and dripping off of his chin.

“You miserable lot,” he said, rubbing a hoof against the spot where Fluttershy had clocked him on the side of his head. “It must be horrifying, knowing what you know. It’s no wonder you resist so violently.” He stepped towards them and bared his fangs. A flash of blue light shot out from his wings, wrapping him and the ponies in a glowing orb.

Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, Fluttershy, and Rarity found themselves standing in the throne room of Canterlot Castle. They looked up immediately, and saw the ceiling of changeling cocoons hanging over them. Streams of green magic flowed through the chamber, passing through cocoons and illuminating them. Mulcibar appeared at the far end of the room, sitting upon the throne.

“Look at how helpless you all are,” he said, lifting a glass of red wine to his lips and taking a sip. “Not a movement, not a cry, not a peep of a sound comes from a single one of these pods. And yet here, within your minds, you resist. You rage so loudly. You burn with agony and hatred for us, your captors.”

“Don’t listen to him, girls,” Fluttershy said, putting on a strong face. “This is some kind of trap!”

Mulcibar stood up from the throne and looked down directly at Fluttershy. “A trap? I have no need for such a thing,” he said, stepping along the ramp that led down to the ponies. He waved his hoof up towards the ceiling and grinned. “You’re all already trapped, as you can see.”

“What are you getting at, you beast?” Rarity demanded, her horn lighting up.

Mulcibar strode past Rarity and tapped a hoof against her horn, the light in it vanishing. “Let’s not get violent, I brought you here to settle things in a civilized fashion,” he stated plainly. “One of you has already had to pay the ultimate price, and it’s a shame that it came to that, but she and Celestia must be punished for what they’ve done. When an animal lashes out, you put it down, it’s as simple as that.”

“You’re sick,” Rarity spat with disgust. “We’re ponies, not animals!”

“Ah, but you are just that, even to your so-called friends, Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle,” Mulcibar said as he approached Fluttershy. “You four were just wrapped up in their plot, and deserve a second chance.” He walked towards Fluttershy, staring into her face and grinning.

“Stay away from me,” Fluttershy said angrily.

“Especially one so timid and lovely as you,” he said, running a hoof against Fluttershy’s cheek, pushing her bangs to the side. She pulled away from him in disgust. “Oh yes, I’d definitely show you a good time, my dear. Maybe even let you out of that cramped cocoon you’re in and let you stay in the castle.”

“Leave her alone!” Sweetie Belle yelled, a wave of energy flying out from her and lifting Mulcibar off the ground. He looked down at the filly and smiled, waving a hoof down at her.

“Oh, well now,” he said. “Linnai is going to be furious when she finds out she was wrong with her guess. You must be the dreamer, little one. I can feel it. You have quite a grip on your Lucidity, too. This makes it quite simple.” He began to charge up his horn, the gem socketed into its base glowing with magic.

“That jewel,” Rarity said, looking at the perfectly-cut gem. “That must be the source of your power.”

“Nothing so mundane,” Mulcibar responded. “The gem is a focal point, that is all.” As he said this, the gem popped out from his horn and flew through the air, coming to a stop over Apple Bloom’s head.

“Yer not completely right about Sweetie there bein’ the dreamer,” Apple Bloom said with a grin. She stomped her hoof against the ground, and the gem broke into shards above her.

Mulcibar stared at the filly, then laughed again.

“Two of you! No, there was a third filly with you!” he exclaimed. “Three! This is too much!” He laughed heartily, still floating in the air, his wings and hooves flailing as if he were rolling on the ground.

“I broke your stupid gem! Now let us go! You can’t beat us all without magic!” Apple Bloom demanded. Mulcibar just smiled back.

“Without magic? Child, do you see this illusion disappearing?” he said, then with a green flash, he transformed and took the form of Fluttershy, speaking in her voice. “Do you see my changeling powers going away? The gem is merely to focus my unicorn magic, it has nothing to do with my raw power.” His eyes flashed and a wave of force blasted outward, knocking the ponies away. He dropped to the ground, the levitation that had held him up interrupted.

“Do you fools know what happens to light when it shines through a lens?” he asked. “It focuses. Without a focus, well, it’s still just as bright, just not concentrated!” he blasted outward with another wave of force, destroying everything around him, knocking cocoons off the ceiling, shattering the throne behind him, and launching the ponies across the room and against the far walls.

Mulcibar floated across the room, flapping his yellow wings, still in the form of Fluttershy. He landed in front of the real Fluttershy and looked down at her. “Don’t worry, my dear,” he said. With a flash, he assumed the guise of Twilight Sparkle. “I can be your new Twilight, how about that? We’ll be the best of friends.”

“Oh come on!” a voice echoed across the throne room. “Talk about cliché evil! Not to mention a little bit creepy, even for me!”

“Who’s there?” Mulcibar shouted.

“Discord?” Fluttershy asked. A laugh echoed through the halls in response.

“Your illusions are great, but they lack flair, changeling!” Discord’s voice taunted. “First of all, it’s far too drab! Boring!” The throne room exploded with a blast of colors, everything becoming plastered with random dots and paint splotches. The cocoons hanging from the ceiling all turned into disco balls, and the floor tiles began to flash different colors.

Mulcibar turned his head towards the back of the throne room. Where the throne had once stood, there was now a stage. Atop the stage was a massive set of speakers, in the middle of which was a set of turntables. Discord stood behind them, huge rhinestone sunglasses on his face and a backwards baseball cap on his head. A chain hung down from his neck, a gold plate with the word “CHAOS” emblazoned across it, at least until whoever saw it read the word, at which point to them the letters rearranged randomly into some other word, or even a picture.

“Who are you?” Mulcibar asked, stepping towards the draconequus. “How did you get in here? How are you changing my illusion?” He fired pulses of blue energy out from his wings, but nothing happened.

“Good idea! Strobe lights!” Discord said, and snapped his fingers. Several flashing lights appeared and began to flicker at random. “I’d say this little party is ready to really get moving!”

“Enough!” Mulcibar shouted. He fired another blast of unfocused magic out from his horn. Instead of the intended effect, though, the magic blew two records off a stack of them to Discord’s side, both falling perfectly onto the two turntables. Discord dropped the needles onto the records. He winked towards the others and covered his ears. Fluttershy, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle clamped their forelegs over the ears.

The speakers exploded with terrible, random noises, louder than anypony had probably ever heard. Mulcibar clasped the sides of his head for a moment, then charged at the speakers on the left. He crashed into them and pierced their surface with his horn. They exploded out in a mixture of confetti, colorful birds, and bits.

“You picked the right set of speakers!” Discord shouted with glee. “You won the two-thousand bit prize!” In a flash, Mulcibar found himself seated in the middle of a circular blue room with three doors. Discord appeared in front of him, wearing a loud suit.

“What is the meaning of this?” Mulcibar shouted over the noise coming from Discord’s suit.

“You can keep the money you’ve already won, or you can go for a prize behind one of these three doors!” Discord said cheerfully. A gasp came from the audience. Mulcibar turned his head to the side and realized that there was an audience expanding out as far as he could see, all staring at him.

Several ponies in the front row started waving their hooves. “Keep the money!” one of them shouted. “No, take door number two! No, three!” others would call out. Mulcibar gritted his teeth, his anger boiling. He froze in place as he felt the sensation of a cold blade against his throat and heard a whisper in his ear. The back of his head pressed firmly against the back of the chair in which he was seated.

“Here’s the deal, you sniveling insect. My name is Discord, and you are as close to death as you’ve ever been,” Discord’s voice whispered to him, the roar of the crowd fading into the background. Discord himself still stood in front of him, waving to the crowd and smiling. The voice echoing in Mulcibar’s ear did not sound like it was smiling. “I’m not an unreasonable being… well, okay, I am, but I love games. Don’t think that what you feel pressing into the soft, juicy flesh of your neck is anything like a joke, not even for a second.”

Mulcibar swallowed, but as softly as he could, sweat beading on his forehead. He had heard legends of the tyrant, Discord, who had ruled over Equestria in antiquity. He was powerful beyond reckoning, incredibly cruel, and rumored to be immortal. What is an old god doing here? Mulcibar thought, his mind racing.

“You get one choice, so choose carefully,” Discord explained. “You pick a door. You pick the right one, you walk out of here alive and can continue whatever sort of evil plans you have. You can even take the yellow one with you, since you seem to fancy her.”

“If I pick the wrong one?” Mulcibar whispered, his nerves getting worse by the second, the blade becoming seemingly sharper and colder as time passed.

“You pick the wrong one, the floor gets a new paint job, and we’ll have to change the color scheme in here to red,” Discord answered, chuckling. “And again, do not think for one moment that I am joking. This is the side of me not many get to see, and even less have a chance to walk away from, so consider yourself… privileged.” Discord’s eyes glowed a bright red, and he grinned, running his tongue along the ridges of his teeth.

Mulcibar raised a hoof nervously to the third door in front of him.

“Door three? Are you sure?” Discord asked. “You only get one choice!”

Mulcibar felt the blade press against his throat. “No, no, door two!” he said raspily.

“Okay! Door two! What’s behind door two?” Discord asked. A second Discord, wearing lipstick, a wig, and a miniskirt, stepped over to door number two and opened it. Mulcibar’s seat ejected him forward and through the door, the cheering of the crowd fading as he flew through it. He felt himself hit a wall, heard explosions and a blazing fire coming from his left, and the ground shaking beneath his feet. He stood up, shook his head, and a flash of blue light reflected off the wall in front of him. He turned around quickly, having realized where he was. He was outside of his illusion sphere. Somehow, Discord had ejected him from his own spell.

Mulcibar stomped a hoof against the ground, and the blue sphere vanished with a crack. Fluttershy, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom appeared, all crouched low to the ground. “Where is he?!” Mulcibar shouted nervously. turning his head back and forth, his horn pulsing with energy. “Where’s Discord?!”

A second later, there was a loud sound like fabric being torn apart, and everything around him went as black as ink.

Celestia blazed through the air, circling around opposite of Linnai, who kept pace with the princess, never letting her slip out of her field of vision. Beams of magic fire blasted from both of their horns at one another, each missing every time as the other dodged deftly in mid-flight.

Down in the stands, Rarity’s parents stood with Applejack and Big Macintosh, feeling helpless.

“Everypony’s flyin’ or magic! We gotta do somethin’!” Applejack shouted. She looked up at the princess, who seemed to be in an aerial stalemate with Linnai, neither one of them having landed a single blow past the initial collision.

“Well, I can’t do anything to this blue ball!” Rarity’s mother said. “I never was as good with magic as my daughter, but this isn’t even a matter of that. The magic feels all different, ya know?”

Applejack sighed and pushed her hat firmly against her head. “Big Macintosh, I want ya to launch me up there,” she said.

“Y’done lost yer mind,” Big Mac said plainly. “Don’t reckon I can hit a moving target with a pony from this distance, even if I could buck ya’ far enough.”

Rarity’s dad stepped forward and pushed up against Big Mac. “Now that’s where you n’ I differ, big fella,” he said. “Shoot, I’ve completed passes longer’n that back in Varsity… though I’m not as young as I used ta’ be. Betcha you and I could do it together, though. And the wife, there, can hold AJ steady.”

“Great idea!” Applejack said with a grin. “Come on, Big Mac!”

Big Macintosh sighed. “Eeyup…” he said. “But I still think y’all lost yer minds.”

Rarity’s mother concentrated as hard as she could, lifting Applejack into the air and holding her steadily in place with levitation. Applejack pulled her back hooves inward as if she were ready to launch into a jump.

“Arright, Mac, now ya gotta keep a real steady eye,” Rarity’s dad began to explain as he and Big Mac got into position. They each raised a single rear hoof off the ground and placed them against one of Applejack’s. “When it’s time ta’ throw, I’ll signal by raising my other hoof up and pressing it to AJ’s. You’ll have fractions of a second to react and get yours up there slightly quicker than I go. Then we all three buck outward, and she’ll be shot up there like a cannonball.”

“You sure we can make the distance?” Big Mac asked nervously.

“You kiddin’?” Applejack scolded. “You got me n’ you who buck trees fer a livin’, plus a former pro athlete. What do ya think? Wouldn’t be surprised if I cause a Sonic Rainboom!”

“Okay. Hold her steady, dear,” Rarity’s dad said, his eyes locked onto Linnai in the distance. “Get ready, Mac. Almost… Almost… Now!” As he was saying “Now”, he lifted his left hoof up. Big Mac pushed his right hoof up as well, and with a single motion, Applejack shot like a blur into the distance, her hat blowing off her head in the process.

This is getting nowhere! Celestia thought, her rage having subsided slightly with her massive outflux of magic. I can’t seem to predict her movements. It’s those blasted wings! They don’t move her like a pegasus. If I could just get a bead on her… She fired another blast. Linnai reacted by firing her own, and the two beams collided in the air, exploding outward.

A flash of orange shot past Celestia so quickly, she couldn’t tell what it was, only that it came from below. She instinctively launched herself backwards.

Linnai saw the orange object coming towards her at high speed. She turned her head, tried to evade, but couldn’t make it. Almost as if time had slowed, Linnai saw two orange hooves approaching her face, a pair of green eyes and flowing blond hair behind them.

Applejack smashed into Linnai, pushing her front hooves forward at the point of impact, cracking the changeling’s head backwards. The two of them continued to fly through the air, eventually falling and crashing into the upper stands across the arena and smashing through two rows of seats as they landed.

“Applejack!” Celestia shouted, finally realizing what had happened. She dove towards the two of them as thundering sounds began to erupt from the field behind her. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Scootaloo zooming across the field, dodging giant white stone pillars that were falling from the sky towards her. Each one hit the earth with a massive thud, shaking the arena and further destroying the parts that were already in ruin.

Applejack pulled herself up despite the steady shaking of the floor under her feet. She stood over the changeling, glaring down at her angrily. “I should crack yer’ skull open like a watermelon!” she screamed down at Linnai’s unconscious body.

Celestia dove down towards the two of them as fast as she could. “Do it!” Celestia screamed at Applejack. “Do not hesitate! Kill her!”

“Don’t gotta tell me twice,” Applejack said, and raised her back hooves. She kicked the changeling’s body back and up against an entryway wall. Linnai hit the wall, her limp body leaning against it, her head hanging to the side loosely. “Not the most honorable way ta’ go, but you had it comin’! This is fer Twilight!”

Applejack pulled her hind legs up and shot them back, right at the changeling’s head, aiming to smash it against the wall. At the second before impact, Linnai’s eyes shot open, glowing bright red. Fire blasted out from her forehead and shot Applejack across the stands in a fiery blaze.

Linnai shook her head and launched herself to her feet, charging at Applejack with her horn blazing. Celestia turned in the air, diving towards Applejack.

Linnai let loose with a massive fireball, shooting straight towards Applejack. Celestia crashed into the earth pony, pushing her away. The ball of fire hit Celestia, and the stands around her ignited.

With a single beat of her wings, Linnai launched herself skyward and began to launch ball after ball of blazing fire at Celestia, the inferno surrounding her growing in size. The fire spread through the stands and the wooden floorboards gave way, crashing down. The top of the blaze shot upward higher and higher as Linnai relentlessly poured energy and heat into it, laughing the entire time.

“Princess!” Applejack shouted, and glared at Linnai. She jumped to her hooves and galloped towards the changeling, leaping into the air towards her. “Stop that right now!”

Linnai paid no attention to Applejack, except for the amount of effort it took to launch a single, small fireball at her. Applejack was blown to the side, falling down onto the grassy field. She stared back up to where the princess had been, light flickering off her eyes. She slammed her front right hoof into the earth and shook her head. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

“No… What have I done? This is all my fault!” she yelled. She fell forward and buried her face into the grass, wrapped her forelegs around her head, and cried.

Linnai ceased her firing, satisfied that the blaze before her was sufficient. She laughed loudly and pointed her hoof down at the blaze. “Burn! Burn!” She screamed. A flash of light from straight ahead ceased her laughter, though, and she stared in disbelief.

Celestia, her mane and coat completely in flames, rose up from the blaze, stepping calmly out from it. She stared up at Linnai, her gaze itself burning as well.

“Do you know what the sun is?” Celestia asked. “It’s a star. It’s a raging inferno the likes of which you can not even comprehend.”

Linnai gritted her teeth and shouted down angrily at Celestia. “Shut up! Why can’t you just die?”

Celestia shook her head. “I’ve been there, you know. I was there for a whole night, once,” she said, her horn glowing. “It was hot-- Hotter than this bonfire you’ve made. Do you think that any flame you wield could possibly harm me?”

Linnai shot a fireball down at Celestia, who took the blast head-on. She was pushed back slightly, but continued to calmly walk towards Linnai.

“You’ve done something that is most unfortunate,” Celestia said. “You’ve incurred my wrath.” Celestia’s horn flashed and a single, bright beam of magic shot out from it. It pierced through Linnai’s shoulder and she flew backwards, hitting the floor.

A second later, a flash and a ripping sound came from Celestia’s left. She did not have time to look at what had happened. Everything went black around her.

Moments earlier...

The heavy cloud of dust cleared, revealing an orange glow. Scootaloo stood, Pinkie Pie next to her, unharmed. The multitudes of black, jagged spikes lay thrusted into the ground. A perfectly circular area around the two ponies was completely untouched by the projectiles.

Rainbow Dash, her breath heavy, glared down at the two of them. I missed? She thought. No… she made them miss! Scootaloo stared back up, her gaze unwielding. Pinkie Pie stood behind Scootaloo and suddenly put a hoof against her head.

Pinkie Twi’s voice cried out in Pinkie Pie’s mind. It’s getting dark! What’s going on out there? Everything is vanishing and fading to black! I can feel my mind… slipping away!

Pinkie turned her head back towards the stands. Having been distracted by her fight with Rainbow Dash, she had not noticed what had been going on. Celestia was flying through the air, blasts of magic fire zipping back and forth between her and Linnai. A massive blue sphere hung over the stands, and there was no sign of Twilight, but Rarity’s parents stood beside the blue orb with Applejack and Big Macintosh, shouting into it.

“Did something happen to Twilight?” Pinkie asked Scootaloo. Her entire body began to twitch out of control.

Scoot nodded her head sadly. “She was in bad shape. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom are going to try and heal her like I healed you,” she said. “Only the three of us can stop this mess.”

A flash and a ripping sound came from above. The two ponies turned their heads up and saw Rainbow Dash hanging in the air above them, her dark aura still flashing outward. Beside her was a massive rip in the fabric of the dream. Beyond the rip, three beams of light were seen within a field of darkness. Rainbow Dash swung her hoof and materialized a long, black blade. She pushed her hoof into one end of it and stared into the bright opening.

That’s right, Rainbow Dash! the voice in her head said, urging her forward. The child, the dream, your friends… they were all distractions! Those lights are the point that binds this world together! Cut them apart! Don’t let them use you anymore!

Rainbow Dash frowned. Don’t get me wrong, she thought. I won’t let you use me either! I can feel it, though. I know it somewhere deep inside, I have to do this! Not for you, but for me! With that thought, the dark energy pulsed outward, gaining rainbow-like flashes of color within it.

As you wish! the voice said, sounding as confident as ever.

Pinkie Pie’s eyes went wide and she pointed a hoof as best as she could up towards the rift in the sky. “We can’t let her cut those strands of light! That’s the center of this world! That’s what I was protecting! If it gets destroyed, it’s all over!” she yelled.

“Pinkie! Help the others!” Scootaloo shouted, and then shot into the air at lightning speed. Rainbow Dash pulled her hoof back. She grinned and swung the blade forward, right at the point where the three light beams converged. Pinkie saluted shakily, turning back towards the stands.

Scootaloo stretched her hoof forward, a pink blade firing out from its tip. It intercepted Rainbow Dash’s sword just as it was about to make contact with the light. The magical blades smashed together with a crashing sound. There was a sparking flash, and Rainbow Dash’s blade was pushed back. Scootaloo hovered in the air between the open rift and the blue pegasus.

“You have no choice, Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo said calmly. “I don’t know what that thing is, but I can feel its energy. It’s kind, loving, and warm. If you want to attack it, you have to get past me first.”

Rainbow Dash laughed. “You’re a pretty cool kid, Scoot,” she said. “I bet the real me would’ve liked you.”

Scootaloo grinned back at Rainbow Dash and laughed. “You don’t even know the real Rainbow Dash, because I don’t really know her either. I don’t care if the real Rainbow Dash likes me anymore! I just want you back! By the time this is over, we’ll be fighting together,” she said with all seriousness. “I’ll change you back! Back to the Rainbow Dash I love! The one I look up to!”

“Well, then you had better fight like you’re trying to kill me,” she said, equally serious. “I’m doing the same for you."

Scootaloo swung her sword upward at Rainbow Dash’s face. Dash dodged back, flying in reverse with great speed.

“Good!” Rainbow Dash shouted. She pulled her hooves up to either side of her, and two giant boulders formed in the air next to her. She swung her hooves forward, and the rocks launched at Scootaloo.

Scootaloo pushed her sword forward at one of the massive boulders. It shattered into pieces, which then turned into clouds. She dodged to the side and brought her blade down upon the other one as it passed by, slicing it in half. The boulder dissolved into the air harmlessly, magic particles flying into the air where it had been. Scootaloo flapped her wings and dove at Rainbow Dash, swinging her blade at her again. Reality bent around Rainbow Dash, and the blade of the sword vanished just before it made contact with her. The blade’s tip harmlessly appeared on the other side of her.

Rainbow Dash pushed her hoof against Scootaloo’s chest. A giant spark flew out from it and sent Scootaloo flying back to the ground. She hit the grass with a thud and looked up. Rainbow Dash had materialized a row of giant stone pillars, the likes of which you would see in Cloudsdale. Dash began to launch the pillars toward the ground. Scootaloo scrambled across the field as the pillars struck it, shaking the earth and creating clouds of dirt.

Scootaloo stared at one of the pillars and lifted it into the air, launching it back at Rainbow Dash. “I can do that, too!” she shouted, firing more pillars skyward. Rainbow Dash was quickly surrounded by a circle of rotating stone columns. Scootaloo took off into the air again and slammed her hooves together. The pillars all smashed inward simultaneously, Rainbow Dash at their center. A loud rumbling sound and a flash shot through the air.

A second later, the pillars crumbled, each broken piece turning into a dark spear. Rainbow Dash pulled her hooves inward, bringing them all together until they were joined as one long, crackling harpoon.

“You know that won’t work!” Scootaloo shouted as Rainbow Dash launched the spear at her. Scootaloo dodged the projectile easily and shook her head. “This fight is so pointless! We can’t do anything to each other, and you know it!”

Rainbow Dash laughed. “Wasn’t aiming for you, kid,” she said with a grin, her eyes looking past Scootaloo.

Scootaloo turned around and saw the massive blade strike the three beams of light right where they were connected. The beams snapped apart, like a tightly pulled rope being cut. She felt her mind go blank, her eyes close, and her senses all dull. She felt herself falling from the sky, down, down, down for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, Scootaloo only felt one thing, deep in the darkness: A feeling so familiar to her, since she’d known it for most of her life. Like a parasite that had attached to her years ago and refused to let go, no matter how she had refused to let it stop her...

She felt alone.

Author's Note:

Oh man, I had this sinking feeling in my stomach as I hit Publish on this. But I did it.

I swore a long time ago I wouldn't have swordfights or guns in pony fanfic... Oops! At least there's still no guns, right? I also wanted to be sure to emphasize the fact that these are not swords in the traditional way you're thinking. There's no handle or hilt, which I think is silly for a pony sword to have anyway. If ponies used swords, they'd have handles that were more like a dome to slide your hoof into, maybe with a ridge to grip against. Or they'd tie around the hoof.

In any case, the blades that Scoot and Dash have, here, are more like what a Zealot in Starcraft would use. Just google "starcraft zealot" - you'll see.

So anyway, things aren't looking so good for anypony, here! Not even our villains! Mulcibar got a taste of Discord, and Linnai has finally been shown just how screwed she is.

But none of that matters, because Dash just did the worst possible thing.

Things are gonna get a little weird and a little feelsy next chapter, which shall be the finale of Book Three!

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