• 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 9 - The Stars Shine

Book Three: Horizons

Chapter Nine - The Stars Shine

Darkness surrounded Apple Bloom briefly, then beams of light flew upward past her eyes. She blinked, and a blurry blob of colors began to come into focus. It spread outward, surrounding her until she was standing in a grassy field outside of her house.

How did I get here? What happened to the others? She thought, and walked towards the structure. What’s this feeling? It’s cold and sad… I feel so lonely. The filly stepped into the house. From upstairs, she heard the sound of someone crying. She walked up to the second floor, towards the sound, until she found herself at the door to Applejack’s room. She looked inside and saw a young version of her sister lying on her bed. Beside her was a tiny filly with red hair and a pink bow on her head. She knew that filly was her.

Is this a memory? I can’t remember it very well.

“The day after dad died,” said a voice from behind Apple Bloom. She looked over her shoulder and saw Applejack standing behind her. A single tear rolled down her cheek. “In all my days, I’ve never felt so sad as that day. It hadn’t even been two years since mom had passed, and now dad was gone, too. Everything was fallin’ apart.” Applejack took her hat off her head and pressed it against her chest.

“What are we gonna do, lil’ sis?” the younger Applejack asked her sister. “We’re all alone, now.” She placed a hoof against Apple Bloom’s head and gently stroked her mane. She burst into another fit of crying, burying her face into her pillow. Little Apple Bloom began crying, too.

A crushing feeling of loneliness shot through Apple Bloom’s heart. She felt colder, and the scene dimmed. She reached a hoof out toward the vision of her sister and tried to hold back the sadness. “But, we weren’t alone, big sis,” she said. “We had Big Mac and Granny Smith.”

Applejack nodded her head in response. “I know, but it just seemed so hopeless. Folks in town were sayin’ all sorta bad things,” she said.

“They say he grieved himself to death,” a voice said, as if it were just within earshot of Apple Bloom. “The poor kids, they’re on their own now. Who knows how long Granny Smith will hang on?”

“You, Big Mac, and Granny Smith were left all alone. I never even knew that sorta feeling. I never thought of how hard it musta been, havin’ ta take care of me and the farm,” Apple Bloom said quietly.

“We hung in there, though,” Applejack replied. “We made sure ya didn't have ta think about it. Despite what anypony thought, the Apple family pushed through.”

“The farm at Ponyville could go under. Big Mac isn’t ready for that sort of responsibility,” another voice said. “He’s barely a stallion, and Applejack’s got years yet to go before she’s old enough to help.”

“What do they know?” the smaller Applejack said between sobs. “Big Mac is twice the stallion any’a them are. And I can too help. I’ll show ‘em! We’ll all show ‘em you can’t stop this family! Can’t nothin’ stop us!” She wiped away her tears, a look of determination now taking over her.

“And you’ll help too, won’t’cha Apple Bloom?” Applejack asked, smiling over at her sis.

Apple Bloom closed her eyes. As much as I can, sis, she thought to herself. But what if…

Apple Bloom blinked, and the scene before her changed to her sister and brother working in the fields. She sat by a window, looking out at them, with Granny Smith sitting beside her on a rocking chair. She stared out the window, watching her family do what the Apples had done for generations. Her head sank, and she looked down at her bare flank.

“What if mah special talent doesn’t hafta do with the farm at all? What if I… can’t help?” she asked.

“Do you really think that matters to us, Snickerdoodle?" Granny Smith said with a giggle. “What’s important is family, and bein’ together, not what you can or can’t do for us.”

“Yeah, but what if mah cutie mark is--“ she started to ask, but was stopped by her grandmother.

“Hush now, child, and listen. Do you really think that your special talent, no matter what it may be, will keep you away from us or the farm?” Granny Smith asked. “Does it define who ya are that much?”

Apple Bloom looked back at the window. “No. You’re right,” she said. The scene vanished, and Apple Bloom saw her family standing in front of her in the dark void.

“That’s right, AB. It’s you who decide what yer made of, not a cutie mark,” Applejack said. “All we want from ya is for you to be you.”

“Eeyup,” Big Mac chimed in.

“And that’s not just the family you were given,” Granny Smith said with a smile. “It’s the family you choose, too.”

The family I choose… That’s right. I’ll always be there for my family, no matter what, she thought in response. No matter who gets their cutie mark first, or who is left without one… no matter what my talent is, and no matter what happens on the farm… I’ll be there. I’ll never abandon them.

Images of the past month flashed in her mind. She saw herself bucking trees with her sister and brother, the trees filling with flowers blossoms as she kicked their trunks. She saw the farm expand, but inward, getting closer and closer to Ponyville, until it was right up against the town’s edges, their orchards touching the yards of the townsponies.

“The whole time, I’d been dreaming of the farm spreading inward toward town-- Toward my friends. I thought I had to choose, but that’s not right,” Apple Bloom said and smiled.

Applejack and Big Macintosh nodded their heads and stepped to the side, making a path between them. On the other side of the path, Apple Bloom saw the shadowy outlines of her best friends.

“You gotta push through, now, Apple Bloom. You gotta move ahead just like we did,” Applejack said, gesturing her past. “Yer other family is waitin’ for ya. Everypony is countin’ on the three of you.”

“My other family, as dear to me as my own kin,” she said. “Nothing can break us apart!” Her chest erupted with a golden glow, the outline of a symbol appearing on it again, just the same as before. However, this time there was more to it. The flower-shaped symbol seemed to pop out from her chest, forming a bright red gemstone surrounded by a dark metal, hanging from an intricately etched band that hung around her neck. She felt a magical power rising up from inside her. She reached her hoof out towards her friends, through the sea of blackness.

“Come on, you two! We won’t give up that easy, right?”

The gem hanging from her neck burst forth with bright magic, firing towards the shadowy profiles of her friends.

Lonely? I haven’t felt lonely—not really—in a long time.

Sweetie Belle saw herself as a younger filly sitting at a table in a restaurant. Next to her was her sister, also a filly, and across from them sat their parents. Why am I here? What happened? I remember this time in my life, but only a little. It’s all sort of blurry...

A waitress came up to the table. She was immediately enamored with Sweetie Belle and Rarity, smiling at them. “I can take you orders if you’re ready,” she said. She looked down at Sweetie Belle and smiled. “What do you want, little one?” Sweetie Belle sank into her seat and turned her gaze down, blushing slightly. She raised her hoof up and pointed to a picture of a fruit bowl on the menu.

The waitress grinned and looked at the adults at the table. “Oh my gosh, she is just adorable. Is she always this shy?” the waitress asked.

“She can’t talk,” Rarity blurted out. Sweetie Belle tried to slouch even lower in her seat. Rarity’s mom tapped her hoof on the table and shot a look at Rarity, who slouched down in her chair as well.

Sweetie Belle smirked as she remembered. Despite the stuff she used to say, I still loved my sister, even back then. All the other foals my age could talk, but I couldn’t. All I could do was make tiny squeaking noises any time I tried. I guess that’s why none of the other kids ever wanted to be my friends. I felt lonely… but I always felt better spending time with my sister. It’s like I decided I was going to be her best friend, and I just never let go of that thought.

“She may never be able to speak,” a voice said. Sweetie Belle blinked her eyes and looked down at a unicorn wearing a white coat. He was standing with her parents, talking to them. She saw her past self on a bed in a plain room, and the unicorn must have been a doctor of some sort.

She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out but a small, raspy squeaking sound. Her parents and the doctor looked down at her and smiled.

“The poor thing,” her mother said, shaking her head.

A young looking Rarity hopped up onto the bed and smiled down at her. “I think she’s adorable!” Rarity said gleefully. “She makes the cutest little noises!”

Her parents laughed and her father patted Rarity on the head. “That’s right, your little sis is the cutest little thing,” he said. Rarity nodded in agreement and rubbed her nose against Sweetie Belle’s.

Sweetie Belle giggled and wriggled her face. Stop it, sis, it tickles! she thought, but only a little giggly squeak escaped her lips.

Back then, I didn’t understand what they meant by ‘never be able to speak.’Sweetie Belle closed her eyes and another memory drifted into her mind. She found herself sitting in her sister’s room, watching her busily sewing and humming a tune along with the record that was playing in the background. The singer in the song had such a beautiful voice. Every once in a while, Rarity would sigh to herself and look at the record player. She then turned her head towards Sweetie Belle.

“Oh Sweetie Belle, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to sing like that?” she asked whimsically. “To burn with such passion that it can be felt just from your voice?” Her eyelids drooped down heavily and she sighed again.

Sweetie Belle nodded her head excitedly. I could understand what she was saying, even though I couldn’t talk, she thought. I loved the music, too. It made me feel calm and happy inside, but also kind of sad. It was like… something inside of me wanted to be let out. Like I had to finally let my voice be free. We spent a lot of time together, day after day and month after month, and each day I felt it more and more strongly.

She squeaked ineffectually at Rarity, and her sister smiled and patted her on the head. Rarity turned back to her sewing, humming along with the music again. After a moment, she started to hear something behind her, something besides the melody coming from the record.

Sweetie Belle, her eyes clenched tightly and her whole body tensed up, hummed along with the song in perfect harmony. I remember concentrating as hard as I could. My whole life I hadn’t been able to utter so much as a word correctly, and couldn’t control the sound or pitch of my voice, but something inside of me told me that day was the day.

I could feel tears welling up behind my closed eyes as I just kept humming, never missing a note. It hurt… not just in my throat, but in my heart.

Rarity turned her head, her jaw dropped, and she stared at her little sister.

Listen to me sing, Rarity! Sweetie Belle thought to herself. Can you feel it? Can you hear my feelings? My passion?

“Mother! Father!” Rarity shouted. She bolted from the room, shouting as she ran down the hallway to find her parents. Sweetie Belle just smiled and kept on humming.

After that day, I learned how to control my voice through singing. I remember the day when I said my first words, or rather sang my first words. It was like a firecracker flashing from my mouth. Mom, dad, and Rarity all fell to the ground in tears, which made me start crying.

Yet, Sweetie Belle continued to sing, words weeping out of her mouth with the soft warbling of her throat.

I'd found my voice. It felt so wonderful, I never wanted to stop, she thought, and blushed slightly.

“I never sung for anypony else, though,” Sweetie Belle said as the memories filled her mind. “I guess I’m just kind of shy.”

Rarity appeared next to her and put a hoof on her shoulder. “Don’t you worry, Sweetie,” Rarity said. “Everypony knows that feeling.”

Sweetie Belle smiled. Visions of her friends, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom, appeared in her mind. “But I sang for you two,” she said, a bit choked up from remembering that time in her life. “I felt like I could do anything when I was with the two of you.”

She reached a hoof forward and opened her eyes, two shadowy outlines of her friends appearing in front of her, just past her sister and her parents. She recalled the school talent show and chuckled. “Let’s sing together, again,” she said.

“That’s right, Sweeite. You have to be brave, now. You have to take that bravery and shine like never before!” Rarity said, stepping aside to let her sister through.

“Together, we can share it with everypony! This song of passion and perseverance!” Sweetie Belle shouted. Her chest shot out a bright pink light, and streams of magic swirled around her. The sound of a choir singing filled her ears. The shining emblem appeared on her chest once more, the shape of a bright pink heart, crystallized in stone and surrounded by cloudy, dark edging. It hung from a band around her neck, etched with soft curves and starbursts. She felt a power rising up inside of her. She’d felt it before, at the same time as she had found her lucidity, and again when Princess Luna had connected with them. She didn’t know where it had come from, but she knew it was her own.

“Come on, you two,” she said, smiling towards her friends. “Let’s come together! We haven’t lost yet! Yes, together we can do anything!”

The gem on her chest fired its magic towards her friends.

Scootaloo found herself looking down on herself, along with her mother and father, walking down a street on the outskirts of Ponyville. How did I get here? What happened to everypony? she thought.

“I think you’ll like it here in Ponyville,” a deep voice said. Scootaloo looked up at her father, who was walking along next to her. The sun shone down from above, casting his face in shadow. “You and your mother. Plus, you’ll be a lot more safe and happy.”

Scootaloo smiled at her dad, but inside she was not happy.

I knew this was the end. You knew I wouldn’t be happy… not that I was before. You said “you and your mother” because you knew you weren’t going to be here with us. You had to stay in Cloudsdale.

“How often will we get to see you?” Scootaloo asked, turning her eyes to the ground.

I knew what the answer would be. It was okay. Just another one of those facts of life I’d come to terms with, even back then. I knew you’d never be around, and mom would just go along with whatever you wanted. I never could do all the stuff the other kids up there could, but moving to an earth pony town and going to an earth pony school just felt like… giving up.

“Whenever I can,” her father responded. He lowered his head and looked at Scootaloo, who tried her hardest to not look back at him, but failed. Her dad’s big, goofy grin, just peeking out from the shadows cast upon his face, got the best of her and she smiled back uncontrollably. He scooped her up with a foreleg and plopped her down onto his shoulders. “And when I come visit, I’ll tell you all about the adventures the Cloudsdale Guards have been on, and then we’ll go on our own great adventures!”

Scootaloo hugged her dad’s neck.

What was so lovable about that smile of yours? How could it melt away my resolve to not like you just like that? You didn’t come back for months. Mom’s allergies had gotten worse, and she’d gotten really sick. It took that sort of emergency to drag you down from Cloudsdale. You went straight to her side as soon as you got to the hospital. I remember she woke up and saw you, and it was almost like she was going to get better just from you being there. Just like I’d imagined.

She gazed down on a scene of her mother, her father, and herself in a hospital room. Her mom looked up at her dad and smiled sweetly. She didn’t make it through that night, though. I guess even if you’d been around, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The doctors said it was the worst pneumonia they’d ever seen, along with her allergies… that it was incredible that she could even keep breathing on her own those last couple of days.

“Why can’t some unicorn just use magic to bring her back?” Scootaloo saw herself asking her father as they stood before her mom’s casket at her funeral.

Scootaloo’s dad shook his head, his face once again shrouded in shadows cast from above. “Magic doesn’t work like that, Scoot,” he said. “Everypony has to go away someday, it’s fate.”

Scootaloo sniffled, holding back her tears. “Well that’s stupid. They should make a magic that can change fate! It’s not fair!” she said. She looked up at her father, who had started to cry freely, despite his daughter not shedding a single tear.

He lifted his head upward and wiped his eyes. “Starry Skies… she’s up there, now, flying through those starry skies.”

Scootaloo dug her elbow into his foreleg. “Oh, come on, dad. You think mom wants to see you crying like that?”

He turned his head and looked down at his daughter. “I think she wouldn’t want to see you trying to act so tough,” he said, and then scooped Scootaloo up into a tight hug, falling back onto his haunches. Scootaloo dug her face into his chest and cried her eyes out.

I had to be tough, though. It’s all you two ever let me be. Mom was weak and you were gone more than half the time.

“And yet, you persevered,” he said aloud, turning his gaze up to her, his big grin once again just barely poking out from the shadows that seemed to completely cover him in all of these memories. “You never gave up on anything that came your way.”

I felt like I might, though, Scootaloo thought, the scene changing before her eyes. You stayed with me for that week until I could convince you I was okay. It’s funny… when you were gone, I’d always wished you’d come back, and then when you were there, I just wanted you to go away. Maybe I’ll never understand that.

“You’ll have to figure that one out on your own,” her father said. Scootaloo watched as he took off into the starry sky, flying northward.

I’m used to it. Even when you went back to Cloudsdale I wished you’d stayed. Sure, Nurse Redheart comes by every day to make sure I’m doing okay, or to make sure the money you sent made it. She even hangs around and talks to me sometimes. I always hope it’s you knocking on the door, though. Stupid to think it would be. She’s more of a parent than you ever were.

Scootaloo saw herself walking slowly through the streets of Ponyville, her gaze plastered to the ground. I was tired of everything… Ponyville, you, being sad, even my own life. But that night, something happened. Something I’ll never forget for as long as I live. I was just walking through the streets when all of the sudden Pinkie Pie shot around a corner, practically shedding her fur off she was in such a panic. I knew Pinkie Pie, heck everypony knew Pinkie Pie. She didn’t give you much of a choice. Scootaloo laughed, looking down at her past self being assaulted by a pink whirlwind of shouting.

“There’s a new pegasus in town and her name is Rainbow Dash and she’s friends with Fluttershy, you probably don’t know her, and there’s gonna be a party tonight in town square, right outside Sugarcube corner, and there will be cake and cookies and punch and music and dancing and a bonfire and marshmallow roasting and it’s gonna be the best thing ever and oh my gosh I can’t forget, it’s called the ‘Welcome to Ponyville Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy Party’!” Pinkie Pie shouted at the filly, then panting heavily to catch her breath.

“I’ll… be there?” Scootaloo said nervously.

Pinkie Pie grinned and gave the filly a noogie. “Okay, gotta run!” she shouted and took off towards her next unsuspecting victim.

It had gotten dark. I hadn’t even noticed, but I had arrived at the party, and just in time to see that amazing act that I’ll always remember. For the first time, I saw her.

Rainbow Dash hovered over a giant bonfire. Her rainbow-colored mane streamed through the air, being pushed around by the wind and the heat rising from the flames beneath her. The flickering light from the fire made her colors glow even more brightly.

I couldn’t look away. It took me a second to realize, but she was holding a door, like the kind that would normally be on the front of a house, in her hooves.

“Fluttershy! I want to show you with more than just words that I’m here for you! And it’s not just me! It’s every pony here! Today, while we were at your house, Pinkie Pie was spreading the word here. She was telling everypony about this party, about you, and about me,” said Rainbow Dash as she dropped the door onto the top of the pile.

When the door dropped onto the fire, sparks flew out. It was soon burning, just part of the blaze. I looked over at the yellow pegasus, Fluttershy, and saw her smiling, talking, and making friends. I didn’t even really know what was going on with the door being burned. I didn’t know what those two had been through, but that rainbow-maned pony inspired me, right then and there. I could see her burning determination shining brighter than that bonfire.

“I want to be just like her,” Scootaloo said quietly. “I never want to give up on anything or anypony.”

But I didn’t have any friends, yet.

Scootaloo saw herself pulling a scooter out of a junk pile behind a shop. The handlebars were cracked and it was missing a wheel.

I’d seen those things before. I figured if I couldn’t fly, it had to be the next best thing, Scootaloo thought, looking down at an ever-changing scene of her repairing the scooter bit by bit. It was eventually usable, but I was terrible at it. That’s how I met Sweetie Belle, outside of school anyway. She saw me trying to do jumps and tricks. She looked down at her past self talking with Sweetie Belle, who had her own ideas on how to improve.

You just latched right on and immediately started trying to help, Scootaloo thought and laughed. None of your hair-brained ideas ever worked, but you had passion to go along with my new-found determination. It felt like we were kindred spirits somehow… just like with Apple Bloom.

The image of her two friends persisted as the rest of her memory faded to black. She reached a hoof out towards them. “I’ll never give up, and I’ll never let you give up. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, the three of us are unstoppable. Let me share my determination with you, again!” Scootaloo shouted as her chest burst forth with orange magic, a pendant in the shape of a flame shooting up from a circle appearing there. It hung down from her neck on a band of dark metal with intricate engravings upon it.

“Wake up, Twilight!”

Twilight opened her eyes and felt them adjusting, but couldn’t see anything. She was surrounded by darkness and felt frozen to the bone. “What happened?” she asked. She weakly turned her head to her right and saw the dark outline of Pinkie Pie’s face looking at her. She could tell immediately that it was Pinkie Twi from the goggles she had strapped over her forehead. “Where are we?”

Pinkie Twi breathed in deeply and closed her eyes. “This is all that’s left. Just you and me,” she said. “Everything started fading away not long ago, and before I could figure out what was going on, it was just all blackness. Then you appeared, and when I saw your chest, I figured it out.”

“Figured what out?” Twilight asked, confused. She rose from the ground slowly, having to grip her chest with one of her forelegs as she pulled herself up. “My chest and back hurt, and I feel so cold.”

“You must have been hurt pretty bad, Twilight,” Pinkie replied. “In the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ dream, something must have gotten you pretty good. You’re… completely run through.” She pointed to Twilight’s chest.

Twilight looked down at her chest and moved her hoof down to the ground. She saw the wound and gasped, but didn’t feel she had the strength to react any more strongly than that. “So we’re inside my mind? This is terrible! What will happen to us now? What happened to the others?”

Pinkie Twi shook her head. “I don’t know. Your body is still alive in the cocoon, so I guess that’s why you’re back here in your own dream. Maybe this darkness is your dream ending as you… fade away.”

“Will I wake up in the cocoon again?” Twilight questioned. “Is that what happens? Or will I really die? This is really scary, Pinkie…” She felt like she could start panicking, or shaking, but didn’t even have the strength for that.

“Sorry, I just don’t know,” Pinkie said, and hugged Twilight as gently as she could.

Twilight shook her head. “No, no… I think I do know, though,” Twilight said, squinting her eyes. “I woke up before, I saw Chrysalis. She even talked to me and put me back to sleep. I never thought about it, but why did that happen? Did something happen before that?”

“You’re right, Twilight,” Pinkie said, sitting down and thinking, a hoof against her chin. “If you woke up before, something must have woken you up. Gosh, it makes you wonder how many times we might have tried to escape from these pods and failed before we finally got this far. For all we know, we may have gotten even further than this before.”

Twilight furrowed her brow, the cold and pain starting to make her dizzy. “No, I don’t think so. Those changelings didn’t seem like they’d met us before,” she said, half talking to just keep her mind from fading away. She concentrated as hard as she could, remembering the moment when Princess Celestia had freed her mind and made her remember the real events of the night of the wedding. “What happened back then? Was there even more after that?” her horn began to glow dimly. She shut her eyes and grimaced. With a sudden snap, she felt her memories burst outward. The feeling was similar to a magical seal being broken, and her body suddenly felt a surge of warmth.

With lightning-fast speed, her mind was filled with the events of her previous dream. She saw herself arriving at home and heading straight to her bedroom. She saw herself gazing out the window and looking up at the clear night sky.

“I can’t believe my brother is married…” she said to herself. “What a crazy day. We did good, Spike.” She looked down at the baby dragon, who had already curled up under his blanket.

“Yep,” he said drowsily.

Twilight smiled and returned her gaze to the night sky. “The stars sure are shining brightly tonight,” she noted. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful night sky. Princess Luna must be really happy.” A sound like a distant voice said something, barely audible. Twilight’s ear twitched and she turned her head back towards the stairs down to the library.

“Is somepony there?” she asked, getting up from her bed and trotting slowly down the stairs. The voice spoke again, still very quiet, but Twilight could swear she heard it say her name. She went out her bedroom door and down the stairs to the main floor of the library.

“Okay, who’s there?” she asked nervously, looking around the room. The whole place was lit up from the bright moonlight shining in through the windows. Twilight felt the tickling of magic within her mind. “What is this strange feeling? If this is a joke, you can come out now...”

“Wake up, Twilight Sparkle!” the voice came, booming and loud now. A bright flash of purple magic ruptured through one of the library walls, and Princess Luna came crashing through, her body sizzling with energy.

“Princess Luna!” Twilight said, taking a step back in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“There’s no time to explain, Twilight Sparkle. We do not have the luxury of a long explanation,” the princess said, moving towards Twilight with haste. “Allow me to magically link our minds, and all shall be revealed.”

“Stay back!” Twilight said, her horn lighting up with magic. “How do I know you’re really Princess Luna? How do I know you’re not some changeling come seeking revenge?”

A flash of red magic crackled and shot out from where Luna had entered. The princess twisted her head around, her eyes going wide. “She followed me!” she shouted. “There is absolutely no time, Twilight Sparkle! We must act now!” The princess shot a beam of magic straight at Twilight’s horn. The memories of the real events of the wedding flashed in Twilight’s mind. Her eyes glowed, and fire began to erupt all around her, engulfing her in white hot flame.

“Fight it, Twilight Sparkle! You must not let it consume you! I will help you resist, but in the end it must be you who takes control of it!” Luna shouted, the magic from her horn intensifying.

“Take control of what?!” Twilight yelled back.

The magical rift, now sizzling with red and purple magic, shot forth a shadowy figure bearing the shape of an alicorn. It stood up, its body engulfed in swirling shadows and magic. Its horn glowed red, yet its wings seemed to spread darkness across the room.

Spike burst through the doorway from Twilight’s bedroom and stared down at what was happening. “What’s going on?!” he asked, his eyes suddenly glowing bright green.

“Be gone!” the shadowy alicorn shouted, its voice deep and distorted. A beam of dark red magic fired from its horn right at Spike. The baby dragon screamed on impact for a brief second, but then exploded into particles of red magic and crystalline shards.

“Spike! No!” Twilight screamed. Her body felt as if it were about to explode and her mind felt as if it were on fire.

Princess Luna growled back at the shadow. “Stay away, demon!” she yelled with a snarl.

“You’ve failed, princess!” the shadow’s voice blared, echoing off the walls of the library. “The Elements of Harmony shall never rise again!” The shadow leapt into the air and dove straight at Luna, tackling her. The two of them rolled across the ground, and the beam of magic between Luna and Twilight’s horns vanished. Twilight fell backwards. Her eyes closed and the ground began to rumble.

Luna glared up at the shadowy figure, streams of darkness falling toward her and wrapping around her. “Even without the Elements of Harmony, you shall never get past me!”

The shadow laughed. “A thousand years hasn’t done anything to cure your naïveté!” it said. “Those pathetic changelings have no idea what they’ve awoken! Admit it, you need me now more than ever!”

“Never!” Luna shouted defiantly as the shadows continued to wrap around her.

The shadow laughed again. “You don’t have a choice!” it shouted.

A stream of green magic suddenly burst through the window, winding itself around Twilight and the two shadow-wrapped ponies.

“What?” the shadowy alicorn screamed, its eyes flashing white. “No! They can’t have!”

Luna sneered up at the shadowy figure, a grin on her face. “I’ve let them,” she said, winded. “I told you… you’d have to get past me first!”

“You fool!” the shadow screamed deafeningly. “Now we’re both imprisoned!”

“If that is what it takes, then it must be so!” Luna said, the green magic now having completely bound the both of them up. “Sister, Twilight, I pray you both awaken soon! You are our last hopes!”

The green magic, along with Luna and the shadowy alicorn, vanished. The dream world shattered into darkness.


Darkness was all Twilight Sparkle could see-- A green-tinted darkness.

Twilight opened her eyes and looked at Pinkie Twi. “Princess Luna…” Twilight said weakly. “That shadowy alicorn, and that dark red magic. I’ve seen it and felt it before.”

Pinkie Twi nodded her head. “I saw it all, too. I’m part of you, after all,” she said. “That dark magic-- I know it all too well. It’s what took ahold of Pinkie Shy, and it’s what Pinkie… Pinkie… Pinkie Pie in the Crusaders’ dream saw through the holes in the world.”

“It’s been there with us the whole time, trying to stop us any way it can,” Twilight said. “It’s evil, and now I know it’s not the changelings. It’s something else. Princess Luna knew what it was.”

Pinkie Twi nodded her head. “She called it a demon,” she said, thinking back. “It said that Luna needed it. What did it mean by that?”

Twilight’s eyes went wide as she began to put the pieces together. “Who would benefit from both the changelings failing and the Elements of Harmony not being able to rise again?” she asked.

“Discord?” Pinkie Twi pondered.

“No,” Twilight replied. “Discord needs the Elements if he ever wants to be free again. That’s why he’s helping us. Look, it sounds crazy, and I can’t explain how… maybe it has something to do with the way we’re all trapped inside our minds, but I think it was—“

“Twilight!” a voice called out, interrupting.

Twilight lifted her gaze upward, and was blinded by a bright light shining into her eyes.

The three beams of light shot out by the Crusaders collided and flashed, illuminating each others’ faces. The threads of magic held steady, melding together.

“Those three beams of light,” Sweetie Belle said, looking back and forth between Scootaloo and Apple Bloom. “They were from us.”

“Our dreams, linked together,” Apple Bloom said.

“That’s awesome!” Scootaloo cheered. “Nothing can stop us!”

Sweetie Belle shook her head. “We’re not done yet, though,” she said, turning her gaze downward. “We have to fix everything that happened. Our other friends need us more than ever.”

“But What do we do?” Apple Bloom asked. “Our dream kinda fell apart.”

“Whatever we want!” Scootaloo said loudly. “We’re still in our dream! It’s not over yet!”

Apple Bloom put a hoof against her chin. “Well, when I wished Applejack and Big Mac were there earlier, they just appeared. Can we do that again?”

“It’s worth a try,” Sweetie Belle replied. “We need to save Twilight and do something about those changelings.” A flash of light shot down in the middle of the three fillies as Sweetie Belle spoke, and Twilight’s body appeared, still and unmoving, the wound in her chest still open and bloody.

Scootaloo cringed. “Oh no… I didn’t know it was that bad,” she said.

“Sweetie Belle wasn’t able to heal her like she did before,” Apple Bloom said, looking to her unicorn friend. “Do you think you can do it now? Maybe if we all try?”

Sweetie Belle closed her eyes. “I think… I think I can do it now. Something feels different,” she said. The gem hanging from her neck glowed brightly, and her horn lit up. Waves of energy from the pendant flashed down towards Twilight “I can feel it. It’s working. This new power… it’s different than the lucidity we used before. Just focus and think about Twilight.”

The other two closed their eyes and concentrated on their pendants, filling their minds with thoughts of Twilight.

“Please work,” Sweetie Belle whispered.

“Come on, Twilight!” Scootaloo said, her eyes tightly shut.

The other ponies from their dream appeared and gathered in a circle around Twilight as well. Applejack, Big Macintosh, Rarity, and Sweetie Belle’s parents all all closed their eyes and didn’t speak; only the sound of magical humming filled the air.

After a minute, all three of the gems were radiating magic down at Twilight, and her wounds began to close. Her breathing returned, and then sped up, increasing as she gasped for breath. Suddenly, there was a bright flash that shot outward from Twilight’s horn.

Twilight’s eyes quickly opened, her head flung upward, and she shouted.

“Nightmare Moon!” Twilight shouted.

Everypony opened their eyes as well. Twilight blinked and looked around, the flash of light having dissipated. Standing a couple of feet away from them was a pink alicorn with a pair of goggles strapped over her head. Twilight groggily looked back and forth between the Crusaders and Pinkie Twi.

“Am I still dreaming?” she asked. She looked down at her chest and pressed a front hoof against it, finding that her seemingly fatal wound had vanished.

Pinkie Twi laughed. “You must still be dreaming somewhere, because I’m still here,” she said, looking around although there wasn’t much to see but darkness. “It’s definitely not the dream world I’m used to. How do ya figure I ended up here?”

“You’re the Pinkie from Twilight’s dream?” Scootaloo asked.

“She sure is,” Twilight said, pushing herself to her hooves. “You girls must have healed me somehow. Did you bring her here as well?”

Apple Bloom tapped her hoof against the gem over her chest. “It must have been these new powers we got. Dunno where they came from, but I guess they’re pretty strong!” She grinned confidently and looked at the other two Crusaders, who nodded in agreement.

“Strong, indeed,” Princess Celestia’s voice came from the side. She and Pinkie Pie had appeared, and walked towards the group of ponies. Discord and Fluttershy were flying through the air above her. Celestia and Discord looked intensely towards the pendants around the Crusaders' necks. “They aren’t from your dream. They’re external… but from where?”

Discord cringed. “They certainly have a familiar feeling to them. Reminds me of the Elements of Harmony,” he said, sticking his tongue out and pointing a finger towards the back of his throat.

“I heard you shout, Twilight. You said ‘Nightmare Moon’ when you woke up. What happened in your dream?” Celestia asked, looking at Twilight now.

Twilight shook her head. “I know it sounds crazy, but I remembered my original dream,” Twilight said. “Princess Luna was there, and she was attacked… by Nightmare Moon.”

Celestia frowned. “The dark magic we’ve been seeing and feeling, and the warning that Princess Luna gave me via these three fillies… it has all come together now,” she said. “I can’t explain it yet, but I have had suspicions for a while now. Delving deep back into memories from my past, I know I’ve certainly felt that dark magic before. It’s faint this time, but there is no doubt. Nightmare Moon has somehow returned.”

“But Princess Luna changed,” Twilight said. “We used the Elements on Nightmare Moon! We brought Luna back! She accepted our friendship! How could she have become Nightmare Moon again?”

Scootaloo’s ear twitched and she turned the other direction. Dark energy began to swirl in front of her. She lowered her eyebrows. “We’re not done yet, everypony,” she said seriously. “Princess, Twilight, I think I know who might have some answers for you.”

Rainbow Dash faded in where the dark energy was floating, like a photo developing. She spotted the group of ponies before her and frowned. Scootaloo walked towards her, the gem around her neck aglow. The dark shadow erupted out from Rainbow Dash, filling the air with a deafening screech.

Author's Note:

To be concluded in chapter ten!

I decided to split up the end of this book into two chapters, even though that means chapter ten will be a shortish chapter. It feels better this way.

I hope my flashbacks for our little fillies doesn't disappoint you. I rewrote them about 4 times, although the basic premise of each flashback remains the same.

So, Apple Bloom's flashback feels obvious to me, but I enjoyed writing it. Sweetie Belle's is actually based on something really silly - Her squeaky voice! And as for Scoot, well, the original version of the flashback was much longer. It could have been a chapter on its own. It had a lot more about her life in Cloudsdale, and a lot more about her parents, especially her father. I had to trim it down and get it more focused, though. It made no sense to have such a huge chunk of her life flash before her eyes, as interesting as it was to write. We'll delve more into it later on, for sure, and we'll learn more about her father. For now, I've masked his face in shadow, kept him secret form the reader.

The scene with Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and the bonfire is taken from my fanfic "Wonderbolts... Yeah, Right." It's not the first time I've used something from that story, either. It's just been slightly modified to mix with this story better.

For those of you in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving!

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